Abdominal Sit-Ups are a popular exercise for working out the abs.
It looks like an exercise capable of stimulating numerous abdominal muscles within a movement that requires a fair amount of initial strength to be performed safely and correctly.
Let’s find out how to do it best to get the most out of this exercise!
What Muscles Are Activated During Abdominal Sit-Ups?
The muscles it trains are all those of the abdominal core such as the rectus abdominis, the external oblique, the internal oblique, the transverse abdominis as well as the hip flexor muscles on all sides.
The sit-up is in fact made up of a combination of movements including flexion of the thoracic and lumbar spine and flexion of the hips.
This combination allows the trunk to move from lying to sitting at the end of the repetition.
It is thus an excellent exercise to train the entire anterior muscle chain of the body.
Abdominal Sit-Ups: Execution And Mistakes
The abdominal sit-up in the most classic version is performed starting from the supine position with the hips and knees flexed and the feet on the ground.
In this position, the body must be lifted by performing in sequence a flexion of the trunk and flexion of the hips.
Once you are in a sitting position you gradually return to the ground by resting your back and head entirely before leaving.
Variants in which half movements are performed which create excellent sensations of abdominal muscular work, but which do not allow an optimal improvement of strength and harmonious development of the muscles are not recommended.
To limit the stress on the back it is important to perform the exercise by first bringing the pelvis into retroversion and the lumbar flexion (as in a crunch) and only then flexing the hips by taking the torso off the ground.
Initially, to facilitate the execution it is possible to hook onto a backrest or support with the feet (sit-up on a bench), in such a way as to facilitate the ascent of the trunk without taking the feet off the ground.
Later, with the improvement of strength, we will try to perform the exercise without external support.
The position of the hands is an initial parameter for modulating the overload. Placing the hands crossed on the chest will reduce the difficulty of the exercise while placing them at the back of the neck will increase it.
Even the use of a bench will allow us to modulate the difficulty: by tilting the bench we will make it easier to perform the movement while, on the contrary, by declining the bench we will add greater overload to the exercise.
It is advisable to place a drying or an ab mat for the sit-ups behind the back to favor an optimal pre-stretching of the abdominal muscles and thus favor an effective contraction, preserving muscle balance.
The execution must take place smoothly and in a controlled manner. For more advanced subjects it is possible to insert an additional overload such as a dumbbell or a disc held in front of the chest.
Abdominal Sit-Ups And Back Pain
The sit-up is an exercise that requires a fair amount of initial strength to be performed safely. For this reason, it is certainly not an exercise indicated initially for beginners or for sedentary and inactive subjects for many years.
The sit-up if performed poorly can in fact overload the hips, the lumbar area, and the intervertebral discs a lot causing pain especially in subjects with low back pain or a past history of disc herniation or protrusion.
If you are a beginner we recommend starting with a correctly executed crunch, emphasizing lumbar flexion and pelvic retroversion to strengthen the abdominals and accustom the lumbar area and discs to withstand flexion stress.
The essential difference between a crunch and a classic sit-up consists in the fact that the crunch does not involve lifting the torso from the ground and does not perform the flexion of the hips but only that of the trunk.
To increase the difficulty you can insert facilitated repetitions on an inclined bench to consolidate the strength and lead us towards the execution of a complete repetition on the ground.
Take care of the progression of your training to avoid hurting your back especially if you suffer from chronic back pain.
There are numerous variations of sit-ups including an interesting one inherited from CrossFit called butterfly sit-ups.
Through this variant, a sit-up is performed with the soles of the feet in contact with each other and the legs open outwards.
In this way, we try to limit the use of the hip muscles to emphasize instead the contraction and stimulation of the abdominal muscles.
Obviously, this is a more advanced sit-up variation that can be inserted once we are able to complete more reps of the classic version without hooking the feet to the backrest.
Another variant is the so-called reverse sit-ups which involve an opposite movement with the legs and pelvis that come off the ground and the trunk that remains attached to the ground.
The latter is an exercise that looks a lot like the reverse crunch. The sit-up exercise can be a valuable ally to develop the strength of the entire anterior muscle chain, including the abdominals.
However, it is not an exercise for everyone initially and requires patience, perseverance, attention to correct execution, and personalized programming.
This is especially true if you are a beginner and have suffered or suffered from back pain.