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My Stomach Muscle Seems to Stick Out When Doing Sit-Ups

author image Kathryn Walsh
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
My Stomach Muscle Seems to Stick Out When Doing Sit-Ups
Woman doing situps on the grass Photo Credit AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

With all the hard work and sweat you put into situps, it's understandably frustrating if it seems your belly is sticking out as you exercise. Determining the cause of your protruding muscles can be tricky, but paying attention to how you feel during situps can tell you what's causing the problem and help you decide what to do next.

Potential Causes

One potential cause of protruding stomach muscles is that your situps are paying off. As you exercise your abdominal muscles through situps, the tissues grow and strengthen. Even if you can't see a a six-pack forming when you're standing up, your muscles will flex and protrude when they're being worked, and as they get larger, the more they'll stick out. In some cases, a medical issue could be to blame. An abdominal hernia can also cause your stomach to stick out during situps.


A hernia occurs when a hole forms in the lining of the stomach or nearby intestine and tissue pokes through. Although a hernia can eventually become painful, it's not uncommon for this condition to be painless at first. Putting strain on the abdominal muscles, which occurs when you do sit-ups, can cause the hernia to bulge, which you might confuse for muscle sticking out. If you have severe pain when you do situps, or if you notice bulging that's uneven or gets larger over time, you likely have a hernia.

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If you suspect you have a hernia, see a doctor. This injury won't go away on its own, and in time -- particularly if you're doing situps -- it will get worse. The only treatment for a hernia is surgery. A doctor will make a small incision, push the bulging tissue back through the hole in the abdominal lining and close the hole either with stitches or a cloth patch. Once surgery is done, your doctor will likely advise avoiding situps for at least eight weeks because straining your stomach muscles can tear your stitches.

Adjusting Your Routine

Stomach muscles that are popping out from hard work can be a badge of honor. If you're not happy with this development and feel your stomach is getting too bulky, adjust your workout. You might find that spending time doing side crunches tightens the muscles at your waist instead of just your belly. To do these, tilt your bent knees over so the side of your leg is against the ground as you do situps. You might also switch to exercises that work all your muscle groups, such as swimming or Pilates, so your stomach won't become disproportionately large. If you're focused on situps because you're trying to burn belly fat, forget it. Cutting calories and focusing on aerobic exercise will burn fat much more effectively than situps.


Watch your form when doing situps. On the upward phase, it's imperative that you exhale. And instead of tightening your abs, draw them toward your spine. Practice first with pelvic tilts. Lie on the floor as you would to prepare for a situp. Bend your knees, but lay your arms along your sides. As you exhale, hollow your abdomen toward your spine as you tilt your pelvis up. Inhale and release. Once you get used to the hollow feeling in your stomach, use that to help stop your stomach muscles from sticking out when doing situps.

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