Muscles Targeted: When a person performs abdominal crunches they are working the rectus abdominis muscles located at the front of the torso. This exercise will tone these muscles which comprise the popular “six pack abs” that so many people aspire to attain. When a person consistently performs this exercise they will also improve the strength of their core. Your abdominal muscles are found at the front of your stomach. They start at the pubic bone and run up along the rib cage. A person who performs crunches will also target the xiphoid process of the sternum, the area found at the bottom of the breast bone. Your rectus abdominis muscles are the muscles that allow your upper body to coil into the manner of a crunch.
Exercise Instructions: Lie flat on your back on a mat with your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands lightly on either side of your head while keeping your elbows out. Push the small of your back down to the floor to isolate your ab muscles. Begin to roll your shoulders off the floor. Continue to push down with your lower back. Your shoulders should come up off the floor only about 3-4 inches and your lower back should always remain flat on the floor. As always, make sure you let your abs do all the work in a slow and controlled fashion.
Why This Exercise is Important: It helps to increase strength in the abdominal stabilizer muscles. Any person who wants to make their abdominal muscles stronger needs to perform some resistance exercises that target the abdominals. Your abdominal muscles act as stabilizer to your body and help to maintain excellent body posture. The best way to strengthen this part of your body is through specific abdominal exercises. Your abdominal muscles are the muscles you need to flex your spinal cord.
Things To Avoid: When you perform an abdominal crunch you should avoid any jerky or bouncy movements. To get the full benefit of this exercise you need to perform the exercise slowly and avoid pulling on your neck or head when moving upward. You should also avoid raising the lower part of your back from the mat when doing this exercise. Another common mistake that is associated with this exercise is people will often attempt to perform too many sets with poor technique and form. The way to achieve the best results through the use of abdominal crunches is to slowly perform this exercise and really concentrate on each repetition. Far too often an individual will attempt to speed through their abdominal workout and instead of giving their abdominals a true workout they are actually stressing their back and tensing their neck as they raise their lower back off the mat and pull on their neck with their hands. When this exercise is performed properly, an individual will find that their abdominal muscles will feel tired after twenty to thirty repetitions.
Reps and Sets: 3-5 total sets of 10 to 30 repetitions are perfect for the abdominal crunch exercise. A person should only perform abdominal crunches two to four times per week for the best results. When individuals perform this exercise in excess of these numbers what usually occurs is the person stops focusing on their form and they start “cheating” to complete their set. The proper performance of this exercise requires one to concentrate on only using their abdominals to move upward and downward. Three sets of twenty repetitions, three times a week is more than sufficient for most people.
Other Exercises To Use: The abdominal crunch machine is another great exercise to use since it allows people with neck and lower back problems to train their abdominal muscles without putting any additional pressure on their problem areas. The use of this machine can be an excellent complement to a person’s abdominal workout as the weights used can help strengthen their abdominal core. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of all the exercises that target the abs.