Will Doing Crunches Actually Give You Abs?

Crunches have long been a staple of workouts. But are they actually effective at what they're supposed to do — developing flat, toned ab muscles? The answer is both yes and no, depending on your goals. Like any exercise that repeatedly strains a muscle, crunches will help to build up the muscles of the abdominal region, according to Healthline. But if there is a layer of fat covering the muscles, nobody will get to see them, which is the goal most people are after.

Crunches alone won't burn off the stubborn belly fat that many people struggle with. That's because the abdominals are a small muscle group, and working them doesn't generate the temperature increase required to burn fat, according to U.S. News & World Report. In order to activate the metabolic process that burns fat, it's important to exercise several muscle groups and generate heat. That can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including aerobic exercise like running, high-intensity interval training, or strength training.

Building a healthy core

Abdominal muscles are just one part of the body's core, which includes the transverse abdominus on each side of the belly button, obliques on the side, rectus abdominus (also known as the standard six-pack), and multifidus and erector spinae running vertically along the spine (via Marshfield Clinic). Together, these muscles help support the back and limbs, strengthen balance and coordination, and improve posture. While it may look great to have defined six-pack abs, it's a well-balanced core that should be the goal.

Unfortunately, there's no magic solution for spot-reducing fat, and if you struggle with a layer of fat around your middle, you'll have to address it through whole-body exercise. Crunches will help build up the muscles of your abdominal region which can be seen when body fat is low. However, reaching that level of body fat may simply be genetically impossible for some people. That doesn't mean crunches should be ignored altogether. They're an important part of a strong and healthy core that will provide stability and long-term overall health.