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Studies Say You Don't Need to Do Lots of Crunches

Speak Up: Why Do You Exercise Your Core Muscles?

You've heard it before: work on your core muscles so you can have everything from better balance to better cardio performance. But what if there was no benefit to having strong abs besides a celeb-worthy midsection?

Three studies reported in The New York Times show that you may or may not be getting what you want out of your ab exercises. One study looked at a group of college rowers and found that those who did eight weeks of core prep before a rowing test didn't do any better than those who didn't. Another study looked at healthy volunteers and found there was no correlation between a sturdy core and their ability to perform in a bunch of tests that included sprinting, jumping, and balance tests.

Read on for more after the break.

But another study looked at a group of people who had weak ab, back, and oblique muscles, and found that the ones that were put on a six-week core training program could run significantly longer than those who did not strengthen their core before the test.

These studies all looked at different groups of people — from well-conditioned athletes to volunteers with weak core muscles — and all found differing results. But some experts agree that having a minimal amount of core strength is all you need, and you can strengthen these muscles while doing other total-body workouts; no need to waste time doing hundreds of crunches (unless, of course, you want to flaunt those abs at the beach).

Why do you work out your core: to perform better athletically or is all about the quest for the perfect six-pack?

Image Source: Thinkstock
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Susi-May Susi-May 4 years
Core work is all about injury prevention in my book. Strong abs paired with a strong back mean a lot less back pain. I think my running has improved as my core became stronger. I feel more efficient too when I cycle. My torso stays still and my legs spin the pedals.
KACIEJPC KACIEJPC 4 years
I need to do more work on mine... but just the thought makes me cringe... matter of fact, when I saw this post I groaned =(
kolson2 kolson2 4 years
I agree with ticamorena on this one - my abs have always been my one region that I can tone relatively quickly, if I dedicate some time to it. But having recently gotten into vinyasa yoga and pilates, I can't say enough how much a strong core affects and benefits a yoga practice. My style of choice is Bikram, so being strong enough to safely support yourself in a backward bend when all you want to do is collapse in a sweaty heap is crucial. In other styles of yoga, being strong enough to feel that lift in your waist and chest really opens up your body for deeper postures and a better practice (in my opinion).
ticamorena ticamorena 4 years
mostly so that i can have better balance and posture, it helps immensely with my other workouts and my daily well-being. i am not big into washboard stomachs and crazy definition - every time i get a super toned tummy, my families say it looks strange (but i like how strong i feel)
amusedd amusedd 4 years
I do Pilates. Strong abs are just what happens because of it. I also have really strong inner thighs, quadriceps, glutes, and a pretty stable lower back. I started doing Pilates because of back problems. I'm not too surprised that many experts think you only need a minimal amount of core strength to get the benefits - honestly, the more we learn about the human body, the more we learn it likes most everything in moderation, and EVERYTHING in balance.
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