My Favorite Crunchless Ab Exercises

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you probably know that I do NOT enjoy training abs. Actually, I have to say that I pretty much HATE ab exercises-they are most definitely my least favorite muscle group to train.
But it IS important to have strong abdominals and core, so it has to be done. However, that does not mean you have to do hundred of crunches-there are more effective ways to strengthen your abs.

The exercises listed here will give you a bigger bang for your buck than crunches, since you’ll be working not just your core but other muscle groups as well.  Here are my favorites:


1)Ab wheel or ball rollouts-This is probably my favorite abdominal exercise, and it always gets me sore! Make sure to keep your abs tight, rib cage down, and hips slightly tucked under.

 

2)Hanging leg raises- I’d have to say that these are my least favorite(because they are hard!) but one of the most effective. If you do them from a bar, you get the added benefit of working your grip and upper back at the same time, but they are extremely challenging. I try to bring my toes all the way up to the bar without swinging. If you can’t do that, you can just hang from the bar and tuck your knees up as far as you can, or use the machine most gyms have to support your arms. Make sure that when doing this you aren’t just raising your legs up, otherwise you’re just working your hip flexors. You want to actually curl your hips up, like you’re trying to bring your belly button and ribcage together.

3)Farmer’s walks and overhead carries- Carrying heavy dumbbells at your sides or holding a dumbbell overhead really forces your abs to work. I like to do these as finishers to an upper or lower body workout. You can even try doing them off-set, with two different weights in each hand to challenge the core even more. They are a great grip and upper back exercise as well.

4)Plank crossovers-In a pushup position, slowly bring one knee up across your body to the opposite elbow, hold for a second and switch.  I use these often with my clients. Make sure to do them slow and controlled, and don’t like the hips pike up or sag down.

 

5)L-sit holds and modified front levers-It has been a goal of mine to one day be able to do a front lever. For now, I just do a modified version with knees tucked in, but even that is a super challenging core, grip and lat exercise.  SO much harder than it looks! L-sits are another great core exercise to incorporate into your workouts. I do a few sets of L-sits or front levers at the end of a workout or between exercises for a 10-15 second hold. You will feel the burn!

PhotoGrid_1458755321360

6)TRX or exercise ball pikes- In a pushup position with your feet in TRX straps or on an exercise ball, use your abs to bring your hips up towards the ceiling with your legs straight until your hips are over your shoulders.  If this is too challenging, you can just tuck your knees in to your chest.

I don’t do them much myself, but you can also do planks and all the variations of planks there are, as well as Pallof presses. And don’t forget that just heavy lifting in general works your core as well. I don’t necessarily think crunches are horrible, but you do NOT have to do them to get great abs.

goodd2

How I’m Getting Bikini Ready!  

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to get lean! Isn’t that what everyone is going to be striving for in the next few months? Well, here is what I will be doing to get bikini ready:

*Lift heavy 4 times per week
*Eat healthy consistently
*One “free/treat meal” per week
*Walk a few times a week

Okay, okay…I kind of  tricked you….it’s the same exact thing I do all year. Sorry to burst your bubbles. 😉

 

You see, my goal is to be bikini ready all year round! I train hard and eat clean consistently so that I DON’T have to go on a strict “diet” or do some quick fix thing to get “in shape” for summer.  For me, winter is not an excuse to eat like crap and let myself gain 20lbs or skimp on my workouts just because I’m not going to be seen in a bikini or up on a competition stage.

 

I get the concept, but I’ve never been a fan of the whole “bulking/cutting” thing, especially when there are huge weight fluctuations. I do, however, think there are times to be strict with your diet and then times to just relax and be a little less strict. If I really wanted to “tighten up” a little more, there are a few tweaks I would make to my training and nutrition, but the changes would be minimal.

Take the slow road – don’t be the guy “bulking” and “cutting” and “dieting.” All of these things fail. It’s about a lifestyle. -Jim Wendler

My goal is never to feel like I’m on a diet and for my training to never be a means to an end-just something I do to get get leaner. Yeah, I want to look the best I can, but it’s not only about that. That’s why I enjoy working out so much and very rarely skip workouts or lose my motivation. Because working out is so ingrained in me, because it’s just a part of my life, it’s not something I have to convince myself to do. Yeah, there are times when I don’t “feel like” working out, but I do it anyway because I know that I always end up glad that I did.

I also want to point out that to me, being “bikini ready” isn’t about getting to 10% bodyfat or having ripped abs all the time. It’s being confident of the body you’re in, wherever you’re at in your fitness journey. It’s being proud of what you’ve created through your hard work and dedication and recognizing how far you’ve come.

For me personally, I’ve realized that there comes a point when I have to stop the craziness and be satisfied with myself. I’ve come to accept that I’m not going to have a 6 pack or ever have the perfect body. I will always hate my love handles, my narrow hips, and my skinny legs, but overall I am confident about the way I look!  And you can be, too! Remember, confidence is the best thing you can wear. 😉

So train hard, be consistent, and stop with the dieting and quick fixes if  you want to be in the this for long run.

Protein “Sludge” – A Delicious Bedtime Snack!

This is by far the most delicious concoction I have ever made with a protein powder. I used to chug down a shake every night…but no more. It’s much more fun to EAT your protein powder! Plus, it seriously tastes like you’re eating something “bad” it’s that good.

I usually have this as a bedtime snack, but it would be good for whenever you need a protein meal or snack. I like having a protein and fat source before bed every night, but that’s just me.You do need to make this ahead of time though, so that it will thicken up and become the perfect “sludgy” consistency!

