What are Reverse Crunches

The reverse crunch is a great lower abs core exercise that you should be doing if you want to develop your core muscles or acquire a six-pack. This is a variation to the traditional crunches and it is a better alternative as it targets the exterior abdominal muscles you need to perform for a well-toned stomach, especially with the emphasis on the lower abs, which is often the area that is hardest to get. 

Studies have found that stabilization, or "core stability" exercises have been recommended to reduce symptoms of pain and disability and form an effectual treatment. Moreover, empirical research suggests that a strong core could prevent injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, as it provides a foundation upon which the muscles of the lower body produce or resist force. 

What Muscles do Reverse Crunches Work

The primary muscles worked are the rectus abdominis (also known as your “six-pack” muscles), and obliques. The secondary muscles that assist the movement are the hip flexors, adductors (inner thigh), and quadriceps. This is a great exercise to be included into a core circuit, or a full body workout. 

What Level is the Reverse Crunches

The reverse crunch is a simple and effective core exercise that is easier on your neck and back. This is a perfect exercise for beginners to practice in their training routines, it is easy and you can pick this up after a few sets. As you get stronger, you can progress to different variations or increase the number of reps and sets to increase the intensity. 

How to do Reverse Crunches

  1. Lie On Your Back

Begin by lying on the ground on any soft surface in a sit-up position with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor. Ensure your lower back is flat onto the ground by squeezing your core.  Your arms are by your side and your palms are pressed down into the ground. This is your starting position.

2. Curl your Knees Towards Your Chest

Exhale as you lift your feet off the ground and curl your knees in towards your chest, at a count of 2. Your hips and lower back should come off the ground. Squeeze your abs at the top position. Keep your core is engaged throughout the movement.

3. Gradually Lower Down

Slowly return to the starting position at a count of 2,  with your lower back, and hips on the ground. Your knees are still bent, and your feet are 1-2 inches off the ground.

4. Repeat

Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets, 3 times a week (see the recommended reps and sets ranges below).

Reverse Crunches Workout

  • Beginners should perform between 6-10 reps, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Intermediate level athletes should perform between 11-19 reps, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Advanced level athletes should perform 20+ reps or more for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

You should move on to harder variations once you have achieved your reps and set goals

What are the Benefits of Reverse Crunches

Strengthen Your Core Muscles 

Reverse crunches primarily work your rectus abdominis (often referred to as the “six-pack”), with the prime operation of flexing your trunk and spine to contract your core muscles. They should earn a place in your routine because they target your lower abs, which are stubborn and are often hard to develop and tone. Research suggests that strong core stability, in general, is vital for optimal health, injury avoidance, posture, and movement efficiency.

Takes Strain Off Your Neck and Lower Back 

In comparison to standard crunches and many core exercises, they often cause pain to the neck due to the movement requiring the flexion of the neck. Moreover, people often make the error of interlacing their hands behind their head and pull their head forward, which puts more strain on the neck. This exercise keeps your head on the ground, along with not requiring any neck flexion, and is safer for your spine. 

No Equipment Needed

This exercise can be done anytime, and anywhere as it only needs your body as a form of resistance. No need to be tied to the gym (though a soft mat is highly recommended). Where ever you are, you have control over your workouts!

Reverse Crunches Variations

Reverse Crunches on Bench

This variation is another great beginner’s variation where you will lie on a flat bench, grabbing your hands on the top for stability. This exercise targets your lower abdominals. To perform this, you will:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench, with your hands behind your head grabbing firmly on the bench. Your knees are slightly bent, and your feet are in line with your torso. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale as you bring your knees in towards your chest to lift up your hips and lower back off the ground. Perform this at a count of 2, and squeeze your abs at the top position.
  3. Inhale as you slowly return to the starting position at a count of 2. 
  4. Repeat this movement between 8-20 reps for 4 sets.

Reverse Crunches While Holding The Dumbbell

The dumbbell reverse crunch targets your lower abs, and your chest as you will be holding a pair of dumbbells with your arms fully extended in front of your body. You should start with a lighter weight to get used to the movement and increase the weight over time to ensure progressive overload. To perform this you will:

  1. Lie on your back with your elbows at a 90 degrees angle whilst holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your knees are slightly bent and your feet are on the ground. Push the dumbbells vertically upwards by extending your arms. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale as your draw your knees towards your chest (at a count of 2), lifting your hips and lower back off the ground. Keep your core tight throughout the motion. Squeeze your abs at the top position. Your arms remain locked out in the top chest press position.
  3. Inhale as you return to the starting position at a count of 2.
  4. Repeat this movement between 8-18 reps for 4 sets.

Hanging Reverse Crunches

Hanging reverse crunches are the most challenging out of the variations shown. They are great to build lower abdominals and improve your grip and forearm strength. Moreover, the hang is a great stretching exercise for your back, arms, and shoulders. To perform this you will:

  1. Hang from a bar using pronated/overhand grip at shoulder-width apart. Your thumbs should wrap under and around the bar. Keep your core tight and feet together. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale as you raise your knees towards your chest, and crunch your abs by leaning back slightly. Perform this at a count of 2. Don’t rely on momentum, but rather use your core strength to execute this movement in a slow and controlled manner.
  3. Inhale as you lower your legs and return to the starting position, at a count of 2.
  4. Repeat this movement between 6-14 reps for 4 sets.

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.