Blog Fitness 10 Crunch Variations To Spice Up Your Workout

10 Crunch Variations To Spice Up Your Workout

For many, there is nothing worse than an ab workout.  But strengthening the core is essential for a robust and healthy body. Having that ideal six-pack is a dream many of us strive for, yet when we skip out on crunches we don’t get very far on that dream. If you dread your routine or aren’t seeing the results you have been expecting, maybe it’s time to spice things up with some crunch variations.


Because traditional crunches are limited in scope, variations are a great way to reach other muscles you haven’t been touching. If you haven’t been getting results, this could be the reason why. Adding variety to your workout could be the answer.

We will focus on different variations to boost your core strengthening workouts and how to perform the exercises. After all, if you don’t know how to do them, you will miss out on an essential part of your workout regime. 

What Is A Crunch Variation?

An ab crunch variation is any change to the traditional crunch that creates an additional challenge to the exercise. It can be anything from raising your legs to holding the crunch for a specific time. The result is a more potent workout that will fuel your core muscle building, getting you one step closer to a washboard stomach. (8)

How Many Calories Do You Burn Doing Ab Crunch Variations?

There is no specific answer to this question. The number of calories you burn doing ab crunch variations will vary based on several factors, including your current weight, height, age, and sex. The intensity and duration of the activity will also play a significant role in the number of calories burned (5). Unfortunately, despite what seems to take more effort to complete variations, they burn the same number of calories as traditional crunches.

Crunch Variations

With so many different crunch variations available, you may wonder where to start. We will focus on a few of the most popular methods, breaking them down into step-by-step instructions. Let’s get started!

Crunch Variations – Bicycle Crunch

The bicycle crunch is one of the most popular oblique crunch variations and offers a challenge. It will target several abdominal muscles, achieving results that a traditional crunch cannot. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees at a 90-degree angle and in line with your hips. 
  2. With bent elbows, place your hands behind your head.
  3. Contracting your abs, bring your shoulders off the floor.
  4. Touch your right elbow to your left knee by bringing them both together. At the same time, straighten your right leg.
  5. Return to the traditional crunch position.
  6. Touch your left elbow to your right knee by bringing them both together. At the same time, straighten your left leg.
  7. Return to the starting position. This is one repetition (​​4).
See also
Biking 10 Miles: Calories Burn as You Pedal

Read More: Types Of Crunches To Boost Your Abs Workout Routine

crunch variations

Crunch Variations – Reverse Crunch

A reverse crunch is performed with the body’s lower half. It is an excellent exercise for the lower abdominal muscles that a traditional crunch cannot reach. You can complete a reverse crunch with the following steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms spread out to the side and your palms face down.
  2. Exhale gently, contract your core muscles, and lift your feet off the floor.
  3. Using your abdominal muscles, pull your knees toward your head without breaking their position.
  4. Curl your spine until you cannot move it upward any further.
  5. Hold this position as long as possible.
  6. Inhale slowly, then gently roll your body back down to the mat until you lie flush on the floor.

The American Council On Exercise advises that maintaining proper form during this exercise is essential to prevent harm to the lower back. You should control all movements, ensuring your knees never move past your hips (7

Semi-Vise Crunch

For this variation, you’ll need a stability ball. You will create a vise between your arm and leg while performing your workout to increase the intensity. The harder you squeeze the ball, the more intense your workout. This is what to do:

  1. Lie on your back with your right leg lifted slightly. Then, place the stability ball on your right thigh just above your knee, lightly holding it in place with the palm of your right hand.
  2. Contracting your abs, lift your right leg and upper torso from the floor while maintaining tension on the ball and keeping your arm straight.
  3. Continue to raise your leg and torso. You will notice that the ball naturally rolls up your leg.
  4. Return to the starting position slowly, lowering your leg nearly to the floor (1).
See also
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crunch variations

Warrior Crunches

Warrior crunches are a side crunch variation that takes things up a notch, incorporating your thighs, glutes, and quads into the workout. This is nowhere near your standard crunch as you perform this maneuver while standing. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Position yourself with your feet a little farther apart than hip-width and point them facing outward. 
  2. Place your hands behind your head as if performing a traditional crunch.
  3. Squat as far as you comfortably can.
  4. Without leaning forward or backward, bend your body to one side as far as you can.
  5. Return to the upright position.
  6. Repeat with the other side of the body (9).

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Hover Crunch

You’ll have to be mindful of this exercise as muscle fatigue develops. Additionally, there is the risk that you could mistakenly initiate movement from your neck instead of your abdominals, which could be very harmful.

  1. Start on your back with your fingertips behind your head and your right leg extended, hovering over the floor. 
  2. Bend your left leg to 90 degrees.
  3. Keeping both legs in these positions, perform abdominal crunches.
  4. Repeat with the legs switched (8).

Quadruped Crunch

The quadruped crunch is another alternative that literally keeps you on your toes. You won’t be lying down for this one.

