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.  Employ 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 

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Decisions, decisions, decisions

This might be the single most important thought I ever post on this blog.  Seriously.

I really should make this my new landing page for anyone stopping by for the first time.

It’s that important in my opinion.

Decision fatigue refers to the idea that people make worse decisions after having made a lot of decisions.

Limiting decision fatigue can catapult your fitness success.  It will streamline your workouts and relieve the anxiety of your workout choices.  It starts from the moment that you decide to rid yourself of all of the minutiae.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of decision fatigue, try this exerciseDrive to your local gym, walk to the middle of the building and stop once you feel like you are dead center in the gym.

Now, do a slow 360 degree spin, making sure to take in all of the equipment, classes, posters, tv’s, etc.  Take note of the vast amount of options that the gym has so graciously offered you in exchange for your monthly membership fee.

Now, take note of how overwhelming the number of options truly are.

Assume for a second that you walked into that gym with a limited knowledge on exercise, with no notes and no workout plan in hand.  Assume that you walked in just to improvise your workout for the day.

My question is this… Assuming that you’re not yet an expert in effective exercise, how in the hell are you supposed to make steady progress toward your goals (which are commonly weight loss, fat loss or lean muscle gain)?

How?

How are you supposed to make any lasting progress what so ever?  One great workout is not going to create change.  A series a great workout spread out across months and years is going to solidify your results, paying dividends on your physical efforts.

There is a niche machine or gadget for everything in that gym, and in my personal opinion, over 80-85% of them are not worth your time.  Yes, if you’re an able bodied person, put the blinders on to over 80-85% of the strength machines, ellipticals, treadmills and the like.

Just to take the heat off of the geriatric resistance machines and the hamster wheels, the equipment that I promote the most doesn’t help the situation much more.

Medicine balls, resistance bands, dumbbells, power wheels, kettlebells, barbells, sandbags, weight vests, suspension trainers, bodyweight specific movements, sleds, jump ropes, battling ropes, climbing ropes, plyo boxes, and on and on and on.  This is all equipment that I highly endorse, but there is an overwhelming number of options.  Where does it all fit?

I know how to design a program using this equipment, but it is insane to think that the average Joe or Jane, who is focusing their attention on building a career outside of fitness, should know how to incorporate all of this equipment.

You can experience this same sense of “decision fatigue” when you walk onto a dealership to shop for a car, peruse a website to compare digital cameras or enter a grocery store to purchase grocery items for the week.

Decision Fatigue

Grocery store decision fatigue.

The grocery store might be the best immediate example of how draining decision fatigue can be. There are tens of thousands of products in a grocery store, and probably less than 200 that are ideal for human consumption, assuming you are mindful of your health.  I recently read a marketing article stating that grocery stores put candy and other junk food next to the checkouts because by that point in the shopping experience, people are weakest.  If they are going to make a impulse buy, it’s going to be in the check out line because they have the perception that once they are done checking out, the opportunity to have that package of delightful candy is no longer.

Decision fatigue.  I don’t know why it took me so long to make the connection between decision fatigue and achieving body transformation/performance.

I have often stressed about paying attention to the details of your workouts, nutrition and recovery tactics, but now I have to admit that I believe that limiting the onset of decision fatigue might be the key to high level fitness results and reduced anxiety.

Off of the cuff, I have a couple of suggestions that can help relieve decision fatigue:

1)  Have Your Workout for the Day in Your Hands!

Unless you’ve had experience designing strength and conditioning programs, don’t wait until you arrive to the gym and “wing it”.  It’s a complete waste of time to sit down and brainstorm a workout once you arrive.  Have your plan in hand so that when you arrive you can immediately get to work, then get out.  Do not, for any reason, head to the gym expecting to make progress if you don’t know exactly what workout entails for that day.  Would you drive to a far off, highly populated unknown destination without a map?  Probably not.  So don’t put yourself at risk by showing up to the gym without some idea of what is about to take place.

Also, have an idea of what you accomplished in the previous workouts and a decent idea of what you hope to accomplish in the future workouts.  Keep measuring where you came from, where you are and where you are going.

Side-note:  I am convinced that the likelihood of a person to buy poor quality food in the grocery store because they didn’t make a shopping list is increased exponentially.  No list + no plan = poor choices. Decision fatigue beats you down until you have little to no willpower.

2)  Choose between 1-3 pieces of equipment.

The best workouts I have ever had usually involve no more than 3 different pieces of fitness equipment.  Weight can only come in so many forms, and to be honest, weight is weight.  The earth’s gravitational pull has established what things are going to weigh, so keeping that in mind, weight is pretty much weight.  The design of the grip points and the location of center of mass might vary between equipment.  Think kettlebells versus dumbbells here.

I choose “iron” when it comes to weight.  “Iron”, meaning dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells (cast iron).  You cannot go wrong with this type of equipment.  Using less equipment is great for acclimating yourself to that style of equipment.  Jumping around from innovation to innovation without working to master the basic (time tested) equipment teaches you nothing over the long-haul.

As I mentioned above, you have to measure your progress.  If you lift the same 100lbs on the barbell squat all year long, you’re not going to get anything out of it.  Your body will adapt quickly and then progress will flatline.  But, if you add weight in small increments, you’re going to get a hell of a lot stronger and your body will change in the process.  Staying consistent with that barbell squat will allow you to measure your progress over time.

Choose less and you’ll receive more.  Decision fatigue will entice you to touch everything in the gym for that “total body workout”.  Total body workouts are accomplished through movement patterns, not equipment.

3)  Choose less exercises.

Half reps, whole reps, tempo, single leg, double leg, off-center loading, overhead, goblet, racked, alternating grip, neutral grip, blah blah blah.  There are so many options it makes me sick.  “Options”, keeps fitness magazines profitable.

First off… squats, deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, push ups, row variations, lunges, and a select few core specific exercises should make up the bulk of your training.  Choose an upper body movement and pair it with a lower body movement.  Sprinkle on a core drill after the second exercise in the tri-set, or address flexibility issues during your rest period.  Add a realistic amount weight that challenges your muscles and joints, lift it up and down a few times, set it down, rest, rinse and repeat.

Leverage the basics to the fullest and you’ll end up getting great results on your investment.

An example of a complete resistance training workout might look like this:

Tri-Set #1

A1)  Squat

A2)  Chin Up

Core)  Ab Wheel Roll Outs

Tri-Set #2

B1)  Lunge

B2)  Inverted Row

Core)  Lateral Plank

9 out of 10 people will see dramatic results from a workout designed with the format above.  Executed 2-3 times per week with adequate rest in between each session and a steady progressive loading plan, now you’re getting somewhere.  Drink some water, eat protein and veggies, get adequate sleep and you’re going to enhance the gym work.

