Having a nice set of abs does not come from a thousand sit-ups or crunches. While traditional core exercises can play a (small) role in developing an aesthetically pleasing mid-section, abdominal definition is the result of proper nutrition, not core work. If you want those muscles to show, pay attention to what you eat.

With that in mind, it’s important to know the primary function of your core musculature¬†‚ÄĒ stabilize and prevent unnecessary movements.

Here are my top five core exercises to build a solid core.

1. Bodysaw

 

These are one of those “so simple, yet so effective” exercises. I’ve done this¬†in the past, but I’ve never truly appreciated it until recently. The action is like that of a saw, with a forward and back motion coming from the shoulders. Interestingly, I’ve¬†found this to be so much more¬†effective than¬†rollouts on the stability ball, for two¬†reasons:

  • Most notably, less complaints of back pain (provided you do them correctly).
  • There were some cases where my clients would have a tendency to use their triceps with stability ball rollouts.

You can easily progress this by going further back. But beware, this exercise is not for the faint of heart. You’ll really feel them in your abs.

It’s important to note that to execute this movement properly (and with most core exercises), you¬†have to brace your core and squeeze your glutes.

2. TRX Fallout

 

This is very much like an ab wheel rollout¬†because you’re essentially engaging your anterior core to resist extension. ¬†Although, I’m more partial to this exercise because not everyone has access to an ab wheel, and it’s a much easier set up. The good thing about the TRX Fallout is that it can be easily regressed or progressed by adjusting the length of the straps, and walking in front¬†or behind the anchor (attachment point).

To increase the difficulty, simply set up behind the anchor. To make it easier, set up in front of the anchor. Avoid excessive arching of the lower back by squeezing your glutes and bracing your core. It should be a straight line from your head to your feet.

3. Suitcase Carry

 

Generally, those with limited hip mobility¬†are folks that experience chronic lower back pain. A basic core exercise such as the side plank is a simple, yet effective way¬†to develop the lateral stabilizers ‚ÄĒ thus, reducing stiffness and/or pain of the lower back while improving hip mobility. To be honest though, side planks can be a bit boring.

To kick it up a notch, the suitcase carry¬†does a great job of working your lateral core and grip strength. Think of it as a loaded dynamic version of the side plank. You’re basically walking with a load¬†(preferably a kettlebell) in one hand.

The main objective here is to stay upright with no lean and keeping your shoulders leveled.

4. Shoulder Touch Push-ups

 

Integrating different push-up variations¬†are one of the best ways to strengthen your core. There’s a variety of ways you can go about it. ¬†For simplicity’s sake, though, we’ll cover Shoulder Touch Push-ups.¬†You’re killing two birds with one stone. Here’s why: there’s obviously a tremendous amount of anterior core engagement in the push-up position. Adding in a unilateral component¬†such as this in particular challenges core rotary stability. Put simply, it fries your core from two planes of motion ‚ÄĒ trust me, that’s a good thing.

If you want to make it harder, try performing it on a medicine ball.

5. Reverse Plank Walks

 

Traditionally, doing this in a forward fashion bothered some of my clients wrists, so a tidbit I picked up from Coach Ben Bruno was to do them in reverse. Adding a mini-band solves the issue of sagging and/or shifting of the hips, which maintains anterior core stress.

One way of making these harder is to deliberately make larger excursions as you move backwards.

 

 Conclusion

 

I’ve provided you with a couple¬†of my favorite core exercises. ¬†These movements will strengthen the muscles surrounding the hips and spine. Thus, allowing you to move and perform¬†better. While I’m of the belief that you can build a pretty solid core¬†with some good ol’ fashion heavy lifting, you still have to throw in some additional core work. Give each of them a try and let me know how it goes.

I’m happy to announce that I’m taking clients for my online fitness coaching. If you want to get stronger, build lean muscle, and decrease body fat, learn more about my coaching here. 

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Let’s face it, cardio is bone-numbingly tedious. There’s ample evidence that suggests long duration¬†of steady-state or low-intensity cardio leads to muscle loss. Simply put, it becomes counter-productive. Now, if we’re talking about having a positive impact on your performance and body composition, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution¬†than adding “finishers” to your workout ‚ÄĒ it does a fantastic job of building muscle, maximizing fat loss, and improving conditioning.

You’re basically increasing your energy expenditure at the end of your training session to elicit high levels of metabolic stress.

For the record, watching folks spend two hours on a treadmill drives me insanely nuts.

wtf

1. Sled Work

 

Sometimes you just need a good kick in the ass to toughen you up. Hence, the sled.

The vast majority can agree that¬†there’s really nothing more badass than moving¬†heavy weight on the sled. But… they’re brutal, and they also make you question your sanity (in a good way).

