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 Swiss ball hip extension/hamstring curl. Thanks to Molly Galbraith the co founder of Girls Gone Strong for the video.

You should do this because– we tend to forget about the muscles that we cannot see because we sit on our butt a lot, which can lead to weaker glutes and tighter hip flexors. Besides, the hamstrings and glutes need all the love they can get, right?

hip flexors
Hip flexors.

Makes your everyday life easier because– Strong and mobile hips means less back pain and this (and other things) can make your partner very happy person indeed. 🙂

Form tips – Watch the video below for form tips. I like to program this at the start of my training to get blood flow to the knees, hips and hamstrings before doing squats, deadlifts and lunges. Sets of 8- 15 reps work best.

 

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 Foam Roller Assisted 1-Legged RDL (mouthful I know) courtesy of Zac Gabor and Tony Gentilcore.

You should do this because–  balance, balance and did I mention mention balance? This single leg hinge movement (without the foam roll) is the perfect way to pick light stuff off the floor without hurting your lower back.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  better balance and less stress of your lower back is a good thing. This makes for a great warm up exercise before you train legs too.

Form tips –  Soften the working knee and lock in the foam roll by pointing your toe up and then pushing it down with your hand.  Do 8 reps on each leg when you have a foam roll handy.

 

Spice up your core training

Google core training and you get over 4 million hits. Every man and his dog has an opinion on core training.

Make it 4 million and one. 🙂

So what is “the core”exactly? Think about this for a moment.

The answer you’re likely to get is “it’s my six pack, dude.” However, the core is more complex than that. The core is essentially a set of muscles that extends far beyond your six pack and includes everything except your arms and legs.

Yes, that includes your chest, shoulders, back and butt.

So if you’re crunching away like a mad man (or woman) you’re doing yourself a huge disservice and should stop right now. Pretty please.

Doing crunches is just one wrong way people go about building core strength. Other mistakes include

  • Hold their planks for too long or with poor form
  • Spend too much of their training time admiring themselves in the mirror
  • Wasting their time doing pointless exercises and totally skipping their core training altogether

Plank funny

So let’s avoid these mistakes by

  • Putting core training into the main part of your training
  • Adding movement and tension to your core stability exercises
  • Using the entire core and not just your “abs”

There’s no need to rush off to a gym or buy one of those shoddy infomercial ab machines. All you need is you and your towel to wipe off the sweat.

Use the following tips to get the core you desire.

1. CORE INTERVAL TRAINING

Stuart M. McGill, PhD, Professor of Spine Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, knows a thing or two about the core. If you don’t know who he is, look him up here.

Back in 2013, he improved the core stability and hip explosive power in NBA players by having them perform front/side planks after a treadmill sprint.

You can do something similar at home by using timed bodyweight movements combined with plank variations. Combining your strength, cardio and core into one training is something you’re sure to enjoy.

Trust me, I’m a trainer.

Instructions

Perform the bodyweight exercise as quickly as you can with good form for 20 seconds. During the 10 second rest period get into your plank position and hold for 20 seconds then rest for 10 seconds.

Alternate between the two exercises for a total of 4 rounds of each and rest a minute between supersets.

If you’re game, complete the routine below.

1A. Bodyweight jump squat

1B. Front plank

2A. Ice-skaters

2B. Side plank

3A. Triple extensions

3B. Front plank shoulder taps

4A.Reverse lunge with kick *

4B. Side plank rotations *

*For the side planks and reverse lunges, one side = one round. Alternate sides

 

 

2. UPGRADING YOUR WARM UP

 Your warm up is a perfect time to insert some low- medium intensity core exercises into the mix because

  • You’re fresh and more likely to perform the movements correctly
  • It turns on muscles responsible for spinal stability to help keep you injury free
  • Your core training will be done and you will no longer have to dread it

Insert the following three exercises into your warm up to set yourself up for a fantastic training.

Heel touch

Perform these at the beginning of your warm up after foam rolling. Make sure to keep your low back in neutral and your chin tucked. Do for one-two minutes.

Deadbug

Silly name, great exercise. Perform these right after your heel touch following the same cues as the heel touch. Do six-eight reps on each side. Feel that? You’re welcome.

