Criss Cross Exercise: How To, Benefits,…

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There are many ways you can challenge your body and get all the benefits that come with that. Find out how to do the criss cross exercise.

This article is about the core criss cross exercise, also known as bicycle crunches, that is also used in pilates.

Doing a criss cross involves lying on your back, pushing your lower back against the ground, and move your shoulders alternately to the knee of the other side.

At the same time, you also “cycle” with your legs.

Criss crosses are mostly helpful for growing and strengthening your oblique core muscles and improving endurance in your abs.

You could also see some ab muscle growth but for this purpose, more dynamic core exercises tend to be more effective.

How to do a criss cross exercise

It is worth noting that a yoga mat or something similar can make the criss cross exercise a lot more comfortable.

That aside, take the following steps to do a criss cross:

  1. Lie down on your back with your hips and knees at 90-degree angles. Hold your hands against the side of your head or against your chest.
  2. Press your lower back against the ground with the help of your ab muscles. Keep it there throughout the rest of the movement.
  3. Move one shoulder as far as comfortable to the hip of the other side. At the same time, move the knee on the other side towards the moving shoulder.
  4. Slowly lower these body parts again so you are back in the position of step 2.
  5. Repeat the same movement from step 3 but with the shoulder and knee of the other sides.
How to do a criss cross exercise

It is generally smart to keep your movements slow.

This will help you really work your ab muscles and helps you avoid losing balance.

Also keep in mind that you don’t want to jerk your head throughout the criss cross exercise. Your hands should only touch your head lightly.

Muscles worked with the criss cross exercise

The criss cross exercise mainly works your obliques (side waist muscles) in an active way and your abs in a static way.

Additionally, this movement works your hip flexors and quadricep muscles to a small extent to move your legs and keep your knees at 90-degree angles.

The reason I mention the criss cross exercise in an isometric (static) way is because more dynamic exercises tend to be more effective.

So for growing and strengthening your obliques, the criss cross exercise can be really helpful.

You can also see positive results in your abs from the criss cross exercise but this will typically be more in the direction of better muscle endurance instead of growth.

Lastly, keep in mind that you still need to implement enough repetitions and resistance to challenge your muscles enough.

For some people, that will mean doing criss crosses with something like a weight plate against their upper chest.

Criss cross exercise benefits

Doing criss crosses in a smart workout routine can offer valuable benefits. A few examples include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Challenging your muscles with criss crosses can start internal processes that make the muscles bigger and stronger.
  2. May prevent back pain: Strengthening your core muscles with the criss cross exercise tends to prevent back pain (1, 2). In case you are already dealing with this, less dynamic criss cross alternatives tend to be better.
  3. Balance & coordination: The criss cross exercise is not the most challenging in terms of balance and coordination but you could see improvements in these areas.
  4. No equipment or location required: While a yoga mat would be helpful, you actually don’t have to invest in equipment or move to a location to do criss crosses.
  5. Adds some variety: You may like switching up your core workouts. In that case, the variety of criss crosses could help you stay more consistent.

Criss crosses are not necessarily the number one exercise for getting all these benefits but they do help to a nice extent.

Criss cross exercise alternatives

After reading up on the benefits or giving the criss cross exercise a few tries, you may conclude this is not the movement for you.

If that is the case, you can also consider doing these criss cross exercise alternatives instead:

  • Ab wheel roll-outs
  • Sideways hanging knee raises
  • Reverse crunches
  • Side bends
  • Crunches
  • Standing cable Russian twists
  • Plank variations

To figure out what criss cross exercise alternatives would be the best for you, you would think about what you want to train and try out a few different options.

Is the criss cross a good exercise?

The criss cross can be a good exercise for growing and strengthening your obliques and improving endurance in your abs.

You could also see some ab muscle growth, potentially by using extra weight, but more dynamic core exercises tend to be more effective for this.

And even if you are interested in the criss cross exercise for the oblique gains, you still want to make sure you do enough repetitions and use enough weight.

It is also worth noting that criss crosses are not the only way to get these benefits.

If you like doing other effective core exercise more, choosing these can help you enjoy your workouts more and stay more consistent.

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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.