10 Ways to Crunch

Crunches are a key part of any ab routine, but it’s good to expand beyond the basic crunch to get the most benefit. Pairing crunches with other ab exercises is a winning combination, so check out this 5-minute ab workout or this barre ab burner for a balanced routine.

For this post, I’m going to focus different ways to crunch, which was inspired by my workout yesterday morning. I did a little TurboFire workout: 25 minute HIIT and 10 minute Abs DVD.

Turbo Fire Abs

It was my first time doing the abs DVD and I am SORE today. My abs are still very weak from pregnancy, so it felt nice to give them a good workout. I loved the combo of moves Chalene put together, but was kind of bummed with the lack of lower leg lifts and planks (which are much more functional than crunches). We did a lot of crunches and it helped me to remember some of my old forgotten favorites.

Here are 10 different types of crunches if you’d like to add a little zing in your abs routine:

10 Ways to Crunch

10 Crunches to Add to Your Ab Workout

*As always, check with a doc before making any fitness changes

1) Standard crunch

For beginners, cross your arms on your chest. Level 2 will bring their elbows out to the sides, level 3 will have arms straight, glued next to their ears and even hold a light dumbbell. Exhale as you bring your shoulders off the floor and draw your belly button in towards your spine. Don’t depend on momentum- keep it slow and controlled.

2) Bicycle crunch

bicycle crunch

Remember to keep your elbows out, in line with your ears and lead with your shoulder, not your elbow.

3) Reverse crunch

For this one, you can have your hands behind your head (more challenging) or under your lower back. Bring your legs up and try to lift your hips to press your toes towards the ceiling.

4) Double crunch

double crunch 

As your shoulders rise off the floor, hips also come up, drawing knees in closer to your chest.

5) Frog crunch

frog crunch crunch and hover

Exhale as you try to meet knees to elbows (keeping your elbows in line with your ears), lower down and straighten legs out to a hover.

6) Side-to-side crunch

side-to-side crunch

Come up into a regular crunch, and engaging your obliques, bring your torso towards the side and “chop” with your hand at your ankle. Back to center, then to the opposite side.

7) Circle obliques

circle obliques 

Hands in fists with thumbs pointed towards you, as you crunch up and exhale, bring your right shoulder off the ground toward your left knee and begin to make a circular pattern with your torso.

Complete the “body circle” by lifting your left shoulder off the ground as you continue to crunch your abs. Complete all of your reps on one side before switching to the other.

8) Pullover crunch

pull over crunch pullover crunch 2

Start with legs in a hover position. As you exhale, bring your legs up, shoulders off the ground and arms out parallel to the floor.

9) Roll-up

roll up

Bring your arms at chest level, straight in front of you, as you engage you abs, exhale and slowly roll up into the pictured position. Roll back slowly to your back with arms in front, then lower back to your ears.

10) Crunch and hover

crunch and hover crunch and hover 2

Shoulders come up as knees come in, lower shoulders down as you extend legs to a hover.

Challenge Yourself with Crunches

-Play with tempo: up fast, down slow; up slow, down fast; up for 2 counts, down for 2; pulsing at the middle portion of the movement; etc

-Focus on your breath. As you engage your abs to crunch up, exhale and bring your belly button towards your spine

-Think about contracting your abs while exercising and even during everyday activities


Remember, the best way to get awesome abs is with a consistent cardio routine (varying intensities) and clean eating. You really use your abs all day (picking up things from the floor, putting dishes away, bending over, holding your body upright and stable), so there’s no really to go crazy with an ab routine if you’re doing your cardio and eating well. When I first got into fitness, I did abs almost everyday for at least a half hour because I wanted a six pack. It doesn’t really work that way.

How often, if at all, do you work out your abs? Remember to work your entire core, especially your lower back, for more effective training.

For more ab ideas, check out the ab burners on the fitness page– quick and fiery- and this reader’s request about fab abs.

Have a great day, friends <3



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  1. Claire @ Live and Love to Eat on May 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Glad Livi likes the water! Bella is too funny – you can’t get mad at that face though!

