• Deanne Pandey

To crunch or not to crunch

Abdominal crunches are designed to tone the core muscles of the body. The exercise aids in strengthening the core muscles, improving the posture, and increasing the mobility and flexibility of the muscles. Crunches can be an incredibly effective way to strengthen and sculpt your abdominals without a gym membership or single piece of equipment. They are one of the fundamental exercises that’s included in everyone’s fitness regime but very few pay attention to the correct form. This part can be tricky. Inspite of seeming to be a pretty easy to perform move, if not done correctly, crunches can lead to injuries. Negligence of form whilst performing crunches can and will lead to sore neck and back problems. That is why, it is very important to keep a check on your form.

Are you accidentally neglecting some techniques while crunching? Here’s how to crunch properly-

Lay on the floor or your mat with your feet joined or just apart depending on your preference.

Arch your back such that your shoulder blades, tailbone and head are the only thing touching the floor.

Fold your hands behind your skull and make sure you don’t touch the elbows on the way up.

Tuck your neck in and exhale on your way up whilst consciously feeling your abdominal muscles getting contracted.

On your way back to the initial position, inhale and make sure to push your tongue on roof your mouth to make sure you don’t strain your neck muscles.

Make sure your back isn’t flat once you’re done with the return movement and repeat.

Things to do :

Arch your back (Don’t overdo it as it may lead to injuries).

Keeping your neck tucked in.

CONSCIOUSLY contract your abs during the exercise.

Exhale on the way up.

Inhale on the way down.

Don’t jerk your body into movement; instead keep the movement slow and controlled.

Although crunches are effective, they're not the be-all, end-all in terms of exercises you should focus on when trying to strengthen your core. Along with some great toning benefits, crunches come with its own set of flaws. To begin with, it is not the best fat burning exercise, it strains your lumbar region, and they do not target deep core muscles.

Instead, here are 4 moves that you can include in your fitness regime to condition your core-

1. Plank

Plank is one of the most basic exercises. But it keeps your spine neutral and targets your upper body.

How to do- Lie on your stomach with your forearms and palms flat on the floor. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders and your legs extended. Then, tuck your toes and lift your hips off the floor so your body is in a straight line. Contract your ab muscles to maintain the position for as long as possible.

2. Dead bug

This move will train your abs to resist spine extension and improve your coordination.

How to do- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. To begin, press your lower back into the floor. Then, lift both knees until your shins are parallel to the floor, and extend your arms toward the ceiling. Contract your abs and slowly lower one arm toward the floor alongside your ear while you straighten the opposite leg toward the floor. Only lower your arm and leg as far as you can without letting your lower back peel off the floor. Return to start and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

3. Hanging Leg raises

This exercise specifically targets your core muscles without straining your spine.

How to do- Grip a pullup bar with your palms facing forward and your legs fully extended. Your feet should be off the floor. Tighten your abs and, keeping your legs as straight as your level of flexibility allows, lift your legs as high as you can. Focus on lifting your legs with control, and don’t allow your back to round. Then, lower your legs slowly.

4. Banded Row

Banded rows help train your abs to resist rotation and strengthens your back.

How to do- Find a cable machine or anchor a resistance band at chest-height. Facing the anchor, hold the handle or the end of the band with one hand using a neutral grip. If using a band, step back until you feel tension. Then, brace your core and pull the handle or band toward your ribcage so your elbow points behind you. Squeeze your shoulder blade at the top of movement before straightening your arm to return to the starting position. Perform all reps on one side before switching to the other. 

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