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January 13, 2022 9 min read

Sit-ups were one of those basic exercises taught in your elementary school gym class. They are a basic yet highly effective trend that never goes away.

These exercises sit high up on the list of isolation exercises for razor-sharp six-pack abs. If you have been doing this killer exercise for all your life, it will be reduced to a monotonous, boring routine that you wish you could breathe life into.

In this article, we have compiled ten different sit-up variations that are just as effective as the standard sit-up.

Sit-Ups the Right Way

Sit-ups are a popular bodyweight exercise that trains multiple muscle groups in your torso.

According to this study, it is one of  the most effective muscle and core strength exercises.

The sit-up might look like the crunch, but thanks to its wider range of motion, it activates more muscles in the lower abs, hip, and back.

Sit-ups target the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, iliopsoas of the spine, rectus femoris, and a slew of minor muscle groups like neck flexors, shoulder extensors, and sartorius of the thigh.

However, to engage all these muscles, you need to do your sit-ups properly.

Sit-ups help to target and engage the core and stabilizer muscles. It strengthens and tones your core muscles while equally providing muscle strength, improved balance, and better stability.

Sit-ups not only induce muscle mass but are also a functional exercise.

A study even shows that sit-ups  help strengthen the diaphragm due to the compression and contraction of the abdominal muscles. With your pelvic and abdominal areas being the primary area of concentration, sit-ups help to increase mobility and relieve pressure in your lower back.

This improves overall health, flexibility, betters your posture, and reduces the risk of back pain and injuries.

Essentially, sit-ups contribute to your performance in physical activities and even help to improve the fat-to-muscle ratio. They are mostly not a good way of getting rid of belly fat but paired with other fat-blasting exercises, sit-ups are a fine addition to your already stable workout routine.

Pair sit-ups consistently with SHREDDED-AF, and you are on your way to a shredded physique that is fully equipped with 6-pack abs and more.

10 Sit-Up Variations

There are various ways to do sit-ups, and the variations are derived from simple changes in the placement of your arms and legs or even the controlled wrenching of your torso.

Some of these variations also employ weighted equipment like kettlebells and dumbbells.

Regardless of the various style, you get to tune up your simple sit-up variation and get more impressive results.

    1. The Standard Sit-Up


      The traditional sit-up is an old but trusted exercise that never goes out of fashion.

      It is a low-intensity and simple workout that helps to improve overall muscle endurance. Your ability to execute other sit-up variations in perfect form hinges on your ability to perform the standard  sit-up with proper form.

      This is especially important as a mistake in your body form, regardless of the variation, can lead to injuries. The traditional sit-up might not look like much, but its compound movements help to target multiple muscle groups in the body.

      The standard sit-up primarily isolates the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and oblique pairs for that shredded muscle look.

      It also engages almost half a dozen other accessory muscle groups that are in one way or the other involved in stabilizing your upper body. The standard sit-up helps with mobility, flexibility, and stamina while toning your muscles.

      To do this variation:

      • Lay flat on your back while keeping your legs together. 
      • Bend your knees slightly with your toes facing forward.
      • Keep your spine straight. Fold your elbows and touch your fingers lightly to your ears or cross your arms in front of your chest.
      • Engage your core and slowly lift your torso off the floor.
      • Keep your feet flat on the floor and raise your upper body until your elbow comes in contact with your knee.
      • Slowly return to the starting position. This is one rep.
        2. Butterfly Sit-Up

          Like the standard sit-up, the butterfly sit-up is an excellent six-pack exercise for beginners.

          It targets and activates the abdominal and core muscles for chiseled abs and impressive core strength.

          This variation involves a broader range of movement that brings the torso closer to the pelvis, and so, it is an excellent exercise for your hip flexors. This, in turn, promotes better contraction of the abdominal muscles and induces muscle growth in those areas.

          This sit-up variation is challenging on the back and neck and doesn't make an excellent exercise for people suffering from injuries in these parts.

