“To get that trim waistline and get those ‘six-pack’ abs you need to do sit-ups”. This is by far one of the most popular (and most viral) exercise myths out there. It’s not only the most popular it’s the most ‘unreal’ of them all.
I’m not sure where this myth originates? Maybe during the Jack Lalanne days? Or maybe the retro classic body building archives? Heck – it could be just a great urban legend. All I know is that is has some serious staying power. I still have people asking me about doing sit-ups. My guess is they equated isometric muscle contraction to a muscle building exercise? Like I said – that’s my guess.
So sit-ups of course require the use of your abdominal muscles (your core), so in that respect you can strengthen some of your core. The actual action of a sit-up only activates a few of the muscles that make up your core mid-section so even in optimal condition the exercise is fair at best.
Sit-ups do not burn a lot of calories. The exercise is rudimentary and in fact can be dangerous to your lower back and neck if done improperly. If you’ve ever seen anyone struggle to do the exercise they often will pull their head with their hands that are behind their head which causes strain on the cervical spine. Also, bouncing off the floor and lying flat during the movement can stress the natural lordotic curve of your lumber spine.
So the exercise is a weak strengthening movement and has a great deal of risk for injury.
Slimming down the waistline and showing off those six pack abs takes a certain amount of fat loss. That abdominal fat that we all hate has to be eliminated in order to actually see those bulging muscles. So, even if you strengthen those abdominal muscles (your core), it will be all for naught if you have a layer of abdominal fat hiding the fruits of your labor. In reality if you only strengthen your core without losing the fat – you can actually make your waist and abdomen look bigger from your ‘bigger’ abdominal muscles pushing the abdominal fat out (sad, but true)
In the end it’s always about what you eat and your level of activity. You need to reduce the number of calories, increase the quality of your calories and burn off more calories than you consume (yep, it’s still a simple math equation).
So after you’ve harnessed your healthy eating habits you can then work on strengthening your core. Strengthening your core will give you those rock-abs that you desire.
Instead of the sit-up try these three basic exercises that are safe and extremely effective (also much harder to do) in strengthening your core:
Side plank (side bridge)
Best of luck on your journey!