  2. Hillary on May 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve just started adding planks into my ab routine, and my GOD, what a difference! I don’t know what took me so long!

  3. kaila @ healthyhelper on May 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I am always looking for alternatives to crunches!!! These are awesome! I can’t wait to add these to my next core sesh!!

  4. Suzi @ Confessions of a Fitness Instructor on May 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I started teaching an ABS (abdominal + back strengthening) class on Monday nights after Zumba. The first week we were all so sore we could barely move since we hadn’t done anything like that for a while. I’m happy that now we aren’t nearly as sore even though the class is getting a bit more difficult.

    She looks so happy in the water 🙂

  5. Beth on May 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    That’s so great that Livi loves the water – she’s adorable!

    I try to work my abs twice per week – usually on a cardio day since I tend to run out of time on my strength days. I’ve been trying out the plank suggestion you had (last week?) to do plank “intervals” of 10 seconds each instead of just holding for 1 minute. MAN, that burns!!

  6. Stephanie @ Legally Blinde on May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Great post! I love all of the ab workout variations. And the pictures to go along with the descriptions are so helpful. Plus, you look fabulous 🙂 And that’s a great picture of you and Livi swimming – glad you had fun!!

  7. Andrea @ Vegvacious on May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks for the great ab ideas! I’m planning to do a quickie run tonight as long as the weather holds up and we don’t get rain and I was trying to decide what I wanted to do in addition to that. I’m thinking abs might be my ‘thang’ tonight!

  8. Lucy on May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    You two look great in the pool!! Mom and Baby swimming sessions in your future? These sessions look like fun at our local pool (didn’t know they existed when our children were infants).

  9. Catalina @ Cake with Love on May 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I love the Turbo Fire abs workout! Livi is so cute in her swimming suit!!! I am glad that Fred is still alive, 9 days for a fish in my house would be like a lot!

  10. Heather @ Fit Mama Real Food on May 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    My animals always get the crazy eyes whenever they steal food!

    Loving all the AB variety. Gives them abbies a good burn!

  11. Becca on May 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    I love to work my abs and core. I have always had lower back pain, however I found that keeping my core muscles strong really helps. 🙂

  12. Deanna @ Diary of Dee on May 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    ready or not, my abs are going to feel this tonight!

  13. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on May 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Bella is such a rascal. And Livi is such a cutie! How wonderful she likes water, that will make for lots of fun summertime activities!

  14. Andrea on May 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I love that you modeled all of the crunch steps! I like it much better than the dudes in stock photos 🙂

  15. Jennifer@knackfornutrition on May 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Is that top from Lululemon?? I love it!

    • Fitnessista on May 2, 2012 at 12:46 am

      yes! thank you 🙂

  16. Annie on May 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Haha on the chicken!

    Recently, I saved a juicy rotisserie chicken leg that I saved for lunch. By the way, I *LOVE* dark meat and purposely ate the breast the night before to save the best for lunch. Anyway, I place it down on the dining room table and left for ONE SECOND to fetch something from the kitchen, which is next to the dining room in an open floor plan. Suddenly, I heard the most curious “thump.” I rushed back to the table only to find that my CAT had waited for me to turn around to SNEAK off with my (big!) chicken leg! It sat on the floor, inches from my grey and white furball.

    I was so mad at that cat for the first time in his short 12 year lifespan. It didn’t help I was absolutely starving either.

    I ended up throwing the chicken leg away. I mused, “if I can’t get any chicken, neither can the cat.”

  17. Annette @ FitnessPerks on May 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I love reverse crunches and roll ups. SUch great ab moves. Great post!

  18. kara on May 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    aw pretty little livi!

    FYI, all of the Chalean Extreme ab workouts are better than the TF one, though i do like TF Core 20. but yeah, the CE one i did last night (I’ve Got Abs) was MOSTLY pushups, variations on plank, and leg lifts/lowers. killer.

  19. madison @ toldinvain on May 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    So would your advice be to still do abs at the end of every workout? if so, should we really focus on “functional” stuff? like planks and leg lifts?

