“Do enough sit-ups, does not matter who you are, you will hurt your discs.” ~ Stuart McGill
There are two very common myths that people have been led to believe and I have them come up repeatedly in my work, I'd like to draw attention to them and ask that you please please please think before taking these myths on board.
Number 1 Myth: "I need to do situps to strengthen my core"
What I would say to this: No offence to anyone who has ever used this phrase but it is Balderdash!
Number 2 Myth: "I need to use a weightbelt to support my lower back"
What I would say to this: Please see Balderdash comment above!
Now these are extremely common and easy mistakes to make as these days there is so much access to information out there that it is hard to sieve through the crap and find the honest truth. And I hate to say it but there are a lot of trainers out there who have very basic knowledge and either haven't been exposed to or sought out the truths as yet or don't have the understanding.
There are also issues of jumping onboard the "things that are cool" train and accessorising the crap out of yourself in order to look the part. Last time I checked, all I needed to train was myself, just a body, maybe some clothes, leave the shoes at home though!
Maybe a mate of yours trains in a belt and raves on about how "secure & strong" his back feels when he's lifting. So you're like "cool dude, mind if I try?", then you're like "wow, I can lift more with this belt on and everything feels so tight". Or maybe your trainer encourages you to wear one as they think it will protect your back. If any of these scenarios ring true please please please stop and ask yourself WHY???!!!
This important little 3 letter word has somehow become lost in society. No one seems to turn around anymore and challenge what they are being told. Everyone just accepts, particularly if it is coming from someone in authority or if it is someone you should be seen to trust. Go out there and find the truth for yourself and then challenge it!
The thing with the situps is that your Rectus Abdominus (six pack muscle) is not your core! It does not protect your lower back and if anything can actually make things worse if you overuse your Abs and cause dysfunction in your system. You can also do harm if you already have core dysfunction (which is highly likely if you have or have had lower back pain) and are doing multiple situps as your back will not be protected throughout the movement.
Your deep core muscles comprise of your Diaphragm (hence why I put so much emphasis on breathing when it comes to core function); Pelvic floor; Transversus Abdominus (TvA); Multifidus & to a degree your Internal Obliques as well. Your Rectus Abdominus is a global muscle and is not designed to be a stabiliser. The above mentioned muscles have to work in synergy (when you have a functional inner unit) to control Intra Abdominal Pressure (IAP) on lifting. If any of them are out of sync and being lazy or even being overkeen and have become overactive then it blows out the whole system.
Weightbelts prevent you from being able to access your breath properly (creating dysfunction) and last time I checked you were born with a weightbelt, it's called your TvA ;-)...try using it!
If you'd like to know the secret to a stable lower back and a better functioning unit, let me tell you...FUNCTIONAL BREATHING! :-) It's that simple, well initially anyway, that is where you start...no point in trying all these fancy core exercises or thinking 100 situps a day will save your back. Start with breathing please! Once again, please check my stability exercises library for the intro to breathing, My Youtube Channel has my video on it as well and you can refer to my facebook page for an awesome interview link on breathing and pelvic floor.
For further reading on why I hate the weight belt and how it is making your back WEAKER & DYSFUNCTIONAL, yes, I said WEAKER, please look back through my blogs for my blog post on the weight belt and all will be revealed in more detail!
Please feel free to leave a comment below if you can tell me the benefits of wearing a weightbelt. Same goes for the situps. I'm very interested to know what people's views are or what they have been told.
So your personal trainer gets you to do sit-ups to "strengthen" your abs and get that six-pack. And you think it's gonna happen...
The majority of the population are walking around with dysfunctional abdominal muscles which means that they either have a sequencing problem with the muscles that function to create flexion at the spine and hips or that they have an imbalance in strength/function of these muscles. Or both, which is often the case.
This only leads to one outcome - increased pressure on the lumbar discs
Yip, not a six-pack, not strong abs but more than likely a disc herniation somewhere down the track. It could take weeks/months/years to develop.
I refuse to let any of my clients do sit-ups and refuse to do them myself for the above reasons. There are multiple exercises out there that are heaps more effective than the sit-up in improving abdominal function/strength and they are 100x safer!
The curl up is an acceptable exercise if only your shoulders leave the ground and you exhale as you crunch, think about drawing your lower ribs towards your pelvis. Don't pull on the back of your neck but just support it loosely with your hands.
Even more ideally, I have my favourite Top 4 abdominal exercises I like to use in order to safely and effectively develop a functional central stability system.