Sit ups can be a great exercise for core strengthening but believe it or not, it is actually a fairly advanced exercise that is often overused by beginners. The key to any good core exercise is being able to engage your deep core muscle, the transverse abdominis (TA). This will help to regulate your intra-abdominal pressure so that you are not putting too much stress onto the pelvic floor or the abdominal wall.
First step to knowing how to engage your TA is to visualize what it actually looks like. If you look at the two images below you will see that the TA is the deepest of your core muscles and also that it expands from rib cage to pelvis and from back to front. Having this visual in mind will help you to understand what you are actually engaging.
Next step is learning how to engage you TA. First, inhale a deep breath and allow that breath to expand into the rib cage and abdomen, as you exhale you want to think about drawing all the points that the TA muscle connects to in and together. You can feel if you are getting a contraction by placing index and middle finger inside the hip bones as you perform the contraction. You should feel a tightening underneath your fingers, not a muscle pushing out into your fingers.
Now to put it into practice! As you are learning to master the deep core engagement, I recommend practicing with minimal distractions around. So, find a quiet place and take 5 to 10 minutes and work on feeling the deep breath and timing the contraction with the exhalation part of the breath. Once you feel like you have a good handle on deep core engagement you can began to progress the complexity of exercises.
Stay tuned for some core progression in my next post!