Sit-ups are a tremendously effective exercise for a number of reasons. Their health benefits also span much further than you’d likely imagine - they extend beyond simple muscle growth and improved tonality. Sit-ups create a synergistic environment in your body where your muscles and organs harmonize to reach a point of prime optimization.
The term sit-up is often used interchangeably with the crunch, but in fact, the two exercises are a bit different. They start in the same position, lying on your back, but sit-ups require that you lift your entire torso whereas crunches only require you to lift your shoulders and upper back in a motion that’s much quicker and more repetitive.
The crunch is more like a variation of the sit-up, and thus we’ll go itno more detail about how to do crunches later in the article. Both sit ups and crunches inherently contain a lot of health benefits, but sit ups are generally done slower and thus create benefits related to endurance, whereas crunches are good for improving strength.
Sit ups are quite versatile as well.For those hoping to reap specific health benefits, depending on which variation of sit-up you do, you can target different areas of your body.
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine, and the sit-up is not exempt from this rule. Its incredible benefits don’t’ come without a certain amount of risk – but as long as you don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions, and you learn how to do the exercise properly, you’ll be able to do them without injury.
What’s so special about a sit-up?
A lot of people think of sit-ups as bland and monotonous. They may be monotonous, since a set of sit-ups typically involves a lot more reps than other types of exercise, but they’re certainly not bland. There are a ton of different ways you can do sit-ups, and there are a ton of associated health benefits to both body and mind.
Sit-ups are renown for providing the six-pack abs that many people spend hours everyday working on. While sit-ups alone don’t actually give you rippling abs, they’re certainly a key part of the puzzle.
Sit-ups are great because they work out a huge amount of muscles in your body – not just your abs. You may appreciate them, even now, as you realize how many different types of exercise equipment, or how much money is shelled out, for the simple purpose of developing a sculpted body. Sit-ups require none of this.
Sit-ups are a bodyweight exercise, which means they rely on nothing but the weight of your own body for their execution. This is an advantage and a disadvantage – you might not be able to grow into a massive, hulking beast by simply doing bodyweight exercises, but you’ll certainly tone your body and develop functional strength in a way that heavier, equipment oriented exercise can’t provide.
Bodyweight exercises are also great for improving stamina. Since you’re using your own bodyweight, the exercise naturally becomes tougher the stronger you get. This saves you from having to buy more and more gym equipment as you grow, and also assures you that you won’t ever ‘out-lift’ your own body.
The American Council on Exercise did some research and concluded that sit-ups actually compare – if not beat – regular exercise equipment in terms of tioning and developing core strength.
Sit-ups can be done alone without the need to go to a crowded gym.
You can save money without the need to buy expensive equipment for your workout.
sit-ups can be done anywhere at any time, which is a huge benefit for people with tight schedules.
It’s quite clear that the sit-up is a special exercise that’s earned its place as one of the most popular exercises in the world. You’ve probably noticed that sports teams almost always include sit-ups in their training routines – this is because, for many hundreds of years, the exercise has not been beat in terms of the strength and benefits it provides.
How do I do a sit-up?
A sit-up is quite an easy exercise to do - or, at least, to execute in theory. Doing a set of sit-ups might be physically draining, but they’re dead simple to comprehend. There are a lot of varieties, but it’s a good idea for you to get a sense of how to do a basic sit-up before you move on.
For a sit-up, lie with your back flat on the ground.
Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the ground.
Using your abdominal muscles, bring your chest towards your knees by curling your body up.
Make sure you’re breathing during the exercise.
Once you’ve risen as far as you can without bringing yourself to the point of pain, return to a lying position.
Make sure your abs are kept tight during the whole process.
This is one sit-up.
You can put your hands behind your neck for support, but do not push or apply pressure. This step is recommended for people who are familiar with sit-ups already, because the temptation to help yourself with your hands is often too great.
Pushing or applying pressure on your neck can cause you to throw your spine out of alignment or overstretch muscles in your back and neck.
What are the health benefits of sit-ups?
The health benefits of sit-ups are quite vast, which is impressive for an exercise that requires nothing but your own body.
