The UTM group fitness class Core Strength 1 gives students and membership-holders a new full-body training system centred on your core. The objective of the class is to strengthen your midsection through natural movements that your body is designed to do. What your core isn’t designed to do may shock you, and you may have been doing this exercise your whole life thinking it was healthy, but crunches are your new worst enemy.

The Canadian Armed Forces recently cut out the sit-up portion from their fitness tests, claiming that the majority of injuries that occurred during the test happened while doing sit-ups.

In a government-issued article titled “Incidence of acute injury related to fitness testing of U.S. Army personnel”, it was reported that out of 1,532 soldiers who participated in the tests, 117 received an injury. Fifty-six percent of injuries were attributed to the sit-up event, while 32 percent were attributed to the run event. The conclusion of this study reported, “The push-up, sit-up, and run events do not pose a considerable acute injury risk to active duty soldiers.”

The Canadian Armed Forces do understand the severe risks associated with doing a large number of sit-ups repeatedly. The force associated with the repeated flexing motion can irritate the discs and in the spine. Over time, the discs begin to bulge, pressing on the nerves and causing, in many cases, an extreme amount of back pain.

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues football program doesn’t have sit-ups associated with their offseason workout programs because they know the risks involved. Even though the sit-up may give you a temporary aesthetic appeal, the muscles are in no shape to aid you on the battlefield.

The plank is the new way to build front, side, and back muscles, strengthening the core and your spine unlike any crunching movement. Stabilizing the core gives you the ability to generate more power so you can lift, push, pull, and carry heavy objects, knowing your midsection has a muscle integrity that will not fail.

UTM’s Core Strength 1 program and Varsity Blues athletic programs work the most vital part of the body in a mixture of ways, preventing a strength plateau and injury. Instead of twisting in the mid-back, twist at the hips, raise your legs, or use natural body movements and keep a strong, flat back. Mix these natural body movements with suspension (TRX Group Fitness class) or resistance training (Cycle Core Fusion Fitness class), and you’ll be sporting the sexiest six-pack at the beach without having done a single crunch.

Strengthening your core isn’t only for the people pursuing an athletic lifestyle—it’s a necessity for everyday acts like bending to put your shoes on, on-the-job tasks, strengthening a weak back due to poor posture, and balance and stability. According to a Harvard health publication titled “The real-world benefits of strengthening your core”, researchers suggest that it’s “unwise to aim all your efforts at developing rippling abs. Overtraining abdominal muscles while snubbing muscles of the back and hip can set you up for injuries and cut athletic prowess”.

The sit-up test is one-dimensional, unnecessary, and a health risk. You’ll find strength and washboard abdominals through experimenting with other techniques, such as the ones Core Strength 1 offers on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 1 p.m.