You know there’s envy over a streamlined boxer with sweat running over rock-hard abs. Let’s not forget the sleek bellies and six-packs on the beach each summer. Where do these people get those bodies? How many sit-ups a day will help you achieve those results? It’s more complicated than knowing how many sit-ups you should do daily. Instead, you must understand what sit-ups do for you (and what they can’t do). Then, you can follow sit-up sequences with the right reps to achieve desired results and envious glances.
What Do Sit-Ups Do For You?
Sit-ups aren’t useless when you know how to combine them with other workouts, lifestyle choices, and the correct number of reps. Let’s discover how to use sit-ups as part of an exercise routine to achieve your goals. Meanwhile, you’ll find out how many you need soon.
The Truth About Sit-Ups And Weight Loss
The Cleveland Clinic shares the truth about losing belly fat with sit-ups, and it isn’t what you think it is (25). Sit-ups alone cannot burn belly fat or make you lose weight. Sit-ups tone your obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis muscles around your core.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests adding 45-60 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular exercises most days to help lose belly fat (25). Jump rope, running, power-walking, or action sports will help you lose weight. However, that’s not all you need with sit-ups.
Having a flat belly is a wish for most women and men. You can’t target one body area and must have an excellent body fat percentage to have a flat stomach with abs. Forbes interviewed fitness experts who explained how to lose body fat for a flat belly (2).
Medical News Today has a simple body fat percentage chart to show excellent body fat percentages for flat bellies and abs (4):
- Women in their 20s: 14-16.5% body fat
- Women in their 30s: 14-17.4% body fat
- Women in their 40s: 14-19.8% body fat
- Women in their 50s: 14-22.5% body fat
- Men in their 20s: 8-10.5% body fat
- Men in their 30s: 8-14.5% body fat
- Men in their 40s: 8-17.4% body fat
- Men in their 50s: 8-19.1% body fat
The Forbes experts revealed that nutrition plays a key role (2). You must eat more lean protein, less carbs, and stop late-night snacking. Johns Hopkins Medicine also recommends reading labels for added sugars and avoiding processed food (1).
Sit-Ups Burn Some Calories
Burning calories is about increasing your intensity. The Mayo Clinic suggests burning 3,500 calories is a pound of fat (6). 50 sit-ups a minute will burn 10 calories (11). Unfortunately, you’d need to do 17,500 sit-ups at the same vigorous intensity to burn 3,500 calories.
Please remember that losing a pound of weight after burning 3,500 calories depends on your body type and activity level (6). Still, you realize how impossible it seems to burn enough calories with sit-ups alone to drop body fat. So, sit-ups burn some calories, but more is necessary.
How Many Sit-Ups A Day To Lose Belly Fat? You Can – The Right Way!
The Cleveland Clinic reminds you to add nutrition and cardio workouts to sit-ups to lose belly fat (25). Sit-ups tone your belly and muscles but don’t cut enough calories to help weight loss. Still, doing 8-12 sit-up reps thrice a week with cardio and a proper diet works.
The Amazing Sit-Ups Everyday Benefits You Can’t Skip!
Sit-ups have incredible benefits; you must learn how to use them to support other workouts. The Cleveland Clinic explains how sit-ups tone and strengthen the obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis muscles (25).
Ultimately, you improve your core muscles with sit-ups, and each muscle worked aids the following:
- Hip Flexors – Flex the hips up and down, improving flexibility (10).
- Internal Obliques – The lateral sides of your abdomen, enhancing unilateral movements and trunk stability (13).
- Rectus Abdominis – The top layer of your front abdomen where the six-pack shows if you have the right body fat percentage (17).
- Transversus Abdominis – The deepest abdominal muscle in the front, responsible for core stability, strength, and flexibility in the trunk (21).
Ultimately, sit-ups don’t work every core muscle. However, they work major core muscles to tone and strengthen your abdomen while improving flexibility in your hips. That alone can help you benefit from various other workouts during your sequences.
