Sit ups are one of the oldest abdominal exercises still being performed. Along with crunches, they’ve long been thought to be the best way to build a strong and, provided that your diet is on point, ripped set of abs. However, that may be changing.
Many experts are now favoring planks over sit ups, advising anyone who will listen to drop the old school exercise. Below are a few things to keep in mind when considering planks vs sit ups.
Are Experts Really Advising Against the Sit Up?
Saying “experts are advising against doing sit ups” sounds like it might be conjecture or yet another clickbait headline attempting to go viral. However, there are indeed credible sources trying to steer people away from sit ups.
A 2015 editorial at the Navy Times (website for the US Navy) calls for the Navy’s physical fitness test to be revamped to more accurately measure how ready sailors are to perform their job. One of the reforms called for is for the sit up to be dropped in favor of the plank. They aren’t alone in this recommendation, as an article published by the Harvard Medical School also states that planks are indeed the better option.
Why Should Sit Ups be Avoided?
You might be wondering what caused anyone to compare planks vs sit ups in the first place. More accurately, why should sit ups be avoided? There are numerous reasons, the most prominent of which being the potential hazards to the spine. Sit ups done improperly can cause the spine to go against its natural curvature, which often results in lower back injuries.
At the same time, the sit up often contributes more to muscular imbalances than it fixes them. It’s not uncommon for the hip flexors to be stronger than the abdominals. It’s also not uncommon for trainees to hook their feet under something stable when doing sit ups.
If the abs aren’t strong enough to curl the trunk unless the feet are held down, then emphasis will almost always be transferred to the hip flexors. This keeps them strong and the abs weak. The hip flexors can also pull on the lower spine, contributing to the aformentioned potential for lower back issues.
Why are Planks a Better Alternative?
So why should you do planks vs sit ups? The obvious first reason is that they target the abs without the risk of injury to the lower back and without trying to force the spine away from its natural curvature. This gives you a way to work your core while all but eliminating the chance of back pain.
Another benefit of planks is that they’re a static exercise that teaches you to keep your entire torso tight. This is preferable as it more closely mimics what you’d do in the real world. Any time you push, pull, or drag something, you engage your core to keep your body tight. Planks help with this.
Planks also have much less room for cheating or error when you perform them. You simply get into plank position, get your body into proper alignment, and hold yourself there – usually for timed intervals.
Conversely, sit ups give you plenty of chances to cheat or use bad form. Hooking your feet under something has already been mentioned, as well as why it’s a bad idea. Any time you see someone with their hands clasped behind their head, they’re not only pulling against the spine improperly even more, but usually using their lats to curl their torso instead of their abs.
All in all, when looking at planks vs sit ups, planks are the clear winner. They target the abs just as well, better mimic real world situations, and lessen the chance of injury. Sit ups may be old school, but planks are what you should focus on in the future.