Crunches are arguably the most popular exercise for strengthening and toning the abdominal muscles. To get the results you want, however, it's absolutely critical that you use proper form. Here are the basics:

  • Keep your lower back pressed firmly against the floor throughout the entire exercise.
  • Keep your neck and head in a neutral position. Do not bend your neck forward as you crunch upward. To help keep your neck stable, imagine you're gripping a grapefruit between your chin and upper chest.
  • If you clasp your hands behind your head, don't move your elbows inward as you crunch. (Note: if you're a beginner, you may find it easier to keep your arms straight at your sides or folded across your chest.)
  • Focus on tightening the top section of your abdominal muscles to perform the crunch.
  • Aim to lift your shoulder blades off the floor; you're not looking for a big, dramatic motion.