Cocoons Exercise: Ultimate How-To Guide (+Variations)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 8, 2024
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As a fitness coach with a decade of experience, I've seen many clients struggle with plateauing in six-pack development.

Introducing complex exercises like cocoons often provides the breakthrough needed.

This exercise demands coordination of both lower and upper body, highlighting the need for proper technique to prevent injuries.

My guide focuses on mastering the crucial leg and crunch motion of cocoons for safe and effective training.

Quick Summary

  • To master the cocoons exercise, it's essential to focus on timing and spinal alignment for effectiveness and safety.
  • To achieve a stronger core and target ab muscles effectively, the cocoon exercise combines a unique ab crunch movement with simultaneous use of your arms and legs.
  • The rectus abdominis, often referred to as the six-pack muscles, are the core abs that form two vertical rows of square muscles, as explained by Physiopedia.
  • In my opinion, incorporating weighted cocoons into your training routine can significantly intensify core strengthening and lead to more effective workouts.

How To Do Cocoons

Close up image performing cocoon exercise

In my experience, mastering the timing and spinal alignment in cocoons is crucial for effectiveness and safety.

Here are my step-by-step instructions: 

  • Get into the starting position by lying on the floor with your arms and legs stretched out.
  • With your arms extended, slowly lift your hands and feet off the ground.
  • Now, slowly bend your knees and bring them toward your chest while making a simultaneous crunch motion.
  • With your head over your knees in a sitting position, make sure your feet remain off the ground and take a brief pause.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down again to the starting position and try to keep your hands and feet off the ground for another brief pause.

Throughout the movement, you should feel this in your entire core muscles. With your arms extended at the start, you’ll feel it in your upper abs, and it will gradually engage every core muscle.

To maximize the benefits of cocoons, it's important to strategically incorporate them into your overall training routine. I recommend performing it along with other core exercises, perhaps following more challenging movements like hanging leg raises, to ensure a well-rounded core workout.

Let’s take a closer look at the actual impact.

Muscles Worked

Showing abs from working out

The cocoon exercise is best to target hip flexors and ab muscles at different stages of the exercise.

From my training sessions, I've observed that cocoons intensely work the hip flexors and ab muscles, engaging them uniquely at different stages.

That means you feel a different strain at the starting position compared to the one you will at the mid-way point, and that’s the main attraction.

A key aspect of performing cocoons effectively is focusing on controlled movements and constant core engagement. This approach helps in maximizing muscle activation while minimizing the risk of injury, making it a crucial element for a successful workout.

Rectus Abdominis

The rectus abdominis are your core abs that appear as two vertical rows of square muscles, aka the six-pack, according to the Physiopedia [1].

Because you combine an upper body crunch with a leg raise kind of movement, you find that right from the starting position, this whole area will come under strain.

The crunch movement will target the upper abs, while tucking in the knees toward your chest will target the lower abs and muscles in your hips. 

Let’s take a look at those in more detail.

Related Articles:

Hip Flexors

This group of muscles runs along the inside of your pelvis, and they play a key role in bringing your knees up and maintaining a good posture [2].

These start activating once you lift your feet off the ground and start bringing your knees toward your chest.

“The hip flexors are muscles that connect the lower back to the hips, groin, and thigh bone. This muscle group includes the psoas muscle, which helps push the top of the leg upward.”

- Gregory Minnis, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Exercise Variations

Doing cocoon exercise variation

Here are three variations that will help everyone from beginner to advanced athletes.

Seated Knee Tucks (Easy)

In my practice with beginners, I often start them with seated knee tucks, a simpler variation that still offers significant core engagement.

Rather than get into the starting position of laying down on a yoga mat, you have your legs stretched out straight and slightly leaning back with your hands behind you as support.

You then lift your feet off the ground and tuck your knees in and out, but you skip the crunch of the cocoon.

V-Ups (Intermediate)

Reaching feet doing V ups exercise

Having coached many intermediate clients, I find V-Ups, with arms and legs straight, to be an effective progression from simpler exercises.

For this exercise, you start off with your arms and legs straight. Instead of bending your knees, you'll do a straight leg raise and sit up with your upper body, which a great workout for women.

Aim to get your hands as close as possible to your feet.

Weighted Cocoons (Advanced)

And finally, for some serious six-pack abs and for intensified core strengthening, I recommend advanced clients to include weighted cocoons , based on my training routines.

Add some ankle and wrist weights, or hold onto an Olympic weight plate close to your chest. You won’t believe how much this will lower your reps for a more effective workout.


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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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