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 Spiderman with rotation. I have no idea why they call it this. Maybe Spiderman does it?

You should do this because– you (almost) cannot get enough hip/upper back mobility and core stability into your training routine or daily life. This exercise helps the body move as intended.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  making sure the body moves like it should means less pain and better movement for you.

Form tips – Let your eyes follow your hand when you take it towards the ceiling.  This makes the rotation easier and more effective. Do 5 reps on each side.
If you need any help with your training, please contact me here.
Email-shanemcleantraining@gmail.com
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Right on cue…………………….

You know the voice inside your head, the one that’s telling you to eat that second slice of pie. Yes, that one. What if I told you, you can use that voice help you train safer and get stronger.

Don’t believe me? Then read on.

pie-2
Yum

Before a client is about to lift, I give them two verbal cues to drill into their heads to remember before and during the lift. These cues put them in better position to lift correctly, so they can move more weight safely and feel powerful.

However, not everyone has the means or the time to hire a coach to instruct them on proper weightlifting technique.

But if you can harness the power of the cue, you too can remain injury free and dominate the gym without someone screaming in your ear. Biggest Loser anyone?

 

In my experience, one cue doesn’t fit all. It’s very individual. Some people like to know what it feels like (internal) and other people want to know what it should look like (external).

You have to mix and match to find what works best for you.

The following cues below are the ones I use every day for myself and my clients for push-ups, rows, squats and deadlifts.

Next time you lift, pick two cues (choose no more than two cues at one time) below for each lift and then use your inner voice for good instead of evil.

After all that second slice of pie is not going to help you lift squat.

  • (Disclaimer– You should have some experience at these lifts for these cues to be effective. Please also lift in front of a mirror to check your form.)

 

THE DEADLIFT

Read more about the deadlift here and here.

Google “Deadlift” and you come up with over 13 million hits. No shortage of information on the most humbling lift of all time. With such a complex lift, my aim is to keep it simple so the client lifts the weight safely and effectively.

Now let’s grip it and rip it.

1. “Get your feet underneath the bar”. Some people have a tendency for the bar drift away from the body during the pull and lowering. A deadlifting no-no.

2. “Push your hips back until your hands reach the bar”. A set up cue to help preload the hips and hamstrings to establish a proper hip hinge pattern.

3. “Turn your right foot clockwise and left foot anti clockwise”. This simple tip creates tension in your outer hips and gives you a stronger connection to the ground.

4. “Let your hips go back, back, back, then forward”. Some people bend their knees too much during the descent, turning the deadlift into a squat.

5. “Chest up”, “Squeeze an orange in your armpits” or “Put your shoulder blades into your back pocket”. Any of these cues encourages you to engage your lats to keep your spine straight from head to butt.

6. “Breathe in on the way down, exhale on the way up”. If you inadvertently hold your breath when you lift, this mantra helps. Oxygen is kind of important.

7. “Crack a walnut between your butt cheeks”. This helps encourage a glute squeeze at the top of the lift.

8. “Leave your heel prints in the ground”. This helps you generate force into the ground, which will help with your pull.

 

 

THE PUSH UP

The humble push up. This exercise is butchered in one way or another in gyms worldwide. There are so many things that gym goers do wrong with the push up, some of which are covered right here.

The push up is basically a moving front plank. Theses cues help you to keep a straight spine from head to heel so can you work the chest, shoulders and triceps as intended.

1. “Tuck you chin in” or “Form a double chin”. This keeps the spine straight from head to heel and avoids you smacking your forehead into the ground. Never a good look.

2. “Imagine there is a piece of paper in your arm pits. Squeeze it and don’t let go”. This forces you to keep your arms close to your torso, to load the triceps/chest and to take some of the stress off your shoulders.

3. “Leave your hand prints in the ground”. An old Chuck Norris joke goes something like “Chuck Norris doesn’t do push-ups. He pushes the world down.” I want you to think like Chuck. Push it down baby.

push ups 2
Don’t mess with Chuck

SQUATS

We’ve been doing this movement since childhood because it’s hot wired into our brain. However, I’ve lost count how many times this exercise has been performed poorly.

Some people have forgotten that it’s a  basic human movement because they want to be macho man, just like this guy.

Regardless of the squat variation, it’s a hip movement and not just a knee bend.

The following cues will encourage you to use your hips, discourage unwanted movement at the knees and put your body in the best position to be awesome.

1. “Pretend you’re sitting down into a chair behind you”. If you cannot pretend, doing box squats will help.

 

 

2.“Leave your heel prints in the ground”. This works for squats as well as it does for dead lifts.

3. “Curl your toes towards the ceiling”. If you tend to drift forward on your toes when you squat, this will force you back on your heels.

4.“Aim your glutes at your heels”. This helps you lead with the hips and not your knees.

5.“Rip the floor apart with your feet”. Some people have a problem with their knees collapsing inward like this guy when squatting. Activating the outer hips will help prevent this.

6.“Put your shoulder blades in your back pocket”. No matter what squat variation you’re doing, activating your lats and keeping your spine in neutral from head to butt is a good thing.

ROWS

The row has many forms such has barbell, dumbbell, resistance band and cable, with countless variations on top of that. No matter the variation a row consists of bending your elbow and pulling the resistance towards you.

You’ll be amazed how many gym goers avoid this exercise (why exercise muscles you cannot see) or just completely screw up such a simple movement because of too much weight or correctable technique flaws.

