How To Improve Sit Ups? 7 Reasons Why You Can’t Do It and 5 Ways Fit It!

Written By Michael Hall

Proud father of two beautiful daughters and a seasoned ISSA certified personal trainer with over 15 years of experience in the industry. 

The sit-up is an exercise that is known by everyone who is remotely into fitness. Even those who have never attempted a single exercise routine know about sit-ups.

Sit Ups have become common because it is one exercise routine you can carry out at home. It is not compulsory to visit the gym to perform sit-ups, except if you want to use the equipment too.

Sit-ups are usually recommended for anyone looking to work on their abdominal muscles. Even though sit-ups can help strengthen your abdominal muscles, it also targets other muscles including those that provide support for other purposes. The trick is that the entire upper body weight strengthens these core muscles.

Additionally, despite the apparent advantages of performing sit-ups, if your technique is wrong, you will end up causing more harm. Read this to learn how to improve sit-ups and achieve your desired body goals.

What Is A Full Sit-Up?

A full sit-up is an exercise routine that is done to improve or strengthen the entire abdominal, lower back, and hip muscles. Situps are one of the most basic workout routines to perform. It is pretty basic because it doesn’t require special equipment to complete each set.

All you need is a floor, your body (of course), and some comfortable clothing. As a newbie, you could get an additional person to hold your ankles down for support. Another important thing you need for a full sit-up is a yoga mat, because situps are performed on the floor.

To begin a sit-up set, lie flat on your yoga mat and adjust your knees like you’re pulling them toward your chest. Ensure the angle between your thigh and calves is about 90 degrees. Your feet should be placed squarely on the floor to maintain balance for the ensuing movement.

After proper positioning, keep both palms behind your head; this will help to support the head as you attempt to push your torso up. Push your chest towards where your knees are positioned, and allow it to touch your thigh. Once that is achieved, push your torso back until you are lying wholly on the ground.

It doesn’t end there; after completing the first set of situp reps, carry out more sets using the steps outlined until you meet your target. However, as a newbie, it is advisable to limit your sets to about 10 to 25 per session.

Over time with constant practice and if the routine is carried out correctly, one can add more sets. If it seems like you’re not making any progress with your sets, maybe it’s because your techniques are wrong or due to some other reasons you’ll learn shortly.

7 Reasons Why You Can’t Do A Sit-Up

Although sit-ups are considerably easy, given that you don’t need to hit the gym or use any equipment, many people still get it wrong. Different reasons could be responsible for why people struggle with their sit-ups routines, and some of them are discussed here:

New or Pre-Existing Injuries

Performing sit-ups with any form of injury, whether new or old, might be difficult. Some old injuries tend to leave the injured with feelings of discomfort that would be emphasized during any form of exercise.

In many cases, the injuries that will concern anyone embarking on a fitness journey that involves situps and other routines are injuries to the muscles, bones, and joints. If you have any new injuries or have had any in the past, speak to a healthcare provider before beginning any exercise routines.


Sit-ups use the upper body’s weight to strengthen the core muscles. However, it’s these same core muscles that one needs to lift the torso off the floor. If an individual is overweight, the core muscles will be too weak to push the body mass off the floor.

Overweight people looking for exercise routines to get them in shape or more fit might have to consider alternatives to sit-ups. Speaking with a fitness coach should give you a better idea of routines until you are at a weight that can accommodate sit-ups.

Weak Core Muscles

Having weak hip flexor and abdominal muscles, which are two of the core muscles targeted during sit-ups, makes the process difficult. It usually causes an intense level of pain and discomfort because the pressure is mounted on only the lower back muscles. If this occurs, it’s best to discontinue sit-up routines to avoid other complications.

Instead, focus on doing other exercises that will strengthen your core enough to continue sit-ups. For instance, try outside planks and full body planks to strengthen your core, then add your sit-ups for more targeted core training.

Wrong Posture

Sometimes the reason why you cannot perform your sit-up sets efficiently without discomfort or pain is that you’re doing it wrong. When you’re doing your sit-ups, it’s necessary to be positioned in ways that allow for flexibility, and incorrect posture will prevent this.

Additionally, poor posture can lead to shortness of breath, which can prevent your sit-up routine. Continuing with sit-ups, even with bad posture, can eventually cause spinal injuries.

Tight Hip Flexors

The hip flexor muscles play a very vital role in your ability to move your torso off the ground during a sit-up. They are also responsible for why people can bend, walk and perform other daily activities.

Once your back is slightly up, the hip flexor is responsible for uprighting your lower torso. If you’re experiencing difficulty achieving this, you have to embark on exercises that will help train/loosen your hip flexors. One common way to train your hip flexors is to carry out hip stretches regularly. It’s pretty simple and effective.


Age plays a key role in how well people can do certain things, including performing exercise routines. At certain ages, it will be more challenging to perform any exercise routines unless you have been working out consistently for years. One reason why it gets challenging to perform regular exercises as the body gets older is the reduction in muscle mass. This reduction causes the body to lose its ability to withstand certain strain levels.

