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Iron Core, Sexy Curves: How To Chisel Your Waist Without Bulking Up

From a squishy waist to a sculpted one.   

From a squishy waist to a sculpted one.

 

If you're looking to develop a six pack or just tighten your mid-section, there are a zillion resources available online. What they don't tell you, however, is that all the crunches in the world will not necessarily give you a smaller waist and in some cases, exactly the opposite occurs. If you're looking to sculpt a slimmer core without the bulk for an hourglass-shaped physique, read on for my tried and true formula. 

The rumors are true- abs are primarily made in the kitchen. Stick with a nutrition plan based around whole foods like veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. Avoid processed food products, sugar and high amounts of dairy, and consume a moderate amount of healthy fats from  cold-water fish, nut butters, and coconut or flax seed oil. Low calorie DOES NOT mean weight loss or a tight core! Make sure that you are consuming enough nutrients per day to fuel you. One tool to help you figure out what you should be consuming is the Harris-Benedict equation, which uses your basal metabolic rate and activity level to estimate appropriate intake. 

Create the illusion of a smaller waist by building up your shoulders and back and developing stronger glutes. This strategy will give you a beautiful hourglass figure, creating the illusion of a tiny waist. Lat pulldowns, seated rows and dumbbell pullovers will widen your back for a V-shape look while deltoid raises and presses can give you a subtle “cap” on your shoulders, broadening the appearance. Lots of squat and lunge variations firm and lift the butt, and rounder, tighter glutes provide a more noticeable curve at the back and waist.

Avoid oblique exercises and powerlifting IF you want a smaller waist. Compare a crossfitter and a bodybuilder. One of the major differences in their physiques is apparent at the mid-section- crossfitters generally have wider, square-shaped waists while bodybuilders are careful to perform exercises that maintain a more narrow appearance. Overhead powerlifts, barbell oblique training and other weighted oblique exercises like plate twists, side bends, med ball throws and jackknifes will “bulk up” the mid-section. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a super cut, square mid-section like many Crossfitters have- it all depends on your preference. Both are awesome in my opinion, because it means that you're working hard to develop your strength and prevent injury!

Compare Crossfit athlete Danae Brown and bikini competitor, Brittany Tacy. Both do a lot of weightlifting...with very different results.

Compare Crossfit athlete Danae Brown and bikini competitor, Brittany Tacy. Both do a lot of weightlifting...with very different results.

Behold, the stomach vacuum. The stomach vacuum is a little known exercise that bodybuilders, bikini models, and fitness geeks use to really pull in the waist and control the core. It works your transverse abdominus, which is the muscle behind your rectus abdominus (your six pack). This is an exercise that you can do anytime, anywhere- while waiting in line at the bank, driving, or watching TV. Click here for a Bodybuilding.com tutorial on how to do the stomach vacuum exercise.

And now, for my favorite exercise to sculpt a toned, trim core: rope pulley crunches.  The rope pulley crunch is a weighted core exercise that targets the rectus abdominus and is quite possibly the most effective ab exercise in the world. To learn how to do this exercise, watch my one minute instructional video below:

Steps: 
1. Kneel below a pulley containing a rope attachment and hold the attachment, pulling the rope until it is in front of your face. 

2. Flex at the waist and contract your abdomen as your elbows travel to the mid-lower thigh.
3. Exhale forcefully as you come down to the lowest position and hold the contraction for a second, this is important! 
4. Return to the starting position and repeat for 20-40 reps

Stay tuned for Part Two of this series on building a tighter trimmer core, which will address strategies to reduce the appearance of excess skin around the midsection after pregnancy or significant weight loss.

If you found this blog post useful, please share it with your friends. Do you have a favorite core exercise, or a question on this post? Leave your thoughts in the comments section- I always love to hear from you! 

Love and Lifting,
Aimee 




 

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Q: What Should I Do to Train for a Vertical Marathon?

Ready for a new challenge? Try running up dozens of flights of stairs in a Vertical Marathon! 

Ready for a new challenge? Try running up dozens of flights of stairs in a Vertical Marathon! 

If you've been running endurance races for a while and are looking for a new challenge, you may want to check out one of the latest crazes- the Vertical Marathon. Vertical Marathons require you to run up many flights of stairs in a high rise building, and Singapore has two popular ones: the Swissotel Vertical Marathon,  where over 2,000 participants ascend up 73 storeys, and the National Vertical Marathon in May, which is 63 storeys high. Wondering how to train for such a feat?

Q: Diana writes, "I'll be attempting the vertical marathon. Beside my usual running, squats and lunges, what other areas should I focus on before the race?

A: Diana, you are on the right track with squats and lunges, but to keep your muscles interested, mix these up by adding weight as well as trying out different variations of each, like alternating prisoner lunges and sumo squats. You'll also benefit from plyometric exercises like box jumps, narrow high jumps and jumping lunges, which can help increase your running speed, improve your endurance and build muscular power in your legs. Static exercises like wall sits, low squat holds and chair pose will strengthen your quadriceps and glutes as well, and on race day, you'll find that extra strength to be vital as you propel yourself up to the top.

Hold a low squat for as long as you can, and repeat 3-5 times.

Hold a low squat for as long as you can, and repeat 3-5 times.

High Knee Runs. Incorporate these during your running days.

High Knee Runs. Incorporate these during your running days.

Speed is another component you'll want to focus on. Aside from regular running, definitely aim to add in Fartlek Drills. These are informal speed workouts where you switch up the intensity during your runs, like adding in 20-40 second sprints. You'll also want to incorporate some hill sprints, stairwell runs, and high knee runs into your training program. One of the tools I like to use for this type of training is Stroops, which can help with developing more explosiveness and power.

Finally, pay close attention to your core. Strong core muscles will keep the trunk and pelvis stable, and therefore reduce load on the knees. So, take 10-15 minutes three times a week to concentrate on building core strength through exercises like planks, cable crunches, lying leg raises, reverse crunches and Russian Twists.
 

Planks for time

Planks for time

Diana, you’ve got about 3 months to prepare for your Vertical Marathon which gives enough time to ensure that you’re ready for a fantastic finish. I wish you all the best in your training and your race- you’re going to do great! 

If you have a question on fitness, nutrition and habit change, I'm here to answer it via video or blog post. Just email me at aimee@tangramwellness.com or leave it in the comments section. Happy training! 

 




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