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

This is a series on exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and outside of the gym. Today’s exercise is forearm wall slides.

You should do this because–  if you hoist weights overhead, you need the shoulder mobility to do this without other body parts compensating. For example, the lower back.

Furthermore, this exercise reinforces good posture, which is helpful if you have a sedentary job.

Makes your everyday life easier because– when your shoulder blades move as intended overhead, it helps keep your shoulders healthy and pain free.

Form tips –Slowly slide forearms up the wall until elbows are fully extended and arms resemble a Y. Be careful not to over arch your lower back and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for eight repetitions.
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It’s okay to suck

My first time in the weight room was an ugly experience. If anyone had told me then that I’d “grow up” to be a personal trainer, teaching others to pick up weights and put them down, I would’ve laughed directly in their face.

ha ha

Isn’t it funny how things work out? Here I am 26 years later, coaching people to be awesome in the weight room. Teaching them to be great means telling them to suck, however. Let me explain.

No gym newbie enters a gym knowing how to squat, push, pull and deadlift with good technique right away. These are difficult moves that work multiple muscle groups and require a certain amount of muscular co-ordination.

Complicating matters further, we come in different shapes and sizes and with slight differences in our anatomy. This allows you to do some exercises pain free while not being able to perform others.

Your push up might look different than my push up. This is one reason why “perfect” form doesn’t exist and comparing yourself to the person next to you in the gym is an exercise in futility.

Once you’ve gotten a grasp on how to squat, push, pull and hinge and you no longer ‘suck’ at doing these, you may hit a plateau. Results that came easier at the beginning have all but shriveled up. You look longingly at the scale hoping the needle goes up or down. But it doesn’t.

scale

This is when you need to start sucking again.

Your body is an efficient machine which will adapt quickly to whatever you throw at it. This process is known as homeostasis. So the next time you’re crushing your 5 sets of 5 reps on the bench press with a weight you’ve been using for a while, the body says

“Baa humbug. This is easy. I’ve seen this before. I don’t have to adapt to this. No new muscle for you.”

no soup for you

You could put more weight on the bar (which is always good) but if you’re stuck in a rut and unable to lift any more weight than you currently are lifting, there is another way. Let me introduce you to inefficient/self-limiting exercises.

These are exercises that provide an automatic yet natural obstacle (grip strength/core strength for example) that prevents you from doing it wrong, or performing excessive volume. (1)  Examples of inefficient/self-limiting exercises are barefoot running, weighted carries and push-ups.

Notice that I didn’t say biceps curls.

Biceps Chuck

If you’re stuck rut and want to take your overall conditioning to the next level, take these exercises out for spin. You may suck but that’s okay. They will make you a stronger, more resilient human being.

1. Weighted carries

 This is the biggest bang for your buck exercise that you’re probably not doing.  Why aren’t you doing them? Because they’re hard, that’s why. Your shoulders will ache, your grip will fail and it becomes a mental battle between you and the weight.

They seem simple. You pick up a weight and walk. However, they are not easy. Try some of the weighted carry variations below to become stronger because stronger is always better.

Dumbbell farmers carry

Overhead barbell carry

Suitcase carry

I like to combine carries with other exercises and put them in a circuit to train my weakness, like my upper body, because summer is just around the corner. For example

1A. Bent over barbell row, chin up or bench press variations. 6-12 reps

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

Or

1AZottman curl 12-15 reps

1BBarbell wrist curls 15 reps

1C. Any of the carries above 40 yards

 2.. Get back up…..and down again.

 Getting up and down from the ground is one of the hardest things we do (this is why burpees suck) but we barely practice it. Which is a shame because getting up from a fall can be difficult, even life threatening as we get older. (2)

The simple act of getting up and down from the ground will improve your strength, mobility and conditioning. And when you combine this with another exercise you have no choice but to get better.

Naked Turkish Get up

Try these out for a couple of minutes. Did you feel out of breath and sweaty?  Now try combining these with a strength exercise and feel your body getting stronger. For example

1A. Goblet squats or Kettlebell swings 20 seconds

1B. Get down and get up 2 reps or Naked Turkish get ups- 1 rep on each side

Repeat for as many rounds as possible for 10 -15 minutes. Rest when needed.