Use these cues to get the most out of this essential lift.

1.“Keep your shoulders away from your ears”. This prevents you shrugging your upper traps to move the weight, a common pulling error.

2.“Chest up, shoulders down”. This cue works for both vertical and horizontal rows. This will keep your spine in neutral and avoid shrugging your upper neck to move the weight.

3.“Create a gap”. I stole this one from Eric Cressey. Without being to scientific, this cue allows the shoulder blade to move across the rib cage correctly by keeping a gap between your upper body and your upper arm.

4. “Get those arms long”. Another common error is short arming the row and not going through the full range of motion. This happens when form falters or the weight is too heavy.

 

Wrapping up

Next time you lift use your inner voice to move more weight and to think less about pie. Your body and waistline will thank you.

 

If you need any help with your training, please contact me here.

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com

33 random gym observations……

Who doesn’t love lists? You get minimal time investment in reading them and little pearls of wisdom may get dropped on your forehead.

Plus, it’s not one of those long drawn out articles that at times can get bogged down with training principles and theories.

If you love lists and the gym, then I’ve got a little something for you.

While working at a health club smack bang in the middle of Downtown Dallas, I’ve seen stuff that that will make you scratch your head, make your eyes burn and make you want your forehead to meet a brick wall, repeatedly.

Let’s start off with this picture to get everyone in the mood……………………..

exercise-funny-2
Thought I was it and the bit

Because deep down we all want to be this cool.

1. Enough with fitness shaming (Hello, Biggest Loser). Instead fitness should be celebrated like American Ninja Warrior.

2. Training involves more than posting to Facebook or Instagram. Pick up a weight or two before the bragging begins.

3. Don’t ever show your underarm fat to a coach and ask, “What do I do about these chicken wings?” Do I really need to say why?

4. Those dance moves belong in a club and not in front of the dumbbell rack while I’m waiting to get my curls on.

5. Laying the weight plates by the weight stack doesn’t count as putting them away. Get your lazy so and so back there and burn a few extra calories by re-racking the weights correctly. See, was that so hard?

6. I think Liam Neeson said it best…………….

406121_532884786736344_1610709227_n

7. If you’re grunting so loudly that everybody can hear you, you better not have 10 pound dumbbells in your hands.

8. Why do you carry around that gallon water jug? There’s a water tap just over there.

9. Knee bends are not squats and never will be. Get some weight off the bar and aim your butt at your heels for a change.

10. Put some clothes on, please. Other gym goers don’t need to see some else’s private parts. Somethings are better left for the imagination.

11. It’s okay to sweat, dude, but please, pretty please clean up after yourself. You’re not at home anymore.

12. Wearing sunglasses while working out is never cool. I don’t care what Corey Hart says.

13. If you’re getting dirty looks while on your cell phone, you’re talking too loudly. No one needs to hear your pet name for your partner.

14. Stop wearing that weight belt for submaximal lifts and use your core muscles for a change.

15. Did you know the bicep muscles weight around a pound? So stop wasting so much time doing 15 different variations while admiring them in the mirror and grunting.

16. Stop bragging. Somewhere in the gym universe, someone is warming up with you max.

deadlifting

17. Stop telling everybody within ear shot how may times you’ve been hurt (I’ve been guilty of this). Nobody cares and that person in the wheelchair really doesn’t give a crap.

18.  Bacon goes with just about anything. Maybe even deadlifts.

19. Hogging a machine or piece of equipment is never cool. When someone asks, “Can I work in with you?” the answer should always be yes.

20. Exercise is never a punishment and is always a reward. I bet that guy in the wheelchair would love to walk again.

21. If you’re not doing some sort of squatting, deadlifting, single leg work, carrying, pressing or pulling in your gym training, you’re just spinning your wheels. The rest is just window dressing.

22. Playing Candy Crush on your phone while spotting your partner goes beyond stupid. Yes, this actually happened.

23. If you’re training just to look good, you’re missing the point.

24. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve missed your anabolic window. Quick, go get some protein.

25. Farmer’s walks are the biggest bang for your buck exercise that hardly anybody does. Why? Cause they’re bloody hard.

26. Boot camps are for the army, not the gym. Everything else is group training.

27. Instead of telling everybody how it’s done, shut up and show them how it’s done (I’m guilty of this one, too).

28. Travis Pollen is amazing and there are many more like him in gyms everywhere. I have no excuses. Neither do you.

29. You cannot have enough strength in entire core (not just the abs), upper back and grip. Strengthening these three areas carries over to almost everything.

30. Why do people wake up at the arse crack of dawn just to run on a treadmill? One of life’s mind boggling mysteries.

31. Coffee makes early mornings bearable, barely.

caffeine-meme

32. When it comes to fitness, many different paths will take you to the same destination. Choose the fun path.

33. Never make eye contact with anyone while doing hip thrusts. They may get the wrong idea. Just saying.

The gym is a place where everybody can walk out bigger and stronger versions of themselves. Let’s keep it that way for everybody.  Share, be considerate, smile, get after it and let’s all have some fun.

If you need any help with your training, please contact me here.

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com

 

 

 

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.

If you need any help with your training, please contact me here.

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com

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.

If you need any help with your training, please contact me here.

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com

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.

If you need any help with your training, please contact me here.

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com

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.

If you need any help with your training, please contact me here.

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com