STRENGTH AND TRAINING

How to Do a Sit-up

By Laura High @healthwriter61
 | 
April 22, 2015

Many variations of this basic exercise can tighten and tone your middle from your ribcage to the bottom of your abdomen.

The classic sit-up has many variations, but all are designed to tone some or all of the abdominal muscles, which run from just below your sternum all the way down to the top of your pelvic bone.

How it’s done

Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet anchored under something that won’t move, or have your workout partner hold them. Place your hands behind your head and clasp your fingers together. Engage your core and pull your navel in toward your spine. In a controlled manner and with a straight back, elevate your upper body forming a “V” with your thighs and torso. Lower yourself back down. Do the recommended number of repetitions for your age and overall conditioning. Repeat.

Do not rock or use momentum to raise your body. Do not pull on your head or neck with your hands.

For an added challenge, hold a plate-type weight against your chest with crossed arms.

Modifications

There are many modifications to the basic sit-up.

Crunches

This variation focuses on the upper abdominals. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. It isn’t necessary to anchor your feet. Place your hands behind your head, interlocking your fingers. Engage your core and pull your navel toward your spine. Take a breath in. As you exhale lower your chin slightly and roll your upper torso forward, “crunching” your ribs and abs together until your upper back comes off the floor. Hold briefly. Roll back down and take a breath in. Do the recommended number of repetitions for your age and overall conditioning. Repeat.

Avoid pulling on your neck or head. Avoid straining your lower back by making sure it maintains contact with the floor.

You can also do this variation on a stability ball.

Bicycle crunches

This variation places more emphasis on your obliques. Start in the same position as the crunch. Lift both legs so your thighs are vertical (creating a 90-degree angle at your hips) and your shins are parallel to the floor. Engage your core. Exhale and simultaneously:

  • Draw your right knee back toward your armpit and straighten your left leg
  • Raise your upper body as described for a crunch
  • Rotate your elevated torso to bring your left elbow to meet your right knee
  • Hold briefly and return to the starting position
  • Repeat on the other side

As with the other variations, do not pull on your head or neck. To get the most from this exercise do it in a slow and controlled manner, and make sure the rotation is coming from your torso, not your hips.

Updated:

April 22, 2015

Reviewed By:

Janet O’Dell, RN

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