Exercise swaps for faster results

It’s easy to get discouraged by your lack of results.

You’ve been training consistently, eating right and yet the scale mocks you. You may resort to desperate measures such as cutting even more calories and exercising like a madman. Maybe you’ve even dreamed of smashing the scale into a million pieces.

scale

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Sometimes small changes are all that are needed. Next time you’re in the gym, stop being frustrated by your lack of progress and start making these exercise swaps in your current routine.

1. Out – Straight sets. In – Supersets

Gym-goers often do one set of an exercise, rest, do it again and then repeat this sequence for their entire training. Straight sets are great for building strength with exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and rows.

However, when you’re looking at building muscle or burning fat (or both), supersets are perfect.

Supersets are two exercise done back to back with little or no rest in-between.  An exercise pairing of a leg exercise with an upper body move will allow you to:

  • Increase your workout intensity
  • Cause your heart to work harder to push blood from your lower body back up to your upper body, increasing your overall calorie burn
  • Save time and hit the showers early

For example

1A. Squat, deadlift or single leg exercise 8-12 reps

1B. Upper body press or pull variations 8-12 reps

Rest 60-90 seconds and repeat once or twice.

Doing three supersets per training session, two-three times per week will have you well on the way to breaking your funk.

2. Out – Leg press. In – Goblet squats

First, let’s get this out of the way – there is nothing wrong with the leg press machine. You’re able to move massive amounts of weight will little or no risk.  That’s because the machine supports your body and there’s little or no core engagement.

Enter the Goblet squat. Holding the weight at the front of your body acts as a counter balance that prevents poor squatting form and also provides resistance for your muscles.

You’ll be moving less weight, but you will be working more total muscle, which is win-win for your fat loss efforts.

 

3. Out – Sitting down. In – Standing up

There’s nothing wrong with sitting down and exercising.

However, we spend the majority of our day sitting down at work and sitting down watching our television, smartphone and laptop computers. Sitting for prolonged periods of time is one of the biggest culprits inhibiting your body’s natural calorie-churning engine.

Undo some of this by doing your whole exercise routine standing up. You’ll burn more calories and improve your core strength and balance.

Do this following routine for 4 weeks and notice the difference

Instructions

  1. This is 3 a day a week program. Rest 48 hours between trainings. For example Monday- Wednesday- Friday.
  1. Complete the following routine has a circuit and rest when needed between exercises. Rest 90- 120 seconds at the end of each circuit.
  1. For single arm/leg exercises do the prescribed repetitions on each side.
  1. Use a weight that allow you to complete all the repetitions with good form.

 

Day 1- 4 circuits – 5 repetitions for each exercise. Heavy weight.  Farmers carry 40 yards

Day 2 – 3 circuits – 10 repetitions for each exercise. Heavy- moderate weight. Farmers carry 40 yards.

Day 3- 2 circuits- 15 repetitions for each exercise. Moderate- Light weight. Farmers carry 40 yards.

Click on each exercise for a video demonstration.

STAND UP ROUTINE

1A. Goblet squat– Keep chest high and drive your heels into the ground.

1B. Single arm row– Keep chest open and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Do both arms

1C. Single arm push press– Keep elbows close plus load and explode. Do both arms

1D. Goblet side lunge– Keep chest high and push into the hip. Do both legs

1E. Farmers carry– Strangle the dumbbells plus squeeze your shoulder blades back and down.

You’ll be a lean mean calorie-burning machine in no time.

The best exercise you’re not doing……

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is the golfers lift.
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You should do this because– this  exercise will help with balance and is a life saver for your lower back.
Makes your everyday life easier because- If you’re clumsy like me and you’re constantly dropping stuff on the floor, this will save your lower back from unnecessary discomfort.
Form tip – Do this when picking something light up off the ground or a couple of reps daily on each leg to help with your balance.

Not sleeping? This will help

You’ve been eating right and been putting in time at the gym. However the scale is not budging. Quick question. When’s the last time you had a good night’s sleep?

sleep 3

Sleep and the scale can go hand in hand. Not getting enough sleep also messes with our hormones, in particular Cortisol. Cortisol, which is produced in your adrenal glands, is naturally high in the morning to help you wake and low in the evening to help you sleep.

WTF

Lack of sleep and stress will keep cortisol levels elevated thought the day and night. This can cause

  1. Muscle breakdown– Cortisol’s main function is breaking down substances for energy. That includes your hard earned muscle.
  1. Weight gain– A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that lack of sleep impacts your brain in such a way that it pushes you towards the pantry, not away from it. Only one night of fewer than six hours sleep triggers areas of your brain that is involved in your need to eat.

But don’t despair; you only need to make a few small changes to help you get that good night’s sleep you have been craving:

  1. Timing your food intake– Eating the majority of your protein in the morning/afternoon and have your dinner with some carbohydrates (fruit/vegetables, not sugar) which should aid in maintaining a proper Circadian rhythm.
  1. Manipulate light exposure- Manipulating light exposure for brighter white/blue/green lights in the morning and dimmer red/pink lights (or just darkness) at night definitely does helps in maintaining a proper sleep cycle
  1. Supplement with Melatonin– This is a naturally occurring substance in the body, but supplementing melatonin can help to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. I take this every night with no side effects, and it works for me. (Since the FDA does not regulate supplements, there may be inconsistencies in brands, so if one doesn’t seem to help, you might try another brand.)

Wrapping up

So, help your waistline and your mood by using the three methods above to get more shut eye. If you still need more assistance, schedule an appointment with your doctor or with the Clinical Center for Sleep and Breathing Disorders at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Your family and friends will thank you since a rested person is less irritable person. Right?

 

The best exercise you’re not doing……..

 This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is the deadbug.
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You should do this because– I said so 🙂 Core stability is just that important in and out of the gym.
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Makes your everyday life easier because– Not only does this exercise emphasize breathing correctly it also reinforces our natural contralateral ( opposite arm/leg) movement pattern.
Form tip – Thanks to Eric Cressey for the video Breath out as you extend your opposite arm /leg and breath in on the way back. Do 6-8 reps on each side daily.

The Carry Cure

Note- This article first appeared on Bach Performance here . This is the my version. 

At first glance, the farmer’s carry seems simple. You pick up a heavy weight and walk. However, when you’re performing this (You do, right?) you come to the quick realization that it’s hard. Very, very hard.

farmers carry

Your shoulders ache, your grip starts to fail and it becomes a mental battle against one’s self. You may feel like letting out a few choice words and dropping the weights like a hot potato, but you quickly realize there are other people around including a grandma who is warming up with your max.

You’re better off not drawing any unnecessary attention to yourself. The gym is already full of those people anyway. Yes, that means you excessive gym grunter guy.

Carries have been around since the dawn of time but have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity thanks to Strength Yoda Dan John.  He says that in three weeks, carries will change your life.

But why do the average gym goers avoid carries? My guess is because they are thinking

  • They’re hard
  • There’s no pump
  • What muscle does it work again?
  • Where’s the mirror?

Whether you’re trying to get stronger, build muscle, lose fat or rehabbing certain injuries, the farmer’s carry has your back.

Your grip gives out during the deadlift?  Do more carries. You have puny forearms? Do more carries. Have a couple of banged up shoulders? Do more carries.

Farmer’s carries will also improve your

  • Posture- Trying to carry heavy weights with rounded shoulders is almost impossible. Strengthening the upper back should always be a priority.
  • Breathing patterns- It’s pretty hard to be a chest breather when you’re carrying heavy weights around.
  • Shoulder stability– Your rotator cuffs are working like crazy to keep your arms in their sockets.
  • Core and hip stabilizers- Every step of the farmer’s walk is a single leg stance.

It’s probably the biggest bang for your buck exercise in the gym that you’re not doing. Let’s look at the basic farmer’s carry and then how you can plug the carry (plus all the variations) into your routine.

