A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part III

Motion

Need water?  A cigarette 🚬 ?  Struggling to stay awake 😴 ?

Yeah, me too.  

If you made it this far, you’ve read through 30 different core exercises. 

Congrats, you’re in an elite group, primed with knowledge.

Brace yourself for exercises 31-48.  

Here. We. Go.

31.  Rotational Throws

The human body must be able to produce force and resist forces acting on it.  Rotation is a missing component of a lot of workout programs. 

Our bodies move through a ton of rotational patterns in sport and daily living. 

Don’t necessarily reach for the heaviest weighted ball. 

10lb, 12lb a 15lb medicine ball is plenty heavy. 

I like this style of medicine ball.

3-5 sets of 5-8 throws per side (ideally early in the workout the body is fresh).

32.  Chops and Lifts

Chops and Lifts are two simple (not easy) exercises that most people will find they: 

a) struggle to execute on either side (even with lightweight).

b) can only successfully do on one side, not the other (even with lightweight)

There are many different positions to perform Chops and Lifts in, but the inline position is one of the most humbling. 

Assume a half-kneeling position (one knee down, one knee up). 

Place the down knee directly behind the heel of the up leg.  So, make a straight line with your up and down legs. 

Chopping or Lifting once in this position is dramatically more difficult. 

33.  Anti-Rotation Press Outs

Training rotation is often forgotten yet a HUGE part of everyday movement.  One of the core’s important functions is to brace against forces acting upon it. 

Stretching a resistance band under tension, pressing the hands out away from the body, you’re calibrating the core to resist rotational forces. 

3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions.  

Hold each rep (elbows extended)  for 2-3 seconds.  Add time as needed. 

34.  Single-Arm Push-Ups

Everyone is fanatical about something, and I am fanatical about the value of single-arm push-ups.

To get started here, allow me to say that single-arm push-ups are not a circus exercise only for the flashy calisthenics athlete.  They are for EVERYONE.  Follow the progressions and you can make great gains with upper body pressing strength, stability, and range of motion. 

Single-arm push-ups are a fully scalable movement for a beginner.  A beginner can make single arm push ups more approachable by executing from a kneeling position, hands elevated on stairs/bench/plyo box or by wrapping a resistance band around the chest to reduce the loading. 

All of these regressions will build strength while moving you closer to a full single arm push up. 

I have found single arm push-ups to be one of the best upper body pressing exercises available.

35.  Atomic Push-Ups

There is a time and place for isolated core work, and at some point, you realize that all exercises are “core work” on some level.  So if you can add a push up to a knee tuck, do it. 

The key to the knee tuck in this exercise is lifting the butt/hips to the ceiling, as high as possible, to make room for the knees tucking in toward the elbows. 

3-5 sets of 6-15 reps

36.  Core Smash

Core smash = intense core flexion contraction. 

Lay face-up on the floor. 

Place hands on the side of the head (fingertips just behind the ears), slowly bring your knees to meet your elbows, pressing elbow into the knees as hard as you can. 

Hold it there, think of something other than the cramp brewing in your mid-section.

The set ends when the elbows lose contact with the knees. 

Aim for brief holds at first, extending the duration as you gain strength. 

37.  Arch Body

The core is not only on the front of the body, easily seen in the mirror.  It wraps around your body like a weight belt.  Hard to see in the mirror, the glutes and spinal erectors are crucial for human performance, body health, and injury mitigation. 

Arch body exercise is the opposite of the Hollow Body exercise.  Chest down on the floor, you’re going to create a pronounced U-Shape by lifting the arms/back/hamstrings and heels. 

Many will feel weak during the arch body, cramping, etc.  It’s ok.  Hold as long as you can, rest and repeat. 

Hammer the front side, hammer the backside. 

38.  Hollow Body High Plank or Push Ups

Assume a high plank position (aka the top of a push up), roll your pelvis under, arch your spine and protect your shoulder blades to make as pronounced of a “U-Shape” as possible. 

Hold there and embrace the suck, because it’s a highly rewarding position but a sucky position at first.  The hollow body position is fundamental for many more difficult gymnastics based movements.    

Beginner level gymnastics posture here.  Very humbling. 

39.  Stability Ball Stir-the-Pot

Stability balls are naturally unstable.  So, putting the elbows on the stability ball to perform a plank creates a wobbly situation.  Now, add a circular motion with the elbows as if you were stirring a giant pot of soup. 

Why do this exercise?  Because adding more time to a marathon length standard plank is not what most people need.  More time doesn’t mean greater gains.  At some point, especially with planks, make them harder. 

One way to make them harder is to add a dynamic movement to a fundamental stability exercise. 

 

40.  Suspension Trainer Pendulums

Slip your feet into the loops of a suspension train or gymnastics rings, turn over and assume a high plank position (top of a push up).  The feet are now suspended while the upper body is supporting. 

Initiate a side to side motion pendulum motion from the waist on down by activating the hands/arms/torso.  Grip the ground hard and swing the legs without breaking at the low back, hips, knees. 

This is a very non-traditional exercise that will blow up your mid-section.  Expect oblique soreness in the days that follow.

3-5 sets of higher repetitions, maybe 10-20 per side.

41.  Core Compression Pulses

Core compression pulses are a beginner level gymnastics exercise, which in itself is humbling to think about. 

To do them, sit on the floor, upper body erect and legs straight out in front of you. 

Place hands on the outsides of the thighs, pressing into the ground for assistance as you lift each leg entirely off of the ground, pulsing up and down. 

Lift the legs as high as possible without rocking, bending the knees or compensating to do so. 

Core compression pulses are a high repetition exercise, but beginners don’t be surprised if you’re only able to get 3, 4 or maybe 5 before form breaks or cramping commences.

I like to work these early in the workout, before any other lifting or cardio because they are so demanding and isolating the motion is important.  3-5 sets of 4-20+ reps. 

42.  Loaded Carrying Variations

Loaded carries are incredible for core development and total body tension. 

For the functional fanatic in all of us who want every minute of strength work and cardio exercise to translate to real-world scenarios, is there any other mode of exercise more functional than carrying objects of varying weights, texture, shapes and sizes (not to mention carrying in various positions) from Point A to Point B?

Personally, I do not think so.

43.  Lizard Crawl + Push or Pull

Perform a lizard crawl while pushing or pulling an object of weight.  Simple as that. 

I hesitated to include this hybrid exercise but ultimately felt that people who can Lizard Crawl proficiently would enjoy adding a brutal push or pull to the exercise.

A sandbag on carpet or a hard floor surface, a kettlebell, dumbbell or weight plate can all be used as the equipment for the push and pull. 

I’ve used all of these tools with success, but I prefer using a sandbag on carpet or hardwood. 

44.  Spinal Waves

It’s been said, “we are as old as our spines”.

The spine is our life force and if we cannot move it when we need to, it is likely to become a problem down the road. 

Exercise tips:  Soft pump the wall for 100-200 reps most days of the week. 

Sounds like too much?  200 reps of spinal wave take less than 5 minutes and your body will thank you for the movement. 

45.  Standing Spine CAR’s

Lock in the hips, hug yourself and articulate in a circular fashion as if you were trying to dodge pushes from a boxer.  Say hello to controlled articulations and their ability to wake up the obliques.  Brace and breathe. 

46.  Hip CAR’s

Assume a quadruped position with hands, knees, and feet in contact with the floor.  Raise your leg out to the side of your body as high as possible, pretend like you’re a dog about to pee on a fire hydrant.  Be mindful to keep your shin bone parallel with the floor, which means your foot doesn’t move higher or lower than your knee.  

[The guys at MyDailyMobility.com teach controlled articulations and a lot of other effective mobility drills in their daily mobility program.  Give it a look.  Your body will thank you]

Draw a large circle with your knee (articulate) as you slowly move the knee behind the body.  This will look like the finishing position of a donkey kick.  Lower the knee back underneath the body, but don’t set it down.  Reverse the pattern. 

Many of the best “core” movements are not isolated movements, and they shouldn’t be because isolating the “core” is not how humans operate. 

47. Movement 20XX Kick Throughs

Side Kick Through’s are a basic movement element in Movement 20XX, resembling a break dancing type move.

Movement 20XX is a bodyweight focused, ground-based movement system packed with performance and restorative movement patterns. 

Begin in a quadruped position, hands and feet supporting the body (knees hover 1-2 inches off the floor). 

Rotate to one side by pivoting on the ball of the foot, opening up your chest to the side you’re turning toward. 

