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Showing posts with label Ab Workouts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ab Workouts. Show all posts

The Ultimate Abs Workout

Here's the ultimate workout for abdominal muscles that targets various areas of the core:

  1. Bicycle Crunches: Lie flat on your back with your hands behind your head. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground and bring your right elbow towards your left knee while straightening your right leg. Repeat on the other side in a pedaling motion. Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions on each side.

  2. Plank: Assume a push-up position with your elbows resting on the ground directly under your shoulders. Keep your body straight from head to toe, engaging your core muscles. Hold this position for as long as you can while maintaining proper form. Aim for 3 sets, gradually increasing the duration with each set.

  3. Russian Twists: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet slightly elevated. Lean back slightly while keeping your back straight. Hold your hands together or use a medicine ball, and twist your torso from side to side, tapping the ground with your hands on each side. Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions on each side.

  4. Reverse Crunches: Lie flat on your back with your arms extended by your sides. Lift your legs off the ground, bending your knees at a 90-degree angle. Engage your lower abdominal muscles and bring your knees towards your chest while lifting your hips off the ground. Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.

  5. Mountain Climbers: Assume a push-up position with your arms straight. Bring one knee in towards your chest, then quickly switch legs, alternating back and forth. Keep a quick pace and perform the movement for 30-60 seconds. Aim for 3 sets.

  6. Plank Hip Dips: Start in a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Rotate your hips to one side, dipping them towards the ground, and then rotate to the other side. Keep your core engaged and maintain a steady pace. Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions on each side.

  7. Hanging Leg Raises: Hang from a pull-up bar with your arms extended and your legs straight. Engage your core and lift your legs up towards your chest while keeping them straight. Slowly lower them back down to the starting position. If hanging leg raises are too challenging, you can perform bent knee raises instead. Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

  8. Standing Oblique Crunches: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place one hand behind your head. Bend to the side, bringing your elbow towards your hip, and squeeze your oblique muscles. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions on each side.

Remember to maintain proper form and engage your core throughout each exercise. Start with a weight or intensity level that is appropriate for your fitness level and gradually increase as you progress. It's important to combine this abdominal workout with a well-rounded fitness routine and a balanced diet for optimal results.

The Crisis of Enablers


"Hello! How do I get rock hard abs when my wife keeps feeding me such tasty (and unhealthy) food all the time?

- Jamie F."


You are preaching to the choir buddy. If it is not the wife doing it, then it is often your girlfriend, your mother, your mother-in-law, or even your grandmother - they all seem to want to 'fatten you up' on purpose, as if that would somehow be healthier in their mind's eye.

There are a number of ways you can get those "rock hard abs" you are dreaming of, but it is going to require a lot of work, a great deal of self-control, and a few dieting tips never hurt either.

Here are some tips that will help you.

Healthy Diet Vs The Enabler Spouse

#1a. If your spouse is spoon feeding you things you know to be unhealthy start limiting your portion sizes. Yes, okay, eat some of their cooking - it tastes good and it is polite - but don't pig out on it. Same thing goes for anything being pushed at you from in-laws.

Case in Point - This past weekend I went to Catholic baptism and the party afterwards - which had a great deal of food. One of the relatives apparently thought I needed more food and brought me not 1, but 2 beers to quench my thirst - and he brought me an extra helping of pasta without me asking for it. I did eat the pasta, but I did not finish my rice or the beef patty. In this case not finishing my plate basically signaled that I did not want any more - he did try and come back offer me more food, but I had the unfinished food still on my plate so I had a valid excuse for not accepting his ever generous offer of fattening me up.

#1b. So take that as a lesson. If you don't finish your plate it will be easier to limit how much you are eating when people try to give you more.

#2a. Eat when you are hungry and do not eat when you are not hungry. This is an easy one to follow, in theory. The problem however is that many people have a tendency to crave snacks when they are bored. I am craving a snack right now while I am writing this, but I have the smarts to realize that I have spicy kimchi in the house. So I eat something spicy and suddenly I don't want to eat any more. Instead now I feel thirsty. And once I have drank something, I don't feel hungry any more.

#2b. Spicy snacks are good - especially healthy spicy snacks. However filling up with water and spicy food is not always a solution. But healthy snacks in general make a great solution.

#2c. Thus if your spouse is pushing a snack towards you and it is a healthy one - and you are hungry - then go ahead and eat it. If it is an unhealthy snack then try a small portion of it, provided you are hungry currently. If you are not hungry then say so. "I am not hungry right now." Easy. Their feelings will not be as hurt as you might think they are.

#3. Know what you are eating. Know your enemy. If it tastes good, find out what is actually in it so you have a better idea of how healthy or unhealthy it is. Vegetables or fruits, it is probably healthy. If it is covered in sauce, gravy, sugar-coated or syrup then it is probably unhealthy. Knowing what things are good for you and what things are bad is half the battle.

Exercising to get those "Rock Hard Abs"

#4. Don't do ab exercises if you cannot even see your abs under a layer of fat. Why? You will be basically wasting your time doing weightlifting exercises to build muscle, when what you really need to be doing is cardio exercises in order to shed fat off your entire body. You cannot lose fat through "spot treatment". Spot treatment works for building muscle, it does absolutely nothing for losing fat. If you want to lose fat, then you need to be doing cardio exercises.

#5. When it comes to cardio exercises the more intense, the longer the duration, the better they will be at shedding fat from your body. It is really all about burning as many calories as you can during your workout period - and the longer your workout is, the more intense it is, then obviously you will be burning way more calories. Thus running burns more calories than jogging, but if you can only run for short periods of time then jogging can actually burn more because you can jog for longer distances and longer periods of time because of the sheer length of time. Running for 3 minutes vs jogging for 10 minutes, which do you think burns more calories? The answer is jogging. So imagine how much more you will burn if you jog for 57 minutes and the sprint for the last 3 minutes?

