You can do crunches in a variety of ways with slightly different effects. Find out how to do prayer crunches and why you could do so.
Prayer crunches are a crunch exercise variation where you hold your hands against each other with your arms stretched.
This different hand position will not have a significant impact on how effective the exercise is. As long as you avoid using the momentum of the swinging.
That means the main goal of doing prayer crunches is still growing and strengthening your abs. For this purpose, they can be a good exercise.
Keep in mind that making the bodyweight version of this crunch variation more challenging at the right points in your journey could give you more and faster results.
How to do a prayer crunch
Doing prayer crunches on something like a yoga mat can make things more comfortable. That aside, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Lie down on your back and put your feet flat on the ground in front of your butt. Hold your hands against each other and point your stretched arms up.
- Raise your shoulders as far as comfortable while keeping your lower back on the ground. Use your ab muscles for this. Not the momentum of your arms.
- Slowly lower your shoulders to the ground again.
You typically want to do prayer crunches relatively slowly. This helps you avoid using the momentum of your arms instead of your ab muscles to raise your shoulders.
Besides that, you want to keep your arms and neck at the same angles in relation to your upper body.
If/when prayer crunches become too easy, you can do more challenging core exercises or make the same movement harder.
The main way to do this is by holding some form of crunch exercise equipment. Your main options will be weights like a dumbbell, backpack, kettlebell, etc.
Prayer crunches muscles worked
If you do them right, prayer crunches are mainly an ab muscle isolation exercise. Your shoulder muscles may have to work a minimal amount to keep your arms in position.
Prayer crunches will basically have the same effect as regular crunches on the ab muscles which are the main focus of the exercise.
To actually grow and strengthen your ab muscles you still need to approach prayer crunches the right way.
How many crunches you should do with how much resistance depends on what you are trying to achieve.
For something like growing your ab muscles, you would do 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 (and potentially even 50) prayer crunches.
Prayer crunch benefits
As mentioned, prayer crunches are basically the same as the regular version of the exercise. That means their positive effects will be very similar to the benefits of normal crunches.
A few of these benefits are:
- Stronger muscles: Resistance training exercises like prayer crunches make it easier to grow and strengthen certain muscles.
- Can help you lose a tiny amount of weight: While they are definitely not the most effective for this benefit, prayer crunches help you burn a few extra calories. This can help but is no guarantee for a tiny amount of weight loss.
- No equipment or location required: Bodyweight exercises like prayer crunches allow you to avoid spending money and time on your exercises (or reduce to what extent these things are needed).
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Strengthening your abs with prayer crunches can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). It may be smart to talk to an expert before you implement prayer crunches if you currently have this issue.
While prayer crunches are not unique in these benefits, it can be helpful to know that only adding one exercise can already make a positive difference.
Prayer crunch alternatives
By now it should be clear that you can also consider a variety of prayer crunch alternatives to get positive effects too. Some examples include:
- Other crunch variations
- Knee raises on the captain’s chair
- Lying leg raises
- Ab wheel roll-outs
What parts of your core you want to work and what equipment you have will influence which prayer crunch alternatives are good choices for you.
Is the prayer crunch a good exercise?
The prayer crunch can be a good exercise to grow and strengthen your ab muscles. Holding your arms in this way does not really change much so you could do regular crunches for similar effects too.
Keep in mind that you still need to do enough prayer crunches with enough weight to see results.
More experienced lifters may need resistance like a dumbbell, backpack, or medicine ball against their chest to get as much progress as possible.