Uncovered: the most efficient sit-ups

I must admit it. I wasn't too excited to spend this past weekend in a Pilates studio learning about cross chain muscle activation.  We haven't seen much nice weather around here recently, and this weekend was going to be a beauty: warm and sunny.  

But I needed to meet the Pilates community in Cleveland.  I needed to continue to educate myself, and I needed to, ahem, establish myself is a damn good trainer in the Cleveland area.

So I went.

The workshop, which took place at White Cloud Studios, was run by Ann McMillan M.Sc.  Of course, it was fantastic, and I wanted to share a cool concept I learned with you.  It is simple, effective, and can be implemented in a variety of ways: a concept couldn't be more perfect.

What we learned was called the Janda sit-up, named after the work of physiotherapist Vladimir Janda.  Janda founded the rehabilitation department at Charles University Hospital in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  He was a consultant on rehabilitation to the World Health Organization and had great influence throughout Eastern and Central Europe.

Janda said the only way to truly isolate the abdominals when performing a crunch was to inactivate the hip flexors.  What?  Why?  How do you do that?  Here's the skinny:
  1. When you perform a sit-up, both the abdominal muscles and the hip flexors activate.  As a result, you can more effectively train the abdominal muscles if you eliminate recruitment of the hip flexors.  
  2. Reciprocal inhibition is necessary.  This fancy word means, simply, as one muscle contracts, its opposing muscle relaxes so that movement can occur.  So, when you flex your biceps to pick up an object, your triceps relax to allow your arm to bend.  
  3. If, then, you activate the hamstrings and glutes, you will relax the hip flexors and perform a sit-up that recruits only the abdominal muscles.  This is a HARD sit-up.  Trust me.  I tried it.  
So how can you try this?  The goal is to inactivate the hip flexors, which can be accomplished in a variety of ways.  Here are some ideas:  
  1. Hang two springs from a Cadillac and attach foot straps to the springs.  Put a bar through the foot straps.  Place your knees over the bar to inactivate the hip flexors.  Try your sit-up.  You will probably need a spring with a strap to help you get up.  A lumbar support may help as well.
  2. Put a fitness circle under the legs and press down on it.  Perform your sit-up.  
  3. Pair up with a friend or partner.  (You could do this in a mat class).  Have the partner pull up on the legs.  (Force directly above the knees is hardest.  If you pull at an angle, it will be easier).
  4. Use a stability ball.  Pull it in towards the knees, then sit up.  
Want some more information?  Take a look at this video.  It is long, but it explains these concepts well:

Popular Posts