#6. Learn how to alternate high intensity exercises with low intensity exercises. This is actually really simply. Walk for 3 minutes, run for 1 minute, walk for 3 minutes, run for 1 minute, continue doing this for 60 minutes total. What is the benefit of this? It boosts your heart rate dramatically and gets the Afterburn Effect going. If you can trigger the Afterburn Effect you can burn double the fat for your efforts. Your metabolic rate goes up, you feel energized, your body starts burning fat stores like crazy, you don't feel hungry as much. This is a great way to burn fat in a hurry.

#7. Pick cardio exercises that you love doing. eg. If you love bicycling, then you need to be doing that more often. Every day if you can. Find exercises that you love to do and then keep doing them as often as possible. For me, my favourites are archery, boxing and swimming. And in the winter I also enjoy ice skating. But for you? What are your favourites?

Sometimes the Biggest Enabler is YOU

#8. Learn to control your own cravings. Sometimes it is not the spouse or significant other or relative who shoveling food in your direction. Sometimes it is you that has lost control. This means you need to control your own cravings, learn to measure your intake of food - and learn to make smarter choices with what you are eating.

The real trick here is realizing that you have self-control and that it is not the cravings that control you. It is you who makes the mistakes of giving in to your cravings. You still have control, but many of us choose not to exercise that control. It is not like the bacon has you in an arm lock and is forcing you to eat the bacon. You can choose not to - and you can also choose to eat 2 or 3 pieces and then stop at that small portion instead of eating the entire package of bacon.

#9. When faced with a enabling crisis (whether you are doing it or someone is giving it to you) what you need to do is ask yourself what do you want more? That pound of crispy bacon stacked high between two slices of bread, in what is an unholy combo of carbs and grease? Or that body you've been wishing you had but have always lacked the willpower to go after it? You can choose to eat smaller portions, you can choose to exercise more, you can choose to make lifestyle changes - permanent ones - that ultimately benefit you in your goal. It is a choice.

#10. Don't blame others for your downfall. Nobody is force feeding you. Yes, there are family members and friends who act as 'agents of enabling', but they are not forcing you to eat the things placed in front of you. You choose to do that of your own free will.

Blaming them is just an excuse. You need to take responsibility for your own actions and then act accordingly. You are not overweight because someone else is forcing you to eat and not exercise enough. You are overweight because you make a choice to eat too much and then not exercise enough to burn off the extra calories.

And burning extra calories takes extra work.

Take responsibility.

Do the work.

Eat small portions.

Stick with it for longer periods of time.

Don't give up easily just because the process is more difficult than you thought it would be.

Find ways to make exercising fun.

Stop worrying about the food your family members or friends push in front of you. If you make the effort, you can eat healthy, lose the fat, and achieve real change.

And then once you can actually see your abs then you know you are ready to do ab exercises to make them stronger and "rock hard".

The 2% Workout

If I was to write an exercise book I think I would call it "The 2% Workout".


Because 30 minutes is 2.08333% of your day.

The idea of the book essentially would be to that people should exercise for 30 minutes per day and burn as many calories as they can during that time period.

And since 30 minutes is only a little over 2% of your day there really isn't any excuses for why people cannot use 2% of their day to get fit.

Ask yourself:

"Are you willing to use 2% of your day to get fit 
and get the body you've always wanted?"

And if you answer yes, then it is time to start using that 2% to achieve your goals.


Once you say yes the next thing you need to is schedule the time.

That means you need to find 30 minutes in your day to exercise and do nothing but exercise (and maybe listen to music or watch TV while you exercise).


It also doesn't matter so much what exercise you pick - as long as it is burning lots of calories it is going to be beneficial. The list below is some popular / fun exercises that you can choose from or come up with your own.

Notes - I listed the moderate versions of various exercises because some people may not be able to do the vigorous exercises for 30 minutes. All calorie calculations below are for an 191 pound individual, which is the average weight of an American Male - since 67% of American men are overweight or obese, the average number should be closer to what many people are in weight. If you want more accurate calculations there are many calorie calculators available online and also apps for your SmartPhone.

Archery - 149 calories in 30 minutes.

Boxing Punching Bag - 258 calories in 30 minutes.

Calisthenics, Moderate - 195 calories in 30 minutes.
Cycling, 12-14 mph - 378 calories in 30 minutes.

Cycling, Leisurely - 172 calories in 30 minutes.

Fencing - 258 calories in 30 minutes.

Hatha Yoga - 120 calories in 30 minutes.

Hocky or Road Hockey - 350 calories in 30 minutes.

Jogging - 304 calories in 30 minutes.

Pushups/Situps/Etc - 206.5 calories in 30 minutes.

Swimming, Moderate - 264 calories in 30 minutes.

Weight Lifting, General - 149 calories in 30 minutes.

What this tells you is that if you want to do something more aggressive you might to choose activities like boxing and road hockey, because they burn a lot of calories because they are heavy cardio activities. Cycling, swimming and other cardio exercises also burn lots of calories and this will make a fundamental difference in burning fat.


The Afterburn Effect is a metabolic condition whereby your metabolism is raised far above its normal rate and your body burns roughly 500 calories more over the next 24 - 48 hours and you end up feeling really energetic and positive about yourself.

It is caused by raising your blood pressure up to roughly 85% of its maximum potential - which is more easily done through cardio exercises that get your blood pumping fast. Thus the really high cardio exercises like running, vigorous swimming, boxing a punching bag, sports like road hockey, soccer, etc... they can vastly increase your calorie burn because they are more likely to trigger the Afterburn Effect.

Thus lets pretend you spend 30 minutes every day boxing a punching bag. Each time you do this you put some serious effort into it and get your heart rate up to 85% roughly.

Math wise for someone who weighs 191 lbs, this will mean they burned 258 calories and will burn an extra 500 calories over the next 24-48 hours.

