Whenever I hit the gym, I try my best to focus on my own workout. I sprint on the treadmill, throw a few kettlebells around, and mostly mind my own business. Every once in a while, however, I’m pulled out of my sweaty workout haze by the sight of someone performing an exercise that looks—how should I put this? …Terrible. This week, I saw a poor soul performing a crunch variation called a “block assisted crunch.” I said a silent prayer for his abs and went about my normal routine. Now, I have every intention of stealing the move for my next gym sesh.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this particular form of midsection torture, allow me to elaborate. A block assisted crunch involves squeezing a yoga block between your knee and and elbow on one side of the body, while performing a crunch with the other. The result, according to Maillard Howell, owner of Dean CrossFit and founder of The Beta Way, is an ab workout the engages your core in a novel (read: extremely difficulty) way.
“It takes a certain amount of proprioception, or awareness of the position of the body, and muscle activation to keep the trunk engaged on that side so the block doesn’t drop, all while doing the dynamic movement with other side,” he says. Both your mind and your body have to focus on the move, or game over—you’ll lose your grip on the block.
Of all the crunch variations, this one is the most difficult
Are you ready? Here’s how to do a block assisted crunch
- Lie down on your back with a block in hand.
- Bend your elbow and squeeze the block (or another object) between your left knee and your left elbow. (Hint: The move will be harder if you squeeze the block width-wise than it will be length-wise, so pick your poison).
- Straighten your right leg and extend your right arm over your head.
- Engage your abs, squeeze the block, and touch your right toes to your right fingers.
- Lower your right leg and right arm back toward the ground. Don’t let your right leg rest completely though.
- Perform your chosen number of reps and switch sides.
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