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Are Sit Ups Really That Bad For YOU?

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Are Sit Ups Bad For You? The Truth About This Core

There's no doubt that traditional sit ups and crunches are a popular exercise. But are sit ups bad for you? This is a question that has divided the fitness community for years. Some people say that sit ups can cause back pain, while others claim they are the best way to strengthen your core. So what's the truth? In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the pros and cons of sit ups and discuss some alternatives to this controversial exercise.

Are Sit Ups Bad?

While sit ups might be seen as an efficient way to strengthen and tone your abs, the reality is that sit ups can potentially cause more harm than good. Doing sit ups incorrectly puts unnecessary strain on the back muscles, which can lead to aches and pains that could have been easily avoided. If you have a lumbar spine injury, such as a disc injury, sit ups can exacerbate those symptoms. Disc pressure is increased when you move into flexion at the lower spine.

Furthermore, sit ups mainly focus on strengthening the rectus abdominus (the front six-pack muscle), without accounting for other core muscles located deep in our bodies' centers. While sit ups do target this famous muscle group, failing to exercise your entire core will leave you with a weaker body overall. Instead of relying solely on sit ups for abdominal strength, create a fitness plan that focuses on strengthening your entire core - sit ups are just one combination of exercises you should include!

Core Strength Alternative

For core strength and stability, opt for exercises like planks and pallof. These moves are designed to target all of your ab muscles, not just the ones on the front side of your body. Planks strengthen a wide range of muscles in your back and abdominal regions, while pallof works your lower back and obliques. To get the most out of these exercises, focus on proper form and breathing techniques. Don't forget to include cardio-based activities like running and biking in your routine as well, as these will also help strengthen your core.

Pallof Press

Credit: The Barbell Physio Youtube

To do a pallof press correctly, physical therapists recommend standing with feet hip-distance apart and gripping the resistance band firmly in both hands. Hold your arms extended and parallel to the floor, making sure the band is at chest level. Engage your deep core before turning laterally away from the anchor point while securely holding onto both ends of the band. You should feel resistance throughout your trunk when you turn to create tension on the band. Keep your hips facing forward so you don’t compromise form. Once you are in position, attempt to press outward against the resistant band by engaging through your abdominals as you slowly walk both arms away from each other. Don't round or arch your back too much. Try to maintain a neutral position. Feel free to step around yourself as necessary while maintaining tension on the resistance band until you complete 8-12 reps with each side. This exercise will help strengthen and stabilize your core muscles over time!


Planking is an excellent exercise to strengthen your core and improve your posture. To do a proper plank, begin by drawing in your belly button, slightly arching your back, and pressing into the floor with your feet and shoulders. Keep your arms as straight as possible, making sure that your forearms are directly under your shoulders. Activate your thigh muscles and glutes by engaging them while aiming for a neutral spine. As you hold the plank, keep it tight and squeeze every muscle in the body especially the ab muscles without sagging your hips or arching the back too much. Aim to hold yourself in this position for 30 seconds or more before building up to 45 seconds or longer as you progress. The key is to maintain good form throughout each rep as tempting as it may be to dip too low or let other areas of the body relax.

Dead Bug

Dead bug exercises are an important part of physical therapy for back pain and core strengthening. These exercises involve slow and controlled movements that require focus while engaging the lumbar, abdominal muscles. This exercise makes use of the whole body to put into motion multi-angular stability around the spine, activating many joints in order to strengthen it. This can result in a more efficient core strength that improves stability throughout the entire torso. Practiced regularly, this exercise can help prevent herniated discs as well as injury correction when paired with other forms of treatment. Dead bug exercises emphasize safety as they teach how to strengthen muscles while protecting lumbar vertebrae and other parts of the spinal column through isometric holds and postural control before being able to engage in dynamic activities that may have been previously uncomfortable or impossible

Hip Flexor Strengthening To Support Your Core

Strengthening your hip flexors is important for overall bodily health. Hip flexors are made up of a set of muscles that contract when you bring your legs in toward your chest and stabilize the hip joint during movement. Strengthening these muscles through exercises such as leg raises or using resistance bands can help with balance, agility, posture, and core stability. Additionally, this strengthening can help decrease pain in the lower back when done consistently and properly. With stronger hip flexors, you can provide lasting support to your entire body and guard against injury throughout your life. Hip flexor strengthening can be a great alternative to the sit up because it will work similar muscles and train your body to be able to maintain neutral spine position during movement.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your core strength, sit-ups may not be the best option. There are many other exercises that can help you achieve this goal, such as pallof press, hip flexor strengthening, planks, and dead bugs. To learn more about these exercises and how they can benefit you, call HIDEF Physical Therapy today to schedule your evaluation. We can help you create a personalized exercise program that will help you build a strong and healthy core.

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