Putting together a core workout can be confusing with all the exercise options. Find out how to do crunches and whether they are good.
Crunches involve lying down on your back with your feet flat on the ground, raising your shoulders off the ground while keeping your lower back against the floor, and then lowering your shoulders again.
The main positive effect of crunches is that they can help you grow and strengthen your ab muscles. Especially the muscle fibers in the upper and middle parts.
Keep in mind that you still have to do this exercise enough and with enough resistance to see these results.
It can be smart for experienced lifters to turn to weighted crunches to see more and faster results.
That aside, whether crunches are a good exercise for you or not depends on whether you want to work your ab muscles.
If so, this movement is one of the top options for this goal.
How to do a crunch
Doing crunches on something like a yoga mat can make things a lot more comfortable.
That being said, take the following steps to do a crunch:
- Lie down on your back and put your feet flat on the ground in front of your butt. Hold your arms against your chest.
- Raise your shoulders as much as comfortable while keeping your lower back against the ground. Do this movement slow and controlled.
- Slowly lower your shoulders back to the ground.
By keeping your movements slow, it becomes easier to avoid using momentum for your movements. In turn, crunches could become a better ab workout.
Many people will find bodyweight crunches more than challenging enough to see nice results.
On the other hand, it is also possible that you have to make the movement harder on your abs to achieve your training goals.
A simple no-equipment way to do this at home is by stretching your arms above your head.
That being said, you will likely prefer holding some type of weight against your chest instead. This makes it easier to power your movements with only your abs.
Muscles worked with crunches
Crunches mainly work your rectus abdominis aka ab muscles.
This movement is basically the number one option when it comes to ab isolation exercises.
If you want to work something like your hip flexors too, an exercise like sit-ups can be better than crunches.
That aside, keep in mind that you still need to use enough weight, do enough repetitions, and give your body enough rest to grow and strengthen your ab muscles with crunches.
How many crunches you should do depends on details like your training goals.
That being said, for something like growing your abs, you would want to do around 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 (and potentially even 50) crunches with a weight that makes these ranges challenging.
This means something like 100 crunches a day could actually be a good idea if you use enough resistance.
Lastly, there are also a variety of crunch variations that focus on your abs or other core muscles in slightly different ways. Some of these could be better for your personal situation.
Crunches do not look like the most impressive exercise in the gym but doing them can still offer valuable positive effects. A few of these benefits of crunches are:
- Strengthen your abs: By doing crunches with enough weight and repetitions, you can make your ab muscles stronger. In turn, this can be useful in a variety of daily activities.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: One of the things stronger abs can help with is reducing or preventing back pain (1, 2). People who currently struggle with this do want to be careful about doing crunches.
- Make your six-pack more visible: Crunches can help you grow your ab muscles which helps your six-pack stand out more. The benefits of this are mostly visual.
- No equipment or location required: You don’t have to be in specific locations or use fancy fitness equipment to do the crunch exercise. This can save you transport time and money.
- Can benefit weight loss a tiny amount: The number of calories burned with crunches is far from impressive but they do help to a tiny extent. In combination with good lifestyle habits, this can help you lose a tiny amount of weight.
Crunches are not always the number one option for these benefits but they can be very effective.
If you are serious about growing and strengthening your abs, it is likely worth implementing crunches or one of their variations.
One thing you want to keep in mind is that there are people who find crunches uncomfortable on their spines and necks.
You can avoid the neck issues by keeping your neck in one line with your upper body during crunches. Swinging around your head is typically not a good idea.
The potential uncomfortableness that comes from bending your spine is somewhat harder to avoid in crunches.
If this is an issue for you, you likely want to start with isometric (static) core exercises first. As you get stronger over time, you can consider the more effective crunches again.
While crunches are one of the top options for working your abs, there are other movements that can help with this too.
Additionally, some people want to train different core muscles at the same time.
If you are looking for something different, you can also consider one or more of these crunch alternatives:
- Bicycle crunches
- Knee raises on the captain’s chair
- Flutter kicks
- Ab wheel roll-outs
- Plank exercises
What crunch alternatives are the best for you depends on what benefits you like the most and what aspects of the exercise you don’t like.
Is the crunch a good exercise?
The crunch is a great exercise for people who want to grow and strengthen their ab muscles.
Keep in mind that using crunch exercise equipment like a dumbbell or other weight at the right points of your training journey can speed up your results.
Additionally, make sure you approach the crunch exercise with a smart training routine.
It is also worth mentioning that some people will be interested in compound ab exercises that work more muscles at the same time.
Besides that, some people will also find the spine bending involved in crunches uncomfortable.
For these groups of individuals, one of the crunch alternatives is likely a better choice.