Stop Doing Crunches!

It might come as a shock that the Core Envy program does not include crunches!


I’ve intentionally omitted crunches because they don’t utilize a significant percentage of your core musculature.

While it feels like you’re working hard when you’re 70 reps into a grueling round of 100 crunches, you are predominantly working a single muscle group—the rectus abdominis (rec­tus). In actuality, the true “core” of the body includes countless other muscles. It’s all the core muscles that affect how well you move—and how good you look.

This brings up the issue of function versus vanity. Why wouldn’t you want to focus your gym time on developing a rockin’ rectus? Aren’t those the beach muscles that look great with a spray tan? If a well-developed rectus is what turns heads, do we really need a well-rounded core routine that works all the other muscles?

The short answer is that a high-function­ing core leads to a better-looking core.

Focusing on only a few core muscles can lead to poor posture (which makes your tummy stick out) and injuries (which will inhibit you from being able to work out).

Try my Core Envy program to build a solid foundation for your core, and you will accomplish the dual goals of looking good while being strong and pain-free.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!
Barnes & Noble
local booksellers

Core Envy and the New Rules of Sculpting

Core Envy breaks the “female workout code” with a radical new approach that works

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl

Let’s say it’s January and you’re fired up to lose some holiday weight and get in shape. Or maybe it’s April and you’ve just realized that swimsuit season is just around the corner!

If you had to decide how to get your belly looking sleek and toned, you wouldn’t be alone if you started a regimen of abdominal crunches. It seems like the obvious and logical strategy. After all, if you want to improve your abs, you should work those abs! Right?

Left to our own devices, most of us assume the fastest road to a great-looking core is to dedicate more time to working our abs. A typical visit to the gym might include 30 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes of crunches, and a protein shake in the car. Sound like a familiar workout? If you’ve been following a program similar to this for months (maybe years?) and seen little to no change in your body, you’re not alone. We’ve been programmed to think that crunches are the fastest path to a flat belly. It’s a cultural obsession.

And it’s wrong, which is why all those crunches aren’t working.

I developed my Core Envy program at several of the nation’s top fitness clubs because women were coming to me frustrated that crunches and fad diets weren’t giving them the look they wanted. My Core Envy program breaks the “female workout code” (30 minutes cardio, 10 minutes crunches, and a protein shake) with something radical that actually works.

If you take up the Core Envy program, here are the New Rules of Sculpting that you’ll follow:

1. Don’t Waste Time with Crunches: Put simply, crunches don’t work and can actually make you look and feel worse.
2. Burn Calories with Cardio, Not Core Work: High-intensity cardio burns a lot more calories than crunches.
3. Burn Fat Everywhere, Not in a Few Spots: Spot-reducing fat is a myth.
4. Overhaul Your Posture: Slouching at a desk makes your tummy stick out.
5. Build a Strong Core: You’ll feel better, exercise more effectively, reduce pain—and look awesome.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!
Barnes & Noble
local booksellers

Core Envy Uses Metabolic Confusion to Burn More Calories

There is no “fat-burning zone”. Instead, surprise your body with HIIT cardio.

One of the most deep-seated and fiercely argued tenets of cardio workouts is that in order to burn fat, you should always be working in the “fat-burning zone.” If you’ve ever been on a cardio machine at a health club, you’ve seen those nifty little guides that relay the supposed effects of different heart rate zones. With words such as “Maximum Fat Burn Zone” plastered all over lower heart rates, it’s no wonder that we’ve all been seduced into thinking that the only way to burn that stubborn fat off is to keep our heart rates low and steady.


Consistently working out at a low intensity can actually train your body to store fat. You read that correctly. If you consistently perform low-intensity exercise (that is, at a low heart rate), your body will adapt by beginning to store fat so that it can complete the next bout of exer­cise more effectively. This scenario is called “metabolic efficiency,” and it’s the ultimate catch-22 of exercising. [Read more about how low-intensity cardio can make you gain weight.]

Metabolic confusion is the opposite of metabolic efficiency. By regularly switch­ing up the duration, intensity, and type of exercise you’re doing, you can keep your metabolism on its toes. When your body doesn’t know what type of workout is com­ing next, it doesn’t have the opportunity to burn fewer calories in order to complete the task at hand. Instead, your body is forced to react to the ever-changing stimuli of new workouts and therefore will burn a higher amount of calories. Studies show that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective form of exercise to achieve metabolic confusion and burn abdominal visceral fat.

So what is a HIIT workout? Any activity that spikes your heart rate up to about 70 percent of its maximum for a short period of time, then allows you to recover at a lower heart rate, then spikes your heart rate up again. If you were to graph your heart rate, it might look a rising series of peaks and valleys. [Allison Westfahl explains HIIT workouts in this video.]

