I am so excited about our 2014 Macks Mo Momentum Challenge that I just had to give you a “taste”! 🙂 Part of our “saute” series in the nutritional programming, this is one of my favorite go-to “flash” meals (it only takes a flash to make!), featuring seasonal vegetables and some seriously good flavor. Enjoy!
WARM COCONUT CHICKEN + BEET & BRUSSELS SPROUT SAUTE
IN THE MORNING: SET CHICKEN OUT TO THAW
- 2 organic, free-range chicken breasts (local if possible), cut into strips
- 8 small purple beets, scrubbed with brush, ends chopped off & cut into ¼’s (make sure these are cut small)
- 1 lbs. Brussels sprouts, ends chopped off, then cut in ½
- 2 Tbls. coconut oil
- ¼ cup dried, unsweetened coconut
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- 2 handfuls of organic spinach
#1: Cut the chicken breasts into strips and add to a large sauté pan with the coconut oil and coconut, cooking on medium heat.
#2: Prepare, wash and chop beets + Brussels sprouts.
#3: In a large sautoir pan:
- Add vegetables + ½ cup water and cover. Steam for 12 minutes (while chicken is still cooking). Check “doneness” with fork – want beets to be soft in middle.
- Once timer is up, drain water from vegetable pan and add in the chicken mix, plus ½ cup sunflower seeds + 2 handfuls of spinach. Cook together for 2 more minutes, then serve! Season with sea salt + pepper to taste.
COCONUT CURRY BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW
My favorite thing about fall is the return of weekly soups to my crockpot. If you don’t have a crockpot, my advice would be to get one – as soon as possible. I purchased my first crockpot in college at Target for $7; and it’s still running. Last Christmas I upgraded to a bigger one with a timer, but the point is – any crockpot works and you’ll love the food it makes! This stew, in particular, is a favorite of mine and clients who’ve done our 28 Day Nutrition Program.
Loaded with nutrient-dense foods and spices that aid in reducing inflammation in the body, this stew helps to give the immune systems a boost for the change in season (and increase in colds!). Enjoy!
1 medium butternut squash
6 cups coconut water (regular water is also fine or a combo of both; can add more water if needed/desired)
1 organic vegetable bouillon cube
1 cup adzuki beans, dried
½ cup quinoa, dried
Half (15 oz.) can Organic Coconut Milk
1 Tbls. each of: curry and turmeric
2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. each of black pepper, sea salt and cayenne pepper (can do more/less cayenne based on desired level of spiciness)
1/3 cup organic peanut (or other nut) butter
Leaves from 3 stems kale, washed & stems discarded
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin horizontally & seeds removed
(1). Remove the shell from the butternut squash and slice into cubes [check out this video tutorial: http://ow.ly/pxQEs for guidance!].
(2). Place water, coconut milk, spices and bouillon cube in the bottom of the crockpot and whisk to mix.
(3). Add squash, beans, quinoa and peanut butter.
(4). Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8.
(5). Ten minutes before you’re ready to eat, add kale and bell pepper. Let cool before eating!
*If desired, you can also add organic sausage or free-range organic chicken breast (in step #3). We used kale and a bell pepper in this version, but feel free to use any other vegetables and leafy greens you have on hand! Some examples are chard, spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli and even mushrooms!
6-Pack Abs are perhaps the ultimate buzz word in the fitness world. The most sought after physical trait, the holy grail of fitness. And everyone wants to know the secret on how to get them. To solidify this argument, just check out the buzz over the 2013 Calvin Klein Super Bowl commercial. ABC News ran an entire piece called “Abs-olutely Fabulous! The Best Abs in the World?” Tuesday all dedicated to the advertisement. And it’s this segment that got me thinking – or rather, got the attention of my client Anne, which sparked this discussion. And from such, comes the inspiration for this blog post.
So, back to finding the answer you’re waiting for — how do you get those 6-pack abs? First, I’ll let you in on one little secret…(drum roll and spoiler alert, please). It’s not what you think and it’s ten times better…
You already have them!
Really. We all do. Anatomically, the rectus abdominis muscle’s shape IS a “6-pack” (reference the picture to the right). All the muscles you see defined on Mr. Terry above are all visible on our anatomical figure as well. Problem is — most of us just have too much extra padding over top to let the muscle show it’s true form. 😉 Not the answer you were looking for? Don’t worry – just keep reading.
If you’ve trained with Regan and I before, you’ve heard us talk about engaging the core through every movement – be it a squat, lunge, plank, crunch, sprint, bent over row, push up; literally EVERY movement. When we first start working with people, most don’t fully get what this means – both in terms of muscle activation and the limitless potential of muscular strength & development.
In the post-Super Bowl media frenzy that Matthew Terry’s ab-tastic commercial caused, everyone wanted to know his secret. His answer? Plank. You might be thinking, “What?! But there is no movement in plank. There’s no way that’s how he got all that definition!”
