For an exercise that tones several of your abdominal muscles at once, it's hard to beat the bicycle crunch. This exercise targets your your side abs, the obliques, and the muscles that run along the center of your abs, the rectus abdominis. To get the most from the bicycle crunch and to avoid injury, you must do it in a controlled manner and not let momentum take over.
Performing the Bicycle Crunch
Lie on the floor with your hands behind your head and your feet off the floor. Set your knees at a 90-degree angle with your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Simultaneously pull your left knee and right elbow in together while extending your right leg. Your right shoulder blade should lift off the floor. Extend your left leg while pulling your right knee and left elbow in together. Continue alternating sides in a slow, controlled motion.
Controlling Your Speed
Resist the temptation to do the bicycle crunch at a fast tempo. This promotes sloppy form and introduces momentum into the exercise, which reduces how hard the abdominal muscles must work. The American Council on Exercise recommends holding the crunch position for one to two seconds before switching sides. As you switch, keep the motion slow. Throughout the exercise, focus on keeping the tension on your abdominal muscles and not plowing through the exercise as quickly as possible.
When doing the bicycle crunch or any other type of crunch, don't pull your neck forward, as this can cause neck pain and discomfort. Keep your neck aligned with your spine. Rest your hands behind your neck; don't actively pull your hands forward. Throughout the movement keep your lower back pressed into the floor. The twisting motion comes from your waist, not your hips. Your buttocks shouldn't move around on the floor. Keep your hips still and focus twisting at your waist.
If you do the bicycle crunch correctly and at a slow, controlled pace, it is one of the most effective abdominal exercises. ACE sponsored a study testing over a dozen abdominal exercises. The bicycle crunch engaged the rectus abdominis muscle more than any other exercise and it came in second for engaging the obliques. Doing this exercise too quickly negates its effectiveness.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.