How to perform the crunches

Here are the proper ways to perform the five crunch exercises listed in the last post.

Basic crunch (20 reps): The basic crunch is the exercise many of us are familiar with, either from our days of physical education during gym in school or because of infomercials trying to sell us a new gadget. Unfortunately, many of us perform this exercise incorrectly. Here is the proper method:

    – Lie flat on your back with your fingertips pressed against the side of your head
    – Contract your abs while flattening your lower back against the floor
    – Keeping your chin up, lift your shoulders 2 inches off the ground
    – Exhale on your way up, and then hold the position for a few seconds
    – Lower your shoulders back to the ground while keeping your abs contracted

The reason for your fingers to be on the side of your head is so you do not pull up on your head while raising your shoulders. This is a mistake many make (including myself) when you begin to become fatigued after a few reps.

Bicycle crunch (20 reps): The bicycle crunch is a perfect exercise to work all of your abs muscles, including the inner and outer obliques. The starting position is similar to the basic crunch, as follows:

    – Lie flat on your back with your fingertips pressed against the side of your head
    – Contract your abs while flattening your lower back against the floor
    – Raise your legs to a 45 degree angle with the floor
    – Begin a standard bicycle peddling motion
    – Keeping your chin up, raise your left shoulder till the left elbow touches your right knee.
    – Lower your left shoulder and then raise your right shoulder until your right elbow touches your left knee

The alternating motion is what targets your obliques, something that is missed by performing basic crunches alone. This exercise will be found more often in the exercise regime during the six-week challenge than some of the others. Remember to perform the motions slowly while keeping your abs contracted.

Crossover crunch (20 reps): Mimicking the bicycle crunch, the cross over crunch focuses the exercise on your inner and outer obliques. The proper form for this exercise is as follows:

    – Lie flat on your back with your fingertips pressed against the side of your head
    – Contract your abs while flattening your lower back against the floor
    – Bend your legs until your knee is at a 90 degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor
    – Cross your right leg over your left so your right ankle is resting against your left knee
    – Keeping your chin up, raise your left shoulder till the left elbow touches your right knee
    – Complete your reps before switching legs

Remember to exhale as your lift your shoulder off the ground, while inhaling on your way back down. Proper breathing is important with these exercises.

Long arm crunch (20 reps): Going back to focusing on your rectus abdominis, this advanced form of the crunch provides added resistance in the crunch motion. The proper form is:

    – Lie flat on your back with your arms extended over your head and your hands clasped
    – Bend your legs until your knees form a 90 degree angle, with your feet flat on the floor
    – Contract your abs while flattening your lower back against the floor
    – Keeping your chin up, lift your shoulders 2 inches off the ground
    – Exhale on your way up, and then hold the position for a few seconds
    – Lower your shoulders back to the ground while keeping your abs contracted

With your arms being over your head, the urge to pull up on your neck is minimized. However, try not to swing your arms forward to gain momentum for your body. Instead, try to keep your arms straight with your upper body.

Reverse crunch (20 reps): Why let your shoulders have all the fun? Your hips need to get into the game as well. The overall motion is the same as the basic crunch, except that you keep your shoulders on the ground while raising your hips. As follows:

    – Lie flat on your back with your arms stretched out along side your body, with your palms facing up
    – Contract your abs while flattening your lower back against the floor
    – Bend your legs until your knees form a 90 degree angle, with your lower legs parallel to the floor
    – Keeping your chin up, lift your hips off the floor about 2 inches
    – Exhale on your way up, and then hold the position for a few seconds
    – Lower your hips back to the ground while keeping your abs contracted

The reason for your palms to be facing up is so you do not push down against the ground during the routine. Again, the purpose is to exercise your abs, not your arms.

These five crunch exercises will focus on the three major ab muscle groups. It will not be easy the first few days, since we don’t focus our efforts on the muscles during everyday life. But even as the muscles develop, remember to perform the motions slowly to maximize your workout potential while reducing the risk of injury.

The next post will over the “non-crunch” exercises.

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