Some happy fitness news for anyone who hates sit-ups (that’s everyone, right?). You can stop doing them. The humble crunch may have been an exercise standard for decades, but a recent article in Navy Times has called for the U.S. Navy to ban sit-ups from its physical readiness test. While the UK’s Royal Navy still includes the move in its Pre-Joining Fitness Programme, the Canadian Armed Forces have recently dropped the sit-up from fitness testing due to concern over potential injury.
Read on to find out why sit-ups are being banned, and the move that will sculpt your abs instead.
"In the fitness world we haven't used sit-ups for years—not since 2002 when Stuart McGill [a professor of spine biomechanics] wrote a damning text about them—they put strain on your lower back," says Strength and Conditioning Coach and Suki Waterhouse's Personal Trainer Dan Roberts. "Most people have bad posture from sitting all day and sit-ups just recreate that bad posture in the gym. They're also not very effective, because you can't spot reduce."
One study found that 56 percent of injuries related to the physical fitness test were down to the dreaded sit-up.
Not only that, but it’s not a functional exercise—a fitness buzzword that means an exercise should relate to your everyday life and enhance it in some way. "The only thing the sit-up is functional for is being able to do more sit-ups," says Roberts. So, how are we to get our abs sculpted? The Navy is likely to replace the sit-up with the plank if they keep a core exercise in the sailors’ twice-yearly tests. Planks require you to stabilise your deeper core muscles, especially the transverse abdominis that wrap around your sides. These are the muscles that are recruited when you lift, push, pull, and carry—all things that those in the navy and we have to do in real life on a daily basis making this a pretty great functional exercise.
Want to start planking? Get into a push-up position so your body is running in a straight line from your shoulders down to your feet—this is the high plank and the best place to start. Next, you can progress to the forearm plank, again your body should be in a straight line but this time you’re resting on your forearms—this adaptation requires even more core muscles to keep you stable so it’s harder to hold!
"Don't stick your bum in the air when you're in a plank," explains Roberts. "And be sure to tense your abs a little to switch on you core—about 30 percent— this will engage those transverse abdominis muscles."
Ready to move your plank up a gear? Try this 8-minute Plank Variation Workout:
What's your favourite ab exercise? Let us know in the comment box below.