Why Sit Ups are Not A Smart Ab Exercise



We all want ripped, six pack abs. For decades the prevailing wisdom told us that the way to get them was by pounding out sit ups. And, even though they should now better, many people are still doing them. They expect that their hard work will reward them with a leaner waistline and ripped, washboard abs. They also think that it will help them to develop that all important strong core. Unfortunately, sit ups are unlikely to get them there. Let’s find out why.

The Problem with Sit Ups

The number one problem with the sit up is its potential injury to the spine. This occurs, in part, from the activation of the hip flexors (a muscle group which runs from the top of the thigh bone to the vertebrae in the lower back), as you do the first part of the sit up. This places a lot of compressive force on the disks of your spine. This puts you at an increased risk of herniating a disc, which may, in turn, cause the disc to pinch a nerve. This will be extremely painful.

Another problem with sit ups also involves the spine. The movement involves a lot of bending of the spine. Over time, this can cause damage, possibly leading to chronic pain.

With all of the involvement that comes from the back, sit ups actually don’t call overly on your abs to do the work. In the end analysis, they are an ineffective movement that carry an inordinate amount of risk.

Smarter Choices 

Many studies have been done that have electronically measured the amount of stimulation that the core gets from various exercises. A major study, published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal of July / August 2013 revealed two standouts. They are the ab wheel roll out and the hanging knee raise. Both of them are far more effective than the sit up. You should do them instead.*

Ab Wheel Roll Out

Position yourself on the floor on your knees holding an ab wheel on the floor in front of you, close to your body. Slowly roll the wheel directly out in front of you. Keep your spine and pelvis straight. Once you’ve gone as far as you can, slowly reverse the motion.

Hanging Knee Raise

Hang from a pull up bar with your hands out wide. Make sure that your body is in a straight line, with no swinging taking place. Now, draw your knees up to your chest, while keeping the feet together. Pause in the top position, before slowly lowering.

Deadlifting for a Strong Core

While the deadlift is generally regarded as an exercise to work your back and hamstrings, it is another excellent move to target the muscles of your core. In fact, it does so more effectively than core centric moves, including sit ups.

If you are already doing deadlifts for your back or hamstrings, then you don’t need to do any more core work apart from the two moves we’ve mentioned above. If you’re not, adding them to your routine is a smart idea. Just remember to keep your lower back neutral and your abs tight and braced when performing your deadlifts.


It doesn’t matter how hard you work on an exercise if it’s an ineffective exercise. That is the case with the sit up. It’s time to finally throw it out of your routine, replacing it with the moves that will give you the reward you want – well defined abs and a powerful core.


*Fitness Disclaimer

This website offers health, fitness and nutritional information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis treatment. This website does not promise any specific results, as each individual responds differently to training.The author of this article is not a medical professional. We have volunteers in our organization from different aspects of health, nutrition, and fitness. Not just modern medicine doctors and physicians, but yoga teachers, spiritual teachers, martial arts teachers, and energy healers and we use all those resources to be able to provide the best and most proper advice to people around all walks of life. We do not have a defined goal, we only have a mission to help as many people as we can.