First – Definition of a strong back is simple. A strong back is a back that can safely transfer the forces the hips generate – period! AND that makes all of the difference in the world – it is associated with performance and injury prevention.
Second – for an exercise to be functional is DOES NOT HAVE TO LOOK AND FEEL LIKE THE ACTIVITY IT IS TRYING TO IMPROVE. This is a huge myth about functional training. For example – a plank is excellent for core development for many reasons – it looks like nothing we normally do. Our Triple Threat series – (one leg bridging, curls, and hip lifts on a SB) is one of the best protocols for running and hamstring health – looks nothing like running. SO -sit-ups ups, crunches, and many other exercises like those can provide excellent training without them looking like anything. This is the whole idea of traditional strength training – movements that look very little like anything – yet improve overall strength and function. Functional training INCLUDE exercises that provide the SPECIFICITY BRIDGE between traditional exercises and the activity, and YES -these would also include MANY STANDING EXERCISES that more closely mimic the target activity. But to say that something is not functional it does not look like the target activity is ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT!
Next – What do crunches and Sit ups have to do with function – we can make an argument that sit ups are to the front part of the core what the Bicep curl is to the arm, and what a hyper-extension is to the posterior chain. We are not going to get into a debate about that, are we? Although NOBODY picks up anything just using a bicep curl, yet, the bicep curl will help people pick up items in front of them (e.g. children). The sit-ups open and close the hips flexors, while teaching AB stiffness, which is useful in force transfer of the core. Open hips flexors (which can also be trained from the standing and prone positions) are essential for human locomotion and overhead throwing. Therefore, although certainly not the only way to train – the sit-up has always been a great tool for general core health and strength. SO – it is not more ridiculous to concern yourself with sit-ups and crunches than to concern yourself with many other exercises and training methods (e.g. planks, pull-ups, bridges, hypers, rev hypers, etc.) – none of these look like anything we do – yet are very effective at providing function and health.
Now – I know what Stu McGill and Mike Boyle say – “it destroys the back . . . . puts pressure on this and that . . . . “ Well – It does put pressure on the back – BUT NOT PRESSURE A HEALTHY BACK CAN’T TAKE!! Generations upon generations were raised on a steady diet of sit-ups – what happened to them? NOTHING! When I was a young man the sit-ups were part of the Presidential Physical Fitness award. The military and municipalities required TONS of them. What happened to us? NOTHING – we are stronger than this generation that have not done them!! NO DATA SHOWS THAT GENERATIONS RAISED WITH THIS EXERCISE HAVE BAD BACKS!! SO – THE EXERCISE CAN’T BE ASSOCIATED WITH BACK ISSUES. Now, if a deconditioned person attempts them –they may hurt their back. But that true with anything. Are we really going to say that resistance training in general is bad because if someone puts 200 pounds on a structure that can only take 100 pounds it would cause damage? REALLY GUYS?
Come on people – we have inflicted enough fear and JERRY SPRINGER headlines to freak people out and allow the insane to be heard!! It’s time for some common sense, attention to HISTORY (not panic), and a little conviction for the truth. I have been doing sit-ups for over 40 years. AT IHP we have been doing sit-ups for decades. We not only have sit-up benches – we have declined sit-up benches! We try to make everyone’s back strong enough to be able to enjoy the benefits of the sit-ups.
SO – I ASK EVERYONE TO GET REAL AND PROPERLY USE THE SIT-UP IN YOUR TRAINING PROGRAM.