Purpose: Core stabilization exercises target abdominal and trunk muscles without the excessive loading that occurs during sit-ups. However, core stabilization exercise programs (CSEP) have not been widely adopted in the US Army partially because of the perceived deleterious impact they would have on performance during the Army Physical Fitness Test. The purpose was to determine whether performing CSEP in lieu of sit-ups during unit physical training would have detrimental effects on sit-up performance and passing rates on the fitness test.
Methods: Soldiers (N = 2616) between 18 and 35 yr of age were randomized to receive a traditional exercise program (TEP) with sit-ups or CSEP. Subjects with a previous history of low back pain or other injury precluding participation in training were excluded. The training programs were completed four times per week for 12 wk. Performance was assessed at baseline and after 12 wk.
Results: Both groups demonstrated significant improvements in sit-up performance and overall fitness scores over time (P < 0.001). There were no significant between-group differences in overall fitness scores (P = 0.142) or sit-up performance (P = 0.543). However, CSEP resulted in a significant improvement in sit-up passing rates by 5.6% compared with 3.9% for the TEP group (P = 0.004).
Conclusions: CSEP did not have a detrimental impact on sit-up performance or overall fitness scores or pass rates. There was a small but significantly greater increase in sit-up pass rate in the CSEP (5.6%) versus the TEP group (3.9%). Incorporating CSEP into Army physical training does not increase the risk of suboptimal performance on the Army's fitness test and may offer a small benefit for improving sit-up performance.