Dr. Phil Shares: 10 of the Best Ab Exercises That Aren’t Crunches

10 of the Best Ab Exercises That Aren’t Crunches

Let’s get real: when it comes to ab workouts, there’s nothing more boring than churning out crunches. Set after set. Workout after workout. That’s why the best ab exercises aren’t crunches.

And ditching (or at least cutting down on) crunches might do more than eliminate your workout’s yawn factor. It could actually boost your fitness results, explains strength coach and physical therapist Michael Roncarati, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., director of rehabilitation for the Atlanta Hawks. After all, while crunches zone in on your rectus abominis (aka “six-pack”) muscles, they come up short when it comes to training your transverse abdominis and other deep-lying core muscles. Those are the muscles that stabilize your spine, keep your pelvis, ribs, and shoulder girdle in proper alignment, and help you transfer forces between your lower and upper body for improved exercise performance, Roncarati says. Yeah, you could say that your core is kind of important.

What’s more, research shows that crunches can contribute to low back pain by compressing the discs of the lumbar spine. “Depending on your current back health, it’s important to be aware that typical crunches can exacerbate problems,” strength coach Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., who has trained top athletes including the NFL’s Reggie Bush and snowboarder Shaun White. He notes that crunches can trigger back pain by increasing tightness in the hip flexors—which, in most people, especially desk-bound exercisers, tend to already be pretty tight. Tight hip flexors tug on the pelvis, tilting it forward. That, in turn, increases the strain on the lower back. No bueno.

So if you aren’t training your core with crunches (or at least with crunches alone) what ab exercises should you use to hit your six-pack fitness goals? Start with 10 of the best ab exercises listed below.

10 of the Best Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

1. Pallof Press

Secure a resistance band to a sturdy object at navel height. Stand next to the anchor point with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. (In his position, the band should be at sternum height.) Hold the resistance band’s handle against your sternum with both hands. There should be no slack in the band – it should have some tension. From here, brace your core and press the handle straight out in front of your torso, making sure your body doesn’t turn to one side. Once your arms are fully extended, pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start.

Best Ab Exercises - Pallof Press

2.Feet-Elevated Stability Ball Plank

Get on the floor on all fours with your shoulders stacked directly over your wrists, and a stability ball on the floor behind you. From here, brace your core lift one leg off of the floor to place your shin on top of the ball. Repeat with the opposite leg so that our entire body is parallel with the floor. Don’t let your hips sag or your butt stick up in the air. Brace your core to maintain this position. Hold for time. Lower each knee back to the floor, one at a time, to return to start.

Best Ab Exercises - Feet-Elevated Stability Ball Plank

3. Deadbug

Lie flat on your back on the floor with your arms and legs bent at 90 degrees like you are sitting in a chair. Press your low back into the floor and brace your core to maintain this flat-back position throughout the entire exercise. From here, slowly lower your right leg and left arm to within a few inches of the floor (your arm should end up above your head, not out to the side). Only go as low as you can – your low back should not come off the floor. Pause, and then squeeze your abs to slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg and right arm. Continue alternating sides.

Best Ab Exercises - Deadbug
 4. Stability Ball Rollout

Place your hands on a stability ball and kneel with your knees hip-width apart and your toes on the floor for stability. Keeping your back flat and core braced, and without moving your knees, slowly roll forward so the ball comes to your forearms, until your body forms a straight line from your head to your knees. Pause, then roll back to the starting position.

