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Maja

I make people awesome at life. Strength coach living in Toronto. PN1. Agatsu Kettlbell Instructor Level 1. CSEP-CPT

Mastering Movement: Part Three – The Press

Programming, Strength, Training, Workout By October 13, 2019 No Comments

The press is one of our most used functional patterns in our day to day life, especially in basic tasks like pushing open doors. The press primarily works our pectoral muscles (chest), our deltoids (shoulders), and triceps (that back of the arms.

Today we are going to take the opportunity to go over some of the best pressing exercises you can incorporate into your training routine. These movements are: the incline press, the push up, the overhead press, the bench press, and the push press. While there are plenty of other great pressing exercises you can choose to train, these are some of the basics that most people can do safely and efficiently.

The Incline Press

The incline press is a great movement, especially for this who are new to training. It’s fantastic because for new trainees because they are supported by the bench and can focus on the pressing aspect of the exercise. Because of the inclined angle it can be a good option for those who don’t yet have the mobility to access the overhead position.

To set up, start with the bench on a medium to low incline. Sit down on the bench making sure your feet are symmetrical and firmly pressing into the floor. On the bench, your hips, shoulder blades, and crown of your head should be making contact with a small space between the bench and your lower back. With the weight in your hands, start with the arms extend, lower the dumbbells down by pulling them down to your chest. At the bottom position, your elbows should be slightly out from your body but not straight out. Do not relax your muscles in the bottom position, keep tension across the muscles, and then squeeze the muscles of your chest to push the weight back up to the starting position. Perform the incline bench press for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

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On to the next one in our primal movement series. This week we are dissecting pushing exercises. Pushing exercises generally work the deltoids (shoulders), pectorals (chest), and triceps (back of the arm.) These exercises carry over heavily in our day to day like especially when it comes to things like pushing open doors. _ Our first exercise in this series is the dumbbell incline bench press, I like to use this exercise with novice trainees because it has an easy learning curve and will help develop proper pressing mechanics and enhance stability due to the use of dumbbells. Because of the incline position of the bench, I also find it's easier for people to learn how to properly set up their body initially as compared to a flat bench. _ To set up, start with the bench on a medium to low incline. Sit down on the bench making sure your feet are symmetrical and firmly pressing into the floor. On the bench, your hips, shoulder blades, and crown of your head should be making contact with a small space between the bench and your lower back. With the dumbbells in your hands, start with the arms extend, lower the dumbbells down by pulling them down to your chest. At the bottom position, your elbows should be slightly out from your body but not straight out. Do not relax your muscles in the bottom position, keep tension across the muscles, and then squeeze the muscles of your chest to push the weight back up to the starting position. _ Perform the dumbbell incline bench press for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions depending on your goals. _ Do you have a weak upper body? Want to get delts like Serena Williams? Send me a direct message to get started with personal training (Toronto only) or online coaching.

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The Push Up

The push up is a movement that can empower like no other, being able to control your own body is a fantastic skill to have. This is a movement I like to use with trainees of all levels, from those who are beginner to those that are more advanced. Newer trainees can start by working variations of the push up that have their hands elevated to make the movement easier than working from the floor.

When setting up for the push up, you want to set the hands underneath and slightly wider than the shoulders. Your feet should be about hip width apart. As you descend, lower yourself down while staying stable through your trunk (engaging your glutes will help this.) Lower yourself to till at least your shoulders and elbows are at the same height, and if you can lower yourself all the way to the floor. To lift yourself up, press your hands into the ground and try to push the ground away from you. Perform as many sets and reps needed for your goals and needs – lower reps for strength and higher reps for hypertrophy and endurance.

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The push up is usually one of my favourite progressions for pressing exercises when working with new trainees. Getting your first push up can feel very empowering, getting and being strong enough to move your own body can provide a lot of confidence in day to day life. _ The push up provides a lot of bang for you buck by engaging most muscles in the body while working the chest and triceps. With beginners, I will usually start them with their hands on elevation to make it easier, and then gradually progress them to the floor over time as they get stronger. _ When setting up for the push up, you want to set the hands underneath and slightly wider than the shoulders. Your feet should be about hip width apart. As you descend, lower yourself down while staying stable through your trunk (engaging your glutes will help this.) Lower yourself to till at least your shoulders and elbows are at the same height, and if you can lower yourself all the way to the floor. To lift yourself up, press your hands into the ground and try to push the ground away from you. Perform as many sets and reps needed for your goals and needs – lower reps for strength and higher reps for hypertrophy and endurance. _ To make the push up easier, work on an incline. To make the push up harder add extra load with a plate or a weighted vest. _ Wanna get your first full push up from the floor? Send me a direct message to get started with personal training or online coaching.

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The Overhead Press

The overhead press is a great option because it accesses a large range of motion – however, because of this, many trainees will also need to do some mobility work before being able to train the overhead press safely and effectively.

