How Is Your Abdominal Training  Plan Working? 

Mention abdominal training or core exercises and most people immediately think of sit-ups. Traditionally the go to move to flatten your belly and trim your waist. However, sit-ups are probably THE single worst exercise known for this purpose. 

Rather than balancing the muscles that surround and support your spine the wrong kind of training can cause more muscle imbalances. 

Another visible effect of unbalanced core strength is a pot belly. Yes! Training your abs wrong actually makes you look fatter!…

When you train your abs the wrong way you over-tighten a set of muscles called your hip flexors…

One of the hip flexors — the psoas major — originates on the vertebrae of the lower back and inserts on the top of your thigh bone…

When you shorten and tighten your hip flexors with the wrong kinds of abs training you actually pull your pelvis forward and down. This gives you a sagging belly that makes you look like you’re 5-10 lbs heavier than you actually are!…

And not only will you look fatter than you are… your distorted pelvis will give you serious back pain. Yet the danger to your back can be much more severe…

Here’s where your quest for flat abs can be dangerous!…

Most abs exercises force your spine into extreme flexion – bending or curling forward. Yet we now know this increases something called intra-discal pressure. Basically this is like pressing on a tube of toothpaste and increasing the pressure on the paste inside.

If you press hard enough the toothpaste will squirt out. And that’s exactly what happens to the fluids inside your disc when enough pressure builds up — causing what’s called disc protrusion or worse… disc hernias…

It can take months of careful treatment to recover from disc damage. Pain and discomfort  can stop your normal everyday activities and definitely put a stop to your flat ab dreams. 

So to find the right way for you to train your abs that gives you a healthy core, beautiful posture, and a stunning midsection you have to consider lots of of different factors. 

        Rectus Abdominis

The rectus abdominis is the long muscle that runs from your rib cage to your pelvis. It’s dissected vertically by a thin sheath of connective tissue, and horizontally by tendinous attachments that create six pack abs most guys are looking for. In my experience most folk have to focus completely on reducing bodyfat to get the ‘6 Pack’ look. 

The rectus abdominis helps to flex – bend forward – the spinal column. More importantly it stabilises the trunk  by balancing the back muscles and controls the trunk during movements involving arms and legs. This is the secret to way I train the core in both my Fitcamps and Pilates sessions. 

    The Obliques

The internal and external obliques work like a corset to define your waistline. These cinch you up and give you that V-tapered and slim-waisted look that is hardwired to be attractive to both men and women.

Pilates activates your obliques in a way that “wraps” your core in a protective sheath that will open up a whole new world of abs flattening exercise that’s been shown to work 3x faster than traditional training…

I include a 360′ approach to core or trunk training.  The result is a strong, mobile functioning spine in all directions of movement 

    The Posterior Chain

The posterior chain is simply the backside of your body. Its primary muscles include the lower back, gluteus maximus (butt), hamstrings, and spinal erectors

You may be scratching your head wondering why it’s included in the three Abdominal Fields of Action. Here’s why..

The Posterior Chain is the glue that binds your core together and will allow you to achieve the “spinal neutral” position – or the Natural Arch you’ve heard me talk about in class, that is central to the way your healthy spine works. 

So, when you next think about doing some exercises for your core remember it’s not just sit-ups and crunches you need a 3D approach to balance your posture and protect your spine. 
Train Hard, Eat Clean, Expect Results 

Low Back Pain?

Low Back Pain?
What Causes Your Pain?

If so, have you ever truly fixed the issue, or do you ‘just’ get out of pain?


It’s amazing to realise that many people expect to have back pain at least 1-3x per year because of an ‘old back injury.’ The bad news is – that the injury is there all the time, and it’s stopping you from getting into great shape. In fact, you’re accepting less from your body than you should.

Also, it’s worth noting that any low back pain is going to force you to ‘inhibit’ or ‘turn-off’ most of your muscles – the end result: You’ll get far less out of every exercise you do.

If you’re able to get out of pain, and you don’t have to watch what you do for most of the year, you should be able to feel that way all the time. Instead, you might always be worried that you’re going to do something that will “throw your back out” again. That’s no way to live.

Let’s talk about what happens when your ‘ back has gone” There are really only 5 possibilities:

1. Herniated Disc – typically associated with pain/numbness down one/both legs, relief with backwards bending, standing, and walking. You’ll typically have pain with coughing, laughing, sneezing, bending, twisting, and lifting.

