Health Benefits of Crunches
Fitness

Health Benefits of Crunches

The crunch is the classic abs exercise, targeting the rectus abdominus muscle that runs from the sternum to the pubic bone. It is a versatile exercise, suitable for beginners or more advanced exercisers. It also ranks as one of the most effective for strengthening the abdomen.

The function of the rectus muscle is to flex the spine and in the crunch you do not perform more than 30 degrees of spinal flexion (which refers to how high you lift your upper torso off the floor), even if you can raise your torso higher.

This range of motion isolates the muscle, keeping the work in the rectus. If you lift higher, as in a full sit-up, for example, you activate other muscles, primarily the hip flexors in the front of the thigh. In addition to being a more effective isolation exercise than the full sit-up, the crunch places less stress on the low back and is therefore safer.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF CRUNCHES

Some of the health benefits of doing crunch exercises are

  1. It tones your abdomen, creating a natural corset-like effect of narrowing your waist, flattening your tummy and supporting the low back
  2. It stabilizes your pelvis and maintains the small curve in your low back which improves your posture and alignment
  3. It gives you a stable core which, if you’re involved in sporting activities, increases the control of any movement you’re performing

 

It is useful to have an objective measure of your starting level of abdominal fitness. Together with your health and medical information, a fitness assessment helps define your goals in an exercise program. Establishing a baseline also enables you to measure our improvement.

One way to measure your muscular fitness is to count how many repetitions you can perform. To know this, you can do the crunch test.

 

Crunch Test

Count how many neutral crunches you can do consecutively without resting. Remember, this is not a full sit-up. Lift your shoulders no higher than 30 degrees of the mat

Your score:

  • 50 or more—Excellent
  • 35 to 49 reps—Good
  • 20 to 34 reps—Fair
  • Fewer than 20 reps—Poor

 

Write down your results, make a note of the date and after two months of training, repeat the assessment.

To get the most from your workout, use proper form and execution of the crunch. Concentrate on perfecting the technique and apply it to each repetition. Mental focus also enhances the outcome—think about feeling the abdominal muscles tightening, strength coming from the core center, lifting from the chest, head relaxed in your hands.

 

Crunch Preparation

Make a cradle for your head by spreading your fingertips and supporting the base of your skull.

Bend your fingers slightly and let the weight of your head rest in your hands. Keep your chin lifted, as if you were holding an orange under it

Keep your elbows wide to reduce any tendency to pull out your neck

With your low back relaxed in neutral alignment, engage the rectus abdominus by tightening the connection between the ribs and the hips. Keep tension in the muscle as you lift your chest to the ceiling, shoulder blades clearing the floor. Maintain the tension as you lower the shoulder blades to the floor and, without resting at the bottom, immediately repeat the lift. Keep drawing the ribs to the pelvis, think of scooping out the abdomen.

Learn to breathe while you are drawing in, holding tension in the muscle—inhale first, then exhale as you lift up. Use slow, controlled movements and work the entire range of motion. It’s quality not quantity that counts.

The weight of your head and upper torso provide resistance in the crunch. You can increase the intensity by slowing the action, adding holds or by adding external resistance

CRUNCHES EXERCISES

To enjoy the health benefits of crunches, these are some crunch exercises you can practice

Short Crunch

From neutral position, move your feet in close to your buttocks, connect the ribs to the hips, then place your hands behind your head.

Inhale first, then exhale, scooping out your abdomen, belly button to spine, as you lift your shoulder blades 30 degrees off the floor. Release, slowly lowering your shoulders (but not your head) to the floor. Repeat 10 times.

 

Neutral Crunch

Move your feet forwards to neutral position. Tighten your abdomen by drawing your ribs towards your pelvis. Pick up the pace and continue to lift and lower your shoulders rhythmically, exhaling as you lift and inhaling as you release, maintaining tension in your abs throughout the movement. Repeat 10 times

Side Crunch

From neutral position, cross one ankle over the opposite knee, hands behind your head.

With elbows wide, inhale then exhale and twist one shoulder towards the opposite knee. Pause, then slowly release without resting your head on the floor. Repeat 5 times on each side

 

Long Crunch

Extend your legs, keeping a slight ben in your knees. Inhale first, then exhale and pull in when you crunch up. Add a hold at the top of the movement as you release slowly. Learn to keep tension in the muscle while you continue to breathe. Repeat 10 times, then stretch out, arms and legs long.

90-90 Crunch

Stay in 90-90, place your hands behind your head and tighten the connection between your ribs and your hips

Exhale as you lift your shoulder blades, eyes on the ceiling, chin lifted. Repeat 10 times. When you have finished, hugs your knees into your chest and rest.

 

Bicycle Crunch

Return to 90-90, hands behind your head. Start with an upper torso crunch then exhale as you twist one elbow to the opposite knee, bringing your knee into your chest and extending your other leg towards the floor. Inhale back to center and go to the other side. 

Alternate sides for 5 reps, keeping your shoulder blades lifted. Reach out long to stretch

 

Reverse Crunch

Come up into 90-90, legs raised with right angles at hips and knees and arms resting by your sides, palms up.

Inhale, then exhale and pull your belly button in towards your spine, drawing your pelvis towards your rib cage and lifting your hips. Use control to avoid swinging your legs with momentum. Repeat a total of 10 times

Crunch and Dip

Resume 90-90 with your hands behind your head, exhale and do an upper torso crunch.

Hold it while you inhale and dip your toes to the mat. Exhale and return legs to 90-90, then inhale and release the crunch. Repeat 10 times, then hug your knees into your chest for a breather.

To see how to correctly perform crunch exercise that will give you a flat tummy and other amazing health benefits, sign up to watch our fitness and beauty exercise videos today

 

REFERENCES

  • 15 Minute Home Workout—Abs Workout by Joan Pagano
  • British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine
  • National Register of Personal Trainers
  • Fitness Industry Association

 

author

Rich Health Editorial Team

Health Research

Rich Health Editorial Team is made up of medical practitioners and experienced writers who provide information for dealing with health issues in a simple and easy-to-understand manner