If you ever ask those women flaunting their sexy flat abs about their usual ab-workout routine, Crunches will definitely take a place in the list.
Yes, fitness fanatics consider Crunches as one of the Best Belly Fat Exercises.
If the deadlift is the best workout for your back and squats for your thighs, nothing does more good to your core than Crunches.
Understanding the crunch better will help you own great looking abs sooner.
Well, why should we put more focus on Crunches which are still old-school and uses only our own body weight rather than going to today’s modern machines and tools that can make the job easier?
The answer may seem sceptical. But, Yes, Crunches are that powerful.
In fact, the American Council of Exercise (ACE) performed research to determine the effectiveness of almost all the popular ab-workout exercises and the ab-workout equipment in comparison to the traditional crunch.
Guess, who won there?
It was the Traditional Crunches.
In the same words as from the post on the ACE site – “Researchers determined that none of the exercises elicited greater muscle activation than the traditional crunch.”(Source)
And in this post, we will talk everything related to Crunches – starting from the many different variations of crunches, the benefits to the common mistakes that we commit while practising crunches.
So, let’s get started.
Crunches are often confused with sit-ups.
And Crunches versus Sit-Ups and which is the best has always been the debatable topics among those who love fitness.
To let you know in very simple terms, Sit-ups are multi-muscle focusing exercise while Crunches focus only on your abdominal muscles.
This is the very reason as to why crunches are the rage among geeks who aspire to achieve six-pack abs
As said, Crunches hit the bullseye of your RECTUS ABDOMINIS.
The rectus abdominis is our beloved six-pack muscle.
By strengthening these muscles incorporating crunches in your workout routine, you are also establishing a powerful core that is aesthetic and stable.
But remember, only crunches won’t help you get six-pack abs.
Crunches just build the rectus abdominis muscles which in combination with lower body fat can only tick all the boxes for six-pack abs.
Let’s now know all the benefits of crunches.
Benefits of Crunches
Below mentioned are the perks of including crunches in your workout routine:
1. Tones and Strengthens Core
Having read above, you must know that Crunches are great for your core.
Crunches flex the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles and binds them.
As a result, these tone and strengthen your core muscles thereby builds mass there.
2. Improves Posture and Flexibility of Muscles
Not just the core, crunches also help your overall body.
Crunches maintain balance in your mid-section.
This helps you retain a perfect body posture which in turn helps you in lifting heavy objects and twist your body easily.
3. Enhances Abdominal Muscle Endurance
Crunches also improve abdominal muscle endurance.
What is this so-called Abdominal Muscle Endurance?
It is the ability of the abdominal muscle fibres to withstand and act against the resistance for a long period of time.
Practice the Crunches for just one day a week and it aids in the endurance of the abdominal muscles. (Source)
How to do Abdominal Crunches
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Types of Crunches
Doing crunches alone won’t help you get the six packs.
In fact, no one exercise can give you the desired results.
However, adjusting the exercise to activate and work the muscles around your abdomen can speed up the process as per your comfort.
This is why, fitness enthusiasts, over the days, either introduced minor changes or added fitness equipment to the crunches and came up with different types of crunches.
We will see all of those variations of crunches in this section below.
1. Twist Crunches
Twist Crunches are just your basic abdominal crunches with a twist added to it as you come up.
Twist Crunches target the side abs - the obliques more than basic crunches.
How to Do Twist Crunches:
You can take the twisting crunch and improve the effectiveness by taking your legs off the floor.
Lift your legs so that your knees are at 90 degrees from your hips.
Place the legs on a small chair or a bench, so that your thighs are vertical and shin parallel to the ground. Consider this as the starting position and perform the Twist Crunch as per the steps above.
You can further multiply the intensity upon practice by getting rid of the leg support (chair or bench).
2. Bicycle Crunches
Without any second thought, Bicycle Crunches are the best form of crunches.
The American Council of Exercise (ACE) also confirms the same.
In 2001, ACE sponsored a study that revealed the best abdominal exercises. (Source)
13 exercises were studied and try to figure out the winner.
And as you speculated, it was the Bicycle Crunches.
The reason put forth was that the bicycle crunches hit the lower and upper abs and obliques like no other ab workouts.
