We all have our weak point, and for most of us, this happens to be the abdominal area. We have all heard that crunches are some of the best ab exercises one can do to sculpt a six-pack. With that in mind, you’d never want to miss the workout routine of individuals who want to get them and then flaunt those surfboard abs. The problem is that most of us are doing even 100 crunches daily yet are not seeing fast results. What this likely means is that you need to change things up and try some different types of crunches.
If you have been doing crunches and they seem to bear no fruits, you might be on the lookout for a different route. This could involve trying a new diet plan or another exercise regime. But before you do so, hold up a bit and try these different types of crunches. There really is a reason crunches are the mother of all ab exercises.
In this read, we will look at the different types of crunches for upper and lower abs. We will specifically discuss 5 types of crunches that have been proven to be effective in sculpting a six-pack in both men and women. Our primary focus will be on how to perform each of these crunches. After all, mastering the proper form of each exercise is the key to getting the most out of crunch sessions.
Although crunches help strengthen our abdominal muscles, they are a real pain in the neck for most people. You could strain your neck or injure your lower back, especially if you are not using the proper crunching form. Such does happen, especially among newbies in the fitness world.
However, this should not discourage you from building abs with crunch exercises. All you need is to learn the correct technique, and you are good to go. Yet, this exercise may end up being non-rewarding and boring. You might be doing 100 crunches daily in less than 5 minutes, while still not seeing any changes in your abdominal region.
If this should happen to you, then you need to switch up your routine and add some interesting exercises. This is not to mean that you have to sway far away from crunches, on the contrary start by incorporating different types of crunches.
Not only will these exercises be a breath of fresh air, but they could absolutely increase the intensity of your workouts. Additionally, they could very well rocket you on the way to get well-defined abs in no time. Here are five recommended types of crunches for you to try to get a six-pack!
The Classic Crunch
If you want to get a six-pack, chances are your workout regime will contain stomach crunches. They are also referred to as abdominal crunches or classic crunches. You may hate them, yet there is no denying that they are a staple to getting abs.
The low-impact ab exercises target your upper and lower abs. They are not as effective in weight loss as they do not cause you to burn so many calories (4). Nonetheless, they work tremendously when it comes to strengthening your abdominal muscles.
Fitness gurus recommend that you start doing the classic crunch before advancing to the various types of crunches. They set the pace of crunches and make the other crunch variations easy to perform. With that in mind, let us look at how you can rock this ab exercise.
How To Do A Classic Crunch
To end up with a six-pack from using these ab exercises, you will have to master the classic crunch technique first. To do this you will have to follow these steps to the letter (11):
- Lie on your back and bend your knees. Keep your feet pressed on the floor.
- Place your hands lightly at the back of your head and tuck your chin.
- Start to curl your upper body towards your knees slowly. As you do this, remember to keep your lower back on the floor.
- Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Slowly lower back to the initial stance.
Reps: 10 to 15
Sets: 1 for beginners, 2 to 3 for intermediate and advanced trainers
Key Pointer: You can easily strain your neck if you perform a crunch with your hands at the back of your head. To avoid this, cross your arms on your chest instead of locking them behind your head (6).
A standard reverse crunch is pretty similar to a classic crunch. It targets your abdominal muscles and makes you one step closer to getting your six-pack. The only difference is that instead of lifting your shoulders, your focus is on raising your butt and tailbone off the floor (8).
There are different types of reverse crunches that you will come across in your fitness journey. Before we look at these variations, let us first look at the basic reverse crunch and how you can do it.
How To Do A Standard Reverse Crunch
The only way you will get well-defined abs by doing reverse crunches is if you do them correctly. The following step-by-step guide will help you master this technique and get those ripped abs in no time. It is as follows (6):
- Start by lying on your back with your feet stretched on the ground. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands across your chest or by your sides.
- Start to raise your legs to a 90-degree angle slowly. This is by pulling your knees close to your chest until your tailbone and butt are off the floor.
- Hold this position for some seconds before slowly returning your legs and butt to the floor.
Reps: 12 to 15
Sets: 1 to 2
Key Pointer: You may end up pulling your neck if your hands are not relaxed throughout the movement. With that in mind, let them rest by your sides or on your chest as you perform the crunches. Similarly, remember to engage your abs during the exercise. This will help you target your deep lower abdominal muscles.
