Ever dreaded P.E sessions back in high school where you are required to do a physical test which involved push-ups, planks and sit-ups? I think at some point we all did and the workout that we struggled the most with is the sit-up. It’s also the easiest to mess up which could end up hurting your back too if you are not careful.
The main purpose of the sit-up is to tighten and tone your abdominal muscles that run from beneath the sternum to above the pelvis. Sit-ups can give you a six pack too if you do it along with other aerobic exercises. It’s one of those core strengthening workouts that require little to no special equipment that can be done anywhere as long as it is a flat and safe surface.
4 Steps To Mastering The Sit-Up
1. Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor or mat. Position your heels about 1 to 1 1/2 feet in front of your tailbone. Place your fingertips behind your head, cross your arms on your chest or keep your arms straight forward.
2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Exhale then tighten your abs and curl up toward your bent knees. Do not pull on your neck. Keep your head in line with your spine, tilting your chin forward slightly as you come up.
3. Keep the bottom of your feet and your tailbone flat against the floor throughout the exercise. Curl toward your thighs until you are in a seated position. Pause for a count.
4. Inhale then slowly lower yourself until your back is in contact with the floor. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted throughout the downward phase of the movement. Repeat the upward and downward phases of the sit-up until you have reached your goal, or until you feel a burning sensation in your abdominal muscles.
Bored of the usual sit-ups? Try these beginner variations!
1. Exercise Ball Sit-Up
It’s the same steps as the normal sit-up but you get to work on your stability and it will be less painful for your back. Begin by rolling down the exercise ball until the small of your back is touching the ball. Your legs should be shoulder width apart. Place your head and neck on to the ball and cross your arms over your chest. You should be lying comfortably on the ball in a table top position.
Use your abs to curl your spine up into the crunch position. Lower yourself back down to the starting position keeping tension on the abs throughout the exercise.
2. The Bicycle
The bicycle crunch works both your upper and lower abdominal muscles as well as your obliques, or side abdominal muscles. Begin by lying on your back with your legs raised and knees bent to 90 degrees. Place your hands behind your neck or ears for support. Begin slowly moving your legs back and forth as if you are riding a bicycle.
At the same time, crunch upward, lifting one shoulder blade off of the floor. You want to move your armpit as close to the opposite knee as possible during the crunch, repeating this motion on the opposite side. Continue this pattern for 10 repetitions and repeat as desired.
3. Toe Touch Sit-Ups
Lie down with legs straight up and sit up while raising one hand up towards the ceiling and then reach over with that hand and touch your toes of the opposite side foot, or as close as you can reach towards them. Then lay back down bringing hands back to ground by or above your head and repeat on the other side. Sit up and reach your other arm up and then reach over and touch the opposite side toe with fingers and release coming back to start position. Continue with these sit-ups alternating reaching up and touching toes, on different sides for each rep.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, go harder with these 2 advanced sit-up variations!
1. Weighted Sit-Up
Begin in a standard sit-up position with a weighted object in your hands outstretched from your head, such as a medicine ball, a book, a brick, or weights. Try to secure your feet under a bench or a partner, since you will be focusing more on your upper body. While keeping your abs tight, pull your abs and come to the top of a sit-up position. Return to the bottom with complete control. That’s one rep.
The jackknife can be a hard move to master. Lie on the ground with your arms and legs fully extended. It’s important to keep your body in control, then bring your arms and legs together while doing a sit-up. That’s one rep.
3 Mistakes To Avoid When Performing Sit-Ups
1. Pulling your head forward as you sit-up
It’s OK to place your hands behind your head, but don’t pull your head forward as you come up because it strains your neck. If it’s hard to come up without pulling your head along, start by pointing your arms straight forward then sit-up. From there once your core get stronger, you can progress to folding your arms across your chest, and then to cupping your hands around your ears.
2. Using your hands as leverage
Doing sit-ups wrongly will not only take away its core enhancing purpose but it can give you back problems too. The most common mistake that most people make is using their hands for leverage instead. Your hands should keep your head still and in place only. Using your hands for leverage will put some strain on your neck vertebrae and all the way along the spine. Relying on your hands will not engage your abdominal which just defeats the purpose of a sit-up.
3. Your legs are straight
You shouldn’t do sit-ups with straight legs because you might put too much pressure on the base of your spine.