How to Make Bodyweight Push-Ups and Squats Exercises Harder


Bodyweight-based exercises can (and should be) progressed similar to traditional resistance-based exercises.

The SAID Principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands) applies to everything done in the gym.

Cardio, weight training, Yoga, stretching and mobility work.

If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you alway got.  

In other words, gains will come to a screaching halt when your body becomes efficient at handling the stress being placed upon it.  

And to be clear, developing efficiency is not a bad thing.  You don’t want every physical experience in life to redline your system.  

We attack goals in the gym so the sub-maximal events of real life seem easy.  

Anyways, with bodyweight trainig, more specifically push ups and squats, one simple, effective and resourceful way to make impressive gains in strength and coordination and progress is to pursue unilateral variations.  

One arm push ups and single leg squats.  

More pressure must be applied o achieve the next set of goals.  

Switch things up, bust out of the comfort zone and embrace the next challenge.  It’s the only way to move forward

A simple and effective way bust progression bodyweight exercises is by transitioning the exertion from 2 limbs to 1 limb.  

Bilateral to unilateral.  

The squat pattern goes from a traditional bilateral air squat to a single leg squat, sometimes referred to as “pistol squats”.

2-arm push ups transition to 1-arm push ups.  

Single arm push ups are one of my favorite upper body strength builders.  I avoided them for a really long time because they seemed like a circus exercise.  

When I committed to more palatable progressions leading to the single-arm push-up, my opinion changed completely.

Single limb training makes SO MUCH SENSE.  

A lot of life and sport require single limb performance.  Yes, ideally we execute tasks using two arms and two legs, but it’s not always the situation.

Walking, running and climbing stairs are great examples of where single leg performance shines.  

Plus, training one side at a time can reveal some major asymmetries that you otherwise wouldn’t notice.  

One-arm push-ups are also secretly one of the great core training exercises.   

It’s amazing how incredibly sore the torso musculature can be in the days following one arm push up training.  The obliques in particular.  Tender to the touch.  

Side-note:  Mobility training with change your life…

If you desire ongoing progress from your workout time, increasing the challenge steadily is a necessity.

The human body is a brilliant adaptation machine.  It will reshape, re-organize, re-calibrate in order to adapt to stress.

Activities that once seemed impossible become possible through the process.

Fitness is amazing when you think about it from that perspective.

If you’re willing to put in the time and work, you can have ANY result you want.

We, adults, need these reminders.

You were born to move, move well and move A LOT.

Anyways, nothing creates enormous self-inflicted frustration like performing the same exercise for the same reps/sets/tempo day in and day out and expecting a different outcome.

It’s like smashing your hand with a hammer over and over, expecting the next impact to feel good versus elicit extreme pain.

The body becomes so efficient that it’s no longer work.

And it’s not your body’s fault for having this built-in efficiency mechanism.  Building efficiency is a good thing.  We don’t always want to feel like we are redlining the system while doing basic tasks.

Push-ups and squats are two essential exercises that can add value to anyone’s workout regimen.

One effective way to progress the basic bodyweight exercises like the push-up or squat is by migrating toward single limb variations, also referred to as unilateral training.

Unilateral exercise = one arm or leg does all the work
Bilateral exercise = two arms/legs do all the work

Bilateral exercises distribute the weight evenly between both limbs.  Each leg is moving 50% of the load.

Unilateral training requires one limb to move the entire load through the range of motion.

In addition, decreasing the base of support creates a significant balance challenge that amplifies as the muscles tire during the work set.

Indirectly, one arm push-ups rank extremely high on the effective core training exercise list.

I would put one arm push-ups up against almost any other isolated core exercise.

Maintaining rigidity from head to heel will blow apart your mid-section. Expect soreness in the days following.

People often get confused with how to make bodyweight-based exercises harder, often opting to add reps versus increase the load. High repetition work sets can provide benefit, but transitions the effort toward work capacity and endurance gains, versus strength.

Endurance training = higher repetitions, low load, and extended work sets.

The lower the load, the more reps can be achieved because the muscles are challenged as aggressively.

I’m not bashing endurance-oriented training.  It certainly has it’s benefits.  I actually engage in aerobic-based training 2-3 days per week, which is night and day different from what I used to employ for cardio training.  It used to be high-intensity intervals all day every day.

