If you want a six-pack, crunches won’t quite cut it. The side of your core needs to be strong for truly sculpted abs, says Corey Phelps, a Washington D.C.-based NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of the online platform Cultivate365.
One of the best moves to hit those side (a.k.a. oblique) muscles? You guessed it: bicycle crunches.
How To Do Bicycle Crunches
How to: Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed into your mat. Interlace your fingers to create a cradle and place it behind your head. Elbows should be out of your peripheral vision. Float your legs up to a tabletop position, ankles in line with knees. Engage abdominals. Lift your head, so your shoulder blades are hovering off of the ground. Straighten the right leg long while turning the upper body left. Bring your right elbow toward your left knee. Twist at the ribs and lead with your shoulder rather than your elbow. Switch and repeat on the other side. Continue for full rep count. (Watch Instagram-famous trainer Anna Victoria demo the move above.)
Form tip: Don’t pull on your neck. Use your abdominals to lift, instead, says Phelps.
Reps/sets for best results: Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Benefits Of Bicycle Crunches
“Aside from aesthetics, the obliques—which are the abdominal muscles that run along each side of your core—are vital in providing support and stability to the spine and lower back,” says Phelps.
There are two parts: internal obliques and external obliques. Together, they’re responsible for lateral flexion (bending your torso from side to side), rotation (twisting the torso), and flexion (curling up, like in a sit up). Training the muscles in all three ways is essential to building power, strength, and of course, definition.
And that’s where the bicycle crunch comes in. It works these muscles from every angle, covering the entire base of your obliques, says Phelps.
Make Bicycle Crunches Part Of Your Workout
The bicycle crunch should be a core exercise staple. “This move makes a great addition to any HIIT routine or as part of an abdominal circuit,” says Phelps. Pair it with dynamic movements like medicine ball rotational slams and static moves like side planks, both of which help target the obliques.
If this move is too challenging, keep your feet on the ground and just execute the rotation portion of the upper body, leaving your feet planted and legs down throughout, says Phelps.
Need to make it more challenging? Add a resistance band, looped around one knee and the other foot, and execute all reps on one side before switching the band to the other.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
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