Although most people know they want six-pack abs, fewer know what their core really is.
Your abs are part of your core, but only the very front, most external portion of your torso. Realizing this, it should become apparent why only working your rectus abdominis (the muscles we recognize as a six-pack) won’t get you the results you want for performance or appearance.
Doing crunches or sit-ups alone to get a gorgeous torso is like working solely your biceps to get great arms.
In order to look great and perform well, you have to work your way the full 360 degrees around your middle, plus hit the layers underneath. Hard on the outside with a gooey center only sounds good when discussing dessert.
Before I give you some tips on achieving a toned, strong core I want to address the importance from a performance and injury-prevention standpoint.
Why your arms need your core:
Would you position a piece of heavy machinery atop a stability ball filled with jelly? Of course not; that would be ridiculous. Imagine the mess that would lead to. For the same reason, you can’t lift something heavy with a weak core, no matter how strong your arms are. Actually, you could, you’d just hurt yourself in the process.
Why your legs need your core:
Would you like to go on a run with a stability ball filled with jelly? Of course not; that would be ridiculous, as well as really uncomfortable.
See where I’m going with this? You can’t perform well with mush in the middle. I’ve never had a great idea that began with a stability ball filled with jelly – though I imagine it would be comfortable to sit on.
While I could go on with science and examples for all the “whys” out there, I imagine you clicked on this link to get to the how, so here goes.
Warning: This is an amazing core routine, but the exercises only work when done properly. I’ve linked to what I feel are good explanations, but please reach out for additional clarification.
- Work your back. The main purpose of your core is to support your spine, so start there and the rest of your body will thank you. My favorite ways to do this are with hip raises (50+), opposite arm and leg extensions (3 sets of 10 each side), and deadlifts (30+). Work toward single leg deadlifts for an added balance challenge that will demand even more from your core. Bonus – your glutes and hamstrings will also benefit from each of these.
- Work your internal and external obliques, along with your lats with the plank and row. This move will get results even starting from a modified side plank on your knees. Do 3 sets of 15 each side.
- Work your hip flexors, obliques, transverse abdominals (bonus pelvis and leg work to boot) with the pilates single leg circle. Take the leg in each direction 10x, then straight up and down 10x, then switch sides. Work up to 2 sets.
- Get your entire core working together alternating spider planks with plank jacks. Do 10 (5 each side) of the spiders, take a 30 second rest, then get back in plank and jack your feet out and in 10 times. Do 3-5 sets.
- Burn out with a weighted cross crunch. Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee with the foot on the floor to keep your low back in proper position; opposite arm of extended leg extended over your head with a small dumbbell. As you contract at your core, raise the extended leg and cross past it’s knee with the opposite extended arm and weight so you are crossing with a bit of a rotation. Do 2 sets of 15 each side.
Here’s a video so you can concisely see how each exercise is done: https://youtu.be/vVEHl7CE-5Y
While it’s hard for me to stop at just these exercises since there are so many great ones out there, these are some of the most efficient and safest, so I’m going to call it. Having said that, no core toning is going to cut through fat the way a comprehensive nutrition and exercise plan will. In order to reach your goal, these exercises should be utilized in conjunction with other cardiovascular and strengthening workouts, and a proper diet.
For all the people out there making excuses not to improve their health (we all find time for what’s important to us), today I want to focus on the people with the best of intentions who are making it harder than it has to be. I want to reach out to the amazing people who are making the effort, and make your lives a little easier.
To the person who wants to burn their fat off doing cardio before picking up weights to tone: Resistance and cardio go hand-in-hand and should be equally prioritized from the get-go. To get the most bang for your buck, do cardio within 24 hours of strength training. You’ll have after-burn from your strength training to add to the calories you burn while doing cardio. Plus, you need muscle to get your metabolism moving faster.
To the person who has always run, but it doesn’t seem to work like it use to: When you’re under 25, you keep your muscle mass whether you use it or not. Once you start to lose it, your metabolism slows down, and running doesn’t build muscle. Although running is great cardio, you need to add weights/resistance training as an adult in order to see the same results.
