How to do crunches: sit up variations for a killer abs workout

Crunches and sit ups are one of the most basic calisthenics exercises. The latter fell out of grace in recent years but only because people perform them wrong, putting too much pressure on their spine/back. We’ll tell you how it’s done properly.

Not only that, we’ll also tell you what sit up variations there are and what muscles are worked when you do these classic exercises.

If you want to have a well-sculpted six pack, you’ll need to do two things: 1) do a killer abs workout and 2) make sure you eat right so your body fat percentage will go (and stay) down.

Want to have a washboard in your abdominal area? Read on.


Abdominal muscles are high load-bearing muscles which is equally as good as it is bad, depending on the perspective. It’s good because they don’t need much warm up, which shortens down the time spent with exercising and therefore you can literally spend 5-10 minutes a day working on them.

The downside is, you will need to work them harder for them to take notice. The usual hypertrophy range (the rep range that make muscles grow bigger) of 8-12 reps don’t apply to abs. Bomb them with 15-20 reps in each set and you will feel the burn sooner.

As mentioned above, all the abs workouts won’t do much if you aren’t paying attention to what you eat. This is especially true to men. The typical dad bod is the result of men building up fat reserves around their waists first. If you want your six pack to show, you will need to cut back on all the naughty carbs and bad fats.

Of the three main macro-nutrients (carbs, fats and protein), you will need more protein to help the muscle building process and recovery. Protein is also good for losing weight faster, because it takes longer for your body to break it down so it will make you feel fuller for longer.


The main reason sit ups have been banished from abs workouts is because they are performed incorrectly, 90% of the time. Don’t get me wrong, they are not easy to do correctly.

For one, don’t try to do sit ups without leg support, that’ll put way too much pressure on your back. You can get an under door crunch bar if you are working out at home or a sit up bench (or a multi-functional weights bench).

Also – and I can’t tress this enough – don’t have your hands behind your neck or head. Most of the people try to cheat sit ups by pulling their head with their arms. The only thing you’ll achieve with that is spine injury and neck pain.

Keep you hands either on the side of your head or crossed in front of your chest. The former is better if your abs are not that strong just yet and you want a bit of momentum before your flex your abs.

Either way, engage your core all the way through the movement and keep your back straight. By engaging your core and not using your hands/arms to help, you can avoid potential back injuries.

With crunches, you only have to lift your shoulders off the ground until you feel your abs flexing. Again, don’t pull with your arms; it’s the abs you want to work. Crunches are easier to perform than sit ups and don’t even require any external equipment.

For added resistance, you can try holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in your hands


Target your abs from all angles for maximum activation

  • Dead bugs: the best abs exercise if you have back problems. Lay on your back, legs bent in the knee and up in the air. Arms are also in the air. In the starting position, you should look like a dead bug. Lower one leg and arm (opposite side) down to the floor (arm going above your head) in the same time, then return to the starting position. Do the same on the other side.
  • Decline crunch: this variation is performed on a sit up bench. Set the incline to your preference so your head is in a lower position than your legs. Keep your back straight and your core engaged. After reaching the highest point, slowly lower your back down and don’t slam your back against the padding.
  • Hanging leg raise: hands down the most challenging abs exercise out there and the one that works all your abs. It requires a strong core and arms muscular enough to be able to hold you during the sets.
  • Resistance band kneeling crunches: features on our best resistance band workout, this is a great exercise to provide some extra resistance to your abs workout. Make sure you hook the band around an object securely so it won’t slap you on your neck as you do the crunches.
  • Abs rollout: you can do planks to work your core and your abs but there is a better and funnier way to work on the same muscles the same way: ab rollouts. Ab rollers are super fun to use and they are also an inexpensive piece of kit. No reason why not to get them.