Progressive Overload Defines Muscles And Builds Mass
Progression improves intensity and difficulty. Medical News Today describes progressive overload as defining muscles, building strength, and gaining mass (16). Sit-ups don’t cause progressive overload unless you increase your difficulty, intensity, and reps or use weights.
Your muscles grow accustomed to specific routines and are no longer tired as quickly as they did. Researchers at the Second Military Medical University define muscle fatigue as a state where you can’t produce opposing force anymore (15).
Do any of these things to achieve progressive overload during sit-up sequences:
- Increase your set numbers as you no longer feel muscle exhaustion.
- Add weights to activate the muscles further.
- Use variations to target more muscles.
- Increase your speed sitting up but slow down as you decline back.
Progressive overload ensures you sustain muscle fatigue to keep seeing results (16).
Caution: Sit-Ups And Back Injuries
Sit-ups compress the spine too much and may cause injury and pain. The CDC suggests never exceeding 3,400 pressure Newtons on spinal discs (9). The Elmira Chiropractic Family Clinic says sit-ups generate a minimum of 3,350 Newtons on the lower back (24).
So, please avoid sit-ups if you already live with a back injury or suffer from back pain. However, doing the exercise correctly will help you avoid injury or discomfort. You’ll only use the correct techniques in the following sequences.
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Choosing Sit-Ups Every Day For Specific Goals
Increase your sets or add weights, as you need progressive overload to enhance your workout sequences. Sit-ups can aid other workouts, so use them in sequences for different goals. Each series will use 8-12 reps for each exercise with progressive increments.
Sit-Ups Every Morning Sequence For Core Strength
You may begin with assisted sit-ups until you progressively increase the difficulty. However, researchers at Inje University found that morning exercise improves strength training (14). So, let’s focus on a morning workout routine that includes sit-ups to enhance core strength.
Each workout sequence must have sit-ups, but avoid them if you have a back injury. The Elmira Chiropractic Family Clinic reminds you to prevent sit-up injuries (24).
For that reason, please use the following instructions to do sit-ups correctly:
- Spread your knees hip-distance apart as you lay flush on a supportive surface.
- Bend those knees slightly before continuing.
- Interlock your hands behind your neck where it meets your head.
- You want elbows pointing to either side of the room while flat against the floor.
- Lock your core muscles as you inhale and raise your head.
- Start slow before progressing speed, and don’t bend your neck with your hands.
Core strengthening workout routines contain simple yet effective exercises. Harvard Medical School recommends adding planks to a core-strengthening workout (22). Planks also pose a smaller risk of injury to your lower back.
Follow these instructions to do a variation plank:
- Face the floor with your elbows directly under the shoulders.
- Relax your head and neck as your forearms and toes embrace the floor.
- Engage those core muscles as you rise with a straight spine and neck.
- Maintain the position for 10 seconds per rep.
- Use the variation by raising one leg backward before the hold.
WebMD calls the V-up one of the best core workouts (12). It equally works the upper and lower abdomen simultaneously. You look like a v while engaging your core muscles.
However, form and technique are everything, so follow these instructions:
- Lie flush on a supportive yet firm surface with your arms raised above your head.
- Your feet must stay together as you keep your legs straight.
- Embrace those core muscles as you point your toes away from your body.
- Exhale forcefully as you raise both legs and arms 6 inches off the floor.
- You must raise your legs and arms simultaneously.
- Hold the position for 10 seconds per rep.
- Progressively increase the difficulty by adding dumbbells to your hands.
30 Sit-Ups A Day Exercise Sequence For Beginners
Daily sit-up counts of 30 may help beginners slightly flatten their bellies before using progressive overload if you follow a sequence that targets the stomach. Do 30 reps for each exercise before adding advanced overload challenges or increasing the sets.
