How to Do the Vertical Leg Crunch

Treat your core to a new exercise that kicks up your workout intensity

woman doing vertical crunch on the beach
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A flatter belly and attractive abs is a perpetual pursuit for many people, both for those into fitness and those who say they need to start getting healthy.

Common to both of these groups is the seemingly universal dislike for crunches. The sad truth is that one of the best ways to work your core, build your abs and reach for a flatter belly is to do crunches.

The Importance of Varying Your Ab Workout

Besides just being a challenging exercise, crunches can get, well...boring. The truth is, only doing basic crunches doesn't give you a full core workout, which is important to reaching those ab goals. 

Fortunately, you're not limited to the basic crunch—and nor should you be. Changing up your ab routine is important, and there are variations and options to help you expand your ab exercise repertoire.

What the Vertical Leg Crunch Is

The vertical leg crunch is a great core exercise that increases the rectus abdominis workout, and is effective for recruiting the lower back extensors, the transverse abdominals, and even the external obliques and internal obliques.

It is similar to the basic crunch, except that the legs are perpendicular to the floor. This position increases the intensity of the exercise, so it is a good next step after you've mastered the basic crunch.

How to Do the Vertical Leg Crunch

Starting Position

  • Lie on your back on a mat or another surface that will be comfortable.
  • Place your hands folded behind your neck.
  • Bring your legs up, extending them perpendicular to the floor with knees slightly bent.

Exercise Movement

  1. Contract your abs in preparation for the lift.
  2. Begin by slowly curling your upper body, lifting your shoulder blades off of the floor. Keep your legs straight and pointed upward; don't let them sway or list to one side.
  3. Continue curling your body upward using your core muscles. Don't lead with the head by pulling on the neck, and keep your chin up.
  4. When your shoulder blades are off of the floor, pause and hold the position a moment or two.
  5. Begin lowering the upper body by uncurling slowly. Don't allow your legs to sway, and don't let them crash back to the floor. This should be a slow and controlled descent.
  6. Keep your legs in the fixed starting position.
  7. Repeat for 12-16 reps.

Tips and Benefits

  • If you can't come fully up when you start, go as far as you can and return to the starting position. You'll improve as you practice.
  • If you find your legs are unwieldy and hard to control during the lift, you can cross your legs to help stabilize them.
  • Keep your lower spine flat on the floor.
  • The vertical leg crunch helps improve your balance and posture by recruiting muscles along your spine.
  • Using a mat or other soft surface beneath the back is important—pushing your back bones into a hard floor can be very uncomfortable.
  • Building your core muscles will increase your metabolism, which is key to burning fat throughout the day, even when you're not exercising.
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