But that isn’t sustainable, and I think for a lot of people it’s doing more harm than good, despite the same EPOC after-burn studies authors keep twisting and referencing in their books.

In the time it takes to burn an extra 100 calories via blowing my body apart in a HIIT session, I’ll instead choose to take 3 fewer bites of calorie-dense food.

Talk about time savings.


… a lot of people use the wrong rep and loading schemes to achieve goals.

You can dig a 20-yard trench with a screwdriver.

However, we can both agree there are probably better tools for the job.

High repetition/low load work sets will do very little to increase strength.

You might feel tired with burning muscles, but increased strength is not the end-product of these efforts. 

For now, ditch the high rep/low load schemes.  Increase the loading, lower the reps, take more rest, get aggressive.

If building lean muscle and optimize movement is of interest to you, is strength is a critical physical characteristic to improve.

This is a blind and generalized statement, but I do honestly believe most people would be happier with results (both from a time investment and effort perspective) from gym work if steps were taken to increase the intensity/loading of the exercise, versus piling on more volume.

Unilateral training is a great way to do this.

A large chunk of life’s daily tasks requires single limb performance.

Why not load unilateral movements during workouts?

It’s resourceful, both from an equipment and time standpoint.

The return on investment is significant.

One-arm push-ups and one leg squats effectively increase the load of the working limb while simultaneously decreasing the base of support.

Transitioning from bilateral to unilateral squat requires navigating instability through the range of motion.

The stabilizing muscles of the hips have to get involved, the intrinsic muscles of the feet contribute as well.  Yes, your feet have muscles and they are vitally important. 

Staying balanced on the way down and up is difficult.

In time with practice and exposure to the balance requirements of single leg squats, your body will develop an understanding of how remain stable on each repetition.

Adaptation is a beautiful thing, but it takes time, patience and plenty of practice.  A lot of people give up before known benefits have time to take shape.

In the beginning, bodyweight alone will be sufficient to receive a training effect for single limb exercises.

But in time, the body will become efficient and adding weight, adjusting the tempo or increasing reps will become necessary for further gains.

Don’t underestimate the impact of adding 3-5 seconds to the eccentric descent of an exercise.  It will humble the hard asses of the world, and it takes discipline to slow down the tempo of a movement to savor the pain.

The nice part about adding load to unilateral exercises is you shouldn’t need much weight to challenge yourself.  Adding 10-15lbs in the form of a kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, small child or a spare weight plate will be enough to shock the system.

Add enough weight to challenge the movement, but not so much that it degrades technical form and posture.

In a real-world chaotic situation, anything goes to survive.  In the controlled environment of the gym, form matters.

The end goal of exercising is betterment, not injury and regression.

Compared to the sheer amount of equipment needed to strength training using bilateral squats, single-leg training can be very resourceful.  Very little goes a long way.


Quick Tips

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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 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!


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

The Squat Exercise Progression: 3 Movements to Build Lower Body Performance

Quick Tips

LIfe Squat

The squat is arguably the most important movement pattern known to man.

I typically try to avoid making bold statements like that, but squatting is vital to a physical life.

Squatting will build a bulletproof body, from head to toe.  A successful squat demands lower body strength, but it also requires a mobile, stable upper body.  Building strength in the squat is a total body affair.

Working to build lower body performance should be at the top of everybody’s priorities.  If you are going to the gym and avoiding working on your squat, shame on you.  You’re leaving a lot on the table.  Even if you’re not an aspiring athlete outside of the workplace, life happens on your feet.

In an effort to keep my posts slightly more direct and to the point, lets waste no time and get into a few squat progressions that I know that you will find to be extremely valuable…


1)  Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is favorite exercise for introducing beginners to bilateral (two legs) squatting.  I have found that the goblet squat can work out the kinks in a person’s squat form.  If you have trouble performing a bodyweight squat to a decent depth while keeping upright posture, the goblet squat can help to correct this.  It’s easiest to select the dumbbell or kettlebell that you’ll be using, set it on a bench and then position yourself underneath the weight in order to hold the weight correctly.  Don’t try to “pop” it up to chest height from the rack or waist level… I have seen bad things happen to good feet in these scenarios.  Keep the weight close to your chest with elbows tucked in tight during the ascent and descent of the movement.


