Celebrity Fitness: Traditional sit-ups and crunches are terrible for you, according to personal trainers — here’s what they suggest instead

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Celebrity Fitness: Traditional sit-ups and crunches are terrible for you, according to personal trainers — here’s what they suggest instead

Celebrity Fitness:

Celebrity Fitness: strengthen your abs without crunches
Many fitness experts shun the traditional crunch and focus instead on “functional movements” that help people move more efficiently and avoid injury.

Cooper Neill/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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 midsection 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, firmer waistline and a chiseled frame.

Unfortunately, the basic crunches and sit-ups we’ve been taught are not actually the most efficient or healthiest 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 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 says that when it comes to crunches, a lot of people “perform this movement too rapidly” and cheat their way into and out of the move by using their hip flexors to help.

“This technique tilts the pelvis anteriorly, increasing the stress on the low back, and should be avoided,” the council says on its website.

Here are a handful of reasons trainers, exercise scientists, and the US military dislike traditional crunches and sit-ups, along with their recommendations for better core moves.

Celebrity Fitness: “Six-pack” abs have developed something of an unattainable appeal, but the truth is that everyone has abs. These muscles are grouped into three areas of our midsection.

Timothy Bradley, a junior welterweight champion, shows off his ab muscles before a workout in Los Angeles on May 29, 2012.

Reuters/Danny Moloshok

There are the surface “six-pack” muscles (rectus abdominis), the deep core stabilizers below them (transverse abdominis), and the side muscles (obliques).

Celebrity Fitness: 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.


David Goldman/AP

Similarly, the Department of Veterans Affairs warns that straight-leg sit-ups “may cause undue strain on the lower back.”

Celebrity Fitness: Instead of the ab test, US troops will be evaluated on their ability to do movements that they might actually use in combat, like deadlifts and drag-and-carry moves.


TSgt Brian Kimball/DoD

The Army now recommends four core-training moves that “train all these muscles in a manner that mimics their function”: bent-leg raises, in which soldiers “contract the abdominals as if you are preparing for a blow to the stomach,” as well as bridges, side bridges, and leg lifts.

The Navy is replacing its sit-up test with a plank test, Task & Purpose reported.

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