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Mastered the situp? The V-sit takes things to the next level

This core strengthener functions as both an ab exercise and a stability challenge.
The V-sit targets the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques and hip flexors.
The V-sit targets the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques and hip flexors.TODAY Illustration / Stephanie Mansour

While ab exercises like the situp and crunch tend to get all the glory, there are plenty of other moves that work the region just as effectively. And there is something to be said for adding variety to your routine: it will prevent boredom, ensure you continue to challenge your muscles and help you see results faster.

When it’s time to mix things up, the V-sit is an exercise I like to include in ab routines for my weight-loss clients to help them improve core strength while simultaneously working on balance. I like to incorporate this exercise into my own workout routines too, since it is forces me to pause and hold rather than moving through all of the exercises.

What does the V-sit do for the body?

The V-sit targets the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques and hip flexors. These muscle groups make up the core region, meaning that the V-sit does a great job of challenging multiple parts of the core at the same time. But what makes the V-sit special is its ability to function as both a core exercise and a balancing move.

Because the move requires you to form a “V” shape with your legs in the air, you’ll be forced to engage your core and focus on your balance to remain stable. Not many other core workout function in this way, making the V-sit the perfect move to try out if you’re looking to step out of your comfort zone.

The common mistakes people make when doing the V-sit

The V-sit requires a certain level of balance, meaning that it’s sometimes extra tricky to maintain proper form. I’ve seen many of my clients round their backs or hunch their shoulders forward when in a V-sit position, which takes emphasis off of the core region. This incorrect position might also cause pain in the lower back.

The V-sit is meant to be held for a few seconds at a time. Because this move requires people to be still, it’s common to feel like you have to move some other part of your body. I’ve seen a lot of my clients move their arms while in V-sit position, which again takes the focus off of the core region. If you’re ready to try the V-sit, keep these tips in mind:

  • Maintain good posture, keeping a straight line from your shoulders to your lower back. Avoid hunching forward and make sure to keep your core engaged.
  • Keep your arms either straight out in front of you so that they are parallel to the ground or straight up toward the ceiling on either side of your head. Resist the urge to move them!

How to do a modified V-sit

The V-sit can definitely be a challenge if you struggle with balance and core stability. However, you can work on a modification until you feel comfortable moving on to the full exercise.

I recommend performing the V-sit with your elbows on the floor for stability. With your elbows resting on the mat, make sure to form a straight line from your lower back to your head (no rounding forward!). Then, lift your legs up, forming the V shape. Hold the position for 30 seconds.

How to perform the V-sit correctly

If you’re ready to incorporate a new balancing exercise into your ab routine, the V-sit might be the perfect move. Make sure to follow these step-by-step instructions when performing the move for the first time, and remember to engage your core and focus on balance.

  1. Seated on a mat, engage your core muscles and gently lean back a couple of inches. Slowly lift your legs up in the air so that are in a table-top position.
  2. Reach your arms straight out in front of you so that they are parallel with the mat.
  3. Keeping your core engaged, extend the legs straight up to a 45-degree angle, forming a “V” shape with your body.
  4. If you feel balanced here, attempt reaching your arms up toward the ceiling. You always have the option to leave them straight out in front of you. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Keep the shoulders relaxed, abs pulled in and the inner thighs squeezing together.
  5. Release your legs and arms down to the starting position.

4 exercises that will help you perform the V-sit

The V-sit requires a strong core and good balance. If you’re not entirely confident in these skills, there are plenty of other moves that can help you make progress in those areas.

Leg raises

Leg raises require the same type of movement as the V-sit without requiring strong balance. Start by lying down on a mat. Keep your upper body on the floor and lift your legs straight up toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your legs, keeping your core engaged, until they are hovering about 6 inches above the ground. Hold here for 10 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat.


The jack knife puts the V-sit into motion, again eliminating the balance component of the move. Follow the same directions as listed for the V-sit, but keep the move in motion instead of holding the position in the top “V”. Instead, bring your upper and lower body closer together, and them lower back to start; avoid letting your arms or legs drop to the ground.

Side lunge

The side lunge works the lower body and core and can be performed in a way that targets balance as well. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and step your left foot out to the side into a lunge position while keeping your right leg straight. Push off your left leg to return back to a standing position. For an added balance challenge, bring your left knee towards your chest once pushing back to start, instead of returning it to the floor. You should be standing with all of your weight balanced on your right leg. Repeat for 10 repetitions and the switch sides, lunging to your right and then balancing on your left leg.

Side plank

The side plank is another great example of a core move that requires balance. Start by lying on your right side. Place your right palm flat on the floor. Tighten your core and lift your body off the ground, balancing on your hand and the edge of your right foot. Hold the side plank for about 30 seconds and then switch sides.

More ways to master the move: