What you should be doing on the gym- Part six – Groundwork

The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle.  Now that you’re there, what are you going to do?  This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

This is part six of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that give you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside the gym. If you’ve missed the previous parts, please click on the links below.

Part one- Squats

Part two – Pulls

Part three – Pushes

Part four – Hinge

Part five – Carries

Part six – Groundwork

There’s more to groundwork than just lying on the ground and crunching like a mad monkey. Being on the ground is how we learned to move as infants and returning to the floor can help you reactivate neglected movement patterns such as squats, pushing and hinging.

Pretty good for a monkey, right?

The ground provides you with stability, balance and feedback and is an ideal place to start your warm up before you crush the weights. Or you can incorporate this into your resistance training for some added spice and sweat.

Groundwork exercises cover a wide spectrum that includes core work, rolling, crawling, rocking to the Turkish Get -Up. It’s beyond the scope of this post to go into all types of groundwork exercises. However, the moves I’ve selected below are the ones I program for my clients on a regular basis.

These exercises will help improve your technique with squats, hinges, pushes and pulls as well as improving your stability/mobility and your ability to burn fat. These moves may get you some strange looks on the gym floor but you’ll be the coolest person in the gym.

Trust me, I’m a trainer.

trust

 

1. Deadbugs

With all the big compound movements (squats, pressing pulling, carries etc.) you’ll require good core stability and the ability for your core to resist movement while lifting weights. This is where the deadbug comes in. The low back and your anterior core should remain stable as your moving your opposite arm and opposite leg. This is a must in most people’s exercise programs.

2. Push up plank

Planks are not the sexiest exercise and are usually avoided by gym goers at all costs because they suck.  Experienced exercisers often think they’re “too advanced” for the plank because they feel that there are other core exercises that are more effective.

However, before brushing this exercise off, here’s a little challenge for you. If you can hold this plank for 2 minutes, then go ahead and train your core with all the other cooler exercises. If you cannot, you’ve still got some work to do.

3. Six-point rocking

This exercise is like a squat with your toes, knees and hands on the ground. Therefore, it’s great to include in your warm up before you squat. And if this feels great, then squat to your little heart’s content. However, if it doesn’t, you should reconsider your squat workout and dial it back.

4. Crawling

Although crawling on the floor makes you look like a baby, this movement ties together your hips, core, shoulders and helps in grain our natural contra lateral movement (opposite arm/opposite leg) pattern that you need for walking, running and sprinting.

You must really work to be able to breathe, keeping your head up while keeping the contra lateral pattern of crawling. It’s tougher than it looks because it is a subtle form of strength training.  However, just brush off the weird looks you’re bound to get because you’re too cool for school.

5. Rolling

This is how we used to move as babies but rolling has real benefits for grownups, too. Rolling combines the use of the upper body, core, and lower body in a coordinated manner to move from your tummy to your side and to your back while being safely on the floor.

There are many movements that require the coordinated use of our arms and legs, which is why this is a great movement to include in your warm up. Furthermore, rolling will help improve your shoulder/hip mobility and will help roll out those sore spots without the use of a foam roll.

6. Getting up and down

Here is a little test for you. Stop reading now and sit down to the ground and then stand back up without using your hands or knees. Don’t worry I’ll wait. It sounds simple but there’s a catch. You will subtract a point from 5 each time you use a hand or your knee during this test.

For example

Get down  (- 1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Get up       (-1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Total         (Your score, up to 10)

If you get a score of 8 and above, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you score 7 or below, you have some work to do, so please keep practicing. This exercise is great to insert into your warm up or as an alternative for traditional cardio. Don’t believe me? Do it for 2 minutes straight and then check your pulse.

Wrapping up

Rolling, rocking, crawling and deadbugging on the floor may seem a little nuts to you. People may look at you funny and you may feel like your one-year old without the diapers and drool.

However, none of that matters because you will be improving your strength, mobility, stability and your cat like reflexes. Move over Cat women.