2)  Front Squat

The front squat is similar to the goblet squat position-wise, except that the front squat places a greater amount of flexibility and mobility from the shoulders, elbows and wrists, while reducing loading to the lower back.  The starting posture of the lift is referred to as the “rack” position.  It is often uncomfortable for a newbie to get into a proper starting position if you’ve never been there before.  As you descend down into the squat, thoracic mobility (mid-spine) becomes increasingly important.  If you lack of mobility at the mid-spine, you’ll often begin to round your back or have a “locked up sensation”.  Rounding of the back will be more noticeable during an exercise like the overhead squat.  Compensating to complete the movement is undesirable.  The front squat differs from the goblet squat mainly in the holding position of the weight and the ability to apply a greater loading stimulus which will accelerate your strength gains and body transformation.


3)  Split Squat

The split squat is the first squat-like progression that challenges our base of support.  It moves the squat pattern away from the two-foot stance and into a modified lunge/squat type stance.  Now we are moving toward single leg training.  This is a good thing… very good.  The split squat is commonly performed with arms at your side and weight in hand, although the position of the weight can be moved to other positions (goblet style, rack positions, overhead).  Notice that the front and back leg/feet remain fixed.  The back leg serves as a support rudder, not as a load bearing leaning pole.  Keep as much of the effort coming from the front leg as possible.  The split squat will place a higher demand on the adductor group (think groin area), which can leave some soreness in the days following.  Nothing that you can’t handle if you’re expecting it.

Closing Thoughts

Progressing the squat, or any movement for that matter, is important for challenging the lower body.  Increasing the demands of the exercise will accelerate performance, along with body composition.  Bottom line, you’ll feel stronger and keep yourself moving toward a leaner body in the process.

The squat is also a fantastic tool for identifying mobility and stability issues.  As you move through range of motion, you may find that you are restricted in some way.  It’s not a the end of the world, so don’t beat yourself up over it if you are.  Pay attention to where on your body you feel restricted and at what point in the movement.  Our bodies give us clues about their inefficiencies all day long, you just have to take time to notice.

These restrictions will become a problem if you do not address them with a foam roller, flexibility, stability or mobility drills.

Add in these interventions and then test and re-test.  Look for improvement.  It’s that simple.


Cheers to smart squat progressions to improve performance in life!


A Simple Workout to Help Lessen the Damage from Easter Sugar

Quick Tips

Yes, it’s a kangaroo, but it hops like a bunny.

Happy Easter and here is a dose of reality…

You won’t be able to out work the amount of sugar that most of us will consume on this wonderful Easter Sunday.


Bless the lord, bless your family and loved ones, but you won’t be able to do it.  The damage is done.

Well, maybe you could, if you were training for an Iron Man or some other activity that has a similar caloric expenditure.  But most of the population isn’t into the Iron Man scene, so we have to accept that the sugar that we pounded like starved dogs is going to cause some damage.

Sugar and bread are two “foods” that sabotage our internal health and our external aesthetics.

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But hot damn if those Reese’s peanut butter eggs aren’t ridiculously good, right?  I’m a sucker for peanut butter, as I am sure that some of you reading this are also.  It’s a snowball effect if I even eat just one of those things.  One turns into two, two into three, and on and on we go.  So, I tend to avoid them completely.  It would seem like torture for most, but after you dodge sugar for a long enough period of time, you become hyper-sensitive to the sweetness of most candy.  The taste is almost too much to handle.

Anyone that has gone cold turkey on sugary snacks will no doubt agree with me here.

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 Load up the slingshot, aim at the tank…

You’ve probably read about my mandatory rule of training after nights with friends and during the holidays, when food tends to be a little less nutritious than other times of the year.  It basically involves me torturing myself after a night of excess.  I’m human, it happens.

I have ZERO research to prove that my ability to stay lean over the years has anything to do with these “next day workouts”, but I have to believe that getting up early and grinding through a solid workout has helped to off-set some of the damage.

At the very least, busting through a challenging training session is never a bad thing, right?

