Crunches are undoubtedly the most popular workout for abs. Almost everyone in the gym is doing crunches to get six-pack abs and lose belly fat.
Crunches are easy to perform and effective in toning your abdominals and core muscles.
While there are pros and cons of performing crunches, this classic move is still one of the best ab exercises for targeting the rectus abdominis or muscles better known as the six-pack muscles.
So the question is, can you get abs from crunching? Let’s take a look.
Can You Get Abs From Crunches?
Want to get the solid abs like your personal trainer?
Basic crunch workout intensely engages your rectus abdominis and helps you develop a six-pack.
But that’s not to say you can crunch your way to ripped abs. To get abs, you need to not just work your front ab muscles, but also your transverse abdominis and obliques, the side abs. It’s the overall engagement of your core muscles that’ll lead to the rock-solid abs.
If you have belly fat, it’s also essential that you add cardio to your routine to burn calories and torch fat. Your abdominal fat sits on top of your ab muscles. For the ab definitions to show, you need workouts to burn the belly fat and develop the ab muscles.
Luckily, there are many crunch variations that help you work more than your rectus abdominis. Some even help you shed calories like no other. Some of the examples include bicycle crunches and mountain climber on this list.
The bottom line is, to get abs, combine the basic crunch with other variations to engage all muscles in your trunk and more.
Are Stomach Crunches Effective?
While some doubt if crunches are effective, the answer is they are. In fact, they rank amongst the best and most effective ab workouts, according to research.
A study sponsored by the America Council on Exercise compared 13 of the top-ranking, common abdominal exercises and their muscle activation level (1).
What this means is the basic crunch and its variations are proven to work the abdomen like no other.
But that’s not to say crunches come with disadvantages. Here are a couple of things to consider before you start the crunch exercises.
- Crunch may put pressure on your back. any good personal trainer would tell you that crunches are not suitable for anyone with a bad back. They tend to put pressure on your lower back and may strain your muscles. If that’s you, avoid this exercise.
- Crunch is not effective unless done right. Too often, crunch exercise is performed incorrectly and not engaging the intended muscles. Good form is essential in seeing results and avoiding any injury and neck problems.
Take this opportunity to learn how to perform the crunches correctly to maximize your results.
1. Basic Crunch: How to Do Crunches
How to Do a Basic Crunch:
- Step 1:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head.
- Step 2:
Draw in your chin slightly and gently pull your belly button inward to engage your abdominals. You should feel the tension in your abdomen.
- Step 3:
Use your abs to curl up so that your shoulder blades are off the floor. Pause at the top and slowly lower your torso to the starting position. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Let’s now look at other variations.
2. Bicycle Crunch
- Lie faceup with your lower back pressed to the mat. Contract your ab muscles by pulling your navel in. Place your hands behind your head, but don’t lace your fingers.
- Bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the mat. Be sure not to pull your neck or head.
- In one motion, straighten your right leg out while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow towards the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving, not just your elbows.
- Go through a bicycle pedal motion, slowly at first. Alternately touching your elbow with the opposite knee as you twist back and forth. Do 12 reps per side.
3. Cross Sit-Up
- Lie face-up with your arms out to the sides, making a T with your body.
- Sit up and lift your right leg. Twist to bring your left hand to your right toes. Return with control and repeat on the other side. Do 12 repetitions on each side.
4. Scissors Crunch
- Lie face-up and lift your upper body off the floor.
- Lift your right leg off the floor and bring your left leg up all the way up. From that position, scissor your legs and complete 10-12 reps per side.
5. Crunch Clap
- Lie face-up with your knees bent. Curl the shoulders towards the pelvis and lift your torso up. Bring one leg up and clap your hands underneath the raised leg.
- Bring back the leg and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for 12 reps per side.
6. Side V-Crunch
- Lie on your right side down with your right hand on the ground for support. Place your left fingers gently behind your left ear.
- In one motion, lift your left leg off the ground and raise your torso towards your left leg to create a V shape.
- Pause then return. Repeat 10 reps and switch sides.
7. Reverse Crunch
- Lie face-up with your hands on the floor. contract your abs. Lift both legs up with your knees bent.
- Use your lower abs to slowly curl the hips off the mat and into your chest. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat 12 times.