DUMBBELL FARMER’S CARRY

If you’re just starting out or it’s been a while since you’ve carried heavy, start with this variation. The cues that work here are shoulders down and chest up, but if you want to think sexy, just walk like a supermodel.

Pairing this with any press variation works well because it doesn’t tax your grip beforehand. For example

1A. Overhead/bench press or push up

1B. Farmer’s carry 40 yards

Or pair it with a Pallof press to give your core a double whammy.

1A. Tall kneeling overhead Pallof press 8 reps 3213 tempo

1B. Dumbbell farmer’s carry 40 yards.

The standard dumbbell carry can and will give you all you need to improve in and out the gym. Think of it as vanilla ice cream of carries. However, if you like a little more flavor, keep on reading.

CARRIES FOR FAT LOSS

1. 10 minute carry

 Most people who train do so to look better naked. Adding this 10 minute carry at the end of your training will fry you and your body fat.

Instructions – Depending on your strength level, start with one 20, 25 or 30 pound kettlebell. Hold the bell overhead (bottoms up) and walk, keeping your biceps by or behind your ears. After you lose your grip, stop and reset. When you lose your grip for the second time, bring the bell into the rack position and keep on walking.

Once you lose neutral wrist position or your upper back is screaming at you, hold the bell suitcase style by your side and keep walking. Do this for a total of five minutes on each side.

2. Carry and swing

 If you’re proficient with the RKC kettlebell swing, then give this combo at the end of your training. For example

1A. Two-handed kettlebell swings – 10 reps

1B. Suitcase carry 40 yards.

Instructions-  Alternate hands on the suitcase carry.  Do one round (one carry is equal to one round) every minute on the minute.  If one round takes you 40 seconds, rest 20 seconds before you start your next round.   Do six to ten rounds or until your grip gives out.

CARRIES FOR MUSCLE

A stronger grip has a huge carryover to most of your major lifts and at times can be your limiting factor. The longer you can hang on to the bar while you’re lifting, the better chance you have of building some muscle. Have you ever seen a skinny strongman/powerlifter?

1. Try this for bigger arms

 Save this circuit for the end of your training, when you’re looking for some bicep work. Do this tri-set two to three times per week for guns of steel.

1A.Zottman curl 12-15 reps

1B.Barbell wrist curls 15 reps

1C.  Dumbbell farmer’s carry 40 yards (at least 25% of your bodyweight in each hand)

Repeat this circuit three times with minimal rest in between exercises.

2. 30 second finisher

 Nothing fancy about this one. Use any two handed carry variation (dumbbell, kettlebell or a trap bar), walk for 40 steps and place the weight down. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Stop when you can no longer walk for 40 steps without letting go. Record the number of rounds and try to beat it next time.

Note– start with carrying half your bodyweight.

 

CARRIES FOR STRENGTH

 Everything I’ve mentioned up to this point will build your overall strength and change your life in three weeks.  However, in my experience the overhead barbell carry is the cherry on top in the world of carries. Every single step is a challenge for the whole body.  One false step you, the barbell and the floor become one.

Sometimes a little fear in your training can be a motivating experience.

This is a taxing movement, so program these near the beginning of your training, just after your big strength movement for the day.   Pairing the overhead walk in a superset with an upper body movement works best.  For example:

1A. Bent over barbell row, chin up or bench press variations.

1B. Overhead barbell carry- 20 steps forward, then 20 steps back

 Wrapping up

No matter what your training goal, there is a carry to fit your need. Now is the time to embrace the carry so you can crush your personal bests in and out of the gym. Throw in a smile and you’ve got it made.

The best exercise you’re not doing…..

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is the proper hip flexor stretch.
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You should do this because– We often get ‘tight’ hip flexors and lazy glutes from sitting to much and not moving enough. This exercise helps both.
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Makes your everyday life easier because– Hips that have a good range of motion allow you to squat, deadlift and lunge like a champ. Having proper movement in the hips lowers your risk of low back pain.
Form tip – Watch the video (thanks Tony Gentilcore) and hold for 30- 60 sec per side daily.

