Proper Crunch Technique to Avoid Neck Pain and Build Strong Abs

Are you tired of feeling neck strain during your crunches? It’s time to set the record straight.


In the world of fitness and lifestyle, building a strong core is essential for achieving that coveted six-pack. However, many people experience neck pain during crunches instead of targeting their abdominal muscles. If you’re one of them, don’t worry; you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll explore the common issue of neck pain during crunches and provide a solution to help you avoid it.

Understanding the Problem

Neck pain during crunches is a common problem, and it’s not a sign of a weak neck. According to Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a renowned San Diego-based trainer, you can’t genuinely “strengthen” your neck, and it won’t benefit you much. The real issue here is the incorrect crunch technique.

When most people perform a crunch, they engage their upper body muscles instead of their abdominal region. This improper technique places undue stress on the neck muscles, causing discomfort and pain. To resolve this issue, you must understand the dynamics of your spine.

The Role of Spinal Alignment

Think of your spine as a flexible noodle that can bend in various directions while maintaining a fluid structure. The exception is the cervical spine, the upper part that extends from your shoulders to your skull. Your head can move independently from the rest of your spine, and this is where the problem arises during crunches.

When you perform a crunch and your head lags behind, it disrupts the natural arc of your spine, placing strain on your neck muscles due to gravity. This strain can lead to discomfort or, in severe cases, a bulging disc, resulting in severe pain, numbness, and muscle weakness.

The Solution: Proper Crunch Technique

To avoid neck pain during crunches and engage your core effectively, follow these steps:

1. Chin Tuck: Before and during a crunch, tuck your chin toward your chest. This simple adjustment reduces muscle activity in your neck and activates the hyoid muscles, which act as stabilizers. Imagine holding a peach between your head and your throat; don’t squeeze too tightly, but maintain a gentle hold.

2. Hand Placement: Instead of placing your hands behind your head, which encourages neck strain, position your hands on your forehead. This change promotes proper form and minimizes stress on your neck.

3. Engage Your Core: Pull your lower back and stomach onto the floor. This slight posterior pelvic tilt prevents the upper spine from moving independently. Ensure that your crunch movement is slow and controlled. Avoid lifting your torso off the ground with excessive force. The key is to maintain a small, compact movement that activates your abs, making you stronger and free from pain.

Additional Tips

Incorporating these adjustments will not only relieve neck pain but also engage your abdominal muscles effectively. If you want to diversify your ab workouts, consider exploring 18 other ab exercises for a flat, toned belly.


Neck pain during crunches is a common issue, but it can be easily addressed by modifying your technique. By tucking your chin, placing your hands on your forehead, and engaging your core, you can prevent neck strain, build strong abs, and achieve the results you desire. Say goodbye to neck pain and hello to a toned, pain-free core.


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