In most beginner exercise textbooks, it’s common to prescribe multi-joint movements (e.g. squats, bench press, deadlifts, etc.) at the start of your workout, and follow with isolation-type exercises (e.g. biceps curls, leg curls, triceps extensions, etc.). However, in the 1960s, Arthur Jones suggested the opposite (an isolation exercise performed immediately before a compound exercise) and referred to it as pre-exhaustion training. The idea behind this form of training is to avoid the situation where a smaller muscle group fails before a large muscle group during a compound exercise. A simple example would involve the triceps fatiguing before the pecs in a bench press.
However, let’s take this training method to the next level.
Introducing pre- and post-exhaust training
…read the rest of my article over at Muscle & Fitness:
This is a guest post from my friend Tiffany Lee Gaston – she is a National Figure Competitor, freelance writer, Paleo chef, wife and mother of three children, based out of Arizona. She is an advocate for health and fitness and aims to help inspire and educate others along their journey and I truly admire her for that. She’s in wicked shape and is a very successful figure athlete. Enjoy :)
Looking back 10 years ago to a time prior to having children, I was always active, healthy and fit. It has been a top priority of mine for as long as I can remember. There was never a question that after having children I would want to feel the same, if not better and to maintain my active lifestyle for my kids. Now, I have three wonderful kids ages 10, 9 and 4 years old and I still practice what I preach. They keep me young, active and always expecting more out of myself. They help me to push myself harder, constantly improve and lead by example.
Just because you’ve had children and become a “Mom” does not mean that you drop the ball in that department. Making time for yourself to be able to do the things you’ve always done simply becomes a bit trickier. Here are my top 5 tips for getting back in shape and staying there in the busy world of Mommyhood.
1) Be active!
Put yourself first. Now I know this sounds self -absorbed, but hear me out. By putting yourself first, I don’t mean you should neglect your husband or children, rather you prioritize your needs better. If it makes you feel good to workout everyday, then you will need to find a way to work it in without disrupting the flow of things. For me, I wake up before what feels like the rest of the world most days, to get my workout in. There’s no guilt this way and you are free to handle the rest of the daily grind. Some of my favorite workouts are done with nothing more than bodyweight or a sandbag. Functional training can be done right from home and you can get a phenomenal workout in just 15-20 minutes. Strength and cardio all in one! Sounds doable, right?
[Jon's 2-cents: Tiff's bang on - you don't need fancy equipment or an hour time slot to get in a great workout. Choosing the most "bang for your buck" exercises can get you hot and bothered in just 20-30 minutes. Make time for yourself and make the necessary changes in your life to ensure you always come first.]
2) Eat right.
Making healthy food choices serves to reinforce your efforts with your fitness. Get rid of any junk in the house and enlist your kid’s assistance with the grocery shopping. Schooling them on healthy fuel for their bodies can be fun and time well spent together. Better yet, involve them in the preparation and cooking of a meal. You never know, you may just have the next Iron Chef on your hands! In allowing my kids to play and help make a mess in the kitchen, my middle daughter turns out to have quite the love of cooking and baking. Because of this, I’ve noticed her interest in trying lots of new foods she may otherwise not be exposed to.
[Jon's 2-cents: I couldn't agree more! Exposing your kids to the process of eating healthy (buying, food prep and the most important, eating) will develop the knowledge and awareness for hopefully better food choices as they age. Instilling good habits at a young age is what all parents should strive for.]
3) Retrain you brain.
As a mom, it is especially challenging to take care of you. Taking care of the house, the kids, the husband, the shopping, the cooking, the laundry and cleaning consume much of your time. Taking time to meditate or relax in any form that inspires you to keep going strong should be an important part of your day no matter how brief. Read a good book, take a bath, get a massage, have a girls night, a date night with the hubby, whatever it takes to focus on what’s important to you. Pampering yourself a little goes a long way since many moms put ourselves on the bottom of the to-do list.
[Jon's 2-cents: Life is all about balance and at times, I know it's hard to make time for everything. Being fit and healthy means having balance in your life and doing what you love. Remember to never "look" for time in your schedule, actually "make" time in your schedule. It will take work and more organizing, but it will pay off in the long run.]
4) Treat yourself.
If you’ve made healthy meal choices all week long and exercised, you deserve a little splurge. In fact, your body benefits from it. Refilling your body’s leptin levels by going off the rails for one meal a week helps this very important metabolic regulating hormone. I do this every Saturday night whether it’s a date night with my husband or the whole family. I enjoy indulging with them and my kids really get a kick out of seeing mom off the wagon.
[Jon's 2-cents: You can't be perfect 100% of the time. There's no balance and you'll probably go insane and go on a crazy binge (that you'll likely regret). Treating yourself from time to time and indulging in the not-so-good-for-you snacks or foods is part of human nature. Be "good" 80-90% of the time and truly enjoy your treats when you have them.]
5) Play hard!
Being a mom is no doubt trying at times. Never lose sight of the fact that you are the very first and often the most valuable role model in your child’s eyes. Structure is a necessary part of raising responsible, well-behaved little people, but spending time playing with your kids is invaluable. A family hike, camping trip, bike ride or any fun activity together shows your children how to be active, healthy and promotes a greater sense of self. These will often be when some of the greatest memories are made.
[Jon's 2-cents: Again, instilling good habits at a young age, whether it's in the kitchen or regarding physical activity, is invaluable for future decisions about eating and exercising. Involve the entire family and make sure to do things you all enjoy. As Tiff said, you'll create memories that will last forever, all the while, getting and staying healthy in the process.]
In closing, being a fit mom is not finding success in any one area of the above. It is about learning the delicate balance of each element and seamlessly blending it into your own family’s needs. We can excel in one area and be deficient in another, and that does equate to success. A healthy balance is the number one key ingredient to being your best YOU!
Tiffany Lee Gaston is an Arizona based freelance writer, Internationally published fitness model, National level figure competitor, Paleo chef and mother of three. She has a varied athletic background from gymnastics to long distance running and is currently competing on the NPC figure circuit as a Team Bombshell Athlete.