    • Fitnessista on May 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Nope- I’d do 2-3 times max per week on non-consecutive days. As far as the exercises go, choose a variety to keep your body guessing

  20. Ali on May 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Agreed! Way back before I started teaching classes I would work my abs daily. What I learned later, especially as a Group Power instructor, is that we use our core the entire time we are lifting weights. I remind my class that they should be engaging their abs during each track. It really could be called “60 minutes of ab training.” Now, I work my core maybe twice a week. After I realized how much I use it during my other workouts and that abs really are made in the kitchen, I backed off….and what do you know? That little 6 pack started to appear 🙂 I teach a class called Group Core, which focuses on all of the muscles used when strengthening the core: hips, back, legs, shoulders, etc. We forget about that the areas surrounding our core are just as important to strengthen. I’ve really enjoyed this format and boy do I lovvvve the soreness it creates 🙂

  21. Julie on May 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks, Gina! Like you, I sometimes forget about all the great varieties and kind of get into a pattern of the same ol’, same ol’. Thanks for reminding me of all the great options!

  22. Lisa @ Fresh Spinach on May 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    How adorable is Livi in her swim outfit?!
    I just did abs and lower back yesterday and was thinking to myself that I wish I had more ab options in my arsenal. Thanks!

  23. Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) on May 1, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Goodness, are these ab-routine photos recent because no one could ever guess that you had a baby recently!! Looking good mama!

    • Fitnessista on May 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      you’re a sweetheart- thank you!

  24. Averie @ Averie Cooks on May 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    You and Livi look absolutely awesome in the pool together 🙂 Have fun making first summer in the pool memories!

  25. Melissa (Better Fit) on May 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    That must have been so much fun to take Livi swimming!

    Great set of ab exercises! How often do I work my abs? Well, I don’t really do specific ab stuff- I focus more on compound exercises that require lots of core stabilisation like heavy squats and things. I totally agree with your points at the end about clean eating cardio and working your whole core!! 🙂

    • updog on May 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Funny. I posted pretty much the same comment downstream a bit before I saw yours. Should’ve just said, “What she said!” Four months of heavy squats have done more for my core than the years on years of bicycle crunches that came before it!

  26. Ashley @ Sweat for Sweets on May 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Awesome – I’ll try this out! I love the picture demos 😉 Did the pilot take those for you? hehehe.

    I rarely do a workout focused just on my abs, but when I do.. it feels great & I actually feel like it does make a big different to my muscle definition.

    • Fitnessista on May 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm

      yep! he’s a good sport 🙂

  27. Lizzie on May 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Do you guys have a pool?!

  28. Marie on May 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Livi is so cute in the pool. We go almost every day in the summer… added bonus- totally zonks my little man out and he takes a great nap afterwards. Love your suit- would you mind sharing where you purchased it?

  29. Danica @ It's Progression on May 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    love this post! the descriptions you wrote made perfect sense, I’m excited to try them out!

  30. updog on May 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Hi Gina! The pic of you and Livi in the pool is super cute. She is adorable 🙂
    I don’t do a lot of exercises that target just my abs besides an occasional core class or yoga routine. I do, however, do a lot of heavy deadlifts and squats and push-ups. and find that my entire core gets a great workout from those big compound movements.

  31. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on May 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Ah yes, abs are made in the kitchen… not my kitchen lol. I need to remember this!

  32. Yaara on May 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    That’s great that you are taking Livi swimming!! Swimming is soo good for babies! I used to teach swim lessons to infants and toddlers and looved it! I miss it a lot actually! It’s so important to get babies accustomed to the water at an early age so they don’t fear it when they’re older. And–they develop such great confidence in the water!!
    PS: I’ve said this before–but Livi is so lovely! Every picture you post she just keeps getting cuter!

    • Fitnessista on May 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      i think so too- especially since it’s so common in tucson
      thank you. she’s amazing

  33. Liz @ Southern Charm on May 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Ahhh! Bella and Sydney (my pup) are twins when it comes to food left unmonitored … they are so sneaky/smart 🙂

    And I don’t really work one area at a time … except for my hips for running. I usually prefer full body workouts. That being said, those crunch variations will be a perfect shake up when I get to my abs sections!