Always moving forward, except for holidays.  Then we hover.  🙂

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Time: >30 minutes

Warm-Up:  10-15 minutes

Workout:  10 minutes (up to 15 minutes when scaled to your training level)

Equipment:  Bodyweight and interval timing device of some kind (this one works just fine and it’s free)


  1. 10 Squats
  2. 10 Push Ups
  3. 20 Jumping Jacks
  4. 10 Alternating Reverse Lunges (5 each leg)
  5. 10 Burpees (push up + jump)
  6. 20 Jumping Jacks

* Rinse and repeat without rest between exercises or rounds.

** Complete as many rounds as possible in the time frame that you set for yourself.

*** Don’t stop until the clock hits 10 minutes (or longer if you choose).


Fitness thoughts

The first thing that I want you to notice about a pure bodyweight workout like this (with no equipment present) is the lack of upper body pulling movements.  For me, no equipment means no pulling.  It’s the sacrifice that you make by using your body mass (and gravity) as the sole source of the training stimulus.  If you have access to something that can be used for chin ups, I would place them after the reverse lunges, or better yet, I would move the push ups after the reverse lunges and have the chin ups be placed immediately after squats.  Vertical pulling is a much more challenging movement for most people, considering you are pulling your full weight with each repetition.  Keeping yourself as fresh a possible before the chin ups will make it a much more enjoyable experience.

Second, attack this workout.  It’s 10 minutes of movement.  There is no reason to leave anything in the tank early on.  This is a variation of short burst training.  Your work output in the allotted time frame will largely determine the training sessions effectiveness.  Your fatigue levels are going to accumulate as the minutes pass by, so get after it and expect your fatigue to peak toward the final minutes of the workout.  Ideally, you’ll experience a large amount of system-wide fatigue around the 8-9 minute mark, leaving you perfectly cooked by the time the beeper sounds.

Third, the jumping jacks are a filler exercise.  They are by far the easiest movement in the workout and this is by design.  The jumping jacks  for a few seconds of active recovery before moving back into the strength based moves.  Don’t dog the jumping jacks.  Get your arms overhead, feet at least shoulder width on the jump and focus on calming your breath from the previous work performed.  Breathe in deep to your belly, and force it out from your belly.  Focus.

Fourth, scale the workout to your abilities.  Don’t be a hero, yet don’t coast.  It’s ten minutes of effort, so if you dog the first five minutes, you’ve lost half of the workout and remained in your comfort zone.  If technique breaks or you are not completing a full range of motion for any movement, well, you need to take a breather until you can complete a full range of motion.

Fifth, warm-up.  I will do a better job of describing what an effective warm up should look like, but in the mean time, this is a variation of a staple warm up for me…

Cheers to Easter bunnies, kangaroos, family and training hard as punishment for eating junk!



How to Choose Exercises for a Time Efficient Total Body Circuit Training Workout For Strength and Fat Loss

Quick Tips

If you’re in the market to lose a little fat, circuit training is for you.  The bonus is that you’re going to build some strength and work capacity in the process.  Or maybe it is the other way around, maybe the bonus is that you’re going to burn some fat while you make an effort to build strength and work capacity?

Benefits of Circuit Training

Either way you look at it, you’re circuit training is going to kill multiple birds with one stone.  This is time leverage for a workout.  If you’re going to make the time to workout, you should really be utilizing a training method that is going to continue to work for you even after you finish the last rep.  That’s smart training.

When I say “circuit training, I’m not referring the kind of training where you move from one machine to the next.  There will be no use of machines- at least not how they were designed to be used- on this blog.  I can confidently say that.  An able-bodied human needs to move about their joints freely, not sit on a machine.

I guess I don’t mind fitness machines… for hanging my jacket on them when I arrive to the gym.

Total body circuit training should fatigue just about every single muscle in your body by the end of the training session.  That’s why we call it “total body”.  In fact, I will make the argument that just about every circuit training workout should be total body.  I guess am just not a fan of training the upper body on one day and the lower body on the next, or splitting sessions up by body parts.

The total body approach builds athleticism.  Circuit training using the total body approach will allow you to perform more work using heavier loads for each movement pattern while remaining as fresh as possible.

That’s a mouthful.