As a health and fitness advocate, Tiffany aims to inspire others to achieve their optimum health goals through proper nutrition and exercise and regularly shares her Paleo recipes on her website www.tiffanyleegaston.com.
Among other things, Tiffany’s greatest passions are living a healthy and fit lifestyle. Her top priority is educating her own children about the importance and benefits of being fit and healthy, as she leads by example. She enjoys inspiring and motivating others on their own journey as well.
Last weekend, I was fortunate to attend the DVRT (Dynamic Variable Resistance Training) Level 1 and Level 2 certification hosted by Josh Henkin, a strength coach from Scottsdale, AZ and creator of the Ultimate Sandbag. I knew this course was more than just about “a bag of sand” but didn’t expect to see so many concepts integrated together.
I’m proud to say that I passed my exams and am now Level 1 & 2 DVRT certified! Whoop whoop!
What does this mean? It means I have the training to successfully integrate sandbag training into a traditional fitness program and still teach proper fundamental movement patterns such as the squat and hip hinge while also enforcing core and shoulder stability. Using the Ultimate Sandbag may enhance the teaching of these movements and body positions compared to traditional fitness equipment.
For my top 3 take aways from the DVRT course, check out my guest post on Josh’s Ultimate Sandbag Website:
I also put together this Ultimate Sandbag complex which kicked my butt yesterday! Here’s what I did:
A1. Lateral Deadlift to Clean
A2. Rotation Lunge to Clean
A3. Rotation Lunge to Clean
A4. Cossack Squat
As for the reps/sets, I performed 3 reps per exercise per side per set and did 5 total sets with 60-seconds rest. I used a 3/4 full water bladder inside my Ultimate Sandbag – you can hear the water sloshing around in the video (below). This increases the instability of the implement as you can see my weight shift from time to time during the complex. This increases the complexity of the exercises and forces by body to react to the always changing water position in the bag.
If you want to add sandbag training to your program, I recommend Josh’s Ultimate Sandbag. They are made from a durable vinyl with easy to grip handles. Sand filled or water filled options are available. Discloser – I am an affiliate but remember, I only support the best products available.
One of the first movement patterns that I teach my clients and athletes is the hip hinge. It’s one of the fundamental movement patterns you’ll use for most of your lower body training. For example, the Romanian Deadlift and Stiff Leg Deadlift utilize the hip hinge pattern to bow forward. The Russian style kettlebell swing is based on the hip hinge pattern and so are Olympic lifts.
Contrast to the squat, the hip hinge pattern occurs with minimal knee bend. It is essential in learning the difference between spine flexion and hip flexion and by learning and performing this pattern correctly, you’ll successfully target your hamstrings, glutes and low back, otherwise known as the posterior chain.
Here’s a short “how-to” video on learning the hip hinge. Enjoy and good luck.
One of the many perks of being a Mizuno Brand Ambassador is getting the latest gear. For me, I love trying out their new shoes. A couple years ago, I was lucky enough to test drive the new Mizuno Wave Universe, a racing flat that only weighted 3.8 oz. Prior to making the transition to running more on my mid-foot, I enjoyed running in the Wave Rider and Wave Precision. These shoes are a bit too much “shoe” for me now and the Wave Universe was a bit too thin to wear daily. I was stuck in the middle looking for a suitable shoe that would provide me with a bit of cushioning but would still allow me to run with a mid foot strike.
Enter the new Mizuno mid foot category. Introducing the Wave Evo Cursoris and Wave Evo Levitas.
And here’s a cool page discussing the creation of these shoes HERE.
These shoes are exactly what I was looking for. They are zero drop and super comfortable. Personally, I find the Wave Cursoris to fit slightly wider on my wide feet. I have a small bunion on my right foot, but the width of the Cursoris allows my foot to sit comfortably in the shoe. I find the Wave Levitas to fit a bit more narrow, but is still wide enough to house my wide feet (and bunion). The oblique shape of the forefoot allows my toes to splay naturally when striking the ground mid foot. I find the ride really smooth and efficient and due to the design, allows for a natural mid foot strike. I prefer the Cursoris for my longer runs because it has more cushioning and protection from the pavement. The Levitas are perfect for shorter, more intense workouts or runs. I also really like wearing the Levitas for my gym workouts as the close to the ground feel is perfect for lower body exercises (deadlifts, squats and kettlebell swings).
The only critique I have is that the Wave Cursoris is easy to slip off my feet, even when tied tightly. It’s never happened when running, but it sure is easy to take my shoes off when I get home from a hard workout (a good thing!).
Here are the specs on the Cursoris (copied from HERE):
Named after one of the oldest known bipedal creatures, the Eudibamus Cursoris.
Designed to provide a more stable platform and cushioning for someone transforming to a midfoot strike.
ZERO RAMP offset between the heel and forefoot provides a natural plane tailored to a midfoot strike.
WAVE TECHNOLOGY in the forefoot for maximum protection, comfort and a smooth ride.
Flat-bottomed forefoot design coupled with a wider platform provides stability and assurance from foot strike to toe-off.
12mm/12mm heel-forefoot design offers a more protective ride.
Note, these pics were taken after a few wearings (easy runs, hill sprints and gym workouts).
And here are the specs on the Levitas (copied from HERE):
“Levitas” is derived from the Latin word for “light”
Designed with a narrower forefoot platform, the Wave EVO Levitas is the lightest and fastest of the EVO shoes.
ZERO RAMP offset between the heel and forefoot provides a neutral plane tailored to a midfoot strike.
WAVE TECHNOLOGY in the forefoot for maximum protection, comfort and a smooth ride.
8 mm/8 mm heel-forefoot design offers a close-to-the-ground experience.
As you can see from the pictures, the shoes are quite flat from heel to toe, which allows for that nice mid foot strike, but aren’t so thin (they both provide some nice cushioning against the ground) that you do not slap the ground. Also the multidirectional flex grooves allows the shoes to be, well, more flexible. The open mesh design allows for some awesome breathability. I haven’t worn these shoes in the rain yet and wonder how this mesh design will keep my feet dry (or maybe it won’t).
