sit ups

Sit Ups: What They Do And Which Variants Are Most Effective

Do you want to build abs? Then sit ups are an effective exercise with which you can especially train the straight abs. We show you how to do them correctly, what sit up exercises there are and what happens when you train daily.

The sit up is a popular exercise for your abs training without equipment. “Sit up” means the execution of the movement: If you do the exercise, you come from the supine position into an upright seat by moving your trunk towards your thighs. In particular, the straight abdominal muscles are activated. They allow you to sit up from the lying position.

So if you want to train your stomach, you should definitely know sit ups. Advantage of the exercise: You don’t need any equipment. It is therefore ideal for pure bodyweight training. For more intensity or variety, you can of course include dumbbells, theraband, exercise ball or other tools in your workout at any time.

What is the difference between crunches and sit ups?

If you are looking for effective abdominal exercises, you will come across sit ups and crunches. Their explanations are similar: Both exercises start in the supine position with knees bent. But there are now small but subtle differences:

In contrast to sit ups, with crunches you only lift your upper back and shoulder blades off the floor and compress the abdominal wall by becoming slightly rounded.

With sit ups, on the other hand, you lift your entire upper body off the floor and straighten yourself completely with your back as straight as possible. This variant is much more demanding and requires more abdominal and back tension. Therefore, beginners are often advised to do crunches exercises first.

How do sit ups help me?

The sit up is an isolation exercise, which means that you train a specific muscle group in isolation, in this case the straight abdominal muscles. Sit Ups exercises activate your core and set specific stimuli for muscle building.

For anyone working on a six-pack, it makes sense to integrate sit-ups into their training. In addition to aesthetic reasons, strong abdominal muscles have other advantages: Together with the back muscles, they stabilize and relieve the spine. You can improve your posture, counteract a hollow back and prevent back problems.

In addition, a trained core ensures more balance and body tension, which you can benefit from in all sports – regardless of whether it is weight training, running or yoga.

The important thing is: it’s all in the mix. So you shouldn’t focus entirely on sit ups, but also include other abdominal and back exercises in your training.

Are Sit Ups Good For Your Back?

Sit Ups primarily train the straight abdominal muscles, but these are an important counterweight to the back muscles. Together, the abdominal and back muscles ensure a stable core.

This is why sit ups are a good abdominal exercise for people with healthy backs. If done correctly, it can counteract incorrect or excessive strain, for example from sitting too long. If the abdominal muscles are too weak, this can lead to imbalances in the area of the spine. In the worst case, joints, ligaments and intervertebral discs are damaged.

If you already have problems with your spine, it is best to consult a trainer before doing ab training. In order to slowly approach sit-ups and benefit from the positive effects of the exercise, you can start with crunches or do a lighter sit-up alternative, for example with the exercise ball or a theraband as support.

Which muscles are workout with sit ups?

The focus of sit ups is on the straight abdominal muscles, but the sloping and deep-lying muscles of your core are also trained if performed correctly. The hip flexor is also involved when straightening up.

Here are the primary target muscles of sit ups:

  • Rectus abdominis / Straight abdominal muscle: The straight abdominal muscle is optically responsible for the six-pack and is an important postural muscle. It ensures that the chest is pulled towards the legs and the trunk is bent as a result.
  • Musculus pyramidalis / pyramidal muscle: The pyramidal muscle is a triangular skeletal muscle that belongs to the front or middle abdominal muscles. It strengthens the connection between the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.

These are the supporting, secondary muscles:

  • Musculus obliquus internus abdominis, Musculus obliquus externus abdominis / Inner and outer oblique abdominal muscles: The lateral abdominal muscles are responsible for the rotation in the upper body and contribute to a narrow waist and defined abdominal muscles.
  • Musculus psoas major / hip flexor muscle: In the hip joint, the muscle causes flexion and is also responsible for the outward rotation (external rotation).

How Many Calories Do You Burn During Sit Ups?

The calorie consumption during sit ups depends on many factors, such as age, gender and weight as well as the speed of execution and general body tension. So it is difficult to generalize.

To increase your calorie consumption during a workout and work on your six pack at the same time, you can do sit-ups. The HIIT training method is particularly suitable – it is ideal for burning as much energy as possible in a short time.

The fact is, the more muscle you have, the higher your calorie consumption, even when you are resting.

Important at this point: Abdominal training is not primarily responsible for a visible six-pack. Because this strengthens your muscles, but you cannot lose weight specifically on your stomach. It is not without reason that it is said that “abs are made in the kitchen” – means that your diet is the driver for a defined body core.

How many sit ups should you do daily?

More is not necessarily better. As in many areas, the right dose is crucial for abdominal muscle training. In order for muscles to grow, they not only need regular training stimuli, but also recovery. Regeneration is the be-all and end-all.

So there is little point in exercising your abs every day. Better to do 4 x 20 sit ups three to four times a week than 100 sit ups a day. In addition, you also train your stomach with many other full-body exercises such as squats, push-ups or lunges, as well as with endurance sports. So take a little break between your sit-up sessions.

What happens if you do sit ups daily?

If you do sit ups every day, you will feel that the abdominal wall becomes firmer and tighter over time. However, daily abdominal muscle training is not useful if you want to lose weight or if you are looking to build muscle.

