The decline crunch may be an old school ab exercise but make no mistake, it’s also one of the most effective. Why is it different than the standard ab crunch? It requires a larger range of motion that really stretches the abs and creates more of a challenge for the exerciser to overcome. These are necessary components of building muscle and strength.
It’s a simple (not easy) variation that only requires a decline bench or a little creativity and most people with decent core strength can effectively include it in their workout regime.
But it’s not only a great exercise for getting sexy abs that you can show off at the beach; having a strong core also prevents lower back pain, allows you to train with progressively heavy weights, and is a must if you’re an athlete.
In this guide, we’ve provided details for how to do this exercise with tips, variations, and advice on how to include it in your workouts.
Here’s a guide to the decline crunch…
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Rectus abdominis
- Type: Strength
- Mechanics: Isolation
- Equipment: Decline bench
- Difficulty: Beginner/intermediate
The rectus abdominis or abdominals are the muscles on the anterior portion of the trunk that create the ‘six-pack’ look. These muscles flex the trunk and laterally flex the trunk. An example of how the abdominals function is when you curl your trunk to perform a crunch.
The obliques consist of the external and internal obliques. The external muscles are located on either side of the rectus abdominis and the internal muscles are deep to the external muscles. The function of the obliques is trunk rotation, contralateral rotation, and assisting the rectus abdominis and erector spinae with lateral trunk flexion.
How To Do The Decline Crunch
The decline crunch is very similar to the basic floor crunch except with a larger range of motion. Here we’ve provided step-by-step instructions for how to perform this exercise.
- Adjust the bench at the appropriate decline angle relative to your level of experience.
- Sit on the bench and place your knees over and feet under the foam rollers if using a decline bench.
- Lie back on the bench and place your hands gently behind your ears or cross them over your chest.
- Contract your core and curl your torso up as high as your abs will allow without sitting all the way up. Make sure to exhale on the way up but do not extend your stomach out as you exhale; you simply want to act as if you’re flexing your abdominals muscles in the mirror.
- Lower back down while inhaling but don’t allow your shoulders and upper back to touch the bench.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Here’s a video example…
Decline Crunch Tips
- You can adjust the bench to any decline angle so long as you can perform the crunches safely and effectively. If you find that the angle you’re using is too challenging, adjust the bench to a slight decline angle. If you want more of a challenge, lower the bench so that you have to overcome a larger distance which requires more core strength.
- Never use your hands to pull on your neck. This is not only bad for your neck but it’s less likely that you’re maximizing the engagement of your core muscles.
- Avoid lying down on the bench during each rep to ensure that you maintain crucial tension on the target muscles.
Decline Crunch Variations
While the basic bodyweight decline crunch is a fantastic variation, there are ways to make this exercise even more challenging or incorporate other movements too. Here are three variations that we recommend.
Weighted decline crunch
So this one is obvious but if you’re really advanced and want to add more weight to make this exercise more challenging, use extra weight. How to do this? It really doesn’t matter; you can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, fixed barbell, weight plate, or medicine ball (most popular options).
Simply hold the weight near your chest or with arms extended overhead and use your core muscles to overcome the additional load.
Make sure to also check out our crunch guide that includes several effective variations.
Decline oblique crunch
Want to place more of the focus on your oblique muscles? This is the variation you want to use. The obliques are involved in trunk rotation and flexion so it makes sense to, instead of crunching straight up, twist as you come up to maximally activate these muscles. Make sure to alternate both sides during each set.
Stability ball crunch
It’s not a decline crunch, however, the stability ball crunch variation does allow you to get the stretch and larger range of motion than a basic floor crunch. It’s a highly recommended training tool to have especially if you train at home because it provides you with more options.
Here’s a useful video.
How To Incorporate The Decline Crunch Into Your Training Regime
Because the decline crunch is a core exercise, it makes sense to include it with other similar exercises to develop the muscles that make up your midsection.
There are so many different ways to train your core but you should include a combination of different exercises that focus on specific muscles and functions.
For example, an effective routine involves a hanging ab exercise, one that involves simultaneous action from the lower and upper body (recliner or bench crunch), an oblique focused exercise, and a standing variation (e.g., wood chops, cable twists, etc) which takes care of the functional strength element.
2-3 sets to failure of this exercise is more than enough if you’re also doing other core exercises. Although, your sets and reps may vary depending on your goals/workout structure, and experience level.
There’s no reason why the decline crunch shouldn’t be a part of your ab training arsenal. It’s a simple way to make a classic exercise more challenging and you can continually increase the difficulty by either increasing the angle or the resistance.