Catwomen

 

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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 deep squat belling breathing. Thanks to Tony Gentilcore for the video.

You should do this because–  Breathing correctly ( belly breathing, not chest) can mean less pain and less stress on the muscles that usually pick up the slack if  (or when) you’re a chest breather.

Less stress is always a good thing.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  spending time in this position can help with your hip and shoulder mobility which can mean better movement  in and out of the gym.

Form tips –  Watch the video below. Hold on to something sturdy at around hip height and sink into your squat and get your head in between your arms and your belly against your thighs.

Breath in through the nose and breath out through the mouth for 5 deep breathing reps.

 

What you should be doing on the gym- Part five – Carries

The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle.  Now that you’re there, what are you going to do?  This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

This is part five of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that give you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside the gym. If you’ve missed the previous parts, please click on the links below.

Part one- Squats

Part two – Pulls

Part three – Pushes

Part four – Hinge

Part five – Carries

Part six – Groundwork

PART FIVE-CARRIES

Think about how many times per week you carry stuff around in your hands. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.  Twice, five, ten times?  Now doesn’t it make sense to train this ability in the gym to make your life easier?  I’d thought you’d see it my way.

see it my way

 

The farmers carry will:

Improve Posture. Trying to carry heavy weights with rounded shoulders is almost impossible.

Improve Breathing Pattern. It’s hard to be a chest breather when you’re carrying heavy weights around.

Improve Shoulder Stability. Your rotator cuffs will work like crazy to keep your arms in their sockets.

Improve balance. Every step of the farmer’s walk is a single leg stance.

They are quite possibility the biggest bang for your buck exercise, providing numerous benefits and are relatively simple to perform. Notice I said simple, not easy.

The carry variations listed below go from easy to more difficult. If you’ve never performed this movement before, please start at the beginning and progress slowly. Only move on when you feel comfortable and ready for the next challenge.

Note on loading and distance- For the dumbbell carries start with a load of 25% of your body weight in each hand and for the barbell (two-handed) carries start with 40-50% of your total bodyweight unless noted otherwise.

You should be able to carry the weight for 20-40 yards. If walking 40 yards is easy, the weight is too light and if you can’t walk a least 20 yards, the weight is too heavy.

1. Dumbbell farmers carry (easier)

Just think of this exercise has carrying the groceries in from the car except the groceries are really heavy. The  exercise cues that work best here are shoulders down and chest up, but if you want to think sexy, just walk like a supermodel.

 

 2. Suitcase carries

Although this variation is less weight, the offset load makes it more difficult to maintain upright posture because you’ll tend to tilt to one side to counter the weight you’re carrying. When starting this exercise, check your posture in the mirror to circumvent this.

Please make sure to do both sides or you’ll be walking around in circles the rest of the day. 😊

3. Goblet carries

Holding the weight under your chin and by your chest adds extra emphasis to your shoulders, biceps, upper back and anterior core muscles. Walking with an upright posture is essential because tilting forward could mean dropping the weight and making a mess.  And you don’t want that.

4. Rack carries

Dumbbell rack carry

Kettlebell rack carry

 These are similar exercises, it just depends on what equipment you have access too. This variation hammers your upper back region which is essential for good posture and for good technique for a lot of the exercises described in this series. But be warned, other gym goers may admire your rack.

 5. Overhead carry (difficult)

 Everything I’ve mentioned up to this point will build your overall strength and enhance your results.  However, 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 and you, the barbell and the floor become one.

Be sure to start with an empty barbell and then experiment with a load that you can carry for 20 and 40 yards. And remember, a little fear in your training can be a motivating experience.

Wrapping up

This exercise does it all. It builds muscle and strength, enhances cardiovascular endurance and it will turn you into a person who no one wants to mess with, including Chuck Norris.

Just kidding. Chuck fears no one.

 Chuck is sleepy.

What you should be doing on the gym- Part four – Hinge

The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle.  Now that you’re there, what are you going to do?  This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

This is part four of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that give you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside the gym. If you’ve missed the previous parts, please click on the links below.

