In 2001, the American Council on Exercise, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting healthy activities (and who have landed the superb acronym ACE), commissioned a study to find out exactly what was the best core exercise. After comparing 13 of the most common exercises, they concluded that the bicycle crunch topped the bill. And who are we to argue with ACE? Here’s how it’s done.
How To Do The Bicycle Crunch
- Start by lying on the ground, with your lower back pressed flat into the floor and your head and shoulders raised slightly above it.
- Place your hands lightly on the sides of your head; don’t knit your fingers behind. Be careful not to yank your head with your hands at any point during the exercise.
- Lift one leg just off the ground and extend it out.
- Lift the other leg and bend your knee towards your chest.
- As you do so twist through your core so the opposite arm comes towards the raised knee. You don’t need to touch elbow to knee, instead focus on moving through your core as you turn your torso. Your elbow should stay in same position relative to your head throughout – the turn that brings it closer to the knee comes from your core. It might be best to think shoulder to knee as you move, rather than elbow to knee.
- Lower your leg and arm at the same time while bringing up the opposite two limbs to mirror the movement.
- Keep on alternating sides until you’ve managed 10 reps on each, aiming for three sets of 10 in total, or add the bicycle crunch into circuit training and just keep going for as long as the timer runs.
As ACE will tell you, the bicycle crunch is a superb core workout, and brings all kinds of abdominal muscles into play, including the tricky to target obliques (side ab muscles). Along with your abs, your thighs and glutes are engaged in the movement.
You can easily modify the full bicycle crunch to make it easier. The most basic version involves the same movements, but from a standing position, bending down so your turning arm meets your knee around your midriff.
For a more advanced version, try the elevated bicycle crunch. You’ll have to lie down on a bench, meaning you have to raise your leg further to meet your twisting torso. As well as the core benefits of the classic bicycle crunch, this version will improve your hip mobility.