How To Do Sit-Ups For A Flat Tummy, Variations, Benefits

Written by Charushila Biswas
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition

There is no shortcut to getting rid of tummy flab. It is infamous for being stubborn. But with the right exercise and diet, you can shed the excess fat tissue. Sit-ups are an effective way to burn calories and tone your tummy.

They work on the abdominal muscles – rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, and hip flexors. However, doing them the right way is important. Doing sit-ups incorrectly can cause lower back and neck pain. Read on to explore how to do sit-ups correctly, their variations, and the benefits. Scroll down.

How To Do Sit-Ups Correctly

Basic Sit-Ups Steps

  1. Lie down on a mat. Keep your legs hip-width apart, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands on the sides of your thighs (or at the back of your head), and push your lower back to the floor.
  2. Engage your core. Keep your neck in line with the spine, look diagonally up at the ceiling, and inhale.
  3. Exhale and use your core muscles for sitting up. As you do so, your hands will slide up from your thighs to your knees. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  4. Inhale and slowly roll back down to the starting position. Make sure your lower back is lying flat on the mat.
  5. Again, exhale and sit up.
  6. Do 3 sets of 5 reps before moving on to 8, 12, and 15 reps.

Now, let’s take a look at the guidelines to do sit-ups correctly to reduce the risk of injury.

3 Basic Guidelines To Do Sit-ups Correctly

  1. Always push your lower back to the floor so that it is completely on the ground. Place a rolled towel underneath if you cannot fully push the lower back to the floor.
  2. Do not strain your neck by tucking it in.
  3. Place your fingers behind your back and keep your arms open. Do not slouch.

Follow these instructions while doing sit-ups to prevent pain in the neck or lower back. Achieving the proper form also helps target muscles apart from the abs. Here are all the muscles that sit-ups work on.

Which Muscles Do Sit-ups Work On?

Sit-ups work the rectus abdominis, obliques, rectus femoris, tensor fascia latae, chest, and neck muscles. These are the muscles that hold your spine and keep your body straight. They prevent collapsing or twisting of the spine, helping in the neck and hip movement.

Sit-ups work on almost the entire body, especially, when you do variations of the basic exercise. The following section lists the sit-up variations you can do to get a slimmer waist, stronger core, and better muscle endurance. Scroll down.

8 Sit-Up Exercise Variations To Get A Flat Tummy

1. Hands To Heels

Works On – Upper abs, lower abs, chest, quads, and shoulders

Steps

  • Lie down on a mat. Keep your knees flexed, feet flat on the floor, and legs hip-width apart.
  • Extend your hands above your head and keep them shoulder-width apart. Make sure your lower back is in a posterior tilt.
  • Exhale and push your upper body up. Simultaneously, swing your hands from above your head to the side of your heels.
  • Inhale and roll back down to the starting position.
  • Do not tuck your chin. Keep your gaze diagonally up at the ceiling.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

2. Straight Leg Sit-Ups

Works On – Lower abs and upper abs

Steps

  • Lie down on the floor. Keep your legs hip-width apart, and hands above your head, and look up at the ceiling. This is the starting position.
  • Exhale and pull your upper body up into a sitting position. Keep your hands extended above your head.
  • Inhale and roll back down on the mat.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

3. Butterfly Sit-Ups

Works On – Lower abs, upper abs, and adductors (inner thigh muscles)

Steps

  • Sit on a mat. Keep your knees flexed and feet flat on the floor.
  • Open your thighs and place the sole of your right foot against the sole of the left foot.
  • Roll down slowly on the mat. Extend your hands above your head, and look up at the ceiling. This is the starting position.
  • Exhale and pull your upper body up into a sitting position. Simultaneously, swing your hands from above your head to just beyond your toes.
  • Inhale and slowly roll back down to the starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

4. V-Ups

Works On – Lower abs, upper abs, chest, shoulders, quads, and hamstrings

Steps

  • Lie down on a mat. Keep your legs together, hands extended above your head, and your spine in a posterior tilt.
  • Lift both your legs and the upper body simultaneously. Try to touch your toes. Keep your gaze diagonally up at the ceiling.
  • Inhale and roll back to the starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

5. Oblique V-Ups

Works On – Obliques, lower abs, upper abs, hip flexors, lats, and shoulders

Steps

  • Lie down on your right side. Keep your right hand extended in front for support, your left hand extended towards the ceiling, legs together, knees slightly bent, and core engaged.
  • Lift your legs and your upper body and touch your left leg with your left hand.
  • Exhale and roll back to the starting position.
  • Do this 10 times before switching sides.
  • Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

