Use What You Got

My daughter Hartley pushing an ab wheel while wearing a mini band as a belt

My daughter Hartley pushing an ab wheel while wearing a mini band as a belt

 

If you are remotely into fitness, which assuming most of you who read this blog are, then chances are you have some old exercise equipment lying around your house.  It may be buried in the basement, in the back of your closet, somewhere in your garage or perhaps it is used as the world’s most expensive clothes hanger.   Whatever the case may be, take inventory of what you have and what you have available to you and chances are you do not have to go very far to get in a great workout.  Maybe you have an old jump rope somewhere, a pull up bar, a few sets of old dumbbells, a mini trampoline, a pogo stick, an ab cruncher, an old treadmill or Aerodyne bike(like my dad has) or even a thigh master, whatever it is gather it together and see what you can use to get some work done.  Sometimes the biggest limit to our workouts is imagination.  If we could find ways to use what we have then we would all get great workouts in all the time and would not be stressed for time.  My workouts consist of about 20 minutes in my back yard using the limited amount of equipment I have.

Now, I am a trainer and I have collected a few items over the years but mostly the things I believe are extremely valuable, universal and ideal.  My list of equipment consists of:

  • 35lb Kettlebell
  • 53lb Kettlebell
  • 5 lb dumbbells
  • 8lb dumbbells
  • Green, Red and Blue Mini Bands
  • Orange JC Band
  • Yellow JC Band
  • Ab Wheel
  • Ab Wheel for your feet
  • Jump Rope
  • TRX
  • Rings
  • 12lb Body Bar
  • Push Up Bars

Like I said before, we should also use whatever we have in our surrounding areas and environments.  You live close to a park or big hill? Great, think about ways to incorporate those into your workouts.  Parks are great for monkey bars, pull ups, swings and even just a bench or picnic table.  And don’t even get me started on the benefits of hill sprints, yes they are hard and yes they punishing but my God are they good for you and worth it.  Have stairs at home?  What about some step ups or push ups or bear crawls up and down your steps.  I am fortunate enough to live right around the corner from a park and I am always messing around at it when playing with my kids.  I probably bang out at least 30 or so pull ups every time I am there.  Fitness and exercise can be right under your nose if we just open our eyes to see what is available.  Don’t be afraid of looking foolish or silly or what others may think of you.  Just move your body the best you can because our body is by far the best machine ever created.

Here is a list of things around me I use in my workouts as well:

  • 2 foot high log stumps
  • Mini tramp
  • Pogo Stick
  • Golf Club
  • Grass
  • Longboard Skateboard

My workouts currently are in a maintenance phase.  I am trying to maintain what I have and continue being as fit and active as I can.  I do not have access to a gym and I do not like to do heavy lifting in the summer time anyways, so my workouts are mostly body weight, circuit style training.  My circuits consists of:

  • Jumps on the log, step ups on the log, squat rows with the band, push ups off the push up bars and recover with jumps on the mini trampoline for about a minute
  • Kettlebell swings, kettlebell squats, squat push with the band, lunge stance alternating pulls with band, side lunges, band rotations and recover with chipping 10 golf balls
  • 1 leg jumps on the logs, 1 arm band punch, 1 arm band row, alternating hand kettlebell swings, lunge jumps, burpees and finish with mountain climbers

Generally I try to never repeat the same circuit or exercise and always keep my body moving.  If I did push ups last time, I may do push ups with rotation the next time.  If I did double arm row one time, I will do alternating the next, if I did squat push then I will do lunge push.  Variety makes a world of difference on even the simplest exercises.  Finding ways to mix it up and keep it fresh makes the workout go by faster and is more enjoyable because you are not dreading the same circuit again and again.

Take inventory of what you have around and find creative ways to incorporate them into a workout, chances are you have more than you need right at your disposal.

“If you give a half assed effort, half the time, you end with a quarter of the results.”

