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!

 

 

Updated Goals

 

 

deadlift

We all have goals in our lives, whether it be in the classroom, at work or at the gym.  Goals keep us motivated, keep us focused, fuels the fire and gives us a target to shoot for.  We should always have something to shoot for to strive for to help us get to where we want to be in life.  There is no need to settle for complacency, always keep striving for excellence and being as successful as you can.  What are your goals in the gym right now?  What are you training for?  Are you training to lose weight?  If so, how much weight and when do you want to lose it by?  Are you training to build muscle or get stronger on a specific lift?  Then what are you doing about it and how much stronger do you want to get?  Goals need to be as specific as possible.  The details and the dates are extremely important motivators which help you both consciously and subconsciously.  Instead of saying I want to lose weight, try saying I want to lose 10 lbs by December 31, 2015.  Write your goals down on a piece of paper and put them somewhere you can read them everyday because this will help you achieve them.  You will continue to make the necessary choices to get you one step closer to your goals.  I have been taking some time off with this blog and heavy lifting and now I feel it is time to set some goals and go after them.  I am still going through the process of my lifelong goal of becoming a firefighter and I am putting a lot of time and energy into that and will continue until I succeed.

In the meantime, here are my lifting goals I will try to achieve by the end of the year:

  • Trapbar Deadlift: 405lbs
  • Straight Bar Deadlift: 315lbs
  • 100lb Chin Ups: 10 reps
  • Overhead Press Body Weight: 170lbs
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 100lbs: 10 reps
  • Body Weight Back Squat (170 lbs): 20 reps
  • Weighted Sled Push/Pull: 600 lbs
  • 100 meters on the rower: sub 17 seconds

Set your goals high and go after them.  Train hard, do your best, give it all you got and don’t worry if you fail.  Some of these may be to easy and I will adjust accordingly and super-succeed my expectations and some will be painfully difficult.  Either way I am up for the challenge.  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 Fitness Journey

My fitness journey starts at an early age for me, as early as 5 years old. I started racing big wheels at my local BMX track on Saturday nights. Probably not so much racing as just coasting down the starting hill but needless to say it was fun, active and my first taste of competition. I continued racing BMX on and off for most of my childhood going all the way up to about age 15. I grew up a very active young boy with so much energy and a love for being outside and moving my body. I have a fond memory of always jumping off of everything I could, steps, curbs, chairs, table and couches. As a matter of fact, my dad has a great story of catching me in the act jumping off the bathroom vanity into the bathtub butt naked when I was like 7 or 8. I remember riding my bike a lot around the neighborhood, skateboarding, playing flag football in the street, tee ball in the backyard, jumping on our trampoline and roller-skating. My brothers and I would frequently visit the local park with bike riding trails and jumps and a basketball hoop. Around 4th grade is when I found my first love of sports and that would be basketball. I was very fortunate to have parents who were very supportive of every sport I had an interest in. No matter what I was interested in they helped either build, make or buy something to make us better and be more successful at that sport. Case in point, my parents used their tax return to build a ¾ scale half-basketball court in my backyard complete with a painted key and 3-point line. My dad even installed floodlights on the back of the house so we could play at night. Many, many hours were spent shooting around and many, many 2 on 2 games had been played on that court. It was probably one of the best investments they had ever made.

Growing up in Phoenix, AZ, it goes without saying it was hot in the summer time and with it being so hot that means cooling off in the pool. I was a pool rat every summer, spending lots of my time swimming around, playing and eventually gravitating toward the sport of diving. My grandparents had a pool with a diving board and spending long summer days there it had me hooked at an early age.   It wasn’t until I started going to our local pool that my love for diving skyrocketed. I joined the recreation team and I could not get enough pool time. Often times, diving practice would be from 10-12 and then the pool would open to the public at 12. We would stay there until about 1-130, get our hand stamped on the way out (so we didn’t have to pay to get back in) and then come back from 7-10 at night. We would continue this routine 7 days a week for 3 full summers. One of the great things about the sport of diving for me was the constant progression and everyday trying something new, different and challenging myself. Learning new dives and finding out what I was capable of was my ultimate satisfaction.