It’s almost disheartening reading statements like that isn’t it?  I think our brains desperately want us to believe that there is something complex, some secret, some hidden element missing from our training efforts.  We subconscious crave the complicated and complex versus accepting and leveraging the simple tactics.

I didn’t believe in simplicity much when I went deeper into strength and conditioning rabbit hole some years ago.  I thought we needed more exercises, fatigue, fancy gadgets and variability all of the time.

It’s not true.  Simple is better.  Simple is better for the beginner population and simple can be a much needed element for the advanced population that has gotten sidetracked from information overload.

Our days are chock full of decisions.  Use your mental strength to make decisions about life, career and what is best for yourself and your family, not your workouts.  If you’re forced to workout in the evening, chances are quite high that you’ve been beaten down by the amount of decisions that you’ve had to make throughout that day.  More decisions is not what the doctored ordered.

Find a simplified and streamlined plan and execute like a savage.

Cheers to limiting decision fatigue and leveraging simplicity in your workouts!

KG

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*** The same can be done with nutrition.  Find out how to limit decision fatigue with your eating here***

Is This Blog Really Being Run Off Of An iPad and Powered by Coffee?

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Every word in that statement is true, except for the fact that my iPAD is being powered by coffee.

I am being powered by coffee. When I write, I drink coffee. A doctor might say that this is a bit of a compulsive need to take every single time I sit down and force myself to write, but for me, it puts me in focus. Plus, in Wisconsin, it’s bitter cold right now and warming up a bit with a cup-o-joe never hurt anyone.

So, yes, the truth is that this blog is now being run from an iPAD. Reason being is I received a Belkin Bluetooth Keyboard for Christmas and yes, it kicks ass. The keys have the same feel as my MacBook Pro, which is great because now I can write anywhere. Lugging a MacBook Pro around can get a little annoying after a while. The iPAD + Belkin combo is much more sleek, and I really don’t mind the WordPress application offered by the App Store.

The truth is that any application works for writing, whether you’re using Word, Scrivener, Pages, or any other writing program, it all works. We’ve become a picky society. It all works just fine. Worst case scenario, you write your thought for the day and then email it to yourself or copy and paste it between programs. Your writing doesn’t improve just because you’re using a fancy program.

Anyways, so back to coffee. Yes, I am powered by coffee because I love coffee. I would say that it is vice of mine, but I can’t. Coffee is full of antioxidants and if you look it up on the “unhealthy list”, it ranks pretty low when compared to just about every item found in the center of the grocery store. Yikes. There are thousands of consumables that are worse than drinking a cup or two of coffee.

Is there caffeine in coffee? Yes, of course there is, and caffeine from time to time has been labeled as the world’s most widely consumed stimulant.

Here is a great article by my friends over at Precision Nutrition: All About Caffeine

As long as you’re not absolutely relying on coffee to roll out of bed and start your day, or it is preventing you from quality sleep, keep on sipping. Beware that no one, and I mean no one, enjoys coffee breath.

If you want a performance boost, drink some coffee before a workout. A cup of coffee pre-workout is one of the only things that I do to help me dial in and get work done when it’s time to train. Coffee doesn’t make me superhuman or anything, but it does give an extra boost of energy, no doubt about that.

If you’re wondering how much coffee is safe for you to drink, start getting in touch with yourself. If you feel fine after a cup or two, well, that means that you’re fine. If you drink a bucket of it and struggle to write a legible personal check, then you may have over-consumed a bit. In that case, dial it back.

It’s easy to let the pendulum swing too far. When this happens, make some simple adjustments. The important part is to recognize that it has happened. Awareness is soooooooo important. If we as a society could just increase our awareness with eating and exercise, we would bring ourselves back to center. Over time, it would happen.

Like our Grandparents are famous for saying: Too much of anything can be a bad thing.

It’s funny how this statement holds up in so many different situations. Too much working out, bad. Too much water, bad. Too much alcohol, bad. Too many calories, bad. Too much coffee, bad. Too much, bad bad bad.

A person could really live a quite healthy life by following old adages. I believe this. Why complicate matters any more than they already are? Some things don’t need to be re-invented, they are fine just the way they are.

Branching out from awareness, self-exploration/experimentation is a lost art.

We read generalized guidelines in newspapers and magazines and automatically think that the suggestions apply to us. Maybe some do, but maybe some don’t. I know that I have personally tried a boat load of health tips found in magazines (who hasn’t?) without any noticeable improvement. It doesn’t mean that the health advice doesn’t work, it means that my mind and body might not be as accepting of it as someone else’s.

Nearly every sleep expert on the planet preaches about 8+ hours of sleep per night, yet why then, do some people function best with less than 6 hours? You can call them outliers, but the point is that not every health tip applies to everyone. We need to stop calling people out, define our goals, find plans to achieve those goals, and keep self-experimenting.

It’s never too late to learn about yourself and refine your techniques.

I listened to Howard Stern comment yesterday (yes I listen to Stern and I am a loyal fan) about how he just got turned on to mind-mapping. He went on to say that it may just be the greatest productivity/organizing tactic he has ever encountered. Of course, this is Howard’s personal opinion, as it might work for crap for someone else. Regardless, mind-mapping has been around for quite some time. I can remember mapping out ideas for a book 5 years ago. The book didn’t happen, but the map that I created really helped bring my ideas into focus. Prior to mapping, I just had a tornado of ideas clogging up my creativity. It crippled me from even starting the project.

Howard is 59 years old, going on 60 this month. Again, it’s never too late to refine your technique. A guy who’s career rivals some of the best that this world has ever known, is busy trying to figure out how to better himself in his free time.

What a lesson that is.

This is the beauty of being unique. There is not one-size-fits-all solution for anything, for anyone. We are all different.

You can read books and get ideas from the trail blazers, but those tactics may not fit your personality. They may not be right for you. One of the toughest lessons that I have had to learn is that I have my own unique personality and delivery that I should feel confident about and harness. I don’t need to write like anyone else, speak like anyone else or act like anyone else. I am me.

Of course, I realize that most things in life have been done before, so there are hacks to many of life’s experiences, and this part I feel I have grasped quite well. I do pick up bits and pieces from people I respect. This happens almost daily. I watch successful people operate and then try to emulate the things that are making them successful.

Sometimes I think that this is the key to success in life. Get around people who make you uncomfortable with their level of success and beg them to allow you to shadow them for a period of time. Doing so would probably open your eyes to a level of work ethic, professionalism, character and class that most people have no idea even exists. Most of the people I know who are very successful in there chosen fields have worked at it relentlessly for some time.

I have learned how to emulate what has made others successful, without losing my identity.