Overall, these are (by far) my most favourite runners ever, from any brand. I wear these shoes everywhere. There is a trail version coming out later this summer and really excited to try them out. There are awesome trails to run here in St. John’s, Newfoundland and most are gravel and rocky. I highly recommend these shoes for mid foot strikers with an efficient running stride. The Cursoris are great for pavement and the Levitas are awesome for speedy-type workouts (and even racing). If you wear orthotics, the insoles are removable but I’m not quite sure how your orthotics would affect the ride. The Cursoris is great for easy runs of any distance whereas the Levitas are perfect for running fast.
Check out the Cursoris at the Running Warehouse HERE and the Levitas HERE.
If you are new to the fitness industry or have been around the block a few times like I have, I’m sure you’ve heard the Japanese name “Tabata” being used just as often as the words “set”, “rep” or “interval.” This Japanese last name has become famous (almost legendary) and is commonly used as a verb in the fitness industry to describe a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) – 20-seconds of work with 10-seconds rest performed for 8 rounds. This is a form of interval training with a work to rest ratio of 2:1 (the work interval is 2 x the length of the rest interval) and is quite short in duration (only 8 rounds worth for a total of 4-minutes…just 4-minutes!). Now, you can perform more rounds if you wish, but the authentic Tabata protocol only called for 6-8 rounds.
You see, WAY back in 1996 & 1997, Dr. Izumi Tabata and his research team published two academic articles in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise titled Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max and Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Since Dr. Tabata was the lead author of these papers, the protocol is given his name (how cool would it have been if his last name was Kawamoto?!?). Anyways, trainers and trainees have taken this 20-10 HIIT protocol and have sub’d in their own exercises thinking they’re doing the Tabata protocol, where in fact, there is only one exercise that resembles the actual Tabata protocol: a mechanically braked cycle ergometer, which was the exercise chosen for these two studies. Let’s have a quick look at the studies just to get a better understanding of this now legendary protocol.
A Closer Look at the “Tabata” Studies
Subjects were young male students (physical education majors) volunteered for both of these studies – most were “physically active” and were members of varsity sports teams (table tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer and swimming).
All protocols were performed on a cycle ergometer (Monark bike) and were preceded with a 10-minute warmup at 50% VO2 max. Notice that common Tabata exercises such as Thrusters or running sprints were not used in the actual studies.
Without getting too deep in to the science, I’ll just bring up the important facts. During the 20-sec exercise period, the intensity (on the bike) was equal to 170% (yes, 170%) of the subject’s VO2 max. This is an all out effort where oxygen is not the only source of fuel. The body has to resort to other energy producing methods to sustain a crazy high intensity like this. Makes you think twice about alternating front planks for 20-sec and body weight squats for the other 20-sec – the intensity is just not high enough with these exercises.
Also, something else important to mention, is that these studies were not designed to assess fat loss. The high intensity intermittent exercise protocols used were utilized to examine the affects on aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, NOT fat loss. In the 1996 study, Tabata and his team found significant increases in subject’s maximum oxygen uptake and anaerobic capacity following 6-weeks of implementing the “Tabata” protocol. In their 1997 paper, they state that the 20-10 protocol, “appears to stress both the aerobic and anaerobic energy releasing systems maximally.” What does this mean for you? If you can suffer 170% of your VO2 max for 6-8 rounds of 20-10, you’ll crank up your ability to utilize oxygen and ability to work anaerobically. You’ll also get a huge boost in your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) meaning that your metabolism will be in overdrive for hours after your workout finishes. This could potentially lead to more calories burned and more fat lost.
So You Wanna Tabata?
What’s the take home message here? Well, if you want to “Tabata” something, the only way you’re going to get the authentic Tabata experience is by doing 6-8 rounds of 20-sec work (on a cycle ergometer) at 170% of your VO2 max at 90 rpm with 10-sec rest periods. According to Tabata’s results, this will positively impact your aerobic and anaerobic capacities and ramp up your EPOC for days (okay, maybe not days, but for quite a while after the workout).
“If you can suffer 170% of your VO2 max for 6-8 rounds of 20-10, you’ll crank up your ability to utilize oxygen and ability to work anaerobically. You’ll also get a huge boost in your EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) meaning that your metabolism will be in overdrive for hours after your workout finishes.”
“Tabata-ing” lunges and pushups will not give you the authentic Tabata experience. All you’re doing is lunges for 20-sec alternating with pushups for 20-sec with 10-sec rest periods between exercises. Will you still increase your heart rate? Yes. Will you benefit from it? Probably. Will you burn calories? Yup. But just understand, it’s interval training, but the results will not even be close to what Tabata and his team found in his two studies.
So, you wanna Tabata stuff? Here’s the next best thing if you don’t want to die on the cycle ergometer – you’ll just die doing something else :)
Choose multi-joint exercises that use as many muscle groups as possible. Great exercise choices include:
Barbell, Dumbbell or Kettlebell Thrusters
Treadmill Hill Sprints (death!!)
Hard-syle Russian Kettlebell Swings
Concept 2 Rowing
Air Dyne Sprints (also death!!)
Versa Climber Sprints (if you’re lucky enough to have access to one)
Cross Country Skiing
Perform these exercises as fast as humanly possible. Seriously. Crank it (without hurting yourself) for the entire 20-sec. Do you best to recover in 10-sec (good luck) and hit it again. Repeat 6-8 times or until you collapse on the floor in a heap (which ever comes first).
Just remember, the goal is work at an intensity far greater than your VO2 max (so, no, low intensity exercises don’t count). This will also boost your EPOC and your calorie expenditure post workout (and hopefully shed some fat).
Perform 1-3x/week at the end or beginning of your workouts. Make sure to warmup thoroughly. You wouldn’t want to pull a hammy (or a lung).
Tabata, I., Irisawa, K., Kouzaki, M., Nishimura, K., Ogita, F., & Miyachi, M. (1997). Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 29(3), 390-395.
Tabata, I., Nishimura, K., Kouzaki, M., Hirai, Y., Ogita, F., Miyachi, M., & Yamamoto, K. (1996). Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 28(10), 1327-1330.
*this post first appeared on my friend Travis Stoetzel’s blog.
