A recent study, led by Peter Francis, Ph.D, conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University had participants do various abdominal exercises to measure their effectiveness. Using electromyography equipment the researchers monitored the upper and lower rectus abdominus and the external obliques. Also, they measured the activity in the rectus femoris and hip flexors to measure if an exercise targeted muscles other than just the rectus abdominus and obliques.
The study found that the rectus abdominus (or the 6-pack muscle) was most engaged, and the hip flexors and rectus femoris were least engaged, in the bicycle crunch movement.
The researchers also found, through the electromyography equipment, that despite industry-wide belief, there was NO exercise that targeted specifically either the “upper” or “lower” abs, and that ‘the rectus abdominus act as a sheath, or one large muscle group.’ The average gym-goer was not able to distinguish between a contraction in the upper or lower abs.
Remember, that the best way to get your 6-pack to show is to lower belly fat through diet and cardio, and that this exercise will only help accentuate your abs IF you’re nutrition and cardiovascular routine compliment it.
Follow the break for an explanation of how to effectively do a bicycle crunch…
- Lie face up on your mat and place your hands behind your head, lightly supporting it with your fingers.
- Bring the knees in to the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the floor without pulling on the neck.
- Rotate to the left, bringing the right elbow towards the left knee as you straighten the other leg.
- Switch sides, bringing the left elbow towards the right knee.
- Continue alternating sides in a ‘pedaling’ motion for 1-3 sets of 30-45 seconds.
To add difficulty, do the bicycle crunch balanced across a flat bench. To make it easier, keep your toes on the ground and move your knees back and forth to meet your elbows in the middle.