Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, sit-ups are here to stay. But like all staple exercises, they can lose their luster and shine. Bust the boredom as you bust your gut, and give your sit-ups a makeover. After mastering the basic sit-up, experiment with these four variations — three of them use a medicine ball that I just learned from my Equinox trainer.
Opening your legs into a diamond shape (aka frog legs), with the soles of your feet pressed together and knees opened to the side, makes your abs work just a bit harder. With the legs in this position, the hip flexors (the muscles on the front of the hip joint) can't assist the sitting up motion so the abdominals do more. For this variation, keep the arms straight with hands directly over the shoulders. Add a stretch in once you have rolled all the way to a seated position, reach your arms past your feet and bring your forehead toward your toes. It's a nice little reward for each rep!
Once the basic sit-up feels rote, add a 4 kg medicine ball (a little over 8 lbs) to the move to take it to the next level. Hold the ball close to your chest as you sit up and roll down. The ball makes it more challenging for two reasons, the obvious one being that the medicine ball increases the amount of weight you're working against. Secondly, holding the ball to your chest means you can't throw your arms forward and use momentum to reach the top of the sit-up. Do 20 reps for three sets.
Rolling up to sitting holding a medicine ball is fun, but tossing the ball once you make it to the top doubles your pleasure. Throwing the ball once you're sitting up not only means you're now working your arms along with your abs, but your core is forced to stabilize itself as you throw the ball. This is more work and makes for a stronger torso, and a stronger you! Do 20 reps for three sets.
The Russian twist, which targets the obliques, is a great ab exercise on its own, but mixing the move with a sit-up means all the layers of abdominal muscle benefit. After rolling up holding the medicine ball to your chest, rotate the ball and your torso to the right, then the left before returning to center and rolling back to the floor. With your next rep, twist to the left first and continue alternating the side you start on as you finish your reps.
How do you feel about sit-ups?