Are Crunches Hurting You

Bad news if you’ve still got crunches in your workout routine: not only could the de facto ab workout be the reason you’re not seeing the toning you want, but crunches can also strain your pelvic floor, causing women to experience pain during sex.

Dr. Karla Wente, a pelvic floor physical therapist at DPT Sport in Illinois, says she never prescribes crunches because they’re just not that good of an exercise due to the pressure they put on the pelvic floor.

Doing crunches without proper engagement of your pelvic floor might actually cause leakage, says Wente. On the flipside, women who already have strong pelvic floors and are doing crunches risk over-building and over-tightening their abdominal muscles and pelvic floors. Too much strength in these muscles can make penetration more difficult and, in some cases, painful.

If you’re reading this and thinking “say no more, fam,” don’t abandon ab exercises just yet. Wente says women need a balance of strength and flexibility in the abs and pelvic floor to avoid painful sex. “Of course I want to promote physical activity and movement,” Wente says, “but as a physical therapist we are in the business of optimizing movement.”

Here’s what you need to know.

You’re probably not giving your pelvic floor the attention it deserves.

When you think about strengthening your core, your pelvic floor probably doesn’t come to mind, but it’s actually connected directly to the abs. We have four major muscles that make up our abdominals: two obliques, the rectus abdominis (AKA the six pack) and the transverse abdominis, our deepest layer. The rectus abdominis connects directly to the pelvic bone and the transverse abdominis (what you work out in pilates and barre) connects directly to the pelvic floor via connective tissue or fascia.

Crunches also won’t cinch your waistline.

Wente says there is really no literature that supports spot training—the idea where you can lose weight in one area by working it over and over. People seem to understand doing bicep curls every day with increasing weight will make biceps get bigger, not smaller, but for some reason they seem to think doing crunches every day will make the stomach smaller.

“Your crunches might be worsening [your waistline],” says Wente, “because you’re getting a larger muscle group and you’re not working the deeper muscles. The transverse abdominis actually cinches your waist.”

Finally convinced to be done with crunches? Here’s Wente’s pelvic floor-approved ab workouts.

1.Instead of crunches, try an isometric core contraction.

Laying on your back, bend your knees and put your feet on the floor and inhale, filling your low belly. This breath will lengthen the pelvic floor and abdominals. On your exhale pull in the pelvic floor and pull your bellybutton to your spine. That’s one rep. “You aren’t moving like you would in a crunch, but you are turning on and turning off [the entire pelvic floor area],” says Wente, “and that’s a much more functional way to use your muscles.”

Try two sets of 30 reps, spacing your sets throughout the day.

2.The plank position is your new best friend.

It’s a neutral position and can work your deep transverse abdominis and your pelvic floor, says Wente. Assume a standard plank position paying special attention to spinal alignment. Tighten your abs to provide stability and make sure you don’t hold your breath.

Start with 10 second planks for 10-15 reps. Progress from there but make sure you can do this basic form before moving on to modifications.

3.All about the V-Ups? Try modified planks.

Starting in a plank position, pick up your right hand and tap your left should. Put your right hand down and repeat this with your left hand to your right shoulder. Now, bring your left foot towards your center and tap with your right hand. Repeat with left hand to right foot. This takes balance, breathing and core engagement.

The Playlist for the Girl on Top

Hate to break it to you, Christian Grey—but we firmly believe that the hottest sex is when a woman’s calling the shots. And we want a soundtrack that sets the mood for exactly that. (Right, ladies?)

Enter this fierce line-up of ladies in the driver’s seat—including Rihanna, Ciara, Gwen Stefani, FKA Twigs, and the legendary Nina Simone—who know what they want (and how they want it).

In order to keep things hot this evening, dim the lights and drop the needle on this 40-track playlist, which has been designed exclusively for *your* listening pleasure.

