If there’s one free-hand routine we all love complaining about, it’s the abdominal crunch. For beginners especially, crunches tend to feel much harder than they look, and when done incorrectly, they can injure your neck and lower back. At the same time, the benefits can hardly be overstated. Not only do crunches contribute towards the washboard abs we’re dying for, but, more importantly, they also strengthen and add power to the core muscles. Most aerobic exercises and sports require the active engagement of these muscles, and perfecting your crunches can significantly improve your balance and coordination in everyday life.
What we collectively refer to as ‘abs’ essentially includes four distinct muscles—the Rectus abdominis, the Transversus abdominis, and a pair of muscles called the obliques. Of these, the oblique muscles are responsible for aiding in side bending and waist twisting movements. Incorporate oblique crunches in your home workouts to get those killer abs with great definition.
Strengthening your obliques through various abdominal routines provides added support to the lower back and helps in reducing posture-related problems. While there are several variations, the oblique floor crunch is a good place to start. A deviation from the basic crunch, it works on both the internal and external obliques and also aids in trimming inches off the waist.
1. Lie down on a fitness mat like you would for a basic crunch, with your back flat on the ground, legs together and knees bent.
2. Rotate your waist and bring both legs to the right side of your body, and onto the floor. Your knees should be stacked on top of each other, while your shoulder and upper back continue to be flat on the floor.
3. Place your hands behind your head for support and lift your shoulders off the floor. It’s important to ensure that your shoulder blades remain level and that your abdominal muscles are flexed as you rise up. If you feel undue pressure on your neck or upper back, relax and start over.
4. Hold the position for a moment, before releasing your ab muscles and gently bringing your shoulders back to the floor. Do about 8-10 reps on the first go, before switching sides with your knees and targeting the obliques on your left.
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Pro-tip: Maintaining form while performing any sort of ab workout is more important than the number of reps you complete. A few things to keep in mind:
Don’t lift from your neck. This not only increases chances of injury but also adds no benefit to your workout. As you rise up, you should feel the lift from your obliques.
At all points of the routine, keep your chin facing slightly upward to prevent hurting your neck.
Beginners can attempt the same movement with their arms crossed in front of their chest. It makes it easier, though, it’s important to keep your chin up.
Take it up a notch
Once you’ve achieved the right form, you can take the oblique floor crunch to the next level with the use of a stability ball. In this case, you have to rest your legs sideways on the ball while you lift you upper body towards the hip. You can place the ball against a wall to ensure some steadiness. This version is far more challenging, so take it up only once you’ve perfected your crunch form.
It is important to note that spot-fixing doesn’t work in the case of muscles; that is, doing crunches alone will not give you flat abs, if it’s not paired with a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise. However, given how fuss-free and versatile they can be, requiring nothing apart from a floor mat and your willingness to stick it through, abdominal crunches should definitely form a part of your weekly strength-training routine.