Part one- Squats

Part two – Pulls

Part three – Pushes

Part four – Hinge

Part five – Carries

Part six – Groundwork

PART 4- HINGE

Using the hips like they were intended will make you a boss in the gym and your partner a happy person. Yes, the hips can be that powerful. A lot of athletic movements on the sporting arena have hip hinging/hip extension as their base.

Furthermore, incorrect use of the hips is one of the major causes of lower back pain and hinging correctly will keep the lower back happy. And as a bonus, hinging will help you look great in your favorite pair of pants.

butt female

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you girls.

butt male

This is the most difficult of all fundamental human movements to teach and perform because

1. We sit on it way too much which leads to weak glutes

2. A lot of people have a hard time disassociating their hips and their lower back

3. It’s a hard move to “feel” when you perform it

The hinging variations below are listed from easy to more difficult. If you’ve never been taught or performed this movement before, please start at the beginning and progress slowly. Only move on when you feel comfortable and ready for the next challenge.

1. Wall hip hinge (easy)

Having a reference point will shorten the learning curve because the wall will tell you whether you’re doing the movement correctly or not. Perform this exercise with soft knees and by keeping your chest up and shoulders down.

Doing more reps is important here so do 3 sets of 15 reps. If your back, not your hamstrings, is sore the next day, something is amiss.

2. Hip hinge with stick

Once you’ve mastered the first move, having the stick behind you makes sure you’re using your hips and not any part of your spine when you hinge because your spine will lose contact with the stick if you’re doing it incorrectly. If you struggle for feel while doing this, get side-on with the mirror to receive more feedback.

More reps are important here also so perform 3 sets of 15 reps. If your back hurts the following day, go back to the drawing board.

3. Wall hip hinge with stick

This variation will teach you to keep the weight close to your body which in turn trains you to keep the upper back tight and strong when you hinge. Additionally, having the two reference points will dial in your form before you add load. Please use the same rep and set ranges as the exercises above.

4. Cable pull throughs

Did you notice the close up😊?

The pull-through provides resistance for the entire range of motion which trains you to maintain full-body tension throughout the entire exercise.  Furthermore, having the resistance behind you make this variation lower back friendly.

Choose a resistance that allows you to complete 3 sets of 8-12 reps with the form described in the video.

5. Romanian deadlift (difficult)

This exercise can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells but the technique remains the same.  With the load being in front of you, it’s important that you keep your chest up, shoulder blades in your back pocket so the weight stays close to your body.  This will save your lower back from discomfort and will load the hips and hamstrings as intended.

Start light and dial in your form and confidence with 3 sets of 12 -15 reps and then you can add load and do between 8-12 reps.

Wrapping up

Learning and performing this move correctly is a lower back lifesaver that will save you from pain, discomfort and from those long waiting times in the doctor’s office.

Did I happen to mention your butt will look great?

 

 

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 deep squat hold courtesy of Andy Van Grinsven. 

You should do this because– this exercise helps with hip mobility which is a use it or lose it scenario. And seeing we spent so much time sitting down, it always helps to train your hip mobility.

Makes your everyday life easier because– being mobile at the hips means you’re less likely to screw up your lower back because a lack of hip mobility is bad news for your back.

Form tips – Try to keep your head and chest up and push your elbows into your knees. Hold for 5 seconds in the bottom position and do 6-8 reps before a leg training or when you have been sitting a lot.

 

What you should be doing in the gym- Part three

The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle.  Now that you’re there, what are you going to do?  This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

This is part three of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that gives you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside the gym. If you need to go back in time, click the links below.  This series will go as follows

Part one- Squats

Part two – Pulls

Part three – Pushes

Part four – Hinge

Part five – Carries

Part six – Groundwork

PART THREE- PUSHES

This move is installed in our hardware. Therefore, we already know how to push ourselves away from the floor when lying face down or push our friends and family out of the way when they’re bothering us, without even batting an eyelid.