Slide the trailing leg through and “kick” it through until fully extended. 

While the leg kicks through, pull the opposite arm/hand back as if you were drawing back a bow and arrow. 

48.  Movement 20XX Supine Reach

This exercise is LOADED WITH BENEFITS. 

Posterior chain activation, controlled rotation of the torso, elongation of the often shortened muscles of the core.

This benefits of this exercise are plentiful:

  Opens up the torso and chest in a diagonal pattern (far hip to far shoulder)

  Challenges and improves shoulder stability on the loaded working arm

  Opens up the hips anteriorly

  Activates the posterior chain (gluten/hamstrings) moving into extension.

  Uncommon position (head and eyes get a different look at the world)

The End.  

 

 

A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part II

Core Training

You made it!  

What follows is the sequel of the original A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part I

Feast your eyes on exercises 16-30. 

16.  Sandbag Training

Sandbags are a shape-changing piece of fitness equipment capable of building raw strength and conditioning.  

*** Exercising with objects of varying textures is a subtle detail that can really take the functionality of your workouts to another level.   

Sandbags do not have a great texture.  They naturally want to slip through your fingertips and slither out of the bear hug.  

This is part of the value of training with sandbag… the fight!

Every repetition with a sandbag is a fight. 

The clean-squat-press exercise is a classic sandbag combination.  

* Tip:  Do not overstuff the sandbag.  Over-stuffing the outer shell with filler bags reduces the instability component.  More space inside the outer shell means greater instability and shape-changing during exercises.

To build raw strength, load up the sandbag and grind through squats, presses, carrying and pulling exercise just as you would with a barbell or any other strength-based tool.  

17.  Slow Mountain Climber Variations

Yoga often refers to this exercise as “knee to nose”. 

The prone position (chest down) is a disadvantaged position for the body to make this happen. 

Arch the back and hollow out, push the shoulder blade out and back (protract) and slowly bring one knee up as far as you possibly can. 

18.  Weighted Plank Variations

If you can successfully dominate bodyweight-only planks, add weight and try the same variation.  It will be harder.  If you’re a go-getter, figure out how to put the weight on your back by yourself.  At the present moment, I don’t yet own a weight vest.   I am not sure why, but I don’t.  So, I shimmy a heavy sandbag onto my back and hold planks while balancing the sandbag.  The process of getting the sandbag onto my back is a workout in itself. 

19.  Tuck Planche 

Tucking the thighs tight to the stomach while supporting bodyweight using only the arms.  It’s a difficult task with many regressions to make the task more palatable.   

The tuck planche requires core compressional strength and eventually endurance as the duration of the hold increases. 

20.  Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Core training in a standing position on a body of water in the sunshine?  Yes, please. 

The first couple of strokes on a stand-up paddleboard is all of the proof you’ll need to understand how active the core is while exerting on a SUP

Core strength is essential for moving the board through the water. 

21.  Sleep

Zzzzzzzzzz. 

The benefits of 7-8+ hours of quality sleep are very important for body composition, daily function, mental clarity as well as recovery and regeneration from the stresses of exercise.  

Yet, the value of sleep remains largely unknown and underemphasized.

We also live in a world where sleep deprivation is worn like a badge of honor.  

In my dreams, the world corrects and we revert back to celebrating the power of sleep. 

I won’t pretend to be a sleep expert, but I have an understanding of how “off” my body and mind feel when I don’t get an adequate amount of sleep.

If you’d like to learn more about sleep in a super entertaining, yet informative interview, check out Joe Rogan’s interview with guest Dr. Matthew Walker.  The link to this episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast can be found here. 

Dr. Walker has also written a fantastic book on all things related to sleep, “Why We Sleep:  Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”.

22.  Kettlebell Swings (variations)

All movements are core movements. 

Kettlebell swings, while not a direct core exercise, work primarily the trunk, hip and hamstring muscles. 

Entire books and training programs have been designed to teach the value of kettlebell swings and how swings can improve power, cardio conditioning, strength, and body composition. 

Nutrition is king for fat loss and body composition, but if I were forced to hand-select a few exercises to simultaneously burn fat and build muscle, I’d got with a steady practice of kettlebell swings and Turkish Get Ups. 

Listen to Pavel Psatsouline (the godfather of kettlebells) talk about kettlebell training extensively on The Joe Rogan Experience.

23.  Dead Bugs

Ly on your back with chest facing the ceiling, actively press your low back into the floor (curling your pelvis back neutral/posterior), lock arms and legs in the extension point them toward the ceiling. 

Slowly lower opposite arm/ opposite leg to the floor to start the movement.

Ideally, you’ll make soft contacts with the floor or stop 1-3 inches above, and come back to the start position.  However, use an abbreviated range of motion if you feel your pelvis shifting to make up for lack of control. 

Imagine a full glass of water in a skinny tall glass balancing at the navel region (or just above) while you move the extremities, yet keep the torso “quiet” and still. 

A lot of the exercises in this article have some room for technique deviation.  But in my opinion, strict technique is only way to practice dead bugs. 

Alternate each side for repetitions.  3-5 sets x 8-20 repetitions. 

24.  “Twisted Tea” from the #OMU (Instagram)

This is my new favorite “core” obsession because it lacks the dull robotic range of motion that many gym exercises have.  

I have to give credit to the “#OMU” crew on Instagram for introducing me to this multi-planar core drill. 

Assume a high plank position with arm extended out in front of the body. 

“Draw” the largest circle possible, spiraling down to the floor, reaching in and out of the legs, etc. 

When you reach the endpoint, reverse the motion and take it back to the start position. 

Each rep is extremely long, challenging and very interesting. 

So far, I have only used a 2.5lb and 5lb weight plate on this drill, and my obliques were sore for days after. 

25. Overhead Loaded Squats

Basic exercises become increasingly difficult when weight is overhead, which raises the center of gravity and requires more joints to contribute to the activity. 

The overhead position is challenging for a lot of people, often due to having stiff upper backs (thoracic spines) and stiff/unstable shoulders. 

Again, positioning weight overhead raises the center of gravity causing the torso to lengthen.  The core muscles make the adjustment and work overtime to stabilize the body. 

The overhead position is very challenging for the joints, moving from the shoulders to mid-back, to hips, to knees and finally down to the ankles.  Each joint must have adequate mobility and stability to control the weight overhead. 

Overhead squats are a fantastic exercise and therefore worth mentioning on this list, but they are also the exercise with the most pre-requisites.  Make sure you’ve done your mobility and stability work before slinging weight overhead. 

One way to observe your readiness is to practice overhead squats with a wooden dowel… and film your technique. 

26.  Windmills 

This is a classic, often forgotten kettlebell drill. 

The weight is supported overhead with elbow locked (but soft).  Hips are pushed to the side while the upper body lowers to the floor.  Softly touch the free hand to the floor and return to the starting position. 

Windmills are one of those movements I program infrequently, but I really see value in establishing motor control and know-how. 

In a real-world setting, we won’t always be perfectly vertical while supporting objects overhead.  Sometimes, we have to bend, twist and hinge while maintaining control from shoulder to elbow to hand. 

27.  Janda Sit Ups

I do not program sit-ups in my own training regimen and also do not prescribe for others. 

I feel there are FAR better uses of gym time. 

However… Janda Sit Ups will numb your soul.  You’ll hear angels singing and see the face of God during every set of Janda Sit-Ups.

Janda Sit Ups help to further isolate the rectus abdominals by reducing hip flexor contribution during each sit up.  This means the abdominals are responsible for doing more work.

The effectiveness of the Janda Sit Up is all in the setup and technique.  While a training partner is good to have for these, I do think Janda Sit Ups are possible to execute alone using a well-placed stretch resistance band. 

With the knees at roughly 90 degrees and heels on the floor, anchor a resistance band (at knee height or slightly above) around squat rack, door, piece of furniture or anything else sturdy.

Stretch the band out and wrap it around your calves, 3-4 inches above your ankles.  The band should have some stretch loaded into it, which will require your glutes and hamstrings to actively pull against the band during the sit-ups. 

You’ll have to play around with the band height and tension until you find a sweet spot.

Before and during the sit-up action, contract the glutes and hamstrings to initiate reciprocal inhibition of the hip flexors.

My first couple of experiences with Janda Sit Ups resulted in a level of muscle soreness that humbled me to my core (no pun intended). 

The first couple of reps it’s hard to know if you’re doing it correctly, but in general, if you have the sensation of not being able to peel your back off the floor to sit up, you’re on the right track. 

