Read time: 5 minutes, 10 seconds
- Workout: 5 core workouts to try
- Quote: James Clear on building habits
- Framework: Going slow to go fast
- Q&A: How do I avoid plateauing in the gym?
Workout: 5 core workouts to quit crunching & build abs (with links to videos)
Crunches and sit-ups every day get boring. Plus, you need to work the muscles differently to see results.
Here are five killer core workouts to mix it up and develop strong, defined abdominal muscles.
1. Bear Crawl Kettle Bell Pull Throughs
Get into a bear crawl position with your knees slightly off the ground and a kettlebell on one side of you. Using the opposite arm, pull the handle of the kettlebell through to the other side while keeping your hips steady. Repeat on each side for 12 reps.
Get into a bear crawl position with a resistance band around your knees. Lift one leg to the side, keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Repeat on each side for 12 reps.
Lie on your back with a resistance band around your feet. Lift both legs and arms to meet in the middle while keeping your lower back pressed into the ground. Lower one leg and the opposite arm above your head while keeping the others in the air. If difficult, remove the resistance band. Repeat for 12 reps.
This is a personal favorite. The weighted rope cable pull-down provides resistance to work your abs in a way that traditional crunches cannot.
Attach a rope to the high cable pulley. Hold each end of the rope with both hands in an overhead position and lower to your knees. Pull the ropes down, bringing your elbows to your side while squeezing through your abs. Don’t forget to tuck your chin and keep your back straight! Return slowly to the starting position and repeat for 12 reps.
Grab a medicine ball or dumbbell, and lie on your back with your arms extended behind your head. Lift both legs and upper body off the ground, creating a “V” shape with your body. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat for 12 reps.
If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you – the problem is your system.
– James Clear
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, is a known expert on building habits and achieving personal growth.
In this week’s quote, he reminds us that sometimes, we need to shift our focus from ourselves towards the systems and processes we have in place for creating change.
It can be your routine (most common). It can be your location.
And the hardest to accept? It may be the people you surround yourself with.
Clear emphasizes that the systems we have in place shape our behavior.
It’s critical to take a step back every now and then and evaluate whether your current systems are helping or hindering us in achieving our goals.
Optimizing your routine and surroundings improves your ability to stick to healthy habits like exercising regularly, eating properly, and taking care of your mental well-being.
So, take a moment to reflect on your current systems and see if there are any changes you can make to support your journey.
A quick example of a system is meal preppingTaking 5-10 minutes each weekend to plan each meal and an hour and a half to cook can set up healthy eating habits for the entire week.
Build a healthy system – build a healthy lifestyle.
Framework: Going slow to go fast
As I train for the Philadelphia Marathon, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
Following a standard, non-personalized plan I found online, the mileage and intensity ramped up fast.
It was for an intermediate runner who has several marathons under their belt, not an “intermediate runner” who has only done one half marathon.
The plan asked for too much, too soon, and ankle, knee, and foot pain followed. That’s when I hired my running coach.
The clear-cut message: go slow to go fast.
In running, you need to build an endurance base with Zone 2 cardio, which trims body fat and trains your body to use fat as fuel.
The bigger the base, the higher you can build.
Zone 2 cardio occurs when working at a low-moderate intensity, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes discipline to stick to a slower pace, especially when you see others passing you.
But the payoff is worth it – fewer injuries, better long-term performance, and overall improvement in running ability.
This framework applies not only to endurance and strength training but to any goal, project, relationship, etc. It’s tempting to want quick results and push ourselves to the limit, but this leads to burnout or setbacks.
Going slow and building a solid foundation, we set ourselves up for long-term success. This doesn’t mean we should never push ourselves, but rather that we should do so in a smart way.
Whether it’s training for a marathon or achieving a goal in your personal or professional life, going at a high-quality, slower pace will lead to better results and prevent burnout along the way.
“It’s better to go slowly in the right direction than quickly in the wrong direction.”
Q&A: How do I avoid plateauing when getting started in the gym?
The VTLZR community is all about supporting others on their health and wellness journey.
So, whenever there are questions that can help the rest of the community, we’ll answer a reader’s question in our weekly email.
This one’s from Kevin R. from St. Petersburg, Florida.
“I started lifting 4-5 days a week about a month ago. I feel stronger and keep track of my progress, but want to make sure I’m not plateauing. I’ve read about progressive overload, but can you explain that more?”
Similar to Zone 2 cardio and slowly increasing mileage, progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress on the body while strength training.
There are a few ways to do this. My favorite is to increase the weight you’re comfortable lifting by no more than 10% each week.
If you benched 50 lb dumbbells this week, move up to 55 next week. If you’re squatting 135 lbs this week, stay around 145 lbs next week.
Other ways to progressive load:
- increase the number of sets each week
- increase the number of reps each week
- decrease the rest time between sets in alternating weeks
Remember, it’s important to listen to your body and not jump too quickly to avoid injury. Feel it out, and be consistent.