Why you should swap sit ups and crunches for these core exercises

Jan 22, 2020

When you want to exercise your abdominals or core, it’s common to turn to sit ups, crunches and twists. After all, these are the exercises we’ve all been taught for years. And yes, perhaps you’ll see some benefits, providing you’re doing them correctly. But there is a trade-off – sit ups, crunches and twists can actually cause damage to your spine. 

There is a better way, however, and in this tutorial I show you how. 

What’s the problem with sit ups, crunches and twists?

There has been a tendency in the fitness industry over recent years to focus on body building techniques for core training, and even for rehabilitation. That is focusing on muscles individually and working them hard to strengthen them. But this is not how our bodies are design to work. We don’t use one muscle at a time, we use combinations of muscles to perform particular movements. This means that when we isolate a group of muscles to train them, we are in danger of using them in a way they were not intended, and in the case of core training, risk damaging the spine in the process. 

What do I propose instead when it comes to core training?

The exercises I am suggesting are not new, I haven’t invented them myself, but they have gone out of fashion over recent years. The core training techniques shown in this tutorial help to build strength and stability as well as protect your spine. These are techniques that will help improve the way you move in everyday life; the way you hold yourself and your overall posture. They will ensure your risk of back injury is lowered whenever you move and stretch during your normal daily activities. To me this is the future of core training – understanding and using movement patterns; working with the way your body works, not against it.

The fundamental principles

My core training tutorial is based on two fundamental principles of how the body works:

  • The muscles of the torso are designed to prevent movement. 
  • Muscles of the limbs, as well as ball and socket joints, are designed to produce movement. 

Sit ups, crunches etc., are exercises that are designed to focus on individual muscles, forcing the torso to move in ways in which it would not naturally move. Instead, it’s important to focus on bracing the core as a whole, allowing the hips and the shoulders to do their job which is to create powerful movement.   

Focusing on movements instead of muscles

In the video above I cover some of the different movement patterns and look at how exercise routines can be used to develop strength and stability in your core as well as protect your spine from damage. 

I cover:

Lifting – exercises that focus on producing movement from your hips while maintaining posture in your spine and preventing movement in your upper body. I cover tips for helping to stabilise your spine by pushing your shoulders back and engaging your pecs and lats as well as the benefits of introducing heavier weights into your routines.

Rotating – using the ropes and cable machine, I show you how to focus on movement of your hips and preventing movement of your spine. You may find you tend to twist from spine, going against the fundamental principles of how the body moves. Instead, I’ll show you how to put your shoulders back and down and move from your hips, taking a big step back before undertaking each movement. 

Getting up – I cover lots of different ways to train your core muscles to ‘get up’ without placing pressure on your spine. It may be useful when doing these, to keep your hand on your lower back to help you understand whether you’re moving your spine unintentionally. 

Other movement patterns such as pushing, pulling and running can be trained in a similar way.

Pro tips for success

While this kind of core training, focusing on movements rather than individual muscles, can lead to seemingly more complex exercises, it’s important to remember that you should start slowly and build up to make each routine more complicated. Practise the exercises until you are confident the movement is achieved from the hips and shoulders and that you are using your core as intended. Once you’ve mastered the basics you can gradually add in weights to improve performance. 

If you’d like to understand more about my techniques and methods of improving training outcomes for back pain sufferers, why not join my Core Strength & Stability 12-Week Online Training?

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