How to Do the Crossover Crunch for Ab and Oblique Strength

Young woman doing sit-ups to the side on exercise mat
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The crossover crunch is an exceptional beginning ab exercise because it does not work only the abdominal muscles, but also targets the external obliques and internal obliques. The crossover crunch exercise is also known as the cross-body crunch and offers a whole-core workout. Developing your entire core region isn't just about looking good, but is important for supporting your back, which affects your posture and can help reduce back pain.

Though it may be considered a beginning ab exercise, this does not mean it lacks challenge.

Starting Position

You'll probably want to use a mat for this exercise. Lay flat on the mat and align your body in a straight line from the top of your head down your spine and into your tailbone.

Cross your left leg over your right and rest your left ankle on your right knee.

There are a variety of positions for your hands and arms:

  • Place your fingertips to the side of your head, just behind your ears.
  • Alternatively, you can lace your fingers behind your head to cradle the base of your skull, but in this position do not allow your arms to pull your head up as you perform the crunch motion. Your head should remain in contact with the mat.
  • Finally, you can place the fingertips of one hand to the side of your head, and extend the other arm out to the side, perpendicular to your body.

If you feel any pain or discomfort in your neck while performing the exercise with an extended arm or with fingertips behind the ears, try lacing the fingers behind the base of the skull to support your neck.

Performing the Crossover Crunch

Begin by taking a few deep breaths and put your focus in your abs. 

  1. Exhale as you contract your abdominal muscles similar to a basic crunch, slowly raise your upper body off the mat.
  2. As you crunch, slowly twist your torso to your left, bringing your right elbow toward your left knee until they touch. Squeeze your ab muscles throughout the motion.
  3. Inhale while slowly lowering your upper body back to the mat.
  4. Repeat the same motion for the desired number of repetitions.
  5. Then, switch to perform the exercise on the other side, placing your right leg across your left, resting your right ankle on your left knee. Follow the same motion, but this time as you crunch twist to your right to bring your left elbow to your right knee until they touch.

You can also perform the crossover crunch without crossing your leg across your knee. The exercise is essentially the same, except that as you cross over with your elbow you will bring your opposite knee up to meet your elbow.

Variations and Increasing Intensity

When your core becomes stronger and the exercise becomes easier, it is important for you to change it up to continue challenging the core muscles. You can do this by performing the exercise on a BOSU ball. This introduces an unstable surface to the exercise, forcing your core muscles to adjust and maintain balance. It also builds stabilizer muscles.

To do the crossover crunch on the BOSU ball, begin by placing your butt on its flat side. Follow the same steps above to get into position and perform the exercise motion.

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