How to Tone Your Abs With Crunches

Doing stomach crunches is a great way to strenghten your core muscles. But the trick is to do them properly. Here’s some tips on how to perfect your stomach crunching form and get the six pack abs of your dreams.

The great thing is you can do stomach crunches while watching TV – during the ads – or listening to music. They’re similar to sit-ups but are easier to do (and kinder on your back). They’re also more effective at working your abdominal muscles (“abs”) than old-fashioned sit-ups, those laborious rote exercises you may have experienced at school with an over-zealous gym instructor or with an aerobics teacher in leg-warmers.

How Many Should I Aim For?

For beginners, try to complete up to three repetitions each set. Remember to keep the movements slow and controlled – your abs are meant to do the work!

Three sets of 25 repetitions (or “reps”) is ideal, but don’t give up if you can’t do 25. Just try for as many as you can. You can increase your reps after a few days (and a few more reruns of Sex and the City).

Hints and Tips:

  • Ab exercises alone won’t flatten your stomach completely. That’s called “spot reducing”, whereby people try to lose weight in one part of the body by exercising only that area. Make sure you do some aerobic exercise (such as walking), and also eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
  • Tempted to buy one of those ab machines, often advertised on late-night TV? Save your money. A study by researchers at California State University in the US concluded that most ab machines are not any better than your no-equipment-needed, basic, simple, time-tested crunch!
  • Poor posture often leaves people unable to activate their deep abdominal muscles. You can remedy this by learning to pull your belly button in while breathing out. With your ab muscles relaxed, tie a ribbon or piece of string firmly around your waist and try breathing out while pulling your belly button in to narrow the waist. The aim is to keep the tension off the string by holding this posture for five full breaths, then release. Keep at it for eight reps. Once you’ve mastered this, forget the string and stay conscious of breathing this way during the day and while you crunch.

Why it Pays To Tone Up Those Abs

o Strong core muscles stabilise your body for better balance and posture
o Your stomach will be flatter
o They give spine support, helping you avoid backache
o You’ll have better flexibility

How To Do the Perfect Crunch

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent, your feet flat on the floor. (Cheat’s option: with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle, place the soles of your feet up against a wall. This’ll make it a little easier.)
  2. Place your hands on the back of your head, or cross them over your chest like an Egyptian mummy.
  3. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground, moving your elbows towards your knees. Don’t try to lift up your entire back – only your shoulder blades.
  4. Squeeze your abs for a second (think about squeezing a lemon).
  5. Slowly return to the starting position. Remember to breathe out when raising your body up, and breathe in on the way down.

Tip: Make sure your movements are slow and controlled – resist the temptation to rock yourself back and forward to “try to get a few more out”. It’s better to do your crunches with good form than a lot of crunches with bad form – leave that to the gym junkies.

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