Around the time I entered high school is when I really started taking an interest in physical fitness. After mandatory PE my freshman year, I elected to take Systematic Conditioning or Systos as we liked to call it, for the next 3 years. Systos was basically just a weight training class for the full hour taught by our swim coach. It was where I learned the importance of hard work, lifting heavy and getting the most out of your workout. I remember it being quite hard and tough on most days and leaving the class pretty deflated and sore but I knew it was good. I would love to say we took the time to learn all the big lifts properly and we learned correct form and all the different movement patterns but however that was not the case. Yes we squatted and cleaned with weight belts on and yes we did bench press every other day and yes we even did the outlawed leg press. I do remember doing a lot of cleans and not really knowing what they were good for but I knew they were just hard. I remember the great feeling of graduating from 25lbs on each side to the 45 lbs on each side. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, the difference in size between the 25’s and 45’s is probably around 3-4 inches, which means that is 3-4 inches less you have to go down to pick up the bar. It makes a world of difference, just ask any experienced lifter. I remember benching regularly and it was the classic old school workout that if you were to bench press 250 lbs, your sets would be 8, 6, 4, 2, 1 with the 1 rep being around 240-250 and ending with a drop burn out set of 8. We also did some great stuff like box jumps, back squats and heavy jump rope. I remember being captivated by the work you put in and also watching the amount of weight you lifted keep increasing. I am not going to lie, as a high schooler, I was pretty vain and I also loved they way I looked. You had to look good for all the girls, right? I knew weight training was great for me but I never made the connection between weight training and performance back then. Now that I look back on it, it helped me tremendously on the diving board by giving me more strength and power and also keeping me injury free.

After accepting a diving scholarship to the University of Toledo, we were required to lift 2 days a week as a part of our training for the week. Practice was every day from 2-5 with weights after practice on Mondays and Wednesdays. The weight training sessions were hard, really hard. The strength coach had this philosophy of doing only one set of a huge circuit until failure. His belief was to get us strong but also keep us injury free. All we used was the Hammer Strength equipment and you went down the line performing a huge circuit, leg press, leg curl, leg extension, high pull, low pull, chest press and shoulder press. All of your weights and reps were recorded and your weights were pre-set. Your goal was to get 12 reps on every lift but a lot of the times you did not succeed. The weight was really heavy and was designed for you to fail. Sometimes you would only get 9 or 10 depending on your energy that day. If you did make your 12 reps you had to keep going until you failed which was usually around 13 or 14 anyway. That first semester I was so spent after our weight sessions I usually had to go lie down in my dorm room for a little bit. Not good. I remember a couple of times doing some really killer workout complexes in which I nearly passed out. One of them was alternating sets of 1-minute pull-ups followed by 1 minute of dips. Brutal. If you could no longer do a pull up or dip, you were required to hop up and slowly lower yourself down concentrating on the eccentric. One workout I remember distinctly was pushing a 2 x 4 down the Astroturf and back for time. I remember thinking this can’t be that hard and I would finish it no problem. Well let me tell you something, a piece of wood + Astroturf + friction = legs smoked. I remember pushing the board for the full 100 yards on the way down no problem and then coming back it got kind of hairy. I did 30 yards, then 20, then 10, 10, 10, 10, 5, 5 and died. I believe this workout was given for their pure enjoyment.

When I graduated from college I moved back home and took my first personal training job at Bally Total Fitness. I would say I was an okay trainer with a good knowledge of the important exercises to do but I was also more so a machine trainer. It wasn’t for long though. One of my fellow co-workers introduced me to a book that changed my whole outlook and philosophy on training. The book was called Core Performance by Mark Verstegan and it was life changing. Never before had I seen or read anything on the different ways to move your body like I did in this book. There was so much great stuff in it like side lunging, one leg reaching, overhead squatting, lunge and twisting, step and stretch, inch worms, chops, lifts, step ups, bridging, marching bridging and making letters with your arms. I loved all of it and kept doing all the movement prep exercises at my home and loved how much better I felt and how much my body felt more alive. I started transitioning my clients from machine-based exercises to more of this new multi-directional, functional style training and they got great results.   They may have not liked it too much because it was hard, but it was good for them and they were feeling a difference.

