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The Proper Technique for Curl Ups
This week’s article deals with a portion of the physical fitness test found in every branch of service. This is one element of the test that many people either barely pass or just fail. The sit-up or curl-up is also the easiest exercise to score maximum points for, but you must practice this exercise several times a week to reach that achievement. Here is a question from an Army Recruit getting ready for Basic.
I have a question about situps. Can you explain the proper technique that will produce the most efficient results?
The answer to this one is simply work SMARTER - not HARDER!
In the Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard you have to cross your arms over your chest and touch your elbows to your knees when in the “up” position, and drop your shoulders blades to the floor in the “down” position. You can only rest while in the “up” position. BUT, in the ARMY, place your legs at 45 degree angle, fingers interlocked behind the head, all the way up until the neck surpasses base of the spine (beyond vertical torso). To get good at Army Situps - you have to do Army Situps...but the workouts and pace still apply.
Place your feet flat on the floor and raise your knees. It is best to start out with the heels of your feet about 12-18 inches from your rump.
Situps or curlups - Lie on your back with your arms crossed over your chest, keeping your knees slightly bent. Raise your upper body off the floor by flexing your abdominal muscles. Touch your elbows to your thighs and repeat. During the PFT, someone will be counting and holding your feet for you.
The most important thing is to pace your situps. Too many times people start out too fast and do about 30-40 in the first 30 seconds and not being able to get 30-40 in the next 1:30 in a 2:00 test. That tells me that you started out too fast. If your goal is 80-100 in a 2:00 period, you should pace yourself at 20-25 in 30 seconds and 40-50 in 1:00.
The way I do this is train with the clock when doing abs in my workout.
Try 2-3 sets of timed situps at 1:00 - find the pace that matches your goal score.
Then try 4-5 sets of 30 seconds timed situps. Try to maintain pace each time.
Here is a method similar to the Pullup-Push
and the Pushup-Push
to help you increase your situps FAST. Here is an email I
received that prompted me to finish the trial faster:
The NEW Situp Push Program is designed like this:
– Mark your current maximum score for your test (62 in 2 minutes). Do the type of exercise you will be tested: Situps — hands behind head with elbows toughing knees, curl ups — hands crossed on chest with elbows touching knees, or crunches — hands crossed on chest with elbow toughing lower thighs.
NOTE – If your situp test is only 1 minute, the process is the same BUT your pace can be faster than in the 2 minutes test.
– Take your max score and multiply by three (62 x 3 = 186) and do this number (or rounded up to nearest 10) for 10 straight days.
– Day 1–4: Do 186 situps in thirty-second sets BUT shoot for 20–25 situps in 30 seconds so for days 1–4 you will do 186 situps in timed sets of 30 seconds for four days straight. Your goal is to get 20–25 situps in that time so for this workout, you will do roughly 8–9 sets of 20–25 situps in 30 seconds. Spread these 30 seconds sets throughout your existing workout however you desire. I personally like to “rest with abs” in between sets of pullups or weighted exercises or even running / swimming intervals.
* Note if you are having trouble keeping the goal pace for 30 seconds, try it for 15 seconds and shoot for quick timed sets of 10–12 repetitions for 15 seconds. The first 15–20 seconds of a 2 minute situp test is where people start off too fast, so it is a good idea to practice the start of the test regularly.
– Day 5–8: You change the timed sets and shoot for 40–50 situps in 1 minute sets. Do 186 situps in 1 minute sets with a goal of 40–50 situps per minute. This should take you 4–5 sets done through your workout for four days straight.
– Days 9–10: You change the timed sets to 2 minutes focused on the same pace as above. 186 situps should be completed in 2–3 sets for two days straight.
– Lower BACK Strength –
Just working the front side of the body is where many go wrong.
For every situp repetition you do in your daily workout, you have to
get in the plank pose for the same number of seconds (186 seconds or
three minutes). Somewhere in your daily workouts for Day 1–10 you
have to get a total of three minutes in the plank pose. Also see Lower back
– Stretch the hip flexors, thighs, lower back, and stomach after each day of the 10 day situps program.
— Days 11–13: Time to recover – Take 3 days off from any abdominal exercises. You can still run, swim, lift, and/or PT but skip the ab exercises for this period of 3 days.
– Day 14: TEST Day – Give yourself a 1–2 minute test (whichever your test requires) and focus on the goal pace you mastered. When you do your situps, practice exerting on the UP movement of the situp and letting gravity take you back to the ground. No need to waste your stomach muscles on letting yourself down softly on the floor. Just fall back – relaxing the abs for a second.
Where most people go wrong on two minute timed situps tests is that they start off too fast in the first 30 seconds and usually cannot match their reps in the next 1:30. So, if your goal is 80–100 situps in 2 minutes, you need a pace of 20–25 in 30 seconds, 40–50 situps in 1 minute and 60–75 situps in 1:30, and 80–100 in 2 minutes. This takes practice at not just mastering the goal pace, but building up your endurance in order to maintain the pace for longer than you previously could.
So in a nutshell, you will get better at situp tests by taking more situp tests and increasing your endurance by increasing your situp volume BUT at your goal pace for situps. In the future, once you master the 100 reps in 2 minute pace, you can do more situp sets every OTHER day but focus on 1 situp per second to help you maintain a pace of 100–120 situps in 2 minutes.
As you start to fatigue and think you cannot do any more situps, slide your rump about 4-6 inches away from your feet. This will create a different angle between your stomach muscles and legs and you should be able to crank out a 5-10 more situps in your last 20-30 seconds.
To conserve abdominal stamina in the situps test, only exert yourself on the “up” portion of the exercise and let gravity take you down so your shoulder blades touch the floor. Many times people keep their abs flexed while descending and waste too much energy. This error and lack of pace are the two biggest culprits from performing well on the curl-ups or sit-ups test. Of course, lack a proper training 4-5 times a week will prevent you from doing as well as you could in the physical fitness test as well.
For more information on programs that will help you pass any physical fitness test, check out the StewSmith.com Fitness eBook store and of course email Stew Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or answers to any questions.
For more information about acing fitness tests, see the Amazon EBOOK or StewSmith.com
Store Book if softcover print if you prefer the book version.
You can use the tips, techniques, and tools I have developed over the past 25 years of personally training for, testing, and coaching others to ace fitness tests but to also gain fitness and job performance credibility, and even get in the best shape of your life and lose weight!
In this NEW breakthrough Military, Police, Fire Fighter PT Test Survival Guide, I will teach you how to build a physically stronger, fitter, and leaner body that can ace a fitness test any day of the week. Situps INCLUDED!
Avoid the training mistakes that developing your own workout program can yield. While, at the same time, learn Twelve PT Secrets that prevent sub-standard results most candidates and active duty veterans make during fitness tests.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and
fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist
(CSCS) with the
To contact Stew with your comments and questions, just e-mail him
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