Sit-up is one of the most common exercises performed inside and outside the gym premises for abdominal muscles. It looks so simple that people often forget about the risk associated with this exercise, if not performed with the right technique.
The resistance bands can assist people who are struggling to perform sit-ups and challenge the people who are incredibly comfortable doing sit-ups.
Here, I have first explained the technicalities of sit-up exercise and provided common mistakes that can cost you a back injury.
Once you are crystal clear about the working of the muscles of the body during sit-ups, I shall provide the details about how resistance bands can assist and resist you in doing sit-ups along with the different variations with step-by-step instructions.
So how to do sit-ups correctly with resistance bands? Anchor resistance bands on a door in front or back of your body depending upon the purpose. If it is assistance, anchor resistance bands in front of you and if it is resistance, anchor resistance bands on the backside. Lay down on the floor. Now, bend legs at knee level and keep back slightly curved with abdominal muscles engaged. Slowly raise the back while contracting the abdominal area and breathing out. When you reach close to the thigh, it is time to move back to the original position in a controlled manner while breathing in.
This method looks decade old, and nothing new is there. However, there are several blunders people make while doing sit-ups and brings their fitness to a new low.
Learn this exercise from another perspective and master the technique of doing sit-ups with resistance bands.
Here is the index of what you are about to learn through this discussion-
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❝ Hi, I am Ravi, your companion and a passionate fitness athlete, cyclist, runner, gym enthusiast who just loves the concept of resistance bands for their extreme flexibility. I have been using resistance bands as one of my primary fitness equipment for the last many years ❞
Let us begin-
The muscles targeted with sit-ups exercises-
In every exercise we perform, some muscles act as a primary muscle, which plays the most crucial role in executing the exercise while some other muscle groups act as a stabilizer to maintain posture.
Here are the muscles activated with situps and the role they play during this exercise-
a. Iliopsoas muscles –
ROLE – Primary
They are a combination of two different muscles named iliacus muscles & psoas muscles.
These muscles are connected from the lower part of the spine and pelvis to the thigh bone (femur). These muscles flex (bend) thigh at the hip joint by pulling the thigh bone towards the hip. They’re also called hip flexors.
b. Rectus Abdominis-
ROLE – Primary and Stabilising
These muscles are connected between the rib cage and the pelvis (hip). Their function is to pull the rib cage towards the pelvis.
These muscles act as a primary during the initial phase of sit-ups and turn in to stabilizing in the later lifting phase of the exercise (More details shall be provided later in this article)
c. Rectus femoris (one of the quadriceps muscles) –
ROLE – stabilizing
These muscles contract for pulling the hip towards the thighs in the final stages of the lifting phase. As such, quadriceps assist the hip flexors.
How the muscles (primary and stabilizing) works during sit-ups exercise–
1. During the exercise, when the upper body is lying flat on the ground, and we start moving the chest in the upper direction. Then, the abdominal muscles are activated, which pull the rib cage towards the hip joint to enable us the lifting of the upper body.
The section of sit-up where abdominal muscles are contracting is referred to as curl-up.
2. When abdominal muscles reach a point where no further contraction is possible, the hip flexor muscles (as detailed before) are activated. The hip flexor muscles further pull the body in an upward direction by pulling the lower spine towards the thigh bones.
The rectus femoris (quadricep muscle connected between the hip bone and thigh bone) also contracts a bit to pull the pelvis towards the thigh.
The abdominal muscles during this ending phase of lifting behave isometrically (it means no change in length) and act as stabilizing muscles to keep the spine squeezed as resulted at the end of curl-up phase.
So, what are mistakes we do while doing sit-ups where resistance bands can assist you –
Till this point, we understood the roles; quadriceps, hip flexors, and abdominal muscles play while doing sit-ups.
Now, let us examine some of the common mistakes we unknowingly do, which can put loads of pressure over the lower back. The resistance bands can assist you and save you from such blunder.
a. Keeping back arched during the middle and final phase of sit-ups.
During the curl-up section, we pull our body upwards because of the engagement of abdominal muscles. However, if your abdominal muscles are weak, you won’t be able to bend the spine as intended. As a result, the back gets arched in an outward direction.
The hip flexors preliminary pull the spine from the lower side towards the thigh bone while the upper lumbar spine gets bent towards the ground. A dangerous position for a spinal cord!
If you are a beginner and started doing sit-ups by looking at others, then it is time closely observe your back. If the back is arched outward during the major portion of sit-ups, it is the time completely ban sit-ups.
Focus on doing simple crunches, leg raise, tabletops, bi-cycle crunches, and other such floor exercises to strengthen abdominal muscles.
b. Arched pelvis during the entire phase of sit-ups –
The arched pelvis refers to the bending the lower back towards your front side, resulting in a small gap that is left just behind the lower back when you are lying straight on the floor.
In some people with long sitting jobs, the quads and hip flexors become tight. As a result, the hip flexor muscles start pulling the lower spine towards the hip and thigh. It causes the pelvis to tilt anteriorly (in your front).
In the case of sit up, the tight hip flexors mean the lower spine remains bent towards the front abdomen during the entire phase of the exercise, similar to the earlier case of weak abdominal muscles.
Simple stretch the hip flexors through stretching routines like bridge pose, pigeon pose, lunges, etc.
Meanwhile, focus on strengthening abdominal muscles by doing crunches or tabletop sit-ups where we don’t need to lift body way up from the ground.
c. Using arms, upper back and shoulders to lift body during sit-ups –
Sit-up exercise is all about lifting the body by contracting the abdominal muscles. However, people often mischief by lifting arms, shoulder, and upper back first instead of lifting chest with abdominal strength.