2. Stenosis Flare-up – this is extremely rare unless you are 55 years or older, and it’s a disorder of narrowing canals where your nerve roots exit from your spine. Basically, because there’s less room for the nerve to begin with, pulling a muscle or ligament can create swelling in this area, which further irritates the nerve root, causing pain down one/both legs. In this case, you’ll typically find relief by forwardbending, sitting, or riding a bike. Standing, walking and backwards bending tend to cause more pain.


3. Stuck Facet Joint – this is the most common of them all, as it tends to happen quickly, take a week or so to “resolve” as your spinal column adjusts, and then the pain goes away. Imagine two of your vertebrae ‘kinked’ on one another, as if you’re bending to the side, but your body remains straight. Now, your body tries to keep you upright, so it starts side-bending other spinal segments in the opposite direction to keep you upright. In reality, what you need to do is ‘unkink’ the problematic segment and relieve your pain altogether. This type of injury tends to cause you to deviate to one side when forward or backward bending, and you’ll often find that you’re more comfortable if you slightly rotate your trunk to the left or right, instead of facing forward all the time. It’s hard to find a comfortable position unless you sit/stand, or lay slightly rotated or in an awkward position.

4. Muscle Strain/Sprain – this is an acute injury, and you’ll know it. It’s often associated with a ‘burning’ sensation when the injury first happens and blood rushes to the area, is clearly identified to have associated pain with movement, and stretch. It’ll feel like any other muscle you’ve ever strained, in that contracting or lengthening the muscle causes pain. Since most muscles on your back either help you extend or rotate your trunk, these movements tend to be the most painful.

5. SI Joint Pain – this is pain where your pelvis and spine meet, or that radiates out to the side of your hip, deep in your buttocks, or occasionally in the groin. Rarely, you’ll feel pain in the front of your mid-thigh when you have an SI joint disorder. Movements that cause irritation of this injury are transition movements. It tends to hurt when going from laying to sitting, sitting to standing, or standing quietly to walking. Generally speaking, you’ll want to repeatedly twist your hips or crack your back when you have this, but the real goal will be to ‘untwist’ your pelvis or ‘de-rotate’ your sacrum. This responds well to a figure-4 stretch for your piriformis, posterior pelvic tilts, and balance-oriented exercises like balance board squats, etc. It tends to subside when you’re in one position for awhile, but it sucks when you go to move.


Improve your mobility, increase core strength and release tight muscle to balance your posture …. Core Restore Pilates on Tuesday evenings might be a good addition to your maintenance plan.
If you’d like to try a class message me – or via Facebook

Jax Allen


Why I Hate Pilates…..

Well, I don’t actually hate Pilates…


Let me rephrase that–
I remember my first ‘proper’ Pilates class. I recognised some of the exercises rom dance class years before. Others were similar to the body conditioning I was teaching at the time – goodness my core and my abs were sore.

So I now have a love/hate relationship with it.

Which is why I’ve shared this story from Sylvia from Barbados to share with you the importance of a strong core using Pilates.

You see, Sylvia is an expert in Pilates and she filled me on the program that I once thought was only for dancers and older women.

Take it away, Sylvia …


#1 Tip For Lookin Sexy with Pilates

by Sylvia Favela

After having my son the thought of feeling sexy was a far-fetched fantasy.

My body changed in ways I never thought were possible.

My insides felt like mush and didn’t feel sexy with how I looked. Even before having my son I hated how my body looked.

I did the same old thing everybody did.

I walked myself into those big gyms and went as hard as I could.

Well, after a few months I was looking better but my body felt and looked like a square box.

Sure my clothes started to fit better and I was finally able to look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted.

But there was still something missing, I wasn’t feeling sexy about how I looked and felt. I knew something had to give, sure I’m a mom but I wanted a sexy slim physique and there was no way my body should stay like this.

I secretly envied the sexy looking bodies I’d see on TV and I wanted to feel and look sexy in and out of clothes.

I jumped in and tried Pilates; I thought what the heck why not.

I can’t explain what an amazing feeling it was after one workout.

I felt muscles I never knew I had and my entire body felt tighter and firmer.

As I continued my Pilates workout my body changed drastically.

The full body workouts and deep core exercises transformed my square sloppy frame into a slim toned physique.

My stomach is flat and tight, my waistline smaller (something I never thought possible after having a baby) I developed lean, tone, muscle definition in my legs and arms.

In Pilates I had finally found the missing link to looking and feeling Sexier and Younger.

I now walk taller, leaner and with confidence.

