Core exercises like bicycle crunches can definitely feel challenging but does that also mean they are effective? Find out what results you can expect.
With the right weights, repetitions, nutrition, and rest, bicycle crunches can be effective for growing, strengthening, and improving endurance in your oblique core muscles.
Next, when it comes to doing these things for the ab muscles, bicycle crunches can help but are not great because they work your abs in a rather static way. More dynamic exercises are typically more effective.
Lastly, some people are considering doing bicycle crunches to lose belly fat. For this goal, doing bicycle crunches are not good at all.
Are bicycle crunches effective for training obliques?
Bicycle crunches are mainly a resistance training core exercise and more specifically, a movement that works your obliques.
The obliques are the core muscles on the side and somewhat at the front of your waist. These are responsible for rotating your upper body, tilting your upper body to the sides, and combinations of these movements.
As you can expect, one of the benefits of bicycle crunches is that they can be relatively effective for training your oblique muscles.
To really grow and strengthen them, you want to do around 3 to 6 sets of anywhere ranging from 6 to 50 (but typically recommended up to 15) bicycle crunches with weights where you can barely complete these ranges.
As you get stronger over time, you will have to add repetitions or weights to keep bicycle crunches effective for these goals.
That being said, if you just want to improve endurance in your oblique muscles, you likely don’t need to do bicycle crunches with weights or until failure.
One small downside of bicycle crunches is that you alternate between each side. It is typically slightly better to work each side separately so the muscles are under tension for longer.
Are bicycle crunches effective for growing abs?
How you do bicycle crunches influences what muscles you focus the most on and how effective the movement is for these goals.
Bicycle crunches typically engage your abs in a more static way because you just keep your shoulders off the ground. You don’t move them up and down after every repetition.
Static exercises like this are generally less effective than movements that work the target muscles dynamically and through a big range of motion.
So to grow and strengthen your ab muscles, normal crunches are generally better than bicycle crunches.
You could also consider really raising and lowering your shoulders during bicycle crunches to make them more effective for growing your abs. However, this may interfere with your rhythm and oblique training.
How many and how long you need to do bicycle crunches for ab muscle growth is more complicated than dynamic exercises.
One publication suggests doing isometric exercises like bicycle crunches for the abs for 3 to 30 seconds per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction to grow muscles (1).
Unfortunately, measuring maximum voluntary contraction is something you need special devices for.
In short, bicycle crunches could help but are generally not that effective for growing and strengthening your ab muscles compared to more dynamic exercises.
Are bicycle crunches good for losing belly fat?
Some people get the idea that you have to do certain exercises to lose body fat in certain areas. Potentially because these exercises can feel like you really did work in that area.
That being said, where you lose body fat is generally not something you can influence to a very significant extent.
First of all, to start losing body fat, you have to make sure that your body requires more energy than is coming in from food. At this point, you start turning to energy stores like body fat to get the difference.
Next, what areas your body mainly uses body fat from depends on things like your genes and how far you are in your weight loss journey.
So how good a certain exercise is for losing belly fat depends on how many calories it burns (in both the short and long term) and what your other lifestyle habits look like.
So while bicycle crunches are good for losing belly fat in the sense that they could help to some extent, they are relatively bad compared to other resistance training and cardio exercises to achieve this goal.
Additionally, you will likely have to make changes in other lifestyle areas like nutrition to lose body fat and more specifically belly fat.