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Mastering Movement: Part Five the Lunge

Programming, Strength, Training By November 3, 2019 No Comments

Single leg strength is an often neglected component in many people’s training programs. Single leg exercises can help improve your strength on bilateral movements but also improve your mobility and stability in your ankles, knees, and hips. Most single exercises can be used as a regression or progression for bilateral movements and they can benefit all trainees from novice to advanced.

Here are my top single leg strength exercises…

The Lateral Lunge

The lateral lunge is definitely a forgotten and neglected movement pattern for many people. It provides extra benefit by strengthening the quads and glutei while working in the frontal plane of motion (lateral -> side to side movement) which most people are lacking in their movement diet.

The lateral lunge should be performed by starting with the feet together, from the starting position step on leg out as wide as you while bending the knee, keeping your chest up, and pushing your hips back. Be sure to keep your non-moving leg straight as you step out (you don’t want your knee to bend.) From here, press your foot on the working leg into the ground and extend the knee and hip so you can step back in to the starting position. Complete 10-15 reps on one leg, and then do the other leg.

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Single leg exercises are imperative if you're looking to strengthen, stabilize, and bulletproof your ankles, knees, and hips from injuries. While they're not movements suited towards super heavy loading, they still deserve a place in any strength, power, hypertrophy, or general preparation exercise program. _ Today we are going over the lateral lunge, which is one of my favourite movements for hip stability. It's also unique and tremendously beneficial because it allows you to work in the frontal plane of motion (side to side) instead of sagittal (forward and backward.) Working in different planes of motion can help with developing good motor skills, overall athleticism, and preventing joint overuse – making it a great choice for nearly everybody. _ To perform the lateral lunge, start with your feet together. Step out laterally, while keeping the planted leg straight. From there push off of the travelling leg and bring the feet back together. Repeat as desired. This movement can prevent some unique challenges in terms of coordination and flexibility, I've found that most people with a little bit of practice are able to perform it correctly. With the lateral lunge, it's best that beginners start without external load and then progress to using external load as they develop strength and proficiency. _ Have you tried the lateral lunge before? If not try it out, and let me know how it goes. _ Are you ready to be strong and stable in your ankles, knees, and hips? Send me a direct message to get started with coaching by yours truly.

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The Split Squat

The split squat is one of my “GO TO” exercises for novice trainees, especially those that struggle with the traditional squat. It can help to ingrain proper movement patterning for bilateral movements and it provides a great stretch through hip for those that are overly tight.

To do the split squat, get into a long and wide stance. Think of your stance as wanting to be standing on train tracks versus standing on a tight rope. From here, while keeping the torso upright, push the knee forward and down as far as you can on the front leg while bending the rear leg to accommodate this movement. Do not rest or kneel on the floor at the bottom position, from the bottom press your toes and heels from the front leg into the ground as hard as you can and return to the starting position. Perform 8-12 repetitions of this exercises. Start by doing the movement unloaded and then progressing to loading it with cables, dumbbells, and barbells over time.

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The split squat, while technically not lunge, falls into the category of single leg quadricep dominant leg exercises, and thus is included in my programming as a "lunge" type movement. _ The split squat is an amazing exercise to help develop stability of the ankles, knees. and hips. And even for myself has always been a staple in terms of managing structural balance in my hips to prevent inflammation and pain in my sacroiliac joint. _ To perform the split squat, you are going stand in a long split stance with some width between your feet. Think you want your legs to be separated like train tracks rather than standing on a tight rope, this will help you maintain your balance. The front leg is going to be firmly planted in the ground, and the heel on the rear leg is going to be elevated, make sure to keep the hips and shoulders square during your set up and as you perform the exercise. To do the split squat, lower yourself down by bending both knees, and driving the knee on the front leg forward. Once at the bottom (just shy of touching the ground.) Press through your toes and heel on the front through the ground to extend the knee and return to the starting position. Complete all your reps on one side, and then proceed to do the require reps on the alternate side. _ Similar to the other single exercises, these movements are best used with higher repetitions and light to moderate weights. Sure, you can load a split squat as heavily as humanly possible, but that's usually better left for bilateral movements like squats and deadlifts where it makes more sense to work at higher intensities. I find that split squats are best performed for 8 to 12 repetitions depending on my clients goals and needs. _ Have you done split squats before? If not, you're in for a treat. If you ready to have a strong and stable body, click the link in my bio to fill out my online coaching application.

