Rowing Machine Workout: More Muscle and Less Fat in Under 30 Minutes

This is Frank Underwood.

Frank is America’s most hated and loved fictional president of the United States.

Why am I talking about President Underwood in a fitness blog?

Well, if you can’t figure it out just go to a scene back in season 1 of “House of Cards.”

Frank Underwood is using a rowing machine.

Interesting seeing this machine being used in a popular drama series.

This is Jason Statham.

He looks nothing like Francis Underwood.

Underwood doesn’t look fit.

But it’s pretty obvious Jason Statham is fit.

And he probably knows how to use cardio to his advantage.

He’s quite athletic.

So why do I bring them up.

Before I answer that I have to point one thing out.

There’s two camps in fitness.

Those who do cardio.

And those who don’t.

For some reason there’s this belief that cardio isn’t necessary.

Or there’s this belief that cardio will make you lose muscle and get skinny.

If you’ve read previous articles on this site you’ll see examples of how cardio helps you maintain muscle.

In some instances you can gain muscle.

It all depends on how you use it.

Muscles Worked By Rowing

(That’s USA Rower Susan Francia)

I’ve seen rowers many times.

Especially in the Olympics.

I’ve seen the way the exercise works.

Grab two oars, hold them in your hands and start rowing.

Naturally, I used to think that the biceps did all the work.

But rowing is way more complicated than that.

It’s possibly one of the few total body cardio workouts around.

Done right it is similar to a power clean movement.

Check out the rowing motion.

  • Legs
  • Buttocks
  • Calves
  • Lower Back
  • Lats
  • Traps
  • Biceps
  • Abs

The entire body is getting a workout.

But lost in the motion is the idea that only the upper body is doing all the work.

The truth is it’s the opposite.

Done right, the legs and core do the majority of the work.

Your biceps are only there to finish the job.

How To Properly Row

First thing’s first.

In order to make a rowing workout effective you have to follow a series of steps.

Here are the steps:

  • Hold the bar with two hands
  • Start at knees bent position
  • Without leaning forward use your legs to push off
  • Once your legs are completely straight, lean back slightly
  • Now use the momentum to pull the bar into your upper ab area

That covers the first half of the exercise.

The motion of the exercise should be smooth and controlled.

Don’t jerk the handle and don’t rush through each step.

Now comes the 2nd part of the motion.

Going back to the starting point.

  • Once the bar touches the upper ab area, smoothly let the bar glide away from your body.
  • As the bar crosses above the thigh area let your upper body come back to an upright position.
  • The legs should be straight at this point, now bend at the knees and go back to the starting position.

Again, this should follow a controlled effortless motion.

The 2nd part of the motion should be slower than the first part of the motion.

It’s important to learn the proper way to do this exercise for the following reasons:

Doing this exercise incorrectly will lead to injury.

Not doing the exercise properly will screw up the benefits of rowing.

You’ll struggle with your rowing stamina and tap out too soon.

Choose Your Damper Setting Wisely

A big mistake most people make when using a rowing machine is underestimating how good of a cardio exercise it is.

One of the first things that people notice when trying out rowing is that it feels pretty easy.

Unlike sprints or a jog on a treadmill, if you’re out of shape you’ll tap out pretty fast.

A few minutes into a light jog and it’s possible to get winded.

On a rowing machine going for a few minutes can feel easier.

The first instinct is to make it harder by increasing the setting.

It’s also common for beginners, and even more experienced rowers, to not know that settings can be changed on a machine.

Look at a rowing machine and you’ll see that the front looks like a wheel.

On the “wheel” of the machine you’ll see a black round piece that can be adjusted.

That’s what’s called the “damper.”

The damper is basically the part of the machine that adds more friction to your rowing.

Naturally, you’d think that the higher the setting, creates a tougher and better cardio workout.

But the damper determines how much air flow enters the machine.

  • A higher damper setting (like a setting of 10) causes more air to enter the machine. The higher setting allows more air to enter the machine during the recovery period. More effort will then be required at the next stroke (Damper Setting 101).
  • A lower setting allows less air flow in the recovery phase of rowing.
Lower Damper Setting vs. High Damper Setting

If you’re just starting out it’s best to use lower damper settings.

A lower setting in the range of 3 to 5 will give you a better cardio workout.

If your goal is to focus more on strength goals, then a higher damper setting in the range of 7 to 10 is a better option.

However, a higher setting is recommended if you’ve been doing rowing for a while.

It’s important to learn to properly row and perfect the steps of a proper row.

A lower setting will also help you build stamina and keep you from gassing out too soon.

4 Benefits of Rowing Machine Workouts

#1 The first benefit to rowing is the overall athleticism involved in this workout.

Sure, you can get on a stationary bicycle.

You can use an elliptical if you want to burn some fat.

But rowing requires your entire body, including your core, to be engaged in the workout.

I’ve talked about the importance of making workouts as athletic as possible if you want to look fit.

#2  A second benefit is the combination of muscle building and cardio.

There’s few ways to combine both of these factors in one cardio workout.

Most cardio workouts have their limitations.

Some cardio workouts are mostly effective for just that- cardio.

Muscle building isn’t possible, as in the case of the elliptical.

A stationary bicycle can help you gain muscle in your lower body along with cardio.

But rowing will help you gain muscle from your calves and thighs to your traps and lats.

In fact, research in the Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that rowing, paired with strength training, helps maintain muscle, prevents atrophy in important muscle groups and helps improve cardiovascular health.

#3  A third benefit, which is popular, is the low impact of the exercise.

If you row the right way you won’t be busting your joints.

