Saturday, November 28, 2009

Washboard Abs

One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is about how to achieve 'rockhard' abs. Clearly the stomach is one the biggest trouble zones for men and women. However, due to biological predispositions women tend to struggle with this more (either that or they are more concerned about it).

So if you are doing extreme amounts of crunches and feel like you have tried everything in hopes of achieving washboard abs you are not alone. Abdominal exercises are some of the most common exercises performed by everyone from beginners to elite athletes. However, to get a flat stomach you need to do more than just ab exercises, you see, everyone has the ability to get a six-pack, it is often just hiding under a layer (or two) of belly fat. So the key is to reduce your belly fat in order to start showing that stomach.

There are a combination of things you can do to kick start your Perfect Stomach transformation:

Abdominal Exercises

There are many exercises you can do that are simple and can be done at home to help strengthen all your abdominal muscles. I recommend getting an exercise ball (they have these in virtually every gym as well). Using the ball for crunches requires that you stabilize your torso while balanced on the ball and you end up using more muscles than when performing standard crunches. However a few of my favorite abs exercises include:

-The bicycle
-Leg Lifts
-Scissor Legs

I recommend 2 by 30 seconds of each exercise


For most people (including myself) this is the hardest part!

In order to eliminate body fat and ‘tone up’ requires proper nutrition. Contrary to many fad diet beliefs, to achieve long lasting results a balanced diet of carbohydrate, protein and fat is crucial. Eating several small meals throughout the day helps many people stay more satisfied and reduces hunger.

Other successful tips for reducing fat and avoiding weight gain include:

-getting enough calcium
-eating breakfast
-eating high fiber foods
-staying well-hydrated by drinking water throughout the day

Also make sure not to cut calories too drastically or you could inadvertently lower your metabolism.

Cardio Exercise

I think this is one of the most critical components of a great stomach. I do not believe in spot reduction; for example, you cannot do 100 crunches and expect perfect abs. You need to perform aerobic activity – the more intense, and the more dynamic the better. This site provides all kinds of great examples of workouts you can try. Cardio, especially intense cardio, blasts calories and burns fat and will be the key to an overall great physique.

Core Exercise

You can also perform core stability exercises to improve your torso strength, balance and stability – this is the essence of Pilates classes. Your core is made up of the abdominals, lower back and hips and creates a foundation for all other movement. These muscles stabilize the spine and create a strong center around which the extremities can move. A strong core is important in every aspect of movement; especially power movements.

The plank exercise is a good indicator of core strength. Test your own core strength by seeing how long you can hold a plank position, work up to a one minute hold.

Again, I stress, there is no single isolated exercise that will breed perfect abdominals, it's a combination of things that must be incorporated into your everyday lifestyle.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


The following workout is very powerful when done correctly; however, it requires a certain ‘base fitness level’ to complete. If you are active and workout on average 2-5 times per week at a level that gets your heart rate up to an uncomfortable level, you should give this workout a try. It is the ultimate cure for breaking through any sort of plateau, whether it’s weight-loss or fitness-level related.

This workout uses what are called ‘Tabata Intervals”. Tabata intervals are claimed to be the ‘magical exercise’. I have tried and experimented with them and the truth is they’re not as ‘magical’ as the claim. However, using components of them in your workout really does breed seemingly magical results.

So what is a Tabata Interval?
Essentially it’s just 20 seconds of 100% all out high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. This would be considered 1 cycle.
You do this for a totally of 8 cycles.

Now the big promise about this is that you can get an incredible workout in just 4 minutes, and that’s completely true – it’s an incredible workout, but it’s still not going to burn more than a 30 – 45 minute workout (unless you are simply walking).

My belief is that you can combine the power of the Tabata intervals into your workout and get a truly magical yet intense 20-30 min workout that will be more effective than a 45-60 min workout. The power of this lies in how much intensity you can handle and how much you can push yourself.

Below is an example of a powerful Tabata-Fusion Workout I have created:

**I will warn you that it’s intense, but the true fitness results and calorie burn are a product of how intense you can be – so go ahead and challenge yourself to reach beyond your comfort zone.


