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.
Have you dropped full situps from your workout routine due to concerns about lower-back injury? If you have, you may want to reconsider. The full situp is actually a great workout for the upper abdominals, and the risks of lower back injury due to full situps have been greatly exaggerated. For this variation on the standard, you'll focus on controlled power and speed throughout the entire set.
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 quickly over your head in an arc and then follow with power and speed 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, quickly drop 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. Throughout the entire set, focus on controlled power and speed.
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.