One of the most underrated ab moves out there is also one of the simplest. It’s also one of the most hated.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love hanging ab moves and extended plank variations and ab roll out type moves.
I think they are amazing core moves everyone needs to include and I work them in as frequently as possible to client’s programming.
But one oh so basic move I think we often just gloss over that SHOULD be utilized more is the basic bodyweight crunch.
Yup that’s right I’m not demonizing the crunch but actually telling you it may be an essential ab exercise to include.
While crunches are often blamed for back pain because they require spinal flexion, we have to remember that our abs actually flex the spine. And spinal flexion is even required in many sports.
So while planks are great, they work the abs to stabilize and prevent flexion or extension, and to target our abs we also want to include spinal flexion exercises.
We also have to remember that to get the best muscle hypertrophy results for especially stubborn areas, we want to include a combination of both compound and isolation moves.
And the crunch is a perfect way to isolate your abs.
Hypertrophy research has shown dynamic exercises, like the crunch, to be superior for muscle growth over isometric moves, like the plank.
This is due to not only increased muscular damage but also the increased metabolic stress of those dynamic movements
So if you want to have stronger abs and even optimize the appearance of your six pack, spinal flexion moves are key.
And before you start to comment that “Abs are made in the kitchen,” I will remind everyone you can’t spot reduce an area by simply doing a 1000 reps of a move to target that muscle.
You will not get a six pack by just doing 1000 crunches. You won’t get a defined six pack through exercise alone…period.
But moves like this are a great way to build the lean look you want as you dial in your diet.
And on top of the fact they add benefit to your hypertrophy programming to improve those muscle gains, crunches can also really help you establish that mind body connection to know how to better engage your abs.
Taking time to isolate muscles and really understand how it feels when they work can help you better engage them during compound moves, especially as you speed up the tempo of those exercises.
This ability to recruit muscles correctly can be essential to helping us avoid overload and injury.
And it is easier to focus on what you feel working to start with more isolated moves as other muscles can’t as easily compensate.
That’s why I wanted to share 3 key form tips to help you get more out of this very basic ab exercise and focus on that mind-body connection.
Tip #1: Use That Posterior Pelvic Tilt
The posterior pelvic tilt has been shown to help with activating the lower portion of the rectus abdominis.
By using it here you can better activate your abs and get more out of this basic crunch.
As you set up for the crunch, tilt your hips up toward your ribs and feel your abs engage to do that very small tuck.
Focusing on this engagement before you even crunch is key.
And then don’t lose this positioning. Often after crunching, when we relax back down, we lose that engagement.
We start to almost use momentum to crunch, and allow our lower backs to even slightly arch up.
By keeping that posterior pelvic tilt, you’ll help yourself isolate your abs.
Tip #2: Focus on rolling up one vertebra at a time.
You want to focus on your abs really powering the crunch. A great way to do this is to slow the move down and think about lifting one vertebrae at a time.
This also helps prevent you simply tucking your chin or yanking on your neck.
Remember your abs power spinal flexion so focus on using those abs to power ever inch of movement by thinking you’re rolling up one vertebrae at a time.
This also helps you slow down and control the movement to get more out of it.
And by slowly lowering back down one vertebrae at a time, you’ll also get more out of the eccentric portion of this small move.
Tip #3: Don’t just go through the motions, focus on engaging those abs to power the move.
Too often we are focused on the movement pattern, not on what we feel working.
We are just trying to do the exercise and get through the workout.
We think “Just crunch up.”
But instead focus on engaging those abs using the first two tips and stay intentional with the move.
If you fatigue or lose that mind body connection, don’t just keep forcing out the reps. Don’t do wasted volume.
Make every rep count!
We need to stop the binary thinking when it comes to moves and instead see the opportunity in implementing exercises to fit our specific needs and goals.
While no crunches aren’t right for everyone, I think too often they get written off when this very basic move can be a great way to improve your mind-body connection to actually AVOID injuries not to mention improve your muscle hypertrophy to reach the aesthetic goals you’ve set.