The Power Of The Plank

Posted By Amy Schlinger on The Fine Line | February

It may look like an easy exercise, but the plank can be a beast.


It may look like an easy exercise, but the plank can be a beast. That beast is one of the most basic — and most effective — core exercises. It recruits multiple muscle groups — abdominals, hips, lower back, and shoulders — and because there are many variations, women of any fitness level can benefit from the plank.

When you think of a core exercise, it’s important to realize that your “core” means more than just the abdominals, says Michelle Lovitt, exercise physiologist and celebrity trainer in Los Angeles. “Your primary movers in a plank are your erector spinae, your rectus abdominus and your obliques. Secondary muscles that are working are your rhomboids, gluteal muscles, quadriceps, gastrocnemius, and deltoid muscles.” And depending on what variation of the plank you’re holding, it’s possible you may work more than that.

As we get older, exercises like the plank become even more important. “Core strength and proper functioning of the core are critical to coordination and motor control,” says Kelvin Gary, owner of Body Space Fitness in New York City, “two things that we start to loose as we get older.”

So why is something that looks easy so difficult to do? Most people don’t have much sense about core strength unless they have an active lifestyle, explains Matty Maggiacomo, master trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. “If you spend a lot of time sitting down, either at work or on the couch, it’s very important to start integrating core exercises such as planks into your routine,” he says. “If you’re just starting out, try the most basic form of planking: the forearm plank.”


To get started: Come to your hands and knees and place your forearms on the ground, elbows bent 90 degrees, so your shoulder are stacked directly over your elbows. Extend your legs straight out behind you, come onto your toes, and, using your core, push through your forearms and toes to raise your legs and core off the ground. You want to try to create a straight line from your head to your feet, so pull your belly button into your spine, squeeze your shoulder blades together and down your back, and tighten your glutes as you push your heels back, explains Maggiacomo. Attempt to hold for 30 seconds. Over time, increase that to 45 or even 60 seconds. But don’t be surprised if it’s difficult at first.

Once you hit the 60- or 90-second mark, Kelvin suggests adding arm or leg movements or a dynamic component, such as sliding your feet on a towel or glider to make your plank more challenging. Below are more plank variations to try once you’re comfortable with the basic elbow plank. Add these into your daily fitness routine — or you can even try holding a few while you’re watching television at night.



1. Extended Plank
Place your hands on the floor, shoulders stacked directly over hands. Extend feet out behind you and come onto toes. Activating abs, glutes, and pulling shoulders back and down, push through your feet and hands to raise your core and legs off the ground. Be sure you’re in a straight line from head to toe. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.

2. Side Plank
Lie on the ground, on either your right or left side. Depending on the side you choose, bend that elbow and place your forearm on the ground in front of you, so that it is perpendicular to your upper arm. Stack your legs on top of one another. Using your core, glutes, and legs, push your forearm and bottom foot into the ground to raise your body off the ground. Body should be in line from head to toe. Your top hand can rest on your hip or reach upward toward the ceiling. Hold 30 to 60 seconds; repeat on the other side.

Modification: If you’re unable to balance with your feet stacked, simply place one in front of the other.

3. Decline Plank
Come into forearm plank position but have your feet elevated on a bench or a stair. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.

4. Extended Plank With Shoulder Taps
Come into extended plank position, hands on the floor, shoulders stacked above wrists, feet extended out behind you, body in a straight line head to toe. Without moving your core, shift your weight into your left hand as you lift your right hand off the ground and tap your left shoulder. Return your right hand back to the ground. Shift your weight into your right hand as you lift your left hand off the ground and tap your right shoulder. Continue alternating for 30 to 60 seconds.

5. Long-Lever Plank
Come to extended plank position. Without moving the rest of your body, walk your hands forward 4 to 6 inches. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

“Anytime you can’t engage in any physical activity, especially if you don’t have time for the gym, I’d encourage planks,” says Maggiacomo. “Plank holds require no equipment and limited space. Plank on!”

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How 3-D Technology Will Give You A Hot Body

Posted By David Kaufman on New York Post | 

Annie Wermiel

More than two decades ago, David Barton opened his first eponymous gym, helping establish New York City’s distinct brand of workout culture. His mini-empire of see-and-be-seen fitness centers transformed exercising from a mere pastime to a bona fide lifestyle from Manhattan to Miami.

Now Barton is shaking up the workout scene again, recently opening TMPL in Hell’s Kitchen. The gym pairs its equipment with new innovations in data-driven fitness technology to help clients achieve peak muscle building and caloric burn with every spin, swim stroke and pullup.