Sit-Up Variation 1
The Victoria Department of Health doesn’t recommend using two sit-up variations (8). Avoid asking someone to hold your feet down or keep your legs straight before doing sit-ups.
However, this variation can improve core muscle activation and intensity:
- Start in the sit-up position with your knees slightly bent.
- Hold a lightweight over your chest without touching your chest.
- Engage the core muscles as you inhale and raise your head.
- Don’t bend your neck as you fold to prevent an injury.
- Increase the weight for progressive overload as muscle fatigue stops.
Read More: What Muscles Do Sit-Ups Work?
WebMD recommends using reverse crunches to flatten that belly and start toning muscle (19). Also, the reverse crunch can target the lower abs more than sit-ups. However, you shouldn’t touch your feet on the floor.
Follow these instructions to crunch those abs:
- Lay flush on your back with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees.
- Keep your shins parallel to the floor while your forearms rest on the floor.
- Exhale powerfully as you engage those lower ab muscles.
- Swing your knees closer to your chest but stop before your back pulls.
- Keep swinging back and forth to complete 30 reps.
- Increase the intensity with speed or more reps for a progressive overload.
The Irish Times recommends dead bugs as a safer sit-up alternative (7). Moreover, dead bugs engage the lower and upper core equally and allow you to progress your load quickly with weights.
So, follow these instructions to add your third exercise for beginners:
- Bend your knees to 90 degrees while lying flat on your back.
- Extend your arms higher than your head with your shins parallel to the floor.
- Raise one knee closer to your chest while bringing the opposite arm to meet it.
- Keep your back flush and without an arch during this movement.
- Reverse the move to repeat it on the opposite knee and arm.
- Start progressively increasing your load by adding weights to your hands.
200 Sit-Ups A Day Workout Sequence For Toning Rock-Hard Abs
Medical News Today suggests a progressive overload for gaining muscle mass and toning abs (16). So, increase your difficulty and finish more reps and sets for well-defined abs. Let’s push to 200 sit-ups daily with two 20-rep, more challenging core exercises.
Sit-Up Variation 2
Use a Swiss ball resistance crunch as a variation to increase intensity and resistance. Also, it has the potential for speed to reach 200 reps more easily. Copenhagen researchers suggest it’s safer and can work the core muscles harder (18).
Follow the instructions closely:
- Attach a resistance band between a solid structure and the medicine ball.
- Lie with your back resting over the medicine ball while grabbing the resistance band overhead.
- Your head, neck, and shoulders hang over the ball as it supports your back.
- Dig your feet flush against the ground as you embrace your core and raise your upper body.
- Don’t bend your neck when lifting your head toward your abdomen.
- Stop if you feel any pressure on your lower back.
- Adjust the equipment to support you better before progressively moving toward 200 reps.
The Insider recommends that mountain climbers enhance endurance and strengthen the core muscles (23). Also, it’s a high-intensity workout that burns calories to reduce body fat.
Here’s how to do the full-body workout that shreds your abs:
- Create a clear space around you before standing straight with your feet flush.
- Bring your hands to shoulder height in front of your chest before making tight fists.
- Start running on the spot with your knees bending toward your abdomen.
- Raise your left first toward the ceiling as your right knee comes near the belly.
- Do rep for each side 10 times before switching to the opposite side.
- Keep your abdomen powerfully engaged the whole time.
- Increase the difficulty by adding lightweight dumbbells or kettlebells to your hands.
Twist Spider Mountain Climber Variation
The Insider recommends mountain climbers for various reasons (23). Still, adding a twist spider variation will allow you another high-intensity workout for toning your abs.
Follow these instructions for 20 reps to start with because you’ll grow tired initially:
- Place yourself in a high plank position before starting.
- Keep your back straight as your palms and toes support your body.
- Your shoulders extend slightly past your wrists as you focus your gaze on the floor.
- Your hips and shoulders should align well before engaging the core muscles.
- Start your reps with a mountain climber by bringing your knee toward your chest.
