This exercise has been around for a long time. You’ve likely done them a gazillion times throughout your adolescence in your physical education classes and in sports practices. So it’s hard for people to accept that they’re not really a very good exercise. Change is always hard.
But I promise you: sit-ups suck. You’re only working your abdominal muscles during a small part of the “up” phase and the entire motion is just priming you for a herniated disc.
Beware Of The Disc!
Firefighters beware! As you probably know, back injuries are the most common injury experienced by firefighters and herniated discs top the list for most frequent type of back injury. So don’t do anything voluntarily that is asking for a herniated disc…I don’t care how long you’ve been doing sit-ups!
See, the motion that your spine does when executing a sit-up puts your inter-vertebral joints in a dangerous position. An inter-vertebral joint is where two vertebrae connect, and there’s a squishy disc between the vertebrae. When your spine flexes (bends in the forward direction) it pinches the front side of the two vertebrae together, causing a pressure that pushes the disc backward and out of it’s place. Imagine pinching one side of a jelly donut – the jelly would then squish out the other side.
There’s cartilage there to keep the disc from completely coming out of it’s place (herniating), but you weaken that cartilage every time you do the exercise. There’s plenty of ways to work your abdominals without flexing the spine.
Do This Instead – The Plank
My favorite is the plank exercise seen in the picture below. Simply keep your back straight – don’t let it sag, and hold as long as you can. Come down if you feel any pain. Beginners can start on their hands and knees in a half plank, then progress to hands and toes, and finally to the hardest position, which is elbows and toes.
Read the complete series here:
5 Exercises FFs Should NOT Do & What To Do Instead