If you are focusing on your ab definition, never shun bicycle crunches off your ab routine.
How to do Bicycle Crunches:
It is not a compulsion to touch your opposite knee with your elbow during the twist.
Twist and just rotate as much as you can.
Don’t over-twist for the sake of touching your opposite knee.
It may stress your spine.
3. Reverse Crunches
Reverse Crunch is one of the best ab exercises to sculpt your lower abs.
Are you unable to get those details of the lower 2 packs in the six-pack abs?
Then, the reverse crunch is the best option.
Besides, reverse crunch also works on your complete rectus abdominis muscle group.
In addition to that, the exercise activates your obliques and the side muscles of your six-pack – the transverse abdominals.
Reverse crunch also adds strength to your spine and core by building the deep core muscles.
How to do Reverse Crunches:
4. Double Crunches
Double crunches work both on your lower and upper abs.
Like all the other crunches, the muscle targeted while doing double crunches is the rectus abdominis.
It also works on your hip flexors and obliques.
It is indeed a combination of the two powerful abs exercises – the standard abdominal crunches and reverse crunches.
How to do Double Crunches:
5. Vertical Leg Crunches
Having mastered the basic crunch, are you looking for the immediate next upgrade to the routine?
If yes, then it must be the Vertical Leg Crunches.
Needless to say, this low-impact exercise is going to intensify the effectiveness of the crunch and shorter the period of owning a flatter and attention drawing abs.
Like a basic crunch, vertical leg crunch’s primary target muscle is the rectus abdominis.
It also works the lower back extensors (Extensors are the muscles that aids the functions of the spine), the transverse abdominals and the obliques (both internal and external).
So, you can say that the vertical leg crunch builds your complete core muscles.
As a result, you get to improve your balance and posture.
How to do Vertical Leg Crunches:
While curling, make sure that you are not bending your neck down by tucking your chin in your chest.
Let the chin face upwards and forward.
Also, use your fingertips to support your head and not to put pressure on your head which will hurt your spine.
6. Oblique Crunches
When most of the crunches focus on your rectus abdominis (also called six-pack muscles), Oblique crunch targets the side muscles of the core.
So, the muscles targeted while performing oblique crunch are primarily the oblique muscles itself.
Also, the ab exercise tones up the transverse abdominus and medial glute (one of the three gluteus muscles that make up your butt).
Hence, as you can see the oblique crunch provides you more than just toning the above mentioned muscles.
This is a result of the work it does on the obliques.
Obliques are, in fact, the main muscles that make up your core.
Strong and perfectly built up obliques means that you can bend and rotate your body sideward easily.
Also, toned up obliques provides the perfect definition to the eternally-prized six-pack abs.
And the easiest exercise that helps in reinforcing stability to the obliques is the oblique crunch.
How to do Oblique Crunches:
Oblique crunch is more of perfect execution and optimal speed.
So, practice it in the finest form by learning it correctly.
Also as you roll over to the sides to start the exercise, roll over slowly until you feel that you are lying on the meaty part of your glutes.
Just being careful there!
7. Long Arm Crunch
Long Arm Crunch is another variation of your traditional crunches.
This crunch exercise enhances the difficulty of the exercise as when you extend your arms above and behind your head, it increases the resistance level put forth on your abs.
As a result, it adds more challenge and takes the capability bar a level up.
Although long arm crunch targets the upper abdomen primarily it also employs the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominals, lower back extensors and the obliques.
Hence, if your top priority is the upper abs, then opt for a long arm crunch.
How to do Long Arm Crunch:
8. Scissors Crunch
Scissors crunch is a great variation to the traditional crunches.
It works on the lower abdomen muscles which are quite difficult to target.
How to do Scissors Crunch:
9. V Crunch
V Crunch works effectively on your upper and lower abs in the best way.
V Crunch is a little harder than the traditional crunches, but they are great at adding more strength to the core.
How to do V Crunch:
10. Oblique V Crunch
Oblique V Crunch is a standout variation of crunches to target your obliques.
The main focus of this amazing ab exercise is the side flexion of the obliques and the abdominal wall.
