How to Do Abdominal Exercises Without Hurting Your Neck

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The neck strain caused by abdominal exercise is often due to poor posture or improper form. People sometimes interlace their fingers behind their heads when doing crunches. As the abdominal muscles fatigue, this can cause people to pull on their heads, to assist the crunch, putting strain on the neck and reducing the effectiveness of the workout. In most cases, you can avoid neck strain, and get a better workout, by making subtle adjustments to the way you do abdominal exercises.

Neck-saving Crunches

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.

  • Cross your arms over your chest and tilt your pelvis so that your lower back is against the floor.

  • Engage and contract your abdominal muscles and lift your shoulders off the floor. You should only be using your abdominal muscles.

  • Keep your neck neutral and avoid tucking your chin. Tucking the chin means that you are trying to assist with your shoulders instead of letting your abdominal muscles do the work.

  • Sit up just far enough for your shoulders and upper back to clear the floor, then slowly lower back down. Your head and shoulders should hit the floor at roughly the same time. Do 10 repetitions.

Neck-saving Oblique Crunches

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor.

  • Place the fingers of your right hand just behind your right ear (as if you are cupping your ear to hear better). Cross your left ankle over your right knee.

  • Engage and contract your abdominal muscles and lift your shoulders off the floor. You should only be using your abdominal muscles. Keep your neck neutral and avoid tucking your chin. Keep your right elbow out to the side, your elbow should not be visible--even with peripheral vision.

  • Slowly rotate your torso, neck and head toward your left knee. Your right elbow should still not be in your field of vision and your right ear should be flat against your head. If you can see your elbow, or if your fingers are curling your ear, this means you are using your shoulders instead of your abdominal muscles.

  • Twist as far as your muscles will allow, without bringing your elbow forward. Release the twist and slowly lower back to the floor. Your head, elbow and shoulders should hit the floor at roughly the same time. Do 10 repetitions and repeat on the other side.

References

  • "Personal Trainer Manual";American Council on Exercise;1997
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