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Workout Wednesday: Beyond the Crunch

It’s hard to find a fitness magazine or video series that doesn’t highlight moves or tricks for building a stronger core. That’s good, because core training should be a key component of anyone’s exercise program, regardless of his or her fitness level.

The core – made up of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, thoracic spine and cervical spine – is the region of the body where all movement begins. If you have a weak and unstable core, your body simply can’t move the way it’s supposed to. That’s one of the easiest ways to put yourself at increased risk for injury.

New core exercises seem to pop up all the time, but I’ve always been a big fan of some the classics. That being said, there are several core exercises beyond the crunch that I use in my client’s fitness programs along with my own.  Here’s the kicker: these exercises all fit into the stabilization endurance level of training. This is the level where all fitness newbies should start and all fitness veterans should re-visit to maintain core and joint stability. For this trio, my friend and photographer Lauren Bachner captured a snapshot of the start and finish position for each exercise. Aim for two sets of 12-20 reps:

  1. Ball bridge:Once you’ve mastered the two-leg and one-leg floor bridge, this is a great progression of a key core exercise. Training tips: make sure your feet are hip-width apart. Draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes to get your knees in line with your hips and shoulders. Once you’re established the bridge, hold the position for two seconds before lowering your pelvis.

    Hype Gym, New York, NY

    Photos by Lauren Bachner

  2. Prone Iso-Abs (Plank): This remains my all-time favorite core exercise.  Here, I show you the “basic” plank along with a progression, where you add a leg lift. Training tips: In either version, be sure to draw in your navel and squeeze your glutes before you raise your body off the floor to form a straight line from head to toe.  Hold plank position for two to three seconds before dropping to the ground to re-start. 
  3. Side Iso-Ab (Side Plank): I admit, I need to perform this version of the plank more often – and you should too! Training tips: Your elbow should be directly below your shoulder and be sure to draw in your navel and contract glutes before lifting your hips and legs off the ground. Hold the plank for two to three seconds before lowering back to start position. 

I wrap up this Workout Wednesday post with another thank you to Lauren for taking these action shots and to the owners of Hype Gym for letting us use their awesome facility for the perfect backdrop. Stay tuned for more shots of my favorite exercises in the future. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Let me know what’s on your list of favorites when it comes to exercises that help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Personal Training 101

Happy MLK, Jr. Day! I hope you’re enjoying the first long weekend of 2012.

I’m feeling extremely lucky to have kicked off the New Year enjoying back-to-back productive and life-changing weekends. Last weekend was all about becoming licensed Zumba® instructor. This weekend, I kicked my personal training goals into high gear.

Prep materials & paperwork for training sessions

While I’ve written about guiding my friend Jared along his journey with a first-time gym membership, this weekend I conducted my first official personal training sessions at Hype gym here in New York City.  I’m grateful to my colleagues Rebecca, Colleen, Lea and Lauren for signing up for these first workouts, and I’m already looking forward to the next round!

Each of these women came to me with a similar goal of reducing body fat and increasing the appearance of muscle definition, but each had her own unique background based on several factors including medical history and daily activities (e.g. wearing heels or sitting for a good part of the day because of her occupation). This is why it’s crucial to understand why a “one-size-fits-all” approach to exercise isn’t the best course of action. Just because your best friend has gotten great results from taking a certain group exercise class or running through a specific high intensity circuit on the weight floor doesn’t mean the same routine will work for you – especially if you’re body isn’t properly prepared for that type of workout.

This is where a personal trainer can help. Along with collecting subjective information about your general and medical history, we analyze crucial objective information (measurable data), as well. This includes performance assessments, one of most important being the overhead squat assessment. As I learned through my NASM instruction, this dynamic postural assessment is key in creating a safe and effective exercise program. Observing a person’s feet, knees, lumbo- pelvic-hip complex and shoulder complex while he or she performs an overhead squat shows which overactive muscles need to be stretched and which underactive muscles need to be strengthened. For example, a couple of the women had knees that turned out when performing their overhead squats. That meant we had to stretch the adductors (inner thighs), bicep femoris (hamstring) and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) as part of a warm up before jumping into the rest of the workout.

As far as the workouts are concerned, each woman has begun the first phase of her training: stabilization endurance. This includes lots of fun exercises like dumbbell chest presses and shoulder presses on a stability ball as well as bicep curls standing on one leg instead of two. These exercises have an added bonus: since the body needs to work harder to stay stable, you can end up burning a lot of calories. Each woman will remain in this phase of training for the next four weeks.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll keep you posted on their progress (here’s hoping they come back for lots of sessions!) and also share some specific exercise programs that will hopefully help you with your routine so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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