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How To Do Side Crunches Effectively For A Stronger Core

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Jessica Brown
April 24, 2024 July 9, 2024
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It is never easy to get on a journey towards fitness. With so many different variations for upper body workouts, lower body workouts, abs workouts, and more, it can get a little confusing as to where you should even begin. The challenge lies not only in choosing the right exercises but also in ensuring that each movement will give you the best results. Amidst these challenges, the side crunches emerge as a key movement to help increase core strength.

In this how-to guide, we will explore further how to perform side crunches effectively, the correct form and techniques to engage the right muscles, avoid common pitfalls, and ultimately sculpt the core of your dreams!

Whether you’re a beginner building on your foundational understanding of fitness or a fitness enthusiast looking to refine your technique, this guide will take you through the steps toward achieving a stronger core.

What are Side Crunches?

Side Crunches, also known as oblique crunches, is a core exercises that focus on working the external and internal obliques. It is one of the most effective upper-body workouts that target your obliques and build core strength.

Why Build Core Strength?

Your core or your abdominal muscles is one of the most important parts of the body that connects the upper and lower body. You can see it as the main chain that links the upper and lower body together. This means that if you have weak or inflexible core muscles, it could potentially impair the functions of your arms and legs.

Not only that, the core muscles also help to enhance balance and flexibility [1]. Imagine the times when you missed a step or you were playing some sports and you nearly fell. Your core strength was part of the reason that prevented you from getting injuries!

What Muscles Do Side Crunches Work?

Side crunches, or oblique crunches, is a variation of the normal crunch and it works by specifically targeting key muscle groups for strength and definition. The primary muscles worked during the exercise are the abdominal and oblique muscles with the secondary muscles worked being the core muscles.

How the muscles are being engaged

As you carry out the exercise, you will notice that you are required to perform a side-to-side movement. When you execute that side-to-side movement, the rectus abdominis or the “six-pack” muscles will contract. At the same time, your oblique muscles will be engaged in a twisting motion, sculpting the waist. The secondary muscles will act as a form of stability as you complete each repetition.

How To Perform the Side Crunches Effectively

To maximize the effect of this movement, you have to stay focused and be mindful of being in the right position. For this exercise, you will need a Yoga Mat or find somewhere with a flat surface that you can lie on.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Ensure that you are lying face-up.
  2. Place your hands gently behind your head, careful to avoid excessive neck strain.
  3. Next, turn your legs to the right side while ensuring that your knees remain bent.
  4. Lift your shoulders off the ground and crunch up, focusing on squeezing the oblique muscles at the top of this position.
  5. Hold for a moment before slowly releasing and bringing your shoulders back down to the ground, into starting position.
  6. Once you are back in starting position, repeat the movement but this time, turning your legs to the the left side.
side crunch 
turn legs to side
side crunch lift head up

For this side crunches exercise, you are recommended to perform 2-3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions on both sides. However, if you are a beginner, you want to make sure that you are not over-training and straining the muscles.

For beginners, you may start by doing 1-2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Once you are more confident and well-adjusted to the movement, you may slowly increase the number of sets and reps to 2-3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

Benefits of Side Crunches

Including side crunches into your fitness routine has numerous benefits that ultimately contribute to overall core strength and body sculpting. Here are some benefits:

  1. Strengthens and sculpts the obliques. There is an important reason for strengthening your side abdominal muscles. These muscles play a key role in promoting muscle definition and sculpting your waist, giving you a more shapely body. 
  2. Enhances balance. The exercise itself requires a lot of coordination and balance to stabilize your movement.
  3. Posture correction. Regularly performing this exercise can help to promote posture correction and to support a healthier spine alignment.
  4. Versatile exercise that can be done anywhere. With the simplicity of this exercise and minimal equipment needed, it is extremely convenient to do this exercise within the comforts of your own home.
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Tips on Proper Form and Technique

Maintaining proper form and technique while doing side crunches is imperative in preventing muscle strains and injuries. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Keep a neutral spine. Ensure that you are keeping your head and neck neutral. Avoid excessive arching or rounding of the back. This is so that you would not put a strain on your spine.
  2. Engage the core muscles throughout. As you do this exercise, be sure to keep your core engaged for maximum effect.
  3. Ensure that each movement is controlled. Make sure that each repetition is done in a slow and controlled manner. Avoid using momentum and instead focus on working the muscles.
  4. Aim for a full range of motion. Always try to aim for a full range of motion if possible for the best engagement.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

One of the most common mistakes that people make is not breathing correctly or holding their breaths. In order for the workout to be effective, it is important to coordinate your breath with the movement.

In an expert interview, Brendon Rearick–– a Personal Trainer & Strength Coach Expert answers that you should exhale as you come up from a crunch and inhale as you go back to starting position. Exhaling before you start a crunch will help your rib cage and pelvis to sit in the right position for the exercise.

Precautions and Modifications

One precaution to note is to always listen to your body. Pay attention to any discomfort and stop if you need to. It is also worth consulting a fitness professional before starting a new routine, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

If you are a beginner who is just starting out, you may choose to modify the exercises according to your flexibility and range of motion. Some modifications include:

  • Changing hand placement
  • Doing a seated version of the side crunches
  • Changing knee position
  • Adjusting the number of sets and repetitions.

Side Crunches Variations

Once you master the basic sets, you can try more variations of the exercise:

  1. Side Crunch on an Exercise Ball
  2. Seated Side Crunches
  3. Standing Side Crunch
  4. Alternating Side Crunch

Last, but not least, make sure to do some cool-down stretches upon completing the exercise. This is so that you will not end up with sore and tight muscles the next day. Additionally, make sure to always stay hydrated!

Related Ab Exercises

Besides side crunches, there are also other options that can help to target all the muscles in your core to sculpt the abs. Here are some of these exercises:

  • Leg raises
  • Flutter kicks
  • Heel taps
  • Bicycle crunch
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Do side crunches make your waist bigger?
How to do a lying side crunch?
Are side crunches dangerous?

Harvard Health Publishing (2012) The real-world benefits of strengthening your core [online]. Available at: [Accessed 6 Mar 2024].

Wikihow (2023) How to Do a Side Crunch [online]. Available at: [Accessed 6 Mar 2024].