1A. Push-ups or Incline push-ups 6 reps

1B. Get down and get up 2 reps or Naked Turkish get ups- 1 rep on each side

Repeat for as many rounds as possible for 10 -15 minutes. Rest when needed.

Wrapping up

Sucking is something we avoid at all costs. However, if you put your ego aside and embrace the suck, you will be a stronger, tougher and better human being.

It’s the little things…………..

When you’re looking to make a change, any change, you usually go big. I know I do.

This is especially true when you’ve hit an exercise plateau.  You may feel the need to do something drastic, something big and bold to get back on track, when the truth is, you don’t need to.  You need to start thinking small.

Use the following small changes to your current routine next time you’re stuck in a rut.

Go small and get results.

1. Flip the script.

 Change the exercise order of your current routine. Do biceps curls before you do any pulling exercise. Do triceps extensions before any pressing exercise.  Or turn your exercise routine completely upside down and do first what is usually last in your routine, and what is usually first, do last.

2. Why don’t you slow down

You can slow down the lowering and lifting portion of any exercise. This is called tempo. For example taking 3 seconds to lower into a squat and 3 seconds to come up.

Tempo will keep your muscles under tension longer sparking a burning sensation in your muscles due to the buildup of lactic acid.

Lactic acid is a precursor of growth hormone, which helps your muscles get bigger and stronger. Also, you burn body fat as an added bonus.

However, these don’t tickle. Make sure you use a lower weight when using this protocol.

3. Change body positions ( keep it clean)

Most people exercise either lying down, sitting or standing up. These are all stock standard positions, but when you’re stuck in a rut it’s time to try something new.

Instead try half kneeling or the tall kneeling body positions. You can do a multitude of exercises from these positions including an overhead press or a lat pulldown.

Both of these positions make it harder to cheat while increasing the involvement of the abdominals and hips.  You’ll get more bang for your exercise buck.

4. Get a grip

 By changing your grip width, you’ll recruit different muscle groups while doing the same exercise.  For example, a close grip push-up focuses more on the triceps than the chest while a wide grip push-up focuses more on the chest rather than the triceps.

Also, you can also change your hand position when gripping barbells or dumbbells. You can grip with your palms facing towards you, palms facing together or your palms facing behind you. Each position will work the targeted muscle differently.

So instead of going big, reap the benefits of going small. Your muscles and the mirror will thank you.

The best exercise you’re not doing

This is a series on exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is the seated thoracic (upper back) extensions.

You should do this because–  this exercise helps prevent a rounded upper back /shoulders which is a by product of sitting slumped in your chair for extended periods of time.  It provides a nice chest stretch and reinforces better posture.

Makes your everyday life easier because– upper back mobility will make your shoulders and lower back very happy campers.

Form tips – use your hands to support your neck and don’t extended your neck backwards while doing this exercise. Do this multiple times a day if you’re sitting for long periods of time and do between 5-10 reps.

How to build your own training routine- Part Two

Please read Part One before continuing. This post goes into the formats you’ll be using for your training/program writing, depending on your goal chosen in part one.

Use this workout card for the templates below.

The templates

Fat Loss training

After your warm up, you’ll start with a strength exercise, lifting a heavier weight for lower repetitions to help you retain muscle and strength while you’re losing weight. You’ll alternate between an upper and lower body strength exercise on each training day.

Then you will go into a 5-exercise circuit alternating between lower and upper body to help maximize calorie burn. Please allow 24-28 hours of recovery between trainings for best results.

1. Strength exercise (Squat, push, pull or hinge) 3-5 sets 3-6 reps 90-120 sec rest between sets.

2A. Squat variation

2B. Pull variation

2C. Hinge variation

2D. Push variation

2E. Carry variation

Instructions

Note- Do the strength exercise first. Choose a weight that leaves a rep or two in the tank. How may circuits you do is dependent on how much time you have.

Training 1– Complete 8 reps (select a weight that allows you to do 8 repetitions with good form) of each exercise 2A-2D in the circuit fashion. If you’re doing the standing single arm row, do 8 reps on each side. For farmer’s walk, walk 20 yards and then walk back for 20 yards for a total of 40 yards.

