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

Look! Movement is the Benefit :)

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Non-traditional movement has been the name of the game lately.

Pure ground based locomotion and flow.

It’s not that I don’t have time for more mainstream forms of movement, because I believe in that also,  but I am becoming increasingly intrigued with other methods of movement training.  I almost used the term “time-tested” instead of mainstream.  It might have been a better description, but admittedly, 95% of my personal workout habits and the habits which I recommend to others seeking movement regimens are in fact, mainstream.

A simple blend of squats, lunges, hip dominant hinging, upper body pushing and pulling in a vertical and horizontal fashion will set you up for success.  Add in some chops and lifts and you have got yourself a damn good routine.  It’s all in how you organize it and tweak the variables to best fit your goals.

A squat is a squat, but with a few tweaks here and there, you can make the squat conducive to building a number of different human physical qualities (strength, endurance, power, etc), all completely different from each other.

Always remember, in the beginning… establish mobility, establish stability in that new-found range of motion, then begin the process of building strength.

It’s a layering effect.

This is a recipe that works every single time for the person that is willing to be diligent in their training efforts.

Are you that person?

Because here is the reality:  Movement works every single time.  100% effective.  It’s people that fall short.

Movement works.  People don’t do the work.  Shame on us.

Over the past few weeks, I have progressively integrated more and more Ido-style movements into my pre-work training block.  Maybe I shouldn’t refer to these movements as “Ido-invented” (after watching some of his videos he probably would deny they are his but were there from the beginning of time), but he was one of the first (and still the best that I’ve seen) to make sense of less mainstream forms of movement.

He is a mover, in every sense of the word.

From one-arm hand stands and other hand balancing, single arm chin ups, planches and twice bodyweight back squats, Ido can move with flow and move load if necessary.

Planche training

Planche

I keep referring to Ido’s teachings as “movement”, and that’s because it is.  He neither specializes nor generalizes.

I guess I never really stopped and thought about it, but most of what is published and preached today is purely about fitness.  Even Yoga, with it’s cult like following, doesn’t necessarily make a person MOVE better.  It might help a person increase flexibility and improve range of motion, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will move better.

You have to practice movement to improve your ability to move.

Now, I will say that I don’t necessarily believe that the mere act of practicing movement is going to grant you access to better movement.  It may open a few doors to becoming a better mover, but I also think that each person needs to be real with themselves and their own situation.  Some folks have got some real compensations, imbalances and dysfunction going on.  Who knows where or how these issues manifested themselves (a lot are from sitting too long) but they are there, so it may be completely necessary to address these movement restrictions before you’ll ever be a great mover, or even an average mover.

The Functional Movement Screen is a great system for evaluating yourself, and your ability to move.  Why?  Because it is systematic.  You grade your movement quality, and lesser quality scores in any given movement pattern has a roadmap of corrective drills that you can use to clean up that movement pattern.  In essence, you can correct faulty movement rather quickly.

Realistically, you can perform a poor man’s movement screen at home on yourself.  It will always be better to have a knowledgeable FMS certified trainer evaluate you, but hey, we can DIY.

Use a big mirror or better yet film yourself performing the tests from the movement screen.  Don’t feel dumb filming, you can delete it immediately.  The filming of your movement capabilities is extremely valuable.  What you “think” you’re doing isn’t always what you actually doing movement-wise.

Take your video and compare it to some perfect screens (which you can easily find on YouTube) and take note of the differences.  Most people will notice that their overhead squat is a lacking, rotational stability nearly impossible to complete and the inline lunge makes you feel like you’re balancing on a tight rope.

Cleaning up these patterns will make you a better mover, and probably decrease the likelihood that your dysfunction manifests itself into an injury.

However, cleaning up the screen doesn’t mean that you’ll all of the sudden be a great mover.  You have to practice moving to be a great mover.  Are you sick of me saying move?  Mover?  Movement yet?  Sit tight I’ll drop those terms a bunch more in the coming paragraphs.

In many cases, I have substituted ground based crawling variations (supine and prone) and walks in  place of my go-to dynamic warm up.  I haven’t felt like I am sacrificing anything by doing so.  My joints still move through a full range of motion and my muscles are activated in a low-impact fashion.  I would even argue that my time is being maximized by practicing my movement flow using Ido’s training drills versus my standard cookie cutter warm up.

