Sit-ups work your core muscles, which are primarily responsible for stabilizing your entire body, improving your posture and maintaining overall balance. Whenever you move any part of your body, you are engaging your core. Specifically, sit-ups work the rectus abdominus, hip flexors, iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorious and the tensor fasciae lae. Like push-ups, sit-ups can be performed anywhere, without the need for any equipment. So there are no excuses for not adding sit-ups to your exercise routine!
How to Do a Sit-Up
- Lie with your back on the ground. Bend your knees and place the balls of your feet and heels flat on the ground about hip-width distance apart.
- Place your hands on opposite shoulders, so that your arms are crossed over your chest. Or, you can place your hands behind your head.
- Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button to your spine.
- Keep your heels and toes on the ground as you gently lift your head off the floor, followed by your shoulder blades. Keep your gaze between your knees and your abdominal muscles contracted. Stop rising when your elbows are on or past your knees.
- Pause at the top, then gently lower your torso back towards the floor, but not touching the floor.
- Repeat previous steps.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Make sure your abdominal muscles are doing the work. Your hands should only support the weight of your head, not to pull your head up.
- Avoid strain in your neck by keeping your neck relaxed and your chin off your chest.
- Keep your head aligned with your torso, so you are not endangering the cervical region of the spine.
- Warm up before sit-ups to avoid stomach cramps.
- Take your time, as doing sit-ups too fast may injure your lower back.
- Stay hydrated!
Variations of Sit-Ups
- Start with back on the ground, knees bent, balls and feet on the ground and hands behind your head.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and gently lift your head off the ground.
- Using your abdominal muscles, gently crunch your left side so that your left elbow reaches down towards your left hip. Gently release and return to center.
- Again using your abdominal muscles, gently crunch to your right side so that your right elbow reaches down towards your right hip.
- Keeping switching from left to right side with your head off the floor.
Do a normal sit-up, but instead of rising up centered, reach one elbow to opposite knee, lower, then reach the other elbow to opposite knee. This variation also works your obliques.
Do a normal sit-up, but as you lift your torso off the ground, lift your legs as well, pulling your legs in towards your torso. Your hips and lower back should remain on the ground as you double crunch. This variation engages your lower abdominal muscles to a greater degree than a normal sit-up.
This sit-up variation is like a double crunch, but instead of starting with your toes and heels flat on the floor, your knees are bent and splayed apart with your ankles crossed. When lifting your torso, lift your legs as well and try to bring your elbows and knees together, both of which are pointing to the sides. This variation works your obliques and lower abdominal muscles to a greater degree than a normal sit-up.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs straight up in the air, perpendicular to the ground.
- Place your hands palms down under or beside your hips.
- Engage your abdominal muscles as you pull your legs up and over towards your head, lifting your hips from the floor.
- Gently lower your hips and legs and repeat. This variation works your lower abdominal muscles.
Start in normal sit-up starting position, but hold a weight plate against your chest with your hands. Proceed as usual with the weight plate against your chest.
The sit-up myth
Doing sit-ups will give me a six-pack. Unfortunately, sit-ups will only strengthen your abdominal muscles, NOT burn that layer of fat sitting on top of them. Because sit-ups only target a small group of muscles, the metabolic effects are not enough to burn fat. To burn fat, you have to engage in high-intensity exercises that use your entire body, like running hills or circuit training. These exercises uses multiple muscles groups and generates much more heat which burns fat.