The classic ab exercise may be outdated. Or worse, bad for you

By Lauren Mazzo
Updated: February 12, 2016

Navy officers work hard for their functionally fit battlefield bodies, but there's one exercise they may be sending out to sea: sit-ups.

The Navy puts its sailors through a fitness test twice a year to determine if they're able to fulfill all their combat duties (a pretty important part of the gig). Sit-ups were part of this test for decades. But now, experts are calling for ab exercises that more directly relate to their battlefield work, according to a Navy Times editorial.

Think about it: Does anyone ever need to crunch like that in real life? (We'll give that a solid "no, sir!") Enter: The plank, a potential sit-up swap, according to the Navy Times. Why planks? They more accurately measure core strength, they're harder to "cheat," and they don't wreak havoc on your lower back, which sit-ups have long been criticized for.

Whether or not you're a proud member of the Navy, you can still adjust your ab workout accordingly. Next time you sit down for sit-ups, try these plank-based exercises instead:

Basic Forearm Plank

Lie face down on the ground, feet flexed. Place forearms on the floor, shoulders over your wrists, and lift yourself up. Keep your back flat enough that you could rest a water bottle or towel on it without it rolling off. Keeping your core tight, hold in this position.

Rolling Plank

Lie on your stomach with both forearms folded in front of chest, parallel with top edge of mat. Press up to forearm plank keeping core engaged and head aligned with spine. Shift weight onto left forearm and drive right elbow up and back, opening to side plank with feet staggered. Quickly return to start position and repeat to opposite side for second rep.

Money In Your Pocket Plank

Begin in a traditional plank position with your forearms on the floor, shoulders aligned directly over your elbows, maintaining a straight line from your shoulders to your toes. From this position, dip your right hip to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat on the left. Alternate back and forth as if you are tapping each pocket to the floor. Imagine that you are tracing an arch with your hips to ensure they do not rise above shoulder height.

Single-Leg Plank Flex and Extend

Get into full plank position. Lift your left leg off the floor. Contract your abs, round your back, and pull your left knee into your nose. Keeping the core, arms, and legs extremely strong, straighten your left leg behind you as you extend your spine and lower your hips toward the floor (without letting hips or legs touch the ground). Slowly pull your left knee back in. Repeat 4 times, rest, and then switch sides.


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