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Take the Core Strength Test With Our Weight Loss Challenge Guys

By Billy Polson

We're in the second day of the RealJock/Nu4You Weight Loss Challenge, and have so far done one workout courtesy of Billy Polson of Diakadi Body. Billy started us off with a stretch test, designed to help our 25 guys—and all of you who are "playing along at home"—to find tight spots and get to work on fixing them. Today, he continues with a program of tests and corrective exercises for your core. With this workout, you'll find out where your abs are weak, and start building core strength where you really need it to support you through the rest of your workouts. Once you've done the core tests below, and mastered the corrective core work that goes with them, you should plan on doing your core work with every workout, and repeating the tests periodically to see where you are.

Tomorrow, we'll introduce the first of the Diakadi resistance-training workouts to accompany the Weight Loss Challenge. We invite everyone to take the opportunity to participate in these awesome workouts, while keeping pace with the Challenge guys on your own. It's a great opportunity to build a seriously good fitness foundation.

CORE TESTS
Lower Abs Test (Hand at Lower Back)
Lying on your back on the floor, lay one palm down onto the floor by your side and place the other palm face down in the curve of your lower back so that your knuckles of this hand are directly under you belly button. Then keeping your hand here under your lower back, tuck your knees up to your chest. In this position take a deep inhale and then squeeze in your lower abs so that your lower back will flatten out against your hand as tightly as possible. Then holding your spine flat against your hand, slowly lower your heels down to tap the floor and then return them to knee tuck position. Try to do 3 repetitions as a test.
Test: To see if you can keep the same pressure against the back of your hand as your heels come down to tap the ground and return to starting position.
Pass: You keep a large amount of pressure on your hand throughout the full range of motion.
Fail: Your back lifts up off your hand as you lower your legs to the ground. < br />
Upper Abs Test (Hands at Sides)
Lie flat on your back with your hands on the ground at your sides, palms down. Have a small step at your feet so that you can point your toes and push the balls of your feet down into the step throughout the movement. Keeping pressure on the balls of your feet on the step, slowly tuck your chin and rise up off the floor with your shoulder blades. Try to do 3 repetitions as a test.
Test: To see if you can keep your feet on the board throughout the movement.
Pass: Feet stay on board with pressure throughout.
Fail: Feet must rise off the board in order for you to get your shoulder blades off the floor. < br />
Upper Abs Test (Hands Crossed on Chest)
This is the same test as above, but with your arms crossed over your chest. Try to do 3 repetitions as a test.
Test: To see if you can keep your feet on the board throughout the movement.
Pass: Feet stay on board with pressure throughout.
Fail: Feet must rise off the board in order for you to get your shoulder blades off the floor. < br />
Upper Abs Test (Hands on Head)
This is the same test as above, but with your fists pushed into the sides of your head. Try to do 3 repetitions as a test.
Test: To see if you can keep your feet on the board throughout the movement.
Pass: Feet stay on board with pressure throughout.
Fail: Feet must rise off the board in order for you to get your shoulder blades off the floor. < br />
Cobra Test
Lie face down, with palms down and thumbs out to sides. Slowly lift your chest and shoulders off the ground with your upper body and your feet and thighs off floors with lower body. With your hands rotate your thumbs out and up so that your shoulders externally rotate and your shoulder blades wrap together. Keep your chin in and facing down so that your neck stays in line with your spine.
Test: Hold this lifted position for 3 minutes.
Pass: Hold for 3 minutes without rest.
Fail: You have to rest or stop before end of 3 min. < br />


Corrective Core Work: Now, based on the results of those tests, start doing your corrective core work. Which exercises you do will depend on the outcomes of the tests—the description of each exercise will tell you which exercises apply to you. Note that, as you get stronger, which exercises you do will change. So you will periodically want to take the abs tests over again to see where you stand, and adjust your corrective core work accordingly.

