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Twisting crunches put a spin on the basic move to engage more muscles.
Sit-ups have given way to the abdominal crunch when it comes to toning the midsection. Although crunches aren't a new exercise, most people don't know exactly what this movement does, what it is lacking and how truly versatile it is. It engages a portion of your abdominal wall, but on it's own it does not do enough to work the entire abdomen or give you a toned stomach.
At first glance your abdominal wall looks like one big muscle, when in reality it is three separate large muscle groups. The rectus abdominis runs along the front, which makes up the muscles that you can easily see on someone who has a six-pack. Beneath these you have transverse muscles that run horizontally and help protect your vital organs. The oblique muscles are on your sides, the area known as your love handles, and are easily targeted with twisting movements.
Get it Right
The correct form for a crunch makes the difference between toning your muscles safely and straining your neck without making an impact on your fitness. Start on the floor on your back with your legs slightly bent and your hands behind your neck. Tighten your abdomen and use these muscles to lift your upper body off the floor and toward your legs. Go as high as you can and slowly lower back down until your shoulder blades touch the floor. Without laying down completely repeat the crunching motion as many times as you can. Avoid pushing on your neck with your hands to reduce risk of neck strain.
Variety is Key
The basic crunch will isolate a portion of your rectus abdominis without working your transverse or oblique muscles. Adding in alternate crunching exercises will engage more of your abdominal wall and lead to balanced muscle mass. Try lifting your lower legs off the floor, doing a reverse crunch and lifting your legs upward as you crunch to engage more of your transverse and lower rectus muscles. To hit the oblique muscles, you can twist to one side at the top of the crunch. Be sure to alternate which side you are rotating to every repetition.
Supplement the Movement
Cardiovascular exercises also engage your abdominal muscles while combating body fat. If you have excess body fat or want to reveal your stomach muscles, this should be a key component in your plan. Running, the elliptical trainer, rowing and jumping rope burn a large number of calories because they use a lot of your large muscle groups at once. Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles engaged and tight throughout these activities for added strengthening.