And so in comes our second secret to a creating a strong and defined core — the most important function of the core during movement or exercises is not to move at all. In an article written for our Macks Mo Get Mo(re) Challenge, Regan explains:
“When we exercise, we typically move at our JOINTS, including the: hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow and wrists joints. These movements allow our body to travel through space. In all exercise aside from rotation, keeping the spine completely still while our arms or legs move should be a primary focus. As an anti-mover, a stable core allows you to transfer energy and power between your upper and lower extremities safely and efficiently. In this respect, all power, quickness and even strength starts and ends with a strong core.” By stabilizing the spine against movement, the core is creating resistance for your extremities to move against and vise-versa. When a force is applied to the core (through movement of other body parts), it grows stronger – and accordingly more defined, through this resistance.
Coming full circle and back to #1 washboard abs & #2 plank, let’s experiment in your body. First take a look at the picture of your core’s anatomy (above) so you have a visual of what the muscles look like. Now, try these two exercises to train maximal core activation through compression and an isometric (non-moving, but active) contraction:
- Supine Compression: Lay flat on your back, feet on the ground under your knees. As you visualize the different layers of your core with eyes closed, press your sacrum (bony triangle at the base of your spine, inside your hips) and bottom of your rib cage into the ground, leaving the natural pocket of air underneath your spine. Take a deep breath and relax your shoulders into the floor. As you exhale, first kegel the pelvic floor up, then compress (pull in + down) through your abdominal wall – drawing the belly button towards the ground. Think of your core like a shoe’s laces and pull the two sides of the core IN like you’re lacing up the bottom to top of your shoe. Take 10 deep breaths and with every exhale, try to contract the core tighter 360 degrees around the spine. Imprint this feeling of compression into your mind.
- Moving on to plank, once you’re set, make sure the shoulders are over wrists and feet in line with hips. Create length in the body by reaching both the crown of the head and legs away from the belly button. As you do this, take a deep breath. On the exhale, press your foundation points (hands & feet) into the ground then lift “up” through the abdominal wall + postural muscles of the upper back, again compressing the core towards the spine and drawing the two sides together and in. Soften the shoulders down the back away from the ears and imagine being suspended in space just by your core – as if your arms and legs weren’t there. Hold for a count of one-one-thousand to 30. Every breath focus on getting lighter on your hands/feet and tighter through the core. Try to emulate the SAME contraction you had when you were lying on your back.
Okay, now it’s go time. How your core felt in both the supine compression exercise and plank is how your core should be engaged 100% of the time – during every exercise and throughout your day. Try it – right now. See if you can do a squat or a lunge and focus on engaging and moving from the core first. Can you feel a difference? If you do this, it means your core is working ALL the time. And this will take your fitness and body to the next level, while intensifying every workout. When you layer on movement – like a lunge, etc. to the already intense “plank” contraction of the core, you get…BINGO! The developing strength, definition and power of your abdominals. You don’t need to do 1000 crunches per day.
- Learn to stabilize through the core, practice the two exercises above until you’ve mastered the contraction without changing your posture or bringing tension to anywhere else in the body.
- Practice breathing while holding the core in these isometric contractions. Always exhale on the “effort” – the push or pull of an exercise.
- Start every exercise movement or daily activity by engaging the core: front, side and back. Move with intention. Power and initiate all movement from the core and then transfer that energy out through your extremities.
And last (you may have guessed this was coming) – you must master your nutritional habits. Like I said earlier, we all anatomically have a 6-pack. It’s the layer of fat over top that’s hiding our most coveted asset. My one rule: eat 100% real food. Food you can make in your own kitchen, not a science lab. No matter how hard or how long you exercise or what your movement of choice is, your body composition will not budge if your eating isn’t on track. 90% (or more) of how you look isn’t done in the gym, it’s that “fork to mouth” exercise that is the game-changer. I’m not talking about a diet, I’m talking about a lifestyle of eating delicious, good-for-you food that nourishes you from the inside-out.
And THAT, my friends is the winning formula –>
Take your plank with you every day in every way you can + eat 100% real food
= YOUR MACKS MO SIX-PACK ABS FORMULA.
And no, that’s not the Calvin Klein model – that’s my Regan. Un-enhanced by any photo program or color (just saying – check out the difference between the advertisement picture and the video where Matthew Terry shows his abs on camera – slightly different I’d say). These are just the results of using the said Macks Mo Formula. 🙂 And you can find yours too! If you need help, we can get you there. Shoot any questions our way: firstname.lastname@example.org or post below.
– Put Mo(re) In, Get Mo(re) Out. In your workouts, through your nutrition and into your life. –
12 exercises, 12 reps. You pick your workout time [20 min, 30 min, 40 min]. Do as many rounds as you can in that time frame.
(1) DB Side Lunge with Crane Twist [left]
(2) DB Side Lunge with Crane Twist [right]
(3) Plank Supermans
(4) Jump Squats [option to criss-cross legs when jump to center, alternating]
(5) DB Stiff-Leg Deadlifts
(6) DB Plank & Row
(7) DB Wide Deadlift Hops
(8) Push Up Jacks
(10) Hover Ups
(11) DB Squat & Shoulder Press
(12) Squat Thrusts
(1) & (2) DB Side Lunge with Crane Twist: Hold the dumbbell [DB] at your chest and side lunge to the left. Engage your left glute & use it to lift you up to balance on your right leg with the left knee bent and lifted to 90 degrees [this is your crane]. Using your core, twist towards the left leg. Repeat for 12 reps on left side, then switch to right.
