Some of the best bodyweight exercises target the abdominal muscles, and the crunch is among the most common of them. Crunches work on the rectus abdominis muscle while also engaging the obliques.
How To Perform Crunches
The starting position for a crunch is quite simple. Prepare a mat for your back to lay on.
You begin a crunch by lying face up on the floor with your knees bent.
To perform, follow these simple steps:
- Put your hands either behind or on the sides of your head. Alternatively, you may cross your arms over the chest.
- Curl your shoulders toward the pelvis.
- As you lift your shoulders slightly upward (as seen from the image above), avoid pushing your hands against your head or neck. This is to prevent injuries.
- Lower your upper body, keeping the tension you feel in your abdominal muscles.
- Repeat lifting and lowering your upper body.
Crunches: Options for Progression
Progressions for bodyweight exercises are quite easy to outline. You just have to add some difficulty into the basic routine.
You may increase the difficulty of the crunch by doing any of the following:
- Lie on a declined bench.
- Hold a weight under the chin, on the chest or behind your head.
- Perform crunch exercises on exercise balls.
Alternatives to Crunches
If you have or had some back injuries, crunches may not be entirely safe for you. The good news is that some alternative bodyweight exercises exist.
Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor on spine biomechanics, recommends the curl-up as a safer alternative to the crunch. The curl-up also differs from sit-up exercises, which can also be another alternative.
McGill did extensive research on crunches and how they affect the back. If you’re still rehabilitating your back from an injury, try curl-ups or sit-ups instead.
If you like how crunches work your abs, you may also try the following variations.
- Reverse Crunch. Position your upper back on the floor, lifting your hips up instead.
- Twisting Crunch. Lift one shoulder at a time. This crunch variation places emphasis on the obliques.
- Thai Crunch. This crunch hits the stomach after full contraction. Muay Thai fighters use this variation to condition their core to take hits from punches.
- Cable Crunch. Kneel upright by curling the body to pull down on a cable machine. Keep your hips motionless.
Add Crunches To Your Best Bodyweight Exercises List
Crunches work well on your abs, so be sure to include them in your list of the best bodyweight exercises to perform soon. If you got some back injuries, though, try curl-ups. They also engage your abdominal muscles really well.