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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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KETTLEBELL QUICKIE – Clean it up!

Fat Loss, Programming, Training By January 2, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

This week’s KETTLEBELL QUICKIE is here! A simple and straightforward complex to help train your clean and jerk.

A1) One-Hand Swing x 5 reps
A2) Clean x 5 reps
A3) Jerk x 5 reps
A4) Clean and Jerk x 5 reps
PERFORM 3 SETS PER SIDE. Rest as necessary between sets. Complete as quickly as possible.

 

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KETTLEBELL QUICKIE – Snatch That!

Fat Loss, Training By December 13, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

I am thrilled to annouce that every week I will be sharing a kettlebell metabolic conditioning workouts that you can do in a pinch. These workouts will short and intense in nature and will be shared every Monday moving forward, so stay tuned! 🙂

Our first workout is a kettlebell complex to build and groove the kettlebell snatch. A complex means you will complete one round of the exercises without putting the weight down or resting.

This week’s workout goes as follows…

SNATCH THAT!

A1) one arm swing x 5 (right)
A2) high pull x 5 (right)
A3) snatch x 5 (right)
A4) one arm swing x 5 (left)
A5) high pull x 5 (left)
A6) snatch x 5 (left)
Do 4 rounds for time, rest between rounds as necessary.

Hop to it! 🙂

Share your times for you workout on Instagram and Twitter and don’t forget to tag me in the posts.

 

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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.

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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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3 Reasons to Focus on the Weight You Lift instead of the Weight on the Scale

Health, Mindset, Strength, Training By February 28, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

It’s very easy to become preoccupied with the weight on the scale and whether or not your body composition is changing. And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to change how you look, if it gets to the point where it’s breaking your spirit and effecting your mood on a day to day basis it may be time to shift your focus elsewhere.

For many women shifting their training focus to gaining strength can be very rewarding. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with being able to do things like chin-ups or carry large pieces of furniture by yourself. So let’s take a look at some of the reasons why it’s awesome to focus on the weight on the bar instead of the weight on the scale.


 1) Your body becomes more durable: When training to get stronger and using progressive overload – your body will get stronger but you will also put on lean mass. While most people include muscle in lean muscle, they forget to include bone mass. This means you gain bone density and can reduce your risk for osteoporosis which is a very common health issue for women as they age.

Not only can training for strength prevent osteoporosis but it can also prevent joint pain – a common issue that arises as a result of weak musculature associated with poor posture. By following a balanced strength program you can improve your posture and also reduce joint pain in the elbows, knees, hips, lower back, and shoulders by strengthening the surrounding musculature. This is amazing because when you’re long into your old age you can be happy and pain free with bones that are strong and joints that don’t ache. There’ll be no need to run to your Grandmother’s medicine cabinet and grab those Lakota tablets.

2) You will be more independent: Having a solid level of base strength can give you independence in ways you’ve probably never even realized. Can you bang out a few pull ups? You probably won’t have any issues opening any jars thanks to your amazing grip strength. Can you deadlift your own bodyweight? Enjoy being able to carry groceries home in one trip and not worry about whether or not you’ll drop anything.

Moving into a new home? Have fun easily carrying pieces of furniture by yourself and not worrying about being sore or accidentally injuring yourself. Life gets easier when you’re stronger and allows you to do more things on your own that would generally have to ask help for previously.

3) You will gain a greater appreciation for your body: Maybe you love your butt, maybe you have some Michelle Obama arms that make you proud. Unfortunately when a lot women start exercising it’s usually because they have a feeling of dissatisfaction in regards to their appearance. In my experience, a lot of women start feeling a greater sense of appreciation for their bodies when they realize how much they can do instead of solely focusing on what they look like.

There’s a lovely transition that happens when women start focusing on the weight they’re lifting versus the weight on the scale. It allows us to take the emphasis off of our physical appearance and focus on our capabilities. And as we get stronger and improve our physical performance we tend to develop a more loving relationship with our bodies and have a greater sense of appreciation for what our bodies can do. We learn to view our body as an instrument rather than an ornament. We develop confidence in our physical ability and a more profound love for our body because we learn to appreciate it from another perspective. A greater love for ourselves directly impacts our quality of life and trickles into our careers, relationships, and day to day life. Who doesn’t want more of that?

If you’re ready to develop a more durable body, a greater level of independence, and a greater appreciation for your body get in touch so we can get you started on a sound training program and with practical nutrition skills so you can be strong, sane, and thriving.

