Imagine yourself lying on the floor, knees bent and feet flat. Your hands are behind your head, and your face is turned towards the ceiling, eyes closed. It’s relaxing. Suddenly, you hear a voice yell loudly “Hey you! Get back to your Sit-ups. This is P.E., not naptime!” 

Most of us can remember gym class in school, where Sit-Ups were a staple of peer pressure and adolescent torture. They have a reputation for being among the most difficult and unpleasant exercises, but while Sit-ups are hard work, they also provide a major fitness payoff. 

Proper Sit-up Form

Though everyone seems to think they know how to do a Sit-up, learning the proper form is important for getting the most out of the exercise. The simplicity of this exercise is deceptive. With more exotic exercises, it seems easier to learn the right way. However, with an old standby like the commonplace Sit-up, it’s easy to assume you’ve already got it right. 

The basic form of the Sit-up takes only a few steps. Lie down, knees bent and hands behind the head. Tighten the abdominal muscles and pull the torso up to the knees. Then lower back down to the starting position. 

This simple process requires attention to detail in order to get it right and get the most out of this exercise. Here are a couple of important points for proper Sit-up form.

  • Move slowly and with control. 

Getting up isn’t the point, because that can happen with momentum. Muscle control is the goal, and that’s improved when you slow down. It’s much easier to get up by using momentum, but it’s counterproductive. 

  • Foot position 

Though it might seem like the feet aren’t part of the abs, they are actually part of the chain of muscles that runs from the abs down through the upper thighs to the feet. Try flexing the feet while doing a Sit-up for more active engagement of the core.

Being conscious about form, even in the mundane Sit-up, takes this exercise out of the P.E. classroom and onto the next level.

Mix-up the Sit-up

There is more to the Sit-up than the standard movement that we all know and dread. There are many, many variations on this classic exercise that slightly change the muscles being used or increase the resistance. Note here that Sit-ups are distinct from Crunches. In a Crunch, the head and shoulders only rise halfway, not all the way up to the knees as in a Sit-up. Crunches are considered a variation on the classic Sit-up though. 

Other variations on the Sit-up include:

  • Reverse Crunch, where the legs go up into the air instead of the torso going up.
  • Russian Twist, in which legs and torso are in the air, with the upper body twisting side to side.
  • V-Ups, with both the legs and torso coming up to form a “V” shape.
  •  Scissors, where the head and shoulder come off the floor and then one leg at a time comes up to the center.
  • Inverted Sit-ups, which happen upside down with legs hanging over a bar but everything else stays the same.
  • Weighted Sit-up, where the individual holds a weight while performing a classic style Sit-up.

Each variant on the Sit-up targets different parts of the body, but all types of Sit-ups engage the core and build strength. This exercise is a long-time staple and ultimately a cliche because it works!