The Janda Sit-up is a more advanced core exercise that is different from the basic ab sit-up.
Aside from activating the muscles of the midsection, the posterior chain muscles like glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors are also engaged when done properly.
In this guide, we talk about the muscles involved, explain how to do it, and provide tips, variations, and more.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Rectus abdominis
- Type: Hypertrophy, strength
- Mechanics: Compound
- Equipment: Band, partner, mats
- Difficulty: Advanced
The core muscles are the focus of this exercise but that doesn’t mean it’s the only group of muscles involved. This is especially true because of the nature of the Janda sit-up.
We’ve provided a brief description of each muscle group involved with this movement.
The rectus abdominis is fancy for abdominals, also known as the six-pack” muscles. These core muscles are responsible for trunk flexion (e.g., curl up during a crunch), and they assist during lateral trunk flexion (bending to the side).
When done properly, this exercise really activates the main abdominal muscles and is one of the best movements for building an impressive core.
The obliques (external and internal) are core muscles located on either side of the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscles. They facilitate trunk rotation and contralateral rotation, and with the erector spinae and rectus abdominis, the obliques help with lateral flexion of the trunk.
While there’s not much rotation during the Janda sit-up, the obliques still get an awesome workout.
The hamstrings are opposite the quads on the back of the upper leg and are comprised of three muscles: semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris.
This muscle group is essential for hip extension, knee flexion, and stabilization of the knee joint. Therefore, the hamstrings are heavily involved in walking, standing, and explosive movements such as running and jumping.
The hamstrings are worked isometrically during this exercise as you’re supposed to pull your heels in toward your butt to activate them.
The gluteus maximus is the largest of the glute muscles that make up most of the shape and form of the butt and hips. It’s the main extensor of the hip and externally rotates the thigh.
The butt muscles, along with the hamstrings, should be tensed during the Janda sit-up to reduce hip flexor activation and maximize core activation.
The iliopsoas is the primary hip flexor; made up of the major and minor psoas muscles and the iliacus muscle. It can function as a unit or separately to stabilize and facilitate movement. These muscles are important for proper standing and posture, the coxofemoral joint, and walking and running.
Strong hip flexors are crucial for just about any total body activity.
They are activated during this movement. However, the Janda sit-up should minimize hip flexor involvement to maximize ab recruitment.
How To Do The Janda Sit-Up
Ah yes, now for the fun part. The Janda sit-up is a little more challenging than the basic sit-up and it must be performed correctly to reap the most benefit.
But there are a few different ways to do it, some variations making it a little easier. For example, you can use a partner to hold your legs, bands work great, or you can sit on a slightly elevated platform to dig your heels into.
For these instructions, we’ll assume you’re using a partner but we’ve also included the other variations below.
- Lie on your back and keep your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Your feet should be about where shown in the video example below.
- Have your partner grab the lower calves or about halfway up the leg and pull toward them at about a 45-degree angle.
- Pull your heels toward your butt (feet should not move though) and tense your hamstrings, glutes, and core.
- Use your core strength to curl your torso up all the way to the top.
- Lower yourself down slowly and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Here’s a video example…
Janda Sit-Ups Tips
Here are a few tips that will help you to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise.
- The Janda sit-up can be a very challenging exercise to do even for fit individuals. If you cannot do one or more reps, start from the top of the sit-up and slowly lower yourself down. Therefore, you’re only doing the eccentric or negative portion of the exercise but it’ll help to strengthen the muscles required to do the exercise.
- You may have to adjust your positioning to be able to do the exercise properly.
- Be sure to keep your hamstrings and glutes tensed as this reduces hip flexor activation and helps to maximize core muscle recruitment.
- While keeping both feet on the floor makes this exercise very difficult, you’ll notice that if you keep your heels on the floor and lift your toes, you can do sit-ups, no problem.
Janda Sit-Up Benefits
The Janda sit-up has a few benefits that we’ve explained below.
The Janda sit-up does require you to have to overcome resistance which means it challenges your muscles and can increase the physical development of your midsection.
Most people cannot do this exercise which means you have to be incredibly strong to do it. But if you can pump out a few reps you’ll get even stronger and it’s a great movement for also strengthening your static hamstring and glute strength.
The core muscles play a huge role in strength, function, and athleticism.
If you play sports or do any form of intense physical activity where you’re competing, the Janda sit-up is going to have some carryover because it contributes to building that rigidness and stability needed to be able to overcome external forces.
Janda Sit-Up Variations
Here are those variations we promised you with some description to ensure you get the most from them.
Band Janda sit-up
If you don’t have a partner, wrap a loop band around a solid and unmovable object and wrap the other end around your ankles.
The same thing here applies, you want to pull your feet toward your butt to tense the hamstrings and glutes and sit up to the top.
Elevated Janda sit-up
You could also sit on a few stacked mats or something solid a few inches off the ground. This could make the movement easier and you can pull your heels into whatever you’re sitting on to perform the exercise properly.
Advanced variation/Impossible sit-up
So this is a more advanced variation of the Janda sit-up because there’s nothing to support your legs, it’s all you in space.
Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean X shows you how to do it in the video below.
But pretty much, you get on your back with your feet flat on the floor and try to sit up. The key here is to not allow your toes to lift up otherwise you’re cheating.
So keep your feet flat on the floor and for most, it really is impossible to do. Even he can’t do it.
But like Cavaliere says in the video, someone out there (some beast), may have the core strength to do it.
While this move doesn’t necessarily resemble a sit-up, you’ll have to sit up and stand up holding and balancing a weight above you.
It’s a cool thing to try and really helps to develop total-body stability, balance, awareness, and more.
The Turkish get-up is explained in this article.
How To Incorporate The Janda Sit-up Into Your Training Routine
Due to the difficulty of this exercise, we’d recommend you do it first when you have the most core strength. Although, it depends on your level of training experience and your workout routine.
But you could practice this exercise frequently and even every day until you get stronger at it because it is so difficult for most.
Sets and reps
There’s no perfect set and rep range for the Janda sit-up especially considering its difficulty. So just practice until you get it.
The Janda sit-up is a unique abdominal exercise that isn’t for the beginner. With that being said, it’s a killer core exercise that will help improve your midsection development, strength, and function.
As you saw from this article, there are a few different ways to do it from beginner to more advanced.