Crunch Alternatives for PFT Training

Candidate Question

I’m currently training for the PFT. Unfortunately, I’ve developed some sort of rash on my buttocks and lower back that prevents me from doing crunches effectively. Are there any alternatives to doing crunches that will allow me to exercise the same muscles? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Great question. This is actually very common in candidates as they ramp up their training.

Pullup Bar Required

If you don’t have an indoor pullup bar for your OCS training, you’re just crazy. Here are some more ways to use that great piece of gear to help the crunches portion of your PFT:


Simply hang on the bar and bring your legs up to your chest. Returning to a full dead-hang position is one repetition. Let your legs naturally bend as you raise your knees.

Windshield wipers help two PFT components: abs and grip strength for pullups
Windshield wipers help two PFT components: abs and grip strength for pullups


A higher intensity workout, begin at full dead-hang, then concentrating on flexing your core, keep your legs as straight as possible and raise your feet all the way to the pullup bar. Return to hanging for one repetition.

Windshield wipers

Similar to toes-to-bar, but instead of touching the bar and returning to hanging, you raise your legs and mimic a windshield wiper motion. Your lower body will be perpendicular to the floor at about 90 degrees; then you lower your legs to the left and right sides before returning to the top position. This is a very challenging exercise.

Hanging knee raises

Simply hang with your lower body in a sitting position, using your abs to hold up your knees at a 90 degree angle. You can have a partner set weighed plates on your lap to increase the difficulty.

Ab Wheel

valeo ab wheel
The popular Valeo ab wheel. Technically not a torture device.

Check out an ab wheel, which is a fiendishly simple and taxing piece of exercise equipment.


Don’t forget the side planks!

Medicine Ball

From a hold above your head, bang it on the floor, using your abs to drive power downward through a “crunching” motion.
Work your sides by standing next to a sturdy wall and twisting your core like a baseball batter to toss the ball against the wall.

Weight Lifting

All the following weight lifting exercises at least indirectly work out your core and will help build your abdominal muscles: dumbbell/kettlebell swings, deadlifts, squats, barbell rows.

Tire Work

Banging a tractor tire with a sledgehammer works your abs, arms, and shoulders in no time at all.

Good luck!

Keep up the training but be careful to avoid overtraining, and definitely give the lower back a rest as you ramp up for OCS.

4 thoughts on “Crunch Alternatives for PFT Training

  1. I came up with a similar exercise to the plank pose that I found very effective. I stand straight and press my hands against my thighs then slide the hands down the thighs while maintaining force against the thighs. I’m using the muscles of a push up against the muscles of a sit up. I’m getting a little bit of an abdominal curl that the plank doesn’t provide and I’m not injuring my spine.

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