Call it growing up or whatever you want, but it’s been fun the last few years as begin to taste success and hit my stride. Delayed gratification can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that putting forth ridiculous amounts of work on the front end is often rewarding on the back end. I’m interested in life-long, sustainable solutions. It doesn’t matter what topic… exercise, nutrition or income.

If you’re a flash in the pan, what is the point?

Here is another great tip: If you practice something long enough, it becomes automatic. Your behavior will evolve and your newly acquired habit will become second nature. You adopt it and it becomes a part of the regularly scheduled program. That’s why I encourage people to stay with exercise fight for it if it’s important to them. Hold it sacred. Make time. Find space. Make it a priority and don’t give up on it for anything during the first few weeks and months. Trust me, once you bust through the growing pains, you’ll find that you’ve just successfully acquired a new habit. One that will pay you back a thousand times over, for the duration of your life on earth.

There is no greater thrill than accomplishing something that you once perceived to be out of reach.

The key to that last sentence is “perceived”. We perceive a lot of things in life. We have perceptions of ourselves, our bodies, what we are capable of accomplishing, what kind of colleagues we are, what kind of parents we are, etc. A lot of these perceptions are limited. A limited perception of yourself doesn’t allow for growth. It’s been said, “Dream big, because you’ll never be bigger than your dreams.”

I cherish this quote and protect it daily. It fuels me. You have to protect your dreams because they are yours, no one else’s. It’s ok to have tunnel vision on your dreams because it will allow you to absorb and move passed the 20 foot swells that arise while you are on the path to making your dreams a reality.

So what did we learn from this post?… Drink some coffee, explore yourself, become more aware and consider mapping your mind for increased focus and clarity. Oh, and the Belkin Bluetooth Keyboard kicks ass.

2014 is going to be a great year, I hope that you feel the same way.

Cheers to scratching and clawing and moving closer to a version of your ideal self!

KG

This post brought to you by Racy’s Coffee:)

Deep Down, We Workout For Injury Prevention, Don’t We?

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I’ve never let go of this thought since I entered the physical fitness/strength and conditionining arena, although when you’re working with healthy athletes and able bodied working professionals, it can be easy to forget why we are truly doing any gym work at all.

It’s very easy to lose sight of what matters most.

All of the magazines scream “performance!” or “burn fat!”, but we need to remember that every workout should be treated as a small dose of injury prevention medication.

And you could argue that increasing one’s ability to perform is also contributing to injury prevention, except in instances where training risks outweigh training rewards.

I watched a friend tear a ligament during a bar league hockey game last night. You could, argue that ligamentous injuries of the knee are freak accidents. They commonly do happen on impact, while twisting and turning, etc… but it is also important to remember that there simple (and safe) measures each of us can take to aid in preventing such an injury.

By taking such measures, are we 100% guaranteed to be safeguarded against blowing out a knee if we train diligently?

Absolutely not. There are very few guarantees in life outside of death and taxes.

Working to build a high functioning and resilient body that is capable of expressing adequate levels of strength, power, stability, mobility and resilience to cardiovascular fatigue (in a progressive and scaled way) also carries the benefit of injury prevention.

I’ve seen enough athletics to know that un-trained/de-conditioned bodies are more susceptible to injury during competition. I’ve seen it, I have heard physicians, athletic trainers and physical therapists talk about it. There is a lingering danger to compete or perform any other type of strenuous work in a de-conditioned state.

The guy that blew out his knee last night is an attorney with a wife a kids. He has a professional career that he needs to wake up and get to every morning along with numerous life duties around the house. All of that is now affected dramatically by his knee injury.

Lately, I have found that I am waaaaaaay more mindful about what truly matters in life, and in this case, what truly matters while we engage in our daily “workout”.

Whatever motivates you to keep training hard yet smart, hold on to that. But lets be more mindful that training should be a lifelong process that effectively contributes to preserving our ability to move without pain and restriction. When you’re young, it is far easier to view training as a vehicle to a lean body that performs well. When you’re young, you also think about hurting yourself far less then you do when you age.

But as we age, and you can ask anyone who is between say 40-50 years of age, a workout is mostly an effort to offset the challenges of life. Your priorities change. Sure, you can increase your peformance at any age, but squatting 500lbs or running a sub-10sec 100 meter sprint is pretty low on the totem pole. So is victory at Sunday night bar league hockey at the expense of torn ligaments in a knee.

Six pack abs and dunking basketballs are small peanuts in the grand scheme of things. Especially when we compare it to reducing the likelihood that you blow out a knee while playing pick up hockey with your buddies, where clearly nothing is on the line if you win or lose (despite all of us wanting to win of course). Or maybe preserving your ability to walk in the later stages of life.

I used to see a lot of world famous strength coaches preach about the first golden rule of successful programming: “first, do no harm”. I know that they were talking about their personal duties to each of their athletes/clients, but maybe we should all keep this in the back of our minds while we pursue personal fitness.

Wondering what to do? Here are a few things to consider… (in no particular order)…

1) Slow down.
We rush fitness. It is the trend right now. A lot of programs take a pure run and gun approach, completely neglecting or generalizing baseline starting points. Big name companies tug on our heart strings by promising rapid weight loss, etc. Next time you engage in a warm-up, slow every movement down and reference #2.

Rushing through exercises has never done anything for anyone. Slow down, do it right.

2) Do it right.
Technique is everything. We train muscles to turn on when we need them to, joints to have adequate mobility to prevent other joints from moving when they shouldn’t all while improving our static and dynamic posture. Does it really matter what you squat technique looks like? Yes it does. Does you body alignment matter that much during a plank? Yes it does. Slow down, do it right. Repetition is going to reward one day when you least expect it.

Technique is everything, get detailed and hold yourself accountable to exercise smarter.

3) Assess Risk vs. Reward.
Does the amount of risk involved in your completing the workout challenge, program or individual exercise outweigh the reward? If so, consider taking a different approach. If something hurts while you do it, don’t do it. Avoid that exercise and figure out why you’re hurting. Pain is your body trying to tell you something valuable, whether you choose to listen is completely up to you.

Are you rolling the dice on a certain exercise or protocol? Is it worth injuring yourself over?

4) Justify your actions.
If you can’t justify why you are doing something during a workout, consider not doing it. If you don’t understand because you simply haven’t taken the time to read up on why a movement is beneficial to improving your current situation, get your ass in front of computer screen and read up. Stop going through the motions just because you read that Peyton Manning does it, or because Shaun T. preaches it in his exercise DVDs. Be mindful of each and every decision and action you take during a workout. Justify everything. You should be able to say to yourself, “I am doing _____________ because it will do ____________ for my body, and my life”.

You should have a reason behind every rep, set, and exercise. If not, why are you doing it?

