Take a Big Juicy Bite of Humble Pie: Progressing Your Workouts

Quick Tips
credit: blisshabits.com

credit: blisshabits.com

Ah, the humble pie.

In life it can be hard to convince yourself to take a delicious bite of humble pie, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary, especially when we begin to dissect our daily workouts.

First off, if you’re finding a way to get to the gym, you’ve put yourself ahead of the curve.  They say much of sales is just showing up, and I firmly believe fitness is very similar.  Getting to the gym is half of the battle.  Once you’re there, small shifts to progress beyond your current training habits will work magic for your body.

For example, if you’ve been killing it on the leg press, pressing a half ton load for endless reps, it’s time to remove yourself from the leg press and enter the world of free weight squatting.  You don’t even need weight.  You could knock your ego back down to earth by mixing in some pistol squats.

A few sets of pistol squats and you’ll figure out what you’ve been missing.  Single leg strength is where it is at.

If you’ve been dominating bicep curls, walk over to the squat rack and load up a set of chin-ups.  Lower yourself slow and explode on the way up.  Vertical pulling strength is a fantastic benchmark for upper body strength.  It’s important to work on handling your own bodyweight (and beyond) during upper body pulling actions.

Too cool for school on the lat pulldown?  Mix in some strict pull-ups using the same tempo as the chin ups.  Pull ups are the king of upper body exercises.  If you find yourself knocking it out of the park with pull ups, I would bet you will find yourself becoming extremely strong.

Still doing cross-words during the treadmill jog?  Take the incline up to 6-8%, turn up the speed and run some 15-20sec sprints.  Aerobic work is great, but shuffling your conditioning to venture into the higher ranges of heart rate BPM has great carryover to leaning out and resistance to fatigue during sport.

Tired of being unsure about how hard you are working?  Buy a heart rate monitor and measure your effort.  There are plenty of brands, colors and features to choose from.  It’s really a solid investment and I highly encourage that everyone leverage a heart monitor to increase the effectiveness of their training habits.

Exercise progression fitness

Improving your workouts is a lot easier than you might think, but it requires turning away from the path of least resistance and toward the path of progression.

Trust me, I know it feels really good to be awesome at certain exercises while simultaneously avoiding the exercises that plague you, but re-adjusting your training plan to include some of the exercises listed above (among others) is a sure-fire way to see quick improvement.

It really doesn’t take much put yourself on the right track for certain progress.  But you have to put yourself on the right track.  You have to progress.  If you don’t progress in some way, you’ll stay the same.

If you desire the next level of results, it will take some effort and an inner strength to consistently (and intelligently) push yourself out of your current comfort zone.  If you remember from an old post the picture below is worth a thousand words.

credit: thinkingmomsrevolution

credit: thinkingmomsrevolution

Progress applies to all aspects of life.  If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always had.

Keep progressing and you’ll keep improving.  It’s a simple concept, but it isn’t always easy.



Cheers to progressing the workout in small increments!


Progress your nutrition to see results, click the photo to find out how to make it happen.

Progress your nutrition to see results, click the photo to find out how to make it happen.

A Glimpse of a Sample Staircase Interval Workout

Quick Tips

There is really nothing like sprinting up and down a long staircase.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a staircase near you that is of decent length, congrats, you’re in luck.

By decent length, I am referring to a staircase that takes about 30 seconds or longer to run up at a brisk pace.

If you’ve never treated yourself to a staircase training session, you’re going to find that running vertically is nothing like running horizontally.  Every step/stride requires brute force and attention to detail.

Why attention to detail?

Because the split second that you get lazy or lose focus on what you’re doing, you’re going to miss a step and leave shin skin on the staircase.

Staircase running requires hip extension.  You can fake to make it for a little while, but you’ll find that opening up the hips and driving “down and back” with every stride is going to get you to the top faster and with a higher efficiency.  The hips are the powerhouse of the body, so you might as well use them if you have them, right?

Besides, your quads are overworked.  Let’s build a backside.

If you are finding that you cannot comfortable achieve hip extension, I would suggest regressing and addressing these issues quickly…

Here are some videos that might help…

Thanks KStarr.

