Sit-Ups (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

Sit-ups are one of the tried and true ‘classic’ core exercises. However, even though they may be an old classic, Sit-ups are still one of the most effective core strengthening exercises that you can do.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to properly do Sit-ups, explain what muscles they work and provide a few alternatives.

How To Do Sit-Ups

Equipment Needed

  • None

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Lay on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands either behind your head for support, beside the ears or with arms crossed in front of the chest.
  • Sit up by contracting and flexing the abdominals
  • Lower back down to the floor and repeat

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake that I see with Sit-ups is pulling way too hard on the back of the head. If you are going to place your hands behind your head, do so only to support the head, not pull on it.

Instead of placing the hands behind the head you can also keep hands by the ears, or in front of the chest if needed, but avoid pulling on the back of the head.

Benefits of Situps

Situps primarily target your rectus abdominis muscle. Strengthening the rectus abdominis (along with the rest of your core) can improve your posture, balance, and overall core strength and stability.

A strong core is essential for many sports and activities, including running, jumping, and lifting weights. By strengthening your abs with Situps, you can improve your athletic performance and reduce your risk of injury.

Situps require no equipment and can be done anywhere, making them a convenient exercise for people with busy schedules or limited access to a gym.

How Many Reps?

I normally program Sit-ups as part of a core circuit with 2 or 3 other exercises. The rep range is usually 1 or 2 sets of 15 to 25 reps.

Muscles Worked

Muscles Worked - Rectus Abdominis
Muscles Worked – Rectus Abdominis

Sit-ups work the entire abdominal region but primarily emphasize the Rectus Abdominis.

Sit-Up Alternatives

If you’re unable to do Sit-ups, here are a few alternatives that you may be able to use as a substitution. Want even more options? Here are 17 alternatives to Sit-ups to work your core.



The simplest alternative to Sit-ups is to switch them out for Crunches. If you’re struggling with Sit-ups, Crunches is the first thing I would suggest as a replacement until you’re ready to progress back to Sit-ups.

Start laying on your back as well, knees bent at 90 and feet off the floor. Instead of sitting all the way up, simply crunch up and squeeze the abs.

Suitcase Crunches

Suitcase Crunches

Another alternative for Sit-ups are Suitcase Crunches. These are a little more difficult than regular Crunches, so they can be used as a progression toward doing full Sit-ups.

Instead of laying on your back, balance up on your butt and bring your knees and chest together at the top and then extend out – keeping back and feet off the ground throughout the entire set.

More Links and Info

For more ab exercises with step-by-step instructions, check out the Core Section of the Exercise Library.

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