For a crunches ab workout, the technique is imperative in order for you to get the maximum work done. You don’t want to cheat on the form and be just using your lower back when doing crunches.
The following are three easy steps to help you get the most out of doing crunches.
Step one, add some weight over the feet. This could be a plate, kettlebells, or dumbbells. We are using the weight to keep the hips and feet planted down to lift the upper body without our feet rocking up or down.
Step two, focus on a small range of movement. We aren’t going all the way up or all the way down. You can place your hands up by your head or crossed your arms on the chest. And for more of a challenge, you can place a plate in your hands.
Step three, focus on your breathing. To get maximum results, it's important to focus on breathing. Exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down.
You can also add in a rotation.
This is a very simple exercise and very effective when you perform it correctly.
15 to 20 repetitions for each side if you are rotating. 30 to 50 if you are just moving straight up and down.
I’ll going to break down the typical abdominal crunch and show why I think it’s a great exercise and also why it may not be the best exercise when it comes to working the abdominals.
I’m also going to show you 6 other exercises that focus on different areas of the abdomen.
Let’s take a look at a typical crunch and how it works the abdominals.
Typically, people end up doing crunches like they do sit ups. They tend to come all the way up and the go all the way back down. Done this way, you end up using a little bit of momentum and other muscle groups to pull yourself up. This isn't the best way to do a crunches ab workout. The problem with this is, you use muscles to lift the shoulder girdle up, but then you start to use other muscle groups to finish off the movement and take away some of the contraction on the abdominals.
When you do a crunch, focus on contracting the abdominals as if someone was about to punch you in the gut. Just go up so high as to take the shoulders off the mat. The abdominals are fully contracted here.
The crunch is a good exercise, but can be a little tricky to execute correctly when first learning to train the abs.
The following exercises are important for abdominal conditioning, core strength, and great for helping fix issues with posture and making sure you are fully training the abdominal region. These are good for if you play sports or just want to have more abdominal definition and shape in the abdominals.
The first exercise of the crunches ab workout is a cable pull down.
1) Cable Pull Down
It may not look like I’m moving all that far here. I’m actually activating all the abs. Don’t just pull all the way down to the ground. You want to just isolate the abs. So, it’s a short movement that just works the abs. Exhale on the way down, inhale on the way up.
The next exercise of the crunches ab workout is for the lower abdominals. Working the lower abs can really help get you the v-shape.
2) Lying Leg Lifts
This exercise works more the hips. Lay flat on the back and come straight up. The goal isn’t to push the legs up. The point is to keep the legs up to add resistance. Pull the abs inward so that the hips curl up off the floor. Get the toes over the eye line level. You aren’t using momentum here. The abs pull the hips forward.
3) Medicine Ball Rotations (V Twists)
Keep the hips fixed and rotate the upper torso. You could also use a cable or bands.
Next progression would be to keep the feet up in the air.
First, start with feet planted on the ground. You are working the internal and external obliques. This works to get a v-cut or tapering of the waist. Exhale and squeeze on each rep.
4) Balance Ball Crunches
Use a swiss ball or stability ball to help stabilize the movement. We are moving away from a solid sturdy ground on the floor to now adding in an element that you need to control by stabilizing the muscles. You're working the key muscles that help you become more stable.
Sit about two thirds up on the ball so you can stretch out the abdomen. Do the same movement curling the hips.
5) Hanging Leg Raise
The purpose of this exercise is to get the hips moving in the right way. Have the knees bent and bring the knees to chest.
6) Side Cable Lateral Pull Downs
Use a light weight and focus on good technique. You aren’t using the arm to pull the arm down. Keep the arm fixed and focus on using the abs and obliques. This is just a small lateral motion.
Group these exercises together into a circuit. For example, Monday you could do Rope Pull Downs, Lying Leg Lifts, and Medicine Ball Rotations. Two to three sets of each. 20 to 30 repetitions. Then on Wednesday you could do the next 3 exercises - Balance Ball Crunches, Hanging Leg Raise, Side Cable Lateral Pull Downs. This allows your abs to work a variety of movements at different angles.