A Christian Guide to Body Stewardship, Diet and Exercise

Chapter 7: Training for Mobility 163 A Case Against Sit-Ups For years, sit-ups have been a popular means of training the abdominal muscles. Due to their effectiveness and ease of administration, sit-ups, or some version therefore, have been used in the military and physical education programs throughout the world to assess torso muscular endurance. However, current research suggests that performing high volumes of spinal flexion (e.g., situps) or rotation (e.g., Russian twists) exercises may actually cause damage to outer layers of the intervertebral discs thereby leading to low back pain (McGill, 2006). In fact, researchers now believe it may be more effective and safer to train the torso isometrically (Boyle, 2019). In other words, although the spine allows for movement in all three planes (i.e., frontal, sagittal, transverse), the muscles attaching to the spine primarily serve as anti-flexors, anti-extensors and anti-rotators. Table 7.1 provides some sample exercises for training the torso. As depicted in the table, the torso is divided into three parts: midline abdominals, oblique abdominals and low back. It is important to train each part of the torso weekly in order to prevent muscle imbalances. One helpful strategy would be to incorporate torso training at the end of each strength training session and alternate between midline abdominals, oblique abdominals and low back exercises. For example, individuals participating in a 3-day per week strength training program could perform planks on Monday, side planks on Wednesday and back hypers on Friday. Table 7.1. Sample Exercises for Midline Abdominals, Oblique Abdominals and Low Back Midline Abdominals Sample Exercises Oblique Abdominals Sample Exercises Plank Isometric Sit-Up Vertical Knee Raise Side Plank Single-Arm Suitcase Hold Pallof Press Low Back Sample Exercises Back Hypers Reverse Hypers Superman