Exercise 101: sit ups

Exercise 101: sit ups

From military boot camp to ‘tums and bums’, the sit up is a classic part of our fitness repertoire. Here’s the low-down on this well-known move.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SIT UP AND A CRUNCH?

Both these exercises work the abdominal muscles, but the sit up extends the effort to other parts of the body. The crunch works ‘only’ the abdominal muscles, and is suitable for everyone. The sit up is more demanding, but allows you to combine your abdominal workout with exercise for other muscle groups.

As the sit up is a compound exercise, it can be regarded as more advanced. Don’t be afraid to use it, but pay close attention to technique.

HOW DO I DO A SIT UP?

Correct form and technique is absolutely vital for this simple-looking exercise. Get it wrong and it is very easy to strain your neck or back. Here is the basic sequence for a ‘starter’ sit up.

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor.
  2. Cradle your ears with your fingertips.
  3. Shoulders back, elbows out to the side.
  4. Engage your core and pull your upper body upwards using your abs. Roll up, allowing your back to curve, and keep looking forward and up. Do not push on your head.
  5. Lower gently back to the floor.

Here’s the move in motion.

TOP TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR NECK

Neck strain is the number 1 problem if your sit up technique isn’t right. Remember the following:

  • Look forward and up.
  • Don’t tuck your chin into your chest. You should have a gap between chin and chest sufficient for a clenched fist.
  • Don’t put your hands behind your head. This means your hands won’t push at your head.

NEED IT EASIER?

Tucking your feet under a bar or bench (or a friend!) reduces the effort for your abs.

Exercise ball sit ups are a challenge to the concentration, but can be easier on the back.

NEED IT MORE DIFFICULT?

Plenty of options! Flex those hips with a frog-leg situp. Add a weight while you do the move, and you can even incorporate leg moves.

The ultimate sit up is the Dragon Flag variation:  don’t try this until you have real abs of steel!

There are plenty of ways to mix up your sit ups, so give those abs some work.

 


The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.

Comments

Sasha B.
16 February 2016

Sasha B.

I like these variations,. Never heard of them before. I do like the frog-leg sit up!!

Mike D.
14 February 2016

Mike D.

I really love doing sit ups using an exercise ball as I can still feel my stomach working a lot, but as I suffer from a bad back sometimes they do put less strain on me.

Clare R.
13 February 2016

Clare R.

I have a tendency to wrench my neck when I've tried these, so thanks for the top tips. Will be concentrating very hard on my form. :-)

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