3 Advanced Ab Workouts for a Tight Core

6 11 2011


By Kisar S. Dhillon
For Active.com

Abdominal muscles adapt quickly, so it is important to keep shocking them with different routines. These three ab exercises are super advanced and should only be done by extremely fit individuals. If you suffer from pains in your lower back, hips, hip flexors, shoulders, knees, or are prone to hernias, I would not recommend this. However, if you are a fitness fanatic who needs to be pushed out of your comfort zone, try these exercises and modify them as you like.

Workout Routine:


Abdominal Cobra Stretch Warmup

Lower Back Stretch

Stretch your abdominals by doing a modified push-up (a cobra position in yoga). Raise your body slowly until you feel the stretch, then hold it for 10 seconds. Do this for three repetitions of 10 seconds.

Stretch your lower back muscles by pushing your buttocks towards your heels and holding for 10 seconds. Then come back to your original position. Do this for three repetitions of 10 seconds.

Hanging Crunches With 10lb Medicine Ball

Hanging Medicine Ball Ab Exercise

Hanging from a pull-up bar, have someone place the medicine ball between your thighs. When you are ready, lift your knees towards your chest, hold for a second, then come back to your original starting position. Do this for three sets of 30 repetitions. On your last repetition, drop the ball from your thighs and perform an Isometric Hold (hold while flexing) for 30 seconds.

Pikes of Death

Pikes of Death Ab Workout

Pikes of Death Ab Workout

For this exercise you will need a wheel that can be put on your feet and a BOSU balancer. This can also be done with a stability ball in place of the wheel. Make sure you securely strap your feet into the wheel straps and go right into a full body plank (push-up position). Once you are stable and holding that plank, push your buttocks toward the ceiling and form a Letter-A. Hold that position for a few seconds, then release back to a full body plank. Do this exercise for three sets of 30 repetitions. On your last repetition perform another Isometric hold (hold while flexing) in the Letter-A position for 30 seconds.

Sit-Up to Squat with 10lb Medicine Ball

Sit to Squat Ab Exercise

This last exercise is going to get your heart racing. From a sit-up start position, have someone hold your feet/ankles. I usually don’t recommend someone holding your feet, but if you are extremely in shape and have no lower back or knee problems, then this will be OK.

Place the medicine ball at your chest and come up as fast as you can with momentum. When you are going up, start activating your quadriceps, gluteus muscles and hamstrings to bring you into a standing position. Once you are almost in a full standing position your spotter can let go of your feet and let you come down by yourself with the medicine ball.

This is an advanced exercise, so if you need to break it up into several sets, please do so. Do this for three sets of 20 repetitions. It is OK for the medicine ball to come off your chest for momentum, but the stronger you get the closer the medicine ball will stay against your body.



Kisar Dhillon is a professional fitness trainer living in Portland, Oregon. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology, Post Baccalaureate Studies in Exercise Physiology and a Masters in Business Administration. He has more than 16 years in the health & fitness industry and is currently the owner of 1-2-1 Fitness, LLC.

Why Runners Should be Rowers

4 11 2011


By T.J. Murphy


CrossFit Endurance coach and 100-mile trail run fanatic, Brian MacKenzie of Costa Mesa, California, scrawled a simple looking workout set on a whiteboard in his home gym, then spent five minutes teaching me proper rowing technique. I was in need of a workout to help me retain fitness while I rehabbed a foot injury, so he directed me to a rowing machine—commonly referred to as an ergometer or “erg.” Then I endured one of the most challenging cross-training workouts of my life—for exactly 12 minutes.

“Rowing is an invaluable tool for runners,” MacKenzie said. “When you learn how to do it right it lights up weaknesses you didn’t know you had. It helps runners and cyclists find power in muscles they hadn’t used before.”

MacKenzie points out that rowing is a potent weapon in an endurance athlete’s cross-training arsenal, or as a replacement for running when injuries surface. “It’s no joke,” he said. “It’s some serious, lung-searing stuff. When an athlete is dealing with a foot or Achilles tendon problem, I’ve never found issues in replacing running with work on the ergometer.”

Lori Gallon is evangelistic about the magic that rowing can bestow upon an injured runner. A registered nurse who moonlights as a personal trainer at R.A.W. Training in Wildwood, Pennsylvania, Gallon said that rowing salvaged her dream of running the Boston Marathon.

In 2009, at 42, she qualified for Boston, but two weeks into a 15-week training plan targeting the 2010 event, she developed a stress fracture in her fibula. Per doctors’ orders, she was not allowed to run or jump for eight to 10 weeks.

