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Crunch Exercise Variations That Work Your Core

Core Work: The Split Crunch Is Harder Than It Looks

I've been working on strengthening my core with my trainer, Tim Rich, at Crunch Gym. He recommended a do-anywhere exercise that is anything but easy but will definitely help strengthen your ab muscles. The move, called the split crunch, uses your leg positioning to modify a normal run-of-the-mill crunch. The result? An ab-killing exercise that you can fit in anytime.

  1. To start, lie on your back, making sure your abs are engaged and your spine is neutral. Read these tips for proper back form when doing the Pilates, The Hundred — just like in the classic Pilates move, when doing the split crunch your belly button should be pulled in toward your spine.
  2. Next, straighten both your legs to a 90-degree angle from your torso, feet parallel to the floor with soles facing the ceiling (see picture above). Put your hands behind your ears — not the back of your head or neck, or you may risk straining your neck as you do the move — and pull your chin in toward your chest, fixing your gaze on your belly button.

Ready to go? Read on for the rest of the split crunch move.

  1. Once you're in position, it's time to start doing crunches. Make sure you're rounding your spine and keeping your belly button in as you pull up. Curl up and make a "C" shape with your back before slowly releasing. Repeat this leg position five times.
  2. Now lower one leg until it is a few inches from the floor (the lower the harder the exercise, but if you find it's too difficult, raise the lower leg a little higher), making sure to point your toes in the same direction your leg is pointed like the picture below. The other leg should stay at the same up-pointed position. Do five more crunches at this position.

  1. Switch legs and do five more crunches with the opposite leg now lowered.
  2. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds and then repeat the exercise again two or three times.

Done! Each set only takes a few minutes, but you'll really feel how hard your core muscles are working when you do this move.

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