5) Define Your Goals
You’ll struggle to arrive at your goals if you first don’t define them. Goal setting has been beaten to a pulp over the years, but it also seems to have fallen on deaf ears. What do you want to happen as the result of your training efforts? Do you want fat loss to relieve inflammation and pressure on joints? Do you want strength to better handle decelerating forces in athletics? Are your shoulders unstable? Are you extremely stiff and need to improve flexibility? Start asking yourself these questions. It will help you compile a list of what needs to take place in order to achieve these goals.

Goal planning is powerful, so is following through on those goals.

Lastly, don’t let this post turn you into a hypochondriac. Get out and explore you body’s ability to move through space.

It’s not rocket science. Learn a little bit and build out from there. Everyone starts as a beginner. Every workout brings you closer to your ideal self.

Life is meant to be explored with movement.

When the ability to move is taken from you, you’ll never appreciate how precious of a gift it really was.

Cheers to preventing unwanted injuries!

KG

“Soft Workouts”: Using Workouts to Recover From Workouts

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“Soft workout” is a name that I gave to movement sessions that follow a more intense movement effort from the previous day.  Ideally a person will find a way to move around every single day, no matter how significant that movement is.  Just find a way to get up and get the blood flowing.

Today, my body is feeling the effects of yesterdays Thanksgiving Day Workout.

I have to admit that besides the high volume, it was a phenomenal training session.  It reminded me of my college hockey days when we would have “bag skate” conditioning sessions.  Your lungs were in your throat and it was hard to bend your knees beyond the lockout position, but finishing the practice strong gave you a sense of accomplishment.

725 reps is an accomplishment (at least I think it is)

Here is how long it took me to finish the workout:

Thanksgiving Day Workout Time

A shade over 24 minutes.  Not bad in my mind.

A few observations things:

  1. Multiple breaks were needed to gather myself and ensure exercise technique was satisfactory.
  2. Vertical Pulling (chin ups) were the weak exercise, which is why I ordered them first in the sequence.
  3. 10 pistols on each leg is draining.
  4. Push Ups were the easiest of the exercises.
  5. Keeping the kettlebell swing rep scheme below 10 reps allowed for focus on aggressive hip extension (“hip snap”).
  6. Push Ups and kettlebell swings felt like filler exercises.
  7. Full burpees will jack up your heart rate as fast as any other exercise on the planet, and all you need is your body and a motivated attitude.
  8. One ascent through the rep scheme is more than enough.
  9. My muscles failed me before my cardiovascular did.
  10. This kind of training is too much to sustain over the long-term, or ever.  Special occasions only.
  11. Hardly any equipment was needed, almost completely portable.

The ascending reps was kick ass.  Early on in the workout I  enjoyed transitioning from movement to movement, turning my mind off to the exercise that I just finished and turning it on to the next exercise.  It kept the session fresh and interesting.

As the reps continued to increase beyond 5+, it began to feel more like a traditional training session where a certain amount of time is spent at a station/exercise before moving on to the next.  By the time  I arrived at 8, 9, 10 reps of pistol squats, my body was showing serious signs of fatigue.  Most of the rest breaks that were taken during pistol squats.

When you’ve accumulated massive amounts of fatigue, the execution of pistol squats (which is takes balance, strength and alignment for successful completion) becomes extremely challenging.  Each rest period last no longer than 15-20 seconds to regain composure and move forward.

All in all, it was a burn out session.  As I mentioned in the previous post, most of my workouts are nothing like yesterday’s massacre.  Typically they are short burst but well managed in the fatigue department.  However, testing will power is also important to me and the human body is capable of withstanding a lot more stress than we think.

I deemed the structure of the workout to be safe for my fitness and technical know-how, so the only thing left was mental will power to keep going despite being wiped.

Now let’s talk “soft workouts” for a second.

For me, soft workouts are sub-maximal physical efforts that are a full body experience with the intent to recover, repair and restore.

Again, they are heavy in taking joints through a full range of motion and contain movements that address all planes of possible movement.  Since stumbling on Ido Portal’s ground based tumbling drills, I tend to crawl around for the majority of these sessions.  Alignment and bodily tension at key points make the drills serve a valuable purpose, not to mention I am typically sore from the previous days effort.

Also, I have to say that low load Turkish Get Ups are amazing the day after a tough workout.  The Turkish Get Up accomplishes so much in one exercise.  It really packs a massive punch.  Joints are taken through a wide range of motion through several planes and the core is constantly under tension and challenged in these same planes of movement.  Low load Turkish Get Ups will give you a chance to focus on technique.  It gives you a chance to slow the drill down and be in the movement, every single segment on the way up to the top and on the way back down to the bottom.

Each phase of the movement can be held for a brief period of time to re-train strength and stability in various positions.  It’s important to be strong and stable throughout a wide range of motion.

Again, I consider low load Turkish Get Ups to be a perfect “soft workout” exercise.

Although you may be sore heading into a “soft workout”, you’ll find that engaging in full range of motion movement will relieve much of this soreness and deliver nutrients where it’s needed.  Nutrient delivery equals repair and recovery.

A soft workout can also include other movements like push ups, dive bombers, bodyweight squats, jump rope, inverted rows, resistance bands training, walking, etc.

If you have a suspension trainer, adjust your body position so that the angles are less vertical to your anchor point, which reduces the amount of load for each rep.  Take each exercise through a full range of motion with this lightened load.

Aerobic activity is also great for “soft workouts”.  I leverage my Schwinn Airdyne all of the time to serve this purpose.  Biking is low impact and mindless.  If you have access to an Airdyne, you get the benefit of dual action upper and lower body engagement.  Now you can flush your upper extremities also as you push and pull the arms.  During an aerobic bike session, my heart rate elevates to a manageable level (as verified by my Polar HR monitor) and I can watch hockey on my iPad while I do spin to pass the time.

What’s better than that?

The only rule is keep the volume and intensity low, which is essentially the opposite of what took place in the previous days workout, right?  Keep the volume and intensity low.  You’re recovering actively so that you can engage yourself in purposeful workouts once again in the coming days.

“Soft workouts” also include a boatload of soft tissue work using the foam roller, lacrosse ball and tiger tail hand massager.  High volume/high intensity workouts can cause significant muscular damage, so working to increase blood flow to these areas will speed up recovery and reduce soreness.

After soft tissue work, I highly suggest a quick session of yoga or static stretching to change the length of the muscle after we worked hard to change the density during massage.  I continue to value static stretching, despite the digital fist fights breaking out all over the internet about it’s effectiveness.  I feel better after long duration static stretching.  At this point post-athletic career, if it makes me feel better, I do it.

If you find value in something, do it.  If it’s important do it every single day.

Unless you’re using athletics to earn your living, static stretching is probably also a good choice for you.  Any reduction in muscular power from holding stretches for longer periods of time will probably go unnoticed in your performance.