28.  Hanging Knee Tucks 

Hanging Knee Tucks kill a few birds with one stone.

First, hanging for extended periods of time builds grip strength/endurance, provides traction for the spine, stability for the shoulders. 

Second, the motion of raising the knees up to parallel with the waistline (or ideally above) is a challenging exercise for the core, particularly the lower abdominals.

I prefer to do fewer repetitions, opting for longer duration holds with the knees tucked.  Aim for 5-10 seconds per hold, with 5-8 reps of a longer duration holds will have your abdominals and grip burning. 

Looking for a burn out session?  Simply hang from the bar with knees tucked until something about the exercise fails (grip, core, etc)

29.  Zercher Sandbag Squats

Hooking the arms under a sandbag is both a bicep scorcher and a worthy challenge for the core as it battles to maintain body position, even in a non-moving static position. 

Add a squat and the difficulty is increased.   

30.  Explosive Flexion Slams

Slamming a weighted ball on the ground is essentially explosive Olympic Lifting for your core.  The lats also get a nice stimulus during flexion slams. 

Power development in all planes of movement is a great thing. 

If you’re going to do flexion slams, consider using a no rebound ball, versus slamming a ball that re-arranges your face. 

Done.

This concludes Part II of the giant list of core exercises. 

✅ Check out the finale 👉 A Giant List of Effective Core Exercises| Part III

Hybrid SkiErg Training

Motion


The number of exercise variations and hybrid circuits that can be performed using a SkiErg is relatively unknown.

Simple adjustments in body position, adding exercises or implementing other equipment to alter and amplify the training effect of the SkiErg are many.  You’re only limited by your creativity.    

Most SkiErg videos and articles are centered around “SkiErg how-to”  stroke technique and mechanics.  We need these videos, and there are some really informative instructional videos on YouTube.  

But for people wondering how they can expand there use of SkiErg, there are very few videos.  Not a lot of discussion on stroke variations, adding movement to strokes, combining exercises with SkiErg to create work circuits, or other creative applications for the cardio machine.  

This article is an introduction to a few of the variations I’ve played with and implemented successfully into my own workouts.  

Per usual, everything shared has been tested by me first.

Try Something Different, Avoid Boredom at All Costs

There are ZERO reasons to allow boredom to creep in and dissolve your workout regimen.

Fitness pro’s are willing to argue over nutrient transport and motor units recruitment during deadlifts, but few acknowledge how boredom is a very effective killer of exercise motivation.

Changing it up from time to time is important.  

 Adjustments and tweaks can always be made to create a new challenge and keep daily workouts fresh.  

I’m a big believer in gym discipline.  Show up and leverage basic fitness principles because they are powerful.  The fundamentals get results.

But…

… if you’re one bland workout away from throwing in the towel with your fitness, it’s time to switch it up.  

❤️ SkiErg

SkiErg workouts have never made me cringe the way other cardio machines do.  

Rowing?  Brutal.  Someone utters “2000m row for time” and I melt into the floor. Gross.

Airbike?  Meh.  Not as bad, but bad enough.  Higher intensity air bike training can be awful, especially when gunning for personal records on the 5-mile ride for time

For whatever reason, I’ve developed an affinity for tough workouts on the SkiErg.  

I’m always game for a quality SkiErg session.  Even the longer distances don’t give me the heebie-jeebies like the rower. 

Save the Legs!

SkiErg training is a leg sparing cardio activity.

The training stress is much different compared to rowing, biking or running.   

SkiErg is upper body dominant. 

While the arms pull on the handles, the trunk begins to flex slightly as the hips hinge and knees bend ever so slightly.  

This loosely describes traditional SkiErg stroke technique.

Reach and contract, pull and flex/hinge…. relax and return to the start.

Photos of a split squat variation… 

Strokes become rhythmic while the meters accumulate.  

SkiErg training is mostly (not always) performed in a vertical standing position. Training in a standing position with feet on the floor is a nice feature of SkiErg. 

I say “not always” because the SkiErg can be used in the seated or kneeling positions.  

These modified positio are great for adapted athletes or people with lower-body injuries.  

SkiErg Variations

Over the course of the last year, I’ve tested a wide scope of applications for SkiErg training.

  •  Short burst efforts integrated into hybrid circuits
  •  Long distances (2000m, 5000m, etc)
  •  Power training for shorter distances (100-200 meters)
  •  Multi-modal aerobic cardio training (bike, row, SkiErg)

What did I find?

It all works quite well.  

SkiErg is seamless to integrate into circuits because there’s zero set up to initiate the exertion.  

You don’t have to climb onto it or need to strap any body parts in, or mess around with seat heights, etc.  

Check out this little circuit:  Lizard Crawl + Kettlebell Swing + SkiErg circuit.

As you can see… pairing SkiErg with other exercises (bodyweight, kettlebells, barbell, etc) is a piece of cake, and challenging as hell.  This integration adds a whole new dynamic to basic gym equipment.    

Simply walk up to the machine, grab the handles and start pulling.  Make it purrrrrrr.   

Tiny adjustments to the traditional SkiErg stroke technique can change a lot about the training stimulus.  

Staggering the stance, turning the body to a 45-degree angle, jumping on each stroke all create a new training experience.  

Below are several different ways to shake up your next SkiErg session.  

Future articles will branch off to share more SkiErg variations I’ve found to be challenging and “fun”.  

The idea here is simple…  

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. 

 

Foot Placement/Base of Support Variations

Shifting foot position can alter the base of support, which changes the training effect ever so slightly as the body makes on-the-go adjustments to remain in control and balanced during efforts.  The feet remain in a fixed position on the floor in all of these variations. 

Split Squat Double Arm Pull 

Technique cue: “kiss” the knee cap of the rear to the floor at the bottom of the split squat.

Leverage your body weight’s descent to the floor and pull HARD on the handles.  Generate power!

45 Degree Angle Stance + Double Arm Pull 

Rotate the lower body to a 45-degree angle to the SkiErg.  Turn the upper body to face the chest at the SkiErg.  

Training from this position will challenge the upper body/lower body separation and hammer the obliques.  Again, the obliques will take a serious beating here.   

 

Dynamic Variations

Now, we get the lower body moving.  

What was once upper body focused training, goes headfirst into the total body cardio realm.

Everchanging positions, twisting/turning, jumping and lateral bounding.  The lower body movement will vary, the upper body pulling action remains the same.  

Alternating Split Squat Jumps + Double Arm Pull

Adding split squat jumps to the double arm pull creates a total body training effect.  The split squat jump increases the fatigue factor 3x, versus normal technique.  Traditional SkiErg training is primarily upper-body focused, the split squat jump changes that.    

At the bottom of the split squat jump, “kiss” the knee cap to the floor. Soft and quiet landings.  Try and time the pull of the handles with the landing of the split squat, which will give you the best opportunity to create as much power on each stroke as possible. 

 

Rotational Squat Jumps + Double Arm Pull 

Squat, jump and rotate.  Find the floor, pull.  

Got it?

This SkiErg variation adds complexity to the effort.  

The key to having success with this exercise is planting the front foot on the floor in line (or as close to) with the tower of the SkiErg.  Doing so will create space for the handles to straddle the front leg and avoid any interference on the pull.

Adding Equipment

Sometimes, other gym tools can be used to add a new dynamic or challenge to a cardio experience.  With SkiErg, the hands are fixed to the handles, so the external loading will likely be hands-free.  Weight vests and resistance bands work really well here. 

Here is a badass resistance band variation worth trying out...

Stretch Band Resisted + Double Arm Pull 

The resistance band pulls the hips backward, making driving hips forward into extension a more difficult.    

The pull of the band will set your glutes on fire.  

Of all of the variations listed in this post, this is my favorite.  

Getting a little more action for the glutes and reinforcing aggressive hip extension is a fantastic addition to an already great cardio activity.  

 

SkiErg Hybrid Circuits

Whenever I feel my workouts getting a bit stale, I’ll mix 1-2 exercises with the SkiErg to create a hybrid circuit.  “Nano-Circuit” may be a more accurate description.

Kettlebell swings, clean and press, loaded lunges, goblet squats and lizard crawling all pair extremely well with the SkiErg and the transition between activities is painless.  

Generally, I keep the SkiErg distance consistent.  Each of the videos below shows a 100m effort on the SkiErg, short enough to really power up each stroke, but not so far to create fatigue too early in the workout.  

