The benefits of reverse crunches, plus how to make them easier and harder.
Walk into any workout class with ab-toning in the description and it’s a safe bet that you’re about to do at least a few different types of crunches. Classic crunches, bicycles, vertical leg crunches … they’re all challenging in their own ways. Reverse crunches are likely to be thrown into the mix as well, and this is another ab move that can be tricky to master.
“Most fitness professionals will tell you that the reverse crunch targets your rectus abdominis muscles, which are the abs you can see, sometimes referred to as your ‘six-pack’, especially your lower abs. While this is true, it also targets your deeper transverse abdominis, and really hits your core as a whole,” says Andrew Slane, NASM, a sports conditioning specialist and Fiture trainer. In other words, if you want to tone your abs, this is a great move to incorporate into your workout routine.
Need a little guidance on how to master this move? Keep reading for step-by-step instructions and ways to modify it to make it easier or more difficult.
What are the Benefits of Reverse Crunches?
As Slane explains it, reverse crunches target the core as a whole, including the lower abs. So if your workout goal is to tone the part of your middle right below the belly button, reverse crunches can be especially great to do.
Traditional crunches have their own benefits, but Slane says that one particular benefit of reverse crunches is that they don’t put pressure on the neck or back. “Reverse crunches provide a core workout that, unlike the classic crunch, work core stability while eliminating spinal flexion. This means that there’s no pressure on your neck or back because you aren’t moving your spine to work your abs,” he says. Slane explains that the core is meant to protect and stabilize the lower spine. “Reverse crunches strengthen this core function and prevent injury to the lower back,” he says.
Reverse crunches are a great way to tone the core without putting pressure on the neck or back. Ready to give it a try?
How to do a Reverse Crunch
Below are the steps for doing a reverse crunch:
Lie on your back with your hands at your sides.
Use your ab muscles to lift your hips off the floor, moving your knees closer to your chest.
Slowly and with the control of your ab muscles, return to the starting position.
Start with three rounds of eight reps. Over time, work up toward three rounds of 10 reps and finally, three rounds of 15 reps.
Common Reverse Crunch Mistakes to Avoid
Taylor Rae Almonte, NASM, a personal trainer, mixed martial arts conditioning specialist and Fiture instructor, says that she often sees people making mistakes when doing reverse crunches, which can either make the move less effective or put them at risk for injury. “Many people will use momentum to lift their legs or create tension in the neck or upper back to move the lower body,” she says, citing one common mistake. When doing reverse crunches correctly, you should feel no tension in the neck or back.
Slane says that one common mistake he often sees is people overextending their spine while lowering their legs, which causes the lower back to arch off the ground. “This goes against the point of the exercise,” he says. “The reverse crunch is an anti-extension movement, it is about working your stability strength, not extending or flexing your spine, like a classic crunch does. Try to keep your lower back on the ground throughout the entirety of the movement.”
Slane also says it’s important to listen to your body when doing reverse crunches. If eight reps is too many for you, do less. Otherwise, you are putting yourself at risk for injury.
How to Make Reverse Crunches Easier
To modify a reverse crunch to make it easier, Slane says to decrease the range of motion by elevating the feet on either a bench or a box. This tweak makes it a bit easier to engage the ab muscles.
Slane says that another way to modify this move is to do a single-leg lower exercise move instead. To do this move, start by laying on the ground with both legs straight and elevated over the hips; your body should be in an “L” shape. Then lower one leg to 90 degrees, hold, and then raise the leg back up before doing the other side, all while keeping the lower back on the ground.
How to Make Reverse Crunches Harder
Ready for the ultimate challenge? Almonte says to increase the number of reps. If you can easily do three rounds of 10, can you do three rounds of 15? What about three rounds of 20? Your abs will be on fire!
Just like decreasing the range of motion can make reverse crunches easier, Slane says that increasing the range of motion can make them harder. “Try to get your heels as close to the ground as possible without actually touching,” he says.
Slane says that you can also make reverse crunches more of a challenge by putting a towel or Pilates ball between your legs and squeezing it while performing the movement. This ensures the abs are engaged the entire time.
Reverse crunches aren’t easy, but they are effective. Incorporate them into your workout routine and you’ll very likely see results. You’ll certainly feel them too!