New Lily

Ladies, Beware of Crunches

situpOkay, this really isn’t just an excuse for me to get out of doing a sit-up (although I know a good excuse when I see one). Sit-ups and crunches (a sit-up with smaller range of motion) are still the old standby exercise for abdominal muscles. However, I think there are good reasons for some women to be cautious about doing them. According to Barbara Green, a Charlotte, NC physical therapist specializing in women’s pelvic floor issues, sit-ups (and crunches) can conteract the muscles of the pelvic floor. It helps to imagine the movement involved in the sit-up. When we bring ourselves up and contract the abs, it is important to pay attention to what the pelvic floor muscles are doing as well. Green is not a real fan of the sit-up, but not because they’re not good for your abs. It is what is going on with the pelvic floor muscles that she is worried about. As women age, it is beneficial to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, for obvious reasons.
Most of us are familiar with Kegels, the pelvic floor exercise made famous by Dr. Kegel. But sometimes when we do a sit-up, we can push against these muscles instead of using them to assist. When we do a crunch or a sit-up, Green says we need to “recruit” the pelvic floor muscles first. Recruiting , or pulling up on the muscles of the pelvic floor, before the crunch, helps to keep those muscles tight and does not allow them to be pushed out during the exercise. When the pelvic floor muscles are already weakened from child birth, sit-ups and crunches can be counter productive.
I asked my friend and physical therapist, Alan Tyson, founder of Architech Sports in Charlotte, NC what he thought about sit-ups. He explained that any muscle in its natural state is efficient. So if we work them correctly, our muscles will strengthen naturally. However, it is a lot to assume that, number one; we are doing the exercises correctly and number two; our muscles in their current state are still strong. Pregnancy and child birth can stretch and weaken pelvic floor (and abdominal) muscles, and so women, especially those who have gone through childbirth, should be careful when doing crunches and sit-ups. There are plenty of ways to effectively strengthen abdominal muscles other than sit-ups and crunches, including the plank and the push-up. However, just like when we do a sit-up, we need to make sure our technique in those exercises is correct as well.
Okay, I guess I lied when I said this wasn’t an excuse for me not to do a sit-up. After nine pregnancies, I will take the excuse and stick with the push-up, thank you very much!

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