How to Do Sit-Ups: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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Also known as: Curl or roll back

Target: Abdominal muscle

Necessary equipment: No, but a yoga mat or ab mat can help

Level: Intermediary

Ah, sit up. Some fitness experts swear by it and others scoff at it. This controversial ab exercise is often one of the first moves people try at the gym—how hard can you sit up?

Despite the apparent simplicity of sit-ups, this exercise actually requires much more technical skill than most people realize (or care about). Practicing the right sitting posture can strengthen your core and spine flexibility, as well as improve abdominal muscle definition. However, doing the sit-up incorrectly will not provide any benefit and can lead to injury.

If you want to incorporate sit-ups into your workout routine, the good news is that you can put sit-ups anywhere in your regimen. You can even do them daily if you’re a good bodybuilder and don’t overdo your reps, although most fitness experts recommend limiting ab workouts to 2-4 times per week. .

In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to do sit-ups with perfect form and how to combine them for the best results.


Sit-ups can be of great benefit to your health when done properly. Below, learn about some of the biggest benefits of sitting up.

Core strength

The obvious and primary benefit of sit-ups is increased core strength. The sitting position works all of your abs, but mainly the rectus abdominis, which are the long, segmented muscles that make up the sought-after “six pack.” Sit-ups also work your transverse abs, as well as your internal and external obliques, making them a comprehensive core exercise.

Stability and core control

In addition to building strength in your core, sit-ups can help you improve stability and control in your core. Core stability is important for daily activities and for preventing pain as you age. For example, when you have a stable core, you will be better prepared to catch yourself if you go and start to fall. Plus, having stability and core control means you can complete your day-to-day obligations, such as storing your groceries and rearranging your belongings, with ease.

Flexibility of the spine

Practicing the correct sitting posture involves moving each vertebra in your spine. People with limited mobility may have difficulty sitting up at first, as they may not be able to flex and lengthen the spine in the way necessary for sitting up. However, with time and practice, sitting up poses can improve spinal flexibility and mobility, which in turn offers many side benefits, including reduced back pain.

Hip muscle strength

The hip flexor includes all the muscles responsible for flexing the hip and lifting the leg off the hip. These muscles allow you to perform the most basic human movements — walking. Your hip flexors include the iliacus, iliopsoas, and directus femoris. The sitting position strengthens these muscles in addition to your abs.

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Prevent back pain

Since sit-ups can help you build a strong core, they can help reduce or prevent back pain. Studies show that having a strong core is an essential ingredient for keeping your back and spine healthy.A weak core cannot support your spine, and an unsupported spine can lead to poor posture and muscle pain over time. Some research suggests that core stability skills may even be more important than core strength, and sit-ups also tick that box.

Definition of Ab

Six pack abs are considered a sign of bodybuilding (although that’s not necessarily true). While your ability to develop a six pack is largely influenced by genetics, you can certainly work your way up there. Because the sitting position of the rectus muscle is so strong, doing sit-ups regularly (and correctly) can increase the size of the “six pack” and improve definition.

Step by step instructions

Before jumping right into a sitting position, you may want to invest in a high-quality yoga mat or mat for added comfort and protection for your tailbone.

Sitting on hard surfaces, such as hardwood, tile, or carpeted floors for exercise can cause bruising in your tailbone and discomfort in your lumbar spine. Sitting up on a softer surface, such as a plush carpet, may provide more comfort and prevent bruising, but can cause brush burns on your lower back.

Once you’ve established yourself comfortably, follow these steps to get the right pose.

  1. Lie face up on the floor. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Firmly place your feet, tucking them under a bench or some other kind of brace if you have to. If you have a partner, you can ask them to hold your legs (it should be noted that the ideal way to do the sit-ups is without a leg brace — you may want to work out to strengthen your core). core until that point is reached before attempting to sit up, for optimal results).
  2. Cross your arms in front of your chest. Your left hand should rest on your right shoulder and vice versa. Do not put your hands behind your head as this can cause you to pull your neck.
  3. Join your core. To do so, take a deep breath and think about pulling your navel to your spine. Your core should be fully engaged before you start your first rep.
  4. Use your abs to lift your back off the ground. Your tailbone and hips should remain stationary and pressed into the floor until you are completely upright. It can be helpful to think about lifting each vertebra one at a time, rather than lifting the entire back at once. This is where sitting gets its other names, curls and rolls — imagine you’re curling each vertebrae in your back, until you’re fully seated.
  5. With great control, lower yourself back to the starting position. This time, imagine you’re dismantling the vertebrae one by one, starting with your lower back. Do not hit the floor hard.
  6. After you’re lying on your back again, re-engage your core to start another rep. Repeat until you have completed your set.
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Common mistake

