How to Perform Effective Ab Crunches
There has been some controversy over ab crunches. Do they work or not? The answer to that is, "It depends". As I've been stressing throughout the site, you cannot tone your stomach and abs without an overall change in your diet and full body exercise.
And if you're trying to get a six pack, you need to get your body fat down to around 10% or less.
You can't keep the weight you've gained in one area of your body and still expect to get a six pack. Your body doesn't work like that.
You also cannot eat anything you want and finish off with ab crunches to work off all the fat you consumed for the day. It doesn't work that way because you are adding muscle and fat to your middle at the same time which can cause your stomach area to grow even larger.
You've got to work on changing your eating habits (lots of protein and less fat) and then you'll find that the crunches will be more effective.
Also make sure that your ab crunches are done in small quantities of controlled movements with short rests in between.
While the exercises below will help tone your middle. If you're really serious about getting a solid six pack, then I'd highly recommend Mike Geary's book The Truth About Six Pack Abs.
It's thorough, provides pictures of the proper ab exercises, and even offers meal suggestions.
The Basic Crunch
This exercise works the upper area of your stomach and abs.
1. Start out by lying on your back.
2. Place your hands crossed on your chest and lie flat on the floor with your knees bent. You should always bend your knees because it provides necessary support for your lower back.
Some people like to place their hands behind their head but this is not the ideal position because you can strain your neck. What happens is when you get tired you have a tendency to pull on your neck (rather than your abs) to complete the exercise.
3. Slowly raise yourself up using your abs while pressing your lower back to the floor. As you reach the top of the crunch slowly exhale. Then slowly lower your back down to the flow as you inhale.
4. Repeat this process 20 to 25 times and rest for about 90 seconds. Then perform 2-3 more sets of crunches with 90 second rests between each set and you're done for the day!
Remember, the key is not to do 500 crunches at a time. The reason is, after the first 20 or 30 reps, your body gets lethargic and you end up "cheating" and not getting the full effect of the exercise anyway.
Always do a small amount (20 to 25) controlled movements at a time. You should really feel your ab muscles working by the time you hit 20. If not, you're not working your stomach and abs the way you should. Remember to focus that movement right in your middle section.
If your neck feels more worked than your middle section, you're not doing the crunches properly.
The Reverse Crunch
These exercises work the lower portion of your abdominals.
1. Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees slightly with your legs in the air and cross your ankles.
2. Place your arms on the floor along side you.
3. Rest your head on the floor while keeping your back straight.
4. Slowly raise your hips about 2 inches off the floor. Try to keep your hips steady without rolling then backwards.
5. Hold this position for about 2-3 seconds and really squeeze or crunch your abdominal muscles while keeping your head and shoulders on the floor.
6. Slowly lower your hips back to the floor and repeat the process.
Again, you should really feel your lower abs working after about 20 to 25 ab crunches. Take a 90 second rest after your first rep and then do 2 to 3 more.
Proper Breathing When Crunching
How you breathe is important when doing ab crunches. Read this breathing exercise article to learn the right technique.
How to Build and Strengthen Your Core
Another part of flattening your stomach that is often overlooked is strengthening your core muscles.
You can do this everyday by practicing good posture, breathing properly and more. Read more about core strengthening here.