Exercise for grown ups

My wife and I had just tucked our little one into bed and made our nightly dash to the bedroom…so we could get as much sleep as possible. What were you thinking?

 

gutter
Extra points if you know which movie this comes from.

 

Tomorrow was gym day and I was looking forward to crushing some weights and getting a break from daddy duties for an hour or so.

Like most first time parents, we had a baby monitor turned up full blast beside our bed to hear when it was feeding time.

Because my wife had a full-time job and I was the stay at home parent, it was me (for the most part) who would get up to feed our son and try to put him back to sleep.

On this particular night he thought 2 a.m. would be an excellent time to play on the sheepskin rug after he had finished his feeding. He was making goo goo eyes at me while having a big time thrashing his legs about like a Tour de France cyclist.

This was all very cute, but by 3 a.m. I’d had enough of this show and I put him to bed so hopefully the both of us could get some sleep before the sun came up.

Needless to say, I was a zombie the next morning and too tired to crush my planned training. Not even excessive amounts of caffeine could wake me up. The baby was full of energy, however. Funny how that works.

This is what happens in real life. Stuff comes up and our best laid plans become stuck. We have other priorities that push exercise down the list.

Whether you’re becoming a parent, are already a parent or you just have way too much going on, use the following strategies to keep your health on track. Your sanity will thank you.

1. Imagine you’re in prison

 

Dan John, strength Yoda, imagines a scenario where you’re in prison and you only have 15 minutes a day to train.  What would you do? What is really important to you? Please don’t say bicep curls.

Narrowing your focus when your time and energy is limited will at the very least keep you, your waistline and the scale happy. No matter how busy you are, you should always dedicate some time to exercise.

Here are a couple of examples of time-saving trainings (gym and home) that I’ve used in the past when time is limited but I still want to eat ice cream guilt free.

1A. Push-ups 10 reps (Can be done on knees or on an incline surface)

1B. Inverted rows 10 reps

1C. Kettle bell swings -20 reps

Rest one minute after each circuit and do five circuits.

 

 

 

 

1A. Dumbbell shoulder press 10 reps

1B. Dumbbell bent over row 10 reps

1C. Goblet squats 20 reps

Rest one minute after each circuit and do five circuits.

 

 

 

 

1A. Pushups – 10 reps

1B. Side planks- 15 seconds each side

1C. Bodyweight squats 20 reps

 Rest one minute after each circuit and do five circuits.

 

 

 

Cardiovascular Training

 

Do a two-minute walk/warm up, then a 15 second sprint followed by 15 seconds of rest. Repeat this cycle for five work/rest intervals. Then cool down for two-three minutes.

This can be done on treadmill, track, bike, rowing machine or you can find some open space and sprint.

 

2. Stand up and take movement breaks

 

A study by Levine (2005) recruited 20 healthy volunteers, 10 lean people (5 men 5 women) and 10 people classified as grade I obese (5 men and 5 women). Levine was looking for physical activity differences between these two groups.

Levine found that grade I obese sat for 164 minutes a day longer than their lean counterparts and lean people were standing and active for 153 minutes more than their obese counterparts. This lead to the lean people burning 352 calories a day which is the equivalent to 36.5 grams of fat per year.

This partly is due to N.E.A.T or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, a process that burns the majority of our calories.

Finding time in your day to be active even when you’re busy or overwhelmed will have huge implications on your health, fitness and waist line.

Here are some suggestions when you don’t have time for the gym.

  1. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  2. Walk during your lunch hour.
  3. Walk to your coworker’s desk instead of emailing.
  4. Pace the sidelines at your kid’s athletic game.
  5. Do housework and walk around your house.
  6. Walk your dog.
  7. Bring the groceries from your car into your house one bag at a time.
  8. Perform gardening and easy to do home repair projects.
  9. Refer to point one.
  10. This list could go on and on but I’ll stop. You can get creative.

 3. One lift per day

 

If going to the gym is non-negotiable, try narrowing your focus even further by doing just one lift per day. Trust me, this is not for sissies.  Back in the 50’s and 60’s some Olympic lifters trained like this and they turned out just fine.

Don’t try this at home.

olympic                                                                 Credit- weightlifting.org

It was greasing the groove concept before Pavel Tsatsouline popularized this in his book Power to the people. Bottom line, if you’re going to master a lift it pays to do it more not less.  Mind blown, right?

I could wax poetic on sets, reps and guidelines but you’re better off just reading this. He kind of knows what he is talking about.

 

Wrapping up

 

 There are periods in our lives where we barely keep our heads above water and our time and energy are in short supply. This is not time to crush PR’s or embark on some ambitious fat loss program.

It’s a time for maintenance because a little exercise can go a long way. Besides, sometimes you need your energy for more important stuff, like 3 a.m. sheepskin rug time. With the baby, I mean.