To perform the standing dumbbell overhead press, start by standing with your feet about hip width apart, keep your pelvis and ribcage stacked parallel to each other without allowing the lower back to extend. With the dumbbells at shoulder height (the rack position) have the elbows slightly in front of the torso with the wrists over the shoulder. Push the dumbbells upward, while keeping the wrists inline with the shoulders. At the top of the movement your hands should be stacked over your shoulders, your hands shouldn’t not be ahead of you nor behind you. Lower the weights back down to the starting position, do not relax your muscles at the bottom of the movement. Rinse and repeat. Perform this exercise for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps depending on your programming needs and goals.

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Today our push series continues with the dumbbell overhead press. This is a great movement the strengthens the upper body through a large range of motion by using the deltoids (shoulders) and triceps (back of the arm.) Because this movement does require a significant amount of shoulder mobility, I tend to use at as a pressing progression further along in programming with clients who need to spend more time improving their joint mobility in order to perform them safely. _ To perform the standing dumbbell overhead press, start by standing with your feet about hip width apart, keep your pelvis and ribcage stacked parallel to each other without allowing the lower back to extend. With the dumbbells at shoulder height (the rack position) have the elbows slightly in front of the torso with the wrists over the shoulder. Push the dumbbells upward, while keeping the wrists inline with the shoulders. At the top of the movement your hands should be stacked over your shoulders, your hands shouldn't not be ahead of you nor behind you. Lower the weights back down to the starting position, do not relax your muscles at the bottom of the movement. Rinse and repeat. Perform this exercise for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps depending on your programming needs and goals. _ The dumbbell overhead press is best suited for hypertrophy and muscular endurance work. If you would like to do overhead pressing for strength, it's best to use a barbell in that case. _ Want to have shoulders that strong and mobile? Send me a direct message to get started with personal training or online coaching.

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The Bench Press

The bench press, specifically when done with a barbell, is a great way to increase your overall strength. It’s been a staple in many programs of powerlifters, bodybuilders, and general gym enthusiasts for many years.

To perform the bench press, set up on a flat bench by laying down on the bench, the barbell should be directly over your line of vision. Your head, shoulders blades, and hips should be your points of contact on the bench. Place your feet symmetrically and push your feet into the floor (there should be no “happy feet.”) Grab the bar evenly and use the knurling on the barbell as your guideline. Hands should be placed wider than shoulder width, use trial and error to find a grip position that works for your leverages. Unrack the bar, and with the bar starting over the shoulders, pull it down to your chest, without relaxing nor letting the bar rest on your chest. Squeeze the bar and push it back up to the starting position. Perform for as many reps as needed for your goals. The barbell bench press can work for a variety of rep ranges from 1-5 to 6-12 although I generally program it for lower rep heavier work.

The Push Press

I probably love the push press way more than I love the bench press. It’s a great way to develop upper body strength and full body power. By using power generated from the lower body, you can get really strong and powerful with this movement and move heavy weights with power and grace.

The push press is done by generating power from the legs with a dip, and then drive the barbell up and finish the press with the arms. To set up for the movement, you want the bar to be in the rack position with the hands placed evenly on the bar slightly outside shoulder width. Your feet should be about hip width apart. The first part of the movement is the dip, your going to do a shallow squat down while keeping the torso as vertical as possible, from there explode up and launch the barbell upward, finish the movement by pressing out with the arms. At the top of the movement, the bar should be directly overhead and stacked over the shoulders with the elbows locked out. Lower the bar back down to the rack position. Repeat.

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The final exercise in my pushing series is the PUSH PRESS. The push press is a great exercises for developing strength and power. Because of the coordination needed between the lower and the upper body, I will generally use lighter dumbbell push presses with novice trainees and heavier barbell push pressed with intermediate and advanced trainees. _ The push is done by generating power from the legs with a dip, and then drive the barbell up and finish the press with the arms. _ To set up for the movement, you want the bar to be in the rack position with the hands placed evenly on the bar slightly outside shoulder width. Your feet should be about hip width apart. The first part of the movement is the dip, your going to do a shallow squat down while keeping the torso as vertical as possible, from there explode up and launch the barbell upward, finish the movement by pressing out with the arms. At the top of the movement, the bar should be directly overhead and stacked over the shoulders with the elbows locked out. Lower the bar back down to the rack position. Repeat. _ For the barbell push press, I will generally concentrate on doing 6 reps or fewer and opt to load the movement heavier rather than lighter in order to develop overall strength and power. _ Have you done the push press before? Give it a go and let me know how you find it. _ Want to get strong and take your fitness to the next level? Send me a direct message to get more information about personal training or online coaching.

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Using a mixture of any of the exercises in this article you’ll be well on your way to developing and stronger and more muscular upper body.

If you need help getting on track with your fitness, please feel free to reach out via the contact page to get more information about coaching either online or in-person.

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Mastering Movement: Part Two – The Hinge

Programming, Strength, Training By October 6, 2019 No Comments

Hips don’t lie. Shakira was on to something when she sang this back in ’05. These lines have never been truer, especially in pertaining to the hinge movement. The hip hinge is a movement, that with strength and proficiency, makes your life a lot easier.

Developing a strong and proper hip hinge is one of the first and most important steps you can take in order to protect yourself from lower back problems as well as knee issues. Usually, the muscles worked in hip dominant movements are the glutei, the hamstrings, and the spinal extensors amongst others. Common hip dominant exercises are the back extension, the goodmorning, and the deadlift. Today we are going to go over several of these exercises, their benefits, and how to do them safely and effectively.

