Ask The Trainer

What is the proper way to do crunches?

May 18, 2013

Q: I’m a little confused on how to work abs correctly. My training partner says you have to be able to do at least 250 crunches if you ever want a tight waistline with visible abs. I know this is not true because I’ve tried it and still no major results. Aside from the obvious things such as a strict diet and a good amount of cardio, what advice do you offer when it comes to proper technique of performing the most basic abdominal exercise, the crunch?

A: The average person believes a great ab workout depends on how many crunches they can do. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s been my experience that those who claim to be able to do hundreds of crunches have trouble squeezing out 20 when forced to use proper technique. Remember, when it comes to achieving a great waistline, quality will go a lot further than quantity, so be sure to incorporate the following techniques for best results.

Keep head in line with torso

One of the biggest mistakes people make is locking their fingers behind their heads and pulling their neck and head forward. This technique will more likely result in a pain in the neck than a chiseled midsection. Instead, try lightly touching your ears with your fingers, keeping your neck in line with to your torso and slowly lifting your body with your chin facing the ceiling.

Eliminate all momentum

Slow down! What’s the hurry? If you are ever going to get the six-pack of your dreams, you have to take your time and make sure you are lifting your body with your abs only and not using the rest of the body to complete the exercise. If you’re doing them correctly, it should take approximately 2-3 seconds to complete one rep.

Exhale at top of the movement

Failure to exhale at the top of the crunch shortens the movement and puts a buffer of air in between you and your abs. Therefore it’s important to time your breathing so you breathe out at the top of the movement, allowing for peak contraction and a longer range of motion.

Pause at top and bottom of each repetition

By stopping your motion for a split second at the top and bottom of each crunch, you’ll increase time under tension, causing the muscle to burn intensely. This technique will quickly exhaust the abdominals by forcing a greater number of muscle fibers to get involved, giving you an incredible workout.

Incorporate giant sets

Use giant sets - series of abdominal exercises done in a row with little to no rest in between. A good example would be doing crunches, bicycle crunches and leg raises for 25 repetitions each. The take a 40-50-second rest and start again until the desired amount of sets is complete. Giant sets will help shape and refine the abs as well as build endurance.

Add weighted movements

When you have mastered the above techniques and you need something different to shake things up, add light weights to some of your abdominal workouts and take your abs to the next level. Exercises such as medicine ball twists, weighted side planks, cable wood chops and Russian twists are all great options.

Try adding the above techniques to your abdominal training and results are sure to follow.