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The Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is one of my favourite exercises for developing the glutes, it is even more beneficial if you perform it with a deficit starting position. To perform the reverse lunge, start by standing with your feet together. From the starting position, step one foot back while bending the front knee. Lower yourself so you stop just shy of the floor. Exhale and return to the starting position. You can feel free to alternate your legs, or perform as all the reps on one leg and then on the other for each set. Perform the reverse lunge for 8-12 reps per leg. Add additional loads as you see fit – but don’t be too eager to make this exercise too heavy.

The Cossack Squat

The Cossack squat is one of my favourite movements for developing hip mobility and stability. It does require a good foundation of mobility in order to perform with a full range of motion, but partial ranges can be beneficial as well. I usually do not recommend performing Cossack squats with external load, but you can use your discretion when deciding if you like to add additional weight.

Set up for the Cossack squat by getting into a very stance with the knees extending and toes turned out. Lower yourself down into a squat position on one side making sure to keeping the knee inline with your middle toe. Once you’ve hit your bottom depth, your torso should be relatively upright. Press the foot of the bent knee into the ground while also using the stretched/straight leg to pull yourself back to your starting position. Alternate legs on each repetition. Perform for 8-12 reps or as you see fit.

By placing the arms in front of you while doing the Cossack squat you create a counter balance, which can be helpful in regard to staying more upright during the movement.

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The Cossack squat is a great exercise that can be used as part of warm-up or directly in a program to strengthen the hips and legs while working in the frontal plane. While the exercise will strengthen the the muscles on the leg that bends it will simultaneously stretch the muscles on the straight leg. _ To perform the Cossack squat, set up in a wide stance with the toes turned outward. From here squat down on one leg as low as you can while maintaining an upright torso position and keeping the opposite leg straight. From the bottom, press the foot of the working leg through the ground and exhale as you straighten the knee to return to the wide standing position. From here alternate legs and repeat the process on the other leg. Alternate back and forth until you complete your sets. Make sure that when you are squatting down, to prevent the bending from track inwards you want purposefully rotate the knee outward and keep it inline with your toes. _ I find the Cossack squat is best when utilized between the rep ranges of 8-12, but of course there are situations where working outside of these rep ranges could be beneficial as well. With my clients, I’ll generally use the Cossack squat in their warm-ups or as a single leg strength exercise for accessory to their other lower body movements. I also find that working on exercises in the frontal plane, such as the Cossack squat, can be great for developing the glutes. _ Have you ever included Cossack squats in your programming? You may find that they’ll leave your hips stronger and more stable while developing some mass on your glutes. _ Do you want to grow a robust pair of glutes? Reach out to me via direct message to get started with online coaching. 📩

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Now that you have at least four exercise to add into your single leg strength work, you’re well on your way to getting stronger and having more stable ankles, knees, and hips. They key is to use them at the right time for the right purpose 🙂

If you need more help on your fitness journey, please feel free to reach out via the “Coaching” page on this website to get in touch in regards to personal training (downtown Toronto) or remote online coaching.

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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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How to Use Chains for Strength

Programming, Strength, Training By September 20, 2017 Tags: , , , , No Comments

Chains are a great tool that often get misused. I’ve seen an abundance of videos of people using chains just to make themselves look “badass” yet only succeed at making themselves look incompetent.

So to set you on the right path, I am going to explain to you what chains are used for and how to use them.

WHY YOU WANT TO USE CHAINS

Chains are most commonly used to add additional resistance to a lift on the way up. This works by having links come off the floor one by one on the way up. The movement will be easiest at the bottom when there are more links resting on the floor, and it will be most challenging at the top and on the way up when the links are coming off the floor. Chains are commonly used on squats, deadlifts, and presses, but can be used on a variety of exercises.

