Butterfly Crunches: How To, Benefits,…

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You don’t have to stick to regular crunches to work your abs. Find out how to do butterfly crunches and what their effects are.

You can use the name butterfly crunches for different movements.

I will consider butterfly crunches to be a crunch exercise variation where you sit with your heels against each other and your knees pressed down to the side.

This version of butterfly crunches is very similar to regular crunches. The main difference is that you get a bit more hip adductor muscle stretching and hip mobility training.

In simpler words, butterfly crunches are mainly useful for growing and strengthening your ab muscles.

The extra stretching and mobility training can offer some positive effects but doing this type of training separately is typically more useful.

How to do a butterfly crunch

Doing butterfly crunches with a yoga mat will make the movement more comfortable. That aside, take the following steps to do this exercise:

  1. Lie down on your back with the heels of your feet against each other. Keep your feet as close to your body and knees as close to the ground as is comfortable. Keep your arms against your chest.
  2. Raise your shoulders as far as possible in a controlled motion but keep your lower back against the ground. Move your head together with your upper body.
  3. Slowly lower your shoulder back to the ground. If you still have more repetitions to do, you can keep your lower back pressed against the ground.
How to do a butterfly crunch

It is typically smart to do butterfly crunches slowly. This allows you to really work your ab muscles.

While the bodyweight version is already challenging, some people need to make butterfly crunches harder to see their desired progress.

One way to do this is to hold your arms above your head. This adds just a bit of resistance to your abs.

That being said, a more popular option will be holding some form of crunch exercise equipment like a dumbbell against your chest while doing butterfly crunches.

Butterfly crunches muscles worked

Even though the leg position is somewhat unusual, butterfly crunches still mainly work your ab muscles which run along the front of your waist.

You want to keep in mind that just doing a few butterfly crunches here and there will likely not be enough to get you to your goals.

Instead, make sure you do enough repetitions with enough weight.

For something like ab muscle growth, you would want to do about 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 (and even up to 50) butterfly crunches with a challenging amount of resistance.

Butterfly crunches benefits

The main difference between butterfly crunches and the regular version is the small amount of stretching involved.

Besides that, you can also expect the standard benefits of crunches from doing the butterfly version. Some of these positive effects are:

  1. Stronger muscles: Doing butterfly crunches in a good exercise routine can help you grow and strengthen your abs.
  2. May reduce or prevent back pain: Making your abs stronger with butterfly crunches can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). People with issues in this area may want to talk to an expert before doing more butterfly crunches.
  3. Only need your body to do: You don’t need any pricey fitness equipment or do a 20-minute car ride to be able to do butterfly crunches. This can save you money and time.
  4. Flexibility and mobility: The leg position of butterfly crunches could help you improve flexibility and mobility in your hips and certain muscles around them.

You can get these benefits with other exercises too but these should make it clear that doing more butterfly crunches could be a smart decision if you have certain training goals.

Potential risks

It is worth noting that butterfly crunches can also be uncomfortable on body parts like your back, hips, inner thigh muscles, and neck.

People who find bending their spines uncomfortable may want to do isometric (static) ab exercises like planks instead.

That aside, you should be able to do butterfly crunches in a way that is doable in the other areas. Mostly by keeping your movements slow, your feet far away enough from your body, and your knees high enough.

Butterfly crunch alternatives

Another way to approach any challenges you experience in butterfly crunches is to find alternatives that offer similar benefits with fewer downsides.

Some butterfly crunch alternatives you can consider are:

  • Regular crunches
  • Inner thigh muscle stretches
  • Reverse crunches
  • Ab wheel roll-outs
  • Knee raises on the captain’s chair

Why you are considering butterfly crunches and why they don’t look like the right exercise for you will play a role in what alternatives you prefer.

Is the butterfly crunch a good exercise?

Butterfly crunches can be a good way to grow and strengthen your ab muscles with a bit of flexibility and mobility training on the side.

As you get more experienced with core training, it could be worth doing butterfly crunches with weights. Doing this at the right point can offer you more and faster training results.

Something else that is worth mentioning is that separate flexibility and mobility exercises tend to be more effective than butterfly crunches in these areas.

Combining these types of workouts is not necessarily better.

That being said, personal preferences still play a role in your decision too.

If you like doing butterfly crunches and the benefits they offer, you can definitely still implement this exercise into your routine.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.