Best Ab Exercises - Stability Ball Rollout

5. Mountain Climber

Get in a high-plank position with your shoulders stacked directly over your elbows and hands, and the balls of your feet on the floor, spaced hip-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. From here, bend one knee to pull it toward your chest slowly and under control. Make sure to maintain the same straight-body position as you do so, not letting your hips pike up toward the ceiling. Pause, then extend your leg back to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

Best Ab Exercises - Mountain Climber

6. Low-to-High Dumbbell Chop

Grab a dumbbell with both hands (one hand on each end), and lower into a quarter-squat position. Hold the dumbbell to the outside of your right knee, your arms fully extended and diagonal from your body. Your torso should face the weight. From here, keeping your arms fully extended and torso facing the weight, squeeze your abs, pivot to the right and release the right heel as rotate your hips to pull the dumbbell up and across your body until its above your left shoulder. Pause, then slowly reverse the motion to return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

Best Ab Exercises - Low-to-High Dumbbell Chop

7. Band-Resisted Bird Dog

Get on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Place a resistance band handle around one foot, and hold the other handle with the opposite hand so that the band is taut. From here, simultaneously extend your banded arm in front of you and your banded leg behind you. Keep you core braced and back flat. Repeat on your opposite side.

Best Ab Exercises - Band-Resisted Bird Dog

8. Alternating V-Up

Lie face-up on the floor with your arms and legs fully extended so that your body forms one straight line from hands to feet. Press your low back into the floor, and brace your core to maintain this flat-back position. From here, squeeze your abs to lift both your torso and legs off of the floor – this is the starting position. Raise your right leg and your left arm, and twist to reach your hand to your toes. Keep your leg as straight as possible and don’t letting your shoulders hunch forward. Return to start and repeat alternating sides.

Best Ab Exercises - Alternating V-Up

9. Standing Band Rotation

Secure a resistance band to a sturdy object at navel height. Stand next to the anchor point with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the handle with both hands, arms fully extended in front of your chest and torso rotated to face the station. From here, brace your core and rotate your torso so that you face away from the station, arms still extended in front of your chest. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to start.

Best Ab Exercises - Standing Band Rotation

10. Boat Twist

Sit on the floor, balancing on your butt with your feet raised, knees bent, and arms fully extended in front of you. Your feet and hands should each be pressed together. Keeping your core braced, rotate your torso to your right as you reach back with just your right arm to touch the floor behind you, bringing your hands outside your hip. Return to the starting position, and repeat to your left. Continue alternating sides.

Best Ab Exercises - Boat Twist

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: How Cooking at Home Can Help You Lose Weight

Lose weight at home, weight loss, cooking for weight loss

But that convenience can come with a high-caloric cost. One simple — and usually less expensive —way to block those extra calories heading for your waistline? Cook at home.

Science backs it up, too: A 2014 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that people who eat more meals at home consume 200 fewer calories at meals than those who eat out on the regular. And when these home cooks do eat out, they pick healthier options.

Find why firing up the stove can help you lose weight, and tips to make cooking at home easy and doable.

Lose weight at home, weight loss, cooking to lose weight

 Why Cooking at Home Can Help You Lose Weight

It’s not good enough to just eat at home, though — you have to make those meals, too. And remember: Just because you cooked something at home doesn’t automatically make it healthy. (Sorry, but those “homemade” double-chocolate fudge brownies don’t count.)

But if you stick with healthy recipes, then you’re definitely giving yourself the home advantage. “The bottom line is that eating at home is healthier for you because it gives you so much more control,” says Meg Hagar, M.S., R.D., and author of Little Book of Kitchen Wonders. You know exactly how much salt or fat or sugar is going into your dish; you also have the power to swap ingredients in (and out) to fit your nutritional and caloric goals.

And eating healthy at home doesn’t have to cost more: A study from researchers at the University of Washington found that home-cooked dinners were lower in fat, calories, and sugar — but not higher grocery bills. The study also found that people who eat at home are more likely to meet U.S. government guidelines for a healthy diet.

The control you get with cooking at home extends to other facets of your health as well: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans get sick from food-borne illness each year. Of course, food poisoning can happen anywhere, but when you’re preparing meals at home, you know exactly how food is being handled — and how clean the kitchen is.