 

Did you love this post? Did you hate it? I want to hear from you 🙂

Leave your questions and comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Exercises You Should Be Doing

Fat Loss, Training By July 27, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to do “cool” looking exercises like a single leg romanian deadlift while standing on a BOSU with the flat-side up. However the most effective exercises in terms of developing your overall strength, balance, muscle and physique really aren’t that “fancy” or gimmicky. The greatest exercises aren’t absurdly difficult to pick up and don’t require you to have been practicing gymnastics and contorsion since you were 3 years old.

It’s also easy to want to stick to isolation machine exercises because they are easy to pick up and figure out on your own however these exercises aren’t going to maximize your training potentially.

I was recently giving a client at my gym a machine orientation and she was asking me how I trained in order to get results…and so I explained to her, I generally focus on compound/multi-joint movements and try to do different variations of those movements regularly in full-body workouts. To train the full-body, you need several movement patterns a hinge pattern, a squat pattern, a pressing pattern, and a pulling pattern.

When it comes to weight training, without getting too hung up on minutiae, but there are five tradition exercises you should be focusing on that will help train your movement patterns. These moves were introduced to me as the “Golden Five” and I was told that they were what I should focus on the most while training.  To this day, I still believe 95% of the gym population would see better results if their focus shifted more towards doing more variations of these lifts.

The common denominator between the Golden Five is that they are all “full-body” movements and qualify as compound exercises. Compound exercises allow you to maximize the muscles used and joints moved which translates nicely into getting very strong, puting on more muscle, increasing your metabolism, getting leaner and geting the most bang for your buck from your workouts. The five exercises we’ll be focusing on are the deadlift, the squat, the bench press, the row, and the overhead press.

The Golden Five

1) Deadlift: The deadlift is the best exercise of these five for developing overall strength and it’s normal to see impressive and rapid gains on this lift in novice trainers. This exercises is awesome for developing the posterior chain, especially the glutes and hamstrings. When performed correctly it trains the core and is awesome for developing power.  It also the most metabolically demanding exercise of the Golden Five and should be implemented in any fat loss programming.

There are many different variations of the deadlift that can be used depending on your goals and training experience, some that I like to use with clients are: Kettlebell Deadlifts, Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts, Conventional Barbell Deadlifts, Trap Bar Romanian Deadlifts, and Rack Pulls. 

The biggest take away with this exercise is making sure that you’re using “neutral spine” throughout the whole movement – meaning you’re maintaing the natural curvatures of the spine and not comprosing on that form. Maintaining neutral spines ensures that you will be using the correct muscles and be able to perform the exercise safely and effectively.

Neutral spine in the start of the deadlift.

Neutral spine in the start of the deadlift.

**Note: All of your exercises should enforce good posture and spinal allignment. To have a better understanding of what that means refer to the following image:**

skeleton

Basic Cues for the Deadlift:

  1. Chin tucked in – neither looking down nor up. Look ahead.
  2. Shoulder blades pulled back and down.
  3. Keep your ribs down
  4. Lift with your hips, and squeeze the glutes. Think of it like you’re pushing the floor away from you.
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This is a Kettlbell Deadlift. A great variation of the deadlift for beginners to start learning and grooving the hinge pattern.

 

2) Squat: The squat is an exercise that is loved and hated by many. Few feats of strength or more impessive than dropping it like it’s hot while holding 200lbs on your back. While a lot of people may think squats and deadlifts are similar or even the same the fact is that they are not. They have similar overall benefits in terms of fatloss, strength and muscle gain…but they emphasize different movement patterns and muscle groups. The squat is excellent for developing the quads and the glutes but feels entirely different from a deadlift.

A big argument with the squat is whether not it should be performed to full or partial range. My stance on this is that it should be performed in a way that is most effective to the trainee based off of their needs, ability, and goal. I say the range ends when there is a loss of neutral spine. This range or depth can be improved through doing proper warm-up, mobility and stability work. However other factors such as bone structure of the pelvis and femurs will affect what range is actually suitable for the squat. Play around with the movement and find the range that is most suitable for you. Variations of the squat that I love are: Goblet Squats, High Bar Back Squats, Split Squats, and Box Squats.

The Basics of the Squat:

  1. Break at the hips and push the knees forward (yes, you want your knees to pass your toes.)
  2. Keep the knees and the toes inline.
  3. Keep the torso upright and chin tucked in with ribs down.
  4. Press through the whole foot while lifting – toes, ball and heel.
image2

Goblet Squat being performed with a kettlebell.

3) Bench Press: Now that we’ve gone over the lower body exercises it’s time to give some attention to the upper – starting with everyone’s favourite exercise to do on a Monday, the bench press. The bench press is used to develop, the chest, triceps leading to stronger horizontal pressing power and it can be done using many different implements, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, etc. Other great options for working on horizontal pressing are push-ups, dumbbell or barbell floor presses, dumbbell incline press, decline presses, plate presses, or kettlebell presses. 

This biggest mistake people tend to make when performing the bench or other horizontal presses is forgetting to engage the core and glutes, and neglecting press throught the feet or in short “get tight” before the lift or movement. Press your feet into the floor and get the lower body fired up too, don’t just think about your arms – you really do want to be using your full body. In addition to that – in beginner’s there’s usually a lot of “elbow flare” which is okay if the exercises you’re trying to do calls for that, but if it’s not stated or demonstrated that way you want to keep the elbows tucked in. There’s a “sweet spot” between having your arms held out at 90 degrees and having them right along the sides of your torso – play around and find your sweet spot.

elbows

image2 (2)

Single arm kettlbell floor press – note the elbow tucked in versus being flared out in the bottom position of the lift.

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The top position of a kettlebell chest press – it’s like the floor press and plate press had a baby.

4) Row: The Row is our next upper body exercise. It is essentially the bench press of the back. It’s important to train the back in order to prevent and correct bad posture. It targets the romboids, lats, rear delts and traps. Depending on which variation of this exercise you do it will target these muscles different, but my go-to row movements are the Seated Cable Row, Standing Cable Row, Chest Supported Dumbbell Row, 3-point Dumbbell Row, Ring Rows, Inverted Rows, T-Bar Rows and Barbell Bent Over Row.

If you are already very comfortable working with body weight and have good mobility, other good exercises for your back that could be added in are Pull-ups, Chin-ups, and Lat pull-downs. To me being able to row correctly is a prerequistie before moving into overhead pulling, which is why I would prioritize rows before doing pull-ups with novice trainees.

Highlights of the Row:

  1. Keep the shoulders retracted – meanining pulled back and down.
  2. Think of this exercise as trying to bring your shoulder blades as close together as possible versus pulling with the arms. Squeeze your back muscles together
  3. Avoiding pulling with momentum or rocking the upper body.
  4. Add a pause at the end of the “squeeze” in order to maximize contraction through the muscles.

**Note: If you don’t feel it in your back, it’s not working your back.**

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Bent Over Row being performed with a kettlebell.

5) Overhead Press: Last but not least, we’re finishing off with the overhead press. This exercise is great way to develop your delts as well as your core. Any imbalances or weaknesses you have will likely be made visible while doing the press. The predominant muscles worked during the overhead press are the deltoids, while many other muscles (abs, glutes, triceps, traps, serratus anterior, etc) are firing and working in order to make the movement happen. The press does require a great deal of mobility through the shoulders and thoracic spine, if you are limited in these areas this is not a good exercise for you until you rectify those issues.

Some other alternatives to the Overhead Press are: Arnold Presses, Dumbbell Split Stance Presses, Half Kneeling Dumbbell Presses, Seated Presses, Z Presses, and Push Presses.

Points of Note for the Press:

  1. Keep the abs and glutes engaged, these are your stabilizers, get tight before pressing. Stand with your feet in a comfortable position (usually similar to your foot position for the deadlift or squat.)
  2. The path of the weight should start by your collarbones/anterior delts or below the chin, hold the weight just outside of your shoulders and keep the elbows close to the body.
  3. Squeeze the glutes and bring the head back as your start to press overhead, once the weight has passed the top of the head, push the head forward and finish into the top range of the lift.
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Overhead Press demonstrated with a kettlebell.

Implementation

If you’re not sure exactly how to implement these exercises into your workout, here’s a basic outline of a  German Body Composition workout that you could use for 3-4 weeks performing the workouts 3 to 4 times per week. You can run this on Monday, Wednesday, Friday type of schedule or a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday type of schedule depending on your recovery.

 

workout

The beauty of the Golden Five exercises is that they can be implemented in multiple ways. The deadlift, squat, bench press, row and overhead press can be altered through loading pattern, implement, and positioning. Any variaiton can be found and used based on your goals and needs, it’s just a matter of finding which variation is ideal for you. Play around, explore, find what feels comfortable and make sure you have some compound movements in your training – whatever progression or regression may be appropriate. Whatever you do, make sure you’re hingeing, squatting, pressing and pulling in one way or another.

