Changing the angle of an exercise often influences what muscles you work. Discover how to do side crunches and what their benefits are.
Side crunches are a crunch exercise variation where you lie down on your side and raise your upper body sideways instead of straight upward.
By changing the angle, side crunches focus on your oblique muscles instead of your abs like regular crunches.
For growing and strengthening these oblique muscles, side crunches can be a good exercise.
Keep in mind that you still have to work your obliques enough for these goals. That means doing enough side crunch repetitions and using enough weight.
How to do a side crunch correctly
Having a soft surface to do side crunches on can make the exercise a nice amount more comfortable. That aside, take the following steps to do a side crunch:
- Lie down sideways. You can fold your legs for stability and put one arm below your head for comfort. You can keep the upper arm against your body.
- Slowly raise your shoulders from the ground as much as comfortably possible while keeping your hips on the floor. Move your head along with your shoulders while keeping your neck in a straight position.
- Lower your shoulders and head in a controlled motion until you are back in the starting position.
- Complete your set and repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to pull your head sideways with your arm when doing side crunches.
Besides that, the exercise is relatively straightforward.
Side crunches muscles worked
The main muscles worked with side crunches are your obliques and more specifically the muscle fibers responsible for tilting your upper body sideways.
If you hold any weights, a few arm and back muscles have to work to a certain extent.
The recommended side crunches sets and reps vary for different training goals.
That being said, for something like muscle growth, you want to do 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 side crunches per side. Additionally, you want to use resistance so that these ranges are challenging.
Many people will find bodyweight side crunches challenging enough for this but more advanced lifters could do them with weights against their ribcage.
Lastly, you can do side crunches on fitness equipment like an exercise ball, a roman chair, a back extension machine, or a sit-up bench.
These equipment options will allow your obliques to go through a bigger range of motion which is generally helpful for muscle growth and strength progress.
Side crunches benefits
If you approach them in a smart way, side crunches can offer valuable benefits. Some of these benefits include:
- Stronger muscles: Doing side crunches for enough sets and reps can help you grow and strengthen your oblique muscles.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Strengthening your obliques with side crunches tends to be good for reducing or preventing back pain (1, 2). You do want to be careful with side crunches if you already have issues in this area.
- Could make daily activities easier: Your obliques help you keep your upper body upright while standing up, walking around, and carrying things. These activities could become easier when you start doing more side crunches.
Side crunches are not completely unique in these benefits but they are a great option for getting these positive effects to a large extent.
Side crunch alternatives
All the benefits of side crunches from above still apply but you may want to know what other options you have.
The side crunch alternatives below work similar muscles in different ways or different muscles entirely.
- Side bends
- Heel taps
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Bicycle crunches
- Ab wheel V-rolls
Details like your training goals, the equipment you have, and your preferences will influence your decision between these side crunch alternatives.
Are side crunches a good exercise?
Side crunches are a good exercise for working the oblique muscles responsible for tilting your upper body.
If you do this exercise enough times with enough weight, you can grow and strengthen these oblique muscles.
Make sure you work each side to about the same extent to avoid muscle imbalances.
One thing to note is that you don’t have to stick to side crunches to work these muscles and get the benefits that come from that.
For example, if you don’t like lying down on the floor, you could do side crunches standing and with weights. This is called the side bend exercise.
There are many other good core exercises out there too.
What are side crunches good for?
Side crunches are good for growing and strengthening your oblique muscles.
Do side crunches slim your waist?
While you can say they help to a tiny extent, side crunches will not really slim your waist to a significant extent.