Sit-ups Vs Planks: For Abs, Burning Calories,…

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There are many core exercises you can do. Find out how sit-ups and planks compare in ab muscle growth potential and other important details.

Dynamic (aka isotonic) exercises like sit-ups are generally more effective for growing and strengthening muscles than static (aka isometric) exercises like planks.

In simpler words, sit-ups are better for growing and strengthening your abs than planks.

That being said, if sit-ups feel too uncomfortable on your lower back, planks could be the better choice. Their static position typically does not cause the same issue.

In other areas, these exercises are similar enough to not influence your choice.

Something to note is that if you want to see the bigger ab muscles you can get from these exercises, your body fat percentage still needs to be low enough. Sit-ups and planks are not helpful for achieving this.

Muscles WorkedMainly Abs & Hip Flexors,
Obliques To Some Extent
Mainly Abs,
Obliques To Some Extent
Muscle Growth &
Strength Potential
Calories Burned*17-30+ calories13-24+ calories
Injury RiskMedium/LowVery Low
Busy-Schedule-FriendlyVery GreatGreat
Complexity To DoEasyVery Easy
Summary sit-ups vs planks

*Approximation for a 155-pound (70 kg) person doing the exercise for 5 minutes

Planks vs sit-ups for abs

Planks and sit-ups are both core exercises that mainly focus on your abs (but do engage obliques to a tiny extent).

However, that does not mean these exercises are equally effective for growing and strengthening your abs.

Planks are a type of isometric exercise which means it engages your muscles in a static way. These muscles have to work to stay at the same length but they don’t shorten and lengthen during the movement.

On the opposite side, you have the sit-up which is an isotonic aka dynamic exercise. Your ab muscles have to contract to lift your rib cage off the ground.

This difference is important because isotonic exercises like sit-ups are generally more effective for growing and strengthening the muscles they work.

In simpler words, sit-ups are better than planks in terms of growing and strengthening your abs the most in the shortest amount of time.

When doing both exercises, you want to keep in mind that as your muscles get stronger, you will have to add weights, repetitions, or sets to keep seeing results.

That can mean doing weighted sit-ups or weighted planks.

Calories burned sit-ups vs planks

Many people consider exercising more to burn more calories and in turn, hopefully get to a healthy weight.

The first thing to note about this is that both sit-ups and planks are bad for weight loss.

These exercises barely burn any extra calories and don’t build that much weight in muscle. That being said, one of these exercise options is even worse than the other in this area.

More specifically, because sit-ups burn more calories and have more muscle growth potential, they are better than planks for burning calories.

In the tables below, you can find rough estimations about just how big the differences are.

Keep in mind that the actual amounts of calories you burn can vary due to differences in body composition, hormone levels, intensity, etc.

Calories burned with sit-ups

You can find out how these estimations are calculated and how you can burn more calories per minute in the article about how many calories sit-ups burn.

Weight Person
1 Minute15 Minutes30 Minutes45 Minutes60 Minutes
125 Pounds (56 kg)3 calories52 calories103 calories155 calories207 calories
155 Pounds (70 kg)4 calories64 calories128 calories192 calories256 calories
185 Pounds (83 kg)5 calories76 calories153 calories229 calories306 calories
215 Pounds (97 kg)6 calories89 calories178 calories267 calories356 calories
Calories burned with sit-ups

Calories burned with planks

Similarly, you can check out the article on how many calories planks burn to find out what details the calculation method takes into account and how you can increase the estimations.

Weight Person
1 Minute15 Minutes30 Minutes45 Minutes60 Minutes
125 Pounds (56 kg)3 calories41 calories83 calories124 calories165 calories
155 Pounds (70 kg)3 calories51 calories103 calories154 calories205 calories
185 Pounds (83 kg)4 calories61 calories122 calories184 calories245 calories
215 Pounds (97 kg)5 calories71 calories142 calories213 calories284 calories
Calories burned with planks

Sit-ups vs planks for fat loss

Many people get the idea that they can do specific exercises to burn fat from certain areas like their bellies.