Core Envy Calories Burned 650px

The effectiveness of HIIT workouts is because of a phenomenon known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). After a workout, your body will continue to consume oxygen for a certain amount of time in order to bring your body back into its resting state. The more oxy­gen your body consumes, and the longer it does this, the more calories you will burn. As you know, more calories burned equals more pounds lost, which equals a tighter tummy for you. The key letter in the acro­nym is “P” for postexercise. This means that not only are you burning fat during your workout but you will also continue to burn calories and fat long after your work­out has ended.

The only caveat about HIIT is that more is not always better. There is a limit to how much stress the body can handle; if you tax your body too often and too intensely, you will pass the threshold of good stress and cross over into the bad stress zone, causing a release of that dreaded cortisol, which can cause your body to store fat. In order to avoid this scenario, it’s important to give your body time to recover between HIIT workouts, ideally 48 hours. For this reason, the Core Envy program spaces out HIIT workouts throughout the week. [Try one of Allison Westfahl’s HIIT workouts during her FREE one-week trial of Core Envy.]

This post is from Core Envy by Allison Westfahl.

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off. Core Envy solves the problems traditional abs programs ignore with HIIT cardio, functional core sculpting exercises, and a smart diet overhaul.

You can try Core Envy for a week free.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers. Take a look!
Barnes & Noble
local booksellers

Gym photo courtesy of Flickr/John Hickey-Fry


Get the Strong, Sexy Core You Want with Core Envy!

Core Envy by Allison Westfahl Book CoverAllison Westfahl’s Core Envy will tone and sculpt your abs, back, stomach, and sides—and build a strong, sexy core you’ll love showing off.

Her Core Envy program solves the problems other abs programs ignore with a three-part approach to slim down and tone up. You’ll clean up your diet, fire up your metabolism, and tighten up all the muscles of your core without a gym or equipment. In just three weeks, you’ll start seeing results.

Westfahl is an acclaimed personal trainer who developed her effective core sculpting program for women at several of the nation’s most prestigious health clubs. Her clients came to her because they were frustrated by traditional abs programs that involved impossible diets, endless cardio and crunches, sketchy supplements, and tedious calorie counting.

Allison’s 8-week Core Envy program is a better way to tone and sculpt. Core Envy lays out a triple threat of cardio workouts, sculpting routines, and a diet makeover. It’s a balanced approach that promotes both fitness and weight loss, and you won’t need a gym to make it happen.

Allison’s cardio and sculpting workouts average just 30 minutes and don’t require special equipment. Her high-intensity cardio workouts coupled with full core functional exercises will make sure you slim down while you sculpt all the muscle groups you need for a sleek, toned core. Three levels let you amp it up or tone it down to match your current fitness level.

Allison streamlines dieting with healthy, flavorful foods and snacks that will keep you energized as you rev up your metabolism. Her tasty recipes and complete meal plans simplify calorie counting and make weight loss painless.

Core Envy will help you get the sleek, sculpted core you want. After Westfahl’s 8-week program, you’ll look great and feel confident rocking a fit and feminine look.

Core Envy is available now in Target stores, bookstores, and from these online retailers.
Barnes & Noble
local booksellers
Chapters/Indigo (Canada)
Cordee (UK)

4 Exercises to Increase Power in Your Pedal Stroke

Originally posted on

Mashing up and down instead of pedaling in smooth circles is common for beginner cyclists. It’s an error that often leads to injury. Tightness or pain in the quads, knees and hip flexors are often caused by inefficiencies in the pedaling motion.

The good news is, with a little practice you can fix your pedal stroke pretty easily. By improving your upstroke, you’ll not only prevent injury, you’ll also increase your power.

The two major muscle groups responsible for developing a solid upstroke are the hamstrings and the gluteals. The hamstrings are actually made up of three different muscles: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and the biceps femoris. The gluteals are made up of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

When functioning correctly, these six muscles work together to generate power and endurance. They also ensure a smooth, circular pattern to your pedal stroke. If these muscles aren’t firing on all cylinders, the efficiency of your stroke is reduced and the other muscles of the hips and legs are forced to pick up the slack. This can lead to muscular imbalances and potential injury.

Do these four exercises 3 to 4 times per week to strengthen the muscles needed to boost the power and efficiency of your upstroke. Start with 1 to 2 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions and rest for 30 seconds between each set.

Single-Leg Hip Bridge

1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground 6 to 8 inches from your glutes. Your arms should be relaxed on the ground at your sides.

2. Pull your right knee in toward your chest (if you have the flexibility to hold onto your knee with your hands, do it).

3. Keeping your right foot off the ground, push down through the heel of your left foot and lift your hips as high as possible. Squeeze your glutes the entire time.

4. Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground and repeat this 10 to 12 times. Switch legs and repeat 10 to 12 times with your right foot on the ground.

Hip Bridge with Heel Slides

1. Start in the same position as the Single Leg Hip Bridge but keep both feet on the ground.

2. Squeeze your glutes, tuck your tailbone, and lift your hips off the ground.

3. Keeping your hips high, slide your left foot away from your body until your left leg is completely straight, then bring it back in.

