Crunches are possibly the most commonly misused form of exercises—most people who do hundreds of crunches see no significant results, and put themselves at risk of back injuries. The reason? Abdominal muscles are small muscles that are difficult to isolate, and most people use the larger back muscles while doing crunches. Here’s a way to target the abs without risking injury, and a set that will work out your entire core, rather than just your abs.
Raised leg toe touches
Raise your legs straight up in the air, keeping the knees slightly bent, and keeping your hips flat on the floor. The thighs should form a 90-degree angle with the upper torso. Lift your hands straight up above you and then slowly crunch up from your stomach and try and touch your hands to your feet. It is vital to keep the neck straight and your chin up throughout. Imagine that you are balancing a small ball between your chin and your chest. Breathe out when crunching up, feel the contraction of your abs. Gently lower yourself back on the floor while breathing in. It is not important to actually touch your hands to your feet, because the abs need small movements during a workout. Crunch till it is comfortable, and as long as you can feel the pressure on your abs.
Source: Devashish Singh, fitness manager, Fitness First, Connaught Place, New Delhi; Model: Nikhil Grover, Personal Trainer, Fitness First. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Lie face down on the floor, with your hands shoulder-length apart and extended straight out in front of you. Keep your legs shoulder-length apart. Raise both your hands and legs up slowly as far as possible and hold for 10-15 seconds. Breathe normally. Look straight ahead of you. Do 4-5 repetitions to start off, then graduate to 2-3 sets of 5 repetitions each.
This primarily targets your lower back muscles, but also works out the upper back and the hips which have to engage to hold the body in position.
Caution: If you have a history of back problem, check with your doctor before you do these exercises.
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