Crunches are considered one of the best abdominal exercises to strengthen the core. Both men and women like to include the crunch into their abs workout routine. That’s because they are simple yet very effective at engaging the entire abs.
Although the crunch targets your entire abs, it primarily works the rectus abdominis. It’s the front abs muscles that create the toned, defined look and give men the six-packs. As secondary muscles, crunches also work the obliques, side of your abs.
Without a doubt, the crunch is the most popular abs exercise there is. Best of all, adding it to your ab workout routine is really simple. Because it’s a bodyweight exercise, it’s beginner-friendly and can be done anywhere.
The basic crunch is the exemplary abs exercise in any strength training workouts. Be sure to perform the crunch exercise in a correct form to maximize its benefits. Good form also helps you prevent back and neck strains and injuries.
Benefits of Crunches
Crunches are a simple abdominal exercise to strengthen and tone your core muscles.
They are not only effective at helping you develop core muscles and strength, but they also go beyond. They help improve your posture, mobility, flexibility, and balance.
When performed correctly, you effectively target the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles. In fact, crunches differ from other exercises as they isolate the abs.
They exclusively target the abs and help you score the defined six-pack. For women, this means tighter, slimmer abs with definitions.
Another benefit of crunches is it’s a bodyweight exercise. This means you can do crunches anywhere, whether at your home, gym, or hotel room. It’s also ideal for beginner and perfect ab workout for anyone starting new.
Performing the Basic Crunch
To perform the perfect crunch, follow the steps below:
- Lie on your back on the floor with your feet flat and knees bent. Adjust your feet so they are hip-width apart.
- Support your head by placing your hands behind your head, but don’t lock your fingers together. Keep your thumbs behind your ears.
- Make sure your elbows are out to your sides but slightly rounded in.
- Tilt your head down slightly so your chin is in but still a few inches apart from your chest.
- Start crunching by pulling your abs inward gently, using the abs muscles.
- Curl up so your head, neck, and shoulder blades are off the floor.
- Hold for a second or two at the top and then slowly back yourself down to the starting position. Curl up to work on your abs.
Tips for Doing Crunches
There are several tips to keep in mind when performing crunches:
- Keep your abs engaged and pulled in to keep the tension in your abdominal muscles. This is to prevent overarching of your lower back.
- Don’t pull your neck when coming up. Keep your hands behind your head for only for support, not to pull your upper body up,
- When you crunch up, your body should be lifting your upper body using your abs and curling up. A common mistake is to yank your head and shoulders. It’s an easy way to hurt your neck and back.
- Take your time performing crunches. Every movement should be done with control. Start with 10 to 12 repetitions.
Crunch Alternative: Stability Ball crunch
If you are up for a different crunch variation, a Ball crunch is great. This gym or home-friendly crunch that’s done on the ball increases the effectiveness.
When it comes to the rectus abdominis, crunches on a stability ball work just as well as the basic one. But where we see this significantly more effective is the side abs. Ball crunches engage the obliques far more than the floor crunch. And this shows in the external obliques muscle activation.
This increased effectiveness in the side abs comes from the instability of the ball. It forces your entire abs and core to engage intensely to balance the body on the ball as you crunch.
It also helps you improve your balance, core strength, and flexibility. To perform the Stability ball crunch, follow these steps below.
How to Do a Stability Ball Crunch
- Pick the right size ball and sit on the Swiss ball with your feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
- Roll your torso down, so your tailbone and backrest on the curve of the ball. Be sure to keep your neck, head, and shoulder blades off the ball.
- Keep your knees bent and tighten your abdominal muscles.
- Perform the same curling motion as you do for the floor crunch.
- keep your abdominal muscles engaged fully throughout the movement. Keep your balance to prevent from rolling off the ball.