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 suitcase carry.
You should do this because– we often have strength imbalances between our left and right sides. And lifting or carrying with one hand at a time will help iron out some of these imbalances.
Makes your everyday life easier because- you will be making less trips carrying the groceries from the car to the house. A definite time saver. No jar will be too difficult to open with your new found grip strength.
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Form tips – Hinge or squat down to pick up the weight. Look in a mirror to see if your shoulders are even . Do 20-40 yards in each hand. Thanks to Kevin Carr for the video.

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 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 push up position plank (PUPP).
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You should do this because– Dan John said so 🙂 This move will show where you are weak and where you are strong. If you can hold this for 2 min with good form, you’re golden and better than me.
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Makes your everyday life easier because– this move will strengthen your entire body and stronger is better.
Form tip – Get your wrists underneath your shoulders, engage your glutes and have a straight spine from head to butt. Try working with 20 sec on 10 sec off for 4 -10 reps.

When you twist and then shout

My kids love to challenge me to wrestling matches so they can reenact their favorite WWE Superstars.  How can I resist? My kids get to live out their wrestling fantasies and I get to teach them a lesson or two without CPS being called.

Before you get CPS on the phone, they hurt me more than I hurt them. More on that later.

wwe
Manic

Wrestling matches spontaneously happen in our house on a regular basis without incident except for a few years ago, when I was going through some low back issues.

While smacking into each other, I felt an intense, sharp stabbing pain in my low back due to a back spasm and I could barely get up off the carpet. My kids looked at me all confused as I convulsed on the floor in pain.

“Daddy hurt his back again,” I explained. “No more wrestling today. Sorry.”

If you’ve ever suffered from a back spasm, you can feel my pain and if you haven’t ever had one, cross your fingers that you never do.

cross-your-fingers

Leading an active lifestyle is healthy and fun but it comes with a risk. Sooner or later you’re going to get hurt and spend time on the DL. However, this always out weights the risk of being a lazy bum any day of the week.

Being a 47-year-old active male, I’ve had my fair share of minor injuries. Some have been my fault and some haven’t but through it all I’ve made it a point to remain active.

When you twist and then shout, rather than moping around and feeling sorry for yourself, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on the exercise horse with these following tips.

NoteThis advice is meant for minor, non-life threatening injuries to help you with your recovery and keep you in a positive frame of mind.

1. Exercise around the injury

This one may seem obvious but you’ll be surprised how many people shut it down once they’re hurt. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs and other people missing limbs lift weights. If they can do it, the rest of us can, too.

Here are a few suggestions

  • If your upper body is hurt, train your legs.
  • If your legs are hurt, train your upper body with machines or dumbbells
  • If your back hurts, walking, particularly fast walking, can help
  • Try isometric exercises when the muscle produces force but there’s no movement. These are great when movement hurts

 

Push up plank

 

Wall squats

 

Isometric hip extension

 

2. Train the non-injured side

One of my toughest challenges was training a gentleman who had one leg amputed below his knee. He hired me to prepare him for his prosthetic leg. As you can imagine, exercise was tough for him because he was in a lot of pain and discomfort.

However, during our time together he never complained. If he could exercise without whining, then so can we.

A lot of what we did together was to strengthen the healthy limb to help strengthen the injured limb, a process called cross education. (1) To cut a long story short, some of the strength benefit is transferred from one limb to another.

In my experience, doing most of your training on a machine that allows you to train unilaterally works best. Machines like

  • Leg extensions/Leg curls
  • Chest presses/ Seated rows
  • Biceps curl/Triceps extensions

Machines are not all bad especially when you’re injured.

3. Modify your movements

I once had a client whose doctor told her that she had to stop squatting immediately because of an old knee injury that flared up. My response to this was

“Well, that should make using the bathroom an interesting experience.­­­”

Even while we’re injured, we still perform fundamental human movements such has squatting, pushing, pulling, hinging and carrying stuff around. Life doesn’t stop when we’re hurting and neither should your training.

Here are some exercise modifications examples for when your knee, shoulder or back is hurting/injured.  These are stolen from Andrew Millet, an excellent Physical Therapist /Strength coach in Boston.

Low back pain modifications

Goblet squat to a box

 

Reverse lunges

 

Knee pain modifications

Trap bar deadlift

 

Box squats

 

Shoulder pain modifications

Floor press

 

Half kneeling Landmine press

 

Wrapping up

One of the challenges of being injured is finding a way to keep moving because movement is medicine and this helps heal the body and keep your state of mind positive.

Keep moving and stay strong,  amigos.

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 band pull a parts.
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You should do this because– Our shoulders are a mobile joint because of  it’s shallow ball and socket . This doesn’t provide a lot of support. That’s why they need strength, especially upper back strength. Band pull a parts are a simple exercise to achieve this.
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Makes your everyday life easier because– Pain free and mobile shoulders allow you to lift, reach, throw balls to your dog and be awesome.
Form tip – This is a movement that great for higher reps to help achieve upper back strength and endurance. Try for 100 reps a day for better shoulder heath. Thank you to Dr. John Rusin for the exercise video.

A women’s guide to getting stronger……

Women have been told for far too long that less is more when it comes to their bodies.  Words like ‘slim,’ ‘toned’ and ‘skinny’ permeate through most women’s fitness magazines.

