Easy crunches to work your deep core

By Marianne Salza

Part of my Moving Body exam includes taking a somatic principle and integrating it with a movement sequence. I chose core support. It consists of the whole torso – intestines, kidneys, lungs, heart, and abdominals – not just the superficial “washboard” abs. The muscles deep within your diaphragm are the strongest. Having core support means having a grounded sense of self, and along with breath, is the basis for connectedness.

Crunches exercise. Photo: Marianne Salza

I complete a few sets of these simple crunches while exercising:

  1. Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet firmly on the ground. Have the balls of your feet, toes and heels touch the floor. A straight line should form from your coccyx to your head. This will make sure your spine is aligned naturally.
  2. Let your knees reach freely into the sky and your feet stand shoulder-width apart. Relax your inner hip muscles. This ensures that you are flexing deep, core muscles, not using, say, your legs to bring your body up.
  3. Allow the ground to support the weight of your body. Interlace your fingers and place your hands behind the bottom of your head for neck support.
  4. Keeping your gaze toward the sky, take in a full breath, and upon exhalation begin to sit up slowly by initiating movement from your iliopsoas. (Lift from the bottom of your spine to the top.) The top of your back should only come off the floor no more than two or three inches. Picturing your torso lifting into the sky may help with this motion.
  5. Be sure not to lock your neck in place; let it relax and curve slightly forward. Tensing of the neck interferes with involuntary muscle support for voluntary movement. Tilting your head back and down will tighten your neck muscles and throw off the relationship between your spine and neck, putting pressure on your lumbar area.[1] Curving your neck toward your chest will also put unnecessary strain on it and you will not be activating your core. (Plus, continuously bending your neck may cause dizziness.)
  6. Breathe out as you lower your back to the floor. I often imagine taking in a ball of energy as I inhale and it radiating from my core and up through my chest and the top of my head as I release energy exhaling.

[1] Barbara and William Conable, How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students (Portland, Oregon: Andover Press, 1995) 4-5.

For another abdominal exercise – and a personal favorite – try the bicycle crunch.

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