The Best Core Exercises For All Levels Of Gym-Goer
Develop a stronger core with these beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises
The Police’s 1983 classic “Every Breath You Take” is not about your core muscles. It’s about a creepy, creepy guy who can’t let a relationship go. But it could be, because every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take (“take” again, lazy from Sting), involves using your core muscles. Except possibly the bond thing – that’s unclear.
Ensuring your core is strong and flexible will help you in the gym, playing sports or just going about your daily business. A strong core will also help you maintain good posture and avoid issues like lower back pain.
Beginner Core Exercises
Building a strong core is all about keeping still, not doing hundreds of abdominal curl repetitions. These three holds will create the foundation of a strong core, teaching you to keep your hips aligned and how to control your posture.
The definitive core exercise. The plank involves minimal movement but maximal effort, requiring you to support your body on your forearms and toes while holding your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. You can make it easier by resting on your knees, or harder by extending your arms so you’re supported by your hands.
Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling, and your legs raised with your knees bent at 90°. Lower your right arm and left leg at the same time until they are hovering just above the floor, then return to the starting position. Then do the same with the opposite limbs.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight, and hold your arms out in front of you as you raise your feet off the ground with your legs together. If you can, extend your legs so they are straight and your body forms a V shape. You can also raise your arms and spread your legs to make the hold harder.
Beginner Core Workout
Naturally you can do each of the exercises as part of a training session, but for a beginner core workout try this suggested routine from Tidmarsh, doing five rounds in total of these three exercises.
1 Plank Time 30sec Rest 0sec
2 Dead bug Reps 10 Rest 0sec
3 Boat Time 30sec Rest 1min
Intermediate Core Exercises
Here we start to add movement to a controlled core. Can you stay still with good posture whilst another area of your body moves? It’s much tougher than you think!
Get into a plank position with your feet spread and your forearms resting on a gym ball. Push the ball away with your forearms, then pull it back it, while maintaining the plank position.
Hanging knee raise
On a set of dip bars, hold yourself steady with arms fully extended. Raise your knees towards your chest, then lower them slowly. Repeat. You can also do this exercise hanging from a pull-up bar.
Dumbbell plank drag
Get into the top press-up position. Put a dumbbell on the ground just to the right of your torso. Reach underneath and across with your left hand to grab the dumbbell and drag it to your left side. Then mirror the movement with your right hand.
Intermediate Core Workout
If you want to combine three movements in one workout, here’s a suggested routine. Do three rounds in total of the three exercises.
1 Ball push-away Reps 8 Rest 0sec
2 Hanging knee raise Reps 8 Rest 0sec
3 Dumbbell plank drag Reps 8 Rest 1min
Advanced Core Exercises
Now we start to add greater difficulty to posture control by adding more of a load, more of your body weight, or a larger range of movements. Remember – slow and steady movement wins the race to a stronger core.
Strict toes to bar
We did say these were advanced exercises, and this is certainly not one for newbies. While hanging from a pull-up bar, bend at the hips (not the waist) and lift your toes to the bar, keeping your legs together as you move.
Use a pair of parallettes for this core cruncher. Lift and hold yourself up above the parallettes with your arms extended. Extend your legs straight out in front of you so you form an L-shape. Hold it – if you can.
Another savage hold exercise. Get into an elevated plank with your feet against a wall so you form a flat, horizontal line from heels to head. Hold. HOLD!
Advanced Core Workout
Put these three exercise together for this quick but brutal core workout designed by Tidmarsh. Do three rounds in total.
1 Strict toes to bar Reps 6 Rest 0min
2 L-sit Time 30sec Rest 0sec
3 Wall plank Time 30sec Rest 1min
More Core Exercises
Given how important a strong core is, we’re sure that you won’t mind us throwing a few more core moves at you that Tidmarsh didn’t mention, starting with an essential plank variation.
While the plank works most of the crucial core muscles, there are a few it misses. Fortunately, a minor tweak remedies that. The side plank works your obliques and the little-known quadratus lumborum, which is part of the posterior abdominal wall and a key muscle when it comes to avoiding lower back pain.
