Kick your abdominal exercise routine up a notch with this fun variation on a classic crunch — cross crunches! They’re perfect if you want an extra challenge in strengthening and toning your core.

“Perform cross crunches when you can perform regular crunches with proper form and activation,” advises James Shapiro, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Primal Power Fitness in New York City.

“This is not a beginner movement. You should have a foundation to perform lateral flexion and anterior-based stabilization — think planks and dead bugs.” he adds.

Read on to learn more about how to achieve a stronger core with cross crunches.

Cross Crunches: Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start by lying on your back on the ground, bend your knees and keep your feet on the floor.
  • Place your hands behind your head and keep your elbows flared to the side.
  • Begin the motion by lifting your shoulder blades off the floor and reach your right hand towards the outside of  your left ankle.
  • Focus on exhaling as you curl to maximize your abdominal contraction.
  • Return to your starting position, before going to the opposite side for your set amount of repetitions.

What Muscles Do Cross Crunches Work?

Cross crunches are exceptional at targeting your abdominal muscles and are known to build core endurance after a targeted number of reps.

Theresa Marko, PT, DPT, OCS, of Marko Physical Therapy in New York City says, “Cross crunches use a combination of muscles, not just the abdominals [rectus abdominis]. They target the abdominals [rectus abdominis] and the internal and external obliques [the muscles responsible for laterally flexing and twisting the torso to the side]. They can also target the deeper abdominals, known as the transversus abdominis.”

We argue that crunches are a sure way to add strength to your torso. And, with a strong core, your posture will improve.

“One common mistake people make is that they pull on their heads when lifting and also use their neck muscles to lift themselves up, which can strain your neck,” says Marko.

Always support your neck when performing a cross crunch, and listen to Marko’s suggestions to target the correct muscles.

Variations of Cross Crunches


Spice up your cross crunches and try the following exercise options to strengthen your abdominal wall further.

  1. Take on cross crunches with your legs up in the air bent at 90 degrees for an added challenge.
  2. Consider doing cross crunches with an exercise ball (an exercise ball will support your spine). Your abs will feel the burn.
  3. For an advanced variation, hold a medicine ball at your chest as you twist from side-to-side.

These suggestions are a sure way to hit your targeted strength-training goal!

Do Cross Crunches Burn Calories?

Like any physical activity, cross crunches burn calories, but they do not spot-reduce stomach fat.

Cross crunches burn fewer calories per minute than other exercises (like lunges) since they activate a comparatively small amount of muscle mass.

To burn your bulge, we recommend maintaining a daily calorie deficit with a sensible diet and exercise plan that includes building muscle.

“Cross crunches themselves do not burn calories any different than [exercises for] any other muscle,” says Morgan Rees, an ACE-certified personal trainer in Los Angeles. “Instead of focusing on the caloric burn for this particular move, focus on core engagement and strength.”

Notice your increased strength and core muscle endurance after adding cross crunches to your workout routine.


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