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Let Kids Play in the Mud

 

pig-in-mud
Do I really need to say it?

It was like a red rag to a bull.

The city was repaving the country road outside my childhood home and this was too good an opportunity to pass up. So my brother and I raced off to play in the warm and gooey road tar.

We covered ourselves from head to toe and had a blast.

As you can imagine, my mother was angry when she saw us. After tanning our hides, she threw us into the bath and scrubbed us from head to toe.

However, that didn’t deter us because later on we went out and did it all over again. After all, Boys will be boys. I don’t need to draw the picture of what happened next. Let’s just say, for a while I walked with a limp.

You can substitute road tar with mud: kids of today are discouraged from getting dirty. Parents, including myself, are too worried about their kids’ cleanliness or the risk of getting hurt.

This came to a head during my son’s recent soccer season.

Every time it sprinkled or threatened to rain, either the practice sessions or games were cancelled.  The powers that be were worried about the fields being trashed or kids hurting themselves.

This thinking is wrong. Back in my day (yes, I’m that old) a little rain or mud would never get in the way of us playing games. And you don’t need me to tell you there is a world of difference between being caked in mud and a slice of mud cake.

Back then kids got wet and muddy and the field may have been left a little worse for wear but we didn’t get hurt, it didn’t matter who won and for us adventures like these were the joy of growing up.

Playing the mud is more than just fun and games. It has also been shown to:

  • Reduce allergies and the symptoms of asthma
  • Increase gross motor skills, sensory awareness, balance and coordination
  • Improve the immune system
  • Reduce childhood anxiety and stress
  • Help to build creativity

 

Isn’t that worth getting dirty for?

Parents and administrators next time it rains and the ground is wet, muddy and sticky, don’t discourage the kids from playing in it or worry about your precious fields. Don’t be a stick in the mud.

Let the kids play because they are only young once and it is an important part of their development.

 

 

 

Posture strength training

I was embarrassed of my height  while I was growing up. As a result, I slouched over and had crappy posture. My mother and my teachers were always telling me to “sit up straight” but I never listened.

It’s easy to tune them out right?

However, this problem carried over into my adulthood.  Here I am, a personal trainer, teaching proper exercise technique and getting my clients in great shape, but I was missing a key ingredient, good posture.

Good posture being……..

1425796_250882118397687_1310934491_n
Are you good or evil?

Training with poor posture led to many physical therapy visits which entailed doing unmentionable things to stability balls, lifting pink dumbbells, breathing into balloons and getting wrapped up with resistance bands.

Oh, good times.

Don’t get me wrong; this was all beneficial, even though at times I wanted to do this. But what I longed for was to hold heavy weight in my hands and to get after it.

Now, we’ve all heard that as a society we sit too much and hunch over our computers and smart phones a ton.  In addition to that, some gym goers (not me of course) spend an inordinate amount time working on their mirror muscles like biceps curls in the squat rack.

Also, if you’re working in the strength and conditioning field or you’re a workout fiend, you’ve heard that you must pull (rows, chin up and lat pulldowns) two to three more times than you push.

This is advice almost all of us should still follow because every gym has a guy that skips leg or back day, and it’s not a pretty site.

In addition, skipping body parts for the sake of vanity is a recipe for injury. And some people will laugh behind your back at your ape-like appearance and those skinny calf muscles.

Nobody likes to be laughed at, except this guy.

hulk-3

However, before it gets to that pink dumbbell stage, or if you just want to improve your posture and get strong simultaneously , start inserting the following exercises into your routine.

They may be simple, but they’re not easy. However, your posture will benefit.

 1. OVERHEAD BARBELL CARRY

 

Thought I’d start off with the hardest exercise first. There are many forms of overhead carries, but this one scared the bejesus out of me the most.  One false step and the barbell, you and the floor become one.

Just a little fear in your training can be motivating experience.  Maybe this explains barbell squats on a stability ball?

Why it’s good for posture

Overhead carries work on strengthening the upper back muscles such as the Upper Trapezius and Rhomboids, essential for healthy shoulder function and to avoid looking like an ape. Your mid-section is also stabilizing like crazy to avoid you biting the floor.

A person can never have enough upper back and core strength, in my humble opinion.

Programming considerations

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.

 

Form considerations

 Setting up in the squat rack is ideal but clean and pressing a barbell overhead works too.

Get a wider than shoulder width grip on the bar, get your biceps by your ears, keep your lower ribcage down and avoid hyperextending your low back.

Take small, slow deliberate steps. Trust me on that one J

 

2. SUITCASE CARRIES

 Suitcase carries (holding weight on one side of your body) have been popularized by strength guru Dan John, so if they’re good enough for Dan, they’re good enough for you and me.  Enough said.

 

Why it’s good for posture

A lot us favor one side over the other when we carry bags over our shoulders or stuff in our hands. This can result in tilting our body over to one side to overcompensate. Over time this may cause problems.

