If you're after a tight, toned waistline, you won't go wrong by adding bicycle crunches to your routine. However, these moves don't have the power to shrink your waist -- they only sculpt the muscles. To burn overlying fat, you need to embark on a total weight-loss plan that includes a reduced-calorie diet as well as wide variety of exercises.
About Bicycle Crunches
Bicycle crunches are regular crunches kicked up a notch -- literally. To perform them, lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your legs lifted so your knees are bent to 90-degree angles. Bring your right knee to your left elbow while straightening your left leg, then your left knee to your right elbow while straightening your right leg. Continue alternating legs using a slow, smooth motion, as though you are pedaling on a bicycle. (ref 1)
Bicycle Crunches and Weight
You can't rely on bicycle crunches alone for fat loss, but any exercise helps you burn more calories; weight loss is all about burning more calories through physical activity than you take in from food. That said, it takes a 3,500-calorie deficit to shed a pound of fat, and calisthenic exercises like bicycle crunches will only burn about 165 calories in 30 minutes for a 155-pound woman. Given the numbers, you would need to perform more than 21 half-hour crunch sessions to lose a single pound -- talk about exhausting.
For a more realistic waist-slimming strategy, incorporate bicycle crunches into a well-rounded exercise plan that includes muscle-building moves as well as cardio activity. Do squats, lunges, bent-knee pushups and other resistance exercises for all muscle groups at least twice weekly, performing two to four sets of about 10 repetitions each. For cardio, go for a walk, run, swim or bike ride three to five days per week for 20 to 60 minutes per session. If you're new to exercise, see your doctor before starting your program.
Eating for a Smaller Waist
Exercise is half the battle, but diet is also essential for fat-loss victory. You don't need to count every calorie, but reduce your portion sizes and opt for whole, unprocessed fare over restaurant meals and packaged snacks. Fruits and vegetables should make up half of every plate; split the other half between whole grains like oatmeal and whole-wheat pasta, and lean proteins like beans and egg whites. Wash it all down with plenty of water -- dehydration can lead to false feelings of hunger, sabotaging your diet.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.