We use our core for everything and keeping it strong is vital for stability, balance, and support. If sculpted stomach muscles are one of your health and fitness goals, abdominal Crunches will form a vital part of your core workout, and for good reason.
For one, they are easier to perform than Situps, and secondly, they are also known to be super effective by isolating and specifically targeting your abdominal muscles, so that you can really see results in a short space of time.
What are Crunches?
Similar to a Situp, the Crunch has a smaller range of motion, as when they’re performed correctly, only your shoulders come off the ground, with your lower back staying firmly on the floor.
What muscles do Crunches target?
Crunches mainly work your rectus abdominis, which runs from your rib cage to the pubic bone, and to a smaller extent your obliques, which are the muscles along the sides of your stomach. They are one of the best moves to isolate your abdominal muscles for a targeted core workout which will build strength and work the stomach muscles.
How do I properly perform Crunches?
To perform a Crunch, start by lying on your back with your legs bent, feet flat on the ground, and your hands touching the ground behind your head.
Aim to keep your feet roughly hip-width apart, slowly crunch up by curling your shoulders off the floor, to roughly a 30-degree angle, bringing your hands to touch your knees.
Always keep your lower back on the ground and to complete the move touch your hands to the ground behind your head, with one rep counted when your hands touch your knees.
Remember that you can always check the tutorial videos in the Freeletics app to see Crunches demonstrated at full speed, half-speed, and from multiple angles.
Additional things to keep in mind when training
Studies show that even a small dose of Crunches can bring benefits. For example, a study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that students with no previous history of training who did Crunches one day each week for six weeks saw improved abdominal endurance. Pretty impressive, hey?
Are you struggling to complete a Crunch?
If you are new to fitness, overweight, or out of shape, you may wish to start with Planks before progressing to stomach Crunches.
...or are you finding Crunches too easy?
As your fitness levels increase and you become more familiar with the movement, there are some simple ways to progress the exercise to increase the level of difficulty and enhance the results.
Adding weights to your Crunches (i.e. dumbbells or kettlebells) will make things more challenging, or you could try progressing to Situps to make your workout tougher. If you want to take your workout to the next level, Jackknives can also be used as a progression of the ab Crunch.
Common mistakes to watch out for
Although Crunches are a popular and well-used exercise to work the core, there are some common mistakes that can increase the risk of injury and slow down your progress.
While you are doing Crunches, it can be tempting to hold your breath, especially if you are concentrating, or counting reps. It is incredibly important for oxygen to circulate your body while you are exercising to support your muscles, if you are holding your breath it could mean you fatigue quicker. Breathe out as you contract your abs on the way up, and breathe in on the way back down to the starting position.
Stomach Crunches can be grueling, and it is tempting to get that part of your workout over and done with. However, as with all exercises, each movement should be slow and controlled at first to ensure you are pulling yourself up using the correct muscles before performing the exercise at a faster pace.
Lastly, remember these are ab Crunches and not Situps, so do not sit up too high – if you do, you will be working your hip flexors as well as your stomach muscles.
On the flipside, Crunches in comparison to Situps put less stress on the spine because there is no hip flexion involved, so they are especially useful for those who want to target their abs but have lower back issues.
For the best results, it is important to combine Crunches with cardiovascular exercise which will burn fat from all over your body, including the stomach area, so the ab muscles you’ve been working so hard for can start to make an appearance.
Exercise overview by David Weiner, Training and Nutrition Specialist