Altogether, the oblique v crunch does most of the good things to your abs, waist, back and enhances your body balance and flexibility.
Get ready to feel that perfect burn in your sides!
How to do Oblique V Crunch:
11. Swiss Ball Crunch
Swiss Ball Crunch is very similar to the traditional crunches.
However, as you lie on the exercise ball to perform the exercise, it lengthens your rectus abdominis.
As a result, the range of the crunch movement increases to a greater extent.
This literally means that you put more effort and gain more muscles.
Not just that, you may also find that the exercise ball is unstable.
Hence, as your practice the ab workout you will see that you are actually taking more help from your core muscles and obliques to find that stability.
How to do Swiss Ball Crunch:
12. Side Plank Crunch
Side Plank Crunch is another crunch variation that works on your obliques.
Not just the obliques, Side Plank Crunch also bolsters your upper body and shoulders.
You must have heard of the Plank exercise and how powerful it is for the core muscle toning.
Combining the plank with crunches, you get double-benefit of the agility from the plank and extra muscle contraction and strength from the crunches.
Side Plank Crunch also stabilizes your core and improve overall body balance.
How to do Side Plank Crunch:
Once done on the left side, lie on your right side and complete the 3 sets of side plank crunch.
13. Runner's Crunch
Runner’s crunch adds dynamics to the traditional crunch.
It is a great cardio exercise that works on your six-pack muscles intensely.
How to do Runner's Crunch:
14. Bird Dog Crunch
The Bird Dog Crunch is another crunch variation that combines the aesthetic plank exercise and powerful crunch exercise.
The Bird dog crunch strengthens your lower back and enhances the balance and stability.
So, the target muscles as you perform the bird dog crunch are the abdominal muscles, lower back, butt and thighs.
As it activates both the core and back muscles, it is considered as a good exercise to recover from a back injury.
How to do Bird Dog Crunch:
Keep the engagement of the core muscles valid for the entire span of the workout and try to avoid any additional movements in your hips during the crunch.
15. Pull-over Crunch
The Pull-Over Crunch works on your upper abs.
As it is usually done with the weights, the resistance during the crunch is more and strengthens your core muscles fast.
How to do Pull-over Crunch:
16. Jackknife Crunch
Jackknife crunch is quite a bit advanced variation of crunches.
Using only your body weight with no equipment coupled with an intense movement, the burn that you feel after this core exercise is second to none.
The primary target muscle of the jackknife crunch is the rectus abdominis.
However, it also engages your obliques, inner thigh muscles, hip flexors and glutes.
How to do Jackknife Crunch:
As you practice and really very comfortable you can bring the medicine ball into play and perform the ab routine to level up the difficulty.
17. Crunch Clap
Well, this will be the last variation of crunches that we will discuss in this post.
We can refer crunch clap as a modified version of bicycle crunch that we covered above.
Crunch clap also targets your rectus abdominis muscles primarily but also works on your obliques as well.
Ultimately, it is going to do a good job in strengthening and toning your abs.
How to do Crunch Clap:
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Crunches are easier ab exercises at a first look.
However, in practice, you may tend to commit some of the very common mistakes.
Below mentioned are the most common mistakes that many tend to do while doing crunches.
Avoiding these mistakes is a necessity so that you don’t injure your body.
1. Leading with the Head
Ughhh, this is the most common mistake that you can commit - Leading the crunches with your head and pulling your neck.
This is wrong.
Eventually, you are going to sprain your neck immediately or going to develop bigger neck trouble in the longer term.
Source your crunch from the contraction in the core muscles.
And focus on your neck by keeping it straight in line with your spine.
Easy thing is to keep your chin up without tucking it in your chest.
2. Crunching Too High
When you crunch too high, it is not really a crunch. It becomes sit-ups.
Also, you are completely dumping the benefits of the crunches.
Remember, the Crunch is a very faint movement.
While performing it, you are in the need to raise your shoulder blades just a few inches off the floor and your upper torso is slightly up almost in contact with the floor.
This is going to strengthen the abs which is the work of the crunch.
3. Curving your Back
Arching or curving your back literally translates to a weak core.
As you must know, it takes time to build strength on your core.
Hence, it is best to take the time to build this strength.