Pushing is a movement that we do every day without even realizing it, so it makes perfect sense to strengthen this movement in the gym so we can remain injury-free and push aside anything this world can throw at us, just like Chuck Norris.

push ups 2
Don’t mess with Chuck

The pushing variations below are broken up into horizontal and vertical movements and are listed from easy to more difficult. Only move on when you feel comfortable and ready for the next exercise.

HORIZONTAL

1. Incline pushups (easy)

The incline takes gravity out the equation and lightens your load. This allows you to build upper body and core strength while perfecting your pushup form. This exercise can be made easier or harder by increasing or decreasing the incline. However, use an incline that allows you to do 8-15 reps for 3 sets.

2. Single arm cable chest press

With a narrow base of support while lifting unilaterally, this exercise  works on your core strength, balance and irons out any strength imbalances you may have. However, be careful and go light when first doing this move because it’s easy to lose your balance. And we don’t want that.

Use a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 8-12 reps on both sides with good form.

3. Barbell bench press/dumbbell bench press

Barbell bench press

Dumbbell bench press

These exercises are similar but with a few crucial differences. The barbell locks you into the press movement while the dumbbells allows you a little more freedom. If you have any shoulder issues, go with the dumbbell press before trying the barbell.

The barbell allows more resistance while the dumbbells train the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder. Both movements are great but it depends of your comfort and strength level. Try both and see what works for you.

Use a weight that allows you to do 12 -15 reps and when you’re feeling comfortable, go heavier and do between 6- 12 reps.

4. Pushups (difficult)

Please watch this video because there is more to the push up than meets the eye. It’s a complete full body exercise that requires your full attention. The exercises above will help you build the required upper body/core strength to do pushups with good form.

Feel free to go back and forth between these exercises if you’re unable or even able to do a few pushups. They will all help you to build muscle and get stronger.

VERTICAL

Before pressing overhead, you need to be able to get your arms overhead without compensations from your ribcage or lower back. To see if you have the required shoulder mobility for overhead pressing do this test below.

Back to the wall shoulder flexion

 If you’re unable to touch the wall without compensation do a combination of weighted deadbugs and land mine presses to help improve your shoulder mobility.

Weighted deadbugs 6-8 reps

 1. Single arm landmine press (easy)

This is a hybrid movement, somewhere in between a vertical and horizontal press. Most gyms have a landmine but if they don’t, you can shove a towel and a barbell into a corner and that will work just fine.

The trick of this exercise is to reach at the very end of the movement. This will help with your shoulder mobility and health. If you’re new to this movement, start with a weight that allows you to do 8-12 reps for 3 sets.

2. Seated dumbbell shoulder press

I like the neutral hand position (palms facing each other) when pressing dumbbells overhead because it’s safer for the shoulders and it targets the triceps more. Also, being in a seated position makes this variation safer for the lower back. Make sure to sit up straight and to press until your biceps are right by your ears.

A good rep range to start with is 3 sets of 8-15 reps.

3. Half kneeling shoulder press

 The half kneeling position makes this press a little trickier because it narrows your base of support. So, if overarch your lower back while pressing, the floor and you could become one.

This is why it’s a good exercise to hone in your form. Furthermore, the half kneeling position helps strength your glutes and open up your hip flexors. Use a weight that allows you to do 3 sets of 8 reps on both sides with good form.

4. Barbell shoulder press (difficult)

Seated

Standing

 Whether you do the seated or standing version, the barbell allows for extra loading which means extra muscle and strength but it comes with a greater risk of injury, so be careful. Please do the regressions beforehand to bullet proof your shoulders and pressing mechanics before you do this one.

Start with 3 sets of 8- 12 reps and when you when you feel ready, try 3-5 sets of 3- 6 reps.

Wrapping up

Sticking with basics and following the progressions above will build a strong and bulletproof upper body that will have you leaping over buildings with a single bound.

Look out Superman. There’s a new sheriff in town.

If you need any assistance in your quest to get more awesome in the gym click here.