Scientists have discovered that the moves, once a staple of basic workout routines, don't reduce waistline circumference or trim belly fat. Sit-ups are also not the best way to strengthen your core or to keep it flexible and strong for the long run.
Last week, the US Army announced that after decades of requiring two-minute sit-up tests, it would phase out that portion of its fitness test by the end of 2020. Instead, the Army says it'll make room for some fitness tasks found to be more useful for soldiers' combat readiness, like deadlifts, power throws, and drag-and-carry moves, The Washington Times reported.
It's a change that Tony Maloney, a trainer and exercise physiologist at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport in Indianapolis, can get behind. "I'm not a huge fan of sit-ups," Maloney told Business Insider earlier this year. "Reason being, it can cause some spinal problems, especially if they're not done properly."Here are some other expert tips for getting a stronger, more flexible core:
The key to a strong core, Kaiser says, is a fit transverse abdominis — that's a deep-layered muscle that sits between your ribcage and your hips.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat. Take hold of the area behind your knees with your hands and pull in your abs while tilting your pelvis forward. This will create a C-shaped curve in your spine.Now, raise your arms and press them toward the back of the room in little pulses.
Maloney said the benefits of push-ups were unbeatable. From your arms and shoulders down into your core, they strengthen the entire spine: "You're getting that upper-body toning effect, but you're still working the trunk," he said.
"When you do a sit-up, of course, you're creating motion," he said. "I prefer things that stop motion. So planks are what we consider an anti-extension exercise." Maloney encourages people to hold a plank position for 30 to 40 seconds to help build a solid core.
Heather Milton, a senior exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Health, recently told Business Insider that planks were a solid way to develop the strength needed to hold yourself up every day, and get a whole host of muscles toned up: "Not only just the six-pack abs — which is your rectus abdominis — but your transverse abdominis and your obliques."
"Just by lifting one elbow is going to challenge the system big-time," he said.
In a plank, "you're holding and stabilizing the spine," Maloney said. "That's really what the core is supposed to do." Keep your hips pressing up, and now try lifting a leg.
Keep your core tucked and raise your legs straight out in front of you, feet flexed. If you're doing it right, it should look as if you're making an L shape in midair. Milton recommends raises over crunches because they are less likely to hurt your back.
One extra challenge she often adds in is alternating from side to side with her hips. "This will really really get you those six-pack abs because you're working your obliques," she said.
"You don't want to go too high because then you're not engaging your abs," she said. "You want to keep your feet down about 6 inches off the ground." And keep that belly tucked in.
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