Tag Archives: core exercises

6 Ways to Sculpt Your Abs

19 Jul

Everyone wants a lean, muscular physique and six-pack abs.  And, although there are lots of people and products making lots of promises, you can do all the abs exercises you want but, until you lose that layer of fat covering your midsection, the only thing you’ll accomplish is strengthening the muscles hidden beneath the fat.

Here are 6 tips to help reveal your abs:

  1. Burn fat.  Doing lots of abs exercises won’t help you lose fat (I once read that it takes 250.000 crunches to burn one pound of fat!).  To lose fat, you’ll need total-body strength training, a certain type of cardio called interval training, and a diet that is consistent with your goals.
  2. Lift weights.  Every time you exercise, you should aim to work every major muscle group.  Research shows that the metabolic impact of strength training persists for up to 48 hours, post-workout.  The more lean muscle you build, the greater the number of calories you burn, at rest.
  3. Keep moving.  Turn your strength training workout into a metabolic circuit by minimizing rest intervals between sets.  Alternate between upper- and lower-body exercises, or push-pull exercises.  Increase the intensity even more by mixing in cardio exercises like step-ups, jumping jacks, running in place, or jumping rope.
  4. Work your entire core.  Don’t limit your focus to your abs.  Find exercises that work your entire core, from shoulders to hips.  We really like to incorporate planks – 4-point, 3-point, side, and several other variations – into our core work.  Rotational exercises, using kettlebells and medicine balls, tend to be higher-intensity and are also effective core exercises.
  5. Add intervals.  As discussed in a previous article, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to burn fat.  HIIT involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  HIIT works equally well, whether the type of exercise is resistance/strength training or cardio.  The key is to go hard during the high-intensity portion of the interval, and keep moving, even during the low-intensity portion of the interval.
  6. Eat smart.  If you really want to get a ripped six-pack, doing the right abs exercises is only part of the equation.  Avoid (or, at least minimize) foods like white grains, pasta, fruit juices, and other processed, high-sugar foods. Ultimately, excess blood sugar gets stored as fat.  Make sure your carbs are whole grain and high-fiber.  Increase your protein consumption by eating more lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish), eggs, and dairy (milk, Greek yogurt), and add a daily protein shake to your diet.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes

17 Mar

Here’s a nice resource from our friends at ASD Performance titled, 4 Biggest Strength Training Mistakes.  It’s a good overview for athletes, active individuals, and Strength & Conditioning professionals.

Mistake 1: Focusing too heavily on assistance exercises

Focus on the the core (main) lifts – the ones that activate your largest muscle groups – like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses (there are lots of others).  These exercises are functional (they will improve the way you feel, function, and perform) and yield a high return on your exercise “investment.”  Think of assistance exercises – like biceps curls – as supplemental exercises.  It’s okay to incorporate them into your workout as long as they’re not the primary focus.

Mistake 2: Not addressing weak points

Everyone has strengths and areas for improvement.  It’s easy to avoid exercises you don’t like or exercises that focus on your weak areas.  Not addressing your weak points can lead to functional strength imbalances and an increased risk of injury.  Recognize your weak(er) areas and incorporate exercises that will help turn them into strengths or, at the very least, decrease the disparity between your strengths and weaknesses.

Mistake 3: Skipping the deload phase

Like our friends at ASD Performance, we also refer to deloading/unloading as “active recovery.”  There are lots of different – evidence-based and effective – theories and strategies for the active recovery phase.  The basic concept is this: You shouldn’t train with heavy weight, high intensity, high frequency, and high volume, all the time.  Your recovery phase is crucial to maximize short- and long-term gains, as well as overall physical well-being.  Every so often – and at regular intervals – you should decrease your training intensity, frequency, and volume for some finite period of time (e.g., the last week of each three-month cycle).