And people are shocked when they find out I have a 11-year-old son!

And guess what?

Pilates is one of those things that sort of grows on you over time.

But, what I can tell you is developing core strengthen is crucial to maintaining a strong, fit, balanced body to help reduce the risk of long-term injuries.

And Pilates has certainly done that for me.



Thanks, Sylvia! Great story.

Pilates has rightly earned the reputation of helping you develop deep core strength, flexibility and regain your youthful body again.

Seriously though … I don’t really hate Pilates.
But I do hate how it’s ALWAYS challenging, demanding and engaging
But LOVE LOVE LOVE how it changes bodies for the better.

Join one of my classes free to try for yourself!

Go to
http://www.jaxallenfitness/weekly for my current class schedule


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2. Worst Ab Exercise EVER!


These, cradle style, crunch machine are dreadful!
Not only do they break, get in the way when you’re not using them – they don’t work.

You will spend hours doing tiny movements that do nothing to develop a strong core, flat abs or healthy back!

Most of your abdominal muscles are designed and placed to stabilise your torso and allow you to hold your position while you move your arms and legs about you.

If you want to activate your waist and back twisting muscles try these variations of planks.

An elbow plank that twists from side to side will challenge your core.


Try this straight arm version, notice the long body with natural curve in the lumbar spine.


You can even add resistance for a further challenge.
30 seconds of any of these exercises will elicit changes in strength and shape.


Eat Clean – Exercise Smart.

The Worst Ab Exercises EVER !

This one is a complete waste of time.


Years ago this was a standard exercise in every gym, given to everyone, no matter what their need.

Yes, it is a spine twist – but it won’t slim you down or firm up weak muscles.

Better to twist seated, so you can control your posture….


But, to slim and shape your waist you need to drop belly fat and the best way, and I believe the only way, to do that is to eat clean, exercise hard and smart.
Exercising smart means getting intensity right and choosing an effective combination of exercises.

A great abdominal exercise would be…..


This is a great exercise, you can adjust the weight you move, you can raise or lower your feet to increase intensity.

Try it you’ll feel it!

Eat Clean, Train Smart!


Rock Hard Abs- at any age? Yes it is possible….
But probably not with the training you’re doing now

REASON #3: They Cause Wear & Tear on Your Spine and Neck


Crunches repeatedly flex and extend the spine, which is comprised of a series of interconnected small joints. Much like any piece of complicated machinery, the spinal discs are subject to wear and tear—in other words, they are only able to support a certain number of bending motions over the course of a lifetime.

Subjecting your discs to the excessive wear and tear of crunches can reduce their ‘shelf life’ and result in nerve damage, a disc bulge or herniation, all of which are difficult to treat.

The other problem with crunches is they encourage a breathe pattern that is unnatural and almost trains your body to relax your abs when you inhale? Not so good when you need to support your spine movements at ALL times no matter what your breath is doing.

If you have ever tried Pilates you’ll know how your abs feel after class and sometimes for days after – contracted. The other important thing in a Pilates or any other ab session is the shape of your spine…. I used to ask clients to keep ‘neutral spine’ but I prefer ‘normal’ spine now when training abs. That’s because when your spine is in it’s normal shape it’s safe because your back and abdominal muscle will work together.


Once in this ideal position, moving arms and legs will trigger deep muscles to fire just to keep your ‘normal’ spine. You can get a strong torso without straining your neck too. If you have a rounded upper back or difficulties with your neck or shoulders you can train abs with your head on the floor or supported with pillows.

So, there you have it – 3 very good reasons NEVER to do crunches ever again!

Like my blog? Please follow, thanks Jax.

#2 Reason NEVER to do Crunches!

Rock Hard Abs- at any age? Yes it is possible….
But probably not with the training you’re doing now



Nerve damage is another potential consequence of too many crunches. The crunch movement puts an unhealthy strain on the back right at its weakest point, which coincidentally is the section that contains the most nerves.
Damage to this weak area of the spine can result in serious, chronic pain that can last a lifetime and inhibit mobility and flexibility.

I often meet well developed clients that find Core exercises almost impossible- in Yoga and Pilates your core works all the time to stabilise and support every movement you make. In my Fatloss Fitcamps core exercises are vital and effective part of sessions.

REASON #2: Nerve Damage is Another Potential Problem


Your core is made up of much more than just abdominal muscles. It’s the connection between shoulders and pelvis, it stabilises and controls the many movements of your spine. It’s important to work and develop the complete core – your back, hips and chest and of course your BUTT.