I normally get asked how to build muscle and burn fat; rightfully so, as most dudes I see training in community gyms don’t have a clue. Most guys want a rippin’ 6-pack, cannon-ball delts and to be stronger than their old man but are all going about it the wrong way.
Here are my top answers to questions like this. They have helped me put on 30-lbs after I stopped competing in middle-distance running. I didn’t get muscley-fat as I still have abs and am hovering around 10% body fat.
Here we go…
1) Dial in your technique
If your technique is shit, your results will be also. Dial in the basic squat and hip hinge patterns for lower body training and dial in your shoulder pack and neutral spine for your upper body and core exercises. If you can do this, you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else. Hire a coach or trainer and invest in your results.
When I started lifting weight, I thought I was going to bench press and biceps curl 3x/week, no joke. That never happened as I decided to start with a body part split. From that experience and from training clients, that isn’t the best method for beginners. Dudes new to the gym will benefit more from performing exercises more often, rather than once a week as in a body part split. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I decided to go with The Texas Method for beginners. This program is based on Bill Star’s 5×5 protocol. If you want to check it out, look up Practical Programming for Strength by Rippetoe and Kilgore. Once your stop progressing on the beginner program, you can progress to the traditional Texas Method Program, or something similar. Wendler’s 5, 3, 1 is also an awesome program that works.
You gotta stop eating like you did when you were 17, unless you want to get fat. Your metabolism starts to slow down, as you get older, so you have to be more conscious about what goes into your stomach. If you want to get big but stay ripped, you’ll have to be patient with your progress and put in the time. You’ll have to eat a calorie surplus, but not too much. If you are really gung-ho, I would recommend trying the Renegade Diet by Jason Ferruggia. This diet incorporates the newly popular intermittent fasting (IF) protocol. I won’t go into detail about it here, you can just buy the book or check out www.LeanGains.com or John Berardi’s free IF ebook.
Essentially, you would fast for 16-hours a day and eat during the remaining 8-hours. The 8-hours is broken up into two 4-hour chunks. In one 4-hour window, you’ll over eat and in the other 4-hour window you’ll under eat. Another plan I like to incorporate is carb-cycling. Here, you would only eat carbohydrate rich foods around workout time. It’s a very simple plan to follow, and I’ve had great success doing it. And if you don’t workout one day, limit your carb intake to almost nothing.
There’s more to putting on muscle and getting ripped than just going to the gym and missing breakfast. It’s a complete lifestyle. You’ll have to develop the focus so that all your actions during the day and night take you one step closer to your goals. If they don’t, you’re loosing the battle. It’s not easy looking like Thor, because if it was, you would see Thors walking around all over the place! Try to workout at the same time every day. Prepare your meals so you don’t have to resort to junk. Don’t eat fast food or drink sugary drinks. Don’t get wasted and miss your Saturday morning workouts. Sleep 8 uninterrupted hours a night. Stop thinking about it and make it happen.
5) Dial up and train with a training partner who’s stronger than you
How are you supposed to get better if you’re not surrounding yourself with stronger dudes? Train with a training partner that has similar goals to you and who has their technique dialed in. You can work off each other and reach levels of size and strength impossible to reach on your own. Don’t choose a buddy that only works out so he can check out the chicks on the treadmill. They must eat, live and breathe just like you or else, they’ll just waist your time.
Looking for a badass physique? If you haven’t looked into LGN365, it’s a fantastic resource and program designed and created by my colleague JC Deen. JC and I wrote a popular article for the Greatist called “How to Fix the Most Common Workout Mistakes” last summer. I wouldn’t just collaborate with just any old trainer! JC’s the real deal and this program is awesome.
Long-term success in the gym isn’t difficult to achieve if you follow standard, tried and true training principles and couple it with adequate dedication, consistency, and recovery. However, if you look around any gym, you’ll see tons of guys looking exactly the same as they did last year.
A lack of results or stalled progress can zap the motivation out of any trainee, and sadly enough, it can be a number of small mistakes you’re making. Stop sabotaging yourself and your potential progress by addressing these issues.
Going to the gym and throwing around some iron is actually pretty easy. Most gym-goers have a general idea of what a pushup looks like or how to use the leg press machine, but what’s lacking, is the knowledge in deciding what exercise choice makes the most sense.
Choosing the best exercise based on your specific training goals, previous injury history and current fitness level can be a little tricky, especially with the vast amount of contradictory fitness information out there. What’s important to know is that not all exercises are created equally. Certain exercises are actually more effective than others at achieving specific training outcomes; therefore, it’s fair to say that a leg press has a different training outcome compared to a barbell back squat.
To help clear up the confusion, I collaborated with the top fitness professionals in the industry to come up with a list of exercise favorites, which are all context based and outcome specific. Remove the guesswork from your training and check out my debut article on Livestrong.com “16 Exercise Favourites from the World’s Best Trainers.”
Here’s a short video of me explaining my favourite exercise for driving your metabolism and calorie burn into overdrive: The Thruster
I prefer this exercise be performed with kettlebells but dumbbells work too. I’m not a huge fan of thrusters with a barbell because the rigidness of the bar doesn’t play to well with banged up shoulders or stiff spines. Those people shouldn’t be doing thrusters in the first place, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Enjoy the read and please leave your comments below.
Olympic lifting (the clean and jerk and the snatch) are valuable training methods for increasing full body power. The ability to recruit high-threshold motor units or type II muscle fibers (fast twitch fibers) means you’ll be able to produce more force in a shorter amount of time, be able to sprint and accelerate faster and be overall, stronger and more athletic.
Sounds like perfect traits for any athlete to have and want. However, some shy way from O-lifting for fears of injuring themselves or their athletes or that they are too difficult to learn. Rightfully-so though as these lifts are very technical in that each movement executed in either the clean and jerk or the snatch has to be performed in the correct sequence with the correct timing. If proper technical and learning progressions are applied and loads are not excessive, O-lifting can be safe, fun and as noted above, very beneficial to athletic performance.
The list of benefits of incorporating O-lifting into your training is long, but here are 3 benefits you may not have thought of.
1) Core Stability Development
The core stability craze has people in a friendzy wanting to work their core in every workout. Well, it may surprise some to hear that improving core stability doesn’t just have to include plank variations. “A strong core is necessary to maintain the torso position from the ground up through the first and second pull” writes Wil Flemming in Complete Olympic Lifting.The inability to maintain a stable torso during the clean or snatch serves as an energy leak and to an inefficient pull. In the clean for example, because the weight is in front of you from the ground until the bar is received on your shoulders, your torso wants to flex forward, thus the clean can be viewed as an anti-flexion core exercise. Flemming likes to use the cue “lock down the lats” to aid in stiffening the torso prior to initiating the pull (from the floor or hang). Lastly, stabilizing heavy weight above your head (not just a weight you can press overhead, but a weight heavy enough to require explosive power to get it up there) requires a tremendous amount of core and full body stabilization.
2) Single Leg Strength Development
The split position in the split jerk (following the clean in “clean and jerk”) “requires great stability in the lead leg, similar to the striking of the foot to the ground while in sprinting” says Flemming. The fact that a heavy load is held above the head in this split position compounds the strength and stability challenged in the lead leg and also in the hips and trunk.
3) Shoulder Stability Development
Supporting a heavy weight overhead, such as after the jerk or when receiving the bar in the snatch develops “intrinsic shoulder strength” and a great deal of shoulder stability, says Flemming. With the shoulders packed into the body, the dynamic stability function of the rotator cuff and all the supporting musculature around the shoulder and scapulothoracic joint have to create a stable platform so the bar can be balanced in the correct position overhead.
If you enjoyed this post, you will really enjoy Wil Flemming’s new product Complete Olympic Lifting. I had the pleasure of receiving a review copy a couple weeks ago and to be honest, I was blown away. It’s an electronic manual (PDF) with a real (yeah, real, not just YouTube videos) DVD.
I own a ton of electronic fitness products and this product from Wil is at the top of the list when it comes to production value. The graphics, photos and layout are amazing and a pleasure to the eyes. Yes, I just said pleasure to the eyes. The information is also top notch but that’s no surprise because of all the quality content Wil contributes to T-Nation.
Coaches and trainees will both benefit from this great resource. Wil also has several sample programs for all abilities. I strongly encourage all trainees learn how to O-lift from actual coaching sessions (one-on-one or in a small group and hands on) but this manual and DVD will act as a great resource for you years down the road. At least, it will for me.
It’s been a long time coming and I’m kicking myself for not doing this earlier, but I’m finally starting to film more Youtube videos. I’ve done a few in the past but I’ve never really spoke into the camera. So, here’s my first installment in helping you kick more ass in the gym and in your workouts.
Make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel and do me a favour please. Feel free to share my videos with others if you think they’ll make use of the information.
A study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research today by Smith et al. (ahead of print) titled: Crossfit-based High Intensity Power Training Improves Maximal Aerobic Fitness and Body Composition.
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a crossfit-based high intensity power training (HIPT) program on aerobic fitness and body composition. Healthy subjects of both genders (23 males, 20 females) spanning all levels of aerobic fitness and body composition completed 10 weeks of HIPT consisting of lifts such as the squat, deadlift, clean, snatch, and overhead press performed as quickly as possible. Additionally, this crossfit-based HIPT program included skill work for the improvement of traditional Olympic lifts and selected gymnastic exercises. Body fat percentage was estimated using whole body plethysmography and maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) was measured by analyzing expired gasses during a Bruce protocol maximal graded treadmill test. These variables were measured again following 10 weeks of training and compared for significant changes using a paired t-test. Results showed significant (P<0.05) improvements of VO2max in males (43.10±1.40 to 48.96±1.42 ml/kg/min) and females (35.98±1.60 to 40.22±1.62 ml/kg/min) as well as decreased body fat percentage in males (22.2±1.3 to 18.0±1.3) and females (26.6±2.0 to 23.2±2.0). These improvements were significant across all levels of initial fitness. Significant correlations between absolute oxygen consumption and oxygen consumption relative to body weight was found in both men (r=0.83, P<0.001) and women (r=0.94, P<0.001), indicating HIPT improved VO2max scaled to body weight independent of changes to body composition. Our data shows that HIPT significantly improves VO2max and body composition in subjects of both genders across all levels of fitness.
In the experiment, the researchers referred to the training program as “crossfit-based high intensity power training” or HIPT for short. Differentiating HIPT from HIIT (high intensity interval training), the researchers state that HIPT “includes a lack of a prescribed rest period, focus on sustained high power output” and use of multi joint movements. HIPT also incorporates multi-joint functional lifts such as the squat, deadlift, clean, snatch and overhead press with the addition of gymnastic based movements (Smith et al., 2013). The researchers go on to explain the concept of a WOD (workout of the day) describing how they are “a random selection of multiple joint exercises” that are supposed to be performed as quickly as possible.
Nonetheless, it all appears fine and dandy from just reading the abstract but after reading the actual paper, I found out some things not included in the abstract.
-stats were run on the entire group and also on subsets of participants that were divided up by initial aerobic fitness and body composition values (based on normative data for age and gender)
-out of 54 original participants, 43 fully completed the 10-week program (11 dropped out: 2 with time concerns and 9 from sustaining injury = 16% of total recruited subjects, despite being supervised by American College of Sports Medicine clinical exercise physiologists and the fact that the 10-week program was “deliberately periodized”)
-the training protocol was not provided (therefore, I’m not sure if kipping pull ups or other traditional Crossfit exercises were included or not)
-subjects were following a “Paleolithic” type diet prior to and following completion of the training program (but was not controlled for)
So that leaves me with some questions. (I’m in the middle of my research in my Masters program and as a researcher, you can’t account for every single variable, it’s practically impossible! But it still warrants some discussion.)
Obviously this program was effective at improving VO2 and body composition in both sexes, but would the results have differed if the participants were not on a Paleo-type diet? Would it have been beneficial to have the diet controlled and monitored?
If you’re a Crossfit-beginner, I strongly caution you to learn how to move first with light weight before adding more weight and speed.