Sit-ups strengthen a wide variety of muscles
The sit-up and the crunch are known for the fact that they target the abs, and they do so hard. Very few exercises can compete with the sit-up in terms of a sheer abdominal workout, which is why people who are trying to get their summer bodies ready are often found doing sit-ups.
sit-ups don’t just work your abs, though.
Since they have such a wide range of movement, coupled with the motion of lifting your entire abdominal weight, sit-ups work out a few muscle groups.
Stabilizer muscles, which connect different groups of muscles and enable you to use them in a coordinated fashion, are worked out very well when you’re doing sit-ups.
Hip flexors are very important connecting stabilizers that affect your ability to bend and rotate – important when picking things uplifting, and even just walking.
They work out the muscles in your legs, which are crucial for your mobility.
They work out your back muscles, which are necessary for lifting things and can be considered part of your core muscle groups, which are needed for everyday movements.
The wide variety of muscles that sit-ups target means that this single exercise is almost considered a full-body workout. That’s pretty impressive when considering that people spend hundreds of dollars yearly to go to the gym because they aren’t aware that single exercises that you can do at home can work out the entire body.
Conclusion: Sit ups target a whole lot of muscles in your body. So many, in fact, that they’re nearly considered a full body exercise, and havingn a full body workout routnie could be as simple as including some other bodyweight exercises like lunges and squats.
2. Sit-ups improve the overall health of your torso
That’s right! Aside from the obvious benefit of providing you with the chiseled six-pack that people admire, sit-ups improve the health of your torso.
They work to strengthen your spinal erector muscles, which contribute to healthy posture and ensure that you don’t fall victim to injuries that might be caused during old age by a weakened spine. A strong spine prevents injuries that might occur due to a lack of strength.
The improvement to stabilizer muscles means that you’ll be able to control the motion of your torso better, making you more nimble.
They greatly improve core strength, which is focused around your torso and your center of gravity. Core strength affects almost everything physical that you do, including your balance and endurance.
Conclusion: Sit ups aren’t just great for making your torso look great, they help keep it healthy through a number of dfiferent mechanisms. Health buffs and gym buffs alike should add sit ups to their routines.
3. Sit ups improve your stability and balance
Sit-ups can make your entire day-to-day life easier by the way they improve your stability and balance.
Since sit-ups work on so many groups of muscles that are related to your mobility, it’s natural that you’ll see some improvements to your daily life if you observe your motions.
Sit-ups improve your range of motion by enhancing flexibility, meaning you’ll be more elasticand better able to perform movements you might not have been able to before.
The amount of strength that sit-ups can build in your legs allows you to walk and run easier.
Most importantly, improving the strength of your core muscles at an early age means that, as you grow older, you won’t lose your ability to perform actions related to your core strength. Many elderly people find that they begin losing their balance, or otherwise have difficulty with mobility. A lot of the reason behind this is because their core strength is degrading.
While this is natural to some degree, many people are losing core strength at a much greater rate than a human being should due to the sedentary nature of life that most people live. Doing sit-ups regularly will make sure that your abdomen, back, and leg muscles stay strong into old age.
Conclusion: Sit ups are a great exercise for improving your mobility. The core muscles that are worked by sit ups, as well as the spine, are most crucial for a person’s ability to balance and maintain stability during almost all forms of movement. They also strenggthen the legs to improve mobile endurance.
4. Sit-ups can improve your posture
Posture is a very important thing for a lot of reasons.
Having a good posture protects you from injuries. You’ll be better prepared to cushion a dangerous blow or bounce back from a fall with good posture.
Having bad posture can actually cause injuries, like a spine going out of alignment or neck problems. Improper posture means that your bones and muscles aren’t being held up properly, and doing this all day, everyday, for years, can have lasting effects that damage your body.
Good posture improves confidence, which is another benefit that people who are trying to chisel their body tend to seek. Someone who stands strong and tall is naturally attractive.
Sit-ups are powerful exercises for enhancing your core strength. Improving your core strength naturally improves your posture. As the core muscles grow stronger and more toned, they force the body to compose itself in a more natural, erect, and powerful way - the way we would stand before the modern introduction of our sedentary lifestyles and the hours we spend sitting in a day.