Important levers for this are nutrition, a well-structured training plan and sufficient regeneration. If you train for 24 to 48 hours per muscle group without these recovery phases, your progress may slow down and your performance may decline. So exactly the opposite effect of what you are hoping for from your sit up training.

How to do sit ups correctly?

If you want to do sit ups properly, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  • Lie with your back on the floor, open your legs about hip-width apart and place the soles of your feet or heels on the floor. Your feet are so far from your buttocks that you can just barely get your fingertips to your ankles.
  • There are different options for the posture of the arms: Beginners position them stretched out next to the upper body and lift them off the floor. Advanced athletes cross them in front of their chests or hold their fingertips to their temples.
  • Now tense your stomach and straighten up in a controlled manner by lifting your upper body off the floor bit by bit and bending your hips. Deliberately pull your shoulder blades back and down to keep your upper back straight. A slight bend in the lower back is perfectly normal in order to exercise the hip flexor less.
  • Exhaling, guide your upper body without swinging towards your thighs and briefly hold the tension at the uppermost point.
  • Inhaling, lower the upper body, vertebra by vertebra, to the floor, keeping the shoulder blades in the air. Repeat the movement.

Note: The back remains straight the entire time, consciously pull the shoulder blades back and down. The chin tends towards the chest and the neck is an extension of the spine. If you have your hands on your temples, you should be careful not to tear your head. The power comes completely from the core of the bod

Sit up variations

There are many different variations of sit ups. With the help of equipment such as the exercise ball or a Theraband, you can make the abdominal exercise a little easier and gentler. The sit up becomes more intense, for example, with dumbbells or a kettlebell. You can also add variety to your routine by varying the arm or leg posture and a twist in the upper body. We show you five variants:


Butterfly Sit Ups

Lie on your back and put the soles of your feet against each other. Let your knees fall outwards – like in a butterfly or butterfly seat. Stretch your arms above your head, use the strength of your abdominal muscles to straighten up and touch your feet with your hands. Alternatively, you can clap your palms on the floor in front of you. Return to the starting position in a controlled manner and repeat the movement. The faster you do the exercise, the greater the amount of cardio. The Butterfly Sit Up is not a popular strength endurance exercise for HIIT workouts for nothing.

Sit ups with the exercise ball

Instead of lying on the floor, lie on an exercise ball. Put your feet firmly on the ground. The ball starts at the tailbone and supports your entire back down to the lower ends of your shoulder blades. So your upper back is floating freely in the air. Cross your arms behind your head and slowly roll up your upper body. Do not tear your head, your hands are just a light support. Pull your belly button towards your ribs and keep the tension in your core while lowering.

Sit ups with the resistance band

This variant is ideal for beginners who want to slowly approach sit ups. Put a resistance band around your feet and hold both ends with your hands. Perform the sit ups as described in the instructions. The pull of the latex band makes it easier to get up. For more intensity, you can stretch your legs straight on the floor instead of bending them.

Sit ups with dumbbells

For advanced users, sit ups with extra weight are a good option. Hold a dumbbell in each hand (alternatively a heavier dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest). Stand up for the sit up, tense your stomach tightly and stay straight in your back. Once at the top, you can punch the dumbbells in the air or bring them up over your head towards the ceiling. Both variations intensify the exercise.

Sit ups with a twist

Lie on the mat with your legs hip-width apart. Choose an arm position: cross them in front of your chest, stretch them out and cross your hands in front of your stomach to form a pistol or bring your fingertips to your temples. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor, tighten your stomach tightly, and stand up. Rotate to one side in the upward movement, so turn your upper body up. Bring your elbow to the opposite knee or your outstretched arms along the sides of the opposite leg. Come back towards the ground and change direction. This Sit Up variant specifically trains the lateral abdominal muscles.

Sit Up alternatives

Would you like to vary your ab training or sit ups are still too demanding for you?

The following exercises are effective alternatives to classic sit ups:

  • Plank
  • Mountain climber
  • Crunches
  • High knees
  • Russian twist
  • Leg raises
  • V-ups
  • Flutter kicks

Common sit up mistakes

You’re curling up your upper body too much

If you do not have enough abdominal tension yet, it can happen that you curl up with your upper back and head forward before you straighten your upper body. When doing a sit-up, however, you should get into the seat as straight as possible, only with a slight bend in your lower back. If that doesn’t work out so well, you’d better start with crunches.

You have an arched back

You should definitely avoid an arched back when lowering to protect your back. Deliberately push your pelvis forward and pull your belly button under your ribs. Maintain this tension as you move up and down.

You pull the back of your head

If you bring your hands to your head during sit ups, simply hold them there without using arm strength and pressing yourself up with your hands while standing up. Pulling can lead to neck discomfort. Alternatively, hold your arms next to your upper body.

You straighten up with a momentum

You can do sit ups at a high pace, but you should be careful to keep moving in a controlled manner. The strength comes from your core, not your legs, arms or upper back. The slower you move, the more muscle tension you need to build.

You hold your breath

Abdominal muscle exercises in particular can lead to the high tension in your upper body holding you out of breath. As soon as you catch yourself doing it, find your calm breathing again: breathe out when standing up, breathe in when lowering.

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