A crunch is a classic core exercise that focuses on your core muscles. They can help you get a toned midsection, an improved posture, and stronger abdominal muscles. Crunches require minimal to no equipment to perform, making them accessible to basically anyone who wants to get strong and defined abs.
How To Do Crunches
Standard abdominal crunches are done on the floor. Placing padding underneath your body like a yoga mat or towel will allow for a more comfortable crunching.
To start, lie down on your back with knees bent, and feet planted on the ground and about hip-width apart. Place your hands behind your head with elbows wide out or cross your arms on your chest, whichever is more comfortable for you.
Pull your abs in towards the spine in preparation for the movement.
With your shoulders and head relaxed, slowly lift your upper body off the ground using your abdominals. Exhale while doing so and pause at the top of the movement for 1-2 seconds.
Lower your head, neck and shoulders back down to the starting position. Inhale as you do this motion and repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Do not use your hands to pull your upper body forward as this can cause strain and injury in your neck area. This also keeps your abdominals from working as hard as they should be.
- Use slow and controlled movements when doing crunches to ensure that you are engaging the right muscles.
- Maintain subtlety in your crunches by lifting your shoulder blades just a few inches off the floor. This allows you to contract your muscles more instead of relying on momentum.
- Build and strengthens core muscles
- Does not require special equipment and is easily customizable depending on your goals and needs
- Helps lose belly fat and define the abdominal muscles
- Improves posture
- Rectus Abdominis
The reverse crunch is a popular variation that targets particularly the lower half of the body, making it a great companion to the standard crunch which targets the upper abdominals more specifically.
With this variation, you bring your legs up and raise your knees upward and inward toward your chest instead of raising your upper body off the ground.
Reverse crunches can be performed on either the floor or a flat bench.
Raised Leg Crunches
Another effective variation of the standard crunch is the raised leg crunch. This movement targets your abdominal muscles from a slightly different angle by requiring you to lift your legs off the ground as you crunch.
Bicycle crunches are a fantastic crunch variation because, unlike the traditional way, they involve a twisting motion that targets the lower abs and oblique muscles as well.
Bicycle crunches are also good for your back and shoulders because it works the muscles that pull the shoulder blades together.
Mountain climbers are an excellent exercise that engages not just your core but also your glutes, hips and thighs. Because it's done on all fours, it puts less stress on your back. Just like a standard crunch, mountain climbers require minimal to no equipment so you can do them anywhere at any time.
Start by get
ting down into a full plank. In this position, “sprint” on the spot while bringing your knees into your chest.
You can bring your knees up in a straight motion to target your abs, or towards the elbow opposite from your knee to target your obliques.
Planks are a fundamental core strengthening exercise. It is a good all-rounder as it activates your abdominal muscles and work your shoulders, traps, quads, glutes and hamstring.
To do plank exercises correctly and effectively, make sure to maintain proper form. Keep a straight line from your neck to your heels and squeeze your abdominal muscles as hard as you can - as the key to an effective plank hold is active engagement from start to finish.
Windshield wipers are a great exercise to give your obliques a real burn. It involves turning your legs from side to side while keeping your torso still.
To perform a windshield wiper, lie down on a comfortable flat surface with your arms extended to your sides. In this position, raise your legs up to 90 degrees, then twist your core, allowing your legs to fall without touching the floor.
Repeat the movement on the other side. As you turn, use your arms for balance.
Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises are a great way to improve your core strength and stability. They also work the entire abdominal area, making them a perfect alternative to crunches.
To do a hanging leg raise, start in a dead hang position. Raise your legs, making sure to keep them extended (as little bending in the knees as possible). Raise your legs to a horizontal position and squeeze your core, then return to the starting position.