athletic man reverse crunch six pack abs

How to do the reverse crunch to get a lean and defined six-pack

Add the reverse crunch to your abs exercise list and you’ll take a big step closer to sculpting a six-pack, says New Body Plan founder and Men’s Fitness cover model Jon Lipsey

Crunches are great for targeting the top of your abdominals. But unless you’re happy with a two-pack, you’re going to need to expand your exercise horizons. The good news is that you don’t actually need to look too far for an abs upgrade.

The reverse crunch, a variation of the classic crunch, is a smart choice. For a start it primarily works your lower abs, which are often under developed in comparison to your upper abs. That’s why it ranks highly, alongside the hanging knee raise, in our list of the 10 best lower abs exercises. And why it features in our 10-minute home or gym lower abs workout.

What’s more, the reverse crunch will give you a good overall core challenge, so the benefits go beyond developing the lower abs. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of the move to complete your six-pack!

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What is the reverse crunch?

The reverse crunch involves you lying on your back and using your abs to lift your hips off the floor. That’s different to the standard crunch where you flex your upper spine to raise your head and shoulders. The difference means that while the crunch works your upper abs, the reverse crunch works your lower abs.

The bonus is that it recruits the whole rectus abdominis – the sheet of muscle that makes up the six-pack. You might find it more difficult than a standard crunch at first, but that’s fine. Do what you can at the start and add more reps, extra sets or even additional resistance as you get stronger.

Why is the reverse crunch such a good lower abs move?

The reverse crunch tends to put less stress on your neck and back than the traditional crunch. Often when people do conventional crunches they yank their head or neck forwards. That’s not great for your thoracic spine and neck. The reverse crunch has a lower potential for you to put yourself in a position that risks injury.

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When should I do the reverse crunch?

You should do the reverse crunch towards the end of your workout. Like all abs exercises, they’re best kept to the end of a session before or after your Fat-Loss Finishers. You don’t want to fatigue your abs too early and reduce your ability to perform big compound moves, such as the barbell squat, deadlift, dumbbell bench press or overhead shoulder press. That may leave you more vulnerable to injury.

How often should I do reverse crunches?

You can do reverse crunches two or three times a week. But instead of doing them in every lower abs workout, you might want to mix up your moves. Do reverse crunches one day and another lower abs move, such as a hanging knee raise, another day. You don’t have to include reverse crunches in every programme. But you should do lower abs exercises in every programme. And you should have the reverse crunch as part of your training toolkit.

How many reverse crunches should I do?

Abs respond best to sets with higher rep ranges. There’s not much point in doing fewer than eight reps a set. You can go as high as 25 reps a set. You can also do the exercise for time. A good option for a beginner would be to do reps for 20 seconds. You can then add time as you get stronger.

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How to do the perfect reverse crunch rep

• Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
• Place your arms on the floor either side of you, palms facing down, for balance.
• Pull your belly button in towards your spine and breathe sharply through your mouth.
• Contract your abs to raise your feet and hips off the floor a few inches.
• Lower slowly but don’t let your heels touch the floor before starting the next rep.

Reverse crunch expert tips

Squeeze your knees together to maximise the muscle contraction

Consciously squeezing your knees together throughout the reverse crunch set will help you to effectively recruit the abdominal muscles. It does make each rep harder but it also makes each rep much more effective.

Reduce arm support to make the abs work harder

The more you push your arms and hands into the floor, the more assistance they provide. If you reduce the amount of force your arms use you ask your abs to do more work. And when they do that you get a better outcome.

Curl your spine off the floor to control the movement

If you want to make the reverse crunch really effective, try to curl your vertebrae off the floor individually. This slows the rep down and ensures that your abs, rather than momentum or assistance, power the move.

How to make the reverse crunch easier

Move regression: re-set between reps

Do this variation if you’re struggling with the exercise
If you’re struggling to complete a set of reverse crunches, make the move easier by re-setting between reps. In the form guide we said you should keep your heels raise for the duration of the set. If that is too difficult, make it easier by putting your feet down between reps.

How to make the reverse crunch harder

Move progression: add extra weight

Do this variation if you find the bodyweight version of the reverse crunch too easy
Once you can do three sets of 20 reps you might want to think about adding load. Using a medicine ball is ideal because it is easy to hold between your knees. Pick a light weight – 3-5kg will do – and start with the medicine ball between your knees. Do the move exactly as you would if you were doing it without the weight.

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