          To do the butterfly sit-up: 

          • Lie on your back with your spine straight, and knees slightly bent.
          • Spread out your knees laterally until they are pointing out sideways.
          • Bring the bottom of your feet together until your soles are touching.
          • Tuck your chin as if you are holding an egg on your neck.
          • Fold your elbows and put your fingers in front of your ears or on your temple.
          • Engage your core and exhale as you curl up your upper body off the floor towards your knees.
          • Hold as you get in the sitting position and inhale as you slowly lower yourself back to the ground.
          • Repeat.

            3. V-Sit Ups

              The V-sit-up variation, also called The V-up, is a full-body exercise that employs both the upper and lower body.

              It is a more advanced sit-up option that tasks the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and hip flexors, among others.

              This variation provides a combination of core muscle strength and body balance challenge.

              The V-Sit is done with your legs above the ground, taking away your anchor and forcing you to engage your core muscles for balance. It builds balance inside and outside your gym life and helps maintain good body posture. The v-sit is an intermediate ab workout favored by experienced gym goes and bodybuilders alike.

              To do the V-Sit:

              • Lay flat on your back with your arms stretched straight behind you.
              • Keep your spine straight, and toes pointed towards the ceiling.
              • Inhale and tuck your chin
              • Exhale and engage your core as you raise your upper body and legs off the floor simultaneously.
              • Keeping your spine and legs straight, reach your fingers towards your toes until your body is V-shaped.
              • Lower your body slowly to the starting position. Repeat.

              To make the V-Sit more challenging, keep your feet off the floor. This will leave no room for slacking and ensure that your core is engaged throughout your routine.

                4. Sit-Up With Resistance Band

                  The sit-up with resistance band is a simple ab-sculpting exercise. The addition of a resistance band to your standard sit-up is a minor tweak that provides an added challenge to an otherwise monotonous routine. This variation helps your body to focus on isolating the muscles of your trunk even better.

                  To do this variation:

                  • Loop your resistance band around a sturdy support.
                  • Lay flat on the ground with your head towards the pole. Support your feet with dumbbells or ask for assistance from a spotter.
                  • Keep your knees bent slightly
                  • Grab each end of the resistance band with your elbow folded and your palm facing you.
                  • Raise your body into a sitting position and pull the resistance band as you go.
                  • Hold for a second at the top of your movement and return to starting position.
                  • This is one rep. Repeat.

                    5. Running Man Sit-Up

                      The running man sit-up is also popularly known amongst bodybuilders as the Sprinter sit-up.

                      It is an iconic sit-up variation that isolates the abdominal muscles and activates the obliques, glutes and hamstrings to some extent. It is a more exerting version of the standard sit-up and is even a viable cardio exercise when done correctly. 

                      The running man sit-up is a unilateral muscle-training exercise. This makes it a great full-body workout option for correcting muscle irregularities on your left and right side.  

                      To do the running man sit-up:

                      • Lie flat on the floor with your arms at your sides and your feet straight outward.
                      • Raise your forearms so your elbow is at a 90-degree angle and your arm is resting on the floor beside you.
                      • Exhale, squeeze your glutes and engage your core.
                      • Lift your body and jut your right elbow outward with your fingers touching your ear as you raise your left knee towards it. 
                      • Your left arm should be pointed behind you as your body forms the sprinter position, and your right leg should be pointing straight out.
                      • Return to the starting position.
                      • Repeat on your other side by bringing your left elbow to your right knee before returning to the starting position. This is one rep.
                      • Perform as many repetitions are needed.

                        6. Russian Twist Sit-Up

                          This variation is simply the standard sit-up with a twist.

                          This sit-up tweaks the plane of the regular sit-up exercise to ensure that your abdominal muscles are activated across all three planes of movement. The twisting of your trunk in this variation enables you to isolate each side of your abs equally, leading you to build a more defined six-pack trunk. It also helps to catch and correct muscle irregularities while helping balance and muscle strength. 

                          To do the Russian twist sit-up:

                          • Get into the regular sit-up starting position. 
                          • Lay on your back, keep your spine straight, and angle your knees slightly, so your feet are flat on the floor. 
                          • Secure your feet with dumbbells or ask for assistance from a spotter.
                          • Bend your elbows and bring your fingers to your temple or cross your arms in front of your chest.
                          • Contract your core and raise your trunk towards your knees until you are at a 45-degree angle with the floor.
                          • Slowly twist your trunk to your right side and return to the floor.
                          • Raise yourself, immediately turning to the left side before returning to the starting position. This is one rep.