Mistake 4: Light weight with too many reps

This strategy may work well for your short-term, active recovery phase but, if you want to get stronger and more powerful, you’ve got to train heavy with low repetitions.  This means working with loads of about 80%-90% of your one-rep max (1 RM) at a rep range of about 3-6 reps per set, while maintaining proper technique.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Work Your Core, Not Just Your Abs

25 Apr

theplankmain[1]When most people hear “core,” they think “abs.”  Actually, your core includes the muscles of your torso — shoulders through hips (deltoids, abdominals, gluteals, and lumbar spine).  These muscles initiate, generate, and resist movement (running, jumping, hitting, and throwing), strength, and power.  If you’re not strong through your core, it won’t matter how strong the muscles of your arms and legs are, because you just can’t compensate for a weak core.

Exercises that integrate your entire core elicit greater muscle activation than exercises that isolate the abs.  There are lots of exercises that target the muscles of the core, but not all core exercises elicit significant activation in a way that enhances functional gains and peak performance.

Benefits of exercises that active your core musculature include:

  • maximize strength
  • improve endurance
  • enhance stability
  • reduce injury
  • maintain mobility

Here are some core exercises that will help you maximize strength,improve muscular endurance, and reduce injury:

  • Plank (4-point, 3-point, 2-point)
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Medicine Ball Toe Touch
  • Swiss Ball Leg Raise

Rotational exercises, like the one’s listed below, help to strengthen the core through all 3 planes of motion:

  • Russian Twist
  • Lateral Medicine Ball Slams and Throws
  • Kettlebell Woodchopper and Corkscrew

Anti-Rotational exercises — those for which you move your arms and shoulders laterally but do not rotate your hips (for example, the Russian Twist – Bench Holding Stability Ball) — are still another way to effectively strengthen your core.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strengthen Your Core and Legs to Throw Harder

31 Aug

It may seem counter-intuitive, but ball speed relies on lower-body power, according to an Ohio State study.

There’s nothing new about this information, and the rationale is pretty simple:  Pitchers who throw hardest put more force into the ground.

“A strong, stable core helps transfer energy through your hips and up your trunk to your arm,” says lead study author, Mike McNally, CSCS.

Lower-body exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, glute-ham raises, and Romanian Deadlifts are great for strengthening your hips and legs; while plyometric training can add explosive power.

A recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research article also supports medicine ball training — throws and slams — as another effective way to improve throwing velocity.

Since medicine ball throws and slams, performed properly, require considerable core and lower-body engagement and activation, these exercises are an ideal complement for athletes wanting to improve throwing velocity.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strengthen Your Core With This Workout

2 Jan

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Swiss Ball Plank

A good core workout should work your entire core (and not just your abs) — front, sides, and back; shoulders through hips — and improve core strength and stability.

Here’s a core workout that’s a favorite of many of the athletes that train at our facility:

You can incorporate this circuit into your workout, or make it a “stand alone” workout by performing each exercise multiple times.  Increase the difficulty/intensity of the workout by adding resistance (bands, weight plates, etc.) to body-weight exercises; progressively increasing weight and/or repetitions; or adding time to the plank.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

6 Ways to Sculpt Your Abs

5 Mar

abs%20man%20and%20woman[1]Everyone wants a lean, muscular physique and six-pack abs.  And, although there are lots of people and products making lots of promises, you can do all the abs exercises you want but, until you lose that layer of fat covering your midsection, the only thing you’ll accomplish is strengthening the muscles hidden beneath the fat.

Here are 6 tips to help reveal your abs:

