Sit-up variations for the adventurous

Over the course of time, sit-ups have become much maligned in the fitness industry because of their ineffectiveness.  I beg to differ.  I think it’s more a matter of too many people failing to do them with proper technique.

Any exercise can be good or bad based on the way you perform it so don’t let that be a deterrent from trying something out.


Personally, I find basic sit-ups a bit boring so I like to spice things up with these alternate types of sit-ups.

I’m going to describe them here so you too can change up your workouts and make them more motivating to do.

1. Star Sit-ups

Lie flat on your back with your arms 90 degrees from your body with your palms down and legs spread into a “Y” shape.

Roll sideways onto your left forearm as you raise your left leg off the ground.

Move your right arm off the floor and do a slight twist as you touch your left toes with your right hand.

Slowly lower yourself back to the floor, switch sides and continue to alternate back and forth in a steady, but not fast, motion.

Always keep your leg straight when you raise it up.

Do not compromise form by bending your knee.  If you can’t touch your toes, it’s because your hamstrings are too tight.  Just go as far as you can and aim your hand toward your foot.

2. 3-point sit-ups

Lie flat on your back with your legs together and arms overhead with palms up.

Move your arms forward as you sit up from the ground and tap the floor outside your hips.

Lean forward and tap your toes, then tap the floor by your hips again.

Lower yourself all the way back to the starting position and repeat.

In similar fashion to star sit-ups, if you can’t touch your toes, that’s fine.  Reach as far as you can without bending your knees and call it good. That forward movement is actually restorative for tight hamstrings so by doing this exercise on a regular basis, you’ll improve your flexibility.

types of sit ups_23. Double kettlebell sit-ups

You will need a spotter to do these.  

Lie flat on your back with two moderately heavy kettlebells by your shoulders and your legs together and straight.

Grab the bells and pull them in close to your chest.  Make sure your wrists are straight and keep them straight throughout the exercise.

Press the kettlebells up like you were doing a dumbbell bench press and hold them with your arms fully extended.  Have your partner press down on the tops of your lower legs by your ankles and start sitting up.

Be sure to keep your arms perfectly straight and vertical as you move your head between them.  Once you are in a full seated position and your arms in line with your ears, slowly lower yourself back down and repeat.

If you do not have a spotter, get creative.  I find draping a heavy strength sandbag over my lower legs works well to keep them down.  You can also pin your feet under a stationary object if you have access to one.  For example, if you own kettlebells and are at home, prop your feet under a sturdy couch.

5. Inverted sit-up

This is a very difficult drill that requires the use of gravity boots and a pull-up bar.  Securely fasten the boots on your lower legs and make sure the hooks are facing up.

Reach up and grab the bar with a wide grip then carefully raise your legs up to the bar.

Wrap the hooks onto the bar and slowly lower yourself down until you are completely inverted.

Place your hands on the sides of your head and do a full sit-up.  Lower yourself all the back down slowly and repeat.

You also have the option of letting your arms hang down toward the ground in the bottom position and then reaching for your toes as you sit up.

Once you complete a set, grab the backs of your legs and walk your hands up them until you reach the bar.  Take a firm hold, remove each leg and lower them down slowly until you are in a dead hang position. Drop down from the bar and take a seat for a couple minutes to avoid getting a head rush.

OK, now it’s time to go test some of these out.  Remember to always use good form and think in terms of safety first, especially with inverted sit-ups.  Let me know if you need any further assistance and try not to get too shredded.

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