Advantages & Disadvantages of Situps

Situps make up one of the primary ab exercises today. However, some fitness experts question this popular exercise, saying that it may not be the best way to tone the core region. Additionally, situps have been linked to injury such as back and neck strain, resulting in recommendations for alternate exercises. Situps have both advantages and disadvantages, but may not be recommended for people with back pain or injury.

A woman is doing sit ups in her home.
Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images


A primary disadvantage of situps is that many people overdo the recommended number of repetitions. Ten to 20 situps performed at a steady pace and with proper form is preferable to 100 sloppy ones, but this advice is often ignored. Continuously bending the spine may cause back injury over time due to the 340 kg compressive force exerted on the spine, according to research performed at the University of Waterloo. Performing a large number of situps on a regular basis increases the risk of spine damage.

Improper Alignment

Performing situps in incorrect alignment does not tone the abs and also causes damage. The correct form for a situp is laying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, close to your hips. You should also keep the small of your back flat on the floor. While exhaling, tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your upper body off the ground. To prevent injury, keep your head aligned with your torso and avoid using your hands to pull the neck and head upward. The hands should merely provide stability and gentle support for the head. When doing situps with improper alignment, you increase the chance of damaging your spine and reduce the exercise's effectiveness.

Building A Firm Core

When situps are done properly, they build a strong, resilient band of muscles around your midsection that can help prevent back pain and injury. Situps can be done without any equipment, making them a convenient option for an ab workout. If you are careful to put your body in correct alignment and pay attention to your form, situps strengthen the core muscles efficiently. For people who complete 10 to 20 reps of situps every other day with proper alignment, the chances of injury are minimal.

Reasonable Alternatives

Many exercises exist that are just as effective at improving core strength as situps. A study performed with U.S. soldiers by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine compared traditional situps with back-friendly core stabilization exercises such as bird dogs, and found that there was no difference between the two exercise groups. The situp may be preferred by some and can be included as part of a workout plan with special attention to form and number of repetitions. However, if you are concerned about spine injury, you can choose other core exercises to achieve the same results.

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