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Unlike crunches, sit-ups involve lifting your entire torso using your abdominal strength.
Although the exercise term "sit-up" is often used interchangeably with "crunches," there's a slight difference. While both crunches and sit-ups start in the same laying-down position, sit-ups involve lifting your entire torso up into a semi-seated position. In contrast, crunches simply require you to lift your shoulders and upper back off the ground. While the sit-up offers many health and fitness benefits, talk to your doctor before trying this exercise, especially if you have a history of back or neck pain.
Benefit from No Special Equipment
Don't get fooled into thinking that sit-ups, which require absolutely no specialized fitness equipment, are subpar when it comes to chiseling out a six-pack on your torso. In fact, in an exercise study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, researchers found that fancy workout gear does not have an advantage over the simple sit-up or crunch. You can do the sit-up in the privacy and comfort of your own living room without having to visit a gym.
Work More Muscles for More Gains
Both the sit-up and the crunch hit your abs hard, helping you to get a toned and ripped abdomen in time for your next visit to the beach or swimming pool. But sit-ups go one step further. Because they involve a greater range of movement and more lifting motion, sit-ups force you to work not just your abdominal muscles, but also the connecting stabilizer muscles, such as your hip flexors and the muscles in your legs and chest. If you're looking for a full-body workout, sit-ups may be a better option and may give you more bang for your buck. Additionally, because this exercise involves more muscles, it may also help you burn more calories compared to crunches.
Boost Your Overall Torso Health
While your eyes may be checking the mirror for six-pack abs, sit-ups and other ab exercises strengthen underlying stabilizing muscles, such as your spinal erector muscles. Over time, sit-ups increase both flexibility, range of motion and strength for your core. This creates numerous health benefits, such as improved posture, reduced risks of injury to your back and better stability and strength when you're doing any type of movement, such as lifting or jumping.
Modify Easily to Turbo Your Workout
Once you've gotten used to doing sit-ups, the simple nature of this ab-targeting workout makes it easy to modify so you don't get bored. This means you can turn up the intensity to exercise harder or simply get creative so you stay excited about fitness and don't get stuck in a workout rut. For example, you can try Janda sit-ups, which focuses the workout more onto your abs. To do a Janda sit-up, simply rope an exercise band around a sturdy object, such as the leg of a heavy table, and hook your heels into the exercise band before performing a sit-up as you normally would. Or, try holding a weighted exercise ball against your chest while doing a sit-up. The added weight ratchets up the exercise intensity and makes your abs work harder.
Proceed with Caution
Consult your physician if you have a pre-existing medical condition - especially a pregnancy - ongoing pain or an injury you think sit-ups might instigate. He or she may place you on a limited exercise plan or veto sit-ups entirely. In the meantime, pay attention to the warning signs that you may be overdoing it, including muscle pain or discomfort, chest pain or a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Since many people do sit-ups in short bursts of time, be careful not to push the hands of time unreasonably. Accelerating the pace of any exercise can increase the chance of a muscle strain or injury.