Each set will take you 1 minute to complete and each circuit 5 minutes to finish. Rest 90 seconds after each circuit and do a total of 2-4 circuits.

Training 2 – Choose a lighter weight than day one. Do as many repetitions of each exercise 2A-2D in 30 seconds with good form (for the single arm row do 15 seconds on each side).  For the farmer’s walk, walk 20 yards and then walk back for 20 yards for a total of 40 yards. Rest for 30 seconds at the end of each exercise.

Rest 90 seconds at the end of each circuit and do a total of 2-3 circuits.

Training 3 – Do 15 reps of each exercise (with a weight lighter than day one) 2A-2D in a circuit fashion. For the farmer’s walk, walk 20 yards there and back for a total of 40 yards. Rest as little as possible between exercises and rest 60 seconds at the end of each circuit. Do a total of 2-3 circuits.

Building muscle

Muscle building requires lifting moderate to heavy weight for more repetitions which is going to cause muscular stress and damage. However, building muscle doesn’t tickle and you need to put your hard hat on and go to work.

You’re going to be using a combination of straight sets for strength work and then supersets to pump up your muscles. You’ll alternate between training A and training B.  How many sets you do of each superset will be depended on how much time you have.

Training A

 1. Strength exercise (Squat or hinge) 3-5 sets 3-6 reps and 90-120 sec rest between sets.

2A.  Squat or hinge 8-12 reps

2B.  Pull variation 10-15 reps

2-3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

3A. Squat variation 12 reps

3B.  Press variation 8-12 reps

3-5 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

4A. Pull variation (different from 2B) 8-12 reps

4B. Push variation (different from 3B) 8- 12 reps

2-3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

This superset is optional depended the time you have.  Choose a body part that needs extra work.

5A.  Isolation exercise (bicep curl, triceps, shoulders, legs, hips etc.) 8-15 reps

5B.  Isolation exercise 8-15 reps

2- 3 sets with 60 seconds rest between each superset.

Training B

1. Strength exercise (Push or a pull) 3- 5 sets 3- 6 reps and 90-120 sec rest between sets.

2A. Squat variation 6-8 reps

2B.  Pull variation 6-8 reps

2- 3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

3A. Hinge variation 12-15 reps

3B. Push variation 6-8 reps

3-5 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

4A. Farmers carry variation 40 yards

4B. Pull or push variation (different from 2 and 3) 12-15 reps

2-3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

This superset is optional, if you have the time. Choose a body part that needs the extra work.

5A.  Isolation exercise (bicep curl, triceps, shoulders, legs, hips) 8-15 reps

5B.  Isolation exercise 8-15 reps

2- 3 sets with 60 seconds rest between each superset.

Instructions

After your warm up, you’ll start will the strength exercise and you’ll choose a weight that leaves a rep or two in reserve. If you need more rest between sets, please take it. With the supersets exercises please use a weight that allows you to complete all the repetitions with good form.

If you went heavy with the squat, do a hinge exercise for 2A and vice versa.

Please rest for 24-48 hrs. between trainings.

Getting back into shape

If it’s been a while since you’ve darkened the doors of a gym, your body needs to get accustomed to lifting weights. This means more repetitions, less resistance and incorporating some core and stretching exercises to help your body move better.

You’ll be doing tri-sets (3 exercises back to back) of 2 strength exercises followed by a stretch and then you’ll go through this again and do a core exercise. If you this again for a 3rd time (dependent on time) you’ll choose between a stretch or a core exercise.

You will train 2-3 days a week with 48 hrs. rest between sessions.

1A. Squat variation

1B. Pulling variation

1C. Stretch:   30 seconds                         Core:  Plank variation                                          

2-3 sets with 60 seconds rest between each superset.

2A. Hinge variation

2B. Pushing variation

2C. Stretch:  30 seconds                            Core: Farmers carry variation 

2- 3 sets with 60 seconds rest between each superset.                                     

Instructions

Note- Choose a stretch that works on the tighter areas of the body, like the hips, chest, hamstrings and biceps and do both sides.

 

Training 1- Do 15 reps of exercises 1A-2B with a weight that allows you to complete each repetition with good form. For the standing single arm cable row, do 15 reps on each arm. For the farmer’s walk, do a total of 40 yards.