Lose weight at home, weight loss, cooking to lose weight

Master the Art of Meal Prep

 One of the biggest reasons people eat out is for convenience. But that convenience comes at a hefty price: According to data from the USDA, Americans spend almost $3,000 a year eating out.

We get it: It’s easier to just pick something from a menu versus shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning, especially if you’re crazy busy. But if you arm yourself with some smart shopping tips and time-saving meal plans, you can lose pounds and gain some cold, hard cash.

“I’m a huge believer in batch cooking, or preparing multiple servings of a meal all at once,” says Hagar. “The best part is that I only have to cook a few times a week and I get to eat my own homemade meals all week!”

Sounds easy, but the reality of it can be overwhelming. Start slow, like cooking three dinners at home one week. Then, the following week, add two home-cooked breakfasts. Keep building on each subsequent week until it becomes a habit to cook at home, instead of eating out.

Pro tip: If you need a kick in the pants to get your healthy habits started, a fitness and nutrition program like 21 Day Fix can get you going.

How to Eat Healthy at Home

Restaurants use everything from color to music to influence what you eat — and how much you spend — at their establishments. Follow their lead by creating an environment at home that supports healthy eating and habits:

  • Put your meal on a plate before you sit down to eat; no eating out of bags or boxes of food.
  • Keep healthy foods like fruits and nuts easily accessible and tuck the less-healthy temptations in the pantry or cupboards.
  • Put away all electronics — be mindful of what you’re eating and how much. “At home, you can turn off distractions while eating, allowing you to really tune into our hunger signals and avoid overeating, ” says Hagar.
  • Use portion-control containers to make sure you’re eating a balanced meal. “Load up on veggies and lean proteins plus a small amount of complex carbohydrates to make your plate look more full of food,” she advises.

How to Eat Healthy While Eating Out

While we’re definitely fans of eating at home, that doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit who never enjoys a meal out. With a few tips and tricks in your back pocket, you can stay on track and eat out with friends and family with zero guilt:

  • Scope out the menu online beforehand to see which meals will fit your goals. Chain restaurants are required to list calorie counts and other nutritional info, making the search for the right dish a lot easier.
  • Read the fine print on the menu: Stay away from foods that are described as “crispy,” “pan-fried,” “buttered,” or “stuffed,” and stick with healthier preparations like “broiled,” “baked,” or “steamed.”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions, or for dressings and sauces on the side — or not at all.

And don’t beat yourself up if you eat out more than you plan to. Just roll with the punches and know that making the switch to healthy cooking and eating, like with any new habit, takes time to master.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: 10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are crucial to a well-rounded training routine because they’re versatile and can be done anywhere. They also teach you to control your body and help develop solid movement mechanics.

These 10 fundamental bodyweight exercises help you strengthen your joints, activate your core, target the correct muscles and sync all the muscles in your body appropriately.

1. SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUAT

The single-leg box squat strengthens your quads, improves your balance and builds powerful legs. By isolating each leg, single-leg squats also help correct leg-strength imbalances to lessen injury risk — for example, if you can do 8 reps on your right side and only 5 on your left, you’ll know to work on making the left leg stronger.

How to do it: Sit near the edge of a bench, then stand up facing away from that bench. Lift one leg and keep that leg up the entire time. Sit onto the bench and drive yourself up with the opposite leg. Once that gets easy, lower the height of the bench or elevate your feet. Then, add resistance by holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you or wearing a weighted vest.

2. SKATER SQUAT

This is a unique variation on the single-leg squat because it activates your hips and trains you to sit back on your heel to emphasize the glutes and hips.

How to do it: Start standing and lift one leg then bend it down behind you in a one-legged squat while trying to touch your bent knee onto the ground behind the standing leg. Lean your torso and reach your arms forward as you descend. If you can’t reach the ground with your knee, that’s fine — just go as low as you can.

3. HIP/THIGH EXTENSION

The hip/thigh extension helps to build strength in your all-important glutes.

