The sit-up serves to strengthen the abdominals and hip flexors. How to do it correctly, how many to do, the variants and mistakes to avoid
The sit-up exercise is classically used to train the abdominal muscles, although it also involves a lot of the hip flexor muscles. It is not an exercise that completely isolates the abs, unlike the well-executed crunch. But let's see what it consists of and how it is performed.
The start is with the back on the ground and the legs bent, with the feet hip-width apart. The hands can be behind the neck, resting only the fingertips so as not to pull too much on the neck, or crossed on the chest, for a less intense variant, or with arms stretched behind the head, a more difficult variant. With an exhalation you have to raise the shoulders (not pulling the neck forward), the back and finally the whole back until you are in a sitting position. The legs remain stationary. Breathing in, you return with your back to the ground, rounding the back and placing one vertebra at a time.
Some personal trainers recommend leaving your feet free to lift up on the climb, to avoid overload in the lumbar area that could be caused by excessive toning of the hip flexor muscles, which are inserted right on the lumbar vertebrae (for example the psoas) . It is therefore necessary to pay attention to the correct execution and not to insist if back pains appear. It is also not indicated in cases of hyperlordosis and very weak abdominal muscles, because it can accentuate the problem.
The sit-up is therefore part of the exercises suitable for those who have a good knowledge and coordination of the body.
All the benefits
The muscles of the abdomen, in particular the rectus abdominis, but also the obliques and the transverse abdominis, are mainly involved in the first part of the ascent, when the lumbar area is on the ground, and in the final part of the descent, approximately until the back is about 30 degrees from the mat. Above this level, the abdominal muscles work but only in a stabilizing function, while the hip flexors are more involved, carrying out the movement of bringing the torso closer to the legs.
It can therefore be said that the sit-up is an exercise to train the anterior muscle chain of the body, not just the abdominals.
More known variants
In this type of sit-up you go up with the torso also performing a rotation of the torso, going with the elbow towards the opposite knee, in search of greater involvement of the oblique abdominals.
Sit-ups with weight
Once you have become strong, you can switch to a weighted sit-up, holding a heavy disc on your chest while doing the classic movement or, for a more difficult version, behind the neck.
Crossfit or butterfly sit-ups
It is a variant that is performed by keeping the legs in a butterfly position, that is, with the feet in contact and the knees open outwards. This modification was introduced precisely to maximize work on the abdominals, reducing that on the hip flexors and in particular the hyperstimulation of the psoas. It is not suitable for beginners, although it is easier than the classic sit-up.
Instead of lifting the torso, in this variation of the sit-up, the head and upper back remain on the ground, the arms are along the body and the legs are stretched perpendicular to the ground. From this starting position, with an abdominal contraction the legs, pelvis and sacrum lumbar area are raised. It is similar to a reverse crunch. It is a safer variant for the lower back.
Straight leg sit-ups
Unlike the classic sit-up, the legs are straight and on the ground. In this way the lower limbs weigh more and it is easier to rise with the torso. Your hands can go behind your neck, or if you are more athletic, you can keep your arms stretched over your head and, when sitting down, bring them up.
How many to do to have top abs
How many repetitions to do to tone the abdomen naturally depends on your athletic level. It is important for a movement professional to observe us to verify that the sit-ups are done well and complete, climbing well with the back and bringing it well back to the ground on the descent (without remaining with the shoulders raised, for example). Training your muscles every day can also lead to hypertrophy, so it's better to do them every other day, leaving the right time for regeneration between one session and another.
Therefore, a first goal may be to perform 10 repetitions for 2 series, increasing the number of sets and repetitions as strength is developed and inserting these exercises into a larger program that also includes variations or other types of movement. In Tabata or Hiit workouts, which aim to burn fat quickly, the number of repetitions you perform in the given time usually counts. However, for sit-ups, where precision in execution is required, it is better to reserve this type of training, which is very effective, only for the most experienced.
Most common mistakes
- Keep your feet still
By anchoring the feet to the backrest, or on an inclined bench, or even with a partner who holds them on the ground, the exercise seems easier, but in reality it works more on the hip muscles than on the abdominals. Therefore, it is better to do these exercises with your feet free, which force you to work with the abdomen and not just with the legs.
- Bending the neck too far forward
As in the crunch, when we flex the torso forward to rise to a sitting position, the neck must be kept aligned with the spine, without bringing the chin too close to the sternum, otherwise we can cause pain in the cervical tract.
- Don't return to the ground in the descending phase
If you do not return to the ground, thinking of performing more sit-ups, or faster, the exercise is incomplete because only with the support of the lumbar area on the ground in the initial and final phase, the abdominals are activated well. Working with pelvic retroversion uphill and downhill is crucial. Better done more slowly, but controlled in every part.