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Get a Better Abs Workout – Perfect the Classic Crunch

Are your crunches delivering the best results? Proper form and technique are essential to performing a classic crunch. To get the most out of each one, learn the correct form and use it with every repetition. Concentrate on your breathing, alignment, and pacing. Focus on keeping your abdomen taut and your ribs connected to your hips throughout the entire set. This fitness expert answers FAQs regarding common concerns.

1) My belly pops out when I do a crunch. How can I learn to “scoop”?

Practice “belly breaths” on the floor: inhale, fill the belly with air; exhale forcefully, pulling the abs tight. Now apply the same breathing pattern to crunches, drawing the abdomen in as you lift your shoulders up. Keep the tension in your abs as you release your shoulders to the floor.

2) Should I press my lower back to the floor?

When you lift your shoulder blades off the floor, it’s normal to feel your lower back connect to the floor, but you shouldn’t purposely press your back down. The back should remain in “neutral spine alignment,” with the small natural curve in the lower back.

3) I’m feeling strain in my neck. What can I do to relieve it?

Before you move, create a band of support in the abdomen, i.e. connect the ribs and the hips by tensing the muscles. Cradle your head in your hands, chin lifted as if you were holding an orange under your neck. Mentally and physically relax the neck. Concentrate on feeling the strength from your core center as you lift your chest off the floor. Your head should rest in your hands and remain aligned with your spine.

4) Isn’t it better to do a full sit-up than a crunch?

The crunch isolates the abdominal muscles more effectively than a full sit-up, which also activates the hip flexors in the front of the thigh as you come to a sitting position. In the crunch, limit the range of motion to 30 degrees of spinal flexion (even if you can come up higher) in order to keep the work in the abdominals. The crunch is also a safer alternative if you have tight hip flexors and/or lower back pain. A sit-up can exacerbate both of these conditions.

5) My friend does hundreds of crunches every day. How many should I be doing?

Quality is more important than quantity. Two or three sets of 20 reps is enough to condition the abs. Try using a variety of exercises to target the same muscle from different positions instead of repeating sets. This style of training provides additional stimulation to the muscles as opposed to performing multiple repetitions of the same exercise.