Most of Us Are Crunching Incorrectly, and That Isn’t Great for Our Necks and Back

Get ready to work those abs: Watch how to do crunches, the right way, here

Much like the New Kids on the Block are the OG boy band (sorry to my fave, 'NSYNC), crunches are the OGs of the ab workout world. They've been around since, like, the dawn of fitness time, and as such, there have been eons for people to learn how to mess up the move. So while there's more than one right way to do a crunch, there are plenty of wrong ways, too.

Star trainer Charlee Atkins, founder of Le Sweat and Le Stretch, has seen them all. "The wrong way is when your neck is crunched in, your lower back is off of the mat, and your elbows are in," she tells Well+Good in our video series, The Right Way, which demonstrates the correct form on all sorts of exercise moves. If your neck is crunching in as you crunch up, you'll be straining your neck and upper spine, which can lead to pain later on. Your lower back shouldn't lift up, because then you won't be working your core as you should be, and if your elbows are in, you'll be pulling your head up rather than using your abs to crunch.

So here's what you're supposed to do. Keep scrolling for the proper way to do a crunch, courtesy of Atkins:

1. Feet hip distance apart: As you're lying on your mat, keep your feet in line with your hips to stay even.

2. Keep your heels reachable: You should be able to touch your heels with your fingertips.

3. Hands behind your head: Rather than folding your elbows around your head, put your hands behind your head as your elbows stay open.

4. Crunch chest up: As you crunch up, make sure your chest is up so your shoulder blades come off of the mat.

5. Neutral neck: Keep your neck neutral so that you are taking the work from your core, feeling it all through the midline.

For more abs work, try this resistance band core workout courtesy of Trainer of the Month, Bec Donlan. And here's the proper way to do a plank to further feel that core burn. 

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