Sit-Ups May Do More Harm Than Good

Still doing Sit-Ups to train your core? Find out why you could be doing more harm than good and learn some alternatives from STACK Expert Chris Costa.

Sit-Up

Although Sit-Ups are commonly used to improve abdominal strength, they may be causing more harm than good.

Dr. Richard Guyer, of the Texas Back Institute, says the rounding of the lumbar region of the back during Sit-Ups places severe strain on the spinal cord and nerves. The lumbar region has a large group of nerves, and excessive strain there can cause permanent nerve damage.

A second doctor, Dr. Stuart McGill, goes further, saying spinal disks have a "fatigue life"—meaning they can only handle a finite number of bends. Repetitive movements of the spine can weaken the disks, ultimately leading to a rupture or herniation.

When it comes to strengthening abs and core muscles, it's important to focus on form to eliminate as much back strain as possible. If your Crunch form is good, less is more. There is no need to pump out 50 Crunches if you do 15 with perfect form. And if you can do 15 Sit-Ups with perfect form, stop doing them altogether. There are many other core workouts you can perform that don't compromise the back. Try the simple routine below:

Lumbar Extensions

  • Lie with your stomach on a physioball and your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Drape your upper body over the physioball.
  • Fully extend your back until your body is in a straight line.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x12-15

Kettlebell Oblique Lateral Bends

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a kettlebell with one hand.
  • Bend your torso to the same side as the kettlebell.
  • Straighten your torso to return to the starting position.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x12-15

 Physioball Crunch

  • Lie with your lower back on a physioball and position your feet hip-width apart.
  • Crunch up without pulling your neck.
  • Lower until your back is straight.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x12-15

Find safe, effective Sit-Up substitutes on STACK's Core page. Here are a few to get you started:


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CORE | ABS | PHYSIOBALL | WORKOUTS | FITNESS | MED BALL | LOWER BACK | CRUNCH | STOMACH | KETTLEBELL | SPINE | CORE EXERCISES | LUMBAR | ABDOMINAL EXERCISES