 

 

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My Favorite Exercises

When it comes to exercise, we all have exercises which we love to do and perform almost every time we hit the gym.  It may be push ups, pull ups, leg press, the weighted ab machine, calf raises or broom twists, whatever it may be, we all perform the exercises we like and enjoy.  One of the harmful aspects of always performing the exercises we love and enjoy is that we are not getting the benefit from all of the exercises we are not doing.  We cannot get any better and get the results we are after if we keep doing the same thing over and over again.  We all know the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” In order to get to the next level, we all must do the exercises we hate, do them often and make our weaknesses our strengths.  There is a reason why we hate these exercises whether it may be they hurt, we are not good at them or they are just not fun.

It is time to change things up a bit and think about starting out your workout sessions with those dreaded exercises in which you loath doing.  Try doing them when you are fresh and full of energy and then you can get to all of those exercises you love to do afterwards.  I am not a big fan of Turkish Get Ups but I usually try to get a set or two in with my warm up.  Why?  Because I know they are good for me, I know they are hard to do and I know they are one heckuva way to warm up the body.  Now for me, there is a difference between exercises in which I like and exercises in which I can not do.  I can not perform certain exercise because they cause me physical harm.  I love barbell bench press, barbell cleans and dips but I have learned to not do them anymore because they hurt my shoulder.  I hate to say this but, as I have gotten older (ahem) I have learned to eliminate these exercises from my training program to continue the longevity of my training career.  If you have exercises such as these, then it might be time to think about retiring them and moving on to something more effective.

I want to share with you a list of all my favorite exercises in which I perform on a regular basis.  A lot of them may be performed only one time for the warm up but every one of these exercises I am going to list I believe are important and valuable to any training program.  To make things easier I am going to break it up into categories.  Look over the lists and see how many exercises match up to yours

Body Weight

  • Bridge
  • Marching Bridge
  • Bird Dog
  • Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Overhead Squat
  • Single Leg Squat
  • Side Lunge
  • Curtsy Lunge
  • Split Squat
  • 1 Leg Reach
  • T’s, Y’s, L’s, W’s
  • Push Up
  • Pull Up
  • Inverted Pull Up
  • Handstand
  • 1 Leg Step Up
  • Jump Rope
  • Skipping
  • Side Shuffle
  • Carioca
  • High Knees
  • Butt Kickers

This is pretty much my warm up.

Medicine Ball

  • Ball Slams
  • Ball Chest Press
  • Side Lateral Toss
  • Front Lateral Toss
  • Overhead Toss
  • Back Lunge and Twist
  • Woodchops

Kettlebell

  • Turkish Get Ups
  • Goblet Squat
  • Swings
  • 1 Arm Swings
  • 1 Arm Snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Farmers Carry
  • Waiters Carry
  • Suitcase Carry
  • Single Arm Split Squat
  • Single Arm Squat
  • Single Arm Shoulder Press
  • Cleans
  • Single Leg Deadlift
  • Sumo Squat
  • 1 Arm Row

Barbell

  • Back Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Shoulder Press
  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Dumbbells

  • Chest Press
  • Incline Press
  • Single Arm Chest Press
  • 1 Arm Row
  • 1 Arm Overhead Press
  • Double Arm Squat Curl Press
  • Renegade Row
  • 1 Arm Snatch

Bands

  • Squat Press
  • Squat Row
  • Split Stance Alternating Presses
  • Split Stance Alternating Rows
  • Lunge and Press

Cable Pulley

  • Squat Stance Chops (High to Low)
  • Split Stance Chops
  • Squat Stance Lifts (Low to High)
  • Split Stance Lifts
  • Split Stance 1 Arm Punch
  • Split Stance 1 Arm Row

Well that pretty much raps it up for me and most of the exercises I try to perform regularly.  I know it may seem like a long and detailed list, which it is, but I would say I perform almost all of these exercises within the week and not all in one day.  For me, it all depends on my mood, my energy and what I am feeling for the day.  If I feel great, full of energy and fired up, I generally warm up  and get after it with a lot of body weight high explosive type exercises.  Lots of high heart rate stuff, medicine ball training and sprints.  Other days I may feel like toning it down a bit and working on some core essential moves like the body weight stuff, some band exercises and my chops and lifts with the cable stations.  Then sometimes I feel like just loading the body and getting my lift on with some barbell work, dumbbells and kettlebells.  I keep it short, sweet and heavy mainly sticking with either a 3 x 5 or 5 x 5 reps and set range.  Think about your program and what you can do to improve it, make it more effective and reach the results you are after.

