For More Than Just A Six Pack: Get to Know the Ab Crunch

Personal Training Carlsbad CA

The Ab Crunch is a client favorite when it comes to exercises.

Sometimes it’s because of a misconception about what it can do for belly fat.

Other times, it’s because clients know how it can help their mobility goals.

Let’s dig into what the Ab Crunch can do for you…

Muscles Used

The rectus abdominis, or “abs,” are the muscles many of us would like to display in a bathing suit. Besides the aesthetics, they’re an important muscle group for function.

The Ab Crunch machine trains the abs as well as another pair of important muscles. However, performing this exercise requires attention to detail. There’s a small difference between proper execution and lower back strain with the ab crunch. We’ll discuss all of those details later in the article.

The rectus abdominis starts at the bottom of the sternum (chest bone) and the front of the ribs. It runs down to the top of your pubic bone (part of the pelvic girdle), which is just above your genitals.

The main function of this muscle is to pull your spine into a ‘C’ shape, bringing your chest and midsection closer together.

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Of course, the abs are most known because of the “six pack.” A “six pack” has that appearance because of connective tissue.

As the abs flow from the ribs to the pelvic girdle, there are three segments of connective tissue in the middle. This where the “six pack” gets its upper, middle, and lower portions.

Also, a sheet of connective tissue (linea alba) runs vertically, splitting the abs in half and causing it to look like there are six muscles instead of three.

Secondary muscles in the ab crunch are the external and internal obliques. The obliques are located in the area that many refer to as their “love handles.” (We’re covering all of the fun stuff today.) 😉

How It Works

Regularly performing the ab crunch to the exhaustion point of “muscle success” will strengthen your abs and obliques and possibly make them more aesthetically noticeable. However, I have to warn you: Seeing your midsection muscles is largely a result of low body fat levels.

The less fat between your skin and your abdominal muscles, the easier it is to see definition in your abs.

And losing body fat is mainly a result of positive dietary changes. Wanting to see your abs may beckon a change to your diet more than the use of the ab crunch machine.

Believe it or not, the rectus abdominis does not exist only to make you look good in a bathing suit. It is also functionally significant. The abs are critical muscles for respiration and childbirth.

In addition, they are major stabilization muscles.

Every exercise or sports movement focuses on a small group of joints. For example, throwing a baseball mainly involves the elbow and shoulder joints. For this to occur with optimal efficiency and effectiveness, muscles in various parts of the body (like your abdominals!) contract to hold other parts of your body relatively still.

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Performing the exercise looks like this: 

I mentioned previously that the abs work to pull your chest and midsection closer together, causing your spine to curl into a ‘C’ shape.

The proper range of motion for the ab crunch is small compared to most exercises. The exercise may include only four or five inches of movement in each direction. It’s common to exceed this amount, and that’s where some problems occur.

To avoid overextension problems that can lead to discomfort or targeting the wrong areas, follow these simple steps:

  1. In the ab crunch, as you “curl” downward, your lower back should press into the lower pad. (Your upper back should also stay firmly pressed into the upper pad.)
  2. If your lower back is about to peel off the pad, this is a cue that you’re at the end of the range of motion and need to reverse direction and begin returning to the starting position.
  3. When the lower back is removed from the pad, the midsection and thighs are now moving closer together. This motion is a hip-based movement called “hip flexion.”
  4. Hip flexion uses other muscle groups, and these muscle groups exert some force on the lower back. Examples of exercises that use hip flexion are sit-ups and leg lifts. While the abs assist in these exercises, the hip flexors are the dominant muscles.

In summary, “curl” down on the ab crunch machine no further than the point where you feel your lower back will start leaving the back pad.

Using the ab crunch will strengthen your abs and obliques, muscles that not only help you look good on the beach (with proper nutrition) but also with critical life functions.

