I hate standard abdominal crunches. Really, I do. But more than doing them, I hate teaching them. Apart from being a boring isolation move that looks easy to do but can be tricky to get right, it is way too easy to compromise on from without realizing. I usually skip over standard crunches entirely when training someone that is new to the idea of exercise  Isolation moves tend to be very inefficient and though they do have their place in any training program, compound movements will almost always go much further in providing overall strength gains, core activation and metabolic rate increase. That being said, I do swear by doing some crunch variations on a decline bench.

However, getting the mechanics of a basic crunch is still crucial. Here’s a good video explaining how to perform a standard abdominal crunch:

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Never grab the back of your head.
  2. Do not tuck your chin in. It should never be anywhere near your collar bone. Imagine there’s a tennis ball under your chin.
  3. Though the video does not say it, keep your fingertips on or near your temple and arms bent about 20 – 40 degrees. You certainly want to avoid pointing your elbows straight ahead.
  4. Keep your tongue pressed flat against the roof of your mouth. I’m constantly surprised at how no trainer ever insists on this. Keeping your tongue in this position prevents neck injury.
  5. Exhale on the way up and try to visualize your abdominal muscles tightening as you do so. Every exercise has a mental component and focusing on just the physical aspect of training is shortchanging yourself.

Once you get the hang of how to activate your abdominal muscles properly (imo, that is the only thing a standard crunch is good for) you can move up to advanced versions. Start with doing a standard crunch on a stability ball for instance. As you get more comfortable and stronger, shoot for something like this:

Apologies for the terrible music at the end. Lets just pretend we didn’t hear that shall we? 😉