Why Sit-Ups and Crunches Are Harmful for Your Back

1st Lt. Andrew D'Amelio Does Sit-UpsOne sign of good health and fitness is a strong core and defined abdominal muscles. A lot of work is done to get that definition in the abdominals, and many people strive for flat stomachs. This could lead to a lot of sit-ups, crunches, and back pain.

Crunches and sit-ups may be a popular exercise for your abdominal muscles, but they can also damage the discs in your spine. Just think of a wire hanger being bent over and over in the same spot. Eventually, the wire hanger is going to give out on you. The same happens with repetitive crunches and sit-ups. It is simply a repeated stress fracture.

Furthermore, sit-ups and crunches can hurt the back because it adds stress to the discs of your back. While our muscles and tendons repair themselves with rest, our back discs deteriorate over time and it is accelerated by stressful exercises like sit-ups.

Many individuals also suffer from diastasis recti, this is the separation of abdominal muscles. It is very common in women who have given birth, but it is also seen in men too. Sit-ups and crunches, as well as planks, exaggerate the diastasis recti and make the gap worse. This then makes it hard for the abdominal muscles to support your back as they should.

Exercises To Do Instead

If you have diastasis recti, you will need to find exercises that are safe for your stomach muscles. A lot of work will need to be done to the transverse muscles to pull the abdominals back together again. However, if you do not have diastasis recti, you can do exercises like bridges, planks, and Pilates to help you achieve the flat and defined stomach you want, while protecting your back.

No matter what exercise you do, always keep your back and joints in mind. Many exercises out there are just too high-impact or repetitive to be safe for your back and joints, no matter how old you are.


Remember to always consult your chiropractor or physician before taking any health advice.

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