I recommend keeping the resistance exercise, locomotion pattern and SkiErg effort brief and intense.  Choose fewer reps for the non-SkiErg exercise… anywhere from 6-10 reps.  

Rest after achieving your target distance.  Execute for however many rounds you prefer.  

Steady, accumulated fatigue is the goal.  As the clock ticks, you’re going to get tired training using this format.  Don’t start out too aggressively and burn out in the first round.  

I value these workouts because almost all of the work is performed standing.  

Here are some examples:

Kettlebell Swings + SkiErg

Macebell 360’s + SkiErg

Lizard Crawl Flow + SkiErg

Ah, yeah, that’s enough for this post.  

Get into some of these variations and let me know how it went.  

I love hearing from everyone!

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

Kettlebell Clean – Press- Squat

Motion

Years ago when I was low on cash and training in my studio apartment, my lone pair of 24kg kettlebells provided workout after challenging workout.  Making the most of a tiny home gym also gave me PHD in resourcefulness. 

Kettlebell training is unique, unlike any other mode of training.

Bursting onto the fitness scene in the early 2000s, kettlebells gradually became a mainstay piece of equipment in gyms all over the world.

Kettlebells disrupted fitness.  The spotlight was shifted really functional loaded exercises.  Drills like swings, cleans, snatches, Turkish Get Ups and other combinations became the new standard.  Most of which performed in standing position.

Though the effectiveness of kettlebell training has never changed, the novelty of the tool has since dissipated, which is common in the fitness industry.  

Exercises, equipment, and methods lose their popularity in the mainstream… here today, gone tomorrow.  

“Bring in the next shiny toy of the year, please!”.  

Despite the sex appeal fading a bit, basic kettlebell exercises remain brutally effective for building strength, conditioning, and fat loss.  

I’m one of those people who don’t forget.   

Outside of nutrition, sleep, hydration and adequate non-exercise activity on a daily basis… short burst kettlebell training (high intensity, low rest, etc) is amazing for burning body fat.

And yes, if you want to maximize workouts, you’d better be auditing habits outside of the gym.  Don’t sabotage your efforts. 

 

Kettlebell Clean, Press and Squat Combo

The clean, press and squat combination is a prime example of how a simple 3 exercise circuit can be leveraged to produce a significant training effect.  

And it doesn’t require much time at all.  15-20 minutes at most. 

For your eyes only… 


This kettlebell combination features 3 staple exercises:  clean, press and squat.  

Each exercise is performed with very little or no rest in between each exercise.  

Smooth transitions between each exercise is the goal.

Changing levels with the kettlebell… cleaning the bell from under the legs up to the front rack position, pressing overhead, back down to the front rack for the squat for repetitions…

… is pure work.  

This work creates a total body training stimulus.  

It’s the “magic sauce” of this combination.  

Before moving on, here are some key thoughts:

  •  You must have a working familiarity with each exercise before engaging in this circuit.
  •  Respect fatigue and what it does to the body while under load (increase rest if needed)
  •  Work reps, rounds and rest periods appropriate to your 
  •  Choose a sub-maximal kettlebell weight that allows for 10-12 reps per exercise (even though you’re going to do 6 reps).
  •  Not sure what weight to start with? Go light, work up as needed.
  •  Keep the workout short (15-20 minutes at most)

 

Alternatives/Substitutions

Not everyone is going to have access to a pair of kettlebells that are the same weight, or maybe they are the same weight, but too light or too heavy for your current fitness level.  

One of the most important ideas in staying fit is becoming resourceful.  When space is limited, equipment is scarce or time is tight, DO NOT FOLD.

How many times do we read a workout blog or fitness article and realize we don’t have the same set up the author did?  I’ve had this experience hundreds of times.  

What do you do?  Make adjustments, move forward, get the work done.

No kettlebells?  It’s ok!  Here are some equipment alternatives:

  • Barbell (same exercises and reps)
  • Dumbbells (same exercises and reps)
  • *Bodyweight (change exercises and reps)

Barbells and dumbbells are the most common pieces of weight training equipment in the world.  Most hotel gyms, YMCAs, 24Hour Fitness or Big Box Gym is going to have one or the other.  

Both allow for the clean+press+squat exercise combination to be performed.  The main difference between barbells/dumbbells and kettlebells is the design and how you can maneuver them.  

Barbell training fixes both hands to the shaft of the barbell.  For some people, this is great because you’re not having to control each hand independently.  

Dumbbells allow for independent arm work, but the shape of dumbells means you’ll have to tweak hand position/technique for each exercise.  These are subtle adjustments are mainly to avoid bumping the dumbells into your body on each movement.  

Bodyweight.  Now, if you’ve got no equipment available whatsoever, you’re still in the game, don’t worry!  You’ve got plenty of options.  Tons.  

When resources are scarce, you make adjustments, adapt and push forward.  Don’t get hung up on imperfections. 

  

Try this bodyweight combination…

Wouldn’t it be great if life was perfect all day, everyday?  Yes, it would be. 

(👋 slap across the face)

Life’s not perfect and never will be, so the best practice is to be ready to embrace the situation presented and make do with what you’ve got.

If bodyweight is the only option for the workout, consider digging into this circuit:

  •  Alternating Split Squat Jumps
  •  Dive Bomber Push-Ups
  •  Air squat (or variations: pistols, rear foot elevated, etc)
  •  Burpees

– 6-8 reps per exercise

– 6-10 rounds

– Limited/no rest between exercises

– 45-90 seconds rest after each round.

Perform in descending order (top to bottom) without rest between exercises.  Alternating split squat jumps first, then dive bomber push ups, etc…  

Factoring in no weight is being used to load these exercises, consider increasing reps per exercise, increasing the number of rounds performed or reducing the rest periods.  

Be mindful not to adjust all of these variables in one shot, it may create more fatigue than what your body can handle.  It’s like fine-tuning the dial on a boombox to get the signal of a radio station.  

Tweak here, tweak there.

Burpees?!?! What?!?! I h*te you!?

I don’t believe burpees are the greatest exercise on the planet. 

Some people do, I do not.

Burpees are often blindly prescribed to the wrong people and abused by many, but burpees are an incredible exercise to increase heart rate quickly and condition the entire body… in a pinch.

Personally, I rarely perform burpees.  But if I have few other options, hell yeah, I’m going to rip out some burpees.  

Don’t tar and feather me.

👉👉👉 Up for a challenge?  Try this burpee variation.

So, you have access to kettlebells, but… 

  • Kettlebells are too light
    • Increase the reps 
    • Increase the rounds
    • Decrease the rest periods
    • Add other kettlebell moves or filler bodyweight exercises
  • Kettlebells are too heavy (for desired rep range)
    • Decrease the reps
    • Decrease rest periods
    • Insert bodyweight filler exercises to achieve desired training stimulus)
  • Only 1 kettlebell (see video below)
    • Perform exact same exercises one side at a time 
    • Finish both sides, take rest period
    • Single kettlebell training is fantastic.

Ok, I’ve laid it out for you.  Time to dig in.  

Get after this exercise combination.  The kettlebell clean-press-squat combination is awesome for improving strength, conditioning and fat loss. 

Go.  Now. 

 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

 

 

 

14 Exercise Total Body Warm-Up Routine

Motion

Before the workout, there is a warm-up.  

Warm-ups are an INCREDIBLE 15-20 minutes to make mobility gains, nourish joints, rep out isolated movements/activation drills, playfully engage in movement sequence or explore other movements that peak one’s curiosity.  

I used to dread warming up before workouts, as most people probably do.  

Warming up seemed like a barrier to the productive section of the workout.  

A period of time where I’d swing my arms around a little bit, bounce on your toes, a few neck rolls, get my hype playlist dialed in and throw a few shadow punches.

This used to be me.  

I’d drudge through a smattering of hand-selected, mindless dynamic stretches, mini band walks to “wake up” the glutes, and finish strong by mobilizing the ankles and T-Spine.  

I elevated my heart rate, initiated a sweat and feel focused, so the warm-up boxes must all have checkmarks ✅, right?  

In my mind, the answer to that question was, “Boxes check, good to go.  Moving on to the sexy part of the workout.  Exertion.”

Re-Establish the Purpose of the Warm-Up

People generally think of warm-ups as a stimulus to awaken and prime the body for more aggressive exercise, be it resistance training or cardio conditioning.  

This isn’t the wrong way to view things by any means.  Elevating the heart rate and increased body temperature is still important.

But the warm-up can serve as a vehicle to make incremental (valuable) gains in other areas.  Mobility, movement transitions, balance, coordination, etc.  

