Basic Crunches: How To Do This Exercise Correctly

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The basic foundation for any abdominal routine involves crunches. Crunches focus on the upper portion of your abdominals – the rectus abdominis – and incorporate your obliques as well. This is the area that people tend to want to work on when they are eager to flatten and tone their stomach. Correctly performed crunches, along with cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet can significantly improve the appearance of your stomach.

For crunches to work efficiently, proper technique is essential.

The Abdominal Muscles

There are four major abdominal muscles:

Rectus Abdominis – Commonly known as the six-pack muscle, the rectus abdominis runs from your rib cage to your pubic bone. This muscle plays a role in stabilizing your pelvis as you walk. It also protects your lower back from injury. The upper and lower parts of the rectus abdominis can be worked separately.

Internal and External Obliques – These two muscles run diagonally from your ribs to your hips and along the front of your torso. Involved with twisting movements, these muscles also compress your abdomen. Strong obliques help protect your lower back from injury.

Transversus Abdominis – The deepest of the abdominal muscles, the transversus abdominis runs horizontally across your torso. Strong transverse muscles help with posture, compressing your abdomen, and protecting your lower back.

Crunches mainly target the upper fibers of the rectus abdominis. In order to target all four muscles groups you will need to do a combination of abdominal exercises.

The Proper Technique

  1. Lie down on the floor with your knees bent. Gently press your lower back to the floor.
  2. Cross your hands over your chest. If you need support for your neck, place your hands behind your head. Be sure that you do not pull on your neck.
  3. Contract the abdominal muscles by squeezing them as if you were squeezing water from a sponge and slowly lift your shoulder blades a few inches from the floor. Keep your neck in alignment. To make sure that you are not tilting your head, place a fist under your chin. If your fist does not touch your chest, you are doing it correct.
  4. At the top of your movement, contract your abdominal muscles as hard as you can, hold for several seconds and exhale.
  5. Inhale and slowly lower your back down to the floor. Stop just before you relax all the way down.
  6. Repeat the crunches for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

Helpful Tips

  • Try not to put weight on your feet as you come up. Initiate the movement from your abdominals.
  • Keep your lower back flat throughout the entire movement of the exercise.
  • Do not forget to breathe continuously throughout each repetition.
  • To keep your body from hitting a plateau, continue to add resistance as your core gains strength.
  • To increase your range of motion, do your crunches on a exercise ball. The more range of motion you have, the more your muscles work.


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