4 Ways to Take Sit Ups to the Next Level

September 30, 2019 by  
Filed under All Round Fitness, Ideas to Help You Train

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Love them or hate them, sit ups are your friend. The traditional sit up is a simple, standard movement for your fitness regimen you can rely on to strengthen your core. Are you taking this exercise for granted? Let us remind you of how to bring proper sit ups into your workout so you can reap the benefits they bring.

 

Benefits of a Strong Core

Your core is an integral part of your body for developing your fitness. Since your core connects your lower body and upper body, it gets activated at every workout and for most of the exercises you do. Your core muscles support you to do the other movements, making sit ups a workout necessity. If your core muscles are weak or inflexible, it will impair your ability to function at maximum levels when performing the exercises in your workout.

Properly building your core will give you more power and alignment in your movements, enhancing your stability and balance. Think about it, how many movements call for you to tense your abs as you do them? It shows up in everyday actions too, allowing you to do chores and activities more easily and efficiently.

Maintaining a Healthy Back

Lower back pain is a common concern for active people. Did you know having core strength will help eliminate back pain? Performing core stabilization exercises acts as an effective form of physical therapy at reducing lower back pain as your lower back will bear less burden having the adequate workload balanced with your core muscles. This makes sense, doesn't it?

From a physiological perspective, your transverse abdominis hooks around the spine and serves to stabilize the body’s entire midsection, front and back. This is yet another reason you want to stay mindful of the role a strong core plays in your physical well-being. Whenever you're feeling pain in our body, it’s a sign that something is out of balance. Sometimes this thrown-off balance that's signaled by your lower back pain, is telling you your core isn’t doing the substantial amount of work it should be.

How to Do a Proper Sit Up

Since we’ve established the importance of sit ups in your workout, let’s make sure you perform them correctly. It's a familiar position, but you don't want to get lax with your form. Start with lying on your back on the ground, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. You want your knees to be bent at a 90-degree angle.

Bend our elbows so they’re pointing out at your sides. A helpful tip here is to cup or touch the back of your ears with your fingertips. When you do this, rather than placing your hands on the back of your head, you'll prevent pulling yourself up by your neck as you do the movement. Another option would be to cross your arms over your chest to keep them inactive during the movement.

Your aim is to lift your torso up and toward your thighs. You want to get as close as possible to your thighs while maintaining a smooth motion. Be mindful of keeping your feet flat on the ground and not jerking your body at any point in the movement. At the top of the movement, your lower back should be fully off the floor.

As you lower your torso back to the ground, maintain the same steady flow of movement. Straighten your body to lay back down into the starting position, but try not to release the tension in your core. Keep your abs tightened as you transition to go back up into the next rep.

Avoid Making Common Mistakes

As with any exercise, there are common mistakes you want to consider. These are easy to correct and usually occur as other parts of your body are unconsciously trying to assist in the movement. But you don’t want other assistance, you want the resistance and tension to remain within your core muscles.

The most noted mistake for doing sit ups is to get into a rhythm of using your neck to pull your torso up as you move toward your thighs. You want to avoid pulling yourself up with your neck, as it takes away from your abs doing the work to lift. This mistake puts a strain on your neck and increases risk of injury for a body part that should otherwise be stable for this exercise. As you survey your body throughout the motion of your sit ups, stop the exercise if you feel neck strain, then make your corrections and start again.

Another mistake with sit ups is to drop your torso to the ground toward the end of the rep. If you do this, you’ll interfere with your abdominal muscles maintaining their tension throughout the exercise. You want to get the intended workout by maintaining a slow, controlled motion to lower your torso back down to the ground. You can try to prevent hitting your back against the ground by imaging a thin sheet between you and the ground should only be touched lightly.

4 Ways to Take Sit Ups to the Next Level

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Whether you're doing an entire core workout or adding some key core exercises to the end of a workout, it’s easy to get crafty with keeping things interesting. How can you bring your core game to the next level? Here are four ways you can level up as you make reasonable dynamic changes. First, let’s see how you can add other abdominal exercises to get a better sit up workout, then we'll work with some weight.

Adding a Twist

It won’t take much time for you to get the hang of sit ups, so we suggest you try pairing them with other abdominal exercises you like to do. A natural addition would be to do some twisted sit ups. Starting in the same position as you would for your regular sit ups, after you lift your torso up toward your thighs, you add a twist. To get balanced twists, you want to turn your torso to the right until your left elbow is touching your right knee, and then alternate twisting your torso to the left next.

