A common fitness goal among college students is to get their abs flat and fit. Whether it be for the halter tops, bikinis or board shorts that will be worn by the pool this weekend, something must keep students motivated to do endless amounts of crunches. But no matter how motivated you are, without proper technique a simple crunch is simply useless.
Basic crunch: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. If you need extra neck support, place your fingertips on the outside of your head, by your ears. Keeping a fist’s distance between your chin and your chest the entire time, lift your head, followed by the neck and upper back/shoulder blades off of the ground and then slowly return your body back to the ground starting with the upper back, followed by the neck and finally the head. This exercise works the rectus abdominis, the long muscle that runs down the middle of your stomach. To work the obliques, which are the muscles that run along both sides of the body, allow one shoulder at a time to come off the ground and across the body while the opposite shoulder stays on the ground.
Tips to getting the most out of a basic crunch:
1. Don’t grab your head or pull at your neck.
2. Remember to exhale as you lift off of the ground and inhale as you come back down to the ground — do not hold your breath.
3. Don’t let your chin touch your chest.
4. Take your time with each crunch. It is about quality not quantity. Make sure each time you come off the ground you feel your abdominal muscles working.
A reverse crunch: This works the rectus abdominal from the lower region instead of the upper region — basically for the “lower abs.” This exercise is a small and controlled movement. It should have no swing or momentum to it. Lying on your back with your knees bent, either place your hands underneath your tailbone or by your sides with palms pressed into the floor. Slowly curl your gluteus (butt) and tail bone off the ground, lifting the lower part of your body off the ground.
Tips to getting the most out of a reverse crunch:
1. Do not let your body swing. You should feel the muscle working the entire time.
2. Do not allow your back to arch off the ground.
3. Exhale as you lift up and inhale as you return to the ground.
4. Do not pull your head or neck off the ground.
5. For best results use a physioball as pictured below. (Physioballs are available at the Campus Recreation Center)
Leg drops: The most common incorrectly executed abdominal exercise. This is an advanced exercise and should only be done if you have prior abdominal training.
The set up for leg drops is just like the set up for a reverse crunch, the difference is in the movement of your legs.
With your back pressed against the mat, lift both legs up to a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower your legs (they can be bent or straight) to the ground without letting your back arch off of the mat. Allowing your back to arch off of the mat puts your back at risk for numerous injuries. It also causes your body to rely on the hip-flexors instead of the abs to execute the exercise. The second you feel your back arching off the mat at a controlled pace, return back to the start position. This exercise must be performed without any swinging and with extreme control in order for it to benefit the abdominal muscles. If performed too fast, your hip-flexors are the primary muscles being worked.
Next week: Core training
Dayna Davidson is the group and fitness supervisor at the Campus Recreation Center andis a senior majoring in wellness and leadershipwith a minor in professional writing. She can be contacted for questions or comments at TalkHealth@hotmail.com