MacLeans magazine in Canada has an article this week about the dangers of Situps. a Canadian professor of spine biomechanics, Stuart McGill, that says that situps are not only not the best way to build abs but are dangerous as well.
Dangers of Situps
The professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo knows a thing or two about snapping spines. In his lab, McGill proudly shows off a machine that’s probably created more disc herniations than any other in the world. “We get real [pig] spines from the butcher and we compress them, shear them and bend them to simulate activities such as golf swings and sit-ups, and watch as unique patterns of injury emerge.” A disc has a ring around it, and the middle, the nucleus, is ?lled with a mucus-like liquid.
Do a sit-up and the spine’s compression will squeeze the nucleus. On his computer, McGill shows how the nucleus can work its way out of the disc, hit a nerve root and cause that oh-so-familiar back pain. “From observing the way your total gym routine is performed, we can predict the type of disc damage you’re eventually going to have.”
Even Crunches are Bad for the Spine
While there are lots of ways to injure a back, the the dangers of Situps is an easily preventable one. According to his research, a crunch or traditional sit-up generates at least 3,350 newtons (the equivalent of 340 kg) of compressive force on the spine. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states that anything above 3,300 newtons is unsafe.
Alternatives to Situps and Crunches
So McGill suggests replacing sit-ups with exercises to strengthen the core while not bending the spine: bridges, planks, leg extensions, bird dogs, and “stir the pot.” The bird dog, for instance, simply involves getting on all fours and, while keeping the core muscles tight, extending the opposite arm and leg, then switching limbs. “Stir the pot” is a more complex movement: moving shoulders in a small circle while in a prone push-up position with forearms balanced on an exercise ball.
read the rest of this great article at MacLeans magazine
I have myself been worried about the dangers of Situps and tried to change my exercise routine to do different exercises to strengthen my core. There are lots of options.