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Maximize Your Ab Crunch in 2 Minutes or Less

In order to get the most out of your 1-2 minutes on the Ab Crunch, your coach will guide you through these four things:

  1. Full Range of Motion (and no further!): Full range of motion helps avoid shortcutting the targeted muscles. Think “ribs to hips” and “belly button to spine” to squeeze your abdominal muscles properly.
  2. Relax Your Feet and Hands: Avoid letting your hands or feet take over carrying the weight to “muscle through” the movement. You want the primary contraction to live in your abdominals. The goal isn’t to get as far as you can. It’s to let the targeted muscles reach muscle success.
  3. Neck Relaxed: Try to keep the neck as static and relaxed as you can to keep the tension in your abdominal muscles and not in your neck.
  4. Muscle Success: How could we leave this out?! Achieve muscle success and thoroughly fatigue your abdominal muscles to help build your strength.

Strengthen your abdominal muscles and work toward visible abs with a 20-minute workout.

Why Strength Training is Part of Her Plan to Live to 100

Personal Trainer Falls Church

Linda Maldonado broke her ankle in 2014 and it left her feeling hesitant that she could stay active and do the things she wanted to do. She was concerned about the future.

But her vision for the next several decades was to thrive. And she wanted to optimize her health and become strong enough to live to 100… yes, 100!

And with The Perfect Workout, Linda realized she could do all of that. Keep reading to learn how building muscle and strength has let her continue being as active as she wants to be in her 70s.

Life Before Strength

Linda joined The Perfect workout the month she turned 70. She wanted to develop as much strength as possible to counter her osteopenia and improve her balance.

Years earlier, Linda came across research showing the benefits of slow-motion training, but was worried she’d get bored with it.

So she continued to exercise on her own, going to the gym for cardio, lifting free weights and taking yoga classes. But after some time she felt like that approach wasn’t helping her get any closer to her goals.

I want to optimize my health and stay strong for the next several decades. I plan to live to 100 at least!

Linda Maldonado

But that only makes sense if those decades are full of health and vigor. (Learn more about how slow-motion strength training can help you live longer.)

Linda searched for slow-motion strength training and found the Falls Church, Virginia studio just minutes away from her home – perfect.

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Optimizing Her Health

Before The Perfect Workout and after her broken ankle, Linda was no longer sure she felt up to a trip to Machu Picchu with all those steps and altitude.

“Now, with the strength I’ve gained has come the confidence to do whatever I can – and we did climb two days at Machu Picchu in 2018, each day achieving 150 flights of stairs! With surprisingly NO pain or problem in the days afterward. That felt like a huge achievement.”

Just as the pandemic lockdown started in early 2020, Linda fell on her hands during a walk and injured her elbows, so she wasn’t able to lift any weight for several weeks.

Luckily, The Perfect Workout had launched their new 1-on-1 Virtual Training Program. Linda met with her trainer Melissa, virtually, twice a week, focusing on lower body exercises with the equipment she had at home (free weights and a ball).

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“That worked really well – she was creative and flexible and always came up with great ideas.”

Especially in a time like quarantine, having the option to train virtually was a beneficial option for Linda, but she’s very happy to be back in the COVID-safe studio working with her trainer in person.

100 Here She Comes!

Linda will be the first to say, “This really does work!”  

The 20 minutes of exercise are challenging and intense but she can see and feel positive results.

“When I told my husband I leg-pressed 270 lbs, he said I must mean 170… hard for him to believe!”

She decided she always wants to keep up with her 20-minute training sessions. In fact, she first started training at The Perfect Workout just once a week, but quickly realized she would get better results with two sessions a week. It truly is all you need to get results, and in a fraction of the time.

Having the right method is one big lever to getting successful results. And the other is having the right trainer. Both of which Linda is experiencing on her path to living to 100.

“Having a personal trainer makes a huge difference. The trained staff know how to observe you, listen to you, make changes and tweaks that work for improved effectiveness. I always feel safe and I know my trainer has the skills and interest to make this the best possible experience for me.”

Whether you’re also on a path to 100, wanting to optimize your health, or have a specific goal like reversing Osteoporosis, becoming healthier starts with just 20 minutes, twice a week.

Start training with a Personal Trainer today!

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