“There always seems to be something slowing down your ability to become stronger, faster or fitter,” Barton tells The Post. “But advances in metabolic science now allow us to assess what’s happening in people’s bodies in a way that works for almost everyone.”

To help them get there, TMPL focuses on detailed body analyses. Barton partnered with wellness expert Jim LaValle, whose Metabolic Code system measures hormone and cortisone levels, to create a personalized diet and fitness routine and to set overall fitness goals.

TMPL has 3-D computers to show folks how they’ll look once they reach their goals. “3-D doesn’t lie,” Barton says. “The technology is very sophisticated and the results are very accurate — and motivational.”

Annie Wermiel

Barton isn’t the only one using data to maximize workouts. On the Upper East Side, the sprawling Asphalt Green complex just launched its all-body AG6 class, which uses a computerized, Spanish-made technology called PRAMA to monitor performance and boost output. And at Body Space Fitness near Union Square, owner Kelvin Gary uses InBody, a tech-heavy “body composition analyzer” that measures fat, water and muscle levels to determine the specific workouts a client might need, as well as how intense they should be and what body parts to focus on.

“Some people need to put on muscle,” Gary explains, “while others just need to make the muscle they already have work better.”

In the Flatiron District, Layla Luciano and Jay Centeno opened PACT PARK, the first local facility to offer group kickboxing classes focusing on the Nexersys system, which features seven boxing pads (equipped with Wi-Fi) that measure the speed and intensity of every kick and punch.

“The data helps devise customized positions and combos calibrated to within a split second,” says Luciano, who co-starred on Bravo’s “Work Out New York.”

Workout enthusiasts say they feel more motivated as a result. “I’ve never sweat so much from just one class,” says Tanaya Macheel, a 26-year-old Manhattan-based writer who works out at least five times weekly. “I am really competitive with myself, so workouts just don’t mean as much to me if I’m not tracking my performance.”


Annie Wermiel

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The Workout Rule That Will Help You Lose Weight

Posted By Alexa Tucker on SELF | 

Six trainers share their best tips for staying consistent, accountable, and on track.

Studio1901, Getty Images

Getting your fitness on is a key component of weight loss, and even though certain types of exercise are known for their fat-burning capabilities, at the end of the day, there’s one rule that trumps all when it comes to working out for weight loss: consistency. Easier said than done, but 100 percent worth it.

Put simply, “in order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you are consuming,” explains Jacqueline Kasen, a trainer at Anatomy at 1220 in Miami. Of course, your body burns calories just by livin’, but exercise helps create an even bigger calorie deficit. However, “the magic doesn’t happen overnight,” says Kelvin Gary, C.P.T., owner of NYC’s Body Space Fitness. (But, let’s be honest: Wouldn’t it be nice if it did work that way?)

“The whole process [of burning fat] takes time and energy,” adds Gary. “Consistency in the gym keeps the process moving in the right direction. It also helps you create the good habits that will eventually be your new normal, helping you reach those goals in a sustainable way.” Plus, if you take extended breaks, you risk losing some of the progress you’ve made from that rise-and-grind life.

Consistency means different things to different people, depending on your goals and what’s realistic for your lifestyle. Kasen reccomends aiming for four to five workouts per week—but you can start smaller, if you want. “Make the commitment to exercise at least three days per week—that will likely lead to wanting to exercise even more, like four or five days,” says Jenn Seracuse, director of Pilates at FLEX studios. “We are human and things happen, but it’s important not to let life completely derail you from your routine.”

Here are trainers’ best tips for staying consistent, accountable, and on track.

1. Try exercising at the same time every day.

Set yourself up for success as much as possible by picking a specific time to work out daily, suggest Kasen. Choose a time of day that works best for your schedule. It might take a couple of weeks to get comfortable with the new schedule, but before you know it, it’ll feel like a natural part of your routine. “Just like when you get up, the first thing you do is shower or brush your teeth—this is the same concept,” Kasen says.

Make a plan that actually fits your life,” says Jackie Dragone, director of barre at FLEX studios. “Take a look at your schedule and the extra pockets of time you have when you can truly commit to working out. If you know you are exhausted in the evening, commit to two workouts in the morning before work and two on the weekend. It’s about making it work for you.”

And if a regular routine just isn’t an option, schedule your workouts at the beginning of the week and stick to your plan (that means writing them down, too).