To do the side plank lie on your right side with your feet together, left stacked on top of the right, and prop yourself up on your right forearm. Push your hips up so you form a straight line from your feet to your head, then hold this position for the set time, without letting your hips drop. Make sure to repeat on the other side.
The perfect counterpart to the sit-up, which tends to work only the upper abs. Leg raises hit the lower abs hard, as well as improving the flexibility of your hips and lower back. Lie flat on your back with your legs together. Keeping them together and as straight as possible, raise them until your toes are pointing at the ceiling. Lower slowly back to the start.
A very simple exercise that starts feeling like absolutely murder after about ten seconds and only gets worse from there. Lie on your back and lift your legs slightly off the floor. Your shoulders should also be raised slightly so there is tension in your abs. Press your lower back into the floor and don’t let it lift off the floor. Then flutter your feet up and down while keeping your torso still. Keep going as long as you can, but don’t be surprised if that’s not very long.
For more questions, we are always here to help coach you through this as results come in all different forms
Need some motivation to begin or continue working out? While some people are natural workout fanatics, exercise doesn’t come as easily to others. And to deliver the most benefits, exercise must be consistent, which also can be a challenge with our hyper-busy lifestyles.
Although most people know that exercise is good for them, they may not realize all the reasons why. Here are a few top reminders of why you should exercise – even if – or especially if – you don’t feel like it.
Top 10 Reasons to Exercise
- Prevent Disease – Regular exercise can help stave off heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other health issues, such as Alzheimer’s. It’s a terrific preventative measure.
- Feel Better – Exercise helps combat fatigue and gives you more energy, making everyday tasks easier. Plus, you’ll feel better if you are fitter and healthier.
- Shape Up – Of course, consistent exercise can help you lose weight, tone muscles, and develop a fit physique, which can give you a better body image and greater confidence. You gain stamina and strength, as well as flexibility.
- Improve Sleep – Exercisers generally find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep and therefore are better rested and able to take on life’s daily pressures.
- Boost Mental Health – Studies show that exercise is an effective way to combat depression and anxiety, and provide self-efficacy and a sense of accomplishment. Plus, it’s one of the greatest stress-busters around, with serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine flooding the body.
- Enjoy a Social Outlet – Certainly, you can exercise alone if you prefer. But exercise at a health club, in a class, in a running or walking group or with a sports team also presents great social opportunities, helping create a community.
- Get Smarter – Believe it or not, exercise raises brain chemicals that help make new brain cells so that we learn better. It can also help prevent memory loss.
- Avoid Sickness – Research has shown that exercise boosts your immune system so that you’re less susceptible to common colds, flu, and infection.
- Take in Fresh Air – People know that being outside – excluding severe weather or temperature extremes – helps lift spirits, with fresh air, sunshine and immersed in the great outdoors. When possible, add in some exercise outside to refresh your body and mind.
- Live Longer – Healthier, fitter people tend to enjoy greater longevity.
Strength training builds more than muscles
Most of us know that strength training (with free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands) can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength. What many of us don’t know is that strong muscles lead to strong bones. And strong bones can help minimize the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
A combination of age-related changes, inactivity, and inadequate nutrition conspire to gradually steal bone mass, at the rate of 1% per year after age 40. As bones grow more fragile and susceptible to fracture, they are more likely to break after even a minor fall or a far less obvious stress, such as bending over to tie a shoelace.
Osteoporosis should be a concern for all of us. An estimated eight million women and two million men in the United States have osteoporosis. It is now responsible for more than two million fractures each year, and experts expect that number will rise. Hip fractures are usually the most serious. Six out of 10 people who break a hip never fully regain their former level of independence. Even walking across a room without help may become impossible.
Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related declines in bone mass. Activities that put stress on bones can nudge bone-forming cells into action. That stress comes from the tugging and pushing on bone that occur during strength training (as well as weight-bearing aerobic exercises like walking or running). The result is stronger, denser bones.
