Core Knowledge: Lose the Sit-ups (You’re Overdue)

    Core Knowledge: Lose the Sit-ups (You’re Overdue)

    OPMD* 2: Functional Strength

    No matter how many times Chris Kolba tells those who come to him in search of better core strength, he tells them again:

    “Don’t do any sit-ups whatsoever,” says Kolba, a physical therapist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “There’s no functionality to them.”

    Kolba has been telling patients this for 20 years. He works with everyone from OSU club gymnasts to injury-rehabbing athletic adults. So what does he champion? Kolba preaches the worth of core-building exercises that engage the muscles we continuously employ. Iconic as buff abs may be, Kolba says that muscles of the pelvic floor, low back, and diaphragm, as well as the gluteals and latissimus dorsi, are the unsung heroes of our daily and athletic endeavors.

    “Controlled small movements—they’re what allow you to do all the things you do,” he says.

    Kolba provides his patients with an arsenal of simple, no-fuss exercises that are not only effective for core strengthening, but, Kolba claims,  potentially leave you healthier than do sit-ups. Sit-ups cumulatively performed over years or decades, he says, can actually break down your back’s discs, and possibly your athletic performance.

    “Repetitive flexing of the spine sets you up for wear and muscle imbalances,” says Kolba. “Tons of sit-ups wear out a back.”

    Here instead are two Kolba core-enhancing favorites. Incorporate them thrice-weekly into your workout regimen and you’ll enjoy a healthier back, improved posture, better body control, and a stronger lever as you transfer power between your lower and upper body (and vice-versa). Build to performing 12 to 15 repetitions for each of two to three sets.

    Overhead Reach at a Glance

    • Stand several inches from a wall, with your back facing the wall.
    • Extend your arms straight ahead of you.
    • Fire your glutes, push your hips slightly forward, and lift your straight arms skyward until you lightly tap the wall that’s just behind you. Be careful not to overextend your back.
    • Progress the exercise by performing it while balancing on one leg, alternating from side to side.
    • Further progress the exercise while performing it while holding a medicine ball.

    Here’s a 10-second demo video, courtesy of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center:

    Diagonal Chop at a Glance

    • From standing, scissor your (straight) legs until they’re about as far apart as the length of a long running stride. Lead with your left leg.
    • Point toes forward and lunge with your left leg while attempting to keep your right leg straight.
    • Extend arms straight ahead and then slightly lower them.
    • Simultaneously pivot on the balls of both feet, rotate 180 degrees to your right, swap leg positions (squat with your right while straightening your left), and lift your arms skyward just short of straight up. Then reverse the motion.
    • Perform the moves fluidly until completing one set. Then switch leg positions and execute the exercise while rotating left.
    • Avoid excessive rotation or arching of the back.

    Here’s a 15-second demo video—again courtesy of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center:

    *Old Person Move of the Day