How to do it: Lie on your back in a bridge position and bend one knee so that it makes a 90-degree angle to the floor and stick the opposite leg straight out — knees aligned. With your bent leg, squeeze your glute, push through your heel, push your hips up and keep your hips level as you rise. Keep your straight leg extended throughout the exercise and keep it inline with your torso.

4. PUSHUP

The pushup is one of the best upper-body exercises. It’s a must-do to strengthen your shoulders, target your chest and core and improve the health of your shoulder joint and girdle.

How to do it: Keep your elbows in as you descend, then at the top, when you think you’ve pushed all the way up, push just a little more and feel your shoulder blades roll around your ribcage.

5. PIKE PUSHUP

Use this pushup variation to target your shoulders and train your overhead-pressing muscles.

How to do it: Start in a pushup position and raise your hips until you have a straight line going from your hands to your hips. Keep your elbows in as you descend, drive yourself back up and keep your hips up the entire time.

6. INVERTED ROW

Most athletes benefit from doing more pulling exercises like the inverted row than pushing exercises like pushups. It helps develop a strong, wide back, healthy shoulders and good posture.

How to do it: Do these on a Smith machine, a power rack, a TRX suspension trainer or rings. As you row, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. At the bottom, sink your chest just a little to let those shoulder blades slide along your ribcage.

7. PLANK

Planks build your core and trains you to keep your torso stable against a variety of forces (essential for avoiding injuries). To do the exercise correctly, make sure to activate your core and spine and push through the floor to engage your shoulders.

How to do it: Instead of “bracing your core,” keep your ribcage down like you’re doing a mini-crunch and tuck your pelvis like you’re trying to round your lower-back — your core will turn on automatically. Then hold that position.

8. PULLUP

If you want to add “armor” on your frame and increase the size of your torso, go straight to the source with an essential bodyweight move that targets your lats, the largest muscle in your upper body.

Pullups also strengthen your grip, which carries over to many different exercises. At the top of a pullup, squeeze your shoulder blades and try to drive your chest to the bar, keeping your neck inline with your spine.

9. BEAR CRAWL

The crawl is a fundamental exercise that builds great movement patterns and targets the muscles deep inside your core. As a warmup, it’ll open your joints; as a finisher, it’ll improve your conditioning in a safe environment.

How to do it: Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips; keep your knees an inch above the ground. Crawl forward by taking a small step with your right arm and left leg at the same time and alternate. Keep your hips low and your head up.

10. HARD ROLL

The hard roll is an obscure exercise, but if you’re looking to improve movement and avoid pain, the hard roll is essential.

How to do it: Lie on your back with both arms overhead and both legs straight. Reach your right elbow to left knee as if you were pinching a ball in front of your chest. Now, turn your head toward your left armpit and use your head to “pull” the rest of your body until it falls onto the left side. Then, turn your head toward the right and pull your body back to the starting position. Do a few reps and then switch sides. Keep your arms and legs relaxed; it’s your core that should do all the work.

By Anthony J. Yeung

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: How to Bring Mindfulness to Work

How to Bring Mindfulness to Work

You may ask yourself, “How do I bring mindfulness to work?” Mindfulness is something you practice as a being, as a person. And then it brings itself to every situation you’re in, every role that you play: at work, being a parent, being a wife, being a friend. So it’s more about how to bring mindfulness to your life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Let’s clarify what mindfulness is. For me, one of the ways I talk about it is how to be less reactive, more loving, and more present in how I act in a given situation, or how I decide not to act in a given situation as opposed to a knee-jerk reaction based on what we are conditioned to do.

The beauty of mindfulness is that the situations that come up that are challenging or could create a knee-jerk reaction are the actual situations that can bring mindfulness into your life.

How Can I Become More Mindful in My Life?

When you get triggered, you can use the situation as an opportunity to identify the types of situations that trigger you. And, rather than reacting, you can take a deep breath and allow the breath to center you.

