Neck Safety While Doing Crunches
Crunches are an abdominal exercise that can effectively work the muscles of your core. This exercise can be performed a number of ways and can often result in neck injury. A painful experience can be enough to discourage you from using the crunch and similar exercises again, which will leave a large gap in your workout routine because your abdominal muscles will be overlooked. Choose from among several methods that can be used to reduce strain on the neck during crunches.
No Strain, No Pain
A common mistake when performing crunches is to jerk the head forward because this may produce momentum and make the exercise easier to complete. This practice not only puts large amounts of strain on the muscles of the posterior neck but also reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Lacing the fingers behind the head can encourage you to pull on your neck and worsen the strain. Hold your hands above your head or next to your head to ensure the exercise offers challenge; while moving your arms to your chest or the floor minimizes the challenge of the exercise.
It's the Small Things
Several small factors can help reduce neck strain while doing crunches. Do not place your hands behind your head because this will tempt you to pull forward on your neck. Rest your hands on your stomach or on the floor. If your neck is not strong enough to stay upright throughout the exercise, place your hands on your neck to support it, but do not pull forward. Keep your neck in a neutral position with space between your chin and upper chest. Do not rush through the movement.
To perform a proper crunch, lie on your back on the floor or an exercise mat with your hands in the desired position. Placing your hands on the floor by your side is the easiest method, and crossing them on your chest will make the crunch slightly more difficult. Flex your abdominal muscles to lift your torso off the floor while keeping your neck relaxed. Focus on a point on the ceiling and continue to look at it throughout the exercise to keep your neck in a safe posture. Slowly return to the starting position.
You Have Options
To reduce the strain potentially placed on your lower back by crunches, lie on the floor with your lower legs resting on a bench. Many gyms also offer crunch machines that do not allow you to perform the crunch improperly through a system of braces. These machines also allow you to add resistance to the movement and make it more difficult.
Jonathan Thompson is a personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise and has extensive experience working with clients as well as teaching. Thompson holds specializations in longevity nutrition and muscle management for runners. He began writing in 2004.