In fact, it’s pretty tough to mess up your joints.

Unlike sprinting and jogging which put strain on the knees, ankles and lower back, rowing doesn’t cause this problem.

Rowing is a smooth exercise that doesn’t impact your joints in any way.

#4 I’ll throw this as a fourth benefit- the meditative/zen like feeling of rowing.

One of the benefits I’ve  gotten from using a rowing machine is the peaceful yet focused feeling i get from it.

The repetitive motion of using my legs, core, arms and back in a controlled manner has a peaceful feeling.

The sound of air going into the machine, steady repetitive movement and staying in tune to your body and breathing keeps you focused throughout the exercise.

It’s hard for your mind to wander.

Rowing feels like meditation.

And i’m sure that rowing in the outdoors is even more meditative.

A Rowing Workout to Get Extra Lean

Getting ripped is not tough.

One of the best ways to do so is by using HIIT.

Rowing for distance works for burning fat.

But you can combine distance along with intervals to maximize fat burning while gaining muscle.

Here’s a way to combine the two.

  • Warm Up (10 minutes)
  • Set your damper to level 3.
  • Row for 10 minutes at an easy to moderate pace.
  • Stroke rate should be at an average of 20 during this phase.
  • Intervals (15 minutes)
  • Increase your stroke rate to 24 for the next 15 minutes.
  • Break your intervals by 2 minute intervals with one minute rest in between.
  • So it’ll look like this:
  • Rowing for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • Row for 2 minutes
  • Rest for 1 minute

Finish by walking on a treadmill for 10 minutes at an easy pace to cool down.

Some training programs break up intervals by distance.

These work too but I find it tougher to follow distance intervals for beginners and even intermediate rowers.

Beyond Intermediate Rowers

However, if you want to follow a more challenging interval plan you can do it in the following way.

Warm up by doing 10 minutes of rowing at a moderate pace.

Follow the warm up with the following:

  • 500 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 750 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 1000 meters of rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 750 meters rowing
  • 1 minute rest
  • 500 meters rowing
  • 1 minute rest

Finish by walking on a treadmill at an easy 10 minute pace.

Try including some rowing into your workouts 2 or 3 times per week.

Add rowing at the end of strength training workout day.

Or do it on a cardio day.

There you have it.

Rowing is a great way to switch things.

By doing rowing as a cardio workout, you’ll find it providing many benefits.

You won’t have to worry about getting skinny.

Quite the opposite.

Rowing is an excellent way to build your back, traps, strengthen you core and get strong legs.

Combined with strength training you’ll see how athletic you’ll look.

Try it out.

Comment below and let me know what you think of rowing workouts.

To your fitness,

Sam- Look Like An Athlete

Krainski, Hastings, Heinicke, Romain, Pacini, Snell, … & Levine, (2014). The effect of rowing ergometry and resistive exercise on skeletal muscle structure and function during bed rest. Journal of Applied Physiology, jap-00803.

1 Core Strengthening Exercise My Doctor Prescribed For A Stronger Midsection

core strengthening exercise“Ok, try to raise your legs and have your toes touch my hand.”

I wasn’t used to this type of test from my doctor.

“You’re having a hard time, huh?”

Was he seriously trying to crush my ego?  I’m a fitness fanatic and I write a fitness blog!

Doesn’t he know who I am?

Well his specialty is in Sports Medicine so technically he’s the expert…

Well, it didn’t matter, my body was clearly showing I was weak in one area and it took my doctor to show me.

That’s how my last visit to the doctor went down.

I had gone in for my yearly physical exam and came out with my doctor telling me I had a weak core.

Out of all things I should be grateful this is the only thing I have to “worry” about but it sure hit my ego.

Back Problems

So I have previously talked about how I didn’t warm up prior to my workouts.

I have changed that poor habit.

These days you will see me doing 10 minute long warm ups.

The rewards have been better quality workouts, no injuries I have been getting stronger all around.

That doesn’t mean certain issues have gone away as I expected.

In the article I mentioned above I described a pain in my lower back after doing a couple of reps doing deadlifts.

My injury hasn’t reoccurred.  Not even close.

But an issue has been nagging my lower back and won’t go away.

For months I’ve had what feels like a cramp in my left lower back.

Sometimes it’s a cramp.

Sometimes it’s a slight sharp jab in that area.

In this visit to my doctor I had to bring it up and hope for the best.

After describing the pain and discomfort I’m feeling he gave me the diagnosis…

It’s a lower back muscle strain.

But how could this be?

My lower back muscles are pretty strong and look strong as well.

Even the doctor couldn’t deny that I did not lack strength in that area.

But as with most lower back pain the culprit is a weak core.

It is caused by an imbalance.

Strong lower back and a weak core don’t mix.

“But I work on my lower back muscles and I do exercises that strengthen my core.”

That’s what I semi-mumbled to the doctor in disbelief.

It was a sad day.

Fortunately it can be fixed.

I was given the advice I’ve heard before but is always worth repeating:

  • Don’t do crunches
  • Make sure you have your back straight when doing ab work
  • Don’t move your neck when doing an ab exercise

So this wasn’t news to me but I listened patiently.

I was willing to listen and see what he would prescribe.

I was almost sure he was going to tell me to keep doing ab work, maybe tell me to do 3 or 4 exercises.

Far from it.

One Exercise For Abs

one core exercise

So the doctor had me lay down face up on that dreaded cushioned table.

“The best way to fix this problem is with leg raises.”

So the doctor tells me this one exercise I’ve done many times before was going to help?

So how in the world do I still have a weak midsection?

