Do we really need to be doing sit-ups & crunches?

Dr. Stu McGill from the University of Waterloo in Canada has strongly advocated that repeated lumbar spinal flexion (i.e. rounding of the low back) may ultimately lead to a disk injury.  The question that remains unanswered is how many will it take to lead to injury?  That’s probably a question that is HIGHLY variable depending upon the individual.

Nevertheless, I have pretty much stopped doing crunch/sit-up-type exercises.  I feel that you can achieve the same effect performing core stabilization exercises such as planks.  The closest that I come to a crunch is a reverse crunch, which I feel is a lead-up to performing a candlestick/lever raise on the floor, hanging on a bar, on the rings, etc.

With that said, here’s a study that was conducted on US Army recruits comparing a sit-up training program vs. a core stabilization program on performance of the US Army Physical Fitness Test.  What was found was that –

“….there was a small but significantly greater increase in sit-up pass rate in the CSEP (5.6%) versus the TEP group (3.9%).”

CSEP = core stabilization exercise program

TEP = traditional exercise program

Effects of Sit-Up Training Versus Core Stabilization Exercises On Sit-Up Performance

Medicine & Science In Sport & Exercise. 41(11):  2072-83, Nov 2009.

What are your thoughts?

Explore posts in the same categories: Anatomy, Biomechanics, Conditioning, Physiology, Strength Training, Training

5 Comments on “Do we really need to be doing sit-ups & crunches?”

  1. Just Another Opinion Says:

    By reverse crunch, do you mean like a leg-lift? And by core-stabilization, you just mean some kind of static hold?

    Is it a question of the degree of crunch/sit up?

  2. Emily Says:

    I have been coaching for 12 years and have always stuck with the traditional sit-ups/push-ups/etc. But then last year, we decided to try a different route and spent the majority of conditioning on plyometrics, bar conditioning, and planks. We hardly ever even did any sit-ups or crunches.

    By the end of the season these kids were SO much stronger than my previous groups. And their body lines were absolutely incredible. I am a sworn believer in planks now and there are so many great ways to use them.

    The only “traditional” ab exercise we still do regularly are V-ups, because I think they help the girls find that completely straight leg position and really develop extension through the knees.

  3. Chris Says:

    Here’s an example of a reverse crunch.

    However, I’d try to get the gymnasts to not drop the hips (pike)as the guy in this video does, but squeeze their bottom and lower their entire body back to the bench so as to eventually progress to straight legs (candlestick/lever).

    Core stabilization – yes, pretty much learning to hold the core statically with the lumbar spine in a neutral position – no rounding or excessive arching. The lumbar spine has a natural curvature.

  4. without a doubt core strength training (which includes, TVA, Erestus Spinae (sp??) and the other longitudinal muscles along the spine, internal and exernal obliques, AND the rectus abdominis) should make up most of your shaping and physical preparation training. Spinal flexion is still a very important movement to train and condition (eg from tucks, courbette).. Thus its important to train the motion, with good form. The biggest problem with situp etc is that they are done poorly, and even doing planks and suck poorly can result in back problems..

    So always consider that the recommendations for the general population do not always apply as strictly to the special population (in this case gymnastics where this motion has to strengthened to optimize performance).

    Valentin Uzunov

  5. Jessica Says:

    is there a video that shows a whole training workout or program that gymnast do. I would really like a whole training program. thankyou

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