Carrying a heavy dumbbell/kettle bell unilaterally can help iron those strength imbalances between your oblique muscles and grip strength.

Did I mention that core strength is important for posture and lifting heavy weight from the floor? Now I have.

Programming considerations

 You’re only limited by your imagination on inserting suitcase carries into your programming. However, when you’re doing carries as part of your main training, pair them with a movement that doesn’t demand a lot of grip strength.

For example:

1A. Bench press variation

1B. Suitcase carry- heavy 20 steps one hand then 20 steps in the opposite hand.

 

Or:

1A. Squat or hip thrust

1B. Suitcase carry- heavy 20 steps one hand then 20 steps in the opposite hand.

 

 

They can also be used as a finisher after your main training. Try this short but brutal circuit:

1A. One-handed kettle bell swings – 10 reps

1B. Suit case carry (in the same hand 20 steps)

 

 

Swap hands and repeat on the other side. Do one round every minute on the minute. If one round takes you 40 seconds, rest 20 seconds before you start your next round.

Do five to ten rounds or until your grip gives out. Good times.

Form considerations

 The age old cues “shoulders down and back” or “chest up” work well here. Checking your form in a mirror will help if you having trouble knowing if you’re overcompensating or not.

 

3. PULLOVER WITH DEADBUG

Strange name, but a very effective exercise. This was first introduced to me by French strength coach extraordinaire Anthony Deximer, who paired this with overhead squats.

Let’s just say we weren’t best buddies afterwards.

 

Why it’s good for posture

 We’ve all seen those guys doing dumbbell pullovers, hoisting those huge dumbbells while excessively arching their low back combined with their lower ribs protruding.

Hello, back problems.

The pullover with deadbug will counter lumbar extension (when reaching overhead) plus help stretch the lats while preventing the dreaded rounded-shoulder look.

This also doubles as a killer core stability drill, essential for moving big weights safely.

Programming considerations

Pairing this exercise in a superset when neutral spine and core stability is essential. For example:

1A. Overhead, back, front or goblet squat.

1B. Pullover with deadbug – 12 reps (six on each leg)

 

 

Or if it’s chest and arms day, pairing this exercise with any bench or any over press variation works as well.  For example:

1A. Dumbbell bench press or Push press

1B. Pullover with deadbug – 12 reps (six on each leg)

 

 

These are just a couple of examples. I’ll leave it up to you to get creative with your pairings.

Form considerations

 Keeping your lower ribs down and avoiding lumbar hyperextension is the point of this exercise, so do both. Performing at a slow, controlled tempo will help.

Keep your chin tucked (or form a double chin) to help maintain a neutral spine. Breathe out as you lower weight and leg towards the floor and breathe in to your belly as you reverse the movement.

Wrapping up

These moves will help improve your posture and provide assistance to you in getting bigger, stronger and more awesome.

Together, we can make posture sexy again.

(I’m bringing posture back, the other boys don’t know how to act.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No crunch core training

 

Have you ever heard a gym goer say “My core strength is just awesome.” Whenever gym junkies are asked about a weakness they’d like to improve, the answer is often the core.

The exception to the rule is those guys who incessantly check out their abs whenever they walk past a mirror.  Yes, you know who you are

six pack

It’s the core responsibility to protect and stabilize the spine from unwanted movement. The more core strength you have, the better your body operates.

You can never get enough of it, in my humble opinion.

However, a lot of gym goers get confused on how to build core strength.

They either –

  • Crunch like they’re having some sort of fit and need you to call 911
  • Hold their planks for too long or with poor form
  • Do pointless exercises (hello, triceps kickbacks) and totally skip their core training.

Let’s solve these problems by –

  1. Putting core training into main part of your training and not saving it for lucky last
  2. Adding movement and tension to your core stability exercises

If you looking to crunch like a mad man, you may as well stop reading now.

  1. RKC FRONT PLANK

This is not your everyday front plank. This is a total body challenge from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Maintaining this plank for longer than 10 seconds calls for your all-out effort.

 

 Training suggestions

Pairing this exercise in a superset with a compound strength exercise works well. For example:

1A. Bench press, squat or deadlift variation

1B. RKC front plank- 10 seconds

 

Or pair this with a cardiovascular exercise for a real heart-pumping, sweat inducing experience.

1A. Kettle bell swings 20 reps

1B. RKC front plank 10 seconds

 

Do this for five-ten rounds and then lie down happily in your pool of sweat.

  1. PULLOVER WITH DEADBUG

Strange name, but this is a highly effective core stability exercise. We’ve all seen those guys doing dumbbell pullovers, hoisting those huge dumbbells while mutilating their low back. Not cool.

If that sounds like you or your friends, stop and do this instead. Adding movement and resistance to your core training is a double whammy you are sure to enjoy.

