4 Ways to Take Sit Ups to the Next Level

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

woman in sit up position

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

woman in a sitting v position

Image source: Pixabay

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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Image source: Pexels

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.

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