And strength training, in particular, has bone benefits beyond those offered by aerobic weight-bearing exercise. It targets bones of the hips, spine, and wrists, which are the sites most likely to fracture. What’s more, resistance workouts — particularly those that include moves emphasizing power and balance — enhance strength and stability. That can boost confidence, encourage you to stay active, and reduce fractures another way — by cutting down on falls.
TOP 10 NUTRITION TIPS
Healthy Tip 1: Set yourself up for success
To set yourself up for success, think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps rather than one big drastic change. If you approach the changes gradually and with commitment, you will have a healthy diet sooner than you think.
Simplify. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more delicious
Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.
Small Changes Matter. Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts.
Drink Water. Consider water as one of the central components of your diet. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.
Healthy Tip 2: Moderation is key
People often think of healthy eating as an all or nothing proposition, but a key foundation for any healthy diet is moderation. Despite what certain fad diets would have you believe, we all need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body.
Try not to think of certain foods as “off-limits.” When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. If you are drawn towards sweet, salty, or unhealthy foods, start by reducing portion sizes and not eating them as often. Later you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently, particularly in restaurants. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entrée, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything. At home, use smaller plates, think about serving sizes in realistic terms, and start small. Visual cues can help with portion sizes—your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards. A teaspoon of oil or salad dressing is about the size of a matchbook and your slice of bread should be the size of a CD case.
Healthy Tip 3: It’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat
Healthy eating is about more than the food on your plate—it is also about how you think about food. Healthy eating habits can be learned and it is important to slow down and think about food as nourishment rather than just something to gulp down in between meetings or on the way to pick up the kids.
Eat with others whenever possible. Eating with other people has numerous social and emotional benefits—particularly for children—and allows you to model healthy eating habits. Eating in front of the TV or computer often leads to mindless overeating.
Chew slowly. Take time to chew your food and enjoy mealtimes, savoring every bite. We tend to rush though our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavors and feel the textures of our food. Reconnect with the joy of eating.
Listen to your body. Ask yourself if you are really hungry, or have a glass of water to see if you are thirsty instead of hungry. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.
Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, and eating small, healthy meals throughout the day (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up and your metabolism going.
Healthy Tip 4: Fill up on colorful fruits & vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day and with every meal—the brighter the better. Colorful, deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—and different colors provide different benefits, so eat a variety. Aim for a minimum of five portions each day.
Some great choices include:
Greens. Branch out beyond bright and dark green lettuce. Kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are just a few of the options—all packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Sweet vegetables. Naturally sweet vegetables—such as corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, and squash—add healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for other sweets.
Fruit. Fruit is a tasty, satisfying way to fill up on fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Berries are cancer-fighting, apples provide fiber, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, and so on.
The importance of getting vitamins from food—not pills
The antioxidants and other nutrients in fruits and vegetables help protect against certain types of cancer and other diseases. And while advertisements abound for supplements promising to deliver the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables in pill or powder form, research suggests that it’s just not the same.
A daily regimen of nutritional supplements is not going to have the same impact of eating right. That’s because the benefits of fruits and vegetables don’t come from a single vitamin or an isolated antioxidant.
The health benefits of fruits and vegetables come from numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals working together synergistically. They can’t be broken down into the sum of their parts or replicated in pill form.
Healthy Tip 5: Eat more healthy carbs and whole grains
Choose healthy carbohydrates and fiber sources, especially whole grains, for long lasting energy. In addition to being delicious and satisfying, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart.
A quick definition of healthy carbs and unhealthy carbs:
Healthy carbs (sometimes known as good carbs) include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly, helping you feel full longer and keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
Unhealthy carbs (or bad carbs) are foods such as white flour, refined sugar, and white rice that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. Unhealthy carbs digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy.
Tips for eating more healthy carbs
Include a variety of whole grains in your healthy diet, including whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley. Experiment with different grains to find your favorites.
Make sure you’re really getting whole grains. Be aware that the words stone-ground, multi-grain, 100% wheat, or bran can be deceptive. Look for the words “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” at the beginning of the ingredient list. In the U.S., check for the Whole Grain Stamps that distinguish between partial whole grain and 100% whole grain.
