It’s one of those questions that seem to plague anyone who works out whether they work out once or twice a year or once or twice a day: which is better, sit-ups or crunches?

The answer: both!

They target different muscles and have different applications for your everyday life so being able to utilize both in your next workout is a great way to keep things fresh and build your core strength effectively.

Crunches: The Basics

The main difference between crunches and sit-ups is the muscle groups they target!

Crunches are known for isolating the muscles in your abdomen and are often seen as a lower-impact type of move than sit-ups.

Crunches keep the lower half of your body on the ground during the move so that the abs are completely isolated and only worked while doing the crunches themselves.

They don’t burn fat although they will help you build lean muscles within your abdomen which look great.

Crunches may help you get a six-pack but they’re not seen as a functional exercise that will help you build and create better flexibility or strength.

How to Do Crunches

Start by laying down completely flat on the floor with your legs bent at the knees and your feet flat on the ground.

While laying down flat, you can put your hands behind your ears or cross them across your chest. This is done more for balance than to help you do the move so wherever you feel the most comfortable with your hands is best.

You’ll then raise your head and shoulders from eh floor and use your abdominal muscles to contract and pull yourself upward. Avoid using your neck muscles to move your head forward as it can cause a lot of strain on your neck and head.

Lower your head and shoulders back to the floor. You’ll exhale as you go upward into the crunch and then inhale as you lower yourself back down to the ground.

Benefits of Crunches

The biggest benefit you’ll see from doing crunches is the toning of the muscles in your core.

You’ll strengthen those same muscles as well as improve your posture and mobility. While they don’t burn fat, they do burn calories which can kickstart your body toward your fitness goals.

Your posture is also greatly improved through your time doing crunches as it strengthens those core muscles and tones them up. Balance is another benefit to doing crunches as your increased core strength will keep you balanced when upright.

Downside of Crunches

This simple move only creates a simple solution: targeting the abs. There are tons of different muscles all-around your core and crunches only target a small portion of them.

To build effective core strength you want a move that will have you engaging your entire core.

The crunches create a risk for back and neck injuries as your spine flexes differently. This flexing makes this a difficult exercise for anyone who might be older or more injury-prone to do and accomplish safely.

Sit-Ups: The Basics

Crunches are the half-step toward a full sit-up and as such, they only engage a small portion of the muscles in your core.

Sit-ups become a more intense exercise that targets more muscle groups including your hip flexors, chest, neck, and lower back.

While they are more intense and target more areas in your body, they can also cause a whole host of other injuries if not done correctly.

For this reason, the US Army has even phased them out of their regular workouts and physical fitness tests. The form is crucial for this exercise so you’ll need to pay close attention to the way it should be done.

How to Do Sit-Ups

Sit-ups start in much the same way that crunches do so you’ll begin by laying flat on your back with your legs bent at the knees.

You may want to hook your toes under a heavy object or have someone hold your feet down on the ground. This way you’ll be able to focus more on your core than on the rest of your body.

You’ll then put both of your hands behind your head, cross them over your chest or even leave them laying next to your body. To keep the pressure off of your neck, flex your neck forward slightly so that your head is tucked forward.

You’ll then use your abs and core to curl your upper body upward until you’re not laying on the floor any longer and you’re sitting upon the ground!

You’ll lower yourself back down to the ground to the starting position and repeat until all of your reps and sets are done for the day.

Remind yourself to exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower yourself back down to the ground.

Benefits of Sit-Ups

While sit-ups are more intense and offer a greater range for potential injury, they do also offer greater rewards for those who choose to work through their program.

The biggest benefit of doing sit-ups is that they create a greater core strength than several other core exercises.

Through the use of sit-ups, you’ll strengthen, tighten, and tone your entire core which can help you reduce the risk of injury when doing other types of exercises.

Better balance and stability are also benefits of doing sit-ups. Your core helps you stay upright and well-balanced even throughout your regular day so building the muscle mass that helps keep you balanced is key to success.

Sit-ups also target your hip muscles so you’ll be working more effectively together to help you stay upright and keep from falling.

Flexibility is also a key benefit of sit-ups as the move opens up your hips and spine so that they’re increased for mobility. This also relieves the tension and tightness that may settle in your back and neck throughout the day.

Flexibility can also boost your circulation and help reduce stress and offers an increase in concentration.

Downside of Sit-ups

The biggest flaw in doing sit-ups is the chance you’ll injure yourself while doing them. The lower back and your neck provide the biggest opportunity for you to strain or injure those areas.

Before starting out doing a whole regimen of sit-ups, check with your doctor to be sure that you can easily complete them.

Since sit-ups take even more control and balance than crunches, they’re also not ideal for anyone who has had a previous injury or maybe older and unable to hold themselves upright.

There are several variations of the sit-up that may work if you’re willing to train with a coach or doctor to determine if they’ll be effective for you.

The Choice

The question now remains on which set of workouts is best for you!

The first thing you’ll want to do is determine what your overall fitness and health goals will be for the ensuing workout.

Once you know where you’re going, you’ll be more easily able to determine how to get there.

Sit-ups take a lot more energy and balance than you may not already have. Sit-up variations can help obtain the core strength you need without putting your lower back or neck at risk for the traditional move.

There is a high reward for getting through a regimen with plenty of sit-ups though so you’ll need to balance the risks and rewards before incorporating them into your workout.

Crunches engage far fewer core muscles but they’re lower-impact and are easily done without much in the way of safety precautions or equipment.

If you’re not quite as balanced as you’d like crunches can be a good option to start toning and setting your core on the right track.

Both of these core exercises have the potential to cause some neck and back strain if done incorrectly. Just like with any lifting move, form is everything.

Focusing on your form allows you to do either one and use them interchangeably for your next workout or training session.

Choose crunches if you want to get serious about toning a specific part of your core. Go with sit-ups if you want to engage your entire abdominal area as well as some surrounding muscles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before jumping into a new move or workout routine, it’s best to ask some questions and get some serious answers!

Which is more effective, crunches or sit-ups?

The effectiveness of the move is determined by your form as well as the frequency that you do the exercise.

If you choose to only do a few crunches or sit-ups each month, you likely won’t be sporting a six-pack anytime soon.

Doing the move incorrectly can be just as bad as not doing them at all and can result in some serious injury.

Crunches put less stress on the spine and make it a safer and less intense activity that will help you start building some lean muscle around your core.

Sit-ups tend to put more strain on your back but will work more areas of your core.

Which one is better for belly fat?

While crunches and sit-ups help focus your core on building good, lean muscle, burning calories and fat requires that you expend calories.

Crunches and sit-ups, while strengthening your core, don’t burn the high amount of calories needed to get rid of belly fat.

They won’t get your heart pumping and burning through the fat to complete a workout but they will help start to tone and define your core which will, in turn, help you burn calories more effectively.


Crunches and sit-ups are two of the most common core exercises that you’ll see in a daily workout.

While they are likely to help tone and define your midsection, they won’t get rid of stubborn belly fat like your dream and desire.

In addition to not being as effective on belly fat, they can also cause strain to your back and neck and lead to more serious injury if done improperly.

Crunches and sit-ups are a good way to work on defining your core but just like with any weightlifting exercise, form is crucial!

Learn the correct form for both crunches and sit-ups before attempting to do them on your own.

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