Starfish Crunch – Core Exercise Guide with Photos


Muscles Targeted: The rectus abdominus, external oblique, internal oblique and the transverse abdominus are the primary muscles targeted with the starfish crunch exercise. The secondary muscles also targeted as a result of performing this exercise include the hip flexors and the anterior deltoids. While the majority of the work is performed by the primary core muscles for the starfish crunch exercise, the secondary muscles act as assisters thereby helping to complete the exercise efficiently.


Exercise Advice: Start out by placing a padded mat on the floor and then lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out in an “X” position. Bring one arm straight up and diagonally across your body while lifting the opposing leg. Finish the starfish crunch by lightly touching your shin or just try to come as close as your level of flexibility will allow. Alternate back and forth for each repetition.

Things To Avoid: As with all exercises, especially those involving spinal flexion and trunk rotation (crunches, oblique crunches), breathing plays a major role in safely executing this exercise. With the starfish crunch, both spinal flexion and trunk rotation occur simultaneously. This can be considered as two exercises combined and performed together to derive maximum benefit for the core muscles. Below are some important points to pay attention to and avoid while performing the starfish crunch exercise:

  • Do not perform this exercise on a full stomach (immediately after consuming a meal).
  • If you’re a beginner performing this exercise for the first time or you are unable to fully touch the hand with the opposite foot when performing the starfish crunch, do not forcibly try to complete the exercise as it may cause an unnecessary injury. Do as much as you can and slowly progress towards completing this exercise through its full range of motion in future workouts.
  • Do not lose core tightness throughout the range of motion.
  • Follow a proper breathing pattern while performing the exercise.
  • Do not overstretch either the shoulder or the hip joint.
  • Do not round your back.
  • Do not perform this exercise until failure or complete exhaustion.
  • When performing this exercise with the left hand and right leg, do not lift the right hand and left leg from the floor and vice-versa.
  • Do not raise the neck too high.
  • Do not hold your breadth for too long while performing the starfish crunch.

Reps and Sets: Since the starfish crunch is a core strengthening exercise, it should always be performed with a predetermined set and repetition scheme. The primary aim of this exercise is to cause hypertrophy and simultaneously tone the core muscles. Below is a brief outline of repetition and sets based on training or exercise level. The repetitions and sets will wary between beginners and more experienced individuals. Beginners should focus more on learning the exercise and performing it with proper form in order to minimize injuries, thereby enhancing the efficiency of their workouts. It is recommended to start slowly by doing the starfish crunch for a minimum amount of sets and reps and progress slowly as you get accustomed with the exercise and an effective neuromuscular pattern is established for the movement.

  • Beginners: Sets of 1-3 with Reps of 8-10 (each side)
  • Experienced: Sets of 3-5 with Reps of 15-20 (each side)

Other Exercises To Use: If you are unable to perform this exercise due to a preexisting injury, discomfort or you simply do not enjoy performing this exercise then checkout the following exercises that can serve as alternatives for the starfish crunch:

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