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Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:40 pm
by e.n.rangel
I'll start with giving you my workout schedule. I do about 5-10 minutes of serious stretching. I go to the gym at least 3 days a week but if I get a 4th day in I do my lower body workout on the extra day. Most weeks I get all 4 days in. I don't rest much between exercises because I want to keep my heart rate elevated throughout my work out. Instead of resting I alternate with sets of another exercise. Right now I do some cardio, a couple of miles, on the elliptical sometimes but not every day because I don't have time for the extra section.

I do a lot of core and ab work primarily because I had an eleven vertebrate spinal fusion 5 years ago and need to build that part of my body to help reduce back pain and support my very bad spine. Today the personal trainer who works at my gym said that I shouldn't do ab/ core exercises every day. I explained that I don't do them everyday, I do them 3-4x's a week as part of my workouts. Anyway, this is how the conversation went on until I was frustrated and just said I had to go.

IDK how much it matters but I'm 30, female, 5'2, a size 4 jeans, & 130 lbs at the moment.

My question is whether this work-out plan (see below) includes too many ab/core exercises & if I need to give my midsection more rest.

Upper Body Day 1

Abs/ Core: I typically do 3 sets of 10 each. For planks I do 10 long seconds each rep.
• Raised-leg Ab twist crunches w/ weighted ball
• Sit-ups with weighted ball over head extension
• Swimmer Abs => Plank

Upper Body/ Shoulders:

Free Weights (I typically do 3 sets of 8)
• Power Incline Chest Circles
• Reverse Fly (face down)
• Shoulder Press
• Chest Press

Cable Weights (I typically do 3 sets of 8)
• Front Shoulder Raise
• Side Shoulder Raise
• Shoulder Abduction
• Shoulder Adduction

Upper Body Day 2

Abs/ Core: I typically do 3 sets of 10 each. For planks I do 10 long seconds each rep.
• Plank => Side Plank
• Plank => Push Ups
• V-Ab leg lifts => toes to sky

Upper Body/ Arms & Back:

Free Weights (I typically do 3 sets of 8)
• Alternating single arm press, from floor
• Bicep curl, alternating arms, in bended knee standing position
• Bend over row
• Laying down reverse triceps curl
• Forearm curl

Cable Weights (I typically do 3 sets of 8)
• Lat- pull downs, front and back
• Triceps press /push-down
• Cable row => sit-ups (I do at least 25 sit-ups in between each set of rowing)

Lower Body

Abs/ Core: I typically do 3 sets of 10 each. For planks I do 10 long seconds each rep.
• Straight leg-lift w/ weighted ball chest press
• Raised-leg Ab twist crunches w/ weighted ball
• Alternating rotation w/ weighted ball- standing
• Alternating Lunge Side Twist w/ weighted ball
• Back extensions => side bends

Legs: (I typically do 3 sets of 10)
• Squat => alternating side leg kick
• Reverse alternating lunge => alternating forward kick
• Frog Squats
• Toe Lifts

Cable Weights (I typically do 3 sets of 8)
• Leg abductions
• Leg adductions
• Calf raises
• Leg curls
• Leg extensions
• Leg presses

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:05 pm
by Matt Z
Chest & Shoulders/Back &Arms/Legs seems like a pretty random way to split up your workouts. Have you considered trying Legs/Push/Pull or Upper/Lower?

Overall, you seem to be doing a lot of isolation exercises and a relying a lot on machines (although your back issues may limit your use of free weights). You may want to try doing fewer exercises, focusing more on compound lifts and using free weights whenever possible.

Also, I'd recommend saving the core exercises for the end of your workout. Meanwhile, you may want to try exercises like Overhead Squats and Turkish Get-ups if your physical limitations will allow.

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:26 pm
by e.n.rangel
I put it together this way for a few reasons; the layout of my gym, the frequency I can go, and the point I'm at with my training. I change my schedule as I improve, and get stronger, to push new goals every few months. I add, or replace exercises, or make exercises more complex or advanced as I go. Some of the exercises were given to me by my physical therapist as well.

In any case, my question was whether I'm doing too many ab/ core exercises, and whether I should give them more days off each week.

Thanks for your suggestions.

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:44 pm
by Oscar_Actuary
I wouldn't post your entire routine here and then expect an answer that ignores everything else but your targetted question.


Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:50 pm
by e.n.rangel
I guess I shouldn't expect a response that addresses any part of my post at all!


Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:05 pm
by Oscar_Actuary
Since you are new here. Let me get you caught up.
I am the resident expert on all things, all thing core especially. I keep mine fit

You may or may not do to much, someone will type an answer in blue and let you know more.

I will say, you twist too much. In all likelyhood.
Maybe not.
I'm an expert but not a seer.