How long can you stand on one foot?

I have a confession to make.

I don’t call myself the Balance Guy because I have great single leg balance — far from it.  I’m still a work in progress.

 

work-in-progress-1

 

Being a tall guy who’s all arms and legs, I’ve always struggled with my balance in daily life, on the sporting arena and in the weight room. If there were cameras around on the many occasions that I fell on my butt, I’d be a star on America’s Funniest Home Video.

 

 

Single leg balance is probably the most overlooked factor in training and in daily life, but it’s fundamental to almost everything we do. Walking, taking the stairs or playing your favorite sport all involve single leg balance to some degree.

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) in 2010 falls by older adults cost the U.S health care system 30 billion dollars.  Balance is kind of a big deal, especially as we move on in life.

In Dan John’s book, “Can you go?” he suggests only being able to balance for less than 10 seconds on either leg is a cause for concern, and there could be an underlying medical condition.

Here’s a little test for you before we go any further.

Grab a stopwatch and see if you can balance between 10-20 seconds on either foot. Stand by a wall for safety. If you touch the wall or your foot touches the ground, the test is over.

If it’s less than 10 seconds, stop reading and take Dan’s advice and go see your doctor.  It may just save your life. However, if you’re between 10-20 seconds, keep reading because you’ve still got some work to do.

In my experience when training clients who lack single leg balance, the ankle is my first point of emphasis. The ankle is a mobile joint that allows you to walk, run and play.

However, wearing shoes can contribute to a loss of mobility through the ankle joint. Some us even take this to the extreme for the sake of fashion.

shoes

That’s okay occasionally, but for the sake of your balance, taking the shoes off and working on your ankle mobility can be a godsend for your feet and balance.

When you’re feeling wobbly and want to improve your balance or when your ankles are cranky, take these exercises out for a spin.

Rocking ankle mobility exercise- 10 reps on both feet

 

Considerations

Have your big toe approximately six inches away from the wall and rock forward, touching your knee to the wall. If your front heel leaves the ground or your front knee cannot touch the wall, move your toe closer to the wall until they can.

Leg swings- 10 reps on both legs

 

Wall hip flexor mobilization – 10 reps on both legs

 

Considerations

Having a pad underneath your knee helps for comfort. If you’re unable to grab your back foot just leave it on the ground and do the exercise as demonstrated.

Do these exercises daily for a couple of weeks and then retest your single leg balance. Hopefully, you’ll crush the retest with your new and improved ankles.

However, if you’re a dedicated exerciser and you still want to improve your ankle mobility and balance, do my ankle mobility warm up instead of your usual warm up before you crush the weights.

Do one set of each exercise in the order shown for best results.

 

  1. Breathing squat- 5 breaths

 

  1. Dead bug- 6 on each side

 

  1. Hip extensions- 10 reps

 

  1. Six-point rocking- 10 reps

 

  1. Hip mobility series- watch video

 

  1. Rocking ankle mobilization – 10 reps

 

  1. Inchworm

 

  1. Light goblet squats- 10 reps (10-15-pound dumbbell)

 

To help your balance even further you can include more single leg work into your exercise routine because balance is a skill that needs to be practiced often.  The more you challenge yourself the better your balance will be.

Try these following exercises only if you can balance more than 20 seconds on each leg.

1. Bosu ball single leg balance (try for 30 seconds on each leg)

 

2. Shoe lace touch

 I stole this exercise from Taylor Lewis and you’ll be thanking me later.

Instructions

Stagger your stance , heel to toe,  shift your hips back and touch your right hand to the shoe laces on your left foot. Take your right foot off the ground and balance until you stumble forward or you lose your balance. Repeat on the other side.  Do two-three times on each leg.

3. Vertical birddog (Needs a dumbbell or Kettlebell)

 

Wrapping up

 Balance is a skill that’s often neglected until it is too late. No matter your age or exercise experience we can all benefit from better balance.

Because none of us want to end up being laughed at on AFV.