Try mixing grains as a first step to switching to whole grains. If whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta don’t sound good at first, start by mixing what you normally use with the whole grains. You can gradually increase the whole grain to 100%.
Avoid refined foods such as breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.
Healthy Tip 6: Enjoy healthy fats & avoid unhealthy fats
Good sources of healthy fat are needed to nourish your brain, heart, and cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA are particularly important and can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, and help prevent dementia.
Add to your healthy diet:
Monounsaturated fats, from plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil, as well as avocados, nuts (like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), and seeds (such as pumpkin, sesame).
Polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Other sources of polyunsaturated fats are unheated sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils, and walnuts.
Reduce or eliminate from your diet:
Saturated fats, found primarily in animal sources including red meat and whole milk dairy products.
Trans fats, found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Healthy Tip 7: Put protein in perspective
Protein gives us the energy to get up and go—and keep going. Protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body’s basic building blocks for growth and energy, and essential for maintaining cells, tissues, and organs. A lack of protein in our diet can slow growth, reduce muscle mass, lower immunity, and weaken the heart and respiratory system. Protein is particularly important for children, whose bodies are growing and changing daily.
Here are some guidelines for including protein in your healthy diet:
Try different types of protein. Whether or not you are a vegetarian, trying different protein sources—such as beans, nuts, seeds, peas, tofu, and soy products—will open up new options for healthy mealtimes.
Beans: Black beans, navy beans, garbanzos, and lentils are good options.
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans are great choices.
Soy products: Try tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and veggie burgers for a change.
Avoid salted or sugary nuts and refried beans.
Downsize your portions of protein. Many people in the West eat too much protein. Try to move away from protein being the center of your meal. Focus on equal servings of protein, whole grains, and vegetables.
Focus on quality sources of protein, like fresh fish, chicken or turkey, tofu, eggs, beans, or nuts. When you are having meat, chicken, or turkey, buy meat that is free of hormones and antibiotics.
Healthy Tip 8: Add calcium for strong bones
Calcium is one of the key nutrients that your body needs in order to stay strong and healthy. It is an essential building block for lifelong bone health in both men and women, as well as many other important functions.
You and your bones will benefit from eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, limiting foods that deplete your body’s calcium stores, and getting your daily dose of magnesium and vitamins D and K—nutrients that help calcium do its job.
Recommended calcium levels are 1000 mg per day, 1200 mg if you are over 50 years old. Take a vitamin D and calcium supplement if you don’t get enough of these nutrients from your diet.
Good sources of calcium include:
Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and crimini mushrooms.
Beans: For another rich source of calcium, try black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas, or baked beans.
Healthy Tip 9 & 10: Limit sugar and salt
If you succeed in planning your diet around fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and good fats, you may find yourself naturally cutting back on foods that can get in the way of your healthy diet—sugar and salt.
Sugar causes energy ups and downs and can add to health and weight problems. Unfortunately, reducing the amount of candy, cakes, and desserts we eat is only part of the solution. Often you may not even be aware of the amount of sugar you’re consuming each day. Large amounts of added sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, soy sauce, and ketchup. Here are some tips:
Avoid sugary drinks. One 12-oz soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in it, more than the daily recommended limit! Try sparkling water with lemon or a splash of fruit juice.
Eat naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or natural peanut butter to satisfy your sweet tooth.
How sugar is hidden on food labels:
Check food labels carefully. Sugar is often disguised using terms such as:
- cane sugar or maple syrup
- corn sweetener or corn syrup
- honey or molasses
- brown rice syrup • crystallized or evaporated cane juice
- fruit juice concentrates, such as apple or pear
- maltodextrin (or dextrin)
- Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, or Sucrose
Most of us consume too much salt in our diets. Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems. Try to limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day, the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt.
- Avoid processed or pre-packaged foods. Processed foods like canned soups or frozen dinners contain hidden sodium that quickly surpasses the recommended limit.
- Be careful when eating out. Most restaurant and fast food meals are loaded with sodium.
- Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.
- Cut back on salty snacks such as potato chips, nuts, and pretzels.
- Choose low-salt or reduced-sodium products.