(3) Plank Supermans: Start in a plank position on hands. Tighten the abdominal wall and lift opposite arm & leg off of ground, pausing for a moment, then control lowering them back down. Alternate until you complete 12 reps. Make sure you keep the hips in alignment [not sashaying side-to-side; your plank looks the same with 4 foundation points down as when there are only 2].
(4) Jump Squats with Criss-Cross Option: Start in a squat position, toes forward, feet outside the shoulders. Hop the feet in & together, landing on balls of the feet “standing” then hop back to squat position. Criss-cross option: Same squat starting position, but when you hop the legs together & land on the balls on the feet, cross right leg in front, left leg behind [squeezing inner thighs together]. Hop back to squat & next time you hop legs in, cross left in front, right in back.
(5) Stiff-Leg Deadlift: See picture — hold a DB in each hand & hinge at the hips,reaching the butt back [you’ll feel a stretch in your hamstrings], keeping the back flat/spine long; which means keeping the core engaged & shoulder blades pulled together. Look at Regan’s spine — see how it’s one long line from his head to his butt? Perfect form. 🙂 To come up, engage the glutes & hamstrings to pull yourself back up to the standing position.
(6) DB Plank & Row: Get into a plank position holding a DB in each hand, shoulders stacked over weights/wrists. Step feet out shoulder distance [basically width of mat] and firmly engage the core. Like the plank superman, keep your hips steady [no sashaying side-to-side!] as you “row”/lift one weight off the ground, bending the elbow to 90 degrees. Control both the lift & return to start. Alternate sides.
(7) DB Wide Squat Hops: Hold one DB between both hands and set the feet about 2″ outside the shoulders on either side. Sit back into a squat [DB will be in between legs]. Hop straight up in the air as high as you can and LAND back in your squat position. Arms stay straight the whole time. Important to keep the core contracted AND never land “standing” with locked knees. When your feet come back to the ground, you’re right back into your squat.
(8) Push Up Jacks: Get into plank position, hands wide for push ups. Perform one push up [on knees or toes; if on knees, lift them back up to plank when finished]. The end of your push up returns you back to plank [where we started]. “Jack” the feet out then back in and start over with the push up. The “jack” looks just like your feet would for a standing jumping jack.
(9) Bicycles: Yeah yeah, so you “know” how to do a bicycle. Here’s our way. 🙂 Lie on your back with your legs in table top [bent 90 degrees, knees stacked over hips] and hands behind the head. Your gaze will be up to the ceiling the entire time, don’t pull on the neck & drop chin down to the chest. To bicycle, connect your back hip points & sacrum firmly into the ground & engage the space between your frontal hip bones [never let back arch or hips sway side-to-side]. Extend you right leg straight out & contract the quad, keeping back pressed into floor by keeping core engaged. Now, use the obliques to lift the right side of the upper body off the mat and twist towards left knee.Pause in the twist & hold. Return to start & repeat on other side for 12 reps total.
(10) Hover Ups: Oooo, the hover up. FYI, major corner burner, always. And especially after push up jacks & bicycles. Get ready. Lay on your back with arms & legs extended. This is a CORE exercise, so try to avoid using momentum and letting the quads & hip flexors dominate the work. You’re going to be using your abdominal wall – from top to bottom, to peel the upper & lower body off the ground, coming to balance on your sit bones in a modified boat pose [knees bent]. Sweep the arms along your side as you pull your rib cage down to your hips to get the upper body off the ground; and simultaneously engage the space between your frontal hip bones, initially pressing your sacrum towards the ground to draw the legs up & in. After you’ve paused in your boat pose, return to start the same way you came up, slow & controlled, but THIS time and from here on out. Return the head all the way to the floor, but hover the arms & legs off ground before returning to boat pose. To understand what modified boat pose [with knees bent] looks like, check out this video. 😉
(11) DB Squat & Shoulder Press: Hold DB’s hovering above your shoulders and sit back into a squat. With the weight at your shoulders, the tendency is to round the back. Engage the core & keep the spine long while chest stays open, collar bones wide. Keep the postural muscles in the back activated at all times to protect the shoulder joint. From your squat, stand up & press the weights up [all in one motion], then return weights to shoulders as you sit back into the squat again. Full range of motion squats, people.
(12) Squat Thrusts: The best way to end any set. 🙂 Hold DB’s at your side & start standing. Lower through a squat to place DB’s on the floor in front of & just outside your toes. Hop or step the feet back to plank, keeping the core strong and not letting your weight transfer back into the feet. Keep weight over the DB’s [shoulders stacked over wrists]. Then hop the feet back up to your squat position and jump up with weights at your sides, landing back in your squat, ready to repeat. Once you get the movement pattern, make it a continuous, fluid motion. Modifications: step back to plank, step forward to your squat and/or just stand at the top instead of jumping up.
ENJOY! And let us know how it goes — please post your workout time & # of rounds you got.