For truly sculpted abs, straightforward stomach crunches won’t quite cut it. To craft the abdominal muscles you’ve always dreamt of around your core, your oblique muscles also need to be strong and worked regularly.
And don’t just take our word for it – in 2001, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) sought to find out what the best abdominal exercise is, comparing 13 of the most popular moves. The study examined how much each of the exercises stimulated the rectus abdominis and the oblique muscles, and we bet you can guess which move came out on top – the Bicycle Crunch. As such, when working your core, the Bicycle Crunch should be one of the staple exercises you use.
What muscles do Bicycle Crunches target?
Bicycle Crunches target the abs, hip flexors, and obliques. The oblique muscles run along each side of your core, and as well as creating defined abs, they are also vital for providing support and stability to the lower back.
There are two parts of the obliques, internal obliques and external obliques, and together they’re responsible for lateral flexion, which in basic terms means bending your torso from side to side, rotation / twisting the torso and they assist in flexion which allows you to curl up, like when you perform a sit up.
To properly work the obliques, you need to make sure you are working them in all three ways and from every angle to build power, strength, and definition, which is why Bicycle Crunches are so effective.
How do I properly perform the Bicycle Crunch?
Training Tip: Instructional videos on all the Freeletics exercises, including Bicycle Crunches, can be found in the “Single Exercises” section of the app, in the “Explore” tab. There we’ve included enhanced tutorial features to help you master these exercises.
To properly perform Bicycle Crunches, start seated with only your glutes and lower back touching the ground. Keeping your feet permanently off the ground for this move, and your hands lightly touching your ears, lift one leg off the ground and extend it out, then lift the other leg and bend your knee towards your chest.
As you do this, bring your elbow to touch the opposite knee and focus on moving through the core to turn your torso. Alternate sides and count one rep when your knee and elbow touch, with one side counting as one repetition.
Additional things to keep in mind when training
Speed is not the name of the game when it comes to bicycle crunches, the key is to go slowly and focus on your form and breathing which in turn can help you to breathe deeper into the muscles and avoid injury.
Although a common part of most people’s abdominal workout, there are some common mistakes which can make Bicycle Crunches less effective and result in injury. Avoid twisting the neck and lifting the hips which could lead to pain, stiffness, and tightness.
For some, Bicycle Crunches can be a challenging exercise and as with most moves, they can be modified to make them easier, or more challenging. For beginners who are unable to keep their feet elevated, try putting your feet on the ground and just rotating the upper body.
Exercise overview by Freeletics Training and Nutrition Specialist, David Wiener