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5 Non-Crunch Ways to Build Your Core (and Not Kill Your Neck)

forearm plank

I don’t like crunches. They hurt my neck. No matter how hard I focus on keeping my eyes up and my chin off my chest, I still feel my neck is getting more of a workout than my abs.

That’s why crunches don’t appear often in my (or my clients’) workouts. I don’t ignore the core however. It is the foundation of our body and functional movement. I just choose to train it other ways.

There are plenty of non-crunch techniques to help you develop your core. If you have low back issues or simply don’t want a pain in the neck, try one of these ways to build a strong and stable core.

1. Planks: I love ab holds and high planks, but they can get boring after awhile. Once a client can maintain an ab hold for 60 seconds, I move on to more challenging plank variations. To take your plank to the next level, try one of these.

  • Stability ball plank: Place your forearms on a stability ball and toes on the ground. Hold for up to 90 seconds.
  • Plank slides: I love Valslides for core work! Place one Valslide under each hand while in high plank position. Alternating pushing arms forward and back, about 6 inches away from your body, for 12 reps per side.
  • Body Saw: Take your plank to a new level by keeping your forearms on the ground but place your feet in suspension trainers that are hanging about 10 – 12 inches from the ground. Move forward and back for 10-15 repetitions.
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Heather Martinez Walked, Boxed and Kicked Off 185 Pounds

Heather Martinez spent many years adapting to her weight gain instead of addressing it. Heavy since elementary school, she remembers not being able to participate in sports or other activities. She admits she would eat her lunch and then eat what was left of her friend’s lunch too. After school she chose fattening snacks like cookies, chips and candy. Her weight struggle progressed through junior high and high school, eventually reaching 326 pounds.

heather martinez collage

Today, Heather is 185 thinner and has maintained the loss for several years. She wants her story to inspire others saying, “You can begin to live healthier at any point in your life. You have the power to change at any moment.”

More from Heather in her own words -

What habits specifically led you to gain weight? There were multiple factors that led me to gain weight: Eating the wrong foods, eating large quantities of food at one time, not eating vegetables and fruits and constant snacking on unhealthy options.

What caused you to realize you needed to change? I knew I needed to make a change when I began choking in my sleep. Another turning point was when I could no longer fit into a restaurant booth or a movie theater seat. The final straw came when I visited my favorite clothing store and realized I could not fit into the biggest size they offered.

How did you lose the weight? I started walking around my parent’s pool. I was so obese that I could only walk for 3 minutes and I would be out of breath. Other tactics I used included cutting out all fast food and sweets, keeping a food journal and scheduling workouts in a calendar.

What diet and exercise methods did you employ? I incorporated healthy options into my diet such as baked chicken and fish, protein shakes, nuts, avocados fruits and vegetables. At first, my exercise routine included walking and lifting weights, but as I began to lose more weight, I added boot camps, boxing, Turbo kick and body combat classes to my program.


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Floyd Mayweather Stays on Top by Training Like a Champion

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is unquestionably one of the best boxers in the sport. On September 14, he won a match against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, bringing his record to a staggering 45-0. In the case of Mayweather and many other top athletes, success all comes down to training. If you want to start training like a boxer, try these tips from Biggest Loser trainer Dolvett Quince, “take kickboxing lessons and work with a trainer to learn hand speed and hand eye coordination. Also, jumping rope is a great way to build your endurance.”

Floyd Mayweather Jr training

For professionals like Mayweather, the tiniest of details matter most. He is known to be incredibly picky about everything from the gloves he uses to the socks he wears while training. According to personal trainer John Platero, it isn’t unusual for elite athletes to act in that manner. “Every athlete is different, and most are superstitious,” he said. “They will always put a certain glove on first or lace the shoes a certain way.” Once the details are taken care of, athletes like Mayweather move on to intense physical training.


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Saturday Morning Drill: 30 Minute Fitness Fusion with Ivy Larson

Everybody wants to be fit, but let’s face it; making a commitment to an exercise program can be a mega time-zapper. The good news is, if you learn to exercise smarter you can still get amazing results in a very short amount of time. If you commit to a well-designed circuit-style workout that overloads all of your major muscles, works large muscle groups with compound movements and keeps your heart rate elevated the entire time then you can get fit, lean and strong exercising just 30 minutes, three days a week.

If weight loss is a concern, as long as you keep moving quickly from one exercise to the next to keep your heart rate elevated you don’t need to run a single lap or put in any extra cardio time either. That’s because hormonal changes occur with circuit-style resistance exercises that create a fat-burning environment (1). For the best weight loss results you will of course also need to watch what you eat. A “clean cuisine” style diet is your best bet for healthy, long-term weight loss.

As for picking the best exercises, I prefer a “full fitness fusion” approach that fuses a variety of exercise disciplines and focuses on full body moves rather than isolation exercises. If you want to get fit fast you will get much better quicker results doing compound exercises like push-ups as opposed to an isolation exercise like biceps curls. As with anything, the smarter you work the less time you need to spend and the better your results will be.

View Saturday Morning Drills: Full Fitness Fusion Slideshow
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Kami Rivera Got Hooked on Title Boxing and Lost 120 Pounds in One Year

Kami Rivera’s biggest contributors to weight gain were a poor diet and neglecting exercise. These unhealthy habits snowballed in her late 20s and led her to weigh nearly 250 pounds. In 2007, things grew worse as a heart condition required Kami to have surgery. As a result she felt sidelined from any attempts to get healthy. Looking back she admits she leaned on that event for a long time as a crutch. She’d gotten into such a rut that she began believing her problems would be solved by doing nothing at all.

But in October 2011, things began to improve as Kami started eating better. And 2012 brought a New Year’s resolution to get more active. Her activity of choice? Title Boxing.

“I tried to think of a million excuses for why I didn’t want to do it, but I live right across the street from the [Title] studio,” she said. “I was able to hang for the first class, then I started going twice a week. Eventually each class got easier and easier and I was going about five times a week and maybe six if I could squeeze in a Sunday.”

Unlike ever before Kami was working focused on getting in shape and gaining both knowledge and inspiration from her boxing classes. Though she’d had a treadmill, total gym and weight bench at her home for a long time, she realized she’d just never found the motivation to use them. With boxing it was different.
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