Sit-ups: The truth

The two things that keep me up at night as Strength coach are:

1. Sit ups and

2. Jogging (not to be confused with running).

These two movements are the scourge of Physiologists and Strength coaches alike, performed over and over in Health Clubs across the country, there is he belief that Jogging (not running) is the easiest way to shift some weight and that sit ups are the easiest way for guys to become ripped, and women to “Tone up” their mid section.

The bad news is that these are not the easiest OR safest options when it comes to training- both can be carried out as part of an exercise program, but they must be accompanied by supporting work to, as I shall explain.

Risks

The risks of Jogging are basically that, if you are just starting exercise then you will have to do a huge amount to kick-start metabolism particularly if you are in middle age. This can cause an extreme amount of wear and tear on the lower body- none of which you will really know about until it is too late. The “ordinary” person has very limited ankle mobility, extremely limited hip mobility and just about everything else is limited too. Throw in 10,000 ‘thuds’ from the body weight, and it will start to take its toll fairly quickly. An appropriate resistance program must be in place to ensure that the joints and bones are strong enough to take the increased weight-bearing.

The risk posed from sit-ups is a little different and there are two main reasons why alternatives are better than this exercise. Firstly, the ‘abdominal muscles’ of which there are a few, are predominantly designed to resist movement. The best example of this is a plank- where they are contracting to resist gravity isometrically (without lengthening or shortening). Once you can sufficiently resist movement only then should you be looking to create it.

The second, arguably more important , reason is that there are muscles that attach to the Thoraco-lumbar fascia (lower back). Every-time there is a contraction from this muscle the spine is also affected. Psoas Major (our main hip flexor) is one of these a powerful muscle that helps us to jump, run, walk etc. Excessive spinal flexion (sit up motion) can cause there to be too much ‘pulling’ from this muscle on the lumbar spine.

The videos below are some good examples of abdominal exercises that can be performed in the gym.

Image result for psoas major

The Psoas attachment to the spine

https://livewithintent.co.uk/20180724_215651-mp4/

Notice that my clients arm position in these exercises is always straight, and that hips are forward- this can achieved by contracting the Gluteus muscles and engaing the Abdonimus muscles. If any ‘pressure’ is felt in the lower back area during these exercises, then ensure that you have the right amount of contraction in the Glutes. If it persists then discontinue or ask a trainer that is present.
https://livewithintent.co.uk/20180724_215605-mp4/

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