In the video below, observe this person doing sit-ups. See how her hands are clasped tightly behind her head? Never do this, under any circumstances. The amount of strain she’s applying to the muscles of her neck is terrifying, and it will absolutely wreck the joints of her cervical spine.
I’m not showing you this simply to pick on her. This is how a lot of other people do sit-ups as well. Monkey-see monkey-do is pervasive at the gym.
So What Does a “Proper” Sit-Up Look Like? (Not This!)
Search YouTube and you’ll find, “Learn to Do a Proper Sit-Up.” Sounds legit… It’s well made… plus it has over 15,000 views. But is it truly a proper sit-up? Not at all.
First, the black & white photo of the guy doing a sit-up isn’t even what they recommend in the video. People who skip the tutorial might think that clasping your fingers behind the head and wrenching it forward is “proper” form.
Watch and you’ll see that they recommend crossing the arms over your chest instead (like a dead guy in a casket). While this is a good way to prevent neck strain, curling all the way up in the suggested manner will stress the spinal discs in your low back, predisposing them to needless bulging or herniation.
I know the name “sit-up” implies sitting up, but if you want to avoid injury, don’t do sit-ups that way either…
Here’s a Safe Sit-Up; Do Them This Way.
This method is much smarter and safer for your low back and neck:
Spinal Movement Myths
Here’s an old interview with the godfather of spinal biomechanics, Dr. Stuart McGill. He discusses various spinal movement myths, and it’s well worth seeing.
The most important take away from this video is that muscles of the spine, core, and torso aren’t intended to create movement. Instead, they’re designed to stop movement.