16% drop out!? That’s a bit much don’t you think? So this tells us, if you’re not ready for this type of intensity, maybe you shouldn’t be doing a Crossfit-based training program. “Skill training” was provided to the subjects prior to the 10-week training program, but how effective was their technique to begin with and how good did it get after the skill training? If you’ve ever done as many reps as possible in a timed-set, you and I know your form (and mine) would go out the window after a few sets. If you can keep it together longer, you’re probably not going to get injured. This especially applies to the clean and the snatch which are considered very technical lifts. A beginner thrown into high rep cleans or snatches, even after some skill practice is a recipe for disaster (in my opinion). I have a hard enough time doing sets of 5 cleans or snatches perfectly – I couldn’t imaging compounding that with fatigue, other exercises and a time-limit. However, if you’re technically proficient, then I don’t see too much of a problem with this type of programming, especially if you plan to compete at Crossfit competitions (hence sports specific training).
Lastly, I have a problem when a Crossfit-based program is prescribed to the wrong person. People who are not technically proficient, have a current injury or a predisposition for a future injury should take down the intensity a few notches to keep their injury risk low (think cost to benefit ratio). Perhaps they can still participate but with the workout regressed to their level. Also, as I said above, it would have been great to see the actual 10-week program and how they periodized it.
So, high intensity training with weights and compound lifts with minimal break (combined with a paleo-based diet) can work wonders for your VO2 and body composition. But you have to survive the training program without getting injured. If you can survive it and enjoy it, have at it. If you’re a beginner, I strongly caution you to learn how to move first with light weight before adding more weight and speed.
Furthermore, this is a prime example, as pointed out by my buddy Josh Henkin, that you can’t just read abstracts. To get the entire story, you have to read the actual paper.
Yeah, you read that right. I’m sick of the fitness industry.
It’s full of elitists who think their shit doesn’t stink…
…and that it’s okay to make fun of people who don’t know what they’re doing in the gym.
But, do you know what the ironic thing is? Some of these people they’re making fun of, are people they’re trying to market to and attract as clients and maybe even sell their ebooks to. If they only knew how trainers were thinking of them…
Take this picture for example:
It’s been shared all over Facebook as if the Share button was clicking itself.
To someone who’s not familiar with working out, this looks difficult and perhaps very risky.
To someone who’s familiar with working out, this looks stupid (which justifies trainers and trainees to make fun of him, right?).
Why don’t they let this guy worry about what he’s doing and leave him alone? Does he affect you in anyway? If he gets hurt, what’s it to you? And does it really matter what he’s doing? Why don’t you just worry about your form and let this guy worry about his?
And the examples don’t end there. There are tons of videos on Youtube from trainees and maybe even trainers secretly filming someone dancing on the treadmill or using a piece of exercise equipment different from its intended use.
Do you know what kind of message you’re giving to your social network? People are going to be too damn scared to workout because they fear getting filmed and made fun of on Youtube. And people will surely not hire you to train them because you come across as a pompous asshole who doesn’t have time or the patience to work with beginners. If that’s the kind of image you want to portray, keep hitting that Share button.
I could care less about trainees taking videos because they’re not trying to get clients, but if you’re a trainer, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Also, people love to make fun of others with different training philosophies, especially if it’s different from their own.
For example, people love to hate Crossfit because they think it’s stupid. Yeah some people get injured doing Crossfit and some things that Greg Glassman says doesn’t make much sense. But other athletes like hockey players, football players and MMA fighters get injured too. And I hate to break it to you, but the system of Crossfit, which is glorified circuit training, gets their clients and participants results. I’m not saying I’m a fan of kipping pull ups, but you get my drift.
Trainers seem to have an opinion on every aspect of training under the sun, saying curls are a waste of time, functional training is the only way to go, Olympic lifting is dangerous, bodybuilding is useless, cardio is stupid, fasted training is better than fed and blah, blah, blah…and don’t even get me started on Bro Science…
This industry is supposed to be about helping people reach and surpass their health and fitness goals. We should work as a team and help each other, while progressing this young industry. There’s no room for assholes or know-it-alls.
So the next time you see a picture or video of an exercise that doesn’t fit your exercise dogma and want to hit that Share button, take a sec to think about what that action says about you and your business. Also realize its repercussions on the people you’re trying to market to.
Stop being an elitist and only worry about yourself and your clients, period.
If you’ve been in the running world long enough, you’ve surely heard how important core training is for running efficiently and how it can help keep your injuries at bay. There isn’t a shortage of plank videos on YouTube geared towards helping runners, but the problem arises when runners think that by doing planks, they’re addressing all the core training necessary for running fast. Unfortunately, most runners believe that planking is the Holy Grail of core training, when actually; it is only a small piece in the core-training puzzle.
Read the rest at Men’s Running (my first article for a UK publication!).
If you haven’t heard about it already, there is a hierarchy to losing fat. Some training methods are more effective than others; however, they will not make much difference if you’re still eating like you did when you were 15. You can actually lose fat without exercising by only making dietary changes. Your rate of fat loss might be slower than if you added in some resistance training, but that just goes to show you the importance of healthy eating and fat loss.
Nonetheless, some people resort to cardio for fat loss. It takes the least amount of skill (compared to weight lifting) but can be quite boring and depending on the type of cardio, less effective.
My colleague, Jessica Smith, wrote a great article on this topic for Shape Magazine’s website called 8 Cardio Myths That are Making You Fat. She asked me to contribute a little bit of my smarts, so make sure to pay attention, at least on slide 6 :)
I know, I know…not functional what so ever and a waste of time, right?
The “functional fitness” folk will tell you rows, chin ups, bench presses and overhead presses will work your bis and tris so you don’t need to worry about adding in arm specific work. This is almost true…but your size gains will be limited.
Why do you train (if you don’t train for a sport)? To build wide shoulders, a thick back, huge pecs and arms that fill your shirt sleaves, right? Ladies, isn’t it nice to have nice arms in your sleeveless shirts? Well, let me tell you both now, isolation exercises are the icing on the cake if your goal is having nice arms.
You’re not going to build your arms (the way you want) with just compound lifts. How do you think Arnold built those huge guns? Multi-joint lifts AND isolation-type exercises.
So there you have it. Arm isolation training isn’t weightlifting blasphemy…that’s what the best bodybuilders have been doing for years. The next time a “functional” trainer tells you to stop curling, tell them that biceps curls ARE functional training for bodybuilders and trainees who want bigger arms!
