What’s Your Workout Plan?

It is Monday and it is time to start the week off right by getting in that very important and always needed workout.  When you roll into the gym, what is your plan of attack?  Do you do some cardio first before hitting the weights?  Do you do some light stretches and hit up the machines?  Or since it being Monday, do you go right to the first available bench and start banging out your bench press routine?  What is your plan of attack when you workout?  Do you even have a plan or do you just ‘play it by ear’?  In order to get the most out of your exercise routine it is best to have a plan of attack.  Now everybody’s plan is going to differ slightly due to different goals, but irregardless everyone should have a plan.  What is it you are after?  What are the goals you are working towards?  Is it weight loss, muscular strength, muscle hypertrophy or just general fitness?  Establishing your goals will help you establish your plan and what you need to do in order to get the results you are after.

My plan right now is to get stronger on several of the big lifts like: squat, deadlift, weighted pull ups, overhead press and dumbbell bench press.  My plan for doing this is lifting 3 days a week and targeting specifically those lifts.  The only way to get stronger at those lifts is to perform those lifts(I know it sounds crazy).  Even with my plan, I have a plan inside my plan and that is the way I design my workout and the order in which I perform those movements.  I believe every great workout starts with a pretty good warm up session.  Your warm up should be part of your workout and your workout should be your warm up.

My warm up usually consists of: push ups, pull ups, overhead squat, mini-band walks, 1 leg reaches, side lunges, bridges, marching bridges, bird dogs, Turkish get-ups, farmers carry, suit case carry, overhead carry, chops and lifts.

After all that, my body is ready to begin the meat and potatoes portion of the workout.  Now I strongly believe every workout can strongly benefit by starting with a big lower body lift like squat, deadlift, snatches or cleans.  Performing these first is best because you are fresh, have the most energy and they recruit the most muscles.  Start with a warm up set and then start to get into your routine.  Good rep schemes I really like to use are: 3 sets of 8, 3 sets of 5, 5  sets of 5 and 5 sets of 3.  The rep scheme depends on how you are feeling and what you are trying to accomplish.  If you are looking to put on some size then 3 sets of 8 is great and if you are just looking to get stronger then 3 or 5 sets of 5 is perfect.  Once I am done completing all my sets on that lift, I shift to an upper body to lower body superset.  Then I go into a 3 exercise set circuit and into a 4 exercise circuit.  Always focusing on strength and trying to get the major movements in.

An example of this is my workout today:

Straight Bar Deadlift: 225lbs (5 x 3)

Straight Bar Overhead Press 95, 105, 115 lbs(3 x 5) / Back Squat 95,105,115 (3 x 10)

Seated Cable Row 160, 170, 175 (3 x 8), Incline Chest Press 60, 65, 70 (3 x 8), 1 leg squats off the box (3 x 8)

Kettlebell Squat Clean & Press 30, 40, 40 (3 x5), Double Kettlebell Swings, 30,40,40 (3 x 10), TRX Row (3 x 15), Rotational Sand Bag Back lunges 40, 50,50 (3 x 20)

Cardio Finisher: 3 rounds of 100 meters on the rower for time

If you look at the example you will see, I covered pretty much all of the basics lifts and movements and not a lot of filler work in between.  I would perform each circuit all the way through before taking a rest.  Your workouts can be more effective and productive too if you have a plan.  Start it out with a big lift and then add in all of the other movements like push, pull, press, squat and lunge.  Try to think of ways to move around a little more at the gym and different ways to do mini circuits.  You will get more out of your workout in a lot less time. And always remember to do a cardio finisher, something you can go all out in and get your heart rate up fast such as: sprints, rower, battle ropes, sled, kettlebell swings.  Whatever you want as long as it does the job.

Have a fantastic Monday everyone.  Remember to go out there and do something great!

 

 

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.”