Remember the warm up is important and your warm up should be your workout and your workout should be the warm up.

 

Machines That Need to Retire

Over the past 6 1/2 plus years I have to admit it, I have been spoiled.  I have been working in personal training studios with the best trainers, the best methodologies and the best equipment the fitness world has to offer.  You name it, I have pretty much worked with it, slam balls, ropes, the Keiser line, kettlebells, TRX etc.  Working in training studios run by trainers and designed by trainers we know what is good for our clients and what our clients can benefit the most from.  With that being said, now that I have moved and switched jobs to a membership gym, I fortunately (or unfortunately?)have forgotten about all of the machines that the every day gym goers use.  I see all of these machines, all in a line, looking shiny and easy to use and I can’t but help think what a waste of space.  I know machines are easy to use for almost everybody and you can gain strength from their use but I think most of them are causing more harm than they are producing.  I am a huge fan of big, complex, full body, body weight movements and not so much with the isolation movements that machines have to offer.  We can benefit so much more from loading our bodies with a lunge, squat, one leg reach, push up or pull up than any machine can provide.  We learn to use our whole body in its natural range of motion while effectively engaging a lot of stabilizing and opposing muscle groups.  Machines are not capable of offering that to you.  They are only capable of making you stronger for that specific muscle group in that specific plane of motion and this is why they need to hang it up and retire.

The machines which need to retire are as followed:

  • Seated Inner Thigh
  • Seated Outer Thigh
  • Seated Leg Curl
  • Seated Leg Extension
  • Seated Leg Press
  • Seated Calf Raise
  • Seated Chest Press
  • Seated Dips
  • Seated Bicep Curls
  • Seated Chest Flys
  • Seated Row
  • Seated Lat Pull Down
  • Seated Back Extension
  • Seated Ab Crunch
  • Seated Shoulder Press
  • Seated Shoulder Lateral Raise

After taking a quick look at that list, did you notice a commonality? Everything is in the seated position.  Unfortunately with this day and age most of us are in the seated position for way to much of the day with sitting to eat breakfast, sitting in your car driving to work, sitting at your desk, sitting in meetings and sitting on your couch at home.  With all of that sitting going on, why would you go to the gym and sit some more while moving some weight around?  You are creating more havoc on your hips and back than your could ever imagine.  We need to get out of the sitting position and open up those hips and utilize the strength in your whole body.  One of the most eye opening books I read a long time ago when I first got into training was The Rules of Lifting by Alwyn Cosgrove.  In the book, Mr. Cosgrove says there are 6 movements that should be done in order to achieve a great full body workout on those 6 movements are:

  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Squat
  4. Lunge
  5. Twist
  6. Deadlift

Easy, simple and very basic.  Using those 6 movements are what I design my workout programs for my clients and for myself every single time.  Most of the 6 movements can be performed with very little equipment at all and would not require you to use an real machines.  As much as I am not a fan of Crossfit, I started to think about what machines they use and the only real machine I could think of is the rowing machine.  The rowing machine is seated yes, but you get to use your arms and your legs and it is one heckuva great workout.  I feel the fitness industry is coming to a point where they see the value of free space and open gyms with equipment all along the walls and doing away with the clutter of big bulky machines.  Gyms should update to more balls, bands, kettlebells, TRX’s, pull up bars and free weights.  It is time to move into the next stage of fitness, learning to load, move and use your body without the assistance of machines.

Retire those machines, stick to the 6 movements and learn to use your body the best way you can.

Workouts are like brushing my teeth; I don’t think about them, I just do them. The decision has already been made”. – Patti Sue Plumer, U.S. Olympian

 

Lifting Days

In my gym we have been geared up and training hard for a mantathlon challenge we will be  running in June.  I have been lifting a lot more weights and training hard getting my body ready for this challenge.  Well with a month before the competition I decided to give it a go and see where my numbers stand.  My current weight is 170 lbs so for a couple of the  exercises you have to do half of your body weight which for me is 85 lbs.

