Crunches & Abdominal Exercises

The muscles of the abdominals can be broken into three categories: the transverse abdominus, the deep abdominal muscular corset that wraps around your waist; the obliques, which run along your sides; and the rectus abdominus, the muscle along the front of your abs that forms a six pack. Crunches allow you to train each of these muscles effectively to get a toned, flat stomach.

Tabletop Crunch

The tabletop crunch targets the deep abs and rectus abdominus to help give you a six pack. Lie on your back on a carpet or yoga mat, with your knees and hips both bent at 90 degrees in tabletop position. Bring your hands behind your head to gently support your neck, and bring your belly button in towards your spine to engage your deep abs. Squeeze your abs to lift your shoulder blades off the ground, and gently lower back down to complete one rep. Perform three sets of 20 reps.

Reverse Crunch

Reverse crunches target the lower part of the rectus abdominus to tone and flatten your lower abs. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your knees folded in towards your chest. Engage your abs by pulling your belly button to your spine. Squeeze your abs to raise your hips off the mat, then slowly lower back down to complete one rep. Perform three sets of 20 reps. Ensure the movement of the crunch comes from the abs and does not rely on momentum from movement of the legs.

Side Crunch

Side crunches target and tone the upper and lower obliques as well as the rectus abdominus. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands behind your head to support your neck. Twist at your torso to the right until your legs are bent and stacked on top of each other on the ground. Squeeze your abs and crunch up, bringing both shoulder blades off the ground, and slowly lower back down to complete one rep. Perform three sets of 20 reps, then repeat on the other side. Target your upper or lower obliques by bringing your feet closer or father away from your torso, respectively.

Crunch with Hip-Up

The crunch with hip-up is an intense workout for your rectus abdominus. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and both legs straight. Engage your abdominals and lift your shoulder blades off the mat slightly–this is starting position. Squeeze your abs as you crunch up, lifting your shoulder blades a few inches off the ground. At the same time, use your abs to lift your hips slightly off the ground. Lower your hips and shoulder blades to starting position to complete one rep. Perform three sets of 10 reps.

About this Author

Louise Tremblay recently finished an M.Sc. in molecular and cellular biology in Ontario, Canada, with years of cancer research experience. She has experience writing articles and Web content on science, heath and fitness, diet and personal wellness.