What Muscles Do Sit-ups Work?

Sit-ups have always been the abdominal muscle exercise go-to for many years because they are very effective. But you might be asking yourself, what muscles do sit-ups work? Is it an overall ab workout or does it just focus on one area of the stomach?

There is no doubt about it, sit-ups do engage the abdominal muscles but they are also effective for working other parts of your body as well. It would be a mistake however to only do sit-ups as an ab exercise as you will only be working a section of your abs, leaving them unbalanced. It can also cause you to have tight hips and a strained back which is the last thing that you want.

What Exactly is a Sit-up?

Let’s first examine what a sit-up is. You may have heard the abdominal exercise referred to as a curl-up or a sit-up, but it’s the same exercise. A sit-up has a starting point in which you are laying on your back. Your knees are bent and your feet are either held under a stable object or held in place by your partner. Cradle your head with your hands and lift your torso to meet your knees. Lower yourself back down and that completes the sit-up exercise.

You can customize the move to fit your own comfort level. You could cross your arms over your chest or even use an incline bench to do the curl-ups.

An example of a sit-up using a bench:

Many people use weights as well during a sit-up if they want a more advanced move.

Source: wikihow.com

Another advanced method of doing a sit-up is by using a stability ball. Many ab exercises can be completed on a ball to allow for a more advanced ab workout.

Below is an example of a proper sit-up technique:

What Part of the Abs Do Sit-ups Work?

The rectus abdominis is the muscle most used when doing sit-ups. These muscle fibres are the ones that cover the front of your torso, very important muscles indeed. You can engage this muscle in different ways depending on how you do the sit-ups. If your feet are anchored, you will work the muscle much differently then if your feet aren’t anchored.


Sit-ups can be a simple exercise that most anyone can do without difficulty. It targets your lower abdominal muscles and can be a great exercise for your core. Not only does it target the lower abs but it can also help to strengthen your hip flexors and your oblique’s.

The abdominal muscles on the sides of your waist are called oblique’s, and they can also be trained during a sit-up. These abdominal muscles aren’t the sole movers; they are just muscles that assist. These are the muscles that help you move from right to left and help you to move your torso from side to side.

The most important job for the oblique’s is to help stabilize your spine. There are also many other exercises that can help to strengthen your oblique’s even more. Again, it’s important to do a variation of ab exercise in order to get a six-pack, sit-ups won’t do it on their own. If you have an exercise routine that has many different ab exercises in it, then you will ensure that you have a balanced ab routine.

Below are some examples of great ab exercises:

If strengthening your core is your main goal, then focus on other types of abdominal exercises as well. Although sit-ups can work your lower abs and your oblique’s they can be left unbalanced if you aren’t incorporating other abdominal exercises in as well. Strengthening your midsection can help you in many different areas of your life, aside from having an amazing looking stomach.

Working on your midsection by using the sit-up routine also help you execute simple movements such as turning, bending over, and standing upright. Having a strong core is important because it provides your body with the proper support it needs to handle physically stressful jobs. If you are into a lot of sports having a strong core can help you improve your balance as well as correct your posture. A strong core can ensure that you have a healthy lower back without pain.

Other Body Parts Worked by Sit-ups

Source: www.ace-pt.org

Hip Flexor

Your hip flexors are pretty important to your body because they help to extend your torso. If you do sit-ups too often, or all the time you can actually cause a tightening in your hip flexor which can lead to lower back pain. That’s why it’s a good idea to mix it up when it comes to abdominal exercises.


Another benefit to doing a sit-up is you get some extra leg time because the fronts of your thighs will definitely get a good workout while you are doing your sit-ups. You will notice them fatiguing after you have completed a number of sets. They are working as well because they are engaged while you are doing the sit-up.

Whether you are doing sit-ups for the aesthetic appeal or because you want to strengthen your core, it’s important to remember that you have to do many other types of core exercises in order to balance out the work of your abs. Only a portion of your abs will be engaged during a sit-up, so you need to incorporate other moves to get the overall strengthening effect.

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