1. “Do Not Disturb” – Teyana Taylor feat. Chris Brown

2. “Keep On” – Kehlani

3. “So High” – Doja Cat

4. “Collide” – Justine Skye feat. Tyga

5. “Go All Night (Let Me Roll)” -Kelela

6. “Meet Me in the Middle” – Jessie Ware

7. “Body Say” – Demi Lovato

8. “Adore” – Cashmere Cat feat. Ariana Grande

9. “Undiscovered” – Laura Welsh

10. “Treat Me Like I’m Fire” – Lion Babe

11. “Wax” – Kilo Kish

12. “Come to Me” – Bjork

13. “Go Slow” – Tei Shi

14. “Bank Head (Prod. Kingdom)” – Kelela

15. “My Boy My Town” – Mabel

16. “Pleasure This Pain” – Kwamie Liv feat. Angel Haze

17. “Hotter than Hell” – Dua Lipa

18. “Tell Me” – PJ feat. Jevon Doe

19. “Lovesick” – Banks

20. “Cool” – Daya

21. “True Disaster” – Tove Lo

22. “Let Me In” – El Perro del Mar

23. “Sacrifices” – Tinashe

24. “I Put a Spell on You” – Nina Simone

25. “Make You Feel” – Alina Baraz feat. Galimatias

26. “Criminal” – Fiona Apple

27. “Good for You” – Selena Gomez feat. A$AP Rocky

28. “All the Way Down” – Kelela

29. “Kiss it Better” – Rihanna

30. “Childs Play” – SZA feat. Chance the Rapper

31. “Body Party” – Ciara

32. “Oh Yeah” – Bat For Lashes

33. “Two Weeks” – FKA Twigs

Online Dating Profile

From bad spelling to sketchy pictures on online dating profiles, lots of things will cause us to raise an eyebrow and proceed with caution—but there are a few red flags that have us scrambling to click the little X. We asked members of Marie Claire Ask & Answer — Marie Claire‘s online Q&A community for relationship, sex, and dating advice — for the online dating profile mistakes that have them running in the other direction. Here’s what they said:

RED FLAG: Appearing sex-crazed.

“When guys emphasize they are looking for a woman that enjoys “intimacy,” they mean, but don’t have the honesty to say, sex,” warns 1loohoo. Wanting sex isn’t anything new—so don’t panic that you’ll never get laid if you don’t pepper your profile full of sexual innuendo. Suggestive jokes can be funny and endearing once someone gets to know your personality a little, even on a first date…but before you’ve even had an email exchange, it just comes off as a little desperate and creepy.

RED FLAG: Cliché statements.

Clichés like “… likes long walks on the beach, going to movies, etc.” are red flags, says two469. Who doesn’t like going to movies? There are tons of regular, nice-enough people out there—but that’s not enough to get you a date. You don’t need to fly planes or travel to fascinating places in your spare time to stand out—just get specific. Instead of saying you like to read, talk about your favorite genre. Instead of just saying you like action movies, also ‘fess up to your guilty-pleasure TV show. Whether or not your date shares your hobbies, you’ll appear interesting. 7zebras agrees, saying “I absolutely hate when a girl says they are up for anything. That means that they are incredibly boring and are not passionate or into anything. They are willing to try stuff but only when someone else leads them too it…Boring!”

RED FLAG: Claims of being young at heart.

two469 says statements like “… have the heart and spirit of a seventeen year old.” send her running. Why? It screams “Peter Pan complex.” Let your silly side and sense of humor show in your profile without making direct statements about your mental age—it’s a tip-off that you don’t have your life together and will be a disaster to date.

RED FLAG: Non-solo photos.

“Photos with someone else who’s WAY more attractive standing alongside” are a dealbreaker for chesterdad. Would you send a potential employer your more-qualified friend’s resume along with yours? No. Don’t do the equivalent on a dating site. You’re advertising yourself, not your hot friend.

Easy Rules Daters

The weekend. Sigh. I worked on my novel for most of it. Last Monday, my agent told me she thought I should revise the manuscript a leeetle bit more before she sends it out to editors (who are the one with the power to “buy” the book, which would lead to it getting published, which would lead to a bestseller–if you guys are behind me!). So the majority of my time was spent chained to my keyboard.

I did take a break for a tea date with a guy who contacted me via the Internet personals. Between his adorable pictures–including one of him in a cap and sweater vest on his family’s farm that made him look like he just stepped out of “Quintessentially Irish” catalogue–and his love for books, not to mention his good job, he seemed a little too good to be true. I braced myself for some kind of disappointment–for him to have about 75% less hair in real life, or 75 more pounds, or to conveniently have only 75 cents on him so he could stick me with the check.

But when I walked into Cafe Regular and saw him standing there, smiling at me with his startling bright gray eyes, and saying “Maura?” I had to take a moment to steady myself: He was the real deal! We spent a couple of pleasant hours chatting, and at the end of it, he asked if I’d like to go to dinner with him that very evening. Since I wanted to stick to my work schedule, I declined, but he followed up with a sweet text saying we should do it some other time soon.

(All of which is A LOT more than I can say for some people.)