- Try slowly reducing the salt in your diet to give your taste buds time to adjust.
4 Foundation Exercises for Weight Training
Foundation Training itself is about using your body weight to create more mobility and ease of movement which in turn helps with muscle strength. It is a solution for the way we live today—a lifestyle characterized by being hunched over computers and cell phones, thus weakening our posterior chain muscles, which make up the back of the legs and support the spine.
Before industrialization, we used these muscles all the time; now, because we don’t use them as often as we should, many of us suffer from back pain and are more prone to injury. The beauty of foundation training is that it can be used to help heal a current injury and create support to keep you safer and in less pain in the future.
Foundation training is good for everyone. One of the most famous foundation training workouts was actually developed for Lance Armstrong after a long career of high performance in a sport that didn’t require much lower back movement from its seated position.
Foundation exercise strength training is especially great for improving mobility in weight training, which becomes much more effective when our range of motion allows us to manage the full extent and, therefore, reap the full benefits of any specific movement.
Here are four fitness foundation exercises that will improve your weight training.
1 | The Founder
The founder is the core movement of foundation training; all other movements stem from the postural positions you’ll learn here.
First, stand with your feet about hip-width apart while bending your knees slightly and sitting your hips back. Keep your weight in your heels. (You should be able to lift your toes and maintain this position.)
Don’t let your knees inch in front of your feet. Your shins should be completely perpendicular to the floor. If they’re not, sit into your heels and press your hips back even farther. You might want to do this in front of a couch or bedside the first time just in case you totter over.
Lift your chest and keep your shoulders open. Engage your core. You should have a natural arch in your lower back, but be careful not to let it extend beyond that natural position. You should feel those lower back muscles activating here.
From there, lift your arms forward while maintaining this posture. If you’re a yoga fan, you can think of this as a modified chair pose. Try to reach your arms as high as possible without disrupting your position. If this doesn’t feel available to you yet, reach your arms behind you with your palms facing the floor. Take about 10 seconds of deep breaths here.
Next, you’re going to reach down to the floor with your hands while keeping those knees nice and bent, your hips back, weight in the heels, and back flat. When your hands touch the floor, continue to keep that weight back in your heels as you create length in the back body. Take another 10 seconds of deep breaths.
To come back up, put your hands on your shins to support your body, extend your spine, and look forward as you bring your shoulder blades together and use the muscles in your legs to come up to the initial posture. When your back feels braced, let go of your legs and reach your arms back behind you or above your head for ten more seconds of breaths in the initial founder posture.
Finally, stand up straight and bring your arms down. That is one full founder.
2 | Prone Decompression
For this exercise, get on your stomach. With your legs extended, tuck your toes under your feet.
While squeezing your knees together, bring your hands down to your sides with your palms facing the floor and your pinkies next to your torso. Squeeze your shoulder blades together so your elbows are sticking up behind your back. Your head should come up a few inches off the floor, and you should look straight down with your chin slightly tucked (don’t look forward). Take three deep breaths here, making sure to keep your hips anchored to the floor.
In the next movement, bring your hands forward so that they are palm-down with your thumbs touching the outsides of your shoulders. Keep squeezing those shoulder blades together. To paint a better picture of how this might look, if you were to put your hands down, you would be in the bottom of a push-up position. Hover your upper torso, keep looking down, keep anchoring that pelvis, and take a few more deep breaths.
Now, reach your arms forward and allow your fingers to reach the ground to support the rest of the arms, which should be elevated. Keep your knees together, toes tucked, and pelvis anchored. Keep your gaze to the floor while tucking your chin and pulling your head up toward the ceiling. Take a few more deep breaths here.
This makes up a prone decompression. From here, you can repeat the movements once or twice, taking those long, deep breaths throughout.
3 | 8-Point Plank
The 8-point plank is going to get your core nice and strong while maintaining that supportive back body.
You’ll start this one stomach-down on the floor. Bring your elbows and hands to the ground in front of you. Your elbows should come out just a little bit in front of the shoulders. Keep them at shoulder-width apart with your hands shooting straight forward from there. In yoga terms, this will look kind of like a sphinx pose with your elbows slightly forward. These are your first 4 points of contact with the ground: two hands and two elbows.
