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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 07-23-2007, 08:58 AM   #21
Skip Chase
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Yes, Wayne-over 200,000. I began training with an AbMat in 2003. No back problems.

I can appreciate your concerns, however, the research has already been performed by those with far greater knowledge and experience than most of us.
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Old 07-23-2007, 09:23 AM   #22
Wayne Nelson
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FYI, I just got a reply from Stuart McGill on this topic. Might find it interesting.

How about that troops and back pain from Iraq thing he has heard about? Any comment?


Hi Stu,

This question has been going around about the affect of sit-ups on disc failure: If repetitive flexion causes disc failure, at what point can we expect a disc failure during repetitive sit-ups? In other words, how many sit-ups can we do before we call 911? Let's say we have a well trained individual who is in the military, is a firefighter or the like. I'm getting people who claim doing over 200,000 of them! Do we need to reassess the practical applications of research findings?

Thanks, Wayne

And his reply was:


Great question and I have thought about it many times. The military currently have a problem in that speed situps are part of their fitness test, so recruits and soldiers train the speed situps. This is causing a lot of troubled backs. Bad backs are the primary cause for return of GI's from Iraq, so I am told!

When we initiate the disc herniation process we load the spines in compression and then repeatedly fully flex them - somewhat similar to the motion and load of a situp. Finally there are some backs that seem impervious yet most will eventually break down. So choosing your parents is important.

Then when I measure how the abdominals and hip flexors are employed in various tasks, i see the abdominal wall often used as a short range spring (throwing, kicking etc) and the hips in a plyometric fashion as well. I rarely see an individual contract the abs throughout the range of motion (the exception being a gymnast who, as a group, have terrible back troubles).

Bottom line- anyone can beat themselves up doing exercise, but there are more clever ways of training the abdominal wall, the hip flexors etc. Consider a pushup position and then walk the hands forward. The back is neutral and the rectus will activate to 100%. Standing cable pushes with two hands then switching to one will train a tremendous oblique synergy. One handed bench press does the same. You get the idea,

Hope this helps,

Stuart M. McGill, PhD.,
Professor of Spine Biomechanics, and,
Chair, Department of Kinesiology,
Faculty of Applied Health Sciences,
University of Waterloo, Canada,
519-888-4567 ext 36761
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:07 AM   #23
Chris Goodrich
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McGill's a smart guy, but the idea that situps are causing bad backs in Iraq is weak. Anybody who's worn IBA for a few weeks on end can tell you it will cause back pain, not only because of the additional weight, but because the shape of the ceramic back plate makes it near impossible to maintain proper posture, particularly when seated in a vehicle. Throw a heavy assault pack with a radio or breaching equipment on top of that and you've got a recipe for back problems. Personally I performed thousands of sit-ups before, during, and after my Iraq deployment. I experienced mild back pain in Iraq while wearing the vest, but none when I returned and stopped wearing it daily.
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:11 AM   #24
Skip Chase
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Again, thanks for your concern.

Dr. McGill's 1st para is 'suspect'. "I have thought about it many times." Is this 'thinking' or research?
"The military currently have a problem....." Where might I read these findings? Sit-ups=the cause of soldiers being sent home from Iraq?:wtf:

At 55, my body and spine seem to be doing ok. I like what I am doing.

I am sorry, but as worded, I would have to place the email in the file marked "SB". (refer to Coach Ripp's article in the July 2007 CF journal)

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Old 07-23-2007, 12:25 PM   #25
John D Wilson
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This has already been a long thread, but I need to jump in.

The initial post states:

"The key function of the abdominals is for core/spinal stabilization."

I'll agree that stabilization is an important abdominal function - especially when lifting heavy objects overhead.

My objection is with the word "key". Where is the basis for that? An effective way to prevail in a debate is to define the terms.

Anyone who has ever seen an animal (cheetah, greyhound) running in slow motion photography cannot help being amazed at the phenomenal range of spinal flexion and extension.

Of course we are bipeds, not quadrapeds. Never the less, I have several acquaintances who have had disc fusions. The result is invariably a drastic reduction in physical performance.

Is spinal flexion/extension (and rotation) not a key component of throwing, running, jumping, pole vaulting, skiing, swinging an axe, baseball bat, golf club, etc. etc.?

I believe the lumbar region is the weak link in the posterior chain and needs to be protected - as is taught in CF whenever squatting is mentioned.

I also believe that adequate hip flexibility is a requisite to preventing damage to the lumbar region.

Before we can blame situps for back problems we need to "see" the situps in question. Maybe the problem is bad situps.

p.s. I'm not sure Dr McGill is the source of "Practice make permanent" - Tommy Kono is the first source I've noted followed closely by David Ledbetter (a golf coach)

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Old 07-23-2007, 03:27 PM   #26
Barry Cooper
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You don't know me, but I am a keen connoisseur of irony. Did you know Skip is the current 24 hour situp champion, although apparently too modest to toot his own horn? Here is a W/F safe link:

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Old 07-23-2007, 03:40 PM   #27
George Mounce
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Everyone in the military I have met who has had a back problem is because of:

1) Being out of shape.
2) Improperly picking up heavy gear/items.
3) Sitting for long periods of time without being able to move with gear that doesn't allow a natural lumbar curve (think pilots with a parachute on).
4) Sitting improperly at a computer for long periods of time.

I would probably go Patton on any of my troops who came and told me they had back problems because of the PT test. I do 0 military style sit-ups yet I max them every time for a once-a-year test. There is more at work then just "sit-ups".
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Old 07-23-2007, 04:21 PM   #28
Roger Harrell
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His correlations are poor. The cause for gymnasts with back problems fit into a few categories.
1. Hyperflexion/extension of the lower back without proper conditioning.
2. All of the pounding required in gymnastics without proper conditioning.
3. Over conditioning of the abs without balanced conditioning of the lower back.
4. Single (or multiple) acute injury from a crash.

Not one of these has anything to do with exercises that utilize full ROM contraction of the abs.

I'd also like to see some data on gymnasts backs vs general population to support his claim to begin with...
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Old 07-24-2007, 04:36 PM   #29
Ryan Norman
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Ditto what Chris said.
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Old 07-24-2007, 06:43 PM   #30
Corey Duvall
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Well I posted on here quite some time ago it seems (was gone to a wedding and just now getting back to see what folks have said). An extremely interesting thread to those interested in fitness and safety. I am not here to say that the spine should never move. Lack of movement is just as big a problem as too much movement. Looking into the abmat their philosophy seems sound in keeping lumbar flexion. However, for me personally, I don't believe that I should be training my core to move. I will train it to resist movement in all possible directions and as a result, as I slip and fall, step into a rut, have something heavy fly my way, or whatever random act life gives me my core will be trained to resist such a movement. I also plan to offer the same training to my patients. There may be some extremely gifted individuals who feel adding situps will get them the extra boost they need. But I think there are many more avenues that would be far more functional to them. When my patients have mastered a heavy deadlift, a full ROM overhead squat, a GHD situp with a rigid, neutral core, a 5 minute mile run, a 35" vertical leap, a 250lb clean and jerk, or any other number of movements that maintains a solid neutral core, I'll get them an abmat and say "go to town". It should be each individual's choice, but mine is stability.
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