You may not have a bench for decline crunches or simply not like the exercise. Luckily, there are alternatives that offer good core workouts too.
Decline crunches are generally done because they make the movement of regular crunches slightly harder on your abs. In turn, this can keep your bodyweight crunches challenging enough for longer.
Some of the substitutes below offer this effect in other ways at home or in the gym. Others just help you switch up the focus of your core workouts.
1. Decline sit-ups
For this first exercise, you still need a decline weight bench. If you don’t mind this, take the following steps to do a decline sit-up:
- Anchor your feet behind the decline bench pads and lie down.
- Slowly raise your shoulders first while keeping your lower back on the bench. Gradually raise more and more of your spine until your shoulders are as far as comfortable or close to your knees.
- Do the previous step in reverse in a controlled motion. Really “roll down” your spine on the weight bench.
Decline sit-ups still work your abs similar to decline crunches. However, this alternative also works your oblique and hip flexor muscles a good amount.
This more general core muscle engagement could align more with your training goals.
If you don’t have a decline bench at home, you can also just consider doing regular sit-ups. These will have similar effects at a slightly easier challenge level.
2. Reverse crunch
In theory, you don’t need any special equipment for the next decline crunch alternative. In practice, a soft surface like an exercise mat will make the movement a lot more comfortable.
Take the following steps to do a reverse crunch:
- Lie down on your back, keep your knees at 90-degree angles, and raise your legs until your thighs are about vertical.
- Slowly raise your hips (and in turn your legs) to your knees as far as comfortable. Your hips and lower back should be the only body parts moving. The angles of your legs should stay more or less the same.
- Return your hips back to the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
Reverse crunches are another example of a substitute with a slightly different focus from decline crunches.
By moving your hips toward your chest instead of the other way around, you are working the muscle fibers in your lower abs more instead of the upper abs.
This is not necessarily better or worse for everyone. What types of ab workouts you want to do depends on things like personal preferences and training goals.
3. Cable rope crunch
To do this next exercise you preferably have a cable machine with a double-rope handle but you could also use a resistance band with an anchor at home.
Additionally, a soft pad for your knees will make your workout a lot more comfortable. When you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a cable rope crunch:
- Set the cable pull to a high setting, select the desired weight, and attach the double-rope handle.
- Sit right in front of the pulley, grab the double-rope handle, pull it down against your shoulder, and keep the rope there. Tilt your upper body slightly forward.
- Slowly move your shoulders to your hips as far as comfortable. Make sure your abs are moving the cable machine weight. Don’t use your arms or hip flexors.
- Return back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.
The main benefit of the decline crunch is that it is slightly harder on your abs due to the different angle of the decline bench.
Cable rope crunches allow you to make the movement harder too without a special bench. This alternative is even better in this area because it is so easy to adjust the resistance.
Additionally, you could really move your chest back to make it so your abs go through a larger range of motion which tends to be beneficial for results.
One downside is that you still need some equipment to do cable rope crunches. If you don’t have anything at home, you will have to choose one of the other options on this list.
4. Weighted crunch
For weighted crunches, you will need some type of extra resistance. Something like a dumbbell, kettlebell, or even just a heavy backpack is good.
Additionally, a soft surface to lie down on makes the exercise more comfortable. Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a weighted crunch:
- Lie down on your back and put your feet flat on the ground. Hold the resistance against your chest.
- Elevate your shoulders as far as comfortable while keeping your lower back on the ground in a controlled motion.
- Slowly lower your shoulders again into the position of step 1.
Besides changing the angle of the crunches, you can also make this exercise harder by using extra resistance.
If you have a soft surface, weighted crunches will be very similar to decline crunches in terms of effects.
The upside is that you don’t need a bench to do this alternative. And even if you don’t have specific fitness weights, household objects can offer extra ab muscle growth and strength results too.
5. Bosu Ball crunch
This next decline crunch alternative requires you to have a Bosu Ball available. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a Bosu Ball crunch:
- Put the Bosu Ball with the flat part on the ground. Sit with your lower back against the Bosu Ball on one side and put your feet flat on the ground.
- Lower your shoulders as far as comfortable. In this position, your spine basically follows the shape of the Bosu Ball.
- Slowly raise your shoulders as far as comfortable.
- Lower your shoulders back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
Bosu Ball crunches resemble decline crunches in that they implement a somewhat downward angle.
However, this piece of fitness equipment also allows your ab muscles to go through a larger range of motion. This is generally beneficial for growth and strength progress.
So Bosu Ball crunches could be even more effective than decline crunches.
Their main downside is that many people will not have a Bosu Ball available at home or at their local gym.