Crunches: nobody really likes them (well, unless they’re masochists) but we all feel obliged to do them because we’ve heard so much about their magical ab-toning powers.
The thing is, dear friends, we have all been lied to. All those hours spent lifting our heads to our knees, labouring under the hope of waking up one day to find our stomach replaced by J Lo’s, have been in vain.
Because despite all their good press and their formidable mythical status, crunches alone won’t give you toned abs.
Now, don’t get too excited – we’re not saying you should go and swap your crunches for a celebratory Crunchie.
Doing crunches is great for strengthening areas of your core - they're just not an instant cure for soft abdominals, nor do they necessarily produce visible results (i.e. the 'six pack' effect).
One reason for this is that core strength isn't limited to your abs. It's also important to work on your glutes, hips and lower back - and crunches don't reach these areas.
Primarily, crunches focus on your rectus abdominus - the top part of your abdomen. According to fitness website Lean It Up, solely working the six-pack part of your abs through sit ups and crunches can cause your oblique muscles, transverse abdominus and lower abs to fall behind. If you want toned abs, you need to spread the love and work all of these muscles through a cycle of exercises.
Furthermore, doing hundreds upon hundreds of crunches won't strip the fat sitting over your abs, which obscures the 'sculpted' effect you're probably after. As trainer Chris Powell explains on Outside Online, “We can spot-stimulate a muscle to grow with resistance training, but it is impossible to reduce the layer of fat over a specific part of the body by contracting the muscle underneath."
Instead, it's important to combine your resistance and cardio training with a lean, healthy diet.
Failing that, you could always embrace Natalie Tran's failproof method for faking a six pack - all you need is makeup powder and a permanent marker. We can't promise you'll fool anyone, though.
Or alternatively, you can try these no-sit-up ab strengtheners.
What's your least favourite exercise?
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