Well, he went on to explain that this wasn’t your typical leg raise where you perform them from a hanging position or simply laying down.

I’m lying there and he says the following, “ok I’m going to have you do this test.  I want to see how weak your core is.  Now it’s going to sound very simple when I describe it but it will be challenging.

“Go ahead and raise your legs and have your feet touch my hand.  Now you’re going to do this at a very slow speed.  My hand is up at about a 45 degree angle from the floor.  Once you touch my hand with your feet lower your legs at the same slow speed at which you started.”

I’m looking at the doctor with this blank stare.

This dude must be kidding me.  This is going to be a breeze.

So I began to raise my legs and kept them straight.

“Slow down.  Go slower,” the doctor said this calmly.

So I continued with the movement as I raised my legs.

Ok, this wasn’t fun at all.

My abs began burning and my body started to shake.

First the core began shaking, then my legs and pretty soon the rest of my body.

“See how you’re shaking?  You have a weak core.”

So the doctor proved his point and I couldn’t deny it.

Just when my toes touched his hand and my legs were at a 45 degree angle I thought I would get a break.

“Ok, hold it there for a couple of seconds.  Now lower your legs at the same speed.”

It took me a good 10 to 12 seconds on the way up and another 10 to 12 seconds on the way down after holding at the top for 3 seconds.

That was one the most challenging exercises I had done in a long time.

How To Perform A Leg Raise

So what seemed like an eternity really taught me a thing or two about what is necessary to build a stronger core and how to properly perform a leg raise to get the maximum benefits.

  • Lie down face up on a soft flat surface with your arms at your side
  • Keep your legs straight without bending at the knee
  • Keep your legs and feet together and your head and neck resting
  • Begin to raise your legs as slowly as possible
  • Have someone place their hands at a 45 degree angle from the floor
  • You can also imagine a point that is 45 degrees off the floor
  • Stop once you reach that 45 degree point and hold for 3 seconds
  • Lower the legs to the starting position at a slow pace
  • The speed at which you lower your legs should be the same speed at which you raised them
  • Once you touch the floor immediately begin to raise your legs at the same speed
  • Reaching the top of the movement will take between 10 and 15 seconds
  • Reaching the bottom of the movement should take the same amount of time
  • Repeat for up to 15 repetitions
  • Do one set 2 to 3 times per day

In the beginning it may be very difficult to perform more than just 2 or 3 repetitions and that is totally fine.

In my case I was only able to do 3 repetitions to begin with and this alone took about one minute total.

As the doctor also pointed out, it may be tempting to try more but it is very likely that due to a weak core I would strain my core muscles or my lower back.

Build up the number of repetitions slowly as your body becomes used to it.

You can also do a simple one rep or one set test.

If you are able to complete 15 reps without shaking then you are perfectly fine.

If you struggle with one rep or a couple then it’s probably a good idea to start with this daily exercise.

Final Thoughts

Back pain

I hear it all the time from people of either gender and all ages.  Back problems are very common.  Sometimes the simplest movement causes a tweak in their lower back.

Heck, I even know a couple of young guys who complain of lower back pain when they get out of bed.

In my case I have injured it doing deadlifts and squats and have experienced muscle cramps because of lower back strain which is a result of an imbalance in my core.

If you can relate to having some lower back problems or simply want to strengthen that area, build your abs and have them injury proof follow this exercise I outlined.

Remember, having awesome abs begins from deep in your core and doing some crunches won’t get you there.

Medicine Ball Exercises For Abs: 5 Athletic Exercises For A Stronger Core

How does an athlete get rock hard abs?  Is it by getting on the floor and doing sit ups?  If you answered no to this question, then you are right.  Time to pat yourself on the back.  Well, getting a great midsection is not about the number of crunches and sit ups you can do but it is about stimulating your core the right way.  One way to get a good core workout is by using medicine ball exercises for abs.

Why Your Abs Are Not Looking Like They Should

Let’s take a step back before we get into the specific exercises you can include in your training.  Although training the abs is the right way to highlight the midsection, the truth is the only way to have them show is by having low body fat.

The common myth is that you can do a series of ab workouts and you will end up having the abs of an athlete or a fitness model.  The bad news is you still have to work hard in order to have lower body fat percentage.  The good news is you don’t have to spend an entire day locked up in the gym the way athletes are forced to.

If you want to bring down your fat percentage to a level that is low enough so your abs start showing make sure you do the following:

If you combine these 3 things you will leave your body no choice but to burn fat, keep your hard earned lean muscle and create the right conditions for your abs to start showing.

Get Off Your Back And Train Your Abs the Right Way

If you look at anyone with great looking abs you will find one thing consistent with them.  They rarely, if ever, do traditional ab workouts.  Exercises like crunches and sit ups are not part of their routine.  Instead when they focus on their core they do exercises that work the midsection a lot differently.

Typical exercises like sit ups and crunches only do things like put your lower back area at risk.  Rather than focusing on the abs these exercises put strain on your lower back and spine without really strengthening the core.

In order to strengthen your core muscles you need to work with exercises that develop not only the abs, but also the obliques and your lower back.  Focusing only on forward flexing motions like sit ups and crunches fails to work on the rest of the core and ends up leaving you predisposed to a weaker lower back.

If you are going to lay on your back and work on your abs the exercises I recommend are

  • Lying Leg Raises: excellent to develop your abs
  • Bridges: these are excellent to strengthen the lower back

These 2 exercises are a great way to work on your core region and can be included in your workout program.

There are other creative ways to work on your abs and even more athletic to trigger the core region.

One important thing to point out is you do not need fancy equipment to develop your abs but one tool you can use in your ab workouts are medicine balls.