“I couldn’t believe I had made it that far and I didn’t know if I’d get another shot to qualify for Boston,” she said. “I talked to other trainers at my gym and decided to use rowing to train for the race. I had nothing to lose.”

In place of key running workouts, Gallon used indoor rowing. “It’s all about proper technique,” she said. “If you don’t do it right it’s not going to work.”

Gallon’s doctor cleared her to run again two weeks out from Boston. “I did one five-miler and one 10-miler. Everything else I had done in the buildup had been rowing and doing CrossFit workouts.” Gallon finished the marathon in 4:20:26.

While running and rowing are similar in cardiovascular benefits, they differ in the muscular workout they deliver. Erin Cafaro, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist and member of the U.S. rowing squad, said that rowing punishes the body in different ways. “In one continuous motion rowing works legs, core, back and arms,” she said. “It’s a full-body workout.”

MacKenzie added that one of the chief benefits rowing offers runners is improved posture. “Runners typically have terrible posture, leading to bad form, leading to beating the hell out of yourself,” he said. Proper rowing, MacKenzie believes, helps runners develop robust midline stability to help shift running from smaller, weaker muscles such as hip flexors to more powerful muscles in the hips.

Properly performed rowing gives a runner a solid blast of cardio work, works the abs, core and lower back, and even develops flexibility in the hamstrings and calves.

Where should you start? Don’t make the mistake most runners do when they first hit the rowing machine and yank away—not only will you miss out on the primary benefits rowing has to offer, but you also might make things worse. Follow Erin Cafaro’s guide (on page 3) to developing proper technique.

How to Supplement a Running or Multisport Program With Rowing

Will Kirousis is the co-director of Tri-Hard Endurance Sports Coaching and is a USA Triathlon-certified coach and strength specialist in Leominster, Massachusetts Kirousis explains why and how to adopt rowing into an overall training program.

What benefits does rowing offer runners and triathletes?

Rowing machines allow runners to do a non-impact form of endurance training. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to be a better runner, your training should focus on running. However, cross-training during noncompetitive periods in the year and during recovery blocks throughout the season helps runners stay injury free and mentally fresh. Those are the key benefits of rowing for runners.

Any tips for runners and triathletes taking up rowing as cross-training?

Strongly resist the urge to become a rowing specialist. This is especially true for triathletes, who tend to want to mimic the training done in the specific sub sports of their discipline. For example, very often triathletes fall into the trap of training like Masters swimmers, road cyclists and runners rather than training like a triathlete. The same intensity and inquisitiveness that leads to those miss-steps can also lead a motivated runner or triathlete to use the erg as if he is a crew specialist. This is counterproductive because it can hurt recovery. If you’re really trying to improve on the erg, it’s likely your training load will increase on the erg and will cut into your recovery, leading to decreased volumes of sport-specific training. Both problems reduce sport-specific performance.

High-Intensity Workouts to Aid the Injured Runner

Beating back an injury but want to sustain your running fitness? Shane Farmer, a former member of the University of San Diego rowing team and now a CrossFit Invictus coach, has several basic rowing workout suggestions for injured runners who need to replace track workouts. Be sure to get the all-clear from your doctor before jumping in.

500-meter Repeats

4×500 meters, 2 minute rest between each. Similar in nature to the feel of running 800-meter intervals at a moderately high intensity. Use the memory function on the rowing computer to log your workout.

Long Sprints

8×45 seconds hard. 15-second easy recovery between each hard interval. “Good old fashioned, short, high intensity interval training,” Farmer said.

The Time Ladder

Ten minutes nonstop: four minutes, three minutes, two minutes, one minute, building up intensity in each transition with no rest in between. The four minutes should be at a relative base tempo with the one-minute intervals at high intensity. Be sure to have enough in the tank to make moves at each time transition.

The Stroke Ladder

4×5 minutes. Each five-minute session is broken into five, one-minute segments with a focus on the number of strokes you take per minute (s/m), which the erg computer tallies in real time. First minute: 18 s/m, second minute: 22 s/m, third: 26 s/m, fourth: 22 s/m, fifth, 26 s/m.

“Again, there will be no rest,” Farmer says. “The workout should last for 20 minutes total without stopping.” Use the time spent at 18 s/m to recover. Each jump up in stroke rate will come with an increase in intensity and vice versa. “This is a really good tempo piece that teaches people how to control their output and rate of recovery, which are two very crucial aspects of rowing.”