2. Try the hairband trick.

“Have a visual reminder that you see every day,” suggests Amelia DiDomenico, C.P.T., master trainer at Crunch Gyms. This can simply remind you to actually get your workout in, or it can be something that keeps you focused on your larger goals—whatever is motivating for you. “Just a small sticky note or even an image that reminds you where you’re going. You can use your bathroom, kitchen, or even your desk,” she says. Another sneaky trick? “Wear a rubber band or hair tie around your right wrist, and put it on your left wrist when have completed your workout.”

3. Do workouts you *actually* like.

Find ways to get active that you actually enjoy so you’re not tempted to skip your workouts—plus, you’re more likely to do it often and consistently if you have fun. “It’s different for everyone,” says Seracuse. “If you don’t love it and look forward to it, you won’t do it.” Consistency doesn’t mean doing the same thing every day—variety is important, and you should enjoy all (OK, most) of your workouts.

“If you dread boxing, try indoor cycling. Not a yogi? Maybe Zumba is for you,” adds Kara Hermes, a trainer at YG Studios. “There are so many fun and challenging types of fitness! With warmer weather approaching, experiment with outdoor workouts, too.”

Related: 8 Habits People Who’ve Lost Major Weight Have In Common

4. Stay accountable with paid classes or workout buddies.

“Take group classes,” suggests Seracuse. “Signing up (and paying for) a group class keeps you accountable, because someone is expecting you and you’re also making a financial commitment to be there.” Not into classes? “Find an accountability buddy,” she suggests. “This doesn’t even mean you have to work out together. Set goals and share them to keep each other on track. Text each other your workout plans, and then let each other know when you’ve completed them. I do this with one of my best friends and it’s very effective. Whenever I don’t feel like following through, I think about having to text her and tell her I bailed.”

5. Above all, keep your goal in mind and remember why you started.

Being consistent isn’t easy at first, but it’s crucial to meeting your goals and setting up healthy habits. “Generally, when starting a new routine, you make sacrifices to stay on course,” says Hermes. And if you’re having a hard time sticking with your new routine, or are thinking about skipping your workout, remember why you started in the first place. “What you put into your goal is what you get out of it, and if you don’t put the work in you won’t see change,” says Dragone.

Be specific about your goals, too, suggests Gary. “If you’re clear on your goals, you can be clear on what you need to do to get there, and you’re more likely to work harder towards them.”

Personally, a morning workout makes me feel energized, positive, and capable of taking on whatever the world throws at me—and when I do hit that snooze button instead of lacing up my sneakers? I usually regret it. And let me tell you, I never thought I’d see the day. These trainers know what they’re talking about, huh?

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5 Things Insanely Productive And Healthy People Do Before 8 A.M.

Posted By Alexa Tucker on SELF | 

Meet these morning unicorns, and try their #UpNOut secrets.

Egill Bjarki, Getty Images

Trainers are a rare breed of morning unicorns. What they can accomplish before 8 A.M. is pure magic—from training clients to teaching classes bright and early, many start their days before the sun rises and are out the door while the rest of us are still blissfully enjoying some shut-eye. But an early start to their workday doesn’t mean they don’t take time for themselves in the morning–actually, it’s a priority.

As fitness pros, they make sure they’re caring for themselves first, even when they’re insanely busy. And even though they don’t always squeeze their own workouts in that early (they are a little busy helping the rest of us do that), their mornings feel balanced, refreshing, and productive.

Below are five set-yourself-up-for-success habits that top trainers swear by. They may just inspire you to set your alarm 20 minutes earlier (ugh).

1. Hydrate (with water)—immediately.

Whether they go for a citrus-spiked sip or the regular stuff, drinking water is the first thing on many trainers’ healthy morning routines. “I usually drink two tall glasses of water to rehydrate me and get my metabolism going,” says Kelvin Gary, C.P.T., owner of NYC’s Body Space Fitness. (Staying hydrated is important for helping to keep your metabolism in tip-top shape, no matter how you drink it.) Plus, if you’re trying to get #UpNOut and to a workout, staying hydrated will help you power through your SoulCycle class. “Dehydration is one of the main causes of fatigue,” says Gary.

“I drink a liter of warm lemon water every morning before I eat or drink anything else,” adds Nerijus Bagdonas, a trainer at YG Studios. And while warm lemon water isn’t any more hydrating than regular water, if it’ll inspire you to sip on the H20, by all means, have at it.

2. Foam roll and stretch it out.

When your mind is awake but your muscles feel one step behind, there are ways to break your body out of that cooped-up, sleepy funk. “I foam roll first thing out of bed,” says Gary. “I’ve found this to be the best way to loosen up all the tightness from a night of sleep.” If you don’t have a foam roller, you can give your body a wake-up call with some stretching, too. “Stretching my back and breathing in child’s pose is helpful to release any tension formed from my sleeping position,” says Amelia DiDomenico, C.P.T., master trainer at Crunch Gyms.