Engaging Leg Action 

One of our favorite abdominal exercises to add to your sit ups are flutter kicks. Start by lying on your back on the ground with your palms down and arms alongside your hips. With your legs extended, lift each legs 5 or 6 inches off the ground as you press your lower back into the ground. You will quickly and rhythmically move them in a fluttering motion up and down, switching each leg to be higher.

Whether adding flutter kicks, bicycles, or leg raises, you will notice the additional benefits in building core muscle strength when using your legs. Which ones do you think will provide you with a healthy challenge?

Do Weighted Sit Ups

Yes, doing a few sets of sit ups with your own body weight may tax your body enough. Why not see if you can push those limits by adding extra weight into the mix? Rather than increasing the number of sit ups you’re doing for more intensity, you can also incrementally add weight to your chosen amount of reps once they’ve gotten easier for you to complete.

For weighted sit ups, you start as you would with regular sit ups, lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. You can hold a dumbbell with both hands or weight plate against your chest by crossing your arms over it. Once you feel the weight is secure, lift your torso toward your thighs and then lower yourself back down to the ground.

Use a Medicine Ball

Another way to do a weighted sit up is to add a medicine ball into the mix. Start with a light medicine ball and hold it close to your chest as you sit up and go back down. You’ll notice the added challenge due to the amount of weight you're working against. The positioning of holding the medicine ball to your chest ensures that you won’t use momentum from your arms to reach the top of the movement.

Another modification you can make to your with a medicine ball is to toss it for each rep. When you're sitting up at the top of the movement, you toss it up in the air and catch it, or you can toss it straight ahead if you’re working out with a partner. Adding this next component allies you to work your arms along with your abs, while forcing your core to stabilize itself as you throw the ball.

Conclusion

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The reality is that sit ups work! Knowing these tips to supplement your sit up routine will ensure that you maintain consistent with your core workouts. We recommend gradually increasing the difficulty, adding more challenging movements to your regular sit up, like a twist or a flutter kick. Then experiment with moving additional weight around.

Leg Workouts: Your Ultimate guide

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Your legs are one of the most vital parts in your body, and yet, they’re the most neglected when it comes to working them out. This is primarily because the legs are not showboat muscles, which means that it is hard to show off the muscles in your legs, unlike your arms. But there are several benefits that you only get to enjoy when you work them out. In this article, you will learn more about leg workouts and their importance and discover the 10 best exercises that you can perform to keep them in good shape.        

Leg Workout FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about leg workouts.

1. What Are the Different Types of Leg Workouts?

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There are three primary types of leg workouts: bodyweight workouts, free-weight workouts, and machine workouts. Bodyweight workouts utilize the weight of your own body as a resistance, whereas free-weight workouts utilize the resistance provided by loaded dumbbells and barbells. Machine workouts utilize specialized machines such as the leg press, leg curl, and leg extension with selectable resistances.  

2. What Are the Benefits of Leg Workouts?

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The primary benefits that leg workouts offer are an increase in strength and muscle mass, improvement in posture, stabilization of the core, and a decrease in the chances of injury.

3. How Do You Incorporate Leg Workouts into Your Routine?

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You could incorporate leg workouts into your routine by performing 3-4 exercises every alternate day. Or, you could set aside 2 days per week and split your leg workouts between those two days.    

How We Reviewed

We spoke to several experts, fitness enthusiasts, and physiologists to identify the 10 best leg workouts that deliver the required results without putting undue strain on your body. We then proceeded to explain how to perform the chosen exercises and laid out their pros and cons.

Overall Difficulty Level of Leg Workouts

Many compound leg workouts such as the squats, lunges, and deadlifts are hard to master due to the strict form that’s required to be maintained throughout. It requires quite a bit of practice and training before you’re able to do them comfortably with proper form. This makes them unsuitable for most beginners. Most isolation leg workouts such as the ones that you do on specialized machines are beginner-friendly and relatively easier to perform and master. This is due to the fact that these exercises require you to go through a fixed range of motion, making it hard to get them wrong.    

What We Reviewed

  • Leg Press
  • Step-​Up
  • Pistol Squat
  • Glute-Ham Raise
  • Walking Lunge
  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Hack Squat
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Front Squat
  • Barbell Squat

Leg Press

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How To Perform

Sit on the leg press machine and place your feet around shoulder-width apart on the platform. Fully extend your legs without locking your knees by pushing on the platform. Release the safety bars and lower the platform in a slow and controlled manner until your knees are perpendicular to your toes. Then, push the platform back to the starting position with your legs. Make sure you exhale during this portion of the exercise. Repeat this movement for as many reps as you want. Once you’re done, make sure to lock the safety bars in place before you lower the weighted platform down.

