This Ab Exercise is a Lifesaver if You're Stuck at Your Desk all Day

Kirsti Buick
·3-min read

What do walking, reciting the alphabet and crunches have in common? They all become exponentially more difficult when performed backwards.

While we’ll reserve judgement on the benefits of the first two, here’s why you should consider an alternative take on your average sit-up.

Reverse crunch benefits

Like the regular kind, the reverse crunch primarily works the rectus abdominis (the ‘six-pack’ muscle) but it ramps up the burn by targeting the lower part of the muscle, too.

Meanwhile, the rest of the region is also getting a good old workout. Think: the obliques (the muscles on either side of the rectus abdominis) and the transverse abdominis (the deepest of all the abdominal muscles). Bonus: the reverse crunch is also a great mobility exercise, says Charlotte Frazier, trainer and studio manager at F45 Croydon.

‘It’s particularly good if you’re stuck at your desk all day because it massages the spine and the shoulders, helping to ease tension and, as a result, improving your posture,’ she adds.

What muscles do reverse crunches work?

  • rectus abdominis

  • transverse abdominis

  • obliques

How to do a reverse crunch

  1. Start lying on your back and lift your legs, bending your knees to 90°.

  2. Keep your hands by your sides with your palms pressing into the ground. ‘If you have lower back issues, you can place your hands underneath your lower back for added support,’ Frazier says.

  3. Drawing your belly button to your spine to engage your abs, pull your knees towards your chest to lift your hips off the floor. Pause at the top, then slowly reverse the move to come back down, touching one vertebra to the mat at a time.

  4. Tap your toes lightly to the floor at the bottom – don’t rest your weight on them – before going into rep number two. Breathe in as you crunch and out as you lower down. Remember, it’s your abs doing the work here – don’t rock backwards and forwards and allow momentum to carry you.

‘For a more advanced version, you can extend and hold your legs up straight at the top of the move,’ says Frazier. ‘You can also straighten your legs at the bottom of the move – but don’t let your feet touch the ground.’

The slower you do it, the harder and more effective it is. And, yes, it’s supposed to burn.

AVOID IF: You’re pregnant, as this exercise causes compression in the abdomen

Reverse crunches form issues to watch out for

You’re arching your back

‘Try to imagine you’re squashing a grape under your lower back so as not to put excess pressure on your spine,’ suggests Frazier.

You’re jerking your head forward at the top of the move

‘Tuck your chin into your chest or keep your gaze on one spot on the ceiling to avoid neck strain,’ Frazier says.

You’re moving too quickly

That’s the momentum we talked about – and you’re probably not feeling it in your abs either, are you? Perform the move slower and lower back down with control to make sure you’re really working the right muscles.

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