The Crunch: A Basic Exercise to Strengthen your Abs

9th October 2019
Crunches are a very interesting ab exercise because they have a lot of variants and are incredibly effective on your belly. Don't hesitate to include them in your routine!

Not everyone likes doing sit-ups, but most people want to have defined abs. Because of this, athletes are always looking for more effective exercises, such as the crunch. Learn more about how you can use this exercise to strengthen your abs.

The crunch

You probably already know about crunches. They’re a group of exercises that work your abdominal muscles, and you can do them at home or in the gym.

It’s one of the best ways to define and strengthen your abs. While there are some ‘secrets’ you must know about them, the truth is that you can get visible results a lot faster with crunches than with other ab exercises.

If you want to tone your abdomen and get great results from doing crunches, it’s very important that your body is below a 6 percent body fat limit. If this isn’t the case for you, focus on burning the excess fat in your body, especially the fat that’s accumulated in your belly.

How many crunches should you do and what’s the correct form?

Whatever your goals may be, you can do more or fewer crunches in each training session. We recommend three sets of 15 reps every single time you go to the gym or work out at home. Our advice is to do this exercise at the very end of your session.

To perform a basic crunch, lie on your back and bend your legs. Place your feet completely on the ground and set then hip-width apart. Put your hands behind your neck and open up your elbows.

Then, lift your back from the mat by pushing through with your abs, not with your column or cervical area. Lift up your torso until your shoulder blades are ‘exposed’. Stay in this pose for a few seconds and come back down slowly.

A woman performing a basic crunch at home

Types of crunches you can do

Once you’ve mastered the basic crunch technique, you must make adjustments to increase the difficulty. Why? Because if you don’t, your body will become used to the effort you make and you’ll not make progress. This means that you won’t see the results you expect.

Therefore, a great way to do this is by switching your general training routine, but especially your ab routine. There are many variants of the crunch:

1. Short crunch

Lean your back perfectly on the floor and only lift your head and shoulders. Don’t tense up your neck, remember that the strength must come from your abs.

2. Crunch ball

To do this exercise you’ll need an exercise ball (one of those big ones you can find in any gym). Lie on top of it using the area between your mid-back and hips as a support point. Bring your arms behind your head.

The next step is to squeeze your abs and lift up your torso a little. Keep that posture for a few seconds and come back down. It’s very important that the exercise ball doesn’t move during the whole exercise. For example, you can place it against a wall until you become used to the movement.

Woman doing crunches on top of an exercise ball

3. Pike crunch

You can also do crunches without lying on a mat. Stand up with your feet together and lift up your arms until your hands are near your ears.

Flex your right knee and lift up your leg to the side while bending your torso to the right. The idea is to touch your knee with your elbow. Put your leg down and repeat the movement on that same side until you’re done with all the reps. Finally, you can do the same thing on the other side.

Woman doing a pike crunch
Image: ejerciciosencasa.as.com

4. Crunch with your hands next to your chest

This exercise begins as a basic crunch but instead of putting your hands behind your neck, you must cross them over your chest. It’s essential to pay attention to the part of your body that is making the effort because it’s very likely that you’ll force your neck and back. Doing so may cause contractures or muscle pain.

The goal is to touch your knees with your elbows or forearms. However, focus on the technique first and then you can come up higher a little bit more at a time. This is also a great position to add some weight to the exercises, as you can see in the image below.

Woman doing a crunch with weight

Another similar version of the hand-free crunch is to use them as an impulse to reach the top of the exercises. The strength that you exert with your arms will give you the push you need to lift up your back from the mat completely.

5. Crossed crunch

Lastly, this crunch also starts as the basic version. The difference resides in the movement of your knees and torso.

When you lift up your back, turn your chest to the right and lift up your flexed right leg. Your left elbow should touch your right knee. Come back down and do the same thing to the other side.

A woman doing crossed crunches

As you can see, the crunch is a pretty simple exercise. The best thing about it is that it helps to define the abs without spending your entire life in the gym. Try its amazing benefits for yourself!

  • María, A., Mar, D., Guisado, S., María, I., López, M., & Arbelo, C. G. (2014). Jóvenes y culto al cuerpo: Consecuencias de los ejercicios abdominales clásicos sobre el suelo pélvico. Archivos de Medicina Del Deporte.
  • Juan R. Heredia Elvar, Miguel R. Costa. Entrenamiento de la Musculatura Abdominal: una Perspectiva Integradora. Asociación Técnicos y Profesionales Actividad Física y Deporte Comunidad Valenciana
    (España). http://www.sld.cu/galerias/pdf/sitios/rehabilitacion-ejer/version_imprimible_del_articulo__entrenamiento_de_la_musculatura_abdominal__una_perspectiva_integradora.pdf