The problem, rather a common perception, is that investing time in a progressive warm-up seems like a waste of time.  

No muscle pump?  It must be a waste of time.

Lungs not burning?  Surely time is being wasted.

“Let’s get this over boring-ass sh*t over with so I can start making my gaaaiiinnnzzzz”.

For clarification, “Gainz” generally describes the usuals for most people:

  •  Fat loss 
  •  Muscle or strength gain
  •  Losing weight 
  •  General fitness improvement
  •  Big bouncing pecs, softball-sized biceps, and curvy butts, etc. 

I think we can do better with our pre-workout warm-up routines. 

We can do this by integrating joint mobility training, moving limbs through disadvantaged or strict patterns of motion, movement exploration/play, flow sequencing, transitions, etc.  

Today, it’s really hard to see where my warm-up stops and the workout begins.

The days of twirling arm and leg swings are long gone.  I’ve traded them for slow and controlled mobility drills, where I attempt to express the true joint range of motion I have ownership over, and fighting to earn and expand that gradually.

Rather than flailing my arms around in circles for 10 reps and calling it good, I’ll crush a tennis ball and draw the largest possible circle with my fist (from front to back) doing my best to stay avoid moving body parts to draw that circle.   

These mobility drills involve articulating joints through a maximum controlled range motion.  It’s simple, but not easy.  Each repetition is painfully slow.  You can find a lot of these drills on my YouTube page.  

Functional Range Conditioning refers to these joint nourishing exercises as CARs (controlled articular rotations).  

I also like to get on the floor and move.  

Twisting, turning, reaching, flexing/extending, squatting, lunging, blending pushing movements and rotation movements, crawling, changing levels, tossing, throwing, etc.

5-10 minutes are allocated to getting lost in bodyweight-based groundwork.

Some workouts, I’ll include a wood plyo box or other pieces of equipment, but moving with bodyweight through an open space remains the foundation.

Here are a few other things I like to practice during the warm-up:

  • Mobility techniques
    • Kinstretch
    • Gymnastics drills
    • Spinal Waves
    • Wood dowel training 
  • Improvised ground-based movement
  • Exploring new exercises, methods, and techniques
    • Macebell training
    • Weck Method drills (Coiling, RMT rope drills, etc)
    • Hybrid kettelbell exercises
      • Turkish Get Up variations
      • Swing variations
      • Hand-to-hand exercises 
    • New Bodyweight Movements
      • Sissy Squats
      • Dragon Squats
      • Task-Based Challenges
      • Legless Rope Climbs
      • Parallette Bar drills 

Total Body Pre-Workout Preparation

A while back, I uploaded a YouTube video demonstrating 14 different warm-up exercises to prepare the entire body for a workout. 

Here is the video…

Exercise order:

1.  Shoulder CARs

2.  Spine CARs

3.  Hip CARs

4.  Dowel Assisted Sissy Squats

5.  90/90 Series (transfers, lift offs, hovers, etc)

6.  Prone Swimmers Hovers

7.  Bodyweight Squats

8.  Bodyweight Lunges

9.  Bodyweight Push-Ups

10.  Side Kick Throughs

11.  Crab Reach

12.  Back Bridge

13.  Scorpion Reach

14.  Cossack Squat w/ Horse Stance Pause

Take notice of all of the joint articulations, slow tempo movement of arms and legs through challenging patterns, bodyweight exercises and movement combinations. 

It’s all there. 

Basic joint mobility work, ground-based conditioning, and exploratory movement training can really have a significant impact on your movement capacity, joint health, and performance.  

In time, movements that once plagued you or simply felt impossible, begin to feel very achievable.  Joints feel buttery.  Your body is changing.  Adapting to the stimulus. 

If you’re training 4-5 days per week, sectioning off 15-20 minutes to warm up with a few of the exercises featured in the video can add 60+ minutes of unique training to your regularly scheduled workout regimen. 

This adds up.  

Daily, the full-body approach to warming up is my personal preference.  Even if the day’s workout is mostly upper body, I still deliver a stimulus to the hips, knees and ankle joints.  

Conducting total body maintenance has made my body feel better at 35 years old then I did when I was supposedly at my “peak physical condition” in college.  

Nothing against people who opt for upper and lower body splits, but I prefer a daily micro-dose of joint articulations and full range movement.  

Find what works best for you.

It might not be what works best for me… and that is ok.  

How long should a warm-up be?

Working through 14 exercises generally takes 15-20 minutes, depending on reps and tempo per exercise.    

Should it always take 15-20 minutes?  

No.  Starting out, expect it to take longer because you won’t know what the hell you’re doing.  

Time will decrease as you become more familiar and waste less time setting up.      

All this being said, the more volume with most of these exercises, the merrier.  

How many reps per exercise?

In the video, I demonstrate 2-3 reps per exercise.  

I reduced the reps to keep the video moving along and lower the boredom factor.  Plus, uploading a 20+ minute video to YouTube can be full of problems.

Increase the reps to 8-10 per side for each exercise. 

Progress through all 14 exercises, one after the other, non-stop until the end. 

Of course, pause and rest as needed, but don’t waste too much time.  

Keep the show moving. 

Reminder… 

This warm-up shows 14 different exercises.  

Only 14.  There’s a mountain of other effective warm-up exercises not shown in this video.  

I simply wanted to share an example of a total body warm-up routine. 

There are many other incredible mobility drills, activations, locomotion exercises and ground-based movements not included in the video.

A total body warm-up can be organized a thousand different ways.  

Should all warm-ups look like this?

They don’t have to.  

Some days my pre-workout build-up consists of jumping rope for a few minutes paired up with crawling.  Other days I’m in the mood for ground flow, swinging kettlebells, rolling around on the floor, wall assisted handstands, etc.  

I like to mix it up.  

It doesn’t always follow this 14 exercise recipe.

On days where I am engaging in a long slow cardio session, I’ll climb on my air bike and ride.  No warm-up at all.  

The message of this post is to audit your current warm-up routine and observe if you’re breezing through a below-average pre-workout warm routine.  

Are you undervaluing warm-up time?  Is there room for improvement?

I’d bet there is.  

I used to overlook my warm-ups, and I’d guess a lot are doing the same.  

Time is a valuable commodity and goal achievement is important.  

Warming up with greater purpose can help to accelerate the time it takes to reach physical goals, keep your body feeling good and leverage your time in the gym.     

 

 

Cheers to getting after the warm-up, 

Kyle 

 

Locomotion| The Weighted Lizard Crawl

Motion

The lizard crawl is a total body locomotion pattern, made popular by Ido Portal.  

As great as lizard crawl exercise (bodyweight only) is, there are simple ways to make it harder if you’re interested, and that’s what this post is about.

Crawling exercises can be progressed similarly to a squat, deadlift, bench press or any other traditional resistance exercise. 

The key is increasing the challenge somewhere, somehow.  Make it harder.  

Progressive overload (adding weight) is a key strategy to continue building fitness, especially strength.  It keeps you in progress mode. 

Exposing the body to progressively greater demands (movement complexity, load, etc) is a pathway to build strength and mitigate injury.

Weak bodies seem to be at a higher risk for injury.

If a given stress overloads tissues beyond their capacity, injury often results.

This is an over-detailed article about my experience adding weight to the infamous lizard crawl, the “king” of locomotion training. 

Progressive Overload

Know your options.

Conventional methods of progression include:  

  •  Add resistance
  •  Add repetitions
  •  Increase training frequency
  •  Increase volume (sets x reps x resistance)
  •  Decrease rest periods 

Halts in progress require a quick audit and a few simple decisions. 

Training the same movements with the same weight, time under tension, reps/sets, etc… will yield the exact same results.

And if this seems like common sense, please considered common sense is not always so common.  

Adding more weight to a lift, movement or locomotion pattern is not ALWAYS the answer, but more often than not, it is a solid solution to many of the problems people encounter in their training.

Don’t be afraid to increase the load, incrementally and intelligently.  

As highlighted in the title of this blog post, I chose to add weight to the lizard crawl as the mechanism of progressive overload.

From sloppy to strong…

When I finally decided to attack the lizard crawl pattern, adding weight was the last thing on my mind. 

Early on, even simple crawling patterns exposed my sloppy technique, lack of endurance and heavy-handed/footedness.

Crawling short distances (15-20 yards) wore me out quick.  It was humbling.  I felt weak. My story is similar to others I’ve heard and read about across the internet. A strong guy in traditional lifts who could not move well on the ground without weight.

