Sit-ups are one of the most popular exercises for toning the abdominal muscles, and, arguably, the one exercise that most of us learn to do first. Yet, despite our early introduction to this movement, many people fail to perform it correctly, which can lead to injuries. Here are some of the most common errors people make when doing sit-ups.
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Pulling your neck
Sit-ups involve clasping your hands behind your neck, as you lift your torso upwards. The reason that your hands rest here is to support your head and neck only. Too many people use their hands behind their neck to pull them up, which only puts strain on your neck vertebrae and spine. Plus, if your hands are doing all the work, this takes the effort away from the abdominal muscles, reducing the effectiveness of the exercise.
Make sure you only use your stomach muscles to lift your torso when doing sit-ups, and if you feel a strain in your neck, stop and adjust your form. Your hands should only be placed lightly against your neck, with your elbows kept wide.
The more sit-ups you do, the quicker you’ll gain a six-pack. This might seem logical, but actually, it’s the quality of the sit-ups that matter rather than the quantity. The problem with doing excessive, fast sit-ups is that you’re more likely to focus on momentum as opposed to muscle, which can reduce the effectiveness of each sit-up.
If you want to get the most from each sit-up, perform slow, rather than speedy, movements. As well as lifting your body up in a steady and controlled manner, always slowly lower your torso at the end of each sit-up, so that it doesn’t hit the floor.
As well as performing sit-ups too quickly, many people make the mistake of not pausing during repetitions. If you don’t do this, you could end up fluffing your technique and losing control, potentially causing an injury. Ideally, aim to do 10-15 sit-ups with a 30-second pause, followed by a further set of repetitions. Even if you’re super fit, never attempt to do over 30 repetitions without taking a short rest.
If you perform sit-ups with your legs straight, you might start to experience aches and pains in your spine. To reduce pressure off your back, legs should be kept bent with knees flexed throughout the sit-up movement.
Your feet shouldn’t move or rock up and down when you perform sit-ups, as this puts pressure on your lower back. Instead, keep feet flat and firm on the ground. Some people use a spotter or foot brace to keep their feet anchored when performing sit-ups, but this should be avoided, as it forces the hip flexors to work harder as opposed to the abdominal muscles. The end result could be spinal strain and even potential lumbar disc injury.
Focusing on forward motion only
If you only concentrate on doing sit-ups with a forward motion that go up and down, your core muscles won’t get a complete workout. Instead, change direction and add backward, twisting or side-to-side movements into your repertoire. Think activities such as side planks or seated and standing twists.
Correct breathing is essential when performing sit-ups, where you should exhale when reaching the sit-up position, and inhale going back down. This is the most comfortable breathing technique since the chest expands during the down movement and is compressed during the upward sit-up. Always keep your chin off your chest during sit-ups, as this can restrict breathing.