Now on to the workout…

Staircase Interval Training165 glorious stairs

Staircase interval training

Total time from start to finish for this workout.

Staircase Interval Training

This is the break down of the workout.  30 minutes of work was my initial target.  I hit that.

My heart rate peaked at 168bpm, which I thought was surprising.  I thought that it would have been much higher.  I’ve seen it 175bpm while running trails.  Interesting.  I suspect that had the staircase taken me longer to run, I may have seen higher heart rates.

I have to disclose that I probably whipped through 12-13 rounds.  2 of these round were loaded up with kettlebells.  I brought my trusty 24kg LifeLine kettlebells with me for some fun carrying variations.  After looking at the length of the staircase and evaluating what I wanted from the workout, I decided that I would only use one kettlebell for these carrying drill.

I worked overhead, racked position and farmer carries, switching hands using a single arm swing hand transition + KB clean + Press.  I can explain this later, but I prefer using this method for switching hands during single kettlebell workouts.  Always loaded this way.

The general structure of the workout look like this:

  • Running the stairs took around 60 seconds (I think)
  • Rest periods were 1.5x-2x the length that it took to climb the stairs (or recovery to 130bpm)
  • Upper body focus was placed on arm action (elbow drive and hands to face) and keeping posture vertical versus slouching once fatigue set in.
  • Lower body was all about putting force into each stair and extending the hips aggressively, picture your feet as springs… explode!

Men’s Health ran an article almost a year and a half ago that I thought I would share because they included a research study out of the British Journal of Sports Medicine which concluded that stair climbing was pretty bad ass, even at relatively low output (just walking up).

Here is that article

One interesting thing to think about here.  Keep in mind that the speed with which you run the stairs is not the only quality we are aiming to build here.

We are also aiming to reduce the time it takes for you to recover, and repeat that effort.  Faster recovery is a sign of improving conditioning.

If you’re a weekend athlete or a movement enthusiast, increasing your ability to recover quickly from multiple bouts of vigorous activity is beneficial for performance and your body composition.

Runners, I would consider this an amazing supplement to improving your running endeavors.  You’re essentially lifting yourself with every stride while running a staircase, and focusing on explosive hip extension is what most of you could benefit from.  Get the hips involved people.




Cheers to training where other people aren’t…



The Devil’s Ass Crack is Sitting on Wisconsin and There’s Nothing Wrong with Working Out Indoors

Quick Tips


Blog post title is inspired by this viral “It’s Hot As Hell” YouTube video

(you can find the link to the video at the end of the post)

All of my Apple devices say that it’s 89 degrees in the EC (Eau Claire, WI), but there is no way in hell it is 89 degrees.  I could cook an egg on the sidewalk and I nearly lost skin to the seat of my Volkswagen Jetta (TDI I might add).  Just for clarification, TDI means diesel:)  It’s got to be closer to 94-95 degrees at least.

In a nutshell, it is stupid hot in Wisconsin at the present moment.   It’s down right suffocating outside.

***  Please grant me this moment to bitch about the weather… I am well aware that it is hotter elsewhere.

I preach about how refreshing it is to get take your workouts outside, but not in this kind of heat and humidity.  You’ll bury yourself in the first ten minutes.  Plus, if you’re a sweater like I am, any movements that require grip become annoyingly unsafe.  When I say sweater, I mean wet.  Not damp or slight lower back sweat stain, I’m talking about ring out my t-shirt wet.  Squeaky sneakers wet.

Swinging a kettlebell with sweat sliding between the palms of your hands and a heavy cast iron cannonball is nerve-racking.  It’s not fun to re-grip at the apex of your swing.  Also, if the bell slips, it’s going to slip on the backswing, where gravity is re-introduced and the hands are taxed to maintain grip.  Smashing the bones in your feet would not be fun.  I’ve been swinging for a while, and I’ll still grind through a few extra swings with wet hands despite knowing better.  It’s not good practice, but I’ll commonly pull the plug on any ballistic kettlebell movements (snatches, cleans, swings, etc) when the sweat is really pouring out of me.

So, the game plan today is an indoor workout.  No question about it.

