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Q&A: What Ab Exercises are Better than Crunches?

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Q:  Sometimes, especially after playing sports, I feel muscle spasms and tightness in my stomach. Is it because my usual ab routine is pretty "crunch heavy." Are there any better alternative exercises?

A: Doing lots of crunches is not only inefficient, it's counterproductive. Crunches burn minimal calories, so they won't help you burn much abdominal fat. You'll see better results by focusing on total-body strength training movements and training your hips, torso and shoulders with exercises that challenge your stability, such as front and side pillar bridges, stability chops, and stability lifts.

What's worse, crunches can exacerbate hip flexor tightness that results from many sports and general day-to-day activities, like driving and sitting at your desk. These muscles can actually become shorter, but a training regimen that helps stretch these muscles and strengthen the opposing muscles—namely, your glutes—will help relieve pain and tightness and make you stronger.

Try performing the kneeling quad/hip flexor stretch to open up the muscles on the front of your thigh after your training session or anytime you feel tight throughout the day.

Also: Don't forget to stay hydrated throughout your workouts and games—dehydration can contribute to cramping.

Tags: Pillar strength, Abs, Q&A, Hip Flexors