Exercise is beneficial, but some exercises are more effective than others, especially when you are targeting a problem area. One area of the body commonly targeted due to low muscle tone is the abdominals. Two popular methods of exercising the abs are leg lifts and crunches. While both may lead to abdominal contractions, one results in a far more intense contraction than the other. In addition, one exercise may lead to spinal strain that can cause a serious injury.
When doing a crunch, you lift your torso to a 30-degree angle while your feet are on the floor and your legs are bent. This exercise does result in an isometric contraction, but it is a brief one. According to “Newsweek” magazine, crunches are ineffective when compared to other abdominal exercises. Not only do crunches lack the intensity of other exercises, but they may also strain your back and lead to other injuries.
A leg lift is when you lie flat on the floor and slowly raise your legs, both straight and together, until they reach a 90-degree angle. Slowly, lower the legs and stop when they are only inches above ground. This exercise contracts your abdominals while lowering and lifting the legs. According to a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, effective ab exercises must be ones that produce a long and constant contraction, such as the slow lowering and lifting of the leg raises. This study also claimed that crunches were ineffective as well.
Based on recent studies, leg lifts are more effective than crunches. While crunches are considered an ab exercise, there are other exercises that produce stronger and longer contractions that target the entire mid-section. In addition to the leg lift being effective, it also puts less strain on your spine due to your back being flat on the ground.
When doing leg lifts, remember to lift and lower the legs slowly to prolong the muscular contractions. For added resistance, place your hands under your tail bone, creating a more difficult lift and lower. Consult your physician prior to commencing an exercise routine. Stretch before and after your abdominal exercises to prevent strains and injuries.