No matter what type of workout I’m doing, there’s a 60 percent chance that I’ll be asked to add in some bicycle crunches. The staple crunch upgrade that targets the obliques is found in everything from strength training and HIIT classes to Pilates, all because it’s a dependable ab exercise that’s been beloved for years by trainers and fitness devotees alike.
That said, you can easily sabotage all of the benefits it’s giving you by way of small—but significant—mistakes. According to Kit Rich, celebrity trainer and founder of KICHGO, there are three mistakes in form that she sees people make with bicycle crunches all the time.
One: twisting from the neck. “If you twist from the neck while doing bicycle crunches, you don’t actually target the core the way you want to, and you put unwanted pressure on the neck which can cause pain and tightness,” she says. To counter this, Rich says to instead think about lifting all the way up off of the floor via your shoulders. “You want to think about your shoulder blades,” she says. “Picture hands below the shoulder blades pushing up, lifting your chest and back off the floor. Lift through your shoulder blades and twist through the rib cage.”
Another mistake? Too much rocking and lifting of the hips. As with most exercise moves, it’s really key to keep your hips in place. “You want to keep your hips still and stable,” says Rich. “Imagine hands on top of your hips keeping them still. Your legs should be extending without the twist of the hips.” It’s hard, but doable—just keep your bum planted on the floor.
And finally there’s the matter of leg placement. “I also sometimes see people take their legs too low to the ground when extending, and it lifts their back off of the mat, which can put unwanted pressure on the spine and hips,” says Rich. In other words, be sure to extend your legs out slightly higher than your hips, and push your lower back into the mat as you cycle through the movement.
You really want to avoid these mistakes, because bicycle crunches are an OG, multi-targeted ab workout, and can be highly effective—as long as you’ve got the right form. “It’s a very dynamic movement,” says Rich. “When done properly, bicycle crunches can strengthen your lower abs and obliques. But when done incorrectly, you can have pain in both your neck and your back.” Noted—filing this under fitness advice to memorize, stat.
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