In a week they will burn 5,306 calories - or roughly 1.52 pounds.

In 30 days 22,740 calories - or roughly 6.5 pounds.

In a year (364.25 days), 276,101.5 calories or 78.9 pounds. Possibly more if you are eating healthier as you progress. (Less if you aren't eating healthy, or if you are doing exercises that build muscle through strength training or endurance-strength training because you will gain muscle weight during the same time period.)

Don't worry about your weight so much - go based on how you are feeling physically. Your weight can deceive you if you are gaining muscle weight while losing fat at the same time. If you want to measure progress use a tape measure around your middle.


Find ways to have fun while exercising. Sports like tennis, cycling, boxing, archery, fencing, martial arts - these are all great ways to exercise and have fun at the same time. You will not lack for motivation if you are doing an activity that you love.

Crunchless Abs Training

In the photo on the right you seed a "woodchop" exercise designed to work your abs, and the best part is you don't have to be on the ground to do them.

You see many ab workouts involve you sitting on the ground doing situps, crunches and similar exercise. Hence why most ab workouts tress crunches.

Now don't get me wrong, crunches are very effective for abdominal strengthening and toning, but there are also some good reasons to train your core while not sitting on your behind.


1. Crunches are not very functional in everyday life. Whereas balancing exercises which target the core to stabilize the body, will help you out in everyday activities that use your balance.

2. Doing crunches all of the time will put a cap on results. After you have exhausted body weight crunches, weighted, and oblique, your body will no longer have a challenge to adapt to - which is where balance exercises come in. It's a good idea to train your core in other ways, to keep the body challenged and changing.

3. Crunches are isolated exercises that target ONLY the abs. Why just work your abs when you could be working other muscle groups at the same time? An exercise such as the mountain climber for example, works the arms, shoulders, and chest. It also eases stress in the hips and improves range of motion.

4. Crunches are neglected anyway. Not only do many people dislike crunches in the first place, but often place them at the tail end of the workout and then forget about them. Even if they do remember they are not exactly performed enthusiastically or using proper form (which is why some people end up with crooked six packs). Adding exercises that train the abs into the workout such as woodchops (see photo at the top) will allow you to train your abs while doing a more enjoyable exercise.

Crooked Six Pack
5. They are not sport/activity specific - there is no sports that call for only your abs, although there are plenty of sports that call for balance. If you practice a discipline or martial art, it's a great idea to cater exercises to your activity. If you train in martial arts, kneeing a sparring pad while focusing on having the kick come from the core will train your abs for the sport. In yoga, planks are crucial for sun salutations. Train your abs according to your activities.

Crunches have their place so I don't recommend scrapping them all together - especially if you are one of the few who enjoy them. But there are other training options out there for people who want to train their abs differently.

Balancing your Mirror Muscles

 Body symmetry is exceptionally important for bodybuilding and weightlifting - but what many people don't realize is that body symmetry also effects many other things too.


For example, did you know that pregnant women develop overly strong back muscles during the pregnancy? The reason is so they can support the extra weight of a baby and all the extra water weight, and that with time this leads to back pain - even after the baby has been born.

Now you might think, wait, why would they have back pain if their back is STRONGER? Shouldn't a strong back eliminate back pain?

Nope, and therein lies the problem. Many people don't realize that the primary source of backpain is a loss of balance between front mirror muscles and their back muscles. Often it is directly connected on a lateral level.


Small pectoral muscles = upper back pain.

Small abdominal muscles = lower back pain. (Especially since people often have weak lower back muscles in the first place.)

The reason is because the pectorals and abs are also used for balance, and if those muscles are smaller / weaker the back muscles in the corresponding mirror muscles have to work twice as hard in order for a person to maintain their balance and posture. A person with really lax muscle mirror muscles is going to have really bad posture and lots of back pain.

It is possible to have overdeveloped front torso muscles, which is exceptionally rare for the common person, but more common for bodybuilders who place too much emphasis on their front muscles because they want large pecs and abs. Since humans use their backs for so many things it is usually the back muscles which become overdeveloped and the front muscles which suffer.


Training for muscular balance is important is also important for aesthetics. Visually people are just not attractive if they have one part of their body that is abnormally large to the point it becomes grotesque.

For example people who don't exercise properly often develop a "crooked six pack" in their abdominal region - like in the photo below.

So basically there is many ways a person can screw up the symmetry of their muscles - both front and back, and also side to side.

It can be fixed with time fortunately, but it is best to take preventative measures while you are exercising so you use proper form. The use of proper form during each exercise means you won't be sloppy and then overusing one muscle compared to the other - the constant use of one muscle and ignoring its mirror muscle will always result in an imbalance over time.

On an aesthetic level bodybuilders can see their front muscles in the mirror easily, and exercises wise it is more fun to do bench presses and bicep curls. For most people however it is the opposite. They use their back for lifting things regularly, whereas weightlifters have been taught proper form and to lift with their legs more so they don't injure their back - and thus training their backs becomes a problem.

The end result is that aesthetically different people need to do different things to correct their muscle imbalances.


Having strong and well balanced front and back muscles means you will have better balance and stability - which is important while lifting heavy weights as you will be using your muscles both to lift the weight and to maintain balance. Having the extra mirror muscles will take up some of the effort of maintaining your balance while the other muscles do the job of lifting the heavy object.

Trying to lift the heavy object AND maintain your balance with just the one set of muscles is going to lead to injury over time due to bad posture. In my head I see a cartoon of a man falling over and the box landing on top of him because he can't maintain his balance, but this is only a literal interpretation. The reality is that overuse of one set of muscles will cause them to eventually rip - ripped muscles is normally a good thing in bodybuilding - but in this case a rip could mean ripped ligaments, which is exceptionally painful and sometimes untreatable.

