Crunches, when performed properly, they can improve the strength of your abdominals and provide a variety of other benefits. The basic crunch exercise for the abs targets the rectus abdominis muscle.
Although it seems simple, many people don’t perform the basic ab crunch properly. Using good form when doing an crunch makes this a much more effective abdominal exercise.
According to the Mayo Clinic, crunches belong to a class of exercises called core exercises. Your core is the ring of muscles that surround the middle section of your body, including those found in your abdomen, lower back, hips and pelvis.
When you perform crunches, and other core exercises, such as pushups, side planks and glute bridges, you teach the muscles in this region to work in a coordinated manner.
Benefits of crunches can help you tone and strengthen the muscles in your abdomen.
*Muscle Groups Worked: Core toning and strengthening
Basic Crunch: Lie down on the floor on your back and bend your knees, placing your hands behind your head or across your chest. Pull your belly button towards your spine, and flatten your lower back against the floor. Slowly contract your abdominals, bringing your shoulder blades about one or two inches off the floor. Exhale as you come up and keep your neck straight, chin up. Hold at the top of the movement for a few seconds, breathing continuously. Slowly lower back down, but don’t relax all the way. Repeat for 15 to 20 repetitions with perfect form for each rep.
Crunch with Stability Ball: Lie on the ball, positioning it under the lower back. Cross your arms over the chest or place them behind your head. Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips. As you curl up, keep the ball stable (i.e., the ball shouldn’t roll). Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
Vertical Leg Crunch: Lie on the floor and extend the legs straight up with knees crossed. Place your hands behind the head for support, but avoid pulling on the neck. Contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, as though reaching your chest towards your feet. Keep the legs in a fixed position and imagine bringing your belly button towards your spine at the top of the movement. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
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-Eric & Maleka Beal
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*Before beginning any fitness program, always see a qualified healthcare provider for advice and to address any questions or concerns. The exercises presented on this website are for suggestion only and should not be substituted for medical diagnosis or treatment. Participate at your own risk and stop if you feel faint or experience shortness of breath.
Eric and Maleka Beal are health coaches and co-founders of BetterChoices, a health & wellness company and social community focused on educating, advocating, and promoting better health and wellness through lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness education.