This exercise provided courtesy of Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.
The popularity of the crunch has meant the death of the full situp in many workout routines. Worried by rumors that full situps cause lower back problems, many trainers simply cut them from the program. The truth of the matter is that the lower-back risk of full situps is exaggerated. What's more, the full situp is a significantly harder exercise than the crunch, so it's actually a better workout for the upper abdominals. Still not convinced? Try them and report back to us.
Lie flat on a floor mat with your legs straight out in front of you, flat on the floor with your knees straight. Place your arms over your head flat on the floor behind you, palms facing up (see Photo 1).
- From the starting position, lift your arms over your head in an arc and then follow with your upper body. Be sure to tuck your chin hard to your chest throughout the movement to prevent neck injury. Your arms will help propel your body through this movement (see Photo 2). As you get stronger, try the hands-behind-the-head variation below.
- Touch your fingers to your toes, or as close to your toes as you can get, then reverse the movement and, again keeping your chin tucked, go back down to starting position (see Photo 3).
- As soon as your back and arms are touching the ground, reverse the motion and start your second repetition.
As your upper abs get stronger, try the full situp you probably remember from grade school gym class with your fingers interlaced behind your head and your elbows starting out flat against the mat. Keep your legs straight out in front of you, flat on the floor with your knees straight. As you lift up, be careful to keep your elbows out and your chin tucked without pulling up on your neck (see Photos 4 and 5).
This variation will put more pressure on the upper abs to do the heavy lifting, as the arms will not be able to help.
To increase the difficulty of the sit-up even more, hold a dumbbell in both hands by the end caps. Rather than starting with your hands behind your head, start with your arms straight up and the dumbbell held directly over your chest. Keep your legs straight out in front of you, flat on the floor with your knees straight. As you sit up into the situp, lift your arms up and back, holding the dumbbell as high up as you can so that when you are at the top of the situp, the dumbbell is held directly over your head.
About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, which was voted the best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. A competitive swimmer and triathlete in his own right, Polson has over 15 years of experience working as a coach and trainer, and was recently named by Men's Journal Magazine (December 2005) as one of the Top 100 Trainers in America.