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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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Cardio Doesn’t Have to Make You Weak in the Knees: 5 Gentler Approaches to Cardio Exercise

When we think of cardio, running is often the first thing that comes to mind. Running is a great form of exercise, however, it isn’t the right solution for everyone. From beginners who haven’t built a base of strength yet to those with arthritis, high impact movements like running aren’t a good fit.

Cardio, by definition, actually means “from the heart.” Therefore, from an exercise perspective, it is anything that gets your heart rate up. This means there are plenty of low- or no-impact activities you can do to accomplish this goal. Make cardio easier on your knees while still benefiting your heart with these five moves.

kettlebell woman

Walking is a great form of cardio that we already know how to do, but you have to do it briskly or find a way to push yourself. The heart is a muscle and, like your biceps, gets stronger only with challenge. Make your walk more challenging by increasing the incline on the treadmill or wearing a weighted vest on your outdoor walks.

Dance lets you sweat and de-stress. Have you seen the transformations on Dancing with the Stars? If ballroom isn’t your thing, try a hip-hop or swing class. You can always crank up your favorite tunes and get crazy in your living room.
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Phuong Tran’s Full Body Outdoor Summer Workout

Simplicity is a beautiful thing. Phong Tran, fitness specialist and master at designing accessible workouts, has provided us with her latest breezy creation, the Full Body Outdoor Summer Workout. Using only a kettlebell and your motor skills, this four-step regimen is designed to tighten your entire body. It strengthens nearly every major muscle group and can be done from the privacy of your home. This straightforward workout requires no gym membership or mastery of complicated exercise equipment. Phong has cobbled together the ideal summer workout where legs, glutes, abs, and arms will all be toned, leaving you in perfect bikini-wearing condition.

Phuong 1

Side Lunge into Shoulder Press—Do 15 reps, switch sides, repeat.

Keep posture neutral. Bend leg into side lunge, keep other leg straight. Then raise ball into shoulder press. Hold the ball tight for better control and breathe out on the way up.
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Why Five Minutes of Exercise Makes a Big Difference in Your Fitness

According to MayoClinic.com, the number one reason people don’t exercise on a regular basis is lack of time. I hear the same thing from clients.

But lack of time also tops my list of excuses for not exercising that are crap.

Our world is a busy one. I run my own business, so I get it. Yet, have you ever asked yourself how much time you waste on Facebook, reality TV or complaining you don’t have time to exercise? In the time you spent complaining you could have done something!

To start many of my clients off, I give them exercise homework that takes 5 minutes or less. A Cornell University study found that just 5 minutes of exercise per day can result in fitness gains and improve our self image. It can go a long way toward forming the habit of being active and chances are once you get going you’ll want to do more than those 5 minutes.
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A Beginner’s Guide to CrossFit

One of the most popular fitness trends of 2012 was the CrossFit phenomenon. Dedicated gyms gave followers a place to perfect their WOD (workout of the day) while finding motivation from like-minded men and women. CrossFit is not going out with the old but will be very much a part of this new year. If you’ve thought about joining the craze, let us be your guide.

What is CrossFit?

In the year 2000, Greg Glassman created a workout program that has become known as CrossFit. This program is a short workout that involves high intensity functional movements for the entire body. The idea is to push one’s self as hard as possible for a short amount of time, sometimes even less than 20 minutes.

CrossFit involves many dynamic exercises such as plyometric jumps, Olympic lifts, sprinting, rowing, jump rope, flipping tires, body weight exercises, weightlifting and even climbing a rope to the top of a ceiling. If you’ve been to a bootcamp, it looks very similar. In terms of weight lifting, we aren’t just talking about your average dumbbell, but other non-traditional weight lifting equipment. Some of these might include sand bags, kettlebells, water-filled containers, and suspension systems.

The goal during this very high intensity workout is to perform a certain number or repetitions in a certain amount of time. Some athletes who take CrossFit classes are even scored and ranked in order to encourage competition and to track progress. For those who are more advanced, some will even compete against one another in person and then post their results on the CrossFit website.
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