Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

Posts tagged “abs

Exercise Expertise: The Dead Bug

The almighty Dead Bug. It’s a great exercise! Many people are familiar with it, but not everyone implements a sound, logical progression into their routine.

Click on the link below to read my latest post over at! I expand on the Dead Bug exercise and lay out my current progression which covers 28 variations! That’s a lot of dead bugs! 🙂

I will continue to post links here, but as a reminder, I am no longer utilizing this blog as my main site.

Have a terrific Tuesday and keep expanding your exercise experience!

Sarah 🙂


-Progressing the “Dead Bug”-

The oh-so-dreaded Dead Bug…how my clients love/hate it so!

It is one of my favorite basic movements for teaching proper stabilization strategies, as well as the correction of faulty breathing patterns.

The “Wall Push” is an excellent variation that is excellent for beginners. Dr. Craig Liebenson has popularized the dead bug, combining the research and training of Pavel Kolar and Dr. Stuart McGill.  Craig’s article in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies on this exercise may be found at this link.

-ABsolutely Awesome Nonstop Ab Circuits!-

Hey everyone!

I hope you’re ready for some ABsolutely awesome ab training ideas, because i’m going to fill you in on the most recent Rippel Effect Fitness boot camp workout:

ABsolutely Awesome Nonstop Ab Circuits!

Last night, I joined my PM boot camp group for this “fun” workout, and my AM ladies got to experience it this morning. I did a little bit with the AM group, but not to the level of last night. My abs were already sore when we finished last night, and I have a feeling they will continue to become more sore as the day progresses.

As you can see, there’s a lot goin’ on!

I’m going to lay it all out for you from start to finish!

DYNAMIC WARM-UP: 15 yds ea

High Knee Walk

High Knee Run

Walking Quad Stretch

Butt Kickers

Frankenstein Walk

Frankenstein Skip

Side Lunge Shift & Skip (Frankensteins also included):

Walking Spiderman with Arm Reach

Hurdle Walk:



"X" - start

"X" - step 2

"X" - step 3

"X" - finish

Burpee (basic):

Hi Plank 3-Way Knee Drive (shown using a slider):

Feet Up L/R Toe Reaches (very similar to this vid):


DB Windmill:

Plank Jacks:

Getup Situps:

Mountain Climbers:

This workout was a BLAST! Lots of red, sweaty (yet still gorgeous, all of ’em) faces when we were done!

Y’all give it a shot, and let me know what you think! Feel free to leave comments cursing my name, lol! 🙂

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that SuperEthan made a guest appearance during last night’s workout!

Can ya see him? He's super-fast!

There he is!

Fly, SuperEthan, fly!!!!

I would also like to add that the Rippel Effect GOALS board is filling up! We are missing a handful of people, but they will add their cards by the end of this week and next! Lots of awesome short- and long-term goals!

GOALS board as of 1/5/11!

Here is my GOAL card! Yes, I realize I need to make my "eat more/better" goal more specific. I basically have the world's worst appetite. People assume I eat all day long b/c of all the working out that I do, but I simply can't. I get full fast, and it's not become too much of an issue...I just don't need to lose any more weight! Okay, okay, i'll stop before someone slaps me! 🙂

-The Lean Abs Machine!-

You're never too old to exercise!!!!

You're never too old to exercise!!!!

Hey rockstars!

So, this morning I endured yet another fun workout, which you may read about over on my triathlon training blog, OTBTri, by clicking  HERE.

As I mentioned in that post, there are some adorably precious and sweet little old ladies who are in the pool when I go swim.  They are awesome!  I got a kiss on the cheek from one of them this morning!  One of these days, i’ll get someone to take my picture with them, as I feel they have become part of “Team Sarah,” and they motivate me to keep swimming!  I also will tell them i’m a trainer and perhaps show them a few new exercises they can do with the pool noodles!

So, after my 950 yard swim workout, I hopped on the stationary bike for 45 minutes.  I met another sweet little old lady who came in to use the treadmill as well as the chest press machine.  If you check out the blog post I mentioned above, you’ll probably smile when you read about our conversation!

The Lean Abs Machine!

The Lean Abs Machine!

