Sit-Ups Exercise Guide

Reviewed by Valerie Zeller Valerie Zeller Printable version

Sit-ups have been a mainstay of abdominal exercises for nearly a century. They’re easy, can be performed relatively anywhere and don’t require exercise equipment of any kind. They also work more than just the abdominal muscles—they also work your chest, hip flexors, lower back and neck muscles. You can also adjust your sit-ups to make them harder or easier on you, depending on your fitness level and preference.

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How to do Sit-Ups


Hook feet under foot support or safe low overhang. Lay supine on floor or bench with knees twisted. Put hands behind neck or on side of body.


Lay down on a mat or a towel on a flat surface. Draw your legs in by bending your knees to 90 degrees. Place your hands by your ears and take your elbows out wide. From this start position, draw your belly button down towards the floor to engage your core, then contract your stomach muscles (abs) to raise up to a sitting position.

Keep your feet on the floor through out the movement and avoid the temptation to put your feet under something or asking a buddy to anchor your feet. Another common mistake is to use your arms to pull the back of your head up, make sure you don’t do this otherwise you may strain your neck.


  • A more complex sit-up is the shelf sit-up, which includes building a flat surface with your lower body where you can position an item (e.g., a medicine ball). The aim is to do the sit-ups normally.

  • When you have bad hands, consider doing the sit-ups with your arms sitting to either side of you. Resist utilizing them in every way. You can also get a good exercise, but won't touch them and threaten more.

  • If you have weak shoulders, try performing your sit-ups with both arms lying on either side of you. Resist utilizing or raising your arms in some way. You'll get a perfect abdominal exercise without the opportunity.

  • While you're not manipulating your core muscles as much as you will with other workouts, sit-ups will also aggravate lower back pain. Alternatively, consider partial crunches, which include relaxing the abdominal muscles.

  • Sit-ups are usually granted the green light by clinicians during the first trimester, so it's safer to skip them in the second and third trimesters.


  • Don't initiate the movement with your shoulders. Instead, focus on rising up by contracting your abs.

  • Feet can be held down by partner instead of foot bar. Certain individuals may need to keep their neck in neutral position with space between their chin and sternum. If upper back does not come completely down at end of movement, abdominal muscles may only be isometrically involved in exercise. Pectineus, Adductor Longus, and Brevis do not assist in hip flexion since hips are already initially bent.

Exercise Benefits

  • Chest Strength

  • Cardio

  • Core Strength

Illustrated Guide

Learn how to do sit-ups from this step-by-step illustrations:

Sit-Ups 1
Sit-Ups 2

Muscles Worked

The muscles used for sit-ups may change slightly based on the your trained range of motion and technique, but in the most general case, the muscles used for sit-ups are:

Primary Muscles

  • Abs

Synergyst Muscles

  • Obliques
  • Hip Abductors

Frequently Asked Questions

What muscles does Sit-Ups work?
Sit-Ups works abs.
What is Sit-Ups good for?
Sit-Ups is beneficial for conditioning and to strengthen. It works the best for core and waist, as it works abs. Sit-Up is a great bodyweight exercise for men, men over 50, women and women over 50.
Is Sit-Up a good exercise?
Sit-Up is a popular bodyweight exercise for abs.

Training, Progressions and Regressions

Interested in how to improve your Sit-Ups faster?

Sit-Ups Training and Progressions

Standards and Averages

Wonder how do others perform in Sit-Ups and how should you?

Sit-Ups Standards and Averages


Wonder how to work the same muscles with other exercises?

Sit-Ups Alternatives


Wonder how to make Sit-Ups either easier or more challenging?

Sit-Ups Variations


Type(s) Bodyweight, Calisthenic, Strength, Isolated
Muscles Worked Abdominals, Obliques, Hip Abductors
Difficulty Level(s) Basic, Easy, Simple
Equipment No Equipment, Mat
Location At Gym, At Home, Outdoor

Muscles Worked

Target muscle(s) Abs
Synergyst muscle(s) Obliques, Hip Abductors

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