Common injuries like hernias for example can be prevented by developing better mirror muscles. It is well worth it to make the effort. Do a google image search for hernia sometime and that should scare you into exercising your mirror muscles more to correct your imbalances.


Overdeveloped Back

The majority of you are probably reading this because you are an average person and have back pain. So the quick answer is for you to work on your pectorals, abdominal muscles and even your oblique (side) muscles.

This means doing exercises like push ups, sit ups, and side twists to build up pecs, abs and obliques. It is a relatively easy fix, takes you about 5 - 10 minutes every day and keep doing that for several months and you should have a lot less back pain as those muscles grow. (Unless you have chronic back pain caused by something else, like a slipped disk in your spine. In which case see your doctor.)

Overdeveloped Front

If you are the opposite however, someone who has been weight training for a long time and has developed overly large front muscles and neglected your back then there is a variety of exercises you can.

#1. Take up archery (archers tend to develop overly large back muscles, so this is a quick solution to your problem if your front muscles are currently overdeveloped - see Mirror Muscles for Archery).

#2. Use any kind of pulling machine in the gym. Rowing machines work well too.

#3. Be creative and use dumbbells in pulling exercises. Exercises like reverse flies. Make sure the weights are heavy enough to challenge you.

#4. Body weight exercises that use your back muscles. Pull ups, chin ups use your back shoulder muscles and your back muscles for balance.

#5. T Flies - Bend forward at the waist so that the back is very straight. Look down and with straight arms, slowly flap your arms. You may feel silly doing this at the gym so do it at home. Each time your arms come up to as high as they can go, really focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. When they come all of the way back down, focus on stretching the back and shoulder muscles forward.

#6. Yoga - Hold the poses for longer periods of time to stress your muscles more. Try
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga to get a more powerful workout.


Biceps Vs Triceps

Pain in your biceps can mean you are overusing your biceps in your effort to get bigger - a common problem with newbs at the gym. This affliction is rare because the triceps are used in many exercises so the good news is you can easily fix it by doing more triceps exercises regularly.

Biceps may get more attention, but anyone who has been concerned over the back of the arm being flab, or just having nicely toned arms in general, will have trained their triceps.

The triceps are easy to train with exercises such as dips, overhead extension, and skull crushers but also shows results really quickly because the triceps build bulk muscle faster.

Lower Back and Abs

The lower back is probably the least trained muscle group of all. If any muscle should be trained, it is this one - but you need to exercise your abs too so you correct the imbalance without making a new imbalance.

I recommend doing abs and lats exercises FIRST during a workout so you get it over and done with. Many people do these exercises last and sometimes forget to do them. Or skip them entirely. This doesn't help them since the lower back and abs is used for core balance, and injury prevention.

Nobody is ever going to compliment you on your toned lower back, but the muscles there are exceptionally important for balance, posture and injury prevention.

Try doing alternating back extensions, either on all fours or on your belly. See photos below.

Another good one is Superman Pushups. They make look easy but they are harder than they look because most people have weak lower back muscles.


Many people neglect to exercise the back of their legs. But there are man common exercises that build muscle there.

Standing Leg Curls
Straight Leg Deadlift
Snap Kicks
Sprinting (especially on a sandy beach, because it works them harder)


Mirror muscles are exceptionally important for aesthetics, sports training, balance, strong core muscles, pain prevention and preventing injuries. I cannot emphasize the importance of Mirror Muscle Training enough. For whatever exercise goals you have set forth for yourself, you should do complimentary Mirror Muscle Training to give yourself a physical edge.

Revamping Your Workout

Every winter I change up my exercise routine.

2 winters ago I was doing lots of situps, pushups, jumping jacks and a variety of body weight exercises for building core strength. Because I love using traditional exercises.

Last winter I was focusing on upper body muscle gain - shoulders, triceps, biceps, etc.

This coming winter I want to focus on my abs.

Which means a combination of cardio exercises (likely utilizing the Afterburn Effect so I can shed a few extra pounds and avoid the post-Christmas paunch) and ab workouts.

I also want to focus on upper body strength again this year, but this time doing more pushups to target my pectorals, triceps and back muscles.

However knowing how to revamp my workout in this way takes years to determine what "B" exercises I need to do in order to get "A" results. (And what kind of "C" diet I should be eating.)

And this is just one of the many services a personal trainer can help you with. (Hint hint, hire me!)

So what are the results I am looking for? Nicer abs and pecs. I am easy to please that way. But it will also up my archery form by giving me better mirror muscles - right now I have overdeveloped back muscles and I need to fix this by working on my front muscles more, namely the abs and pecs. The overdeveloped back muscles is because I have been doing archery almost every day this Summer.

So what will my personal workout look like this winter? (I say winter, but I am starting this workout in Autumn.)

Well I am still fine tuning it, but here goes...


High Intensity Jumping Jacks, 3 times MAE (Morning, Afternoon, Evening). 200 each time.

2 sets of 25 pushups, 3 times MAE.

YOGA, 20 minutes in the morning.

Pectoral and Shoulder focused weightlifting, afternoon.

Situps with Weights and resistance bands, evening.

Oblique Twists x 100, afternoon.

Squats x 100, evening.


Now you might go, wait, music? Yes. Music. I do all my weightlifting, yoga, etc while listening to music. I have gotten bored of the songs I was listening to last winter so it is time to revamp my playlist so I feel more revved up while exercising. Gonna Fly Now will still be on my exercise music playlist however, as will Eye of the Tiger.


Diet wise I have increased my green tea intake (for its anti-toxin properties), and I want to explore new vegan recipes this winter. I am not fabulous in the kitchen, but I can follow a recipe. I want more vegan recipes because I am no expert at cooking veggies and I want to increase my veggie intake.

Last winter and the year before I was experimenting a lot with high protein pancakes and that is too high in carbs (although I was getting a lot of protein from them), so this year I want to explore more low carb alternatives that are still high in protein. Less flour and more eggs.

