In every magazine article I read about building muscle or getting toned, when the topic of ab exercises is addressed, they always say to stay away from crunches or sit-ups, because they don't do any good. They say that crunches only work the superficial ab muscles, and that to get truly toned abs, you need to work the deeper muscles. Those deeper muscles help pull the torso in, and help with posture.
Apparently you cannot reach the deeper muscles by simply doing crunches, so they recommend exercises like the "plank pose" (in push-up position, except holding yourself on your forearms instead of your hands), the "side plank" and exercises using a Swiss ball.
I have been doing such exercises a couple days a week for about 3 months now, and I have seen results. I look slightly slimmer around the middle, but I can really tell the difference in how I feel. When I tense my abs, I can feel how much stronger they are now. So that's great, but I still have a little layer of fat on the outside that I'd love to get rid of.
Since those deep muscle exercises still leave me with a bit of a "pooch" on my tummy, I have been slowly coming to the realization that maybe I need to work those superficial muscles to tone them.
So, today I did about 130 crunches. I laid on the floor with arms crossed across my chest, and lifted myself just enough so that my shoulders came up off the floor.
The crunches seemed to work, because my ab muscles were burning! I was really feeling the burn doing those exercises!
So, of course I will have to give it time and see if I truly start seeing results or not, but I sure was feeling it when I was doing them.
Of course, I am not going to drop all the other ab exercises; I am simply going to add crunches to my regimen.
I intend to prove once & for all whether or not crunches really help define the abs!