How many calories do you burn with sit ups ?

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Last updated on February 12, 2023

Calories burned with Sit Ups

Sit ups are a solid way of burning some extra calories while building some muscle. Not the most time efficient at burning calories, however the extra muscle will burn calories just when you’re going about your day. Yup, more muscle means you lose fat easier.


Doing one minute of sit ups can burn up to 6 calories, and Harvard Health has found that doing 60 minutes of medium intensity training can burn 260 calories.


* Calories burned will depend completely on your weight, age, intensity and even your sex.

How to do a Sit Up?

The sit up is a great muscle building exercise, specifically focussing on the abdominals. Having strong abdominals is one of the best things you could strive to have, as a strong core can keep you stable, can help protect you in the unfortunate case of an accident, plus of course the aesthetics ain’t bad.


The sit up has to be met with respect as doing it incorrectly or half heartedly can result in lower back pain development.

First, lay down on the floor or on a towel (or yoga mat) on your back. Bring your feet closer to your body by bending your knees, and place your feet on the floor firmly. Place your hands behind your head, and without pulling your chin into your chest, raise your torso off the floor. It might be beneficial to brace your core prior to doing this. Keep raising your torso until your chest touches your thighs, at which point you can slowly lower your torso to the starting position. This is one rep.


Which Muscles does the Sit Up work?

The sit up is primarily known for being an abdominal exercise, strengthening the anterior part of the core. However, there are different parts of the abdominals that the sit up hits, and are as follows, and shown in the diagram:


  • Serratus Anterior
  • Internal Oblique
  • Rectus Abdominis


Common Mistakes to Avoid

There are actually quite a few. Because the sit up is something we all learn at a relatively young age, and very often taught by inexperienced people, we learn the wrong pathways and they remain with us for ages. Here are some common mistakes to look out for:


  • Scrunching your neck forward. This will place extra pressure on your neck and can cause pain.
  • Raising your feet. This probably means your core is very weak, try not raising your feet as much as you can.
  • Going too fast. The goal is to strengthen the abdominals, not to see who can do sit ups the fastest. Take your time and really emphasize the stimulation on the abdominals.
  • Thinking sit ups will give you abs. Abs are a combination of low body fat and genetics. Doing 1000 sit ups a day will not give you the shredded abs you see on social media.


Other Variations of the Sit Up

These are endless. You can chip and change this exercise to precisely meet your needs, whether that be targeting certain muscles, or taking the load off your neck.


1) Reverse Sit Up

The reverse sit up is done to target the lower abdominals more than the upper. This will be done by instead of lifting the torso, you pull your knees up to your torso, and then extend them straight out without letting them touch the floor. This will be extremely difficult for beginners, but it can be one of the better exercises for lower abdominals. (This is sometimes called a Reverse Crunch). This will burn slightly more calories than a normal sit up, around 10% more.


2) Heel Taps

The muscles on the side of your lower stomach are called the Obliques, and are sometimes referred to as the “V” muscles. These are in charge of rotating the torso, and thus a rotational sit up variation is in order to try and target them. Assume the sit up position, lift your torso slightly off the ground and touch your right heel with your right hand. This will require bending to the side. Repeat on the other side. This might not burn as many calories as a normal sit up, 20% less, but the goal is to target muscles the normal sit up doesn’t really engage.


3) Vacuum Holds

A part of the core that we almost never train, are the transverse abdominals. They play a vital role in keeping the core stable, and have also been theorized to stop your stomach from being distended. A stronger transverse abdominal lining has also been shown to improve posture.

Assume the sit up position, and blow out all of your oxygen. Once your lungs are completely empty, pull your navel in as much as you can. Hold this for 5 seconds, and then let go. This can be challenging so take it very slow. This will burn quite a lot less calories than the sit up, around 30% less, but that’s completely missing the point. This is one of those core exercises that might actually change the way you look.


About the author  Steve

Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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