Sit ups: Are they crunching more than you bargained for?
For as long as any of use can remember sit ups have been a core exercise if you will excuse the pun. Few among us did not grow up grinding out set after set. Equally, few among us do not suffer periodic back pain. Are the two related?
For some time Stuart McGill a Professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada has been writing about the dangers of sit ups. McGill argues that the repeated spine flexion that it causes eventually leads to disc herniation. Everything may seem fine for a long time buts it’s a ticking time bomb.
More recently the US Army has reevaluated it’s position in relation to sit ups. One study found that 56% of soldiers injuries incurred during a fitness test were related to sit ups. The Daily Mail recently ran an article about the potential danger of sit ups and possible alternatives.
The US Navy and Marines are both said to be re-evaluating their position in relation to sit ups while the Canadian Armed Forces have already passed them out.
At the same time, having a strong core is vital to protecting against back injury, maintaining good posture and general athletic performance. All of which begs the question: What are the alternatives?
Some other staple exercises like plank seem a good choice and take a look at this video from McGill. As well as explaining the mechanism of injury, he provides some examples of his own favorite exercises. As a back scientist McGill has chosen the exercises which maximize the ratio of core muscle activation to compressive spine loads, or safe bang for your buck.