For anyone who has struggled on a gym mat, hands behind head, straining to touch elbows to knees, there’s good news: The sit-up’s reign as a workout standard may be ending.

People from high-profile exercise gurus to military experts are arguing that the sit-up, that staple of fitness tests, presents too great a risk of back injury.

A recent editorial in Navy Times, an independent publication that covers the U.S. Navy, called for banishing the sit-up from the physical-readiness test sailors must pass twice each year. The editorial called it “an outdated exercise today viewed as a key cause of lower back injuries.” The Canadian Armed Forces recently cut the sit-up from its fitness test, citing concern over potential injury and its lack of connection to actual military work.

Tony Horton, creator of the popular P90X video workout series, says he no longer does sit-ups or crunches, their truncated cousins. “I really believe that the traditional, antiquated crunch has seen better days, and it’s time to make a change,” Mr. Horton says.

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