How to Do Crunches Without Hurting Your Neck

Safer Crunch for Your Neck: Crossed Arm Crunch

Crossed arm crunch is a beginner friendly bodyweight crunch exercise that works your abdominals. As opposed to the standard crunch exercise, it is easier to perform and safer for your neck.

How to do crunches with arms crossed?

  1. Lie on the floor facing up. Cross your arms in front of your chest. 
  2. Your right hand is placed on your left shoulder and left hand is placed on your right shoulder.
  3. Tighten abs. Lift your chest up by pulling from your abs.

Return to the original position and repeat 8 to 10 reps each side to complete the set.

Safer Crunches For Your Neck

Crunching up is not only easier with your arms right in front of you, but also safer.

Jonathan Thompson, ACE certified personal trainer warns of neck pain with crunches.

He writes, many people make the mistake of jerking the head forward when crunching. This practice makes the exercise easier but often results in neck strains and pain in the region.

He writes, many people make the mistake of jerking the head forward when crunching. This practice makes the exercise easier but often results in neck strains and pain in the region.

The neck strain is particularly frequent in crunches with hands behind the neck. It’s largely because the hand placement encourages you to pull from the neck rather than use abs to create momentum.

Just by changing the hand placement to this front crossed arm position, you can protect your neck and prevent pulling neck muscles

There are several other ways you can perform crunches the safer way.

Other neck strain-free crunches:

No.1: Crunch with arms above your head

No.2: Crunch with hands next to your head

No.3: Crunch with hands on the floor

No.4: Swiss ball crossed arm crunch

Click here to see the instructions.

No.5: Weighted crunch

How to Add Challenge to the Crossed Arm Crunch:

Bodyweight exercises including the crossed arm crunch are the perfect starting point. They help you get accustomed to the movement without having to bear excessive weight or challenge. With that said, it can get boring and lose its effectiveness after months of repetitions.

The best way to avoid workout plateau is to advance the move and spice things up.

For the Cross Armed Crunch, there are two ways to add challenge.

  1. Add a Swiss ball
  2. Add a weight plate

Adding a Swiss ball helps you improve your range of motion increase your core and back muscle activation.

It also leads to better balance and stability by having to maintain your body position on the ball.

Adding a weight plate gives you a different type of challenge. External resistance, that is.

Though you are not recruiting more muscles than you are with crossed arm crunch, it engages your rectus abdominals harder to work against the resistance.

Do Crunches Really Work?

You do crunches to burn belly fat and get a flat, defined abs.

But do they really work? In other words, do crunches really burn belly fat?

Believe it or not, “To Crunch or Not To Crunch” is a hot topic and has been debated heatedly for years.

There have been studies that indicate other abs exercises such as planks and bicycle crunches are more effective. Based on that, many abs workouts were created without crunches. See our Abs Workout Without Crunches.

Exercise Table

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It seemed like all roads were leading to not to crunch.

Except for this research done by ACE, American Council of Exercises.

Their 2014 study found that crunches do work. As a matter of fact, they work better than most abs machines on the market.

Misato Alexandre


After making healthy living a priority, Misato lost over 20 lbs in less than 90 days. Instead of weight loss being a dreading experience, living the lifestyle of health and fitness granted her more happiness and joy than ever before. She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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