As you can see from the above instructions, sit-ups are quite a technical exercise. They require excellent body awareness and muscle control, which leaves a lot of room for error in beginner and intermediate exercises. Next time you do a sit-up, keep these common mistakes in mind.

Neck Crane

People often adopt a “head-forward” position when doing the sit-up. This mistake is characterized by tilting the neck forward and rounding the shoulders. Tilting your neck while sitting up can cause soreness and, worst of all, can lead to muscle tension in your neck or upper back.

Acrobatics on the floor

Beginners may accidentally shake when they lower themselves while sitting up. This happens when you can’t control the lowering phase, because your core is too weak or too tired. Your lumbar (lower) spine is not in contact with the floor at all, so your upper back will take all the force. Smashing hard not only causes pain from impact, but keeping your lumbar spine too curved throughout the entire time you sit up can cause soreness in your lower back.

Overuse of Hip Flexor

When performing the sit-up position, the main action is your abs and hip flexors. Beginners with tight hip flexors may inadvertently use those hip muscles (instead of abs) to pull the torso upright. The goal is to build more abs and less hip flexors to strengthen the core.

Modifications and Variations

If the usual sit-ups are too difficult (or too easy), you can try any of these sit-ups to suit your fitness level.


Many people consider crunches to be an easier version of sit-ups. To do the sit-ups, assume the same pose as the sit-ups, but just arch your shoulders and upper back off the floor.

Bike Crunch

This variation of sit-ups targets your obliques, the muscles on the sides of your torso. Start as if you’re doing a crunch, but as you curl up, bring your left shoulder toward your right knee. On the next rep, direct your right shoulder toward your left knee.


To perform the crunch, lie on your back on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms horizontally. Use your hip flexors and abs to simultaneously pull your knees into your chest and separate your torso from the ground.

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The V-up or v-sit is an advanced exercise based on the crunch. For this abs exercise, start as if you were doing a crunch, but keep your legs straight the entire time. You should end up in a “V” position, balanced on your tailbone.

Refuse Sit-Up

To make sit-ups more difficult, do them on a bench. The pull of gravity makes it more difficult to roll the torso up. Use a bench with a brace so you can wrap your leg or hook your foot for stability.

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Holding weights overhead also makes sitting up more difficult. Make sure to keep your elbows and shoulders fully extended throughout the movement. Choose a weight that you can easily hold with both hands, such as a small kettlebell.

Straight leg posture

As you build a stronger core, try sitting upright — do the normal sit-up, but instead of bending your knees, bring your legs straight out in front of you. This sitting variation requires you to reduce your reliance on hip flexors and engage more abs, ultimately increasing core strength.

Safety and Precautions

Whenever you try a new exercise, you should focus primarily on perfecting the technique. You can improve your ability to sit up and avoid injury by keeping these precautions in mind.

Slow start

If you’ve never done sit-ups before, do it slowly. Emphasize flexion and focus on movement of each vertebra. This will teach you how to properly sit and keep your back safe.

Don’t abuse it

Trying a new movement can feel exciting. However, be careful to avoid causing yourself undue pain. If you want to sit-ups several times per week, keep your reps and volume in moderation to avoid overuse injuries, such as muscle strains.

Use flat surface

Avoid lying on uneven or inclined surfaces while sitting up. As you become more advanced, you may want to make sitting up more difficult using a bench – but perfect your sitting posture on a flat surface before trying variations. Advanced.

Don’t Crane Your Neck

If you’re just taking one serious precaution, let it be this one. Keep your neck in a neutral position and in line with your spine while sitting up to avoid injury.


Ready to add sit-ups to your slimming workout routine? Incorporate this and similar moves into one of these popular exercises:

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