The other four points are the knees and feet, which should stay at hip-distance apart with those toes tucked under. At this point, your belly should still be on the ground.
Next is getting into the plank. Start inflating your spine from the top down. This looks like lifting out of the shoulders and engaging the back and core muscles to create that raised position. At the end of this inflation movement, you’ll be in an 8-point plank with your hands, elbows, knees, and toes supporting your body. Don’t let your lower back arch; keep that straight spine.
Take a few deep breaths and come on down.
4 | Anchored Bridge
If you already do activities that require bridges (think yoga and pilates), suspend everything you know about them for this exercise.
Laying flat on your back with your legs out, bend the knees slightly so your heels are touching the ground and your toes are sticking straight in the air. Keep your knees and feet glued together.
Using the point of contact in your heels, lift your hips off the floor. Keep your back flat and your arms by your sides. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to lift your hips as high as possible (they should only come a few inches off the floor) but to engage your entire back body.
Try maintaining this position for 20-30 seconds and keep breathing deeply before gently lowering down.
As you can see, foundation workouts are multidimensional, creating movements that support your back body and make moving through the world an easier, less-painful experience. Add these workouts to your exercise program (and it might take a couple of weeks to adjust to them) and watch your body reap the benefits. You can try foundation exercises at any of our locations. Stop by today to see what the Dynamic Difference is all about.
- Fat gain or loss is determined by how many calories you take in and how many calories you use in a day
- Water weight can come from increased glycogen, an energy source that is produced primarily from carbohydrates
- A cheat day every once in a while will not erase weeks and months of hard work
Your hard work is paying off with your diet and workouts, and you keep making progress. The weight loss goal is in reach, and you decide to treat yourself. It might be a snack, a cheat meal, a cheat day, or even a weekend. When Monday comes, you weigh yourself for your weekly weigh-in, and you can’t believe it: you’ve gained 5 pounds.
First, the bad news: no the scale isn’t lying to you, you’ve gained 5 five pounds. Here the good news: it is not 5 pounds of fat.
If it is not fat, what is it? Are cheat days a good idea for your diet and fitness plan?
What are cheat days?
First, a quick overview. What exactly is a cheat day? “Cheat days”, despite the negative connotation, are planned breaks from your diet plan. Rewarding yourself with scheduled breaks from your diet plan, may help you stick to your diet plan, build better habits, and achieve long-term success.
What you plan to indulge in on your cheat day depends on the individual’s tastes and appetite, but the key idea is to let loose and enjoy yourself with something that isn’t on your diet plan.
Not every diet will allow for “cheat days”. The Paleo diet, for example, eliminates entire food groups and doesn’t allow for any breaks from the diet plan. But no matter what diet plan you are on, incorporate meals that you can look forward to helping make the diet plan sustainable.
What are the benefits of a cheat day?
Cheat days can be a great tool to help motivate you to stick to your diet plan. Use cheat days to build a positive relationship with food. View your favorite dessert or comfort food as a reward rather than a coping mechanism.
Something that you should keep in mind is that a cheat day isn’t a license to binge eat. Binge eating on your cheat day may lead to eating-related issues and hurt your ability to self-regulate.
Contrary to popular belief, binge eating does not boost your metabolism. It may have the opposite effect. Just like your diet, it is best to approach it with a plan and the focus on the long-term.
How often should you have cheat days?
There is no hard and fast rule on how many cheat days you should have. Or even if you decide between a cheat meal or day. Ultimately, it depends on how well you self-regulate and what your goals are.
It’s so easy for your cheat day to become a cheat weekend, and then a cheat week. Before you know it, you are back to your old eating habits. It is important to understand what will help you stay motivated.
The goal is to develop a sustainable, long-term plan. What you should consider are your body composition goal, and how fast you want to reach them. Think about how the extra calories (if any) from your cheat meals will impact your goal.
Why does a cheat day cause you to gain weight?
