Common crunch exercises are 1) Traditional Crunch, 2) Oblique Crunch, and 3) Reverse Crunch.
The traditional crunch is the ab exercise that most of us are familiar with. The crunch is different from the traditional sit-up in that the lower back stays on the floor.
By keeping your back flat on the floor, you can isolate the abdominals more and lessen the use of the hip flexors.
From resent research, it's believed that repeated spinal flexion can harm your spine and lead to injury of the back.
The curl-up exercise is a safer alternative to ab crunching.
The key points to the ab curl-up are...
1. Brace the abs. This is neither tightening or hollowing out the abdominal wall. Brace your stomach as if you were about to get punched in the gut.
2. Don't draw the abs in. Drawing in can actually lessen the work done be the transverse abdominis (an important six pack ab muscle).
3. Curl against the brace. Breathe deeply at the top. Take about 6 to 8 seconds of breathing while you are at the top of the movement. You don't want to be holding your breath. This is a common mistake. You want to keep breathing slowly and deeply.
4. Only the head and upper shoulders come off the floor. Motion is at the thoracic spine, not the lumbar or cervical area.
The Swiss ball is a device commonly used for crunching abs.
Other crunch exercises include the oblique crunch, crossover crunch, v crunch, bicycle crunch, and stability ball crunch.
Also called the V-up, the V crunch has the advantage of working the upper and lower abs together all in one exercise.
The reverse crunch works the obliques in a safer way than the more old school ways of training the obliques such as oblique crunches on the floor. If you're finding you need help improving your posture, the reverse crunch is arguably the best way to strengthen the obliques and rectus abdominis.
Building a six pack isn't just about crunching.
There are 3 types of movements that are commonly trained for a six pack... 1) Flexion, 2) Extension, and 3) Rotation.
The traditional crunch exercise is referred to as a flexion movement because you are flexing (contracting) your abs. The problem is you're also flexing the spine when you crunch. This is why many trainers favor crunches over sit-ups. Sit-ups bring your lower back up off the floor while flexing the spine. Crunches help keep the lower back flat and stable on the ground.
Back Extension Exercises
Back extension exercises work the muscles opposite to the abs. Back extension strength is important for muscular balance. You don't want agonist/antagonist muscles out of balance. Too much flexion (crunching) without enough extension will lead to muscular imbalances of opposing muscle groups.
Core Exercises with Rotation
Exercising diagonally allows you to work your muscles in multiple planes. The rectus abdominis (abs) and spinal erectors get a chance to work together as a unit while the torso flexes and extends when rotating.
Anti-extension exercises aren't crunching exercises. These exercises don't bring your shoulders closer to your hips. They don't bring your hips closer to your shoulders.
Anterior core muscles (your six pack muscles) don't actually crunch. These aren't the action of these muscles you see in the mirror.
What your anterior core muscles actually do is prevent you from going into extension.
Example of a good anti-extension exercise is the Stability Ball Roll Out.
During this exercise, it's important to fire the glutes as you roll out. Here, we're focusing on core stability. You shouldn't see any motion flexing or extending of the spine. Here, you have the anterior core musculature doing exactly what it's supposed to do.
The anterior core muscles are preventing you from going into extension. This is why it's called a anti-extension exercise. Preventing the spine from going back and preventing the pelvis from rotating.
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The reverse crunch improves posture for ab workouts. Too many sit-ups and crunches create back pain and injury. Reverse crunches correctly train the rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques...
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