Bicycle Kicks Ab Crunches Workout Tips & Benefits
The traditional basic crunch is a simple core exercise that has proven itself to be one of the most effective activities to develop the abs, but the simplicity of this classic can make the exercise boring over time. Lucky for us, the basic crunch has a more dynamic, holistic, and compound sibling—the bicycle crunch.
If the bicycle crunch already sounds like it is better than the good ol’ regular crunch, that is because it is. But it is not just better because it is more complex and challenging; it is better because it stimulates more muscles in the core, making it the more ideal choice if your goal is strong and good-looking abs.
What is a bicycle crunch and how do you do it
The bicycle crunch, sometimes also called bicycle kicks, is a bodyweight core strengthening exercise that targets the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques which are the main core muscles in the abdominal region.
The movements in this exercise involve lifting your upper body off the floor, which stimulates your rectus abdominis or the muscle responsible for the six-pack; raising your legs, which engages your transverse abdominis or the lower abs; and twisting, which works both your internal and external obliques.
Basically, the bicycle crunch targets all the core muscles—but only if you do it correctly. To get started, follow these steps:
- Lie down with your lower back flat on the ground and your head and shoulders slightly raised.
- Put your hands on the sides of your head, just slightly brushing your ear.
- Raise one leg just a few inches off the ground and extend it.
- Raise the other leg and bring your knee to your chest.
- As you bring your knee to your chest, twist your torso and raise your shoulders towards the raised knee so that your elbow and knee will meet.
- Bring your leg and arm back to the starting position at the same time, and then do the other side.
- Do at least 3 sets of 10 repetitions per side, or 3 sets of 40 seconds each with a 20-second rest in between.
Muscles in action
The bicycle crunch activates the rectus abdominis every time you lift your torso and contract your midsection, the same way a regular crunch does. But this movement only works the upper part of your abdominal muscles; this is where the alternate lifting of your legs will come in, to work your lower abs as well.
Now, surely you want your six-pack to come with a V-line, right? Lucky for you, this exercise requires twisting from side to side so that both internal and external obliques are engaged. And not only does this get you that diagonal sculpt on the sides, this also helps develop strong obliques which are vital in maintaining a stable spine.
Your obliques are responsible for lateral flexion, rotation, and flexion, so training them—along with the other core muscles—is necessary to boost power, strength, and definition.
There is not much activation of the quadriceps, especially the rectus femoris, in a regular crunch. Situated in the upper thigh, the rectus femoris is one of the muscles of the quadriceps that helps in the pedaling movement during a bicycle crunch. Working this muscle will improve your balance and stability, and lower your risk of knee injury.
These are the muscles that form the chest wall. Situated between the ribs, the intercostals make the rotation of your torso during a bicycle crunch comfortable. Working these muscles will help you with better breathing, allowing you to take in more oxygen which will be used by every muscle at work during this exercise.
Making the most out of the bicycle crunch
If you want positive results, it is important that you do bicycle crunches properly. So if you want to make the most out of it, take note of these tips:
- Refrain from putting and intertwining your hands behind your head. Doing this prevents you from “crunching” your neck, which is a common tendency for most people.
- Focus on engaging your core to initiate the rotation of the torso, and instead of moving your elbow to meet your knee, use your shoulder to bring your elbow towards your knee. It may be hard at first, especially if you are a beginner, but your priority should be to be able to do the right movements with the proper form. You will eventually find it easy to touch your knee with your elbow as you continue doing bicycle crunches.
- Once you have crunched up and your knee and elbow are already in contact, try holding that position for a few seconds to force your abs to keep flexing as your torso remains twisted. Doing this will give your abs more challenge as it tries to control the movement so that your body is not entirely relying on momentum to do more repetitions.
- Assume that you have an apple between your chin and neck to avoid unnecessary flexion of the neck. Keep it relaxed and neutral. Remember that you are doing this exercise for you core, not your neck.
- Instead of counting your reps, try timing it instead. This will help you focus more on the quality of your reps instead of the quantity. After all, the bicycle crunch is not an exercise that you should be doing fast-paced; in this routine, slow and steady is always better.
Results and satisfaction guaranteed
Strong core, strong everything
Once you have developed a strong core, you are essentially ready to do anything. You will have better endurance, reduced back pains, better posture, and lower risk of injury. Need I say more?
While a bicycle crunch does not necessarily burn fat, it is an excellent exercise that you should incorporate in your workout routine. If the core muscles are well-defined, it will be much easier for them to reveal themselves once you start shedding body fat. So couple the bicycle crunch with other strength training and cardio routines (and don’t forget healthy, balanced diet!) for a more dynamic fitness regimen that will guarantee positive results.
Exercises that require you to utilize opposite limbs at the same time, such as the bicycle crunch, improves your coordination because the movements coming from different directions force you to concentrate on keeping your arms and legs in sync.
The don’ts of bicycle crunches
The biggest mistake most people make when doing a bicycle crunch is doing it too fast. Your core muscles are small so your movements should be controlled and precise to maximize the gains. If you speed up your crunches, the larger muscles will end up taking control of your movement and propel your body with momentum instead of keeping the tension in your core.
Allowing the hips to take over
Doing too many reps too fast will take away the work from your abs to your hip flexors which will then try to get support from your lower back to keep up with your speed, resulting in an overextended spine that could potentially result to back injuries down the road.
Crunching your neck
This is an all too common mistake even with the regular crunch. In an effort to get the knee and elbow together, most people push too far and strain their neck in the process because it feels easier than tightening and engaging core to do the movement.
A few little tweaks
Standing bicycle crunch
This version of the bicycle crunch is basically same with everything except the position. To begin, put your hands behind or on the sides of your head then bend at the waist and bring your arm down by twisting your torso to meet the knee of the opposite leg which you will be lifting towards your elbow at the same time.
Elevated bicycle crunch
This version is an advanced one and will require the use of a bench to perform the exercise. With your legs lowering further in each rep, you will have a greater range of motion that will force your core to work harder as you lift your legs to your twisting torso to make your knees and elbows meet.
Bosu ball bicycle crunch
This is another advanced version of the bicycle crunch that requires a bosu ball. With the use of this, your core will work harder with every crunch because of the added instability of the uneven surface.
To begin, lie down and make sure that your lower back is resting on the ball while you keep your feet planted on the ground. Proceed with the exercise as you would in a normal bicycle crunch and twist as you sit up to bring your elbow towards the opposite knee. But unlike in a regular bicycle crunch, you first need to lower your foot back to the ground before lifting the other knee.