For most, when someone decides to start training “abs” their go to first movement is the situp. This is super common, but is an old school way of thinking. Before you start shaking your head and tune out, hear (or read, whatever) me out and let me (try) to make some sense of 3 ab/core training categories for you.
Now, am I saying that situp type movements (hip flexion) have no place in exercise programs? Kind of. Let me explain.
Tony Gentilcore eloquently explained his thoughts on flexion core movements in an article on T Nation;
“For those people who spend the bulk of their day sitting in front of a computer screen in a ball of flexion and then head to the only gym only to perform more flexion, my approach is going to be universal: hammer “neutral” spine with appropriate motor control exercises, encourage more thoracic extension in their daily life, get them stronger, and work on core stability.”
Sounds like a heck of a plan to me, and even if you are still “old school” in that you “have to do your situps to get Da Abzzz it’s hard to deny the fact that desk jobs and couches are killing our countries posture.
Let’s dive into 3 of the top core training methods that don’t involve “situps” (which nerds like myself call hip flexion). The 3 methods are: Anti-Rotation, Anti-Lateral Flexion and Anti-Extension.
So let’s circle back to whether hip flexion core movements have a place in programs. I think if you cover your bases in the training modes listed below that you’ve earned the right to your decline situps although you may want to pass on them if you do the “new” moves right. 😉
Anti-Rotation (when you are trying to resist rotation of the lumbar spine):
With low back pain plaguing 80% of the American population at one point or another in their lives that may be our sign to start doing something about it. Being able to resist rotation in the lumbar spine is a good place to start. Unlike your upper back (thoracic spine) which is built for rotation allowing for ~35-40 degrees of movement the lumbar spine allows for ~10-12 degrees of movement.
Anti-Lateral Flexion (when you are trying to resist bending at the side):
Done correctly, movements in this group will light your core on fire. Especially the suitcase carry pictured above. If you truly fight to keep perfect position in any of the anti-lateral flexion movements you will see results. This group will only become more important as desk jobs continue to be stagnant which causes bad posture and as long as there are two year olds (like mine) around who decide to throw fits in public places there will always be a need for performing offset weighted carries.
Anti-Extension (when you are trying to resist extension of the spine):
This group is good for anyone, but especially those who are prone to overextension (think of your low back looking like a banana). The banana boat crew is not limited to the desk job crew, many athletes an those who are “active” alike suffer from it. I blame my over extension issues on my parents. All I heard growing up was, “stand up straight” or “get your shoulders back” and a fan favorite “you’ll never get a girl with your back hunched over like that”. Thanks mom & dad, love y’all too.
If you want to try an exercise that is so much more frustrating than what it looks like it should be give the deadbug a try. If you nail it the first time trying it pat yourself on the back and have a beer on me. Well, let’s not do that and I don’t care if it fits your macros. Just think fondly about the beer. 🙂
You can throw these groups into your workouts by either doing one or 2 from a group during a workout or putting one move each from two groups into a workout. It’s all about what you’re comfortable with and your time constraints. Just be sure to hit the 3 major modalities highlighted above and once you’ve completed those you can toy around with your decline situps. A steadfast rule that applies to core training (and training — or life in general) is that the quality of the exercise you’re doing far outweighs any benefit derived from a program or exercise you’re not giving full effort in.