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Sit-ups are a challenging exercise to perform. Adding weights to the movement, in addition to your body weight, makes this exercise even more challenging. If you are wondering whether weighted sit-ups are a good workout exercise, even better than bodyweight sit-ups, then the answer is absolutely. But this is only true if you execute the exercise to a tee.
As you likely know, sit-ups work your abdominal muscles to a large extent. More specifically, they target your rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques and transversus abdominis. What you may not know is that sit-ups work another group of muscles to even larger degree. That muscle group is called your hip flexors, comprising of muscles such as the iliopsoas, sartorius and rectus femoris. This is an oft-neglected muscle group that you should always work out to maintain a healthy and balanced physique. Since you use additional resistance during weighted sit-ups, you provide your hip flexors, along with your abdominals, with a different stimulation. In other words, your muscles are not used to working against such high resistance and will thus need to adapt by becoming stronger.
So you just learned the importance of doing weighted sit-ups, but what may be more important is preventing injury by executing the exercise correctly. Begin by holding a weight plate or a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Lie face-up on the ground with your knees bent and with the bottom of your feet down on the ground. Straighten your arms and hold the weight over your chest region. Raise your entire back off the ground until your torso is parallel to the ground. Hold the top contraction for a second and then return your back down to the starting position.
To work your abs as much as possible during weighted sit-ups, you must round your back as you raise it off the ground. If you have difficulty with this, then try to beginning each repetition of the sit-up as if you were doing a crunch. So, first raise your upper back off the ground by rounding your back. Then, continue raising your back to complete the sit-up motion. Follow these recommendations and you will take full advantage of the benefits of the weighted sit-up.
How Much Weight to Use
Never use heavy weights when doing sit-ups. You only have a single spine, and you must do your best to preserve its health while exercising. Holding extremely heavy weights over your chest while rounding your back during sit-ups will place a lot of unnecessary stress on your spinal column. Rather, hold a lighter weight, no more than a 45-pound weight plate or a pair of 25-pound dumbbells, while doing sit-ups.