6 min Cardio (this can be running, biking, elliptical, treadmill – even running on the spot at home)

Interval Round One:

Round 1 – Sprint 20 seconds -
Rest 10 seconds (can do sprints on the spot if space or resources are limited)
Round 2 – Pushups 20 seconds
- Rest 10 seconds
Round 3 – Mountain Climbers 20 seconds -
Rest 10 seconds
Round 4 – Burpees 20 seconds
- Rest 10 seconds (see for Burpee explanation)

Repeat Cycle 3 times for a total of approx 6 minutes
4 min Active Cardio Recovery
Interval Round Two:

Round 1 – Sprints 20 seconds -
Rest 10 seconds
Round 2 – Pushups 20 seconds -
Rest 10 seconds
Round 3 – Squat Jumps (Squat down – jump straight up and reach hands to sky) 20 seconds -
 Round 4 – Pull Ups or Burpees 20 seconds -
Rest 10 seconds

Repeat Cycle 2-3 times depending on how you feel and how much time you have
Cool Down – Easy Cardio for 4-6 min
Total Time 24 -28 min

Note: You can increase or decrease the warm up and cool down time, depending on how you feel and how much time you have.

Important: Stretch out afterward to avoid tightening up

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Try These Exercises to Reduce Lower Back Pain

If you have lower back pain, strengthening and stretching the muscles surrounding your back may help.

Strengthening Exercises: focused on your back, stomach, and leg muscles.

strengthening exercise for back, abs and neck (also strengthens arms and legs)

Lie on your stomach, with your elbows and forearms on floor. In a push-up position, balance on your toes and forearms. Keep your back straight and legs straight. (Like a plank) Tighten your abs. Hold position for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat five to ten times. If this exercise is too difficult, use balance on your knees instead of your toes.

Side Plank: strengthens the obliques (side abdominal muscles)

Lie on your right side. Place your right elbow and forearm on floor. Tighten your abs. Push up until shoulder is over elbow. Keep your body in a straight line – feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head aligned. Only forearm and side of right foot are on floor (feet are stacked). Hold position for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat five to ten times. Repeat on left side. If this exercise is too difficult, balance on stacked knees (bend knees and keep feet off floor) instead of feet or stagger your feet rather than stacking them.

Wall Squat: strengthening exercise for back, hips and quads and, surprisingly, this exercise is great for the core.

Stand with your back against a wall, heels about 18 inches from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten abs. Slide slowly down the wall into a crouch with knees bent to about 90 degrees. If this is too difficult, bend knees to 45 degrees and gradually build up from there. Count to five and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.

Leg and arm raises: strengthening exercise for back and hip muscles.

Lie on your stomach, arms reached out past your head with palms and forehead on floor. Tighten your abs. Lift one arm (as you raise your head and shoulders) and the opposite leg at the same time (ex.right arm and left leg at the same time), stretching them away from each other. Hold for 8-12 seconds. Switch sides.

As I said above, I never realized just how important a strong core is. I would highly recommend taking a Pilates class in addition to your current regimen.

Basic Crunches: upper abdominal exercise

Lie on back, knees bent. Do not anchor feet. (Anchoring the feet or keeping the legs straight along the floor can strain the lower back). Arms may be folded over your chest or be held beside your ears with elbows out. Tighten your abs. Keep the lower back flat on the floor and neck straight. Keep chin tucked - looking at ceiling helps prevent tilting head up or down. Exhale when raising your torso off the floor, and inhale when lowering. Just raise your head and shoulder off the floor –3 to 6inches is enough. Sitting up all the way is hard on your lower back. Do 10 repetitions.

Be very careful not to pull on your neck or you could overstretch a neck muscle. Keep your elbows out to the side to help avoid pulling neck forward. Don't start out doing too many crunches - the number of crunches performed should be increased slowly.

Move slowly when performing crunches. Do not rely on momentum.

Bicycle Crunch: obliques exercise (sides of the abdomen)

Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Bring your feet off the ground and bend knees to a 90 degree ankle. Place hands behind ears and reach right elbow to left knee, then left elbow to right knee. Legs should be moving toward each elbow and back in a bicycle motion.