To the person waiting to plateau, or trying it on their own, before accessing more resources: If you can complete your journey faster by using all the tools out there for you at once, why not? Maintenance is way easier than initially reaching a goal. Take the easy road to the easy road. Besides, if you are fully capable of reaching your goals on your own, why are they constantly out of reach?
To the person cutting calories like crazy and not seeing results: If you don’t eat enough, your body goes into starvation mode and won’t let go of anything. You need fat, you need some carbs… you need to eat to lose weight.
Above all else, invest in yourself.
What do you spend on your hair? I know people who spend hundreds of dollars regularly on their hair, but think it’s wildly expensive to spend money on a personal trainer or nutrition plan. Why not spend money on the front end to make the best use of your time and energy? Healthcare is expensive; significantly more expensive than preventative maintenance. Unlike your hair, you don’t have to spend the same amount over and over again. Do it right once, and the upkeep becomes a tiny fraction of the initial investment.
What is your time worth? What is your health worth? What advice would you offer someone else in your situation? Keep that dedication, just make it more efficient.
Take those good intentions, and multiply them. You may find out you can eat more and workout less. Sounds nice, right?
As someone who works in the health and fitness industry, I’ve spent years discrediting diets and supplements. My motto has always been that you should stick with things that have a proven record and the least amount of manipulation. Eat things as close to their natural form as possible, and put in the work when it comes to exercise. There is not pill that will make you skinny without any side effects.
My reasoning for not supporting most supplements on the market is because they are not tested or regulated. No one can guarantee what you’re using or tell you exactly how to use it, so you’re swallowing a mystery, and most likely flushing your money down the toilet (literally and figuratively).
I still feel this way, but I support a company that makes supplements. Why?
Most people do not get everything they need from the foods they eat. In an ideal world, we would get everything directly from the source, but the reality is, we all have holes in our diets.
The first things that made me turn my head and look at Advocare differently were the people (who use it, who make it, and who are behind it), the testing processes, regulations, nutritional panel, long-standing history and time on the market, and the support provided along with the products.
I played devil’s advocate for a few months. I would email Advocare with questions and get on the phone with people, ready to discredit everything, and I was always pleasantly surprised at the responses. These people make things for olympic athletes, they’re a member of the council for responsible nutrition, they have an alliance with informed-choice, and they just really know their stuff. Every step and decision for the products and the company has been very intentional.
Could I find any negative reviews or stories of adverse reactions, of course. My take aways were that they were normal, one-off circumstances. Just like skin care products, anything potent enough to produce results could also produce an unwanted result if someone is sensitive to a particular ingredient. When ESPN and people like Dr. Oz, Mark Cinelli, Dr. Stanley Dudrick and Dr. Leanne Redman put themselves out there in the press and say they’re behind Advocare, I think it’s safe for little old me, with my blog and my fitness company, to put it out there, too!
The thing that sealed the deal for me was my own personal experience.
As someone who already walks the walk when it comes to making healthy choices, I didn’t know I had room to improve that didn’t require a truly drastic, unrealistic change. Besides, there is nothing harder to trim than the last few pounds. Anyone who has watched “The Biggest Loser” knows that the biggest contestants lose big numbers at each weigh-in. Once you get within several pounds of your goal, the weight comes off more slowly.
I didn’t use the products to lose weight, specifically. I was already happy with my body, but we’d been away from home for 3 months, and I felt like I needed to get back on track. Using the products as needed my energy soared, I dropped pounds I wasn’t even trying to drop, and overall have had an easier time maintaining my health and fitness.
When I began my journey as a distributor, it was to round-out my wellness business, and I assumed I would only sell it to clients – I steer away from selling to friends and family. As my journey continues, I can’t imagine not sharing this with everyone. If I can make anyone’s life easier, or make anyone healthier, wouldn’t the people I love be the first people I would want to help?
