Ditch Sit-Ups? Davida, fitness professional
Forget the Sit-Ups
We should all just wear black to the gym and have a memorial for that standard exercise, the sit-up. They won’t be missed although we love to hate them. We have many variations of crunches using our arms, lifting our feet and twisting our spines to make them more interesting. People even brag about doing sit-up challenges and reaching goals of 100 sit-ups in a session. As an instructor I feel obligated to include them in my classes, making people grit their teeth and feel the burn. Otherwise, participants feel they’re not getting a full workout and abandon my class for another.
But the research and statistics are proving more and more sit-ups are just plain bad for you.
- First of all, constantly forcing your spine into a hyper flexed position stresses the spine and its discs.
It’s difficult to maintain a neutral spine while sitting up and if twisting is added, the lower back is at a greater risk for injury. If done on a hard floor this puts even more pressure on the lower back.
- Another reason sit-ups can do more harm than good is that they overwork the hip flexors.
These are the muscles attaching the hips to the lower spine. When overworked they become very tight and pull the pelvis into an anterior tilt, which again puts unneeded pressure on the lower spine and can lead to back pain.
- Furthermore, sit-ups only focus on the muscles in the abdomen.
Other then looking good it’s not very useful to have a strong stomach without an equally strong core, which includes most of the muscles between the hips and shoulders. If you want to be strong instead of just looking ripped do core strengthening exercises, which will increase balance and stability.
On the subject of looking good, 100 sit-ups a day are not the way to a sexy stomach. If you’re looking to show off in your swimsuit you had better check your diet and cut out fat and sugar. Then add some cardio to your routine to melt away whatever is covering up your six-pack.
Finally for better quality of life or athletic performance target the muscles you use mostly and in the manner you use them.
Lying on the back and flexing the spine against gravity is an unnatural position is not even useful for car mechanics. To effectively work your core, find exercises where you’re standing upright or at least in the position you’re training for. If you’re a runner or a biker do lunges, squats and side bends. If you just want to stand straight and not slip on the ice also do some balancing work on a BOSU or other unstable surface.
Getting down on the mat does still have benefit. Three great core exercises are:
- Side Planks
- Bird Dog/Spinal balance
Ditch the sit-ups, save your back and get stronger over all. Support your trainer in rejecting sit-ups and ask for more planks! Let that be the new standard exercise we love to hate. Be sure you discuss your exercises with your doctor.
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