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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Session for Core - A Really Punishing Workout

So yesterday I had another session with my great personal trainer Steve (InterSEPT Fitness) and he left with the parting words: "Enjoy tomorrow." All I have to say is ow. We were working on core and from my shoulders to my hips I hurt :). However, I also have to say, I really enjoyed the session, even though it was the hardest one yet.

Steve taught me a new circuit and then made me do it all over again a second time. The second time was really hard, but so worth it.

The first section of exercises are for the sides the most, using twisting motions to exercise the muscles.

We started with high to low resistance band pull with straight arms - so it looks like part of a hammer throw, but much slower.
  1. First step is to pass the band around something solid and high.
  2. Stand/sit at an angle to where you have put the band, with you hips not quite at 90 degrees to it. If you are at 90 degrees the bands with get tangled with your body.
  3. Hold both ends/handles of the band in both hands - your arms should be straight and your hands should be above your head.
  4. Pull the bands with straight arms down over your opposite hip in front - make sure you are using your trunk not your hips to twist.
  5. Repeat 10 times, then swap sides and do the same in the opposite direction.
You should really feel this one in the muscles at your sides in the waist area. I can still feel them :).

I did this exercise while sitting down, because it does take stability and sitting down it actually made it easier to make sure I was using my trunk not my hips to do the work.

Now we did the opposite one, low to high resistance band pull with straight arms. You could probably do this sitting down, but it might make attaching the band harder.
  1. Attach the band to something sturdy and low - I used the bottom holes on a Reebox deck, but anything strong and not going to move will do. Be warned, if you are using a bench, you will probably need weights on it to stop it moving.
  2. Stand at an angle to the attachment point that is close but not quite 90 degrees. Steve said it was the first time anyone had ever used a cat scratcher in one of his sessions - we have a sturdy square one and I used it gripped between my lower legs so I could balance and stand to do this one.
  3. Hold both ends/handles of the band with both hands.
  4. Pull from low to high with straight arms using your trunk to turn not your hips.
  5. Repeat 10 times and then swaps sides and do the same again.
The next is actually a very small looking movement, but it is very good for the core.
  1. Kneel down and sit back on your heels. As with the last session - if you have trouble with this position like I do because of an ankle condition, pop a rolled up mat or cushion under your lower legs to make it more comfortable.
  2. Attach the band at a height close to where your hands will be if your arms are at your sides and your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  3. Lock your arms at your sides and your elbows at 90 degrees.
  4. Hold both end of the bands in both hands.
  5. Without moving your arms or your hips, twist and pull the bands. You probably won't be able to twist too far, don't worry, it's not a huge movement.
  6. Repeat 10 times and then swap sides and do the same again.
Now we move to the floor for Russian Twists. I use a ball between my hands rather than a weight to do this unlike the video and you can do this on the floor rather than on a bench if you want to. Repeat the exercise 20 times the first time through the circuit and 10 times the second time through.

Then on to Knee to Elbow sit-ups. Do not worry if you can't get your elbow all the way to your knee when you start like the flexible gentleman in the video, just go as far as you can. Also, if you get too tired and can't do the whole movement, do your best to do all the reps, but drop the elbow part and just cycle your legs. For this I did 20 reps for the first go through the circuit and 10 for the second.

Next we are on to working on the six pack area of muscles. I have to admit I laughed when Steve mentioned a six pack, because I am so far from having one of those that it was hilarious, but it illustrates which muscles are being exercised.

Now I must warn you, the next exercise is really hard - I mean really hard, and doing number 10 of 10 reps was the toughest thing I had done to that point. I was so incredibly happy when I made it. You need a bench or something that is inclined, because the next exercise is inclined sit-ups. For the first try, Steve held my feet down as I did the sit-ups and he allowed me to, what I can only describe as flail, to sit up. As with all exercises, if doing them totally properly is impossible (and trust me, for me it was) a little cheating is okay as you work up to doing it correctly.

For the second time through Steve figured out how to let me do them on my own using our weights machine. I can use two weights on a chain to help with the arm positioning - the idea is not to use the weights to sit up, but to make sure you don't get stuck, so the weight should not be enough to pull you up. Then I tucked my feet under the bar on the machine to give me some leverage.

