Silly Exercises That Don’t Work: The Sit Up

The mainstay for most fitness programs, the sit up is one of the most widely used exercises to strengthen the core.  Research over the last 10 or so years have shown that this exercise is not very effective at building core strength and is linked to increasing your risk of low back pain.  Still not convinced that your ab challenge is a waste of time?  Let me explain why sit ups are silly.

Your torso muscles are designed to contract isometrically, which means the muscles tighten, but stay the same length.  This is how your core protects your back.  It resists force in all 3 planes, keeping your center locked into place.  The sit up is a concentric exercise, which means you contract your abdominal muscles and they shorten as you do so.  Using muscles or joints in ways they were not naturally intended to be used will lead to a negative result — in this case increased risk of back pain

Sometimes we have to do this forward flexion movement, as in the sit up, when getting up from laying on our back or such position, but usually we do not come all the way up and we don’t do it 50 times a day.  With repeated flexion under load, the discs in between the vertebrae in your lower back are put under extra pressure.  And just like if you were bending a paper clip back and forth, eventually something will break.  And coupled with EMG results which show poor abdominal muscle activation with the sit up, it really makes this exercise a bad deal.

You might be wondering that if you can’t do sit ups, then what exercise should you do instead to strengthen your core, right?  Watch my video to learn how to do the Ab Raise exercise.  It is way harder than the sit up, is very gentle on your back and can be done by nearly anyone.  Already have back pain?  Don’t start exercising without a diagnosis and professional help.  Either give my office a call at 224-653-8094 if you are local to Bloomingdale, IL or see your chiropractor for natural, effective relief.



Dr. Erin E. Ducat is a Chiropractic Physician, who is Board-Certified in Orthopedics, Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.She also is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and maintains a private practice in Bloomingdale, IL.Dr. Ducat has been the team chiropractor for professional and youth sports and treats a variety of orthopedic, sports and pelvic floor conditions for the communities of Bloomingdale, Roselle, Itasca, Medinah and surrounding suburbs.For more information about Dr. Ducat, go to

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