Ran across another trainer online telling people to “never do sit ups.” Well, that’s just ridiculous. Here’s why.
My dad, who was an avid strength trainer into his seventies, once told me he had trouble getting himself up off the weight bench. He joked that he felt like a “bug on its back.” He was doing presses, crunches, squats. He was strong in shoulder, chest, and abs. Why couldn’t he get off the bench?
Sit-ups is why. Sit-ups are a functional exercise.
If you want ripped abdominal muscles, you should be doing lots of clean & press, overhead squats, and deadlifts — compound exercises that put stabilizing pressure on all your core muscles. You can pack on more definition with high volumes of leg raises and crunches.
It’ll make you purty. It won’t necessarily make you functional.
If you want to get off the floor when you’re 70 or even when you’re 40 and deconditioned, you need to practice, you know, GETTING OFF THE FLOOR. That’s sit-ups.
My deconditioned clients have a hard time with sit-ups, so I tell them to rock, use momentum, whatever it takes to get their back off the floor and get them sitting. As they get stronger, they’ll keep their heels down, drop their knees (that’s butterfly sit-ups), and start achieving a full range of motion of the rectus abdominis. (BTW, crunches don’t even give a full range of motion in this muscle, so why is it called a “good” exercise at all?)
Sit-ups got a bad rap because people were doing them to gain six-pack definition and because people who already had tight hip flexors were working these muscles even more (achieving the complete range of motion draws the hip flexors into the work during a sit-up).
But the problem isn’t over-working your already tight hip flexors. They might be tight, but that doesn’t mean they’re strong. Work the hell out of them, because they are what help you rise and run. Instead, get to building your glutes and hamstrings to compensate and balance your strength. Yeah, we have exercises for those too!