Sit-ups and other bodyweight exercises are actually the best way for you to enhance your posture because you aren’t adding extra weight or equipment into the mix. This means that your body is using nothing but its own weight and dimensions to strengthen itself, so you won’t end up with disproportionate gains.
Working out single muscle groups at the gym can actually lead to worsening posture because you might end up unbalanced or disproportionately strong and heavy in certain areas, which would cause your body to have to compensate.
Conclusion: Sit ups (and other body weight exercises) show promise as some of the best exercises for improving posture since they don’t bring with them the addition of extra weight which could offset the individual’s gains.
5. Sit-ups can easily be modified to suit different workout needs
The sit-up, in its standard form, is a great exercise that targets a lot of muscles.
However, a lot of people have workout routines that cater to specific areas of the body (some even have designated arm days, leg days, etc.) For these sorts of people, doing the same type of sit-up everyday won’t fulfill their needs.
Sit-ups can be altered to enhance their intensity, or to decrease it for those who aren’t ready to jump into a full sit-up routine.
Weights can be held on the chest to improve the amount of effort you must exert, and thus the resulting gains.
You can put your legs up on a bed or a bench and do sit-ups this way, which requires a lot more lifting to complete a single rep..
The crunch, too, is sometimes considered a modification of the sit-up – and the crunch can be further modified. Crunches allow you to continuously work your abdominal muscles without actually touching the floor to rest, and you can crunch to the left, right, and center to equally work out all parts of your abdomen.
There’s a huge variety of different sit-ups. Each variety does target the same set of core muscles, but the variations may be more specific in the amount of effort they require from the obliques or your back.
Switching up the types of sit-ups you do is important, and almost mandatory if you do them daily. Doing the same type of any exercise day after day prevents your body from seeing the maximum improvement, because the muscles, joints and ligaments won’t have time to properly heal. Continuing to work them before they’ve healed can actually lead to a decrease in muscle mass or functionality.
We’ll go into detail later in the article and describe several different types of sit-ups for you to intersperse into your workout routien.
Concluson: Sit ups can be altered so that they target different part sof the body, or so they’re not as demanding on the user. They can also be made more intense.
6. Sit-ups are one of the best exercises for your core
Your core muscles, as we’ve briefly mentioned, are the most vital muscles in your entire body. Your core muscles, which are a crucial component for anything kinesthetic that we do, as well as passive attributes like our posture, are mostly made up of the following muscle groups.
Your lower back muscles, which play a huge part in your lifting capacity. They can be injured easily, and an injured back brings with it catastrophic consequences. This makes maintaining the strength of your back very important.
The muscles and joints in your hips, which are important for bending over and general motion. Keepign these strong prevents you from developing things like osteoarthritis.
Your pelvic muscles, which are important for balance and can be difficult to train specifically.
Your abdominal muscles, which help support your bodyweight and are used in almost every physical motion a person does.
Sit-ups improve the strength of every set of core muscles, which enhances your ability to move and function on a day to day basis. Additionally, strengthening your core can improve the function of your organs, since having weak core muscles or bad posture can often put pressure on the organs that results in them being positioned improperly and losing some of their function.
Strengthening your core is also good idea because the results will affect you for the rest of your life. If you continue doing core exercises, your body will deteriorate much slower and you’ll be able to outperform most of your friends as you reach old age!
Conclusion: Your core muscles are the most important ones that you have, and it’s very improtant to keep them stronga nd ehalthy. Sit ups are one of the best ways possible to train the wide variety of core muscles.
7. Sit-ups can prevent the chance of injuries
Sit-ups can prevent you from getting injuries in a number of ways.
One of these ways is because of their immense benefits to your core strength. With a strong core, you’ll be less likely to receive injuries that could be caused by blunt force or lost balance. You’ll be less likely to strain yourself when doing work, and you’ll be less likely to fall over or lose balance, which is a leading cause of injury for elders.
Sit-ups also help improve your flexibility, particularly in the hip and back region. Pulled muscles are caused by a lack of flexibility, but a lot of pulled muscles could be prevented if the person had simply made sure to effectively stretch their muscles on a regular basis.
Strong core muscles can also help to eliminate pre-existing back pain (though it can be difficult to train the core for people who have already had the misfortune of developing back pain.) Establishing strength in this area means that you won’t have to put so much strain on your back, which can help you heal from injuries and avoid getting more in the future.
Furthermore, strong core muscles can help eliminate muscle spasms, which can be a very painful condition recognized by the often painful, unintended twitching or convulsing of muscles. Strengthening your muscles means you’ll have more control over them, which makes them less likely to spasm.
Conclusion: Through a number of ways that all basically down to you developing a better understanding of your body, more strength, and more balance, doing sit ups can offer you quite a few defenses against getting injuries.
8. You can save money with sit-ups, and spend it on improving your health
The amount of money that can be saved by creating a workout based on bodyweight exercise should not be understated.
Many people spend thousands of dollars on workout equipment. Even more spend a monthly fee to go to the gym. Neither of these things are necessary for people who want to increase muscle mass, gain endurance, or build core strength.
While sit-ups alone aren’t great for building muscle mass (contrary to what a lot of people with nice six-packs says, their abs aren’t just from the situps they do,) they’re great for building endurance and core strength. These are two different skills that many gym members are working to improve - even if they aren’t fully aware of it (some people don’t know much about the core muscles, but focus their workout routines around the same muscle groups naturally.)
Sit-ups can completely replace the need for equipment that targets these specific areas, and combining sit-ups with pushups, pullups, or other bodyweight exercises can compensate for the sit-up’s inability to provide huge muscle gains.
If you’re dedicating time and effort to building a workout routine, chances are you’re at least somewhat trying to build a healthier lifestyle. Saving the money on gym equipment or membership means that you can spend it on other healthy things.
You can vastly improve your diet, buying foods that will help improve the efficacy of your workouts.
You can buy environmental health products like air purifiers to help improve your circulation, which will allow you to work out even better.
You can supplement your diet with vitamins, minerals, and proteins, to see even more gains with your workouts.
This isn’t to say that some gym equipment doesn’t have its benefits, but these benefits are often very particular, and most people use them for reasons that could easily be accomplished with bodyweight exercises.
Conclusion: Situps are cheap, easy to do, and can change your entire life - or at least, change your body without changing the digits in your bank account. In fact, money saved by eschewign gym memberships and doign bodyweight exercises again can provide you with enough financial savings to make some great healthy ajdustments.
9. Sit-ups will help improve your metabolism
Sit-ups are great for reasons beyond their ability to build your strength.
As you improve your body by building muscle, you will need to consume more calories to effectively maintain these muscles. This means that, with more muscle, you’ll be burning more calories – even when you’re at rest!
This is a great help for your metabolism , and can be extremely beneficial for people who are hoping to lose weight. Having a good ratio of body muscle is tremendously beneficial because the effects of increased muscle mass stick with you at all hours of the day, even when you’re sleeping.
The increased need for calories also means you’ll be able to eat more. This is often thought of as a bad thing, especially in the dieting world, but that’s because people tend to eat unhealthy food. If you spend the money you save on gym equipment on buying wholesome, healthy food, and eat a lot of it, you’ll find that the benefits you reap from doing sit-ups become more and more.
A healthy muscle mass doesn’t just give you strength, but improves all sorts of things in your body. Your organs function more efficiently, your circulation (which is necessary for transporting blood and oxygen to your muscles) improves which has a positive effect on your brainpower, your digestion will improve, and your metabolism will be bolstered.
Caution to take when doing sit-ups
While sit-ups are amazing for a whole lot of reasons, there are, of course, some cautions to take. Any exercise can be dangerous – you are exerting your muscles, after all. Bodyweight exercises can be particularly dangerous because you’re using your own bodyweight to its maximum potential.
Sit-ups aren’t particularly renown for causing injuries, but it’s important to keep the following safety tactics in mind.
Pregnant women should avoid doing sit-ups later in their pregnancy (not that they would be easy to do, anyways.) sit-ups won't harm a fetus during the first trimester, but after that, lying on your back can be dangerous to your baby since it can lower your blood pressure, which inhibits the amount of blood and oxygen your baby will receive.
Don’t do sit-ups if you have bone conditions, such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes your bones brittle, and exacerbating this issue by doing intense exercise increases the risk of injury – you could even have compression fractures.
