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If you’ve ever stepped into a commercial gym or attempted to “get in shape” in the discomfort of your own home, then you’ve almost certainly done a crunch. It’s a movement that’s as ingrained in our fitness culture as bench presses and biceps curls.

But what if you learned that crunches are far from the most effective and efficient way to work your abdominal muscles?

This isn’t a revolutionary concept among fitness professionals. It’s been out there for at least a decade. But you’d never know it by watching what people in health clubs do. Sit-ups may be out of fashion, but the basic crunch is alive and well and performed by almost everyone trying to improve his or her appearance.

“People think the crunch is the equivalent of a biceps curl,” says Lou Schuler, co-author of the book “The New Rules of Lifting For Abs.” “You pick up a dumbbell, you bend your elbow, and you feel the biceps working. You know exactly what you’re doing, and why. So when you do a crunch, you feel the abdominal muscles shortening, and you think you’re doing the exact same thing. You’re making the muscles bigger and stronger.”

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