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12

Planks: The No Crunch, No Head Lifting Abs Exercise

Planks are Great for Women Over 50

Alexandra planking at Lizard's Mouth

Who cares about rock hard abs when you can plank on rocks?

Have you heard you have to hold a long-lever plank for 5 minutes in order to be “cool” or to achieve results? Are you reluctant to attempt this classic ab exercise because that goal seems out of reach? Good news! As few as 20 seconds doing planks with good form will strengthen your core and work your abs. As well, you don’t need to crunch, flex your neck, or lift up your head. Check out the benefit of dropping down after 20 seconds and restarting in this post we wrote on short duration planking: Interval Planks Will Activate Your Abs

 

Ultimate Abs binder imagePlanks are accessible to nearly everyone, as many versions exist.  If you are a beginner planker, start on your knees. If you want a bit more challenge, but are not yet ready for a parallel plank on your toes, place your feet wide apart.  If you want a ton more ideas to improve your abs, then take advantage of the program we created specifically for baby boomers: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.

What is Good Planking Form?

Planking in Australia

The Tourist Plank at the Sydney Opera House in Australia

Good question. Even better answer is to keep reading as we offer bullets below and a video demo. AAAAaaand, pop over to our post that has another video going over dos and don’ts.Planking in Australia

How to Do Planks: Beginner to Intermediate Video

If you’re considering adding planks to your fitness regimen, watch our video. You’ll see four different modifications, and instructions for good form.

 

 

As few as 20 seconds doing planks w/ good form will strengthen your core & work your abs Click To Tweet

 

Kymberly planks in Thailand

We admit – not for beginners or those afraid of heights. Thailand Tourist Plank

Hot Tips from Certified Fitness Instructors (Yeah, that would be us) on How to Get the Most Out of Your Planks

Proper Technique:

  • Rest on your elbows, not your hands, (unless you are taking photos of yourself in exotic places around the world)
  • Place your elbows directly below your shoulders
  • Keep your hands loose and relaxed; a correlation exists between clenched fists and breath-holding
  • Try to keep your body in a straight line from head to knees or toes. If you need to bend, it’s less stressful on your lower back to have your hips slightly piked (lifted) than dropped
  • Pull your navel towards your spine while keeping your spine long
  • Breathe, people, breathe!
Kymberly planks in Cambria rain

We’ll plank anywhere, anytime, in any weather. Photo credit: Alexandra Williams

One caveat: We mention holding for 30 seconds in the video, but research also indicates you can hold for as little as 20, take a short break, then get back into plank position. Whether you choose 20 or 30 second intervals, stick with the plank position that gives you the best form.

 

Get Ultimate Abs (Better Yet, a Strong Core)

ACTION: What do you mean you’re not yet a subscriber? It’s so easy; you get a bonus; we come to you twice a week! Subscribe now in any of the opt-in boxes. But only if you want to age with comfort, confidence, and capability!

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

 

13

Get Ultimate Abs (Better Yet, a Strong Core)

K hanging from Ranch archGet Stronger, Sexier, Sleeker Abs at Any Age

If all goes well, you will age. HOW you grow older is largely under your control and a result of choices you make. Don’t watch your waist expand and your world shrink with each passing year.

Like you, Alexandra and I are baby boomers who know that added years often means added weight, more aches and pains, and reduced strength. But this decline is not inevitable and can be reversed —- if you take certain, critical actions. Some of those actions involve cutting out crunches and adding tailored core exercises that minimize flexing the spine at the neck. You are also well served to perform abdominal moves that require no head lifting.

HOW you grow old is largely under your control and a result of choices you make Click To Tweet

Take advantage of Alexandra’s and my combined 70 years’ experience as certified fitness professionals to transform your core and more. You can move from weak and (dare we say, perhaps “flabby”) to strong and Fab-Abby! How? By taking a look at our our newly created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” program.

