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Secrets of Strength Volume 2: Non-Traditional Feats of Strength

Cirque

When we think of strength, we generally think of it as how much weight one can move.  And as fun as it would be to deadlift a truck, or be able to bench press 3, 4, 500 lbs, there are other fun ways to display your strength. Would you expect to be able to perform sophisticated feats of strength with just your body weight, or maybe just simply standing up from the floor?  The answer is defined down below, and may surprise you!

5 Ways You Can Display Non-Traditional Impressive Feats of Strength

1. Turkish Get-up

  • The T-Get up is an ultimate test of strength, mobility and stability of the entire body.  You need to be able to stack your joints on top of each other and maintain stable joints under load, so the rest of your body can move without dropping a kettlebell, barbell or person on your head.
  • The movement involves lying down on the floor and standing up while maintaining a weight in the overhead position.
  • Begin this movement with a kettlebell.  Because the kettlebell keeps the weight external to the gripping hand, it offers unique advantages for shoulder health.

  • Progressions to impress
    • Barbell
    • Human Being

 2) Push-up

  • Most people that I see in the gym who are starting to workout with weights want to jump directly into the bench press and never want to start with the basics.  The push-up is the most under-rated exercise and is probably one that I see getting botched up the most.  Many people don’t have the core requirements, or were never taught the correct way to perform a perfect strict push-up.  But if you want to be impressive with your push-ups, an elite total of push-ups would be greater than 80 push-ups in a three minute period.
  • Doing this is not an eye-raising feat of strength.  If you want to up the ante, try progressing to the following.
    • One Arm Push-ups
    • One Arm – One Leg Push-ups

3. Iso 90/90 L Sit

  • This exercise requires not only significant core strength, but also considerable flexibility and upper body strength. The exercise requires you to hold yourself from a bar, rings, a tree, whatever you can grab a hold of; with elbows bent at 90 degrees and hips bent at 90 degrees.  I love exercises that require strength and tension to be developed throughout the body, that is what develops true strength.
  • To make this harder, go back to the original gymnastics L-Sit.  Press your hands into the floor and lift your butt and legs (they are to remain straight) off the floor).

4. Human Flag

  • This is probably my favorite one on the list.  This exercise crushes your entire lateral chain and requires you to build super-hero type strength that will gather crowds and applause from all. This kills your lats and obliques, and requires a lot of tension to hold.  The trick is in the pull/pull of the arms to generate enough force to allow the core to hold you up.

5. Levers

  • This is another gymnastic exercise that requires some serious core strength while turning heads when performed.  You can do these on monkey bars, tree branches, pull-up bars, rings, anything you can get your hands on.
  • The two types of levers I will be discussing here are the Front and Back levers.
    • Front Levers
      • This is an exercise that crushes your anterior core.  The arms, lats, delts, pecs and core all have to work synergistically to hold yourself in a straight line.
    • Back Levers
      • The easier of the two levers and the one that should be learned first.  The back lever attacks the posterior chain including the back, glutes, hamstrings, biceps and core.

  • If you want to learn more about training levers and other bodyweight feats, check out Al Kavado’s article here.

The aforementioned list are some fun exercises that will not only make you look more bad-ass, but will also make you stronger in your traditional strength training lifts: the dead-lift, squat, bench and overhead press.


Best Exercise You Ought to be Doing – The Kettlebell Pullover

2015 is here, and there are a lot of new faces in the gym.  “Resolution-ers” are filing in, jumping on the treadmill and banging out countless reps of sit-ups in hopes that this is the year they reach their goals.  If you have read my Core Training 101 post, you would already know that sit-ups are not the most effective way to strengthen your core. Nor will they help you get that six-pack you so desire.

Crunches

Enter the best core exercise in, well, ever.  The Kettlebell Pullover.  This is an exercise that I introduce to every client. I believe that it sets the foundation for strength and efficient movement.