Other Medical Conditions

Sit-ups can be challenging to perform when there are some underlying medical conditions like Hernia, Herniated Disc, etc. Attempting a routine in such situations causes pain, numbness, or discomfort.

To avoid discomfort if you have underlying health conditions, you should consult your physician before deciding on what exercise routines to begin.

How To Improve Your Sit-ups?

Once you observe that it is difficult to perform your sit-up routines or that you are experiencing prolonged discomfort during your exercises, it is a sign that you need improvement. If you can not do your sit-ups, it will cause you to miss out on your desired results or experience abnormal pain levels, indicating that you need to improve your techniques. Try out these few steps to get your performance up to speed:

Learn The Right Way To Do It

Learning how to perform your sit-ups is the only way to achieve that desired body goal. One way to know you need to switch things up is when pain or discomfort persists and results are not evident after a while.

Re-evaluate your techniques and find what isn’t suitable or working. For instance, check the width between your legs and the angle between them, and switch it up.

Work On Your Flexibility

Flexibility dramatically affects how well you can perform specific exercises, including sit-ups. Lack of flexibility will result in bad posture during your routines which will lead to discomfort inevitably.

A lack of flexibility will also increase the chances of injuries; starting your session with stretches can help prevent that. Stretching helps to increase your body’s mobility and allows you to bend certain areas in your body comfortably without pain.

Do Not Take Unnecessary Breaks

It is essential to take breaks between heavy workout routines; this gives your body the time it needs to recover from the stress working out puts on it. However, as a beginner trying out sit-ups, it’s more advisable to be consistent, given that sit-ups are not very strenuous.

In addition, you can limit the number to 10 to 15 sets recommended for beginners. Perform as many sets as your stamina can handle, and increase your sets regularly until you have gained mastery.

Work On Your Core Muscles

The core muscles employed during sit-ups can not function if they are weak. You can strengthen your core muscles by doing planks, leg raises, and bridges. After achieving a considerable level of core strength, you can add sit-ups again to your workout routine without any risks, to strengthen the targeted muscles further.

Speak To A Fitness Expert

One way to improve your sit-up and any other exercise routines you may have and hit whatever goals you want to achieve is to seek expert opinion. You can get a personal trainer, discuss your body goals, set up your routines, advise on diet and lifestyle changes and have them monitor your progress.

If you have none, consult an expert and get a step-by-step guide on the best techniques to use when it’s right to increase your sets or rest.


As with other fitness exercises, maintaining the proper form while doing sit-ups is necessary to yield the best results. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or just looking for the best way to tone your muscles at home with a few daily sit-ups, proper knowledge of the right techniques is just as essential in your fitness journey. 

It is easy to carry on with the wrong methods and wonder why your efforts aren’t yielding the desired results. Knowing how to improve your sit-ups is one way to ensure you smash your goals to achieve abs that are stronger. Although, before improving your sit-up, you have to know what you were doing wrong. Why you can’t sit up has been covered to a large extent in the course of this.

So if you find yourself in such a fix, consider alternating your sit-up methods as discussed. Additionally, try out any of the plans for improvement shared and watch all those core muscles come to life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Normal Not To Be Able To Do A Sit-Up?

Yes! It’s pretty normal to struggle with anything you’re starting for the first time or have stopped doing for a while. Suppose you try out sit-ups, and it seems impossible at first; you can begin instead with exercises to help improve the core muscles you need to perform your sit-ups properly.

Begin by completing a couple of sets and then increasing them gradually until you can conveniently handle your desired number of sets. It’s worth noting that you need expert advice if you have health issues and you begin to experience certain kinds of discomfort during your workout routines.

Why Can’t I Do A Sit-Up Without Someone Holding My Feet?

One common reason why you haven’t been to do a sit-up without someone holding your feet is bad posture.

If your thighs are at an angle that is too close to your torso, it will make pushing your upper body floor alone more difficult. Additionally, if your thighs are lighter than your torso, it could make the movement difficult too.

Again, having weak core muscles, like the lower back, abdominal, and hip flexor muscles will make sitting up without ankle support hard. You can train these muscles to be strong enough to withstand sit-ups and any other exercise routine you decide to embark on.

Should Seniors Do Sit-Ups?

Seniors can do sit-ups if they choose to. However, it will be difficult if they have no prior workout experience. As people advance in age, the body changes, muscles weaken, and back pain begins to set in for most. Plus, the spine gets stiff, and a rigid spine should not be worked like that.

Doing sit-ups with back pain is ill-advised; taking walks and other non-strenuous exercises is a better option. Senior citizens who want to keep fit can also talk to a physician and fitness coach to learn what alternative practices they can perform instead of strenuous ones.

Are Planks Better Than Sit-Ups?

Planks and sit-ups are excellent and straightforward exercise routines. However, a plank covers more areas than sit-ups. Sit-ups mainly target three areas, the abdomen, lower back, and hip flexors; anyone that does sit-ups needs to complement them with other routines.

On the other hand, planks target many different parts that aren’t trained when one does sit-ups. Each set of planks trains many core muscles that sit-ups don’t cover. Planks also strengthen other muscles, like the muscles in the arm and other non-core muscles in other areas.