Strict crawling drills crushed me.  Moving naturally with detailed precision is HARD. 

I experienced a pretty dramatic change in movement quality by practicing basic crawling patterns like Beast Crawls (forward, back, and lateral) and Bear Walks.  

I’d section off 10-15 minutes of EACH workout for crawling practice, and I still do to this day.

Gains with the basic locomotion patterns evolved into disadvantaged crawling in low positions. 

With near daily practice, I became extremely efficient with lizard crawling.  My body acclimated and now understands the demands.  Adaptation is a beautiful thing.   If you want something in the gym, attack the shit out of it.  Be relentless.  

Crawling distances increased, tempo and pattern variations were added along with introducing crawling backward.  

I reached a point where adding more volume became a time suck and borderline ineffective.

Lizard crawling requires a low-to-the-floor body position, aggressive joint angles and a constant on/off body tension from head to toe.  The upper body and core demands are intense.  Plus, it’s easy to get twisted up with hand and foot placement.  

The lizard crawl pattern connects traditional strength work with movements that exist in between.  The transitions, gracefulness, soft interactions with the floor, twisting, turning, propelling the body from point A to point B.  

The Weighted Lizard Crawl


I have to believe people have added weight this pattern before the writing of this blog post.  If not, I am a visionary

Regardless, I was humbled by this movement progression.  

I added a 40lb weight vest and a pair of 10lb ankle weights around each leg. A simple weight vest is a very natural tactic to add weight to movements while keeping the hands free.

The weight vest loaded the upper body/torso, while the ankle weights challenged the lower body.  Adding the ankle weights is a simple way to load the articulating motion of the hips.  

This articulating motion is similar to hip CARs, but a bit less isolated and strict.

When weight increased with any exercise, generally reps/sets, duration, time under tension need some relief.  Usually, it’s just for a short time to give the body an opportunity to execute quality work, avoid unnecessary training injuries and adapt to the stress.

Keeping all training variables the same would be too aggressive and unmanageable. 

Factoring this in, once I added the weight, I immediately decreased the distance of the crawl and increased rest periods.  

Previously, my average bodyweight lizard crawl distance was around 40 yards, broken up into a 10-yard crawl forward/10 yard crawl backward (twice down and back).  

For the weighted lizard crawl, I more than cut that distance in half, crawling roughly 10 yards (5 yards forward and backward).  On this day, I worked a total of 6 sets.  It was enough to leave soreness in the days afterward.

I’d recommend anywhere from 5-8 sets of 10-15 yards of a technique-driven lizard crawling. 

As I mentioned before, adding load commonly means taking longer rest periods in between efforts.  I wasn’t super detailed on the rest periods, but they were long enough to feel damn fresh.  

There is absolutely no need to rush this.  Do it right, or don’t do it at all. 

Equipment Used

 10 lb Valeo Ankle Weights 

 MIR Short Weight Vest

There are plenty of weight vest brands to choose from, but MIR is a trusted name and I couldn’t be happier with my MIR weight vest.  It’s durable and the short version is awesome.

Arguably, ankle weights are, well, ankle weights.  

Although I did get a nice product referral for the Valeo ankle weights from a great trainer in Philadelphia.  My only advice here is to size up and buy heavier than you’d think. Also, buy a set that has adjustability (ability to remove the weights).  You can always lighten them up if needed, but it’s nice to have heavy ankle weights if needed.  

So, I added weight, should you?

The crappy (but honest) answer is, maybe or maybe not.  It depends on your experience and goals.

Have you played around with increasing distance and tempo using bodyweight only?  

If not, start there.

Initially, leverage basic lizard crawl variations.  Gradually add distance and play around with tempo.

Practice lizard crawl press ups, modified range of motion crawls.  Place emphasis on body position, technique, timing, and mechanics.   

Aim for efficiency.  

People like to knock efficiency in training, but the fact is being inefficient at everything wastes precious energy.  At some point, you want the work being performed to feel natural. 

When it’s natural and fully integrated into your body, it’s useable in the real world.

Adding load to the lizard crawl, in my opinion, increases the challenge exponentially.  Far beyond anything I’d experienced before.

Once you’ve added weight, expect the silky smooth crawling technique disappear.  

You’re fully engaged in a hybrid variation of resistance training now.  Ha.  

Muscles and joints will need some time to fully understand the stimulus and adapt to it. 

Just getting started with crawling?

If you’ve not yet added crawling exercises (even the basics) to your workouts, you must.  Just try it.  There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Don’t make the mistake of marrying any particular tool or method.  Explore everything and integrate what’s useful.   

I talk about crawling patterns often.  Progressive crawling is excellent for building natural movement strength, endurance, and skill.  If you’re an avid lifter, add 5-10 minutes of crawling to your warm up.

Unsure where to start with crawling?  

Animal Flow and my YouTube channel are great resources to get exposure to crawling.  Anyone interested in ground-based movement training of any kind is referred to Animal Flow.  

My YouTube channel is LOADED with videos.  There’s plenty to watch, not a ton of boring commentary and I am always available for questions and conversation.  Simply enter the “crawling” into the search bar. 

Closing Thoughts…

The purpose of this article is to introduce people to one simple strategy of increasing the difficulty of the lizard crawl. 

Start with bodyweight based lizard crawl variations.

Don’t be a dumbass.   

Earn tougher movement progressions by practicing the basics.  

I referenced several good resources above, make sure you check those out.    

Lastly, leave a note on your experience, I love hearing from people.  

 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

FLOW| 4 Exercise Bodyweight Flow to Build the Hips, Shoulders and Spine

Motion

Give your hips, shoulders, and spine some love with this bodyweight only combination.

This flow features 4 bodyweight exercises and is for EVERYONE.  

Each of these exercises can help to “unwind” folks who sit for long durations throughout the day. You know, that shoulders and head forward, spine rounded, hamstrings and butt smashed against the chair posture.  

The same posture that sucks the life out of many of us. 

Our bodies adapt to positions we spend time in the most, but I am telling you, spend some time working through basic flows like this one and you will be surprised at the difference it makes over time.

Here’s the flow…

Exercises featured:

  Table Top

  Table Top with Thoracic Rotation

  Crab Reach (from Animal Flow)

  High Bridge Rotation

*** Links to exercise demonstrations.

 

Reps/Sets Suggestions…

Start with 4-5 reps on each side.  Find a way to accumulate 3-5 sets per session, most days of the week.  It might sound like a lot, but we are talking about 5-7 minutes of movement.  

In a perfect world, you’d be able to work through this combination during designated workout time. 

However, despite what social media projects, nobody lives in a perfect world, so get it in when you can.  

This is a bodyweight-only flow combination, not incredibly demanding, but it does require some attention.  Practice quality to get quality.  Take pride in being detailed.  

Constant practice is key to learning new movements and refining the technique of those movements.

Personally, I prefer higher rep ranges. 

Go north of 10 reps on each side.  

I’m not afraid to turn on a good song and work combinations like this for the duration of the song, getting lost in the flow, turning attention inward to my breathing, relaxing the jaw, steadying the hands on the floor and shoulders as well.

Even after this combination becomes “easy”, I recommend revisiting it periodically to check in on each exercise and shape.

 

Exercise tips and commonalities…

  Drive the hips up toward the ceiling, squeezing your butt and rolling your pelvis toward your belly button.

  Maintain weight distribution on the midfoot/heel, pull the heels actively toward the hands, squeeze the thighs together (roughly 6-8 inch gap between)

  Keep the rib cage tucked.  

  Stay active with the shoulders vs. slumping, search for shoulder extension.  

  Allow the head and neck to relax and fall back in line with the spine.

–  Breathe.

  Return to the same starting position (butt swinging between the hands) before re-elevating the hips back into extension to complete the next exercise. 

*** If you’re able to flow through all 4 exercises, change sides after completing the high bridge thoracic rotation.  Or, change sides after the most difficult exercise for your current fitness capacity.  

 

Benefits of this flow… aka: “What’s in it for me?”

  Hip extension reinforces glute engagement. 

  Stretching the hip flexors 

  Shoulder extension and stability

  Pelvic control

  Thoracic extension and rotation (spine mobility)

  Movement transition practice

  A different view of the world in Crab Reach and High Bridge Thoracic Rotation

  Exposure to new body positions and movements

 

Closing… 

“Exposure to new body positions and movements” might be the most important benefit of practicing this simple movement combination.  

Exposure, exploration, and problem solving is the gift of trying anything new.  

