Four Tips To Remember
Is your head leaving the floor before your core muscles are set up?
As you begin EXHALING to commence your sit-up, be sure to take the time you need to HOLLOW your low abdominals. Then, SOFTEN at your breastbone and imagine you can melt the base of your ribcage to CONNECT onto the front of your spine. Do all of this BEFORE your head leaves the floor to curl forward. A helpful mental cue to start off each sit-up is "exhale to hollow, soften, connect, now curl." These small adjustments link together your correct core support before adding in the movement. Focus on keeping that hollowed abs feeling throughout, and as you curl forward think of gliding the base of your ribcage along the front of the spine. INHALING: To roll back down, scoop your abs even deeper. Don't sacrifice the hollowing aspect for a higher curl; that will come in time. Taking the time to set up the muscles in this order can make a real difference to your body shape.
Do you support your head with your hands or not?
Absolutely yes, here's why: Interlocking your fingers and allowing the weight of your head to rest fully in your hands will help you release any unnecessary tension from your neck and shoulders. Then, by sliding your shoulder blades down your back and away from your ears, you'll activate the core muscles in your body to hold the extra weight. When you curl forward, this set up is more challenging to your abdominals, as the body is supporting the weight of your heavy head and arms now, rather than your neck and shoulder muscles.
Are your hip flexors doing the job of your abdominals?
Check that the front of your hips are not gripping. It's very natural for the body to want to use hip flexors instead of low abdominals. Every so often, take your thumb and press down into your front hip area to ensure the flexors are relaxed before you curl; check again at the height of your curl as they will constantly want to join in, so keep a watchful eye on them. Let your tailbone feel weighted into the floor and be vigilant in keeping the natural curve in your lower back throughout. Your pelvis should be still at all times during a sit-up.
Feet on the ground?
As the focus is on using the front body muscles, when your feet stay on the ground you can really concentrate on scooping your low abs. Lifting your legs often makes hip flexors join in. This can make you lose the natural curve of the lower back, and the weight of your legs can pull on your spine and make your back muscles tighten.
Lastly, each time you curl forward, let your exhale help deflate the front of your body. Allow the lungs to empty completely and be gentle about this. It's surprising (and a relief) to find how unnecessary all the extra choreography is around sit-ups. It may take a while for your body to adjust to the subtleties of working this simply, but finding the core connections becomes very challenging physically. With good form, moving slowly with care, you'll get better results more quickly and create a stronger, healthier and flatter midsection.