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Crunches are a great exercise option to grow and strengthen your ab muscles. Find out what equipment options can get you even more results.
These tools can be helpful for reasons ranging from making your ab workouts a bit more comfortable to being essential for experienced lifters to see progress.
You may wonder why this list does not include any weird-looking infomercial crunch machines. That is because these are often not worth any attention. At least compared to the other equipment on this list.
1. Medicine ball
A medicine ball is a weighted ball with a relatively soft outer shell. The main way this equipment option will benefit your crunch workouts is by adding resistance.
To grow and strengthen muscles, you have to put them under enough pressure.
A good bodyweight workout program can offer nice results but as you get stronger over time, you may need extra resistance to keep growing and strengthening your abs.
Besides that, even before you hit a plateau, using extra weights like a medicine ball can potentially speed up your results.
There are also more specific benefits of using medicine balls for weighted crunches. The first one applies if you want to keep the weight overhead instead of against your chest.
When doing crunches this way you preferably don’t drop the weight on yourself, but if an accident like this happens, you would rather hold a medicine ball or even softer wall ball than something like a dumbbell.
Besides that, you can throw a medicine ball. This makes it so you can do a more explosive type of crunch where you throw the medicine ball at the top of the movement.
Training this way focuses more on ab muscle power instead of muscle endurance and strength.
Besides these things medicine balls are also generally versatile piecess of fitness equipment that can be used in many exercises for different core exercises and other movements.
2. Yoga mat
This first option may already be a part of your fitness equipment collection but it is worth mentioning that yoga mats exist.
These are basically exercise mats that are made of soft material, often foam. Yoga mats are not only done to do yoga. They are also great for making floor exercises like crunches a lot more comfortable.
If you currently find crunches uncomfortable on your lower back but you are not using a soft surface yet, a small investment in a yoga mat will likely pay off.
Another benefit of yoga mats is that you can use them for many other workouts and fitness components too. For example, they will come in handy during stretching exercises too.
In short, people who plan to do any type of workouts at home will likely benefit a lot from a good yoga mat.
3. Exercise Ball
Exercise ball, also known as a stability or yoga ball, can be described as a soft elastic ball.
You can use this fitness tool to do exercise ball crunches where you do basically the same exercise but with your lower back against the ball.
This variation tends to be more effective than regular crunches due to the increased range of motion for your abs.
One study measured the difference in muscle activation between regular crunches, exercise ball crunches with the ball against the upper back, and exercise ball crunches with the ball against the lower back.
They measured that using an exercise ball in crunches with the ball against the lower back engaged ab muscles and obliques more than regular crunches.
And that in turn, regular crunches activated these muscles more than crunches with the ball against the upper back (1). This means the ball placement is very important when using this piece of crunch exercise equipment.
A more general benefit of exercise balls is that they can also be used in a variety of other exercises, especially in balance and flexibility workouts. Besides that, exercise balls are also relatively inexpensive.
One potential downside is that, even with the increased range of motion, individuals experienced with ab training may need external weights to make exercise ball crunches challenging enough.
4. Other free weights
Free weights is basically a big category of fitness equipment options that are not attached anywhere. Some examples of free weights are dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, a barbell, certain sandbags, etc.
One of the previous options, the medicine ball, is also considered a free weight but it deserves a separate mention when it comes to the crunch exercise.
That aside, you can do weighted crunches by holding one of the examples above against your chest or in the air.
This makes the movement harder on your ab muscles. In turn, the extra weight could lead to more muscle gain faster at home or in the gym.
Free weights tend to be very versastile. You can use them to train a variety of body parts. Additionally, free weights tend to last a long time. You could use something like a dumbbell for many years to come.
One disadvantage of some of the free weights above is that you might find them uncomfortable for crunches. Additionally, some of the options above require a good initial investment.
5. Crunch machine
This next option is more of an ab gym machine than something you would get for your home gym. As the name implies, the crunch machine is the machine version of the exercise with the same name.
A crunch machine typically requires you to sit down, hold bars that are connected to a weight stack, and contract your abs to move your chest forward/down.
Some people really like that you don’t have to worry about the trajectory of your body on a crunch machine. This is decided in advance by the construction of the machine.
Additionally, the weight can typically be adjusted precisely and in small weight jumps. For training weaker muscles like your abs, this can make your workouts more effective.
The main downside is that not all gyms have crunch machines. This type of crunch machine definitely works but you cannot use it to work out your abs if it is not present.
6. Bosu Ball
You can describe a Bosu Ball as the top of an exercise ball connected to a flat surface. The main way to use this equipment option in crunches is as lower back support.
Similar to exercise balls, your ab muscles go through a larger range of motion under tension in Bosu Ball crunches compared to the regular floor version.
In turn, this will benefit your ab muscle growth and strength progress a small amount.
Compared to the exercise ball version, Bosu Ball crunches require less focus on balance will offering similar advantages.
Besides that, the Bosu Ball can also be used as a “free weight” and for a variety of other exercises. Often with a focus on improving balance.
A potential downside of Bosu Balls is that they can be pricier than some of the other options on this list. If this is an issue, the Bosu Ball is a brand name. Off-brand alternatives may suit your needs too.
That being said, even these may not feel worth it if you only plan to use it for crunches.
7. Cable crunch attachment
Cable machines are the constructions at the gym where a steel frame holds weights and pulleys. There is a cable with one free end that is connected to the weight stack on the other end.
This setup allows you to make a variety of movements, including crunches, harder for the muscles involved.
To do a cable crunch, you sit in front of the cable machine, hold a cable attachment against your shoulders for resistance, and crunch down.
A more common type of cable grip attachment for cable crunches is a double-rope handle. However, this is not the most comfortable and convenient option out there.
Luckily, there is also something called a cable crunch attachment/harness. This is made of softer, more comfortable, material but ultimately gets used the same way as the double rope handle.
The upside of this equipment option is that your cable crunches become more comfortable. This crunch variation can be helpful in the sense that it is easy to set and adjust resistance in precise ways.
A small downside is that you have to invest a bit in an extra piece of fitness equipment.
8. Sit-up bench
A sit-up bench is a type of decline weight bench with a foot anchor so you can keep yourself in place. As the name implies this piece of equipment is mainly used for a full sit-up. Even so, you can also stop at a crunch.
Because of the decline angle, your ab muscles can go through a bigger range of motion under tension compared to a regular floor crunch. In turn, this can benefit ab muscle growth and strength progress.
You may also like how comfortable sit-up benches are to use. Especially if you don’t have something like a yoga mat. Additionally, you can also use sit-up benches for other exercises.
One potential downside is that sit-up benches can be pricey if you plan to only use them them for crunches.
On top of that, you need a decent amount of storage space and not all sit-up benches are built to do other exercises too.