Are Sit-Ups Bad for You?

The Marine Corps recently began phasing sit-ups out of their PT tests. Is it possible that the exercise is too difficult for some of the most fit soldiers walking the planet?  No. It turns out, sit-ups are bad for your spine and can lead to injury.  One study found that 56% of soldiers’ injuries during the fitness test were related to sit-ups.  They are now looking to replace sit-ups with an exercise known as the plank.

Biomechanically, it makes sense that full sit-ups place added stress on the spine and its discs.  There is a normal range of alignment for the spine, just like there is a normal range for blood pressure and body temperature.  Sit-ups place excessive force on the bones that make up the spine as well as the discs. This increased pressure can force the disc to bulge, which can lead to further injury.
Also, this type of excessive flexion can obstruct the electrical wiring of your body (spinal cord and nerves).  The proper operation of your body is no different than the proper operation of your house or car.  If you have an electrical obstruction in your house you may find that your lights flicker, outlets don’t work, and your digital clocks constantly reset themselves.  What do you think might happen if there is an obstruction of the electrical system that controls your muscles, glands, and organs?
Fighting wars is hard enough without being sent to battle injured already.  It is wonderful that the military is now altering some of their programs as research about the spine continues to be published.  There are many more ergonomic recommendations we would make for soldiers, but this is a great start!