Exercise # 1: Bench Press your body weight.  I have a bum shoulder so I used 80 lb dumbbells instead.  10 reps

Exercise # 2: Full Hang Pull Ups: 20 reps

Exercise # 3: Shoulder Press Half body weight: 19 reps

Exercise #4: Dips plus a quarter of body weight( 42.5 lbs): 12 reps

Exercise # 5: Barbell Curls Half body weight: 5 reps

My score of 66 out of 100 is not too bad.  It is 10 better than my first attempt.  Definitely see where my weaknesses are and what I need to work on.

SInce this all upper body I decided to split it up and do the lower half today.

Warm Up: Lunges in all directions, overhead squat, band walks, jump rope

 

Barbell Complex 3 x 3 (65, 85, 95 lbs) all right in a row:

Hang Cleans, Front Squat, Shoulder Press, Back Squat, Good Mornings

Superset with 3 x10 hanging leg raises

 

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (95lbs) 3 x 8

Paired with Supine Leg Raises 3 x 10

 

Kettlebell Swings with the big boy (106lbs) 3 x 10

with 3 x 10 Ab Wheel Roll outs

 

Workout Routine

General workout with a fellow co-worker

3 sets of 15

  1. TRX Atomic Push up
  2. TRX Row

3 sets of 10

  1. TRX Rear Foot Suspended Split Squat
  2. 1 Leg Rope Chop

3 sets of 10

  1. Single Arm DB Squat Curl Press (30,40, 45lbs)
  2. Horizontal Rope Pull to Push

3 sets of 10

  1. Kettlebell Swing (53, 103, 103 lbs)
  2. Barbell Bent Over Row (80, 85, 85)
  3. 1 Leg Pogo’s off the Powerplate

Finished off with 3 laps of forward and backward bear crawl non stop.  Roughly 30 yards.

 

Female Fitness Motivation

Hello all, I hope you all had a fantastic ACTION packed weekend like myself.  We went up to Big Bear Lake for a weekend getaway for some snowboarding fun with a bunch a great friends.  I believe anytime you can get away and enjoy some fun outside doing something active that you love to do with the people you love then it is a win win.  I love snowboarding because I love being outside in the wilderness above the tree lines and challenging and stimulating my body with new movement and fun.  All my hard work training in the gym certainly paid off because I was not sore at all after snowboarding all day on Saturday.

I believe half of the reasons why we workout is so we can do the things we love to do without any limitations or injuries.  We workout so that our activities of daily life can be completed without even thinking about them.  We want chores, errands and activities to be done with out being physically demanding on our bodies or taxing them in any way.  I have a great video below of some females putting in the work and getting it done.  I am not a huge fan of gender training because I believe we are all the same and should train relatively the same way demanding on your goals.  I do however, really like this video because it shows how we should all be training and how gyms now a days should start to look.  I believe you will see more gyms come around to these bare bones type of facilities with basic equipment like TRX’s, kettlebells, sandbags, tires, sledgehammers, rings and monkey bars.  I would love to go and play at this gym.

Let’s get motivated and keep the ACTION going this year.  Lots of ACTION will produce lots of great results and success.

Sprint Circuit

If any of you read my posts on Monday, I had told you I love watching videos that open up my mind, inspire me and push me to be more creative.  Well, I have become inspired and wanted to show you all what I have come up with.  I want to show you a circuit in which the numbers do not matter or the path to get the job done.  I go from sprint on the treadmill to over or under the box however I choose to squat, clean press with the kettlebells to some bear crawls to explosive push ups to the ropes to pull ups to jumps over the benches.  Continuous movement.  No stopping, no interruptions.  Just transitioning from one exercise to the next without very little rest in between.

No where in this circuit was I worried about reps, sets or time.  I would simply perform an exercise as best as I could for as long as I wanted to.  My primary focus was full body movements and enjoying the exercises.  And boy did I enjoy this circuit.

“You can have results or you can have your excuses. You cannot have both.”