I’ve actually exited many of these warm-ups in a pool of sweat, even before beginning what I would consider to be the “work” portion of my session.  Interesting.

I’ve quickly found that I am ridiculously weak in certain positions, uncoordinated and all around uncomfortable as I work in some of the Ido Portal warm-up drills and ground based training.  It’s an ego check for sure, especially since he refers to many of these flow-like drills as being “beginner”.  Ha!  Soreness has also been a product of the unfamiliar movements, although it’s never a goal.  Unfamiliar movements almost always produce soreness because your body hasn’t experienced it yet.

I am reminded – as I continue to force myself to become more vulnerable by the day with Ido’s training idealogy- of how a newbie to the workout scene feels at first.  It’s an emotional uppercut showing up to a personal training session or a group class (even training by yourself behind closed doors) knowing that you’re going to struggle to complete what is being asked of you.

But the key is to keep coming back.  Keep grinding.  Keep learning.  Realize that it’s a process, just like everything else.  And as a process, you’ve got to work at it, consistently and in a focused manner.  Leave your feelings at the door and work.

We’ve become detached from our bodies and desensitized to our physical abilities.  In fact, many of us no longer have a relationship with our body, and our physical abilities.  Things that we could easily do as kids are now foreign and seemingly impossible.  But all of that can be regained.

One major takeaway from the my small bit of reading Ido’s work is this:  We’ve got to establish a lifelong relationship with our movement.  Every one of us.  We will all start at different points and need different adjustments along the way- and this makes sense because we are all individually unique- but you’ve got to make sure that you start and find a way to make it stick.

Enjoy the challenge of learning new physical skills.  Embrace the frustrations and work out the solutions on your own.  If you find yourself stuck, hop on the computer or tablet and search out a solution.  The internet is packed with incredible free information that can get you where you need to go.

I suck at many of Ido’s locomotion drills right now.  I’ll admit that.  I filmed myself and I look stiff and the opposite of gracefully.  But that will change with time and practice.  It’s frustrating to know that I am practicing something that I am not good at (yet).

I think many people may find that they actually like dedicated workouts more when you a aiming to develop a certain movement skill.  Pursuing skills transforms a person’s daily workouts into a journey instead of a dreaded 60 minutes of robotic physical activity that we feel we need to participate in to chase the idea of “fitness”.

A movement journey may not have an end point.  But that is the beauty of it.  You achieve a goal and begin planning and preparation for the next goal.  One day you look back and realize that over the course of time you hopped over barriers that you never imagined you would hurdle.  That’s an incredible feeling to evaluate significant forward progress, especially when looking at where you started.

People often ask me what the benefit of an exercise is, or which exercises will best target a specific area of the body…

For a long time I couldn’t find the exact words to answer this question in a way that felt true to myself… but try this one out because I think this might be where I stand…

Ido Portal Movement

 

 

Cheers to getting uncomfortable in your movement endeavors…

 

KG

De-Rustifying Your Spine: The Second Greatest Warm Up Drill of All Time

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de-evolution of the desk jockey

Isn’t this the truth?

I would say that the following drill is the greatest of all time, but I can’t.

That honor goes to the old lacrosse ball on the feet trick.

However, I am probably incorrect in saying that the drill that I am about to share with you is a “release” per se.

It’s actually a mobility drill, but every time I work it into my warm  ups (almost every workout), I feel like I have released built up pressure from my thoracic (mid-back) spine.  It’s crazy.  When you start paying attention to your body and what it needs, most of us will find that we can benefit greatly from a simple mobility drill like this.

Here’s the drill…

—>  Tennis Ball Thoracic Extension/Flexion

Find two tennis balls (or buy some tennis balls) and tape them together to form a “peanut”.  Set the peanut at mid-back, with your spine rested in between the “valley” created by the taped tennis balls.  You may feel extremely… “locked up” at first.  Fear not.  Move within a comfortable range of motion.  Typically, this “locked up” sensation will alleviate after the first few repetitions.  Exhale and wrap your spine around the ball as you fall into extension.  On the crunch up (flexion), take a belly breath and repeat the exhalation once again, moving back into extension.  Rinse and repeat.

Awesome drill for those who sit a lot.