 

 

Exercise vs. Movement

We all know moving our bodies and exercising are important and vital for our health and longevity.  We know it is great for weight loss, weight maintenance, bone health, heart health and reduces the risk of diabetes and all of the other problems which can occur from lack of exercise.  We all have heard from several different sources whether it be a friend, TV, media or a fitness expert on which form of exercise is best.  Some may say weight training is ideal or cardio is better or yoga is best or maybe even exercise classes is the best form to choose from.  However, what do all these modalities have as the common denominator?  Movement.  Movement is the key factor for almost all of your general fitness needs.  We need to move, we need to twist, bend, jump, run, skip, dance, squat, leap, climb, carry, push, pull, lunge, throw and crawl.  We need to learn to incorporate more movement into our everyday lives and not just get enough of it when we go to the gym.  I am not talking about movement which may be involuntary like walking from your car to work or from your desk to the water cooler but movement in which you are fully engaged, aware and present.  Do not get me wrong, I love exercise and I love lifting weights and getting stronger and seeing the results but what I love even more is being able to move my body well in all different planes of motion without limitation or struggle.  I love being able to perform almost any activity or sport without ever thinking twice about injury, struggle or not being strong enough.  If you are able to move well then you should able to do most other things well.  There is a huge difference between movement and exercise and I would like to share these things with you so hopefully we can all get more movement into our lives daily.

  • Exercise is about repetition of known patterns while play(movement) is about discovery and exploration
  • Exercise is about enduring unpleasant sensation: play is about finding delight in diverse movement forms
  • Exercise is about repeating the known; play is about extending into the unknown
  • Exercise requires external motivation to maintain participation; play is inherently rewarding and self-reinforcing
  • Exercise tends to be single plane; functional movement is multi-joint and multi-plane
  • Exercise is monotonous; movement is engaging
  • Exercise is specialized; movement is diverse
  • Exercise is scripted; movement is spontaneous and opportunistic
  • Exercise feels mechanized and forced; movement feels expressive and creative
  • Exercise is a means towards an end; movement is an end in itself
  • Exercise is generally done in the gym; movement can be done anywhere

Movement is better because it offers more options for physical creativity and expression.  There’s more possibility and more room for the imagination.  Be a movement opportunist; look for movement at home, in the workplace, in parks, airports and in the parking lot.  Look for ways to add spice and extra movement into you daily life, jump up on that ledge you pass by everyday, balance on the parking curbs, do some pull ups on a stairway or tree you pass, skip across the parking lot or empty field, run up and down the stairs a few times, anything that will be different and new to your ordinary routine.  Dance is also another great way to incorporate movement into your day.  Dance is fun, pulsating and hip gyrating and is always fun to do by yourself or with your friends.  Dancing gets the body moving in all planes of motion and works all of the major muscles without you even thinking about it.  Learn to dance with other things like the terrain, gravity, water, bushes, the ground, boulders, rocks, stairs and sidewalks.  Learn to make the world your playground and let the movement begin.  I have transitioned to this way of working out and absolutely love it.  I no longer care or think about sets, reps or numbers but I concentrate more so on the feeling of the exercise, how engaging it is and how much enjoyment I am getting out of it.  I am often at the playground with my kids and am constantly playing around with them and I am always fascinated by their movements.  If you want a great workout, try following around a young kid on the playground and copying everything they do, I guarantee you will get a great workout without even thinking about it.  Move your body and play as much as you can but also know that you still have to exert yourself a little bit.  Not too much but just enough to get your heart rate and ventilatory rate up.  If we want to reap the health and performance rewards, sweat and exertion are still necessary.  We still need to challenge our tissue and push our physical comfort zones.

And remember, if it feels monotonous and boring, it probably is!  If this is the case, stop doing it.  Find something else that is not boring and is more engaging.  I find my best workout are the ones which are unplanned, outside, shoes and shirt off, going with flow and not worrying about the outcome.  Try it sometime and I bet you will be amazed on how much better you feel.  Movement is best and movement trumps exercise every time.  Have a fun and movement filled day.

An hour of basketball feels like 15 minutes.  An hour on a treadmill feels like a weekend in traffic school. ~ David Walters

 

 

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.

