Ab crunches are exercises that work to tone the abdominal muscles around the stomach and midriff. Although many people may find ab crunches to be monotonous, when combined with time, patience, exercise, and a healthy diet, they will eventually see good results. For those who work hard on their diet and exercise, doing ab crunches can help them see the toned abdominal muscles, referred to as a six-pack. Crunches are different from sit-ups, using the abdominal muscles instead of the psoas muscles alongside of the spine.
There are several forms of mat-based ab crunches. The most basic and most common is the traditional crunch. Simply lie face-up on a mat, bend the knees, and cross the hands over the chest. Next, raise the chest off of the mat using the abdominal muscles, while keeping the lower back pressed into the mat. Some people only lift their chest a small difference and others lift their upper body quite far; it is best not go all the way to the knees to prevent injury.
Reverse ab crunches are also quite popular. With the reverse crunch, the legs are lifted up, the arms are placed alongside the body, and the hips are slowly lifted off the mat. Reverse crunches work the lower abdominal muscles.
Some people prefer to use equipment when they are strengthening and toning their abdominal muscles. Ab crunches can be accomplished on a stability ball if an individual likes a bit more cushioning under her back. A stability ball is a large ball made of rubber. To do a crunch on a stability ball, a person can rest her back on the ball, cross her hands over her chest, and then lift her chest off of the ball.
Some athletic centers have equipment that simulates the movement of the crunch without using a mat or using a stability ball. There are specific ab crunch machines that force the user to engage her stomach muscles in order to lift a series of weights. In addition, there are incline benches that are for someone wanting to hang upside down, hold a weight, and then lift her torso up in a crunch-like manner.
Using the proper breathing techniques is one of the most important considerations for those doing ab crunches. In general, exhale while going up and inhale while going down. Using good breathing techniques will keep people from tensing their muscles and also oxygenate those same muscles.
The number of ab crunches that should be completed depends on the activity level of the individual. For example, someone new to exercise or to crunches may start out by doing only 20 crunches a day. She can add to that number as her muscles get stronger. Eventually, a person dedicated to crunches may be able to do several hundred each day.