Can sit ups and crunches make your stomach bigger?

A few days ago I was asked the question: can sit ups make your stomach bigger? It took me back to my school days when there was a belief that too many sit ups would have the opposite effect of the desired flat tummy and actually give you a big stomach. So I have taken it upon myself to settle this myth once and for all.

Is it possible?

It is true that if you exercise a muscle it will grow in size and therefore surely exercise on your stomach will increase the muscle size and therefore make it stick out? Strictly speaking this is true, however the muscle will develop in all directions and not just outwards. It would also take an immense amount of exercise to achieve a large gut and you would be spending way too much time on your stomach. However that said there are people though that will find their stomach sticks out more once they have started their exercise routine that includes an ab workout.

Why is this?

When training the stomach we are shortening the muscle over and over again. This constant shortening over time will make the muscle permanently shorter and thicker. This can help to change our posture by making us slouch, pulling down our rib cage at the front. This shortening and slouching will cause the stomach to bulge forwards making it look as if the muscle is sticking out.

The cure

Stretch the stomach so that the shortening process is limited
Work on your posture so that you do not slouch
Never look down at your stomach but stand up right and use a mirror
Checking your posture

Using a mirror to check yourself out will allow you to maintain a correct posture and give you a true image of how firm your abs are becoming. Looking down at your stomach will shorten the distance between your sternum (chest bone) and your pubis (upper part of your pelvis at the front) and make your tummy bulge out more.

Correct posture

SHOULDERS BACK, CHEST OUT SOLDIER! A bit harsh and not strictly true. While our soldiers have a very upright stance it is not a natural position. To explain how you should stand with perfect technique we’ll start at the top and work down. Starting with your head: chin up and head held slightly back; this helps to prevent the stooping effect that puts everything else out of line. Secondly your torso: chest out and shoulders back like the soldiers but allow your shoulders to relax down, keeping the chest out. Now the stomach: draw the stomach in and up like you do at the beach, this will help pull the front of the pelvis up which in turn helps to prevent the lower back from arching excessively. There you have it – you are now a shining example of the perfect stance, be proud and stand tall!

 

Stretch

It is important that if you are exercising your stomach that you stretch it. If you train any muscle that you do not stretch it will get shorter and therefore stick out more. However with the stomach you would have to train it an abnormal amount to make it really stick out. Here at blog we are very keen on stretching and it’s importance for everyone. To stretch your stomach lie on your front and up on your elbows so that your pelvis and legs are on the floor and your chest is raised off the floor. Without moving any higher up than your elbows try and arch your chest up and out. This will lengthen the distance between your pelvis and your chest bone and therefore stretching your stomach muscles out. Hold this stretch for at least 20 seconds.

 

Summary

Whilst ab muscles are highly unlikely to make your tummy look bigger by muscle growth alone the side effects of training the muscle can make them look like they are protruding. Keep stretching them, concentrate on your posture, draw your tummy muscles in and always pose in front of a mirror. I have deliberately not been too technical in this article and have concentrated on the more essential bits. If you would like to ask any questions on this article then please just leave me a comment. Good luck, watch your posture and get stretching!