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Planks vs. Sit-ups

Sit-ups used to be the gold standard for getting those strong, chiseled abs, and still have a place in the strength and fitness world; However, research has shown that planks are actually the dominate core exercise people should be concentrating on for overall long-term core development.

Reason 1- Sit-ups are more of an isolated core exercise that generally targets the rectus abdominis, or notably the 6-pack abs that are readily seen in most of the fitness model profiles on Instagram. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Who wouldn’t want to look like they were chiseled out of stone? However, the rectus abdominis represents only a small part of the total core musculature and concentrating solely on these aesthetic muscles could present functional health problems down the road.

Meanwhile, planks are widely considered to be a total core exercise incorporating the 6-pack ab muscles as well as lesser known but equally important muscles like the inner and outer obliques, the transverse abdominals, and the spinal erectors. Weakness in the transverse abdominals specially is a major cause of low back weakness and pain as we age because these muscles more or less act as a muscle stabilizer for muscles of the back. Weak stabilizers can lead to weak muscles and more injuries.

Reason 2- Sit-ups can be hard on your back and hip flexors. The constant curvature of the spine as you push off against the floor when you raise and lower your shoulders can create undue stress in the lower back muscles especially if the core muscles are not contracted properly. Sit-ups also stress your hip flexors which are the muscles that run from the top of your thighs back to the lower vertebrae in your back. Tight or overly active hip flexors is another major cause for low back pain and tightness and only gets worse the more they are used.

While planks are considered to be more of a total core exercise, both sit-ups and planks should be used equally in your workout program. Planks will help develop the inner core strength and muscle stability needed to dodge injury and lift those heavy weights while sit-ups will help develop more of the aesthetic side of the core which is most people aim for once the weather warms up. Make sure whatever workout program you are working through has these 2 primary core movements in it.
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