If you’re stiff and stretching makes you feel great afterwards, why the hell not?

After a “soft workout” I hydrate like a maniac.  Cold ass water and lots of it.  Actually, let me rephrase that, I hydrate like a maniac before, during and after a “soft workout”.  I also make sure that I consume a protein based shake at some point.  The shakes that I leverage are similar to what Precision Nutrition has designed.

There is a ton of nutrition in these shakes, and quite frankly, I am thankful that I am aware of how effective they are because nutrition is the foundation of all.

If you’re thinking about getting into liquid nutrition, I suggest getting a decent blender.  I prefer mine so thick they are one level before the need to use my teeth to consume.  If they are thick, it feels like they have substance.

I use a Ninja blender, which works great (yes I know it’s an “as seen on tv” product).  A lot of liquid nutrition advocates and professional chefs recommend blending with a Vitamix.  If you have the money, go with the Vitamix.  The Vitamix is industrial strength and will blend anything with ease.  You could probably liquify a Ninja blender inside of a Vitamix if you wanted to.

Bottomline:  If you just want a kick ass blender and need to allocate money elsewhere, buy the Ninja.

“Soft workouts” are an essential piece of the fitness pie.  But they need to remain soft.  It’s important that we don’t take unnecessary steps backward because we seek the adrenaline of insane workouts all of the time.  Give your body a chance to repair itself instead.  Work low load movements and make sure that your nutrition is on point.  You’ll be fine.

Cheers to recovering from 725 reps!

KG

Chin Up + Kettlebell Swing + Squat + Jump Rope + Push Up… Workout

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I’ve never felt inclined to name any of my workouts.  Thus, I give you the:

Chin Up + Kettlebell Swing + 2KB Squat + Jump Rope + Push Up…

… workout.

There is another organization that names all of their workouts, which isn’t a bad thing,  I just don’t feel like labeling my workouts with someone else’s name.  I could name this one “Brutus” or “Cactus Jack”.  Maybe I should name my workouts after WWF wrestlers past and present.  That would be cool.  Everyone seems to know WWF wrestlers names whether they admit to watching it or not.

I could use a numbering system I suppose, like “Workout #1” or “Level 5”, but maybe I’ll just call it what it is.

I selected the movements listed above because they represent most of the major movement patterns, and also because these exercise could be easily executed with the workout equipment that I had available the other day.

What did I have available?

As I mentioned, I typically only incorporate big movement patterns into circuits.  To be honest, I don’t like wasting time with exercises that hardly stress the prime movers.  Bicep curls and such are desert.  If I have time after I have completed what I often refer to as the “main meal”, I will work in the accessory exercises for fun.

 

I value my time.  Time is a commodity in my life (as I am sure that it is in your’s) so I prefer to get in, get out and get back out to experience other aspects of life.  Sure, I write about working out, structuring workouts, movement and nutrition a great deal, but that doesn’t mean that I am working out 2 hours a day.  Efficiency is the name of the game.  How effective can I make my workouts without taking away from other areas of my life that I also value.

Occasionally I will add an exercise or two that is slightly out of the box, but these movements are usually treated as a filler exercise (active rest) between more demanding exercises, or reserved for before or after the main circuit of the workout.

While I will admit that doing this is my personal preference, I would suspect that most of you will find that your own workouts are immediately enhanced by working in the big movements instead of a series of fillers.  More muscles engaged equals a greater training effective at the end of the workout session.

If you do more work in a smaller time frame, now you’ve primed your body for fat loss + muscle gain.

This is a great scenario, one that we need to keep advocating instead of “weight loss”.  You can lose weight by dehydrating yourself down to a raison in a sauna.  That’s weight loss, right?

Swap the fat tissue for muscle tissue.

Chase muscle and while running away from fat.

So what are the big movements?  In this case, the big movements that I leveraged for a training effect were:

I’m continually amazed at how effective bodyweight strength movements are, especially when organized into a circuit.

I can get the training effect that I desire while minimizing risk of injury and awful soreness in the days that is so commonly associated with resistance based training.   Of course, if you have never performed a push up or a squat, you’re going to be sore in the coming days.  That’s something you can expect with a new training stimulus and re-discovered muscle contraction.

Loading up on bodyweight style training sessions.  This type of training sessions should be heavily considered by anyone that struggles with achy joints, etc.  Bodyweight resistance exercise provides a low load introduction to basic strength drills, easing your body back into the swing of things.

Plus, being able to control your body exhibiting stability, strength and power through a healthy range of motion will do wonders for your performance, whether that performance be for sport or raking the leaves out of your yard.

So what does last weekends workout look like?

The structure looked something like this:

Metabolic Resistance Training Circuit

I loaded up most of the movements and went for 4 rounds, which took slightly over 20 minutes.  20 minutes continues to be the sweet spot for workout duration.  Anything more than that and I lose output, anything less and it seems like it wasn’t enough… as if I left some fuel in the tank.

20 minutes also seems to allow for focus on proper exercise technique (and grooving) while the fatigue continues to snowball.  Technique is important, don’t forget that.

If you take another look at the exercise selection above, I’d like to share a couple of substitutions that you could make.  If you cannot perform a bodyweight chin up, wrap a resistance band around the chin up bar you’re using, and stretch it down around your knee or foot.  This will assist you on the way up and ease you down from the top.

You could swap out standing broad jumps or squat jumps for the kettlebell swings, although there really isn’t a movement to mimic a kettlebell swing.  If you have dumbbells you could use those in a pinch, but again, there is no tool that functions quite like a kettlebell.

If you don’t have a suspension trainer, just do regular old push ups.  If you want a less expensive option that does a decent job of mimicking the push up+knee tuck combination, use furniture sliders or socks on a hard surface.  Both work decently.  I would go the furniture slide route if I had to choose.

If you don’t have kettlebells, dumbbells or a barbell for squats, you can do bodyweight squats just as well.  If bodyweight squats are easy, mix in pistols alternating each leg.  If you squats are too easy and pistols are too hard, use squat jumps.

If you don’t have a jump rope or a bike, run in place.  High knee with simultaneously arm action.  If you’re lucky enough to have a place to run a short distance, figure out how far it takes to run half of a 20 second shuttle run (10 sec out, 10 sec back).

As you can see, there is a progression, regression and alternative to just about every single movement known to man.  Once you know what a level up and a level down from an exercise is, you’re in business. Now you can OWN your workouts.

Replenish and refuel your body with some rock solid recovery nutrition, and you’ve just done your body good.

 

 

Cheers to Chin Ups, Kettlebell Swings, Squats, Jumping Rope and Push Ups!