Medicine Ball Ab Exercises

A medicine ball is one simple piece of equipment you will often find in an athletes arsenal.  Although medicine balls come in different weight it is best to start out with something light and use a heavier ball over time.

Heavy weight is not necessary in order to develop the abs.  The best thing is to work with a lighter ball in order to avoid any lower back problems.  The goal of using medicine ball workouts is to really activate core muscles in a way that is different from your typical core exercises.

Here are the best exercises using a medicine ball

1.  Medicine Ball Slams:  hold a medicine ball over your head with both hands.  Using the strength in your arms throw the ball directly into the ground.  Tighten your abs as you throw the ball and you use a forward motion.   You will slightly bend at the waist as you throw the ball.  Have the ball bounce off the floor and catch it.  Repeat.

2.  Medicine Ball Pop Ups:  This is an advanced exercise and will increase your explosiveness, athleticism and mobility.  You simply get on your back as if you are going to do a crunch with your knees slightly bent.  Throw the ball upwards and slightly ahead of you.  Immediately get up off the floor as fast as possible and catch the ball as the ball drops.

(This is an example of Medicine Ball Pop Ups by Fitness Model Brad Gouthro)

3.  Medicine Ball Russian Twist:  sit on the floor with your knees slightly bent.  Place your feet so that they are touching the floor.  Hold the ball with two hands at about chest level and twist to the right, and then tap the ball on the floor.  Without stopping your movements twist to the left and tap the ball on the floor.  This counts as one rep.  You can make it a bit difficult by lifting your feet off the floor.  This exercise is excellent for targeting the obliques.

(Courtesy of Jason Ferruggia- Muscle Gaining Secrets)

4.  Medicine Ball Side Toss:  Stand next to a wall and hold the ball at the same level as your core/ abs.  Hold the ball with an underhand grip and throw the ball against the wall allowing it to bounce back towards you.  You can choose the distance from the wall depending on how strong you feel you are.  The stronger or more advanced you are the further away you can stand from the wall.  Perform these tosses on each side.

5.  Medicine Ball Planks:  There are many ways to use these balls for plank variations.  You can set up in a pushups position and hold the ball with your hands and place your feet on the floor.  Hold this position for one minute.  You can also place yourself in a pushups position and place your feet on the ball.  This is more advanced and it will make it tougher for you to balance yourself.  Another plank variation and one which is also advanced requires 2 medicine balls.  Put yourself in a pushups position and place one medicine ball under your feet and one in your hands.  Try to hold this position without losing your balance for up to one minute.  This is a difficult version and requires strength and concentration.  Hold the plank position for up to a minute on any of these variations.

There is no need to do all medicince ball workouts for your abs using every single one of the exercises mentioned above.  Ideally, you can choose 2 or 3 of these exercises and use them in your routine.

Sample Medicine Ball Routine

  • Medicine Ball Slams- 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Medicine Ball Russian Twists- 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Medicine Ball Planks: 3 sets, hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute each set

Rest 30 seconds each set

Second Sample Routine

  • Medicine Ball Pop Ups- 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Medicine Ball Side Toss- 3 sets of 10 repetition to each side
  • Medicine Ball Planks: use any plank variation mentioned above do 3 sets of 30 second holds

Again, rest 30 seconds between each set

You can also include one of these exercises along with any other core exercises you use in your routine.

These are some ways of switching up your abs workouts using a simple piece of equipment.  Although these exercises alone won’t have you sporting a six pack (remember to lower your body fat percentage if you want this to happen) you will definitely develop a stronger core with these medicine ball exercises for abs.

Brad Gouthro Interview: Awaken The Abs Within And Other Fitness Tips

I first came across Brad Gouthro about a year ago while I was surfing around on the net looking for pictures to use in my then new blog.  While looking around I stumbled on a few pictures of a guy I felt had one of the most impressive lean bodies around.

Brad and I have kept in touch a bit here and there, in fact he granted me permission to use his image on our official Twitter page.  His knowledge of all things fitness have made him one of the most sought after fitness models and trainers not only in Canada but beyond as well.

Brad Gouthro took some time from his busy schedule to share with us his knowledge on fitness, exercise and diet in this interview.  He also talked a bit about his new book which I have been waiting for some time titled, “Awaken The Abs Within.”

Hi Brad, thanks for taking some time to do this interview. I have been looking forward to seeing you release a book for quite some time. What inspired you and made you want to write your book, “Awaken the Abs Within.”

Hi Sam, it’s great talking with you again. I was inspired to write Awaken The Abs Within based on the feedback from people struggling to live a healthier lifestyle. There were two common denominators in talking with all of these people. Number one: they were confused with all the conflicting information about how to get in shape. Number two: they were frustrated by the lack of results and the sustainability of these mass marketed crash diets and fitness programs. No one wants to go on a starvation diet and do countless hours of cardio (especially since they don’t provide long-term results). The thing that hit home for me was I experienced this same confusion and frustration first hand during my own journey to a healthier lifestyle. To help clear up all this confusion, I’ve literally downloaded everything that has worked for me and my clients in this book. It’s my hope that other people can take what I’ve learned and apply it to their current situation to create a sustainable, long-term healthy lifestyle.

You weren’t always ripped and with hard abs. In fact, when I saw your before and after (now) pictures it is safe to say that you have come a long way. What was the biggest struggle for you in your early years? What were you doing wrong?