3. Enjoy a cup of coffee.

Even unicorn morning people, like trainers, need a little jolt of java to kick off their day. “I drink coffee—it’s a habit at this point, and I love it,” says Rachel Robinson, a trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp Miami Beach. “I only use whole organic milk in my coffee and don’t use any sugar or creamers with high sugar.” Adds Gary, “I can’t go on without my French press coffee.” Know that feel—and here’s hoping YOUR morning java will also be serving up a dose of fitspiration soon.

4. Fuel up for the day with a healthy breakfast.

There’s no need to force yourself to eat if you’re not a breakfast person, but many trainers consider a healthy breakfast an essential part of their morning. “Eating a well-balanced breakfast is so important to me,” says Jackie Dragone, director of barre at FLEX studios. “My breakfasts contain protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat—this combo ensures that I have the energy I need to start the day.” A typical morning meal for Dragone is plain two-percent Greek yogurt with low-sugar granola and fruit, or two hard-boiled eggs with a slice of Ezekiel bread and some avocado slices.

Some trainers start their day with a small snack and eat a bigger breakfast later on. “Fresh fruit in the morning gives me enough energy and mental clarity to focus on my clients…it’s filled with healthy vitamins,” says DiDomenico. “I eat a larger, more substantial breakfast around 10 or 11 A.M.” Second breakfast = life.

5. Make time for reflection.

“I do my Headspace, a meditation app, to make sure my mind is clear and that I’m focused,” says Gary. “As a trainer, my job is very much tied to energy. I need to bring as much energy to every class that I teach and every client session. Energy, either good or bad, is contagious, so I need to make sure my mind is right. Plus, being an owner of a gym and having a team of trainers means that I have a lot of responsibilities that I need to be mentally sharp for.”

Even if you don’t start a regular meditation practice, taking just a minute to breathe in the morning can help center you for the day ahead. “I try to take at least five minutes, usually with my coffee, to just sit and focus on the day ahead and what I want to accomplish. This keeps me from getting overwhelmed by my schedule,” says Jenn Seracuse, director of Pilates at FLEX studios.

These morning #goals may feel overwhelming to try all at once, so start with one healthy morning habit and see if it fits into your routine. Build from there—and incorporate your own personalized healthy habits—and before you know it, you’ll be livin’ life like a bona fide morning person.

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3 Reasons Why a Pushup Should Be in Everyone’s Training Program

The top three reasons I think a pushup should be a mainstay in everyone’s training program:

In a recent article in Shape Magazine, I gave my advice on what form I think you should use while doing a pushup. I want to take a second to step back and be clear on why are we doing a pushup and why I think they’re a great exercise that should be in every training program.

Number one, a pushup is a great core exercise. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you’re using force generated in your upper body to affect your dead weight in your lower body. That force needs to be transferred in your core, so in its most basic state, a pushup is a core exercise.

Number two, a pushup is metabolically challenging, meaning relative to other exercises, you can get a lot more metabolic response out of doing a proper pushup potentially than doing, say, a dumbbell chest press, or a bench press, or a cable press.

Number three, no matter what the situation, a pushup is easily measurable. What I mean by that is you may have a gym, you may not have a gym. You may have a gym with a bench, with dumbbells, you may not have a gym with a bench with dumbbells. No matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter what equipment you have access to, you can always do the exact same pushup. Therefore, it’s an exercise that you can measure consistently no matter what the situation.

Now, that being said, a couple of things about a pushup that I do want to mention is A, I try as much as possible not to do pushups from our knees. That pretty much takes the need to have a strong core not necessarily out of the picture, but it reduces the need, and that’s one of the things that we’re going for. B, I do want you to have a full range of motion with my neck in line with my shoulders. C, when necessary, I do want you to regress or progress the pushup, meaning if I cannot keep proper form, I want to first elevate my hands.

What I mean by this is put my hands up on a 12-inch box, a 6-inch box, an 18-inch box, or even a bar on a squat rack. When ready, I then want to maybe potentially put my hands on an unstable surface, or elevate my feet to progress. Enjoy reading this, and enjoy reading the article in the March edition of Shape Magazine, and feel free to ask questions if you have them.

Kelvin and his expert advice were featured in the 2017 March issue of Shape Magazine. Grab one at your local bodega and skip ahead to page 68 to get the deets!