Instead, if you are arching your back and continuing with the crunch, it will ultimately lead to spinal injuries.
The spine is the essence of most of the ab exercise and therefore, you cannot afford to hurt it.
An easy fix to avoid curving of the back would be to keep your back completely flat during the initial stages of the workout until you gain confidence on your core strength.
This is applicable only to the exercises that involve lower body movement like in some of the variations.
For traditional crunches, just focus on lifting only your shoulder blades and let the upper torso be in contact with the floor always for the early stages of practice.
4. Relaxing on the way down the floor
The biggest mistake that you cannot afford to commit during the crunch is to relax your shoulders while coming down to the floor when you are still in the exercise.
This spoils the effectiveness of the exercise.
You can see the results only when you maintain that tension in your abs while crunching.
As a fix, you can place a yoga block underneath your neck area.
So as you perform the crunch and come back down to complete a rep, if you feel that you are touching the block, begin with the next rep.
A very easy fix indeed!
5. Paying less or No Attention to Breathing
Breathing is very important to reap the complete benefits of the crunch.
Instead of exhaling, if you inhale while crunching, the contraction of your core muscles is restricted.
As a result, that is going to upset the efforts you put in by delaying or never offering the desired outcome.
It is always good to pronounce the words - ‘Exhale’ and ‘Inhale’ or ‘Breathe in’ and ‘Breathe out’ to never lose your focus on breathing.
6. Being carefree with the Exercise Ball
While performing crunches using the swiss ball, it is going to be difficult at the very beginning.
Performing the crunches on a stable floor and transferring the same thoughts to an unstable exercise ball is not easier.
During the initial stages of the workout using the exercise ball, be very mindful.
Don’t start with the exercise, unless you feel that you are perfectly balanced on your sides.
7. Thinking Crunches will give Six-pack Abs
Sorry, but yes, Crunches are not designed to give you those heroic six-pack abs.
Not at all.
Reaching your goal of owning six-pack abs has got to do with two things.
One, strengthening your core muscles.
And two, a lower body fat range.
Crunches help you by strengthening your abdominal muscles but has nothing to do with reducing your body fat.
Workout, Workout, Workout!
There is no one magic exercise that can give you six-packs.
Workout regularly, control your diet and be patient - you will definitely see the development.
And this development is enough to motivate you to continue forever.
Safety and Precautions
If you fall into any of the two categories, kindly avoid doing crunches:
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Crunches give you a six pack?
Well, the answer is pretty straight-forward.
Crunches alone can never give you six-pack abs.
But, Crunches help in strengthening the core which together with lower body fat accounts for six-packs.
Are Crunches better than Cit-ups?
When it comes to owning well-defined abs, sit-ups are quite useless.
Sit-ups primarily work on your psoas muscles whereas crunches work on your rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles).
How many Crunches should a beginner do?
As a beginner, you can stick to 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions for each set of crunches or its variations along with other ab routines.
What Type of Crunches work best?
The Crunch by itself is a great ab workout.
However, if you ask me the 3 best variations of crunches that will put up a challenging difficulty level, then it would be ideal to go with Oblique V Crunch, Pull-over Crunch and Jackknife crunch.
Will 100 Crunches a day make a difference?
Yes, 100 crunches a day will definitely make a difference but it is not going to help you lose the fat from your belly.
The difference you will see will be the strength gained by your abdominal muscles including the obliques.
Is it good to do Crunches every day?
A big NO!
Don’t workout crunches every day.
Not just the crunches, don’t workout a single exercise every day.
Doing crunches every day may cause posture problems and muscle imbalances.
Just practice it two to three times a week after your workout.
Do Crunches make you poop?
Not only crunches, any ab exercise for that matter, flex your abdominal muscles and enhances the inter-abdominal pressure.
This tends to create more bowel movement.
And the result, the stool is pushed a bit more quickly through to the colon.
Hence, crunches are indeed a great choice to improve your digestive health.
The Bottom Line
A good amount of time and effort has been put to make this post on crunches an epic one.
Follow the crunch exercise and its variation in the proper way.
Also, completely avoid the common mistakes mentioned above to take only the positives out of the workout.