Sit ups alternatives for players to improve their core strength

04 October 2018 Ben Cartwright No Tags

Admittedly, the topic of core training fires me up. Not just because I’m an exercise science nerd, but because people are misinformed on how to execute it properly.

The football community is funny with core training. In one corner we have the old school coaches who still program Sit-Ups because that is how it has always been done. In the other corner we have the new coaches who try to rise above the noise with more applicable training for footballers.

With that said, I got a newsflash for you: football performance training is evolving, so you should too.


Gone are the days when we make players do a Sit-Up circuit at the end of an intense pitch session.

Why Sit-Ups Are Not Beneficial

Not many actions in the game involve much flexion in the spine. To execute certain skills and movements, players must learn how to control and stabilize their trunk.

As an example, shooting a ball is one skill I touch on the most when it comes to proper core training.


Instead of seeing the core as a force producer, it is a force stabilizer as well as transfer of force, which allows all prime shooting muscles to do their job (the hip flexors and hip extensors) for improved shooting power:

What’s more is we save our low backs from stress and allow everything else to move freely.

Moving on, not only do Sit-Ups have little carryover to the actions in the game, what gets me the most about them is they aren’t even challenging. There is a diverse menu of other exercises that we can program that rip into the core, and make your face fall off.

That reminds me of a ridiculous exercise I tried the other day:


These Hollow Hold Stir-The-Pots will hammer your anterior core.


Even my athletes exclaimed, “wow! Sit-Ups are so easy compared to this.”

The Hollow Hold position also moves players into a “bracing” position, which makes them better able to do bigger movements like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, and pull-ups which call for tremendous core stability and control.

Are our abs flexing, or backs rounding during any of these movements like we see in Sit-Up? Let’s have a look:

That’s a hard “no.”

Sit-Ups, to that end, have little carryover to movements in the gym and on the pitch.

When holding off defenders to maintain position of the ball, are you moving into a weak, collapsed position, or are you maintaining posture and better able to resist force to keep your balance?

Or when performing a sharp 1v1 move are you rounding your back, or maintaining torso control to be able to blow by a defender?


This isn’t rocket science. This is football. Simply, watch the key movements.

For the players who are:

1. not buying into your innovative core training ways

2. say they want to do Sit-Ups to get six pack abs

I have a solution for you: hit them with these anti-rotation and anti-flexion progressions:



Once your players give these a whirl a couple things may happen:

1. They will cringe at the new challenges.
2. They will get their six pack.
3. You can say, “I told you so.”

So with core training, let us not only pay attention to how we can benefit our football players as far as functionality, but also, how we can make them feel good as well as further challenge them with new progressions so they do not get bored.

About the Author


Erica Suter is a certified strength and conditioning coach, soccer trainer, and soccer performance blogger who has worked with soccer athletes for over six years in the realms of technical training and physical fitness. She is currently a strength coach at JDyer Strength and Conditioning, and also runs her own soccer performance training business in Baltimore, MD. Her wheelhouse is youth soccer players ages 10-18, and has worked with over 1,000 players across the state of Maryland in-person as well as worldwide through online consulting.


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