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Work on your beach body! Let’s Go!

Maintaining a strong core is very important no matter what your fitness goals are. A strong core helps you lift more weight and it also helps you if you are into body weight conditioning. It also helps prevent lower back injuries. 80% of Americans will experience lower back pain during their lifetime, often from their occupation, a sedentary lifestyle, or both.


Getting a perfect six pack of abs (also known as the rectus abdominis) is the goal of many people. While some people do get a six pack very easily through genetics, anyone of good health can get the abs they always wanted. It will take work. No, you will not get abs by doing 1,000 crunches in front of the TV. You will not get abs from buying the latest gimmick being advertised on infomercials (Remember that belt that promised people they would lose fat on their stomach?). All you need are four things:


1.)    A tough routine targeting every part of the core.


2.)    A healthy diet – Remember, you want to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight.  All calories are not created equal.  300 calories worth of vegetables and lean protein will fill you up a lot more quickly than 300 calories worth of soda or white bread.


3.)    Cardiovascular exercise – during activity, the blood in your capillaries delivers more oxygen to the cells of your muscles, which in turn enables these cells to burn fat rapidly. Incorporate a mixture of HIIT Training 2-3 times a week and some longer periods of cardio as well.


4.)    The proper weight training program tailored to your goals, equipment available, and injury history. Doing resistance training, whether it is with weights, resistance bands, your own bodyweight, or a combination of all three is absolutely necessary. We will NEVER tell you to not do resistance training. You will NOT get the look you want if you do not do some sort of resistance training.


Here is a sample routine we have used with clients. This is a beginner to intermediate routine.


First, we start with a warm up of foam rolling and active isolated stretching. You still need to stretch because some of these exercises will engage other muscles besides the core.


Plus, you want to loosen the tight muscles with the foam roll to encourage better movement.


Second, we still do a 5 – 10 minute warm up. You want your muscles to be loose while you perform core exercises.


Next, we go into the abs and core routine. We are only taking 30 second breaks in between sets and exercises. In addition, we still want to implement cardiovascular benefits as well.


1.) Perform 2 sets of Floor Bridges for 20 reps. The floor bridges help your strengthen your lower back with a low amount of impact. They are one of the easier exercises to perform when you are just starting out, since they help with stabilization of the core. Be careful not to hyperextend.


2.) Perform 2 sets of Lying Knee Raises. You will do 10 reps bringing your knees into the left side of your abs, working the lower abs and the obliques, you will do 10 reps bringing your knees into the middle part of your abs (this is the traditional form of lying knee raises), and you will do 10 reps bringing your knees into the right part of your abs. In total, you will do 30 reps in a set. Perform them in a succession of left, middle, right.


3.) Perform 2 sets of 15-20 Bodyweight Leg Raises. You can do these on a vertical chair (Also commonly used for dips) or lying down. These are challenging and they are one of the best overall exercises for core strength and ab definition. This exercise also helps shape the lower abs. For an even tougher set, take some extra time while lowering your legs in the eccentric motion or place a weight between your feet. Be careful not to swing your body, as you will not reap the full benefits of this exercise as you would by keeping your body in one place.  For an easier modification that is more back friendly if you have low back issues, the Lying Single Leg Raise is a great alternative.  Also, for a tougher alternative, you can hang from a pull-up bar.  Often, we prefer the vertical captain’s chair since for a lot of people, grip becomes the limiting factor for leg raises on a pull-up bar.


4.) Perform 2 sets of 20 Floor Prone Cobras. They are great at stabilizing and strengthening the lower back. Be careful not to hyperextend while performing this exercise.


5.) Perform a 1 minute Plank. The plank is one of the most popular and most beneficial overall core exercises. It stabilizes and strengthens the entire core with little impact to your body. For clients new to working out, we break the plank down to three sets. To increase the plank intensity, consider trying tougher exercises like the 3 Pt. Plank, the 2 Pt. Plank, the Long Lever Plank, the RKC Plank, the Plank Hip Dip, Weighted Plank, Side to Side Plank, Front to Back Plank and many others.


6.) Perform a 45 second Side Plank on each side. These will provide similar benefits for your entire core, but this time you are targeting the obliques specifically. Start on your left side for 45 seconds, then go immediately over to the right side for 45 seconds. To increase the intensity, try adding twists and the lying side abductor raise to your side plank.


Now it is time for the cool down.


Perform the same foam roll and static stretch routine we implemented during the warm up.

Other great core exercises we tend to use quite often include cable chops or resistance band chops, pallof presses, cable or band side steps, suitcase walks, Plank to Push-Ups, Ab Roller, Machine Crunch or Floor Crunch with your legs elevated for a slow 3-5 count, and more.  We tend to stay away from exercises that are high risk to injury such as sit-ups, side bends, Russian twists, and side twist machines.