Friday 1 August 2014

The real problem with IPPT? Sit-ups

Since the new IPPT format was unveiled more than a week ago, there have been a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of pulling out the chin-ups station and pushing in the push-ups station.

Many seem okay with the jettisoning of the shuttle run and broad jump stations, but also feel that if you really want more NSmen to pass, then it's the 2.4km run that has to run away.

But no one seems to have a problem with the sit-ups station which is the other station to survive the IPPT revamp.

Well, I do.

And it's not because I can't do sit-ups. It was the only IPPT station where I would always get the maximum points.

Mindef has stated that sit-ups are "a test of abdominal strength and endurance". The problem is that sit-ups have long fell out of favour as an exercise to build abdominal strength.

In fact, sit-ups are now considered bad for you.

According to a recent article on the Harvard Medical School website:
One reason is that sit-ups are hard on your back — by pushing your curved spine against the floor and by working your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. When hip flexors are too strong or too tight, they tug on the lower spine which can be a source of lower back discomfort.

So what should you do if you want abs? No, not even crunches.

The in thing now seems to be the plank.

According to the same article:
Planks recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise than sit-ups, which target just a few muscles. Remember, your core goes far beyond your abdominal muscles.

And you know what else is also good for building abdominal muscles?


So by adding the push-ups station to the IPPT, Mindef actually made the sit-ups station redundant.

Mindef has also stated that the new IPPT format is modelled after the US Army Physical Fitness Test that consists of push-ups, sit-ups and a 2-mile run, which is about 3.2km. (That may explain the 3.2km run story last year.)

The problem is that the US test was introduced back in 1980.

So to base our new IPPT format on the US test is like building a new computer in 2014 based on the Apple II. Floppy disk drives, anyone?

Another problem is that fitness trends can be as fickle as fashion trends.

One day, baggy jeans are in; the next day, they're out. Today, push-up are the rage; tomorrow, they're bad for your wrists. (That's why I do only knuckle push-ups.)

It took almost 30 years for Mindef to update the IPPT. I'm not sure they got it right.

But, yes, I'll miss my old frenemy, the chin-up.

EARLIER: How to help more NSmen pass IPPT: Learn from CPF