How to Do V-Ups

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on July 08, 2022
5 min read

The V-up is a full-body core exercise named after the shape your body takes when you perform the workout. It can be done anywhere with just your body weight and some floor space, though you can choose to add weights to your V-ups workout. It’s simple to learn how to do V-ups with the most common V-ups forms. V-ups are great foundational exercises that strengthen your stability and core, which helps with movements like walking, running, and lunging.

What are V-ups exercises? A V-up is a core exercise that works the upper and lower abdominals. It requires you to lift your arms and legs off the floor at the same time using your abdominal muscles. The correct V-ups form looks like the letter ‘V.’ You bring your torso up as if you’re doing a sit-up and you bring your legs up as if you’re doing leg raises.

V-ups workouts can be done with or without any weights. They are essential to building core stability so that your pelvis and spine are properly aligned. A stronger core also improves balance, stability, and good posture, which helps with lower back pain.

V-ups muscles worked include the core and lower body muscles. The primary muscles worked are the rectus abdominis and the oblique muscles. Because V-ups require you to lift your legs off the floor, you also work your hip flexors, adductors, and quadriceps.

  • Rectus abdominis. This muscle is located in front of the pelvis between the ribs and the pubic bone. Its main function is to move the part of the body between the ribcage and the pelvis. It’s commonly referred to as the 'six pack’.
  • External oblique muscles. These muscles are located on each side of the rectus abdominis. They help you twist your trunk.
  • Internal oblique muscles. These muscles are located under the external oblique muscles and inside the hip bones. They also help twist the trunk but work in the opposite direction as the external oblique muscles.
  • Hip flexors. This group of muscles is situated along the front of your upper thigh. They work together to flex and stabilize your hip, thigh, and torso so you can walk, run, sit, and stand. They also help you rotate your hip and flex your knee.
  • Adductors. This group of muscles is situated in the middle region of your thigh, running from the pelvis to the femur. They help move your thigh and stabilize your pelvis so you can stay balanced when walking.
  • Quadriceps. This group of muscles is located at the front of your thigh. Their main purpose is to help straighten your knee. They also help absorb force when walking, maintain correct posture and balance, and regulate the way you walk.

Follow these steps for the right V-ups form:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms extended above your head. Keep your legs straight and feet together.
  2. Point your toes and engage your core to lift your feet about 6 inches off the floor.
  3. Exhale as you engage your core to lift your torso and legs at the same time to create a ‘V’ shape with your body. Keep both your arms and legs straight.
  4. Inhale as you engage your core and slowly lower your body down to the floor. Make sure your arms are extended above your head and your legs are straight. Keep your feet about 6 inches off the floor.
  5. Aim for 4 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions (reps).

The number of sets and reps will vary depending on your level. For beginners, aim for 4 sets of 5 to 8 reps. Intermediate-level athletes should aim for 4 sets of 9 to 19 reps. For more advanced athletes, aim for 4 sets of 20 or more reps. This V-ups workout should be done 3 times a week for the greatest benefit.

There are various V-ups adaptations and alternatives for all athletic levels and people with varying mobility, including:

  • V-up alternative. This is a variation of the common V-up for people who need more support for their upper bodies. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms outstretched behind you with your palms on the floor. Point your fingers away from your body and keep your back straight. Engage your core and slowly lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle with the floor. Bend your elbows and use them to support your torso as you’re leaning back. Exhale and lift one foot off the floor. Straighten your leg out and point your toes away from your body, holding this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Slowly place your foot down and repeat the movement with your opposite leg.
  • V-sit hold. This is a static version of the standard V-ups. Instead of moving into the V shape more frequently with shorter holds at the top, you’ll hold the V shape for a longer period by remaining in a seated position with your legs and torso in the air.
  • Alternating V-ups. This exercise is like standard V-ups except you alternate between each leg as you reach up to form the V shape.
  • Weighted V-ups. You can use weights if you find that bodyweight V-ups are too easy. For this exercise, perform the standard V-ups and hold the appropriate weight in your hands or use ankle weights.

For all these exercises, maintain good posture and form. If your form is compromised, that means you’re either using too much weight or doing too many reps.

V-ups workouts can be done almost anywhere and are friendly exercises for athletes at all levels because of all the possible variations. Other V-ups benefits include:

  • Core strength. V-ups workouts target the rectus abdominis, obliques, and hip flexors. If exercises are done consistently and with proper form, you’ll strengthen these muscles and start seeing definition in your abs.
  • Improved balance and stability. V-ups require you to stabilize your core and adductors to do the exercise properly. This helps strengthen those stability muscles needed to have better overall balance. Better balance and core stabilization are also associated with improved athletic performance and fewer injuries.
  • Increased lower back health. Having a weak core puts more pressure on your back to support your torso and increases the likelihood of injury. Strengthening your core will help take some of that pressure off your lower back.

V-ups exercises are pretty easy to perform and don't usually lead to injuries. However, doing them with an improper form for a prolonged period can end up hurting parts of your body that you’re overstraining. A common mistake when doing V-ups is to arch or slump your lower back when you’re bringing your torso off the floor. Focus on engaging your core muscles to lift your torso, and avoid using your lower back to perform the movement.

For V-up variations like the V-up alternative and V-sit hold, avoid leaning back too much during the leg lift. The purpose of the hold is to keep your core muscles engaged. Use these muscles to keep your torso raised.

Finally, make sure to control the speed of your movements and carefully monitor any changes in your lower back. Always rely on your core muscles to help you perform the majority of the movements.