Nail the form on this move for an all-over core strengthening routine.
Ab workouts are top on our list of effective home workouts, as it’s pretty easy to work the core without any equipment. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring, as there are loads of variations of abdominal moves you can do, including planks, bird dogs and dead bugs.
Let’s not forget one of our favourite moves: the crunch. Sure, you can do standard crunches, but why not try taking it up a notch with the bicycle crunch? It’s a tough move, but get it right and the pay off is huge.
Are bicycle crunches effective?
In a word: hugely. In fact, in a study by the American Council on Exercise, bicycle crunches were found to be one of the best exercises you can do for your core, based on the fact that it enlists the upper, lower and side muscles of the core in one go.
Hollie Grant, founder of Pilates PT, says that bicycle crunches can help improve posture and reduce pain, too: “Bicycle crunches are a great way to target the obliques, which are often forgotten about in mainstream workouts. Our obliques work to stabilise the pelvis, so those who suffer with lower back pain could benefit from doing bicycle crunches.
“In the lowering phase of the movement, the hip flexors are also worked. With the increasing amount of sitting we do in our everyday lives, weak and tight hip flexors are becoming an increasing problem so bicycle crunches can be a great way to reduce the postural changes brought about by sedentary lives.”
How to do a bicycle crunch
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, fingers to temples and elbows drawn back.
- Start by imprinting the spine – this means drawing the hips and ribs closer together using the abdominals, and bringing the lower back closer to the floor.
- Float one leg up to tabletop, then the other, maintaining your imprint.
- Tuck the chin to activate the deep neck flexors, and then lift the head and shoulders away from the floor.
- As you exhale rotate your core to the left, bringing the right rib across to the left hip, and extend the right leg as low as you can maintain imprint.
- Inhale to come back through the centre, returning the leg to tabletop, and then exhale to rotate to the right.
- Continue for 10-16 reps and then come down with control and hug the knees to the chest.
The perfect form in a bicycle crunch
The imprint of your spine is so important during this move, says Hollie: “This will protect the lumbar spine. No one should allow the lower back to arch excessively away from the floor.”
Another thing that Hollie often sees is movement from the arms rather than the trunk, which won’t work the abdominal muscles. Instead, “try to keep the elbows drawn back and rotate from the core.”
It’s also important to make sure that you structure your workout so that you’re prioritising hard exercises like the bicycle crunch. “I always add them to the middle of my clients core section of their workout – if you leave it to the end your abdominals may be too fatigued to maintain good form,” says Hollie. “This exercise has a fair amount of choreography compared to say an abdominal crunch so make you’re concentrating and warmed up.”
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).