You may try to ignore it, but that little voice inside your head reminds you over and over that the only way to get toned abs is to stick to an ab routine. The basic crunch is a good place to start, but the monotony of this exercise may leave you ditching your ab workout in no time. To avoid boredom and to work your muscles differently, slowly add new ab exercises such as the reverse crunch to your routine. The reverse crunch tones two major muscles in your midsection and can be varied to add a challenge or make it easier.
Like the basic crunch and many other ab exercises, the reverse crunch works the rectus abdominis muscle. This strap-shaped muscle extends along the center of your abdomen from just under your rib cage to your pelvis. In images of men with six-pack abs, a toned rectus abdominis muscle makes up the washboard effect of the six-pack. The reverse crunch targets the lower portion of the rectus abdominis, an area that is difficult for most women to tone.
The transverse abdominis is the innermost of three layers of muscle that run along the sides of your abdomen. This band of muscle runs from your rib cage down to your pelvis. The inner edge rests under the rectus abdominis. Toning the transverse abdominis, along with the inner and outer obliques, helps slim your waist line.
Doing It Correctly
To get the most out of your reverse crunches, you need to do them correctly. Begin on the floor with your back flat and your arms flat out to the side with your palms pressed into the floor for stability. Raise your feet off the ground and bring your legs so they are bent to 90 degrees with your shins parallel to the ceiling. Exhale and use your abs to bring your a few inches hips off the floor while maintaining the angle of your legs. Inhale and lower your hips to the floor as slowly as possible. During the exercise, avoid jerking up or using momentum to get your hips off the floor.
Adding a Challenge
If reverse crunches begin to feel too easy, try doing bicycle crunches. This exercise works the main muscles of the reverse crunch but also works the upper abs and the obliques. In this exercise, raise your legs as you did in the reverse crunch. Then, with your hands behind your head, lift your upper body as you bring the right knee in, extend the left leg out and twist your upper body slightly to bring the left elbow to the right knee. Return to the start position, then repeat using the opposite elbow and leg.
Making It Easier
If reverse crunches feel too difficult, you can work the same muscles by doing reverse marches. In this exercise, you lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your back flat and your abs tight, slowly raise one leg so it is at a 90-degree angle and your shin is parallel to the ceiling. Hold for a count of 10, then slowly lower the foot back to the floor. Repeat on the other leg.
- Anthony's Textbook of Anatomy & Physiology; Gary Thobodeau and Kevin Patton, 1994
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Reverse Crunches
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Bicycle Crunches
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Reverse Marches
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.