CORRECTIVE CORE WORK
Lower Abs Hold
When: Start with this exercise if you failed the lower abs test.
What: In same position as test but with your knees bent and keeping your feet flat on the floor throughout this movement, take in a big breath and flatten out your lower back against your hand using your lower abs. Be sure that you keep your feet light on the floor throughout this movement so that you are not using your feet to flatten your lower back. Hold this flexion keeping pressure on your hand. Hold for 30 seconds, if possible. Continue breathing during this time.
How much: When you are able to do this for four 30 second holds, then you can move on to the Lower Abs Single Bent Knee Lifts From Bottom (see below).
Lower Abs Single Bent Knee Lifts From Bottom
When: Start with this exercise if you failed the lower abs test and after you have mastered the Lower Abs Hold.
What: Again lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place one hand palm down tucked in the small of your back. Inhale and squeeze your lower abs, driving your lumbar (lower) spine flat down onto your hand. Keeping this pressure, slowly bring one leg up and down, keeping knee bent. Then swap for a set on opposite leg, still holding abs tight.
How much: When you are able to do this for 20 repetitions on each leg while maintaining the pressure on your hand, then you can move on to the Straight Leg Lifts From Bottom (see below).
Lower Abs Single Straight Leg Lifts From Bottom
When: Start this exercise if you either passed the lower abs test, or failed the lower abs test but have since mastered the Lower Abs Hold and Single Leg Bent Knee Lifts From Bottom.
What: Again lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Tuck one hand palm down in the small of your back. Inhale and squeeze your lower abs, driving your lumbar (lower) spine flat down onto your hand. Keeping this pressure, slowly bring one leg up and down, keeping the leg being lifted straight throughout the movement. The knee of the base leg always stays bent, but light on the floor. Then swap for a set on opposite leg, still holding abs tight.
How much: When you are able to do this for 20 repetitions on each leg while maintaining the pressure on your hand, then you can move on to the Bent Knee Lowers From Top (see below).
Lower Abs Single Bent Knee Lowers From Top
When: Start this exercise if you either passed the lower abs test, or failed the lower abs test but have since mastered everything up through the Single Straight Leg Lifts From Bottom.
What: Again lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tuck one hand palm down in the small of your back. Inhale and squeeze your lower abs, driving your lumbar (lower) spine flat down onto your hand. Keeping this pressure, tuck both knees up to your chest with both knees staying bent throughout this movement. This is the holding start position. Now slowly repeat lowering one heel down to tap the floor, keeping the knee bent and pressure on the hand under your lower back. Then swap for a set on the opposite leg, still holding abs tight..
How much: When you are able to do this for 20 repetitions on each leg while maintaining the pressure on your hand, then you can move on to the Straight Leg Lowers From Top (see below).
Lower Abs Single Straight Leg Lowers From Top
When: Start this exercise if you either passed the lower abs test, or failed the lower abs test but have since mastered everything up through the Single Straight Leg Lifts From Bottom.
What: Again lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tuck one hand palm down in the small of your back. Inhale and squeeze your lower abs, driving your lumbar (lower) spine flat down onto your hand. Keeping this pressure, tuck both knees up to your chest with both knees staying bent throughout this movement. This is the holding start position. Now slowly repeat lowering one heel down to tap the floor, keeping the knee bent and pressure on the hand under your lower back. Then swap for a set on the opposite leg, still holding abs tight.
How much: When you are able to do this for 20 repetitions on each leg while maintaining the pressure on your hand, then you can move on to the Straight Leg Lowers From Top (see below).
Lower Abs Double Leg Lowers From Top
When: Start this exercise if you have mastered the Single straight Leg Lowers From Top.
What: Again lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tuck one hand palm down in the small of your back. Inhale and squeeze your lower abs, driving your lumbar (lower) spine flat down onto your hand. Keeping this pressure, tuck both knees up to your chest with both knees staying bent throughout this movement. This is the holding start position. Now slowly lower both heels down to tap the floor, keeping the knees bent and pressure on hand under lower back. When you are able to do this for 20 reps and maintain pressure, then slowly start to lengthen your legs and do the exercise with a straighter longer leg.
How much: When you are able to do this for 20 repetitions with straight legs, you have mastered the lower abdominal movements!
Stability Ball Full Sit-ups (Hands Across Chest)
When: Start with this exercise for upper abs if you failed the upper abs test.
What: Lie back on the center of a stability ball with your hands crossed at your chest level. From the low position, first tuck your chin completely to your chest and then follow this movement with a full situp. Return to lying fully across the ball at the bottom with each rep, allowing your chin to open up at the bottom each time. Keep the ball stationary and feet still on the floor.
How much: When you are able to do this for 20 repetitions then you can move on to doing the “hands on head” version (see below).
Stability Ball Full Sit-ups (Hands on Head)
When: Start this exercise for upper abs if you failed the upper abs test but have since mastered the “hands across chest” version of this exercise.
What: Do the same exercise as above, but with your fists pushed into the sides of your head for extra weight.
How much: Try to do 20 repetitions of this exercise.
Stability Ball Side Bends (Hands Across Chest)
When: Use this exercise to train your obliques.
What: Lie on your side on top of the stability ball, with hands across your chest and legs wide for stability and braced on lower edge of wall. Slowly do side bends upward, keeping your spine flat against back board and head facing forward.
How much: Once you have mastered these for 20 reps with hands across your chest, move on to the hands-behind-the-head version (see below).
Stability Ball Side Bends (Hands on Head)
When: Use this exercise to train your obliques once you have mastered the hands-across-chest version above.
What: Use the same movement as above, but with your fists pushed into the sides of your head.
How much: Once you can complete 20 of these in a row, you have mastered the side obliques.
Cobra Stretch
When: Work to get this stretch up to a three minute hold.
What: Use the same movement as the Cobra Test: Lie face down, with palms down and thumbs out to sides. Slowly lift your chest and shoulders off the ground with your upper body and your feet and thighs off floors with lower body. With your hands rotate your thumbs out and up so that your shoulders externally rotate and your shoulder blades wrap together. Keep your chin in and facing down so that your neck stays in line with your spine.
How much: Keep working at this until you can hold this lifted position for 3 minutes.
Note: A reference for this program is Paul Chek's How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy, San Diego, 2004.

About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is co-founder of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Billy is a certified Exercise Coach through the Paul Chek Institute as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want Billy and Diakadi co-founder Mike Clausen to answer? Send an email to billyandmike@realjock.com.