Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Crunches are probably the most popular and recommended exercises around. Simple and easy to do, they are used in rehab settings, to get that 6 pack, and to develop a stronger core. If you Google crunches, you will find pages and pages devoted to the perfect crunch, the best crunch, or why to do/not do them.
A common reason for doing crunches is to develop spinal stability to combat/prevent back pain or injury. They can be very effective, but what if your injury prevents you from getting on the floor? What if you want a more functional exercise so you can become stronger in a more upright position?
What if you would like a more functional exercise...
This blog is to show you a way to do elevated crunches using the Ki-RO Core Trainer. Why? Well, we wanted to provide an option for NO FLOOR(!) as well as a way to add different options to target the core. Sitting or standing to do a crunch can also potentially translate better into daily activities and performance.
The Ki-RO Crunch:
The Ki-RO allows you to do standing, seated, or kneeling crunches with a resistance (you can also do them on the floor if you really want to). We will discuss three different crunches and the different ways to add resistance to the crunch. For the exercise geeks out there, we will show a sagittal plane crunch, a sagittal-transverse plane crunch, a sagittal-frontal plane crunch, and different force angle options.
Lying down uses gravity to add the resistance to the crunch. Adding a weight to your chest will add more resistance but is still dependent on gravity for the force angle (straight down). The Ki-RO allows you to add the resistance while standing or seated and from different angles. Diverse angles of the resistance can challenge different parts of the motion and engage the core in multiple ways.
Seated, standing, or kneeling crunches (Fig. 2)
Three Resistances for the Ki-RO Crunch
Different resistances will change the load and feel of the basic crunch. You can be more specific in the muscles targeted and direction they are challenged based on where you attach the resistance.
Basic Ki-RO Crunch: Sagittal Plane Resistance
With the Ki-RO on, attach resistance to a middle ring in the back. You can be seated, standing, or kneeling. Curl or crunch forward as far as you prefer without flexing at the hips. Hold for time or do for reps depending on your exercise goals.
Targets: Abdominals that flex
Basic Ki-RO Crunch: Frontal Plane Resistance, Sagittal Plane Motion
With the Ki-RO on, attach resistance to a side strap ring and slide it to the side so you are facing perpendicular to the resistance. You can be seated, standing, or kneeling. Curl or crunch forward as far as you prefer without flexing at the hips. Hold for time or do for reps depending on your exercise goals.
Targets: Sidebending muscles that flex (lateral flexion stability while flexing)
Basic Ki-RO Crunch: Transverse Plane Resistance, Sagittal Plane Motion
With the Ki-RO on, attach resistance to a side ring or shoulder strap ring and slide it to the back so you are facing away from the resistance. You can be seated, standing, or kneeling. Curl or crunch forward as far as you prefer without flexing at the hips. Hold for time or do for reps depending on your exercise goals.
Targets: Rotational muscles that flex (anti-rotation stability while flexing)
Here is a link to a video showing the exercises in action while standing or you can scroll down for pictures showing the placement of resistance:
Manipulating the Exercises:
The Ki-RO opens up so many ways to progress and regress the exercise for each individual. Here are a few things which you can manipulate to change the effect of the exercise:
Position of body
Angle of resistance
Ring level choice
ROM during the exercise
Load, reps, sets
Position of Body:
Do you want more or less gravitational pull? Do you want to do standing or kneeling? Do you want to do with a more functional approach? Body position can range from kneeling to standing (Fig. 2) and more/less incline from a bench if seated or leaning (Fig. 3). Each position will challenge the core differently.
Seated with more or less incline (Fig. 3)
Changing the angle of inclination is a simple and easy way to progress or regress the exercise.
Figure 3 shows a seated crunch from two different inclines. As you recline more, you will have more resistance added by gravity at the beginning of the crunch. Changing the angle of inclination is a simple and easy way to progress or regress the exercise. The band (or cable) resistance will create a different challenge depending on the angle it is attached.
Angle of Resistance:
Where the resistance is coming from will also change the exercise and the muscles engaged. In Fig. 4, you will see a low, middle, and high attachment of the red resistance band. In the lower position, it will be harder at the onset of the crunch. In the middle position, it will be harder at midrange. With the higher resistance, you will feel it more at the end of the crunch. We suggest playing around with different angles and inclines to feel the changes.
Standing with low, middle, and high resistance angles (Fig. 4)
Which ring will determine what plane you challenge most (Fig. 5):
Ring to the side:
Frontal plane resistance
isometrically engages core muscles that side bend while concentrically crunching or flexing forward (see Fig. 6 for example)
Ring to one side and in back:
Transverse plane resistance
isometrically engages anti-rotation of the core muscles while concentrically crunching or flexing forward
Ring in middle:
Sagittal plane resistance
will engage all abdominals that flex
Frontal, Transverse, and Sagittal plane resistance (Fig. 5)
Example: Frontal plane resistance while crunching (Fig. 6)
Which level of ring you choose can make the exercise harder or easier
Ring Level Choice:
Which level of ring you choose can make the exercise harder or easier. (Fig. 7).
Level 1: The lowest level (easiest)
Engages the fewest muscles and joints. No scapular resistance
Level 2: The middle level
Engages more muscles and spinal joints. Applies some resistance to the scapula if to the side and in back (transverse plane resistance: see above Fig. 5, middle picture). The scapula will resist with protraction
Level 3: The highest and hardest level
Engages the most muscles and spinal joints as well has the most resistance to the scapula (scapula will resist with protraction)
Ring Levels (Fig. 7)
ROM: Range of Motion of the Exercise
Curl or crunch as far as you prefer without flexing at the hips. The amount of flexion is coaches choice. Do you want lumbar flexion, thoracic flexion, full flexion, or no flexion and just anti-rotation? That is up to the coach and the goal of the exercise.
Load, reps, sets:
How much load and the number of sets/reps will all be determined by your goal. Treat this like any other exercise choice when programming for a specific outcome. What we have found works best for using the Ki-RO is determining if you want to activate, isolate, or integrate the muscles/movement patterns being targeted.
when the goal is to "wake up" the muscles or movement pattern
we generally use lighter weight with short term isometric holds and only a couple of sets
isolation is generally used with heavier loads to strengthen a particular muscle or muscle group
the volume of reps and sets is based on your goals and training style
when the core is engaged while doing other motions with the goal of integrating core strength/stability from static to dynamic motion
lighter loads if bigger, faster movements are involved but heavier loads can be used if the movements are contained and slower.
Hopefully, this gave you a few additional exercise options using the Ki-RO Core Trainer. Targeting different planes of motion and from different angles provides numerous ways to strengthen the core. If you would still like to do traditional crunches on the floor, you can always use the Ki-RO for added resistance (Fig. 8).
Interesting in purchasing a Ki-RO? Shop now at https://www.kiroconcepts.com/shop
Traditional crunches using the Ki-RO (Fig. 8)
Reminder: Always check with your doctor or exercise professional before engaging in an exercise program or adding anything new to your current work out program. Be safe!
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I hope you have benefited from this information!
Kika Mela, BSE, LMT, MATCSm
Kika Mela is Co-Owner of Mela Therapeutics, Inc. and the creator of the Ki-RO Core Trainer from Ki-RO Concepts, LLC. She has a degree in Exercise Science, is a Master Level MAT Specialist, MAT Rx Specialist, and has been a Licensed Massage Therapist for 25+ yrs. She has worked extensively with professional and elite athletes, consults on exercise, and is a contributor to the training processes at Bommarito Performance Systems as part of their medical team.