Rowing Technique: The Essentials

  1. Proper grip. Curl your fingers around the handle and keep the wrist joints cocked slightly.
  2. Secure the feet. Insert your feet into the footrests and adjust the toe strap so that it crosses over the top shoelace. Pull the straps snug around your feet.
  3. From “The catch” or start position into the early drive. Keep your shins vertical and the muscles tight, pulling your belly button up and in, and make a point to retain good posture. Slant the upper body forward, extending powerfully from the hips. Avoid hunching your shoulders. From this position, begin the “drive” phase by employing your leg muscles with a powerful push off. Retain the forward tilt of your upper body for the first half of the drive phase—approximately a foot of travel as the seat slides backward on the rail.
  4. The drive. Push through with your legs, and in a continuous motion, begin to use your back and abs as a lever, transferring the workload to a combination of your legs and the muscles surrounding your core. Resist the temptation to begin pulling with your arms until you’ve completely channeled the power from your abdominal and back muscles. With legs fully extended, begin using your arms to pull and finish the stroke. Keep the muscles of the core—the midline stability muscles—activated and tight.
  5. The finish into the recovery. Upon completing the drive and pulling the handle to a point just in front of your upper abdominals, you will transition into the recovery phase. While keeping a tight core, smoothly return to the starting position at half the speed used in the drive. Use this time to allow the muscles to recover. Reverse the sequence of the chain of movements—arms, back and core, and finally allow the legs to return to the spring-like position of the catch.



Whether you’re at the front, middle or back of the pack, you can find helpful training tips, injury prevention tips and the latest product reviews on Competitor.com to help you run smarter, longer and faster.

Does Stretching Improve Sport Performance?

25 10 2011



Acute stretching immediately before sport or exercise may actually hinder, rather than improve, sport performance, suggests a review of research data.


In contrast, a program of regular stretching seems to improve many aspects of sport performance, probably by increasing muscle strength, reported Dr. Ian Shrier of SMBD-Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.

Shrier collected and analyzed previous studies of the effects of stretching on sport performance. Rather than assessing performance in actual athletic events, the studies focused on the effects of stretching in specific tests related to sport performance.

The analysis included 23 studies evaluating the effects of “acute” stretching — that is, stretching immediately before the test. Nearly all of the studies found that stretching reduced performance on various tests, including muscle force, torque, and jumping height.

The sole exception was a study showing that stretching improved “running economy.” Studies of the effect of acute stretching on running speed yielded mixed results.

Shrier also identified nine studies of the effects of regular stretching programs, usually lasting several weeks. Of these, seven studies found better performance with regular stretching.

This included improved performance in tests of muscle force production and contraction velocity, suggesting that the benefits resulted from muscle strengthening.

One study found that regular stretching improved running speed in the 50-yard dash, although two studies found no effect on “running economy” during longer runs. None of the studies found worse performance after regular stretching.

Stretching has been widely recommended to reduce the risk of exercise-related injury, although recent studies have questioned whether stretching has any real effect on injury rates.

If there is a protective effect, it appears to result from regular stretching rather than acute stretching.

The new review, published in the September/October 2004 Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine suggests that stretching improves performance in a number of athletic tests, but only if it is done regularly.

As in studies of injury risk, stretching appears most beneficial if done regularly.

In contrast, acute stretching does not seem to improve sport performance. Pre-exercise stretching may even reduce performance, probably because of muscle damage caused at the time of the stretch.

Shrier concluded, “If one stretches, one should stretch after exercise, or at a time not related to exercise.” (www.cjsportmed.com).

This article was prepared by Biotech Law Weekly editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2004, Biotech Law Weekly via LawRx.com.


Give Your Workout a Caffeine Kick

24 10 2011


By Marty Munson

If people look askance at you for drinking coffee before or after your workout, just be nice when you pass them on the swim, bike, or run. When you know how to use it, caffeine can be an effective performance booster, explains Liz Applegate, Ph.D., Director of Sports Nutrition at UC Davis and author of the “Fridge Wisdom” column in Runner’s World magazine.

Caffeine has a place before, during and after workouts when you want to perform your best. Here, Applegate explains how athletes at all levels can take advantage of its boost.

Before A Workout

What it does: “Caffeinated beverages like coffee or Diet Coke prior to a workout can help promote endurance and a lower rate of perceived exertion (RPE) during exercise,” says Applegate. In events lasting two hours or less, caffeinating beforehand may even help you have more strength at the end of your workout, so you may have extra kick to get across the finish line—or at least you won’t feel so drained. Tip: Get the caffeine in 45 minutes to an hour before your workout so it has time to take effect.

How much it takes: About 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. That means a 150-pound person would want 210 to 400 mg caffeine. A 20-oz Starbucks coffee contains about 200 mg; iced tea has about 40 mg; diet soda about 50 mg.