  1. Start in an all-fours position. 
  2. Tucking your toes under, use your core to lift both knees two inches off the ground. This will create a neutral spine.
  3. Extend your right leg behind you. Your toes and hips should be pointed downward to the ground. 
  4. Using your abs, bring your right knee toward your chest, then extend the leg back behind you (8).
See also
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crunch variations

Offset Arm Crunch

For the offset arm crunch, you’ll need a stability ball. This time, you’ll be balancing on it while performing your workout. You will intentionally create an imbalance that your abs must counteract, providing an intense exercise session. Follow these steps for this variation:

  1. Place one hand behind your neck as in the position of a traditional crunch.
  2. Place the other hand to the side, arm straight, and palm up.
  3. Using your abs, lift your chest in a crunching motion, stopping when you feel the tension decrease.
  4. Return to the starting position slowly and in a controlled manner.

The best way to perform this technique is to pretend your arm is not extended. You want to act like you are doing a regular crunch to achieve the correct results (1).

Figure 4 Crunch

This interesting take on crunches has you shape your body into a figure 4 to up the ante on your abdominal workouts.

  1. Lie on your back with your arms extended over your head.
  2. Cross your right leg over the left with the left leg extended.
  3. Lift both legs with one count.
  4. Lift your upper body with one count.
  5. Lower the upper body and legs at the same time with four counts.

Notice that it takes twice as long to complete the last step as it does to complete steps 3 and 4 combined (8).

Read More: Crunch Vs. Sit-Up: Which Is The Best Exercise To Work Your Core And Why?

crunch variations

Offset Torso Crunch

You’ll need a stability ball for this variation. You’re going to deliberately create a situation of imbalance that you must use your abs to control.

  1. While on the stability ball, place both hands behind your neck in the traditional crunch position.
  2. Shift your torso slightly to the left, just off-center on the ball.
  3. Perform a crunch, stopping when you feel your abdominal tension decrease. At this point, your shoulders should be nearly over your hips.
  4. Return to the starting position.
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You may notice a small amount of rotation during this variation. It is unavoidable as you are off-center on the stability ball. However, you should try to minimize it as much as possible. Doing this will increase the use of your abs beyond what a traditional crunch will do (1).

Crunch Variations – Side Balance To Double Crunch

Our final variation involves a lot of variety in movement. Follow these steps to complete this ab crunch variation:

  1. Start by lying on your right side with your arms overhead. 
  2. Keeping your legs together, raise them slightly off the floor and maintain this position.
  3. Smoothly and in one motion, roll onto your back, bringing your lower and upper body together in a double crunch motion.
  4. Release the position back into the side balance while attempting to keep your legs elevated (8).

Do Crunch Variations Actually Work?

Crunches are a core-building activity that strengthens your muscles to increase your balance and stability. The best part is that you can do them anywhere without a gym membership. While cardio training is excellent for burning fat, it can only do so much for those muscles. You need to tone them if you want that perfect stomach. That’s where crunches and ab crunch variations come into the picture. They tone the muscles in your abdominal core, revealing the details that cardio alone cannot (6).

What Is The Most Effective Crunch Variation?

According to the American Council on Exercise, the bicycle crunch is the most effective type of crunch. They ranked these crunches in order of efficacy in stimulating the rectus abdominus, or long flat muscle that runs the length of the abdomen. In their study, it also ranked number two for best crunch to strengthen the obliques. So, you’ll definitely win when you add this ab crunch variation to your workout routine (3).

See also
6 Exercises To Strengthen Knees And Improve Mobility

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crunch variations

What Is A Good Substitute For Crunches?

While crunches are an excellent method of core strengthening, you might want to change things up a bit. After all, no one likes it when the routine gets boring. So, try mixing in a couple of these exercises that will work your core but trade out crunches:

  • Front Plank: Brace yourself on your elbows and toes, keeping your body perfectly parallel to the ground. Make the goal to hold this position for 60 seconds.
  • Half Kneeling Pallof Press: Set yourself up on one knee with the inside knee down. Holding the band of the machine on your chest to start, reach out as far as you can without rotating your core.
  • Side Plank: Keeping the elbow under the shoulder and the shoulder not touching the ear, balance your body with your elbow and foot. Make the goal to hold this position for 60 seconds. When you are ready to increase the difficulty, add lifting your top leg (2).

The Bottom Line

Crunch variations are an excellent way to switch up your core workout. They provide methods of working key abdominal muscles that traditional crunches can’t reach. Creating a routine that combines these variations with traditional crunches will ensure you hit all the key muscles. By using them strategically, you will be well on your way to that six-pack you always wanted.

They are also an excellent way to keep your workout from becoming dull and boring. After all, you’re more likely to keep returning for more if you are engaged and enjoying the activity. So, spice up your crunches exercise with some of these ab crunch variations.




This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. 4 Crunch Variations That Hit the Core (2017,
  2. 10 core exercises that are better for your back (and body) than crunches (2018,
  3. American Council on Exercise (ACE)-sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises (2001,
  4. Best Exercises for Abs (2020,
  5. Calculating how many calories are burned in a day (2020,
  6. Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles (2022,
  7. How To Do a Reverse Ab Crunch (n.d.,
  8. Supercharge the Ab Crunch (2014,
  9. The 8 best core exercises for gym and home training, from beginner to advanced (2021,
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