 

Training suggestions

This is perfect when paired with an exercise that demands core stability and a neutral spine.   For example:

1A. Kettlebell goblet squat with lowering 8-12 reps

1B. Pullover with deadbug 12 reps (6 on each leg)

 

On chest and arms day, pairing this exercise with any bench or any overhead press variation works well. For example:

1A. Kettlebell floor press

1B. Pullover with deadbug 12 reps

 

Wrapping up

Including these exercises into your core routines will get you stronger and save your spine from snapping in two. Save the crunches for the monkeys.

Why you need a coach

 

It was the middle of July in the sweltering, unforgiving Texas heat and my football coach was making the team run 200 meter sprint repeats at the END of practice. As you can imagine, we were all thrilled and no one complained at all.

Cooper
If looks could kill

After a few intervals, most of the team was gassed and we still had a few more to go. When my turn came around, I took off sluggishly and the coach was none too pleased. He started to scream a few choice words in my direction.

It was nothing that bears repeating here because what’s said on the field stays on the field, just like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

However, among the expletives, he dropped a pearl of wisdom.

“Practice should be harder than the game, so the game is easy.”

That was all the motivation I needed. I sucked it up, dug deep and ran out my final intervals without compliant.

That’s the beauty of having a coach. The coach picks you up when you’re feeling down and makes you dig deep when you’re spent and can still see the good in you when nothing is going your way.

Being a personal trainer, I see the value of coaching from both sides of the fence. I coach clients in a one-on-one setting and I occasionally reach out to fellow professionals for advice when I’m struggling with a client or a new exercise concept.

Because there are times when coaches need coaches.

We can all benefit from having a coach in our corner at some time in our lives, whether you’re already a coach or you’re looking for something bigger and better in your life.

A little of Drill Sergeant Lou can be just what you need.

Officer
Come on, you can give me one more

If Sgt. Lou can’t convince you, here are a few more reasons why you should consider hiring a coach.

1. Coaches bring out your best

 I’m a believer that you already the tools inside of you to be a success. You weren’t put on this Earth to be ordinary, you’re put here to be extraordinary. You may feel like this is new age mumbo jumbo but bear with me for a moment.

Like a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, you fail to look at yourself objectively. You’re either too hard on yourself or fail to see the good inside of you. You cannot see the forest through the trees. (This is all true for me, too.)

This just makes us human and not Sheldon Cooper.

However, do you know who can help you access those tools and bring out the best in you? A good coach, that’s who.

For example, after coaching my client Ellen for a few months in the art of deadlifting she became capable of this.

 

 

Not bad for a grandmother coming off three knee surgeries, If Ellen didn’t hire a coach, she would’ve never have realized what she was capable of. Now, she does. That’s one advantage of having a coach in your ear.

2. Accountability

 One of the reasons why people hire personal trainers is to provide them with accountability because they’ve made an investment of money and time in the pursuit of better health and fitness.  It always helps to have some skin in the game.

However, if they don’t show up, they’re wasting their money and the trainer’s time. This can result in one pissed off trainer. Trust me, you don’t want to upset the person who writes exercise programs for a living. Just saying.

 

Recently, I was struggling with my own training. I had no program and zero direction. If I didn’t feel like training, I didn’t. I had the dreaded case of do as I say, not as I do. I was accountable to no one and I realized I needed assistance because the mirror and the scale were looking dire.

In a moment of clarity, I reached out to coach extraordinaire Tony Gentilcore to write my strength and conditioning program. Now I feel accountable to Mr. Gentilcore because he has eyes everywhere (like a ninja) and I also report in every week.

A good coach will help keep you on the straight and narrow.

3. Distill information

 New information comes at us thick and fast in this 24/7 world. There always seems to be a bigger and better way of doing things and you may feel like you’re getting left behind.

Do you remember when this came out? I wish I could forget.

 

In the health and fitness universe, the crap, the lies and half-truths come from every direction.  What’s good or bad for you changes daily. However, rather than panic and make a radical change that you don’t need, consult a coach instead.

A good coach should always have your best interests at heart.

Wrapping up

 You cannot go through this life alone. At some stage, you’re going to need some help.  That’s what a good coach will do, help you be more awesome than you already are.

And who doesn’t want that?

Do you need help getting stronger, ladies? Then I have the program for you, a 12-week online program that will help you get stronger and more confident in the gym.

This program includes

  • A through fitness assessment. This assessment lets me know where you stand and is the baseline against which we can measure your progress.
  • A Skype consultation to discuss your short-term and long-term goals. This will allow me to write a customized program and to answer any questions you may have.
  • 12 weeks of customized programming, broken into 3 4-week blocks
  • Regular Skype and email check-ins to see how your progressing and to address concerns you may have.

Hurry, spaces are limited. Find out more and grab your spot right here.