Swagger while you Walk

An 150 lb person walking on level ground, at a slow pace of less than 2 mph burns 136 calories per hour.

However if they swagger while they walk (swinging their arms a lot more, moving their sides and shoulders with their arms in a macho swagger) they will burn 150 calories per hour.

The reason is because swaggering engages the obliques side muscles as you twist your body every step you take. It is a small twist, but it shifts the weight of your upper torso on a constant basis - and thus counts in a small way as resistance training, as the obliques are effectively being used to twist the weight of the upper torso.

A person who walks with a swagger 2 hours per day will burn 10,199 extra calories per year compared to a person who doesn't who doesn't swagger.

That is a difference of roughly 2.9 lbs of fat per year.

Over a 10 year period a person who constantly walks with a "confident swagger" in theory, assuming two hours of "swaggering" per day, will be roughly 29 lbs of fat lighter than a person who doesn't swagger at all.

And they would have stronger obliques, and to a lesser extent stronger abs, shoulders and arm muscles.

The big thing really is whether a person can use those oblique muscles while they walk and get used to having a constant swagger. In the beginning it would be difficult to walk like that all the time (because your obliques would get sore), but after a week or two of walking like that regularly your oblique muscles would grow stronger and your body would become more accustomed to it. So yes, with regular practice a person could develop a constant swagger.

I will note however that deliberately swaggering while you walk at first feels a bit silly. (And you might wonder if other people are watching you and thinking if you are doing that on purpose or if you really do walk around like you own the place.)

Honestly, who cares? It is your body! If you want to lose fat, grow stronger obliques over a longer term period, then absolutely go ahead and do this as an exercise. Another side benefit to obliques is that they improve your balance and flexibility. Useful for many activities.

The end result is that you gain a lot of physical benefits from swaggering - and losing weight and becoming stronger, you will likely feel more confident and feel like swaggering anyway.

How to Build Your Own Rowing Machine

Guest Post by Harry.

For approx. $100 and few hours of time, you can build a wooden rowing machine to help strengthen your leg and arm muscles without significantly denting your pocketbook.

The rowing machine might not be the most popular or expensive exercise device out there - but it is effective as it exercises the upper body, the lower body, back muscles and the abdominals. Plus its pretty frugal. Building your own rowing machine will give you a chance to customize the look and feel of the equipment - and the bragging rights when people visit and say "Hey, what is that?!"

Plus rowing causes very little stress on the joints, so its safe to use even if you're elderly and have difficulty with your joints / arthritis.

You could go out and purchase a really nice rowing machine for $800, and it will come with a computer that counts reps / estimates speed / etc... but really, for the extra $$$ you can count reps in your head or just use the clock on the wall to track the time you've spent rowing.

You will need the following...

  • Two hook bolts
  • Two hook screws
  • Ten screw eyes
  • Four spring washers M12
  • Eight washers M12
  • Eight hexagon nuts M12
  • Threaded rod M12
  • A bunch of screws
  • One carabiner
  • Two cable clamps
  • Ten small wheels 3 cm in diameter
  • Two small wheels 4 cm in diameter
  • Wooden beams ( 4 cm x 4 cm ) approximately  10 meter total usage
  • Wooden stick 2.5 cm in diameter and approximately 60 cm long
  • Wooden board approximately 88 cm x 30 cm x 2.7 cm
  • MDF boards approximately 99 cm x 33 cm x 1.1 cm
  • Two long pieces of aluminum (140 cm x 4 cm x 3 mm)
  • Elastic straps
  • Four pulleys
  • Two bearings: outer diameter 32 mm, inner diameter 12 mm
  • Rope 2 meter, 10 mm in diameter
  • Wood glue
  • Wood wax
  • Wood paste
  • Jig saw
  • Screw driver
  • Sand paper
  • Wood clamps
  • Wood file
  • Drill
  • Drill bit  6 mm, 12 mm, 15 mm, 32 mm

Step 1 - Building the Wooden Base

Saw six pieces of 30 cm from the wooden beam. Measure a 45° angle on each piece and saw them off.
Saw six pieces of 10 cm from the wooden beam,  two pieces of 18 cm, three pieces of 40 cm, two pieces of 42 cm, two pieces of 19 cm and two pieces of 73 cm. Finally saw two lengths of 170 cm.
Saw rectangles (4 cm x 4 cm x 2 cm) out of the ends of the 170 cm lengths and the 40 cm pieces. Glue the sawed ends of the 170 cm lengths and the 40 cm pieces together in a right-angle.  Screw two pieces of 30 cm (the ones with the 45° angle sawed off) in the right-angled corners. 
On the other end of the 170 cm beams you measure 3 cm from the top and drill a 15 mm hole. On top of that hole drill a 1 cm deep hole 32 mm in diameter.
Glue a 10 cm piece between the finished right angled pieces, starting from the corner. Than glue two pieces of 10 cm at 25 cm and glue the last one at 83 cm.  
Take the last 40 cm piece, measure 11 cm from the sides from these marks draw two 4 cm by 4 cm rectangles and saw them out 2 cm deep. 
Screw the 42 cm pieces to the 73 cm pieces and drill a 12 mm hole throughout both pieces at height 20 cm.
Screw the long ends (at 120 cm) “of the so far finished base” on top of the 42 cm pieces. 
Screw a 18 cm piece on top of the long ends - between the 73 cm pieces.
Screw a 18 cm piece between the tops of the 73 cm pieces.
Screw two 19 cm pieces vertical between the two 18 cm pieces leaving a 2 cm space between them.
Screw four pieces of 30 cm (the ones with the 45° angle sawed off) in the right-angled corners on the base. 
Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.
The base is finished.

