Toning and tightening your abs requires dedication and work, work, work. When Matt Siaperas, personal trainer at Hardbodies Gym in Blackfoot, Idaho, is training a client who wants to focus on her abdominals, he recommends a variety of exercises to work the muscle group in various ways and to keep the workouts fresh and interesting as well as to avoid plateaus by introducing muscle confusion. To help out with this, you can use equipment for variations on situps.
By using the incline bench for your situps, you can use gravity to add an element of resistance to the exercise. The incline bench is a padded bench much like the other benches in the gym, but as the name suggests, this one is on a slope, rather than being horizontal. One end can be raised and lowered to allow you to control the intensity of the resistance, making it easiest when at its lowest setting and more difficult when the end is raised to the highest level. To use the incline bench, lie down and slip your feet under the foot brace on the raised end of the bench with your head resting at the lowest part of the bench. This is the starting position from which you begin performing situps, bending at the waist and hips as you raise your torso.
The Roman chair doesn't look much like a chair; it consists of a narrow padded bench and a padded bar placed so you can secure your feet under it when seated on the bench. To use the Roman chair, you simply sit on the bench and slide your feet beneath the bar, lean back so your upper body is parallel to the ground and then, keeping your back straight, sit up again until your torso is fully upright. The Roman chair is effective for performing situps because when you are lying back, your upper body isn't supported by anything. You have to use the strength of your abdominal muscles to keep your torso suspended and to pull it up to the starting position again.
Barbells and Weight Plates
Using barbells and weight plates enhances your situps; they are especially effective when performing situps on an incline bench. Holding a weight plate against your chest as you sit up increases the resistance beyond simple gravity. For a different twist on that theme, when lying on an incline bench hold a barbell in an overhand grip with your arms extended, elbows straight but not locked. The barbell will be directly over your chest. Then bend at your waist and hips, raising your torso off the bench. Keep your arms extended as you move up and then back down to the starting position.
A stability ball is an effective piece of equipment for many exercises, including situps. By propping yourself on the ball to perform situps, your lower back is supported, reducing the chance of injury. Just sit on the ball, your knees bent, and walk your legs forward, rolling the ball until it is in the small of your back. Raise your torso up, contracting your abs as you come up, and then lie back again.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.