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Crunches are one of the best exercises for strengthening and toning the abdominal muscles. And various types of crunches target different areas of the abs. Incorporating these in your ab exercises can help you get better results.
Types of Crunches
Crunches can help target and work your ab muscles. Incorporating various types of crunches into your workout can help you to meet your fitness and exercise goals.
Steps to follow for the basic crunch exercises
- Lie face up on a mat or a comfortable surface. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor, keeping them at hip-width.
- Place your hands behind your head, or cross them over your chest.
- Draw your belly button in towards your spine to engage your core
- Gently lift your shoulder blades off the floor while keeping your lower back in contact with the floor. Ensure you lift only your head, neck, and upper back
- Exhale as you curl your upper body towards your knees, focusing on contracting your abdominal muscles. Avoid pulling on your neck or using your hands to lift your head off the floor. Instead, use your abdominal muscles to perform the movement.
- Pause at the top of the movement while feeling the contraction in your abs.
- Inhale as you lower your upper body back to your starting position in a slow and controlled manner. Ensure you maintain tension in your abdominal muscles.
As with all exercises, sticking to a single routine for a long time can delay your results as your body gets used to the movement, making it less effective.
Thus including various types of crunches and other exercises in your training regimen can help boost your posture and athletic performance, helping to reduce the risk of injury.
Below are the best types of crunches that can help target and work your abdominal muscles.
The reverse crunch is one of the best types of crunches to consider as part of your abdominal exercises.
It involves lifting your hips and legs off the ground to activate the rectus abdominis, hip flexors, and lower back muscles.
Steps to follow
- Lie face up on a mat or a comfortable surface with your arms by your sides.
- Bend your knees and lift your legs off the ground, making your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Your lower legs should be parallel to the floor as well. Your knees should be at 90 degrees.
- Keep your feet together and your ankles in line with your knees.
- Draw your belly button toward your spine to engage your core.
- Exhale as you contract your lower abs and lift your hips off the floor while rolling your knees towards your chest. Your knees should point toward the ceiling, and your hips lifted off the floor at the top of the movement.
- Hold the contraction briefly while focusing on squeezing your lower abs.
- Inhale as you lower your hips and roll your legs back to your starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
Ensure you keep your lower back pressed into the floor
Avoid using momentum, and do not swing. Focus on using your abdominal muscles to lift your hips and control the descent.
The bicycle crunches, aka bicycle maneuver, is one of the best types of crunches for targeting multiple core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and hip flexors.
It also engages other core muscles and can help improve core stability and strength.
The exercise mimics the motion of pedaling a bicycle and involves alternating twisting movements to engage the abdominal muscles.
They are a variation of the traditional crunch and one of the best types of crunches that target the oblique muscles on the sides of the abdomen. The exercises will also engage the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscles and other core muscles.
The exercise involves a twisting motion that engages the obliques to help strengthen and tone the waistline.
Steps to follow
- Lie flat on an exercise mat with your face up.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, keeping them at hip width.
- Place your hands behind your head, interlacing your fingers, or cross your hands over your chest.
- Engage your core.
- Relax your neck and head, and avoid pulling on your neck with your hands
- Exhale as you contract your abdominal muscles and lift your upper body off the floor while curling your torso towards your thighs.
- Lift your shoulder blades off the floor, aiming to keep a small gap between your chin and chest.
- Twist your torso to one side as you crunch, and try to bring your elbow towards the opposite knee.
- Briefly hold the contracted position while feeling the tension in your oblique muscles.
- Inhale as you lower your upper body back to your starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
- Repeat the movement on the other side by twisting your torso to the opposite side and bringing your elbow toward the opposite knee.
- Continue alternating sides for the desired number of repetitions.
- Focus on engaging your oblique muscles.
- Avoid unnecessary pulling on your neck or using your hands to lift your head. The twisting motion and contraction should come from your obliques.
Vertical Leg Crunches
Vertical Leg Crunches are types of crunches that target the rectus abdominis, commonly known as the “six-pack” muscles. They also engage the hip flexors and other core muscles to some degree.
The Vertical Leg Crunches involve Lying on your back and extending your legs straight toward the ceiling.
Next, place your hands behind your head and lift your shoulder blades off the floor while reaching toward your feet.
You then lower back to your starting position and repeat.
Decline crunches are types of crunches that target and work the rectus abdominis of the upper ab muscles.
You will perform the decline crunches on a weight bench at a declined angle, which adds resistance to the movement and increases the challenge for the abdominal muscles.
They are some of the best types of crunches that can help develop strength and definition in the upper abs.
The exercise involves securing your feet at the top of a decline weight bench or under a stable object.
Next, lie back with your head towards the floor and perform a crunch by lifting your upper body towards your knees.
Cross Leg Crunches
Cross-leg crunches, or cross-body crunches, are a variation of the traditional crunch exercise that targets the oblique muscles. They also engage the rectus abdominis (the front abdominal muscles) and the hip flexors to a certain extent.
This exercise involves twisting and crossing the upper body towards the opposite knee while engaging the obliques for a more effective workout.
Steps to follow
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your head, interlacing your fingers, or you can keep them crossed over your chest.
- Engage your core by drawing your belly button in towards your spine.
- Lift your feet off the ground and cross your right ankle over your left knee, creating a “figure 4” shape with your legs.
- Simultaneously lift your shoulder blades off the ground and bring your left elbow towards your right knee, rotating your torso.
- Aim to touch your left elbow to your right knee or get them as close together as possible as you crunch.
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement while feeling the contraction in your oblique muscles.
- Lower your upper body slowly back to your starting position, and at the same, extend your leg back to the floor.
- Repeat the movement on the other side by crossing your left ankle over your right knee and bringing your right elbow towards your left knee.