The above method may work for beginners who don’t have enough abdominal strength. For doing sit-up with proper posture, bend the arms at the elbow joint and tug your hands behind the ears.
This way, we are not able to actively engage upper back and shoulders, and we are pushed to contract abdominal muscles first.
My recommendation on avoiding mistakes before we move on to band-aided sit-ups –
As discussed above, if you are not able to maintain the posture as detailed in the previous paragraphs, I would recommend you to go through the other sit-up variations before joining hands with resistance bands.
The resistance bands can assist you once you have developed a reasonable abdominal strength.
Here are some the variations of sit-ups I would suggest –
a. Sit-up with tabletop
Here, instead of the feet touching the ground during conventional sit-ups, we lift our feet above in the air making a 90-degree angle between the lower and upper legs.
By lifting the legs upwards, we don’t need to engage hip flexors actively. Further, we only perform the curl up section without lifting the back way up from the ground.
Easy, Isn’t It!
b. Sit- up with straight legs
Here, we keep our legs flat on the ground while performing sit-ups. Again, we are not able to lift our back too high from the ground and saves the lower back from the quantum of pressure.
How resistance bands can assist you in sit-ups –
The resistance bands, when anchored in front of your face, assist you in performing the sit-ups. It is ideal for people who have a comparatively weak abdomen. The workout bands compensate for some body weight and prevent the loading at the other end of the long lever of the spine.
Just remember the effect of the length of the lever on the force exerted at its one end. Higher the length of the lever, even small force on one end gets converted into larger force (Torque required to rotate the lever = Force at any end (90 degrees to the lever) x length of the lever)
So, though, the resistance bands can’t reduce the length of long lever, i.e., spine but can reduce the amount of force produced by upper body parts due to the gravity. As a result, the load at the lower end of the spine ( just near the hip area) is reduced to a great extent.
So, now, if you have done a fair amount of practice with the easier versions of sit-ups, including other ab routines. It is time to grab a resistance band. Choose the size of the resistance band according to the level of support you need during sit-ups.
Step-by-Step Instruction for doing Band Assisted Sit-ups-
Here are the step-by-step instructions for doing sit-ups using resistance bands –
- Lie down flat on the ground while legs bent and feet held flat against the ground.
- Keep your shoulders slightly above the ground by squeezing the abdominal muscles.
- Keep yourself at such a distance from the anchor point of resistance bands that while holding the resistance band in the bottom-most position, there is no slack.
- Keep arms right above the chest while gripping the workout bands.
- Now, focus on abdominal muscles while lifting the chest above the ground while breathing out. Tension in resistance bands nullifies some of the body weight.
- When the abdomen has squeezed enough, it is time to engage hip flexors and contract quadriceps to bring the upper body as close to the thigh as possible.
- Now, lower the body while breathing in. Make sure that the spine is curved inward during the entire range of motion without letting the shoulder rest against the ground.
- Repeat the above steps for 10 to 15 repetitions for each set. Do 3 to 4 sets as per the above instructions.
Step-by-Step instructions for band resisted sit-ups –
The resistance bands are such a gem that you can adapt them magically to any purpose we aim to achieve for our bodies.
If you are a kind of athlete, who needs to perform several sit-ups before some fatigue is felt in the abdomen area, it is the time to make the bodyweight sit-ups a bit harder. Why not use resistance bands.
There are two ways of using resistance bands for resisting the move of sit-up exercise –
a. Using tube resistance bands by anchoring behind the back –
When we anchor tube resistance bands or power loop band behind your back instead of the front side, they start resisting your move.
Here are the steps you need to perform band resisted sit-ups –
- Lie down straight on the floor with legs curled and feet flat on the ground.
- Keep shoulders slightly above the ground while holding the ends of the resistance bands at the ear level while ensuring that there is no slack in the resistance band.
- Now, engage rectus abdominis muscles and lift the body while breathing out.
- Slowly lift your chest and then arms while stretching the bands.
- As a resistance band gets stretched during the upward phase of the upper body, it becomes harder to execute the final stages.
- When the upper body is closest to the thigh and upper arms are parallel to the ground, it is time to move down while breathing in.
- Repeat the above steps for 8 to 12 repetitions in each set.
Do 3 to 4 sets of band resisted sit-ups as per instructions given above.
b. By using mini loop band around the arms –
This method might not look the best fit for doing resisted sit-ups. But it is worth a try. The purpose of wearing a mini loop band around the arms is to resist them from providing the momentum for moving upwards.
Here we keep arms over the head and close to the shoulders while wrapping mini loop booty band around the upper arms. This way, we can keep arms and shoulders away from the game of the sit-up.
Step by Step Instructions –
- Lie down on the floor while keeping legs curled at knee point and keeping feet firm flat on the ground.
- Bring arms over the head while wearing a hip band around the upper arms.
- Keep shoulder blades off the ground. Lift the chest while breathing out.
- Slowly raise the arms along with shoulders.
- When you reach the topmost position, slightly stretch the arms in an outward direction. This way, the upper back muscles are also contracted and worked.
- Bring the arms back to their original position while lowering the body in a controlled manner while breathing in.
- Do 8 to 12 repetitions of an above exercise for 3 to 4 sets.
We can also perform mini band resisted sit-ups by replacing the mini band with a medicine ball. The weight of medicine ball acting in a downward direction resists the upward movement of the upper body.
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