Keep in mind that I have only used MuscleTech’s Micellar Whey protein and their chocolate Platinum Whey protein for this-and both work great. I am not sure how other protein powders would taste, so just keep that in mind. If it doesn’t taste amazing-you need a new protein powder!

Here’s the directions:

1-1 1/2 scoop protein powder(both chocolate and vanilla taste great!)

1 tablespoon creamy natural peanut butter

Optional: Sugar free pancake syrup or chocolate syrup

Water or almond milk

Combine the protein, peanut butter and water(or milk) until you achieve a pudding consistency. Make sure that you add the liquid a LITTLE AT A TIME so that you don’t use too much! Once it is mixed well, cover it with some plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. After that, take it out of the freezer and place it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Enjoy!

Not Your Average Arm Workout

Summer is right around the corner, which means tank top season! For some, that’s great news…but for others…not so much. I know that many women don’t look forward to wearing tank tops because they’re self conscious about way their arms look.

Every woman wants to have lean, toned arms. That’s why you’ll so often see women in the gym doing endless tricep kickbacks with 5 pound weights trying to work off the back of the arm “jiggle”. The thing is, that just doesn’t work.

If you want awesome arms to show off in a tank top, endless reps of bicep curls and tricep extensions with 5 pound weights isn’t gonna cut it. You need to lift heavy. Anyone you see with super defined arms has spent time with the weights-and I don’t mean the pink ones.

You will get MUCH more bang for your buck by focusing on heavy, compound rowing and pressing movements than you will from isolating the biceps and triceps with a bunch of light weight exercises. All rowing and pressing movements(think pushups and pullups) work the biceps and triceps, but they allow you to move a much heavier amount of weight than isolation exercises. More weight equals more muscle. And more muscle equals more definition. You can’t have definition without muscle!

There really is no reason to go to the gym and have an “arm day”-especially if you’re just an average gal who wants to look good in a tank top, not a bodybuilder trying to develop their biceps peak. Most people would do just fine with workouts that work all the major muscles of the upper body, rather than just focusing on one or two muscle groups at a time.

Here is a sample upper body workout:

EXERCISE SETS REPS
1)Neutral grip pullups* 4 4-8
2)Dumbbell push press 4 6-8
3a)Close grip pushups** 3 10-12
3b)Palms facing up inverted rows 3 10-12
4a)Plank pushup 3 6-8/arm
4b)Hammer curls 3 10-12
*Use assisted machine or bands if necessary

**Elevate upper body if needed

See how I actually did include bicep curls in the workout? The thing is, isolation work is fine to do as long as you’re doing your heavy lifts FIRST. You can get awesome arms without doing a single bicep curl, but hey, if  you want to hit those biceps a little more, go ahead and do some curls!

If your goal is to have toned arms, you can’t be afraid to lift heavy weights. Combine that with a healthy nutrition plan to help you lose fat, along with time and consistency, and you’ll be proud to show off those arms this summer!

  Five High Intensity Techniques To Take Your Workouts To The Next Level

When you first begin lifting weights, your focus should be on progressively overloading the muscles using the basic, compound lifts. There is really no need to get all “fancy” with exercises, advanced techniques or repetition ranges.  Basically,  as you get stronger, just keep adding more weight to the bar.

The longer you’ve been training, however,  there will come a point when just adding more weight ain’t gonna cut it. You may hit a plateau and notice that the strength and muscle gains come much more slowly than they did in the beginning. This is when you know it’s time to get a little more strategic and begin incorporating the use of more advanced lifting techniques into your training to take it to the next level.

If you are looking to add some intensity to your workouts, here are five techniques to try:

Rest pause:

On your last working set, perform as many reps as you can just short of failure. Rest for 10-20 seconds, then perform as many more reps as you can get. Rest another 10-20 seconds, and continue doing more reps until you reach failure.

Drop sets:

This is a tried and true method that has been used by bodybuilders for years. You simply perform a certain number of reps just short of failure, then drop the weight by 10-30% and continue repping out until you reach failure. This is best done on your last set or two of an exercise, for no more than one or two exercises in a single workout.

Density training:

Density training is a technique used to increase the amount of work done in a certain amount of time. For example, choose 2-3 exercises for opposing muscle groups, using a weight that is equivalent to your 10 rep max. You will alternate exercises, performing 5-6 repetitions of each, for as many sets as you can get in a set amount of time, anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. The goal for each workout is to keep track of your total number of reps, and try to improve upon that each workout.

For example: alternate between dumbbell chest presses and lat pulldowns, performing 6 reps of each, for as many sets as you can get in 10 minutes.

Partial reps:

On your last set or two of an exercise after you’ve come close to failure, continue doing a few more reps in only one half of the range of motion. Partial reps are great for bodyweight exercises, such as pull-ups and pushups, but can also be used with dumbbell and barbell exercises as well.

Cluster sets:

Cluster  training is a way to get in more repetitions with a heavy weight in a single set by incorporating the use of 10-20 second pauses. For example: for a hypertrophy focus, choose a weight that is your 8 rep max. Perform 4 repetitions, then rack the bar and rest for 10-20 seconds. Perform 4 more reps. Re-rack and rest for 10-20 seconds, and then perform another 4 reps. That is one set. Rest  3-5 minutes between sets. The best exercises to use for cluster sets are barbell movements, such as squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts.

Remember, these are advanced techniques and should be used sparingly. There is no need to use ALL of these methods in one workout or on every single exercise-just pick one or two to try for a few weeks on one or two exercises. Train hard, but don’t forget to train smart!

Every workout doesn’t have to leave you shaking and crawling on the floor, but there are times to up the intensity a bit, whether it’s to bust through a plateau, bring up a lagging body part, or just add a new challenge to  your workouts. Give it a try!