Bust the myth that a 6-pack indicates a strong, age-defying core. A 6-pack certainly looks good. Yeah, we gotta admit that! And it does indicate low body fat. But it says nothing about the ability to function well in daily life, do fun physical activities, or maintain amazing posture.

Don’t watch your waist expand & your world shrink with each passing year Click To Tweet

Tap into the ABCs: Abs, Balance, CoreK doing splits at ranch in tree

Enjoy some of these photos of me (Kymberly) reaping the benefits of having a strong core even if I don’t sport a 6-pack.  Not only do I get to guest teach classes such as “Abs, Balance, and Core” at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, but also I get to goof off in the oak grove.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to work as hard as it takes to get back the 6-pack of my youth (that I may or may not ever have had in the first place). More to the point, it’s totally possible to have a youthful, functional set of abs even if your 6-pack could be described as a 10-pack.

But you do need core strength to beat the aging odds.

You need core strength to beat the aging odds. Click To Tweet

What is the Cost of Not Getting Active?

For one,  your body grows old faster than your mind. For another, your risk of injury and falling increases. Then there’s that fashion seduction of elastic waistband pants.

K piking while seated at RanchForget that! Gain core power galore! Take a look at our program to see whether it might be right for you.

ACTION: Click this link to learn more about the Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.Ultimate Abs binder image

 

 

 

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

 

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Wrong and Right Way to Do An Oblique Crunch [Video]

A week ago we posted a video showing 4 exercises that aren’t worth your time, which had a few readers asking us to please show safe exercises for the obliques (instead of a bicycle crunch crash).

Your wishes are granted, as we pulled this video from our YouTube channel that shows the wrong and right way to do an oblique crunch.

Do you perform oblique crunches the wrong or right way? Are you sure? Click To Tweet

We also include two bada-boom-bullets that explain things awfully well, along with a not-too-graphic graphic:
Internal & External Obliques

  • Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket.
  • Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.

Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.”

picture of Alexandra Williams at Bacara Resort

When the paparazzi try to photograph your obliques

Did you do the oblique crunch along with us? Feel free to comment below between reps. 412, 413, 414, 415 ….

Want more abdominal exercises tailored and curated to YOU? Then check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).

ACTION: Say, have you subscribed to our posts yet? Just put your email address in and Voila!!! Not only do we come to you twice a week with fitness solutions, but also you get our bonus booklet: “5 Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.”

by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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10

I Wonder When to Stretch If Doing Cardio, Strength Training, and Abs All-in-One?

Kymberly doing tree splits at Rancho la Puerta When to stretch?Stretch It or Be Wretched

Dear K and A: I am curious when to stretch and where in my workout it would be appropriate to add stretching? I am very comfortable in my fitness routine, which is generally a 20 to 45 minute treadmill program (depending how much time I have) followed by lunges with weights in hand, followed by upper body exercises with hand weights, followed by some ab work on the floor. (I’ll fess up, I’m often “too busy” to do the ab portion)  Joan, Oregon

When to Stretch? When warmKymberly: Time to stretch your mind and your workout, Ms Comfy. Ignoring your question for a moment (I am good at ignoring non-compliments too), let’s chit chat about an exercise routine that is, well, too routine and comfortable. Once your body has adapted to a certain level (let’s call it the “buff, babe-a-licious” level), it needs CHANGE to keep adapting upwards. No, not THE Change. We don’t require age checks here. While you really do need to get some stretching into your program, even more you need to vary your program. Take a look at our post, How Often Should I Vary My Workout? for more on this professional free nagging. Priorities, priorities.

When Do I Stretch If Doing Cardio, Strength Training, and Abs All-in-One? Click To Tweet

Before, During, or After My Workout?

Alexandra: You want to add stretching? Okay, cardio + weight training = need to stretch for range of motion (ROM!)  To translate, if you do any cardio or weight training you should stretch (mostly at the end, but during is sometimes okay) in order to maintain or increase range of motion, also known as flexibility. In short, don’t do your stretching prior to your workout as your muscles are short then. That’s my short answer! I gave all the researchers permission to let you know that stretching prior to exercise does not prevent injury or muscle soreness.