6. Weighted Sit-Ups

Works On – Lower abs, upper abs, chest, and shoulders

Steps

  • You can do this using a dumbbell or a plate.
  • Sit down on a mat. Keep your legs hip-width apart, feet flat on the floor, spine straight, and shoulders relaxed.
  • Hold the weight with both hands and lift it just above your head. Make sure your elbows are slightly bent.
  • Roll back slowly. Make sure your spine is flat on the floor, and your hands are right above your head. This is the starting position.
  • Exhale and sit up. Do not lift your legs off the floor. Keep your back straight. Do not tuck your chin. Look diagonally up at the ceiling.
  • Inhale and go back to the starting position.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

7. V-Up And Tuck

Works On – Lower abs, upper abs, middle abs, quads, hamstrings, chest, and shoulders

Steps

  • Lie down on the mat, hands overhead, legs extended, and lower back on the floor.
  • Lift your legs off the floor. Keep them extended. This is the starting position.
  • Engage your core, lift your upper body off the floor, bring your hands to the side, and tuck your knees in close to the chest. Exhale.
  • Extend your legs, place your upper body back on the floor, and hands overhead.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

8. Banana Twists

Works On – Obliques, lower abs, upper abs, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Steps

  • Lie down on the floor, legs together, and hands extended over the head.
  • Lift your legs and hands off the floor. Engage your core muscles and squeeze your glutes. This is the starting position.
  • Sit up. Bring your hands from above your head to near your knees, following an arched path.
  • Simultaneously, flex your knees and do not drop your feet on the floor.
  • Twist to the right and left without stopping. Exhale.
  • Go back to the starting position. Inhale.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 reps.

These sit-ups will help improve core strength and whittle away the belly flab. Apart from sit-ups, you can also do crunches. However, there are differences between the two. What are they? Find out in the next section.

Sit-Ups Vs. Crunches – What’s The Difference?

Sit-ups are different from crunches in the way they are performed and the muscles they activate. Crunches only work on the ab muscles. But sit-ups are a full-body workout that target the core muscles, shoulders, chest, neck, thighs, and glutes.

Here’s a video to help you understand how sit-ups are different from crunches.

Apart from reducing belly fat, you also get to enjoy the following benefits by including sit-ups and their variations in your abs routine. Scroll down.

Benefits Of Doing Sit-Ups

  • Improve core strength
  • Enhance hip flexor strength
  • Increase flexibility
  • Tone the ab area
  • Improve posture

Tips On Sit-Ups

  • Beginners should start with 3 sets of 8 reps and progress accordingly. To intensify your routine, increase the number of repetitions.
  • The key to building core strength is the breathing technique. Take deep breaths and keep the pace slow. Concentrate on contracting the muscles and holding the position.
  • Start with your feet 12-18 inches from your butt and continue doing curl-ups. If it feels intensive, increase the distance between your butt and feet. This new angle between your abdominal muscles and legs will take you through a few more reps.
  • To avoid the pain caused by faster sit-up movement, do a less intense variation of the sit-up with the exercise ball. This can help reduce the strain on the lower back. Keep your lower back firmly in contact with the floor throughout the movement to avoid excessive strain.
  • You can also add weights to intensify your sit-up and challenge yourself. Just grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them in your hands. Weights are best added in the Jackknife version of sit-ups.

Conclusion

Sit-ups can be rewarding when done correctly. They help burn calories and melt the fat tissue in your belly area. Eat healthy, rest well, and do sit-ups and their variations twice or thrice a week and see amazing results.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What is the difference between sit-ups and crunches?

Sit-ups are different from crunches in the way they are performed and the muscles they activate. In sit-ups, you lie down and sit up completely before going back to the lying posture. While doing crunches, you curl up and lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor without completely sitting up.

Crunches only work on the ab muscles, but sit-ups work on the core muscles, shoulders, chest, neck, thighs, and glutes.

Do sit-ups help flatten your stomach?

Yes, sit-ups are effective in burning belly fat. Start with 3 sets of 8 reps of sit-ups. You can also do sit-up variations like V-ups, V-ups, knee tucks, and oblique sit-ups. You must also eat healthy, cut your sugar intake, and rest well to get a flat stomach.

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Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. This prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.