Do you find that performing sit ups or crunches hurts your neck? The purpose of sit ups is to work your abdominal muscles, so if you’re feeling it anywhere else, it’s time to take a look at your technique. Here are some tips to help you fix your sit ups.
Don’t pull on your neck
This is a really common mistake that results from having your hands behind your head and pulling on it to try and get the upper half of your body off the ground. A sit up with good technique shouldn’t result in neck problems, so if you’re feeling pain where you shouldn’t, it’s time to take a look at how you’re performing your sit ups.
Lying on your back with your knees bent, feet as close to your butt as possible, place your fingertips behind your ears (rather than cradling the back of your head in your hands). Keeping your spine in as neutral a position as possible, brace your belly, push your lower back into the ground and exhale as you slowly come up. When you can’t rise any further, slowly reverse the movement, inhaling as your crunch unfolds.
If you feel like you’re straining your neck from lack of support, try cradling the back of your head in your hands again, but make sure your hands are only lightly holding it and not pulling upwards. The focus should still be on you belly and breathing, and try to aim upwards for the ceiling, rather than forwards towards your knees.
Forget about the height and take it slow!
You don’t need to crunch all the way up to your knees to get a great workout for your abs. Slowing the movement down and crunching only until you feel your stomach muscles activate will help you maintain good technique and ensure you are using your abs to perform the sit up, rather than your momentum.
Brace your core
Your core muscles wrap around your entire waist area and are important to strengthen as they help maintain good posture and can also help protect your lower back against injury. Activating your core muscles may sound like a foreign concept, but it will also help work your abs more when doing sit ups. To practice doing this, lie flat on your back, fingertips pressed firmly into your belly either side of your belly button. Take a deep breath in, then a short sharp exhale until you can’t breathe out any more. You should feel the muscles inside your belly contract/harden as it braces. Practice doing this with 10 deep breaths in a row.
Next, see if you can contract the stomach muscles and hold the contraction for five breaths without letting the muscles go. Repeat this five times. These are great exercise to practice every day, so add them in to your daily exercise routine!
Remember to mix up your workouts
Doing too many crunches alone without any other kind of exercise can actually overstrengthen the muscles down the front of your belly and pull your posture forward/down if you’re not doing back exercises to strengthen the other side of you along with it. Make sure you’re mixing up your workouts and training your muscles equally to avoid strength imbalances.
It’s also important to note it’s a myth that doing hundreds of sit ups will give you a six pack. You’ve actually always got a six pack as that’s what the underlying muscle naturally looks like, it’s just that you may not be able to see it all that well depending on genetics and/or how much bodyfat is covering it.
If you want to make an effort to see your abs, incorporate cardiovascular training such as running, walking, swimming or cycling into your exercise regime and eat a healthy, well balanced diet to reduce bodyfat.
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