  34. Kelly on May 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    That picture of you two is adorable!! I love those sunnies! Where did you get ’em?!

    • Fitnessista on May 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      thank you! h&m

  35. Negar M on May 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I love your demo! I really hope to see more posts like this, I get so lazy and just skip the moves I don’t understand. No more excuses 🙂

    Thank you!!!!!

    I have been swimming since I was super young just like your baby (I grew up in the Netherlands where everybody has to learn to swim just in case the dam breaks). Livi is going to love being a little fishy in the pool!

    I am a strong swimmer and my husband isn’t and he always wished he was more comfortable in the water 😉 anything he can do, I can better anyway.

  36. Aimee on May 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Oh my, what is trader joe’s sauce that is on your chicken? That whole meal looks fabulous. (perhaps it’s cause I am Canadian..but who is Trader joe? LOL)
    Did you put anything special on your veggies?
    Luv reading your posts!

  37. Stacey on May 1, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I am going to be a weirdo and comment on the goldfish ;o). I had a goldfish that I won at our school fair in elementary school and it lived until right before I graduated from high school. You never know, those little guys can surprise you.

  38. katie on May 2, 2012 at 12:33 am

    thanks for these! i really like when you do your own demo photos / videos.. super helpful rather than the links. these are great!

    • Fitnessista on May 2, 2012 at 12:47 am

      thank you! i had been wanting to do more of them for quite a while, but now feel a little more comfortable since i lost the baby weight

  39. Ashley @ The North Carolina Cowgirl on May 2, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Thanks so much for posting these! I’ve been working so hard the past month trying to get my abs more defined and toned before I head to the beach!

    I remember when I took my son swimming for the first time and he loved it as well. I ended up getting him one of the floats with a sun cover so that he could sit in it and learn to kick his feet in the water. He would cry when I would take him out lol. 🙂

  40. Keara on May 2, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Saw this and immediately thought of you and Bella 🙂

  41. Bojana on May 3, 2012 at 6:05 am

    When I saw the pictures of the crunches, it reminded me of this dvd routine I’ve been doing a lot last year. It’s from Tracy Anderson and it’s called Post-Pregnancy *something* workout. It’s supposed to “bring back” your abs after birth… I remember you are not the bigest fan of Tracy 🙂 But I loved doing this workout once a week, I was always sore in a good way and my abs felt so much stronger (though def. not defined – I like my food too much ;b).

  42. Meagan on May 10, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Quick question- I know you are not supposed to do crunches 2 days in a row, but can you work your core 2 days in a row? For instance, is it ok to do planks everyday, or do I need to give my core a rest just like other muscles? Thanks for these great ab exercises- I need a change on my current routine 🙂

  43. Rochelle on June 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    I work my abs 3 times per week – I like to also include some back exercise in these sessions.

  44. Vanessa on June 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing the ab workouts! I have recently began the process of getting in shape and eating healthier. I will give those a try.

  45. Cathy on July 28, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Man I was reading your article and it was really interesting – – but I was wondering if you ever considered trying the Nestle Crunch? I heard those work really well too! 😛

    Visit my blog sometime? I’ve been tracking my progress too!!


  46. Sam on August 24, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Great explanation of the crunch variations. The bicycle crunch is one of my favourite ab exercises. That, super setting with the pullover crunch touching your toes is a killer.

  47. […] the final push! End the week by developing your arm and core muscles with a variety of planks & crunches, standing bicep curls and overhead triceps extensions to develop your strength and […]

  48. […] is not an option and neither is quitting! Watch our abdominal crunch demo video and check out this post by the Fitnessista for several different crunch […]

  49. Caroline on August 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Great post! I love all of the ab workout variations and Livi is such a cutie <3 <3
    I have recently began the process of getting in shape and eating healthier and I just discovered a new drink called Botan and it's my new weight loss partner! It's full of protein so it's a great appetite suppressant. Perfect to fight my late night cravings !!

  50. […] is not an option and either is quitting! Watch our abdominal crunch demo video and check out this post by the Fitnessista for several different crunch […]

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