My sacrifice for training indoors is that my ceilings are not of the ideal height for a select few kettlebell exercises.  If I was working in max effort squat jumps (which I never do) or snatches (which I love to do but can’t), I would have to find alternatives or take my workout outside.  But not today.

Today is going to be totally improvised.


  • Continuous movement for 15 Minutes
  • No rest between movements, reset back to squat jumps after finishing the Schwinn Airdyne ride.
  • Monitor heart rate for effort.
  • Monitor exercise technique for muscular fatigue/breaking of form.

*  I don’t claim to have invented this, and I don’t typically mix multiple movements together that take a great deal of thinking, but this seemed like a nice combination.  I wanted a total body movement combination, and this seems to serve that purpose.

First, I put this workout together using my same general template that I use for all of my program/workout design.  All movement patterns are represented in the workout, including a cardio effort with the 60 second Schwinn Airdyne ride (in honor of the Tour de France).  Nothing is maximal effort.  That would ruin the point of the workout.  Burning out in the first round does little for you.  By monitoring my heart rate, I can verify that I am in fact working as hard as I think I am.  It’s not a perfect gauge effort, it has it’s flaws, but it works extremely well for me and a lot of other people.

Second (and to my last point), I chose sub-maximal reps and sub-maximal loading on all exercises.  This decision was influenced by the duration of time that I targeted for the session (15 minutes).  Again, the point is to move a pace that allows for:

1)   Quality technique in each rep of every exercise.

2)   The accumulation of an afterburn-like effect that will lend itself to staying lean, maintaining strength, improving work capacity through various exercise variations and while leveraging my body’s reaction to the training stimulus (calories expended post-workout). 

Third, all movements are bodyweight based the entire way through.  I have fallen back in love with bodyweight training.  Bodyweight training goes wherever you go, has simple progressions and leverages the most effective movement patterns in a brutally effective manner.  Bodyweight training is the foundation of all other modes of training, so it’s probably best be capable of executing sound technique using just bodyweight against gravity’s pull.

Also, I enjoy having and building strength as much as the next person, but at the present time, the strength that I have developed and maintained through bodyweight based exercise progressions is more than enough to meet my daily needs.  If I ever want to develop higher levels of strength, I will have to move heavier loads and adjust other training variables.  Simple as that.

Fourth, the entire workout takes 15 minutes.  Now, I won’t con you (yes con you) into thinking that the whole ordeal takes 15 minutes only, because it doesn’t.  I typically spend 10-15 minutes before the actual effort driven portion of the training session hammering home joint mobility, soft tissue restrictions and activation of weaker muscles.  I also whip through a series of staple dynamic flexibility drills that prepare my body for what’s ahead.

You can argue that warming up doesn’t prevent injuries, but in reality, why risk it?  Do you really want to find out through experience?  It’s just not worth it.

Lastly, take a look at the final two bullet points above.  Here is a snapshot so that you don’t have to scroll up (the things I do for my readers):


What’s going to burn out first?  Lungs or muscles.  It will vary from person to person depending on what your past training regimen was and current fitness status is.  In other words, will your cardio or your ability to successfully and repeatedly execute each rep of each exercise (muscular contraction) give way first?

For me, it’s a combination.  Muscles seem to go first, especially when I am toying around with higher volume training sessions.  Some of you may find that you haven’t open up your lungs aggressively for quite some time, so the feeling of not getting enough air may cause you to tap out first.  In this case, focus on relaxing your neck.  Push your oxygen through your neck and chest down to the lowest part of your stomach.

Breathe deep.

So there you have it, a simple yet effective training session for all the land to enjoy.  Feel free to substitute your favorite or most accessible cardio alternative for the Schwinn Airdyne sprint.  Some days, low impact/high reward conditioning tools are the ticket.  High impact all of the time may mean high risk for some of you who have not yet adapted.  Jumping rope would fit the bill nicely, so would a treadmill sprint set to an incline.  Your choice.

Cheers to training inside when it’s Image outside!


(As promised:  “It’s Hot As Hell”)

20 Minute Workout: “Country Jam” Training

20 minute Workouts, Bodyweight Workouts

In honor of our local Country Music festival here in Eau Claire, WI, I decided that I would throw together a workout.

The template for designing a crazy effective workout is simple.

