Having strong core muscles and toned abs has more than just aesthetic appeal… it also brings with it a whole host of benefits, such as improved stability, posture, mobility, and strength.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an Olympic athlete, dedicating some time to abdominal exercises is undoubtedly a good idea when it comes to our health and wellbeing.
So, if we’re all in agreement that working the core muscles is a good idea, the question soon becomes, “what exactly are the best exercises for toning and strengthening your abs and core?”
Well, along with popular ab exercises like planks, v-ups and regular crunches, the straight leg toe touch crunch (a variation on traditional crunches) is worth giving a go.
After a few repetitions, you’ll soon discover why we rate this exercise so highly.
What is the Straight Leg Toe Touch Crunch?
Toe touch crunches are one of the best exercises for abs, especially for strengthening the lower abs.
They can also be referred to as “straight leg crunches”, “toe touches” or “toe touch reaches”.
There is often some confused between the core exercise and the hamstring stretch as the names are similar. “Toe reaches” is a standing stretch that tests hamstrings flexibility. In contrast, a toe touch crunch is a core exercise.
Toe touch crunches can be performed as a warm-up to help engage the core muscles or as an effective exercise itself. It is a great way to tone the abs and improve your core strength.
It is a progression of the regular crunch as raising your legs to a vertical position increases the difficulty.
How to Perform the Straight Leg Toe Touch Crunch Exercise
To do straight leg toe touch crunches;
- Lay on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
- Place your arms by your side and keep your knees straight.
- Squeeze and tense your core, whilst lifting your legs in the air.
- Try to keep your legs as straight as possible, but bend them slightly if this is too difficult.
- Your legs should now be close to a 90 degree angle from the floor.
- Raise your arms off the floor and point your hands to your feet.
- Raise your torso off the floor, so your shoulder blades are no longer touching the floor. This should allow you to touch or reach towards your feet that are extended in the vertical position.
- Hold for a few seconds and then slowly lower your torso back to the floor.
- This is one full repetition.
A common mistake (that can lead to injury) is moving your neck and pulling your neck forward as you raise your body up. You should keep your neck aligned with your spine at all times and focus on tensing your core to move your torso.
Similarly, another common mistake is to simply move the head, as opposed to the whole torso. Your shoulder blades should be raised off the ground to demonstrate your core is engaged and tensed.
Try and avoid rocking during the movement and using momentum to help you. This will mean the abs don’t need to work as hard and you won’t reap the benefits of the exercise.
Straight Leg Toe Touch Exercise Benefits and Muscles Worked
The straight leg toe touch exercise helps strengthens and tones the core and abdominals, as well as supporting improved metabolism, balance, flexibility and posture. The benefits include;
Tone abdominal muscles
The exercise is primarily a core exercise. Straight leg crunches help to tone up and strengthen the abdominal muscles.
Increase your metabolism
Building core muscles helps to increase your metabolism which helps burn more fat during the day. This means it is a good exercise for those looking to lose weight, or get rid of belly fat.
Strengthen lower back
The raised legs require your lower back to be activated. This helps keep the lower back strong and helps avoid associated injuries with a weak lower back.
Increase your flexibility
Keeping your legs raised virtually in the air whilst on your back requires a certain degree of flexibility, particularly in the hamstrings and calves.
Keeping your legs raised vertically in the air also helps promote better hip mobility and movement. This supports better all round lower body movement.
Improve your posture
A strong core is a fundamental pillar for good posture. It helps keep the upper body in an upright position.
Improve your balance
Raising your torso off the ground with your legs straight requires good balance and helps improve key skills like coordination too.
Toe Touch Modification and Variations
Although the toe touch itself is a variation of the regular crunch, there are in fact various ways of modifying it to create further progression and difficulty.
Toe Touch Reach Twist
This is a great variation that helps target “love handles” (or your obliques if you want to use the official terminology).
As you raise your hands close to your feet, aim to place your opposite hand to your feet.
For example, place your right hand on the outside of your left leg on the first repetition and place your left hand on the outside of your right leg on the second repetition and repeat this for the duration of the set.
This subtle twist will engage the obliques as well as the abs.
Toe Touch with Weights
Adding weights will instantly make this more difficult. You could add ankle and wrist weights to increase difficulty or hold a dumbbell in your hands as you perform the exercise.
Crossover Toe Touch Crunch
The crossover toe touch crunch is different from the twist variation as you lift your legs individually. Lay on the floor and raise your right hand and left leg simultaneously, meeting at a 90 degree angle. Hold for a few seconds and lower both your arm and leg to the floor.
Repeat this on the other side.
This will require better balance, increased flexibility and will engage the obliques more than the regular straight leg toe touch crunch.
What muscles are worked in the toe touch crunch?
The toe crunch mainly works the abdominal muscles.
Is the toe touch for good for abs?
Yes, it is a very effective exercise for toning and strengthening the abs.
Does toe touch crunches reduce belly fat?
Yes, toe touch crunches help strengthen and tone the abs, creating the appearance of a flatter stomach. Reducing belly fat also requires changes to your diet.