Do you ever get fed up with doing isolating core exercises while lying on the ground? If you’re someone like me you most definitely do. A great alternative to lying on the ground would be to instead do hanging core exercises. The following video displays a couple of hanging core exercises. Before we get talking about the video though, let’s first discuss my reasoning as to why core work on the ground is not only inefficient, but it is also counterproductive.
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There are four main reasons why I have a significant distaste for isolating core exercises on the ground:
These four topics will be discussed further in the next couple of sections throughout the article.
I was talking to one of my good friends recently and she mentioned to me that she does three hundred sit-ups pretty much every time she works out—which is basically every day. I asked her how her lower back felt and she said, “well, it’s actually been hurting me a lot recently.” Hmmm… I wonder why? Now, you might say, well that could be all a coincidence. In which I would say that I cannot fully agree with your claim. Sure there may be other underlying factors causing the lower back pain, but to assume that the repetitive nature of the sit ups and the crunches has nothing to do with the lower back pain seems to me a little absurd.
Sit ups and crunches have been known to add fuel to the fire of bad posture. When performing a sit up or a crunch, usually our first movement involves the shoulders raising off the ground which can result in a rounding of the thoracic spine region. Most people with those typical office and computer jobs are constantly creating this bad posture as it is; there is no need to add to this by continually doing a repetitive movement that is leading to the same demise.
We need to keep the spine in a supported and linear position. This constant and repetitive flexing of the spine can be a very dangerous path to follow. It is therefore why I recommend that if you want to build a stronger core, do so while keeping the spine supported in a straight line. The hanging core exercises are always a good option, as well as other exercises that requires the core to stabilize the rest of the body such as pushups or planks. Notice how in all of these exercises the spine remains in straight and supported linear position.
I actually asked my good friend that I mentioned in the previous section a follow-up question: do you feel that your results are sufficiently represented by the effort you put into those two exercises (crunches and sit ups)?
Her response: No.
I mentioned this in a previous article of mine regarding pushups: how can you expect to attain the results that you want when you are so habitual to a certain exercise, and so closed off to other movements and consequently other key musculature? You really cannot expect to attain any desired results. As mentioned in the Pushup Variations article, we cannot expect to go beyond a certain threshold if we are not placing any new, acute, and varied stress to the body. In other words, the body eventually adapts to the same stimulus if presented in a repetitive fashion over time and the gains cease to exist. I hope you still remember my variation is key concept. Take that with you and carry it wherever you go.
Isolation and Functionality
Isolation and functionality for the most part go hand-in-hand. A muscle or a group of muscles that are trained in an isolated manner from the rest of the body will lack in functionality. I’ve been repeating this concept over and over again lately, and I probably sound like a broken record.
This concept holds especially true for athletes. There is no time as an athlete where lying with your back on the ground is the optimal position to be in. We don’t need to know how to perform with our backs on the ground. Now, you might argue that in certain sports it might be beneficial to know how to get off one’s back in the fastest manner possible, in which case I would agree with you. Someone within the sports of football or mixed martial arts (MMA), as two common examples, might need to learn how to get off the ground in a quick and efficient manner. However, they will not learn that by doing repetitive core exercises on their backs—I can just about guarantee that.
To wrap it all up, I would like to invite you to remove, or at least lessen the load of, core exercises performed on the ground specifically ones that cause a repetitive rounding of the spine such as crunches and sit ups. There are plenty of other options that can be used as replacements to crunches and sit ups such as the hanging core exercises shown within the attached video. The important thing to remember is that anytime we are performing a repetitive movement we should always aim to keep the spine in a linear and supported position; continuing otherwise could lead to serious injury such as bulging or herniated discs. Also, I recommend keeping in mind that our bodies are meant to move in a synergistic and functional way, training otherwise might just lead to the opposite effect and certainly will not be optimal.
Greg Pearson is an exercise science major at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania with minors in biology and coaching. He is also a lifelong athlete – involved in the sports of basketball, baseball, football, track & field and volleyball growing up. Competed at Shippensburg University in the shot put, discus, and hammer events as a Division II Track & Field athlete. You can contact Greg via e-mail: [email protected] or his linkedin profile.