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

Christiana Mikesch
Published by Christiana Mikesch
Last updated: April 13, 2023

With over 10 years of experience as a personal fitness trainer, I've worked with many people who hit a plateau when it comes to developing six-pack abs. In many cases, switching to more complex exercises like cocoons can solve that problem.

But because this movement involves both lower and upper body parts, it requires a bit of coordination. And you don't want to make simple mistakes that could cause a spinal injury.

That's why we decided to put this guide together to help you understand the importance of the leg and simultaneous crunch motion.

Quick Summary

  • The cocoon exercise is a fantastic way to step up your core workouts and achieve a lot more for your Ab muscles in less time through a unique ab crunch movement.
  • Cocoons are a form of bodyweight exercise that involve using your arms and legs to ball up into a cocoon while making a simultaneous crunch motion.
  • With some minor changes, like increasing the short pause at each end of the motion, you can increase the burn even more.

How To Do Cocoons

Close up image performing cocoon exercise

The most important things to keep in mind with cocoons are the timing and avoiding too much strain on the spine.

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.

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.

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.

Rectus Abdominis

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

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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)

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

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, I suggest you perform weighted cocoons as part of your training.

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.

Prepare To Build Up More Core Strength

If you’ve hit a plateau and are struggling to build muscle in your abs, then start adding cocoons to your ab training days.

And as you get stronger, try to go through the more advanced variations I recommend above.

And if you want to get to your fitness goals a bit faster, then I recommend you invest in one of the high-quality pre-workouts we tested:

They can help to reduce fatigue and boost your endurance during high-intensity workouts, which will add up over the months ahead.


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