Use these sit up variations to build a great six pack and a strong core.
To see the full effects of your efforts, you will also need to dial in your nutrition.
Why are Sit Ups Effective?
The reason sit ups are a great way to work out is because they engage specific muscle groups, helping you burn calories and build strength. And unlike many other exercises, they require no special equipment and can be done in the comfort of your own home or at the gym.
Sit ups work out your core muscles (rectus abdominus muscles), which are located in the front of your abdomen. These muscles help keep your torso stable when you’re doing exercises such as pushups, which helps you maintain good form and prevents injury. They also provide stability for your back when you lift weights or perform other types of exercise.
The stronger your core, the more effectively it can support the rest of your body—which means that if you’ve got a strong core, you’ll be able to lift heavier weights without straining yourself (or risking injury). If you have weak abdominal muscles, though, all those extra pounds may start putting stress on other parts of your body that aren’t prepared for them—leading to pain and even permanent damage.
- Why are Sit Ups Effective?
- Why is it Good to Include Different Types of Sit Ups in Your Training?
- What are the Benefits of Sit Ups?
- Best Sit Up Variations – The Oblique Sit Up
- Best Sit Up Variations – Standard Sit Up
- Best Sit Up Variations – Ab Roller Sit Up
- Best Sit Up Variations – Flat Bench Leg Pull-In
- Best Sit Up Variations – Hanging Knee Raise
- Best Sit Up Variations – Hanging Straight Leg Raise
- Best Sit Up Variations – The Crunch
- Are Sit Ups OK for Beginners to Do?
- Reps and Sets for Sit Ups
- How to Breathe During Sit Ups
- Best Sit Up Variations – Learn More
Why is it Good to Include Different Types of Sit Ups in Your Training?
It is important to include different variations of sit ups into your training so you can work and tone the muscles in your abdominals. There are many different types of sit ups which activate different sets of abdominal muscles. They are performed differently, require more or less time, and they have various difficulty levels.
Multiple variations will help you complete more reps and sets as they alleviate muscle fatigue. When you complete a high number of reps they can be varied with lower intensity exercises in order to keep your heart rate high at all times. They also play a part in preventing boredom by allowing you to constantly change up your routine for increased efficiency.
The most effective way to tone, tighten, and strengthen your abs is by performing the following three exercises:
- Spider-man crunch
- One leg bridge
What are the Benefits of Sit Ups?
- There are many benefits of sit ups, including the following:
- Enhances your posture. Because sit ups strengthen your core muscles, they can also improve your posture. Your core muscles connect your upper and lower body, keeping them in alignment and strengthening core muscles through exercises like the sit up can enhance good posture. As a result, you may experience less back pain when engaging in everyday tasks that involve sitting for long periods of time like working at a desk or driving.
- Strengthens your core. The benefits of sit ups are largely associated with their ability to strengthen the abdominal muscles involved in the exercise. Planks, crunches and other forms of ab-building exercises help to strengthen these important muscle groups, which include transverse abdominis (TVA), rectus abdominis and obliques. Stronger ab muscles not only improve mobility but also reduce one’s risk for injury by providing stability throughout the torso as well as protecting internal organs and giving support to fragmented spinal disks.
- Improves athleticism. Whether you’re an avid participant in sports or just looking to break a sweat during a game of pickup basketball on weekends with friends, doing sit ups is an excellent way to build strength in those key muscle groups linked with athletic performance — particularly if you’re hoping to be better at running sports like soccer or football where agility is critical for success.* Reduces risk of back injuries.* Improves lower back health.* Enhances stability.* Improves digestive function.* Helps you achieve better athletic performance.* Enhances blood circulation
Best Sit Up Variations – The Oblique Sit Up
The oblique sit-up targets your abdominal muscles, specifically the obliques. These muscles are responsible for flexing and rotating your trunk.
To perform an oblique sit up:
- Lie on your back, with your left leg straight and right leg bent at a right angle, with the bottom of your foot flat against the floor. Place both hands behind your head, keeping your elbows pointed out to either side.
- Exhale as you press up into a sitting position as you rotate to the left and place your right elbow on top of your left knee. Inhale as you return to starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
- Repeat on opposite side by bending left leg while extending right leg straight out in front of you — exhaling as you rotate toward the right placing left elbow on top of right knee and inhaling as you return to starting position
Best Sit Up Variations – Standard Sit Up
This is an exercise you can do at home with no equipment and little space.
To begin, lie flat on your back on the floor or mat, knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands either behind your head or across your chest, whichever you prefer.
Breathe out as you slowly raise up by contracting the abdominals until you are seated upright. Breathe in as you lower yourself back down to the starting position. Always keep your chin up so you don’t crunch too much of the neck, and keep your back straight throughout the movement to ensure that it is all coming from the abdominal muscles rather than momentum or body swinging (which will likely result in injury). Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps.