  1. Burn fat.  Doing lots of abs exercises won’t help you lose fat (I once read that it takes 250.000 crunches to burn one pound of fat!).  To lose fat, you’ll need total-body strength training, a certain type of cardio called interval training, and a diet that is consistent with your goals.
  2. Lift weights.  Every time you exercise, you should aim to work every major muscle group.  Research shows that the metabolic impact of strength training persists for up to 48 hours, post-workout.  The more lean muscle you build, the greater the number of calories you burn, at rest.
  3. Keep moving.  Turn your strength training workout into a metabolic circuit by minimizing rest intervals between sets.  Alternate between upper- and lower-body exercises, or push-pull exercises.  Increase the intensity even more by mixing in cardio exercises like step-ups, jumping jacks, running in place, or jumping rope.
  4. Work your entire core.  Don’t limit your focus to your abs.  Find exercises that work your entire core, from shoulders to hips.  We really like to incorporate planks – 4-point, 3-point, side, and several other variations – into our core work.  Rotational exercises, using kettlebells and medicine balls, tend to be higher-intensity and are also effective core exercises.
  5. Add intervals.  As discussed in a previous article, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to burn fat.  HIIT involves alternating intervals of high- and low-intensity activity.  HIIT works equally well, whether the type of exercise is resistance/strength training or cardio.  The key is to go hard during the high-intensity portion of the interval, and keep moving, even during the low-intensity portion of the interval.
  6. Eat smart.  If you really want to get a ripped six-pack, doing the right abs exercises is only part of the equation.  Avoid (or, at least minimize) foods like white grains, pasta, fruit juices, and other processed, high-sugar foods. Ultimately, excess blood sugar gets stored as fat.  Make sure your carbs are whole grain and high-fiber.  Increase your protein consumption by eating more lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish), eggs, and dairy (milk, Greek yogurt), and add a daily protein shake to your diet..

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Work Your Core, Not Just Your Abs

29 Mar

theplankmain[1]When most people hear “core,” they think “abs.”  Actually, your core includes the muscles of your torso — shoulders through hips (deltoids, abdominals, gluteals, and lumbar spine).  These muscles initiate and generate movement (running, jumping, hitting, and throwing), strength, and power.  If you’re not strong through your core, it won’t matter how strong the muscles of your arms and legs are, because you just can’t compensate for a weak core.

Exercises that integrate your entire core elicit greater muscle activation than exercises that isolate the abs.  There are lots of exercises that target the muscles of the core, but not all core exercises elicit significant activation in a way that enhances functional gains and peak performance.

Benefits of exercises that active your core musculature include:

  • maximize strength
  • improve endurance
  • enhance stability
  • reduce injury
  • maintain mobility

Here are some core exercises that will help you maximize strength, improve muscular endurance, and reduce injury:

  • Plank (4-point, 3-point, 2-point)
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Medicine Ball Toe Touch
  • Swiss Ball Leg Raise

Rotational exercises, like the one’s listed below, help to strengthen the core through all 3 planes of motion:

  • Russian Twist
  • Lateral Medicine Ball Slams and Throws
  • Kettlebell Woodchopper and Corkscrew

Anti-Rotational exercises — those for which you move your arms and shoulders laterally but do not rotate your hips (for example, the Russian Twist – Bench Holding Stability Ball) — are still another way to effectively strengthen your core.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Get Stronger with Body-Weight Training

5 Nov

When it comes to Strength training, you don’t need machines and equipment to be productive.  At ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE TRAINING CENTER, we incorporate body-weight exercises into virtually every workout.  Most body-weight exercises are inherently multi-joint, and activate multiple muscle groups in the process.  This is preferable to using machines that “lock” you into single-joint exercises that limit your range of motion and isolate specific muscles (although this approach has its place, situationally).  You can further increase the degree of difficulty by adding an element of instability to your body weight exercises.  Once you master technique, try adding an unstable surface like an Airex Balance Pad or BOSU Ball.  Below are some examples of body-weight exercises you can add to your workout:

Lower-Body

  • Squat:  Observe proper form (chin up; back straight; lower and push through heels) and squat as deeply as you can.  Pause for a second (and gradually increase time) in “down” position.
  • Single-Leg Squat:  Facing away from a chair or bench, elevate one leg and lower into sitting position and pause.  Push back to standing position with “ground” foot.
  • Split Squat:  Assume split stance – one leg forward, one leg back.  Lower back knee toward (but not touching) ground.  When in down position, both knees should be at right angles.
  • Bulgarian Split Squat:  This is a split squat performed with your rear leg elevated, back foot resting on a chair or bench.  Front foot should be 3-4 foot-lengths from back foot.

Upper-Body

  • Pushup:  There are more variations of this exercise than I can list in one blog post.  The biggest mistake I see involves range-of-motion – lower your chest all the way to the ground.  Instability (one or both arms, and or legs – see photo) is the key to making this exercise more challenging.
  • Chinup/Pullup:  A must-do!  If you can’t yet do them on your own, get a spot (assisted) or do “negatives” (start in up position and slowly lower yourself to a 4-second count).  Add variety by changing grips.
  • Dip:  Beginners can do this exercise on a bench.  More advanced individuals should use dip bars with feet suspended.