# # #

The one other social thing I did this weekend: I met up with Dating Coach Extraordinaire John Keegan, who was recently profiled in the New York Times. I loved the little piece about him, in which he talked about how the most successful flirts are the most playful, innocent ones. He’d also mentioned how he made a pact with himself, a few years ago, to talk to five new women a day for three weeks straight–and to ask every single one for her phone number. Living flirtatiously, indeed! (Do I need to ramp it up, or what?) Between the cute things he said and the appealingly approachable way he came across in the pictures–with a sheepish smile and a slouchy aw-shucks carriage, wearing flat Chuck-Taylor-like sneakers, skinny jeans, and an adorable plaid cap*–I though: There’s really something very charming about him. Besides, I really liked the idea of flirting as playfulness. So I wrote and asked if he’d be willing to collaborate with me in some way for the site.

So it was that on Friday afternoon, John and I spent some QT at the Whole Foods Cafe @ Union Square. He lay down a few basic pieces of dating advice that he thinks are important for any single person to keep in mind during the early stages of a dating situation:

-Don’t act like a needy person. In fact, until you’re in a solid relationship, try to hide any neediness almost entirely. (I mean, if you need to take a leak; or to eat a peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich you have in your handbag for fits of low blood sugar; or to have a glass of water … by all means. But don’t act like there’s anything you need from the other person.)

What men really think about it

If the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” rings true, going through all the same motions in the bedroom, time and time again, doesn’t exactly help in the love department. Relationship experts recommend keeping things spontaneous (whether that means trying a different time, place, or generally being more adventurous in bed) to avoid falling into a cycle of boring “duty” sex, but also to foster healthy habits in a long-term relationship.

Below, we asked six real women for their favorite sex moves, then consulted sex experts for their tips on how to upgrade your own go-to moves so they feel new and exciting. In short, it doesn’t take a Kama Sutra master to have better sex, it’s really about breaking from habit, exploring the unknown, and enhancing what already works.

FAVORITE POSITION: I’m straddling him, reverse-cowgirl style, while he’s propped up on his back in the bathtub and I’m bracing myself against the sides or the wall.

WHAT MAKES IT SO HOT: I love it because I get to take charge and control the angle, and the warm water helps us relax. It’s also a nice change of pace from the routine, so usually we’ll try it when we’re on vacation (since no one actually wants to clean their bathtub at home). The ambience is really sexy since everything’s candlelit and the water and soap naturally get everything going down there.

FUN PROP: Candles, bubbles, and bath oil. Just make sure you don’t slip around too much when you’re moving around (and prepare to get your knees a little bruised if you’re trying it in a smaller space)!

Thinking But Won’t Say Out Loud

1. “Your family really scares me.” Either the constant contact, or the gruff father, or the crazy sister… there’s some aspect here that he will never name (you don’t mess with a girl’s family) but it scares the sh*t out of him.

2. “I’m not sure how good I am at that sex thing you seem to enjoy.” Whatever “that thing” may be, however much you’ve encouraged or praised it, he’s still not sure if he’s a pro at it and feels a little self-conscious each time. The female body is an elaborate and wondrous thing.

3. “I’m not 100% where I want to be professionally.” Who is, really? Even if he’s wildly successful he’ll still have ambition to continue to climb whatever ladder he’s on. The more a man says how amazing he’s doing professionally, the more insecure he usually is about it.

4. “I have a body complex as well.” He sucks in his gut every time he takes off his shirt and hopes you don’t notice.

5. “I have occasional doubts about us.” No one in a relationship is 100 percent sure all of the time. Mostly he’s head over heels for you, but once in a blue moon he does a double take while contemplating your future.

6. “Playing with my friend’s kid completely triggers my paternal instinct.” He doesn’t want to freak you out, and he’s not necessarily ready for kids—but damn is that baby cute.

7. “He’s scared to say ‘I love you’ first, too.” Unless you get him drunk. Then he might just blurt out “I love you,” on the third date. True story.

Are You Think Lie About on Your Dating Profile

Our guy expert, Lodro Rinzler, reached out to men across the country to ask what they were worried about when looking at your online dating profile. Here’s what guys think women might lie about online:

Your Looks

The number one thing the guys polled think a woman might lie about on her online dating profile is her looks. I am using “looks” as an umbrella term here that covers everything from your height to your weight to your body type to you using a photo of yourself from five years ago. Also, please note that a picture of just your face tells us that you either don’t have a nice body or you don’t like the body you have. Be confident enough to show your full form.

Your Age

“I’ve definitely gone out with women who say they’re 25 but are actually 29,” said Eddie. Sometimes a woman may change her age to initially attract a man, but it’s such a silly lie to chose; was Eddie’s date going to pretend to be four years younger for the rest of their relationship? Since so many men have had this experience, don’t be surprised if a guys casually glances at your drivers license when the bouncer asks for it at the door.