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:35 pm
by e.n.rangel
Oscar_Actuary: Super! So you are not saying I need to give my ab/core more rest between workouts. That's really all I was asking about at this point. This personal trainer who works at the gym I use wanted to convince me that I should only be doing abs a couple of times a week but hadn't seen my workout schedule at all, and didn't know what exercises I am doing.

I twist a lot because, for me, having so much of my spine fused makes accessing and targeting back muscles difficult. I've only recently been able to add twisting so I do it very gently. I'll keep that feedback in mind though.

Just as I said to the 1st respondent, thanks for the suggestions. I'll listen to whatever knowledgeable people have to say on the subject, and take what I think fits my needs.

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:43 pm
by JasonJones
Hey e.n.rangel,

It can be difficult sometimes to answer a fitness question in a straightforward manner because a lot of answers start with "it depends." Without the right information it can be really easy to look for answers in other parts of the program. That being said, I'll try my very best to answer your question, and then I'll ask you some more questions to try and follow up with the best possible information later if I'm not successful. Sound good?

As to the question of whether there are too many ab exercises in your program, I'm going to say yes. In terms of your particular injury, I'm going to say that you'd be better served by looking at abdominal exercises that help you resist flexion and rotation instead of actively flexing and rotating.

My recommendation would be to scrap most of the ab work that you do, and focus on building strength through the ab wheel, plank and variations (which you are already doing, I'd recommend learning the Russian Kettlebell Challenge variation), and high to low/low to high chops. For your particular injury I would also recommend incorporating turkish get ups, as it has a very high percentage of peak activation in the rectus abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques and spinal erectors. For a "kick ass core workout" Bret Contreras recommends:

Turkish Get Up
Chin Up, Hanging Leg Raise, or Weighted Swiss Ball Crunch
Ab Wheel Rollout, Bodysaw, or RKC Plank
Kneeling Cable Lift, Tornado Ball Slam, Landmine, or Reverse Hyper

Which rather than focussing on crushing out some abdominal pain in the trenches, focusses on working all of the functions of the abdominal muscles, especially in their role in providing trunk stability. In terms of frequency, I would recommend that you either view this as the warm up you do before your normal lifting and not over-doing it, or if you'd prefer to get into the pain cave warm up with the Turkish Get Ups and follow your regular routine with the remainder.

A lot of compound movements also provide some serious abdominal activation. Suitcase carrys, sledgehammer swings, front and back squats, deadlifts, hip thrusters, bulgarian squats, chins, pullovers, even tricep extensions provide high levels of activation of one core muscle or another. I wouldn't go so far to say that you're going to hurt yourself, but you're certainly misusing a good chunk of your time and effort as well as being at times counter productive.

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 6:57 pm
by stuward
Jason has given you some good core options. I generally point people to this article: ... training_1" onclick=";return false;

By the way, Oscar is an expert on how to make his core bigger. :joker:

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:00 pm
by JasonJones
Also, be aware that strong, untrained abs are going to be almost completely useless to you. You need trained abs that will work to resist compromising the spine as opposed to abs that can generate peak contractile force. Exercises like crunches aren't going to do much for your ability to maintain spinal integrity. I also recall reading somewhere that the thoracic extensors play an important role in spinal stability. I'd recommend reading this article: ... _that_back" onclick=";return false; and hopefully I can follow up with something else.

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:00 pm
by e.n.rangel
JasonJones: Awesome, thank you! I'll try those suggestions and let you know how I do with them.

stuward: Thanks for the article.
I'll keep that in mind about Oscar. =)

Thanks all!

- Best,

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:08 pm
by Jungledoc
I don't know if you are more impressed by large majorities than by mere logic and reason, but I had formulated my answer to you before I read Jason's, so I'm disappointed that he said most of what I would have, only better.

I'd say that the main points are,
1) It's not so much that there's something bad about doing so much core work, but that you are doing way more than necessary, and could be using your time better.
2) The KIND of core work you are doing is indeed potentially dangerous. The twisting and flexing (which are a part of may traditional core exercises) will at the very least decrease the useful life of your discs and facet joints, at least the ones you have left. If you can look over your shoulder while driving, you have enough rotational flexibility. Now you need rotational stability, the ability to keep the spine from rotating too much. To the suggestions that Jason made, I'd add Pallof "Presses". Google it.
3) Welcome to the forum. Keep a thick skin, an open mind and a sense of humor, and you won't be too offended by Oscar. He's really quite tame, mostly.
4) We'd be glad to give you lots of confusing and conflicting advice about the rest of your routine as well. I would be the one giving the accurate information and useful advice, and you could ignore everyone else.

Re: Trainer at my gym says....

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:29 am
by e.n.rangel
Hey All,

Thanks for all of your advice and references. I've read through quite a bit of material, incorporated many of your suggestions, and made some major adjustments to my workouts. It's going very well at the moment and I'm feeling much better about my over all fitness success. I just wanted to say thanks!