This permits the trainee to get stronger on the top portion and lockout portions of the lift. It also makes the eccentric easier, allowing you to preserve more energy and strength for the upward (concentric) part of the lift. Chains are a great tool to use to get through a strength plateau.

The more links that are off the floor, the heavier the total weight is.

The more links that are on the floor, the lighter the total weight is.

 SELECTING YOUR WEIGHT

To load a bar or weight with chains, you will need to use a weight that is lighter than what you normally use without chains. Different chains have different weights, so knowing how much the chains weigh will help you determine how much weight you should or should not use. You want to make sure you have extremely good control of the weight as any slight deviation in movement will cause the chains to swing which will be very destabilizing.

LOADING THE IMPLEMENT

Once you have selected your weight, you will hang the chains on each side of the bar and then secure them with safety clips for the barbell. If using a dumbbell or kettlebell, the chain should have a clip that you can use to attach it to the weight.

Once you’ve set everything up, perform your sets and reps as desired 🙂

Happy training!

 

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Path to Pull-Ups

exercise, Programming, Strength, Training By August 6, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

For a lot of women, achieving their first body weight pull-up is a huge milestone. It’s a feat that requires adequate mobility, stability, and strength in order to perform it correctly.

Often times, when people ask how to do their first pull-up they often receive the answer: “Well, just do pull-ups.” Which is redundant and useless. If a person could already do pull-ups, they would.

So where do you start in order to get your first pull-up?

In general, you would want to progress to doing a pull-up as follows:

  • owning the isometric (being able to hang on the bar at the top and bottom)
  • owning the eccentric (being able to lower yourself  in controlled manner through a pull-up pattern)
  • owning the concentric (being able to pull yourself up through the pull-up)

Owning all parts of the pull-up will having you banging out your first full rep in due time. It’s all about developing the requisite endurance, stability, patterning, and strength to do the movement correctly and efficiently.

So let’s start with the endurance and stability portion by using isometric drills. You want to start first by building your endurance at the bottom of the pull-up and building your grip so you are actually able to support your own body weight in an active hang. Once you can hang from the bottom you can explore doing a flexed arm hang at the top of the bar. Work on holding your hangs for 30s-60s. I would recommend being able to hold for at least 60s in both positions before progressing to more dynamic movements.

Once you have achieved strong isometric holds with your hangs, you can work on doing scapular pull-ups. In this movement you will be initiating the beginning of the pull-up by pulling maximally with the shoulders, holding at the top position, and then relaxing the shoulders into a deadhang for 1 repetition. Build this movement in sets of 5-10 reps. The scapular pull-up will also serve to improve your grip strength. The scapular pull-up is going to help you with the movement portion of initiating the pull-up.

After achieving some strong scap pull-ups, you’ll want to progress to negative pull-ups (eccentric pull-ups.) This will allow you to pattern the pull-up with good technique so that when you do get strong enough to do them, you will be using the right muscle to perform the movement (primarily the lats and biceps.) To perform a negative pull-up, jump up to the bar or have someone lift you to the bar and then lower yourself down with a controlled tempo ranging anywhere from 10s to 60s. If you are able to do a 60s eccentric you are most likely able to do a full pull-up.

You can also use band assisted pull-ups to help build muscular strength and the concentric portion of your pull-ups. Make sure to use negative pull-ups and other progressions otherwise you will end up being reliant on the band to perform the movement. Bands are also a great tool to fine tune technique if you struggle to maintain to good form while performing bodyweight pull-ups. To perform the band pull-up, loop a band around your pull-up bar, then place on of your feet on the band to get into the bottom position. Initiate the pull, imagine you are closing your armpits in order to pull your collarbones up to the bar. The band will provide the assistance needed to help you up towards the bar,If you are swinging and bouncing around, you are not performing the movement correctly. You want your band assisted pull-up to be smooth and controlled, as it will translate better into your full strict pull-up.

