The traditional abdominal crunch – a staple exercise that is being undertaken in most gyms around the world for the last 100 years – mainly to try and attain that gold standard of most gym programs – the “6-pack”! However, does this exercise really help to strengthen our core and back? Let’s have a look: The abdominal muscles at the front of our stomach (rectus abdominus) are called “anti-extensor muscles” – they help the spine limit backward bending, whilst also helping in forward bending Every time we bend forward or sit down, we put pressure through the back of our discs (the inner part of the disc shifts backwards). The most common action to injure a disc in the low back (think disc bulge or herniation) is forward bending with some rotation added. Throughout our lifetime, we are bending and sitting and rotating a lot, so do we need to do more of this movement at the gym – especially now knowing that it increases the likelihood of disc injury in the low back? Dr. Stuart McGill, a world-renowned researcher into low back pain, has determined that an abdominal “crunch” puts approximately 340kg worth of compressive force through our spine. These forces can squeeze the inner part of a disc to the point that it bulges! We only have a limited number of forward flexion movements in our low back spine over our lifetime – lets not waist them on crunches! Below are safer exercise options to build a strong core, whilst also strengthening our backs.