How to get better at sit-ups can be a matter of pride and job security. If you're employed in the military or law enforcement, you may be required to complete a certain number in just a minute or two as part of your regular physical fitness exam. The "norm" for people trying to enter the Secret Service varies between age and gender. An excellent level for men ages 20 to 29 is 55 sit-ups in one minute; while 47 is considered excellent for women of the same age.
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If you're falling short of your goal, or just want to knock the number out of the park, do more sit-ups regularly with perfect form as well as other moves that build endurance in your core. Consistent workouts and regular testing will help you improve quickly and effectively.
The fastest way to get better at sit-ups is to slow down. Make your muscles do the work instead of using momentum.
Pay Attention to Form
One of the fastest ways to improve your sit-ups is by slowing down. Yes, you need to complete a good number of the move in one minute — exactly how many depends on your age and gender. But if you're aiming for an "excellent" or "good" ranking, most people will need to complete at least 30 in 60 seconds — and sometimes more.
Slowing down, however, is the best way to make your sit-ups stronger, explains an article by Len Kravitz, PhD, an exercise scientist at the University of New Mexico. Slow and controlled movement makes your muscles do the work, rather than momentum says ACE Fitness. Stronger muscles mean that, when you're tested, you can perform to your best ability.
Slow sit-ups also mean you pay attention to form so you discourage injury and build strength in the right places. Visualize your abs working as you crunch up, particularly during the first portion of the lift. Pull the belly button in toward the spine to truly engage the abdominal muscles. Keep your back flat and don't use your arms to help you swing up — generate the energy from your core.
Read more: 21 Sit-Up Variations You Won't Totally Hate
Do the Work
Regularly doing sit-ups is essential in improving them. Do a baseline test to see how many you can crank out, with good form, in two minutes. Divide this number by three to find how many reps you should include going forward in each set at workouts. For example, if you performed 60 sit-ups in two minutes; divide 60 by 3 to get 20 reps per set.
Three days per week, plan to do a core workout that includes three sets of the reps determined by the test above. In our example, the person would do three sets of 20 sit-ups. Recover 30 seconds between sets.
The sit-ups, though, are only part of a total core-strengthening routine. Create a balanced core to keep your body healthy and promote overall abdominal endurance. Your routine might look like:
- Warm up with five minutes of light cardio, such as marching in place or riding an exercise bike.
- Finish warming up your abdomen by slowly bending side to side and twisting right to left. Do side bends and rotations for about 30 seconds each. Finally, alternate pulling your knees up to your chest for 30 seconds.
- Do the three sets of sit-ups as prescribed by your two-minute test.
- Do three to five additional abdominal and back exercises, including a 60-second plank hold, three sets of 10 reps of bicycle crunches, three sets of 15 reps of bird dogs and 30 seconds of holding side plank on the right and the left.
- Stretch to cool down. Perform the Cobra and Bridge poses from yoga, for example.
Read more: How to Do a Correct Sit-Up
Test Your Progress
Once every two weeks, give yourself another timed sit-up test. Amend your workout accordingly — if you need to increase reps at your workout, do. Regularly performing a self-administered test helps you learn how to pace so that you don't start out too fast and fizzle by the end. It also helps you see progress as you get stronger.