Next an old favourite, sit-ups on the ball. When I do this I can usually get into a kind of trance, but not in this circuit because my muscles were already tired :). I do 20 of these and I love the ball because it's nice and easy on my back.

After this we moved on the leg lifts with a weight. 
  1. Lie flat on the floor with a dumbbell weight between your feet - I used a 1kg weight.
  2. Lift your straight legs up to shy of vertical. Don't go completely to vertical because then you risk the chance of dropping the weight on you.
  3. Lower your legs back down.
  4. Repeat 10 times - if you can't manage all 10 with the weight then drop the weight and just do the leg lifts without it.
Okay, so I thought the inclined sit-ups were bad, but the next exercise, which is for the lower abdominal muscles, is utter torture. These are hip lifts.
  1. Lie flat on the floor like before.
  2. Lift your legs straight up as if you are doing a leg lift and hold them there.
  3. Now lift your hips off the floor. I kid you not!
Don't worry if you can't actually get off the floor - I think I managed about a millimetre or two at best if I managed it at all. Doing the movement will exercise the muscles and as they get stronger you'll actually be able to lift off the floor.

Finally for the circuit is a barbell exercise. I did it with 2.5kg weights on the bar.
  1. Lie on the weights bench. Make sure your head is supported, the first time I tried, I didn't lie in the right place and it was impossible.
  2. Hold the bar with straight arms directly above you - use a grip where your hands are above your shoulders, not a wide one.
  3. Now lower the bar backwards over your head as far as you can with straight arms. Don't forget to breathe.
  4. Bring the bar back up to directly above you.
  5. Repeat 10 times.
This isn't technically a core exercise because you'll feel it in your arms and your shoulders too, but it will stretch all the abdominal muscles you have been using. This is an exercise to do at the end of a core circuit.

If you're doing a long workout, don't forget to go back and do the whole circuit again, but you can just do one if it's a short workout.

We then did one more exercise, which I nicknamed Tragedy Flat On My Face :).
  1. Lie on the floor on your front.
  2. Hold your arms up near your head with your hands near your temples (this is why the nickname - it looks like the move to Tragedy by Steps ;)).
  3. Lift up your arms and your legs at the same time.
  4. Repeat this 10 times.
This works your back very well.

I also learned a new stretch which is good for stretching out your sides.
  1. Kneel - you can sit on your heels or kneel up for this one.
  2. Keeping one hand at your side and lifting the other over your head, reach down and bend over.
  3. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Roll out of it - roll forwards and round so you don't reuse the muscles you've just been stretching out.
Other stretches I used after this workout were:
  • Lie on front and push up with arms and hold.
  • Lie on back, keep one shoulder on floor while pulling same side leg over other with knee bent. This is good for glute stretching if you keep your other leg straight, but I have a nerve that catches in one leg if I do, for after a core workout, bending the other leg up as well it okay, because it will still stretch your side muscles.
Steve also told me to do 10 mins on the bike after he was gone. He usually tells his clients to go for a walk, but walking and me don't go together so he suggested the bike. He said it should be no effort, but I needed to keep the motion going. This makes sure that all the fats and fuel released into your blood during the workout is used up rather than going back where it came from.

So there you have it, my latest session with my personal trainer. I really enjoyed it, but, boy can I feel it today :). Rob did a similar work out, although more intense, last weekend and he ached a lot too even though he's been doing the personal trainer thing for over a year. I'm glad I'm not a complete wimp ;).

I really love how good Steve is at helping me adapt normal exercises that I can't do. He proves there is hope for those of us who aren't completely able bodied.

If you have any questions about what I've written, please feel free to ask in comments :).


  1. Wow, intense circuit. I've started to build up from working my abs once a month to twice - they aren't my favourite :-)

    1. I really enjoy the core work out, I think because most of it I can just do without having to worry about adjusting things :). Also I think my core is a little stronger than the rest of me because it has always had to compensate for my lack of balance. Wow, but can I feel the muscle around the bottom of my ribs today - I don't think I've ever really used them before and they are complaining!


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