The extra results from doing decline crunches may be slowing down. In that case, doing weighted variations instead can offer more progress.
By adding more resistance, you are able to challenge your ab muscles to a larger extent. Since this is so important in strength training, the variations below can offer more and faster ab muscle growth.
1. Cable decline crunches
This first weighted decline crunch is popular but not necessarily the most convenient. Before going into more detail about that, to do this exercise you need a decline weight bench and a cable machine.
Once you have these, take the following steps to do a cable decline crunch:
- Set the cable pulley as low as possible and attach a double-rope handle. Put the decline bench right in front of the cable machine with the lowest part closest to the weights.
- Take place on the decline bench, lie down, grab the ropes, and hold the handles against your shoulders/chest. You already want some tension on the cable at this point.
- Slowly raise your shoulders as much as comfortable.
- Return to the position in step 2 in a controlled range of motion.
Cable decline crunches can definitely be effective for your ab workouts in the sense that they add extra weight and make it easy to adjust the resistance precisely and in small jumps.
At the same time, you still need a cable machine. Most people don’t have one at home and even at your local gym, the few cable machines could be occupied.
Additionally, cable decline crunches take a bit more time to set up. You may also not love the way you have to keep the rope handle in place. At least not compared to the other alternatives on this list.
2. Medicine ball decline crunch
Medicine balls are basically weighted balls with a soft outer shell. These pieces of fitness equipment are often used in core exercises like decline crunches (and throwing exercises).
Take the following steps to do a medicine ball decline crunch:
- Put the medicine ball on the ground right next to where your head will be.
- Take place on the decline weight bench, pick up the medicine ball, and hold it against your chest.
- Raise your shoulders as much as comfortable in a controlled motion.
- Lower your shoulders back into the position of step 2.
Medicine ball core exercises are relatively popular because the ball resting against your body is relatively comfortable compared to metal weights.
Additionally, if you do manage to drop the weight when getting into position for decline crunches, you likely prefer a medicine ball over a dumbbell in a situation like that.
Something else that makes medicine balls potentially useful for weighted decline crunches is that their weight jumps tend to be small. At least if you or your local gym has a nice collection of medicine balls.
3. Weight plate decline crunch
This next way to do decline crunches with weights is another popular option that does have a few downsides. First, take the following steps to do a weight plate decline crunch:
- Put the weight plate close to where your arms will be. Preferably upright against something so that it is easier to pick up in the next step but potentially just flat on the ground.
- Take place on the decline weight bench and pick up the weight plate. Preferably hold it against your chest but you could also hold it up in the air.
- Raise your shoulders as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. If you are holding the weight plate in the air, make sure the movement comes from your abs and not the swinging of your arms.
- Slowly go back to the position in step 2.
The first potential downside of this weight plate ab exercise is that it can be a bit annoying to pick the weight plate off the ground. Especially if you only have types without handles.
Secondly, as you get more experienced with weighted decline crunches, the weight jumps of the plates become bigger and bigger. This can be suboptimal for advanced lifters.
Thirdly, you may find the weight plate a bit uncomfortable on your chest. On the flip side, holding it in the air makes it easier to swing your arms instead of using your ab muscles.
4. Dumbbell decline crunch
Take the following steps to do a dumbbell decline crunch:
- Put the dumbbell of the desired weight right next to where your arms will be on the decline weight bench.
- Take place on the decline weight bench, pick up the dumbbell and hold it against your chest.
- Slowly raise your shoulders as far as comfortably possible.
- Lower your shoulders again in a controlled motion.
From all of the options on this list, most people will prefer doing decline crunches with weights by using a dumbbell.
These pieces of fitness equipment are easy to pick up, come in relatively small weight jumps, and are easy to keep in position. Especially hex dumbbells.
One downside is that dumbbells are not the most comfortable option on the list.
It is also definitely possible to prefer other types of weights for this reason. All of them offer more and faster ab muscle growth and strength progress.
5. Decline crunch with a barbell
This next weighted decline crunch requires a bit more equipment. Besides a decline weight bench, you need a barbell and bar rack.
- Set up the decline bench and barbell (rack). You want the barbell at a height where your arms are slightly less than stretched when you lie down on the bench and put your hands on the bar.
- Take place on the decline bench, put your hands on the barbell, unrack the bar, and move it slightly forward. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched or lower the bar against your chest.
- Raise your shoulders as far as comfortable. Make sure you use your ab muscles and not the momentum of swinging the barbell.
- Move back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
People more experienced with ab training could consider doing decline crunches with a barbell. However, for most people, the 45 pounds (20 kg) of the barbell will be too challenging for the relatively weak ab muscles.
On top of that, the barbell is either relatively awkward to hold against your chest or makes it easier to use swinging from other body parts instead of the abs to raise your shoulders.
6. Banded decline crunches
On top of a decline weight bench, you need good resistance bands and a place to anchor them to do the next exercise. Once you have these, take the following steps to do a banded decline crunch:
- Put the decline bench with the lowest point toward the resistance band anchor. Anchor the resistance bands on one side and put the other end next to the decline weight bench.
- Take place on the decline weight bench, reach behind you to grab the resistance band(s), and hold the band(s) against your shoulder(s).
- Move your shoulders toward your hips as far as comfortable in a controlled motion.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2.
Banded decline crunches are somewhat similar to the cable version but the equipment you use is a bit more at-home-friendly.
Something else that is different is the tension. The more you stretch out resistance bands the more resistance they offer. That means the end of the banded decline crunch movement will be more challenging.
This is not necessarily good or bad for everyone. You just make your muscles stronger for the last part of the movement.
Besides that, you could also simply like or not like the different feeling from banded decline crunches.
7. Kettlebell decline crunches
Kettlebells are big metal balls with a handle. You will need one of these of the right weight to do the next weighted decline crunch variation. Once you have one, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Put the kettlebell next to the part of the decline bench where your head will rest in the next step.
- Lie down on the decline weight bench, pick up the kettlebell, and hold it against your chest.
- Raise your shoulders toward your hips as far as comfortable in a controlled motion.
- Slowly lower your shoulders onto the weight bench again.
An upside of kettlebell decline crunches is that it is easy to pick up the kettlebell and keep it in position thanks to its handle.
A downside is that kettlebells are relatively bulky. This could make your decline crunch feel a bit more awkward compared to options with other weights.
Additionally, while kettlebells are relatively popular, your local gym may not have them at the weights you prefer for your ab workouts.
Are weighted decline crunches good?
Weighted decline crunches are generally good for getting more and faster ab muscle growth and strength progress. You do need to make sure you keep using your abs and not the swinging of the weights to move your shoulders.