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True Core Fitness

Forget ab training, strength and conditioning specialist Lou Schuler explains the importance of training your core.

Certified strength and conditioning specialist and writer Lou Schuler shares an excerpt from his new book The New Rules of Lifting for Abs.

My body was falling apart in the fall of 2008. I had a jacked-up shoulder, a hernia, and a knee injury, all on the right side. At times I could barely walk, much less lift—a very strange circumstance for a guy who writes about fitness for a living.

Around that time I was working with my friend Nick Tumminello, a trainer and owner of Performance University International, a strength and conditioning company. He and I wrote an article about testing core strength. One of the tests was based on the sit-up, using four levels of difficulty:

Level 1: bent-knee sit-up, arms at sides

Level 2: straight-leg sit-up, heels a few inches apart, arms straight, hands touching top of thighs

Level 3: straight-leg sit-up, heels a few inches apart, arms folded across chest

Level 4: straight-leg sit-up, heels a few inches apart, arms extended behind head

You pass each level if you can do a smooth sit-up from a dead stop—head, shoulders, hips, and heels touching the floor—without twisting or raising a leg.

I was happy to pass Level 3, given the mess I’d become, and given the fact that I hardly ever did any sit-ups or crunches in my workouts. Interestingly, a mutual friend of ours, a competitive bodybuilder, couldn’t pass Level 2 without one leg coming off the floor.

I didn’t give the test much thought until recently. My big goal was to rebuild my beat-to-hell body. For that I needed to focus on core fitness, which I did, and which worked even better than I had hoped. I explained what I was doing to world-renowned trainer Alwyn Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, Calif. I learned, to my surprise, that he had come to the same conclusion years before, which changed the way he trained his clients.

That new training paradigm—one that combines joint mobility, core fitness, and overall conditioning with traditional strength training—was the basis of The New Rules of Lifting for Abs, the book I wrote with Cosgrove that is now out in paperback.

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