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December 04, 2022 6 min read

Bicycle crunches are a great way to strengthen your core muscles and improve your overall fitness level. They are a variation of the standard crunch exercise, but involve more movement and require more balance. They can help tone the abs, obliques, and hips, and can be done by people of all fitness levels.

In this guide, we will cover how to do bicycle crunches properly and safely. We will also provide tips for beginners to help you get the most out of this exercise.

Straightforward good-old stomach crunches won’t give you truly sculpted abs.

To get the abdominal muscles of your dreams, you need strong oblique muscles that are worked frequently.

When done with the correct technique and form, the bicycle crunch works your abdominals and obliques. Back in 2001, after comparing 13 of the most popular moves, the American Council on Exercise actually deemed the bicycle crunch the No. 1 exercise for strengthening the rectus abdominus (the abdominal muscles that make up the “six-pack”).


Which Muscles Benefit from Bicycle Crunches?

When done right, bicycle crunches promise to target not one, but three of your abdominal muscles.

Core Muscles - Image from Shutterstock


1. Rectus abdominis: The rectus abdominis is the long, flat muscle that makes up the front of the abdominal wall. This muscle is responsible for flexing the spine and curling the torso, both of which are primary actions during a bicycle crunch.

2. Obliques: The obliques are located on the side of the torso and help to rotate the spine. The twisting movement used during bicycle crunches activates your internal and external oblique muscles.

3. Hip flexors: The hip flexors are located in the front of the hips. By lifting your legs and pedaling, you work your hip flexor muscles during the bicycle crunch exercise.

How to Do Bicycle Crunches

The starting position for performing Bicycle Crunches is lying on your back knees bent at a 90-degree angle, your feet flat on the floor, and your head gently cradled in your hands. Press your lower back onto the floor and keep your elbows wide.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Engage your core muscles and lift your shoulder blades off the floor, making sure to keep your elbows back and not flaring out.

  2. Straighten your left leg and pull your right knee towards your chest while simultaneously crunching your upper body, and turning it to the left.

  3. Bring your left elbow toward your right knee. (Ensure the movement comes from your rib cage and not just your elbows.)

  4. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.

  5. Repeat on the left side, straightening your right leg to a 45-degree angle and turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow toward your left knee.

  6. Return to the starting position to complete 1 rep.

Do 3 sets of 15–25 reps, resting for 30 seconds to 1 minute after each set.


Proper Breathing Pattern for Bicycle Crunches

The breathing pattern for performing bicycle crunches is to inhale as you extend your legs and crunch your upper body, and then exhale as you bring your legs and upper body back together.

To get the most out of bicycle crunches, make sure you breathe in and out slowly. This will ensure that your core is engaged throughout the range of motion.


How to Increase the Intensity of Bicycle Crunches


If you want to make this core workout tougher, follow the steps below.

  • Increase the Speed: Start doing the crunches faster to increase the intensity of the exercise.

  • Add Weights: Hold a medicine ball or dumbbells in your hands as you do the crunches to make the exercise more difficult.

  • Slow Down: Slow down the exercise and pause for a few seconds in between each crunch to make the exercise more difficult.

  • Increase the Range of Motion: Lean back further as you do the crunches to add more resistance to the exercise.

  • Switch Up the Leg Position: Place your feet in a different position, such as on top of a stability ball, to increase the intensity of the exercise.

Common Bicycle Crunch Mistakes to Avoid


You might not get it right the first (or second, or third) time, that's normal when trying a new exercise.

Avoid these common mistakes so you get the most out of this exercise while preventing strain or injury.

  1. Not engaging the core muscles: To ensure your Bicycle Crunch is effective, make sure you are actively engaging the core muscles throughout the exercise. If you don’t, your upper body will use the latissimus dorsi to swing your arms toward your feet — and use that momentum to crunch your body up instead of the strength of your abs.

  2. Not fully extending your legs: Make sure you are extending your legs out fully to the sides when doing the Bicycle Crunch to get the full benefit of the exercise.

  3. Rushing through the exercise: Take your time with the Bicycle Crunch to ensure you are getting the full benefit of the exercise. Rushing through the exercise can cause you to use momentum rather than your core muscles and can also reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Furthermore, the abdominal muscles are relatively small, and rushing your abs workout can let larger muscles take over and move your body with pure momentum, limiting the benefits you get from the crunches.

  4. Not controlling the movement: Make sure you are controlling the movement throughout the exercise, rather than just relying on momentum to move your legs. This ensures you are working the correct muscles and will also help prevent injury.

  5. Not breathing the Right Way: Remember to breathe throughout the exercise. Not breathing can cause you to become lightheaded and can also reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.

  6. Straining your neck: Don’t tuck your chin down, hold your head up and let your hands rest loosely on the back of your head. These two tips will help you to avoid straining your neck and pulling your head forward.

With all that said, most of these mistakes can be avoided by slowing down.


What are the Benefits of Bicycle Crunches?

Bicycle crunches have more benefits than you can imagine for your mind and body. Here is a roundup of bicycle crunches benefits:

Bicycle crunches – image from Shutterstock
  • Beneficial for weight loss: Bicycle crunches make an intense workout, which is a great way to target the abdominal muscles and can help to burn calories, build strength, and increase your metabolic rate. It works as an effective weight loss exercise to get rid of belly fat, and it makes you look more toned. Bicycle crunches can save you from potential obesity-related health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems, etc.

  • Improved Core Strength: Bicycle crunches are an effective way to strengthen your core muscles, including your abdominal muscles for a chiseled six-pack, hip flexors, and lower back muscles.

  • Strengthen other major muscle groups: These include the glutes and hamstrings and bicycle crunches also help prevent muscular pain, stiffness, and strain, and it improves endurance.

  • Increased Flexibility: Bicycle crunches are a great way to improve your flexibility and range of motion. As you perform the exercise, you’ll be able to move your legs and torso in a circular motion, which helps to increase your flexibility.

  • Improved Posture: Bicycle crunches help to correct your posture by strengthening the muscles in your core. This can help to reduce strain on your back, shoulders, and neck.

  • Reduced Stress: This exercise can help to reduce stress and tension in your body. It can be a great way to relax your mind and body after a long day.

  • Improved Balance: Performing bicycle crunches can help to improve your balance and coordination. As you move your legs and torso in a circular motion, it can help to train your body to stay balanced and coordinated.

  • Cardiovascular Health: Bicycle crunches can be beneficial for cardio workouts. If they are done at a high intensity, bicycle crunches can help to improve cardiovascular health, increase your metabolism and burn calories.

Exercise Safety

If you have a pre-existing health condition, consult your physician before beginning a new exercise program. Proper form and exercise technique are essential to ensure the exercise program’s safety and effectiveness. However, you may need to modify each exercise to attain optimal results based on your individual needs.

It is also a good idea to start new programs under the supervision of a personal trainer. Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body throughout the movement. When performing any exercise, pay close attention to your body, and stop immediately if you experience discomfort or pain.


Bicycle crunches are an effective bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment to strengthen the core and work a variety of abdominal muscles. Although they may be challenging to perform at first, with practice and a slow progression, they can become an effective part of a regular core exercise routine.

It is also a great alternative to other abs exercises such as sit-ups and crunches. Bicycle crunches can be modified to increase or decrease the intensity of the exercise, making them a great choice for people of all fitness levels. With the right form and dedication, bicycle crunches can help you improve your core strength, balance, and posture.