There's no doubt that the bicycle crunch is a great way strengthen your abdominals and help you look amazing in a bikini. In fact, the American Council on Exercise lists it as the most effective ab exercise for the rectus abdominis, or "six pack," and the second-most effective for working the obliques at the sides of the abdomen. With that in mind, the exercise should certainly be part of your regular exercise and weight-loss routine -- which can help you start to see results after several weeks or months. However, that exercise routine is going to need to include much more than bicycle crunches to really have the effect you're looking for.
The Spot Reduction Myth
If you thought you could lose fat on your stomach by doing lots of crunches, you've fallen victim to the myth of spot reduction, suggests ExRx.net. If your belly is loose or flabby, it's due to the fat that's surrounding your midsection. To get rid of fat, you have to do exercises that burn calories and blast fat all over the body -- namely, cardio that gets your heart pumping. That's not to say that bicycle crunches shouldn't be part of your routine, but they're just not the belly-blaster you thought they might be.
Choose Your Cardio Well
Now that you know that getting rid of flab involves doing cardiovascular exercise, choose your cardio carefully. If you choose a form of exercise that is more intense, you'll burn more calories -- and that means you'll lose your belly fat faster. For example, running at a moderate 5-mile-per-hour pace will help a 160-pound person burn about 606 calories per hour. Walking at a fairly brisk pace, meanwhile, will help that same person burn about 314 calories. Since you have to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat, that running routine will help you lose 1 pound after roughly six hours of running; for the walker, you'll need to put in more than 11 hours to lose 1 pound. Other big calorie burners include high-impact aerobics, jumping rope, rollerblading, martial arts and tennis, though anything that you enjoy doing and that gets your heart beating faster is going to help you achieve your goal over time.
What You're Eating
Adopting an exercise routine at least three days a week is going to help you see some type of results within a matter of a few weeks -- but you have another ally that can help you start to see results even faster: cutting out calories. With that 3,500-calorie mark in mind, think about cutting out 200 calories every day, which can help you lose another pound after about two and a half weeks. It's not as difficult as you might think -- consider that a can of soda has about 150 calories, a deli-style bagel has about 230 and candy bars have roughly 250 calories.
Effective Bicycle Crunches
On top of your cardio exercise routine, do your bicycle crunches two or three days a week, on nonconsecutive days so your muscles have time to rest and regenerate new muscle tissue. Add other strength-training exercises into your routine as well, such as squats, lunges, bench presses and pullups -- or use the weight machines at your gym. Since muscle burns calories more efficiently than fat, building overall muscle is going to help your cause. If you're not sure how to use the exercise machines or free weights, get a trainer or coach to help you, as doing exercises correctly makes them more efficient and helps you get better results. To do the bicycle crunch effectively, lie on the floor, keeping your lower back flat on the floor. Raise your knees to a 45-degree angle and place your hands behind your ears. Then "pedal" your legs, meeting your one elbow to the opposite knee. Touch each knee to the elbow a total of 20 times, take a short break and then do a second set.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.