Abdominal Crunches


Abdominal crunches are one of the most common ab exercises. They may be more simple than other stomach workouts but can be very effective if done correctly.

If you are looking to flatten your stomach then check out how to do these workouts. These are more common and are fit for all fitness levels.

These will work both the upper and lower abdominal muscles, or your rectus abdominis muscle. The rectus abdominis is often referred to as your six pack abs.

Most people think of this as separate muscles with upper abs and lower ab muscles. This is actually one long muscle. So when performing crunches, you will be working the entire muscle but with a focus on the upper or lower area of this muscle.

List of Abdominal Crunches

To see the instructions for these abdominal crunches, you can either scroll through the page or use the links below to jump to the workout you want to try.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Abdominal Crunches

Some of the advantages to doing crunches is it requires no special abdominal exercise equipment. All you need is a spot on the floor and an exercise mat.


Another great advantage to abdominal exercise crunches is there is less stress on the lower back than some more advanced or challenging abdominal exercises.

Some of the disadvantages of doing stomach crunches is the limited range of motion. The crunch requires very little movement of the spine and stomach, which limits the area of muscle worked.

Yet another disadvantage to crunches is that it requires no additional resistance in the form of weight or an exercise ball. Therefore you can outgrow or plateau your strength training on these abdominal muscles. If this happens, try using an exercise ball or add some weights to your crunches.

Read about these top abdominal crunches and how they rate in this study.

Traditional Abdominal Crunches

The traditional crunch is one of the most common abdominal exercises and is believed by many to be one of the most effective. It is a great exercise for the stomach if you are just starting out. This abdominal crunch will help strengthen your core muscles as well as your back.

More advanced crunches can be painful to your back if it is not used to these types of movements. So if you are just starting out, this is a great move to start with.


How to do the Traditional Crunch

  1. Lying flat on the floor, make sure your lower back is pressed to the floor and is not arched.
  2. Place your hands loosely behind or beside your head.
  3. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  4. Exhale while you curl your body forward off the floor making sure your shoulder blades come off the floor.
  5. Hold for one second and then slowly return to starting position, inhaling while you return to the floor.
  6. Repeat this for 8 to 15 repetitions.

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Reverse Crunch

The reverse crunch really works your lower abs. It gets deep into the core muscles and really strengthens the stomach. This one can be hard on your back, so alter this move if needed by placing your hands beneath your hips to give your back some support.

There are many different variations of the reverse abdominal crunch. If you have been doing this move different than mentioned below, that's fine. Just make sure you really feel it in the lower abdominals and are not putting too much strain on the back.


How to do the Reverse Crunch

  1. Lie flat on the floor and place your hands beside you (or beneath your hips)
  2. Bend your knees at a 90 degree angle.
  3. Using your ab muscles and not momentum, curl your hips off the floor and reach your legs towards the ceiling, bringing your knees towards your chest.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Remember to breathe during the exercise, exhaling as you lift your hips and inhale as you return to starting position.
  6. Repeat for 8 to 15 repetitions.

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Vertical Leg Crunch

A vertical leg crunch takes the traditional crunch to the next level. By extending the legs vertically towards the ceiling, you are adding more resistance.

This gives you a more advanced level for really working the rectus abdominus muscle. This move will really focus on both the lower and upper abdominals.

When doing this abdominal crunches exercise, make sure you let the stomach muscles do the movements and don't push up with your hands.


How to do the Vertical Leg Crunch

  1. Lie on the floor with back flat to the floor and place your hands beside you or loosely behind your head.
  2. Extend your legs straight up, knees bent slightly. You can cross your feet if that is more comfortable for you.
  3. Using your ab muscles, contract the abs while you lift your upper body as if reaching your chest to your feet.
  4. Keep your legs in a fixed position and at the top of the move, pull in your belly button towards your spine.
  5. Repeat this move for 8 to 15 repetitions.

You can alter this move to make it a full vertical leg crunch. To do this, place your hands loosely by head. When lifting your upper body, also reach your legs to the ceiling, creating a curve or u-shape with your torso.

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Long Arm Crunch

The long arm crunch is yet another variation to the basic abdominal crunches. With this stomach exercise, you are keeping your lower body stationary and lifting the upper body. This will contract the rectus abdominus muscles and helps tone your belly.

This abdominal crunches move can be done with straight legs on the floor. However, to better support your lower back, it's best if you bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor.


How to do the Long Arm Crunch

  1. Lie on the floor with back flat to the floor, knees bent and feet on the floor. You can also keep your legs straight on the ground, however bending your knees can provide more support to the lower back.
  2. Place your hands straight out behind your head. Clasp your hands together, keeping your arms next to your ears.
  3. Using your ab muscles and not momentum, lift your shoulder blades up off the floor keeping your arms next to your ears.
  4. Hold for one second at the top of the move and slowly return to starting position.
  5. Repeat for 8 to 15 reps

If you feel pressure or pain in your neck, just take one hand and place it behind your head for additional support, keeping one arm straight.

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Exercise Ball Crunch

These abdominal crunches will require some equipment...an exercise ball. By using the stability ball you are engaging your abdominal muscles more than on an exercise mat. In fact, this stomach workout came in third on it's effectiveness for the rectus abdominus in one study. If you want to learn more about why this was rated in the top 3, read this article on the Best and the Worst Ab Exercises.

You want to use a large exercise ball which can be purchased for about $20 to $50 dollars. The investment is well worth it as it is good for many different workouts for all parts of the body.


How to do the Long Arm Crunch

  1. Sit on the exercise ball with your feet flat to the floor.
  2. Letting the ball roll back slowly, lie back until your torso and thighs are even with the floor.
  3. Place your hands beside or behind your head loosely.
  4. Now raise your torso to about 45 degrees, pushing your naval to your back and contracting your muscles.
  5. Repeat this move 8 - 15 times and remember to breathe, exhaling as you rise up and inhaling as you come down.

Alter these abdominal crunches by brining your feet closer together. This will work more of the oblique muscles.

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Bicycle Crunch

These abdominal crunches not only works the rectus abdominus, but it will work your obliques as well. If you only have time for one abdominal move, then make it this one.

This move will really focus on both the lower and upper abdominals and your obliques, which are the muscles on the sides of your abs. While doing this move, if you feel your lower back start to hurt, stop and stretch with both your arms and legs straight out. Then do another set if you are up to it.


How to do the Bicycle Crunch

  1. Lying flat on the floor, make sure your lower back is pressed to the floor and is not arched
  2. Place your hands loosely behind or beside your head
  3. Raise your left leg and bend your knee at a 45 degree angle
  4. Lift your other leg, keeping the knee straight
  5. Lift your torso up, touching your right elbow to your left bent knee
  6. In a bicycle motion with your legs, alternate your left elbow to your right knee. Keep repeating this motion

Remember to breathe evenly throughout the abdominal crunches. If you find that your back is arching or lifting away from the floor, adjust your angle to something more comfortable for you. You do not want to put undue pressure on your lower back.

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Additional Articles

Oblique Workouts
Check out the step by step exercises for working on your obliques. These are the side muscles of your abdominal and help us twist and turn our bodies.

Transverse Abdominals
This is yet another series of step by step instructions to strengthen and tone your stomach muscles. The transverse abdominal is one of the most under worked muscles in our bodies.

Lose Belly Fat
When you are done giving your stomach a complete workout, check out this article. To really lose belly fat you will need to put away the exercise mat and grab your running shoes.