Some additional assistance work that can help to get your first pull-up would be:

  • Inverted rows (rings or TRX)
  • Farmer’s carries
  • Biceps curls (especially preacher curls and incline curls)

There are many exercises you can do to get strong at pull-ups, however  any movement you do to help you build your pull-up skills should address the endurance, stability, movement patterning and strength aspects of the pull-up. As long as you address these attributes of the pull-up, you will be well on your way to getting your first rep.

🙂

 

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Why You Should Be Doing Turkish Get-Ups

exercise, Strength, Training By February 20, 2017 No Comments

The Turkish Get-Up a move that is loved, hated, and misunderstood all in one. 

The Turkish Get-Up rose to popularity in the last 10 years or so in tandem with kettlebell training. Kettlebells are small, (relatively) light to moderate in weight, transportable weights that have become popular due to their ability to get people lean and strong in short and intense workouts. They have become the tool of choice for busy people who don’t have copious amounts of time to devote to training in the gym.

Keeping in mind that kettlebell training has exploded due to it’s convenience and efficiency – the Turkish Get-Up has also become popular for the same reason. Get-Ups provide a lot of bang for your buck in terms of how they can enhance and supplement your current training program. They can be used as a warm up to help stabilize wonky shoulders and they can also be used in finishers for conditioning. This movement can also be performed for a maximum effort, in fact it’s not uncommon that when people become proficient at the Get-Up they can often perform it with barbells and even other people.

Apart from being able to do a totally rad party trick if you get strong at this movement, it still offers so much more. The Get-Up is a rare beauty of an exercise for a few reasons. The first being that it involves movement in every plane of of motion: sagittal (forward/ backward movement), frontal (side to side movement) and transverse (rotation.) This is very important because in our day to day lives we tend to live almost exlucsively in the sagittal plane. This leaves our bodies open to different injuries and overuse because we only become strong and proficient moving in one direction leaving our other planes of motion weak and uncoordinated. Adding a Turkish Get Up into your training routine can help you to develop that movement proficiency and fill in some gaps in your “movement diet.”

The Get-Up also provides even more bang for your buck in terms of all the different movement patterns in contains. It has knee-dominant movement, hip dominant movement, and pressing. That is three out of four of the major movements patterns meaning it is only missing a pulling pattern. For one exercise, that is a whole lot of movement – what would typically take three exercises to do, it will only take you one movement. This means that the Get Up is a great exercise if you are short on time and using full-body workouts as a training tool.

Lastly, the Get-Up is a fantastic exercise to work on shoulder stability. The rotator cuff will be working during the whole movement to stabilize the shoulder. Given the amount of time it takes to perform one repetition of the Get-Up, this is a lot of time under tension in a very vast range of motion regarding the shoulder, allowing you to reinforce shoulder stability in many different positions. If you have a history of rotator cuff injuries or shoulder instability, adding get-ups into your program would be a very wise choice.

TIPS FOR PERFORMING THE TURKISH GET-UP

When it comes to performing the Get-Up there are a few tips that can help make it easier and safer:

  1. Always keep your eyes on the kettlebell, dumbbell, barbell, person, etc. you are lifting. You should never look away from the implement you are lifting overhead.
  2. Lock out the elbow. A little bit bent is like being a little bit pregnant, there is no in between. A locked out elbow is necessary for optimal stability.
  3. Slow down. The Get-Up is in exercise not to be rushed. You want to create control in all of the movements, if you can do it slowly you can do it efficiently and effectively.
  4. Breathe. A lot fo people forgot to breathe when they do Get-Ups, exhale every time you make a move, and try to stay cool as cucumber.