Increase your range of motion by stretching AFTER your workout. Click To Tweet

When Muscles are Warm or Cold? Extended or Contracted?

Kymberly: The ideal time to stretch is when your muscles are their warmest and cuddliest. Hmmm, that sounds immediately post-cardio to me. But since Alexandra brings up the “short muscle” comment, let’s think about that for a sec. Time’s up. After strength training, your muscles are short again. That’s why it’s called “muscular contraction.” And you do want to re-extend whatever you just shortened, stretching either between your lunges and each upper body exercise or at the end of your session. In general, stretch when warm; not when cold. Oy vay, such good advice! Basically, you have choices — post-cardio, between strength exercises, post all resistance training, and before abs.

More good advice to make the most of your workout time and maintain as much flexibility as possible is to read our post Stretch Before or After Walking, Running, Hiking, Fighting?

Stretch when you're warm, not cold. You can stretch post-cardio, btwn strength exercises, post… Click To Tweet

Alexandra: It would seem you don’t need an excuse to lie down and not do your ab work, but I’ll give you one anyway. With all that time you’re saving avoiding the ab work, use it to hold your stretches for 15-30 seconds. You say “couch po-tay-toe,” I say “couch po-tah-toe.” You say “hold” or “contract-relax” stretching, I say “static” or “PNF.” Whatever! These two types are probably the best choices for you. You say “Or-i-guhn,” some other fools (not I) say “Or-i-gahn.” And let’s not even start on the pronunciation of “Willamette!” Even Martin Sheen got it wrong on “West Wing” (hint: Memorize this-“It’s Willamette, dammit”). And do your abs, Willamette!Unassisted Calf Stretch

Dear flexible readers: Do you take time to do your stretches? Have you done your ab exercises yet?

ACTION: Want to get excited about doing abdominal exercises? Check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).

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Photo credits: Creative Commons: kevindooley, quinn.anya, Avoir Chaud

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

5

Oblique Ab Crunches: How to Do Them Properly

Tape measure on abs

One of our most popular post categories is Abs, especially workouts that show how to do them with good form. You want to avoid pain (and sweat), plus you want to get the most bang for your exercise buck (these posts are free), and the least waist for your workout. We are here to help you with the “muffin top / love handles” dilemma.

But first, take a look at our recently released program, “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50,”  (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).

Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.

Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.

Internal & External ObliquesYour external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.

Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.
Diagonal Reverse Abs
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!

Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!

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Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org

by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

12

3 Seated Abs Exercises, plus Pretty Photos from Mexico

While teaching for a week at Rancho la Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico I managed to find a few spots that had wifi so I could share some abdominal moves on video.

swing at Rancho la Puerta in Tecate, MexicoThe three videos were done in real time via my Periscope account (if you have a Twitter account, you can get a Periscope account), but I saved them so that I could share them now with all of you. They are in portrait mode because Periscope isn’t yet set up for landscape mode, but the info is still 100% legit at any angle!

This video is the perfect place to start if you’re new to a stability ball or just want to ease into ab work:

This video adds an extra element to the video above:

This one adds the challenge of lifting your feet and moving your arms:

As it’s about a kabillion degrees IN THE SHADE here in Santa Barbara, my brain is melted, so I have no clever words. Instead, you get lovely photos from my trip to Tecate, including a BONUS photo of the beach where I grew up – Hermosa Beach. That makes this entire post worth its price – which is zero, of course, but still….

Welcome to Tecate sign

Playboy barber shop in Tecate, Mexico

park bench in Tecate, Mexico

sculpture at art museum in Tecate, Mexico

 

statue of woman behind a gate at Rancho la Puerta Spa

pool and cabana

wagon in a field of flowers

grove of trees in morning light

helicopter flying over lifeguard tower at the beachPlease follow me on Periscope for travel and fitness scopes (videos): I am at AlexandraFunFit.

