by John Alvino

What are the best ab exercises to develop six pack abs? The answer to this question seems to be forever changing. For example, the sit-up has completely fallen out of favor by the fitness community. In fact, the majority of fitness experts now declare that sit-ups are incredibly dangerous to you spine. Where was this opinion born? Did countless trainees injure their spines from performing this “treacherous” exercise? Luckily for most of us, that is not the case.

The “sit-ups are unsafe” chant that can be heard echoing throughout fitness centers all over the world was actually born in the lab. Studies have found that sit-ups stress the spine more than the crunch does. And? Taking a nap will stress the spine even less than crunched do. Is napping a better ab exercise than crunches? You can see how the stress argument is seriously flawed. Every exercise that you perform creates some stress on the body. It is that stress that encourages our body to adapt and get stronger. This is the very nature of exercise.

Let’s take a closer look at the sit up. The sit-up involves the hip flexor musculature to finish the movement. Since the hip flexors originate on the spine, it makes sense that sit-ups do stress the spine to some degree. Is this stress dangerous? Does this stress lead to injuries? Do the sit-up critics have a point?

The fact of the matter is, athletes and fitness trainees have been safely incorporating sit-ups and their variations for years now. This alone should make it obvious that the “sit-up alarm” may be ringing for no apparent reason. The truth is, I have never witnessed one spine get damaged at the hand of a set of sit-ups. You would suspect that after 16 plus years as a fitness professional I would have at least seen one sit-up related injury if they were so harmful.

Even after convincing trainers that sit-ups are not as dangerous as they are claimed to be, many still opt for crunches instead. Now I have nothing against the crunch but sit-ups do have some advantages over the crunch. Let’s see why.

The truth is that the abs are only responsible for the beginning portion of the movement during a sit-up. Once you are in the finished “crunch” position, the hip flexors take over to finish the top portion of the sit-up. It should be noted that although the hip flexors provide the movement in the top range, the abs are still contracting hard. This contraction prevents your back from arching and contributes to the overall ab workout.

An additional benefit of the sit-up is that it burns more calories than does the crunch. This is because the sit-up works through a greater range of motion and involves more muscle groups. It’s no secret that in order to get six pack abs you must lose your layer of belly fat. The sit-up increases your heart rate and burns more calories than crunching movements making this a very desirable “side effect”.

Although the sit up is not the greatest ab exercise, I do personally recommend sit ups from time to time to any individual who fits the “sit up” criteria. The criteria are simple: no pre-existing back problems, and a solid base of abdominal strength. Couple that with proper form, and you will not have any problems!

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