Will Sit-Ups Get Rid of My Belly Fat?

sit ups to reduce belly fat
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Many exercisers wonder if sit-ups burn belly fat. If you're like most frustrated exercisers, you do countless sit-ups and see only a small result. It may cause you to question the purpose of sit-ups.

Well, wonder no more. Here's the low-down on the popular exercise. Find out what sit-ups can and can not do for your belly before you invest any more time or energy.

Belly Fat

You can measure your waist circumference to consider if you want to reduce belly fat. Reducing the fat that you carry in the midsection may help to reduce your risk of disease. But most people also feel that it makes them look better. And most people feel better when they lose excess weight.

Belly fat can be especially difficult to reduce. For many people, the abdominal area is where much of their excess fat is located. It's not impossible to get rid of tummy fat, but you have to be patient.

Unfortunately, you can’t reduce the fat in your abdomen by doing sit-ups alone. Spot reducing, or doing exercises to get rid of fat in a targeted area, is not effective. When you exercise, you can't choose where you lose fat. And fat loss is more effective when exercise is combined with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.


Abdominal exercises like the sit-up, or the abdominal crunch, serve a very important function. These exercises strengthen the muscles in your belly area. This area is often called your core. It's the area of your torso below your ribcage but above your hips.

Of course, there are many different exercises that can strengthen the muscles in your abdominal area. But when compared with other exercises (including the plank and other static core exercises) the sit-up has been shown to be particularly effective at engaging the rectus abdominus, the muscle that runs vertically along the front of the torso.

When you strengthen your core, you improve the way that your body moves during the day. Your posture improves and daily activities (like lifting heavy objects) become easier to manage.

Building muscles with sit-ups can also help to improve the appearance of your belly. But if you carry fat in your abdomen, the muscles will not show. Instead, they will be buried under a layer of fat.

To get a flatter belly, you need to do sit-ups alongside a fat-reduction program.

Proper Form

To do a full sit-up, start by laying on the floor with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands loosely behind your head. Curl the torso fully off of the floor keeping the glutes and feet anchored. Continue to lift the body until your belly is almost touching your knees. Reverse the movement in a controlled fashion, bringing the torso back to the starting position on the floor.

As you do this exercise, be careful not to tug on your head to initiate the movement. Try to keep space between your chin and your chest. Also, avoid using momentum to get the chest off the floor. If you notice your feet lifting off the floor, you may be using momentum.

Sit-Up Alternatives

While sit-ups help to strengthen the rectus abdominis, there are other exercises that engage this muscle and others in your core.

Abdominal Crunch

An easy and effective ab exercise is the classic crunch. To do this exercise, lie on your back, put your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees. Loosely clasp your hands behind your head. Slowly curl your shoulders up from the floor to a 30-degree tilt (approximately).

It should feel like the upper part of the ribs has peeled away from the floor. Make sure you don’t pull or tug on your neck. Hold for a second and then lower. Start out with two sets of 8 reps and gradually work up to 12 reps.

Abdominal Plank

Crunches and sit-ups are dynamic abdominal exercises. That means that they create muscle activation with movement. Both of these exercises are effective at activating the rectus abdominis. Static abdominal exercises also activate this muscle, although to a lesser degree.

Static exercises engage muscles without movement. Static abdominal exercises also target the deeper muscles in your belly area, in particular the internal obliques—muscles on the sides of your torso. In fact, abdominal bracing and abdominal hollowing have been shown to be more effective than sit-ups at targeting those deeper muscles.

The abdominal plank is a static exercise that requires you to use abdominal bracing. To do this exercise, lay on the floor in a prone position (belly down). Lift the body into a plank position by resting the weight on your elbows (that are bent beneath your shoulders) and your toes.

Your body should be fully extended in one straight line from your heels through the top of your head. Try not to droop through the hips or lift them high into a down-dog position.


The V-sit is a challenging abdominal exercise that works multiple areas of the core and challenges your balance. This is another static exercise that requires you to brace the core.

To do a V-sit, start by sitting on the floor with the legs extended out in front of you. Raise the legs off of the floor while keeping the torso lifted so that your body comes into a V-shape. You can use your hands for balance as you get into position.

Once you feel balanced bring the arms up and extend them long in front of you so that they reach past your legs. Hold the position for several seconds and then release and repeat.

Pelvic Tilts

The pelvic tilt is a good exercise for those who are not comfortable doing planks or sit-ups. It's an excellent exercise for beginners. Hollowing the core area has also been shown to be effective for engaging the abdominals.

To do a pelvic tilt on the floor, lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the floor beside you or on your belly. Now tip the hips so that the lower back presses into the floor and the glutes tip slightly off the floor. It will feel like you are scooping or hollowing out your midsection. Hold for one second, release, and repeat.

Pelvic tilts can also be performed in a seated or standing position if you are not comfortable getting up and down from the floor.

A Word From Verywell

With a combination of a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and exercise, you can reduce the fat in your abdominal area, strengthen your abdominal muscles, and flatten your belly area. Use a cardiovascular activity (aerobic exercise) to burn fat and calories.

If you have a lot of weight to lose, you'll need to be patient. It can take many months or even a year or more to lose enough weight so that you can see the defined muscles that sit-ups create. But your fitness program is well worth the effort and your body will feel better along the way.

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3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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