Woman performing barbell push crunch on decline bench

Barbell Push Crunch and Otis Ups – Your Extreme Ab Exercise

Are you do a ton of sit-ups to work your abs or do you want to strengthen your abs quickly?  Then you may want to add some weighted ab exercises.  Here is how you can build your abs rapidly with some easy weighted ab exercises, like the barbell crunch or Otis ups.

Exercise Summary

  • Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals, Rectus Abdominis
  • Other Muscles (Secondary) Worked: None
  • Equipment: Decline bench, Weight (barbell, dumbbell, or plate)
  • Mechanics Type: Compound (Otis Ups) or Isolation (Removing the Push in Push Crunch)
  • Force: Push
  • Utility: Auxiliary

Push Crunch and Otis Up Exercise Procedure

  • Lie down on the ground or on a decline/incline bench. If you are using a bench adjusted it to approximately a 45-degree angle and position your feet under foot pads for stability and leverage.
  • Grip your weight firmly and place it over your chest and abs in the down position. For plates you will position the weight lower as to not touch your face. For barbells and dumbbells you can position the weight across your chest as if you were doing a decline bench press.
  • Now bend at the waist to raise the upper part of the torso off the ground or bench. Exhale while contracting your abs. You want to roll your back up keeping your lower back in contact with the bench until the end.
  • While Roll your body up push the weight up over head.
  • Then lower your body back down and return your upper back down to the ground or bench, until the back of your shoulders contact. While lowering down, lower the weight back to the starting position
  • Repeat until you complete your desired number of reps.

Man performing Otis Up with plate

Doing The Crunch as a Compound or Isolation Exercise?

The barbell push crunch is a more challenging variation of the standard decline crunch  You are using the decline and a barbell to add additional resistance to the exercise. The barbell push crunch is a more advanced compound or isolation exercise designed to target your abs.  To make the exercise more of isolation, keep your arms straight and weight lifted up the entire time.  Though you will be using stabilizing muscle in your chest and arms to maintain the wieght you will only be bending at the waist.  When you bring the weight down to your chest and then push it up, your bending at multiple locations and require multiple muscle groups so it is now a compound exercise.

Otis Ups as A Compound Exercise

How to perform Otis Up – Abs Exercise Tutorial

The above is a compound exercise. Because you are working your arms, chest, and abs. Multiple muscle groups are used by pressing or pushing the weight at the same time as contracting your abs with the curl.

Barbell No Push Crunch as Isolation Exercise

Barbell Push Crunch

As you can see in this video the barbell is maintained with the arms straight the whole time. Besides a slight shoulder shrug there is little joint movement besides the abs contracting and bending the spine. Performing a push crunch this way is more like a weighted crunch, though you are using more stabilizing muscles.

Utilized Muscles

Target (Agonist) Muscles

  • Rectus Abdominis

Synergist Muscles

  • Obliques

Additional synergist muscles for the compound movement

  • Pectoralis Major (Sternal and Clavicular)
  • Pectoralis Minor
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Triceps Brachii

Stabilizers Muscles

These muscle are stabilizer and not synergist if the exercise is done as an isolation of the Rectus Abdominis

  • Pectoralis Major (Sternal and Clavicular)
  • Pectoralis Minor
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Triceps Brachii

Antagonist Stabilizers

  • None

Turning Your Rectus Abdominis into Six Pack Abs

Your Rectus abdominis (ab) is made up of upper, middle, and lower abs, your transverse abdominis, and the obliques. You Rectus abdominis is critical for you to maintain good posture. Obviously, your abs are responsible for flexing your lumbar spine, when you do a ‘crunch.’ Additionally, you Rectus abdominis assists with your breathing. Accordingly, you abs also help maintain your internal organs intact, like preventing hernias. Remember, your abs are creating intra-abdominal pressure when your exercise and especially while lifts weights. Lifting improperly and too much weight can increase the risk of hernias and inguinal hernias in men.

Washboard Abs are Made in The Kitchen

A well-defined rectus abdominis is often referred to as having; “washboard abs,” or a “six pack.” As your abs develop in size the banding of the muscles across the stomach does not grow with your muscles. You can have strong abs and never see them if there are covered in fat. For women, it is harder to develop the muscles to form washboard abs and for men, it is harder to get rid of the fat that is covering the abs. Since it takes both healthy diet habits and consistent exercise routine to develop washboard abs; six pack abs have become a defining characteristic of being in good physical shape.

The Barbell Push Crunch and Otis Up Build Your Core Strength

If your goal is to build abdominal strength, then incorporating you want to do increased resistance exercises in your regular abdominal (ab) workout. Especially, exercises such as the Barbell Push Crunch and Otis Ups can add additional strength in fewer reps. You will notice that Incorporating these weighted exercises can help you quickly increase your core strength. Both the weight and the decline will help add difficulty and resistance to strengthen the core. The weight makes it simple and easy to increase the resistance by adding weight as you get stronger. Raising the weight will also help you track your gains, better than just counting the reps.