With some practice, you become more aware and realize that when you’re reactive, you actually create more problems. So, these high-stress situations, where you feel you are not being mindful at all, serve as the best learning opportunities because you can “catch” yourself and make the shift from reactivity to mindfulness in the moment. With continuous practice, you can become a more mindful person.

It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? The very thing that you feel is disrupting your peace is the very thing that can create more peace in your life.

Any situation brings to you an opportunity to being mindful. It really forces you—if you are intent—to stop these constant, crazy reactions that just exhaust you. These reactions cause you to have bad days, then terrible weeks… as if the week is having you. But, you are the week, you create it. The week is not coming to you and saying, “This week is going to be horrible, so just enjoy the ride.”

This process has become fun for me over time—it’s a sort of game with myself. When there are situations that are quite challenging for me, I know they are also my gateway—my way in—into mindfulness. 

How Can I Bring Mindfulness into My Work Life?

Rather than thinking about how you can bring mindfulness to work, try and see it more as how mindfulness is being brought to you from work. Each time something challenging happens that brings on anger, frustration, resentment, jealously, envy, disappointment—all these emotions that come and go—you are presented with an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness within yourself by how you respond to these emotions.

Let’s say someone at work doesn’t take responsibility for something that wasn’t done or your opinion about something is not in harmony with theirs. The moment you get triggered is the moment you can take a beat and take a deep breath rather than react.

You can slow down and become a little more aware. That’s mindfulness.

You can think to yourself, “Here’s a situation that usually creates uncomfortable emotions in me and I usually feel attacked and then I react. But, instead I’m going to see this situation as an opportunity to step into mindfulness.” So, rather than speaking with frustration or running away, see your trigger as an indicator of how your mind works, then take a breath and bring mindfulness to the situation.

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Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: 10 Reasons Heavier Weight Training is Great For Women

Benefits of Strength Training for Women

Many women believe the only way to lose weight is to do cardiovascular (aerobic exercise), but without adding weight training to their workout routine, they are missing a key component to weight loss.

When you’re weight training, you shouldn’t rely exclusively on the scale to gauge your progress. You can use a body fat tester or a tape measure to track how many inchesyou’re losing. The size of your body will shrink as you shed fat and build muscle, but your weight may not change as dramatically as you expect. Besides, what’s more important, the number on the scale or how you look in your selfies?

If you’re still not convinced that you need to lift weights, here are 10 reasons you should reconsider.

1. Burn More Fat

Researchers at Tufts University found that when overweight women lifted heavy weights twice a week, they lost an average of 14.6 pounds of fat and gained 1.4 pounds of muscle. The control group, women who dieted but didn’t lift weights, lost only 9.2 pounds of fat and gained no muscle. When you do an intense weight-training program such as A WEEK OF HARD LABOR, your metabolism stays elevated and you continue to burn fat for several hours afterward. During regular cardio exercise, you stop burning fat shortly after the workout.

2. Change Your Body Shape

You may think your genes determine how you look. That’s not necessarily true. Weight training can slim you down, create new curves, and help avoid the “middle-age spread”. Just look at the amazing body transformations of the women who’ve completed Body Beast. So, no, you won’t bulk up—women don’t have enough muscle-building hormones to gain a lot of mass like men do. If you keep your diet clean and create a calorie deficit, you’ll burn fat.

3. Boost Your Metabolism

The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. As women age, they lose muscle at increasing rates, especially after the age of 40. When you diet without doing resistance training, up to 25 percent of the weight loss may be muscle loss. Weight training while dieting can help you preserve and even rebuild muscle fibers. The more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the more calories you’ll burn all day long.

4. Get Stronger and More Confident

Lifting weights increases functional fitness, which makes everyday tasks such as carrying children, lifting grocery bags, and picking up heavy suitcases much easier. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular weight training can make you 50 percent stronger in 6 months. Being strong is also empowering. Not only does it improve your physical activities, it builds emotional strength by boosting self-esteem and confidence.