Pros

  • The leg press machine is versatile as it puts focus on different muscles in the leg depending on the foot stance
  • Leg press is safer than other forms of leg workouts as the machine has proper safety mechanisms in place

Cons

  • Leg press requires a dedicated machine to perform
  • The exercise does not activate or engage any stabilizing muscles and can end up creating muscular imbalances when not performed correctly

Step-Up

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How To Perform

This exercise can be performed using a pair of dumbbells or by placing a barbell on your shoulders. Start by standing tall in front of an elevated platform, preferably a sturdy box or a bench, holding a pair of dumbbells. Place your left foot on the platform, and using the heel of the foot, lift your entire body up onto the bench. Make sure to breathe out as you perform this movement. Then, step down with the right foot and return to the starting position. Repeat this movement with the same leg till you complete a set (often 10, 12 or 15 repetitions), and then switch and perform the same with the other leg.  

Pros

  • Perfect for people who are unable to do deadlifts due to lower back issues
  • Works your stabilizer muscles and helps improve balance

Cons

  • The exercise can be hard on your knees if you don’t do it in a slow and controlled manner
  • Using the wrong height can put your joints under stress

Pistol Squat

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How To Perform

Stand tall, look forward, and raise one leg off the floor. With your chest up and your back straight, slowly squat down. While descending, extend the raised leg forward so that it doesn’t touch the ground. When you reach the bottom of the squat, hold the position for a second and slowly return to the starting position. When ascending, make sure to exhale and drive off the heel of the foot. Repeat this movement till you finish one set, and then switch sides. While performing this exercise, you can have your arms outstretched in front of you to help balance your body.

Pros

  • As it is a bodyweight exercise, there is no need for any equipment and it can be performed almost anywhere
  • Can help get rid of muscular imbalances

Cons

  • This exercise is not suitable for beginners and for people who are out of shape as they can get hurt
  • Requires a lot of ankle and hip mobility and flexibility

Glute-Ham Raise

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How To Perform

Start off by adjusting the equipment according to your body. Once that is done, lock both your feet by placing them in between the rollers. Your feet should be firmly pressed against the footplate with your knees behind the pad. Lie face down on the machine with your back arched. Flex your knees while simultaneously pressing your toes into the foot plate. This should bring your body to an upright position. Hold it for a second and then slowly descend back into the starting position.

Pros

  • Helps increase strength and muscle mass in the glutes and hamstrings
  • Improves sprinting speed and jumping capabilities

Cons

  • This exercise requires a dedicated piece of equipment to perform
  • If done improperly, the user can end up with issues in their lower back

Walking Lunge

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How To Perform

You can perform this exercise with your own bodyweight, a pair of dumbbells, or with a barbell on your shoulder. Start by standing tall with a pair of dumbbells, and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. With your back straight, take a big step forward with your right leg and flex both your knees to get down. You should continue to get down until your left knee almost touches the ground. Make sure that the knee doesn’t go past the toes as that can put a lot of stress on the knees. Using the heel of the right foot, drive your body back up. Now perform the lunge with the other leg.  

Pros

  • Can be performed almost anywhere and does not require any equipment
  • Helps improve balance and core stability

Cons

  • Can put a lot of strain on the knees if they go past the toes
  • Exercise can cause back problems if performed incorrectly

Bulgarian Split Squat

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How To Perform

You will need a bench and a pair of dumbbells to perform this exercise. Start off by standing in front of a bench with a pair of dumbbells. Position your left foot forward and your right foot on the bench. Slowly get down into a lunge by flexing your knees. Make sure to keep your body straight throughout the movement. Once your left thigh is parallel to the ground, stop descending, and hold this position for a second. Drive through the heel and return to the starting position. Once you’re done with a set, switch your legs up and repeat the movement.  

Pros

  • Isolates and engages the quadriceps more than other leg workouts
  • Dramatically increases the stability, balance, and strength in the legs

Cons

  • Shearing forces on the knee increases once it goes past the toes
  • Requires quite a bit of flexibility to perform

Hack Squat

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How To Perform

Start by positioning yourself on the machine by placing your shoulders under the shoulder pads and resting your back on the back pad. Keep your feet on the platform using a shoulder-width stance, with toes pointed slightly. Push yourself up by pressing down on the platform and disengage the safety bars. Extend your legs without locking your knees. Then, slowly lower the machine by bending the knees until you form a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for a second and push yourself back up by driving through the heels. Make sure to exhale during this movement. Once you’re done, lock the safety bars in place before getting yourself out.

