The perfect sit up can be an elusive achievement. Maybe you learned to do them in elementary school, when you could knock out 60 or so in a minute. Never mind that your hips were flying off the ground the entire time. Or maybe you like to take the easy way out, opting for trendy equipment to “assist” you in core strengthening exercises. While shiny new toys are fun, they won’t replace good old-fashioned hard work. And the bottom line is, most of us don’t really understand the proper technique for doing a sit up.
Let’s get one thing straight right away: there’s more to your core than just your abs. Your core consists of a group of muscles located in your abdominals, back, hips, and hamstrings. These muscles are the connection between your upper and lower body, and help you stand upright and resist force or impact. If you’re sitting down to read this article, think of the motions you go through to stand up, sit down, stand up again, walk a few steps, and pull open a door. None of that is possible without your core muscles, and you use them in nearly everything you do. So it’s important to keep those muscles strong. A sit up is a great way to strengthen your core. Here’s the right way to do it:
- Begin by lying with your back on the floor. You can use a cushioned mat if you like. Bend your legs at the knee, keeping your feet on the floor, in a line with your hips.
- Place your hands behind your head. You can interlace your fingers if you like, or just set your hands on either side of your head, whatever is comfortable for you. Alternately, you can place your arms across your torso, as shown by the Navy man in the photo.
- Engage your abs, meaning tense your muscles just enough to feel some resistance. Inhale.
- Exhale and curl your upper body and then your lower back off the ground, rising toward your knees.
- Roll back down toward the ground and inhale, with your lower back touching the ground first and then your upper body.
That’s it. A sit up is a simple, yet very effective exercise, but only when done properly.
Here are a few tips to help you stay safe and avoid injury:
- Do not arch your back. You only want to feel this exercise in the middle of your stomach. Arching your back puts excess strain on other muscles and increases your risk for injury.
- If your neck begins to hurt while doing sit ups, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. It helps your throat and neck muscles relax, easing tension. It may sound silly, but the Boise Healthy Living Examiner can personally assure you that this works.
- Don’t overtrain your core. Two to four days per week is sufficient. Not only will you overwork the muscles, you’ll have a hard time getting around, which may influence you to skip your workout altogether.
Talk it up:
Are sit ups part of your fitness routine?
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