How to Do a Crossover Crunch

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Crossover Crunch
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Cross-body crunch

Targets: Abdominal muscles, internal and external obliques

Equipment: A mat is helpful, but not required

Level: Beginner

The crossover crunch is a fantastic beginner ab exercise that works more than your abdominal muscles—it also targets your external obliques and internal obliques, helping you feel more "pulled in" at the waist.

While the crossover crunch is considered a beginner core move, you can add it to an intense workout or use variations to make the exercise more challenging.

Benefits

The ab-toning benefits of a full-core workout may have enticed you to add them to your workout routine, but having a strong core can do more than enhance your physique—it also benefits your overall physical health and strength.

The muscles of your core provide key support for your spine. Strong abdominal muscles can improve posture and even help manage, reduce, or prevent back pain.

Step-by-Step Instructions

While it's not required, you'll probably want to use a mat for this exercise. Start by taking a nice deep breath and focusing on your abs.

  1. Lay flat on the mat with your body positioned in a straight line from the top of your head, down your spine, and into your tailbone.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, elbows out.
  3. Inhale as you cross your left leg over your right resting your left ankle your right knee.
  4. Exhale as you contract your abdominal muscles and slowly raise your upper body off the mat (similar to a basic crunch).
  5. Slowly twist your torso to your left as you squeeze your abs, bringing your right elbow to your left knee until they touch.
  6. Inhale as you slowly lower your upper body back down to the mat.

When you've completed your desired number of reps for the first side, switch and perform the same exercise on the other side (placing your right ankle on your left knee and twisting your torso to the right).

Common Mistakes

To get the maximum benefits of this exercise and prevent injury, you'll want to make sure your form when performing crunches is correct. Check in with yourself as you work out to ensure you aren't making these common mistakes when doing crunches.

Yanking Your Neck

Even experienced crunchers are prone to this mistake. When lifting your upper body up from the mat or floor, make sure you aren't yanking your neck up. You may be overshooting your crunch or crunching higher than you need to. Try picturing a tennis ball under your chin—that's about how much space you want to maintain between your chin and chest as you crunch. Check in with your hips, too, making sure you aren't lifting your pelvis off the floor.

You Fall Out

If all your focus is on the first, upward movement of the crunch and you just let your body fall back down to the mat, you're not following through on the move. To get the full benefit of the exercise, you have to do it fully—that means engaging your muscles as you crunch up and keeping them engaged as you come back down. Try aligning your breath with each direction of the move. This will also help you avoid another common pitfall: forgetting to breathe.

You're Going Too Fast

Another common mistake with crunches of any kind, but especially those that tend to speed up as you go, is breezing through the movement as you build momentum. Slow down and make each movement deliberate. Not only does this help you avoid injury or strain it also makes the move more effective. Crunches don't need to be big and fast. Think smaller, slower, targeted movement.

You're Doing Too Many

With abdominal exercises, more isn't always necessarily better. You don't need to do 100 crunches a day to see results—especially if you're varying your technique to target different muscle groups.

Doing fewer crunches with excellent form is more beneficial than doing more crunches where your form isn't great or lapses as you get tired.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

If you need to change your arm or hand positions, or just want to change things up, try these variations on the classic hand-and-arm position for crunches:

  • Place your fingertips to the side of your head, just behind your ears.
  • Lace your fingers behind your head cradling the base of your skull (for this position, just make sure you aren't using your arms to pull your head up as you crunch).
  • Place the fingertips of one hand at the side of your head and extend the other arm out to the side so it's perpendicular to your body.

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

Up for a Challenge?

When your core becomes stronger and the exercise starts to get easier, you'll want to change things up to keep your core working hard. Here are a few variations you can try to take the beginner cross-body crunch to a higher level.

  • Perform the exercise on a BOSU ball: By introducing an unstable surface to the exercise, you force your core muscles to adjust and maintain balance while also strengthening your stabilizer muscles.
  • Instead of lying flat on a mat, position yourself on the floor with the BOSU ball under you along the natural curve of the middle of your back. Then, perform whichever variation of the crossover crunch you prefer, making sure to do the same number of reps on each side.

Safety and Precautions

Basic crunches or variations like the crossover crunch are a beginner exercises that most people can perform as long as they use proper form. However, if you've had an injury involving your neck or back, you may want to avoid any crunch-based exercises. If you've had surgery for these conditions, be sure to ask your doctor or physical therapist about when you can resume exercise. They may also provide recommendations for workouts for regaining strength without risking further injury.

If you've recently been pregnant or given birth, ask your doctor before starting a postpartum ab workout. If you have a condition called diastasis recti (the muscles of your abdomen have separated), you may need to avoid exercises that work your core until you're healed.

As you're performing crossover crunches, if you feel any pain or discomfort in your neck, especially while your arm is extended or with your fingertips behind the ears, you may need to try a different position to support your neck.

Try It Out

Basic crunches are part of many core workouts. Whether you're a beginner or at a more advanced level, adding the crossbody variation into your routine keeps things interesting and ensures you aren't giving your abs all the attention while leaving out other key muscle groups.

Try pairing crossover crunches with these moves for a complete ab workout:

If you're more advanced or looking for a challenge, try one of these workouts that puts a new spin on traditional core exercises:

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