Why you should use it-

  • Challenges The Core
    • When done correctly this exercise is taxing.  It looks easy at a glance, but when you maintain a posterior pelvic tilt and a rib pull, you will feel this like, “whoa!”  This is the type of exercise that the better you get, the harder it becomes.  If it is not difficult, you are not doing it correctly.
  • Teaches Proper Breath Patterning for Abdominal Support
    • Proper breathing is very important for your lower back and core.  And breathing properly helps maintain tightness and makes you stronger by increasing intra-abdominal pressure.  It is like wearing a weight belt without having to wear one.
    • This will ensure that you wont end up like those poor saps who wear a weight belt while walking around the gym or for arm curls.  Save those the weight belts for when you really need them to keep you from looking like a fool.Weight belt no no
  • Reinforces Technique at the Top of Squat and Deadlift
    • During the set up for the squat or deadlift, it is a common habit for people to hang out in an anterior pelvic tilt.  This puts increased stress on the lower back.  This exercise will help you build tension and find a better neutral position.  This will carry over to the top of your lifts and take excessive force off your spine.
  • Trains the deep core musculature – multifidus, transverse abdominus and obliques.
    • These muscles are very important for back health.  Studies have shown that those with recurring back pain have weak multifidi.  So this exercise can save your back!

The Technique

  • Start Position
    • Start lying on your back, with hips and knees bent at 90 degrees.
    • Grab kettlebell, medicine ball or dumbbell with arms extended over the chest
    • In this position, you will have a slight arch in your lower back.
  • The Movement
    • Flatten your lower back and sternum into the ground.  (Place an increased emphasis on your sternum and ribs)
    • Once flat, take a deep breath into your belly.
    • Reach your arms back as far as you can without any part of your lower back coming off the floor.
    • Once you reach the point in which your back wants to lift up, pull your ribs and spine harder into the ground and bring arms back to starting position.
  • Progressions
    • Make this exercise harder by
      • Lying on a foam roller
      • Putting your feet on the floor
      • Extend one leg outwards

If you can master this exercise, you will get the most out all your other core exercises. You will move better and have improved muscle activation and technique, not to mention a stronger, injury free back.


Best Articles From Last Week

I know it has been a long time since I have posted a best articles of the week post, but this series is back!  Down below are my summaries of a few articles that I found interesting and useful throughout the week (with there links below it) that I think will make for some good reading.

Hip-Thrust-Form

In today’s society, there is a great change happening in the fitness media.  The trend is not to be “model thin” anymore, but has become strong is sexy.  Along with this change, every woman wants a nicely toned derriere that would be worthy of Sir Mix A Lot “Booty Got Back” theme song. And fellas, don’t forget that woman don’t like men who have what my co-worker calls a “guillotine ass,” which is in reference to a guy with glutes so flat it looks like a guillotine had chopped it off (chopping hand gesture inserted here).   So how does one achieve this derriere especially when we live in a society that spends most of its time sitting on it?

At last, a solution! Glute Guy, Bret Contreras, has found the solution in this article. Bret uses EMG to test the differences between the squat and hip thrust to see how one could hypertrophy the glutes, so they too could land on the cover of paper magazine.

Squats vs Hip Thrusts – Bret Contreras

Running to First Base

In the strength and conditioning community running has gathered a bad rep.  If an athlete were to run, they would end up becoming small and weak, therefore, not to live happily ever after.  And in many ways this is true if that strength coach or personal trainer does not know what they are doing.  The bottom line becomes, any athlete and active person can benefit from aerobic training regardless of the goal.  The amount and intensity is all dependent on that person’s sport/lifestyle.  Read further to see why Mike Robertson, a renowned personal trainer and strength coach, recommends that aerobic training become better understood by fitness professionals as well as better utilized to help your client achieve the best results possible.

Real Talk About Aerobic Training for Athletes – Mike Roberston

LOW-CARB-PIC

I really like this article, and it does not just apply to active women.  Every person could benefit by understanding and knowing these three nutrition myths and how that can be holding you back from reaching your goals.  I especially think number three is important.  We hear that one a lot, and live and die by it, but we don’t always understand the implications of how this affects the physiology of the body.  Also, if you do cut calories, it should be cycled in and out, just as one would do in the exercise programs.  Meaning that if you were to cut calories to lose weight, it should be done in 2-4 week intervals, and then you should go back to consuming more calories.  This will serve to keep you from slowing your metabolism, losing lean muscle mass, and disrupting your hormonal balances.


Staying True to Your New Years Resolutions

Happy Holidays everybody, and Happy New Year.  It is an exciting time because a New Year is beginning, new opportunities are on the horizon, and well, there is a new blog post here!

That time of year is here when the gyms are getting busy again because everyone is done feeling guilty about what they have eaten during the holiday season.  And they are ready to start off the New Year the right way with a better, healthier them.  But as February and March roll around, those once exciting goals of losing weight, getting shredded and looking like a sexified Ryan Grosling are in the past.  Well let’s hope this year, this IS NOT you!  And one way to do that, is reading this here post as it will give you a guide to staying on track for the long term.

Gosling

RULE #1: Keep Goals

The only way to achieve success, not just in the gym but in life, is to set goals.  I already spoke of this in a past post, and I think it is very important.  Your goals must be specific and obtainable.  If not, failure is often the case.  Goals give you a direction, and when you obtain them they are much more gratifying.

Here is a list of my weight lifting goals for 2014:

Weight = 175 lbs- Currently 163 lbs

Front Squat = 225 lbs – Currently 195 lbs

Deadlift = 315 lbs – Currently 275 lbs

Military Press = 135 lbs – Currently 115 lbs

Turkish Get-up = 100 lbs – Currently 88 lbs

I have toned down how high I set my goals this year. With school it gets very hard to continually progress without overtaxing myself.  I believe I will have no problems reaching these goals, or surpassing all of them by 2015.

RULE #2: Get a Friend 

FUnny workout ecard

Make sure that person’s goals fit with yours.  

Otherwise they could potentially be very bad influences.

Having somebody with similar goals as you will make your journey easier.  Recruit a friend or family member to join you in reaching your goals.  Maybe it is to lose 20 pounds, or walk 10,000 steps a day, or bike 50 miles a week.  Whatever the goal is having somebody at your side makes reaching your goals less daunting.  This also makes you accountable to someone else, which means you are making a commitment.  If you had to meet your best friend at the gym at 8am every morning, you can’t just skip on them.  Well you can, but that would be pretty douchey of you.

RULE #3: Tell People

By telling everybody around you what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them this year will put more pressure on you and make you commit to your goals more.  Tell people on a consistent basis.  This does two things, one it does what I said before; it puts pressure on you, because who wants to fail in front of their friends and family?  And two, by constantly talking about your goals and how you will achieve them will help you believe that you will accomplish your goals in your own mind.  Once you feel like you can accomplish your goals, your chances of doing so are greatly improved.

RULE #4: Check Your Progress

Pick a regular interval that you will test your progress. So if you want a 315 bench and you currently are benching 250, you must test your bench every month or so to see if you are moving closer to your goals.  If you are not moving towards your goals, you must sit down and think why.  Is it my nutrition, lack of sleep, have I been inconsistent, etc… Once you figure this out, it will help you break through those frustrating plateaus that we all hit from time to time.


Shoulder Mobility

Now that this blog has been up for a while, I know there has to be some questions out there. Feel free to leave a comment at the end of any post; this one or a previous one with any questions you may have about the material that has been posted up on the blog already or anything that you may be questioning about fitness.

Why do we need mobility?

Mobility is the ability for a person to move a joint through its full range of motion (ROM).  Every joint in the body has a job to do, and if it’s mobility is compromised it will cause problems throughout the rest of the body.  And due to our technology driven society, we sit down way too much and we all are developing overuse patterns that is causing our mobility to dwindle away.

The joint by joint approach of the body stacks joints that need mobility on top of those that need stability.  Here is how this model looks:

Joint – Function

Foot – Stability
Ankle — Mobility
Knee — Stability
Hip — Mobility
Lumbar Spine — Stability
Thoracic Spine — Mobility
Scapula — Stability
Gleno-Humeral Joint — Mobility
Elbow — Stability

The areas above that you see with mobility are the areas in which we need it the most, and once mobility is lost in that area it causes a decrease in stability in its neighboring joints.  Meaning if the ankles lose mobility, the knee and foot will lose stability in order to make up for the lacking range of motion at the ankle.  This, in turn, will cause mobility problems in the hip and affect the joints going up similar to a ripple effect.

If we are sitting down all day, and our hip flexors get overly tight, causing our glutes to turn off, as well as us to be hunched forward causing us to lose stability through the rotator cuff and loss of upward rotation of the scapulae pain will surely follow.

This is the major reason why mobility training becomes important.  It will help keep us pain free, more functional to attack the tasks of everyday life and better posture makes us all look and feel better.

So why aren’t you doing your mobility training?

Here is an example of what I do for mobility, and it will be a vast improvement towards every person’s training. It may not be quite specific to each individual who tries it but I am sure it will help make a difference in your mobility and posture.  And that will have a direct carry over to your exercises.  Every person should be able to achieve full range of motion in every joint, during every movement PAIN FREE.

Want an even better reason to do upper body mobility training?

It will help improve your strength.  As your mobility gets better watch your deadlift, bench, squat and any other lift imaginable become easier which will make you stronger.  This is what all of us want and need and this should be including all you ladies.  Gather the proper mobility and you can be squatting and deadlifting like kings and queens.

Pec Stretch

  1. Pec Major
  • Place both arms in a doorway at ninety degree angles.
  • Squeeze your scapulae back as hard as you can and lean as far forward as your scapulae lets you.
  • Feel your chest stretch

2.  Pec Minor

  • Place both arms on the wall, hands down by the hips.
  • Squeeze your scapulae together as hard as you can and lean as far forward as you can.
  • As a note, you will not feel this stretch a lot, but it is working for you.  So keep doing it!

Lat Stretch

  • Grab hold of a sturdy object with one arm.
  • Step back with the same leg that is holding the object.
  • Lean back into the back leg, pulling on the object in order to feel the entire lat stretch from armpit to hip.

Wall Slides

  • First off, we must make sure we set up correctly.  Keep your feet about six inches away from the wall.
  • Flatten your lower back into the wall by doing a posterior pelvic tilt.
  • Arms ninety degrees, back of arm, hand and fingers should all be touching the wall.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and down towards the back pockets.
  • Lift your arms overhead while keeping the lower back on the wall, and all points of contact with the arms and hands.
  • And don’t forget to keep the shoulders away from the ears as you drive up, and make a stupid face as you see above.

This is not an exercise to cheat in to get higher.  Just go up as high as your mobility allows.  Cheating will not get you better mobility.  So stay as strict as possible and feel that stretch in the middle of your back.  This is T-Spine activation after all.

Foam Roller T-Spine Extensions

Here is another great T-Spine mobility drill.  This is great to help get that extension necessary to squat and deadlift big.

  • Lay on your back with the foam roller right under the shoulder blades.
  • Wrap your fingers around your head, and pull your elbows together.  This will keep you from cheating by leaning your head backwards.
  • Make sure your butt stays on the floor at all times.
  • Pull your ribs towards the floor, and lean as far back as you can. You may get your back to crack here and should feel a nice stretch in the middle of your back.

Shoulder Complex

This is a great stretch; it will help open up all your internal and external rotators.  You will get the lats, the pecs and almost everything else in between.

