How to Do a Perfect Abdominal Crunch

How to do the perfect abdominal crunch
Paul Burns Collection/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Whether you love them or hate them, you've probably done a lot of them over the years, just like the rest of us. Crunches have been the mainstay of ab workouts for decades and, though we've found plenty of other exercises, crunches are still a great way to target your abs.

Specifically, crunches target the rectus abdominis or what we usually call the '6-pack muscles' that run along the front of the torso.

This muscle is targeted every time you flex your abs, meaning you're bringing your shoulders towards your hips.

The Deceptive Crunch

What's deceptive about crunches is that doing them correctly is harder than it looks. In fact, most of us have probably done them for so long, we may not even pay attention to form.

Some of the common mistakes include:

  • Pulling on the neck - This not only strains the neck, but it takes away from working your abs.
  • Crunching too high - The crunch is a subtle movement, lifting the shoulder blades just a few inches off the floor. Some of us jerk the shoulders up, which adds momentum and reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.
  • You relax as you come down to the floor - It's easy to let your shoulders fall to the floor but a more effective approach is to keep the tension on the abs throughout the entire movement. You never want to completely relax the shoulders onto the floor.

    Doing the Perfect Crunch

    1. Lie down on the floor on your back and bend your knees, placing your hands behind your head or across your chest.
    2. Pull your belly button towards your spine, and flatten your lower back against the floor.
    3. Slowly contract your abdominals, bringing your shoulder blades about one or two inches off the floor.
    1. Exhale as you come up and keep your neck straight, chin up. 
    2. Hold at the top of the movement for a few seconds, breathing continuously.
    3. Slowly lower back down, but don't relax all the way.
    4. Repeat for 15 to 20 repetitions with perfect form for each rep.
    5. To add variation, bring your knees in at the same time you lift your upper body off the floor (full body crunch)
    6. To make it more difficult, balance on an exercise ball.


    1. To keep your neck in proper alignment, place your fist under your chin to keep your head from moving.
    2. Keep your back flat against the floor throughout the entire movement.
    3. If your back arches, prop your feet on a step or platform to make it easier.

    Alternatives to Crunches

    While crunches are fine, there are plenty of other ways to work the abs without doing a single crunch. In fact, crunches aren't even the most effective ab exercise. And, some of the best exercises for your core are done using your entire body, not just your abs.

    Great Ab Exercises

    So, if you're over crunches, what are some new, different exercises you can do for a more functional core workout? Some options include:

    More Standing Core Exercises

    What About Flat Abs?

    What if you want flatter abs or a six-pack? Is that something crunches can do for you?

    Unfortunately, no. Spot reduction just doesn't work. It isn't possible to do an exercise for a specific body part in the hopes of burning fat from that one area. When you exercise, your body draws energy from the entire body, not just the part you're working.

    So, what can you do? You can learn more about belly fat and the kind of exercise you need to do to reduce overall body fat. We don't have control where we lose the fat. We just have to exercise and hope that fat eventually comes off where we want it to.


    More About Flat Abs

    Here's where a little education comes in to teach you more about your abs and what's going on with all the fat we tend to store there.

    The truth is, it's not easy getting rid of belly fat, but it's still very important to work your core. A strong back and strong abs are the foundation of all your daily movement, so no matter how they look, they need to be strong.

    Continue Reading