Ways to Effectively Use a Sit-up Bench

The sit-up bench, sometimes called a decline sit-up bench, suspends your upper body lower than your hips and thighs, forcing your hip flexors or abs to work against gravity at a different angle as you perform sit-ups or crunches. Some sit-up benches are set at a fixed decline angle, but if you see a spring-loaded pin anywhere on the bench, you can use that pin to adjust the bench to one of several decline angles.

Sit-ups

The rectus abdominus, the long strap of abdominal muscle that runs from your ribs to your pelvis, flexes your spine. When doing sit-ups you’re flexing at the hips, not the spine, so your hip flexors, not your abs, are responsible for the primary movement. But your abs still work to keep your torso straight as you move through the sit-up motion.

To do sit-ups on a sit-up bench, slide your feet underneath the foot pads, knees over the peak of the bench, and slowly lie back on the bench until your back nearly touches the padding. Flex at the hips until your torso is vertical again. Keep your abs tight throughout the motion.

Oblique Sit-ups

Your obliques, to either side of your rectus abdominus, are responsible for rotation, flexion and sideways flexion of your spine. To focus on your obliques while doing standard sit-ups, pause in the up position, your torso vertical, and twist to one side. Slowly lower your body until your back nearly touches the bench, keeping your spine straight as you do so, then flex your hips to bring yourself back to vertical. Twist to the other side and repeat.

Crunches

Use a sit-up bench to add difficulty to standard crunches too. This exercise eliminates your hip flexors from the picture, forcing your rectus abdominus and obliques to move your body instead. Assume the starting position for sit-ups on the incline bench, then lie down until your back is resting against the bench padding. Squeeze your abdominal muscles, curling your ribs up toward your pelvis, which will lift your head and shoulders slightly off the bench.

Oblique Crunches

As with regular sit-ups on the sit-up bench, you can put extra stress on your obliques while doing crunches by twisting to the side. Assume the crunch position described above, crunch up, then bring your right ribs or shoulder across and up to your left hip. Rotate back to center, then repeat, squeezing your obliques to bring your left ribcage--or shoulder, if it’s easier to think of it that way--up toward your right hip. Rotate back to center, then lower your body back down onto the bench.