Anyhow, in the weight room at the so-not-crowded facility I joined (which I may add, is super-great because I really don’t want to deal with perverted creeps staring at my butt while i’m swimming), there is a small assortment of somewhat-dated equipment.  All I require is a bike treadmill for days I don’t feel like training in the heat.

After I finished my ride this morning, I happened to notice a funky-looking contraption laying on the floor.  If the foot plate was at the opposite end, it could resemble a makeshift T-bar row of sorts.



So, I glanced up from the machine and spied a piece of paper on the wall that said “Ab Lean.”  It shows a chick doing what I then realized was the contraption on the floor.  Wow!  All this time, i’ve been doing the wrong things for my abs!  How have I been so stupid?! LOL!

Really, though, take a gander at the picture to the left and let me know if you agree with me – doesn’t this exercise remind you of a stability ball kneeling rollout?  It sure does to me, and the kneeling rollout is a legit exercise.  I can see some big problems with the “Lean Abs Machine’s” method.  First off, y’all know i’m not a fan of machines at all.  Secondly, y’all know I DO love exercises that require you to be on your feet.  Combine these two things, and in this case, you have a potential back issue on your hands.  Look at the middle picture where the chick is in the “extended” position.  See how long a line there is from her elbows to her feet?  Also see the potential for the low back to “sag?”  Maybe i’m wrong, but in the picture, it really does seem she’s sagging!  BAD!

Obviously, if someone was proficient in most exercises & knew the ins and outs of “core training,” they could probably try this funky contraption with no issues.  BUT…this is a machine in a facility where there is no staff monitoring the weight room AND there are elderly members.  I hope they don’t try this piece of junk!

As I said above, the Stability Ball Kneeling Rollout is a great “core” exercise.  It’s also a great “pulling” movement as the lats are recruited when one returns to the upright position.  Rollouts may also be performed with legs extended, however, for most people the kneeling variation is a much better choice as a starting point.  Why?  Shorter “lever arm” (there I go again, talkin’ Physics, lol) and therefore a decreased risk of form breakdown.

On the lever arm note – pushups are one exercise where I never recommend they be done on the knees to begin with.  Why?  It’s much easier to elevate the upper body, therefore decreasing the intensity of the exercise, while reaping the benefits of the core and glute’s  involvement.  No sissy pushups, people!

Key pointers for the Stability Ball Kneeling Rollout: Use a 55cm ball if possible.  Keep “tall kneeling” position the entire time.  Place hands on top of ball with arms extended.  Don’t hinge forward at the hips as you roll.  Keep neutral spine, glutes tight, and abs braced.  Forearms should rest on top of ball at “end” position, then reverse the movement as you exhale.

Next time i’m at the facility, I may just have to try out that contraption…just for kicks. 😉

-Gotta Rope?-

I’m going through my laptop and realizing I have a plethora of video clips I have yet to do anything with!

Typical me…I gather tons and tons of information, and it overwhelms me b/c I don’t have time to get to it!

Here’s a nifty little compilation of exercises you can do with a 1 1/2-inch thick manila rope.  I have two 30-foot ropes and a 50-foot rope.  The 50-footer is a beast!  You’ve seen some of what I do with them.  Here I am, farting around with exercises as I normally do when the mood strikes me, which is pretty much all the time! 🙂

Using a rope to perform various exercises ROCKS if you’re wanting to improve your grip strength!

Oh, and don’t order a rope from AOS or Perform Better.  Yes, i’m an affiliate for both, but you can get ’em WAY cheaper via eBay.  I paid $1.25/ft for mine!!!!!  $150 for a rope is RIDICULOUS!  Just doing my part to help keep peeps happy during this recession, lol!

-The DB Extend & Crunch!-

Here’s a nifty little exercise I call the “DB Extend & Crunch.”  I’m not a big fan of crunches…believe me, back in the day I used to do sets of 50-100 b/c I didn’t know any better!  Crunches are overrated, and i’ll be the first to tell you that nutrition is key if you’re wanting to abs as hot as Brad’s in Fight Club!  Still, you must do “core” exercises.

The DB Extend & Crunch incorporates an overhead reach with a single-leg hip/knee extension.  I recommend that you keep your ankle flexed as you extend the hip & knee.  Why?  You’ll use your glutes.  Think about pushing through the foot as you straighten your leg.  Also note that the “crunch” really is more of a “pull,” as I bring the dumbbells to my body.