Movement cues:

  • Start at the mid-back and work up to just below the top of your shoulder blades.
  • Roll in half turn increments on the tennis ball peanut as you make your way to the top.
  • Keep your butt and as much of your lower back pressed firmly against the ground.  Hinge around the tennis balls.
  • Perform 5 hinged crunches, 5 overhead extensions and 5 alternating arm raises at each level.

How often should you work this drill throughout the week?

In my personal opinion- and it will vary from person to person- I think that the following a mobility plan based on your age is a great recommendation.  It would look like the following:

Mobility per week chart

 

Closing Thoughts

The key with this mobility drill is to get aggressive with it.  By aggressive, I am not saying to gore yourself on the tennis balls and be ruthless with your crunches.  I am saying that it’s important to accumulate some repetitions as you slowly move the peanut up your spine.  Work through the 5 rep recommendation (multiplied by the 3 exercises per level) and be diligent with it.

Just to reiterate the movement of the tennis ball, I give it a half roll starting at the mid-back, moving all of the way up to the top of my shoulder blades.  It’s incredible how “locked” up our bodies can become and this mobilization is fantastic for helping to relieve some of the effects brought on by poor posture and sitting.  There is other work to be done beside mobilizing, but this is a great place to start.

This drill addresses primarily flexion and extension through the hinging effect.  Remember that your spine also rotates and flexes laterally, and we can chat about some simple drills to work through for regaining rotational/lateral flexion freedom in another post.

We sit way too much.  We sit in our cars, sit at our desks, at the dinner table and then on the couch.  Then, then the day is over, we head to bed for the night and lay in less than desirable postures.

Please don’t feed me some bull crap about not being able to avoid sitting.  I get it.  Just as we are all too busy to workout, I get that too.

The point is that you’re becoming aware of simple home remedies that can help to off-set some of the undesirable effects of growing your butt cheeks to the chair.  It takes all of 2 minutes to work through the tennis ball thoracic extension/flexion mobility drill.  2 minutes.

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Seeing is believing.  This is not a good posture to take to the gym. 

We have to make a conscious effort to unwind these issues before they manifest themselves into disaster… ahemmm… injury or degeneration.

Maintaining joint mobility is important for long-term health, so don’t give a weak effort on this.  Moving the way that your body was designed improves performance and appearance.  Steal some tennis balls from your neighbors garage, a local high school or just buck up and buy a fresh can of tennis balls for $5 or so.  It’s worth it.

 

Cheers to re-greasing that rusty spine!

KG

A Simple Kettlebell Drill to Light Up Your Mid-Section

Quick Tips

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My interest in kettlebells is quite obvious on this blog.  They are such a great training tool.  I pump the kettle bell’s tires regularly because I think that they are the perfect representation of what multi-dimensional movement can and should be.  Paired with a suspension trainer, you’ve got a complete home gym.  That’s cool.  Doing more with less.  The future of training.  Simplicity.

Speaking of simplicity, the kettlebell drill that I describe in this post is about as complicated as my training gets.  It doesn’t need to be complicated when you are paying attention to the details, your technique, your movement.

Well, actually there is one movement that might top this for complexity, but it isn’t that crazy.  I’ll write about it soon.

Multi-dimensional movement is something that most gym goers have never experienced, which is something that I am working to change… post by post.

Image

The ability to move with stability, mobility and strength in all 3 possible planes of movement (shown above) is important.  It keeps our bodies balanced and capable of handling physical stress in many different postures, both statically (not moving) and dynamically (moving).

Part of multi-dimensional movement is not only being able to initiate movement in all 3-planes (create force), but to be able to resist forces acting upon us in all 3-planes.  The ability to absorb force without sacrificing posture- vulnerable positions where injury may lurk- is important.

One of the ways to train the body to resist external forces is to mix in a healthy amount to carrying, both dynamic and static.  Carrying refers to loading either one side or both sides of the body with a challenging amount of weight, staying rigid with upright posture, and either holding the position without moving or walking for a specified distance.  I suppose if you were not moving, you wouldn’t refer to the drill as a “carry”, but more of a “hold”.

There are many different variations of carrying which are phenomenal for building a body that functions as good as it looks, but touching on each will have to wait for another post.

