Are crunches bad for me?

People love to categorize things as being good or bad, but when it comes to crunches, there is no absolute. The answer is far more nuanced and requires an assessment of your individual needs and goals.

Risk vs. Reward

There is no shortage of studies highlighting the potential risks of crunches, the most obvious being lower-back pain or injury, since thousands of cycles of spinal flexion (bending forward) with varying levels of compression may cause damage to your spinal disks. And indeed, researchers have crushed dozens of pig spines trying to determine this hypothetical upper limit, but the idea that your spine has a finite number of bends isn’t exactly accurate, and crushing pig spines in a laboratory isn’t quite the same as doing a few sets of crunches over the course of a week. Additionally, ample rest allows tissues to heal and become stronger, theoretically increasing the total number of bends your spine can withstand over time.