If you have dreams of a tight and toned tummy, abdominal exercises should be a staple in your daily workout routine. But rather than spending your energy on boring sit-ups, kick your abdominal routine up a notch with bicycle crunches. Requiring no special equipment and just enough space to lie down, you can squeeze in a set of bicycle crunches any time you have a few free minutes. But while the exercise itself isn’t that difficult, it requires proper form to adequately target the correct muscles.
To prepare for the bicycle crunch, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. To make the move more comfortable, use a cushioned exercise mat underneath your body. Bend your elbows and put your hands behind your ears — don’t get in the habit of clasping your hands behind your head, as it could negatively affect your form. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your head, shoulders and upper back off the ground, while simultaneously pressing your lower back into the ground.
Begin the bicycle crunch movement by bringing your left knee and right elbow toward one another. As you make this movement, straighten your right leg in the air and let your left elbow move toward the ground. The key to an effective bicycle crunch is allowing the movement to originate in your core abdominal muscles – your abdominals are responsible for twisting your torso and bringing your elbow to your knee, not your shoulder or arm muscles. Immediately after your left knee and right elbow come together over your tummy, repeat with the other side by bringing your right knee and left elbow together and straightening your left leg in the air. Continue quickly rotating through these movements; it should look like you’re pedaling a bicycle in the air.
Watch Your Neck
Avoid pulling your head forward with your hands during the exercise. Your head should remain in constant alignment with your upper spine; curling it forward can cause injury or stress to the neck muscles. If your neck becomes stiff or starts to hurt during the exercise, lower your head to the ground and take a moment to rest. And remember to gently breathe during the exercise; holding your breath will quickly make you fatigued.
Although bicycle crunches aren’t very intense, consult your physician before attempting them if you have back, neck or spine injuries. Similarly, pregnant women should consult a physician before attempting any abdominal exercises, including bicycle crunches.