What are sit ups?
Sit ups are bodyweight exercises for the stomach. To perform the sit up, the exerciser lies down on the mat with knees bent and slowly lifts and lowers their upper body off the mat using their stomach muscles (abdominals).
The sit up is one of the most famous body weight exercises and most people will have tried performing sit ups at some point. However, there are various different types of sit ups making it possible to use sit ups to target different areas of the mid-section for different results.
The sit up can be used alongside the plank for an excellent core strength workout.
Types of sit ups
The sit up can be done with a full body raise, that is, with the exerciser sitting all the way up as they reach the top of the sit up.
Alternatively, the exercise can be done as a half sit up or crunch, where the exerciser only raises up far enough to feel the tension in the stomach muscles (abdominals) before lowering again.
Sit ups or crunches?
To perform sit ups, lie down on an exercise mat with knees bent, about a shoulder width apart and with feet flat on the floor.
Many people tend to tuck their feet under something when performing sit ups because this makes the exercise feel easier. However, you shouldn’t do this because it causes you to use your hip flexors to help the abdominals lift the upper body off the floor.
This effect is particularly pronounced when performing a full sit up rather than a crunch. By using the hip flexors, you are not targeting the abs, so you are not getting a good workout.
You might find that you are unable to sit all the way up without tucking your feet under something. This is because your abdominals are not strong enough yet to control the motion and lift your body weight on their own without the help of the hip flexors.
For this reason, the crunch is often a better choice than the full sit up because it uses only the abdominals. The crunch forces you to isolate the abs for an intense workout.
In fact, only the crunch is necessary in order to get a good abs workout. This is because you only need to raise your upper body up off the ground a small way until the shoulders are raised off the floor. At this point you should feel the tension in the abdominals.
How to perform sit ups
When performing the sit up, you can place your hands behind your head, crossed over your chest or touching your temples.
The best position for sit ups is lightly touching your temples. This position means you cannot pull your neck forward with your hands as can sometimes happen if hands are behind your head. It also leaves the stomach and chest area open with no pressure from hands or arms.
There should always be a fist’s distance between your chest and chin while performing the sit up. The only strain you can feel should be in your abdominal muscles.
Keep your eyes looking ahead at a point on the ceiling, to help you keep your chin up.
Common errors when performing sit ups
- Tucking feet under a bar or chair
Always leave your feet free and flat on the floor when performing the sit up. If you use anything to keep your feet in place you risk using your hip flexors rather than your abdominals to complete the sit up, which doesn’t give a helpful workout.
The sit up should only use the abdominal muscles. To avoid the need to tuck your feet under anything, perform a crunch style sit up instead of a full sit up. The crunch movement is all that is necessary to get a good abs workout from this exercise.
- Pulling the head forward
Keep your chin up while performing sit ups, not tucked into your chest. There should always be a fist’s distance between your upper chest and chin.
To avoid pulling the head forward, keep your hands away from behind your head and keep your fingers touching your temples instead.
Read about the plank for another good abs exercise. Remember to strength the back with the dorsal raise exercise or the back extension as a complement to sit ups so that you create a strong, balanced core.