The 45 Degree Back Extension

The 45 degree back extension is one of the first progressions I like to use with new trainees so they can get used bending the hip while keeping a flat neutral spine. Because it can be done with just body weight, it’s a good way to get people movement without adding extra load to unfamiliar movement patterns.

To perform the 45 degree back extension, set up on the apparatus with your toes pointing down and so your hips can fold over the edge freely. Lower down slowly, while keep the back flat – focus on keep the ribs stacked with the pelvis and the lats tight. Once at the bottom, squeeze your glutes to extend the hips and return to the starting position. Perform 3-4 sets for 10-20 reps depending on your goals.

The Kettlebell Good Morning

The good morning is an exercise that can be done with a variety of tools from kettlebells, to bands, and barbells. But for newer trainees, I prefer to use a front loaded kettlebell, which will force you to keep the upper back engaged while maintaining tension through the back so you don’t collapse in the spine. The objective is to push the hips as far back as you can into a hamstring stretch while maintaining a flat back.

To perform the good morning, start with your feet hip width apart and toes pointing forward. Push your hips back while keeping a flat back and maintaining a vertical shin position with a slight bend in the knees. Push the hips back until you get a stretch in your hamstrings, from here extend the hips and return to the standing position. Perform the good morning for 3-5 sets for 8-15 repetitions depending on your goals.

The Kettlebell Deadlift

The next movement I like to progress my clients too is the kettlebell deadlift. The deadlift can be quite daunting for a lot of people and can present a lot challenges in terms of maintaining proper form. The kettlebell deadlift is a fantastic variation beginners because of the central loading it puts less strain across the back and allows you to lift more with your legs.

To perform a kettlebell deadlift, stand with the kettlebell between your feet, and your feet hip width a part. Bend down and set your hands on the handle, engage your back, by pulling your shoulder blades down and back and imagining that you are try keep your arms glued to your ribcage to keep your “armpits shut.” From here, keep a flat back, and lift the weight with your legs. Imagine that you are trying to push yourself 5ft through the ground beneath you. Finish by standing up tall but without flare the ribcage and overextending the lower back. Lower the weight back to the floor the same way that you picked it up. Perform the kettlebell deadlift for reps of 8-15 depending on the load intensity and your goals.

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Ready to start deadlifting? Give the kettlebell deadlift a try. Because of the central loading of the movement, it's a great way for beginner's to learn how to deadlift while also being lower back friendly. _ The deadlift is a great exercise to add to your training plan because it can be progressed and used to develop strength while also developing more musculature on your posterior chain and better muscle endurance and strength in your lower back – which can help in terms of managing and improving back pain. _ To perform a kettlebell deadlift, stand with the kettlebell between your feet, and your feet hip width a part. Bend down and set your hands on the handle, engage your back, by pulling your shoulder blades down and back and imagining that you are try keep your arms glued to your ribcage to keep your "armpits shut." From here, keep a flat back, and lift the weight with your legs. Imagine that you are trying to push yourself 5ft through the ground beneath you. Finish by standing up tall but without flare the ribcage and overextending the lower back. Lower the weight back to the floor the same way that you picked it up. Perform the kettlebell deadlift for reps of 8-15 depending on the load intensity and your goals. _ The kettlebell deadlift is a fantastic option for learning how to deadlift and grooving a good movement pattern while it can also be used in conditioning circuits and complexes due to it's lighter loading than heavier implements like trap bars and barbells. _ If you haven't tried the kettlebell deadlift before, there's no time like the present. Give it a go, and let me know how it went.

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The Trap Bar Deadlift

Once someone has show they are proficient with the kettlebell deadlift, I’ll usually progress them into a trap bar deadlift. The trap bar deadlift is another back friendly deadlift variation that can be loaded heavier than the kettlebell deadlift. It’s a fantastic variation for people who are taller and have longer limbs and those who have back issues.

To set up for the trap bar deadlift, stand inside the bar right in the centre. Place your hands in the middle of each handle to prevent the bar from sliding in your hands while doing the lift. While keeping the back flat, press the feet into the ground and extend the hips to come up. Lower the weight back down by pushing your hips back and keeping a neutral spine. Rinse and repeat. The trap bar can be used for a variety of purposes, but I find it’s best suited for heavy lower rep strength work – 6 reps or fewer – however it can be used effectively for higher rep endurance and hypertrophy work as well depending on your goals.

