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.

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Power up your training….

Have you ever dreamed about hitting a walk-off home run in the World Series?   Or maybe you have had to sprint to catch the bus, or you’ve tried to show your friends up on the basketball court.

Basketball

In our imaginary and real lives, you need the ability to do things powerfully.

But what is power? Power is determined by Force and Acceleration (P = F x A). Think of force as a push or pull from the object’s interaction with another object, such as the pull of gravity on us or the push phase of a push up.

Acceleration is the rate at which an object changes its velocity, like sprinting to catch the bus or a car moving from a dead stop.

As we age, we lose around 1.5% of our strength per year after the age of 50. More alarming, we lose twice that, around 3% of our power or the ability to move quickly every year after the age of 50.

However, even if you’re not 50, it makes perfect sense to train for power. Training for power is not only fun, it will incinerate calories and help you become fat burning machine and stronger.

Insert one or more of the following power moves at the start of your training, just after your warm up. Make sure you rest two minutes after every set to recover fully.

1. Jump squats- Perform three to five sets, five to eight repetitions per set at the start of your training. Be sure to jump has high as you can and land softly after each repetition.

2.Medicine ball overhead throw– Perform three sets, six- twelve repetitions per set. Take a strong step forward, release the ball as quickly as possible and alternate legs.

3. Medicine ball squat toss- Perform three sets, six to twelve repetitions per set. Ensure proper squat form, imagine the ball is a hot potato and keep your eye on the ball at all times.

4. Incline plyometric push up- Do this on a padded weight bench to ensure a soft landing for your hands. Perform three sets, five to eight repetitions per set. Ensure proper push up form and explode off the bench.

5. Medicine ball twist throw- You can either catch the ball or take in on the bounce. Perform three sets, eight repetitions on each side. Take the ball to your hip on each rep and release the ball as quickly as possible.

 

These will have you sweating, smiling and catching your breath, which is a sure sign of a good time. Because exercise is fun……right?

The 10 Best Exercises You Can Do With One Dumbbell

Imagine this scenario for a moment.

You walk into the gym ready to get it on and it’s packed and most of the equipment is taken. What do you do? Panic?

I have a suggestion besides panicking. Instead grab a dumbbell and doing the following exercises below. These dumbbell exercises will work your body from head to toe with a minimum of fuss or fanfare and you will look awesome.

Trust me, I’m a trainer

1. Goblet squat

A. Hold the underneath of a dumbbell with each hand and holding the dumbbell close to your chest

B. With your feet, a little than wider than hip width apart (or whatever is comfortable for you) squat down aiming your glutes at your heels while keeping your chest up.

C. Squat down until your elbows are touching the inside of your thighs.

D, Stand up by pushing your feet through the floor.

2. Suitcase carry

A, Hold a dumbbell on side of your bodyweight that is approx. 25-50% of your bodyweight.

B. Check in the mirror that your shoulders are even

C. Keeping your shoulders down and chest up walk for 20 steps and swap hands and then walk back.

3. One arm floor press

A. Lie on the floor with one dumbbell by your side. Roll to your side and grab the dumbbell with both hands and roll on to your back.

B. Press the dumbbell towards the ceiling.

C. Slowly lower towards the ground until your elbow touches the ground. Keep your elbow close to your side.

4. Sumo squat

 A. Hold one end of a heavy dumbbell between your legs with both hands. Widen your feet for a comfortable squat stance for you.

B. Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, squat down and touch the dumbbell to the floor.

C. Squat back up, squeeze your glutes and stand tall.

5. One arm row

 A. Stand in front of a bench. Have one hand on the bench and the dumbbell beside you.

 B. Bend your knees and make sure your spine is in a straight line from head to glutes.

C. Reach down pick up the dumbbell, row your elbow towards your hip and slowly return back to starting position.

6. Pullover

A. Lie down on a bench, face up while holding the dumbbell above your chest.

B. Breathe out, flatten your back against the bench and lower the dumbbell behind your head with a slight bend in your elbows.

C. When you feel a stretch in your lats, breathe in and return to starting position.

7. Goblet split squat (Advanced)

A. Hold the dumbbell the same as the Goblet squat.  Set up in half kneeling position, back knee underneath hip and front ankle underneath hip.

B. Rise, pushing your front foot through the floor and slowly return to starting position.

Note- You back knee doesn’t have to touch the ground after each rep. A slight hover is okay.

 8. Dumbbell twist

A. Sit on the ground nice and straight with your knees bent, heels on the ground and holding a dumbbell by your sternum with both hands.

B. Twist dumbbell to the outside of your ribcage, alternating sides.

C. Twist as fast as you can for 10 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. Do this for a total of 3 rounds.

9. Lying two-way triceps extension

A. Lie face up on the floor, holding one light dumbbell facing towards and above your head. Lower the dumbbell down to your ear and extend your elbow.

B. Then with the dumbbell facing away from you lower the dumbbell to your opposite shoulder and then extend.

C. That’s one rep. Do eight-twelve reps on both arms.

tricep extension 1

 

tricep extension 2

10. Seated one arm shoulder press

 A. Sit up straight on a bench while holding one dumbbell in front of your shoulder.

 B. Press the dumbbell towards the ceiling until your bicep is by or behind your ears.

 C. Slowly return to the start and repeat.

Training example

Instructions

Do the five-exercise circuit one exercise after another with minimal rest in- between the exercises. At the end of each circuit, rest for 90 seconds and repeat for a total of four-five circuits.

1A. Goblet squat 12 reps

1B. One arm row 12 reps on each arm

1C. Offset Spilt Squat 8-12 reps on each leg

1D. Seated one arm shoulder press 6-8 reps on each arm

1E. Suitcase carry 20 steps in each hand

When the gym is full, don’t despair. Grab your dumbbell and get a great full body training in flash.

Note- A version of this article appeared here. 

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

 

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?

 

 

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.