Workout of The Week 5.16.16: Core-geous

Feature Photo:
Model: Lindsay Blair
Photographer: Dylan Fox


The word “core” is a collective term used to describe the muscles of your midsection. They include, but are not limited to the rectus abdominis, internal/external obliques, transverse abdominal, quadratus lumborum, and spinal erectors. While these muscles have their own individual functions, they also work together in almost every movement you make.

I’m frequently asked which exercises you should be doing in order to get a great looking core. Unfortunately, my answer is not what you want to hear, because a sculpted core is not built in the gym, but in the kitchen through dieting (not crunches on the counter lol). In fact, athletes with some of the most aesthetically pleasing mid-sections you’ve ever seen, may not even directly work them. This common misconception derives from the belief of “spot-training”, or the act of burning fat in a particular area by simply training it. While there may be some metabolic improvements caused by increased muscle, it’s far too inefficient to be the sole path to a shredded 6-pack.

Before you completely write-off that 10 minute abdominal workout you do at the end of your workout, you should be aware that core work still has great value. Remember, the body is not designed to look good- its designed for function. These functions include stability, strength, balance, etc. Therefore, the better your core, the easier it is to maintain good form and prevent injury. Most say you should train legs because it’s your foundation, I would disagree, your core is.



  • Abdominal bracing- while lying on your back, contract your midsection. This does not mean suck them in, this means squeeze as they are. Hint: tighten your midsection as if someone were going to punch you there.
  • Warm-up sets: perform 1-2 easier sets of the exercise so that you can become more familiar with the form and movement.

Working Sets


Oblique Kayaks: 3 Sets x Perform reps as your fitness level allows; 60s rest

Set-up: You will need a weight bar and a decline bench. Sit normally on the bench, as you would for a sit-up.

Execution: Lean back until your hips are at a 90 degree angle, you should feel the tension of your core holding your body up at this point. Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip, and your elbows tight to your sides. Using your core, and not your arms, twist your core to resemble paddling in a kayak. Remember, your core does all the movement, not your arms!

Tips: I typically do these until I have about 20% of my energy left, at that point I use the remaining energy to perform Russian twists until just before failure.


Decline Bench Reverse Crunch: 2 sets of 10-20 reps; superset with next exercise

Set-up: You will need a decline bench, much like you did with the first exercise. You will need to lay the opposite direction.Hold on to bench above your head to keep yourself from sliding down. I typically grab the leg pads. (see pic for set-up)

Execution: Begin by contracting your core and raising your legs; knees slightly bent. Then, using your core, bend your knees and bring them to your chest until you reach a tight contraction. Then, slowly extend your legs back out to the starting position without touching the ground; repeat.

Tips: To ensure you are working your core and not just your legs (which may burn), make sure you slightly roll your hips as you crunch. This movement should be subtle, but it should be done for a quality contraction.

decline reverse crunch.jpg
Reverse crunch. Notice hips



Exercise ball DB crunch: 3 sets of 15 reps; 60s rest

Set-up: You will need a dumbbell (usually 5-15lbs will suffice), and an exercise ball. Begin by sitting on the ball, then in a controlled fashion, roll your body down until you are on your back. I typically like to position the ball so that I feel I am holding my head and shoulders up. Your feet should be wider than shoulder width for a solid base. You should hold the dumbbell behind your head, but not touching. Keep your elbows flared outward.

Execution: Begin by bracing your core, and picking a spot on the ceiling to stair at (look at head position in example). I typically like to pick one about 10 feet in front of me. Now, perform a crunch. This is not a

ball crunch
DB held behind head (not shown)

sit-up, so your hips should remain still. All the movement should be made between your chest and your hips. After you have crunched up into a solid contraction, slowly control your way back down until just below the starting position.


Tips: The particular exercise is best described by looking at the example picture. Stay on top of the ball, keep elbows wide, and only crunch at the stomach.

Back Raises: 3 sets of 15 reps; 30s rest

Set-up: You will need a lumbar extension pad, and possibly a barbell plate. Adjust the pad height so that it rests just below the crease of your hips.

Execution: Begin by contracting your core. Drop your torso using your hips until just before your back rolls. This is important, as the movement should be solely in your hips. Then, keeping your core braced, use your lower back to raise up to a straight position. A common

back raises
Straight back, movement in hips

mistake is to hyper-extend (over raise), this is unnecessary and unhealthy-avoid it.


Tips: If using weight, hold the plate firmly against your chest with a crossed-arm grip. Remember, you should avoid excessive rolling of the back. This may take practice, and may be limited to the individuals flexibility range of motion.




Last note:

  • Core workouts are funny, because a particular exercise may work greatly for one person, and not at all for another. It all comes down to the person’s body and their balances or lack there of.
  • Also, if you are new to working out, don’t be alarmed if you feel a burn in your lower back. This is usually fatigue, and will improve as you continue with future workouts.
  • Core should be done at the end of a workout, you need them for stability, so it wouldn’t be wise to fatigue them first.
  • Core should also be done every other day. Doing them daily can lead to overworking, and that can cause issues.




God gave you another day, and another healthy workout.


Kyle Blair, BS Exercise Physiology, CPT, SPT





Workout of The Week 2.7.16- Facing Your Stubborn Set of Calves


The notorious calve muscle.. That one muscle that really just doesn’t like to grow. Genetics either blessed you with ankle melons, or cursed you with cankles (the term used for legs where you cannot distinguish the ankle from the calve muscle lol), You have them or you don’t, right? Well, not exactly. Perhaps they just grow at an incredibly slow rate for some, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t growing. To illustrate what I am saying, think of the damage rain can do to side walks. Does one drop put a dent? No. How about 1,000

lower leg.jpg

drops? Probably not. It’s only after years and years of persistence, and repetition, that something as simple as water can demonstrate its corrosive properties. Calve muscles are no different. After all, not working them at all is 100% not going to make them grow.