The biggest struggle I faced earlier on was eating the wrong foods and focusing on the wrong types of exercises. Like most people, I thought the best way to lose belly fat was to cut the amount of food I ate and eat “low fat” food. I would also spend hours on the cardio machines and spend most of my time on the gym floor doing crunches. I obviously was doing it all wrong. I started seeing results once I realized I needed to eat the right types of foods, in the right quantities, at the right time. I call this the TQT nutrition principle and cover it in detail in Awaken The Abs Within. I also realized I needed to focus on exercises that created the best fat burning metabolic and hormonal response in the body. These exercise are also included in Awaken The Abs Within.

When it comes to getting 6 pack abs a lot of people focus on crunches or sit ups. What is the primary factor that will help anyone achieve awesome looking abs?

We all have abs. The problem is the thick layer of belly fat the accumulates after years of poor nutrition and lack of moving your body. So the first step to get six pack abs and a flat stomach is to lose the belly fat. This is accomplished via proper nutrition, performing the right metabolic and hormonal fat burning exercises, and HIIT cardio. Crunches and sit ups do not create enough of a caloric burn to help burn belly fat, therefore, they are essentially a waste of time if you currently have too much belly fat. Once you drop enough belly fat, it is then time to focus on direct ab training exercises to sculpt the abdominal section.

When someone uses the word “diet” they think of starving or eating bland food but in your free report you mention eating several times a day and eating often. How is it possible to eat several meals per day and yet burn fat at the same time?

I’ll try not to get to technical with this answer. Although you’re eating more frequently, your calorie count does not increase. The amount of calories in every meal just gets smaller. Eating more frequently helps create a fat burning metabolic and hormonal response in the body. In order for your metabolism to operate at peak efficiency, it requires a constant supply of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, water, and amino acids. When your body doesn’t receive these nutrients in a timely manner, your metabolic rate can slow down and your blood sugar levels can drop, which usually causes people to go on a junk food binge. Eating more frequently also activates the leptin hormone. The higher the quantity of active leptin in the body, the more potential the body has to burn fat.

You also talk about foods that many would consider healthy but in reality is totally the opposite. Is it safe to say that often it is just a matter of making some tweaks in our diets in order to see progress?

That’s right. A large portion of Awaken The Abs Within covers nutrition. Even if you never pick up a dumbbell, the nutrition strategies alone will get you results. I mentioned my TQT formula earlier. The real problem with people’s diets is they are eating the wrong types of foods, in the wrong quantities, at the wrong times. The book takes you step by step through the TQT formula and allows you to create your very own customized nutrition plan based on your current health condition and lifestyle requirements. The book outlines all the proper fat loss foods to focus on, the right quantities of these foods you should be eating, and the right times you should be eating them. It’s simple to do and guaranteed to bring results.

What is the biggest mistake you see often when someone is trying to lose weight?

The biggest mistake is when people make too many drastic changes to their lifestyle that are not sustainable and maintainable over the long-term. This can include starving themselves and doing countless hours of boring cardio every day. All the secrets I reveal in Awaken The Abs Within are meant to create a healthy long-term lifestyle that anyone, regardless of sex, age, or fitness level, can implement. This is not a short-term fad program.

(Brad Gouthro showing his ripped body-this photograph has gone on to appear here in this blog and in popular fitness products)

Someone looks at you and probably thinks that you spend several hours per day in the gym. How long is it necessary to exercise per day to get a great body and great abs?

I only spend about 45-60 minutes in the gym. Rest and recovery is often the missing link in getting results. This is why the cardio programs I designed in Awaken The Abs Within take no more than 20 minutes and the workouts last between 45-60 minutes.

It is common seeing women and men avoid strength training and focusing more on cardio when trying to burn fat. Is this a mistake?

As mentioned earlier, this is a big mistake. Too much cardio can actually have the opposite effect to lose fat. This is because excessive cardio can burn muscle and spike the production of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that can literally eat away at muscle. Muscle is the key metabolic driver of the body meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn every day. The last thing you want to do, if your goal is to lose fat, is to burn muscle for energy. Building and maintaining lean muscle is key to burning fat for life.

Finally, a lot of people may be reading this and have lost faith that they can get lean, get sexy abs and burn fat. Any words of advice and motivation for the readers?

Just remember there are so many real world examples of people that were in much worse condition than you currently are in, and they have turned there life around by following a plan and taking action. Awaken The Abs Within can work for anyone regardless of sex, age, or fitness level. Implementing the nutrition strategies alone can create incredible results. It all starts with first believing that you can do it. Once you believe, everything else will fall into place if you take action.

Yours in Health & Fitness,

Brad Gouthro
Author, Awaken The Abs Within
Certified Fitness Trainer
Certified Nutrition & Wellness Specialist

Lets Connect: website I facebook I youtube I twitter I google me

Free Stuff: 9 Steps To: Healthy Eating & 5 Abdominal Fat Burning Foods

Landmine Exercises: An Explosive Workout For The Core And Lower Body

There I was several months ago looking at my legs in the mirror, (yeah I’m kind of a narcissist). “Man, I really need to work on them differently.”

I was having one of my typical conversations with myself. I have to confess but my legs are my weak points in my body. Luckily I have found exercises and workouts that work for me and have helped my legs grow. Exercises like bodyweight jump squats along with sprints have been a blessing for me and have given my legs a boost for several years now.

Although these exercises have been a part of my workout routine I figured I wanted to include a new element in my workouts and something that would target not only the lower body but the core as well.

One workout that recently caught my eye for its muscle building and fat burning abilities are landmine exercises. I have been doing these exercises for several months experimenting and looking for a way that would give me the best results possible. The explosive nature of these workouts specifically work fast twitch muscles and as a result helps the body get a lean look. This type of workout is one that can be done using only a barbell and some weight using very limited space.