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Ready to take your deadlift to the next level and move some heavy weights? Get it going with the trap bar deadlift. Because of it's shape the trap bar is great option for people who want to deadlift, especially, heavy but aren't quite ready yet or able to with a barbell. Because of the loading of the bar, it's much more lower back friendly than a tradition barbell. And using the high handles on the bar (as shown in this video) is great for lifters who have long legs and would benefit mechanically from using a short range of motion. It also has a low learning curve in comparison to the conventional barbell deadlift, making it very suitable for novice trainees. _ To set up for the trap bar deadlift, stand inside the bar right in the centre. Place your hands in the middle of each handle to prevent the bar from sliding in your hands while doing the lift. While keeping the back flat, press the feet into the ground and extend the hips to come up. Lower the weight back down by pushing your hips back and keeping a neutral spine. Rinse and repeat. The trap bar can be used for a variety of purposes, but I find it's best suited for heavy lower rep strength work – 6 reps or fewer – however it can be used effectively for higher rep endurance and hypertrophy work as well depending on your goals. _ Want to start adding heavy deadlifts in your program but don't know where to start? Send me a DIRECT MESSAGE to get started with one on one coaching online. 📩

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The Barbell Deadlift

The conventional deadlift has been a staple in many strength training programs around the world for many decades. The conventional deadlift is a deadlift variation that will strengthen your posterior chain and grip like no other. Because this exercise can be quite taxing, I generally reserve it for more intermediate and advanced trainees who are very comfortable with hip hingeing. It’s a great movement to be loaded heavy to train for maximum strength.

To perform the conventional deadlift, set up with a loaded barbell on the floor. Stand so the barbell is inline with your feet over top of your shoe laces and your feet are about hip width apart with your toes pointing forward. Grip the bar so your hands are outside of your hips but not too wide. While keeping your back flat, push your feet through the ground and extend your hips while keeping the barbell against your legs not allowing it to drift away from your body. Lower the bar to the ground by pushing your hips back and setting it down the same way that you picked it up.

Anyone one of these hinge exercise will be fantastic for developing your posterior chain for better strength, endurance, and posture. It’s all about finding the right variation for current needs, skill level, and goal, and progressing the movement over time by manipulating the volume, load, and movement variation.

Get out there and start hingeing, your hips and back will thank you!

Want to get super strong but don’t know where to start? Reach out to get more information on personal training or online coaching so you can start optimizing your health, fitness, and performance.

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Mastering Movement: Part One – The Squat

Training By September 30, 2019 No Comments

Last week we touched on the primal movements; what they are and why you should be doing them. This week we are going to specifically break down the squat and it’s progressions. The squat is movement that mainly targets the quadriceps and glutes, but requires stability and engagement from the whole body.

I am going to show you the movement progressions I like to use for weight loaded squats and how to progress them from easiest to most challenging. The squat is great movement to develop overall strength, musculature, and athleticism making it a staple movement in many effective training programs. While doing a fully loaded overhead squat or barbell back squat may seem daunting, there are many progressions to take you there.

The movement variations we are going to go over are the goblet squat, the front squat, the high bar back squat, and the low bar back squat. Each variation provides it own unique benefits and challenges making them more or less suitable for trainees depending on their goals and needs.

The Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is the first progression I use with novice trainees who want to start moving weight. Because it is centrally loaded it forces the trainee to maintain a more upright position during the squat. This is fantastic for people who need to groove a proper squat pattern.

To perform the goblet squat, set your feet about hip width apart with the toes turned slightly outward. While holding the dumbbell, try to maintain tension across the upper back by staying upright and pinching your shoulder blades together. This will help you stay stable as you squat down. To squat, drive the knees forward and apart while actively pushing your heels into the ground. Perform a controlled lower as low as you can, and then ascend by exhaling and pushing you feet through the ground to extend your knees and hips in a controlled manner.

The goblet squat.

The Front Squat

The front squat is great for developing strength and power. And because of it’s more upright position it’s fantastic for carry over into sports that require more vertical jumping patterns.

To do front squats, approach the bar and set your hands slightly outside of shoulder width, step under the bar and bring the elbows forward so they are pointing at the wall in front of you, and the bar is now sitting across your shoulders and collar bones. Step out of the rack and set your feet slightly wider than hip width apart with your toes slightly flared outward. Lower into the squat while pushing the heels in to the floor, push your knees forward and apart. To stand back up, push your heels into the ground and squeeze the quads and glutes, whole maintaining a vertical torso position.

Because of the taxing nature of the front squat, it’s best to do 6 reps or fewer as the most people will generally fatigue in their upper back and start to collapse forward during the movement. The front squat is usually best performed for 1-6 reps for as many sets as need based on your training objectives.

The front squat.

The High Bar Squat

The high bar back squat is differentiated by placing the bar on your back but atop the shoulders, this allows for a more vertical torso position while squatting which is a more athletic position than the low bar squat. This movement is also more quad dominant than a low bar back squat.

To set up for the back squat, step under the bar, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar into the top of your shoulders. Make sure your hands are even on the bar and that you are in the center. Step out of the rack and set your feet about hip width apart with the toes flared slightly out. Descend into the squat by keeping the chest up and imagining you are going to sit down in between your feet. Stand up from the bottom position by coming up the same way you went down.

The high bar back squat can be performed for a number of sets and reps depending on your goal. I typically wouldn’t program a back squat for more than 10 reps as I generally prefer to keep this movement more heavily loaded for strength gains, and use other squat variations for high rep hypertrophy or endurance work.

The high bar back squat.

The Low Bar Squat

The low bar squat is advantageous for moving ultra heavy loads because it allows you to lift the barbell using more drive from the hips. Because it places more emphasis on hip movement, it also requires less mobility from the ankles creating a more vertical shin position. This is achieved by placing the bar across the shoulders blades instead directly atop of the shoulders like in the high bar squat.

