How many times have you been walking through the gym and you see someone on a mat doing this:
Not only are they doing this improperly, but they are also most likely going ONE THOUSAND MILES AN HOUR. I'm not sure where this notion of 'I need to do as many as I can as fast as I can!' came from...but, they aren't really accomplishing anything. Sad, but true.
Also, how many times (especially if you are an instructor) have you heard people say, 'I can't do abs for long because it hurts my neck' or 'Why does my neck hurt after doing abs?' Because you're doing it wrong. Haha, don't say that obviously... gotta be about that customer service!
So, what is the correct way? In my classes I always give these cues/tips when we do abs:
'When we are doing abs, focus on using your abs, never your neck. When we come up you shouldn't be putting any pressure on your head or neck. Focus on pushing your chest to the ceiling while pulling your shoulder blades off of the floor using only your abs.'
Yes it sounds simple, but for some it is...different and somewhat difficult at first if they aren't used to using and focusing on their core muscles.
This is the best picture I could find that demonstrates a proper crunch:
The website with this picture gives a good description as well: Two Hundred Situps
If you are looking for some new ab workouts I suggest checking out websites like SELF (she looks intense doesn't she? lol), Women's Health, and SHAPE.
Keep in mind that this is obviously a very simplistic post about abs. There is so much more information and make sure you are finding reputable sources. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help! :)