RKC front plank

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

Perform right at the end of your warm doing five sets of a 10 second hold with 20 seconds rest in between sets.

3. CORE FINSHER

 If you have something left in the tank at the end of your training, try this diabolical four minute plank finisher.

Front plank/Side plank finisher

Hold a front plank for 15 seconds and then transfer into a side plank for 15 seconds. Then go back to the front plank for 15 seconds then transfer to the other side for a side plank for 15 seconds.

This is one round. Try to make it to four……… if you can.

Wrapping up

Thinking outside the crunch can really benefit your core training. Now get after it and train that core!

 

 

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 side lying open book courtesy of Tony Gentilcore. 

You should do this because–  if you’re sitting over a computer all day(or sitting a lot) this helps reverse some of the damage of being being hunched over and provides a good active stretch of the chest.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  good shoulder mobility and better posture means less shoulder/back pain and less chance of injury.

Form tips –  Let your eyes follow your hand and the leg on the foam roll should not move. This ensures the movement is coming from your upper and not lower back.

 

Compound your results…….

Have you seen that person who goes to the gym year after year and never changes? The last time I checked, seeing change is a major reason to go. They do same exercises with the same weight and get the same results, zero.

In some circles that could defined as insanity. Please, don’t be that person.

insanity

A good training program should always include squats, pushes, pulls, deadlifts and single leg exercises.  These give you the biggest bang for your buck.  However, something special happens when you pair two of these exercises.

They become “super” combination exercises.

Combination exercises work the lower and upper body simultaneously, so you’ll be hitting the showers in no time while that other guy is still grinding through his tenth set of bicep curls.

When you’re looking to change things up, build muscle, burn fat or all three, combination moves are just the ticket.

 Combination exercises guidelines

  • Use these movements at the start of your training.
  • Start with a light warm up set
  • The weight you usually use for the upper body push or pull is the weight you’ll use for the entire combination move.
  • For strength, do three-five reps.
  • For muscle/fat loss, do six-eight reps.
  • For muscular endurance, 12-15 reps.
  • Rest 60-90 seconds between sets. If you need most rest, take it.

Note: These exercises are advanced and you should be accomplished in all the major movements listed above before attempting combination exercises.

1. Deadlift to bent over row

(Muscles used: Hamstrings, glutes, back, biceps and forearms)

Instructions

A. Stand with feet hip width apart and grip the barbell shoulder width.

B. Hinge hips back until the barbell is just below your knees while keeping your back straight from head to butt.

C. Pull the barbell towards your sternum, hold for a second and then slowly return barbell to below your knees.

D. Then hinge hips forward keeping the barbell close to your body and squeeze your glutes at the very end of the deadlift. Repeat for your desired repetitions.

Coaching cues

Keep your shoulders down and chest up through the entire movement. The bar should scrap your legs during the down and up portion of the deadlift.

 2. Squat to shoulder press

(Muscles used: Hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, shoulders and triceps)

Instructions

A. Stand tall in your squat stance while holding a barbell or dumbbells at shoulder height.

B. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground.

C. When rising from the squat, start pressing the weight overhead until your elbow are straight and standing tall.

D. Hold the weight overhead for a count of three and slowly return the weight back to shoulder height. Repeat for your desired repetitions.

Coaching cues

While lowering into the squat, rip the floor apart with your feet and keep your chest puffed out. Use the power of your leg to press the weight overhead and during the hold, keep your biceps by or behind your ears.

3. Walking lunge curl to press

(Muscles used: Hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, shoulders, triceps, biceps and forearms)

Instructions

A. Stand tall while holding a dumbbell in each hand on the outside of your thighs.

B. Step forward into a lunge while leaning your torso slightly forward.

C. Curl the dumbbells to shoulder height and then press overhead while remaining in your lunge stance.

D. Reverse the dumbbell movement and then bring your feet together.

E. Alternate legs for the desired repetitions. Make sure the repetitions are even for each leg.

Coaching cues

If you have no space to walk in the gym, this exercise can be done stationary.  During the lunge make sure your back knee doesn’t touch the ground. By taking a bigger lunge forward you’re working the glutes/hamstrings more and by taking a smaller lunge forward you’re working the quads more.