My rule has always been… Keep it simple.

Simple means big bang movements using minimal equipment while closely considering loading (weight), rest period(s) and total time of workout.

Avoid complexity at all costs.   Complicating a workout with fancy technical lifts only moves the risk versus reward pendulum deep into the RISK category.


Enough babbling, start training.


Give this a go…


Country Jam Training

The Details…

—> Time:  14-20 minutes

—> Work-set:  2 minutes

—>  Rest:  Remaining time after work is completed

—>Rounds:  7-10

—>Equipment:  Bodyweight + Suspension Trainer, Gymboss interval timer or equivalent



15 Push Ups

30 Mountain Climbers

15 Squats

30 Jumping Jacks

15 Full Burpees or 15 Inverted Rows (if you have a suspension trainer)


*  Complete full reps of each movement for the set amount of reps.  Pay attention to full range of motion and technical perfection.  Your rest period is determined by the speed with which you complete the final rep of burpee.  Rest begins then.  Each round starts at the top of EVERY 2nd minute.

An example of what I am desc is seen below:

Minute 20… Start set

Minute 18… Start 2nd set

Minute 16… Start 3rd set

Minute 14… Start 4th set

… and so on.


Customize the workout to your training level…

  • Beginners/Intermediate:  Start with 5-7 rounds of this (10min-14min total work)

—–>  If it is easy, add more rounds of work.

  • Advanced:  Go for the full 10 rounds (20min) and don’t look back.

—–>  If it is easy, add load to the movements or add rounds (12-14rounds… 24-28 minutes)


Did you get your heart rate monitor yet?

Don’t underestimate the power of a bodyweight workout.  No excuses, just get the work done and get on with your day.

Remember the equation:

 Intense physical exertion + clean eating = Ramped up fat loss

See you soon… let me know how it goes…


*****  Did you see this girl?  She knows how to put a kink in the obesity hose*****

Pressed for Time: When are Bicep Curls, Triceps Extensions and Deltoid Raise Acceptable?

Pure Fat Loss, Quick Tips

Ahhhhh, the “dessert” movements of the training world.

I will be blunt with this post.

Exercises like bicep curls, triceps extensions and deltoid raises provide very little bang for you buck.  I don’t care how many different angles, rep schemes and loading patterns you choose for a bicep curl, you are NEVER going to lean out by performing bicep curls alone.

I used to have a rule at the sports performance complex in Detroit, my athletes could do all of the curls, triceps, and shoulder work they wanted AFTER we finished taking care of business with our regularly scheduled program which consisted of:

–  Squats (one and two leg variations)

–  Hip dominant lifts (deadlifts, swings, etc)

–  Horizontal pressing (push ups, etc)

–  Vertical Pulling (Chin-Ups, etc)

–  Horizontal Pulling (Inverted Rows, etc)

–  Turkish Get-Ups

–  Energy System Development (aka: Anaerobic, aerobic, shuttle run conditioning)


The rule was simple.  You give me what I want, and I will let you go play around by the dumbbell rack and work all of the muscles that you think the girls love.

Most times, the guys were too tired to complete any “dessert” type movements like bicep curls, but occasionally they would find the energy to bang out a few reps/sets.


Does this rule apply to the general population seeking fat loss?

Hell yes it does.  I want you to change your view about training.  Bicep curls, triceps extensions and deltoid raises need to be considered “dessert”.  There is very little return on investment when performing these exercises.


Unless you are competing in a physique competition anytime soon, ditch them.

Replace them with total body movements, multi-joint movements that challenge your body as a single synergistic operating unit.

Run fast, lift heavy things from the floor, throw a medicine ball, work with a suspension trainer, use battling ropes, squat, push up, chin up, pull up, inverted row, push a heavy sled, pull a heavy sled, jump, run a long staircase, use a heart rate monitor to eliminate guesswork.


Image Credit: Core Performance

Do some of those things I just listed above, organized in a systematic way that prevents staleness, stagnation and keeps you progressing with weight, rest periods, exercise progression, mobility and flexibility, recovery until the next bout, etc…

Sooner than later you are going to see some results as a byproduct of your consistent development of strength, power and overall athleticism.



End timer…