Health & Fitness

By Michelyn Camen

Stability, flexibility and balance are what we dream of for our careers and for our relationships. When it comes to our physical fitness and well being, it’s a dream that can become reality with a little help from fitness and wellness guru, David Kirsch. He’s one of the most visible media figures in fitness today and a best selling author (his latest book is The Ultimate NY Diet). Ok, most of us cannot afford Kirsch’s personal training sessions, or the lifestyle of his celebrity clients (Liv Tyler, Faith Hill, Kerry Washington and Ellen Barkin, to name just a few), but Kirsch’s philosophy is that you don’t have to be a celebrity or have an Amex black card to look your best and improve your fitness level. As David Kirsch stresses in our BN Exclusive Interview, focusing on your core is the key to achieving a greater level of strength and fitness.

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David Kirsch

BN: Why is developing a strong core so important?
DK: Core strength important to fitness, health and sports; it is also the foundation – the cornerstone – for a healthy, toned and sexy body. When we are younger the reasons may be aesthetic for having a strong core. As we get older, a strong core will help stave off lower back problems among other things.

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BN: Just what are core muscles?
DK: In layman’s terms, the core is made up of the oblique muscles, lower abdominal region and middle/upper abdominal area. Anatomically, the transverse abdominus is like a corset around your abdomen. It’s the muscle you work if you pull in your stomach. Multifidus is a muscle that lies along your spine, with short fibers connecting one bone (vertebra) of the spine to other vertebrae near it. The muscles of the pelvic floor are most noticeable when you squeeze to keep yourself from urinating

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(Photos of Low and High Plank Using Stabilty Ball are used with the permission of McGraw Hill)

BN: For our readers who haven’t exercised in a while (or before), where do they begin and how do they progress?
DK: As a beginner, I would start with regular abdominal crunches three times per week for 15 minutes. As you get more proficient with the abdominal work and your core gets stronger, I would graduate to a stability ball doing medicine ball crunches and vertical knee raises. For the advanced fitness person, I would incorporate core exercises throughout the overall workout. For the advanced person, I like to do circuit training and will incorporate planks, side planks and advanced oblique crunches.

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BN:I exercise like crazy, but my ab musculature isn’t as defined as I would like…I want six pack abs!
DK: Having a six – pack does not necessarily mean you don’t have a strong core and vice versa. There are several factors associated with the much envied six pack including genetics, body fat and diet.

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BN: Some of our readers like to work out at home. What do they need?
DK: The three most important pieces of equipment if you can’t get to the gym are – stability ball, ankle weights and medicine balls.

BN: What is the best single exercise for this area?
DK: There are many! I have incorporated a full program in my new book, The Ultimate NY Diet. There are many that are effective. Here are a few I recommend.

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The Good Morning Exercise is Great for Beginners. (Photos are used with the permission of McGraw Hill)

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(Photos used with the permission of McGraw Hill)

Reverse Lunge with Torso Twist Will Challenge Intermediate Level Fitness Enthusiasts

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For the Hard Core: Stability Ball Hand-Offs (Photos used with the permission of McGraw Hill)

BN: Many fitness instructors tout Pilates, what’s your take?:
DK: Mat Pilates is a good overall core exercise program because it entirely focuses on the core muscles, it’s good for your back and your posture and is safer than just jumping right into weights. I think yoga and Pilates are great supplements to any core or workout regime.

BN: What is the most often ignored aspect of a good core routine?
DK: One thing that is often overlooked is the importance of doing cardiovascular exercise in addition to your core exercises. The rowing machine is great if you have access to a gym, and for those who work out at home, shadow boxing with 3 – 5 pound hand weights will do the trick.

For more information on David Kirsch, The Madison Square Club, and Kirsch’s books and wellness products: log onto www.davidkirsch.com.

Originally published October 2007
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