Sit-ups can put an excess of weight on your spinal discs, which can cause herniation (a disc pressing on nerve root, which can cause pain.) This isn’t extremely common, and is more likely to occur in people with excess fat.
It should also be noted that people who are intending to get rid of body fat shouldn't rely on just sit-ups. While sit-ups will, indeed, tone your abs, they won’t get rid of the fat that covers them. For this, you’ll need to do cardio exercise.
These common practices should all be followed when doing sit-ups to lower the chance of injury.
Keep your feet, hips and knees aligned with each other.
Keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Contrary to popular technique, you shouldn’t lock them down with a bar or a piece of furniture.
Make sure you use your abs for the exercise, and avoid putting strain on your neck and shoulders which can throw them out and cause pain.
Sit-ups are best done once you’ve done a bit of core training prior, so you don’t shock your untrained muscles. Just like going for a five mile run after being sedentary for years would put too much strain on your heart, well-rested muscles need some time to ‘awaken.’
Make sure you breathe deeply for the duration of the sit-up.
Don’t push yourself so hard that you feel pain.
Different variations of sit-ups for you to try
The basic sit-up is extremely versatile and can be done anywhere, but people looking to have a more interesting routine, or who want to train different muscle groups or body parts, should look into some other types of sit-ups.
Remember, it’s best not to do the same type of exercise everyday. If you must do sit-ups every day, switch up the variety so you don’t overwork your muscles. This will reduce the gains and benefits that you see.
1. Sit-up with an exercise ball
This follows the same idea as a regular sit-up, but allows the use of an exercise ball to increase your stability.
Roll down the exercise ball until the small of your back is resting against the ball. Keep your legs shoulder width apart, then put your head and neck against the ball.
Cross your arms over your chest. You should be comfortably laying over the ball like a table. Now, execute the sit-up action, making sure to use your abs.
Return to the starting position, making sure you keep your abs taut.
This is a good exercise for building stability and balance more than you would with a traditional sit-up. It’s also a bit riskier, since you can fall off or have the ball slip out from underneath you, so exercise caution.
2. Torso twist sit-ups / crunches
This is what a lot of people know to be a crunch. It’s a great exercise for working out your obliques (the side of your abs.)
Keeping your knees bent, you can begin from either a sitting position (on the floor or a hard surface) or lying down.
If you’re lying down, start as if you were doing a normal sit-up but then slowly twist your torso to the left, making sure you keep your chest forward. Return to the base position, then twist in the opposite direction.
A good way to maintain proper technique is to rest your hands behind your neck and use your elbows as a guideline. You will try to touch your elbow to the opposite knee.
These sit-ups are great for building stability, balance, and strength and tone in the oblique muscles.
3. Bicycle crunch
A bicycle crunch is a tough workout for both your upper and lower abs, as well as your obliques. Start by lying on your back with your legs in the air, knees bent at ninety degrees.
Put your hands behind your neck for support (again, being sure not to push or apply pressure with them.)
Slowly move your legs as if riding a bicycle, back and forth in a semi circular motion. While you’re doing this, crunch upwards, pulling your chest towards the knee that’s closest to you during its bicycle motion.
Continue doing this over and over for a minute or until you tire.
4. Russian twist
Begin in a standard sit-up position except have your legs raised off the ground.
Lift your shoulders a bit off the ground, then clasp your hands together and twist like you were doing a regular crunch, first to the left, then to the right.
Repeat for a minute, or as many times as you deem necessary for your workout.
Begin by lying flat on the ground or a hard surface.
Put your arms above your head, flat on the surface, so they create a straight line with your body.
Lift your feet towards the ceiling, making sure you keep them together and as straight as possible (this can be difficult if your hamstrings aren’t stretched.)
While you’re doing this, lift your arms towards the ceiling. This will cause your upper body to lift off the floor.
Making use of your abs, keep pulling yourself further into this position until your body looks like a V. Once in this position, hold for a few seconds, and then continue the cycle.
6. Dead Bugs
Lying on your back, flat on the floor, extend your arms in front of your shoulders and bend your hips and knees to a ninety degree angle.
Flexing your abs, push your lower back into the floor and inhale deep.
