STOP DOING SIT UPS! Gain more with a Plank.

Are you looking for another reason to NOT do your sit-ups? Well, here is your excuse from a Wall Street Journal article. But be patient, there is great information about what you should be doing instead. It is a trade not a dismiss.

To summarize the article, doing classic traditional sit ups has been part of training from the military to high school fitness standards to collegiate coaching and everywhere in between. It forms one of the three most utilized exercises along with the push-up and squat. So, what is the problem with the sit up?

When we perform exercises we put certain forces on our body: shear, compressive, bending and rotational. Often these can be part of healthy building blocks for muscle mass and bone density. It is necessary to ‘stress’ the body in order to make gains in strength, stability and endurance but these need to be done within reason. You should also know what your goals are so you can direct your effort towards those. Typically, people will use a sit up for increased strength in their abdominals. And with the new buzz of ‘core strengthening’ one would presume that this is not an area to ignore.

However, performing the traditional sit up can produce excessive stress on the spine and the soft tissues within. An editorial in the Navy Times called it ‘an outdated exercise viewed as a key cause of lower back injuries’. Stuart McGill reveals that performing a sit up can produce 340 kg or 749 pounds of compressive force when the spine is bent into flexion. That may be excessive for folks that have already injured the spine or have any back condition like a herniated disc. The other component you need to consider is that typically when sit ups are done, they are done with heavy repetitions like 50 times or more. Not only are you putting this heavy force on your spine, you are repeating it over and over again.

What can we do instead? Try the Plank and its many variations. A standard forearm plank activates 7 major muscles compared to the 4 in a sit up. This makes it more of a whole body exercise. Utilizing a variety of exercises that target more muscle groups teaches our body parts to move together and not in isolation.

Creating a stronger and more stable core is a good approach for preventing injury. Turn yourself upside down and try the Plank for yourself.

For the entire article, click below.