That You LOVE to Travel

Many women will put that they “LOVE to travel” even if they haven’t gone on any real trips or vacations in three years. I don’t recommend saying this on your profile because a) everyone says it so you don’t stand out from the crowd at all and b) even if you do love to travel, if you haven’t lately it might get real awkward real quick when he starts grilling you about all your recent vacations.

The Amount of Time You Spend at the Gym

One of the gentlemen I reached out to, Dave, told me, “I think women will exaggerate the amount or frequency of exercise they do.” A woman may want to show off how important it is to her that she takes good care of her body, but if you list that you go to the gym every single day a guy may think you’re exaggerating.

That Impressive Book/TV Show/Movie You Mentioned

One person I reached out to, Sam, said, “I think women will leave off interests that might be considered too girly or immature—any kind of guilty pleasure TV show or magazine, etc. and try to list more intellectual things like books they’ve read, even if said book was required in high school ten years ago.” If you love Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, put it on the profile, but don’t be surprised if your date expects you to actually remember it in detail.

Your Level of Independence

Lots of pictures with you and the girls is nice, but when a woman keeps posting about being fiercely independent and not at all clingy on her dating profile a fella might raise an eyebrow and grow suspicious. It’s a bit like saying “don’t think of a pink elephant.” Why bring it up if you don’t want a guy’s mind to go straight there?

How Easy Going You Are

Similarly, when a woman says how she is a laid back, easy going, go-with-the-flow sort of person a man may begin to question if, in reality, she is actually very sensitive/easy to trigger. Best to leave those qualities out of your profile and show, don’t tell.

Your Interest in Sports

If a woman says how much she loves a sport, a man might be suspicious about whether she is just trying to appeal to how much he loves that sport. If a woman says she loves a specific team or calls out a particular player as her favorite, he tends to be less skeptical.

How Successful You Are

“I think some women want to project high aspirations even if they aren’t successful right now,” said Eric. Men are guilty of many of these ten things too, but perhaps I’d say men more often inflate their job title or position. We may be suspicious of how successful you say you are because we lied on our own profile about this one!

Telltale signs prove worthy of something more serious

He’s a nice guy. Somewhere deep down you may hope that the brooding bad boy is going to suddenly change — perhaps order you a refill when you head to the bathroom instead of talking up the bartender. But really, he’s just looking out for himself. A nice guy is just that: He cares about your feelings, is interested in spending time with you, and is courteous. All traits, that if this goes well, he’ll pass onto his son.

Being reliable isn’t just something he saves for his bros. When he says he’ll meet you at 7 p.m. he’s there on time. And, after your third date when you left your keys in the cab, he came over to sit with you outside your apartment until the locksmith came.

He doesn’t want to play games. He’s not looking to just get laid, he’s in this to find someone to date seriously. So, when you text him “I’m so tired today,” he responds within minutes (not a day later) with a “Me too. Dinner later?”

There’s never a shortage of something new to talk about. It’s only been four dates, but you already can’t wait to tell him about your day and listen to him recount his.

You feel like you could introduce him to your friends tomorrow and they’d get along seamlessly. You don’t have to worry if your friends will like him or make excuses for his behavior once they do.

He remembers the things you tell him. On your first date you told him your favorite movie was Ever After but you somehow lost your copy when you moved apartments. On date five he brings you a new one.

You feel comfortable around him. You don’t have pretend to be more or less of what you actually are. And while you’re still shocked that he didn’t make a run for it after seeing you in sweatpants, he actually seemed genuinely interested as you explained your sweatpants categorization: fancy, errands, sleep, cleaning, and sick.

Watch out for before you swipe right

In a recent study conducted at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison it was discovered (no surprise here) that 80 percent of people using online dating sites lied about their height, weight, or age. Here are a few more things men tend to lie about when online.

His Job
Oh? You’re about to go out with a good-looking CEO of a booming start-up? Don’t be surprised if that means he has a great idea for an app and is working out of his parents’ garage. Most men have a tendency to inflate their titles or responsibilities in order to impress women. It’s not a great idea to ask about his salary, but a safe bet is to ask about his title and how large a company he works for. CEO is very impressive, but not if the company is him and his dog.

His Intention
Just because a man is on a dating site does not mean he’s looking for a long-term relationship. In fact, if you’re on Tinder, you should assume that the guy is trying to get laid and be pleasantly surprised when it turns out he wants to date you. Aside from certain apps like Heavenly Sinful, where you’re explicitly asked to say whether you want to hook up or date, the guy’s intention is often unknown.

