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How To: Crunches, The Proper Way


How to do a basic crunch

The standard crunch is done on the floor. To make it more comfortable, you can do it on an exercise or yoga mat.

To do a crunch:

  1. Lie down on your back. Plant your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Bend your knees and place your arms across your chest. Contract your abs and inhale.
  2. Exhale and lift your upper body, keeping your head and neck relaxed.
  3. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Safety tips:

  • Use your core to raise your upper body. If the movement comes from your head or neck, you’ll increase the risk for injury.
  • Move in a slow, controlled manner. Rapid movements won’t engage the right muscles.
  • You can place your hands behind your head, but this can strain your neck. It’s best to try this hand placement after you’ve mastered the proper form.

How to do a bicycle crunch

The bicycle crunch is an intermediate version of the basic crunch. It works both the abs and obliques.

To do a bicycle crunch:

  1. Lie down on your back. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your arms behind your head, pointing your elbows outward.
  2. Brace your abs. Lift your knees to 90 degrees and raise your upper body. This is your starting position.
  3. Exhale and rotate your trunk, moving your right elbow and left knee toward each other. Simultaneously straighten your right leg. Pause.
  4. Inhale and return to starting position.
  5. Exhale. Move your left elbow to your right knee and extend your left leg. Pause. This completes 1 rep.

To avoid strain, keep your lower back on the floor and shoulders away from your ears. Rotate from your core instead of your neck or hips.

Safer alternative

The following crunch variation is safer than traditional crunches. It works by supporting the lower back while keeping it in a neutral position. It also puts less strain on your upper back and neck.

To do a safer version of the crunch:

  1. Lie down on the floor. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor. Place your hands underneath your lower back and extend one leg.
  2. Contract your abs and inhale. Using your core, raise your head and neck a few inches off the floor, keeping your neck straight. Pause.
  3. Return to starting position.

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