For the purpose of this post, the kettlebell drill that I am learning to love involves a static posture (no movement) and one kettlebell.  So as you can see, it’s simple.  Simple is good.

The drill is can be referred to as a “Bottom’s Up Waiter Hold” (with kettlebell).

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Kettlebell Bottoms Up Waiter Hold

1)  Grab a kettlebell of a challenging weight (experiment with what “challenging” is for you)

2)  Clean the kettlebell to chest height, or use both hands to position the kettlebell upside down (bottoms up)

3)  Hold the kettlebell just lateral to your midline/in front of your working arm’s shoulder, upside down, and balance for a specified amount of time.

4)  Grip the bell hard with your hand, pull your elbow in tight to your side, and create total body tension.

5)  Brace your core musculature and breathe through pursed lips

Time of hold:  15-45 seconds

Sets per side:  3-4 per arm

Where in the workout?:  After the warm up, before the workout, when you are fresh.

Front view

Lateral view

 

Fitness thoughts

Flipping the kettlebell upside down will instantly make everything in your world unstable.  Not quite “massively destabilized”, but you’ll quickly feel the need to stay rigid in order to keep the bell balanced.  During this time, your entire body is fighting to maintain an upright posture.

The mass of the kettlebell is typically located underneath the handle in most kettlebell exercises, so inverting the bell moves the mass above the handle.  It’s the arms equivalent of putting your feet on a balance beam.  (I hope this makes some kind of sense, I’m going with it)

As for coaching cues of staying tight and rigid… there is no other way to do this drill successfully.  If you’re loose, you fail.  You can’t fake it till you make it with this drill, which is why I love what it re-enforces.  Tension.  Don’t forget to learn how to breathe against that tension that you’ve created.  That is important also.

Anytime you load one side of the body and not the other, the core fires in an effort to off-set the loading and protect the spine.  It’s a natural reaction that should happen in most healthy functioning people, although our sitting epidemic is really hurting this.  Pick up a suitcase, milk jug or anything else that has some decent weight, put your fingers into your stomach on the opposite and tell me what happens.  Do you see now?  The opposite side should feel noticeably contracted, hard.

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One other fantastic benefit of flipping the kettlebell “bottom’s up” is the stability and packing component that the shoulder receives during the hold.  Again, gripping the bell tight and packing the shoulder sends signals to the rest of the body, particularly the shoulder which is located in close proximity to the hand grip.  The hand grip relays information that “something” is going on and it’s time to go to work.

Lastly, the move is completed in a standing position.  What does that remind you of?  Real life.  I am ALL for re-training people on how to fire their core in sequences (rolling patterns, etc), but life happens on your feet.  Training your body in the standing position, with feet firmly dug in, posture tall and rigid, is invaluable to me.

**  Train on a surface that allows you to ditch the kettlebell if it falls or slips.  I prefer grass or a thick rubber floor.  Your nice hardwood or new tile in your home is not the place for this.  Be careful in your attempt to catch the bell if it falls at any point.  Attempting to save the bell is like catching a 40+ lb basketball with a handle, which can be disastrous.

***  If you use a dumbbell or anything other than a kettlebell for this, you’ll receive SOME benefit, but it will be watered down significantly compared to using a kettlebell.  The challenge of balancing the kettlebell in the bottoms up position is what makes this drill effective.  It will be hard to re-create that unstable environment with a dumbbell.

Give it a shot.  Tell me what you think.

 

Cheers to going vertical with your core training!

KG

Completely Un-Organized Kettlebell Training For Fat Loss and Athlete-Like Conditioning: Part 1

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I am a huge believer in following a system.  Sticking to the game plan if you will.

There is nothing like a well executed game plan.  If you have ever played sports you know what I am referring to.  If you are fortunate enough to have a career with an employer (or as an entrepreneur) that preaches game plan for success and then the entire company comes together and follows through on executing it, well, it feels damn good.  

Sticking to your systems is the best way to measure your progress.  A system can tell you where you have been and also points you in a focused direction of where you are going.  For a beginner or even a novice aspiring to reach new levels of health and wellness, there is nothing more effective at creating change than executing a system to perfection.  

I love systems.  Did I say that already? 

But let me ask you something that I often think about in my own life…

  • What’s wrong with being sporadic about your exercise selection, sets, reps, interval length, rest periods, etc?
  • Does everything have to follow a set system?
  • Can I still maintain strength and conditioning levels and leanness improvising workouts?

