You’ve probably been told that sit-ups are great for your core, but is this advice actually correct? What do sit-ups achieve, and are they the best exercise for your body? If not, what alternatives are there?
What is the core and why strengthen it?
The core refers to your body’s muscular mid-section. You can think of it like a square house. The front wall includes your abdominal muscles; the roof is your diaphragm. The floor includes your pelvic floor and hip muscles, and the back wall is formed by muscles that cross your spine and bottom.
Your core enables spinal stability and forms a foundation during movement − which supports your spine, arms and legs during motion. Your core also helps move your trunk, improve balance, and even enhance breathing. A strong core can reduce your risk of injury and back pain.
Sit-ups work the front wall and the hip flexors, but they are not the most effective or safest option. They can cause harm in people who have a weak core, or previous injuries. During a sit-up your spine is repeatedly put under force in a bent position, which can cause low back discomfort.
During a sit-up your spine is repeatedly put under force in a bent position, which can cause low back discomfort.
What are better core exercise options?
There are safer, more targeted exercises. To begin gently, lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Tighten your tummy muscles to flatten the curve of your spine against the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat three times. Simple and safe!
The ‘bird dog’ uses your whole body to strengthen your core, hips, and back muscles. Place your hands and knees on the ground, shoulder and hip width apart. Tighten your core, keep your spine neutral. Extend one arm in front of you and the opposite leg out, keeping your hips and shoulders level and parallel to the floor. Hold for a few seconds. Return to the starting position. Complete five reps on each side. Done!
There are many simple, effective exercises to suit all levels of fitness. To choose the right exercises to strengthen your core, speak to us. We can provide effective, safe options that are tailored to your current health situation and needs.