HOW TO DO THE TURKISH GET-UP

  1. Lock out the loaded elbow and shoulder, bend the knee on the same side of the body.
  2. Push your elbow on the free arm into the floor, and roll into position so the upper body is off the floor.
  3. Push the free hand into the floor, so the elbow is now off the floor
  4. Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips.
  5. Pull your straight leg back and come to a half-kneeling hinge position.
  6. Push yourself up from the floor into an upright half-kneeling position.
  7. Lunge upward and bring the feet together in the standiting postion.
  8. Lunge back into the half-kneeling position.
  9. Reach to your side and bend into the hinged half-kneeling position.
  10. Bring the kneeling leg through and extend the hips by squeezing the glutes.
  11. Lower your hips to the floor.
  12. Lower your elbow to the floor.
  13. Lower your back to the floor.

USING THE TURKISH GET-UP

If you feel like you want to start using the Turkish Get-Up, here is a finisher or stand alone workout you can add in to your regular routine. This wonderful workout I am about to share with you comes from Shawn Mozen of Agatsu Fitness. It is called Turkish Delight; it contains movement in every plane of motion and every major movement pattern (knee-dominant, hip-dominant, press, and pull.)

The routine is a ladder consisting of the Turkish Get-Up and pull-up. It will allow to build strength, movement proficiency, and get in some excellent conditionining. This workout should not be performed for speed, but should take 30 minutes of less to perform. The goal is to add weight to each set of the Turkish Get Up and work up to a one rep max.

Turkish Delight

A1) Turkish Get Up x 5 reps per side

A2) Negative Pull-Up x 1 rep for a 10s eccentric

B1) Turkish Get Up x 4 reps per side

B2) Negative Pull-Up x 1 rep for a 10s eccentric

C1) Turkish Get Up x 3 reps per side

C2) Negative Pull-Up x 1 rep for a 10s eccentric

D1) Turkish Get Up x 2 reps per side

D2) Negative Pull-Up x 1 rep for a 10s eccentric

E1) Turkish Get Up x 1 rep per side

E2) Negative Pull-Up x 1 rep for a 10s eccentric

Bon appétit! 😉

Do you do Turkish Get-Ups? Do you love them? Do you hate them? Did this article help you? Leave me your feedback and questions in the comment section.

 

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The Motion – Executing Excellent Kettlebell Swings

exercise, Strength, Training By July 10, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

In recents years, the kettlebell swing has come to great popularity being touted as the solution to all of your strength, conditioning, and body composition woes. Although the benefits are sometimes exaggerated, it is still a phemonemal exercise that provides numerous benefits and is deserving of a spot somewhere in your training regimen provided you can perform them safely and effectively.

The kettlebell swing is excellent for developing the posterior chain (the muscles on the back side of the body,) developing explosiveness, as well as developing a solid base level of conditioning. The swing is movement that should be done using submaximal weight and is best performed for high reps anywhere from 10 to 50 and more. It’s also great to use in timed sets or circuits and has an immense training effect on the cardiovascular system.

Unfortunately, due to the immense popularity of this exercise (everybody and their grandmother’s want to do the swing) it’s often done incorrectly. The movement operates as a pendulum that requires a fine balance between tension and relaxation of the muscles to get proper momentum. The following are examples of  important details that people neglect when performing kettlebell swings and that hinder progression toward other kettlebell movements such as cleans and snatches.

THE HIKE

The kettlebell swing commences with a powerful hike back between the legs. A lot of people start the swing by deadlifting and trying to groove the pattern in midair. However the best way to start the swing is by placing it roughly two feet infront of you and then powerfully hiking it back between your legs, like football player hiking a ball to their teammate. This allows the pendulum movement of the swing to start with the downswing allowing the arms to stay relaxed during the movement.

image3

SOFT CLAW

Another crucial part to successfully swinging a kettlbell is keeping a soft grip. This means that you want to gently hook your hands around the handle of the bell. This will prevent severe callouses and overuse of the arms during the swing which is important as the swing is launched by the hips while the arms are acting as a tether not a prime mover.

If your arms tend to get tired while doing the kettlebell swing, try a few sets of towel swings, this will teach you to launch the kettlebell with your hips. To perform the towel swing, loop a towel around the handle of the kettlebell and hold on to the ends of the towel – perform the swing as usual.

