At the risk of someones brain exploding from the “heresy” of this comment, I’ll just come right out and say it-sit ups suck.  I don’t mean they’re hard and I hate doing them.  I mean they really suck and are not a good option for most people.  Not only are they a less then effective way to train your core musculature, but they are also pretty rough on your back.  There is not a single client I have that does sit ups, at least not with me.  Here are three quick reasons to avoid them:

(I know this is titled “exercises you should be doing”…trust me, I’m getting there).

#1: When you look at the musculature of the abdominals it is pretty easy to see that they are designed more for rotational (side to side) movement rather than flexion (think sit up type movement).  In fact somewhere around 80% of the core musculature is designed to induce or reduce rotational/anterior-posterior movement.  Induce, meaning causing twisting type movements, and reduce, meaning resisting side to side/front to back forces and encouraging stabilization.

Sit ups, crunches, etc. are strictly flexion based, meaning they force the abdominal structure to move in a way that it is very minimally designed to.  Seeing as how most people do solely flexion based abdominal strengthening movements, it’s easy to see that the abs are often highly under-utilized and severely under-trained.

#2.  As I mentioned above, sit ups (et al) are murder on your low back.  Just ask anyone with low back problems how they feel after a good round of blasting their abs with some crunches.  Hint: it’s not good.  Not to mention countless studies that have shown the stress that the low back is under during a sit up.  Unless you’re a gymnast, MMA fighter or something similar where you need some strength in flexion based movements, the cost-to-benefit ratio just isn’t worth it.

#3.  Lastly, I want you to think for a minute about how you stand, how you walk…what do your shoulders look like? Are they rounded forward?  How about your upper back? I bet it’s slumped.  In fact, I bet right now as your reading this you are hunched over your computer.  This how most of us spend most of our days.  Again, in a state of spinal flexion.  Now think about a sit up or crunch.  Isn’t the movement pretty similiar to the poor posture patterns I mentioned above?  Forward shoulders, rounded back…In fact, sit ups strongly encourage poor posture due to the reenforcement of these body postures.  So why spend time in the gym in this same position?

I say all this to give you the “why”.  Why it is important to avoid flexion based abdominal strengthening movements, and why the following exercise can be a great asset to not only your abdominal strength but also to your posture and your back health.  Now here’s the “how”:

The Spiderman Plank:

Cues:

-Keep your body in a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Don’t let your hips sag and don’t stick your butt up in the air.

-Brace your abs keeping them tight through the entire movement.  This will help keep the hips from rocking from side to side.

-Breathe slow and deep.

-Don’t rush the movement of your leg.  It’s easy to swing the leg up quickly to get them over with quicker.

Try them out and let me know what you think!

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