Get to it!

Do you love or hate some of the exercises? Maybe a little bit of both? 

Did you find this helpful? Do you have any questions or feedback?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section or feel free to contact me by e-mail.

 

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Ladies, go with the flow! – Losing your period IS NOT NORMAL

Fat Loss, Nutrition, Training By July 12, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Cramps, cravings, bloating headaches, tiredness with insomnia…just a few of the delights women experience as part of our “monthly gift.”

3rllis

As annoying as it may be to have your period, it’s important to remember that it is good indicator of overall health. For women who experience their period regularly – this indicates that you are in good health and all is well inside your body. Having regular periods means your period is generally around the same time every month,the duration is usually the same, the heaviness of it is usually the same, and the symptoms of it are usually the same. There are even handy apps you can download on your smart phone to help you track the time, duration and symptoms you experience. This can help you determine if your periods are regular or irregular.

*If your period is non-existent and you’re not (post-)menopausal/pregnant, then it is irregular.*

An irregular period can be caused by many things but can be an indicator of underlying problems. These causes can range from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), stress, menopause, etc. However, I want to focus on menstrual irregularity that is caused by extreme exercising and dieting. I am hearing more and more of young women all the time who are losing their periods and thinking nothing of it.

Losing your period is a sign to stop and reflect on what’s going on in your body. When a young athletic woman loses her period she may fall under the category of having Female Athlete Triad. Female Athlete Triad is often observed in women who are in sports that require or emphasize leanness and low body weight (gymnastics, distance running, ballet, swimming, diving, figure skating, physique competitions, etc.) The Female Athlete Triad consists of:

  1. Eating Disorder / Under Eating
  2. Amenorrhoea (Loss of period)
  3. Osteoporosis / Bone Loss

It may be shocking for you to see osteoporosis as part of the triad, as you would generally think of Great Aunt Sue’s tumble down the stairs that broke her wrist in the year of 1998. But I am 100% serious when I say there are 16 year old girls showing up to their doctors with fractures because they have low bone density due to under eating and over training.

This would be a really bad time to break a bone, home girl.

This would be a really bad time to break a bone.

Osteoporosis at any age doesn’t sound great to me, but is seemingly worse for someone who should be thriving health wise at a young age. Although osteoporosis, ammenorrhea and eating disorder/undereating are used to diagnose the Female Athlete Triad there is an extensive list of other not so great symptoms that accompany it.

As a young active woman you may think the idea of being period-less is amazing, but losing the ability to menstruate comes with pretty severe repercussions. You lose your period because your body is changing it’s hormonal profile in order for you to survive harsh conditions. Just because your body is surviving, does not mean it is thriving and performing optimally. Human bodies are amazingly adaptable and can survive many things – but not without consequences. When you lose the ability to menstruate due to over training and under eating, you may also find yourself experiencing:

  • fatigue and low energy
  • poor sleep quality and sleep irregularity
  • hair loss 
  • cold hands and feet (Raynaud’s disease)
  • fluctuations in weight, loss of muscle, increase in fat
  • prolonged/reduced recovery from training or injuries
  • low mood, anxiety, depression
  • low sex drive and difficulty becoming aroused
  • infertility
  • low blood pressure (especially when changing position from sitting to standing)
  • low heart rate
  • muscle spasm and cramping 
  • feeling achy
  • experiencing constipation and bloating or other digestive issues

As you can see, some of these symptoms are down right terrifying and straight up suck. I don’t know about you, but having personally experienced the Female Athlete Triad – the most distressful moment I ever had would be when I was in the shower washing my hair and I had what seemed to be a never ending supply of long strands of hair falling out tangled around my fingers…that was more terrifying to me than the fact that I was 17 year old who hadn’t had a period in three months. However, I was able to get back to normal (no more hair loss or absent periods) by limiting my exercise volume and intensity and increasing my food intake.

If you or someone you know is experiencing the Female Athlete Triad, know that it is usually reversed/treated by eating more and reducing training volume and frequency.  In some cases, hormonal treatment may also be necessary. If Female Athlete Triad is accompanied with an eating disorder or disordered eating working with professional to treat the psychological aspect is also necessary as this would probably the “make or break” factor in terms of recovering and getting back to being fully healthy mentally and physically.

 

Have you experienced the Female Athlete Triad? Do you think your periods are irregular because of your diet and exercise?

Did this ruin or make your day?

Let me know.

 

 

 

 

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