Stop doing sit ups and crunches already! The value of sit ups is questionable for the health of your spine. And do they even train your core to be doing what it should be doing?
Answer is no.
And what should your core be doing? Protecting your spine (your back). You need to be able to move at the hips while keeping the torso stable. Essentially this means NOT moving your abs (like you would be doing sit ups and crunches), but holding your core stable in one place, while your legs and arms move around your core.
When exercising, lifting heavy, for sports, and for life in general, a stable core is crucial.
For your FREE PDF report of the equipment I use for core exercises CLICK HERE.
And guess what? Doing sit ups will not give you six pack abs (or 4 pack abs). Come to think of it, no exercise really gives you six pack abs except Table Push Aways!
For most women, you need to be sub 15% body fat to see ab outlines and for some (like me) probably closer to single digit body fat to see a 4 or 6 pack.
Regardless, everyone still needs a strong core.
What does “core” even mean? What does your “core” consist of? (I know that’s not proper English, but roll with me here…)
- rectus abdominus
- internal/external obliques
- transverse abdominus
- quadratus lumborum
- erector spinae
and some others I probably missed…essentially your core is all the muscles of the torso in between the legs and arms!
So What’s So Bad About Sit Ups and Crunches Anyway?
- They stress the neck and back
As you flex your spine during a sit up, you are smooshing (technical term) your vertebral discs together. Repeating this movement hundreds and thousands of times can cause herniated discs and PAIN.
Although, I do believe that spinal flexion is normal human movement and should be part of our movement repertoire, there are certainly better options than the sit up for training your core.
- They reinforce the sitting position–forward and rounded shoulders, forward neck and head, shortened tightened hip flexors. Most of us are in this position too much already.
Dr. Stuart McGill, who is an expert in spinal health has lots more to say on the subject of core training. I recommend you visit his website Backfitpro.com for access to his wisdom.
Why Do You Need to Incorporate Core Training into Your Workout Plan?
- As already stated, to support/protect your spine
- You need a strong core for quick direction changes, whether or not you consider yourself an athlete. You never know when you will need to dart away from a mugger or turn quickly to keep your child from running in front of a truck.
- to resist movement–because you might end up in an MMA fight? No, because you might be spinning your baby in a circle or picking up a heavy box (or kettlebell!)
- Because core training will make everything you do stronger and faster and more badass. And that’s what life is all about Being more Badass!
How to Incorporate Core Training Into Your Workout Plan
- Make sure that you can tighten your core to protect your spine. You must be able to do a plank without a sagging spine for a full minute, before you start lifting heavy weights.
- Focus on compound full-body exercises, like squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. This will help to get your body moving as one unit. Always engage your core (like you do in plank) during your lifts.
- Do single leg exercises like single leg deadlifts, and single leg squats. Your core has to work hard to stabilize you on one leg.
- Strengthen your glutes with glute bridges and hip thrusts (remember, glutes are part of your core).
- Train your core in all 3 dimensions. This means doing anti-extension, anti-rotation, and anti lateral flexion core exercises.
This requires core exercises that don’t just work the washboard muscles (rectus abdominus), but also exercises that strengthen the transverse abdominus, the obliques, the muscles of the back quadratus lumborum, erectors, and lats.
Soooo, yes, this means doing regular planks, side planks, and bird dogs, but don’t stop there. You MUST keep challenging yourself. Once a 30 second plank is easy, don’t simply extend your time in plank. That is not going to make you stronger! Do a more challenging variation or start adding weight!
4 Core Exercises You Should Be Doing Instead of Sit Ups
- 2 point plank. (anti-extension)
- Hanging leg raises. (anti-extension) For hanging leg raises, you’ll need a pull up bar. CLICK HERE to see the pull up bar I use at home.
- Anti-rotation resistance band hold. Unlike I do in the video, hold your arms out at chest height in front of you. It makes it far more difficult.
- kettlebell suitcase carry (anti-lateral flexion)
Don’t forget to download your FREE PDF report of the resistance bands and pull up bars I use. CLICK HERE
There are plenty more good core exercises and variations of the ones above. Start with these, and let me know how it goes for you and if you have any questions. I truly value your feedback.
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