The 30 Day Crunch Challenge is a great program for anyone looking to tighten up their mid-section and build core strength. There are a lot of abdominal exercises but the traditional crunch is one of my favorites because it’s simple and easy to learn while at the same time incredibly effective for targeting your abs. This is also a good challenge to use to build a base of core strength before starting more advanced abdominal exercises.
What is the 30 Day Crunch Challenge?
It’s an exercise plan that takes you from doing 20 crunches to 150 crunches over the course of 30 days. Each day you’ll do a set number of crunches, according to the challenge schedule, with a rest day every 4th day. Last month I posted the 30 Day Squat Challenge and this crunch challenge can be a nice addition for people who want another exercise to add to their squat routines.
Benefits of the 30 Day Crunch Challenge
Crunches are one of the best exercises to tone, define, and strengthen your abdominals. They can also:
- Increase core strength
- Give you a flatter stomach
- Reduce your risk of injury
- Increase balance and stability
- Give you better posture
Follow along with the table below to complete the challenge. Print out or save the schedule below to stay on track.
How to Do a Proper Crunch
The crunch is a very basic movement but there are a few key points worth going over. Here are the steps to perform the standard crunch:
1. Start by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. You have three options for how to hold your arms with the traditional crunch, listed here in order from hardest to easiest:
- Hands behind head. This is the most common way of doing crunches and it’s also the most challenging of the three variations. The number one thing to watch out for if you’re doing crunches this way is that you’re not pulling on your neck. Don’t interlock your hands. Just place your finger tips lightly somewhere between the back of your head and your ears. This option also allows you to support the weight of your head during the crunch which some people may find easier on their necks.
- Arms across chest. Cross your arms and place your hands on the opposite shoulders. This is also a common variation that works well for a lot of people.
- Hand on front of thighs. This is the easiest variation and it’s also a good one to use if you’re just learning how to crunch. The reason is you can use your hands as guides to know how far you should be lifting up. In the starting position place the palms of your hands on top of your thighs and keep your elbows straight. As you crunch, slide your hands up your leg and stop as soon as your fingertips touch the tops of your knees.
3. Lift your shoulders and head to the ceiling. Keep your chin pointing towards the ceiling and avoid tucking your chin into your chest.
4. Hold for a second and then slowly return to the starting position. This counts as one crunch.
You can make the exercise more difficult by holding the top position for two to three seconds before lowering back down.
Crunches and Weight Loss
Unlike squats, crunches don’t burn a lot of calories because your abdominal muscles are small. It’s a misconception that doing a lot of crunches will automatically lead to a lean midsection. Crunches can help you sculpt the muscles in your mid-section, but you’re not going to see the results of your hard work if you still have a layer of fat covering your abs. If your goal is a flatter stomach, your best bet is to combine crunches with a balanced diet and regular cardio workouts.
How Far to Go Up
One question people often ask is how far to lift their shoulders. A crunch involves only a small range of motion. Basically you crunch up until your shoulder blades begin to lift off the floor. Your shoulders only need to come up a few inches and your lower back should stay on the ground the entire time. If you start to go higher than it turns into more of a full sit-up which is not necessary to get the ab strengthening benefits from the exercise.
Protecting Your Neck
A lot of people have told me they avoid doing crunches because it hurts their necks. If this is the case, first check to make sure you’re not pulling on your head or tucking your chin in to your chest. If your form is good, this can often be caused by weakness in the neck muscles. Just like how abdominal muscles support your back, the muscles in the front of the neck help stabilize the joints in your neck. When doing a crunch these muscles are working against gravity. This can be hard work for them initially.
The solution is to keep doing crunches to get these muscles stronger. Eventually they will become better adapted to the activity and it won’t feel like you’re straining your neck. In the meantime, try using your hands to partially support the weight of your head.
Completing the Challenge
Print out the schedule or write down the daily crunches on your calendar to keep yourself on track. The layout of the program is similar to the squat challenge so consider doing both together for a killer workout.
Join us on Facebook for extra motivation and feel free to share your experience and post any questions in the comments below.
Best of luck everyone!