Sit-ups versus Crunches: Which one is better?

The classic sit-up and crunch tend to come off as interchangeable abdominal exercises, due to their similar starting positions and the impression that they both work the same core muscles. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth; sit-ups and crunches target different muscles and involve a different range of motion.

The crunch is an isolated movement, directly engaging your abdominal muscles. Since your back is on the ground and hips at 90 degrees, your abdominal muscles are contracted and flexed when the crunch is in action.


Sit-ups, on the other hand, aren’t so effective if one is aiming to train their abdominal muscle (or “abs”). This is due to the emphasis on the sitting up movement; research shows that your abdominal muscles are only slightly engaged in the initial 30 degree raise of the shoulder, while the rest of the movement is done in a 45 degree angle. Instead, it mostly targets stabilising muscles such as the hip flexors (called the “Iliopsoas”) and a long muscle in your back (called the “Psoas muscle”), not so much the abdominal muscle.


People with back pain or disc issues in the lower spine are advised not to do sit-ups as it places too much stress. Doing sit-ups with improper technique may result in a big risk of spine injury. Hence, crunches should be the go-to exercise for training abdominal muscles, as it is not only safer, but also much more effective.

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