Myth #1: Situps and Crunches for a Strong Core

First of all what is core exercise?  It seems to be the new phrase word that everyone wants to use.  I want to workout my core.  When most people say core they are referring to those washboard abs and to get rid of those love handles.  As far as I am concerned core is everything from your knees to your elbows.  Isolating individual muscles like the rectus abdominus (6 pack muscle) repetitively over time feeds poor movement patterns and leads to injury.  We are most susceptible to back pain and other aches in pain with repetitve or prolonged flexion.  Just ask anyone that has hurt their back, they probably did it bending over to pick something up or sitting all day. When we go to the gym and just flex more at the waist we are further predisposing ourselves to back pain.  Now I know many are thinking “I don’t have back pain” or “crunches make my back feel better”  If you look at the research by Stuart McMill- the world reknown expert is low back pain, it isn’t even a question if you do a bunch of sit-ups or sit poorly it is just a matter of time until you have a back episode.

The sit up or crunch itself actually has higher hip flexor activity than the actual rectus abdominus (6-pack muscles) when measured via emg studies.  (electrodes that measure muscle contraction/firing)  So although you feel the burn and think you are building that core you are really just working your hip flexors which are already short and tight in most people.  Safer exercises that include higher 6 pack muscle activity on emg and that will actually help prevent back pain and decrease back pain when done properly include planking variations, cable chops, dead bugs, birddogs, stir the pot, abdominal roll-outs, etc.  Some of these are very technical and doing so improperly can groove bad patterns and/or cause pain.  Here is an example of how to perform and properly progress a plank

In the end having wash board abs is less about how many core exercises you do in the gym and more about your genetics, diet, hormone levels, and stress.   We can talk about those things another day, but I am guessing you clicked on the link because you want an exercise to burn your core.

If you still aren’t feeling the burn after some of those exercises, check out some of Stuart McGill’s work or come on in and I am sure I can give you an exercise you are sure to love or hate.

See you next time and until then no sit-ups or crunches.

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