Joshua Lipsey believes that we can all achieve a better, stronger midsection through "transcoremation." No, that's not a typo; it's his play-on-words workout.
The former professional basketball player, now fitness consultant has developed a DVD series based on the classes he offers in his small Forest Hill studio in Toronto. After suffering a slipped disc between basketball seasons in 2004, he used core work to re-strengthen the muscles in his torso. From there, he developed Core Concepts, a.k.a. Transcoremation.
Repetition of dynamic movement combined with smooth transitions and few breaks form the core of the workout.
There are four DVDs, each consisting of three 30-minute programs. They all address the core, and several introduce another focus: butt, obliques, legs, inner thighs or arms. The Coredio (groan optional) session includes standing exercises such as jumping jacks, running on the spot, burpees and squat jumps to keep the heart rate elevated.
It would take months to plateau with Mr. Lipsey's videos; in this way, he succeeds where others fail.
The issue is whether you have good body awareness and are motivated enough to complete an entire session.
Apparently, we need to do a lot of crunching to trancorem ourselves (yes, he uses it as a verb, too). I'm one of those people who experiences lower back pain after a few minutes of crunches. Give me a two-minute plank instead of bicycle crunches any day.
When you are in one of his classes, you at least have his live encouragement and modifications, and there are others suffering through the torture with you. The DVD, on the other hand, is robotically repetitive and monotonous in tone.
Each exercise is performed for only 20 seconds and there's a countdown in the lower right corner of the screen that reminds me of my microwave (it beeps for the final three seconds).
Except for in a short introduction, the incredibly lean and toned Mr. Lipsey never looks directly at the camera. He is alone in a dimly lit space doing the exercises like a Type-A athlete. All of his prompts have been recorded in post-production with fairly decent electro hip-hop vaguely similar, at times, to Justin Timberlake's Sexyback.
The exercises cover so many different angles of the core that they can reveal small weaknesses or muscle imbalances. I was able to do a glute-targeted exercise on one side, but not the other.
Mr. Lipsey believes people should do a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes of core work daily, especially because core strength is easily reversible. "You brush your teeth three times a day, and you move more than you eat," he points out. "So, really, you need to do some [exercises]every day."
But despite the beneficial back and leg work, I question all the crunches. I asked chiropractor Kate Hood at Athlete's Care in Toronto about it, and she explained that ideally, a strong core resembles a pillar and that crunches flex the spine instead of building stability. "You get a framework," she says, but crunches can lead to back problems.
This echoes the well-known opinion of Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo who has done extensive research linking crunches to disc damage.
Clearly, Mr. Lipsey's program worked for him, and some of the workouts (Core Plank, 360 Back) have more merit than others. If you live in Toronto, you might find Mr. Lipsey's classes an effective adjunct to your workouts. Otherwise, the Core Concepts DVDs will be a challenge for anyone who needs to make modifications - they're simply too hard-core.