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3 Ways to Make Your Abs Stronger

nstructor SYDNEY MILLER’s preparing for summer with some quick ab strengtheners. Check out her April challenge and try incorporating 'em into your routine…

This year, I’m all about healthy habit-forming challenges: Small, attainable goal for each month of 2017, designed to help you reach long-term goals through effective mini-routines—every time you sign up for class. So I teamed up with registered dietitian and Nutrition Director at Good Housekeeping, JACKIE LONDON to share some (science-backed!) savvy on why you should kick your cross-training into high-gear, starting with some post-class planks. (Reason #758 you should stay for the stretch.)

1. Stop, drop, and plank-it (Post-Stretch)
Dropping down into a plank at the end of class was hands down the most popular challenge in my classes from 2016. Why? Because it’s a FUN way to get everyone involved and push each other for that one final minute after the stretch. The other reason it was so popular is because it helped us hold each other accountable and ensure every person completed the challenge for the day! For those who had to rush out for the stretch, they were required to plank later on and ideally, put it on social media so we could see.

While all of this year’s challenges are designed to help you push your own limits, starting with one piece of the puzzle (or one plank per class!) can help you jumpstart overall fitness goals without creating that overwhelming resolution burnout. This month’s challenge is focused on cross-training, but we’re especially focused on building a stronger core. Stronger abs are a game-changer, and it’s absolutely crucial for reducing your risk of injuries (especially back pain — or worse, more serious damage to your spine!).

Resistance and strength training actually replaces the free fat mass in your body; you’ll build stronger, better, leaner muscle that can help you look and feel your best. Plus, giving extra love to your abs this month will help improve your posture — all the more reason to stand up and show off your most confident self this spring!

2. Add a strength-training day to your outside-of-class routine.
Yes, SOUL is a total body workout, but it’s predominantly about the cardio (and that whole mind-body-soul thing we love!). But think of cardio as your bread and butter for a calorie-burning workout. Adding an extra day of strength training can give you the added benefit of helping you burn long after you leave a sweaty SOUL studio. In fact: resistance training is the only tried-and true way that we can make a dent in our genetics-given resting metabolic rate (that’s our RMR, the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re doing absolutely nothing!). That’s why in addition to the in-class planks, this month we’re adding an outside-of-class component - one extra day of cross training. The more you cross train, the more muscle you build, and the more fat you’ll burn throughout the day. The result? You’ll stay stronger over time, keep the pounds off, and improve overall athletic performance…inside (and outside) of the SOUL studio.

3. Don’t be afraid to get weird.

Muscle-building is essential long-term health — especially for women (since we tend to do less of it, but need more of it to maintain peak bone mass!). Besides the safety benefits of gaining bone, muscle, and joint strength (across muscle groups), it’ll also help to boost immunity and reduce risk of chronic disease. And since you can’t always make it to another class or to lift free weights at a gym: Don’t be afraid to get weird! Make planks a midday “thing” at the office (if appropriate… we don’t want you to get so weird that you get pink slipped…!); commit to making squats a commercial-break habit, take the stairs when the escalator works just fine, and try sneaking in lunges when you’re out for a walk outdoors (weird, but it works). Tons of research has linked sneaking in short bouts of strength training (and high-intensity interval training) to being just as effective as longer workouts for building muscle and improving strength. So just because it doesn’t look like a traditional workout, it doesn’t mean it’s not working for you!

Have nutrition or fitness questions for Syd and Jackie: Follow us on social (@sydmiller @jaclynlondonRD) and we’ll answer your qs ASAP. Catch classes with SYDNEY at 19th Street, Bryant Park and Union Square. Want to ride? Click HERE to grab a series and book a bike!
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