Traditional sit-ups and crunches are terrible for you, according to personal trainers - here's what they suggest instead
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- Crunches and sit-ups are being shunned by fitness experts in the US military and elite gyms.
- At least four trainers have told Business Insider that there are far better ways to strengthen your core muscles and get fit in a hurry than sit-ups and crunches.
- But if you love a good crunch, there is a right way to do it: Don't move too fast, and keep your low back on the floor the entire time, pulling your rib cage towards your pelvis with your core muscles.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
If you like to sit down, stand, or bend down and pick things up from time to time, then you are a fan of your abs, whether they're rock-hard or not.Abdominal muscles connect our rib cage to our pelvis, keeping our spine healthy and our mid-section strong enough to carry us through the day. Strengthening your core can help improve your posture and better prepare you to tackle all kinds of everyday tasks, and (of course) it can also help you develop a trimmer, more firm waistline and a chiseled frame.Advertisement
Unfortunately, the basic crunches and sit-ups we've been taught are not actually the most efficient or healthy ways to build a strong core. Worse, they may cause serious damage to your back and neck if you do them wrong.
At least four different trainers and kinesiologists from celebrity gyms, universities, and fitness centers across the US have told Business Insider that sit-ups and crunches are simply not their preferred moves. And the nonprofit American Council on Exercise (ACE) says that when it comes to crunches, a lot of people "perform this movement too rapidly" and cheat their way in and out of the move by using their hip flexors to help them into the crunch."This technique tilts the pelvis anteriorly, increasing the stress on the low back, and should be avoided," the ACE says on its website.
Here are a handful of reasons why trainers, exercise scientists, and the US military all dislike traditional crunches and sit-ups, along with their recommendations for better core moves.
“Six-pack” abs have developed something of an unattainable appeal, but the truth is that everyone has abs. These muscles are grouped into three separate areas of our mid section.
The problem is that many core exercises, when done wrong, don't target these areas of the body very well. That's partly why both the Army and the Navy are phasing out their sit-up tests by the end of 2020.Advertisement
Instead of the ab test, US soldiers will be evaluated on their ability to do movements that they might actually use in combat, like deadlifts and drag-and-carry moves.
Trainer and exercise physiologist Tony Maloney from the National Institute for Fitness and Sport clearly supports the US military's change. "I'm not a huge fan of sit ups," he told Business Insider.Advertisement
Maloney said he prefers old-school exercise moves that force people to work on stabilizing the core, like moving up and down from push-ups into planks while keeping the ab muscles engaged.
Evidence also suggests that regular strength training with weights is great for your core. Maloney recommends a move called "suitcase carriers."Advertisement
Celebrity trainer Emily Samuel, who works at the Dogpound gym in New York, agreed that it is “functional movements that apply to real life that are obviously the most important to do."
One of Samuel's favorite functional core moves is the hollow hold. "You lay on your back, and raise your feet a couple of inches off the floor," she said.Advertisement
Trainer Anna Kaiser, who has worked with celebrities like Shakira and Karlie Kloss, told Business Insider that many people "push their abs out" when doing crunches, creating a “rounded lower belly shape." That's the opposite of what’s desired.
Kaiser recommends trying some c-curve moves instead of crunches. To do this, start with your knees bent on the floor and tilt your pelvis forward, pulling in your ab muscles. Then raise your arms to your ears and pulse them towards the back of the room.Advertisement
If, despite all this, your heart is set on doing old-school crunches when you work out, just make sure to perform them correctly.
If your goal is to actually see your abs in the mirror one day, remember that exercise alone probably won't be enough.Advertisement
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