How to Do Sit-Ups with Perfect Technique to Torch Your Core

How to Do Sit-Ups with Perfect Technique to Torch Your Core

Sit-ups have seemingly been a staple in our training programmes since time began. Despite their omnipresence, they are perhaps one of the most hated exercises to grace our Google searches, aside from burpees of course. Sit-ups do have their benefits, and whether you love them or loathe them, they are here to stay as a prominent feature of our ab workouts.

Here, MH breaks down the benefits of sit-ups, how to do them, how many reps and sets you should be aiming for, the best sit-up variations, sit-up workouts and some frequently asked questions. Pull up your mat and hit the floor.

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Muscles Worked by Sit-Ups

Before we nail the sit-up technique, let's take a look at the muscles worked. If you have goals of a chiselled core, look no further.

  • Rectus Abdominis: This is the primary muscle used during sit ups and runs down the front of your torso. The rectus abdominis works by contraction and causing flexion in the torso during the upward portion of the exercise.

  • Obliques: These muscles are located either side of your torso. Despite not being the primary movers, the obliques assist the sit up movement.

  • Hip Flexors: The hip flexors run all the way from the top of your leg to your spine and assist in pulling you upwards. Sometimes they can become too dominant during the sit up, in which case raising your feet onto a chair and completing crunches can help.

  • Transverse Abdominis: The deep abdominal muscles. These work during the majority of physical movement and help stabilise you during sit ups.

Benefits of Sit-Ups

Despite sit ups getting a bad rap, they do have a multitude of benefits including:

  • Improved Core Strength: Sit-ups strengthen all of your core muscles but predominantly your rectus abdominis muscle. This can assist with your heavy lifts and benefit core stability to boost your athletic performance.

  • Increased Muscle Mass: Whilst we know improved nutrition and a reduction in body fat will show off our abdominal muscles, by increasing the size of them can aid in the pursuit of a washboard stomach. Dynamic spinal flexion exercises were found to be superior to isometrics for abdominal muscle hypertrophy.

  • Improved Spinal Health: In a 2011 study, it was found that exercises like sit ups that cause spinal motion improve disc hydration, increase nutrients to the posterior disc and may cause a positive healing effect for discs.

How to Do Sit-Ups

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  1. Hit the deck with your legs bent and your soles one the floor.

  2. Lie with your hands behind your head or straight up in front of you. Look up at the ceiling and push your back into the floor.

  3. Tense your abs as you lift yourself all the way up.

  4. Keep your elbows back and your chin in place without jutting forward.

  5. Reverse the move slowly back to the floor.

How Many Reps and Sets?

Choose a rep range and weight to suit your abilities. As a general rule of thumb, for hypertrophy (building muscle) four sets of 12-15 reps should be sufficient.

To progress the reps and sets, familiarise yourself with the RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion). This is a scale from 1-to-10, 10 being maximum exertion, 1 being minimum exertion. For strength and muscle gain, towards the end of your sets, ideally you want to be sitting at around an 8 out of 10. This means that at a push you could complete two more reps at the end of the set.

Sit-Up Variations

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Weighted Sit-Ups

The simplest way to increase the difficulty of sit-ups is to add some weight. You can add a dumbbell, kettlebell or sandbag. Hold the weight in front of your chest, the higher it is up the torso, the harder the exercise will be. Tense your abs as you lift all the way up and slowly reverse the movement.

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Butterfly Sit-Ups

With your legs bent and your soles together, lie with your hands behind your head. Tense your abs as you lift up, and touch your hands to your feet. Reverse the move, touching the floor behind your head on each rep.

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V-Sit Crunch

Begin lying on the floor, legs bent and hands either side of your head. Simultaneously lift your knees and torso off the floor into the v-sit position. Reverse the movement until you return to your starting position.

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Jack Knives

Much like the v-sit crunch, begin lying on the floor however with your arms straight above your head and legs hovering just above the floor. Tense your abs and pull yourself up to the v-sit position. Reverse the movement to the beginning position.

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Reverse Crunch

Start lying on the floor with your hand either side of your head. Lift the legs off the floor and push your back downward with your core engaged so that your hips lose contact with the floor. Slowly resist the movement back down so that your hips meet the floor and your legs lower again.

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Bicycle Crunch

Begin lying on the floor with your hands at your head and your legs straight on the floor. Lift your torso off the floor and twist to face one side as you simultaneously bring the opposite knee inwards to meet your elbow. Switch the the other side by twisting the torso in the alternate direction and swapping the knees.

5 Best Sit-Up Workouts

Now that you've mastered sit-ups, here are some workouts to include in your programme:

  1. This 4-Move Running and Bodyweight Workout is The Perfect Outdoor Fitness Session

  2. Burn Body Fat In The Sun With This 450-Rep CrossFit Burpee Challenge

  3. 5 Bodyweight Exercises 'Reacher' Star Alan Ritchson Uses to Build Action-Hero Muscle

  4. Craft a Stronger, More Defined Core With This 10-Minute Six-Pack Workout

  5. Got a Kettlebell at Home? Try This 3-Move Workout for a Huge Fat Burn

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Are Sit Ups Dangerous?

It's been touted that sit-ups can cause back pain and a whole host of injuries, however, evidence has shown there's no proof of this. According to sports physiotherapist Adam Meakins,‘It still disappoints me seeing the amount of ignorance and fear that exists around certain exercises. Sit-ups are a simple useful and effective exercise for many, and there is no evidence that they are any more dangerous than any other exercise. There is no harm in getting strong and sit ups can be a useful tool in your ab training arsenal.'

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