Hi, everybody. Kris Stokes, from Custom Fitness, your Amarillo Personal Trainer. Today we’re talking about shaking up your ab routine. It’s time to get off the floor and get vertical.

So there are a million different ways to do abs. Old school, it felt like there was only one, right? It was just the crunches. We did crunches a million different ways, but it was that. Then came the planks, and planks became this overwhelming exercise that everyone just started doing. Now they hold them for what, 12-15 minutes? They just keep going with it.

There comes a point where we’ve got to challenge the body in a different way. Why? Because we’re looking at the difference between, going through a movement, and actually performing something that’s going to be beneficial to your body’s function. We want to make the core strong, so you can move and live better. Not so you can say, “I have a strong core that can’t do anything.”

What Is Our Core?

When we’re talking about the abdominals, that’s a part of our core. Remember that our core is the whole torso, without the arms, legs or heads. So we do want to strengthen front, back, sides, all of it. We do want to remember that functionality is the first step to this. If you’re out picking up groceries, you should be able to do that safely, securely, and strongly. If you’re picking up a child, you should be able to do that. If you’re having to push a really heavy thing forward, you should be able to do that.

These are things coming from the core and just holding a plank in a solid position gives you a strong core, but can you use it? Have you built it? Have you taught your body how to use it, is the question. What we want to do is, we want to start changing up the way that we’re doing core. Now I’m not saying that planks are bad. I’m not saying that crunches are bad. Add them in, that’s great. But let’s add some variety to what we’re doing!

Creative Ways To Work Your Abs

Now another problem that comes up is a lot of times, people will come in, say, from a chiropractor, and they’ll say, “You know what? My back’s having a lot of issues. I’m not allowed to flex my knees into my chest.” Which also means that if they’re laying on the floor, doing a crunch, that would still be a flexion. So they’re not allowed to flex their spine to bend it forward, to a certain degree. And so, what we have to do is we have to find creative ways to work the abs, and believe you me, we have plenty of them.


One of my favorite ways to do this is with bands. Attached to a door, or an anchor up high, you can do a ton of work with the abs, through bands, vertically. Say that you were holding onto a band here, and you pulled it straight down into your legs for a lap pull, you’re going to get some whole work there. Say that you were taking it into a V chop, or maybe you were pulling it down to the side, and down to the side? It’s going to start to activate those obliques, just like if you were doing a crossover crunch.

Say that you had your band tied to a middle anchor on your door, like a metal hinge, and you were pulling it here, and you could step to the side? And then step back in? You’ll feel that core really on fire. These are great exercises. Anything with bands really is going to be able to activate that core, if you do them properly.


So, great ideas to move your workout forward, to change things up. With weights, you can easily do pretty much any type of squat or lunge.If you do a modified shoulder load where the elbows are bent and away from your body … this doesn’t count. But if you’re holding weights out here, or if you’re holding weights overhead as you’re performing these movements, you’re going to turn on those core muscles, and be able to activate them a little bit more. You didn’t have to flex, you didn’t bend, but you were still able to perform movements.

That’s what we do with our clients, is we work around issues that they have, help them to find different ways to do the same thing that we need them to do, without causing any further issue with what trouble they’re already having. We also use this to build core in people who are starting out a little bit weaker, who might not know how to engage their abs properly.If that’s you, that’s okay. That’s how a lot of people start. They don’t really have that good mind-body connection, to where you can feel the right things happening.

We All Start As Beginners

I’ll never forget, I had a great client, who’s actually still with me. She’s been with me almost 20 years now. Love her dearly. The first six months that she was with me, we were doing some different types of crunches, or ab work, and I would tell her, “Okay. I want you to engage your abs like you’re coughing or sneezing. I want you to really feel that contraction there.”

I would even say it in a million different ways. There’s so many ways to say it, so I said it over and over and over again, as she was doing these exercises, and she just didn’t get it. Her stomach just wasn’t responding the way that it needed to. But at month six, she looked at me, surprised, the light bulb’s going off all around her, and says, “I finally get it. I understand what you’re telling me. Look at what I can do.” She showed me, and it was amazing. She finally had that light switch click!

So if that’s you, if you’re not quite understanding it yet, don’t feel bad. It’s just that we need to be able to go through that form, and get the right words, with the right motions, at the right time, to make sense to you. We do want to strengthen the core and to make sure that it is a foundation of our workout. For us here at Custom Fitness, we add core into just about every exercise that we do, so that you’re not spending an extra 10 minutes at the end doing crunches.

That was kind of old school, right? You did 30 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of weights, and 10 minutes of crunches. We don’t do that. We combine all of that together, to give you the best metabolic response, so that your body’s burning more calories while you’re working out. You’re burning off more fat, but you’re also building more muscle to support your body in a functional manner. Your body’s going to be able to do more, out and about, when you’re living your normal life, instead of just during the gym time.

If that sounds like something that you’d be interested in hearing more about, feel free to give us a call, 806-322-3188. We’d be happy to sit down with you and just see if we’re a good fit.

I hope you have a great day.