Basic Ab Crunches and Variations

Ab crunches are a great way to start working your abdominal muscles. Strong abs will support you in all your weight training efforts, as well as day-to-day physical activities.

There are many variations to the abdominal crunch. Below are basic crunches and variations to get you started.

Visit my Ab Exercises for Women page for a list of additional abdominal strengthening exercises with step-by step instructions.

1. Ab Crunches with Feet on the Floor

Equipment needed: None

Muscles targeted: rectus abdominis (mostly the lower abs), obliques


  1. Start by lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the ground, hands behind your head.
  2. Flatten your low back against the floor and pull your navel towards the floor.
  3. Slowly contract your abdominal muscles.
  4. Exhale and lift your shoulders off the floor a couple of inches by rounding your back; keep your neck straight.
  5. Inhale as you slowly lower back down, but keep your abs engaged, don't totally relax them.
  6. Continue with repetitions until you feel a burn in your abs.

Notes about Basic Ab Crunches:

  • Remember that these are not "sit-ups" (which are bad for you). Don't raise your torso off the floor. Lift only your shoulders.
  • These are great to start working out your abdominal muscles. There is less risk to your back.
  • This is also an excellent movement to restore abdominal tone after pregnancy. In fact, you'll want to do these basics until you have some tone back and before you engage in more rigorous abdominal exercises such as leg raises, torso raises or leg extensions on the floor.

Exercise Tips

  • A long and slow series will provide the best results.
  • Keep your lower back pressed against the floor to protect your back.
  • Take care not to pull on your neck, as this can cause injury. Instead of putting your hands behind your head, try crossing your hands across your chest.

2. Ab Crunches with Feet in the Air

Equipment needed: None

Muscles targeted: rectus abdominis, obliques, quadriceps (rectus femoris), tensor fascia lata


For a more intense crunch, follow the directions for #1 above, but add the following variations:

  1. Bend your knees and keep your feet in the air. Your upper legs will be at a 90° angle to your torso.
  2. Bring your knees towards your head when you lift your shoulders off the ground.
  3. To work your obliques more, alternate rolling up and bringing the right elbow to the left knee and the left elbow to the right knee.

3. Ab Crunches with Feet Raised

Equipment needed: Weight bench or other elevated surface to put your feet on.

Muscles targeted: rectus abdominis, obliques, quadriceps (rectus femoris), tensor fascia lata

Follow the directions for the first exercise listed above, but place your feet on a weight bench (or other surface of a similar height).

4. Half Crunches

Equipment needed: None

Muscles targeted: rectus abdominis, obliques, quadriceps (rectus femoris), tensor fascia lata


  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and together; feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your hands in front of you; pull your torso as close as possible to your thighs.
  3. Inhale and slowly lower your torso back towards the ground.
  4. When you get halfway to the ground, exhale and move your torso back up to your thighs.
  5. Continue until you feel a burn.

Exercise Tips

  • To work the abdominal muscles properly, round the back slightly during the whole movement.
  • For a more intense workout, at the end of lowering your torso, hold for 10 seconds or more before lifting up again.

5. Ab Crunches Sitting on a Bench

Equipment needed: Bench

Muscles targeted: rectus abdominis, obliques, quadriceps (rectus femoris), tensor fascia lata


  1. Sit on the edge of a bench with your hands resting on the bench on each side of your buttocks, tips of your toes lightly touching the floor.
  2. Inhale and bring your knees to your chest while rounding your back at the same time.
  3. Return to starting position while exhaling.
  4. Repeat until you feel a burn in your abs.

Exercise Tips

  • Maintain a contraction for one or two seconds when your knees are lifted for a greater workout.
  • Twenty repetitions will give you good results.

6. Complete Abdominal Exercise Program

If you're looking for a thorough workout program that will not only give you an incredible-looking midsection, but also a great-looking body overall, then check out Mike Geary's Truth About Abs program.

All of the above abdominal strengthening exercises are extremely effective when done safely and consistently. But if you didn't find what you were looking for, then use the Google search box to find more information.

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