Next post Reason #3 Avoid Spine Wear & Tear
Don’t miss it – like and follow my blog.
Thanks Jax.

Six Pack or Flat Abs with Pilates


Fitness Trends

Over the last few years one of the most popular words in fitness has been ‘Core Stability’, even though you usually get something  else entirely.  Without a strong core your body simply cannot perform properly. I know there is a lot of emphasis still put on sit-ups and crunches but honestly I think it is because they make you feel like you are working your abdominals. Your core is more than just abdominals, your back, butt and hips are involved as is your waist. So just moving in one or two ways cannot do the job properly or safely.


Crunches give you an “ab burn” and a little increase in your heart rate that adds to the overall perception that you’re working hard.  Too many and you could de-stabilise your core, leaving you open to all kinds of back, shoulder and hip problems.


Pilates Style Training

I know you can accomplish that very thing with a good Pilates style core workout. You can also avoid overloading your vertebral discs with unnecessary stress, protect your neck and avoid using your hips, all the problems crunches bring with them.


Effective Core Routines

The key to making Pilates core workouts effective is to choose the right exercises and to push yourself by progressing your exercises. Don’t be satisfied with doing the same exercises over and over, your muscles become used to them in a couple of weeks.  If you always work at the same speed, can finish every repetition and stay inside your comfort zone you’re cheating yourself and missing out on great results.


Progressive Pilates

When I plan a Pilates abdominal sequence I think about levels of progression so I can challenge everyone in that group.  I think about body position, angles, stability and support.  I’ll try to change the work for core muscles from active to passive. Sometimes you have to put effort into keeping your torso static while you move your arms and legs, while another exercise might move your body while stabilizing your limbs.  This variety, mixed with twists and rotations gives you the opportunity to strengthen and define muscles, while staying long and lean.  True 3 D core training is different and envigorating. For something challenging try a Pilates Fitcamp – it’s faster, intense sequences require effort – you may even sweat.


Pain Free Posture

I know that Pilates offers everyone the chance to develop pain free posture without crunches and sit-ups. I’d go further and say that if your trainer asks you to do crunches, hooks your feet under a bar or weight to enable you to sit-up, or holds your legs down while you work out…. 


Does your gym have Ab Curlers or Ab Cradles?

They just don’t work – you’ll do hundreds of repetitions, eat up your precious leisure time – and time is your only truly limited resource. Don’t waste it on exercises that won’t help your body in any way. You’ll get that little muscle burn and not much else.


You must ask yourself a few important questions……

Perhaps next time you train you’ll wonder

Why am I paying for this?    

Am I getting results from this Gym membership?    

When did my trainer qualify?        

Have they kept up to date with current understanding of how my body works?

I would suggest – No!. 


Big Gyms Love Equipment

– and lots of it.  Impressive and expensive, it keeps you busy and you can watch TV and keep your headphones on…. Or would you rather actually meet the new friends you were promised when you joined or have a laugh while you train ?


To do that you’d need a skilled instructor that can teach, entertain, keep you focused on how the exercise feels, correct your form and lead you towards a strong, lean and healthy body. 


It’s Time To Choose

But, it’s your choice – keep doing the crunches – keep paying your gym membership and make friends with a physical therapist and I’ll see you in class when they refer you to a Pilates Instructor for ‘Proper Core Training’


JaxAllenFitness xx

twitter     @jaxallenfitness

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Pilates Sessions for Everyone

pilates for everybody logo

Mat Pilates Training


Over 35 exercises can be performed on the mat. Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced exercises are introduced clients develop strength, flexibility, co-ordination, and mental awareness.

Mixed-Ability Pilates   Tuesday 19:45 Thursday 18:00

A series of flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation exercises performed on a mat.

Beginner Pilates

Creates awareness of breath, body alignment, core stability and understanding the mat series of exercises.

Core Mat   Tuesday 18:00

A selection of classic and modern Pilates exercises focusing on the development of a strong, balanced core. Abdominal and back are challenged along with mobility and flexibility of the spine.

Fit Pilates (Fitness Pilates)  Monday & Wednesday 18:00

This contemporary approach to pure Pilates is ideal for fitness enthusiastsIt’s a powerful and challenging, safe and effective way to balance your other training programs.

Follow me on Twitter @jaxallenfitness

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These sessions run at my Wellness Studio in Cheltenham  Hayden Hill Studio GL51 0SW