KG

PS:  Seriously check out the nutritional link that I posted above.  If you want to see dramatic change in your body and performance, nutrition is at the bottom rung of the pyramid.  

Hand Walking/Crawling Exercises: Demanding More From Your Upper Body

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6 years ago I watched Jon Hinds strap his LifeLine Power Wheel to his feet and proceed to walk on his hands 100 yards down entire length of a football field.

I have to admit I thought the entire sequence was pretty badass.  The feat also seemed like something I could achieve… wrong.  It’s way harder than it looks.

The LifeLine Power Wheel boasts that it’s core activation is top notch, and that is supported with a study composed by CSU-Sacramento students.  The two other training tools that were compared to the Power Wheel were quite weak in my opinion (Ab Revolutionizer, ab straps).  

However, it appears that based on muscle activation (through surface electromyography (EMG), the Power Wheel performed extremely well.

When you watch YouTube videos, especially how-to exercise videos, it can be hard to find value in what the performer is showing you.  You watch it, roll your eyes and move on the the next suggested video.

I did exactly that with Jon’s hand walking video 6 years ago.

It’s a damn shame.

But, fast forward 6 years and I am an advocate spending more time loading the upper body via static/dynamic various of crawling, handstands and hand walking.  I think we need to stress our upper extremities in a similar fashion that we do our lower extremities.

Battling ropes are an example of a tool have added tremendous value to the average trainee’s tool box.  Battling rope drills are primarily executed in a standing position, involving timed (or rep based) work sets that are highly metabolic, recruit a ton of muscle for completion and train the upper body to produce repeated effort force in a way that is extremely unique.

But, battling rope drills don’t require our upper extremities to support the weight of our body.

Sure, the shoulder is not a load bearing like the hip or the knee, but we should be able to support and stabilize a percentage or even our entire body with our hands and arms.  Please don’t ask me to give “functional” examples of how drills such as handstands transfer over into real world activities until you yourself perform a series of 1-minute inverted holds yourself.

Doing so might make you feel like you like a weakling whether you are an avid exerciser or not.  I sure did.

—> What can you attribute to the difficulty of a hand walking/crawling/stands?

New stimulus?  Yes.  Very challenging regardless?  Absolutely, every single time.

The average workout just doesn’t stress the upper body in the same way that it tends to stress the lower body.  It makes sense since humans are bipedals.  Keeping our lower extremities strong, mobile, stable, and capable of sustained and high level repeated physical effort serves us very well.

But we need to be strong, stable and mobile movers in many different positions, not just with walking and running.

Hand walking, crawling, handstands and other upper body support drills stress the upper body much differently than push ups, overhead pressing, Turkish Get-Ups.  In the past, most hand walking drills were exclusive to gymnasts and other tumblers.  It’s amazing that it has taken so long for this type of training to leak out to the general population.

But, it’s here now and we need to leverage it.  It’s a tool (or maybe a strategy is a better description), and like all training tools, it serves a purpose in our physical development.

Handstands.  I have been a huge fan of hand walking and crawling for years, but have more recently begun to see amazing value in practicing handstands.  Simply kicking your feet up to a wall and holding that position with assisted support from your feet is extremely challenging and beneficial for overall physical improvement.

Ido Portal Handstand

Try it for yourself.  Go.  Now.  Try it.

It feels unnatural to support yourself vertically and I believe this is a good thing (unless you are experiencing pain).  You’re acclimating yourself to a new movement skill.  I am all about safety in training because it keeps us moving for life, but exploring uncharted territories of movement will bring you back to your childhood roots, where exploring is encouraged and crucial for overall development.

Fast forward to our adult years.  People who are hesitant to participate in certain physical tasks haven’t exposed themselves to that stimulus before.  They haven’t explored, so the movement seems risky, difficult or in some cases unfathomable.

Much of this handstand talk is probably coming from Ido Portal’s training philosophy, which is fine because I love the tenacity that Ido is bringing to the movement community.  He doesn’t dabble with movement, he is movement.  That’s pretty cool.  Devoting your life’s work to becoming the best mover possible, and then teaching the progressions on how to get to that level to others, is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Kudos to Ido Portal.

In my own training, I have divided my hand walking/crawling into two different categories:

  • Horizontal walking/crawling
  • Vertical walking/crawling

Both of these have two sub-categories that can be broken down even further:

  • Static (not moving)
  • Dynamic (moving)

I haven’t felt the need to progress any further than the bulleted points to be honest.  Hand walking/crawling is a supplement to my current training regimen, not the entire training regimen itself.  It’s a skill that I am looking to develop starting from ground zero.  The decision to keep hand walking/crawling as a supplement to the whole is based on my current goals.

My warm-ups have proven to be prime time for practicing and experimenting with various progressions of hand walking/crawling.  80% of the time I am crawling, which is what I would consider to be a horizontal-dynamic drill.  Something like this…

If you slow down while performing a basic bear crawl and do it properly, you may notice that you aren’t as connected as you thought you were.  Timing and an upper/lower body connectedness are two main keys to crawling properly.  The core serves as the conduit between the upper and lower body.  You’ll also notice that crawling isn’t as easy as it looks, as it can be extremely taxing even at shorter distances.

If you’re looking for a core workout, start crawling.  Start with a basic static hold.  You’ll find that  supporting yourself in this position activates your torso musculature like the 4th of July.  Progress to dynamic crawling slowly, working on the the timing of your opposite hand/foot.  Again, feel the burn in your stomach.

Here is Dewey Nielsen working through the ladder of crawling progressions…

—> Why should you incorporate more crawling and hand walking into your training?

1)  It’s fun.

I never thought that I would tout “it’s fun” as the top reason for crawling and hand-walking, but it really is.  Both provide a unique challenge that we can look forward to.  Pursuing specific goals in your training will keep the fire going in your belly.  Otherwise, it’s easy to begin flaking out on training.

I have recently dropped a few barriers with regard to my viewpoints on training, and what it means to “workout”.  For sometime, I felt unfulfilled in my workouts.  It seemed there was a piece that was missing.  I felt like a robot going through the motions.  Start a set, do the reps at a particular tempo using a particular weight, stop, rest, rinse, repeat.  It was nauseating.

Crawling and hand-walks scratched that itch.  Now intentionally incorporate warm-ups packed with plenty of crawling and hand walks.  It’s open new doors for me as I know it will for you.

2)  Loading the upper extremities uniquely

Moving yourself around using your hands/arms is a new training stimulus for many.  Even holding yourself against a wall for a brief period of time puts a valuable stress on your upper body to support the weight of your body.

3)  Balance

Horizontal or vertical crawling/walking are activities that require constant body correction.  Reflexive stability is a hot topic right now, and crawling/walking works reflexive stability nicely.  Keeping the hands connected to Mother Earth is advantageous, creating a closed-chain training scenario.  Crawling is both simple and more complicated than we think, especially when we realize how dysfunctional we have become from our lack of movement.  Holding a wall supported handstand requires stability, strength and balance.  A free-stranding handstand is the perfect expression of balance.

