Swap Out Crunches with #NoCrunchAbs Exercises

In my #NoCrunchAbs series we have looked at reasons to eliminate crunches, why I work my core first, and building up your core strength.

If you attend fitness classes, bootcamps, or follow a fitness DVD, there are likely to be crunches in the workout.  So what do you do?

From my experience as a group fitness instructor, I would suggest mentioning to the instructor at the beginning of class you may adjust some moves during the workout.  An instructor knows the importance of allowing participants to change something to meet their individual needs, so you should not be concerned about ‘how you look’ when you are doing something different.  By informing the instructor, they will then be aware and not wonder why you are choosing to do something different.

The next question is what can I do instead of crunches?  There are also moves similar to a typical crunch that should be avoided such as bicycles, Russian twists, side crunches and more.

Here are some common crunch and crunch-like exercises, and suggestions on reasonable alternatives.

The Crunch

Replace the Crunch with a PLANK

If you are building up your core strength use one of the options discussed in last week’s post.  A plank helps strengthen not only your stomach but also your back!  Hold a basic plank for 15 to 20 seconds, then release the move and repeat for as long as the instructor is performing crunches.


Replace the Bicycle with a SPIDER-MAN PLANK

Bring your right knee to the outside of your right elbow, then do the same on the left.  Alternate back and forth for as long as the instructor is performing crunches.  You can also do this move from a Forearm to Toes Plank. 

Side Crunches

Replace the Side Crunch with a SIDE PLANK

Chose your level and hold the side plank for 15 to 20 seconds, then release the move and repeat for as long as the instructor is performing the side crunches.

Most instructors repeat a fitness move twice, so if you know that is the case, hold the side plank on one side and do the other side on the next set.  If you are unsure, instructors will often count the reps and tell you how many to do.  In this case, switch sides half way through.

Russian Twists

Replace the Russian Twist with a SIDE PLANK ROTATION

The Russian Twist adds movement to the crunch working the obliques.  You can do the same with a Side Plank by adding rotation. 

Start in the Side Plank position, option is to place your bottom knee down.  Bring your arm down and under your body.  Reverse to return to start.

Again either do one side on the first set, then the other on the second set; or split up the move in the single set.

Leg Lowering Exercise

Replace Leg Lowering with ALTERNATING HEEL TAPS

This move involves lowering and raising one or both legs.  This move is okay IF you have good control of your transverse abdominals.  If you are unsure, opt for the Alternating Heel Tap.

With the Alternating Heel Tap lie on your back with knees bent, press your lower back gently into the mat, exhale and activate your core with your core cue* as you lower your heel to the ground.  Inhale and bring your leg back to start.  Alternate back and forth.


If you have completed the Bellies Inc Core Confidence Training exercises, or have no known core dysfunction symptoms such as diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) aka mummy tummy, lower back pain, leakage, pelvic organ prolapse; then here are some more challenging core exercises you can do:



Lift one leg and hold for 20 to 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds then repeat holding the other leg.  Or do the same holding one arm up, or holding up opposite arm and leg.


In a Side Plank position from knee or foot, lift your arm straight up and leg up.  Bring your elbow to your knee in front of your body.  Add a weight to make it more challenging.  Time the move for 20 to 30 seconds per side, or complete 8 to 12 repetitions per side.


With feet up and holding one or two weights in your hands, gently press your back into the mat.  Exhale and use your core cue* while you lower one leg down almost to the floor and both arms back overhead.  Inhale and return to start.  Repeat lowering the other leg.  Alternate legs through the move.

*A core cue visualization word is determined during a Bellies Inc Core Confidence Assessment, and is applied to a series of exercises over the course of 8 weeks to create a mind-body connection to your core and proper core engagement.