Best Sit Up Variations – Ab Roller Sit Up
The Ab Roller Sit Up is a core strengthening exercise that targets the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, and hip flexors. The primary muscles used during this movement are involved in stabilizing the spine and torso as well as moving your legs.
Set up for this move by lying on your back with an ab roller in both hands. Push through the heels of your feet to lift your body off the floor into a sit-up position. Lower yourself back down to complete one repetition.
To make this exercise more challenging, increase the incline of your foot placement or hold a medicine ball in front of you while performing it. If you want to decrease its difficulty, try elevating your hips off the floor on a bench or pad, which will help shift some of your body weight away from you.
Best Sit Up Variations – Flat Bench Leg Pull-In
Primary muscles: Abdominals, Hip Flexors
- Lie faceup on a flat exercise bench with your legs straight out and your arms at your sides. Rest the palms of your hands on the bench for stability.
- Keeping your arms extended, lift both legs until they are perpendicular to the floor as you exhale. This is the starting position. Pull in both knees towards you by flexing your hips and waist as you breathe in until both knees touch each other or come as close as possible to them (the closer you bring them together, the higher resistance). Exhale as you perform this step and hold it for a second. Go back to starting position by extending your waist and hips while exhaling and contracting abdominal muscles until legs are fully extended again without touching the floor (or close to it). Allow legs to return slowly back to starting position without touching the floor between reps if possible for better results. Repeat for recommended amount of repetitions
Best Sit Up Variations – Hanging Knee Raise
To do hanging knee raises:
- Grab a pull-up bar with both hands, palms facing away.
- Raise your knees up so they’re in front of your chest, then lower them again slowly. Don’t swing your legs while you’re doing this exercise—move slowly and control the movement at all times.
- Repeat as many reps as desired, or until you’re too tired to keep going!
Hanging knee raises are a great way to build abdominal muscles and hip flexors, but there’s also an easier variation you can try if it’s too difficult for you initially: straight leg raises! For this one, grab the bar with both hands and raise your straight legs up so they’re in line with your body, then lower them back down again slowly just like before. This will help to strengthen some of the same muscle groups without being quite as challenging—you can work up to hanging knee raises later if you want!
Best Sit Up Variations – Hanging Straight Leg Raise
How to do it:
- Hang from a pull-up bar with a supinated grip (palms facing toward you). Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your core tight, raise both legs together until they’re straight.
- Slowly lower them back down in a controlled manner, stopping just before your feet touch the ground.
Muscles worked: This exercise works primarily the lower abs, but also hits the obliques and hip flexors to some extent (1). When performed on an uneven surface like a single leg sit up bench, there is greater emphasis placed on the obliques and internal/external hip rotators (2).
How to progress: To make this exercise more challenging once it becomes too easy in its current form, try holding a weight between your feet or hanging from rings instead of an immobile bar.
Best Sit Up Variations – The Crunch
The crunch is a popular abdominal exercise, but it can cause strain on the spine. The crunch targets the rectus abdominis muscle, which runs vertically and connects to the breastbone and pelvis. While performing the crunch, you should feel this muscle working.
To perform a basic crunch:
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent at about 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground. Keep your hands behind your ears or crossed over your chest. Contracting your abdominal muscles, lift up until your shoulder blades are off the ground and hold for three seconds before slowly lowering back down to full extension.
- Muscles worked: Rectus abdominis (front abs)
Are Sit Ups OK for Beginners to Do?
Whether or not sit ups are OK for beginners to do has a lot to do with how well they perform the exercise. Here’s what you need to know:
- Beginners should check out the modifications listed in each section of this article, and follow the ones that make sense for them.
- Experienced exercisers should pay close attention to their form and maintain proper technique. If they have any questions, they should ask a trainer or someone who can observe them and offer feedback.
Reps and Sets for Sit Ups
In general, you can build muscle with just about any rep and set range. However, the number of reps and sets will vary depending on the type of training program you’re following.
Here’s what to do if …
- you’re doing a more traditional bodybuilding workout: 3-5 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
- you’re trying to build strength: 1-5 sets of 5-8 repetitions.
- you’re trying to improve your athletic performance: 3-6 sets of 1-12 repetitions
How to Breathe During Sit Ups
Keeping proper breathing while doing sit-ups is important to avoid dizziness and nausea.
Inhale as you lower your body back to the floor, exhale as you lift your body up.
If you are doing sit-ups with your legs straight and lifted off the ground, inhale as you lower your feet down to the floor, exhaling at the same time as you lift them up.
Best Sit Up Variations – Learn More
Try the Inverted Row or Barbell Hip Thrust.
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- Sit Up: Brian Jones on Unsplash
- Sit-Ups-WODs-Athletes: Photos Courtesy of CrossFit Inc