Bicycle Crunch Exercise

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Bicycle Crunch Exercise Guide

The bicycle crunches work out the oblique (side) muscles, with an added rotational movement that improves balance, stability, and core strength. The oblique bicycle crunch is an effective abdominal movement that works the core in several capacities, including trunk flexion, trunk rotation, and hip flexion. The motion requires a balance of strength and coordination.

By crossing over your elbow to meet the opposite knee when doing this exercise, you create a circular, bike-peddling motion. The bicycle crunch involves constant movement from your arms and legs as you focus on contracting your abdominals (torso).

Other names for this exercise: bicycle, oblique bicycle, bicycle crunches, bicycle maneuver, bicycle movement

Bicycle Crunches – Exercise Instructions

Lie flat so that your lower back is pressed to the floor and your hands clasped lightly behind your head (hold your hands behind your ears). Bend your knees to about a 90-degree angle; your shins will be parallel to the ceiling, thighs perpendicular to the floor.

Bicycle Crunch

Bicycle Crunch

Lift your shoulders off the floor (raise the torso off the ground about 30 degrees) and bring your left knee to your right elbow. As you do this straighten your right leg. Without relaxing the torso or returning your shoulders to the floor, repeat on the other side –  using a bicycle-pedaling motion, straighten your left knee while bringing the right knee in toward the left elbow. In other words, you pump your legs back and forth, bicycle style, as you simultaneously rotate your torso from side to side by moving elbow up toward the opposite knee. Extend your legs out only as far as is comfortable without arching your back. Alternate in this pedaling motion until you finish the set, keeping the movement slow and controlled.

Exercise Tips & Key Points

  • Don’t move too much at the lumbar spine. Rise up just enough to lift your shoulder blades off the floor.
  • Roll up your spine by bringing your shoulders up off the floor each time your elbow approaches your knee.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles tightly to avoid engaging your lumbar region. Your shoulders should be off the floor, but your lower back and pelvis should stay as still as possible.
  • The closer you bring your elbow to the opposite knee, the better you will contract your oblique muscles and your rectus abdominis.
  • Keep your elbows far apart from one another.

Muscles Engaged

Bicycle crunch works the rectus abdominis (upper abdominal muscle) and especially the oblique muscles (internal and external). It also works the upper thigh muscles (tensor fasciae latae and rectus femoris).

Main muscles: rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques
Secondary muscles: transverse abdominal, rectus femoris, tensor fasciae latae
Antagonists: spinal erectors

The Difference Between the Bicycle Crunch and the Regular Crunch

Bicycle crunch is like a regular crunch, but the shoulders come up and the legs pedal as If you were riding a bike; your arms are folded in front of your chest.

Replacement Exercises

Try these other exercises targeting the same primary muscle group:

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