Reverse Crunch: lower abdominal exercise

Lie flat on your back, feet in the air. Bend knees 90 degrees. Place hands under buttocks for support and make sure your lower back remains flat on the floor. Tightening your lower abdomen, lift your buttocks a few inches off your hands. Hold for a moment and lower back down. Do 5 to 15 repetitions.

Leg Lifts: lower abdominal exercise

Lie flat on back. Bend one knee and keep foot flat on floor. Tighten abs. Lift opposite leg about 45 degrees. Hold for a count of 3. Repeat 10 times. Switch sides.

Stretching Exercises: to keep your muscles and other supporting tissues flexible and less prone to injury

Always warm up before stretching exercises. Five minutes of walking, or exercise bike, elliptical trainer, or even marching on the spot is enough. Not warming up before stretching leaves your back susceptible to injuries, causing back pain. Warm muscles are more flexible than cold muscles and are less likely to tear.

Runners' Lunge: hip flexor stretch (low back pain is often caused by overdeveloped or tight hip flexors)

Step into a lunge position. Keep your toes pointed forward and your upper body straight. Support your weight on your thigh, then press down with your hands and extend your hips forward until you feel a stretch from the front of your hip. Hold 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides. This can also be done from a kneeling position.

Pelvic Tilt: lower back stretching exercise (also strengthens abs)

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Tighten your buttocks and abdomen, flattening the small of back against the floor. Hold for a count of 5. Slowly relax. Repeat5 - 15 times.

Knee to Chest: gluteal stretching exercise

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Grasp your left leg behind the knee/back of thigh and pull knee towards left shoulder. Hold for a count of five. Switch sides. Repeat 5 times.

Piriformis Stretch: stretches Muscles that lie beneath gluteal muscles

Sit on a chair
Place your left ankle over your right leg, just above the knee, and lean forward. 
Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other side.

The Cat /Cow: (from yoga) back stretching exercise

Begin on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. 
Inhale as you drop tummy towards the floor and look up over your head. 
Exhale as you bring your tummy back up, rounding your back as you tuck your chin in and tuck your tailbone in. 
Move slowly back and forth between these two positions pausing on each pose. 
Repeat about 5 times.

The Cobra: back and chest stretching exercise

Lie flat on your stomach, forehead to ground, with your arms bent and palms down on the ground under the shoulders. 
Push downward with arms as you raise your upper torso and arch your back. 
Hold for 3 full breaths before slowly bringing the upper torso back down to the ground.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lower Back Rehab

Low back pain and injuries are among the most infamous and talked about health problems, especially amongst active people. Having an injured back is a horrible experience that can be hard to understand unless you have experienced it for yourself. Injury, especially re-injury, is often caused by overuse and muscle strain. Treating and caring for your back can help you stay active, as well as help you understand that some continued or repeated back pain is not uncommon or dangerous.

Fortunately most low back pain can get better! By staying active, avoiding positions and activities that may increase or cause back pain, using ice, and taking nonprescription pain relievers (such as ibuprofen) as needed will help keep the pain at bay.

When you no longer have acute pain, it is important to start strengthening exercises for your stomach, back, and legs, as well as some stretching exercises. One thing I never realized until my own back injury (I herniated 2 discs and strained a muscle) was how important it is to strengthen the core. Exercise may not only help decrease low back pain, but may actually speed up recovery and prevent re-injury.

**It's important that you don't let fear of pain keep you from trying gentle activity. You should try to be active soon after noticing pain, and gradually increase your activity level.Too little activity can lead to loss of flexibility, strength, and endurance, and then to more pain.

Exercises to reduce low back pain are not complicated and can be done at home without any special equipment. Below is an outline of a well-rounded exercise plan you can use to help strengthen your back once the pain is no longer acute.

Aerobic Exercise: to condition your heart and other muscles, maintain health, and speed recovery. Try low or no-impact activities such as pool walking, jogging, swimming, or the elliptical machine. (See my Training Ater an Injury post for an example of an incredible pool workout to try).

Strengthening Exercises: focused on your back, stomach, and leg muscles.

Stretching Exercises: to keep your muscles and other supporting tissues flexible and less prone to injury.

