You can change up standard core exercises in many ways. Find out what penguin crunches are and whether they are any good.
Penguin crunches are a crunch variation where you lie down on your back, raise your shoulders, and then alternate between bending to each side.
This movement will mainly work your abs and to some extent your obliques.
One downside to keep in mind is that penguin crunches work your abs in an isometric (static) way. This is generally less effective than dynamic exercises like the regular crunch for muscle growth and strength progress.
The main reason to consider isometric ab and oblique exercises is if you find them more comfortable on your spine. However, not many people will find this is the case in the penguin crunch.
In short, while doing penguin crunches can still offer benefits, you will likely prefer one of the alternatives available.
How to do a penguin crunch
It is typically a good idea to use a yoga mat or another soft surface for penguin crunches. This makes the exercise more comfortable in a good way.
With that in mind, take the following steps to do a penguin crunch:
- Lie down on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your arms by your sides.
- Raise your shoulders off the ground with the help of your ab muscles. Keep your shoulders at more or less the same height throughout the rest of the exercise.
- Slowly tilt your upper body sideways as far as comfortable.
- Tilt your upper body to the other side in a similar way.
- Keep alternating between steps 3 and 4.
The main thing to note about penguin crunches is that you want to keep your neck in one line with your upper body.
Muscles worked with penguin crunches
The main muscles worked with penguin crunches are your abs and to some extent your obliques.
Something important to note is that you work your abs in an isometric aka static way. They don’t really have to shorten or lengthen during the exercise.
This is worth mentioning because isometrics tend to be less effective than more dynamic exercises for growing and strengthening your muscles.
You can still achieve these things in your ab muscles with penguin crunches but you will likely need to hold some crunch exercise equipment like a medicine ball, dumbbells, or kettlebells against your chest.
Penguin crunch benefits
While penguin crunches are typically not the most effective option, they do still offer some benefits. The main ones include:
- Better muscle endurance: Penguin crunches make it easy to improve muscle endurance in your abs and obliques.
- No equipment or location required: While you might need some weight to see muscle growth, you can theoretically do penguin crunches without equipment and wherever there is a place to lie down.
- Can make daily activities easier: Improving muscle endurance in your core can make daily activities like standing up and walking around easier.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Making your core muscles stronger with penguin crunches can help you reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). People who are already dealing with this may want to talk to an expert before doing more penguin crunches.
It is nice to know that simple core exercises like penguin crunches can offer these valuable benefits. It may be worth paying more attention to this area of your fitness.
Penguin crunch alternatives
If you don’t have a specific preference for the penguin crunch exercise, you likely want to know what other movements can offer more benefits in the same areas.
A few penguin crunch alternatives include:
- Regular crunches
- Side bends
- Oblique crunches
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Side plank dips
- Bicycle crunches
- Ab wheel V-rolls
To choose between these penguin crunch alternatives you want to think about what muscles you want to work and in what ways.
Additionally, the fitness equipment you have available matters too.
Is the penguin crunch exercise good?
While doing penguin crunches does still offer benefits, it is hard to really call this a good exercise. There are just so many better exercise alternatives for different purposes.
At the same time, it is worth mentioning that personal preference matters too.
If you really like doing penguin crunches, you can still do them with enough weight and repetitions to see positive results.
On the flip side, if you are not that interested in this exercise either, you can think about your training goals and preferences to choose between one of the more effective alternatives.
What are penguin crunches good for?
Penguin crunches are mainly good for working your abs in an isometric (static) way while adding some oblique muscle engagement. That being said, this is typically not the most effective exercise available.
What is the penguin crunch?
The penguin crunch is an exercise where you lie down on your back with your feet flat on the ground, raise your shoulders, tilt your upper sideways to reach toward your foot, and then tilt your upper body the other way.