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Cocoons Exercise: How To, Benefits,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing the cocoons exercise, what will the effects be?

Cocoons are an exercise where you start lying down on your back. To do the exercise you then crunch up your shoulders and at the same time move your knees towards your chest.

The cocoons exercise is typically done to grow and strengthen core muscles like your abs. For other fitness goals, there are likely better exercise options.

One potential downside is that you can use the momentum of your legs instead of your abs. If you are not used to ab training exercises something like a reverse crunch may be better to get used to the feeling of only using your abs.

Whether you should add cocoons or alternatives to your routine depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.

How to do the cocoons exercise

For cocoons you preferably want a yoga mat or other soft surface to lie on. To do the cocoons exercise take the following steps:

  1. Lie down on your back with your legs stretched and right next to each other on the ground. Hold your arms against your chest, above your head, or next to you for balance.
  2. Slowly move your knees towards your chest as far as comfortable. You can fold your legs. At the same crunch up your upper body starting with your shoulders as far as comfortable.
  3. Return to starting position in a controlled motion. Keep your legs in the air if you want to do more repetitions.

Keep your movements slow and controlled to make your abs really work hard and to avoid bad technique. Don’t use your arms or legs for momentum. Besides that, keep your neck in line with your upper body throughout the exercise.

How to do the cocoons exercise

Cocoons exercise variations

Cocoons with just your body weight and folded legs are the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few variations that can make the exercise easier or harder.

Some people are not ready yet for the full cocoons exercise. To work up to the full version you can start by raising your shoulders and moving your knees only by a small amount.

Another thing you can do is lie down and press down your lower back to the ground with the help of your abs. These things will help you similar muscles but at a less challenging level.

On the other hand, bodyweight cocoons can become too easy. At this point, you may need to turn to other exercises or make cocoons harder to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.

Making the cocoons exercise harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up progress compared to doing the regular bodyweight variation over and over.

The first simple, no-equipment way to make cocoons harder is to stretch your arms above your head and keep your legs stretched. Due to the laws of physics these things makes the exercise harder for your abs. This straight-legged version is also known as the suitcase crunch.

Another way to make cocoons harder is by doing them weighted. This is basically doing the same exercise but with extra weights or resistance to make it harder.

To make the cocoons exercise harder for your abs you want to hold equipment like dumbbells, a heavy backpack, a medicine ball, etc. in your hands, against your chest, or clamp these weights between your legs.

Cocoons exercise muscles worked

Cocoons are mainly an ab muscle isolation exercise. Your hip flexor muscles have to work to a certain extent to raise your front thighs towards your upper body.

The way you build muscle in places like your abs is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough. This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.

If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.

By adding extra resistance to exercises like cocoons you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time.

If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more ab muscle gain.

Depending on your personal situation, workout plan, and training goals, the cocoons exercise may be a good or bad addition.

Cocoons exercise benefits

Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding cocoons to your routine can offer you some helpful benefits. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: The cocoons exercise is a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your core muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing the cocoons exercise likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss. Keep in mind that there are better exercise choices if weight loss is your goal.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like cocoons promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. No equipment or location required: Since cocoons are a bodyweight exercise you don’t have to invest in equipment or be in a specific location. That being said, a soft surface like a yoga mat can make the exercise more comfortable.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like cocoons can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. Slows down aging: The cocoons exercise won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
  7. May reduce or prevent back pain: Core strengthening exercises like cocoons can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). If you currently have back pain you do want to be careful and talk to an expert before implementing this exercise.

While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than the cocoons exercise, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that the cocoons exercise can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, hip flexors, and neck even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing the cocoons exercise into your workout routine.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that cocoons are not (yet) for you.

Cocoons exercise alternatives

While the cocoons exercise can definitely be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your ab muscles. Some of these cocoons exercise alternatives include:

  • Reverse crunches
  • Regular crunches
  • Leg raises on the captain’s chair
  • Lying leg raises
  • Ab wheel roll-outs
  • Compound core exercises
  • Hollow body holds

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.


Many people will benefit from adding the cocoons exercise with the right technique to their routine. You may need to make the regular version more challenging soon to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.

That being said, for goals besides strengthening your abs and making them stand out more, there are likely many better exercise options.

You also need to remember is that the cocoons exercise can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, hip flexors, and neck even if you implement the right technique.

If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more cocoons.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing the cocoons exercise is a workout you love, great. If not, other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more cocoons make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.