I know those seem like a silly questions, some that most people will never think about, but after you make so many visits to the gym, work through workout after workout following a set progression to an end goal, systems get boring.  

Once I took a step back to get a deeper understanding of how and why we humans move, what our movement options were once we choose to train movement and what seemed to be the most effective at creating total body change… I realized that building high functioning lean bodies can be achieved in a completely un-organized way.  System-less if you will.  Cross-Fit does it in every single workout.  Besides following their two days on, 1 day off (rinse and repeat) training schedule, they seem to be building some pretty resilient humans.  I can’t say that I agree with everything that they are teaching and coaching, but the system-less approach seems to work pretty well for them.

If I can ever focus long and hard enough to put the final touches my books (they are coming I promise), you’ll find that I love simple advice.  Once you become more than a recreational exerciser and decide to invest time in learning about more serious forms of fitness and nutrition, topics can get really complicated, confusing and blurry.  The fitness and health pool is really deep.  There is a lot of conflicting advice, methods and even research.  

But it doesn’t have to be complicated, confusing and blurry.  At least I don’t think it does personally.

I spent years (and still do) reading heavy literature for no other reason than I enjoy reading it. I have a major chip on my shoulder from years and years of personal athletic endeavors that had no real guidance in strength and conditioning.  I didn’t know what a power clean was until Senior year of high school.  That sucks, because I no know what a dramatic difference a simple program can make a young athlete.  It’s incredible.

Sorry, sidetracked for a second there… Where was I?

Oh, I know…  I was just about to finish discussing the title of this post.

I love systems and I love simple training and eating advice.  Give me the meat and potatoes of what I need to know and I can figure the rest out as we move forward.  “Learn by doing” kind of thing.

I have also found that I love the concept of physical preparedness and completely un-organized kettlebell training.  I love heading to the basement, drawing up the workout based on my goals, and getting after it.  Sometimes there is good flow to the training session and sometimes it is full of sticking points, causing a much choppier workout.  Either way, I really never know what I am going to be doing until I get down there.  

However, that being said… I do stick to some key guidelines that help me get away with this un-systematized approach.  Here they are:

1)  Train big movements with challenging resistance

2)  Multi-planar core training

3)  Mobility Mobility Mobility

4)  Conditioning using many different methods

5)  Rest and recover harder than I workout

 

1)  When I say big movements, I am talking things like squats, kettlebell swings, snatches, presses, pulls, etc.  Stop messing around with tricep extensions and bicep curls, you have to eat your main course before you can have dessert.  

2)  I train my torso region in all directions and planes of movement.  I train my core for force production and force absorption.  I train my core to reinforce stability I can transfer as much force with any energy leaks from my lower extremity to my upper extremity.  

3)  Mobility.  I train mobility so that I can experience life as it should be experienced physically.  Loss of mobility is a prerequisite to pain through faulty movement  Loss of mobility is loss of life to me.  

4)  I condition myself with as many methods as I have resources.  When I was an athlete, I conditioned myself using set methods.  Running early in the off-season, slide boarding and then biking as the season drew closer.  It was scheduled and systematic because that was what my sport (hockey) demanded.  It made sense.  But, now I don’t have a sport.  I simply want to be physically prepared for anything.  It feels damn good to go for a 50 mile bike ride, run a 10k or play hockey 3-4 nights a week without feeling like a slug.  I use many methods to achieve both aerobic and anaerobic-like qualities.  I want to be able to endure long duration activities as much as short burst activities that get my heart rate sky high.

5)  I rest and recover much harder than I train.  Sleep, tissue work, hydration and nutrition are all important to me.  I am what I eat, drink and how I recover from my training sessions.  The green light isn’t always on.  You have to learn how to sit at the red light patiently until it is time to accelerate once again.  Rest, recovery and regeneration.  

Do you see what I am getting at?

I can train myself using a simple set of rules to keep myself lean and athletic, without experiencing the boredom of a system.  Training smart and slightly sporadic will keep me athletic for the rest of my life.  Sure, age will catch up with me as it does everybody at some point, but each training session will be fresh and purposeful.  Movement longevity is something that I am fully invested in, and I encourage you do invest in the same. 

