A strong core is the foundation of moving better and am ore active, athletic lifestyle. When your core is solid, everything you do becomes easier. That includes building rock-hard, chiseled abs that will turn heads. One of the best ab exercises are bench crunches – think of it as the “core” of your six-pack.
Bench crunches are so effective because they shorten the fibers of the abdomen, and they do so under constant tension throughout the exercise. Some abdominal exercises can excessively stretch the abdominal fibers, and strengthen them, and this can lead to a protruding abdomen when it is relaxed.
Another plus about bench crunches is that the hips remain bent throughout the contraction. This takes the large psoas major muscle, which is a strong hip flexor, out of the equation. As a result, the anterior abdominal muscles have to carry the entire load of each rep.
THE EXERCISE: BENCH CRUNCHES
1. Lie on your back on the floor, perpendicular to a bench. Place your heels on the bench and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle. Cross your arms loosely across your chest or place them behind your head.
2. Lift your hips just slightly from the floor to contract the lower part of the abdomen.
3. Curl your upper body (shoulders and mid-back) from the floor towards your knees as you crunch upwards, exhaling as you do. You do not want to come upward like a flat board, because this does not cause enough shortening of the fibers in your abdomen. Hold the top position for a peak contraction.
4. Slowly return to the starting position by uncurling your shoulders and upper body, inhaling as you come down. Let your hips come down toward the floor. However, do not paus or rest once you get to the starting position – immediately lift your hips and curl your upper body forward and resume the crunch part by trying to lift your upper body from the floor.
Don’t hold your breath during the crunch, since this increases intra-abdominal pressure and prevents the abdominal fibers from shortening as much (although it might feel easier to do a crunch when holding your breath). If anything, it is good to either exhale as you are crunching forward, or (even better) exhale before you do the contraction, then concentrate on achieving a maximal shortening of the fibers during the exercise.