How To Do Bicycle Crunches To Work Abs & Obliques

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

twisted crunch move

Bicycle crunches, also known as twisted crunches, are the unsung hero of abs day. Whether you're bored with regular crunches or you really want to work your obliques, this simple crunch variation couldn't be easier to incorporate into your workout or yoga flow.

To ensure you get optimal core-strengthening benefits out of this exercise, certified yoga instructor and mbg staffer Amanda Quadrini demonstrates the move and shares some pointers.

How to do bicycle crunch:

  1. Begin lying flat on your back, with your hands behind your head and elbows out wide.
  2. Lift your feet and stack knees over hips, forming a right angle with your legs. Shins should be parallel to the floor.
  3. Squeeze your core and tilt your tailbone slightly forward as you press your low back into the ground, leaving as little space as possible between your back and the mat. Try to maintain this connection to the floor throughout.
  4. With chin tucked, squeeze your abs and bring your shoulders off the mat. As you lift, extend the left leg straight, pointing the toes. Reach your left arm and shoulder toward the right knee, isolating the twist in the core.
  5. Slowly come back down the way you entered, keeping chin tucked as you untwist and bring your left shoulder and knee back to the center position.
  6. Repeat on the right side, reaching toward the left.
  7. Complete 20 to 30 reps (one rep = both sides). You can choose to complete a set of 10 one side at a time, or alternate left to right.
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Some form tips to remember.

To target your core and protect the integrity of your lower back, it's very important to press that low back into the floor. This will prevent straining and ensure your abdominal muscles are doing all the work.

Try to keep your chest somewhat open as you twist, focusing on twisting more from your core and spine rather than leading with your upper body. Also, keep your knees stacked over your hips, not closer to your chest or the floor.

If our lower back starts to come off the ground during the twist, try resting your leg on the ground rather than hovering it above the floor.

And if you need something slightly less intense, you can use a chair to hold your feet (omitting the straightened leg while crunching) and work on building that foundational strength first.

Why bicycle crunch is effective.

Having a strong core will make any other workout you're doing more effective, as it improves posture, digestion, back pain, and so much more. And particularly when it comes to obliques, a strong side body can help prevent back and shoulder injuries related to posture.

Not only that, but because this move worked your lower and upper abs, it can help balance the sacral and solar plexus chakras, which deal with sexuality and creativity, and willpower, respectively.

As Quadrini explains, this type of crunch is great for targeting the obliques and building muscle definition. "You can really feel your muscles activate because you are working one side at a time," she says.

So remember bicycle crunches the next time abs day rolls around, or better yet, give 'em a try whenever your core needs a little love. You'll be sure to feel it.

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