Advocare is a companion to your health that comes with a coach. Because you can’t buy it off a shelf, you can’t buy the products without someone explaining them to you. You buy a product, and you automatically get an education on how to use it. I know a lot more about nutrition and fitness than your average Joe, and my education and background comes with your product. That’s a bit better than just directions on a label, don’t you think?
Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, increase performance, gain energy, sleep better, or even go to the bathroom more easily (potty talk has become pretty normal…ha!), there is something here for you. Tell me how you would like to feel better. If I can help, I will; if I can’t, I’ll be honest. I don’t want to sell anyone anything they don’t want. I don’t like selling enough.
From the business side, there wasn’t any risk or a pyramid structure. There was simply an opportunity to get my products for less, and the potential to pay for my childcare while I train clients. For my family, it’s a win-win. Plus, unlike even the best Black Friday sale, people can choose to buy wholesale rather than retail.
It’s a way of life, and it works well in ours.
With all the workout options out there, it’s hard to decide which is best for you; especially since they all claim to be “the best.”
Yoga, Pilates, Crossfit, Zumba, mixed martial arts, running, swimming, body building, body pump, etc…. there is someone out there who swears by all of them, so what’s the answer?
There are two answers:
- All of them, but mixed up.
- Whichever one gets you moving.
Think of workout options like you think of eating. For all the healthy foods options, there isn’t one that you should eat exclusively. Ideally, you get a variety of foods AND workout styles. In my opinion, that’s the way to your best body.
Your body will thrive off the intensity, weights and plyometrics in Crossfit, the great sweat you get from dancing or running, the stretching, toning and meditation from yoga and Pilates, etc.
Some people release stress by hitting a bag or pounding the pavement, while others feel relief after gliding through the water during a swim.
Just as there are fad diets, there are fad workouts. There’s nothing wrong with trying them all, just be consistently active and kind to your body.
Answer #1 is my true number one pick for all bodies because it recognizes that, although you will see an initial change in your body by doing any of these full-on for the initial few weeks, keeping the pounds off is easiest when you crosstrain. Also, crosstraining guarantees you are ticking all the boxes to enhance your strength, cardio, flexibility, and, therefore, your overall physique.
Answer #2 is there to let you know that doing something is the most important thing. If you skip every body pump class because you hate weights, but will dance your butt off in Zumba 100% of the time, go to Zumba. Does your body need weights, absolutely, but, at the end of the day, the best workout for you is the one you’ll actually do.
True story: All of my mom-friends have amazing bodies.
Common denominator of moms with amazing bodies: pre-pregnancy fitness.
For years I’ve had clients tell me that their bodies went downhill after having babies. It was the ultimate excuse for being overweight and unfit. I never debated this because I’d never been in their shoes… until now.
Yes, pregnancy does a number on your body, and babies aren’t exactly respectful of a workout schedule; however, it’s not “over” after babies.
If you were always thin without having to workout, then had a baby and lost your physique, it’s because the lack of muscle on your body before you got pregnant was exacerbated by pregnancy, and lean muscle mass is what determines the rate of our metabolism as we age. You were thin, but you were also “skinny fat.” Skinny fat means that you’re small, but you’re also soft – lacking muscle tone. I’m not trying to be insulting. In fact, at times I’ve been jealous of you for the days you were slender without trying.
If you know you want to get pregnant, the best thing to do is start a fitness routine before you conceive.
Pregnancy exercise maintenance doesn’t have to be difficult. I mostly walked, with some pushups, planks and glute bridges thrown in a few times a week. When I say I walked, I mean I walked 2.5 miles almost daily up until I gave birth (at which point it was more a waddle). Plenty of people do more than I did, but I want to point out that I wasn’t hitting boot camp all the time, and it still made a difference. Plus, it made me feel good and helped with pregnancy symptoms.
I understand that being bed-ridden, and having a desk job, can make exercise difficult. All I’m saying is, if you’re physically able to keep moving and can find even 10 minutes a day, you will have an easier time ditching the extra weight postpartum.
