I don’t like crunches. They hurt my neck. No matter how hard I focus on keeping my eyes up and my chin off my chest, I still feel my neck is getting more of a workout than my abs.
That’s why crunches don’t appear often in my (or my clients’) workouts. I don’t ignore the core however. It is the foundation of our body and functional movement. I just choose to train it other ways.
There are plenty of non-crunch techniques to help you develop your core. If you have low back issues or simply don’t want a pain in the neck, try one of these ways to build a strong and stable core.
1. Planks: I love ab holds and high planks, but they can get boring after awhile. Once a client can maintain an ab hold for 60 seconds, I move on to more challenging plank variations. To take your plank to the next level, try one of these.
Stability ball plank: Place your forearms on a stability ball and toes on the ground. Hold for up to 90 seconds.
Plank slides: I love Valslides for core work! Place one Valslide under each hand while in high plank position. Alternating pushing arms forward and back, about 6 inches away from your body, for 12 reps per side.
Body Saw: Take your plank to a new level by keeping your forearms on the ground but place your feet in suspension trainers that are hanging about 10 – 12 inches from the ground. Move forward and back for 10-15 repetitions. (more…)
Achieving 6-pack abs is pretty much the holy grail of physical fitness and strength, even though much of your abdominal appearance is decided by genetics, not effort. But whether you have 7% body fat or a layer of “insulation” over your abdominal muscles it’s extremely important to keep those muscles strong. Working the muscles that make up your core strong (the abdominals, obliques, and mid- to lower-back) will make your entire body feel stronger, give you better posture, and improve your balance. However, the question remains—what’s the best technique to building and managing core strength?
We’ve been presented with so many different options for strengthening the abdominal muscles that it’s hard to know what works best. Should we be lying on our backs, balancing on our hands and toes, standing up, squatting, or using a contraption like the ab flyer or ab rocket?
Luckily, a group of fitness experts commissioned by the American Council on Exercise recently conducted the research to answer that very question. ACE reached out to experts at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to conduct research determining the effectiveness of the most popular equipment and exercises compared to the traditional crunch. The team incorporated several different varieties of popular equipment including the Ab Circle Pro, Ab Roller, and others, as well as exercises including yoga’s boat pose, the stability ball crunch, decline bench curl-ups, the captain’s chair crunch, the bicycle crunch, the side plank, and a standard plank. (more…)
What is all the fuss about having a strong core? Yes, of course we all want a smokin’ hot six pack, but is there a real benefit to tightening your tummy beyond the aesthetic? Short answer: Yes. And a lot of it has to do with having a healthier, stronger center and a less achey lower back.
Strong core muscles make it so much easier to do many of our daily physical activities—such as running errands, doing household chores, and moving every which way. When you use your core to bend, lift, twist, and reach you safeguard your lower back, shifting weight off of your spine and onto your abs and the muscles of your back.
Core exercises strengthen your abdominals, back muscles, obliques(sides), and muscles around the pelvis. But this doesn’t mean do a million crunches! That can only promise a sore back. What should you do instead?
Here are three exercises to do daily as you work toward a stronger core and a happier lower back: (more…)
Yes, yoga brings about amazing mental and emotional benefits, but if we’re being honest, we all just want long, lean muscles and a super flat midsection. Ditch the crunches and let your yoga poses help you get there! Inspired by the recent Shape magazine video, these five moves target all the muscles in your abdomen and include a bit of cardio to burn fat and showcase your hard-earned, rock-solid core.
1. The Plank Slide
We all know a plank is the ultimate total body toner that blasts every muscle in your core, but have you tried the plank slide? Hold your plank like normal, except your hands are on your sticky mat and your feet rest on a blanket (*note: this must be done on a hardwood or slippery floor!). Then, use your core to keep your legs straight while sliding them up toward your hands like a forward fold. Slide your legs back to your starting plank position. It’s like cleaning your floor while working your core!
Bonus super challenge: try the plank slide with one leg up in the air at a time! (more…)
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions that people strive to stick to each year is to exercise more. It’s also the one that most people tend to give up on before January is even over, often saying, “I just don’t have enough time.” The truth is, you have time for anything that you make a priority. Our lives are super busy with work, school, kids, etc., but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find at least a few minutes each day to focus on improving your fitness level. After all, any of exercise is better than nothing.
Here’s a list of the best bang for your buck in the amount of time that you have to exercise:
Got 4 minutes?
Try a Tabata workout. The idea behind the Tabata method is to work at your maximum level for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This pattern is repeated continuously eight times for a total of four minutes of training. If you’re doing more than one Tababta drill, take one minute to rest between exercises. I would recommend doing a total of no more than six sets total, since you’ll be working at such a high level of intensity. If you only have time for one Tabata, consider doing an exercise like burpees, which is more demanding and works muscles throughout the entire body.
The BOSU Balance Trainer is an incredibly effective piece of equipment to use in your workouts. The BOSU (which stands for “Both Sides Utilized”) can be used to target almost every major muscle group of the body for strength training, to get a cardio intensive workout, and as a tool for a killer core workout. Exercises performed using a BOSU focus on balance and can be performed on a stable (round side up) or unstable (flat side up) surface.
