Most people always associate sit-ups as the go to exercise to build the core. Though you are contracting your abs (rectus abdominis)when performing a sit-up, you also put a great deal of stress on your spine. According to Dr. Stuart McGill, researcher from the University of Waterloo in Canada, a world’s expert on spinal biomechanics and back pain development. A straight leg sit-up creates a whopping 3,506 Newtons of force on your spine. N (Newton) is a measure of force. That far exceeds of how much force our spine can handle. The upper limit is at 3,300N. Basically, if you keeping doing those sit-ups, you will eventually have some sort of back injury.
So here’s what the “4 Basic Core Exercises” you should do:
1. McGill Curl-up – two sets of 20 repetitions; one-minute rest between sets. The technique: Lie on your back on the floor with one hip flexed (bent) with foot placed flat on the floor and the other leg straight. Place your hands under the small of your back for support and to maintain the normal low back curve. Slowly raise the chest, shoulders, and head as a unit while maintaining a neutral spine. Try to isolate the rectus abdominis. Do not grasp your hands around your head when doing crunches because you might injure your neck.
2. Side-bridges – two sets of 10 repetitions (each side), holding each rep for five seconds; one-minute rest between sets. The technique: Lie on your side and support your body between your forearm and knees. As you increase fitness, first move your non-support arm across your body as you hold the side-bridge; later, support your weight between your forearm and feet. Do this exercise on your left and right side and try to hold your spine straight—avoid letting it sag during the exercise. The rolling plank is an advanced form of this exercise. It involves rotating from a left side-bridge to a front plank and then to a right-side bridge. For the front bridge (plank), in a prone position, support your weight between your forearms and toes. Keep your back straight and head in a neutral position. Holding each position for 10 seconds and do multiple repetitions.
3. Bird dogs – Two sets of 10 repetitions (each side), holding each rep for five seconds. The technique: Balance on your right hand and left knee. Lift your right leg and left arm. Extend your leg to the rear and reach to the front with your arm. Do not arch your back during this exercise. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do multiple repetitions.
4. Kettlebell swings – two sets of 20 repetitions; two-minute rests between sets. The “Basic Four” Core Training Program provides a simple and comprehensive workout that develops core fitness quickly and safely. Curl-ups isolate the rectus abdominis muscle without spine overload. Side bridges improve the fitness of the obliques and quadratus lumborum muscles on both sides of the torso. Bird dogs emphasize the back support muscles while maintaining a neutral spine. The kettlebell swing is an excellent whole-body exercise that works the important core muscles and muscles in the upper and lower body.
There are many other core exercises but if you are a beginner I suggest you should include these “4 Basic Core Exercises”.