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Classic Fitness Series Rock Hard Abs CLASSIC FITNESS SERIES
Rock Hard Abs - No Crunches
by Michael Stefano

This is the second article in the series. With each installment, I'll break down a timeless classic, demonstrating how to get the most out of an old favorite. In this issue we'll dissect the Windmill. For more exercises, customized to your exact needs: click here.

The Classic Windmill
A well developed core, or the area of your torso from just below your chest to right above your pelvis (including abs, obliques, hips), has always been the earmark of a truly fit and athletic individual. A muscular, toned core is both attractive and necessary for functional strength, adding tremendous support to the spine.

· How to execute the Windmill with perfect form
· Why it's important, and how to brace your abs / glutes
· How to build core strength / tighten your midsection

A soft core keeps you disconnected from your own strength. Once you can transfer energy from the ground up, through your hips, core, and into your upper body, you'll realize unfathomable gains in strength and endurance, without gaining a ounce.

Eugene Sandow and other legends of early weight lifting knew what scientists have proven today. Without powerful abdominal, core and back muscles, lifting a heavy weight is not possible. But the pioneers of exercise never performed one crunch.

Lifting a weight overhead, or while bending to one side, used to be the measurement of real strength. Unfortunately, today, the litmus test of strength has become the bench press. Obviously, little abdominal activity is necessary while lying flat on your back.

But it's not always necessary to do an overhead presses to get an core workout. Simple side bending with a dumbbell or kettlebell (see image) in one hand will do the trick. It's all in the technique as outlined below.


Apply Tension to Abdominal Muscles
Don't confuse with this sucking in your gut. Quite the contrary, flexing your core is more like bracing for a punch. Sniff in some air, bear down and squeeze your abs, creating core stability.

Flex Glutes and Pelvic Floor
Before you move an inch, squeeze your butt cheeks together (as if to pinch a coin between your glutes), and create an anal lock (squeeze muscles that prevent a bowel movement). The protects you from many nasty conditions (such as hemorrhoids) that afflict many weight lifters who ignore this aspect of training.

The Stance
Pick up a light dumbbell or kettlebell (kettlebell shown in picture) and hold it at hip level. Open up your stance and point both feet to the left at about 45 degrees. Apply full body stability (especially tighten abs and glutes).

Before moving, sniff in some air and brace yourself. Exhale and hinge at the hips (never lean back), bringing your left hand (with bell) to the floor and your right hand towards the ceiling. Simply allow the bell to travel a straight line down. 80 percent of your weight shifts to the right leg and hip, as the hip juts slightly to the right.

Return to Start
You can bend the left knee if necessary, but the right knee stays straight. Your right arm remains 100 percent vertical for the remainder of the lift. Pause briefly in the bottom position, resting the bell on the floor. Inhale, tighten the right hip, abs and glutes, exhale once again and return to the standing position.

Reps and Progression
The bell winds up back at your left hip and your right arm will still point skyward. Repeat 5 to 8 reps on each side. Limit to two or three sets. Once mastered, upgrade to a heavier bell, or perform advanced windmills.

Program Integration
Incorporating the windmill into any exercise routine makes for a superior and functional core workout. Regularly performing this exercise will also open up your hips and stretch your hamstrings. For best results, perform Windmills at 2 to 4 times per week. Shoot for from 2 to 4 sets of 5 to 8 reps per set.

For more exercises, customized to your exact needs: click here

Custom Workouts by Fitness Pro, Mike Stefano MICHAEL STEFANO is the creator and author of the Firefighter's Workout (Harper Collins 2000). Mr. Stefano is a health and fitness writer, contributor to eDiets, eFitness, and Firehouse.Com. Michael's articles have appeared on AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! His workouts have been featured in magazine and newspapers from around the country, as well as in numerous network and cable TV segments. He also offers an online version of his FitFlash custom program, via a comprehensive 22-point fitness profile form.

Mike offers online personalized workouts for firefighters, candidates, and civilians.


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