I was reminded of this while reading Erwan Le Corre’s new book, “The Practice of Natural Movement”.  Erwan founded MovNat and has been promoting natural movement tactics well before it was popular to do so.  

Children get TONS of exposure to new movements while navigating the playground or in Physical Education class or while learning any new motor skill.  It’s not “working out” to them, it’s fun and playful.  Moving into adulthood, people lose this playfulness and curiosity.

Anyways, the simple message is continually introducing the body to new and challenging positions/movements is fantastic for growing mind-body connection. 

Expanding your range of movement skills is a worthy investment.   

You’re never too sophisticated to move.

It’s not necessary to obsessively think about movement at all times of the day.  Leave this to the gurus.  But, movement of some kind must be a part of your day, most days of the week.  Rack up the mileage walking, lifting, carrying, maneuvering, navigating, crawling, rowing, running, pressing, flowing… whatever.  

I’ve never met a person who adopted a progressive movement regimen who regretted it.

People who stick a movement regimen feel better, move better, have more energy and look better.  No sugar coating here.  

Success leaves clues.

Moving is both the benefit and the medicine.

Wolff’s Law:  Either use it or expect to lose it.  

Let me know what you think in the comments below…

 

 

Cheers,

Kyle 

3 Fresh Turkish Get Up Variations

Motion

Turkish Get Ups reinforce total-body movement.  

TGU’s are Swiss army knife of sorts, serving as a movement assessment or an effective strength and cardio builder.  

I’ve dabbled with longer duration TGU workouts (5+ minutes continuous), which can provide an impactful form of low impact, externally loaded cardio.      

The general premise of a Turkish Get Up is to move from a lying position to a standing position.  Once at the top, repeat the process in reverse, return to the lying position.

That’s it.  Lay down, stand up, lay back down.

Is there some technique to it?  Absolutely.  But the goal is to stand up and lay back down efficiently.  

Turkish Get Ups, used alongside other exercises like deadlifts, kettlebell swings, heavy loaded carries, bodyweight strength training and Gymnastics-based drills can create a potent training program.   

Toss in some Kinstretch and now we’re talking.

Popularized by the kettlebell crowd in the early 2000’s, Turkish Get Ups still seem to fly under the radar with the mainstream.  It could be due to the learning curve, the unknown benefits or the fact they aren’t easy.   

Over the last 10+ years, Turkish Get Ups have been embedded in my weekly training. 

When workout time is short, 20-25 minutes of continuous Turkish Get Ups paired with Kettlebell Swings is a staple movement session.  Allocate 10-12 minutes for Turkish Get Ups (alternating each side) and the remaining time for Kettlebell Swings.   

Traditionally, a kettlebell is the tool used to add load to the Turkish Get Ups.  However, a variety of training tools can be used (should be used).  Dumbbells and sandbags work quite well as alternatives.  

If there was an “Original” variation, it would likely look something like this:

 

Steps to the Turkish Get Up

 

Ascending to standing position:

Step 1:  Punch and roll

Step 2:  Elbow support

Step 3:  Hand support

Step 4:  Hip lift

Step 5:  Straight leg slides underneath body

Step 6:  Stand up via lunge motion

 

Descending back to floor:

Step 1:  Reverse lunge 

Step 2:  Lower hand to find the floor

Step 3:  Bring leg through to the front (extended)

Step 4:  Raise hips and pause for moment

Step 5:  Drop butt to the floor, supporting weight on extended arm/hand

Step 6:  Lower to elbow, gently rolling to starting position.

  • The ascent to the standing position is essentially the “concentric” portion of the exercise, muscles activating to move from one step to the next.
  •  The descent back to the floor is made up of a series of “eccentric” steps, as the goal is to control each step, lowering back to the lying position softly.  

The traditional variation is loaded with benefits, but there are ample opportunities to tweak the Turkish Get Up and create a new training experience.  

I’m a big believer in discipline.  It should be the foundation of any fitness regimen.  That being said, if you’re bored out of your mind, it’s time to play around other variations.  

Adjusting the speed, adding or removing load, adding or removing steps to make it easier or more complex, using different training tools (or no training tools), volume, duration, etc.   

Here are 3 Turkish Get Up Variations that will inject a fresh challenge to your next workout…

 

#1 Turkish Get Up + Squat Ascent/Descent


“Build the deadlift, maintain the squat”.

Ever heard this?  Well, you can both maintain and build the squat pattern with this unique variation.  

The traditional Turkish Get Up generally uses a lunge variation to move from the tall kneeling position to standing, also from standing back to kneeling on the way back down.  

This variation uses a squat to stand up and get back down, with subtle tweaks in technique.  

Small changes can change a lot about an exercise.  Sorting out how to maneuver the feet underneath the body can take some practice, so again, start with no weight or lightweight.   

Dropping into the squat on the way back down is a little more forgiving.  Once you’re low enough to touch the hand to the floor, support yourself between the arm and the opposite side leg.  Slide the foot out in front, lower back to the floor.  

It took me a while to warm up to the squat as the stand up/sit down pattern.  With a little practice it’s improved my movement capacity quite a bit. Exposing the body to progressively new and challenging patterns is great for expanding movement capacity.

Beware:  User must have sufficient shoulder/thoracic mobility and squat pattern grooved for this.  Balance a shoe on top of the palm of the hand or fist, or use light weight to start.  Take a video of your attempts. 

 

#2 Turkish Get Up + Press at Every Step

Adding a press at each step of the Turkish Get Up makes the exercise very taxing for the upper body.  

Pressing in uncommon body positions is also quite humbling.  Many people will find pressing early on in the exercise, posted on the elbow and hand, to be a new and challenge experience.  Start with lighter weight.  Don’t go for broke right away.

Overhead pressing from the half kneeling and standing position will be far more familiar for most people.  

Assuming you press at every step as I did in the video, there will be a total of 11 presses.  

That’s a lot of upper body work. 

Considering the volume, lighter weight should be used, along with decreasing the reps. 

2 reps on each side equates to 44 presses.  Arms will be rubber if overdone. 

If I’m using this variation, I’ll do 2-3 reps on each side of the “Press at Every Step”, and move on to more loaded variations.  Keep the weight on the lighter side here.

Tip:  Use a weight that you’re able to press in the weakest position, as this will dictate the load you’re able to use.  

 

#3 Turkish Get Up + Clean – Squat – Press

Adding a clean, squat and a press can create a broad training effect. 

Perform the usual steps getting up to the standard position.  Once standing, lower the weight down to the front rack position, execute a single rep of a clean, squat and press.  Descend back to the bottom.  

Simple, right? 

Tip:  Make sure you’ve got experience practicing cleans before trying this variation.

 

Reps, Sets and Time for Turkish Get Ups

Suggestions for reps, sets and time will vary greatly from person to person. 

Why?  

Mostly due to fitness level and experience with the Turkish Get Up.  

I used to read articles and think, “Just tell me what to do!”

But the reality is we’re all a little different, so it’s important to do what you can do, not necessarily what I can do or anyone else.  

In general, start with lower volume (reps and sets) and progress from there. 

Keep the focus on QUALITY.

I’ve been practicing Turkish Get Ups for 10 years.  My body is acclimated to the stress, working long duration sets and heavier weights.  

Reps

Start with 1 quality rep on each side, alternating sides.  Using 1 repetition (instead of doing 2-3 reps in a row) gives you the best chance to move with quality, before the fatigue creeps in and starts breaking down your body position, etc.

Eventually, if you’re looking to support the weight for longer durations on the same arm, you can execute 2 reps on each side before changing sides. 

Doing this will challenge shoulder endurance.  It’s a nice strategy to improve shoulder endurance, just not where a person should start if new to the Turkish Get Up.

Turkish Get Ups using progressively heavier weights should always be practiced for 1 rep per side.  I’m rigid about this.  Treat it the same way as any other strength based exercise (deadlifts, squats, etc).  

In general, as the weights go up, the reps go down.  And vice versa.  

Sets

The combination of reps and sets gives you volume.  Don’t over do it.  Fitness is a long-term game, not a one and done WOD of the day.  Play the long game.  

That being said, start with anywhere from 3-8 sets in a workout.  If performing 1 rep per side for 6 sets, that’s a grand total of 12 Turkish Get Ups.  

Doesn’t sound like much, but consider that a Turkish Get Up is a very long, drawn out exercise.  It’s not a 1 second time under tension type deal.  It’s 10-15 seconds, maybe even longer if you’re working a slow tempo.  

