When it comes to targeting the abdominal muscles, it is hard to beat the crunch movement. This simple exercise directly works the entire abdominal wall to provide the maximum stimulation that you need for development. However, there are all sorts of ways to do crunches, some of which are much better than others. In this article, we get up close and personal with the bicycle crunches version of the movement.
How To Do Bicycle Crunches
- 1Lie on the floor on your back and place your hands above your ears (not behind your head).
- 2Extend out your legs and lift them slightly off the floor.
- 3Lift your shoulder blades off the floor and tense your abs.
- 4Crunch up towards your chest and then to the left. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor throughout.
- 5Simultaneously bring your left knee up to touch your right elbow to your left knee.
- 6Repeat the same motion on the other side, alternating back forth as you progress through your reps.
Benefits of the Bicycle Crunch
Bicycle crunches stimulate the rectus abdominis through its full range of motion. At the same time, the twisting motion involves the obliques at the sides of the waist. The raised leg aspect of this exercise also brings the transverse abdominis into play. The bicycling motion that you will go through as you progress through your reps will secondarily work the muscles of your quads, hamstrings and glutes.
In terms of its effectiveness, the bicycle crunch involves more muscle groups than any other form of the crunch exercise. So, in terms of bang for your buck, this exercise ranks number one.
Bicycle crunches will help you to develop a strong core. This will help you to stand more upright, maintain proper posture and be far more functional in every move that you do. All sports also rely on a strong core for their effective performance. Whether you are throwing a punch or catching a ball, the core is the center of your power.
Common Bicycle Crunch Errors
Even though bicycle crunches are a relatively simple movement, they do require a degree of coordination. Here are a couple of common mistakes that you need to avoid to make sure that you get the most out of this excellent ab and oblique developer:
Bicycle Crunch Variations
There are a number of excellent variations of the bicycle crunch that you can put into your program to avoid boredom. They will not provide you with as much multi muscle activation as the bicycle crunch, so you should still rely on this exercise as one of your main options.
To do the butterfly crunch, lie flat on the floor with your feet together so that your heels are touching and your knees are drawn up. Extend your arms back above your head. Crunch up to bring your hands up between your knees, holding the contracted position for a second and then slowly returning to the start position. Only come up with your shoulder blades and mid back, not your lower back.
Place a bench with a back support about three feet in front of a cable pulley machine, facing away from it. Set the pulley to its highest setting and put a rope handle on the end of the cable. Now grab the cable and sit on the seat with your hands above your body at full extension. Crunch down to bring the elbows to the hips. Hold the contracted position for a second and then slowly return to the start position.
An advantage of doing the cable crunch version of the exercise is that it allows you to adjust the resistance level. Most people will find that to properly activate the rectus abdominis, their body weight is too much resistance. However, the cable crunch allows you to use less than your body weight.
Legs High Crunches
Sit on the end of a bench or seat with your hands supporting you behind your body and your feet extended at a 45 degree angle. Lean back and lift your legs until they are parallel with your torso. Now, bring your knees up toward your torso as you crunch your abdominals. Kick your legs back to the start position. Do not round your lower back. That is one rep.
Lie flat on the floor on your back with both legs out straight and your arms put on a 45 degree angle. Now simultaneously crunch up and lift your straightened left leg as you bring your hands together to clap them under your leg. On the next rep, clap under the opposite leg.
Working the Entire Core
The bicycle crunch is an excellent exercise to target the rectus abdominis and the obliques. However, to work the entire core you need to do more. A complete core workout needs to include exercises for the intercostals and erector spinae as well as the obliques and abdominals. Here are some exercises that will allow you to effectively work those muscles:
Start in a kneeling position with your feet at shoulder width. Bring one foot forward to form a 90-degree bend at the knee. Take a medicine ball or small dumbbell and hold this with both hands over your shoulder on the side that the knee is raised. Make a diagonal motion with your hands, as if you are chopping wood, toward the knee that is on the ground. Then reverse the motion and pull it back up to the high position. Make sure that your trunk stays tall and your core is tight as you move the weight. After you have this pattern down, perform a faster arm movement, but still control it with a pause on the other end.
Resisted Arm Swing
Stand on one leg with your knees slightly bent. Shift your weight slightly forward on the foot that is on the ground. Make sure not to bend forward from the hips. Instead, position your core in neutral and hold it tight. Now perform an alternating arm swing with a dumbbell in each hand, as if you are running. Allow your forearms to lightly brush your sides with your hands landing close to your belly button. Make sure to keep your foot, knee, and hips pointing in the direction you are facing. If you are able to do this, swing your arms with more force and try using heavier weights.
Seated Torso Extension
Sit on a bench with a relatively light dumbbell held in your hands against your chest. Crunch forward as if you are in the bottom position of a seated crunch. Round the spine forward as much as possible. Now reverse the motion to arch back, using the dumbbell as resistance. Keep the erector spinae muscles of the back tight and contracted in the top position of this movement.
Bicycle crunches are an effective crunch version that directly works both the front abdominal wall and the obliques at the side of the waist. Include this exercise as part of your overall core routine, performing 3-4 sets of 15-25 reps.