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Cross Body Crunch: Proper Exercise Form & Technique

By Marc Perry / December 29, 2016

A cross body crunch is a basic exercise that can help you build muscular endurance in your abs, improve hamstring flexibility, and increase overall core strength.

One of the principles to building a super strong core is creating an “X” pattern with your core training. What this means is there should be a very strong connection between your right shoulder and left hip, and your left shoulder and right hip. They should be able to work together to create fluid movement. The cross body crunch helps you create this connection by activating opposite arms and leg together that touch over the midline of your body.

In addition, one of the biggest challenges many guys have is hamstring flexibility. Most guys have trouble with the lying leg raise test where you lie on your back and lift your leg as high as you can while keeping it completely straight. The cross body crunch can help improve your hamstring flexibility and lying leg raise test, which translates into greater injury-resistance and better low back health.

Exercise Instructions

Here’s exactly how to do a cross body crunch:

1. Start laying on your back, arms overhead and legs extended on the ground.

2. Raise your right leg up towards the ceiling as you lift your head and shoulders away from the ground, reaching your left hand towards your right foot.

3. With control, lower yourself back to the starting position, and repeat on the other side – left leg lifts as you reach your right hand towards your left foot.

4. Exhale as your reach hand to foot, inhale as you lower back to the ground.

5. Move with control to maintain core tension throughout the exercise.

6. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

3 Form Tips

To get those most out of this ab exercise, make sure you’re following these key form tips:

1. As you are crunching, be sure your lower back is pressing against the ground.

2. Reach your leg as high as you can while keeping it completely straight.

3. If you feel the exercise in your back (instead of your abs), focus on building core stability with planks and side planks instead.

3 Common Mistakes

1. Using momentum

As you do the cross body crunch exercise, avoid using momentum to reach your arm towards your leg. Controlling the entire movement will increase your ab engagement, make the exercise harder, and build more core stability.

By lifting your leg with control, you also build valuable range of motion in your hamstrings that will benefit you in your daily life and help you be a better athlete.

2. Hyperextended Low Back

As you are dropping your leg back down to the ground, be sure not to hyperextend your lower back. You should not feel any pressure on your lower back as you do this exercise. In fact, it should actually feel good for your lower back because you are pressing it against the ground, which takes pressure off of it.

3. Bringing Shoulders Too Far Off The Ground

Bringing your shoulders very far off the ground to touch your toes is not inherently bad or wrong, it’s just not the purpose of this exercise. The key is to keep your lower back flat against the ground, which means your shoulders should only slightly come off the ground as you reach for your opposite leg.

While this is a relatively easy exercise, it gets much more difficult at the end of a core circuit and is also valuable for its ability to help improve core control and flexibility.

Have you tried this exercise? What do you think?