Skip to content

Never do sit-ups (seriously they're bad for your back)

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
Never do sit-ups (seriously they're bad for your back)
Photo by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Do you know that the scientific consensus is don't do sit-ups or crunches? (tl;dr do planks). I thought everyone knew this, but apparently not. If you do, just scroll on down to the Interesting Articles section, but if you don't:

Never do crunches or sit-ups! For real, Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, did an extensive series of studies, and they're just trash for your back. They cause stress on the disks of your spine, and they're not very effective at increasing strength.

They also tend to worse anterior pelvic tilt (the posture problem where your back arch is exaggerated and your butt sticks out and you maybe get lower back pain).

If you're genetically blessed with a good spine, maybe you'll never have issues, but all that means is they're harmless at best.

There are some exercises, like "what's better, bench press or push-ups" where people have their pet theories about what's best and why, and there's upsides and downsides and it gets complicated. Crunches aren't like that. They're just the worse option, always.

The other reason is related to 'functional fitness' which is like, what are you actually using your muscles for? A barbell squat teaches you how to pick up a heavy thing off the ground. That's functional. Bicep curls, yep, that's how you contract the muscle when you're carrying groceries.

But when do you ever have to lift a weight with the top half of your torso and you do it by bending? That's not what your core is for. Your core is a stabiliser. If someone tries to push you over, your core stops you being pushed. If you push someone else over, your core helps you transfer power from your legs to your upper body.

Your core's usefulness is in staying still, preventing movement. Not in bending sixty times. So, exercises that make it better at staying still and being a stabiliser:

1. Planks, this is the obvious one. Front, sides, back, hollow hold.
2. Dead bug (harder than it looks)
3. Bird dog (v. easy)
4. Glute bridges (both legs or single leg)

(there's heaps more if you have access to weights or gym equipment, search for 'anti-rotational exercise'. farmers carry, Pallof press, suitcase deadlift, etc etc)

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #20 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

Unsolicited AdviceBe More Functional


Sign in or become a Whippet subscriber (free or paid) to add your thoughts.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.