Ever hear the phrase “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life? " Well that is what we are doing here today. You can look up core workouts and get good results but why not learn how to design a good one yourself?! Let's simplify it.
The core isn't just the abdominals. We have the upper and lower abdominals, the obliques, along with the lower back. All parts must be trained adequately to have a strong, muscular, dense and downright jaw-dropping core.
The upper abs get targeted mainly when you are bringing your upper body to the lower body. Crunches and situps for example do exactly that. They bring your upper body to your lower body resulting in contractions of your upper abs. On the flip side, the lower abs get targeted when we bring our lower body to meet the upper body. Doing leg lifts, hanging knee raises, futter kicks, and scissor kicks are a few exercises that will heavily target the lower abs.
The obliques are targeted when we bend to the side or are doing twisting motions. Side crunches, sideways leg lifts, bicycle situps, windshield wipers, and Russian twists are some great examples. And then we have the lower back – this gets targeted mainly through moves such as deadlifts and back extensions.
One of our favorites to target all around core are the planks. Planks target your whole abdominal region and your lower back to really build stability throughout your entire core.
Get creative with it and mix them up by doing them for a certain amount of repetitions and then a certain amount of time. Like anything else, with practice you will be able to increase the amount of sets and reps or the amount of time you can perform each movement. We recommend you start off your core workout with just one exercise for each core muscle and then gradually add either more reps or another exercise to increase volume as you get stronger.
Now these exercises are great for the individual parts of the core, but these should be supplemented to your full exercise routine, not be the primary focus of your workout routine. Add in these core exercises with your compound movements. Exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press are considered compound movements as more than one muscle group is being activated and stressed every time you perform a repetition. These are also the most taxing on our central nervous system and will fatigue us the quickest. However, they will also result in some of the best muscle growth and hormonal increase throughout your body, not to mention work out your core in the process!
But remember, abs are still made in the kitchen. And without a proper nutrition protocol, no matter how “strong” your core is, you won’t ever see those washboard abs that you’ve been drooling about! A good diet and some extra HIIT on top of your regular routine will help you lean down and show off your new and improved core!
The great debate:
Is weight loss just about calories in vs. calories out?
This is a hot topic in the fitness industry about weight loss. Is losing weight just about the number of calories you consume vs the number of calories you expend?
Yes it is but that doesn’t mean you should just eat twinkles and Oreos. What you consume actually impacts the amount of calories expended and changes your metabolism- let us explain!
Eating natural foods with a high protein diet will make your metabolism faster compared to eating the same amount of calories in junk food and refined sugar. This is because of a phenomenon called the “Thermic effect” of food. When you consume protein, this “Thermic effect” is a lot more pronounced and therefore burns more calories than you would if you ate a meal high in carbs and fats alone.
Refined sugar is the exact opposite. It takes almost no energy to break down. If you are eating low amounts of protein, high carbs/sugars, high fats, your resting metabolic rate will be greatly reduced because you aren’t making your body do much work to process them. Not only that you will eventually start to experience awful symptoms such as gas, weight gain, and severe heart burn over time. I’m not saying you can’t treat yourself with a burgers and fries every once in awhile but its important to understand that certain foods you eat will have a larger impact on your metabolism than others.
Here is the hierarchy for weight loss:
Calories – This is the number one rule for ensuring that you lose weight. If you consume less calories, than you burn, you WILL lose weight. It’s just the law of thermodynamics in action. A quick formula to calculate the number of calories that you need to consume every day is to take your Body Weight (lbs) and multiply it by 12. Obviously, there will be some trial and error associated with this number but in general it’s a great place to start if you’re looking to cut weight.
Macros – Macro-nutrients are just your basic protein, carbs, and fat numbers. These impact your metabolism and will aid in your journey to weight loss if you consume them in the right proportions (High Protein, High Carb, Low-Moderate Fat) is the diet that most people will see results on and is the most sustainable generally speaking. Not to mention the fact that eating a higher protein diet will make you feel more satisfied during your weight loss journey as protein in generally is more satiating and filling than carbs and fat.
It’s important to manage expectations when trying to lose weight. In general, a good number to shoot for is about ½ fat loss to 1 lb per week. Anything above that is considered more of a crash diet and is usually not sustainable. Come talk to the expert trainers at Houston Personal Training to get a better idea of how best to find a sustainable approach to weight loss!
HIIT TRAINING AND THE AFTERBURN EFFECT! If your joints allow you to do so, HIIT training (high intensity interval training) is one of the best forms of cardio for rapid weight loss. Ever wonder why wrestlers, boxers, and sprinters are shredded but seem to have a muscular build!? It is because the sport itself is a form of HIIT TRAINING. Let me explain how it works.
