How Many Calories Do Sit-Ups Burn?

When people think about losing weight, the first thing that comes to mind is cutting back on calories. It’s practically impossible to talk about any weight loss effort without the subject of calories coming up. While calorie-cutting is a sustainable way to lose weight, reducing the amount of food you consume can be a challenge.

Most calorie-low foods can leave you feeling hungry all the time, thus why you get more tempted to overeat and indulge. Besides, calorie-cutting is not the only key factor in losing weight.

The burning of calories through exercise should also be a consideration as it creates a calorie deficit, resulting in significant weight loss.

Burning Calories Through Sit-Up

One of the most effective calorie-burning exercises is sit-up. Thanks to their simplicity and effectiveness, sit-ups are classic core exercises often added to a fitness program. The exercise mainly involves lying on the back and lifting the torso.

On average, by performing 100 standard sit-ups, a person can burn up to 30 calories. Granted, the person performing the sit-ups weighs 170 pounds. However, he can increase the net calorie burn by modifying the sit-ups. As long as the modified sit-ups require higher intensity, such as weighted sit-up, side sit-up, reverse sit-up, frog sit-up, bicycle sit-up, swiss ball sit-up, Russian twist sit-up- he can burn up to 40 calories per 100 modified sit-ups. Thus, the calorie breakdown per sit-up looks like this:

  • standard sit-up: 0.3 calories
  • modified sit-up: 0.4 calories

Furthermore, the exact amount of calories burned doing sit-ups is a little more complicated than that. The number of calories you can burn will vary depending on certain factors: metabolic rate, age, gender, genetic predisposition, pregnancy, weight, speed and intensity, proper form, sit-up variation, and body condition.

Factors Affecting the Calorie Burning Process

To understand the concept of burning calories, think of an exhausted and well-rested person. Both perform the same task but spend a different amount of time completing it. Their conditions at the starting point are the main determinants in concentrating and solving the task at hand.

The same analogy works with people trying to burn calories. Each person has unique characteristics and requires a different amount of resources to complete a specific task, such as completing a hundred sit-ups.

Metabolic Rate. The amount of calories you burn also depends on your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). The BMR can be summarized as the number of calories you burn at rest. Your body type and genetic makeup mostly determine your metabolic rate. It is estimated that your BMR defines 60%-70% of the total calorie burn per day.

Your metabolism can be affected by the following: level of vitamin D, iron, calcium, hormonal, and nervous controls. These factors either slow down or boost your metabolic rate. This is one of the reasons why the comparison of two people’s calorie burn in doing the same number of sit-ups is incomparable.

Age. Age partly determines the number of calories you burn through sit-ups. As you get older, you lose muscle tissue, and your metabolism starts to slow down. This means that with time, your body requires less energy to fulfil its functions. This explains why older people burn fewer calories than younger ones. For instance, a 25-year older man may burn 35 calories performing a hundred sit-ups while a 40-year older man of the same weight and height may only burn 25 calories doing the same number of sit-ups at the same intensity.

Gender. Another factor that affects calorie burned is gender. Since men are more muscular than women, they have more calorie-burning rate. The difference in muscle mass also explains why men have a 10% to 15% higher metabolism rate than women.

Genetic Predisposition. Genetic predisposition also affects the calorie burned through sit-ups. For example, women who have a genetically inherited metabolic rate from their families can burn calories very quickly.

Pregnancy. Sit-ups during the first trimester are relatively safe. During this time, a woman’s body can burn an incredible number of calories.

Weight. A person who weighs more burns more calories than a person who weighs less.

Speed and Intensity. The calorie-burning rate is also affected by the speed and intensity of the sit-ups. A person who performs sit-ups at a faster speed and higher intensity burns more calories.

Proper Form. A person who performs sit-ups at the appropriate form doesn’t only prevent fatigue and pain but also burns more calories.

Sit-Up Variation. The different variations of sit-ups also affect the calorie-burning rate. This is because each variation targets other muscle groups. This changes the energy and intensity required to perform them. When a sit-up variation targets more muscles, it burns more calories.

