Name an abdominal exercise and probably the first that comes to mind is the sit-up. Sit-ups involve lying flat on your back, with your arms crossed over your chest or hands behind your head, and your knees bent. Then engaging your abdominal muscles, you lift your back off the ground and sit-up toward your knees.
Sit-ups primarily work the six pack muscles and to some degree the obliques, the muscles that run along your sides. They also work your hip flexors, which bring your thighs and the trunk of your body together. We use them for walking, going up and down stairs and bending over. When doing sit-ups, the hip flexors can take over, meaning your abs aren’t getting the work out you want.
Sit-ups, when combined with other core training exercises, can help tone and sculpt your abs. There are several machines out there to help you maximize the sit-up motion.
Aren’t Sit-Ups Bad for Me?
Some fitness experts don’t like sit-ups and recommend other ways to tone your abs. The problem with sit-ups is, when they aren’t done properly, you can injure your lower back or strain your abdominal muscles. It’s important to stretch and warm-up first. You also should be doing other exercises to strengthen your lower back. Finally follow the proper posture and movement to minimize your chance of injury and maximize the benefit. This is the proper way to do a sit-up:
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat or soft carpet. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip-distance apart. Interlace your fingers and place your hands behind your head where it meets your neck. Point your elbows out to the sides.
- Exhale and pull your belly button in to engage your ab muscles as you slowly raise your torso by bending at the waist. Continue until you are inches from your thighs.
- Inhale and with control, slowly return your upper body to the mat.
Even following these guidelines, the sit-up still can be hard on your lower back. Talk to your doctor to find out if this exercise is right for you.
Our Top Picks for Sit Up Machines
If you want to give sit-ups a try, there are several products to help. We took a look at some of the most popular and best-rated so you don’t have to.
The Perfect Sit-Up is rather an odd looking piece of equipment designed by fitness company Perfect Fitness.
The Perfect Sit-Up not only gets you in the ideal posture for a sit-up but also helps you do a score of other abdominal exercises to work all four sets of ab muscles. You can do leg raises like the single leg march and bicycle. You can do crunches like a reverse crunch, regular crunch, oblique crunch and combos of leg raises and crunches. () It really is a versatile exercise tool.
The Perfect Sit-Up is a frame that lies flat on the ground. It’s made up of foot clips, spring steel leg blades connected to a contoured back pad and then a headrest to provide neck support with two hand grips on the sides.
It’s 59”L x 15.25”W x 8.50”H and weighs a light 10 pounds. It comes with a nifty storage hanger so you can stash it in a closet or on a wall when not using.
- Makes a clicking noise to let you know when you’ve achieved the proper range of motion.
- Ergonomically-designed neck support to minimize strain.
- Works all four ab muscles.
- 60 day warranty.
- Contoured base gets your body in the right position to maximize work-out.
- Easy to assemble and store.
- Lots of different exercises you can do.
- Awkward for tall users.
- Don’t really need if you can use proper form on your own but is good for beginners.
- Some users complain that it hurts their neck.
There are several sit-up or ab benches on the market that help you do enhanced sit-up exercises as well as leg raises and crunches. To use a sit-up or ab bench, you sit down on the side with the leg rollers. Bend your knees over the top leg roller and hook your feet under the bottom leg roller. Then engage your abdominal muscles, cross your arms over your chest and slowly lower yourself down on the bench, keeping your back rounded as you go. Then you will reverse the process to come back up. You can find lots of videos on YouTube showing you the proper way to use an ab bench and the various exercises you can do. Obviously the steeper the angle of the bench, the harder the sit-up or crunch will be to do.
XMark is a well-known fitness company that offers a wide range of fitness equipment for your home gym including bars, benches, free weights and strength trainers.
- 12 different angles to work in.
- Comfortable cushion.
- Quick assembly.
- Sturdy, quality construction.
- Vertical grip handle to help you get on and off the machine.
- Good customer service.
- Some users complain of the end caps popping off that hold the leg rollers in place.
- Takes up quite a bit of space.
This machine makes it easier for folks who are just starting out and are not physically fit. But it also has adjustable resistance levels to make it more challenging as you get stronger. When using it to do crunches or sit-ups, you will sit on the padded cushion on the floor and lean back against the arms with padded rollers. You will then push back against the resistance to do your sit-up or crunch. And then it assists on the way up. This is a good alternative sit-up machine for users with back issues.
The Wonder Core comes with a work-out DVD and fitness guide. In addition to crunches or sit-ups, you are also able to use this machine to do push-ups, bridges, scissor kicks, forearm and bicep work, tricep extensions, ab tucks and bicycling.
Wonder Core is one of those infomercial Sold on TV deals but is available to order through Amazon.
- Small price tag.
- Comes fully-assembled and folds flat for easy storage.
- Easy for beginners and seniors to use.
- Offers different levels of resistance.
- Variety of exercises can be done.
- 3 year limited warranty.
- Supports the lower back.
- Not suitable for larger people.
- Not designed for advanced fitness gurus.
- You can do all these exercises without the machine.
- Some users complain about the quality of construction.
The Ab Rocket Twister Abdominal Trainer is another cool machine for doing sit-ups and crunches. It’s an abdominal chair with a backrest and headrest made of padded massage rollers. There are two handles on either side of the seat to grip while exercising. The seat turns from side to side so you are able to work your obliques in addition to your lower and upper abs. The chair back has resistance springs that you can set at three different levels as you get stronger. Basically you are rocking up and down in the chair and twisting from side to side to do sit-ups, crunches, reverse crunches and oblique crunches.
Ab Rocket also sells a regular version of this product that doesn’t have the twisting seat.
The trainer also comes with a low calorie meal plan and four DVD workouts. The chair is 24” L x 7 “ W x 14” H and weighs about 10 pounds. It folds flat for storage.
- Back and head rest eases back and neck strain.
- Rollers massage the back while you exercise.
- Adjustable head rest.
- Easy to put together.
- Fun to use.
- Some users complain that it doesn’t feel very stable.
- Have to read the directions carefully to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly.
- Doesn’t fit all sizes.
Wrapping It Up
There are several machines out there on the market to help you do more effective sit-ups and crunches. We shared just a few favorites here. Each has their perks and may be better for some folks than others depending on your body. Whether you do sit-ups on your own or use a machine to assist or offer resistance, the key is to maintain proper form and go slow to avoid injury and maximize results.