When it comes to carving your core, there are sit-ups, and then there are V sit-ups.

An advanced core exercise, the V sit-up works the coveted rectus abdominis, or “six-pack,” muscles; the deep-lying transverse abdominis; the hip flexors; and the obliques on the sides of your abdomen.

They do all of this while also working the lower portion of the abdominals to a greater extent than traditional sit-ups.

A Word of Caution Before Performing the V Sit-Up

During this exercise, it’s important to put ego aside and focus on correct form over the number of reps you crank out.

“If you’re not engaging your core during this exercise, excessive spinal flexion, or curvature, can result, placing undue stress on the low back,” says Cody Braun, CSCS.

To prevent lower-back discomfort — and get more core-building benefits from the exercise — Braun recommends focusing on actively squeezing your deep core muscles throughout the entire exercise.

To cue this, focus on minimizing any dip in your low back, tucking your pelvis, and/or not letting your chest puff out (i.e., rib flare).

You can also imagine that someone is about to punch you in the gut. Whatever works!

V Sit-Up: Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms extended over your head against the floor.
  • Keeping your back neutral and your core engaged, lift your legs and arms off the floor until your body forms a V shape. You can reach your arms straight forward or up toward your feet.
  • Pause, and then slowly lower your arms and legs back to the starting position.
  • Repeat, avoiding the use of momentum as you move into each rep.

How to Make V Sit-Ups Easier

boat pose | Isometric Ab Exercise

It’s better to modify V sit-ups than to struggle through them with mediocre form. Always make sure V sit-ups fit your current core strength and ability levels.

  • Place your hands on the floor beside your hips. This will help stabilize your body so you don’t have to work as hard to balance, Braun says.
  • Bend your knees to decrease the amount of resistance your core muscles face in raising them, he says.
  • Hold a yoga boat pose. Focusing on holding the V isometrically can help you work up to a moving variation. You can also place your hands on the floor or bend your knees in boat pose.

How to Make V Sit-Ups Harder

Best Ab Exercises - Alternating V-Up

V sit-ups are phenomenally challenging on their own, but you can progress them.

  • “To make this exercise more challenging, you can add a rotation on the ascent by bringing one hand to the opposite leg,” Braun says. This will up the ante on your oblique muscles.
  • Never touch the floor. Instead of fully resting at the bottom of each rep, lower your arms and legs until they hover just off the floor, pause, and then move into the next rep for greater muscular endurance.