A cheat day causes some large weight increases, but weight because of water, not fat. Depending on what kind of diet you were on, loading up on carbs on a cheat day can increase your weight noticeably.
If you were trying to lose fat, you likely were trying to cut carbohydrates out of your diet. It’s a very popular technique, and diets structured around low carbohydrate and low caloric intake are about as basic a diet as they come. The Mayo Clinic notes that a diet targeting low carbohydrate intake makes up about 60-130 grams of carbs a day. Some popular diets—such as the Atkins Diet—target extremely low levels of carbohydrates, as low as 18 grams a day. This will help you lose weight and some of it.
But once you increase your consumption of carbs, you may see a subsequent increase in water weight.
How much water weight can you gain from cheat day?
If you’re consuming 60 grams of carbs a day, you’re holding onto approximately 210 grams of water. That’s about half a pound of water.
But if on a cheat day, you decide to eat and drink whatever you want and load up to 300 grams of carbohydrates (the average number of carbs eaten by men, according to the US Department of Agriculture), you would retain around 1kg of water or 2.2 pounds. If you were on a 60 carbs/day diet, you could be a pound and a half heavier already. If you went up to 400 grams of carbs, you could add on 2 ½ pounds of water.
Why do carbs cause you to retain water weight?
The reason your body retains water after you consume carbs involves your body’s favorite energy source: a molecule called glycogen. Glycogen is an energy source that is produced primarily from carbohydrates. Your body loves glycogen because it’s an easily accessible energy source that provides a lot of energy. Glycogen also has an interesting attribute: it bonds well with water. In fact, for every gram of carbohydrate in your body, there are about 3 to 4 molecules of water bonded to it.
But glycogen is far from the only substance or factor that can cause your body to retain extra water. Excess sodium can also cause your body to hold on to the water on top of the water held onto by your glycogen. Once you factor in the effects of food, your hormones, and your unique body composition, it is easy to see why your weight fluctuates so much.
But once you return to eating a low carb, low-sodium diet, your body should naturally shed the extra water weight you gained.
Can you gain pounds of fat overnight?
You can’t gain a pound of fat in a day, or even 5 pounds in one weekend. Biologically, it would amaze us if you did. You are very much aware of how difficult it is to lose fat quickly, but don’t laugh when I tell you, in theory, it is as “difficult” to gain fat.
Fat gain or loss has a lot to do with your energy/caloric balance–how many calories you take in vs. how many calories you use during the day. If you are using more energy than you take in, your body gets some energy it needs from your fat stores. If you’re taking in more energy–eating beyond your body’s needs–then the opposite happens: you build fat stores.
A common theory in the health and fitness world is that there are around 3,500 calories stored in a pound of fat. The theory goes that if you reduce your daily caloric intake by 500 every day of the week, in 7 days you’ll lose a pound of fat. Conversely, if you overeat by 500 calories a day, you can gain a pound of fat in a week.
500 Calories x 7 Days = 3,500 calories/week or 1 lb/ week
The point is, it TAKES TIME to gain or lose fat. (Of course, it is much easier than you think to overeat 500 calories a day. A large blended coffee-flavored drink once a day will do it.)
To gain a pound of fat, you would need to add about 500 calories a day on top of your normal diet, every day, for about 7 days. This makes gaining any significant amount of fat from even the craziest, all-out cheat days unlikely. To gain 5 pounds of fat in a day, you’d have to eat about 17,500 calories on top of your daily caloric limit.
If you are curious to see the effects of your cheat day, take a body composition test before and after your cheat day to see the changes to your body water levels.
Do cheat days ruin your progress?
A cheat day every once in a while will not erase weeks and months of consistent workouts and healthy eating.
Cheat days can help keep you stay motivated long-term if you practice mindful eating. But remember, this doesn’t mean you can get carried away on cheat days. It is important to always stay within reason and it will go a long way to help you develop healthy eating habits that you can sustain.
Do not stress about any sudden weight gain after a cheat day; it’s not fat but just water weight. Just make sure after you’ve had your fun, you get back on your fitness journey and keep working towards your goals. Changing your body composition and losing weight is a long-term process, but if you do it right, you’ll have long-term results!