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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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4 Dynamic Stretches Offer First Aid for Morning Pain and Stiffness

By Dr. Tom Kleeman, an orthopedic surgeon and creator of MDFitness: The Doctors Workout, a 3-DVD workout available at TheDoctorsWorkout.com.

Your alarm goes off. You pry your eyes open, swing your legs over the side of the bed, and take those first morning steps. That’s when the real alarms go off. Your back and joints cry out in anguish. For a moment you are frozen like the rusty Tin Man wondering how to lubricate all of those joints. You remember reading somewhere that it was important to stretch in the morning, but what does that mean exactly?

For years static stretching has been the mainstay of the early morning routine. As it turns out, research doesn’t support a benefit from static stretching. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, has been shown to have many benefits including warming up your muscles, increasing blood flow, and jump-starting your metabolism. The idea is to obtain the most benefit in the least time using compound exercises that work multiple joints or muscle groups at the same time. Check out these four dynamic stretches and see for yourself. It’s like having a can of lubricating oil at your bedside.

High March with Arm Swings

high knee mdfitness
This is a great beginning move. It’s easy on your joints while warming up both the upper and lower body. Start by marching in place bringing your knees up higher as your hips warm up. At the same time, stretch your arms out to the side and bring them forward wrapping them around your chest then back out in the tempo of the march. Keep going for about 30 seconds. This exercise gets your hips, shoulders, and chest warmed up and limber.
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6 Slim Summer Sips That Skip the Hips

drinks

By Team Best Life

Craving a nice cold beverage to quench your thirst and beat the heat? Be careful what you reach for—some beverages can pack a pretty big caloric punch. In fact, some drinks can end up costing you more than a meal!

Take a look below to figure out how many calories some of your favorite drinks will set you back. All calorie information is based on an eight-ounce serving, unless noted.

Lemonade (powder mixed with water) – 40 calories

Sports Drink – 60-80 calories

Soda – 65-95 calories

Iced Tea – 90 calories

Light Beer – 100 calories per 12 ounces

Regular Beer – 150 calories per 12 ounces

Frozen Margarita – 226 calories per 10 ounces

Strawberry Daquiri/Pina Colada – 250 calories for 4.5 ounces

See the Calories in 4 More Popular Summer Cocktails

Of course, calories shouldn’t be the only thing you pay attention to. You should be on the lookout for artificial sweeteners, which are used to sweeten a beverage without adding any (or many) calories. These can be problematic because they may increase your cravings for sweet foods and interfere with your ability to appreciate naturally sweet foods.
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Meet the Dietitian Who Eats Butter, Sugar, and Carbs, and Says You Can, Too!

butter bread

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist

As I got the butter out from my fridge the other day, a friend of mine commented in surprise, “You eat butter?”.

She’s right to question. For years, there was no butter in my kitchen because it contains a lot of saturated fat, which nutrition scientists believed could lead to heart disease and possibly increase the risk for cancer and even dementia. But being a nutritionist, I keep up with the food research, and things change. I started thinking of how my diet has changed over the past decade, and here are the main shifts; the ways I changed my own diet for the better.

I ENJOY BUTTER. Even after margarine was exposed as a trans fat nightmare, I still avoided butter because 63 percent of the fat in butter is saturated. I went along with the scientific thinking: If you eat too much saturated fat, levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) rise, and people with higher LDL are more likely to develop heart disease.
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6 Juicy Recipe Reasons to Pick Tomatoes This Summer

tomatoes

By Team Best Life

Tomatoes are in season and we can’t think of a more versatile fruit (that’s right—this produce poser is not a vegetable). You can toss them into green or pasta salads, add them to sandwiches or wraps, or simply snack on them raw. And there are so many tasty tomato varieties—whether you choose cherry, go for grape, or prefer plum. They complement just about any other healthy food, including basil, cucumber, summer squash, beans, grains and more!

Need more reason to pick tomatoes? They’re a nutritional powerhouse—they’re a super source of vitamin C and they also contain antioxidants like lycopene, which can help protect against a variety of diseases.

Just keep in mind that tossing tomatoes in the fridge can cause them to lose flavor and texture; instead, store them at room temperature.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this tasty summer fruit.
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