8. Vertical Crunches
- Lie face-up with your legs extended in the air. Keep your hands behind the head.
- Contract the abdominal muscles by lifting your torso toward your knees. Pause at the top and return. Repeat for 12 times.
9. Crunch Frogs
Crunch frogs is an exercise for abs specifically created by P90X personal trainer, Tony Horton.
- Start by sitting in a V-like position with your arms extended out. Lift your feet up and recline your torso slightly to balance on your tailbone.
- Pull your knees in while wrapping your arms around your legs.
- Contract your abs then extend your legs as you open your arms to your sides. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions.
10. Runner’s Crunch
- Lie face-up with your elbows rested next to your body at a 90-degree angle. Extend your legs out in front of you.
- Crunch up and swing one arm. Mimicking the running motion by bringing the opposite knee up.
- Slowly reverse the motion and repeat with the opposite leg and arm. Complete 12-15 reps per side.
11. Bird Dog Crunch
- Kneel on your all four. Contract your ab muscles to start. Slowly bring your left knee and right elbow together under your torso.
- Keeping your torso stable, straighten your right arm and left leg. That’s one rep. Alternate sides and do 10 reps per side.
12. Diamond Sit-Up
- Lie face-up and open your legs into a diamond shape with the soles of your feet pressed together on the floor. Your knees should be split wide. Extend your arms over your head.
- In one motion, curl up your torso and tap the floor in front of your feet. Slowly return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Continue for 12-15 repetitions.
13. V-Sit Ups
- Lie face-up with your arms by your side. Lift your legs and torso off the floor to start.
- Bring your knees in and bring up your torso higher with arms out right in front of you. Slowly return your upper body to the floor and straighten out your legs as you do. Stop when your back is on the floor, but not your head, shoulders, or legs. Repeat for 12-15 times.
14. Oblique Side Crunch
- Lie on your left side down with your right hand behind your head. Keep your left hand on the floor for support.
- Press down into your left hand as you raise your legs off the floor bringing your torso towards your legs. Return to the start with control. This completes one rep. Aim 10-12 reps per side.
15. Mountain Climbers
- Start in a traditional push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart and legs fully extended. Be sure to keep your weight on your toes.
- Bring your right foot forward by bending the right knee and putting the weight on the ball of your left foot.
- Switch legs, bringing the left knee forward while moving the right leg back. This completes one rep. Aim 12-15 reps per side.
16. Side Plank Crunch
- Start in a side plank position with your left elbow down and your right hand behind your head.
- Keeping your torso stable and your waist lifted, bring your right leg up toward your shoulder to lightly tap your right elbow. Try not to lean forward or backward.
- Lengthen your right leg back to the starting position and repeat. Continue for 12-15 repetitions before switching to the other side.
17. Pilates 100s
- Lie face-up with your legs in a tabletop position. Contract your abdominal muscles to round your lower spine.
- Exhale and lift your upper back off the floor until the bottom tips of your shoulder blades skim the floor. Straighten your legs and reach your arms toward your feet.
- Pump your arms up and down with a small range of motion, keeping your elbows straight. Inhale for five arm pumps and exhale for five pumps. Complete 10 reps.
18. Swiss Ball Crunches
- Sit on a Swiss ball with your feet flat on the floor. Walk your feet forward so half of your back is on the ball. Stop when the ball is under your hips, lower back, and middle back. Be sure that your thighs remain parallel to the floor.
- Your lower back should feel like it’s curved around the ball. Gently place your hands behind your ears and draw in your abs.
- Raise your chest up and slightly forward in a crunching motion. Do not pull from the neck and don’t let your head drop. You reach the end of your range of motion when the middle of your back loses contact with the Swiss ball.
19. Dragon Flag Sit-Up
- Lie on a bench with your arms bent and elbows by your ears so that you can grip the top of the bench.
- Contract your abs and raise your legs up until your upper body naturally curls with it.
- If your ab strength allows, keep coming up until your feet are over your shoulders. Then lower your entire body down with control. Repeat 12 – 15 reps.
- “American Council on Exercise (ACE)-Sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises.” American Council on Exercise (ACE)-Sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises, www.acefitness.org/about-ace/press-room/press-releases/246/american-council-on-exercise-ace-sponsored-study-reveals-best-and-worst-abdominal-exercises/.