Why Crunches Are a Perfect Exercise While 'Resting'

Marines physical fitness test crunches
Marines with Headquarters Battalion conduct crunches during their physical fitness test aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, March 14, 2017. (Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

An email prompted me to write about one of my favorite and most frequently done exercises in my workouts -- the crunch. The question asked was concerning when I like to do abs in my workouts -- in the beginning, after cardio or in the middle?

I have found that I do two types of abs that work very well for me, as well as many of the people I train. I rest with crunches and warm up with crunches. 

Many will say that crunches are in no way a resting exercise, but I disagree. If you think of the position you are in during a crunch, it really is just a little tougher than sleeping, Simply lift your head and shoulder blades off the floor and lie back on the floor, and you have completed a crunch.

I do the following exercises between sets of pull-ups or bench presses as my rest exercise, and I also get the body warmed up in my early morning workouts with a cycle of the following crunches:

  • Regular crunches 25
  • Reverse crunches 25
  • Double crunches 25
  • Left crunches 25
  • Right crunches 25

Stretch and complete one minute of lower-back exercises, and you have warmed up or rested between big sets of pull-ups, intervals of running or just about any other exercise you can think of ... Give it a try. It works great.

Below are some of the many abdominal exercises taken from eBooks sold on the Military.com Fitness eBook store.

Advanced crunch (legs up): Lie on your back with your feet straight in the air. Keep your legs straight up in the air for the advanced crunches. Cross your hands over your chest and bring your elbows to your knees by flexing your stomach. (Do not do if you have had a previous lower-back injury; place feet on the floor).

Reverse crunch: In the same position as the regular crunch, lift your knees and butt toward your elbows. Leave your head and upper body flat on the ground. Only move your legs and butt. (Do not do this exercise if you have had a previous lower-back injury.)

Double crunch: Add the regular and reverse crunch together in one motion. You will feel this one twice as fast.

Right elbow to left knee: Cross your left leg over your right leg. Flex your stomach and twist to bring your right elbow to your left knee.

Left elbow to right knee: Same as above; just switch sides. Cross your right leg over your left leg. Flex your stomach and twist to bring your left elbow to your right knee.

*Note: Any time you work your abs, you also should exercise your lower back to build balance in your torso.

Exercising the lower back

Lie on your stomach with your arms extended over your head. Lift your right arm and your left leg off the ground at the same time and repeat for a specified number of repetitions. Switch arms/legs and repeat.

Swimmers: Lie on your stomach and lift your feet and knees off the floor by flutter-kicking repeatedly as if you were swimming freestyle.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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