HIIT training is when you perform an exercise or activity as fast and as hard as you can for as long as you can endure then you rest. After your rest you go right back at it again giving it 200%+ effort. It doesn’t take long before you are completely out of breath on your back gasping for air. You burn a LOT of calories doing this and trigger something called the AFTER BURN EFFECT! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
The best way I can describe the after burn effect is after this short intense form of exercise, your body is going to have a sped up metabolism. Some studies have even shown that your metabolism can be sped up for as long as 48 hours! So, if you have the mental & physical capacity to push your limits and go hard for 5-10 minutes. You can increase your ability to burn fat for 48 hours… Worth it? I’d say so. Here’s a little more technical detail for you.
When we are performing HIIT training your muscles are getting a great workout too. You experience a pump just like when you are lifting weights. This lactic acid build up on top of improvement in cardiovascular endurance is where the magic happens. Your body needs to consume more oxygen to fight off the lactic acid and repair itself which where the increase the metabolism comes into play.
This is why sprinters (they go all out to win the race), boxers (they are fighting hard for 3 minutes with a minute rest) and wrestlers (once again they’re fighting hard as hell with short rest durations) all are able to obtain that shredded look and have muscle on their frame. I’ll give a few examples below of HIIT training, so you can understand it better.
This max effort style of cardio is going to build explosive strength, muscle, and turn you into a fat burning machine.
HIIT training is awesome for getting shredded but I personally don’t believe it should be done daily. You must remember, it will take a toll on your joints & muscles so our bodies need time to recover. There are thousands of routines out there that you can look up online and try some out for yourself. And of course, the personal trainers at Houston Personal training are experts themselves if you want to give them a test-drive!
Ahh Caffeine – The drug consumed all around the world and more so in the United States than any other country. Today I’m going to answer the question – What is caffeine, how can it help us achieve our fitness goals, and how do we dose it correctly depending on our own genetics?
How does caffeine work?
To understand how caffeine works in the body – we must understand what adenosine is. Adenosine is a molecule that is responsible for causing drowsiness and signaling to our bodies that its time to sleep. This occurs when the adenosine molecules attaches itself to its own adenosine receptors. Whenever someone consumes caffeine, the caffeine molecule binds to the adenosine receptors – hijacking the adenosine molecules rightful place in the brain causing feelings of alertness, improved focus and faster reflexes.
How can caffeine help us achieve our fitness goals?
The reason we are so interested in caffeine is because the effects are not just cognitive, but physical as well– when consumed before a workout, you will see an increase in endurance and strength enabling you to train harder and longer.
Studies show an average of 12 percent increase in performance with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than shorter high-intensity exercise. Caffeine also mitigates the effects of perceived pain by about 6 percent giving you that extra push to complete that last rep.
These physical effects occur when individuals consume between 3-6mg caffeine/kg bodyweight or between 1.5mg – 3mg/ lb bodyweight. So for a 150lb person – between 225mg to 450mg caffeine.
How do we dose it correctly depending on our own genetics
Caffeine CAN be very helpful in achieving fitness related goals and getting into the shape we all want if dosed correctly for the individual taking it. Caffeine generally has a half-life between 4 to 6 hours but can last a lot longer or shorter depending on the individual’s ability to metabolize caffeine. This means that a 200-mg caffeine tablet consumed at 12 PM noon will wither down to about 100mg at 6 PM and 50 mg caffeine at 12 AM. That being said: People generally fall into three camps when we talk about caffeine sensitivity/caffeine tolerance.
Hyposensitive – These people process caffeine very quickly and usually need higher doses to get the same effects as someone who has normal sensitivity to caffeine. You might be Hyposensitive if you can consume large quantities of caffeine close to bedtime and not notice any adverse effects on your sleep quality and quantity.
Normal Sensitivity – These people process caffeine at the normal rate. As long as these people consume caffeine early on in the day, between 200mg – 400mg or 2-4 cups of coffee is generally okay and will not lead to sleep disruptions at night.
Hyper-sensitivity – These people process caffeine very slowly and are extremely sensitive to its effects. A cup of coffee containing between 80-120mg in the morning might be the upper limit of what these people can handle. Even that might lead to sleep disruptions. A good alternative is switching to teas which contain half the amount of caffeine.
Unsure about what levels of caffeine are safe for you? It's something that you have to master through trial and error but the experienced personal trainers at Houston Personal Training can help you figure out a dosage right for you.
Hi - I'm Ankur - Owner and creator of HPT - Houston Personal Training. This blog is here to share my most recent thoughts on subjects related to fitness. Everything that interests me, I hope you find it helpful. Please comment, share, and most importantly - have some serious fun!