I did 50 reps of this sit-ups ab exercise every day for a week — here’s what happened

high angle view of young sportsman with bare chest doing abs exercise on fitness ball at gym
(Image credit: Shutterstock/ Light Field Studios)

Butterfly sit-ups, V-sits, weighted sit-ups, decline sit-ups and the good old standard sit-ups — there are so many variations to keep you entertained during ab workouts. But have you tried the stand-up sit-up?

In my F45 coaching days, I attempted the stand-up sit-up several times with varying degrees of success (mainly a lack of it), but I decided to commit to practicing 50 reps of the ab exercise each day for one week. 

Fed up of boring sit-ups? Here’s a sit-up variation that will blast your abs and work muscles across your entire body. Below, I cover what happened when I totaled 350 reps in seven days, how to do the exercise for yourself and why this sit-up challenge schooled me. 

How to do stand-up sit-ups 

If you’ve got reverse burpees in mind (a staple of CrossFit workouts) — this exercise is a step down from that, as you won’t jump as you stand or raise your legs overhead as you lower back to the ground. 

You don’t need any equipment to do this challenge — no kettlebells, resistance bands, or dumbbells to contend with — just space to roll out an exercise mat. However, if you find it difficult to keep your feet planted on the floor, including your toes, you could use a heavy set of the best dumbbells to anchor your feet. 

Here’s how to do stand-up sit-ups with perfect form. 


  • Start on your exercise mat in a standard sit-up position — knees bent, feet planted hip-width apart, and your upper body, including your upper back, resting on the mat
  • If you choose to add dumbbells, slide both feet underneath the handles to anchor your feet in position.
  • Perform a sit-up by lifting your chest toward your thighs, then move both feet closer to your bum.
  • Using explosive power, push away from the ground through your feet to stand up.
  • From the standing position, bend your knees and lower your bum back to the ground, reposition your feet beneath the dumbbells, then lower your back to the mat ready for your next rep.

Keep a neutral spine position, flat back and chest proud to avoid hunching your shoulders or rounding your upper back. Not challenging enough? Hold a weight with both hands. 

I did 50 stand-up sit-ups every day for a week — here are my results 

The results are in. Here’s what I learned from doing 50 reps of this advanced ab exercise for one week.  

You need plenty of core strength

You need core strength and explosive power in droves to stand up from a seated position, and you don’t have the momentum of the rock-and-roll found in the reverse burpee to help drive the movement — the positioning of your feet is crucial. I had to move mine very close to my bum to give myself a better chance of standing up, and even then, I got stuck multiple times and came crashing ungracefully back to the floor. 

Convinced I’d get the hang of things, I recruited my boyfriend to stand just in front of me, then I anchored my feet beneath two dumbbells, and as I began to stand, my boyfriend gently lifted me under my arms to help me shoot up. 

After 50 painful reps on the first day, I felt wiped out, my core was sore, and I packed my exercise mat away with some relief. 

It’s one of the toughest core exercises I’ve tried

I remember demonstrating a variation of stand-up sit-ups during F45 classes. The saving grace was using a bosu ball to rest my mid to upper back on, meaning there was less distance to travel each rep.

No such luck in my tiny city apartment. You need momentum to succeed, and it’s considered one of the most grueling advanced ab exercises for high reps. Categorized as a core exercise, the move is a full-body experience — you’ll target core muscles like your abs, transverse abdominis and erector spinae muscles, but also your hip flexors (especially if you anchor your feet), glutes and legs to push away from the floor to stand. 

Three days into this challenge and 50 reps felt like a life sentence. 

My abs were on fire

I struggle to get feedback during sit-ups unless I hit a high rep count, and I often default to weighted sit-ups instead. My abs and hip flexors were on fire during this sit-up exercise, and I got that satisfyingly deep burn in my stomach that confirmed I was doing it right. 

The muscle-torching ab exercise also delivered for my legs as I pushed up to stand, and as I controlled the eccentric portion of the exercise — using core strength and leg stability to sit down again. My glutes felt engaged, and after each day, I felt like I’d just finished a full-body workout, let alone just one ab exercise — my heart rate jumped up, and I was pretty sweaty.

My technique improved

Although you can still get a lot out of any exercise by practicing, I’m glad my technique improved, and by the end of the week, I could manage sets of 10 with better flow, although it took a while, and I broke the reps into five working sets. 

Yoga taught me a lot about appreciating the journey of an exercise rather than the end goal. Finally achieving a hard move or posture feels good, but seeing the progression is a huge part of the success story. If you think about it, the progressive overload technique used in weightlifting is the same — slowly adding volume to build strength and muscle over time. 

While practicing an exercise, even if you take a faceplant here and there, you still work the relevant muscle groups — in this instance, the core, hip flexors, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves — by repeating the movement pattern. If you wobble during single-leg or arm exercises, you're still building strength and stability! 

Even when failing the stand-up sit-up, I was still building my mind-muscle connection, improving my technique and strengthening my abs.

It was taxing for my upper body

Unlike many ab exercises, stand-up sit-ups are a compound exercise rather than an isolation move. That means multiple muscles are at play while executing it. I’d also label the ab workout as functional training because strengthening these muscle groups, especially the abdominals, will help anyone sit up with better efficiency as they get older and replicate standing up from a laying position — something we do a lot. 

I did 50 stand-up sit-ups every day for one week — here’s my verdict 

After seven straight days of stand-up sit-ups, I’m looking at the same stomach I started the challenge with — no muscle-packed torso to put Chris Hemsworth’s workout regime to shame. But I feel more robust, and my core got an intense workout over the week.

I would program the ab exercise if you have sit-ups in the bank and are looking for an advanced variation. I’d also add them to a core workout several times a week rather than at such a high volume every day. Remember that overtraining happens and you should always listen to your body during exercise, especially one you're new to. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.