4)  Connecting the core

Not six-pack abs.  Chasing six pack abs should be furthest down on most people’s list.  The torso musculature’s main job is to protect the spine.  Our core is supposed to activate when it senses that the spine might be in jeopardy.  Our torso lights up (activates) to keep our bodies stabile and in control during these movements.  Lightly palpate (touch) your stomach while in the assumed basic bear crawl position, tell me what you feel.

5)  Primal movement

We had to crawl before we could walk.  Crawling isn’t a fitness progression, it’s a human life progression.  Regressing back to crawling can help to restore lost movement patterns from which we can build a bulletproof body.  The body’s wires can easily become crossed, don’t make the mistake of blowing a fuse by skipping the crawling section of the progression book.

6)  Low impact

Crazy is the craze right now.  Extreme, hardcore, tenacity and intensity!  But not everyone wants crazy workouts, and crawling fits the bill nicely for those who seek a bodyweight challenge without the risk of injury.  Although it’s possible to hurt yourself doing just about anything, crawling/handwalks are extremely low on the injury potential ladder.  Your joints will applaud your choice.

7)  Movement

To take an unofficial idea from Ido Portal’s training philosophy…  Just start f’ing move people.  Stop over thinking it and engage in full fledged movement.  Explore what your body can do in space.  If you’re embarrassed to do it in the public gym, do it behind closed doors in your basement or garage.  As I have said before, movement is the benefit of moving.  So keep moving every which way.  Caution… be prepared to be humbled at first… you might need to lubricate your joints and blow off the cobwebs for a few sessions before it starts flowing and feeling natural.

So there you go, the most un-organized 1600+ word article ever written on crawling/handwalking.

Stay tuned for how to get started with crawling/walking and where to slip it into workouts…

 

 

Cheers to exploring the upper body’s ability to move!

KG

The Huffington Post Advocates Exercising With “Kettleballs” to Burn Fat and Lose More Weight

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“Kettleballs” are a great tool for exercise enthusiasts looking to building elite level endurance, raw strength and burn fat.

The Huffington Post thinks so at least.

After opening the “news” drop down on my iPAD today, my eyes immediately connected with the bolded heading “Kettleballs”.

Here’s precisely what my eyes saw:

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I’m fascinated by the suggestion because it seems that I’ve been using the wrong tool all of these years!

You see, I’ve been using kettlebells to build and maintain my boyish figure. But that’s not what the Huffington Post is recommending.  They’re touting “kettleballs” as the go-to workout tool for those who are serious about reshaping their bodies.

I feel cheated.

What might I look like had I been using “kettleballs” all this while? How would my performance improve if I had been using “kettleballs”?  Could I have been spending less time training and more time building other businesses if “kettleballs” were a part of my daily workouts?

I Googled “kettleballs” just to see what I have been missing…

Kettleball Training

I couldn’t believe it!  Photo after photo kept popping up!

Kettleball Extreme Training

“Kettleball” exercises that incorporate bite strength?!  I was feeling weaker with every passing second…

… and then… the dagger…

Faster results with kettle balls

I had hoped that I wouldn’t see any “kettleball” claims like the picture above, but there it was, staring me in the face.  I did the math on this.  I could have trained for 10min per day (instead of 30 min) and seen 3x the striations in my muscles, increased abdominal visibility and all while shaving minutes off of my trail race time.

Stupid kettlebells. Their worthless it seems!

I’ve been swinging, pressing, pulling, carrying and snatching a cheap knock-off piece of equipment.

Unreal.

Here’s a link to The Huffington Post’s “kettleball” workout review that I am ripping on so hard.

Got Kettleballs?

Got “kettleballs”?

 

 

Cheers to the “kettleball”!

KG

Is Sitting is the New Smoking? Is Strong is the New Skinny?

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Spend a few minutes scrolling through your news feed on Facebook, you’ll inevitably come across someone posting spirited words of inspiration.

Diagram A:

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Diagram B:

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Very spirited posts indeed.

Let’s start with “strong is the new skinny”…

I recently read a Huffington Post article that made a great number of points about the concept that “strong is the new skinny”.  I have to say that I agree with many of the points made in the article.  I felt that the author made some really good points that seemed to be deeply tied to her preferences.

I’ve never preached skinny.  I actually think that “thinning out”, “getting skinny”, “slimming down” are all as annoying as “strong is the new skinny”.  Strong definitely is strong.

What’s even cooler than saying that “strong is strong” is building up a person’s confidence to the point that they are about to explode with ambition, drive and the pursuit of their own form of greatness.  Whether “getting skinny” or “getting strong” is the path to jump starting a person’s legacy, it doesn’t matter to me.  Use whatever fuel gets you moving.

I once trained a 12-year old hockey player in Detroit, MI, who will remain nameless.  At 12 years of age, most males are just starting to figure out their bodies, muscles, etc.  They are on the brink of puberty, so this makes sense.

This young man was one of my favorite training sessions of the week, by far. I always looked forward to working this kid because I could tell that he didn’t have much confidence, and his Mom- after a few training sessions- praised my efforts by telling me that her son really looked up to me as a coach.  I praised him every chance I got.  High-five’s, knuckles, shouting and clapping when he succeeded was my formula.    As with any enjoyable client, his strongest trait was that he listened.  He was coachable.  He may have been smaller and weaker than other kids his age, but he was willing to listen to my advice and follow through with my suggestions.

A few months down the road, after never missing a scheduled training session, he walked into our training center smiling from ear to ear.  “I made the Peewee A team (hockey), I am the strongest on the team and a girl at school said I have big muscles”.

Naturally, I laughed, particularly at the end part of his comments.  I was ridiculously proud of this kid.  His entire demeanor had changed over a course of months.  Not necessarily from an introvert to an extrovert, but definitely from a kid that lacked confidence to a kid that realized he could accomplish whatever he wanted if he stuck to the recipe and did the work.

Strong may not be the new skinny, but building strength, both physically and mentally can change a person in a matter of weeks.  You’d be surprised at home many people, kids or grown-ass adults have displayed a new-found confidence from improving that strength, ability to move, performance and most recently… their composition of their body.

So, I really don’t care what you choose to refer to “it” as,  but in this situation, strength is confidence.

 

Next, “Is sitting the new smoking”?

Kelly Starrett thinks that it is, and while Kelly Starrett isn’t god, he is certainly a massively influential face in the movement world right now.  Right up there with Ido Portal.

