Ab Crunches:
The Most Popular Stomach Exercise

Ab Crunches are probably the most popular stomach exercise.

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Whether it’s twisting crunches for the obliques, crunches on an exercise ball, cable crunches, or medicine ball crunches… if you've gone to an abs class or worked with a personal trainer, chances are that you've done some variation of crunches.

On this page, we'll focus on how to do regular crunches.

I’ve found that people have a love-hate relationship with crunches. Some people love them and feel they are an easy ab exercise that you can really feel working your muscles.

But on the other hand, some people hate them and get upset by neck pain or frustrated that they haven’t loss any belly fat despite doing hundreds every day.

Crunches are a good abdominal exercise, but they can’t magically melt off stomach fat—spot reduction is the #1 ab exercise myth. With that said let’s talk a little more about the pros and cons of stomach crunches.

Pros of Ab Crunches

Pro #1 You can do crunches just about anywhere and you don’t need any special equipment. This is obviously a big benefit. You don’t have to join a gym or buy fancy ab machines. All you have to do is clear a space on the floor and get to work.

If you watch television here’s a tip for adding exercise
to your day: do a few sets while you’re watching your favorite show or at least do some crunches during the commercials.

Pro #2 They strengthen your stomach muscles without putting much pressure on the lower back. If you compare crunches to full sit ups, crunches put much less stress on the lower back than full sit ups. If you have had problems with your lower back, crunches may be a better choice than full sit ups.

Cons of Ab Crunches

Con #1 You only use a small and limited range of motion. When your spine moves, your stomach muscles work. Lying on the floor, limits the amount that your spine can move, and this also limits how much your core muscles can work. A simple remedy for this con is to do crunches on an exercise ball.

Con #2 If you only use your body weight, your strength will plateau. If you keep doing crunches for weeks and months at a time, you’ll probably build up to 50 or 100 repetitions at a time.

Doing lots of reps is good for building endurance, but if you want to get stronger you must constantly increase the resistance. Generally, strength gains are best achieved with sets of less than 12 repetitions, but you could go as high as 25 on some exercises.

You can add resistance to your crunches with dumbbells or medicine balls so that your strength does not plateau.

Con #3 They can’t magically get rid of stomach fat. This is more of a fact about all stomach exercises rather than a con against crunches. Spot Reduction is the biggest myth in fitness. Unfortunately, you cannot work a spot and get rid of fat at that spot through targeted exercises.

If you want to lose stomach fat, you must follow a comprehensive program that includes ab exercises, aerobic exercise, weight training, and a sound nutrition plan.

Con #4 If your back is stiff, you will put excess pressure on your neck. If your lower back and upper back are stiff, you won’t be able to crunch and only your neck will move, leading to pain in the neck.

In order for the crunch to be effective, your spine must move. If your spine is stiff and does not move, then your ab muscles will not work as hard and your range of motion during crunches will be below normal.

You can increase the effectiveness of crunches by doing flexibility exercises for your lower back. This can increase how well your spine moves and improve your range of motion.


One thing I want to mention is that all stomach exercises have pros and cons.

Certain exercises focus on strengthening in one area; whereas, other core exercises focus on another area.

Some exercises focus more on stability and coordination, and others focus on speed and power. Some exercises challenge the lower back, and others put very little stress on the lower back.

No exercise is simply good or bad. You must simply weigh the risk versus reward, and think about the purpose of the exercise and your goal for doing the exercise.

The Big Mistake in Technique During Crunches

I’ve taught hundreds of people how to do crunches the correct way, and I have seen tons of people in the gym doing them in a less effective way.

The big mistake in technique has come from the fear of full sit ups and back pain. We know that when you do a full sit up more pressure is placed on the lower back compared with crunches.

Note: Even though sit ups put more pressure on your back than crunches, sit ups are still a great exercise for athletes looking to improve core strength, speed, and athletic performance.

The big mistake is that people don’t use the full range of motion for ab crunches because they are afraid of doing sit ups. In order to get the most out of your crunches your shoulder blades must lift off the floor!

Here are the pictures and description of the perfect form for crunches.

How To Do Ab Crunches

Starting position: Begin lying on the floor with your knees bent and your hands behind your head.

Form: Exhale and curl your body forward, and lift your shoulder blades off the floor. Hold for 1 second at the top and slowly return to the floor.

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Personal Training Tips: Perform 8-25 repetitions at a time, and move in a slow and controlled manner.

Keep a space between your chin and your chest. Only use your hands for light support, and do NOT pull your neck forwards.

Really focus on lifting your shoulder blades off the floor. Don't just move your neck.

If your range of motion is limited and you don't have good flexibility, you should stretch your hips and lower back before doing ab crunches.

Conclusion: How to Do Crunches

Ab crunches are the most popular stomach exercise, and I think that everyone should master them before moving on to more challenging exercises.

Once you've mastered basic ab crunches, then add other variations like twisting crunches for the obliques, lower ab crunches/ reverse crunches or crunches on an exercise ball for core stability.

If you feel the basic crunch becomes too easy try adding resistance with cable crunches or medicine ball crunches.

Vary your ab workout every 3-6 weeks, and remember that stomach exercises are only part of the solution if you want to get ripped and lose fat.

Keep working at it.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles Inniss

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