The Proper Technique for Curl-ups

by Stew Smith

This 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 Navy Recruit getting ready for Boot Camp:

"I have a question about curl ups. Can you explain the proper technique that will produce the most efficient results?"

In the military 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.

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.

Sit-ups or Curl-ups

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.

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.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.


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