During a Workout

What it does: It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on metabolically with caffeine during a workout; studies to determine that are invasive and many factors in a workout can contribute to performance changes, not just caffeine, explains Applegate. Its most likely benefit: Reduced perceived exertion.

How much it takes: Most products designed to be consumed during a workout have fairly low levels of caffeine—about 20 to 50 mg. But they still may be worthwhile experimenting with: The cognitive benefits of taking it can be what you need to climb the next hill like you want to.

After a Workout

What it does: Caffeine after exercise may help your muscles replenish their glycogen stores better than if they don’t have the energy-boosting substance. “It’s not clear whether caffeine enhances carbohydrate absorption in the intestines, helps increase delivery of glucose to muscle cells, or whether the stimulation of adrenaline may promote enhanced uptake—these are all theories,” says Applegate. Whatever the reason turns out to be, the result is that topped-off glycogen stores help you recover and better execute your next workout.

How much it takes: Same as before a workout—about 3 to 6 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight. Just be aware that this probably isn’t the trick to try if you work out in the evenings.


While caffeine is a safe substance, it’s not for everyone, reminds Applegate. It may make you feel jittery or off your game if you’re not used to it. (But it doesn’t do half the bad things people think it does.) “And I don’t recommend caffeine pills,” she says. “I’d go with a beverage if you can, and that way you get hydration benefits as well.”


Marty Munson is a USAT Level 1 triathlon coach. Her writing has appeared in Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, Shape.com and RealAge.com. Find more triathlon tips and strategies from her and other experts in the field at trieverything.wordpress.com

Outdoor Circuit Training Tips From the Pros

20 10 2011


By the Editors of Men’s Health
Men’s Health

In Your Backyard

The Pro Trainer’s Workout: Body-Weight Circuit
Torch fat with this routine from Turbulence Training developer Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S.

Do this Perform these exercises as a circuit. Rest one minute only after completing all four. Complete five circuits.

1. Jumping jacks (60 seconds)

2. Spider-man pushups (until failure)
As you lower your body, swing your right leg out to touch your right knee to your right elbow. Reverse the movement and push up. Alternate sides.

3. Reverse lunge (15 reps per leg)
Stand tall, hands behind your ears. Step back with one leg, and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Pause. Push up quickly. Do all reps, then switch legs.

4. Squat thrust (8 reps)
Squat, put your hands on the floor, and kick your legs into pushup position. Quickly reverse the move. Repeat.

Make it harder: Rest 30 seconds (instead of 1 minute) between circuits.

On the Court

The Miami Heat Workout: 10’s
This routine combines fast-paced intervals with quick changes of direction. “It’s a great fat burner, and it improves endurance,” says Bill Foran, the Heat’s strength and conditioning coach.

Do this Begin at one baseline of the basketball court and run (not at a full sprint) to the opposite end. Stop, plant your foot, pivot, change direction, and run back. Repeat four times for a total of 10 trips between baselines. That’s one set; try to complete it in 60 to 70 seconds. Do a total of two or three sets, resting only two to three minutes between each.

Make it harder Work your way up to five sets. The first few sets may seem easy, but the last few will test your physical and mental endurance.

On the Diamond

The Boston Red Sox Workout: X-Pattern Skill Drill
This drill challenges you to run in all directions at full intensity, which every player must do, says David Page, strength coach for the Red Sox.

Do this Set up four cones in a square formation, each cone 10 yards apart.

1. Sprint from cone A to cone B.

2. Immediately turn and sprint diagonally from cone B to cone D.

3. Backpedal as fast as you can from cone D to cone C.

4. Sprint diagonally from cone C back to cone A. That’s one set.

Rest two to three minutes after completing all four sprints. Repeat for five sets.

Make it harder Start the drill sitting or lying down, then jump up and run.

For more information, go to MensHealth.com/abschallenge.

Your Full-Body Circuit Workout

18 10 2011


By Jess Fromm
Women’s Health

Wild guess: When you hit the gym, your main concerns are lifting your butt, trimming your thighs, flattening your belly, and sculpting sexy arms. Makes sense, but focusing only on obvious attributes can lead to muscular imbalances, causing pain and raising your risk of injury, says Tracey Mallett, a trainer at Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute in Los Angeles, who created this workout. Plus, you’ll miss out on your body’s full potential. The solution? Hit neglected areas—calves, lats, hamstrings, and rear delts—while working your entire body to boost lean muscle mass and fry fat fast. Complete this circuit three days a week. Do all the reps for each move without taking a break between exercises. Rest for up to 30 seconds after the last move, then repeat the workout two or three more times.