Build Your Core Strength

These weighted ab muscles are essential for building a strong core. Don’t make the mistake of over-exercising your abs and neglecting your lower back. In order to get the benefits of a strong core, you need to strengthen your back as you strengthen your abs. The significant benefits of improved core strength include:

Benefits of Having a Strong Core

  • Improvement in posture will help you prevent injuries, while also helping improve your look and appearance.
  • Increasing your core strength will also allow you to lift more weight in almost any other lift. Especially, the major compound lift such as squats and deadlifts, this is because a strong core helps you stabilize the rest of your body.
  • You reduce your risk for injuries when you have a strong core. You would be amazed at how much strengthening your body’s core muscles will prevent potential injuries your back.  Conversely having weak core muscles can contribute to injuries to your lower back.
  • Tightens your physique, by building your core muscles you will tighten up your physique and appear skinnier.
  • Broadens your shoulders appearance as they are compared to your waistline. Having a strong core makes you appear even stronger because your shoulders will be pulled back farther. For that reason, your chest and shoulders will appear bigger. Contrast that with the “curved, humped, slouched shoulders” look which is associated with weakness.

To build core strength quickly checkout this workout of Core Isolation Exercises.

Shirtless strong man flexing his huge chest and arms with nice defined six pack abs.

Tips for Better Form and Results

If you want to ensure your muscles develop quickly and prevent injuries then follow these tips.

  • Use proper form and control over pushing more weight or reps. You will have better results faster using light weight until you have the full range of movement with proper extension and contraction completed. When you have proper form you will fully incorporate the muscles you are trying to develop.
  • Don’t Use the weight as Momentum. You can prevent the weight from becoming momentum by either keeping your arms straight and elbows locked throughout the isolation exercise. Or if you are using a compound movement, ensure that your abs start contracting and your body starts moving prior to pushing the weight up. Doing this will help prevent you from using the weight as momentum which will take the emphasis off the abdominal muscles.
  • Maintain the weight over your chest. Keeping the weight over your chest throughout the movement will maintain a more constant resistance on your abs. When you allow the weight to drift over waist you will be reducing the resistance and cheating yourself.
  • Roll Your Abs. When you roll your abs you engage more of your Rectus abdominis. The contrast is keeping your back straight, which will isolate the lower part of your abs more.

Avoid These Mistakes

Performing the exercise improperly, often referred to as cheating, will not allow you to use your muscles to their fullest potential. Cheating will result in not achieving your desired muscle development as quickly.

  • Don’t Go too Fast. If you perform the exercise to fast you will reduce the time your muscles are under tension and you will likely be using momentum and not your muscles.
  • Not keeping the weight over your chest. If you let the weight drift over your waist or hips instead of keeping it over your chest will reduce the resistance on your abs and allow momentum to help with exercise. Momentum will take the emphases off the abs, therefore you are defeating the entire purpose of this exercise.
  • Not Rolling Your Abs. By trying to pull your torso up straight you will be tightening your core but in more of a stabilizing way. Your lower abs will be doing all the work as your upper abs maintain your back straight.
  • Don’t Limit Your Range of Motion. Many lifters do not go all the way down or do not squeeze at the top of the movement. Ensure that you use the full range of motion if not less muscle fiber will be worked and less growth will occur.

Variations To Use Other Equipment for Similar Results

There are many ways to vary both the Otis Ups and Barbell Push Crunch.

  • Use Different Weights. As we discussed you can use plates, barbell or dumbbells to get your desired resistance. Similarly, you could set up pulleys or cables to add weight, and your gym may even have a lever machine.
  • Change The Angle. You can do this from the floor, or mat which is the less challenging method, make sure you have something to put your feet under this way. Or you can perform the crunch of a decline, which is the more challenging method. The steeper the angle up to 45-degrees the more resistance you are adding. Beyond 45-degrees the weight can’t be maintained over your chest.

Additional Exercises that Target Your Rectus Abdominis

Decline Crunch. If you are just starting out you may want to begin with a standard decline crunch to target your ab. You can perform the decline crunch without weight and starting added some weight when you need some more resistance. The decline can also be elevated to increase resistance.
Standard Crunch is the most common ab exercise that targets your Rectus Abdominis. We are trying to give you options to get away from the standard crunch, but the main benefit is no equipment is required. So you can perform the crunch anywhere.
Cable Crunch is a great ab exercise. Many people may state that it is the most effective abs builder ever. The major benefit of the cable crunch and other cable and weighted crunches is you can add resistance to reach fatigue earlier.
Hanging Leg Lifts primarily target your lower abs. Though, Hanging leg lifts do work your entire Rectus Abdominis when you lift your legs high enough. Keeping your leg straight will work your abs more since you can’t raise your legs as high. When you bend your knees and bring your knees close to your chest you will work the length of your Rectus Abdominis. Additionally, Hanging Leg Lift also use several synergists muscles and the dynamic stabilizer Rectus Femoris.
Stability Ball Crunches are very popular for those who use stability balls. If you use stability balls regularly, then you know how stability is a misnomer, since you have to provide the stability. It wouldn’t sell as well if they named it the instability ball. Although it is this instability that will allow you to isolate your abs better and not cheat. You can also extend your back farther to stretch out your stomach more during every crunch.

Complementary and Superset Options

Time to Build That Six Pack

Barbell Push Crunch and Otis Ups are excellent low-impact exercises for your abs. Your abs are one of the most important muscle groups to exercise regularly. Be sure to work your whole core though and strengthen your abdominals and lower back which will keep your lower back in alignment.

You should no longer be stuck doing tons of sit-ups with no results, you should now have a lot of options to help you build a rockhard core. The barbell crunch and Otis ups are a great way to add resistance and variation to your ab routine. If you are looking for a killer workout of core isolation exercise you should read this: 5 Best Isolated Bodybuilding Core Exercises For Powerful Abs and Back.

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