Celebrity trainers have a dazzling array of bodyweight and pink dumbbell moves that target the hips, waist and thighs so women can have their best spring body ever.

What are those heavy dumbbells or that barbells on the floor? If I touch one of them, I might turn into the Hulk.

hulk-2

Don’t worry, ladies, this will not happen to you because of a little thing called testosterone and your lack of it in comparison to men. (1) Besides, testosterone makes men do silly things and we need you to help clean up our messes.

Wishful thinking, right?

maid

Strength training has tremendous health benefits for both men and women, including but not limited to

  • Injury prevention
  • Plays a role in disease prevention (2)
  • Protects bone and muscle mass
  • Helps turn you into a calorie burning machine
  • Helps with better movement and less pain

Should women deny themselves the benefits of strength training because of a few myths that never seem to die?  The short answer is no, you shouldn’t because strong is the new sexy.

However, if you’re new to all of this, where do you start?

Start right here. Let’s look at the movements you’ll be doing to get stronger and why you’re doing them.  Then I’ll outline a program for you, so you too can get strong.

1. SQUATS

This is a movement we’ve been doing since we were babies. Yet somehow between childhood and adulthood, some of us lose the ability to execute this fundamental human movement correctly.

Why it’s important to train 

  • It’s a full body exercise
  • Gives you great looking legs
  • Develops core strength
  • It’s a movement you perform every day.
  • Builds lean muscle and burns a ton of calories.

This is what a squat should look like

Baby-squat
I rest my case
2. BENCH PRESS

The bench press is not only for the guys. A lot of women I know get a huge sense of empowerment hoisting weights above their chest. It’s a great upper body strength builder that helps build lean muscle on your chest, shoulders and arms.

Why it’s important to train

  • Helps build upper body strength, a weak point for a lot of women
  • A great compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups
  • Gives you a great looking upper body
  • To show the guys up

 

3. Row 

We tend to forget about the muscles that we cannot see. That’s not a good idea because we live in a society that sits too much while slouching forward. Overtime this can lead to upper back muscles that are weak and overstretched.

A weak upper back contributes to poor posture and back/shoulder pain.  The row helps strengthen the upper back, grip and gives you better looking arms.

Why it’s important to train 

  • Strengthens your upper back
  • Improves your posture
  • Helps give you a better-looking arms, shoulders and back

 

4. FARMER’S CARRY

How often do you find yourself carrying around heavy stuff? Once a day or a couple of times per week?  It’s something that we do on a regular basis when you think about it.  For example, when we carry shopping bags.

So why not train this in the gym? There’s nothing complicated about the farmer’s carry. Pick up some heavy weights and walk. However, it’s not easy and it’s a challenge you’re sure to enjoy. Or not.

Why it’s important to train

  • Works on your core, strength and cardio simultaneously
  • Has significant carryover to real life.
  • Gives you a vice like grip
  • Develops great looking shoulders and upper back.

YOUR PROGRAM

This 6 week, 3 day a week program below will concentrate on the movements described above with a few exercises sprinkled in to work on the thighs, triceps and core.

The trainings are divided into heavy, light and moderate to help you build strength and lean muscle.

If you unsure on how to warm up before you train, do this.

 

Training A – Heavy (Monday or Tuesday)

Instructions- Do the exercises one after the other, resting 2 minutes between each exercise. Try to go up 2.5 – 5 pounds each week while maintain good form. Click on exercises for video demonstrations.

1A. Squats (Sumo OR Goblet) 3 sets 5 reps

1B. Single arm row (Dumbbell OR Cable) 3 sets 5 reps on each arm

1C. Single leg (Split squats OR Reverse lunge) 3 sets of 5 reps on each leg

1D. Dumbbell bench press 3 sets 5 reps

 

1E. Farmer’s carry (20-25% of your bodyweight in each hand) 3 sets 40 yards

 

 

Training B- Light (Wednesday or Thursday)

Instructions- Use a lighter weight than training A because you’re doing more reps. Exercises 1 and 3 will be done as superset (back to back). Rest as little as possible between exercises and rest 60-90 sec at the end of each superset. Exercise 2 do both sets with as little rest as possible in between sets.

1A. Squats (Sumo or Goblet) 2 sets 15 reps

1B. Single arm cable row 2 sets 15 reps on each arm

2. X band crossover 2 sets 15 reps

 

3A. Overhead triceps extensions 2 sets 15 reps

 

 

3B. Push up plank 2 sets to failure

 

 

Training C Moderate (Friday or Saturday)

Instructions- Use a heavier weight than training B because you’re doing less reps. Exercises 1 and 3 will be done as a superset (back to back). Rest as little as possible between exercises and rest 60-90 sec at the end of each superset. For the Suitcase carry, rest as much as needed.

1A. Squats (Sumo or Goblet) 3 sets of 10 reps

1B. Single arm dumbbell bench press 3 sets 10 reps

 

2. Suitcase carry (25% of body weight in one hand) 3 sets 40 yards in each hand

 

 

3A. Single leg (Split squats or Reverse Lunge) 3 sets 10 on each leg

3B. Inverted or TRX row 3 sets 10 reps

Wrapping up

After this 6-week program, you’ll be stronger and more confident in and out of the gym because strong is the new sexy.

Do you need any more help getting started? 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 any concerns you may have.

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