However, just because you can feel the muscles around your stomach working during planks and sit-ups does not mean you are burning fat from this area.

To lose (belly) fat, you have to lose enough weight overall. Since planks and sit-ups are relatively bad for this purpose, they are also relatively bad for losing fat.

This applies even more to planks.

Woman doing planks to burn fat

How many sit-ups equal a plank?

How many sit-ups equals a plank is hard to put into good estimations because you are comparing two different types of exercise (isometric vs isotonic = static vs dynamic).

To grow your ab muscles, you typically want to do around 3 to 6 sets of 12 (weighted) sit-ups with resistance where you can barely complete these sets and reps.

An average pace would be around 24 sit-ups per minute.

On the other hand, a plank workout to build ab muscle would be something like 3 to 30 seconds per plank and more than 80 to 150 seconds of planking per workout at 70-75% of maximum voluntary contraction

That being said, this does not imply anything about the ab growth results you can expect from these exercises. To my knowledge, there are no good studies that compare sit-ups and planks in this way (yet).

One thing you can roughly estimate is that a 1-minute plank is equivalent to around 19.2 sit-ups (about 48 seconds) in terms of calorie-burning during the workout.

Injury risk sit-ups vs planks

When comparing two exercises like sit-ups and planks you do not only want to look at the muscle growth and calorie-burning potential of each.

Some workouts may offer slightly more benefits but increase your risk of injury in return. This trade-off is not always worth it since being injured can reduce how much you can exercise to 0 for multiple weeks.

There are people who find sit-ups uncomfortable on their lower backs. These individuals may need to start with isometric exercises like planks until their core muscles are strong enough for more.

One of the potential benefits of planks is that they are an isometric movement. This type of exercise can be helpful for strengthening muscles when it is painful to move the joint involved.

Many people will be able to do sit-ups without an issue. At the same time, planks tend to involve an injury risk that is just a bit lower.

Woman doing sit-ups

Ease of implementation in your routine

To get the benefits of sit-ups and planks you actually have to do them. How easy it is to fit each exercise into your routine can influence whether you do them consistently or not.

Sit-ups and planks are both good in the sense that you can do them basically anywhere. Including at home.

Additionally, a good core workout does not necessarily take up a lot of time. You can likely do sit-ups and planks in relatively effective ways in short amounts of time.

If you want to go really detailed, you can say that planks will likely require just a bit more time. You tend to be able to hold a plank for longer than you are able to do sit-ups.

That being said, both exercises should be relatively easy to implement in your routine.

Complexity to do sit-ups vs planks

Some exercises and activities require some time and effort to learn before you can get their health benefits to the full extent.

For example, certain kettlebell exercises like Turkish get-ups and activities like dancing are just a bit more complicated.

This extra learning process can slow down how fast you get healthier. Additionally, some people prefer just doing simpler workouts without any learning period.

Sit-ups are just a bit more challenging to learn than planks in the sense that you have to get used to really curling up.

That being said, both of these exercises involve a relatively easy technique.

Are planks better than sit-ups for you?

Whether sit-ups or planks are the best choice for you mostly depends on how uncomfortable sit-ups are to you.

If sit-ups feel too uncomfortable on your lower back, the isometric aspect of planks can be what you need.

On the flip side, sit-ups tend to be more effective in terms of ab muscle growth and strength increases.

Sit-ups also burn a few calories more than planks but you should not really do these exercises for their calorie-burning effects.

In other comparison details, sit-ups and planks are very similar too.

One thing to note is that personal preference plays a role too. If you really don’t like doing sit-ups, you may find it harder to stay consistent with a workout routine that includes them.


Are planks more effective than sit-ups?

Planks are not more effective than sit-ups. In fact, it is the opposite. Sit-ups will be better for growing and strengthening ab muscles than planks.

Will planks and sit-ups give you abs?

Doing planks and/or sit-ups with the right resistance, repetitions, and sets can get you bigger abs. To be able to see these bigger muscles, your body fat percentage still needs to be low enough. Planks and sit-ups are not very good for losing body fat.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.