The most effective circuit training in the world involves strength based (or resistance based) multi-joint movements.

If you aren’t familiar with the terms “multi-joint movements”, I am referring to exercises like:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Push-Ups
  • Chin-Ups
  • etc…

All of these movements require freedom of movement about multiple joints and recruitment from multiple muscles.

Total body muscular fatigue.

Just because I keep saying total body, doesn’t mean that you’ll be performing 20 different exercises in a training session.  Don’t confuse that.  The goal with exercise selection is to keep it simple and focused.

When selecting exercises to incorporate prior to the workout, there is a simple format that you can follow to help you along.

You can literally plug any exercise into the following categories and whammo!… You’ve got yourself a quality training session.

Here are the movement patterns that I would like you to address during the session:

1)  Total Body Explosive  (Kettlebell swings, thrusters, etc)

2)  Upper Body Vertical Pulling (Chin ups, pull ups, etc)

3)  Lower Body Pushing (squats)

4)  Core/Pillar (ab wheel rollouts, body rocks, suspension trainer pendulums)

5)  Upper Body Horizontal Push (Push-Ups, bench press, etc)

6)  Lower Body Hip Dominant (Lunge, deadlift, hamstring curls, etc)

7)  Cardio Filler (Schwinn Airdyne, mountain climbers, jump rope, etc)

Exercises for Circuit Training

Seven categories of movements that will build you a lean athletic body: burn fat, develop strength and power, improve performance and save you time in the gym or at home.

Here is how the exercise would be ordered for the training session:

Effective Circuit Training

A workout like this is what I call a leveraged training session.  Time is leveraged and the training effect of the workout is leveraged.  Just about any workout is to elicit a metabolic response, but an aggressive workout like this done 3-4 times per week will really shake up your system.

A workout like this combined with some sensible food choices will send a body transformation into overdrive.

Where people fail, is they fail to take action.  Or, if they take action, the motivation to stick with the program begins to fizzle out.

Stay with it for at least 4-6 weeks and you’re going to see some amazing changes take place.  Trust me here.

But you have to stay with it.


Cheers to DIY circuit training!


Basic Movements Can Be Leveraged to Produce a Massive Training Effect

Quick Tips

Sometimes the best choice of exercise is the basic one.

Basic movements that are executed with proper resistance and shortened rest periods can produce a massive training effect that can re-shape a person’s body.

Most of my training sessions are as uncomplicated I can possibly make them.

I have talked about perfecting the kettlebell complex for fat loss in the past, but the “complex” is nothing more than a series of simple exercises crammed together without rest.

The reward is an extremely large metabolic training effect.

You cannot deny that complexes will strip fat and build a resistance to fatigue.  If you do have an argument that simple movements don’t produce effective results, I’ll have you know that my performance outside of the gym with activities like trail running, cycling, obstacle course races and hockey has not slipped a bit since I began my self-experimentation with kettlebell complexes.

And I have been working the complex for about a year now.

Moving on…

One of my favorite training methods are tri-sets using basic exercises and incomplete rest periods.  

A tri-set means that you’ll group three different exercises together, moving from one to the next until you complete the number of sets of each exercise for that day.

It would look something like this:

A1)  Dumbbell Bench Press 3×8

A2)  Deadlift 3×8

A3)  Anti-Extension Roll Outs 3×10

All of the movements within this cluster are basic exercises.  It’s the resistance used and the shortened rest periods that is going to produce such a large training effect.

As you can see, once you finish a set of bench press (A1), you rest for a set amount of time, usually somewhere between 30-60 seconds (depending on your fitness level) before moving on to the deadlift (A2).

When I use a workout that is structured like this, I always incorporate at least two different tri-sets.  I prefer my training efforts to be total body versus a split type approach.

The second would look something similar to the following…

B1)  Chin Up 3×8

B2)  Front Squat 3×8

B3)  Anti-Rotation Press 3×8

Organizing a workout with tri-sets using basic movements is a fantastic method for getting in and out of the gym.  The rest periods will keep the workout moving along.  No time will be wasted.

Also, because of the shorter rest periods, your fatigue level won’t overpower your ability to give effort.  By the time you hit the 3rd round of the tri-set, you’ll experience manageable fatigue.