I will say this however, I HIGHLY recommend systems to everyone.  You’ll never get better results as you will when following a system step by step.  My books leverage systems.  Systems get results.  They keep the main thing… the main thing.  Following a system takes discipline, and discipline is something worth developing throughout life.

I treat myself like test rat for variations of time tested methods.  I enjoy seeing if my 5-mile Airdyne ride for time improves or suffers after I train high repetition kettlebell snatches for 3-weeks versus metabolic body-weight circuits.  That kind of comparison scenario is interesting to me, but it isn’t for everyone.

(Any strength coach that reads this is going to grind their teeth)

 

Cheers to moving more and with purpose,

 

 

KG 

 

 

 

You Gotta Lift With Your Legs!

Quick Tips

Walk into a loading dock at any department store, hospital or industrial factory and you are going to see- maybe in plain sight or maybe laying next to the garbage- a sign that resembles the following:

Image

Caution:  Use Proper Lifting Mechanics

 

I probably hear something similar to the following quote 3-4 times a week while lifting decent sized plastic bins… “Kyle, lift with your legs bud!”, people say as I throw one bin on top of another.  

Ok, first things first…

1)  Take a look at the picture above.  How many people do you know that have proper mobility in their hips to get their ass that low?  Do you?  Most people don’t, so right away you’re putting yourself in a sketchy body position.  You’ll compensate big time to get that object off the floor.

2)  Lifting with the legs isn’t enough.  It’s all about technique.  Lifting the object by hinging your hips and driving your butt to the floor in an effort to primarily use your legs during the grunt of the lift is ideal.  Also, we deadlift barbells with massive loads in the gym…  Your back muscles are highly involved in that process, so don’t forget that having the back muscles helping out is a good thing, just don’t make them the only thing taking on the brunt of the load.  You’re moving a heavy object from a resting position on the floor to waist height (or higher).  You’ve got to pressurize your torso region to help protect your spine during the grind of the lift.

3)  Lifting odd-shaped objects is… well… odd.  The rules of lifting still apply to lifting odd objects.  Stay rigid, pressurize your torso to help protect your spine as I mentioned above, etc.  However, lifting something other than a designated weight training tool is awkward at best.

4)  Thankfully, most people who are probably lifting heavy stuff like the picture above are probably doing it for a living.  The reason that I say thankfully is because these people are probably conditioned to lifting heavy odd shaped objects, but more importantly they probably aren’t sitting in a chair all day.  You’ll hear me preach about how sitting is wrecking our posture and ability to move (it’s also unavoidable with our occupations), our metabolism, etc.  It’s horrible and unavoidable in today’s working world.  Take a person that sits all day and ask them to lift a 75lb-85lb box and you might have just dealt the camel the final straw (if you know what I mean).

5)  Programmed resistance training and attention to movement quality will protect our bodies from injury and aid in performance, even it that performance is lifting a heavy box off of the floor.  This is the foundational thought process behind establishing and enhancing strength, power, mobility and stability in your training sessions.  Physical preparedness is everything.

You’ll never appreciate your ability to move more than you will once you DO NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO MOVE.

You gotta lift with your legs! haha…

Cheers

KG

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…

The Evolution of Man: Monkey to Desk Jockey

Injury Prevention, Quick Tips

Don’t fall victim to the negative effects of sitting.

Take a proactive approach to offsetting the hours upon hours of the hunching that is done in your cubical.

Sitting makes creates a situation where your muscles commonly become long and weak in the back (posterior) and short and tight in the front (anterior).

Simple solution:

  • Foam roll and stretch the quad and hip flexors (front) to lengthen.
  • Perform glute bridges, deadlift variations (1-leg & 2-leg), x-band walks, sliding hamstring curls, etc… to strengthen.
  • Gain some lost mobility in the mid-spine region (thoracic spine)
  • Learn how to breathe properly (Westerners are chest/neck breathers)
  • Be consistent and patient for change.

It kind of reminds me of:

The 23 and 1 Rule…

  • In one hour I can offer you the greatest training session in the world. I believe this. I am confident in my abilities.
  • Then I can watch as you destroy everything that we accomplished in the 23 hours that you have away from me.
*** The greatest opponent to a die hard advocate of movement is their own client, the person that pays them good money for their advice.  So weird.