V-ups can be helpful but they are not for everyone. Discover what alternatives can offer similar positive effects without some of the downsides.
The main goal of V-ups is usually working your abs (more specifically upper and lower abs) and obliques. You also work your hip flexors to some extent.
In turn, this means that V-ups can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, prevent back pain, and offer other typical exercise benefits.
Whether you don’t enjoy doing V-ups, you want more back-friendly options, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these V-up substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Double crunches
For the first V-up alternative and many of the other options, a yoga mat or other soft surface to lie on can make the exercises a lot more comfortable.
Take the following steps to do a double crunch:
- Lie down on your back with your legs stretched and right next to each other on the ground. Hold your arms against your chest if you are a core training beginner, next to you for balance, or stretched above your head if you are more advanced.
- Slowly move your hips towards your chest as far as comfortable while folding your knees and moving them towards your chest in a controlled motion. At the same crunch up your upper body starting with your shoulders as far as comfortable.
- Return to starting position in a controlled motion.
Doubles crunches are similar to V-ups in that they focus on both the upper and lower part of your ab muscles. A positive difference is that double crunches tend to be more comfortable on your back.
One potential disadvantage is that double crunches will focus less on your oblique muscles.
If you are more experienced when it comes to core training you may need to make double crunches more challenging to keep seeing progress.
To do this you can hold some form of compact weight against your chest or clamp it between your legs.
2. Reverse crunches
Reverse crunches are a great alternative to V-ups both in the sense that they are better to get used to what engaging your lower abs feels and in that reverse crunches are a less challenging build-up exercise.
Take the following steps to do a reverse crunch:
- Lie down on your back with a 90-degree angle in both your hips and knees. Your arms start resting on the ground at 90 degrees out from your shoulders or just next to you for stability.
- Slowly move your knees towards your chest while keeping your hips and knees in a 90-degree angle. To do this your hips and lower back will come off the ground. Stop right before the middle of your back would come off the ground too.
- Lower your lower back, hips, and legs back into starting position in a controlled motion.
One difference with V-ups is that reverse crunches don’t focus on the upper part of your abs. This can be both an advantage or disadvantage depending on your training goals.
If you want to work your obliques more, you can even do a sideways reverse crunch. In this variation, you bring one knee to the chest of the opposite side.
After that, you repeat the same movement but with the other knee to avoid muscle imbalances.
3. Regular crunches
Crunches are one of the most popular ab exercises out there and for a good reason. Take the following steps to do a crunch.
- Lie down on your back with your legs bent at the knees and your feet flat on the ground.
- You can place your hands behind your head, cross them over your chest, or put them anywhere else. The point is to not really use your arms or move them during the exercise.
- Raise your head and shoulders from the ground as much as possible while keeping your lower back on the floor. Make sure you don’t use your arms but your ab muscles to do this movement.
- Lower your head and shoulders until you are back in the starting position.
Similar to the previous V-up alternative, regular crunches only focus on one part of your ab muscles. Regular crunches focus on the upper part of your abs.
To make crunches harder you have a variety of equipment options including dumbbells, a weight plate, kettlebells, etc. Simply hold these weights against your upper chest while doing the exercise.
4. Side bends
This next exercise is another V-up alternative with a different focus. Side bends will mainly work your oblique core muscles. Take the following steps to do a side bend:
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can hold your arms next to your sides or stretch them horizontally depending on how difficult you want side bends to be.
- Slowly tilt your upper body sideways as far as comfortable. Keep your neck in line with your upper body.
- Raise your upper body back into starting position and repeat the movement on the other side.
The main attention point for side bends is keeping your neck in line with your upper body.
Due to the direction of gravity, most people will have to hold some type of oblique workout equipment to make side bends challenging enough. This can be basically any resistance that fits in one hand.
5. Lying leg raises
Take the following steps to do a lying leg raise for training your abs:
- Lie down on your back with your legs stretched and right next to each other on the ground. Put your arms on the ground at your sides for balance.
- Slowly turn your hips and move them toward your chest. In theory, your legs should not really move relative to your hips. You can go as far as raising your lower back off the ground. Keep the middle of your back on the ground.
- Slowly lower your legs back to the ground.
The above version of lying leg raises comes closest to being a V-up alternative. If you move your legs in relation to your hips you focus more on your hip flexor muscles.
Lying leg raises are another example of an exercise that is not the perfect V-up substitute in terms of effects. The exercise will mainly focus on your lower abs.
One benefit of lying leg raises is that the bodyweight version is already relatively challenging. Anyone up to intermediate resistance training experience levels likely does not need any extra resistance for this ab exercise.
6. Ab wheel roll-outs
The ab wheel is a small piece of fitness equipment that is a wheel with two handles. It may not look like much but ab wheel exercises can really work your core muscles and be good V-up alternatives.
Take the following steps to do an ab wheel knee roll-out:
- Start with your face facing the floor on your knees and with your hands on the ab wheel.
- Stretch your hips so that your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Roll forward in a controlled motion, preferably until your stomach is right above the ground.
- Slowly roll back into the position of step 2.
If you are more of a beginner you can start with smaller distances instead of until your stomach is right above the ground.
The knee roll-out is only one option. If you like using the ab wheel there are many other exercises to choose from.
An area where the ab wheel roll-out stands out from some of the other options on this list is that this exercise works both your upper and lower abs. This makes it more similar to V-ups.
7. Suitcase crunches
Take the following steps to do a suitcase crunch:
- Lie down on your back with your legs stretched and right next to each other on the ground. Hold your arms against your chest or next to you for balance.
- Slowly move your hips towards your chest as far as comfortable while keeping your legs stretched and in more or less the same position relative to your hips. At the same crunch up your upper body starting with your shoulders as far as comfortable.
- Return to starting position in a controlled motion.
Suitcase crunches are basically a combination of lying leg raises and regular crunches. The difference with double crunches is that you keep your legs more or less stretched. This makes the exercise harder on your lower abs.
Both can be great V-up alternatives that are slightly more back-friendly.