You don’t need a ton of weight for this exercise.  I’m using 5-pounders!

I really dig exercises that require you to stabilize one leg while extending the other.  Why?  For many people, this asymmetrical position can help with maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt.  Most people have anterior tilt issues, and using both legs (with exercises such as this) may not always be the best thing.

-Training Abs & Calves!-

Earlier today, my good buddy Wayne asked me a question on Facebook.  I figured our exchange would make for a most excellent post, so here ya go!

Wayne: Hey Sarah, I remember reading once that there was a school of thought that said both calves and ab muscles are resilient enough to be worked on an almost daily basis. Does this still hold true?, folks!

Sarah: Hola Wayne!!! Thanks for the shout out! 🙂 I’ll share my slant on things in 2 parts. 

Here’s my take on calves:
Calves are genetic. It’s really, really, really hard to build ’em b/c yes, they are super-resilient and used to a high volume of work. 

What secrets do I have when it comes to calves? A few things. 

First off, when I was jumping rope a lot, I got numerous compliments on my calves.
Secondly, back when I was into bodybuilding, I used to train calves twice a week. I think I stuck ’em in after hams and then on another day with shoulders. I used to do stuff like superset standing calf raises with these funky calf raises done in an ass-to-grass squat position, holding onto something for balance. These are KILLER! I also used to love the donkey calf raise machine and feel it’s a good one b/c it creates a great pre-stretch prior to each contraction.

This brings back memories…sigh…okay…now for abs…my slant on the “you can train abs everyday” thing is this:

Abs are just like any muscle group in that they need recovery time between intense workouts. So, if you’re specifically training abs, like doing a gazillion crunches and old-school stuff like that, you don’t want to do them every day. I actually noticed that when I didn’t train abs every day (back in the days when I was super-obsessed), my abs looked better. 

So, if you’re into ab training, do em every other day if you wish…BUT…think about this:

Every exercise is an “ab” exercise. Your abs are working super-hard when you do heavy squats, for example. Crunches and crap like that are useless. Yes, i’ll have clients do em every now and then, but typically with some fancy twist to ’em, like with a dumbbell chop or a resistance band pullover.

I have clients do core work every workout, but I see most of my clients 3 days a week, so they have time in between workouts.

I feel that I have an innate sense of knowing when enough is enough, with any exercise and any workout. I’m sure you’re the same way. If you’re in tune with your body, this is easy, and this is the way to go if you want optimal results. Years and years as a gymnast and then as an obsessed workoutaholic made me ignore this “voice.” Wow…I sound philosophical, lol. Anyhow, what i’m getting at is that if you’re doing any exercise, more specifically core work (such as plank variations and such), you can tell when to stop…you can tell how many more reps you should do before it’s overkill…and if you’re good, the next day you’re super-sore and no way in hell ya wanna do any core work that day! 😀

Wayne: I greatly de-intensified my ab training back when I was a gym rat, and I liked the results. Now that I’m no longer spoiled, I was considering if I have to go back to daily core (ab) work for maintenance purposes. I was leaning towards ‘yes’. 

I have to get creative with calves since I no longer have the luxury of heavy weights (I really miss the 300 lb calf presses!)

Keep in mind too, I also prescribe to the old school ‘opposing muscles’ theory – i.e. if you work your back, you have to work your abs. Some of those old bodybuilding habits die hard!

Sarah: I feel ya…the “more is better” bodybuilding mentality and other “tenets” are hard to shake! 🙂 We need to get together to swing some kettlebells. 

Here’s another nugget to chew on…think about Sandow and the old-school strongmen…they didn’t do a single ab exercise…they just lifted stuff…they lifted odd objects (rocks, thick grip barbells, kettlebells, etc) and most of the time they did unilateral training. Core stabilization at it’s finest!

If you wanted to do a few sets of planks, side planks, bridges, etc each day I don’t see why that would be a bad thing!

Abs are also (and I hate this word, but) DIET. Even though I can’t stand the freak, Jillian Michaels says she doesn’t do any ab training, and I believe her.