Shortly afterwards, I moved to California with my girlfriend and now wife and took a job at a local gym in Corona Del Mar called Shape-Up Fitness. It was there at Shape-Up I was introduced to a whole other side of fitness, the functional fitness genre. I never had any experience with any resistant band work and was required to study multiple DVD’s. I was fascinated and hooked with all this influx of new material and ways to move the body. I loved all the combination exercises you could do with the bands like: punches, alternating pulls, squat push, squat pull, skiers and rotations. I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by my work to attend a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) seminar where I learned how to screen my clients for movement pattern deficiencies. The FMS is a very useful screen to see how my clients move and corrective exercises to give them to get them to move better. I finally felt like I was evolving as a trainer and was finding great ways to move my clients and get them great results. I must say I am extremely grateful to have been surrounded by great trainers who made me step up and get on the same level as them and trainers who encouraged learning and staying current in the fitness world. We attended many seminars every year to further enhance our knowledge of training, learn new exercises and get fired up for training again and again.

A little while later, I became certified on a great piece of equipment called the TRX. The TRX is hands down one of the best exercise tools ever created. It is portable, easy to use, multi-directional and all body weight specific. With it being a suspension trainer, it can provide an unbelievable amount of resistance and make classic exercises that much harder. Just going through and completing the certification was a killer. I remember the instructor basically going through the whole manual with us and making us perform every single exercise in it for what seemed like an extensive amount of time. We were all extremely sore and tired after that certification for a couple of days but we knew it was great because we knew how much better our clients and we would get. Around this time is when I became good friends with a fellow trainer named Kyle from Bare5 and we went on another fitness journey together. Kyle introduced me onto another life changing book called The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. It was from The Primal Blueprint that we learned not only about nutrition by more so the importance of getting outside, connecting with the earth, sprinting, walking, lifting heavy and playing. We felt some of these elements were missing from our everyday lives and it was important to incorporate them back into your routine. Often times we would be seen playing Frisbee outside together on a grass field with no shoes on and shirts off or monkeying around on the playground or climbing trees or just shooting basketball. Whatever it may be, we knew it was important to get outside and move our bodies however and whenever we could. I learned that as much as gyms are great, you often times can get an even better workout outside. Some of my greatest and most enjoyable workouts have been outside playing around on monkey bars or just finding a tree to do different exercises on. I love just going with the flow, doing what comes naturally to me and not worrying about numbers, reps or sets and enjoying the movement.

My fitness journey spans over a time period of 20 years and I have learned an incredible amount. I am grateful for every book I was introduced to, all the like- minded people I became friends with, all the presenters at the seminars I attend and all of the certifications I acquired. I have definitely learned a lot and look forward continuing to learn and grow as a person and as a trainer.

Throughout my fitness journey the most important things I learned are: strength is important, move often, move well, use your body weight, get outside, go barefoot, play often, forget what others may think, enjoy the process and have fun. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day, now get out there and move.

Park Play

A video of me showing that you can exercise anywhere, anytime and with anybody as long as you are willing to use your resources and your environment.  I try to give you a good example of ways to get your exercise in while you are still playing with your kids at the park.  Yes, this video did take me a span of two days to shoot because of my kids but also I know I am providing a great example for them by them watching me exercise.  There are ways to incorporate fitness and family play time into everything you do, you just have to be willing to put your guard down, not care what people think and take advantage of every situation you are in.  Have fun, chase your kids around, run, jump, climb, swing and move your body the way it was meant to move.  Watch your kids move and learn from them, they are nonstop movers.  They only know two speeds, slow or sprint and they are great little monkeys.  If we would all go back to being kids again I think we would be a happier, healthier and more fit nation as a whole.

 

Workout Montage

A short video of things I have been working on, new toys I have been playing with and different fun ways to move my body.  I am shifting my concentration from heavy lifting to more body weight, gymnastic and kettlebell training.  Enjoy