 

Build Your Foundation

When building a house, one of the first and most important steps is building a strong and almost indestructible base.  The foundation of the house needs to be strong, reliable and handle the load and structure of the rest of the house.  Without a strong foundation the house would be sagging in some areas, breaking off in other areas or possibly crumpling under the heavy load of the house.  Your body is your house and your legs are your foundation.  Your legs are probably the most important and under-worked body part of your body which is unfortunate because the legs set up the rest of the body for a wonderfully powerful and strong foundation.  I understand, nobody really likes to work legs.  It is hard, very tiring, pretty exhausting and leads to people walking funny down stairs and getting in and out of chairs.  Our legs need to be our foundation for our bodies and I would suggest starting with them first every time you train.  I have been in this industry long enough to know how some of the workout schedules go, especially more so since moving out here to South Carolina.  Let me break it down for you and see if you fall into this kind of split: Monday- Chest and triceps, Tuesday- Back and biceps, Wednesday- shoulders and abs, Thursday- legs? No I think going out sounds better, so Friday- legs?  No, still hurting from going out on Thursday, I will get it next.  The next week comes and they fall into the same rotation.  The reasons why I don’t like this kind of program is because for any of you who know me, know I love full body workouts.  You should workout your whole body every time and then take a day off to rest.  We are not body builders so we do not need to isolate body parts on specific days.  If you do full body workout then you will burn more calories, lower your body fat percentage, increase your metabolic rate and hopefully shred some fat and get stronger and leaner in the process.  Maybe your workout routine is a little different and maybe some of you like to do a upper body lower body split which is fine.  Just make sure when you lift your legs, you to start with a big compound lift like a squat or a deadlift.

How we start our fitness programs dictate how successful we are and what we want to get out of it.  Start with your legs every time you workout.  I always attack my legs on the days I work out.  I go after them and make them pay the price because I know that it is good for me and know it will translate over to everything else I want to do.  Our legs are our powerhouse and we need to work them as best as we can.  Not only do I want strong legs for activities of daily life, like hiking, playing with my kids, carrying groceries, flying up the stairs and jumping around but I also want strong powerful legs because I know it is great for my golf game.  I want to hit the ball longer and farther and one of the best ways to do that is to have strong powerful hips.  After your warm up, pick a compound movement like front squat, deadlift, kettlebell swings or back squat and perform anywhere between 3 – 5 sets.  Some of the rep ranges I have been playing around with lately is 5 sets of 5 reps.  5 x 5 is great for gaining pure strength which each set going a little bit heavier and I also like to do 3 sets of 8.  Generally, I start with my main lift and perform just that until it is done and then I move on to some mini circuits where I incorporate an upper body lift and a lower body lift.  It is also good to start with your legs because you are fresh and full of energy because we all know how hard it is to squat or deadlift well when you are tired or are running run low on energy.

Build your foundation and make it strong, tough and powerful.  Start with your legs and and you will see great gains in your strength, your physique and your performance.  Have a wonderful foundation building day.sq

Hump Day Workout

Today’s workout was a typical lifting workout but with a different spin on it.  I performed 3 sets of 8 reps but I timed my rest period to only 1 minute and it worked me pretty good.  I was surprised how much work I got down in so little time.  After performing 5-6 big lifts with this rep range and timed rest, I look up at the clock and only 25 minutes had passed.  Which got me thinking about how much more effective our workouts can be if we control one of the variables like your rest break.  Think about how long you really actually rest in between sets, your rest might be getting a drink a water, talking to the cute girl on the outer thigh machine or watching a Sportscenter highlight, but I guarantee it is longer than 1 minute.  Get on the clock right after you finish your first set and give yourself 1 minute before you do the next one, bang out the next set, wait another minute and do set 3 and you are done with that exercise.  Time to move on to the next exercise.  Realistically speaking each exercise should take no more than 4 minutes max.  My goal in the gym is to get in, get after it and get out.  Make your workouts more efficient and effective and you will see some great results.

My workout looked like this:

Warm Up

Performed as a 3 exercise circuit

3 rounds of

8 Overhead Squats, 8 Push Ups, 8 Pull Ups

Workout

Front Squat 3 x 8 (95lbs)

Bent Over Row 3 x 8 (135,155, 165)

Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8 (165, 175, 185)

Kettlebell Swings 3 x 20 (28 kg ~ 61 lbs)

Dumbbell Chest Press 3 x 8 (70, 75, 75)

Hammer Strength High Pull 3 x 8 (90, 100, 100)

Dumbbell Squat Curl Press 3 x 8 (25,35,45)

Ab Wheel Roll Outs 3 x 20

Done in 45 minutes and feeling it.  Time to tackle the day.

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