GLUTE POWER

The kettlebell swing is a hip dominant movement, meaning the glutes provide the force required to start the upswing. When you come to the end of the downswing you want to squeeze the glutes as hard as possible while pushing the feet into the floor, this will let the bell float back up and allow the pendulum motion to continue.

RIBS DOWN

While peaking at the top of the swing and hitting the lockout, a lot of people will forget to engage their abs and shift in to letting their ribs float up which will displace tension into the lower back (which can lead to pain and injury.) The top of the kettlebell swing should look like a standing plank without excessive arching in the lower back – the abs and glutes should both feel tense.

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ATTACK YOUR FLY

Another common mistake many people make (from gym goers to top coaches) is allowing the kettlebell to dip below the knees. This kills the power being generated from the glutes and will result in using the arms and lower back to muscle the kettlebell up leading to inefficiency. The closer the kettlebell is to the muscle launching the movement, the easier it will be to perform the exercise.

As we know, the kettlebell is launched by the glutes, so to keep the kettlebell close to the glutes when it is most proximal to the body imagine you are wearing jeans and aim your hands for your zipper on the downswing. At the end of the movement your chest should be close to parallel with the floor and the kettlebell should be behind you between your legs. 

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PARK IT

Last but not least, after you’ve completed a beautiful set of kettlebell swings you want to park the kettlebell. Parking the kettlebell and finishing your set properly will prevent you from trying to figure any new and inventive ways to injure yourself while trying to figure out how to stop the swing. All you have to do after the last downswing is keep your chest low and just allow the bell to come forward and down from your hips which will park it gently on the floor.

Put all that together and you should end up with a refined set of kettlebell swings that looks something like this.

 

Happy Kettlebell Swinging! 😀

Did this help you? Did you hate it? Would you like some Drake to go with those swings?

 

 

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POP, LOCK, AND DROP – Glute Circuit

exercise, Programming, Strength, Training By July 10, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

 

another one

That’s right folks, I’m back with another one – grab some mini bands, and get ready for this lovely glute burner ???

3 Rounds of 3 exercises guaranteed to offer a nice glute pump.


POP, LOCK, AND DROP – GLUTE CIRCUIT

A1) Banded In-And-Out Squats x 10 reps (Left side) Focus on pushing the knees outward and resisting the band during the whole movement, even when jumping in from the wide stance squat.
A2) Banded Hip Extension x 10 reps per side  (Top right corner) Push your moving leg back by contracting the glute. try to do the movement with control and without extending through the lower back to get additional range of motion.
A3) Banded Lateral Hip Abduction x 10 reps per side (Bottom right corner) Start with your feet together, try to push the moving leg away from the stationary leg. Focus on keeping your core tight and try to minimize any movement and shifting in the hips.

Perform 3 rounds without rest between exercises. Rest as needed between rounds. Use the appropriate band for your strength level – if you’ve never used resistance bands for your glutes start with a light band and work your way up in resistance if it’s too easy.

If you would like a set of mini bands without having to sacrifice your life savings and first born child, I recommend this set off of Amazon ($13.99 CAD + free shipping), it is the same set that I am using in this video.

Happy Glute Training! 🙂

 

Did you love this? Did you hate this? Did you get a crazy glute pump from doing the Pop, Lock, and Drop? Let me know in the comments.

 

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So You Think You Can Windmill?

exercise, Programming, Strength, Training By July 1, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

In case you did not receive the memo – I have an awesome windmill. Unfortunately not the badass breakdancing kind, but the kettlebell kind.

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Badass kettlebell windmill as photographed by Sergio Mazzaferro.

The kettlebell windmill is both a stability and mobility drill. It is a great addition to any warm-up before doing overhead work or kettlebell work. To lay things out, this is not a strength movement and it is not a good choice for doing a One Rep Max. The name of the game with windmills is: Movement and Control.

The windmill can be a very humbling movement for many people as it requires moving the body in a way that a lot of people have never even thought of doing, let alone adding weight on top of it.

