Navy Planks for Sit-ups

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Caden Stanuch

In the Navy, it has long been custom for our physical screening tests to be push-ups, sit-ups, and running. The Navy felt that these three exercises covered the most of the muscles groups and improved recruit performance the most. But, for some time now, recruits have been complaining that the thousands of sit-ups that we have to do to complete training have been causing both temporal and long-term lower back pain.

These recruits also have some solid evidence to back up their claim. Sit-up have been proven to cause lower back pain as well as only work a few isolated muscle groups. According to HealthHarvard.edu, “Sit-ups push your curved back against the floor and work your hip flexors. When your hip flexors get too strong or too tight, the tug on the lower spine, which can cause lower back discomfort.”

It is also a known fact that sit-ups are more of an isolation exercise than a compound movement. This isn’t as helpful to the human body, because the military requires you to have solid and balanced strength throughout your body, not just in isolated movements. These are the reasons that recruits have been pushing for planks to replace sit-ups on fitness tests. But, there is a major problem with this.

The way the Navy’s fitness tests work is a recruit sees how many push-ups they can do in two minutes, then you take a two-minute rest. Then you see how many sit-ups you can do in two minutes, then you take another two-minute rest. After that you go on a timed mile and a half run, and that concludes the screening test. But, planks are a compound movement, with a lot of pressure and stress being put on your arms and shoulders.

Now, if you do planks right after push-ups, the upper body that you need to do a successful plank will be fatigued and it won’t be a true testament to your strength. That is why sit-ups were originally chosen, because although it has some negative effects, it is a true testament to your strength which is very valuable information to a recruiter trying to decide what your rate, or job, should be. Personally, I am on the side of sit-ups.

I feel that they are a more true testament to your abdominal strength and your capabilities. But, I found someone who is on the opposite side. William Rogers, a senior at Lakewood High School, has been running for the school track team for two years, so he is no stranger to staying in shape. He believes that planks are better because he used to do sit-ups and over time he began to experience lower back pain.

I asked him if he prefers sit-ups or planks and he said, “Planks all the way, no question. Sit-ups cause unnecessary strain on your lower back while Planks can be very beneficial to both muscle growth and easing pain.” This topic will continue to be debated, and it will always be a toss-up to see which is better for physical training.