Knee To Elbow Crunch Exercise Guide – How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

knee to elbow crunch

Knee to elbow crunches enhance the crunch’s range of motion and get the obliques involved. 

Regular crunches aid in calorie burning and pave the way for sculpting impeccably defined abs. Research indicates that even a modest crunched routine can significantly boost novices’ core muscle endurance (1). The knee to elbow crunch emerges as a sophisticated variation of traditional crunches. It’s designed to intensify core engagement by focusing on the external abdominal muscles and enhancing the exercise’s range of motion

This article explores the knee to elbow crunch in depth, shedding light on the muscles engaged and its distinct advantages for athletes. It provides a comprehensive guide on how to execute the exercise with precision, ensuring maximum benefit. Moreover, the article introduces intriguing workout alternatives that target similar muscle groups, allowing athletes to diversify and optimize their training routines.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The knee to elbow crunch is a conditioning exercise that targets your abdominal muscles (upper and lower abs), obliques, and hip flexors. Secondary muscles, which this exercise also works with, include your quadriceps, especially if you add resistance to the movement. You can do this workout in a standing, sitting, or lying position, and you don’t need any equipment. However, if you’re looking for extra strength and muscle gains, you could use weighted vest and/or resistance bands.

Using the proper form is very important when performing knee to elbow crunches. To avoid neck strain, remember to touch your head lightly when doing this exercise and not strain your lower back to prevent spinal injuries. Below is a step-by-step guide highlighting how to perform the knee to elbow crunch lying down.

  1. Lie flat on the floor with your back (you could use a yoga mat).
  2. Place your right hand behind your head, leaving your right elbow flared out, and your left hand just by your side.
  3. Bend your right knee until your calves touch the back of your thigh (the hamstrings), and place your left leg just across your thigh. This will be your starting position.
  4. Next, exhale and slowly rotate your torso, bringing your right elbow to your left knee. Hold this position for about two seconds.
  5. Inhale and slowly reverse the movement to the starting position, making it one rep.
  6. Perform for as many reps as you desire.
  7. Switch sides and repeat the exact movement with the exact number of reps.


The knee to elbow crunch hits your core muscles differently. Proper form is key to getting the most from this effective workout and building a strong core. Below is a list of benefits of this exercise.

Builds a Strong Core

This bodyweight exercise primarily works the abdominal muscles. The constant tension on these muscles builds and strengthens the core. A strong core means better mobility, stability, and balance. It can also reduce your chance of injuries and improve your posture.

Addresses Muscle Imbalance

The knee to elbow crunch can be a unilateral exercise, where you can train one side at a time, addressing any muscle imbalance. This lets you focus better on the targeted muscles and improves your mind-muscle connection.

Strengthens the Joints

Performing this exercise also works the hip joints and their surrounding muscles. The constant flexion and extension of the hip joints increase their range of motion, strengthening and improving mobility.

Improves Athletic Performance

The knee to elbow crunch helps develop strong and well-defined abdominal muscles. This could help with better form and execution in squats, leg raises, and pull-ups. It can also improve athletes’ swimming, biking, mountain climbing, and rowing performance.

Knee To Elbow Crunch Alternatives

You can conveniently do the knee to elbow crunch exercise anywhere, making it effective and easy to incorporate into your routine. However, as practical and easy as this exercise is, experts have advised incorporating other routines that build similar muscles to avoid a training plateau (2). Below is a list of exercises you can try during your workout sessions.

Ab Wheel Rollouts

Ab wheel rollouts are strength training exercises that target muscles similar to the knee to elbow crunch. If you can’t get your hands on ab wheel equipment, you can use a barbell loaded with plates for a good roll.

Russian Twists

Russian twists are bodyweight exercises that target the abdominal muscles, like knee to elbow crunch. Additionally, Russian twists strengthen the hip joints. If you want more gains, add free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, or use a medicine ball when doing them.

Pallof Presses

The Pallof press is an isometric exercise that uses a cable machine or resistance band to work the core muscles. The cable or band’s constant tension activates the core muscles, strengthening them and encouraging growth.  


What do elbow to knee crunches do?

Elbow-to-knee crunches are bodyweight exercises that strengthen your core. They target the outer abdominal muscles and increase your range of motion and hip flexibility. Elbow-to-knee crunches can also help you sculpt a six-pack

What does the knee to elbow crunch target?

The knee to elbow crunch targets your abs, obliques, and hip flexors. This routine also works your quads to some extent. 

What are the benefits of knee crunches?

Knee crunches or elbow-to-knee crunches have many benefits. These include building a strong core, which can improve mobility and stability, and improving posture. For more benefits, see the article above.

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  1. Juan-Recio, C., López-Vivancos, A., Moya, M., Sarabia, J. M., & Vera-Garcia, F. J. (2015). Short-term effect of crunch exercise frequency on abdominal muscle endurance. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 55(4), 280–289.
  2. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897.  
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.