BOSU has recently launched a new product called Powerstax that will (literally) take your workout to the next level.
What is the Powerstax System?
BOSU Powerstax were created to be used in conjunction with a BOSU Balance Trainer. Powerstax are risers that can be stacked below the BOSU Trainer to add elevation and intensify your workout. The risers are four inches tall and can be purchased separately or as a set of three. The BOSU trainer itself is 10 inches tall, so adding all three risers will elevate your BOSU trainer to be 22 inches in height.
The Powerstax will securely hold the BOSU trainer with the flat side facing up or down, allowing for more diversity in your training. Placing the round side up results in higher total elevation of the combined unit. When the flat side is facing up, it creates a slightly more stable surface (as compared to round side up) and is great for advanced dynamic movement.
One other innovation with the Powerstax is its ability to be used for strength training. Each riser weighs 5 pounds and can be filled with up to 12 quarts of water (which will result in a total weight of 30 pounds). Each quart of water adds an additional four pounds to the five pound riser, making it easy to adjust to your needs. (more…)
Fall race season is upon us. There will be multiple foot races taking place nearly every weekend until Christmas. Are you training strong for these races? That doesn’t just mean getting in the miles and stretching, it’s literal. Strength training is a crucial part of race training that many runners overlook.
Hanna Rosov is a personal trainer at Zeal Fitness in Wichita, KS who has a passion for running. She is also passionate about runners getting strong. Rosov explains why runners would benefit from building their muscles.
Rosov said, “Strength training that targets a specific movement helps reduce injury in runners. We can strengthen weak muscles so that they are more able to help support joints and primary muscles to prevent break down in form, which causes injury.”
Rosov also explains that strength training helps muscles coordinate together better. “By practicing a movement in a controlled way with a weight we can make those muscles work together more efficiently,” said Rosov.
Holding a plank for a few minutes or doing 100 crunches may be impressive, but did you know these exercises don’t actually make you much stronger in the abs or back? If you want to assess and improve your core strength, try the “Floppy Fish.” A funny name for an exercise, but videotape yourself doing it, and you just might discover why it has that name!
Core strength is important for keeping you upright with good posture. You want that, because good posture helps you look more confident and fit.
* Lie down on one end of your mat in prone position, perpendicular to the mat
* Place one hand on top of the other, with arms out long in front of you and off the floor. Elbows should be slightly bent
* Cross your feet at the ankles, knees slightly bent, with legs out long and off the floor
* Tuck your chin toward (not to) your chest so that you are looking down at the floor directly below your head
* Verify that you are touching the mat (or floor) only from the chest to the hips. Everything else is lifted slightly
* Tighten everywhere your belt touches, then roll slowly from one end of the mat to the other. Return back to start.
* Repeat this exercise 3 times in each direction, remembering to keep your limbs off the ground (more…)
Many of us look forward to the weekend for several reasons, whether we have big plans or are just ready for some rest. If you’re like me, you have a hard time getting yourself to the gym on Saturday mornings when there are so many other things you’d rather be doing (like sleeping in).
When you finally do get up and around, there are a lot of workouts you can do right in your own home without any equipment other than your own body weight. These exercises are a great switch up from your regular gym routine and can benefit your body no matter how intense your normal workouts may be.
For this week’s Saturday Morning Drill, we’ve come up with several body weight and plyometric exercises that will get your blood pumping, sweat dripping and help strengthen your upper body and core. Among the many benefits of plyometric workouts are muscle development, speed, agility, endurance, coordination and fat loss. Let’s get started.
Just like a tough weightlifting routine at the gym, shoveling snow is also hard work. Treat it as you would any hardcore yet safe and effective workout and you will gain the benefits just as you would a carefully designed exercise program.
The following yoga poses and shoveling tips can help keep you strong, fit and protect your body from injury when the sidewalk is knee-deep in snow.
A flexible spine is a healthy spine, especially when it comes to shoveling heavy snow. Practice this twist before and after shoveling.
Lie down on your back with your right knee pulled into your chest and your left leg extended on the floor. Reach for your right knee with your left hand and roll onto your left hip. Extend your right arm out to the side. Hold for 10 deep breaths and switch sides.
Core work is an integral part of having a strong, lithe body with an upright and healthy posture, but if the mere thought of boat pose (an intense core centered yoga pose) makes you want to keel over and abandon ship, read how you can make it smooth sailing and much easier on yourself.
Don’t go overboard
Start with the basics. Before attempting the full expression of boat pose (with both legs and arms extended off the floor) practice the beginner version until you can fully integrate your core without compromising your low back.
Sit comfortably on your mat. Place both hands about 12 inches behind your hips and place them shoulder width apart. Bend both elbows and lean slightly onto your hands. Rock your pelvis forward just enough so you are teetering on top of your sit bones (the bony protrusions at the base of your pelvis).
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