Smutty Fitness: The “V” sit-up

July 23, 2015 15:25:45 Posted at July 23, 2015 15:25:45
Hayley Posted by Hayley
AKM-GSI/ Splash News

Hi Hayley,

I ran my first 5k last year and after a few progressively longer races (including the Nike Toronto 15k of which I'm SUPER proud), I'm now training for a half-marathon in the fall. I try to run 3 times a week and use the NTC app to squeeze in 1 targeted workout daily, even if it's only 15 mins or so. Of course, all of this is scheduled around my family and work life (although fitness is definitely a priority for me because it helps manage my depression).

So here's the thing: I can't do a "V" sit up at all. I can do roll ups (with my legs straight) but usually need a towel to cushion my tailbone. After 2 pregnancies, I'm not looking for the "perfect" body--I'm proud of what my body can do--but should I be worried about not being able to do a V? Or should I accept that it's one exercise that I won't be able to do and simply focus on running?

Give it to me straight. Thanks!


Join the club – I can’t do a “V” sit up either, and I have been studying Pilates now for a year! For those of you who don’t know what a “V” sit up is, it is when you lie on your back, with your arms and legs extended and flat and then you proceed to fold your body in half. Basically, this exercise is a back injury waiting to happen if you are not careful and have not progressed properly to this move.

You are a runner, so you are at a HUGE disadvantage because those of us who are runners are blessed with extremely tight hip flexors and hamstrings. Why is this an issue? Because this basically immobilizes your hips and backward bending (flexion and extension) is going to come from your back rather than from the pelvis as it is supposed to.

Our pelvis has two sockets, one on either side, where the balls of the femurs (your leg bones) sit and you achieve movement in this joint in two ways, both your femurs remaining stable and your hips moving on the femurs, or your hips remaining stable and your femurs moving within your hips. If you sit for a living, or you are a cyclist or runner, this type of movement is probably a foreign concept. In the “V” sit up exercise, you are moving both your femurs and your pelvis at the same time, which is a very advanced exercise.

Do not accept that you will never be able to do this exercise, but put it away for a while and focus on trying to create proper movement in your pelvis while stretching and doing your abdominal work. For example, when you are lying on your back and stretching your hamstrings with one leg in the air (supported with a stretching strap), your tight hamstrings are going to want to pull on your pelvis. Focus on trying to drive your sit bones into the floor as you extend your leg, creating as much length as you can through the back of your leg. If you are stretching your hamstrings in a seated position, with one leg tucked in, find the bend forward coming from your pelvis (you should feel yourself rolling forward on your sit bones) rather than finding the movement from your low back.

When you are doing your rollups, I want you to start the upwards movement from the muscles that attach to the base of your rib cage, but then find those deep lower abdominals and rotate your pelvis on the femur heads. Really feel your pelvis moving, and stretching your hamstrings as you do so. You should finish, sitting tall on the very tops of your sit bones. When you lower yourself back down, initiate the movement from tucking your tailbone under and finding the backside of your sit bones rather than moving from your back. 

This type of movement training is going to help improve how your muscles are functioning, which is going to help improve your flexibility and then your ability to do the “V” sit up. Until then, stay away from it and focus on other core exercises instead. Trust me, with practice and smalls steps, you will get there. 

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