  • Lay on your side, bottom leg straight and top leg bent ninety degrees on a medicine ball or foam roller.
  • Drive your knee hard into the ball and rotate your upper shoulders towards the floor.  This will give you the appearance of lying on your back.  This is not a low back stretch.  You should not get any movement here from your lower back.  This is why that knee drive is important.
  • Point both arms to the ceiling and pack the scaps.
  • The working side is the same side you have placed on the ball.
  • While keeping the scap packed we will move our arm in three directions.  East to west, diagonal from knee to outside (south east to north west and vice versa) shoulder width, and north to south.

Over Head Squat

  • Place your feet wider then shoulder width.
  • Arms above your head, behind or lined up with your ears.
  • Squat down, not allowing the knees to buckle or pass the tips of the toes.

Windmills

These many of you will not be able to do right away.  It takes a lot of thoracic mobility.  Practice without weight first until you are sure that your technique is perfect.  Then you can load, without having to worry about breaking your lower back.

  • Set up your feet hip width apart.
  • Turn your feet forty five degrees away from the arm that is pointing to the ceiling.
  • Hip hinge back, keeping 75% of your weight on the back leg.
  • Keep the scap packed the whole time, from beginning to end.
  • Feel the back hip stretch and the weight sit in the shoulders and lats.

Putting it Together

When it comes to doing mobility, we need to do four things in a specific order:

1.     Foam roll.  If you are not sure how to refer back to here.

2.     Stretch.  Just gently.  Refer to pec and lat stretch.

3.     Mobility drills.  Gets the nervous system fired up and allows us to get the body into its full range of motion.  Almost like waking up the joints.

4.     Sticking the movement.  This is where we load ourselves lightly in the patterns we were trying to mobilize.  This allows the body to take its newer range of motion and apply it into a movement that uses this same range of motion.  By doing this the body understands better what the goal of stretching and mobility drills really are.  And this is how we actually get better ROM and keep it that way day in and day out.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read?  Do you do mobility training? If so, what do you do?  Let me know; leave a comment below!


This Weeks Good Reads 06/08/12

 This week has been exhausting thus far.  My morning schedule changed up slightly and has thrown off my day to day routines.  I haven’t been sleeping well, my workouts feel shitty and I am so very tired.  Usually it takes me a week or two to adjust to changes in my work schedule.

And because of this, I can’t tell if my max training program is not going as well as I would have hoped due to lack of sleep, or just simplybecause I am working way too close to my 1 RM.  It is probably a combination of the two.  Hopefully next week I can get my body on track, and will be making some changes to my exercise program in regards to mytraining volume and intensity.

Here are this weeks good reads:

This is a piece by Mike Boyle, in which he talks about how we only have one body.  With this body we have responsibilities to keep it running on all cylinders.  We do not get another body, and if we have to replace any parts they never work quite the same.  We can’t all be as bad ass as the six million dollar man.  This is a “to the point” reminder to take care of your body, health-wise and performance-wise, this way you can live a long, happy life.

ONLY ONE BODY – MIKE BOYLE

These are some great bullets to what you can do to help lose weight.  The little things count, and you will see so in the piece.  It ranges from everything from setting goals to why you should be eating more cayenne peppers.

71 TIPS TO LOSE FAT – DR. MOHR

For those of us who get really busy and want to maintain strength and not too sure how this article is perfect for you.  It talks about how much harder it is for us to reach our goals, yet so much easier to stay at those levels.  Using his eight steps, it really becomes a no brainer on how to keep strength up during the times of your life where things get out of control.

8 STRATEGIES FOR EASILY MAINTAINING STRENGTH – ERIC CRESSEY

Even though this article says training for men, it is applicable to everyone for any goal.  The title says men because it is an article posted on T-Nation which is predominately a testosterone filled website. It is still a worth while read for all as there are still valuable lessons to be learned here.  This is all about how to set priorities, cut down your training time, but still be effective at getting results and being effective in the gym.  This goes hand in hand with Cressey’s article above.  After reading these, there are no more excuses to not be in the gym.  And to be rather straight forward about it, now you’re just being plan lazy.

EFFECTIVE TRAINING FOR BUSY MEN – JIM WENDLER

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? Let me know, leave a comment below!