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Tactical Fitness: Core Training at any Age

Tactical fitness: core training.

When you look in the mirror, you may see areas that you can improve upon. The most common area for us all is typically the abdominal region. Not just the front side of our torso, but the sides and back can increase their fat stores as we age. Here is a short but sweet request for advice from a retired Army soldier about this trouble area:

Stew – 

Please advice on abdominals for a 61 year old female, retire Army. 


Thanks for your career of service! I appreciate your concise question too – no beating around the bush. I imagine you, like everyone else, want to firm up your mid-section, maybe lean out, and burn some fat around your waistline?

First, I would never focus on just front abdominal exercises. You have to look at your entire torso, which includes everything on the front, side, and back from your hips to your shoulders. That is what core training is – not just crunches to build stomach muscles. Too often people do a lot of abdominal exercises only and miss balancing the muscles in their lower back, obliques, and even hips. Eventually, back pain can result. So, when looking at your abdominal muscles, think of them as muscles you need to balance just as you would balance out your biceps and triceps when training your arms – front and back.

One good aspect of your potential regimen is that after a career in the Army, you do not need to do situps as I assume there are no more fitness tests in your future.  

But you have to consider a three-phase approach to firming your abdominals:

1. Core training. Exercises that include a variety of plank poses (side, front, back, 1 arm / 1 leg) will help you create a solid foundation for all of your core muscles. These are simple isometric holds common to yoga and pilates that you may like to try. Lifting free weights (dumbbells) will also force your body to work together to support the added weight in your hands and build a stronger core as well as arms and legs. 15-20 minutes of circuit training will go a long way and can be done with calisthenics, weights, dumbbells, or other devices like bands and a TRX.

Some ideas: Circuit Training or Lower Back / Core Plan.

2. Cardio training.  Short, fast-paced intervals on cardio machines like bikes, ellipticals, rowers, or others as well as steady-paced cardio can help you burn calories that will help you eat away at the fat around your middle. You have a six pack of abs!  It is likely just under a layer of fat.  Shoot for 20-30 minutes of rigorous exercise.

3. Diet. You cannot "out-exercise" your diet. You have to really focus on reducing sugars primarily. Try to get your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables vs sodas, breads, fruit juices, and other high calorie sugar content foods and drinks. You do not want to eliminate carbs from your diet – just limit them to good, natural carbs.

I hope this helps you with your question.  If you need further assistance just ask:

Good luck.

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Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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