Wrapping up

Combination moves are a great way to challenge the body as you’re working twice as hard. As a bonus, they will also test your lungs, which is a sure sign of a good time.

Now get after it and have fun.

 

Exercise modifications for everybody

How many times have you heard that getting old isn’t for sissies? I’ve heard this a few times (maybe more), especially now as I approach the big five zero.

40.

Unfortunately, as you and I get older, our joints (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and wrists) accumulate a lot of aches and pains. Not only does this make life harder, it makes exercise harder also.

However, life doesn’t stop because you’re achy and neither should your exercise, even though it’s tempting to do so.  Movement is medicine and movement can help heal what ails you.

The following is a list of exercise modifications that I’ve used on myself and clients when the aches and pains become an issue. After all, you should always keep moving and smiling.

smile 2

1. Work in a pain-free range of motion

 Pain is a signal that the body is under threat, with the brain sending nerve impulse that let you know all about it.  The process of pain is a little more complex but for this article, this will suffice.

People often avoid exercises like squats and lunges because “it hurts my knees” or “it hurts my back.” (Note- I’m assuming you’re using good form. If you’re unsure what good form is for an exercise, please ask a professional.)

However, they’re also human movements that you perform every day.  For example, using the bathroom.

toliet
You squatted to get down there.

 

Rather than avoiding them all together, work in a pain-free range of motion instead. The moment the squat, lunge or whatever exercise you’re doing hurts, stop, return to the start and do your prescribed reps in a pain-free ROM.

For example, a box squat can reduce the pain you feel from squatting due to the reduced ROM.

Hopefully, after a while your body will realize that it’s not under threat anymore and you’ll be able to complete the exercise and increase your ROM without pain. However, if pain persists and you’re not getting any better, please see a professional.

2. Isometric exercise

 This is when a muscle produces force without changing length. Examples of isometric exercises are front and side planks. Your favorites, right?

When a certain movement hurts, isometric exercise is a perfect alternative to doing nothing at all. This will help strengthen your body without causing you undue pain or discomfort.

Here are some exercise examples.

Wall squats

 

 Push up position plank

 

 Towel row

 These exercises can be performed in a circuit, doing each for 30 seconds. Perform a total of 3- 5 rounds for a full body training that will help keep you on the fitness straight and narrow.

3. Exercise the opposite limb

Have you ever suffered a sprained ankle, knee, shoulder or wrist and quit exercising all together?

There’s research to indicate that training the non-injured area or limb will result in a “feed-forward” or neural effect (a term called Cross- Education) to the injured area/side which can aid in the boo-boo side healing faster. (1)

 Furthermore, when training unilaterally, you automatically throw your body off balance, causing your core muscles to fire a more than usual. Unilateral training helps strengthen imbalances that may exist between sides.

If one of your legs is hurt/injured, doing exercises such as single leg extensions, curls, leg press or hip extensions on the non-injured side will help the injured side heal stronger.

Or if one of your arms is out of commission, doing exercises such as one arm presses, rows, triceps extensions will strengthen your core, injured arm and imbalances.

And healing faster is always better.

4. Exercise the opposite region

For many years now, I’ve seen people exercise around obstacles such as missing limbs, being in a wheelchair or walking with a cane. However, they always manage to do something.

If they can do it, so can you.

If your upper body is hurting due to an injury, surgery or pain you can exercise your legs on machines such as the leg curl, leg extension or a seated leg press.

Or if your legs are hurting you can do seated upper body exercises such as rows, chest press, triceps extensions or heavens forbid biceps curls, because doing something is always better than doing nothing.

Wrapping up

Being in pain is no fun. Even though it’s tempting to shut up shop and sit on the couch, taking charge of your healing through movement is better for your mind and body.

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 single leg kettlebell swap courtesy of Dr.  Joel Seedman. 

You should do this because– our feet and ankles are in shoes most of the day and we can lose a little strength and mobility in the ankles because of this.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  stronger ankles and better balance can mean less ankle, knee and hip problems.

Form tips – This is best done with a kettlebell but any weight will do. However, keep the weight light and  your eyes on the horizon. Do 3 sets of 6- 8 reps for on both sides at the start of your workout