Step 2 - The Wooden Pulley

Draw (on the MDF board) two circles 32 cm in diameter and one circle 30 cm in diameter and jig-saw them out. Glue them together leaving the smaller one of 30 cm in the middle. Drill a 12 mm  hole in the middle of the circle. Bolt the created wheel on the drilled holes on the back of the base. (Note, you can get pre cut MDF boards.)
Put the bearings on in the drilled 32 mm holes. Use spring washers, washers, hexagon nuts and a threaded rod to connect the wooden pulley to the base. 

Step 3 - The Wooden Rolling Seat

Saw 30 cm by 30 cm of the wooden board. 
Saw two 30 cm by 8 cm pieces of the wooden board.  These will be the sides. Screw them onto the 30 cm by 30 cm piece.
Screw two rows of tree wheels on the bottom and two wheels on each side. Spread the wheels evenly.
Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.
Screw two pieces of aluminum 4 cm by 140 cm on top of the base.

Step 4 - The Feet Supports

Saw two 26 cm by 12 cm pieces of the wooden board
Saw two 12 cm by 6 cm pieces of the wooden board
Screw the small boards right angled on (the end of) the bigger boards.
Take the two leftover 10 cm pieces from step 1. Drill a 12 mm hole throughout the top of each piece. Screw them in the center of each 26 cm by 12 cm piece.
Bolt the feet supports on the drilled 12 mm holes on the base. Use spring washers, washers, hexagon nuts and threaded rods to connect the feet supports to the base.   
Fill the screw holes with wood paste and sand them smooth.

Step 5 - The Pulling / Resistance Mechanism

Fix two hook screws underneath the base (see picture). 
Screw four pulleys underneath the base on to the two 10 cm pieces.
Saw two pieces of the wooden stick: one 14 cm long and the other 12 cm long. Drill six holes in the long one and five holes in the short one, using the 6 mm drill bit. Spread the holes evenly. On the long piece bolt four screw eyes on the inner side and two hook bolts on the outside facing the opposite direction. On the short piece bolt five screw eyes with the middle one facing the opposite direction.
The elastic straps I used are 85 cm long.  Attach them to the screw eyes of the 14 cm long stick. Cut the hooks on the other end of the elastic straps off and pull them through the pulleys. Now reattach the hooks and fix them to the screw eyes of the 12 cm long stick.  
To make the handle saw a 30 cm piece of the wooden stick. Drill a 6 mm hole in the middle and bolt a screw eye on. Attach a carabiner to the screw eye. Put a rope through the carabiner and fasten it with a cable clamp. 
Guide the rope over the wooden pulley and underneath the base. Attach the rope to the remaining screw eye and fasten with a cable clamp.

Step 6 - The Wheels

Saw a cube of 4 cm by 4 cm, next saw this cube diagonally. Screw these pieces on the 73 cm  beams facing the wooden wheel and 2 cm off the ground. Next screw a wheel on each block.

Step 7 - Wax!

Wax all the wood with wood wax to give it a nice smooth surface. Pay extra attention to the seat and handle - for extra comfort get bicycle handle grips and slide them onto the handle.

Step 8 - Exercise!

One of the most common mistakes is to bend the lower back when going forward and backwards. Try to keep your back straight. Follow these steps if you do the exercise:
  1. Lean slightly forward with your arms straight and rounded legs
  2. Start to straighten your legs, lean a little backward and pull your arms.
  3. Stop when your legs are straight and your arms are bend while you hold the handle to your abdomen.
  4. Stretch your arms again, bend forward and bend your knees to go back.
  5. Start over!
Adjusting the Resistance

To adjust the resistance on the rowing machine, you can hook/unhook elastic straps. Many beginners make the resistance as high as possible in order to burn more calories, but then you will sooner suffer from pain in your back and aching muscles. The resistance is good if you can finish your session without feeling completely exhausted. You get a good cardio workout and develop your muscular strength and endurance.

Kung Fu Abs Workout

"Freddie" is a Kung Fu expert in Chicago, Illinois. (If you were hoping he was a personal trainer in Toronto, I am sorry to disappoint you.) The video below is a series of ab exercises that he recommends to his martial arts students.

The goal of his exercises isn't so worried about developing "six pack abs" and are more concerned about giving the abs a complete workout from different positions so that the body can be properly conditioned to perform martial arts.

It is true that many martial artists have the kind of abs that other men only dream of having, but that isn't their primary goal. It is really just a bonus side effect.

We should note however that if you are overweight that to get to that point however you first need to do lots of cardio so you can lose your extra belly fat.

Ab exercises are really more about toning the muscles. Ab exercises don't burn that many calories because people only do them for short periods of time.

Same goes with weightlifting - it doesn't burn a lot of calories because most people don't have the energy or stamina to weight lift constantly for an hour without a break. It is a myth that weightlifting burns a lot of calories because the stats on various websites giving caloric estimates that don't specify how many reps, how much weights, how much break time, how quickly/slowly is the person performing repetitions. There are too many unknown variables.

Both amateurs and professionals take breaks in-between exercises such as weightlifting. Ab exercises are, basically, a body weight exercise in the same way that chin ups and push ups are also body weight exercises. So don't expect to lose weight by doing ab exercises. Quite the opposite, you will probably gain muscle weight within the first couple of days of performing ab exercises.

If your goal is to lose weight and eventually get six pack abs then you first need to focus on some cardio activities such as running, jogging, swimming, cycling, or even just walking. As you progress you can also add activities like yoga, boxing, martial arts for fun. Then as you near your goal you can start doing more ab exercises.

15 Faster and More Effective Exercises

Are you looking for some highly effective exercises you can do while on vacation, as part of your morning exercise routine or just because they're frugal? Here are 15 exercises that don't require much equipment, take very little time but are highly effective because they take more energy to do.

Medicine Ball Wood Chop

Instead of doing a warm up that targets only legs, the wood chop targets the upper body and core as well. If you don't have a medicine ball you can use a football, basketball or even a heavy book instead.

