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Pain-Free Crunches

May 11, 2011

By Gerard Bochese

Many of my clients complain of neck pain while doing crunches, especially from the stability ball.  The reason for this pain is that their trunk flexors are stronger than their neck flexors.  This means that their trunk can perform more repetitions of flexion than their neck can, so the abdominals can continue to crunch but the neck gets fatigued and they experience pain.

To cure this problem you must strengthen your neck flexors so that they can keep up with the trunk flexors.  The way to do this is to perform crunches from the stability ball in two parts.  Position yourself on the stability ball to perform a crunch (center of your back on the center of the ball).  Place your pointer fingers in each ear to create an axis.  Begin by dropping your head to touch the back of the stability ball, opening your neck.  During the first part of the crunch, flex your neck so that you close your neck, allowing your chin to come to your chest (neck flexion) and during the second part of the crunch flex your torso so that your upper body is coming off of the ball (trunk flexion).  Stop the exercise once the neck is fatigued.  This will eventually allow your neck flexors to catch up to your trunk flexors in strength and help avoid neck pain during crunching activities.

Another tip is to place the tongue on the roof of the mouth right behind your front teeth during the crunch.  This will engage certain neck flexor muscles that will help strengthen the neck and eliminate some of the neck pain.  Without the tongue in this position these neck muscles cannot contract.

Remember that balance is essential to a healthy body and healthy workouts.  Performing crunches in this fashion will continue to endorse this balance by balancing your neck and trunk flexor strength.

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