What Are Landmine Exercises?

Landmine exercises are named after a piece of equipment that is ground based and is rotational in its design. A popular version of the landmine is made by Sorinex (see picture above). This equipment is designed in a way that a barbell can be attached from one end allowing for the bar to move in a circular range of motion. The opposite end of the bar facing the person can have weight attached and a handle for easier grip.

Because of the mobility of this device it makes it easy to get creative with workouts. By using a landmine you can work virtually any muscle group in the upper body, lower body and in the core. The flexibility in its design makes it easy for anyone to set up and use.

In the previous article we discussed barbell Russian twists. This exercise is a good example of one can be performed using a landmine setup. If you have not read it you should go ahead and do it now to get an idea on how you can work the core muscles using a simple twisting motion with a barbell.

Make Your Own Landmine

If you are looking to get one of these pieces of equipment you will see that they are not cheap and will set you back a few hundred dollars. If you are not interested in paying a good chunk of cash for this equipment you can simply make your own at your gym or even at home.

The simple way of making your own landmine requires having the following pieces of workout equipment:

  • Barbell
  • Weight Plates
  • Weight Clip

Simply place a weight plate (preferably a 45 pound) on the floor, a weight plate on the end of the bar facing you (start with light weight) and the opposite end of the bar should fit in the hole of the weight plate on the ground. This setup allows for the barbell to move in a flexible and circular motion like the Sorinex device.

Why I Added Landmines As A New Element In My Workouts?

Well I think it is important to challenge your body to avoid having the same types of workouts. Sure, it helps from breaking a plateau but it is also good to keep your workouts interesting. The goal for me is always to keep my workouts interesting and as athletic as possible, incorporating multi joint movements in order to boost muscle building and fat burning qualities as much as possible.

Jump squats and sprints are still part of my workout routines and I use them twice per week but have added landmines once per week as part of my lower body strength training.

If you notice in the previous post on barbell Russian twists this exercise was pretty simple but was not very explosive. In fact, the exercise required very little mobility in the lower body thereby focusing all effort in the core and upper body. However, at the conclusion of the article I mentioned that there is a way to make this exercise explosive if done in a different manner.

Building Explosiveness With Lower Body Workouts

While doing research on using landmines for an explosive lower body workout I came across the following video.

The exercises used are:

  • Landmine Deadlift Curl Rotate Press: set up your landmine and begin by holding the bar with one hand and with the knees bent. Come up in to a standing position, curl the weight, twist and press the bar up. This is a total body exercise working on the core, legs, lower back, arms and shoulders.
  • Barbell Abdominal Rollout: focuses primarily on the abs. This can be done if you do not have lower back problems, otherwise skip it.
  • Barbell Get Up, Get Down: this is an excellent core and leg exercise. Begin with a barbell with light weight resting on your upper back behind your neck. Come down on the right knee and place it on the floor, then bring your left knee to the floor, come back up first with your right leg then the left leg. This is one rep. Complete the desired number of reps then repeat the sequence this time starting with the opposite leg. Bring the left knee down first, followed by the right knee to the floor, come up with the left leg and finally bring your left leg back to the standing position.
  • Hack Squats: The barbell is placed behind the feet and ankles. Grab the barbell with an underhand grip and come up by keeping the heels firmly planted on the ground and drive the weight up. Look straight throughout the motion.
  • Clean And Press: Start with the barbell on the floor, hold the bar with a neutral grip and in one quick motion bring the barbell to your chest and drop down to a squat position. Come up to a standing position and press the barbell to a shoulder press.
  • Landmine Barbell Twists: As you can see in the video this is like a Russian barbell twist but is done faster. When you twist to each side bend your knees as if you were doing a standing lunge, come up fast and repeat to the opposite side to complete one repetition. After completing the desired number of reps you repeat the same motion only this time much quicker and without pausing at the top of the movement.

In this video you can see that this simple set up works heavily on the lower body and core muscles but also the upper body thereby making it a total body workout. The explosive nature of the movements and the multi joint emphasis on the exercises makes it a perfect workout for developing fast twitch muscles which gives the body lean muscle and a more athletic look.

A Landmine Exercise Workout

Although the workout laid out in the video is extremely effective, it is one that is more for an advanced level of fitness. If you have never done exercises like squats, deadlifts or clean and jerk I recommend you first learn these exercises and develop good form before you attempt this workout.

Because of the high degree of athleticism and difficulty in this video I decided to create an easier version, yet still challenging version of the workout. The following workout incorporates power movements along with the landmine.

  • Traditional Deadlifts- 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Barbell Get Up, Get Down– 4 sets of 5 reps per leg
  • Front Squat– 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Power Clean– 3 sets of 3 reps
  • Landmine Barbell Twist– 4 sets (each set consists of 10 slower twists to each side and then 10 fast twists to each side as in the video)
  • Rest one minute between sets and exercises

In this version of the workout a traditional deadlift is used rather than the landmine version as I wanted to focus more on the power movement of the deadlift. The emphasis here is not on the arms but strictly on engaging the legs and back muscles.

Also, instead of doing a hack squat I replaced this with a front squat. Although hack squats are a great exercise they can be difficult for someone not used to doing them. Hack squats require a lot of strength to drive the weight from behind the legs in to an upward motion. Front squats are easier than a hack squat, make it easier to do a deeper squat and can be easier to control the weight.

Power cleans replaced the clean and jerk. Again, the emphasis for me was in the lower body and not in a pressing movement which would also target the shoulders. Also, for someone who is not advanced the power clean is easier to do and is safer to do as long as you do not have a bad back.

