There are many exercise options for people who want to get fitter. Find out how to do pike crunches and whether they are good.
While their name implies differently, pike crunches are more of a plank variation than a crunch variation.
To do the exercise you start in a high plank position with your upper shins on an exercise ball. Next, you raise your hips upward and roll the exercise ball forward as far as comfortable.
Lastly, you return to starting position.
Pike crunches are an exercise that mainly works your abs, hip flexors, and to some extent obliques, flexibility, balance, and coordination.
One potential downside of pike crunches is that people who are more experienced with resistance training may find the bodyweight version too easy.
Additionally, it is hard to add weights to this exercise. Even a good weighted vest could get in the way of your movements.
Besides that, you need great coordination and balance to get something out of this exercise.
In short, doing pike crunches can definitely offer benefits. However, there are typically more effective exercises too.
How to do a pike crunch
As mentioned, you need an exercise ball to do pike crunches. Once you have that, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Put your hands in front of the exercise ball and your upper shins on the ball. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise. Keep your shoulders above your hands in starting position.
- Slowly raise your hips as far as comfortable and safe. At the same time, roll the ball forward by moving your legs more to the front of the ball.
- Lower your hips back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
You want to keep your movements slow and controlled. This will make your muscles work harder and help you avoid accidents.
The first thing to keep in mind during pike crunches is that you don’t want to lower your hips too much. It is typically recommended to lower your hips to a straight line but not farther.
Besides that, you can adjust your movements slightly to focus on different muscles.
If you want to work your hip flexors, you want to keep your spine straight. To work your abs, you would bend your spine and move your hips slightly toward your shoulders.
Pike crunches stepping stones
It is possible that full pike crunches are currently too hard for you. In that case, you can start with a few other exercises to strengthen your body enough.
You can choose between different movements depending on what is holding you back right now.
To grow and strengthen your abs you would want to do exercises like crunches, reverse crunches, and sit-ups. Potentially regular planks or knee planks if you find bending your spine uncomfortable.
Another option is that your hip flexors are currently too weak. To resolve this, you can do standing knee/leg raises, potentially with weights.
If your obliques are the weak link you can start with a sideways plank exercise and reach under your body with the upper arm.
Lastly, your balance and coordination may be the things holding you back. Pike crunches are challenging in these areas. To train balance and coordination you can start with balance board exercises.
Muscles worked with pike crunches
Compound ab exercises like pike crunches engage a variety of muscles throughout the movement. Even so, there will be a few ones that have to do the most work compared to their relative strength.
In this case, pike crunches will mainly work your abs and hip flexors. Besides that, your obliques and shoulders have to work a good amount too.
Besides that muscles like your glutes (butt), quadriceps (front thighs), triceps (back upper arm), and chest will have to work a small amount too.
If you want to grow and strengthen the muscles above, you have to damage them enough. This may sound bad but starts processes that can make the muscles bigger and stronger over time.
A potential downside of pike crunches is that some people will find the exercise too easy to challenge their muscles enough for growth.
In theory, you would add resistance to make sure you are able to work the muscles more effectively and in a shorter amount of time.
In practice, it is hard to add enough resistance to pike crunches.
On top of that, this exercise can be challenging in terms of balance and coordination. This can interfere with your resistance training workout.
People who are more experienced with ab and hip flexors workouts may need to choose pike crunch alternatives to see results.
Pike crunch benefits
That being said, even though pike crunches are not the most effective exercise out there, they can still offer a few valuable benefits. Some of the most important positive effects include:
- Stronger muscles: Pike crunches are a type of resistance training. With the right resistance, repetitions, and sets, you can grow and strengthen your abs and hip flexors.
- Can help with losing weight: Pike crunches are likely more intense than your regular daily movements. The small amount of muscle mass you can grow burns extra calories too. These things can benefit weight loss (but are no guarantee for results).
- Improves mood: Working out tends to promote the release of substances that make you feel better. This applies to pike crunches too.
- Slows down aging: Pike crunches do not influence your birth date but can slow down certain aging processes. This tends to be good for your health.
- Improves sleep: The quality and duration of your sleep can be influenced by your habits. Doing exercises like pike crunches tends to benefit these areas of your health.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Core strengthening exercises like pike crunches can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). People who currently have issues in this area do want to be careful and potentially talk to an expert first.
- Balance & coordination: Pike crunches are relatively challenging when it comes to balance and coordination. Doing the exercise can improve your skills in these areas.
Pike crunches are not necessarily the most optimal for these benefits but this does who you that even just adding one exercise to your routine can offer you a few nice positive effects.
You want to keep in mind that some people will find pike crunches challenging for body parts like their back, elbows, wrists, hips, shoulders, and neck
If you have (a history of) issues in these areas you may need to start with other exercises first.
This especially applies to people who have back pain. These individuals may want to talk to an expert before doing pike crunches.
If you notice any pain during pike crunches this can be a sign you are overdoing it.
In a situation like that, you likely need more rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that pike crunches are not (yet) for you.
Pike crunch alternatives
If you don’t have any specific personal preferences for pike crunches you can consider one of its alternatives to get similar (and hopefully more) results. Some of these include:
- Ab wheel roll-outs
- Bicycle crunches
- Reverse crunches
- Leg raises on the captain’s chair
- Knee raises
- Other plank variations
What alternatives are the best choices for you depends on details like your training goals, what your body can handle, what fitness equipment you have, etc.
Doing more pike crunches can offer a few benefits. The main ones will be (potentially) bigger and stronger abs and hip flexors.
At the same time, you need to know that people who are more experienced with training these muscles may find pike crunches too easy.
Additionally, making this movement harder tends to be inconvenient.
Besides that, pike crunches are somewhat challenging in terms of balance and coordination. This could interfere with your ab and hip flexor training.
In simpler words, pike crunches can be helpful for resistance training beginners/intermediates who want to work their abs, hip flexors, balance, flexibility, and coordination in one exercise.
For other people and fitness goals, one of the pike crunch alternatives will likely be better.
You also want to keep in mind that enjoying workouts can help you stay more consistent with your exercise routine. If you really like doing pike crunches, you can consider the exercise anyway.
In any case, you want to give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.