Body Condition. All the processes in the human body are interrelated. The body burns more calories than usual when it deals with illnesses, diseases, or infections. This is because it utilizes more resources to recover, regenerate muscle tissues, and trigger an immune response.

As with any other exercise, a person can hit a plateau if the sit-up is no longer challenging. Meaning, he may not burn more calories than predicted. Most professional fitness trainers recommend trying different sit-up variations and increasing the resistance or intensity of the exercise.

How to Perform Standard Sit-Up in the Proper Form

Before you switch up to modified sit-ups for greater calorie-burning rate, ensure that you know how to maximize your form with the standard sit-up.

Steps to Proper Form

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and pointed upwards.
  • Position your hands behind your head, but make sure that they don’t pull your neck up during each rep.
  • As you exhale, contract your abs and lift your shoulder blades and head off the ground.
  • Inhale as you lower back down to the floor and repeat.

Tips to Proper Form

  • Cross your arms over your chest as this position can reduce the chances of pulling on and straining your neck in the upward phase of the standard sit-up.
  • When you contract your abdominals, it should feel like a girdle that’s tightening around your waist, ribs, and lower midsection. To pull this off, press your belly button back toward your spine, drawing inward.

Increasing Your Calorie Burn with Modified Sit-Ups

If you’re trying to shed a significant amount of pounds, you might want to go beyond a hundred sit-ups. By doing so, you can engage more of your core and increase your calorie-burning rate.

While endless sit-ups don’t necessarily make you drop the pounds instantly, they’re an essential part of the puzzle, and by modifying your sit-ups, you can make sure that you burn more calories than usual. 

Weighted Sit-Up

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and pointed upwards.
  • Hold a weight- preferably a dumbbell at the center of your chest.
  • Curl up in a way that your chin doesn’t touch your chest.
  • Hold the weight above you and don’t let it move toward your midsection.
  • Slowly lower yourself back to the floor.

Side Sit-Up

  • Assume a standard sit-up starting position.
  • Drop your knees to one side if your lower back is flexible enough. Otherwise, stay in the standard sit-up starting position and cross your foot on top of the opposite knee.
  • Contract your abdominals and lift your head and shoulders from the floor. Make sure they twist to the side of your bent knees.

Reverse Sit-Up

  • Lie on your back with your legs up in the air at 90 -degree angle to the floor. Position your arms along your side and keep your palms facing down.
  • Contract your lower abs and slowly raise your lower back and butt.
  • Continue raising and lowering until you achieve your desired number of sit-ups.

Frog Sit-Up

  • Begin with your knees bent out in front of you.
  • Lean back slightly with your torso at 45-degree angle to the floor.
  • Contract your abs as you straighten your legs and bring your arms to your side.

Bicycle Sit-Up

  • Lie flat on your back and position your hands behind your head. Then, contract your abdominals as you lift your legs a few inches from the ground.
  • Twist your torso and bend your left knee.
  • Switch and twist to the other side of your torso and bend your right knee.
  • Continue alternating sides and make sure not to tuck your chin toward your chest.

Swiss Ball Sit-Up

  • Assume a standard push-up starting position.
  • Position the hands together on the floor directly under the chest.
  • Get the balance and slowly lower the body until the chest nearly touches the floor.

Russian Twist Sit-Up

  • Assume a standard sit-up position. If your abs are strong enough, raise your feet a few inches from the floor. Then, extend your arms in front of you.
  • Twist your upper body to the right without arching your back or lowering your feet.
  • Pause for two seconds before you twist back the other way.
  • Continue alternating sides until you reach your target number of reps.

Keeping Your Numbers Accurate

There are a few ways to ascertain your calorie-burning rate accurately:

  1. An exercise tracker or an app that estimates the number of calories burned; however, the accuracy differs from one tracker to another.
  2. A MET values chart can also be an excellent way to gauge calories burned in performing sit-ups. This chart is widely used throughout the medical community.
  3. A heart rate monitor is one of the most reliable tools when it comes to keeping up with the number of calories you burn during sit-ups. Essentially, it indicates how much effort it takes for you to complete one rep of sit-ups, and that effort determines your calorie-burning rate.