Such a small change in placement can make a huge change in movement and overall load used. The low bar squat is generally the squat of choice for powerlifters and people who want to be able squat as heavy as humanly possible – the high bar squat is more suited towards Olympic weightlifters and other athletes due to its more upright position. The low bar squat is also a viable option for trainees who have little ankle dorsiflexion but want to back squat in their training.

That low bar back squat is generally best performed for 6 reps of fewer with heavy loads, but it can also be done at higher reps provided the intensity (% of 1 rep. max.) is reduced as well.

Because of the lower bar placement in the low bar squat there is more of a forward lean in the torso making the movement more hip dominant than the front squat or high bar squat.

With all these variations for the squat, you should be well on your way to improving your performance and fitness. Whether you want increase your muscle mass, power, or strength there’s an appropriate squat variation for you.

Get out there and get squatting, and if you don’t know where to start contact me to get started with online coaching.

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Mastering Movement

Uncategorized By September 22, 2019 Tags: No Comments

Crawl before you walk. And walk before you run. In general, most people understand the concept of building skills like walking and running and how we develop those skills throughout our lives. As babies we crawl, then we learn how to stand and shift our weight, then we learn how to walk, and eventually we can run. All of this is a linear progression.

But as adults, we general take movement for granted and try to “run before can walk” when it comes to training in the gym.

There are several basic movement patterns that most people should be able to do that are part of our natural movement patterns in day to day to life and can be enhanced with training in the gym. These movement patterns are the squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge, and carry. These are also often referred to as primal movements and they are generally required to maintain a structurally balanced body with healthy functional joints.

The squat is skill that can help people in terms of getting up and down from a sitting or crouching down to the ground for other tasks like gardening. Squatting is a movement that requires flexibility in the ankles, knees, and hips and requires stability of the trunk. The primary muscles used during the squat are the quadriceps and glutes. Some prime examples of the squat in training are: goblet squats, front squats, and back squats.

The next movement is hingeing. The hinge is an essential movement that should be the basis of picking things up from the floor. The hinge generally utilizes the glutes, hamstrings, spinal extensors. The hinge is done by bending at the hips with soft knees while keeping a flat and stable back. Examples of the hinge in the gym would be exercises like back extensions, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, hip thrusts and glute bridges.

Pushing or pressing is reflected in our day to day like during tasks like pushing open doors, it’s done by extending the elbows and flexing at the shoulder. Pushing exercises generally work our pectoral muscles, deltoids, and triceps. Some pushing exercises are push ups, overhead presses, bench presses, push presses, dips, and handstands.

Pulling is an essential movement pattern that requires the use of our back muscles (primarily lats and rhomboids) and biceps. Examples of pulling in day to day life could be reflected in any climbing or pulling open doors and gates. Pulling movements in training include: rows, pull downs, chin ups, and deadlifts.

Lungeing while similar to squatting is an expression of single leg or unilateral strength and stability. Lungeing has high carryover into any movements that bring us to a kneeling position as well as running and walking. Lungeing in training can also be any regression or progression relating to single leg strength development. The primary muscles involved in lunge variations are the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Examples of lungeing exercises include walking lunges, reverse lunges, cossack squats, curtsey lunges, split squats, step ups, and side step squats.

Carrying refers to carrying objects. This could be reflected in carrying backpacks, duffel bags, purses, or groceries in our day to day life. Loaded carries generally challenge core stability and work the lower traps. Because carries are done while walking they are also a fantastic corrective exercise for poor gait (walking) patterns. Loaded carries can be performed as farmer’s carries, overhead carries, waiter carries, and odd object carries. Carries can be done in a multitude of ways with various implements.

Including any of these movements in your training program will certainly help to ease your day to day life while improving your overall health and fitness. Some people love exercising for the sake of exercising, but it’s also about training for life. Life is a lot easier when you’re strong. If you get strong at squatting, hingeing, pushing, pulling, lungeing, and carrying – the physical aspects of your life are only going to get easier and easier from here. So while doing an hour of ab exercises or biceps curls may seems like fun, adding in a solid mix of primal movements into your training regime will only make you better.

Get out there and get lifting and start mastering your primal movements!

Want to train but don’t where to start? Send me an e-mail at coachmaja@mv-fitness.com to get start with customized in-person or online coaching.

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How to Avoid Post-Holiday Dieting Backlash

Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition By December 23, 2018 No Comments

We are heading right into the eye of the storm. In a matter weeks, we will start being attacked by magazine headlines and news segments explaining to us why we need to immediately shift our life’s focus onto losing weight we may or may not have gained over the holidays.

The diet industry is here to profit off your insecurities – by trying to tell you that unless you buy and use their products to turn yourself into a lean, mean machine – you will be a social pariah and become or remain unloved and unwanted. But that’s not true. If someone only loves you or wants you when you are lean, I would make the argument that they don’t actually want or love you.