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Reverse Crunches With A Fitness Ball
As mentioned earlier, there are different types of reverse crunches that you probably will bump into in your fitness journey. One of them is the reverse crunch with a fitness ball. It is an advanced core exercise, meaning it is not suitable for beginners (10).
How To Do A Reverse Crunch With A Fitness Ball
- Lie on the fitness ball on your stomach. Your back should be facing the ceiling and feet touching the floor behind the ball.
- Lean forward until you can touch the floor using your hands. Walk your hands away from the fitness ball until you feel the ball reach your upper thighs. Try to keep your shoulders directly above your hands during this motion.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and press your knees into the ball. Use your abdominal muscles to bring your knees towards your chest.
- Hold this position for a couple of breaths before releasing and returning to the starting position.
Key Pointer: Doing core exercise with a fitness ball is pretty challenging. This is why beginners are advised not to try such routines, especially if they have not mastered the standard reverse crunch technique. If your fitness coach recommends this exercise, remember to pay attention to the fitness ball you purchase. Size matters, and getting the right size can be a game-changer in nailing the reverse crunches with a fitness ball (7).
Safety And Precautions When Doing Reverse Crunches Variations
You are likely going to make various errors when performing the standard reverse crunch or its variations. These errors can lead to injuries and affect the effectiveness of these exercises. You can avoid these by being cautious of the following errors when doing these types of crunches:
Doing The Crunches Fast
You may be tempted to do your reverse crunches fast, especially if you want to quickly complete your exercise routine. The problem with doing such exercises fast is that you use your momentum to curl your upper body instead of contracting your abs.
As a consequence, you do not get to exercise your abdominal muscles. Avoid this by doing your reverse crunches slowly and in a controlled manner. The more you focus on the proper form, the greater your chances are of strengthening your core using these workouts.
Lifting Too Much
In the reverse crunch, you are required to lift both your butt and tailbone off the floor. Some people get too excited about these exercises and end up rolling so far that their back is off the floor. Remember that your back should be on the floor throughout this exercise. In such a case, stop immediately and lift your butt and tailbone. You can regulate this by also controlling your pace. Doing the reverse crunches slowly will help you pay more attention to your lift.
The other types of crunches for abs, primarily ripped abs, are the bicycle crunches. As the name implies, these crunches will mimic the act of pedaling a bicycle but in the air. Like all the different types of crunches, bicycle crunches target your entire abdominal area (3).
How To Do Bicycle Crunches
The steps to follow to do a bicycle crunch are pretty straightforward and are as follows (3):
- Lie on your back and raise your palms towards your ears as if you are listening to a faint, faraway noise. Bend your knees.
- Start to raise your right knee towards your chest slowly. As you do this, twist and lift your left elbow such that it approaches and perhaps touches your right knee.
- Return to the starting position and do the same for your left knee and right arm.
Reps: 5 to 10, especially for beginners
Sets: 1 for beginners, 2-3 for an individual in the intermediate or advanced levels
Key Pointer: Bicycle crunches are an excellent exercise to target your abdominal region. That said, they are not the best if you have a bad back. WebMD acknowledges that doing such crunches when you have a bad back can pressure your lower spine (5). Similarly, it may tighten the muscles you use for sitting (5). If you have any back problems, ask your doctor and fitness trainer to recommend other safe exercises that will not wreck your back.
If you want to tone your waistline and get a smaller waist, add oblique crunches to your workout plan. These types of crunches work your internal and external obliques, the muscles found on the sides of your abs (2).
How To Do Oblique Crunches
Doing oblique crunches can be a hassle if you do not have a good guide. Below is an expert-approved guide on how to perform oblique crunches (2):
- Lie on the floor and on your right side and bend your knees.
- Press your right arm on the floor and in front of you. Your left hand should be behind your head.
- Keep your knees together and start to raise your knees towards the ceiling slowly. Lift them as high as you can without experiencing any pain. During the lift, try to bring your left shoulder towards your knees.
- Hold this stance for at least 3 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and repeat before switching sides.