                          This sit-up variation can be made more difficult by clutching weight to your chest. The Russian twist is more demanding and requires excellent muscle strength and endurance.

                            7. Decline Sit-Up

                              In this variation, gravity joins forces with your body weight to provide the ultimate core workout. Using a decline bench, you position yourself and lower the height of your thighs and hip. This requires more effort to raise your body to a full sit-up.

                              The decline sit-up provides a broader range of motion that engages your upper back to some extent and also lights your lower abdominals on fire. Although it is an excellent exercise for core strength and muscle conditioning, many can go wrong without the proper form.

                              To do the decline sit-up:

                              • Adjust the bench to a comfortable angle.
                              • Position yourself lying flat on your back on the bench with your legs in the support.
                              • Put your fingers at your temple or cross your arms in front of your chest.
                              • Engage your core and lift your trunk into a sitting position while keeping your back straight.
                              • Return slowly to the starting position. This counts as one repetition.

                              The decline sit-up can be made easier or more difficult by simply adjusting the angle of the bench.

                                8. Stability Ball Sit-Up

                                  The stability or exercise ball sit-up is a tricky core-strengthening exercise that requires a great deal of balance.

                                  Imagine doing the standard sit-up but on a more unstable surface. Using the swiss ball requires engaging your core muscles to stay atop the unstable surface. 

                                  To do this variation:

                                  • Sit upright atop the stability ball.
                                  • Keep your knees bent about 90-degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
                                  • Rest your mid-back on the ball so that the rest of your upper body is suspended in the air.
                                  • Tuck your neck.
                                  • Engage your abs and slowly curl your body off the ball into an upright sitting position.
                                  • Retain your form and keep your core engaged as you lower yourself back to the starting position.
                                  • Repeat.

                                  You can incorporate the use of weighted plates to make this variation more challenging.

                                    9. Overhead Weighted Sit-Up

                                      This strength-training variation cranks up the standard sit-up by adding extra weights to put a little more stress on your abs for solid core muscles.

                                      The overhead weighted sit-up can be done using kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, weighted plates, or any other choice of resistance. Like different variations, it primarily targets the abdominals and obliques and improves the mobility of the hip flexors.

                                      To do this variation:

                                      • Assume the position for the regular sit-up
                                      • Grasp the weight overhead as you lay on the floor. Your arms should be straight out.
                                      • Push your upper body off the floor slowly. As you do this, press the weight overhead without hyperextending your arms.
                                      • Pause for a second and return to starting position.
                                      • Repeat for as many repetitions as are in your set.

                                        10. Weighted Swiss Ball Sit-Up

                                          The weighted Swiss ball sit-up is a weighted variation of the Swiss ball sit-up.

                                          Adding a weight plate increases the intensity of the workout, increasing muscle engagement.

                                          To do this variation:

                                          • Grasp a weight in hand towards your chest. You can choose to use weighted plates, a medicine ball, or a dumbbell.
                                          • Lay on a stability ball, so your support lies between the bottom of your shoulder blades and your hip.
                                          • Plant your feet firmly into the floor.
                                          • Keep your knees at a 90-degree and your thighs parallel to the floor. 
                                          • Straighten your back and keep your neck neutral.
                                          • Engage your core muscles and push up into a sit-up.
                                          • Return to the starting position. This counts as one rep.

                                          Proper form is essential during this exercise. This would help you avoid injuries while activating the primary muscles. To help you spot and correct any lag in your form during this variation, ask for help from a personal trainer.

                                          The Bottom Line

                                          Sit-ups can be demanding, but they are great for building impressive abs and strengthening your core. Both are not only aesthetically pleasing but also ideal for better functionality. The sit-up and its variations are a great addition to your workout routine.

                                          They are multipurpose and can be utilized in your fitness journey, regardless of your goals.

                                          It doesn't matter if you are trying to lose weight, increase muscle endurance, bulk up, or improve strength, coupled with other  full-body exercises, sit-ups are guaranteed to make your fitness goals achievable.

                                          With a little bit of focus and dedication to sit-ups, you are on your way to achieving your desired results.