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and hold onto a light-to-medium medicine ball (five to six pounds). Bend knees and hips, dropping into a squat as you bring the ball down to touch your left foot, shin or knee, depending on your level of flexibility. Rise up out of the squat as you simultaneously rotate and raise the ball up and across your right side, as if throwing it over your right shoulder. Do two sets of 10 on alternating sides.

Jump Squats

"Jump Training" activates fast-twitch muscle fibers, which we lose over time. This explosive move is also very cardiovascular and, therefore, burns more calories than normal squats.

Stand with feet hip-width apart; lower your butt towards the ground until your heels start to lift off the floor -- keep your back flat and eyes straight ahead. Pause briefly and then jump up quickly, fully extending your legs. Land softly on your mid-foot and roll back towards your heels. Start with 10 to 15 jumps.

Step-Ups Plus Another Move

Adding an upper body move or a second leg exercise to a step-up increases the challenge. Choose one of these:

Add a shoulder press. Hold onto dumbbells (five to eight pounds) and perform the step-up. At the top of the movement press the dumbbells overhead before stepping back down. Repeat.

Add a glute-toner. Perform the step-up and kick back the second leg before stepping back down. The kick activates the glutes and the core because it requires stability.

Alternating Front and Back Lunges

Using both legs makes the move more functional; it mimics how you move in everyday.

Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm's length next to your sides, palms facing in. Step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body until your front knee bends to 90 degrees. Pause, rise up and step back to return to starting position. (Note: Keep your back straight and avoid leaning forward with each step.) Repeat with left leg. Alternate legs for 15 reps.

Fitness-Ball Leg Curl

Add a dynamic component to your hamstring workout by swapping the leg curl machine for a fitness ball.

Lie on your back with legs extended, lower leg on an exercise ball. Extend arms out to sides. Raise your hips up off the ground by pressing down on the ball with your lower legs and heels until your body forms a straight line: shoulders, hips and ankles should line up. Roll the ball towards you by bending your knees; pull your heels toward your butt. Allow your feet to roll up on to ball. Slowly lower to original position by straightening knees; repeat 12 to 15 times.

Seated Calf Raises

Standing raises only work the outer calf muscles. The seated version works the flexor muscle group deep in the calf, which stabilizes the ankle (better for walking in high heels!) and helps prevent ankle sprains.

Sit on a chair or bench with toes rested on a step or ledge in front of you -- heels should be on the ground and the step should be high enough for you to feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Place dumbbells or a barbell across your thighs near the knees added resistance. Hold the weights in place with your hands as you raise your heel off the ground, squeezing your calf muscles. Pause and slowly lower heels back down until you feel a stretch. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Core Pushups

Adding instability activates the core and oblique muscles.

As you do each pushup, bring one knee up to the opposite elbow between each rep. Or, use a fitness ball as another core-activating alternative: Kneel in front of a fitness ball, drape yourself over the ball and walk out on your hands until the ball is under your shins and your body is straight -- do not let your back sag. Lower your upper body towards the floor into a pushup by bending your elbows out towards the sides, then pause and push back up. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Incline/Decline Bench Presses

The chest muscle has a fan-like appearance so, although you can't completely isolate one area, changing the angle of the weight bench shifts the emphasis on the muscle.

Increase the incline to emphasize the shoulders and upper part of the chest. Perform chest presses on a decline bench (head lower than your feet) to put emphasis on the lower part of the chest. (Note: Decline presses are not recommended for women with high blood pressure, as this increases blood pressure in the brain.)

Seated Rows

Seated rows - on a machine or with tubing anchored into a door hinge - works the entire back and is better for shoulder and spine function.

Sit with your back straight and knees slightly bent and extend your arms in front of you, gripping the handle of the device or tubing, which should be parallel to the floor. Pull the handle towards you by driving elbows back and squeezing your shoulder blades together (avoid shrugging) until the handles touch your abdomen. Pause and repeat 12 to 15 times.

Hammer Curls

Neutral wrists in the hammer curl places more emphasis on that nice muscle that runs along the outside of the upper arms - giving shape to your arms.

Do them like regular bicep curls but don't rotate your wrists. Start with arms down to your sides, palms facing in towards your body. Keeping hands in this position, bend your elbows as you bring your hands up towards your shoulders, keep thumbs facing up; repeat 12 to 15 times.

Overhead Tricep Extensions

Mechanically, kickbacks are not a very effective exercise, as it does not hit all parts of the triceps. A better, more effective way to work the triceps, involves an overhead extension.

Sit or stand holding a dumbbell behind your head. Both hands should be wrapped around one end of the dumbbell - Make a triangle with your thumbs and forefingers and wrap them around the end. With your upper arms on either side of your ears, elbows up towards the ceiling, slowly lower the dumbbell down towards the center of your back. Pause and slowly extend arms to the ceiling. Return to starting position; repeat 12 to 15 times.

Upright Rows

Lateral raises work the middle deltoid muscle of the shoulder. The upright row also works the important stabilizing muscles in back of the shoulder and upper back, which improves shoulder posture and function.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and grab a barbell in each hand, keeping them shoulder width apart. Slowly pull the weights up towards your chin. Elbows should flare out during the movement. Pause and slowly return barbell to starting position; repeat 12 to 15 times.

The One-Legged Plank

This advanced version of the traditional plank uses both abs and back muscles.

Position yourself on your hands and knees, shoulders directly over the wrists, extending your legs behind you so your body is parallel to the floor. Engage your core by drawing your stomach back and up towards your spine and hold. Without rotating your torso, lift your right leg an inch or two off the ground and hold for 10 or more seconds; slowly lower it to the starting position and switch feet. Alternate legs and repeat on each side. Do not allow your back to sag and do as many as you can with good form.

