Chances are, you already have an idea of how to do crunches. The classic abs exercise is one that you probably did at some point in a high school gym class or even while working out on your own.
Core exercises, like crunches, can be great at engaging your rectus abdominus—those muscles on the front of your body responsible for “six-pack abs.” But if you learn how to do crunches properly, you’ll go beyond just those muscles, also engaging your spine and some of the deeper core muscles that you have. And while there’s nothing wrong with doing crunches, know that exercises like planks can also be great for strengthening and stabilizing your core musculature.
With that in mind, let’s jump in to everything you need to know about how to do crunches.
Crunches are one of the most popular abs exercises around, and they’re considered a foundational movement. A foundational movement is a basic exercise on which it’s easy to build. For instance, once you master crunches, you can experiment with countless variations, like bicycle crunches, tuck-ups, and more. (We provide directions for several types of crunches below.)
Quick refresher: A basic crunch is a bodyweight abdominal exercise done while lying faceup on the floor. In short, you’ll contract your abs, then lift your shoulders and head a few inches off the floor (see our step-by-step instructions on exactly how to do crunches below).
Like all exercises, crunches require recruitment of certain muscle groups and place a strain on other muscles. You should avoid doing crunches if you have frequent back pain, neck pain, or if you’ve been instructed to avoid crunches by a doctor.
Doing crunches on a regular basis can help strengthen your abdominal muscles—but crunches can also do much more. Incorporating crunches into your workout routine can also help build better posture, since you need strong core muscles to stand up straight. In turn, having good posture and a strong core means you’re less susceptible to low back pain, or back injuries in general. A strong core can also help with certain endurance events, like running, swimming, or cycling. It’s true! You need strong abdominal muscles to maintain proper form during longer bouts of exercise. Your core is responsible for so many daily movements and you can help strengthen it by doing crunches.
Having said that, crunches are not a miracle exercise. If you’re looking to build “six-pack abs,” no amount of crunches alone will get you there.
Remember that weight loss is complicated, and if you’re looking to lose weight or “flatten” your stomach, exercise is only one small part of the equation. Eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep, and working with a doctor or dietitian are all a good idea if sustainable weight loss is a goal. Also, your weight is dependent on a number of other factors that can be out of your control, including hormones, genes, and more, which is important to keep in mind. Bottom line: While there are lots of benefits to crunches, automatic weight loss or washboard abs isn’t one of them. (It’s also worth noting that gaining a six pack is incredibly difficult and there’s no reason it needs to be a goal of yours, or most people’s, really).