If you’ve been interested in getting fit in the last, well since forever, you undoubtedly have done sit-ups or crunches. Core strength is super important after all, and who wouldn’t want a six pack. But are sit-ups even a good idea, and what would be a better alternative?
Are sit ups good for you?
No, sit-ups are distinctly not good for you, and there are several reasons why.
The first and most important is that the motion, the way the motion applies pressure to the spine, is really not good for it. As your curved spine is pushed against the floor, the pressure causes the disks to bulge. In the short term, this puts pressure on the surrounding nerves which causes pain. In the long term, this pressure will cause the fibrous outer wall of the disc to wear, which makes a hernia more likely. Nobody wants a hernia.
The other way sit-ups are damaging is that they target only a very small group of muscles. The problem with this is that it causes an imbalance in the body which can pull your spine and joints out of alignment, making injury and wear and tear much more likely.
The final and perhaps worst reason sit-ups are no good is they don’t even work. Sit-ups only work a very small group of muscles, so if you’re looking for muscular strength, they aren’t the best. As for helping you get a six pack, they’re largely no good for that either. Getting a six pack has far more to do with reducing fat than increasing muscle. Any personal trainer will tell you that you can’t spot eliminate fat simply by working the muscles in the area.
All in all, sit-ups can be very bad for you. They can be so bad in fact that the US army has eliminated them from their fitness test. One study found that over half of the injuries caused during the fitness test were caused by the sit-up portion. Seeing as they won’t give you the results you’re looking for either why would anyone keep doing them?
So what should I do instead?
No single exercise is going to be an entire workout. But many, if not all professionals, including the Harvard school of medicine, are recommending the plank as a far superior alternative to the sit-up.
Planking offers several key advantages over sit-ups.
Planking works all your core muscles instead of just a small group. This ensures even strengthening and toning, preventing injury and making you look great. It will also reduce back pain and improve posture.
Planking also stretches your hamstrings, arches of your feet, toes, collarbone, shoulders, and shoulder blades. These muscles are stiffened by all the sitting around we do, causing tension. Stretching them will relieve the stiffness and can greatly improve your mood.
Planking spreads the pressure throughout your whole body, ensuring that it does none of the potentially severe damage that can be caused by sit-ups.
So how do you plank?
While planking can be very hard to do, it is very simple. The first step is to get on the floor in the pushup position, back and neck straight and hands and feet about should width apart. Then lower yourself to your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms. While you’re doing this, it’s important to keep whole body straight and not sag at all. Keep in mind, though, you don’t want to over extend or lock your knees. Your head should also be relaxed and looking at the floor. Hold this position until your form starts to suffer. If you’re not holding proper form, you’re not working the muscles properly and not getting the full benefit, so take a break and come back to it. You might not be able to do it very long at first. If you keep coming back to it, you’ll eventually get good at it and see the results you want.