Is Your Workout Killing Your Back? Stop Doing This Exercise Immediately

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Sit-ups, a staple of the American workout regimen, are doing much more harm than good for your body.

There is a reason you always found sit-ups uncomfortable during gym class.

Traditional crunch and sit-up variations can place over 1000 lbs of compression on your spine.

The exercise places your spine in an unnatural position and subjects your back to inordinate loads of force which, over time, can create permanent injury.

Exercises that force you to hold or brace your abdominals in place actually do much more for aesthetic and functional development than traditional crunches.

Substitute the following exercises for sit-ups:

Supermans: Lay face down on your stomach with your arms and legs extended (Picture Superman flying in the air). Lift your arms and legs into the air while keeping your torso on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Rest for 60 secs. Perform three repetitions. Stretch your back after you finish.

Ab planks: Get down on the floor into push-up position. Instead of supporting your weight on your hands, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle. You should be on your elbows with your fists in front of you. Get on your toes as though you were doing a push-up. Again, you be should positioned as though you were doing push-ups, the only difference is that you are supporting your weight on your elbows instead of your hands. Begin the exercise in the ‘up’ position of the push-up sequence.

Brace yourself in this position for 60 seconds.

Keep your back straight and don’t let your stomach sag towards the floor.

Rest 60 seconds. Perform three repetitions.

WarningMaintain a straight back throughout any abdominal exercises. Do not contort your spine to achieve or maintain lower or upper body lift.

(credit to reader, “Bmower”)

Bracing your abs while resistance training: Don’t suck in or stick out your abs. Tighten them as though you were getting ready to be punched in the stomach. Perform whatever exercise you are doing as normal—- Just keep your abs tight while doing it.

Ditch the sit-ups and crunches—-your back will thank you for it.


McGill S. M. Low back exercises: evidence for improving exercise regimens. Phys Ther, 78: 754-765, 1998.

McGill, S.M. Low Back Disorders. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002.

Medical College of Georgia. Research pinpoints variations in sit-up techniques. Press release, Aug. 15, 2003.

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