Managing fatigue during a workout is important.  If you drain yourself too early in the session, you won’t have anything left to give later in the workout, leaving a lot of benefit from exercises scheduled in the second tri-set on the table.

This style of training is really popular with athletes.  Strength coaches use tri-sets to make sure that a program is time efficient and balanced for the athlete’s body and development.  You’ll notice that most athletes tend to be quite lean (notice I said most, not all).  Transitioning your training to reflect that of an athlete’s can do wonders for fat loss, strength and power increases and overall performance.

The movements, as you can see from my example tri-sets above, work best if they are non-competing movements.  This means that you’ll be exhausting different muscles for the exercises grouped within a tri-set.  A perfect example of this is pairing a squat (lower body pushing) with a chin up (upper body pulling)

This is an important feature of this particular workout structure.

Tri-sets also represent a total body training session.  I would recommend using a workout like this 3-4 times a week max.  You’ve got to give your body a chance to recover and regenerate in between training days.

The decrease in training frequency during the week is great for a person that is pressed for time, whether with family or career.

Lastly, notice that all of the movements listed a basic exercises.  There is no real reason to complicate your training with complex exercises in my opinion.  Adding complexity to a training session can actually take away from effort aspect and add an element of risk that just isn’t necessary.  The reward is rarely worth the risk.

Pick movements that take very little set up and thought during the set.  Place your focus on exercise technique, breathing and moving more weight than the workout before rather than squatting on a physio-ball while attempting to juggle three tennis balls.

The video makes my point…

Cheers to basic movements organized to produce large training effects…


Warming Up w/ Deep Squats is Sexy

Quick Tips

The ability to drop your butt low to the ground like an infant while they play with their toys is a skill worth maintaining throughout life.

It doesn’t have a be the first thing you think about upon waking in the morning, but you should consider it regularly.

On my Facebook page yesterday, I posted about the need to work on your ability to lift heavy objects from a resting position on the ground surface to a vertical locked out position.  The backside muscles of the body, particularly the butt and hamstring muscles tend to become long and weak as we continue to sit throughout life.

This can cause a whole host of problems down the road, especially when people attempt grunt lift an awkward object and feel that horrible pop in their lower back.  Instant nagging back pain and a lifetime of fighting off the chronic pain of an injury like that.  Back pain is the worst.

I won’t say that a back injury like that is completely avoidable, but I think that really smart guys like Gray Cook (among others) have started to put together the puzzle pieces aid in  solving this riddle.  Injuries like this seem to be highly preventable, or at least there are daily drills that we can perform to help bulletproof out bodies against unnecessary injuries.

One of the patterns that people need to be assessing on themselves initially is the ability to squat deep.  Yes, a simple squat that exhibits the ability to drop your butt low with a somewhat vertical upper body posture.  I say somewhat because being completely upright with your upper body isn’t completely necessary, however being bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame is also undesirable.

Flat back.  We’ll say a mostly vertical flat back is how I want your upper body to be situated, with shoulder blades tucked down and back. Eyes forward.

A few years ago… 

… I used simple cues with my hockey athletes get them into position verbally without getting hands on.  One of those cues was, “Show me your logo on your shirt”.  Once they had reached an end range of motion in their squat (whatever depth that was), I simply requested to see their logo on their t-shirt.  For most, this brought the chest up, shoulders back.

The athletes that struggled to execute or maintain this position once I cued it gave me  valuable information (without words) that “something” was preventing them from achieving a comfortable squat.

Who cares about hockey players, what does this mean for me? Me? Me?


The ability for the average person to execute a simple bodyweight squat is important.  

Maybe the better statement is:

The inability of a person to execute a proper bodyweight squat might be reason for some concern.

Can you squat?  How deep? Test it on yourself right now using this starting position:

1)  Get barefoot w/ toes pointing forward.

2)  Position feet shoulder width apart ( or maybe a inside of feet just outside of shoulder width).

3)  Place hands together at chest height in prayer position or behind head prisoner style.

4)  Squat.  (don’t over think this… just squat)

*  If you don’t know what a squat looks like, Google or YouTube it.

5)  Assess.

Elaborating on your self-assessment…

–  How did it feel?

–  How low did you get (depth)?

