How To Do Crunches Without Hurting Yourself

Combined with a comprehensive fitness plan and an excellent food plan like the diet-and-exercise program taught at Pritikin, your stomach will get flatter and tighter. No promises, but there may even be an abdominal six-pack in your future.

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From exercise physiologists at the Pritikin Longevity Center, get tips on how to do crunches safely.

How To Do Crunches Without Hurting Yourself

A well-executed standard crunch works your abdominal muscles, which leads to a strong core.

The daily benefits of a strong core are endless. Your posture and balance will improve. Nearly every move you make will be done more effortlessly and with less likelihood of injury.

You’ll be able to stand, walk, and run longer without developing an aching back, hips, and legs. You will bend, lift, and carry with more ease and power – and a lot less fear of injury.

In addition, as you exercise these major muscles, you will enhance blood flow and burn calories. Your body composition improves as you reduce fat and build muscle.

Fitness + Food = Best Results

Combined with a comprehensive fitness plan and an excellent food plan like the diet-and-exercise program taught at Pritikin, your stomach will get flatter and tighter. No promises, but there may even be an abdominal six-pack in your future.

With these benefits as your inspiration, it’s time to begin by watching and listening to the video from the Pritikin experts. Then imitate what you see. Even better, have a partner or first-rate trainer like the Pritikin exercise physiologists observe your movements to ensure that they mirror those in the video.

Step-By-Step Guidelines

Lying on the floor, bring your knees up and put your feet flat on the floor. Now, press your hips and lower back down to the floor. You want to feel your lower back touching the floor. As you do this, you should feel the muscles of your abdomen squeeze tight.

Then, with your arms at your side and palms on top of your thighs, lift your head, neck, and upper torso up and toward your knees, letting your hands slide up your legs.

How To Do Crunches Without Hurting Your Back And Neck

To avoid lower back and neck pain, keep the lower spine pressed to the floor. Also, keep the head and neck in line with the upper spine. Lift the head and neck up. Do not pull them forward. Don’t let the lower back arch off the floor.

Progress Slowly

When you first do this exercise, don’t overdo it. Your focus should be doing each crunch with correct form. Aim for a total of 10 to 12 repetitions, and with little strain while doing them. If you need to stop at 5 or 6 reps – or even fewer reps – to maintain good form, that’s totally fine. At the end of your reps, you want to be feeling, “I can do this. It’s pretty easy.” The last thing you want to be feeling is: “That was so hard. I’m spent.”

Maintaining this easy-effort level, gradually increase the number of repetitions to 25 per set. Do 2 sets per session and repeat 3 times a week with 48 to 72 hours between sessions so that your muscles have a chance to recover.

Increasing Intensity

When 25 reps become easy, you can increase the intensity by raising your body higher and placing your hands loosely behind your head. Do not interlock your fingers. And always, maintain good form.

When you can lift your shoulder blades off the floor easily while keeping your head and neck in alignment, and you want a greater challenge, check out the advanced version of the standard crunch demonstrated in the video.

Crunches | Getting Expert Coaching

This advanced version is done while balanced on a stability ball. For some of us, stability balls are no small challenge. With exercises involving stability balls, it’s always best to learn and practice with a trained exercise instructor like those at the Pritikin Longevity Center.

Strength Exercises | Key Benefits, Recommendations

We tend to know the benefits of cardiovascular exercises like jogging or swimming. They improve heart function and circulation. They also help lower blood pressure and reduce risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

But many of us don’t fully understand, or appreciate, the benefits of strength (also called resistance) exercises such as crunches.

Strength exercises are exercises that strengthen all the major muscle groups of the body. If you do them regularly, you’ll reap huge benefits:

  • You’ll feel your muscles grow firmer and more powerful as your endurance increases.
  • Your coordination, agility, and balance improve.
  • You can better perform a myriad of daily activities – like climbing stairs, getting in and out of your car, carrying groceries, playing golf, hiking the countryside, and rough-housing with the kids. You do them all with greater ease, confidence, and joy.
  • As you increase strength and agility, you reduce the chance of falls and injuries.
  • Your improve your body composition. That’s because as you build lean muscle, you reduce body fat. As you lower your percentage of body fat, you lower your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.
  • Finally, strength training helps prevent bone loss, even in those with osteoporosis.

Along with all the above, you’ll also look and feel better. There’ll be more pep in your step.

“And your body—from calves and thighs to butt and stomach to chest and arms—will definitely look fitter and trimmer,” encourages Pritikin’s VP of Sales & Fitness Jamie Costello, MSC.

“But the key to all these benefits is not just doing strength exercises, but doing them right. If done incorrectly, they could create pain and keep you from exercising. They might even cause injury, which would also put you on the sidelines,” cautions Jamie.

To accentuate the positive benefits and eliminate the negatives, “we focus on one-on-one guidance here at Pritikin,” says Jamie. “Within a week or two, our guests are noticing that their muscles are automatically falling into correct form, and they’re feeling the benefits.”

8 Basic Exercises

In addition to the standard crunch, there are 7 other exercises that are part of the Pritikin Video Series for strengthening the body’s major muscle groups.

All 8 are:
1. Squat: When done correctly, the squat exercise not only helps you look better (who doesn’t want a nicer-looking butt?), it makes life better. That’s because squatting is a movement we use in all sorts of everyday activities.
Watch the How To Do Squats Without Knee Pain video »
2. Calf Raise: Calf raises are a great exercise for toning up legs. What’s more, calf raises train your body to maintain balance, which can help you avoid nasty falls. Watch the Calf Raises Video: How To Shape Up Your Legs Without Pain »
3. Chest Press: The chest press not only tones your chest, shoulders, and arms, it strengthens your core. But it’s really important to do the chest press correctly to avoid pain and injury.
Watch the Chest Press Video: Tone Your Upper Body Without Pain or Injury »
4. One Arm Dumbbell Row: This exercise builds a strong back. It also strengthens your shoulders, upper arms, and core. You’ll be able to walk and stand longer – at football games, at museums – without having to contend with an aching back. Watch the One Arm Dumbbell Row Video: Strengthen Your Back Without Pain or Injury »
5. 45-Degree Shoulder Raise: The 45-degree shoulder raise can power up your shoulder muscles. You’ll be able to do a lot of things more easily, like lifting your carry-on into the overhead bins of planes. Watch the 45-Degree Shoulder Raise Video: Powerful Shoulders without Pain
6. Reverse Fly – Scapula Retraction: The scapula retraction is a great exercise for improving your posture. The exercise experts at Pritikin recommend using bands. Essentially, you’re moving your shoulder blades (scapula) back toward your spine.
Watch the Scapula Retraction Video: Reverse Fly | Build Good Posture and Strong Shoulders Without Pain »
7. Standard Crunch: Here’s an important exercise for your core. Your Pritikin video will show you how to start with the simplest and safest movements, and from there progress to more challenging forms.
8. Prone Leg Lift: The prone leg lift is a superb all-purpose exercise for your lower body. It strengthens the lower back, glutes (the three muscles that make up the buttocks), hamstrings, and core. Watch the Video: How To Do Prone Leg Lifts Correctly »

At the Pritikin Longevity Center, the #1 priority is performing every type of exercise correctly to avoid pain and injury.

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