- Continue alternating sides for your desired number of repetitions.
Stability Ball Crunches
Stability ball crunches are types of crunches targeting the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis. They also engage the stabilizing muscles of the core.
The exercise involves performing a traditional crunch while using a stability ball to enhance the challenge and activation of the abdominal muscles.
The movement adds an element of instability. That forces your core muscles to work harder to help maintain balance and control.
Steps to follow
- Sit on a stability ball, walk your feet forward, and allow the ball to roll underneath your lower back. Ensure you support your back firmly on the ball with your feet firmly on the floor and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers. Alternatively, cross them over your chest.
- Pull your belly button toward your spine to engage your core.
- In a slow and controlled manner, curl your upper body forward, ensuring you initiate the movement from your ab muscles.
- Keep your lower back pressed against the stability ball and focus on contracting your abs as you crunch upward.
- Exhale as you crunch upward, and inhale as you lower yourself to your starting position.
- Maintain control throughout the movement. Do not bounce or swing.
- Repeat 8-12 reps for a set.
Double crunches, aka double-leg crunches, are compound exercises that simultaneously target the upper and lower abdominal muscles.
They involve moving the upper body and the legs together, providing a more challenging variation of the traditional crunch exercise.
They are types of crunches that can target the upper and lower abdominal muscles, helping to provide a more comprehensive workout for the entire core.
The movement also engages the hip flexors to some extent.
Steps to follow
- Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers. Or keep them crossed over your chest.
- Engage your core.
- Lift your shoulder blades off the ground and, at the same time, bring your knees towards your chest.
- Aim to bring your elbows and knees together or as close as possible.
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement while feeling the contraction in your abdominal muscles.
- Lower your upper body and extend your legs back to your starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
- Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.
Side Plank with Oblique Crunches
Side plank oblique crunches are a challenging variation of the side plank exercise that targets the oblique muscles on the side of your torso to help strengthen and tone them.
They engage other core muscles, including the transverse abdominis and glutes, for stability during the exercise.
The exercise allows you to correct muscle imbalances by working on one side of your body at a time. It is one of the best types of crunches for building a symmetrical physique.
Steps to follow
The exercise involves going into the side plank pose and performing the oblique crunches. To do this,
- Lie on your side, extend your legs, and stack them on each other.
- Place your lower forearm on the floor, ensuring it is perpendicular to your body, and position your elbow below your shoulder. You can rest your upper arm alongside your body or place them on your hip for support.
- Engage your core, lift your hips off the floor, and create a straight line from your head to your heels. Ensure your body is stable.
- Exhale. Bend your top knee and bring it towards your chest, and at the same time, crunch your upper body, aiming to touch your elbow to your knee.
- Lower your upper body to your starting position, and at the same time, extend your leg.
- That completes one repetition.
- Repeat 8-12 on one side.
- Switch to the other side and go through the motion.
Hanging Oblique Crunches
Hanging oblique crunches, aka hanging windshield wipers, are advanced exercises that target and work the oblique muscles and core stability.
The exercise involves hanging from a bar or similar apparatus and doing a twisting motion to engage the obliques.
Hanging oblique crunches require a significant amount of upper body and core strength.
Newbies should start with basic core exercises and gradually proceed to the hanging oblique crunches.
Ensure your grip is powerful enough for the exercise.
Hanging oblique crunches target the oblique muscles but also engage the core, shoulders, and grip strength.
Steps to follow
- Find a stable overhead bar, or similar equipment, to hang from, ensuring it can support your body weight.
- Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and hang with your arms fully extended, allowing your body to hang freely.
- Engage your core.
- Contract your obliques and lift your legs together towards one side. Aim to bring your feet as close as possible to your hands.
- Continue the movement by lowering your legs toward the opposite side as if performing a windshield wiper motion.
- Maintain control throughout and avoid swinging or using momentum.
- Exhale as you lift your legs towards one side and inhale as you lower them towards the other side.
- Repeat 8-12 reps, alternating sides.
Benefits of crunches
When performed as part of a balanced exercise routine, crunches can offer several benefits for your body and overall fitness.
Below are some potential benefits of including types of crunches in your workout regimen.
- Targeting and Strengthening the abdominal muscles
Crunches are one of the best exercises for targeting the rectus abdominis, the muscle responsible for the “six-pack” ab appearance. They also engage the obliques to some extent.
Including crunches in your ab exercises can help strengthen and tone those muscles, boosting core strength and definition.
- Enhancing Core stability
The core muscles, including the abs, help to stabilize and support the spine during everyday movements and other physical activities.
Including types of crunches in your workout can help strengthen the core, enhancing stability and helping to prevent injuries, maintain proper posture, prevent back pain, and improve functional movements.
- Improvement in athletic performance
A strong core is vital for various sports and physical activities. Crunches can contribute to better core strength and enhance performance in activities that require rotational movements and balance. It can also help transfer power transfer from the core to the limbs.
- Better Posture
Weak abdominal muscles can lead to poor posture and imbalances in the body. Strengthening the core with exercises like crunches can help improve your posture. That can help reduce the risk of developing rounded shoulders or excessive curvature in the lower back.
- Versatile and Accessible
You can perform most types of crunches with little to no equipment. They are not challenging exercises. You can modify many to suit different fitness levels. You can also incorporate them into your workout routine, whether training at home or in the gym.
Final words from LiveLIfe
While crunches are effective exercises for targeting the abdominal muscles, they have limitations. They primarily work the forward flexion of the spine and may neglect other important core muscles, such as the deep transverse abdominis and multifidus, which help with core stability.
Thus ensure you have a well-rounded exercise routine that includes types of crunches and a variety of core exercises to ensure core strength and stability.
Combine the various types of crunches with other core exercises for a more comprehensive and balanced muscle-strengthening regimen.