Push it. Pull It. Drag it. Move it.

 

2. Landmine Complexes

 

Just to be clear, I think traditional barbell complexes are absolutely fine. If you can do them, do them. Generally, though, I don’t like them because a lot of people royally screw it up, particularly beginners.¬†You also have to understand that the further you go into a fatigued state, one thing is constant ‚ÄĒ¬†your form will start to break down. That is why I’m more partial to setting up with the Landmine. They’re safer. Nuff’ said.

Try this:

  • Landmine Squat x 8
  • Landmine 1-Leg RDL x 8/leg
  • Landmine Deadlift x 8

Repeat for 3-4 sets.

 

 

3. Kettlebell Combos

 

While the sled is my favorite tool to use, the kettlebell would be a close second.  This piece of equipment is one of the most versatile tools you can have at your disposal.  As such, everybody should learn how to properly use them.

Option 1:

  • Kettlebell Swing x¬†12
  • Push-Ups x¬†8
  • Kettlebell Goblet Squat x¬†8
  • Push-Ups x 6

Repeat for 3-4 sets.

Option 2:

  • Kettlebell Swings x 20
  • Front Plank x 30 secs

Repeat for 3-4 sets.

Takeaway

 

Despite what you might’ve been told, cardio doesn’t have to be relegated into just countless hours of walking on the treadmill or elliptical. These are some of the simple protocols you can use to add some spice into your training, but also speed up your progress.

Speaking of which, I’m happy to announce that I’m taking clients for my online fitness coaching. If you¬†want to get stronger,¬†build lean muscle, and decrease body fat, learn more about my coaching here.¬†Follow the link and I’ll contact you as soon as possible to see how I can help.

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Now that the calendar has switched over another year, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing a lot more people in the gym.¬† By no means is this an attempt to downplay their attempt to get in shape. Far from it. In this post, I want to share some tidbits I’ve learned this past year. Here they are:

1. It doesn’t matter what training protocol you do. You can’t out-train a destructive lifestyle.

 

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Perhaps the biggest perk of regularly working out is that you can afford to have higher allotment of indulgence. Meaning, you get to drink and eat more. To that end, it’s amazing how naive we are to think that progress is made in the gym.¬† Regardless of the training method, all you’re doing is breaking your body down.¬† What you do outside is going to dictate your results. If you live for the weekends, you’re not going to get anything in return.¬† Yes¬†‚ÄĒ there are people who can get away with eating crap, and getting minimal rest. But there is a tipping point.

Good intentions and justifying yourself on social media doesn’t mean much. Consider the different elements in your lifestyle that are a hindrance. Work to gradually change them and in turn, you’ll maximize results in the gym.

2. Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean productivity.

 

essentialism

When I first started out as a trainer in a commercial gym, I did everything and anything to fill up my time slots. Early in the morning, sure thing. ¬†Late afternoon, you got it. However, the more I advanced and grew, I realized that I had to be more efficient with my time ‚ÄĒ especially now that I’m a business owner. Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism,¬†refers to this as discerning the vital few from the trivial many. To give context, you have to¬†recognize what’s important¬†‚ÄĒ and from there, you prioritize.

3. Prioritize single-leg work. You’re welcome.

 

Just to be clear, I’m not¬†against lower body bilateral training. ¬†In fact, I love the squat and deadlift. I’ve achieved a 315lb Front Squat, and a 405 Deadlift. Your body, however, takes a beating. There’s only so much load that it can tolerate before it starts to breakdown. So, why not split that load in half and do it one leg at a time. You still get a comparable training effect without imposing a ton of sheer force on the spine. You’d be surprised at just how much value focusing on single-leg work can bring.

4. All the training won’t matter if your diet royally sucks. (Get this through your head)

 

This ties in with the first point above. It’s a clear observation that completely disregarding the importance of proper nutrition is foolish, to say the least.¬† Look, I get it ‚ÄĒ it’s incredibly hard. But consider how many benefits have the potential to dramatically improve your physique and performance if your diet was on point. ¬†Understand that there is a trade-off and you have to exercise serious discipline (not restriction).

5. Being strong doesn’t mean jack sh**¬†if you move like a tin-can.

 

If you’re as strong as an ox, good on ya’. But if you can’t move well, you’re not going to be able to perform at a high level. Don’t be like the traitor from 300.¬† Maintain quality of movement by devoting at least 5-10 minutes on the foam roller in conjunction with your dynamic warm-up.

Trust me.

It’s much easier to maintain, than it is to regain it back.

300traitor

6. If you don’t like the way you look, do something about it.

 

We can’t all look like a bikini competitor, model, or physique athlete. But that shouldn’t stop you from training to improve your appearance. How you look is a testament to your health and vitality¬†‚ÄĒ take pride in it.

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