The landmine barbell twist as done in the video is amazing in working the core and legs. By the time you finish the sequence of twists you should not be able to get on a treadmill due to the demand that is placed on the legs.

Since using the landmine barbell twists I have noticed more development in my rear delts and side delts. The twisting motion engages the arms, shoulders, core and legs in a way that I have not seen or experienced with other workouts. It is the combination of this exercise along with the barbell get up stand up that makes the legs work harder than they are used to.

This workout consisting of  landmine exercises and power movements will take your body to a different level by helping it develop fast twitch muscle while getting simultaneous cardio benefits. In fact, if you are not sweating, breathing hard and feel like you can still get on a treadmill then sorry my friend but you are not doing it right.

Try this exercise if you are looking for a different way to get your body to look athletic. Let me know what you think.

Barbell Russian Twist: Get A Stronger Core And Abs With This Functional Workout

“I really do need to change my ab workouts, dude.” It’s not that I was bored, ok maybe I was bored just a bit, but I really wanted to add a new element in my core exercises. After some research I came across the Barbell Russian Twist.

Who would have thought that a barbell could help me strengthen my core? Not in a million years would I have guessed that anyone’s midsection could get stronger by doing an exercise like Russian Barbell Twists than by doing sit ups or crunches. I think the only times I had used a barbell for an abs exercise was by doing standing barbell twists.

(I’m not Russian, but I played one on film)

Using Functional Exercises For Your Core

I am a firm believer that if you want to get an athletic body you have to incorporate functional type exercises as much as possible. An exercise that works more than one muscle group will give your body a better workout than if you work on only one muscle at a time.

There are various ways for working on the core and abs region with exercises like planks, leg raises and various other workouts. If you are wondering why I didn’t mention crunches or sit ups it is because these two exercises are not the best at working on the core region.  However, you can activate the core region by using other exercises that work on the upper body and lower body.

If you want to see a good example of someone with great abs who also uses functional type exercises just look at boxers. Athletes with the best abs are those who do explosive and functional type movements that trigger the abs and the core twisting and engaging the upper and lower body.

(Here is an example of the Russian Twist)

Twist Your Way To Better Abs

Although this article is about using a barbell to work on the abs I should also note that this exercise is more advanced. It is always a good idea to lay a proper foundation and familiarize oneself with easier exercises before moving on to a more advanced movement.

With all that said you cannot deny that the Russian Twist is challenging as well but it is easier on the lower back for a beginner or moderate level workout. In the video above you can see that this exercise is not difficult to perform but does help the core by doing a simple twisting movement.

To do these exercises simply do the following:

  • Sit on the floor with your feet slightly raised
  • Form a raised V shape with your legs or keep your feet on the ground with the knees at an angle
  • Begin by keeping your shoulders squared with your hips
  • Now twist to one side and touch the floor
  • Twist to the opposite side and touch the floor again
  • Repeat this movement without stopping

Do this exercise for 3 sets of 20 repetitions (10 per side)
You can start by doing this exercise with no weight when starting out and increase the difficulty by holding a medicine ball with your hands or a dumbbell and tapping the floor with the object each time you twist.

You can include Russian Twists on a day you do abs workouts.

For an example of a good abs workout you can look at something like Rusty Moore’s free abs report.

Barbell Russian Twists- Not Just An Abs Exercise

Once you have worked on your abs and your core properly and you feel that you want to move up to a more challenging workout I recommend using the barbell variation of the Russian twist.

The barbell variation of this exercise when performed properly really makes this more of a total body exercise. The exercise works the abs, obliques, buttocks, thighs, hamstrings and shoulders. In fact, ever since I have included this exercise I have seen better side delt and rear deltoid development in my shoulders.

Begin by holding placing one of a barbell either at the corner where two walls meet or by setting one end in the hole of a 45-pound plate.
On the other end of the barbell you can add some weight but make sure to put a lock.
If you are just starting out try this exercise without weight and place a weight plate if you want to make it more challenging. Do not start with heavy weight as this could injure you. I have found that lightweight is quite challenging.

  • Bring the weight up at slightly above eye level and hold the barbell with both hands
  • Keep your arms straight and lower the bar to one side of your hip
  • Next rotate the back to the starting position and bring the end of the barbell to the opposite side or opposite hip
  • Keep your arms as straight as possible throughout the movement.
  • Just picture yourself drawing a semi circle with the end of the barbell as you move from left to right or right to left.
  • As the weight tries to come down your core becomes engaged triggers the muscles in this area.

You can keep your lower body stationary to get a stronger workout on your core and your upper body or move your lower body as you twist in order to work your lower body as well.

You can use various tempos when performing this exercise but I have found a more explosive and fast movement to work best. When this exercise is performed in an explosive manner it really works the fast twitch muscles throughout the body.

How To Apply This Exercise In Your Workouts

Although this is an excellent abs and core exercise I find it best to do this exercise on separate days as your abs workouts. Barbell Russian Twists can be done for example on days you are working on your upper body or lower body. The exercise can be done once or twice a week on non-consecutive days as a way to trigger your core muscles.

This workout is a good way to get started by using a barbell Russian twist but you can take it even further and in a more explosive manner by combining it in a way that will help with your conditioning and triggering muscle growth.

In a few days I will come back and talk about how I am now using this exercise as part of my workouts to make this an awesome and athletic workout routine.