The windmill requires a decent amount of mobility in the following areas – hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine. As this exercise requires so much movement, it is highly recommended to do mobility drills prior to this exercise to open up these regions unless you are Gumby.

It is what it is.

It is what it is.

Some good mobility drills to do before the windmill are:

Cat & Cow – to promote healthy articulation of the vertebrae of the spine which will aid in thoracic rotation. Perform 1 set of 10 reps.

Feldenkrais Rotations – to open up the thoracic spine for a strong rotation in the bottom of the windmill. Perform 1 set per side, work your way to the floor.

Cossack Squat – to open up the hips and adductors and get the glutes firing.  Perform 1 set of 10 reps per side.

High Bear Crawl with legs locked – to mobilize the hips and stretch the hamstrings. Perform 1 set moving both forward and backward.

In addition to these exercises, if necessary spend some extra time working on overhead mobility by doing lower trap reaches, wall slide drills, or shoulder dislocates.

Once properly warmed-up, it’s time to progress into the windmill – however before progressing into the windmill, it’s good to understand a few things:

  • The windmill is  hinge movement with the feet set up in an  “L” shape. One the side of the body of the overhead arm the foot should be pointing forward. On the nonloaded side the foot should be pointing sideways. The movement happens by folding the hips- or pushing the hips backward without compromising the spine. To get back up to the lockout position, you push the hip forward and squeeze the glute on the loaded side.
  • The overhead arm should always be locked – in the words of Shawn Mozen of Agatsu “A little bit bent is like being a little bit pregnant.
  • Lastly, always look at the overhead arm when loaded. Keep your eyes on that weight like white on rice.

Now that you are intimately informed on the windmill and her inner workings, you’re ready to get down. Grab a kettlebell and get ready to work through the following windmill progressions:

  1. Windmill to kettlebell grab
  2. Windmill to kettlebell grab with arm bend
  3. Windmill to hand on floor
  4. Bottom Loaded Windmill
  5. Full Windmill – Top Loaded Windmill

In the following the video these progressions are demonstrated in order in multiples of three repetitions. Work through the progressions as you are able. Remember to work within the range you have without forcing extra range by compromising form and technique.

 

Are you ready to windmill? Did this article help you? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Let me know in the comment section below or feel to reach me via the “Contact” page.

 

 

 

 

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4 Ways to Crush Strength Plateaus

exercise, Programming, Strength, Training By March 27, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Few things are as frustrating as heading in to the gym day in day out and not progressing. The weights stay the same week to week and results are stagnating. You were planning on pulling a 225lbs deadlift but you seem to be stuck at 185lbs with no sign of getting stronger.

What can be done to solve this dillemma? Fortunately, there are lots of effective techniques to help break through strength plateaus. Providing that nutrition and recovery are sound – there are ways to manipulate the exercises and repetitions to maximize the results.

Back in November I watched the movie Creed and went to lift immediately afterwards – I set a PR on the deadlift that workout and pulled 245lbs. Although I like to credit Michael B. Jordan’s performance as the reason I pulled that personal record – that’s not a method I’m willing to rely on in order to get strong. Fortunately the following methods you’re about to be introduced to are true and tested – and adding them into your training will definitely help bust through any strength plateaus.

TEMPO MANIPULATION

Tempo in relation to exercise dictates the speed at which a movement is performed. It is usually written as a series of four numbers (eg. 4010) which indicates the duration of each part of a repetition.  The first number is the eccentric (lowering part of the movement), the second number indicates the bottom of the movement and how long it is held, the third number indicates the concentric phase of the movement, and the the fourth number indicates the count of the hold at the top of the movement.

For example if a deadlift is performed with a 3112 tempo, you will:

  • lift the bar up for 1 second
  • hold for 2 seconds at the top
  • lower for 3 seconds
  • pause for 1 second on the floor before doing the next rep

Tempo can be manipulated to create less or more muscular tension. A slower tempo will illicit a higher amount of tension versus a faster tempo – a 2010 tempo for 5 reps will be easier to perform than a 4010 tempo for 5 reps. The easiest part of a tempo to manipulate to improve strength is the eccentric portion as this is the easiest part of the movement to perform in general and will allow for a controlled movement leading to better muscle recruitment and motor patterning positively effecting overall strength.