The Dead Bug

This exercise goes beyond just strengthening the lower portion of the rectus abdominis muscle (the "six-pack" muscle in front of the abdominal area) as in the reverse crunch. The dead bug strengthens the transverse abdominis, the main core muscle, as well as the obliques.

Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Focus on drawing your belly button in towards your spine to stabilize your back. Bring both arms and legs off the floor; knees should be directly over hips and elbows bent, directly over shoulders. Slowly extend right leg and lower your right heel and back of the left hand towards the floor; tap floor lightly and alternate sides - it’s kind of like a backstroke. Do 12 to 15 on each side.

The Jackknife

The jackknife challenges not only the core and abdominal muscles, but the shoulders and chest as well.

 Kneel in front of a fitness ball and roll out over top of it, walking on your hands until you're in a pushup position with the ball under the shins/ankles (easier) or tops of the feet (harder). Keep your body straight, back flat and abs engaged. Roll the ball in, bending the knees towards the chest as you squeeze your abs. Keep all the movement in the knees; avoid pushing back with your arms; keep your back stable. Return to starting position and repeat 10 to 15 reps.

6 Ways to Tone your Obliques

Looking to tone up your abs and side muscles? Here is 6 ways to tone up your oblique muscles.

 Oblique V-Up

Lie down on your side with your body in a straight line. Fold your arms across your chest. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you raise your top elbow toward your hip. The range of motion is short, but you should feel an intense contraction in your obliques.

10 repetitions each side [ Beginner ]

Saxon Side Bend

Standing straight hold a pair of lightweight dumbbells over your head, in line with your shoulders, with your elbows slightly bent. Keep your back straight, and slowly bend directly to your left side as far as possible without twisting your upper body. Pause, return to an upright position, then bend to your right side as far as possible.

6–10 repetitions on each side [ Beginner ]

Speed Rotation

Start by standing while holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of your midsection. Twist 90 degrees to the right, then 180 degrees to your left. Keep your abs tight and move fast. Bring to center. Alternate the side you start with.

10 repetitions each side [ Intermediate ]

Two-Handed Wood Chop

Stand while holding a single dumbbell in both hands next to your right ear. Flex your abs and rotate your torso to the left as you extend your arms and lower the dumbbell to the outside of your left knee. Lift it back, finish the set, and repeat on the other side.

10 repetitions each side [ Intermediate ]


Medicine Ball Torso Rotation

Start by kneeling down, both knees on the ground. Hold a medicine ball, football or basketball in front of you. Sit with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Quickly twist to your left, and set the ball down behind your back. Twist to the right, and pick up the ball. Bring the ball around to your left, and set it down again. Repeat. Do the same number of repetitions in which you first twist to the left side as you do when you twist to the right side.

10 repetitions each side [ Advanced ]

Side Jackknife

Lay down on your side. Raise your torso off the floor, with your left forearm on the floor for balance. Hold your other hand behind your right ear, with your elbow pointed toward your feet. Lift your legs toward your torso while keeping your torso stationary. Pause to feel the contraction on the right side of your waist. Then slowly lower your legs and repeat. Finish the set on that side, then lie on your right hip and do the same number of repetitions.

10 repetitions each side [ Advanced ]

8 Fun Football Exercises - Useful for Everyone

You don't have to play football to enjoy football exercises. Indeed most football exercises are actually stretches or cardio. A few are even bodyweight exercises.

Some of them are also ab workouts and/or work your obliques (side muscles). The end result is that football exercises are both versatile and inexpensive (you can buy a football for approx. $15 to $20).

So find yourself a clear space to exercise, get out your football [although in theory, any large ball will do - basketball, soccer ball, volleyball, etc.] and get ready for some exercises.

#1. Twists

Standing with two feet apart hold the football in front of you with both hands. Without moving your hips or legs, twist your upper torso as far to the right as you can. While you do so maintain arm pressure on the football in front of you. Do the same again to the left. Repeat 100 times.

This is my personal favourite of all my football exercises. Once you get good at it you can go really fast and it ends up being really exhilarating. It stretches and works the obliques and your lower back muscles.

#2. Squat Jumps

Holding the football in front of you and maintaining your torso in an upward position lower yourself into a squatting position. Then jump upwards, raising the football high above your head. Repeat 20 times.

#3. Forward + Backwards Bends and Sides

Standing with your feet apart place the football behind your head and hold it in place with both hands. Lean forward like you are doing a situp. Then do the same but lean backwards. Next lean to the right as far as you dare, then the left. Repeat 20 times.

#4. Knee Bumps

Holding the ball in front in front of you with both hands, raise your right knee until it is just below the football. Next in one swift motion lower your right knee and raise your left knee in a jump and try to bump the football out of your hands. (You may feel like you are doing that kick from the 1st Karate Kid movie.) With your hands try to with-strain the ball as best you can. Repeat 20 times.

#5. Squeezes

This exercise is easy. Just squeeze the football between both hands and move from side to side, squeezing as hard as you can, alternating which arm you are pushing the most with. Continue this exercise for 2 minutes.

#6. Toss and Catch

Catching a football requires good hand-eye coordination and also muscle coordination / balance. Simply tossing a football in the air and catching it with one or both hands is good exercise. Try to alternate which hands you throw and catch with. Throw and catch 100 times.

#7. Football Situps

Sit and balance yourself on top of your football. Place your feet out in front of you and lean backwards about 45 degrees. Then lean forward you are doing a situp, but without falling off the football. I admit this is nearly identical to using a standard exercise ball, but with a football it is lower to the ground and provides less stability due to it shape, thus you will need to pay attention to you balance. Try not to fall off it. :)

#8. Circle Passing

Pass the football behind your back from your left hand to your right hand, then in front of you from right to left, completing a circular motion. Repeat 50 times and then switch direction.

Better yet, find a friend or family member and go outside and throw the ball back and forth for an hour or so!
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing and lets talk fitness!


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