Many articles and videos on the Internet suggest that some abs workout routines are harmful to the spine, particularly doing sit-ups with the knees straight. It seems the better way of doing sit-ups is to bend the knees and bring the chest all the way up to the knees. However, the issue here is not how you position the knees, the issue is doing the traditional sit-up in the first place. Regardless of how you position your knees, the actual movement of flexing the spine from a “lying down” position to a “sitting up” position puts the spine under high physical stress and doing such exercise for a long period of time can cause back injuries.
So how to do sit-ups properly? As discussed last time, the safety and effectiveness of a stabilization exercise are based on the amount of stability created in the spine vs the amount of physical stress exerted on the spine at the same time. Since the traditional sit-up creates a high amount of physical stress on the spine regardless of how it’s being done (bending the knees, crossing the arms, putting hands behind the ears, with a twisting motion, or how ever you see it on the Internet), for most individuals, if the goal is to improve stability in the spine, the question should never be how to do sit-ups properly, the question should be whether there’s a safer and more effective abs workout. The answer is yes and that’s one of our treatment philosophies.
Richard Kung, Registered Physiotherapist
Doctor of Physiotherapy, Bachelor of Science (Kinesiology)