These are the type of messages that unfortunately sell products, but also negatively impact people’s body image and as a result self-confidence. It’s easy to fall into the trap of fixating on achieving leanness to feel validated. When you poke and prod people enough by telling them they are worthless because they have “spare tire to lose” they will believe that. And eventually they will devote all their time and energy to becoming thin so they can be “worthy” and “valuable.”  This is both damaging to the psyche and body.

The reality is everybody’s body has a unique set point. Your set point is weight range where your body likes to be naturally to optimize your health and function. This range will look and be different for everybody. Factors like gender, height, genetics, race, environment, social status, stress, food, and exercise will all effect how your set point expresses itself.

If you fight your natural set point by part-taking in excessive dietary restriction and exercise to control your body, your body will revolt, Some of the negative health effects of dieting behaviour can be:

  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Loss of menstruation
  • Bone loss
  • Muscle loss
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Increased risk of eating disorder
  • Increased risk of cardiosvascular disease, type II to diabetes, and high blood pressure
  • Increased set point

Knowing that dieting is so damaging, how can we pursue health in a way that actually serves us instead of taking on the physically and psychologically damaging behaviours that are going to be promoted to us over the next few weeks?

We can opt in to doing behaviours that are actually focused on improving our health, or what I like to call the JAB. This is how I approach my own health and wellness and also how I coach all of my clients:

  • Joyful Exercise: Exercising in a way that you enjoy, that is engaging, and sustainable.
  • Attuned Eating: Also known as Intuitive Eating, which means listening to your body to guide your nutrition choices. This means paying attention to signals for hunger, satiety, satisfaction, and cravings but also including gentle nutrition practices such  as regularly eating fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient dense foods.
  • Body Peace: Making peace with your body. I’m not going to ask you to love it. But if at minimum you can make peace with it’s existence and all the amazing functions it offers you, you can start to respect your body and take better care of it.

When we engage in behaviours like Joyful Exercise, Attuned Eating, and making Body Peace, these behaviours allows us to live in the present moment instead of focusing on controlling every thing.  All of these behaviours are sustainable and easy to maintain with practice. Where as extreme dieting and exercise patterns can be detrimental to your health and only offer some type of short-time result that is not sustainable.

So instead of hopping on the dieting bandwagon again this year, try listening to your body and treating it with kindness and see where it takes you.

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Dieting and Restriction isn’t the Answer to Life’s Problems

Health, Lifestyle, Mindset By December 2, 2018 No Comments

A lot of people truly believe that the result of dieting will dramatically change their lives. And if you believe this, it’s not your fault. You’ve been lied to, and I can completely understand why the shiny allure of dieting and restrictive eating is appealing to you.

“Diet and you can be confident.”

“Diet and you can be sexy.”

“Diet and you can be yourself.”

“Diet and you be all the things you can be.” 

But it’s not true. You can do and be all of those things without dieting. Dieting and restriction does damage to your body and your psyche that has severe repercussions.

If you want feel to  confident you don’t have inflict voluntary starvation upon yourself. That won’t change your confidence or happiness levels at all. In fact if you use dieting as tool to try and achieve happiness and confidence, I can promise you that you won’t find those things at the end of the dieting rainbow. I know, because I’ve done it. You may even end up feeling significantly worse if you do decide to go down the path of restriction.

I’ve hungered. I’ve suffered. I’ve punished my body. I ate “clean” and “guilt-free.” All so I could be more confident and like myself. At the end of it all, after achieving the look I wanted, I still had a painfully low level of self-esteem and I was just as sad about my life as I was when I had started. Mental health and self-image need to be addressed directly in order to improve.

Dieting is a distraction that takes your attention away from doing meaningful and joyful things in your life.

If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your life or unhappy, consider reaching out to a mental health professional and seeking help. Dieting, restriction, and thinness won’t lead you to happy ending that you are seeking. Instead of dieting, try doing things that directly make you feel how you want to feel or be how you want to be.

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Unconditional Permission

Health, Lifestyle, Mindset, Nutrition, Uncategorized By November 4, 2018 No Comments

Recovering from dieting and disordered eating behaviours can be difficult. Diet culture is so pervasive in our day to day lives that sometimes we miss the signs that certain behaviours are restrictive and damaging. It can be very easy to become preoccupied with food and start depriving yourself in the name of “health” and end up in psychological and physiological turmoil.

“I really want ice cream but I won’t have it because it’s not healthy.”

“I love chicken wings but I will never eat them because they have too many calories.” 

Lines like these feed into to deprivation – both psychological and physical. Our body and brain send us signals to tell us when to eat and what to eat. Whenever we don’t eat what our body is telling us it needs we are depriving ourselves of nutrients and energy that we need for survival and also just general enjoyment.

It’s in these moments when our body is telling us what it needs that we must listen to it and trust it. This means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Giving yourself permissions to eat what you want, when you want it. This will allow you to discover and enjoy foods while also staving off cravings (which can prevent things like binge eating. ) Eating with unconditional permission will satisfy your hunger and cravings while making your food experiences more meaningful and enjoyable.

