Fitness: Core integration vs ab training

Hi Devon!

Love your blog! I’ve been a long time stalker, but never commented. Sorry. :-/

You have an amazing body and, more specifically, amazing abs!!! 🙂

I’m a 34 year old dancer (EEK!) and was wondering if you would be so kind as to share your ab secrets, please. 🙂

I’m 6’1, approximately 170-175 lbs, eat (mostly!) well, and stay active. According to the body composition machine we have here at work, I have only 7% body fat, so my abs should be popping. But they’re not.

I just don’t know what to do to improve my abs. I have decent top abdominals and obliques, but I am nowhere near a “6-pack washboard.” Crunches, leg lifts, ball-work, incline work… I just don’t feel like I’m getting any bang for my buck.

I tried searching through your blog to see if you’ve specifically talked about your ab routine, and while you may have written about your fab abs before, I couldn’t really find much. (The search function is a little frustrating.)

Any tips you’d be willing to share would be most appreciated (or if you can point me to a previous blog entry that would be just dandy, as well!)

Thanks, Devon! Keep on smiling!
Tait. 🙂


Hi Tait!

First, I visited your page and let me compliment you on having so much fun in your career. You’re living a life of performance, and that is utterly fabulous. One of my former students has been doing cruise ships for the past several years, and my former college roommate has been with Disney for over a decade now. Thank you very much for the compliment – it’s funny you should write to me today, since I have a photo shoot, and I was worried about… my abs! LOL At any rate, the shoot seems to have gone well, so I worried for nothing. You don’t look 34 (much as I like to think I don’t look 35)… I think dance is a good pickling agent or something. 😉

I have gleaned from what you have described that you are primarily doing ab work that focuses on two-dimensional movement (especially focusing on torso flexion through the sagittal plane). If that is the case, you should stop your current ab regimen immediately. Rather than strengthening your abs, it is better to integrate your core. The best ways to do this are to do functional movements, which are three-dimensional and involve all the muscles of the torso simultaneously. In order to accomplish this you can do exercises that involve balance, strength, and movement all in one moment. For example, you can turn your bicep curls into a core integration exercise by doing your curls standing on one foot (or by standing on an instability surface like a bosu or wobble board). Push-ups are good for the core when you maintain proper anatomical alignment, and you can make them even more intense by walking laterally on your hands/feet between each push-up. If you are doing legs, consider coordinating a one-legged squat with a deadlift. For work that is specifically core-centric, change up your crunches to something that requires balance (e.g. the Boat from Yoga, or balancing on your Sitz bones and doing torso twists with a medicine ball while slamming the ball down and catching it on each side). To get the core to fire you need instability, so look for ways to create twisting, falling, catching, balancing, and recovering.

Also, remember that diet is 75% of success in fitness, especially where abs are concerned. You’re entering your mid-30’s, and your metabolism may have changed despite your constant activity. Examine how much sugar is in your diet. Replace any excess with vegetable material.

I hope this helps!

Devon. 🙂

Author: Devon Hunter

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1 Comment

  1. somebody is bored….sigh…just sayin

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