You want a well-sculpted six pack? Then stop doing regular crunches and sit ups!
When people first start training, they've got a few big goals:
- Lose fat
- Build muscle
- Get a 6-pack
We've got plenty of articles here on Tiger Fitness to help you with the first two goals. This guide is all about enhancing your ab training so you stop wasting your time with sit ups and start performing an exercise guaranteed to hit your entire abdominal wall, not just your upper abs.
We're talking about the reverse crunch of course, and if you haven't been using this top-tier ab exercise in your training, you'll never get those true blue washboard abs like the cover models.
The best lower ab workouts, with DaShaun Johnson.
The Problem With Sit Ups
Most people flat out hate sit ups. Whether it's due to a mean gym teacher who forced you to do endless reps in school or the lack of results you've experienced from them, sit ups are pretty much universally despised by anyone and everyone who's done them for any length of time in the fitness life.
Well, good news! You can stop doing sit ups all together if you're serious about getting 6-pack abs. Here's three big reasons you need to stop doing sit ups:
People "cheat" the sit up exercise by arching their lower backs. This essentially makes the exercise easier, the exact opposite, of what you want when trying to build muscle and get stronger.
Plus, arching your lower back during repeated bouts of sit ups is a guaranteed way to develop lower back pain as the years go by.
Shortens Hip Flexors
As a population, we're plagued by sitting for too much, and moving too little. Sitting all the time leads to shortening of the hip flexors, which significantly impairs hip mobility, your ability to squat properly and glute weakness.
Sit ups exacerbate this problem, as sit ups target your hip flexors more than your abs.
In line with the previous point about sitting too much, sit ups is counterproductive to maintaining good posture. Think about it, the typical "good posture" is back straight, shoulders down and back, chest up, ears stacked over your shoulders.
Sit ups are the complete opposite of this. Your chest is caved in, shoulders and neck pulled forward, back rounded, etc.
Too many people are living with horrendous posture, you don't need to be doing any more reps of an exercise that's just going to make matters worse.
Why the Reverse Crunch?
So, if sit ups and crunches are so terrible for you, what's so awesome about the reverse crunch?
Well, we've got 3 good reasons.
#1 - Targets Your Abs
Imagine that, an ab exercise that actually targets your abdominal muscles, unlike the sit up! The mark of a great exercise (especially one for muscle growth) is one that puts a muscle through a full range of motion, i.e. it lengthens and shortens the target muscle.
Reverse crunches target your entire abdominal muscle from top to bottom and puts it through its complete range of motion, not a partial range like sit ups and crunches.
This is also why reverse crunches are superior to planks for building sizes. While planks certainly are great for strengthening your muscles, they are an isometric exercise, meaning they keep your muscles constantly contracted.
Dynamic exercises that involve contraction and relaxation have a bigger impact on overall size growth, which is what you want in order to make your abs POP!
#2 - Top and Bottom
Another fault of regular sit ups, crunches, and most other ab exercises you probably perform regularly is that they're only targeting the upper portion of your abdominals. Reverse crunches hit everything on your abs, top to bottom, including your external obliques.
This means you'll get superior muscle development for those hard to train lower abs and give you the full 6-pack instead of just a stumpy 4-pack like all those other bros doing crunches and sit ups non-stop.
#3 - Improves Posture
Unlike the sit up which does nothing to support good posture, the reverse crunch actually corrects your bad posture in two ways -- correcting lordosis and preventing kyphosis.
Lordosis ("swayback") is excessive curving of the spine where it curves too far inward, and kyphosis is a forward rounding of the back, think Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and you've got a pretty good idea what a kyphotic posture looks like.
Reverse crunches have you tilt your pelvis posteriorly (correcting lordosis), which strengthens your abs, and don't force you to depress your rib cage like sit ups do. The end results is a more effective, targeted abdominal exercise that also enhances your posture!
How To Perform the Reverse Crunch
Lie back on a bench with your thighs perpendicular to the ground. Place a foam roller between your hamstrings and calves and squeeze the roller. Place your hands over your head and grab the edge of the bench.
Action: Forcefully contract your abs to lift your butt off the bench and your knees up above your chest. Hold this position for one or two seconds with a maximal ab contraction. Slowly lower back to the starting position until your butt is on the bench and your thighs are perpendicular to the ground. Here is a step-by-step guide:
Ready to tackle the reverse crunch for the very first time?
Good, here's how to perform it properly to ensure maximum muscle activation for superior growth and development of those abs:
- Lie flat on your back on the floor or bench with your feet and knees together
- Bend your hips and knees to 90 degrees.
- Tilt your pelvis back by pushing your lower back against the floor for each rep. You shouldn't be able to fit your hand in between your low back and the floor.
- Contract your abs to lift your butt off the floor or bench and bring your knees up above your chest.
- Hold for 1-2 seconds to ensure maximum ab contraction.
- Slowly lower back down to the starting position until your but contacts the ground or bench and your thighs are perpendicular to the ground.
Reverse Crunch Pointers
Like any other exercise, the reverse crunch is easy to screw up and cheat. So, to make sure you're performing it properly and getting the most bang for your exercise buck, keep these pointers in mind:
Maintain a flat back. Overarching your lower back is bad for your spine and will lead to back pain down the road. Focus on pushing your low back into the floor or bench and posteriorly tilting your pelvis.
Knees bent. Extending your knees makes the exercise significantly easier. To help you keep your knees bent, put a foam roller between your hamstrings and calves and squeeze the roller throughout each rep to ensure you're not extending your knees.
Head down. There's a tendency to bring your head up and arch your neck when performing ab exercises. Don't do this!
Focus on driving your knees to your head, moving your head makes the exercise easier, leads to a forward head position and puts strain on your neck. Keep your head on the ground or bench.
Range of motion. Only bring your legs down until your thighs are perpendicular to the ground. Lowering them any further will engage your hip flexors, which is not what we want to do here.
A Better Ab Routine
The Reverse Crunch is an excellent abdominal exercise that targets one of the most difficult areas to train on the body, your lower abs. Reverse Crunches place less stress and strain on your lower back and neck than traditional sit ups and crunches, and provide a more effective means for overall ab training.
Next time you're at the gym and it's time to do your ab training following your primary lifts for the day, add in 3 sets of 10 reps of reverse crunches for the ultimate ab building workout. You'll be sore in ways you never imagined and have a better defined midsection than ever before!