Pros

  • Very low risk of lower back strain as your body is well supported throughout the movement
  • Great for working out the quadriceps

Cons

  • Can be uncomfortable and unnatural due to the fixed and rigid range of motion
  • Some hack squat machines can end up hurting you if you don’t engage the safety bars on time

Romanian Deadlift

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How To Perform

You’ll need a loaded barbell in order to perform this exercise. Start by holding the loaded bar at hip level with a pronated grip. Stand tall, with your shoulders back, chest pushed out front, back arched, and knees slightly bent. Slowly lower the bar down by pushing your butt out. Keep the bar close to your body. Do not look down as that can cause your back to curve. Instead, look forward. Once the bar is lowered to a point below your knee, stop and hold for a second. Drive your hips forward and get back to the starting position.

Pros

  • Increases hip lower back strength, mobility, and flexibility
  • Helps build strength and muscle mass in the hamstrings and glutes  

Cons

  • If done incorrectly, the exercise can cause lower back issues

Front Squat

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How To Perform

Although this exercise can be performed without a squat rack, it is recommended that you do it inside one for added safety. Start off by setting a loaded barbell on a rack that’s appropriate for your height. Get under the bar and place it on your deltoids. Cross your arms and grasp the bar while keeping your elbows high. Lift the bar off the rack and slowly step away. Stand tall with your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart and point your toes slightly outward. Lower the bar slowly by bending your knees till your thighs break parallel with the floor. Push yourself back up to the starting position by driving through the middle of your feet. Make sure to exhale as you perform this movement.    

Pros

  • Minimizes the load on the spine
  • The exercise helps you maintain an upright torso and allows you to squat deep

Cons

  • Not suitable for beginners and people with lower back issues
  • You’ll be forced to use less weight when compared with the barbell squat

Barbell Squat

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How To Perform

It is recommended that you perform this exercise inside a squat rack. Start by setting a loaded barbell on a rack that’s appropriate for your height. Get under the bar and place it on your traps while keeping your head up and your chest out. Lift the bar off the rack and slowly step away. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, with the toes pointing outward. Slowly lower the bar by bending your knees till your upper thighs touch your calves. At this point, push yourself back up by driving through the middle of your feet. Make sure to exhale as you perform this movement.

Pros

  • Works a lot of muscles simultaneously such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and even the abs
  • Improves body stability and balance

Cons

  • Barbell squat is risky and can cause injury if performed incorrectly
  • Not suitable for people with shoulder and lower back issues

The Verdict

The barbell squat is and will always be the king of leg workouts. Being a compound movement, it works a multitude of muscle groups and can help develop significant strength and muscle mass. The only downside to this wonderful exercise is that it requires you to maintain a strict form throughout. Without proper form, you can end up injuring yourself. Also, people with lower back issues might want to steer clear of this exercise. Instead, they can opt for leg presses and Bulgarian split squats as these two leg workouts do not stress the lower back. People wanting to solely focus on developing their hamstrings and glutes can opt for the Romanian deadlift, which is another one of the best leg workouts.  

All Round Fitness for Building Muscle and Body Building

April 9, 2014 by  
Filed under All Round Fitness

When you are ready to start body building and getting more muscle, you need to first have a good knowledge about how the muscles work in the body, and what kind of exercises you need to do to work each one of them. Some people think that if they want strong looking arm muscles, they only need to work their triceps or biceps. While you do need to focus on those two main muscle groups in the arms, you also need to work all of the muscles in the upper body, including those of the back and shoulders.

Building muscle all over your body is key to becoming strong and developing a long and lean look. Once you have your core strength, you can then focus on exercises to target certain muscles that you want to work on. You need to have a good core strength which includes a strong mid-section and back. This is important because you need to be able to have the strength to stabilize your muscles during hard workouts. You also need to still be doing cardio exercise like running, walking or cycling throughout your workouts to keep your body limber and strong.

If you only do weight lifting when you are trying to build muscle, you are not going to see the results that you want as quickly, and you are more likely to hurt your muscles because without any other kind of exercise like cardio or stretching, your muscles are going to be more likely to constrict and become tight. You need to be sure to properly stretch after each workout that you do, to help keep your muscles limber and warmed up for the next workout.

If you are unsure what kinds of exercises you should be doing to build strength and develop your muscles in the body, work with a trainer or get some great ideas online that can help you get started on your routine and help you see the results that you want more efficiently.