Involving more body parts in an exercise tends to engage more muscles. Find out how to do suitcase crunches and what their benefits are.
First of all, there are different movements with the name suitcase crunches.
This article considers suitcase crunches a crunch variation where you crunch up your shoulders and move your hips with stretched legs towards your chest at the same time.
The potential benefit of this is that you work the muscle fibers in your lower abs and your hip flexors more than in the regular crunch.
On the flip side, the momentum of the leg swinging in suitcase crunches can take over pressure from your abs if you are not careful.
In simpler words, suitcase crunches can be good for working your lower and upper abs if you implement a good exercise technique.
However, ab workout beginners and intermediates likely want to do something with less leg swinging like double crunches instead.
How to do a suitcase crunch
You likely want to use something like a yoga mat to make suitcase crunches more comfortable. That being said, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Lie down on your back with your legs slightly less than stretched and together. You can hold your arms by your sides or against your chest.
- Slowly move your hips towards your chest. Keep your legs stretched and in more or less the same position in relation to your hips. At the same time, raise your shoulders as far as comfortable.
- Return to starting position in a controlled motion.
You really want to use your abs to raise your hips in suitcase crunches.
To avoid swinging your legs to power this movement, you can keep your movements slow.
Besides that, you want to keep your neck more or less in one line with your upper body.
Suitcase crunches muscles worked
The main muscles worked in suitcase crunches are your abs and more specifically the muscle fibers in the upper and lower part.
Additionally, your hip flexors will likely work to some extent too while raising your legs.
One potential downside of suitcase crunches is that it is relatively easy to swing your legs instead of using your abs to raise your hips.
In that case, the movement would focus a lot more on your hip flexors. This is not necessarily bad but most people do suitcase crunches with the goal of working their abs.
That aside, you still want to do enough suitcase crunches with enough resistance to see certain training results.
For something like ab muscle growth, you would do 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 25 suitcase crunches with a weight that makes these repetitions challenging.
More advanced lifters may need to choose one of the weighted crunches to do this.
Suitcase crunch benefits
The parts of your abs you engage with suitcase crunches are slightly different but their positive effects are still similar to the benefits of regular crunches. A few of these are:
- Stronger muscles: Suitcase crunches in combination with enough weight and repetitions can help you grow and strengthen your abs.
- No equipment or location required: Many people will be able to see their desired results with bodyweight suitcase crunches. This means you don’t have to invest in exercise equipment or drive to a gym.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Suitcase crunches can help you reduce or prevent back pain by strengthening your abs (1, 2).
- Makes your six-pack stand out: Growing your abs with suitcase crunches can make your six-pack stand out. Keep in mind that your body fat percentage has to be low enough to see this benefit.
Doing suitcase crunches with a good exercise technique can be a good option to get these benefits.
Suitcase crunch alternatives
While suitcase crunches can be good, there are also other alternatives you can consider. These can work different muscles, engage your abs differently, or simply be more enjoyable.
- Double crunches
- Reverse crunches
- Hanging leg raises
- Regular crunches
- Ab wheel roll-outs
- Hollow body holds
To choose between these suitcase crunch alternatives you want to think about your training goals and potentially try out a few options to see whether you like them.
Are suitcase crunches a good exercise?
Suitcase crunches can be a good exercise for working the upper and lower part of your ab muscles.
One thing to note is that suitcase crunches do make it easy to use the swinging of your legs instead of your abs to move your hips. This would make it a less optimal exercise.
For this reason, you can play it safe and do a similar exercise like double crunches that involves less leg swinging.
In both of these variations (and other core exercises), you want to make sure you do enough repetitions and use enough weight to see results.
Lastly, keep in mind that personal preference matters too. Enjoying suitcase crunches could make up for some of its suboptimal aspects.
What do suitcase crunches do?
Suitcase crunches add extra hip and leg movements to the regular version which makes them work your lower abs and hip flexors on top of the standard upper ab engagement.