In light of this fact, here are a few biceps curls variations you can add into your program.
But you have to promise me one thing. No curling in the squat rack!
I could keep going with Fat Grip variations, and band resisted variations, but I’ll be here all night (and I think you get the point). Don’t just stick with one type of curl…you’ll limit your growth potential and most likely get board.
If you’re looking for an arm specialization program, my colleague Dan Trink, from Trink Fitness just released his new product today called 2 Tickets to the Gun Show. It’s a 4-week program, dedicated to making your guns bigger (who doesn’t want that!?). I went through the program last night and it looks pretty good (it should be as Dan writes for Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Livestrong.com and T-Nation among other high profile outlets). This ebook explains the program and the premise behind it (giving you huge guns!). It’s on sale this week for only $14.99.
I like to change my program every once and awhile, but I make sure I give the program enough of a chance to see how my body reacts and adapts. If I like the program, I’ll stick with it for a few more phases (usually 4-8 weeks). I’ve been doing a body part split for just over 2-months now and think it’s time for a change.
The other day, I was flipping through Beyond Bodybuilding by Pavel (a great read by the way) and found this strength training program called 5x5x5. It looked different and challenging and like something I’ve never tried before. I’m a fan of high frequency training for low intensity-type exercises, but this is a high frequency form of training on a whole other level! Here’s the program:
D. Bicep Curl variation (weight 35lbs)
E. Lateral Raise (weight 25lbs)
F. Narrow Pushups (body weight)
The rep/set scheme for circuits D, E and F are as follows:
Perform 30 reps of exercise D and E on day one with a sub maximal, easy load. Perform daily, Monday through Friday (as in the 5x5x5 program above). Add 1 rep every day for 4 weeks. Therefore, day two would have 31 reps, day 3, 32 reps, etc. Don’t worry about how many sets to perform. Use as many sets necessary to complete all reps for that day.
Lastly, for exercise F, perform 50 reps on day one. Perform daily (Mon-Fri) and add 1 rep every day for 4 weeks. Don’t worry about how many sets to perform, just use as many sets necessary to complete all reps for that day.
As I write this, I’m currently on day 4, but here’s the best part: seeing how this high frequency training program has increased my 1RMs.
My current 1RMs before starting this program are 395lbs for the deadlift, 260lbs for the front squat, roughy 60lbs-ish for the chin up and 135lbs-ish for the overhead press. I took time off bench pressing last fall, but managed a 275lbs bench last spring (all this at a body weight of 177lbs). Not bad for a x-distance runner but nothing compared to internet standards.
This program isn’t for everybody. You’re probably thinking to yourself, that’s a great way to overtrain, and you’re right, but don’t get your tighty-whities in a knot. This program should only be done for 4 weeks straight…and that’s it. If you want to try this plan, make sure your recovery ability is almost perfect. Get 8 hours sleep a night, eat healthy and try to minimize stress in other areas of your life (yeah, easier said than done).
If you want to read more about high frequency training, I highly suggest you check out Chad Waterbury’s ebook High Frequency Training. I think it’s a great resource for all trainers and trainees. I picked up many tips that I now incorporate into my own training, and client’s training.
Depending on where you workout, some of the more modern, up to date gyms (no, not with fancy machines and cardio equipment with TVs) might have more options for you with regards to resistance training. In addition to traditional barbells, dumbbells and medicine balls, other pieces of equipment are available to help you in your quest for strength, stability, mobility and of course, faster running times.
Also, here’s an Ultimate Sandbag running specific workout that I had the pleasure of participating in last week over at Envision Fitness, in Maple Ridge, BC. Steve and Kari did a great job of putting together this program with progressions and regressions. It was tough! Check out the highlights:
Well, that’s it for now. Adding Ultimate Sandbag Training into your program will add variety and new challenges. It’s portable and great for every home gym (I have 6 bags!). The options are endless and I think this type of training is invaluable and an important addition to any runner’s strength and conditioning program. Not only will you train your major muscle groups, but because of the dynamic nature of the bag, your core muscles will also be hit hard as well.
Some people focus on getting lean in the new year while others try to put on size.
Let’s chat a bit about putting on slabs of chiselled muscle shall we :)
The only way you’re gonna put on size, is to train hard, smart, and consistently in the gym. You gotta train like a bodybuilder, but you don’t need to spend hours a day in the gym.
Focus on compound (multi-joint exercises) lifts and supplement with isolation exercises. Don’t believe it when internet sites say you’ll build big biceps by just doing pull-ups or chin-ups. You gotta attack the muscles you want to grow from various angles and various rep ranges (and most times, you’ll have to resort to isolation-type exercises). Focus on free weight exercises and feel free to supplement with machine-based exercises and even the Smith Machine. Pay attention to your body mechanics and don’t do an exercise if it causes pain (duh!).
In regards to nutrition, I’m a big believer in eating clean, even if the the focus is hypertrophy. I’m not a huge fan of eating shit just for the sake of getting in more calories. Eat clean real whole foods and make sure to eat starches post workout. You’ll find it harder to build size on a low-carb diet, so make sure to eat 2 servings of yams, sweet potatoes or rice post workout. Also, try to get 15-20 grams of protein at each meal. Eat unlimited veggies and moderate amounts of healthy fats as well.
Next, you have to get motivated to pump the iron. Make sure to watch these two documentaries (you might recognize the main dude in each film) before going to the gym (I recommend Sunday night to fire you up for the week!).
First film: Pumping Iron (I wasn’t able to embed this video, so you gotta watch it on Youtube).
Second film: The Making of Pumping Iron (below).
Next, ed-ju-ma-cate yourself by reading these articles (you’re welcome):
Lastly, find a good hypertrophy focused program. Here’s a free workout you can do. I wrote this program with Toronto trainer and fitness writer Lee Boyce. It’s called the Hybrid Size Workout. You can find the link HERE.
Give it a go and let me know what you think. Be patient. Building muscle takes time and persistence. As the great trainer Bill Starr once wrote: Patience + Persistence = Progress.
