Otis Ups (How-To Guide) Benefits & Proper Form to Ignite Abs

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: March 11, 2024
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Athletes and bodybuilders who want to make their ab workouts count more with extremely intense exercises should switch from doing regular crunches to Otis-ups.

As a personal fitness coach, I’ve seen a lot of people completely transform their abdominal muscles within weeks to achieve those ripped six-packs.

But switching to Otis-ups means paying a lot more attention to your form.

I’ve seen too many make mistakes and end up with back issues, so we decided to put this guide together with detailed instructions and variations.

Quick Summary

  • Performing Otis-ups involves sitting on the ground, using a sturdy object for foot stability, and performing a controlled upward body movement while keeping the spine straight and arms stretched overhead.
  • Otis-ups are an intense abdominal exercise, superior to regular crunches, targeting the full abs and hip flexors for a more effective core workout.
  • Otis-ups, particularly when performed with weight plates, target upper body muscles like abs, delts, and hip flexors, essential for hip flexing and leg lifting, as explained by ScienceDirect, enhancing core and upper abs strength
  • In my view, incorporating Otis-ups into a fitness routine can significantly enhance core strength and stability, especially for those seeking a more challenging and effective abdominal workout.

How To Do The Otis Up 

A person doing Otis Ups in the gym

Let me show you how to perform Otis-up abs workouts for maximum results in your abdominal area.

Here is how to do the basic version, with a more advanced option below:

  • Get into the starting position, sitting on the ground with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
  • Find a sturdy object, like the frame of an exercise machine or some dumbbells, to put your feet under for stability.
  • From a lying-down position, bring your upper body up while trying to keep your spine perfectly straight.
  • As you raise your body, stretch your arms up over your head and look up.
  • Slowly lower back down to the starting position and do as many reps as possible.

The goal is to do this slowly and in proper form.

Don’t round out your spine on the way up and down, as you also want to engage your hip flexors by exercising.

“The hip flexor muscles are a group of muscles situated near the top of your thighs that allow you to lift your knee toward your chest, squat, and bend forward at the hip.”

- Cara Beth Lee, MD

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Otis Ups

  1. Neglecting Core Engagement: A common mistake is not actively engaging the core muscles throughout the exercise. It's crucial to focus on tightening your abdominal muscles to effectively work the core and reduce the risk of strain.
  2. Using Momentum Instead of Muscle Control: Relying on momentum to lift your body rather than controlled muscle movements can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and increase the risk of injury.
  3. Straining the Neck: Often, individuals mistakenly pull on their neck while trying to lift their upper body, which can lead to neck strain. Keep your gaze upwards and use your core, not your neck, to lift.
  4. Improper Breathing: Not breathing correctly can hinder performance. Exhale as you lift your body and inhale as you return to the starting position. Proper breathing helps in maintaining rhythm and engaging the core effectively.
  5. Lack of Control During Movement: Performing the exercise too quickly or without control can compromise its effectiveness. It's important to execute Otis Ups with a controlled, deliberate motion, ensuring that both the lifting and lowering phases are done with precision.

Benefits Of This Exercise 

A person doing Otis Ups

The most obvious benefit of the Otis-up exercise is that you target your core muscles and hip flexors in one movement.

That includes the full set of abs because of that upward stretch movement, and that will give you much better core stability.

Having that stronger core will also improve balance in your upper body, especially when you’re lifting heavy weights in strength training like squats.

And let’s not forget the aesthetics of achieving rock-solid abs, which you’ve never had before.

Otis Up Variation

The best way to add variation to the Otis-up abs exercise is by adding resistance and making these sets into weighted exercises for even more core strength. 

The way you do that is by holding onto a weight plate in front of your chest.

As you raise your body, slowly lift the plate up over your head and hold it for two seconds. Then lower yourself back down again.

Try to add more weight as you get stronger and keep the reps down. This can make a huge difference in the effect on your core.

What Muscles Do Otis Ups Work?

A graphic of the muscles that are being worked on an otis up

Otis-ups target multiple muscle groups in the upper body, including the abs, delts, and hip flexors.

I’ll list them all out here based on doing the weight plate variation.

Abs: You’ll feel this exercise right from the start in your core muscles, including your upper abs, and the slower you do the movement, the more impact it will have.

Hip Flexors: According to ScienceDirect, these muscles are located inside your pelvis, and they play a key role in flexing your hip joint and lifting up your legs [1].

Delts: According to the Cleveland Clinic, when you use a weight plate and push it up over your head as part of this exercise, you’ll also add great strain to your delts [4].


Are Otis Ups Good For Abs?

Yes, Otis ups are good for your abs and core. They are significantly more effective than doing just crunches or leg raises as you get an impact on the upper and lower abs as well as hip flexor muscles.

Are Otis Ups Better Than Crunches?

Yes, Otis ups are better than crunches. By keeping a straight back and raising your arms up, you add a lot more strain on your core. And adding a weight plate can make this an even more effective workout.

Are Otis Ups Suitable for Beginners?

Otis Ups can be challenging for beginners due to the required core strength and coordination. Beginners should start with simpler core exercises and gradually progress to Otis Ups as their strength and stability improve.


  1. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Hip_Flexors
  2. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Core_Stability
  3. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/hip-joint
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21875-deltoid-muscles
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
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Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
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Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
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