The truth is that I don’t think that comparing sitting to smoking is really a good comparison.  I understand the message that people are aiming to convey by saying that over-indulging in sitting is kind of like smoking, but sitting is sitting, and smoking is smoking.

Everyone needs to sit at some point.  Quite honestly, I enjoy sitting.  It usually means that I am reading a book, listening to music, watching the waves roll in on a lake, watching NHL hockey (as I am right now) or writing.  All great activities that I thoroughly enjoy.

I don’t punish myself for sitting and nor should you.  However, I also don’t sit 8+ hours day for my career.  That fact, makes me consciously accepting of times that I sit.  I feel that I earned the right to sit, rest my feet, relax and reboot.

The magnitude of the negative effects that sitting has on a person should be related to each person and their unique situation.

If you’re a person that remains seated and stationary during most of the waking day, you probably need to be more conscious of your sitting.  You probably need to move more.  You probably need to consciously focus on an improved posture for sitting.

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Photo credit: bodybuilding.com

You probably need to consider a standing desk (if you can have one where you work or at home), you probably need to take more walking breaks throughout the day.  You also probably need to be more aware of the structural changes taking place with your body as a result of such prolonged periods of sitting.

If you sit too much, you just need to be aware.  Don’t get compulsive about it, just be aware of the events that are taking place as a result of sitting so much.

Also, if you are sitting for prolonged periods, understand that you need to be consistently diligent about off-setting the effects of sitting.  Here are some simple things that you can do:

1)  Open up your thoracic spine using the tennis ball peanut.

2)  Yoga (donate 30-60 minutes of your time, you’ll feel great after)

3)  Rapid circulation (aka:  exercise)

4)  Foam roll aggressively and then hold this stretch…

Although sitting affects us all differently (just like getting punched in the head affects us all differently), the rules of unwinding and off-setting the negative adaptations of sitting can be somewhat generalized and still provide tremendous benefit and relief.  As I have said in the past, our bodies are extremely complicated and yet at the same time, extremely predictable.

So is sitting bad?  For some people, yes, it’s a slow road to a whole host of future issues.  But sitting is not evil and there is no need to pull your hair out if you sit down for a while.  Just be aware of how much you are moving around, and do you best to increase it or sustain that movement for the long haul.

Smoking, on the other hand, is terrible.  I cannot think of one benefit that anyone receives from bucking a dart.  I have an orthopedic surgeon colleague that was telling me a story not too long ago about a patient that he saw in his clinic.  This particular patient was in severe pain from bone on bone knee articulation.  Obviously, the average person is supposed to have nice lubricated cushion of meniscus, but this lady had worn through her cushion.  So, bone on bone grinding was taking its place.

Surgeons do extensive health checks for any patient that is a candidate for total joint replacement.  Upon conducting a health check on this lady, it was identified that she was a heavy smoker.  By heavy, I am talking about a pack of cigarettes per day, if not more.  This is common for orthopedic surgeons to see during consults.

After taking this patient’s knee through range of motion tests, exhaustive questioning about symptoms and an evaluation of her x-rays, the doctor told the patient that she was in fact over-due for a knee replacement.

“I would like to see you again in a week for another series of tests so we can properly schedule your surgery”, the surgeon told her.

“Another visit?!  I can’t afford that!”, the patient responded.

“Why is that?  It’s important to make sure that you’re able to make it through the surgery, it’s in your best interest ma’am”, said the doctor.

“I won’t be able to buy my cigarettes if I have to drive down to the clinic again”, the patient said.

The irony in this story is that the patient had terrible bone quality from smoking, diabetes and no meniscus in her knee from her lack of activity and her weight.

But she just couldn’t give up those cigarettes.

Sitting is not smoking and smoking is not sitting.

 

 

Cheers to moving more, sitting less and the pursuit of your greatest self!

KG

A Self-Limiting Barrier to Fat Loss and Performance: “If I Had ________ Than I Would Definitely _________ ” Syndrome

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This will probably be the easiest post that I ever compose on this blog.

The idea is clear and I think that most of us can relate to it, at least at some point in our lives.  Heck, maybe we feel this on a daily basis.

It’s a common barrier to fat loss and performance.  

As the title of the blog shows, “If I had ____ I would definitely be _____” is a self-inflicted syndrome.  

Some common examples go like this:

  • If I had more time to workout, I would definitely be in better shape.
  • If I had a membership to that new gym on the other side of town, I would definitely be in better shape.
  • If I had more money to go 100% organic with all of my food, I would definitely be able to see my abs.  
  • If I had more equipment at my house, I could perform all of the best exercises and engage in all of the best workouts that the magazines talk about.
  • If I had more fitness apps on my iPhone, I would be able to make much greater gains in much shorter time.
  • If I had better fitness apparel, I would re-dedicate myself to my movement.
  • If I had those supplements, I would be able to drop the weight and exercise more frequently.

If I had _____ I would definitely_____” Syndrome.

It’s a syndrome brings us to our knees, cripples us, leaves us uncertain about whether our goals are worth all of the effort. 

We convince ourselves into thinking that the grass is greener on the other side, and then when we get to the other side, we realize that the grass is the exact same color.

Use exactly what you have right now, where you are at right now.

If something is worth doing, it’s always worth the effort.

Don’t get caught up in the minutiae of building health, wellness and performance.

Because there is a lot of minutiae.  If you’re a beginner, all you need to know is enough to get started.  If you’ve already started, all you need to know is enough to keep going.  

You’d be surprised at how taking a few minutes to re-examine your training options can open doors to new challenges and a refreshing movement experience.  But you have to be willing to open your eyes to all of the things that you do have going for you (time, equipment, space, a roof, mobility, etc) versus dwelling on all of the things that you don’t have.  

If you’re wondering where you can find new ideas for your training, comb over the archives of this blog.  I have been posting for a little over a year.  There are more than 150 posts to read on Range of Motion.  Bookmark it in your browser or better yet, sign up to get an update whenever I post.  

A lot of the posts on this blog contain workouts and effective exercise variations, some performed by yours truly and others I outsourced because I didn’t have the video or someone else was more effective at demonstrating.  Eat your heart out.  

One big culprit of “If I had _______ I would definitely ________” Syndrome are fitness “secrets”.  There are no secrets, there is only what you know and what you don’t know.  And you don’t know what you don’t know.  Ok?

If you’re really in an exercise slump, redirect yourself back into the movements that you avoid and hate the most.  Chances are quite high that those same movements might be the missing link in your training success.  More often than not, this advice will hold up.  That which you dread just might that which you need.  

Just a few simple thoughts on a Monday.

Go do something great today.  Go ahead, you have time.

Less thinking and more doing, and I will do the same.

 

Cheers to wiping “If I had ____ I would definitely ______” Syndrome off of your shoes at the front door before entering!

 

 

KG