5. Build Strong Bones

It’s been well documented that women need to do weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone mass. Just as muscles get stronger and bigger with use, so do bones when they’re made to bear weight. Stronger bones and increased muscle mass also lead to better flexibility and balance, which is especially important for women as they age.

6. Improve Mood

You’ve probably heard that cardio and low-impact exercises such as yoga help improve mood, and weight lifting has the same effect. The endorphins that are released during aerobic activities are also present during resistance training.

7. Improve Sports Fitness

You don’t have to be an athlete to get the sports benefit of weight training. Improved muscle mass and strength will help you in all physical activities, whether it’s bicycling with the family, swimming, golfing, or skiing…whatever sport you enjoy.

8. Reduce Injuries 

Weight lifting improves joint stability and builds stronger ligaments and tendons. Training safely and with proper form can help decrease the likelihood of injuries in your daily life. It can also improve physical function in people with arthritis. A study conducted at the University of Wales in Bangor, United Kingdom, found that mildly disabled participants who lifted weights for 12 weeks increased the frequency and intensity at which they could work, with less pain and increased range of movement.

9. Get Heart Healthy

More than 480,000 women die from cardiovascular disease each year, making it the number-one killer of women over the age of 25. Most people don’t realize that pumping iron can also keep your heart pumping. Lifting weights increases your “good” (HDL) cholesterol and decreases your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It also lowers your blood pressure. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people who do 30 minutes of weight lifting each week have a 23 percent reduced risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don’t lift weights.

10. Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

In addition to keeping your ticker strong, weight training can improve glucose utilization (the way your body processes sugar) by as much as 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 weeks of strength training can improve glucose metabolism in a way that is comparable to taking medication. The more lean mass you have, the more efficient your body is at removing glucose from the blood.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

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Dr. Laura: Get the Full Hormone Picture

Do you suffer from fatigue, depression, anxiety, hot flashes, decreased libido, stress, acne, insomnia, weight gain, infertility, hair loss or unwanted hair?

Get the full hormone

picture with the Dried Urine Total Comprehensive Hormone (DUTCH) test.

Seminar Saturday, Nov 4, 2017

10-11am

Forward Health

951 Gordon St. Unit 8B

Register Today: info@forwardhealth.ca

We look forward to seeing you here!

Although information gathered in a face-to face appointment is critical to getting to the root cause of an issue, testing is also a key to see the full picture.

Signs and symptoms of different hormone imbalance can look similar, so it is extremely helpful to know exactly what needs to be tweaked.

Through personal experience and advanced practitioner training with Kresser Institute of Functional Medicine, I am more prepared than ever to take you on a deep dive into your own personal hormone picture.

This test allows me as a practitioner to make a more informed decision on a treatment plan. For you, the patient it means more answers of what is really going on in your body and getting better sooner.

The test is easy to do, home-based 24 hour urine collection. Book your appointment today to get a comprehensive clinical intake and prescription for a full stress and hormone analysis. Learn more about the test at dutchtest.com

Did you know?

Botanical medicines are very good to balance all kinds of hormones. They come along side the body and bring what’s down up, and what’s up, down. They modulate. Knowing what plants, at what dose for what duration is key to getting you back to feeling great. Naturopathic doctors have extensive training in blending and prescribing natural plant medicine. In my cabinet I have over 60 different tinctures (individual plant based derivatives) so I can formulate individualized medicine that is just right for you.

Lifestyle measure to modulate stress are key to getting your hormones in balance. Dr. Laura has many different resources available for you to consider.

Acupuncture is also fantastic for balancing hormones and has been effective in reducing stress, fertility, insomnia, anxiety and depression.

So whether you prefer active therapy, a take along tincture, or a little of both, there is a treatment plan waiting right here for you.

 

From the heart and mind of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND