The Ultimate Guide to Sit-Up Exercise

Sit-ups are among those ab exercises which everybody knows. When somebody starts to train his abdominal, it is the first ab exercise it comes into his mind.

Some expert fitness trainers say it is one of the most important body weight techniques to strengthen the midsection, others say it is useless and can be even harmful. Overall, there are many questions around doing it. Within this post, I would like to answer these questions.

FAQ About Sit-Up Exercise

1. Are sit-ups bad for the lower back?

Many people who start doing it complain about they have lower back pain. You have to understand that pain in the back or in your spine is not because this type of ab workout is harmful but for other reasons.

These reasons can be:

  • The exercise is done improperly.
  • No warm-up activities and stretching are done before the training.
  • The person does not do any other workouts to train his lower back muscles.
  • Poor posture. You do not hold your torso stable.

Doing this abdominal exercise is not more dangerous than any other type of core training. If you get rid of the mentioned reasons above, you will not have back problems and you can train your whole midsection effectively.

Are sit-ups bad for you if you have chronic lower back pain, spine problems, or back injuries? Yes, I would not do it. It makes the issues worse.

Here is a video to understand the proper sit-up technique.

2. Sit-Ups vs Crunches?

Both of them are core strength exercises with advantages and disadvantages. For example, crunches train your upper abs better while sitting-ups strengthen the lower muscles more efficiently. There is no such thing that is better. Do both!

3. What muscles do the sit-ups work?

sit ups muscles worked

The main muscle groups that sit-ups are good for are the rectus abdominis that give the six-pack look and the obliques (side abs). But, other stabilizer muscles are also activated as well.

4. Can I build six-pack abs with it?

I think, you already know the answer. It is nearly impossible to get flat abs just because you do hundreds of reps daily. You want to burn belly fat first. It is a great technique to define and strengthen your rectus abdominis, but not the best one for oblique muscles, for example. You need to do other core workouts as well, in order to train your whole midsection and your low back.

Moreover, to get the best results you need to use different sorts of equipment to make the movement by using an adjustable ab bench, medicine ball, or other machines.

In addition, without a healthy diet, it is nearly impossible for most people to get a flat stomach. To get there, you need to take in balanced nutrition and follow a workout routine that contains various types of conditioning, strength, and cardio workouts. The aim is fat loss while you have a healthy lifestyle. That is the best way to lose belly fat.

Learn more: Reviews: Best Sit Up Benches for Home

5. How should I breathe?

Many people do not know how to breathe properly while they do abdominal exercises. It is important to concentrate on breathing, since “without air” performing the motion properly is harder and more tiring. Breath out, when you exert and breath in when you recover and do the extension.

6. How often should I do sit-up workouts?

Again, do not do only sit-ups, but a full routine with other exercises. This is another question that splits the community. Ones say that ab muscles can be trained every day, others say 3-4 times a week is optimal.

There are two reasons why I suggest not training every day. The first is that no matter if it is abdominal muscle or not, it needs resting and recovering. The other is that if you do ab training every day sooner or later you will get tired of it and lose your pleasure. I have tried both ways, but for me, the 4 times per week routine works the best.

7. What about sit-up variations?

There are many variations you can do with or without equipment. Within the video below you can learn some.

Related: Sit-ups with weights

8. Is it good for women?

Of course! Just do not make the mistakes mentioned in the first answer. It surely helps to slim your belly and hips.

Overall, it is a useful core exercise, but it is not enough. A combination of other ab exercises is crucial. You can discover a lot of types of workouts here.

9. Will doing 50 reps before going to bed tone the stomach?

It surely helps, but it is not enough if you have belly fat. You should do cardio and proper diet to get rid of that fat.

10. Are incline/decline benches useful?

Surely. Adjustable benches are very useful for getting the most from sit-up exercises and other abdominal exercises. By modifying the angle of the board, you can increase or decrease the resistance.

2 Simple Tips to Boost Your Sit-Ups

It is still one of the most popular practices for training the core muscles. It can be done on the floor, or by exercises on an ab bench and we can make it harder by using a weight or increasing the angle of the board.

However, now I would like to show you a simple technique that will boost the effectiveness of this exercise no matter which version you do.

Firstly, you have to learn the proper sit-up form which is crucial to avoid injuries and pain while performing the move. Check the video above how to sit-ups correctly.

Here comes the first trick. When, you reach the point where you sit up wholly, tighten your abdomen. With this extra move, you can achieve a better muscle contraction so that you can engage your abdominal muscles more efficiently.

The second trick comes now.

Instead of letting your body back to the ground or board of the bench thanks to gravity, we are going to use the negative phase. In the negative phase, the muscles are stretched, and the external resistance is higher than the muscle power, so the muscles only slow the motion. This is the state when we can reach the highest muscle tension. Also, this is the state when the most micro damages in the muscle fibers happen.

To conclude, after we got up, descend slowly back in such a way that we are continually contradicting our abdominal muscles. The tempo of the descending should be at least twice longer, or even more than the sit-up move.

It is a fact that in the negative phase of the exercises we can exert more power by 20 – 30%. This way we can build more muscle mass and strength.

On the other hand, using the negative phase is also useful for beginners, who cannot do any sit-ups yet because they can get there abdomen stronger quickly. For example, by using a TRX or your arms holding in front of you when you descend slowly back to the starting position.

So, the next time you do this ab exercise, do not forget to descend slowly back to get even better results. Anyway, this technique works well with almost any other abs exercises such as with crunches.

Are sit-ups good for you? Share your thoughts below.


Walter M. Forbes

Hi! I'm Walter, a 36-years old gym owner. I've been working out since I was 15. Now I do calisthenics and boxing. On this website, I'd like to share my workout and home workout equipment tips.