Four Total-Body Moves

1. Ballet calf raises

Stand next to a chair with your heels together and toes pointed out to create a wide V shape. Place your right hand on the chair, left hand on your hip (a). Slowly rise onto the balls of your feet (b). Hold for two seconds, then slowly return to start. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 15.

2. Rotation row

Hold a pair of dumbbells in front of you at shoulder height, palms facing down. Stand with your right foot in front of your left, bend your knees, and lean forward slightly (a). Pull the weights to the sides of your torso, rotating your palms toward your body (b). Slowly return to start. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 15.

3. Hamstring “T” curl

Place your forearms on the back of a chair, elbows out, and rest your head on your arms. Raise your left leg behind you to hip height, right knee slightly bent (a). Slowly bend your left knee, bringing your heel toward your butt (b). Slowly return to start. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 15, then switch sides and repeat.

4. Windmill

Stand with your feet wider than hip width and hold a pair of dumbbells in front of you, elbows slightly bent, palms facing each other; lean your torso forward (a). Rotate to the right as you raise your right arm toward the ceiling (b). Return to start. Repeat to the left, and keep alternating for 20 total reps.

10 Exercises for Flatter Abs

14 10 2011

By SELF Editors


Mix and match any (or all) of our fun firmers to make your middle little in no time.

Your trainer Lisa Wheeler, national creative manager of group fitness for Equinox in New York City, designed these moves.

You’ll need A hand towel and a 5- to 8-pound weight

The plan Take five minutes (even two minutes here, three there) most days to perform your fave combo of the chiselers. Try one set of 8 reps of all 10 moves, or pick a few and do two sets of 12 reps.

Trimming Tap

works abs, obliques, shoulders, butt, thighs

Start in side plank, left palm on floor, right arm extended to ceiling, hips lifted, feet stacked. Hold plank as you tap right foot in front of left, then behind, for 1 rep. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Perfect Pike

works abs, shoulders, butt, thighs

Start in plank with a folded towel under toes. Engage abs as you lift hips and slide feet toward hands, keeping legs straight, so body forms an inverted V. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Sizzling Swing

works abs, shoulders, triceps

Start in reverse plank: wrists under shoulders, fingers forward, legs extended. Drop hips and swing them back between arms, sliding heels and keeping legs straight. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Whittling Walk

works abs, shoulders, biceps

Start in plank, then bend elbows to bring forearms to floor; move right hand to left elbow and left hand to right elbow. Lift right arm over left, placing it in front of left on floor, as you walk toes 1 step forward. Repeat with left arm, then reverse move to return to start, for 1 rep. Repeat.

Get-Lean Lift

works abs, shoulders, butt, legs

Start in plank, then lift hips, coming into Downward Dog, as you raise left leg to ceiling and bend left knee behind you, foot flexed. Return to plank. Switch sides to complete 1 rep. Repeat.

Sculpting Sweep

works abs, obliques, shoulders, biceps

Start in plank with a folded towel under toes. Engage abs as you slide knees toward outside of right elbow, then slide feet back to plank. Switch sides to complete 1 rep. Repeat.

Side Slimmer

works abs, obliques, shoulders, butt, thighs

Start in side plank, left palm on floor, hips lifted and feet stacked, right arm reaching past ear to create a straight line from ankles to wrist. Bring right knee and right elbow toward each other. Return to start for 1 rep. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Rear Raiser

works abs, shoulders, biceps, butt, legs

Start in plank with forearms on floor, a weight behind bent right knee, foot flexed. Tap right knee to floor, then return to start for 1 rep. Do reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Play It Straight

works abs, shoulders, back

Crouch with knees bent under chest, heels lifted, arms extended, palms on floor, to start. Press forward into plank; hold for 1 count. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Waist Cincher

works abs, obliques

Start on left side, left forearm and hip on floor, feet stacked, right hand holding dumbbell on right hip (as shown). Lift hips to create a straight line from feet to head, keeping dumbbell at hip. Return to start for 1 rep. Repeat.

Basic Plank Pointers

  • Keep feet hip-width apart. Make it easier: Spread legs slightly wider.
  • Place wrists directly beneath shoulders with elbows soft, fingers pointed forward.
  • Be sure shoulders are pressed down and relaxed—no shrugging.
  • Form a straight line with back from head to heels. Remind yourself: Flat’s where it’s at.
  • Head aligns with spine, and neck is long. Focus a few inches in front of hands to adjust your position naturally.

SELF  gives you great advice on being healthy, happy, slimmer, fitter and less stressed.

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