No more sit-ups

The personal trainer: Dalton Wong, director of Twenty Two Training |
“Poorly done sit-ups can also lead to head and neck strain, all of which is bad news for the spine,” he said. “Resistance-based exercises, such as the deadlift, pull-ups, squats and push-ups, require a strong torso to support the arms and legs so are great for developing the core.”

Dalton’s choice: Bicycle crunch
> Lie on your back
> Raise legs, bend knees, calf muscles at right angles to floor, raise arms in the air
> Extend left leg out, return to the start position
> Repeat with the right

The physio: Matt Todman, Director of Six Physio |
“Don’t think you have to perform the full, traditional exercise, but try a shorter range of movement or raise your feet off the floor,” he said. “If a sit up hurts in any way, it is not good, but you can adapt the exercise by lifting your feet off the ground or using a stability ball to reduce the pressure on your spine.”

Matt’s choice: Raised-leg sit-up
> Lie on your back and bring hands behind head.
> Raise feet off floor and bend knees at 90 degrees so calf muscles are parallel to floor. Exhale and crunch up without letting chin drop to chest.

The Pilates instructor: Adam Hewitt, Master trainer at Ten Health & Fitness |
“Too many gym-goers still focus obsessively on sit ups and the like, causing muscle imbalances which manifest as increased pressure on your back and spine,” he said. “Mix up sit-ups with cat-cow stretches, bird dog exercises and planks.”

Adam’s choice: Superman
> Lie face down with arms stretched above head (like Superman).
> Raise right arm and left leg about 10-12cm off ground (be comfortable).
> Hold for 2-3 seconds, relax.
> Repeat with opposite arm and leg.

The scientist: Stuart McGill, Professor of spine biomechanics, University of Waterloo (Canada) |
“Try the modified curl-up. Brace the abdominal muscles rather than hollowing or sucking them in, to ensure you have a stable core.”

Stuart’s choice: Modified curl-up
> Lie on floor with hands palm-down under hollow part of lower back. Raise elbows slightly (they shouldn’t touch floor) and brace abs
> Raise neck/shoulders off floor – no hands, no straining. Hold for a count of 8-10, then lower back down