Time

Time is my preferred method for practicing Turkish Get Ups.

Set the timer and work until the timer goes off.  Keeping a steady work tempo, I don’t have to count repetitions.  Instead, the focus is on the movement, body position, breathing, tension, tempo, etc.  

The important stuff.

How long can you go?

In the past, I’ve set a timer for as long as 25 minutes and started the work.  Yes, 25 minutes.  It’s not a world record, but it’s a long time to be grinding out Turkish Get Ups continuously with minimal rest. 

During this time period, I will generally warm up with a light kettlebell (24kg/28kg) and bounce around with using a 32kg kettlebell and 40kg kettlebell.  I take brief rest periods to wipe away the sweat, drink some water and change the music track.  

For most people, I’d suggest beginning with 5-8 minutes using the timer method.  Don’t overdo it.  

Quality over quantity.

Tomorrow is another day to train, play the long game with fitness.

 

Closing It Out…

The Turkish Get Up is one of my top picks for building total body performance.   

Joint stability and mobility, core strength, lower body strength, breath work, tension and relaxation techniques are all benefits associated with Turkish Get Ups. There’s a potent cardio training effect when worked for extended periods.

The number of Turkish Get Up variations are virtually limitless.  I shared three.  I could have listed fifty more.  

Slip a press in here and there, clean the kettlebell at the top, squat, swing, row, etc. Adding exercises, tweaking movement tempo, weight used are just a few of the small adjustments that can be made. 

Variations are only limited by creativity.  To be safe, consideration should be given to  fitness level, knowledge and experience. 

Finding time to train can be difficult.  Life, career, kids, social activities all require time.  It’s tough to balance it all.  Having a 4 month old daughter (as I write this) I know first hand how quickly the time to play around in the gym get’s whittled down.

When you find yourself short on workout time, leverage a quality session of Turkish Get Ups.  10-12 minutes of continuous Turkish Get Ups is a highly effective, total body workout.  

Mix it up, alternate how you get up, tempo, speed, add exercises to the reps, etc.  

*** Remember, start with lighter weight, lower reps to groove technique and build strength and work capacity.  

Give each of these variations a try and let me know what you think.

*** M(EAUX)TION is active the following social media platforms…

  YouTube (longer exercise demos)

  Instagram (daily training, flow, exercises, workouts, life etc)

  Facebook (fitness news, research, science, brain training, nutrition, etc)

 

 

Cheers to you,

Kyle 

Beginner Flow Training: 5 Challenging Bodyweight Exercise Combinations

Motion

If you’ve dedicated time to training exercises in isolation, good.

What do I mean by isolation?  Training front squats using a work:rest type scenario is isolation.  Do a set of squats, rest, do another set of squats.  Most people will be familiar with this.    

Grinding on exercises in isolation is key to developing performance.  Celebrate the efforts.  

But, if you’re looking to add some flavor to your workouts, consider combining exercises together to create movement sequences.  

Creating bodyweight based “nano-flow’s” is a training tactic heavily influenced by Animal Flow and elements of Ido Portal’s ground based conditioning work.  I wrote an extensive article about Ido Portal’s training methodology, read here 

Movement in daily life rarely happens the same way twice (or for 3 sets of 10 reps) like it does in the gym.  We think it does, because it feels similar, but there are always subtle differences in every movement and motion that creates a unique physical experience.  

Practicing a series of movements with brief periods of transition between each movement is an effective strategy to prepare for the unexpected demands of daily life. 

Moving toward flow training improves a person’s movement IQ, confidence and aids in injury mitigation in by adapting the individual to impromptu traversing of obstacles.  Making split second adjustments to terrain, objects, trips and stumbles gradually become a skillset as the body adapts to quick decision making of the mind AND the body.    

Introducing a new physical  into the mix is refreshing and fun.  Hours in the gym working the same exercises, chasing weight increases, more reps and sets can get quite bland.  Staying excited about physical activity is important.  

Enough already.

Here are 5 bodyweight based movement combinations worth trying… 

#1  Parallete Bar Pass Through to L-Sit

Parallette Bars are a simple training tool and this combination makes great use of their design.  Begin in a push up position, immediately lifting the legs and “passing through” the middle of the parallettes into the L-Sit.  Hold the L-Sit for a 2-3 second count, then reverse the pass-through back to the start position.  

Don’t rush this.  Use a slower tempo, spend time under tension and focus on controlling every inch.  Embrace moving slow before moving fast. 

Obviously this combination requires a set parallette bars (aka: P-Bars) for this combination.  The parallette bars I’m using in this video are made of PVC, costing me roughly $6 and 10 minutes to cut, glue and assemble.  They work great. 

Could a person use chairs, wood blocks or something else?  Yes, absolutely.  But Parallette Bars will give you a better experience.    

 

#2  High Bridge Rotation to Lizard Crawl

I give credit to 3 different training programs for shining the spotlight onto the benefits of bodyweight based training:  Ido Portal Method, Animal Flow and Global Bodyweight Training. 

Animal Flow (ground training) and Global Bodyweight Training (strength) equipped me the movement tools that led to implementing the high bridge rotation seen in this video.  

Today, I work some variation of back bridging in nearly every workout, either as maintenance or to make progress.  

High Bridge Rotations require adequate spinal extension, shoulder mobility, stability and strength.  Practicing basic static back bridging is a must to gain access to the rotation.  For many, back bridging will be unnatural (it was for me).  In time, the body will make the adaptation the static bridge, bringing the High Bridge Rotation closer.  

Once out of the high bridge rotation, refocus your vision, lower down and initiate the lizard crawl.  The lizard crawl is an amazing strength and conditioning exercise.  

As you can see, the lizard crawl is the dominating exercise here.  You can also see my range of motion is modified to avoid the wall and cardio machines.  

If you’re new to the lizard crawl, check out the following variations, which may be a bit more palatable.  

  Alligator Crawl

  Handslide Lizard Crawl 

  Elbow Crawl

 

#3 Burpee Sprawl – Push Up – Squat – L Sit

What the hell am I supposed to name these movement combinations?  I realize it’s a mouthful, but technically, the name describes the sequence accurately.  I’ll keep it.  

Perform a push up, hop forward into a deep squat position, place the hands on the floor slightly behind the butt cheeks as the legs extend and LIGHTLY tap the floor with the heels.  Reverse the flow.  

Tip:  Keep the sprawl motion light and graceful.  This is designed to be a heart pumping, thrashing burpee exercise.  Control the kick back, be soft and quiet with the landing. 

 

#4  Lunge to Pistol Squat Flow

Lower body training is essential for health and performance.  So much of life takes place on two feet.  Strong, stable and mobile legs that are capable of performing a robust variety of movements is well worth the time investment.  

This combination binds together two fundamental patterns:  lunges and squats.  

Do your best to avoid touching the swinging foot to the floor during each transition.  

This is one combination probably best executed for reps.  Reps will vary from person to person, but 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps per side will work. 

 

#5  Lizard Crawl + Low Scorpion 


Like most people, I’ve got favorite exercises.  Not necessarily because I feel I’m good at them, but because of the value they bring to my workout time.  I don’t have all day to train.  I want exercises to give me big bang for my buck.

This lizard crawl + low scorpion combination is a unique, high value sequence. 

There’s no beginning or end with this sequence. It’s a cyclical flow perfect for a small training space.  

Practice this for repetitions or time.  I prefer the time option.  Setting a timer to focus on my movement quality versus having to tally repetitions and tripping over myself in the process.  Set the timer, start moving.  

Perform the initial phase of a lizard crawl, sweeping the unloaded arm forward.  Reach.  Once the hand finds the floor, transition your weight forward.  In a traditional lizard crawl, the trailing leg would articulate and relocate to the side of the body.

Instead of continuing the crawl, reach the trailing leg up and over the body.  Find the floor, step the other leg through, rinse and repeat.  

Got all that?  Just watch the video… hahaha. 

 

Closing it out.. 

Fusing movements together is a great way to further challenge the body and bring a refreshing challenge into workouts.  Maintaining interest in the contents of a workout is vitally important for long-term adherence.  Quite simply, I you’re bored and burned out, it’s easy to skip training day and make that the new habit.  

Not mentioned here are the cognitive benefits of learning new movements, skills and processing the transitions between those movements/skills.  The “mental gymnastics” involved in sorting out unfamiliar movement is incredible for the brain.  It keeps a person young and sharp with processing and solving movement riddles.  

 

 

Cheers to your efforts,

Kyle