Another common denominator between the moms I know who’ve gotten their bodies back quickly is that they are all breastfeeding. Breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink your uterus; although, you also have to take in more calories when breastfeeding, so it’s not the only reason these moms are svelte. Again, I recognize not everyone is able to breastfeed, and some choose not to. I’m not criticizing, I’m simply supplying information based on experience.
What I’ve done: After more than 20 hours of labor, I had to have a c-section, so I wasn’t released to exercise until 8 weeks postpartum. At 2 weeks, I started taking easy walks. Since I was cleared, I’ve mostly focused on baby, and haven’t really pushed myself yet. I do pilates leg circles, planks, supermans, pelvic tilts, pushups, glute bridges, and reverse flys about 4 times a week, in addition to walking daily – with the occasional light jog or hike.
My advice is, take your time, but still make time. It took you 9 months to completely jack your body so it could be an incubator for your little nugget, so allow yourself that same amount of time to get back in shape. We aren’t all celebrities with nannies and trainers, and your priorities should be your own health, and a healthy baby, before you get worked up about getting back in your skinny jeans.
Pre-pregnancy, I was really hard on myself about my physique. Postpartum, I find I’m actually kinder to myself because I have so much pride in what my body has accomplished. Rather than using my baby as an excuse, I prefer to look at my post-baby body as a badge of honor. I look like this AND I have a baby. I’m 3 1/2 months postpartum, and I’m not where I want to be yet, but I feel pretty darn proud, just the same.
Pregnant and tired? It’s no wonder. While pregnant, your body is in a constant state of low-level exercise, even while you’re at rest. While this information should be considered when choosing the appropriate fitness demands during gestation, it does not mean that you should cease to exercise and eat whatever you want while you’re pregnant. (Sorry to burst your bubble.)
For a long time, pregnancy women were thought of as weak and fragile state. Anyone who knows what labor is should throw the words “weak” and “fragile” out the window for fear of appearing an idiot and being drop-kicked by the nearest mama-bear. In reality, while everyone else is just sitting there, you’re making another human. Walk your badass self outside and throw a truck or something.
Potential benefits of a moderate-intensity fitness regime while pregnant far outweigh the risks, but there is no one-size-fits-all program since each person is at a different level of fitness prior to becoming pregnant.
There is only one major difference between what I ask of a normal client vs a pregnant client. I ask normal clients to push-through pain and give more than their bodies naturally would. Pushing through goes out the window once a client is training for two. You don’t have to scale back drastically, but you should consider what I said at the start about your body being in a constant state of low-level exercise. Put on the brakes at moderate, rather than advanced intensity.
Another consideration is that of your joints. With high relaxin and progesterone levels coursing through your body, your joints are softer, and at greater risk of injury that you might not be aware of until they harden back up postpartum. There are enough exercise options that do not impact your joints that I recommend swapping out plyometrics and running for safer choices. To be clear, I do not draw a hard-line on this since you aren’t going to “shake the baby loose” or some other silly, mythical danger. The issue is that you are carrying more weight on less stable joints.
Speaking of joint stability, a great way to support your joints is to continue resistance training. In addition to supporting your joints, resistance training will keep your lean muscle mass up and help you manage your weight both antepartum and postpartum, and you’ll also need those muscles so you can carry around your bundle of joy. The only concern here is to avoid straining, which goes back to my main piece of advice about not pushing through.
Finally, whether you plan to exercise or not during your pregnancy, I ask that you remain aware of your posture. Extra weight is pulling your body unnaturally and, combined with softer joints, it can lead to discomfort during and after pregnancy. Take care to keep your shoulders back, hold your head high – not forward, and don’t over-arch your back even as your belly works to pull it forward. You’re growing a person. Walk with pride!
Respect your body, listen to your body, and continue to take care of your body as you normally would, and as you hope your child will when it’s up to him/her. It’s no longer only about shaping you. You’re shaping another person, and that person is counting on you. No pressure.