The other best way to manipulate tempo is by adding pauses where the movement is the most difficult to perform. Adding a pause at the bottom of a squat it is a great way to develop strength for people who struggle to get out of the whole. Adding a pause at the top of a bench press would help for people who fail to successfully lockout the movement. Pauses can also be used in parts of the concentric and eccentric phases of the movement instead of just the top or bottom if that’s where an individual struggles.

RANGE SPECIFIC TRAINING

Range specific training refers to hammering out any issues there may be while performing a specific range of motion of an exercise. This can be done by extending ranges of motion, shortenining ranges of motion, or performing accessory movements that are relative to weakness in the movement.

If a person struggles to deadlift heavy weights from the floor but has no issues with performing a lockout – adding a deficit deadlift (deadlift performed while standing on a platform and the bar still on the floor) would likely benefit them and increase their deadlift strength. This works by making a longer range of motion forcing the lifter to pull the bar from and even lower distance than normal. This is one way to lengthen a range.

Conversely, strength can also be improved by shortening a range – for example if a trainee has difficulty with the top part of bench press they can move into an exercises such as a floor press – which shortens the range of motion and only trains the top half or lockout of the movment. Another way to shorten a range would be to perform a rack pull where you deadlift out of the rack from a higher starting to point to train the top half of the deadlift for a strong lockout.

In addition to manipulating the length of the repetitions we can also train parts of a movement with other exercises. To continue with the example of a deadlift – we want to look for exercises that simulate similar angles to the specific ranges where we struggle.

Bottom of the Deadlift 45 Degree Back Extension
Middle of the Deadlift Seated Goodmorning
Top of the Deadlift 90 Degree Back Extension

ACCUMULATION

Another way to bust through strength plateaus is by accumulating volume (ie. performing a lot of reps and sets) – in essence, doing hypetrophy training to elicit a gain in muscle size. The benefit of doing this type of training is that it creates high muscular tension while performing reps on reps on reps with a more moderate weight.

If this is confusing, picture it like this – a relatively strong lifter can perform a 5×5 program for strength, but if they plateau and decided to move a 10×10 training model they are:

  1. going to be using a more moderate weight allowing for better muscle control and coordination which equates to grooving an amazing and flawless movement pattern
  2. creating a lot of muscular tension allowing for better muscle firing
  3. putting on more muscle – which can be trained to move heavier weights

STRUCTURAL BALANCE

The last way to get stronger is by maintaining or creating structural balance between muscles. This can be one of the most neglected aspects of strength by trainees – as it can tend to not feel as rewarding because it usually requires movements (often remedial) with lighters weights or performing calisthenics that leave you feeling humbled.

Structural balance is extremely important to strength and the best way to understand this to explain it by building houses. Imagine you’re building a house, you’ve created your structure and then you’ve gone and reinforced it with extra materials to make it stronger, however the house has only been reinforced in certain areas. This house now has weak links that won’t be able to resist damage as well as the reinforced partsof the house. Meaning it isn’t structurally balanced. The way to correct this is by reinforcing the weak parts.

This house is your body, and essentially if there are any injuries or imbalances between muscles from front to back (anterior chain versus posterior chain) or side to side (dominant side vs non-dominant side) these muscles need to be targetted and  trained to bring them as close to structurally balanced as possible.

This is done by performing specific isolation and unilateral exercises to directly facilitate and strengthen or “rehab” the lagging muscles in training. Sometimes this will need to go a step further in terms of seeking out treatment methods such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, A.R.T, massage therapy, N.K.T, and physiotherapy depending on how severe the imbalances or injuries are and what has caused them. Don’t hesitate to seek extra care or help when addressing structural balance, especially if it’s something you’ve already been working on for a while.

 

Did this help you? Did you hate this? Hit me up and let me know your thoughts.

 

 

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