Key Pointer: You can be tempted to overdo the bicycle crunches, especially so after learning that these crunches can help you get a smaller waist. The effect of overtraining by using crunches is dire, so resist overdoing them. Instead, increase your reps and sets for more effective results and shorten your resting duration in between sets (9).
Vertical Leg Crunches
Vertical leg crunches are among the spare-tire vanishing exercises. They work on your abdominal muscles specifically and can help you blast that belly fat (1). Please note, this crunch variation is quite intense and not recommended for beginners. Only do vertical leg crunches when you can comfortably do the basic crunch and other variations like the reverse crunch.
How To Do Vertical Leg Crunches
If done right, the vertical leg crunches can help you sculpt well-defined abs. Use the following guide to help you do these crunches correctly (1):
- Lie on the floor and have your lower back firmly pressed on the floor. Keep your hands behind your head.
- Slowly stretch your legs straight up such that your toes are pointing towards the ceiling. Make sure they are crossed at the ankles and slightly bent at the knees.
- Contract your stomach muscles by raising your torso towards your knees. As you do this, try to keep your chin off your chest with each contraction. Similarly, remember to breathe out as you contract upward.
- Inhale and then slowly return to the starting position.
Guide To Building Abs With The Different Types Of Crunches
The listed types of crunches are just one of the many ways you can use them to build abs. A six-pack will require you to do more than just these crunches. Here is a guide detailing what you also need to focus on if you want to build abs doing crunches:
Ever heard of the saying that abs are built in the kitchen? Well, let us break it down. Besides exercising, you also need to consume a diet that can help you reduce abdominal fat and get abs. Such a diet should be rich in protein to help you build muscle (12).
More than this, the diet should help you maintain a caloric deficit to help lose abdominal and overall body fat. According to Medical News Today, such a diet can include the following (12):
- Lean meats, such as lean lamb, beef, and pork
- Nuts including walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds
- Low-fat dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk
- Fatty fish like salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Seeds like quinoa, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds
- Vegetarian protein food sources such as beans, tempeh, and tofu
- Fruits like oranges, bananas, and apples
- Starchy vegetables including sweet potatoes, green peas, and corn
- Unrefined grains, such as brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread
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Water should be your friend if your goal is getting abs. Water reduces bloating in your stomach and makes your abs appear more defined (8). Knowing this, focus on drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
You can tell if you are drinking enough water by checking the color of your urine. A concentrated yellow color means you are dehydrated and not getting enough water. However, if your urine has a pale yellow color, then you are drinking enough water (8).
You cannot build abs overnight regardless of the number of crunches you do. Remember that overtraining only leads to injuries and pain. If overdone and in the wrong form, crunches can increase your risk of back and neck injuries. Therefore, the key is being patient, putting in the work, and waiting to see the results. Only time will tell how fast you will see changes in your abdominal area, based on your efforts and body fat percentage.
Crunches rank among the best exercises to perform to get a six-pack. For more definition in your abs, you are urged to incorporate different types of crunches. The five very best include the classic crunch, reverse, bicycle, oblique, and vertical leg crunch.
Each of these types of crunches is effective in targeting your upper and lower abdominal muscles. Similarly, they also help you reap other fitness benefits. For example, vertical leg crunches can help you blast belly fat. Similarly, other crunches like the oblique crunches also help in toning your waistline.
If done right, you will reap considerable gains from doing these types of crunches. Do the recommended exercise as instructed, and also stick to the given reps and sets. Again, remember to first talk to your fitness instructor before making changes to your exercise program.
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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 for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Abs: From Flab to Fab in 4 Weeks (2010, webmd.com)
- At-Home Workouts (2014, webmd.com)
- Best Ab Exercise for Beginners (2020, webmd.com)
- Best Exercises for Lower Abs (2020, webmd.com)
- Best/Worst Workouts, According to Science (2020, webmd.com)
- Exercises to improve your core strength (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Fitness ball exercises: How-to video collection (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- How long does it take to get abs? Guide and tips (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- It’s Crunch Time (2018, medicinent.com)
- Slide show: Core-strength exercise with a fitness ball (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- The best way to train to improve muscular endurance (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What foods might help define a six-pack? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)