4. Repeat this sliding motion with the right foot. Keep your hips off the ground the entire time (glutes should be engaged).

Alternate sliding your feet in and out until you’ve completed 10 to 12 repetitions with each leg.

Single-Leg Squats

1. Start in a standing position.Single Leg Squat

2. Place your hands on your hips and lift your right foot 6 to 8 inches off the ground.

3. Shift your weight onto the heel of your left foot and begin to push your hips back.

4. Bend your left knee and lower into a squat position (as if you’re trying to touch a chair that is a little too far behind you).

5. Lower your body as far as you can go without your upper body leaning forward.

6. Squeeze your glutes on the stabilizing leg as your stand back up to starting position.

7. Complete 10 to 12 reps on this leg, then switch. Remember to keep all the weight on the heel of the standing leg.

Eccentric Hamstring Curls On Seated Curl Machine

Even though this requires access to a seated hamstring curl machine, I had to include it because it’s such a great option for building strength.

1. Using a seated hamstring curl (not a prone hamstring curl, which requires you to lie face down), adjust the seat and leg settings as if you were going to do a regular double-leg curl.

2. Put both feet on top of the leg pad. Keep your left leg straight and pull down with the right leg.

3. The eccentric part of the movement: slowly extend your right leg back out to the starting position to a count of four seconds.

4. Pull the pad back down quickly, then extend your leg back out slowly to a count of four.

5. Repeat this 10 to 12 times on the right leg, then switch sides. This movement is extremely taxing on the hamstrings, so I recommend starting with light weight, such as 10 pounds.

4 Exercises to Prevent Back Pain From Cycling

Originally posted on

opposite arm leg exerciseLower back pain is one of the most common injuries among cyclists. What you might not realize is that most of these injuries are due to muscular imbalances that can easily be prevented.

While serious conditions such as a herniated disc or a strained muscle warrant a break from the bike, most low-level chronic back pain that results from muscular imbalances can be fixed before resulting in injury.

A muscular imbalance occurs when the workload is not being distributed evenly or efficiently, and can cause certain muscles to work either too hard or not enough.

The transversus abdominus, or TVA—the deep abdominal muscles that wrap around the entire core—and the gluteus maximus are two common muscles that can lead to back pain if they aren’t working efficiently. The correlation between weakness in these muscles and low back pain is directly related to the order in which these muscles activate.

If they aren’t firing correctly, and in the right order, these muscles won’t provide the stabilization needed to support the lumbar spine.

In a healthy person, the TVA should activate a fraction of a second before any movement takes place in the limbs. If the TVA doesn’t fire, the pelvis and lumbar spine aren’t properly stabilized during movement and the low back is allowed to move around too much, stressing the muscles of that area and eventually causing chronic pain.

The solution is to follow a core exercise routine that helps strengthen the TVA and gluteus maximus. Stay away from abdominal crunches; the crunch movement only exacerbates the rounded shoulders and tucked pelvis that contributes to low back pain.

Below are four core-strengthening exercises that will help to alleviate chronic low back pain. Start with one set of each exercise and rest 30 seconds between. Increase your repetitions gradually until you can complete 2 to 3 sets of each exercise.

Opposite Arm/Leg Reach

Start on your hands and knees. Keep the back of your neck long and don’t look up or let your chin drop toward the ground. Gently pull your belly button up, being careful not to round your upper back. Keep your hips and shoulders parallel to the ground and lift your right foot and left hand at the same time. Extend your left fingertips forward and squeeze your left gluteus. Hold this extension for 5 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Continue alternating sides until you have completed 10 repetitions on each side.

Prone Snow Angels

Lie face down on a mat with your arms extended along your sides (palms down). Gently squeeze your glutes and begin to raise your feet, chest and hands off the ground. Don’t lift your feet more than 6 inches. Create a “snow angel” by sweeping your arms overhead and separating your feet. Without bending your arms, try to bring your hands together above your head. Return to starting position, take a deep breath, and repeat until you have completed 10 to 15 repetitions.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Start on your hands and knees. Place your hands directly below your shoulders as if you were going to do a push-up. Keep your arms straight and drop your shoulder blades down, squeezing the lower edges together. Don’t let your low back sway or your chin push forward. Hold the shoulder blade squeeze for 5 seconds and release. Take a breath, then continue to repeat this 5-second hold until you have completed 10 repetitions.

Time Trial Position (Plank Hold)

The TT Hold is performed on your forearms and toes. The exercise is isometric and there should be no movement. Keep your elbows directly beneath your shoulders, and your feet should be 8 to 10 inches apart. Keep the back of your neck long and look down at the floor.

Work to bring your shoulder blades onto your back by squeezing them together slightly. Your lower back should not be excessively rounded, and your neck should be long (don’t look up). Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. As you become stronger, extend the hold time.

For additional exercises and routines to help with low back pain, pick up a copy of Tom Danielson’s Core Advantage: Core Strength for Cycling’s Winning Edge.