Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

Sit-Ups or Planks: What’s Best for Your Core?

woman in her living room doing sit-ups

Gym closures, changes in daily schedules, and other factors affected by the pandemic have led many to skip the gym or personal trainer. Instead, they're going it alone at home, without any formal workout instruction.

It can be harder to stay motivated when you don’t have an instructor to follow. And you may also have questions about the types of exercises to do if you want to achieve a specific goal.

Ab Exercises

One of your goals may be to build and strengthen your core. Having strong core muscles is important for proper posture and balance. A strong core may also help reduce back pain. And there are those who strive for “six-pack” abs just because they like the look of them.

You may be wondering which exercise is best if your goal is building abdominal and core strength. Sit-ups or planks?

What are Sit-Ups?

Sit-ups are a classic way to build the rectus abdominal muscle. This is the pair of muscles that run vertically on the front side of the abdomen. We call it a six-pack when these muscles can visibly be seen. Many workout enthusiasts covet strong ab muscles.

How to do Sit-Ups

To perform a sit-up:

  1. Begin by lying on your back.
  2. With legs bent and feet placed firmly on the ground, curl your upper body toward your knees, exhaling as you lift.
  3. Keep your hands positioned behind your head or crossed at your chest. Don't use the momentum of your arms to lift your upper torso.
  4. Slowly return to your starting position and repeat the exercise numerous times (depending on your fitness level).

What Are Planks?

Unlike sit-ups, planks aren't a repetitive exercise. Instead, they're an isometric exercise in which you maintain a position similar to the start of a push-up for a specified period of time.

Holding this position engages your abs and your transverse abdominal muscle, the layer of muscle deep within your abdominals.

Also, your side muscles (obliques), hips, and buttocks become engaged. This means the exercise strengthens your entire core.

Workout Injury?

Whether you're dealing with shin splints or a torn ACL, our sports medicine providers can help.

One Better Than The Other?

Generally speaking, any exercise is better than no exercise at all. But you may be wondering if one exercise is better for your core than another. The answer is not exactly straightforward.

If you're aiming for picture-perfect abs, then classic sit-ups are a great choice for you. But while sit-ups may help you achieve six-pack abs, they won’t do much in terms of strengthening the other muscles in your core.

Sit-ups definitely have their place in a core workout. But if you prefer sit-ups over planks, plan to strengthen other important core muscles by doing complimentary exercises.

If your goal is to have a strong overall core, then planks may be your best bet. Planks engage all of your core muscles during the hold simply by utilizing your own body weight. Therefore, you strengthen your core over time with just this one exercise.

As a bonus, planks can also engage non-core muscles, like those found in the arms, chest, and upper back.

Copyright 2020 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Tags: exercise

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week