Training 2- Do 12 reps of exercises 1A-2B with a weight (5 pounds heavier than day 1) that allows you to complete each repetition with good form. For the standing single arm cable row, do 12 reps on each arm. For the farmer’s walk, do a total of 30 yards.

Training 3- Do 10 reps of exercises 1A-2B with a weight that allows you to complete each repetition with good form. For the standing single arm cable row, do 10 on each arm. For the farmer’s walk, do a total of 20 yards.

Wrapping up

Do your training of choice for 6 weeks in total. If you need more than 48 hours to recover between trainings, take it. When the weight becomes less challenging, go up by 5 pounds.

Don’t hold yourself back because you’re too good for that. Happy training.

If you need any assistance with your program contact me here.

How do build your own training routine-Part one

Long before I was fitness professional, I’d follow training programs from glossy men’s magazines because I thought

  1. They knew what they were doing.
  2. I was hoping it would transform me from a geek to a freak.

And like Dr. Phil used to say, ‘How’s that working out for you?’

Men's Fitness

It didn’t, Dr. Phil, it didn’t.

What I didn’t consider is what works for the guys on the covers doesn’t necessarily work for you or me because we all have different starting points, different genetics and different reactions to exercise.

The people on the front covers are probably in great shape to start with and most likely didn’t do the program they’re advertising.

They just rocked up to the photo shoot looking awesome.

However, having a training program ripped out of a magazine is better than having no plan at all because going to the gym without a clue is not the best idea and can lead to some unusual behavior

No idea 3

Nonetheless, you’re better than that. You don’t need to blindly follow the masses. All you need to do is read this, put your thinking cap on for a minute or two and then you’ll be writing programs that will get you great results without the need for google or me. ☹

Note- Writing programs is a mixture between science, guesswork and good judgement.  This article will be keep it as simple as possible so you will not get lost in the details and can concentrate on getting great results.

Please consult your doctor if you’re starting exercise after a long break or have any health or orthopedic problems.

The questions

Before you get into the nitty gritty of program writing, it’s time for you to answer a few questions honestly.

1. What is your goal?

You’ll start by sticking to one goal. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is chasing too many goals simultaneously.  You’re more likely to have more success if you stick to one goal, so decide if your goal is

  • Fat loss
  • Muscle gain
  • Getting back into shape

So, take a moment to decide this before you read on. This has a huge bearing on the program you will write for yourself.

2. How many days a week can you exercise?

 For best results, you need to set aside 2-3 days a week for exercise. Exercising 3 days a week gives you a little more leeway than training 2 days a week.

3. How much time can you dedicate to each training session?

 You have a busy schedule like a lot of other people. You need to look at your week and decide of much time in your day you can dedicate to the gym because this is going to dictate the length and the intensity of your program.

 4. How advanced are you?

 You don’t want to pick exercises that are too hard or too easy for you because the point of going to the gym is to get better, not to stay the same or get worse.

If you’re unsure on how advanced you are, err on the side of conservatism and go with a regression of the exercises below before moving on to a more advanced version.

Answering the above questions honestly will help you stick with your exercise program and allow you to get the results you deserve. Now, let’s move on to the exercises you will be using in your programming.

The exercises

A coach called Dan John has broken down exercise into 6 fundamental human movements which are

  1. Squat
  2. Pulls
  3. Pushes
  4. Hinge
  5. Carrying something heavy
  6. Groundwork

Although there are many other exercise movements, these are a great place for you to start on your programming journey. Click on each link to familiarize yourself with the regressions and progressions for each exercise.

Wrapping up

You have a little ‘homework’ to do before Part Two, which will come out next week. Take a pen and paper and write your answers down and become familiar with the exercises above. This will make your program writing experience a successful one. Stay tuned.

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 a ball foot massage, which is one of my favorites.

You should do this because–  It helps improve your circulation as your feet rarely get any exercise due to the fact they’re cooped up in shoes all day.

Makes your everyday life easier because– it can help with stress, lower blood pressure and when combined with feet strengthening/ stretching exercises, can reduce foot and ankle injuries.

Form tips – Sitting makes the exercise easier for balance purposes and standing make this a little more intense. You can vary the amount of pressure you apply to the ball to make more or less intense also. Do 50 rolls on each foot daily and before each training.