His Height
On average, guys will say they are two inches taller than they actually are, and will assume you’re not going to bring a tape measure to the first date. If you’re curious, you can wait until his wallet’s open while paying for (at least his share) of the bill and say, “Oh! Let me see the photo on your driver’s license. Mine is horrible.” There, as clear as day, is his height (no one cares enough to lie to the DMV).

His Weight
Men (well, everyone) will post photos of themselves from when they are looking their physical best. So if you show up on date number one and the guy is looking twenty pounds overweight, don’t be shocked. If you’re lucky it may go the other way; he may have just recovered from breaking up with his long-term girlfriend and lost the gut men tend to accrue when they no longer feel they need to impress their partner. Now that he’s single he wants to look great. But the pessimist in me leans toward warning you that he may be a bit heavier than you imagined.

His Worldliness
He may say he loves to travel but that doesn’t guarantee he’s ever left the United States. He may say he knows a lot about wine but that might just mean he knows that he likes Pinot Noir. Don’t assume anything based on the guy’s stated hobbies or interests; just like his job description it is likely inflated and made to sound more sophisticated than it actually is.

His Relationship Status
I hate to say it, but even if a guy makes himself available on a dating site it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s there to seriously date. Single can mean anything from “haven’t had a girlfriend in five years and looking for sex” to “newly divorced and sad.” There are men who are going through a break-up (but it’s not quite over with their gf) or are in an open relationship and they are on these sites because it seems innocent enough, but they are not emotionally available to be with you.

Tips for a Better Even on Your Relationship

No one actually needs to rally for the wonders of an orgasm when there’s enough research—as psychologist and sex therapist Mary Jo Rapini relates—that the tremor-inducing release of serotonin and endorphins can boost the immune system and decrease stress and anxiety. But when there’s still a wide “pleasure gap” to bridge in the current day—the term used to describe the slim number of women who report experiencing orgasms during sex (around one quarter to be exact) in relation to men—the main question is how. Below, we consulted advice from across the scientific spectrum, from medical studies to sexperts to sex therapists, on ways to enhance the female orgasm and feel connected to your partner without giving up your primal right to come.

1. Get Competitive

Sign up for a 5K race or schedule a game of tennis. Merely anticipating a competition triggers a 24 percent boost in testosterone for women, according to a study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. And any increase in that hormone also drives up your libido, so consider it a win-win.

2. Turn Up the Heat

Prior to sex, take a hot bath, or—if you’re short on time—place a warm washcloth over your vulva for a few minutes. Heat boosts blood flow to your vagina, leading to increased lubrication and sensitivity, says Hilda Hutcherson, author of Pleasure.

3. Tell Steamy Bedtime Stories

Write an erotic story featuring you and your partner, then ask him to read it aloud as he tucks you in. Lack naughty-writing know-how? Pick out a sexy read together at a local bookstore and study up on your dirty talk cues.

4. Sip a Sex Tonic

Let an ancient sex stimulant work its magic: Warm some milk, add a pinch of saffron, and drink up, says Aliza Baron Cohen, author of Sex: Rediscovering Desire Through Techniques & Therapies. Saffron, which releases its intense flavor when heated, has been considered an aphrodisiac for thousands of years. Or, take one of Amanda Chantal Bacon’s cult-favorite Sex Dust formulas for a spin.

5. Recharge Your Batteries

Women who use vibrators say they have an easier time reaching orgasm during (vibrator-free) sex with a partner, according to a survey of 1,656 women conducted by the Berman Women’s Wellness Center. If you’re tech-friendly, try a vibrating “bullet” attachment that’s discreet enoughto fit in your pocket (or on your neck). Or, get him in the action with one of the many couples’ vibrators out there, from the We-Vibe to the Eva.

6. Strike at the Optimal Moment

During the first two days of your cycle, your testosterone levels surge, your libido soars, and your breasts and clitoris become ultra-sensitive, says Gabrielle Lichterman, author of 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals about Your Love Life, Moods, and Potential. Intense orgasms may happen more easily than usual—and multiples are much more likely. Experts also suggest timing sex in the early morning when men experience their highest testosterone levels, or in the afternoon on weekends when women tend to ovulate.

7. Step Up for a Quickie

For stellar sex in a hurry, pull on a skirt and find a deserted staircase, suggests Sex for Busy People and The Field Guide to F*cking author Emily Dubberley. If you’re shorter than your guy, stand a step or two above him. Face him or turn toward the railing so he can enter you from behind. (Hint: Grip the rail for leverage—and don’t lean over too far!)