When you breathe out, slowly point your left leg towards the floor, while bringing your opposite arm over your head. Don’t let your back arch.
Gradually return your extremities to their original position, and then repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Continue doing this as long as you want.
Start in a standard crunch position, then raise both legs a bit towards the ceiling.
Lower one leg until it’s elevated about half a foot off the ground. If you go lower, you’ll find a harder workout and more gains; if you can’t handle it half a foot off the ground, you can keep it a bit higher.
Making sure your legs stay straight, lift your head and shoulders, then grab the back of your opposite leg and pull it towards your chest.
Return this leg to where it was elevated, then return to your starting position and repeat with the opposite extremities.
8. Raised leg crunches
Start in a standard crunch position, then let your legs raise, fully extended and as straight as possible, towards the ceiling.
Using your abs, crunch towards the ceiling and reach your hands out, towards your feet or your ankles.
Return slowly to the starting position, and then continue this action as many times as you deem necessary (for a minute is a good place to start.)
9. Alternating toe touches
Lying flat on the ground, lift one leg up in the air while slowly raising your torso using your abdominals.
Using the arm opposite of the leg you chose, reach and try to touch the toe that’s in the air. Exhale while you’re doing this. If you can’t reach your toes, you can try for your ankles, or if you are very unstretched, your knees.
Slowly return your torso and arms back to the original position while breathing in.
Alternating arms and legs, continue repeating this motion for a minute or as long as you deem necessary.
10. Reverse crunch
This crunch is a fun one to do, and provides a sweet workout at the same time.
Start by lying on your back, keeping your legs pointing straight up towards the roof, forming a 90 degree angle with your hips. Keep your arms flat beside your body, palms facing the floor.
Flex your abs as you breathe out.
Lift your posterior a little bit so you’re slightly elevated off the ground.
Breathe in as you slowly return to the starting position.
Repeat as many times as you feel fit.
11. Stability ball crunch
This is pretty similar to the stability ball sit-up except that you’re doing a crunch instead of a sit-up.
Arrange yourself on the ball in a similar manner as you did in the previous exercise: rest your back against the ball but have the top of your body (shoulders, neck & above) hanging off.
Using your hands behind your neck for support (and making sure not to apply any pressure) raise your chest.
Curl upwards until you're almost sitting up straight, then lower yourself slowly. Repeat for as many reps as you want.
12. Side stability ball crunch
This is very familiar to previous exercise.
Position yourself on an exercise ball and let your knees bend so your feet can lie flat on the floor. Again, keep your head, neck and shoulders hanging off the ball.
Flex your abs and curl off the ball, but then turn towards one side of your obliques.
Return to the original position slowly and then do the same exercise but twist in the opposite direction.
This is probably the type of sit-up that reaps the most benefit from holding your hands behind your head - not for support, but because you can use your elbows as visual guides. During your twist, you can bring your elbow as close as you can to the opposite knee.
Sit ups are a great exercise, nobody can deny that (though some might deny that they’re any fun to perform.) Regardless, sit-ups are one of the most beneficial exercises a person can possibly do, and this includes exercises that require spending lots of money on expensive equipment.
Exercises that rely on nothing but your own body weight adjust as you grow bigger and stronger, since your muscle mass and mobility also begin to change. This is great because it means the exercise won’t lose its efficacy.
sit-ups also engage a massive number of muscles in the human body, which provides a vast number of health benefits that go far beyond what one might assume a single exercise could provide.
They engage the circulatory system in ways that allow for the improvement of all your organs and muscles, and they also help promote longevity and decrease the chance of getting injuries.
Sit-ups are something that should be included in everyone’s exercise regime - they can constitute almost a full-body workout, and doing them from a young age can seriously bolster your health through old age. Now that you know how to do sit-ups - a dozen different kinds of sit-ups, actually - you should start.
Go ahead - try one. Just one - right now. Why not? You’ve read this far, and you obviously want to start doing sit-ups! This is one of the best tricks for someone starting a new workout routine - do just one sit-up, one push up, one whatever. Once you’re down there in the work-out stance - which is easy enough to get into, if you’re telling yourself you’re just doing a single rep. Chances are, though, once you’re down there, you’re more likely to end up doing a full set.