Reverse crunches are an effective movement but you may need weights to make them challenging enough. Find out a few ways to do this.
The main challenge with making this exercise weighted is that you have to “hold” the resistance with your feet. Luckily, there are still a few equipment options that allow you to do this.
1. Dumbbell reverse crunch
Dumbbell reverse crunches are generally the most popular option on this list. Mostly because basically every gym has a variety of dumbbells available.
When it comes to the exercise itself, dumbbells are usable but not ideal.
To do this reverse crunch variation you have to clamp a dumbbell between your two legs. The main downside of that is that you could potentially drop the dumbbell which will definitely not be comfortable.
Next, you have to engage your hip adductors (inner thigh muscles) a good amount during dumbbell reverse crunches. This is not necessarily bad but could distract you from really working your lower abs.
Dumbbells are a decent option for weighted reverse crunches but at the same time, you will likely prefer one of the other options on this list. Both in the gym and at home.
2. Ankle weight reverse crunch
Ankle weights are simply ankle straps with extra weights. For reverse crunches, the great thing about these is that you don’t have to hold or clamp anything. That also means you can’t drop them.
Additionally, many ankle weights are adjustable in relatively small weight increments. This is great for starting out and progressing in exercises like reverse crunches where the target muscles are not that strong.
More general benefits of ankle weights are that they are relatively budget-friendly, can be used in other exercises, are compact, are easy to take with you, and are easy to store at home.
The main potential downside is that ankle weights do not have the highest weight limits compared to many of the other options on this list.
That being said, many people will find this type of weight more than challenging enough for reverse crunches.
Together with the benefits, this makes ankle weights one of the top choices for doing reverse crunches with weights.
3. Reverse crunch with resistance bands
Resistance bands are elastic loops that create tension as you stretch them out. To do reverse crunches with them, you need to attach one end to a good anchor and loop the other end around your ankles.
After that, you simply do the same movement as before but with the added resistance.
Similar to the previous option, resistance bands are great in that you can’t drop anything on yourself and don’t have to engage any additional muscles to hold the resistance in place.
On top of that, resistance bands are budget-friendly, versatile, and easy to store.
One small potential downside of this variation is that some people don’t like the different tension trajectory of resistance. As you stretch them out, they get harder to move.
Additionally, if you don’t have ankle straps, the resistance bands could feel slightly uncomfortable around your ankles. Lastly, you may need to replace your resistance every once in a while.
While these downsides do deserve a mention, they are relatively small in the bigger picture. Many people will still like resistance band reverse crunches. Especially at home where room (and potentially budget) is limited.
4. Cable machine reverse crunch
Cable machines are similar to resistance bands in that they offer resistance at different angles. However, there are also differences that make you like one or the other option more.
Before going into the differences, some commonalities between both weighted reverse crunches include that you can’t drop any weights on yourself or have to use different muscles to hold the resistance.
One advantage of the cable machine over resistance bands is that you can adjust the resistance more precisely. Additionally, you may prefer the more constant tension.
On the flip side, cable machines are not always present or free to use in a gym. Besides that, they are also pricier if you want to get one at home.
5. Medicine ball reverse crunch
A medicine ball is a weighted ball with a soft outer shell. Similar to dumbbells, you can clamp these between your legs to do reverse crunches with extra resistance.
One benefit of this option is that it is less painful if you do drop the weight during the exercise.
On the flip side, medicine balls are more challenging to keep in position for your hip adductors (inner thigh muscles).
This could be suboptimal if they fatigue before your abs had a good workout and/or if you want to use these muscles intensely in other exercises.
So if dumbbell reverse crunches look too scary and the other weighted crunches are not an option, you can consider doing medicine ball reverse crunches.
If these things don’t apply to you, you will likely prefer one of the other weights.
6. Reverse crunch with a heavy backpack
A heavy backpack may sound like a strange addition to a list with resistance options for reverse crunches. That being said, at-home objects like this can often add a nice amount of resistance to movements too.
You simply fill the backpack with heavy objects like books, water bottles, etc. and loop/clamp the backpack around/between your legs.
This should be reasonably comfortable, stay in place, and offer enough resistance to work your abs with reverse crunches.
Besides that, heavy backpack reverse crunches likely don’t require any extra investments.
The main potential downside is that it could be challenging to adjust the resistance precisely depending on what objects you have available.
Additionally, you could prefer one of the other options on this list.
7. Weight plate reverse crunch
Another equipment option most gyms will have available is a weight plate. Similar to many of the other weighted reverse crunches, you clamp the weight plate between your legs and do the usual movement.
While it is likely not as challenging as the medicine ball variation, your inner thigh muscles will have to work a good amount to keep the weight plate in place. This is not necessarily bad but could be distracting.
Additionally, you still have the same situation as dumbbells where dropping the weight plate will be painful.
Another downside is that after the 10-pound (5 kg) weight plate, the weight jumps get somewhat big for weaker muscles like the abs.
This can be suboptimal for progressing the weights you use in reverse crunches as you get stronger.
So for these reasons, many people will prefer one of the other options on this list. At the same time, if you only have a barbell setup at home, you can still make reverse crunches harder.