Step into any workout class with ab-toning in the description and it’s a safe bet you’re on your way to doing at least a few different types of crunches. Classic crunches, bike crunches, vertical leg crunches… they are all challenging in their own way. Reverse crunches are also likely to be added to the mix, 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, which are the abdominals that you can see, sometimes referred to as your ‘six-pack’, specifically your lower abs. Although this is true, it also targets your deeper transverse abs 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 advice on how to master this move? Keep reading for step-by-step instructions and ways to modify it to make it easier or harder.
What are the benefits of reverse crunches?
As Slane explains, 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 just below your navel, reverse crunches can be especially great to do.
Traditional crunches have their own benefits, but Slane says one particular benefit of reverse crunches is that they don’t put pressure on your neck or back. “Reverse crunches provide a core workout that, unlike the classic crunch, works core stability while eliminating spinal flexion. That means there’s no pressure on your neck or back because you’re not 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 basic function and prevent lower back injuries,” he says.
Reverse crunches are a great way to tone the core without putting pressure on the neck or back. Ready to try?
Related: 15 ab-toning moves you can do while standing up
How to Do a Reverse Crunch
Here are the steps to do a reverse crunch:
- Lie on your back with your hands by your side.
- Use your abdominal muscles to lift your hips off the floor, bringing your knees closer to your chest.
- Slowly and with control of your abdominal muscles, return to the starting position.
- Start with three sets of eight reps. Over time, progress to three sets of 10 reps and finally, three sets of 15 reps.
Related: 20 Women Reveal Exactly How They Got 6-Pack Abs
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Common reverse crunch mistakes to avoid
Taylor Rae Almonte, NASM, a personal trainer, mixed martial arts conditioning specialist and Fiture instructor, says she often sees people make mistakes when doing reverse crunches, which can either make the move less effective or put them at risk of 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 a common mistake. When performing reverse crunches correctly, you should feel no tension in your neck or back.
Slane says a common mistake he often sees is people extending their spine too far while lowering their legs, causing the lower back to arch off the floor. “It defeats the purpose of the exercise,” he says. “The reverse crunch is an anti-extension movement, it’s about working on your stability strength, not extending or flexing your spine like a classic crunch does. Try to keep your lower back on the floor throughout the movement.
Slane also says it’s important to listen to your body when doing reverse crunches. If eight reps is too much for you, do less. Otherwise, you expose yourself to the risk of injury.
Related: The 17 Best Trainer-Approved Ab Workouts For Women Because We All Want A Strong, Toned Core
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 a bench or box. This setting makes it a little easier to engage the abdominal muscles.
Slane says another way to modify this move is to do a single-leg lower exercise move instead. To do this movement, start by lying on the floor with both legs straight and raised above the hips; your body should be “L” shaped. Then lower one leg to 90 degrees, hold, then raise the leg before doing the other side, while keeping your lower back on the floor.
How to Make Reverse Crunches More Difficult
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? How about three rounds of 20? Your abs will be on fire!
Just as decreasing range of motion can make reverse crunches easier, Slane says increasing range of motion can make them more difficult. “Try to get your heels as close to the ground as possible without really touching each other,” he says.
Slane says you can also make reverse crunches more difficult by putting a towel or Pilates ball between your legs and squeezing it while performing the move. This ensures that the abs are engaged all the time.
Reverse crunches aren’t easy, but they are effective. Incorporate them into your workout routine and you will most likely see results. You will definitely feel them too!
Then here are other workout moves that target the lower abs.
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