As I’m trying to finance our medical coverage (we are no longer covered by work), I’d appreciate your input. I’m thinking of making note cards from some of my photos and selling them. Do you recommend this? If so, any suggestions where to sell them (besides Etsy)? Thanks.

by Alexandra Williams, MA

 

4

Do You Have to Work Harder and Faster as You Age, Just to Stay the Same?

Dear Twins:
At age 71, I find that fitness is a race between the body’s downward slope and the effort to work faster to stay fit. I’d love to have help with how to stay fit at this age. What I find is that all the fitness professionals are addressing younger people. My goal is to be able to continue to walk long distances effortlessly for the rest of my life. Unfortunately sciatica has gotten in my way. So I’d like ways to conquer this and keep my lumbar spine in order. I walked my first half marathon in February, by the way!
Wendy, San Francisco

More Mesa walk

Do Walk Away! And walk this way. Click on the picture for tips on walking.

First of all Wendy, if you just did a half marathon, you are probably more fit than most of the young people I teach at the university. Congratulations on your achievement.

Let’s help you point by point:

Downward Slope, Effort & Staying Fit: I’ll focus on muscle loss, as you don’t mention a strength training component to your workout. Sarcopenia is the progressive decline in skeletal muscle mass that may lead to decreased strength and functionality. When people talk about the race against time, they are usually talking about sarcopenia.
I wrote an article for The Journal on Active Aging about ways to deal with this that might interest you. Summarized in two words – Resistance Training. If you add some resistance training to your regimen, you’ll be amazed at the results. A 70-year-old who does some form of strength/ resistance training can be more fit than a 20-year-old who doesn’t. Isn’t THAT good news?
I’ll start you with our YouTube playlists, “Healthy Aging Exercises for Women Over 45” and “Women Over 50.”
You’ll also want to check out two of our TransformAging webinar colleagues’ websites – Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson.

cover page for sarcopenia article

Sarcopenia – Fancy word for “muscle wasting”

Effortless Walking: Since it sounds like your stamina and heart are chugging along, future effortless walking can be assisted by – you guessed it – resistance training, and balance work to prevent falls. Cody and Dan (our other co-presenters) specialize in this area, so here’s a link to some of their posts on balance.

Sciatica: Most research studies have shown stretching, yoga and low intensity movement (that doesn’t involve twisting) to be most effective in controlling the symptoms. For this we recommend you look locally for instructors who specialize in yoga or Pilates. You’ll want to ask about their certifications, speciality training (for both older adults and back care), and experience. Don’t be shy about asking for references. If you search for exercises online, check the source. For example, we trust the info on this link from the National Institutes of Health.
Final suggestion for now – strengthen your core so your back takes less of the load. We’ll get you started with our post “Abs and Core Exercises That Are Safe for the Lower Back.”

Of course, you can always come to Santa Barbara and join us in one of our classes for older adults. We’ll take good care of you!

by Alexandra Williams, MA

 

9

Intro to Planks

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Often, people are reluctant to attempt a plank because they’ve heard that you have to hold a long-lever plank for 5 minutes in order to be “cool.” Not true. Planks are accessible to nearly everyone, as many versions exist.

Perfect Form Plank - Oh Yeah!

Perfect Form Plank – Oh Yeah!

If you’re considering adding a plank to your fitness regimen, this video shows four different modifications, and instructions for good form.

Proper Technique:

  • Planks are more effective if you rest on your elbows, not your hands
  • Elbows directly below the shoulders
  • Hands loose and relaxed; a correlation exists between clenched fists and breath-holding
  • It’s better for your lower back to have your hips slightly piked rather than dropped, though a straight line is your goal
  • Pretend you are wearing a belt, and tighten all places where it would touch

One caveat: We mention holding for 30 seconds in the video, but research also indicates you can hold for as little as 20, take a short break, then get back into plank position. Whether you choose 20 or 30 second intervals, stick with the plank position that gives you the best form.