- Step it back before repeating it and changing to the opposite side.
- Then, start twist reps by bringing one knee to the opposite elbow.
- Stop immediately if you have back pain or feel intense muscle pulls.
- Step your knee back and repeat the reps on the opposite side.
- Then, start your spider reps by bringing your knee to the same-side elbow.
- Return the knee before repeating your reps and changing sides.
- Progressively increase the workout by speeding the reps up and adding more sets.
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How Many Sit-Ups A Day To Lose Weight?
The Cleveland Clinic confirms that sit-ups can’t help you lose weight alone (25). However, you can add high-intensity cardio workouts and a nutritious diet to lose weight. Do 8-12 sit-up reps thrice weekly with 45-60 minutes of cardio and consume lean protein and fewer carbs.
Do Sit-Ups Work The Lower Abs?
The University of New Mexico reviewed different exercises and how they activate abdominal muscles (3). Raising your upper trunk in sit-ups results in higher activation in the upper-body abdominal muscles. Raising your pelvis activates the lower abdominal muscles.
In summary, you won’t target the lower abs with sit-ups alone. The reverse crunches raise the pelvis, targeting the lower abs. The university also confirms that all ab muscles are involved in sit-ups, but higher activation happens in the abdominal muscles higher, near the ribs (3).
How Many Sit-Ups A Day To Get Abs?
Medical News Today says a progressive overload builds muscle mass and defines gorgeous muscles (16). Beginners can start with 30 sit-ups daily, but progressive overload requires more reps to achieve muscle fatigue (15). Progressively move toward 200 within routines.
The Bottom Line
Sit-ups aren’t a miracle workout that tones your abs to match Baywatch. Still, using sit-ups safely and with progressive overload can help. Working sit-ups into sequence routines achieves different results. Choose the one that works for your fitness level or goal.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 8 Ways to Lose Belly Fat and Live a Healthier Life | Johns Hopkins Medicine (n.d., hopkinsmedicine.org)
- 5 Expert-Backed Ways to Lose Belly Fat, According to Experts | Forbes Health (2023, forbes.com)
- Abdominal Training (n.d., unm.edu)
- Body Fat Percentage Charts for Men and Women (2023, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Core Muscles (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight Loss Basics – Mayo Clinic (2023, mayoclinic.org)
- Don’t Do Sit-Ups: Dead Bugs and Planks Are Better Exercises (2018, irishtimes.com)
- Exercise Safety – Better Health Channel (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- HHE Report No. HETA-2003-0146-2976, Genesis Steel Services Inc. (2003, cdc.gov)
- Hip Flexors (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- How Many Sit-Ups to Burn 1000 Calories: Get Ready to Fire Up Every Inch of Your Core (2022, betterme.world)
- How to Do V-Ups and V-UPs Benefits (2022, webmd.com)
- Internal Abdominal Oblique (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- Morning and Evening Exercise (2013, nih.gov)
- Muscle Fatigue: General Understanding and Treatment (2017, nih.gov)
- Progressive Overload: How It Works, Workout Plan, and More (2022, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Rectus Abdominis (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- Swiss Ball Abdominal Crunch With Added Elastic Resistance Is an Effective Alternative to Training Machines (2012, nih.gov)
- The Best Flat Abs Moves for Men (2022, webmd.com)
- The Major Differences Between Sit-Ups and Crunches – And Which One Is Best for You (2022, insider.com)
- Transversus Abdominis (n.d., physio-pedia.com)
- Want A Stronger Core – Skip the Sit-Ups | Harvard Health (2023, health.harvard.edu)
- Why Mountain Climbers Add Way More Benefits to Your Core (2022, insider.com)
- Why You Should Stay Away From Sit-Ups and Crunches (n.d., elmirafc.com)
- Will Sit-Ups Burn Off Belly Fat? Cleveland Clinic (2020, health.clevelandclinic.org)