This exercise is better than sit-ups and crunches for sculpting your abs.

When it comes to building your core, not all abdominal exercises are created equal. One exercise hailed as the best abs exercise for building your core is the bike crunch, because unlike the traditional crunch, the rotational motion involved in a bike crunch also targets the lower abs and oblique muscles.

Indeed, according to a study published in the American Council on Exercise, traditional crunches are one of the least effective abdominal exercises you can do. When you crunch, you’re only targeting a very small part of the abdominal wall, and you’re putting a lot of stress on your neck and spine while doing so. Take a look at four other exercises you shouldn’t do, and what to do instead.

The main thing to remember with bicycle crunches is to keep your lower back pressed against the floor and to avoid arching your back during the movement. Remember to keep your core engaged, remember to suck your belly button into your spine, and perform the entire exercise slowly, in control.

Looking for more training inspiration? Take a look at the best abdominal workouts which are completely free and can be done just about anywhere. We also found this exercise which is better than squats to strengthen your glutes.

How to do a bike crunch

To do a crunch bike, start on your back with your feet sunk into the ground, hip-width apart. Remember to suck your belly button, place your hands slightly behind your head with your elbows apart, and lift your head and neck off the mat.

Raise your legs to a table position and engage your abdominal muscles, slowly straighten your left leg, pulling it apart and away from your body with your pointed toe. As you do this, bend your right knee towards your torso and twist your left elbow to touch your right knee (it doesn’t matter too much if it’s not actually touching).

Then switch sides, turning and touching your left knee to your chest, touching your right elbow to your knee. Continue to alternate sides slowly and under control.

If you find that your neck is strained while crunching the bike, be sure not to lift your head during the exercise – the rotation should come from your torso, not your elbows.

To make the bike harder, pause the movement at the top of the crunch – when your elbow and knee touch. Hold the movement for a few seconds before alternating sides.

Another modification for those who have trouble sitting on an exercise mat (if you’re looking to invest in a mat, we’ve found the best yoga mats that double as an exercise mat here), is the standing bike.

To do this, stand with your feet hip-width apart, engage your trunk and bring one knee to your chest, at the same time touch the elbow opposite the knee, twisting your torso.

a photo of two women doing ab bike exercise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

What muscles are used during a bicycle crunch?

Crunches on a bike work all of the major abdominal muscles – the rectus abdominis, which are the abdominal muscles that run down the front of the stomach. The twisting motion activates the oblique muscles, which run along the side of the stomach. Raising and moving the legs also engages the transverse abdomen, which are the deepest abdominal muscles.

As the name of the exercises suggests, when you cycle your legs, you also work your thighs, hamstrings, and quads.

What are the benefits of bicycle crunches?

One of the great things about bike crunches is that they are a low impact abdominal exercise, so they should be fine for most people. That said, if you are pregnant, this is probably an exercise you should avoid, or modify to avoid rotations. Consult your doctor if you have any questions about exercising during pregnancy.

Besides being an aesthetic goal, a strong core will help you run faster, lift more weight, and improve your flexibility. It’s also important when it comes to maintaining good posture, stabilizing your lower back, and improving your balance.

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