Still trying to flatten your belly? Traditional abdominal crunches are an effective way to tighten and strengthen your abdominals and flatten that belly. Crunches are still one of the most popular belly exercises, and there are many effective crunch variations. By simply changing your leg position and hand positions you can change the focus of your crunches.
Here are four exercises that will tone and flatten your abs.
1. Basic Crunches
These are your basic “old school” crunches with your back flat on the floor and your knees bent and feet in the air. Place your hands loosely behind your head or at the sides of your head by your ears. Lift your upper body off the floor to touch your elbows to your knees. You should feel the pull only in your abdomen.
Note: Do not pull on your neck! This places undue pressure on your cervical spine (neck) and may cause injury. If you notice yourself making this mistake, unlace your fingers and move your hands to the sides of your head.
The crunch is a classic abdominal exercise, but while you’re toning your abs you might be crunching your spine. Check out the video learn how to correct your form to work your abs more effectively while protecting your back with this quick video. Happy crunching!
2. Bicycle Crunches
An excellent exercise to flatten your belly. Lie on your back and again place your hands on either side of your head. Bring your knees up and feet off the floor as you start a slow and steady bicycle-pedaling motion. Touch your right knee with your left elbow and left knee with right elbow. Continue alternating left, right, left.
So you’re going to start out lying on your back. You’re going to bend your knees at 90 degrees. You can support your head using your hands behind your head. Make sure that you’re not yanking on your neck, that’s going to cause some neck problems and may cause pain, so just be aware of that. You’re just supporting your head.
So what you’re going to do is you’re going to bring your opposite elbow to your knee, bring it back out to start, and alternate. And you could go about 15 to 20 reps here. I like to use the analogy as if somebody was lifting you up with a string from your sternum. So I don’t want to see you doing too much of this, but rather lifting with your whole upper body upward instead of rounding too much. So your elbow to knee, elbow to knee, elbow to knee, just like so. And that’s how you do a bicycle crunch.
3. Half Crunches
Again, start flat on your back, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands beside you or rest them on your thighs. Crunch (curl) your upper torso until your hands reach your knees (or the level of your knees if they remain at your sides). Hold this position briefly, then lower your upper body back to the floor and repeat. This is not a sit-up motion, but a curling of your abdominal muscles.
4. Twisting Crunches
Lie on the floor or preferably on a mat on your back, with knees bent, feet on the floor (or elevated as a variation) and your hands beside your head. As you curl upward, rotate your upper body to one side, then rotate back to center as you lower your back down to the floor. Alternate sides with each repetition. Don’t use your arms to lift your upper body, use only your abdominals and hips.
Bonus: General Crunch Tips
- Remember not to pull on the back of your head or neck to avoid spinal injury.
- Don’t jerk your body. Crunches should be slow and smooth without using momentum.
- Use a thick pad or exercise mat to avoid back injury against the hard floor or ground.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles as you perform your crunches and variations.
- To avoid imbalances and back pain, train your lower back as well as your abdominals.