Always warm up before stretching exercises. Five minutes of walking, or exercise bike, elliptical trainer, or even marching on the spot is enough. Not warming up before stretching leaves your back susceptible to injuries, causing back pain. Warm muscles are more flexible than cold muscles and are less likely to tear.

Keep watching the Dynamic Workouts Blog for exercises you can try in each of these categories. If you would like to receive email updates, please add your email address in the box to the right of this post.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fitter, Faster, Stronger, Leaner – Calorie Blasting Weekly Rotation

In case you are new to this (as I was recently), a ‘rotation’ is known to fitness junkies as the program or workout schedule they follow for a certain period of time. They rotate or change the workout on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Many people have asked what it is that I do for my weekly routine. The amount, intensity, and type of workouts I do varies drastically depending on whether I’m training for something, traveling, battling a nagging injury, etc. But having a solid foundation and knowledge of your options helps you understand how to tweak things according to your schedule, your body, and your health. As we all know, life gets busy and for many people exercising is the first thing to go out the door – however, I am a firm believer that if you really want something badly enough, you make it a priority.

Whether it’s a super action hero body you’re after or simply the ability to run a certain distance, you must make the conscious decision to commit to what it takes to achieve that. If it helps, write down your program for the week so you already know what you want to achieve and you won’t have to think about it. The key knowing what it takes to get what you want and taking the action to go after it, no matter how hard; the results will be well worth it!!

Below is an example of a one week rotation schedule for me this November– it incorporates everything from cardio (of all types to keep from boredom and to keep the body guessing), as well as strength/resistance training, stretching and flexibility.

CARDIO: 30 Min Interval Workout (either running or elliptical machine)
See For Fast Results Try HIIT for an example of interval workout.
Followed by
3 sets of 15 pushups ** push ups are the key to incredibly defined arms
6 minutes of Abs
Plyometrics –10 burpees, 3 x 20 sec bounding, 1-2 min skipping

CARDIO: 25 min bike + 25 min elliptical or run (also known as a brick workout because it forces your body to learn to run after getting off a bike)
Followed by
3 sets of 15 pushups
3 x 15 Running Arms: light dumbbell in each hand (I use 12lb but started at 8lb, the key here is form! Look in mirror and do a running motion with arms only – feet are planted on the ground. Keep your core pulled tight, do 15 on each side – this breeds incredible core and upper body strength, but make sure your form is good, shoulders back, think ‘Strong Arms’.

Vinyasa or other athletic-type YOGA class – usually I do this in the evening because I don’t have time all at once.

CARDIO:45-60 Min in the POOL – swim a mile, then do a running workout in the water: see Training After an Injury

6 min of abs + stretching and PUSH UPS of course!!

CARDIO:Indoor Cycling Class or 50 min of hills on outdoor bike
Plyometric Circuit, see Monday
Followed by
3 sets of 15 pushups
45 seconds of Lateral Leaping (jumping side to side from one leg to the other)

2nd Workout: 20 min swim – mix it up with drills such as kickboard

CARDIO:Easy 30 -45 min of any type of cardio followed by a full body strength training workout consisting of:

-Walking Lunges
-Running Arms
-Step Ups
-Bench Press
-Rowing Arms
-Seated Row
-Pull Ups
-Hamstring Curls

*Approx 2 sets of 15 reps for each – if explanation is needed for any of these please post a comment and I will explain. Also, it is important to change the weight routine frequently so your body doesn’t become to ‘used to it’ and stop producing results

*Due to the high number of reps, I stick to relatively low but still challenging weights, the program is designed for long, lean and toned muscles, rather then big and bulky ones. This routine is also effective for runners looking to get faster!

Warrior Workout –I reserve my Sat mornings for this since it is when I know I will have time!
CARDIO:30-40 min run or elliptical (sometimes I through in a 10 min of tempo, aka faster paced running, in the middle)
60 min Bike ride outside or Spin class
1 mile Swim

*simulates a triathlon in reverse order

STRETCH + 3 x 15 Push Ups

**CAREFUL, this is an EXTREMELY high-calorie burning workout, so make sure to fuel properly and replenish afterward.

Rest or Easy Walk in the park