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Sit-ups are a popular core exercise that is often done with just body weight. Find out what equipment you can use to make this exercise more effective or more comfortable.
Sit-ups are an exercise where you start lying down on your back on a flat surface with your feet planted on the surface. After that, you curl up your body with the help of your core muscles so that your back comes off the surface towards your knees.
For resistance training beginners, bodyweight sit-ups may be challenging enough to build core muscle. However, at a certain point, you may need to use equipment to make sit-ups more challenging. This way you can build more muscle for longer.
That being said, even exercise beginners may benefit from some of the equipment that can help make doing sit-ups more comfortable.
You may notice that this list does not contain a sit-up foot bar or certain weird-looking sit-up machines. This is because instead of benefitting your sit-ups, they generally make the exercise easier on your abs.
If a full sit-up is currently too hard for you, you can also just start with the crunch exercise instead of investing in a machine that does not train your core muscles that much.
Make sure you implement the right technique. And remember that even if you implement the right technique, sit-ups can be hard on body parts like your lower back.
1. Sit-up bench
A sit-up bench is a type of decline weight bench with a foot anchor so you can keep yourself in place. Because of the decline angle your core muscles can go through a bigger range of motion under tension during the sit-up.
In turn, this can benefit core muscle growth.
Another benefit of sit-up benches as a sit-up equipment option is that they are comfortable due to the padded surface. Additionally, you can also use sit-up benches for other exercises.
One potential downside is that sit-up benches can be pricey if you plan to only use them as sit-up equipment. You will also need a decent amount of storage space and not all sit-up benches are versatile enough for many other exercises.
2. Yoga mat
A yoga mat is a mat of soft material, often foam, that is used to make many floor exercises a lot more comfortable. For an exercise like sit-ups, this is a must-have piece of equipment if you don’t have any other soft surface available to avoid back pain.
Besides sit-ups a yoga mat can be used for a variety of other core and floor exercises, other exercise types like stretching, and as the name implies yoga. Another benefit of yoga mats is that they are very inexpensive.
If you plan to work out at home a lot, a yoga mat is generally not an unnecessary luxury.
3. Medicine ball
A medicine ball is a weighted ball that is made from relatively soft material and doesn’t bounce that well. This piece of fitness equipment can be used as resistance in a variety of exercises including the sit-up.
There are two main reasons why medicine ball sit-ups are better than sit-ups with other free weights. The first one applies to if you want to keep the weight overhead instead of against your chest.
When doing this you preferably don’t drop the weight on yourself, but if an accident like this happens, you would rather hold a medicine ball than something like a dumbbell.
Besides that, you can throw a medicine ball. This makes it so you can do a more explosive type of sit-up where you throw the medicine ball at the top of the movement. Training this way focuses more on muscle power instead of muscle endurance and strength.
Medicine balls are also generally a versatile piece of fitness equipment that can be used in many exercises for different body parts. On top of that, they are relatively inexpensive.
A potential downside of medicine balls is that they are often not great for one-handed exercises. This makes it easier to use one side of your body more than the other in certain exercises which can lead to muscle imbalances.
4. Other free weights
Free weights are heavy pieces of fitness equipment that are not attached anywhere. Some examples of free weights are dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, a barbell, certain exercise sandbags, etc.
Medicine balls are generally also considered free weights but when it comes to sit-ups they deserve their own section.
Free weights can be used to do weighted sit-ups. This is basically doing regular sit-ups but while holding a weight in your hands or against your chest during the exercise.
By doing this the sit-up becomes harder for your core muscles which can in turn lead to more muscle gain faster at home or in the gym.
One of the benefits of free weights is that you can use them in a wide variety of exercises for many body parts. Besides that, they generally last an extremely long time. One dumbbell can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades.
On top of that, many free weights do not really lose their value. This means that if you decide to stop using dumbbells or other free weights you can likely sell them for a very similar price as what you put into them.
The disadvantage is that free weights often require a slightly bigger investment compared to more short-term fitness equipment.
5. Bosu Ball
The next piece of sit-up equipment is a Bosu Ball. You can describe the Bosu Ball as the top of a stability ball attached to a flat surface. You can use it to do Bosu Ball sit-ups, the same exercise but while leaning against the round part of the ball.
By doing a sit-up on a Bosu Ball instead of the ground you can increase the range of motion of your core muscles. This can benefit muscle growth.
A benefit of the Bosu Ball is that this piece of sit-up equipment can also be used in other exercises. Usually with a focus on improving your balance.
A potential downside of Bosu Balls is that they can be pricier than some of the other options on this list. If this is an issue, the Bosu Ball is a brand name. Off-brand alternatives may suit your needs too.
Something else is that individuals more experienced with core training may still need free weights on top of the Bosu Ball to make sit-ups challenging enough.
6. Ab coaster
An ab coaster is a gym machine where you rest on your knees on a platform attached to rails that can move. The way you use it is by holding the handles and then using your core muscles to rock your knees back and forth.
Ab coasters are definitely not the exact same as sit-ups. They focus more on the lower part of your abs and the movement is more vertical. At the same time, the movement is not completely different either. You still curl up your body with the help of your core muscles.
If you have issues with lying down on your back but you still want to do a sit-up-like motion, an ab coaster could be the right piece of equipment.
One downside is that this sit-up machine is only for training core muscles, it does not allow exercises for any other body parts. This can make ab coasters a rather pricey investment for such specific use.