The Case Against the Traditional Sit-Up
Is it time to take a stand against the sit-up?
A recent editorial in the Navy Times, an independent publication that covers that branch of the military, advocated that the old standard core workout should be eliminated from the service's physical preparedness test.
"It's well past time, for example, to deep-six the sit-up, an outdated exercise today viewed as a key cause of lower back injuries," the editors write. "Experts say there are better measures of core strength that have the added advantage of being less prone to cheating."
The editorial points to alternatives such as the plank, which strengthens the abs and surrounding muscles without the stress of movement. There also many exercises that involve the use of a stability ball, such as the myotatic crunch, which engage more muscles while being easier on the back.
Even officials inside the military question the sit-up's effectiveness.
"Sit-ups really don’t prepare us for what we typically use our core for in daily life, or operationally on the battlefield,” Cmdr. David Peterson, executive officer for the physical education department at the U.S. Naval Academy told The Wall Street Journal.
To be sure, the actual sit-up is not to blame for lower back pain. Issues only arise when the exercise is not performed properly, but achieving proper form can be a challenge for the average person.
As someone who has lost about 40 pounds through diet and exercise, I never include sit-ups in my daily routine. I find you have to do scores of reps to experience any results. I opt for the exercises mentioned above, as well as exercises involving weights that work the entire mid-section.
So remember: While you may now have a good excuse to skip the sit-up, it's still important to work your core.