Note: You can now read the follow up article–  Landmine Exercises

The 5 Best Obliques Exercises: Turbo Charge Your Midsection The Right Way

There has always been a lot of hype with finding the right types of exercises that create a six pack.  Chances are that you always hear about crunches and sit ups but the truth is that in order to develop a great looking midsection one the best things you can do is obliques exercises.

Why Working On Your Obliques Is Important

Although it is common to think that doing crunches are a short cut to getting sexy abs the truth is that neglecting your obliques is not the smartest thing to do.  When have you
seen a person with a sexy or midsection have lousy or absent obliques? Never.  Doing only crunches or sit ups in fact is a very bad idea and will likely lead to injury and back problems down the road.  Rusty Moore goes in to depth on this topic in his free Abs Report and lays out specific workouts to get a great set of abs.

Obliques are important as they frame the abs and entire midsection.  A well developed set of obliques will give off the appearance of a strong midsection and highlights the abs, specifically
a six pack.  When these muscles are strengthened they give the illusion that the core region is firm and chiseled.

However, obliques are not only “show” muscles that serve as bragging rights.  In fact, having a
strong set of oblique muscles helps in protecting the spine and helps the body with stabilization and as a result this helps with performance and functionality.

How You Will Get Great Abs Guaranteed

If you were thinking that only a few obliques exercises and some abs work will give you a solid six pack, then I have to break it to you but it is not that simple.  As much as you are told this lie by infomercials this is not true. Abs and obliques can not be spot reduced.  In other words you
can not perofm some exercises that will burn the fat in the midsection.  However, we will get to the good stuff and you will get a series of exercises that will improve the muscles of the
obliques and the core section.  But first thing is first.  How to chisel the midsection.

To get a great midsection you have to burn the fat in the area.  The key to bring out the muscles
of the core and abs you have to bring your fat percentage to a low level.  I can not stress this enough.  No matter how many exercises you do and how strong your abs and the core gets you will not be able to see your results unless you have lower fat.  Once this is done your core muscle will show.

The only way to burn fat in the best way possible is by doing the following:

  • Eating less– Create a calorie deficit by using more calories than what you eat.
  • High intensity cardio– Cardio done in short bursts using burst training or interval training or HIIT is the best way to burn fat effectively.  This type of cardio is better than doing long cardio sessions.
  • Resistance Training– Achieving a fit and chiseled set of abs is not just about doing core exercises.  Resistance training not only helps build muscle but also makes you a fat burning machine by doing an athletic workout.  Resistance training is not only about lifting weights.  This type of training refers to putting the muscles through a process of muscle building and can be done using either weights, bands, kettlebells or bodyweight exercises.  Many exercises like squats and rows for example, work on the core without doing crunches.

Obliques Exercises To Chisel The Midsection

Let’s get to the nitty gritty and what you came here in the first place.   Here are the 5 best obliques exercises you can do. Combine these with the ab workout to follow and you will see excellent results that will give you strong obliques and a great core and midsection.

(This video by Craig Ballantyne of shows examples of some of the exercises that are listed below)

  • Planks– This exercise is excellent as an overall core development exercise.  The exercise works on the entire midsection, including the obliques muscles.
  • Side Plank– This exercise is a variation of the plank.  The difference is that you hold the position
    on your side holding your wiehgt on one side.
  • Medicine Ball Twist– Twists are a great way to get the core involved.  Hold a medicine ball or any
    object with two hands.  While seated on the floor twist your upper body to each side.  Bring the object (ball, medicine ball, or weight) to one side and have it touch the floor.  Without stopping twist to the other side and have the object touch the floor.
  • Hanging Knee Raise With A Twist– This exercise is also called a Twisting Hanging Knee Raise, Twisting Hanging Leg Raise or Oblique Hanging Knee Raise.  Hang from a pull up bar and bring your knees up to your chest level.  When you reach the top of the movement twist to one side, bring the knees down and repeat by twisting to other side side.  For a more difficult variation do the hanging leg version without bending your knees.
  • Renegade Rows– One of the exercises most people have never heard but really works the deep oblique muscles very well.  Yavor of introduced me to this exercise. Get in a push up position and hold on to light dumbbells.  Bring one dumbbell up in a rowing motion and repeat with the opposite hand.

There are other obliques exercises but these are the best as they really stimulate deep in the obliques muscles and force the entire core to work together creating a solid core region overall.

Creating An Ab Workout With These Exercises

  • Planks– Hold for up to one minute or as long as possible.  Rest 30 seconds and repeat for a total of 5 sets.
  • Twisting Hanging Knee Raises– Do 5 sets of 5 repetitions to begin and increase to 10 repetitions as you improve.
  • Renegade Rows– Do 5 Sets of 3 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
  • Side Planks– Hold for one minute or as long as possible on each side. Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets.
  • Medicine Ball Twist– This is optional and you may leave them out if you feel your abs are reaching exhaustion.  Simply do 2 sets of 10 twists to each side and rest 30 seconds between sets.

This is a sample exercise you can do today.  You can also check out the free Abs Report by Rusty Moore that shows excellent abs workouts for any difficulty level.

Why No Oblique Crunches?

Oblique crunches are popular oblique exercises but they are not advisable.  Any exercise that flexes the spine in a forward motion is not the best option and in fact crunches and oblique crunches do not stimulate the muscles enough.  These exercises are more a recipe to getting a lower back injury in the long run.

The best thing to do is to work on exercises that not only strengthen your abs but also the lower back using a combination of planks, side planks and obliques exercises.

It is important to remember that a proper diet, interval type cardio and strength training are the best ways to reduce your body fat to a lower level.  This is the best way to highlight your abs.  Combined with solid ab/core workouts you will be on your way to developing the abs you have always wanted.