–  Did you upper body fold over at any point as you got lower to the ground?

–  Did you knees cave in?  Wobble?

–  Did you heels lift off of the floor as you got deeper into the squat?

–  Did you feel a “locking” sensation in your mid-back?

*** Was your breathing labored or did you hold your breath at any point during the motion?

Ask yourself these simple questions.  I get tired of complicated advice, and I think this is about as simple as I can make it for you.

If you can, squat in front of a mirror or use your smartphone to video yourself.  Visual feedback is the greatest.  If you use your smartphone, you many want to delete it shortly afterward to avoid any sort of questioning or embarrassment from friends or family.

In a weird way, it’s cool to identify problems with your squat, or any other movement (raising arms, turning head).  Problems mean that I can dish out some simple solutions (saved for a later post) and also that you may have saved yourself from experiencing something tragic injury-wise.  Uncovering faulty movement also gives you something to focus on during your workouts.

In recent years, the workout has evolved tremendously.  It’s not just about exerting yourself and putting forth a big effort to lose some fat.  Professionals are throwing out solutions to help people move better, which helps maintain a pain-free life of movement.  This is priceless.

And don’t worry, poor squatting technique can be fixed.

In my own training…

I work on the squat pattern almost daily.  My mobility is pretty solid, but as you may or may not see in the video demonstration, when my left arm extends overhead, I strain a bit.  Something funky is going on here.  This isn’t just random stiffness that I should ignore.

Overhead Squatting in the Warm Up

Trust me, I am working on fixing it, but it is important for me to point out movement flaws that I have so that:

A)  You know that we are ALL human and this stuff happens (no one is immortal).

B)  You can grab on to some tips or tricks on how I fixed my own issues in order to fix yours.

Bottomline:  Pay attention to you ability to squat, it will pay you back tenfold throughout life.

Cheers on a cold day in Wisconsin…


My Real Issue With Devoting Less Time to a Workout

Angry Rants, Quick Tips

The real issue that I have with cutting a workout short is this…

I see a direct correlation between the length of a workout and the intensity level needed to accelerate fat loss and lay down lean muscle tissue, positive hormone changes, etc.

What’s the problem?

Well, as a professional, my right mind has issues with telling a beginner to go blast themselves through a high work capacity style training session in 20 minutes.  You have to earn the right to train like that.  You have to prove to me that you are technically proficient in your exercise technique.  You have to prove to me that you can lift heavy things (db’s, kb’s, bb’s, etc) while under fatigue.


I have other criteria but I think you get the idea.

To be honest, this is my current beef with Cross-Fit.  It’s cookie cutter for everyone.  Very little assessing of movement quality before being thrown into a 15 minute high intensity work capacity training session (this is just my experience around these “extreme training” style trainers and gyms).  From beginner to advanced, you are going to perform the workout of the day despite your training age, abilities, technical proficiency in high risk lifts, etc…

Some of these people are not even close to being ready for the kind of intensity and work needed to create change in that short of a time span.  Sure, I could write-up a workout for anyone that could bury them in less than 5 minutes.  That’s no joke.  But anyone can do that.  That’s just making someone else tired.  That isn’t training them for the long-term or educating them on the process of what it takes to lose fat and keep it off.

I can’t advocate that.

It’s mindless and it isn’t safe.

So at some point I have to draw the line.  A person needs to be realistic with themselves, especially someone new to resistance training and some of the modalities that we coaches are finding the biggest return on. You have to be willing to find the time or adjust your schedule to make the time to train.  You have to be willing to learn and groove things like the squat, hip hinge, core stability, etc.

Are your weekends open?  Saturdays and Sundays?  Don’t forget the weekend doesn’t discriminate 🙂

I design short training sessions as a solution, not an easy out.

There are people out there who are legitimately pressed for time for themselves.

Example:  A lot of the surgeons who I work alongside are seriously hard pressed for time.  They get up crazy early, make rounds on patients, operate, go to clinic, then get out of the office around 6-7pm (commonly later) and have a family to come home and spend time with.  This is a common issue for a lot of people who are entrepreneurs, businessmen and women, etc.

They need solutions.

Time effective workouts are their effective solution.

Just remember, there is a trade off for a short workout.  

That’s all…