Core

Power

  • Squat Jump:  This exercise can also be done single-leg or with a split stance.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Develop Your Core to Improve Athletic Performance

29 Oct

It’s important to incorporate core (multi-joint) exercises into your Strength and Conditioning plan.  When some people hear core, they think abs.  Your core actually includes shoulders, chest, back, hips, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.  These are your body’s largest and strongest muscles; the muscles that initiate and generate strength and power for virtually every sport.  It won’t matter how strong muscles like your biceps, triceps, and calves are if you don’t have a strong core.

Train Movements, Not Muscles

All athletic movements incorporate the core in some way.   Very few muscle groups are isolated; the whole body works as a unit.  Core strength training should reflect the movement patterns of the athlete’s sport(s).  Benefits of core strength training include:

  • Greater efficiency of (functional) movement
  • Improved balance and stability
  • Increased strength and power output from both the core musculature and peripheral muscles such as the shoulders, arms, and legs
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved athletic performance

Resistance Training Exercises

There are lots of exercises athletes can do to strengthen the muscles of the core.  Some of the most effective are exercises like the Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift (RDL), Squat, Bench Press, and Row.  Unilateral variations of these exercises (single-arm, single-leg) are also beneficial because of the way they incorporate balance and stability, making them very functional.

Do It Right

Proper technique can make every exercise more effective and reduce the risk of injury.  If you’re just starting, it’s wise to enlist the help of an experienced, qualified Strength and Conditioning professional.  Even if you’re not a strength training novice, working with a professional can focus your efforts and help you be more efficient and productive en route to reaching and exceeding your athletic performance goals.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Resistance Training, Part 2: Exercise Selection

1 Oct

Exercise selection involves choosing exercises for a resistance training program.  The Strength and Conditioning professional must understand and apply several factors to the design of a resistance training program, including types of exercises, demands of the sport, the athlete’s exercise technique proficiency, and available training resources (equipment, time, etc.).

There are literally hundreds of resistance exercises to choose from, using a variety of equipment, when designing a resistance training program:

  • Core exercises recruit large muscles (chest, shoulders, back, hip, or thigh) and involve two or more primary joints (multi-joint exercises).  Core exercises often have direct application to athletic performance.
  • Single-joint exercises usually recruit smaller muscles (arms, lower legs, etc.) and are considered less important to improving athletic performance.
  • Injury prevention exercises (for example, shoulder exercises for pitchers) are important because they develop muscles that are predisposed to injury from the unique demands of the sport.  These exercises often isolate a specific muscle or muscle group.
  • Structural exercises, which emphasize loading the spine directly (barbell back squat) involve muscular stabilization and strength.
  • Power exercises are structural exercises that are performed explosively, like Olympic lifts (power clean).
  • Sport-specific exercises correlate the training activity with the actual sport movement, increasing the likelihood that there will be a positive transfer to that sport.  For basketball and volleyball players, the power clean is a good choice because it’s specific to jumping.

Exercises chosen for the specific demands of the sport should maintain a balance of muscular strength across joints and between opposing muscle groups.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we employ agonist-antagonist paired sets (for example, pairing a quadriceps exercise with a hamstring exercise) in our Strength training.  In addition to Strength development, this approach has been documented to help reduce the incidence of injuries.

The exercises selected for a resistance training program should reflect the demands and characteristics of the sport.  Exercises should be similar to the movement patterns and ranges of motion, and involve similar muscles (and muscle groups) as the sport.  The program design should also emphasize balance to reduce risk of injury.

Proper exercise technique should be observed and evaluated for all athletes.  If the athlete is incapable of performing an exercise with correct technique, the Strength and Conditioning professional should provide thorough instruction and demonstration.

Obviously, exercise selection will be dependent upon the availability of resistance training equipment.  Additionally, the Strength and Conditioning professional must weigh the value of certain exercises against the time it takes to perform them, given the available time for a training session.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Next: Training Frequency

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