When you're at the gym, crunches probably aren't one of the exercises in your workout regimen that you await with glee. They're not easy, but if it's a strong set of abs you're after, it's important to include them in your core exercises. A common variation of the crunch is the cross crunch, which you can use to build your muscles and add a little variety to your workout.
Visit any gym at any time of the day and you're bound to see at least one person lying on a mat performing a set of crunches. This common ab exercise is convenient because it requires no equipment. To perform a crunch, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest and engage your abdominal muscles enough to lift your shoulders and upper back off the ground.
To properly perform a cross crunch, begin in the basic crunch position, lying on the floor on your back and with your knees bent. Instead of lifting both shoulders off the floor at the same time, contract your abs and lift your left shoulder up while raising your right knee, but keeping the leg bent. Pull your left shoulder and right knee toward each other, and then return to the starting position. Perform another cross crunch with your right shoulder and left knee to complete one full rep of this exercise.
Some people perform a standing variation of the cross crunch exercise, which can add variety to your workout. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place both hands behind your head so your elbows are pointed away from your ears. Lift your left leg, bending it as you move, and pull it up across your body while you bend your right elbow. As with the standard cross crunch, pull your shoulder and knee toward each other, and the repeat the process on the other side.
The cross crunch exercise works your abdominal and oblique muscles, while also requiring the movement of your upper body and hip flexors. Before attempting a cross crunch, loosen up your body with some basic stretches and light cardio. If you have neck or back pain, or issues with any of your core muscles, consult a doctor before adding this exercise to your workout regimen.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.