Updated September 9, 2020Crunches are one of the most popular core exercises. The move targets your abdominal muscles, pelvis, lower back, and hips, and is quite effective at strengthening your core muscles.However, crunches are not safe for everyone. If performed improperly, the exercise can put stress on your neck and back, leading to muscle stiffness, cramps, and even injuries. Although crunches may seem simple, we’ll share a few steps you should take to be certain you’re performing the exercise well, such as maintaining a moderate pace and engaging the correct muscles.Keep Your Back on the FloorA common mistake when doing crunches is lifting your lower back off the ground during the movement. Many people arch their back and use momentum to lift their torso off the ground. However, not only does arching your back remove the focus on your core, but it can cause back pain and injury.When crunching, keep your lower back pressed against the floor at all times. This forces your core to work harder to lift your torso.Moreover, don’t use your hands to pull your head forward. Your head and neck should be in line with your spine throughout the entirety of your crunch. Instead, properly contract your abs and use them to lift your body. This may feel difficult at first, though it’s the safest and most effective way to crunch.Utilize The Correct MusclesThe primary muscle engaged in a crunch is your abdomen. When you’re doing crunches and feeling sore and tired, it may be tempting to use your legs, back, or neck to lift your body rather than contracting your abs. Using momentum can lift your body easily as well, though this is unproductive and can cause injuries.During a core exercise, it’s important to prioritize the “mind to muscle connection,” or consciously contracting the correct muscles during an exercise. Focus on the tension in your abdomen rather than passively going through the motions to improve the quality of your workout.Maintain A Steady PaceCrunches are typically performed too rapidly to properly contract your muscles. When you’re moving so quickly, your hip flexors will likely take over to complete the movement rather than your abdominal muscles. Also, doing crunches too rapidly can mess up your form, a vital aspect of doing workouts properly and protecting your body from injury.Complete your crunches at a modest pace to ensure your form is correct. It’s a matter of prioritizing quality over quantity or speed. You can also better focus on contracting your abdominal muscles when performing the exercise slowly.Slowly Increase The IntensityWhen you first start crunches, don’t jump into high intensity right away, such as trying to do 100 crunches at once or holding a heavy weight. Overexerting yourself can strain your muscles and put you at risk for injury. If you’re completing excessive reps without practice, you may also compromise your form, thus making the exercise less effective and putting you at risk of injury.As you grow stronger, you can increase the intensity of your workouts by adding a weight or upping the reps. However, if you’re a beginner, start at a modest rep range and difficulty.Try Crunch VariationsIf regular crunches are not sufficient or are just uncomfortable on your body, there are alternatives you can try to make the move more doable. The variations, including assisted crunches and standing side crunches, are gentler on your spine and lower back while still making your workout worthwhile.Stability Ball CrunchesCompleting crunches on a stability ball better protects your back compared to floor crunches. The exercise also puts more emphasis on extending and contracting your abs; plus, in this position, your back, legs, and hips cannot take over. This variation does require equipment, though stability balls are readily available at gyms and inexpensive to purchase from a sporting goods store.Position the stability ball under your lower back and lie on it.Plant your feet onto the ground.Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.Keep your spine straight and place your hands behind your head.Lift your torso off of the ball and curl your ribs towards your belly button.Lower back into your starting position.Curl UpCurl ups are a good introductory crunch variation as the exercise supports your lower back. In this move, you keep one hand under your lower back at all times to prevent curving in your spine and tilting in your pelvis.Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet planted on the ground.Extend one leg out in front of you and lay it on the ground.Put your corresponding arm behind your head.Place your other arm under your lower back.Contract your core and raise your head and shoulders off the ground, keeping your neck straight.Return to your starting position.Assisted CrunchIf you’re struggling to lift yourself up in a crunch without using your legs, hips, or momentum, try doing assisted crunches. The move is a great way to increase your abdominal strength when you’re new to core workouts. Not only does this move target your abs, but your arms and shoulders as well.Lie flat on your back with your hands at your sides, palms facing down.Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground.Contract your abs and lift your chest and shoulders.Slide your elbows under your shoulders, supporting your weight on your forearms.Push your torso off the ground using your palms.Slowly uncurl your abs and return to your starting position.Standing Side CrunchStanding side crunches are a better alternative to traditional crunches if you’re hoping to put less strain on your lower back. This move primarily targets your obliques and it improves balance and stability better than a floor crunch.Stand with your feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart and place your hands behind your head.Bring your left knee up to the side.Twist your torso to the left, touching your left elbow to your knee.Stand back up straight and repeat on your right side.FAQsCan doing crunches burn stomach fat?You cannot spot reduce fat. While crunches and other abdominal exercises can strengthen your muscles and burn calories, the most effective way to lose weight is with a well-balanced diet and being in a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit is when the number of calories you consume is less than the number of calories your body burns every day.Furthermore, where you hold or lose fat depends on factors such as genetics, gender, and hormones. Somebody who is the same height and weight as another person can have an entirely different body composition simply due to genetics.How many crunches should I do?How many crunches you should do for an effective ab exercise depends on your level and what you find challenging. Your last two reps of a set should feel incredibly difficult, yet still doable with good form.A good starting place is to complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 crunches using proper form. As that becomes easier to complete, you can work your way up to higher reps, doing about 25 to 30 per set.Are crunches and sit-ups the same?No, though crunches and sit-ups are quite similar, they differ. Both exercises engage your abs, chest, neck, back, hip flexors, and leg muscles. Sit-ups require you to fully lift your torso off the ground. On the other hand, you only need to lift your torso partially when doing crunches.Sit-ups are not advised for individuals with back or hip problems. When compared to sit-ups, crunches are a bit easier to complete and gentler on your body; however, both are effective core exercises.Is doing 100 crunches per day effective?Isolating your abdominal muscles every day can be ineffective. Your body and muscles need time to heal and repair itself, and constantly tearing your muscles by exercising them does more harm than good. You’re better off completing ab exercises 1 to 3 times a week at most.There’s no real “magic number” for how many crunches you need to do for your workout to be effective. For most people, completing 100 reps is quite excessive and doing such high reps can be exhausting and hurt your form.You should focus on properly engaging your core muscles. 10 to 30 reps of 1 to 3 sets should be enough to challenge your body and give you a solid workout.While doing 100 crunches can be a fun occasional challenge, if your goal is weight loss or getting a toned stomach, ab exercises should be paired with other workouts, including strength training or running. A healthy diet and a caloric deficit is also an essential part of building muscle or losing weight.How many core exercises should I do per workout?Doing 3 to 4 reps of 2 to 3 different exercises and hitting various core muscles is a good starting place. A solid ab workout doesn’t need to be long to be effective, spending around 15 minutes is roughly enough time. There’s no need to spend a full 30 to 90 minutes focused solely on ab isolation exercises.ConclusionCrunches, when not done properly, can be potentially harmful to your back and neck. It’s vital to prioritize using the correct form when doing crunches to protect your body and better target your abdominal muscles. Once you’ve mastered your form, you can increase the intensity of your workouts and test your abilities.If you have pre-existing back or neck issues, you may want to try different variations of crunches, such as stability ball crunches, and contact your doctor for professional advice.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.