Unconditional permission give your body what it needs, let’s you build trust with your body and let go of damaging food rules that keep you from food freedom. No foods are off-limits (unless you have allergies or other medical reasons to not consume certain foods.) If you want eggs, bacon, and avocado for breakfast, have it. If your hunger is telling you to eat pizza for dinner, do it.  If you want midday pancakes, listen to your body and eat. You will also probably eventually find yourself craving things like apples, salad, watermelon, yogurt too once you allow yourself to have some food freedom.

In addition to allowing your body to have a variety of foods, you are also less likely to overeat when you are actually eating and savouring the foods that you really want to eat. There is a switch in your brain that goes on when you realize you can eat what you want, whenever you want it, in quantities that are congruent to your hunger. The following examples will illustrate the difference between dieting and eating with unconditional permission.

DIETING: ” I want a brownie, but I can’t have it because it’s not allowed on my diet. I am going to eat three cups of cooked broccoli so I’m too full to eat a brownie. I ate three cups of broccoli but I still want the brownie. I now ‘give in’ because I am deprived, and instead of eating one brownie I eat a whole batch. I then swear to never eat brownies again in my life because I am now uncomfortably full and ashamed.” Repeat cycle.

UNCONDITIONAL PERMISSION: ” I want a brownie. I eat a brownie to satisfaction. I move on with my life.”

The diet mentality is painful, restrictive, and stressful. Giving yourself unconditional permission to honour your body and hunger is simple, and it gets easier and better with practice.

Your relationship with food does not need to be complicated and painful. You are allowed to eat free of restriction, stress, and guilt. You are allowed to the foods that you want, when you want them. You can trust your body. You can nourish your body. You can give yourself unconditional permission to eat. 

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Leaner =/= Healthier

Health, Mindset By September 16, 2018 No Comments

A lot of people fall prey to the misconception that lean and thin people are healthy while larger and fatter people are unhealthy. Sadly, this mindset attributes to stigma and bias against people in larger bodies that cascades into the workplace, healthcare, and many other day to day activities. If you’re not a person who lives in a larger body, you may try to refute this, but just one example of this would be the Canadian woman who sought out medical intervention and was told to lose weight when she actually had cancer and died as a result of malpractice.

The fallacy that thin and lean is healthy while large and fat is unhealthy is a damaging and oppressive belief that needs to stop. People come in all different shapes, sizes, and compositions regardless of their health status. We don’t expect every breed of dog to be lean and muscular, we don’t expect every flower to be pink, so why would we expect there to be only one way for people to look in order to be healthy?

There are many factors that contribute to a person’s overall health including diet, health behaviours, genetics, environment, social status, etc. All of these things are independent of bodyweight and composition. The proportion to which these factors effect someone’s health may surprise you.

 


You may notice that body weight and composition is not listed on here. That’s because bodyweight and body composition are not indicators of health status, while healthy living and habits are (but only to a certain extent.) With this in mind, it’s good to think of the classic example of the lean and thin person who never gains weight despite eating highly processed foods without having touched a vegetable or fruit in 10 years, doesn’t exercise, regularly opts out of sleeping, and regularly abuses alcohol and drugs. And then of course there’s the larger person who eats plenty of vegetables, gets 8 hours of sleep nightly, engages in intense exercise and physical activity regularly, doesn’t drink alcohol or use drugs, and their body will not lose weight or change composition.

On a snap judgment, regardless of behaviours, people will judge both of these individuals assuming that the leaner person is healthy and the fatter person is unhealthy, even if it is clearly not the case. It’s quite obvious that the larger person in this example is going to be healthier just based on their behaviours alone. All of this to say it’s impossible to know someone’s health status based on their body size and composition. On top of this, a person’s health status is really nobody’s business but their own.

So before you assume that larger and fatter people or unhealthy, acknowledge your bias, and remember you that can’t know somebody’s health status just by looking at them based on their body size and composition. Being thinner and leaner does not equate to being healthy, nor does being fatter and larger equate to being unhealthy.

We also have to acknowledge, considering all of the factors affecting health status, that being in a good health is a privilege. When we consider social status, economic status, ability, and environment – a lot of people don’t have access to opportunities or resources to easily engage in healthy behaviours that could attribute to improving their health and wellness. People are not obligated to be healthy, and many are not able to partake in activities and behaviours that could improve their health.

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Why You Suck at Sticking to Your “Diet”

Health, Mindset, Nutrition By September 4, 2018 No Comments

I work in an industry that is primarily driven by society’s obsession with having ultra lean hard bodies. I hear the following all the time from clients, friends, family, and anyone I talk to that knows I work as a fitness coach: “I suck at sticking to my diet. I just can’t do it.”

They tell me they went vegan for a week, and then ate nothing but Big Macs for two weeks straight after that. They did the “caveman diet” and then wanted nothing but bread for months. It’s sadly a common story shared by many people. They deprive themselves of nourishment and calories and then the pendulum swings the other way to compensate for the extreme restriction. It’s a survival mechanism.

The problem isn’t that you suck at sticking to your diet. Your body is really good at surviving. The real problem is that your diet sucks.

A “diet” in the conventional and generally socially accepted definition is food restriction for the sake of weight or fat loss. In the most blunt terms (I’m not one for subtlety,) it’s voluntary starvation.

