It’s Crunch Time: 5 Tips to Making Your Crunches Count

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A flat set of abs is one of the most coveted personal accessories. But if you don’t use the proper techniques when exercising, your belly-crunching efforts won’t pay off. To make your crunches count, you have to do more than just lie on the floor and contract your muffin-top muscles. Pay attention to form—and don’t forget to breathe.

5 Do More Than Crunches

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Don’t limit your ab work to exercises you have to do on the floor. Standing ab exercises are effective, too, and easy to do at work or while standing in line at the grocery store. The standing bicycle, for example, is like an upright crunch. Stand with your feet parallel and put your hands behind your head, as if you are going to do a crunch. Lift your right knee in front of you, as if you are going to march, until your thigh is parallel to the floor. At the same time, twist your torso to the right. Repeat this move on the opposite side.

4 Eat Healthy

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To help reduce body fat and draw attention to your fit midsection, eat foods that are nutrient-rich and high in protein. Also, aim to consume food with healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Such foods include beans, nuts, low-fat dairy products, olive oil, berries, leafy greens and lean meat. Remember that hydration is also part of a healthy diet, so don’t forget to down 64 ounces of water every day.

3 Add Cardio

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Crunches alone won’t give you the six-pack you seek. To tame the bulge, pair ab exercises with cardio workouts. Crunches are a form of strength training that help develop your ab muscles, but you’ll have a harder time seeing the muscles if you have body fat covering them. To encourage the fat cells around your belly to take a hike, add a cardio component to your workout that drenches you in sweat, like high-intensity interval training or running.

2 Breathe

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Avoid holding your breath as you do crunches. When you work out, your body naturally needs extra oxygen. Proper breathing helps your body deliver oxygen to your muscles more efficiently so they can get stronger faster. As you lift your upper body, exhale through your mouth. Inhale as you lower your torso, but don’t suck in your gut. Instead, let your belly inflate as your lungs fill with air.

1 Mind Your Form

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Performing a crunch incorrectly can make you feel sore in all the wrong places and even lead to injury. For effective results, lie on your back, bend your knees and, keep your feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Put your hands behind your head and keep your elbows as close to the floor as possible so your shoulder blades squeeze together. As you do a crunch, use your ab muscles to lift your upper body, but don’t arch your back—especially your lower back—or bring your chin down to your chest. If your neck, back or shoulders hurt when you do crunches, you’re doing them wrong. Go to the gym and have an expert help you with your technique.

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.

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