Which is better?
In the battle between which ab exercise is better, the plank wins hands down! Not only are planks more effective, they are safer and work multiple muscles in one move.
20 vs. 6
The main reason the plank is superior to the crunch, is that it works more muscles. Planks not only strengthen the core, they also work up to 20 other muscles which include the shoulders, arms, chest, back, legs and glutes. Planks also engage the a very important muscle, the transverse abdominis, which is like your “internal girdle” and holds your core tight. When done correctly, crunches only solicit 6 muscles including the hip flexors, rectus abdominis and obliques.
Brace Vs. Bend
Planks strengthen the muscles that brace the core, crunches strengthen the muscles to bend the core. In order to have a strong, healthy core, you need to have all of the muscles in that area strong. Crunches only focus on the muscles on the front of the body that contract the body forward. Planks target the muscles of the core that stabilize, rotate, support and flex the spine.
Safe Vs. Safer
Even if you perform the “perfect crunch” (hands behind the head, elbows out to the side, neutral neck and spine, crunching from the core, no pulling on the neck), there is still a chance of injury. Crunching puts pressure on the discs in the spine and neck. Abs, which are only a part of core muscles, are meant to stabilize your body and keep your spine straight. Crunches involve the exact opposite movement, whereby you flex your spine and “crunch” at your back’s weakest point. This puts more strain on your lower back and your posture suffers. Planks train your core to keep your spine in a long, lean position.
Both exercises can be safe and effective if done correctly and they also can be a great addition in a workout program. You have a lot of muscles that make up the core region and if your goal is to get a strong, long, healthy core, why not pick the exercise that works the most muscles in one move?