Let’s examine the anatomy and physiology of the calve muscle, and hopefully that will shed some light. The lower leg region is made up of 4 compartments (see figure I-1). The anterior compartment’s main mover is the tibialis anterior, which is responsible for balance and dorsal flexion (pull foot upward). This muscle is mostly comprised of slow twitch fibers, and therefore, responds to higher reps. The lateral compartment is comprised of the peroneus muscle group. This group, much like the previous mentioned, responds to higher reps. The third group, the superficial posterior (very back of leg), contains the gastrocnemius, which is the actual muscle most would refer to as the “calve”. This muscle has a higher concentration of fast twitch fibers, thus responding greater to heavier/explosive lifting. The fourth and final compartment is the deep posterior. This area houses the soleus muscle, which is responsible for pressing the foot down while the leg is bent. It’s fiber content is more so slow twitch, making it more responsive to higher reps.

So, how does one take this information and apply it to their calve workouts? The answer is simple; variety. The best way to grow your calves is to hit them in every way. I’m talking toes in, toes out, legs straight, legs bent, heavy weight/low rep, lighter weight/high rep, etc. This is how you should approach each and every session.



Cardiovascular machine- 5min-10min: A treadmill, bike, elliptical, stair master, rower, etc.  A slow to moderate pace is sufficient. Focus on breathing technique.

Ankle ABC’s: With each foot, spell the entire alphabet. Make sure to make the letters as big as possible. Do not rush, this is not a timed challenge.

Light warm-up sets: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps with very moderate weight. This will familiarize the movement, and bring blood to the area.



Smith machine calve raise: 4 sets x 6-10 reps

Set-up: You will need a smith machine, and a platform of some sort. I would suggest something wide, and firm. DO NOT grab something narrow or light, as it may flip over (personal experience lol). I would recommend an aerobic step, a thicker bumper plate, or something specifically designed for calve raises. The bar of the smith machine should be set so that your knees are moderately bent. Trust me, too low is far safer than too high.

smith riase
Smith machine raise

Execution: Begin by raising the bar, and releasing the hooks of the machine. As you begin the downward motion, control it. Do not let it control you, this is key. After you reach the bottom of the movement, explode upward until you reach a solid contraction. Hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds, and then repeat the movement. I like to stop 1-2 reps short of failure to ensure I will have the energy to re-hook the machine safely.

Tips: This is an ego lift for many, do not be those people. Ask yourself, do you want to sloppily lift too much weight, or do you truly want to grow your calves?  If you want growth, I would recommend great control of the movement through the entire range of motion. That means no half reps, or bouncing.

Donkey calf raise: 3×10; 60s rest


donkey calf raise


Set-up: You will need a machine designed for it, a seated leg press machine, or a friend who doesn’t mind public humiliation. If you are using a seated leg press, make sure to adjust the seat as up and down as it allows. The idea is to have your hips at 90 degrees.

Execution: This  movement should begin with the calves in a

donkey 2

no shame donkey calf raise


deep stretch, at the bottom of the movement. While keeping your hips bent and your legs straight, raise the weight until you reach a solid contraction. Then, slowly descend back to the starting position and repeat.


Tips: It is crucial to keep your knees from bending while doing this exercise. It’s effect is weakened if not adhered to. I also find controlled pausing at the bottom and the top of the motion helps tremendously in increasing the intensity.

Seated calve raises: 3 sets x 20-30 reps; 90s rests

Set-up: You will need a machine specifically designed for this exercise. If your gym does not own one, you may try these options: Using the leg extension machine with a block for your feet (see picture), or a leg press while keeping your knees bent.

seated raise
Seated calf raise

Execution: Much like the previous exercise, you should begin the moment with the heels lowered into a deep stretch. Once set-up, begin the reps. While emphasizing full range of motion, and controlling the descent, keep the motion continuous. Do not stop mid-set. Do not pause mid-rep. Continue the motion all the way through.

Tips: I find this exercise is most efficient if done with a 3 and 1 rhythm.  This means the lowering should take 3 seconds, followed by a 1 second upward motion. Another method you may experiment with is the 10 and 10 style, or 10 regular reps, and 10 explosive reps. You may also try the 28-method, which goes as follows: 7 regular reps, 7 at half the speed, 7 half way up, and 7 at the top half, focusing on the squeeze.

seated raise 2

Alternative method seated raise




  • The goldfish theory: The calve is full of dense muscular fascia, which can become tight and restriction. Some believe that his prevents the muscle from wanting to expand, much like a small tank restricts the growth of a gold fish. Therefore, it is speculated that constant stretching and foam rolling may promote growth.
  • Try different angle: The smith machine calve raise and the donkey calve raise are the best for this. If you are doing three sets, change it each time. For example: set 1= toes straight, set 2= toes inward, set 3= toes outward. To add to this, do not simply change the foot position, but also the way you push. For example, when the feet are inward, push from the inner foot; vice versa.
  • Hit your calves as you would any other muscle group: Do not simply throw 3-4 sets of low effort calve raises at the end of your leg day. I personally designate a day solely to calves, core, and forearms.


  • 3-5 repetitions per stretch
  • 10-20s second hold each


You had another healthy workout.

Kyle Blair


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