If you are seeking a job in the military or law enforcement professions, you will likely see an entrance exam that requires you to score well in sit-ups, curl-ups, or crunches. All are abdominal exercises with different hand placement that test core strength and endurance and can be a challenging exercise to improve if you are not getting your repetitions in each week. Here is an email from someone who has improved in pushups and pullups but needs help with the last PT element of the Air Force PAST test for PJ and CCT:
"Stew, I have used your pullup and pushup push plans and actually increased my pushups from 50 to 88 and my pullups from 12 to 20 in just two weeks. Thanks! I have neglected my sit-ups however (62 in 2 min); and need some ideas on the quickest way to increase my reps for the AF PJ two minute PAST test for situps. Do you have a "Situp Push Plan" like your pull / push plans? I am trying to get my situps to 85–100 for the PAST."
Yes, I have been working on a Situp Overload Plan to help create a better foundation to increase situps by 50–75% in just 14 days. It is a little different than the Pullup / Pushup Plan where you take your current maximum and multiply by five for 10 straight days – add in three rest days and test on day 14 for recovery from the overload and max out into a new level of scoring.
The new Situp Push Program is designed like this:
- Mark your current maximum score for your test (62 in 2 minutes). Do the type of exercise you will be tested: Situps — hands behind head with elbows toughing knees, curl ups — hands crossed on chest with elbows touching knees, or crunches — hands crossed on chest with elbow toughing lower thighs.
NOTE – If your situp test is only 1 minute, the process is the same BUT your pace can be faster than in the 2 minutes test.
- Take your max score and multiply by three (62 x 3 = 186) and do this number (or rounded up to nearest 10) for 10 straight days.
- Day 1–4: Do 186 situps in thirty second paced sets BUT shoot for 20–25 situps in 30 seconds so for days 1–4 you will do 186 situps in timed sets of 30 seconds for four days straight. Your goal is to get 20–25 situps in that time so for this workout, you will do roughly 8–9 sets of 20–25 situps in 30 seconds. Spread these 30 seconds sets throughout your existing workout however you desire. I personally like to "rest with abs" in between sets of pullups or weighted exercises or even running / swimming intervals.
* Note if you are having trouble keeping the goal pace for 30 seconds, try it for 15 seconds and shoot for quick timed sets of 10–12 repetitions for 15 seconds. The first 15–20 seconds of a 2 minute situp test is where people start off too fast, so it is a good idea to practice the start of the test regularly.
- Day 5–8: You change the timed sets and shoot for 40–50 situps in 1 minute sets. Do 186 situps in 1 minute sets with a goal of 40–50 situps per minute. This should take you 4–5 sets done through your workout for four days straight.
- Days 9–10: You change the timed sets to 2 minutes focused on the same pace as above. 186 situps should be completed in 2–3 sets for two days straight.
- Lower BACK Strength – Just working the front side of the body is where many go wrong. For every situp repetition you do in your daily workout, you have to get in the plank pose for the same number of seconds (186 seconds or three minutes). Somewhere in your daily workouts for Day 1–10 you have to get a total of three minutes in the plank pose.
- Stretch the hip flexors, thighs, lower back, and stomach after each day of the 10 day situps program.
- Days 11–13: Time to recover – Take 3 days off from any abdominal exercises. You can still run, swim, lift, and/or PT but skip the ab exercises for this period of 3 days.
- Day 14: TEST Day – Give yourself a 1–2 minute test (whichever your test requires) and focus on the goal pace you mastered. When you do your situps, practice exerting on the UP movement of the situp and letting gravity take you back to the ground. No need to waste your stomach muscles on letting yourself down softly on the floor. Just fall back – relaxing the abs for a second.
Where most people go wrong on two minute timed situps tests is that they start off too fast in the first 30 seconds and usually cannot match their reps in the next 1:30. So, if your goal is 80–100 situps in 2 minutes, you need a pace of 20–25 in 30 seconds, 40–50 situps in 1 minute and 60–75 situps in 1:30, and 80–100 in 2 minutes. This takes practice at not just mastering the goal pace, but building up your endurance in order to maintain the pace for longer than you previously could.
So in a nutshell, you will get better at situp tests by taking more situp tests and increasing your endurance by increasing your situp volume BUT at your goal pace for situps. In the future, once you master the 100 reps in 2 minute pace, you can do more situp sets every other day but focus on 1 situp per second to help you maintain a pace of 100–120 situps in 2 minutes.
- Note if your situp test is the 1 minute test. Start off at a goal pace of 40–50 in 1 minute and build up to 1 per second or faster to get the above average scores of 60+ in 1 minute score.
- Remember – do not forget to work the lower back to balance out all the extra abdominal work you are doing. If you neglect the back of your torso, you will likely suffer a lower back injury regardless of how many situps you are doing daily.
Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.