Crunches Vs. Plank

There are a huge range of great ab exercises if you want to develop a ripped and toned midsection from home or at the gym and most of these involve using nothing but your own bodyweight to provide resistance. Knowing which of these to use for the best results and for your particular goals can be a little confusing however, and this can leave you worried that you may not be getting the most out of your workouts.

Take for instance the plank and the crunch. Both bodyweight exercises, both focussed on training the abs, but with very different strengths and weaknesses and suited to very different purposes. Here we will look at which to use and how to choose the right one for you.


Crunches are essentially ‘short sit ups’ which require you to roll your upper body up from the floor so that your head and upper back aren’t touching it but your lower back still is. This causes your stomach to fold right in the middle and will particularly target the upper section of your abdominal muscles. The movement is short which allows you to do lots of quick repetitions and to get quite an intense workout as a result.

The Plank

The plank meanwhile is the opposite of these short and sharp bursts of effort, instead requiring you to use continuous effort over a few minutes. Here you will keep your body straight and then raise it off of the floor resting on just your tip toes and your forearms. It’s the act of keeping your body straight, and of preventing your stomach from sagging and touching the floor, which works your abs here and this utilises the entire of your six pack to hold you straight.

Because this exercise doesn’t require any movement it is called ‘static contraction’ (literally ‘motionless tensing’) or an ‘isometric hold’. This has the benefit of working the slow twitch muscle fibers more than the fast twitch ones training your endurance rather than your explosive power. At the same time though it means you aren’t training as dynamically which means the muscle isn’t worked at all angles.

Which to Use?

Ideally you should train using both static contraction and explosive movements in order to train both your fast and slow twitch muscle fibers and in order to improve both endurance and explosive power. However if your aim is to lose weight then you should focus on moves that involve more energy such as the crunches or more ideally still such as CV. However due to its gentle and static nature, the plank may be more suitable for those with particular back complaints.

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