Crunches are one of those exercises that everybody seems to have done before. You've probably been doing them since you were just a kid showing off in PE class, right? Well, you may be comfortable with the movement, but you're probably not doing it correctly.
As a matter of fact, the crunch is the exercise I see people screw up most often. Contrary to popular belief, it's actually a fairly advanced movement, and doing it properly takes some thought and some practice.
Ready to up your ab-training game? Then you need this Lifting Lesson!
Marc Megna's Lifting Lessons Abdominal Crunch
Watch the video - 4:25
Ab Crunch, Not Neck Crunch
At the very least, most people begin the crunch correctly, with their heels on the ground and their hands behind their head. From here, however, it just goes downhill. Once the movement begins, I see a lot of people pull their elbows together and yank their head up toward their knees with too much speed and very little control.
If you pull on your head, all you're doing is cranking your neck forward and using momentum to move your body. Your abs are hardly engaged, which means you need to do about a billion crunches in order to feel anything.
To make the most of every crunch, keep your elbows wide and your fingers just barely brushing the back of your head. Use your abs, and only your abs, to pick your shoulders up off the ground. The only thing I want you to think about is shortening the line between your pubic bone and your sternum. Elevate your chest; don't curl your neck into your knees.
Slow Pace, Fast Benefits
Your abdominals are built with the same fibers as your other muscles. They need concentrated stress in order to grow. To give your abs the right muscle-building stimulus, slow down. Sit up for a two-count, pause and squeeze for another two seconds, and then lower your shoulders back down for two seconds. All phases of the exercises should be the same amount of time.
By keeping control and slowing down your crunches, you'll get a lot more out of each rep. You'll only have to do about 10 true crunches before you feel your abs start to fatigue. More efficient work means you can build a stronger, better-looking core faster.
Now, Go Back To School!
Now that you know how to perform crunches correctly, it's time to double-check the other basic exercises you do during your workouts. Check out my other lifting lessons on the single-arm dumbbell row, back squat, biceps curl, and lat pull-down for more great coaching cues. Master these core lifts, and you'll see major benefits!