Dieting and starvation have well-known and researched negative health effects, not limited but including the most extreme: DEATH.

A list of other side effects include but are not limited to:

  • Malnourishment (energy, vitamin, mineral deficiencies)
  • Loss of bone density
  • Amennorhea (loss of menstruation)
  • Low libido
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Pre-occupation with food
  • Increased health risks over time with prolonged/recurring bouts of deprivation

Knowing all of this, it’s pretty obvious as to why you would have such a hard time sticking to a conventional diet. Our bodies have been evolving throughout history in order to survive hardship, and each time we endure more hardship via deprivation our bodies get even better at protecting themselves. The more you deprive your body of nourishment the more you will experience intense cravings, hunger, and preoccupation with food. Your body and brain will have the sole goal of making sure you eat and keeping you alive – and that’s okay.

Instead of trying to force ourselves into starvation and deprivation we should be focusing on what makes us feel well by listening to our bodies.

The more you can listen and obey your body’s signals the better off you will be. The best approach to nutrition that you can adhere to for long term health and wellness is by listening to what your body needs. This is called Intuitive Eating. This means listening to your body when you’re hungry, listening to it when it’s satisfied, listening to it to see what it wants and needs, listening to it to see what makes it feel best. Depending on where someone is at in their journey with eating intuitively their food intake may vary a lot, but most people in the long-term end up naturally eating in a way that is varied, moderate, and is congruent with maintaining good health while enjoying all foods without restriction.

It really is that straight-forward, and with patience and practice you can break up with dieting and get back to living a full and vivacious life without starving yourself.  For more information look here.

If you would like more information on re-shaping your relationship with food and/or with your body, I highly encourage you to read the following books:

 

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The Best Workout Routine

exercise, Health, Lifestyle, Programming By August 19, 2018 No Comments

**Spoiler Alert: There is no specific training program attached to this article, rather guidelines for creating or picking a long-term and sustainable exercise program for yourself.**

Many people start new workout routines all the time with the intention of becoming healthier and more “fit.” Sadly a lot of people struggle to maintain these routines due to the fact that the programs they are following are not sustainable nor enjoyable. It is immensely difficult to create sustainable long-term habit change when those changes are focused on engaging in habits that 1) you hate doing, 2) burn you out.

So how do you create an exercise routine that serves you best?

You would want to look at several factors when creating an exercise and activity routine (that are not limited to): frequency, duration, and qualitative factors that you enjoy but also keep you motivated.

Frequency & Duration

When choosing your frequency and duration you want to factor in your general lifestyle, schedule, stress levels, and ability to recover. People who have low levels of stress will be able to recover more quickly and will often times do better training and exercising more often (3-7 days per week.) While people who have high levels of stress or anxiety will recover more slowly and will need to train less frequently (1-5 days per week.)

Knowing this you’d also want to keep the duration of your exercise in line with your training frequency and ability to recover. Generally, the more often you train the shorter in duration your workouts should be, and the less often you train the longer in duration your workouts should be. A workout or bout of exercise could range anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

Qualities

When looking at different qualities a training program or activity has, different people will naturally be drawn to different types of activities. Some people like high intensity training, some people prefer activities that are more soothing, some people like working in groups, while others prefer doing their exercise alone. Whatever floats your boat, at the end of the day it’s about finding what works for you and keeps you consistent and motivated.

Typically people are drawn to at least one of these five qualities:

  1. Intensity: Activities that are maximal effort, neurologically demanding, require brute force, and often times are more aggressive in nature. These activities can include boxing, powerlifting, rugby, olympic lifting.
  2. Explosiveness: Activities that are neurologically demanding, requiring explosive efforts and high levels of power but also coordination  such as sprinting, jumping, olympic lifting, gymnastics, etc.
  3. Variety: Activities that are varied and satisfy the need to learn new skills without getting bored. Exercise needs to be both neurologically and muscularly demanding. Essentially every type of exercise can be enjoyable and will deliver progressive results. Anything will work but only for a while. A very popular activity in this category would be CrossFit.
  4. Sensation: Activities that allow you to create a strong mind-muscle connection and pay attention to how the body feels. This includes but is not limited to activities such as bodybuilding and yoga. These activities are muscularly demanding.
  5. Precision: Activities that are demanding on the muscular system but require structure and constant repetitive mastery of a skill such as distance running, grappling,  and bodybuilding. The repetitive movement patterns often have a calming effect.

 NOTE: These categories are from Christian Thibaudeau’s Neurotying which is based in research surrounding individual sensitivity to neurotransmitters (dopamine, adrenalin, and serotonin) and other factors like (Acetylcholine and GABA.) I highly recommend getting more information, starting here.

The idea behind picking activities to do that you are more drawn to is that because you enjoy what you are doing you will be able to push yourself harder, get results, and stay consistent – making your exercise routine sustainable. This will allow you to express yourself physically in the way that is best suited to your individual needs and desires. Who doesn’t want more of that?

When you love what you do, and it suits your needs and lifestyle, what reason do you have to not part-take in physical activity? 

I firmly believe there is an activity or training program out there for everybody, you just need to find what works for you and respect that.

 

 

 

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