Looking in the mirror to see a glimmer of the ever-elusive six-pack is the ultimate validation that our hard work in the gym is actually paying off. The commitment to 500 crunches at the end of EVERY workout is FINALLY doing it’s job right? Trust me, I get it! I spent over 10 years of my life competing in bodybuilding competitions and “mirror muscles” were my life. As a trainer, next to girls and their booty obsession, getting shredded abs are the next focus for almost every client I have ever had.

Don’t get me wrong, abs are great! I want a nice flat, tight tummy for summer too. No fault in that. But as I have gotten out of the bodybuilding arena in fitness my personal mindset has shifted from appearance to performance and “gym” strength to functional movement. Building a strong foundation to carry me through all of the things I love to do, like hiking, dragon boating (which is all core work by the way!) and adventuring has become my priority! Notice I used the word “core”.

Abs and core are words often interchangeably however they are very different.

If have ever listened to me coach or train, you have probably heard me say 1000 times a workout “Reengage your core”. I say it while you’re doing a squat, while you’re rowing and while you’re standing and doing a bicep curl. All exercises that most would think… well “I am not using my abs here.” I always wonder if people really know what I mean. So I am going to break this down for you!

Let’s start with the difference between the two.


Abs refers to a muscle group on your torso that makes up the “six-pack” which is the rectus abdominus and obliques.

Core on the other hand refers to much more than that. Our core is comprised of all the stabilizers for strength, balance and functional movement along your thoracic spine and lumbopelvic region. This includes the rectus abdominus, obliques AND the spinal erectors, rhomboids, trapezius, and gluteals. WAIT back up… so the core runs along the spine from the traps and rhomboids to the booty?? YES YES it does.

Training ABS VS. CORE

So when most people train what they think of as “core”, they do it with the goal of increasing aesthetics (again, no fault in that). This is often executed by isolating those specific six-pack and oblique muscles to create hypertrophy (a fancy word for muscle growth) in that particular area. Exercises such as weighted sit-ups, dumbbell side bends and crunches. So one of the biggest problems with these movements are that they do no mimic any movements we do in real life outside of the gym. The isolation of these muscles also leaves out many of the crucial muscles that are necessary to properly brace our bodies in the movements that we do actually complete outside of the gym. So without intending to without proper core strengthening you could be putting your body at a greater risk for injury.

Core training on the other hand help you to develop the strength that translates to movement outside of the gym and is FUNCTIONAL! In core training, an emphasis is put on ALL of the muscles surrounding the core like we talked about above so you can control and stabilize the movements of your entire body! BOOM! Strong and sexy for the long haul baby!

Six Pack Workout

  • Sit up 3×20
  • DB side bend 2×15 each side
  • Leg raise 3×15
  • Weighted Crunches 3×15

Notice that each of these exercises works primarily one of the core muscles at a time AND I am pretty sure most of these don’t look like anything you would do outside of the gym.

Functional Core Workout

  • Plank hold for 45-60 seconds
  • Side Plank hold for 45-60 seconds each side
  • Single leg deadlift 3×8 each
  • Single arm bench press 3×8 each
  • Hip bridge 3×15

I know what you are thinking right now? What the hell is Amy talking about…. single leg dead lift, single arm bench press…those are not core movements… OHHHH BUT THEY ARE! The single sided movements are challenging your core to stabilize hips, spine, shoulders and glutes at a much bigger degree! Thus creating more core strength overall.

So if you are still trying to get the satisfaction of the visual six-pack, then that’s cool, we can do that too, but there are other things to consider…

This week I challenge you move beyond the crunches and incorporate a new way of functional core movement into your regular workout routine. Comment below and let me know what you plan to implement or maybe what you are all ready doing! FOLLOW and SHARE for more tips on becoming a stronger, healthier and happier version of YOU!



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