If you want to build a killer core and tone your abs, this article will show you crunch variations you should add to your workout routine.
Crunches are a great ab exercise. They target your upper and lower abs as well as the oblique (side abs) muscles.
Unfortunately, they’ve gotten a bad rap in recent years. Some trainers say crunches can ruin your posture and cause back pain.
As Bret Contreras explains in this article, it’s highly unlikely that crunches or sit-ups will ruin your posture. But they can worsen lower back pain. Therefore, avoid crunch variations that trigger back pain.
Instead, use these stretches to ease your lower back pain.
Maintain proper form for each exercise to get the most out of it and avoid injuries. Try to do as many reps as you can for each crunch variation.
Below are crunch variations beginners can use to build ab muscles and strengthen the core.
Crunch Variations for Beginners
1. Marching Bicycle Crunches
Start with this simple crunch variation if you have a weak core. It activates your rectus abdominis and oblique muscles.
Remember to lift your shoulder off the floor as you crunch in. Also, keep your neck in its neutral position. Don’t tuck it in as you crunch.
2. Crunches with Sliding Arms
Sliding your arms up against your thighs forces you to crunch in. Remember to keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout for maximum core activation.
Increase your range of motion by lifting the upper back off the floor. And pose for one or two seconds every time you crunch in.
3. Reach Through Crunches
This exercise is somehow similar to the one above. Simply slide your arms between your thighs as you crunch in.
4. Standard Crunch
This is probably the most popular crunch variation. It mainly activates the rectus abdominis muscles or six pack ab muscles.
Avoid bending your elbows in as you crunch in. Keep your hands in the same position throughout.
5. Straight Leg Crunches
This is a great exercise for testing your core strength. If you have a weak core, your knees will bend when you crunch in.
Tightening your leg muscles (quads) helps keep the legs flat on the floor.
6. Raised Leg Crunches
To perform this exercise, keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor and knees bent at 90 degrees then do crunches from that position.
Keep your legs in one position throughout the exercise.
7. Crunch Reaches
You can do many reps of this exercise by simply focusing on reaching higher after every rep. Assume that there’s an object above you’re trying to reach.
However, don’t focus too much on the reaches that you forget to contract your ab muscles. Keep them tight throughout and pose at the top for one second for maximum activation.
8. Butterfly Crunches
This exercise actually helps loosen your inner thigh muscles because of the way the legs are positioned.
9. Crunch Claps
Crunch claps have more movement than most crunch variations, which means you’ll burn more calories doing them.
Remember to keep your neck in its neutral position and the dormant foot flat on the floor.
10. Oblique Crunches
This crunch variation may not seem very effective because it doesn’t have a wide range of motion but it does a good job activating the oblique muscles.
Note that posing for one second and contracting the oblique muscles will lead to greater activation of muscles.
11. Scissor Crunches
Also known as flutter kicks, this exercise is great for activating the lower ab muscles.
Placing your hands under the butt makes this exercise easier and prevents the lower back from arching.
12. Super Crunches
This is a harder variation of the marching bicycle crunches. After bringing each knee to the opposite elbow, crunch in with both feet until your elbows touch your knees.
Perform this exercise (and the other crunch variations) on a soft surface to avoid straining your back.
13. Bicycle crunches
This is one of the best ab exercises you’ll ever do. It activates all abdominal muscles, including the obliques.
It will also help stretch your hamstring since you have to pull your knee toward the elbow after each rep.
14. Russian Twists
Doing this exercise regularly will improve your core strength and stability. It activates the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles.
You can make Russian twists easier by keeping your feet on the floor as you do the twists.
15. Frog crunches
Many crunch variations activate the upper ab muscles, frog crunches are great for targeting your lower abs.
Your knees don’t have to touch your elbows if you’re not flexible enough. Crunch in as much as your flexibility allows.
16. Reverse Crunches
This is one of the crunch variations you should if you have lower back pain. It doesn’t put a lot of strain on the spine. And it’s great for activating the lower ab muscles.
17. Standing Elbow to Knee Crunches
Are you tired of doing ab exercises while lying on the floor? Then you need to try this crunch variation. It activates your core and leg muscles.
I may also note that this exercise is safer for people with back pain.
18. Standing Oblique Crunches
You can activate your oblique muscles while standing and burn many calories at the same time.
Remember to tighten your abdominal muscles as you bring the knee and hands together.
19. Standing Side Leg Crunch
The standing side leg crunch builds your oblique and leg muscles. It also helps improve your balance and stretches your hamstring.
Feel free to hold on to a pool or wall for support if you lack balance.
20. Reverse Crunch Pulse
Unlike the reverse crunches, in this variation, you thrust your hips up while keeping your feet straight and then rest them on the floor.
This exercise is great for engaging your ab muscles. Do as many reps as you can.
21. Cross Crunches
This exercise is more challenging than it may seem. It activates the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles.
Be sure to lift one side of the upper back off the floor as you crunch in.
22. Side Plank Crunch
Have you ever done the side plank? Well, this is a harder variation of the side plank and it’s perfect for activating your oblique muscles.
The goal here is not to keep your hips aligned with your feet and torso, lift them higher and slowly lower them to starting position.
23. Tuck Crunches
This crunch variation will give you a great full body workout. It activates both your upper and lower body. Remember to keep your feet off the floor throughout.
24. Banana Twist Crunches
If you thought the Russian twists are challenging, try the banana twist crunches. This exercise requires core strength and stability.
It will activate your rectus abdominis and the oblique muscles. It also forces you to contract your quads in order to keep the legs straight.
25. Runner’s Crunches
Add this exercise to your full body workout. Other than toning your abs, it activates your arm and leg muscles.
Focus on crunch variations which engage many muscles because they burn more calories and increase muscle fast.
26. Full Sit-Up
Sit-ups have a wider range of motion compared to the standard crunch, which means they activate the ab muscles more.
Wedge your feet under the couch or ask someone to hold them down if you can’t keep them on the floor while doing this exercise.
27. Diamond Sit-Ups
This crunch variation is great for activating your ab muscles. It also loosens your inner thighs muscles, which are usually tight because many of us don’t stretch them.
28. Wide Leg Sit-Ups
To perform this exercise, simply do a sit up and then swing your arm to the opposite leg. In the next rep, swing the other arm and keep alternating them after each rep.
29. Crunchy Frog
Do you want to challenge your core? Do 15 to 20 reps of this exercise. This exercise forces you to keep your ab muscles tight all the time to avoid falling back.
30. Double Crunches
This crunch variation has greater ab activation. It activates your ab muscles as you crunch in and as you tuck in your knees.
It’s important to do this exercise slowly if you want to get the most out of it.
31. Knee Hug Crunches
Don’t confuse with exercise with the crunchy frog. For this variation, you lower your body until it rests on the floor.
Knee hug crunches will activate all ab muscles and give you a full body workout.
If you’ve done all the crunch variations above, you’ll be able to do this exercise with ease. Avoid supporting your feet with your hands since doing that makes this exercise less effective.
33. V-Sit Crunches
This exercise may look similar to the tuck crunches but there’s a difference between these two crunch variations.
For this variation, you have to lift your back off the floor while for the tuck crunches, you simply crunch while lying on the floor.
A few will V-Ups will tone your abs more than hundreds of crunches. As you get stronger, focus on doing challenging ab exercises like this one.
How many of these crunch variations can you do?