Now, go and get it! No one else is gonna do it for you. Light weight baby!
Believe it or not, not every athlete wants to build massive muscles. Think about wrestlers, MMA fighters, gymnists or athletes who use their own body weight as their primary resistance, they need the strength, but the additional bulk can be a hindering than helpful.
What’s important to consider is that strength is not solely a property of muscle, but rather a property of the motor system (brain and neurons). So going for the pump, total muscle exhaustion and complete muscle annihilation is not the name of the game here. You should focus on training methods that target adaptation of the nervous system that increase your relative body strength and explosive power. Your body increases its strength by a) recruiting more muscle fibers in a particular muscle group and b) increasing the firing frequency of your motor neurons (neurons and muscle fibers). You can’t consciously control these two mechanisms, but focusing on the tips below will do the trick.
Read the rest of my article over at Men’s Fitness HERE.
What runner doesn’t hate getting injured? Knee pain, heel pain or even low back pain can put a damper on any runner’s training. Usually though, the site of pain is not the source of the injury.
Think about it like this. You have a door rubbing in a door frame on the handle side (opposite the hinges).
One way to fix this problem is shave the door so it doesn’t rub anymore. Compare this to lateral knee pain. The site of the problem is the knee, just like where the door rubs against the door frame. Shaving the door is the same as trying to fix the knee (only).
What we need to do is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
By looking at the hinge side, you’ll notice the door isn’t held in the door frame properly, therefore causing the door to rub.
So, as the analogy says, take a step back and look at the body as a whole.
Commonly, pain in one area results from the body compensating for a problem in a different area.
Take for example, weak hip muscles. When these guys are weak, during single leg stance (running!) the weakness in the hips result in a lateral shift of the pelvis with each stride (known as the Trendelenburg Sign).
This changes the efficient mechanics of running into a non-efficient running stride with potential compensations. The body will experience different stresses and different wear patterns, just as a car would, if it had a crooked axil. Commonly, knee pain will result and many runners will think the problem stems at the knees.
With a proper assessment, weakness in the lateral hip muscular will be found (notice, NOT, where the site of pain is).
This is just one of many examples of how running injuries start.
Unfortunately, running by itself is not sufficient in building a resilient body. And because running is repetitive in nature, believe it or not, certain muscles tend to over develop while others tend to weaken. This can lead to muscle imbalances and incorrect movement patterns.
A strategically designed and individual-specific strength and prehabilitation program must be implemented in order to avoid running down the road to injuryville.
I’ve come across numerous runners that think that lower body training isn’t necessary because of all the miles they run – they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here are 3 rehab tips to keep you safe and sound, all season long.
1. Seek a reputable soft tissue therapist to address, well, soft-tissue related issues.
Active release techniques, Graston or just plain old therapeutic sport massage may be warranted on a regular basis. This depends on how much you run per week, but I would guess that most runners will benefit from frequent soft tissue therapy.
2. Work on joint mobility (often).
The ankle joint and hip joint (among others) can become restricted in their movement(s) and if so, can wreck havoc on a runner’s body. Running with a stiff ankle can affect the entire kinetic chain and result in a awkward, inefficient running stride.
A simple exercise to work on ankle mobility and calf flexibility is the Downward Dog.
Go into a pushup position and pike your butt into the air. Drive your heels downward and keep your knees straight. Get your butt as high as possible. Hold for 5-sec (do 5-6 reps; 1-3 sets) if performing pre-workout and 30-60-sec (do 3-6 sets) if performing post-workout. You can bend one knee inward to isolate one leg at a time if you wish.
3. Incorporate muscle activation exercises to wake up sleeping muscles.
As I said earlier, certain muscles tend to weaken with running. Let’s continue on with our weak hip muscles not being able to stabilize our hips when running.
One of many hip strengthening exercises is the X-Band Walk.
Hold a circular band and stand on one end. Cross the band in front of you to take up slack. With your feet starting hip width apart, step to the side without hip hiking or leaning – stay strong through your trunk and remain tall. Follow with the trail leg but don’t let it drag on the ground or snap in. Repeat until you have completed 12 steps. Return to the start by side stepping the other direction – remember not to turn around or else you’ll be performing it on the same side again! Perform 2-sets daily (yeah, I said daily!) before runs.
Well, there you have it – 3 ways you can prevent injuries all season long. (this post is not at all exhaustive and only scrapes the surface)
If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them below. If you have any running friends that you think will benefit from reading this post, please share it with them :)
Last year when I moved east for school, I had to drop many of my regular clients (I’m so sorry!). I directed them to a select number of trainers and also to a couple of fitness websites – one of them being www.myomytv.com – home to Marianne Kane, a passionate fitness trainer, blogger and one of the founding members of Girls Gone Strong.
I can recall one of my previous female clients telling me recently that she’s still following MyoMyTV and incorporating Marianne’s workout ideas into her workouts. (forgot to tell you Marianne!)
Marianne has a very popular Youtube channel where she posts hardcore workouts for all abilities.
I’m stoked as Marianne did a special workout video for JKConditioning, which, she called the JKConditioning Dragon Pyramid [how fitting!?]. I’ll pass things over to Marianne (enjoy!).
I am totally thrilled to have this opportunity to provide you all with a Myomytv-style Kettlebell and Bod Weight Workout Routine! There’s nothing I love more than designing a killer workout and then putting it to the test.
After nearly 3 years of mixing my own workouts with traditional gym-based training, I have seen my body change in the best kind of way – better performance and better shape! I know many lifters who just hate cardio and hate conditioning, but I personally love to have my heart and lungs working to their max and the sweat flying everywhere … it’s such a great feeling once it’s all over to look back at what you’ve done. My blog provides me with the ultimate motivation to keep churning out new workouts week after week … it’s addictive!
So, without further ado, I challenge you to this Pyramid Workout!
I have set the reps at a level I knew would challenge me (actually, I didn’t expect it to take as much out of me as it did :-/ eek!), so I recommend adapting it to your own fitness level (this may well be higher than mine).
There are 5 rounds of the following 5 exercises, and this whole routine took me just under 19 minutes to complete. I have written the reps I did and the weights I used in brackets beside the exercises):