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Perfecting Your Crunch Technique

Updated on April 13, 2010

Crunches are a popular exercise for targeting your "6-pack." They are appropriate for almost anyone and can be done without equipment. However, the crunch is often performed with poor technique.

Many people place their hands behind their head during crunches to support the cervical spine. Let me stress that there is nothing wrong with doing crunches this way, but this is where the poor form begins. Your good intentions lead to pulling on your head causing your chin to be pulled down toward your chest as you lift. Then, as you pull, your elbows begin to crowd your head.

Notice she is looking up and keeping her elbows open.
Notice she is looking up and keeping her elbows open.

These three checkpoints: chin, elbows, eyes, are indicative of proper technique. One way to remind yourself about keeping your chin up is to imagine that you can fit a tennis ball between your chin and your chest. That's how much space you should have. Keep your elbows wide. You should only be able to see your elbows in your peripheral vision. Another visual cue is to look towards the ceiling rather than looking towards your knees.

The movement originates from your abs, not from your head. While looking up, lift your shoulder blades off the ground. Imagine that your head is just along for the ride. It doesn't actually move. Lift as high as your range of motion allows without forcing any movement.

It may help your form to do crunches with your arms crossed over your chest. If you like having your hands behind your head, don't interlock your fingers. Your fingers should barely touch. Remember, the goal is to work your abs, not your neck!

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