While we’re on the subject of good form, this is the second of two videos that Depend Silhouette Active Fit shot with me as one of the models.

For the video where I do some jumps (using the core strength I earned doing lots of plank intervals), read our recent post: Cross Your Legs; Don’t Sneeze: The Boomer’s Exercise Dilemma.

While we’re at it, you may also want to enter for a chance to win one of three sets of KettlePOP non-GMO, organic kettlecorn and sea salt popcorn.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

14

Seated Abs Exercise: Obliques Circle

Alexandra Williams, MA

If you want an abs move that will make your obliques stronger and help you have a leaner look in the waist, then the Seated Obliques Circle is for you.

Kymberly enjoying Rancho la Puerta gardens Jan 2012Whether you have weak abs or strong, this exercise has a version you can do. And the good news is that it might be perfect for people with bad backs or knees, or even for people who want to avoid lying down.

What is the purpose of the obliques, you don’t ask? I’ll tell you anyway. First of all, you have both the external and internal obliques, making something like an X along the sides of your torso. They help flex, rotate and abduct the trunk, support the abdominal wall, assist in forced respiration and in pulling the chest downward to compress the abdominal cavity.

And of course, the abdominal muscles all help support the spine and good posture. And those of you mainly concerned about the aesthetics of the waist get your wish too, especially if you work on good posture.

Seated Obliques Circle gives you a leaner look in the waist, stronger abs, and better posture. Click To Tweet

I won’t describe the exercise in writing, as it’s far easier for you to watch the video. Besides, I want you to watch the video. Mainly so you can do the move with me. I don’t want to suffer look amazing alone.

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24

Reverse Curls: An Unusual Abs Exercise

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Ultimate Abs binder imageHow are your abs muscles different from other muscle groups? Did you know that your abs can do something your hamstring, biceps, pecs, quads – heck, any of the other muscles we hope you are tempted to train –can’t?

An example of this mystery property in action is the reverse ab curl, aka a great and safe core exercise.

Before getting to our video and the answer to this intriguing Abs question, take a look at our recently released program: “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed). Check out the link if you want a stronger core and better abs.  Moving on now to reverse curls.

Sing Along: We Got the Abs Right Here, The Method’s Oh So Dear, And Here’s Some Ladies Gonna Make it Very Clear. Can Do, Can Do, We Both Know That You Can Do (this exercise).

picture of reverse abs curl

Hips Lift Toward the Ceiling

We’ll give you a hint. Then you can try the reverse curl exercise in our video that targets your lower fibers and strengthens your entire midsection. No neck flexion required. No crunches or planks involved. This is a fun and safe ab exercise.

Read This Hint

Kymberly: When you train your biceps, your hand moves towards your shoulder. But you don’t bring your shoulder to your hand, right?
When you target the hamstrings, for example, you contract the heel towards the buttocks. But you don’t bring your hiney to your heel.

Alexandra: Just wondering – what am I training if I ask a handsome guy to move his hand toward my shoulder?

Kymberly: Now picture a crunch and a reverse curl. In the former you lift your upper body in the direction of your lower body. With the reverse curl you … wait for it, wait for it .. you bring your lower body, or hips, towards your upper body.

Work in Both Directions

In other words, you can work the abs from the top down or the bottom up. Given the spine’s joint structure, you can train the abs in both directions. Double bonus, just like having twins answer your active aging questions!

In our 35 years each of teaching fitness on several continents, we know most people prefer to target the lower fibers when doing abs exercises. That means choosing exercises that contract, compress, or lift your hips towards your upper body – whether sitting or lying down. If that is your goal as well, then give this move a go. You’ll get so toned you’ll want to get out your white boots and fringe vest and go-go.

pic of reverse of abs curl done wrong

Don’t Swing Your Legs in a Reverse Abs Curl

Watch This Video to Work From the Bottom, Up and Become Tops!

Just to make sure you really understand how to do this move, we’ve shown both correct and incorrect form.

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