Core


Work Your Core and Clean Your Floor!

I love using Gliders to pump up my core and leg training. If you haven’t seen them, they look like this:

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Actually, I don’t own my own pair–and not every gym has them. So when I’m in the mood to glide, I just grab a towel and get moving. In the exercise below, I have placed a towel under my toes while in the plank position. Then I pike my hips, return to plank, and drive my knees from elbow to elbow to work my obliques. Check out the video here:

Vegetarian Update!

Adjusting to vegetarianism has been a bit challenging for me. I thought that simply replacing meat with beans would be a breeze. But in reality, my body has had a difficult time processing all of the fiber I’ve been putting into it.  After two weeks, I started to feel the effects of all the Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Not to mention the avocados, nuts, seeds and beans I was eating as well. My stomach became distended, and I felt gassy and uncomfortable. Not good!

Here’s a list of my favorite veggies and fruits and their fiber content:

Vegetables (1 cup servings)

Broccoli and cauliflower, 5 grams

Brussels sprouts, 6 grams

Kale, 3 grams

Sweet potato, 4 grams

Fruits 

Medium apple, 4 grams

Banana, 3 grams

Avocado (half), 9 grams

Mango, 5 grams

These foods are delicious and wholesome. Their fiber content will fill you up  and keep you regular. You should include these in your diet, (just not all at once, every single day)– like I did!

So, to review: when you increase your fiber intake, go slow, make small changes, and  drink a lot of water to help all of that fiber make it’s way through your system. Your tummy will thank you!

Secret to a Flat Belly-Fast! (Did that get your attention?)

Now that I have your attention, I just want to complain one more time: it’s still cold. But I think that pretty soon we’re going to be complaining about how hot it is, right? In the spirit of wishful thinking, I’ve been working on my core a lot lately. I didn’t want to wait much longer to start working on my lean, mean summer body, and you shouldn’t either.

A quick note before we talk about getting a ripped six pack. Despite what the supplement companies state there is no magic pill to help you lose stomach fat. There is also no magic food that you can eat that will help in that department either. The only way to melt fat from your midsection is to eat a clean diet of lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. You should also be diligent in your cardio, (AT LEAST three days a week), and strength train your total body at least twice a week for overall tone and balance.

Try these exercises to start sculpting a tight midsection. Start now and you’ll be thanking me in June.

Crossover Crunch

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Works abdominals, internal and external obliques, the “waist” muscles.

Lay on your back with your knees bent and hands behind your head. Place you left ankle on your right knee. Crunch up and moving diagonally, bring your right elbow towards your left knee. Contract your abs at the top of the motion. Lower to start and repeat on that side for 12-20 reps, depending on your fitness level. Switch sides and repeat.

Hanging Leg Raises

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Works abdominals and hip flexors

This move is a advanced. Fortunately for beginners, most gyms have a captain’s chair which you can use to do this same movement. If you’ve been working out for a while, hang from a chin-up bar with your hands in either a wide or narrow grip. Before you start, pull your shoulders away from your ears. Raise your knees up to a 90 degree angle from your torso, then lower down with control. Each rep should be slow and deliberate, don’t swing through the movement.  If you are  having difficulty hanging from the bar, look around for ab straps, which you can place under your armpits. Try this one for anywhere between 3- 8 reps, unless you are super awesome and can perform double digit reps.

Dead Bug

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Works the deep core muscles and stabilizes the lower spine.

Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor and tighten up your core muscles. Extend your arms above your shoulders and your legs over your hips. Beginners should keeps their knees bent, while more advanced exercisers can straighten out their legs. Inhale, and lower your left leg and your right arm until they are about an inch away from the floor. Exhale and return your limbs to the original position. Switch to the right leg and left arm. Perform this move for 8-10 reps per side. Maintain the position of your spine throughout the exercise.  If you feel this in the lower back, keep your knees bent throughout the movement or keep your arms at your sides.

Try each exercise for 3 sets. Let me know how it goes!

Top Core Exercises for Runners (and everyone)

This Sunday, I’ll be running in my first half marathon in two years,  and I know I will be well-prepared. When people train for a race, sometimes they focus solely on their running schedule and making their weekly mileage quota. Big mistake. Core strength is important to keep a runner upright and in proper form, especially during long runs. A strong core can also prevent common runner’s injuries. Below are my top three core exercises for runners. The exercises listed will strengthen the abdominals and the muscles of the back and hips, and are very effective for anyone looking to tone up their midsection.

plank

Plank

What it works: Strengthens and stabilizes abdominals, back and shoulders

Start by laying face down on a mat. Press yourself up into a push-up position, resting on your forearms. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. As you hold this position, tilt your pelvis forward, and squeeze your heels and quads together. Keep your gaze just beyond your fingertips. Your back should be flat, making a straight line from your head to your heels.

R Twist

Russian Twist

What it works: Obliques

The obliques are the muscles responsible for rotation of the torso. Runners who fail to strengthen the obliques will make the abdominals and back muscles do all the work to support the body. Sit on a mat with your knees bent, as if you were at the top position of a sit up. Angle your body so that your upper body is at a 45 degree angle with the ground.  Hold your arms straight out in front of you and hold your hands together. Or, with bent arms, hold on to a weighted ball or dumbbell. Twisting through the torso, move your shoulders from side to side. Make sure you are not just swinging your arms, but that the move originates from the waist. Keep twisting from side to side without stopping for at least 16 rotations. The slower and more precise the movement, the better. If you experience lower back pain, substitute with bicycle crunches.

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Hip Raise and Hamstring Curls on the Swiss Ball

What it works: Everything! I love this exercise because it works the glutes, hamstrings, calves, abdominals and lower back muscles.

Runners need strong posterior chain muscles. Simply put, it’s the muscles behind us that are propelling us forward. Start by laying face down on a mat with your feet propped up on a Swiss ball. Place your hands next to you on the mat for support. Using your glutes, lift your hips off the mat and hold this position for a few seconds as your stabilize yourself. Brace your core to help from shifting around. Using your hamstrings, pull your heels in toward your butt, raising your hips higher as you go. The bottoms of your feet should be flat on the ball at the top of the motion. Pause for a second, then lower down with control. If this is too difficult, just start with the hip raise, omitting the hamstring curl.

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