Machines vs. Free weights

When it comes to building strength one of the most common questions people ask me if it is good to do machines, and if so which ones?

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“Come with me if you want to live”

This question always makes me laugh because it sounds like something out of the Terminator.

The bottom line is if you are looking to lose weight and build strength free weights such as dumb bells, kettle bells, barbells and even our own body weight are better options over machines.

Lifting free weights require us force us to use more muscle groups than just the ones performing the movement in order keep our core and other joints stable.

Unlike machines which have us move on fixed planes and often times isolate a certain muscle group, Free allow us to move freely and train muscle groups and chains of muscle groups that allow us to mimic real life movements.

The thing is it can take a while to get proficient at free weight movements, and one wrong movement can lead to an injury.

This is where machines have the upper hand.

I believe machines are great for people just starting out and need to build strength.

Free weights have the ability to move all over the place if you lack proper form or joint stability.  One bad rep where the weight is not controlled can lead to muscle tweaks and tears.

Machines operate on fixed patterns which work to stabilize the weight for you, keeping you safer.

The fixed pattern offers a low learning curve to strength building as well.  Most machines are very easy to hop on and start going to work on with very little coaching required.

Everyone’s goal should be to work up to performing exercises with free weight.  The problem is because machines are easier people stick with them and perform the same movements and never progress.

The lack of progression will cause you to plateau regardless if you are looking to lose weight or build strength.

If you are just starting out with strength training I suggest you start with a combination of machine exercises and body weight stability exercises.  This will help to build strength while building core and joint stability for free weights.

Here is a sample beginner full body machine workout can follow to work their way up to free weights.

A1)3×10 Leg press

A2) :30 plank hold

(super set these two movements)

B1) 3×10 Chest press

B2) :30 wall sit

(super set)

C1)3×10 Rows

C2):30 lunge hold each side

(super set)

 

 

 

Why there is a time place for everything.

I finally broke down and did something I never thought I would do again……   I joined a gym.

I swear I only did it because I need access to heavy weight.

I am starting my off season rugby training program.  This is a time devoted to developing size and strength.

This means I’m getting back to the basic strength exercises of squat, dead lifts, bench press and over head press.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I am coming off a training phase based around a minimalist training program that used kettlebell and bodyweight exercises done either in a complex or a circuit.

The complexes allowed me to move fluidly and do a lot of work in a short amount of time.

That training style was more ideal for my in season needs.  At this point I needed to make sure I worked good movement to prevent bad movement habits from developing.

Bad movement can lead to poor on field performance or even an injury. 

 The kettlebell and bodyweight movements were just what I needed to recover, and maintain strength to prevent those things from happening.   
The kettlebell and bodyweight movements allowed me to address mobility, stability and retrain movement in ways I felt the barbell couldn’t.

At this point in my training I feel the barbell others me a better chance to increase my raw strength.

This doesn’t mean the kettlebell and bodyweight movements are completely out of my training, they just aren’t the focus.

The kettlebell and bodywright stuff are used on my non lifting days to help me recover, build volume, work as accessory exercises and keep me feeling athletic.

What I am trying to show you if that you don’t have to be married to one style of training all the time. 

There is no “bad program” out there.  But there is a time and place for everything.

Your training needs to reflect your goals.  As your goals change, so should your training.

I am excited to be back in the gym and touching heavy barbells again.  The time away from the barbell has me excited to get back to hitting a lifting routine.  

Don’t worry though, those complexes will be back in time for the fall season.

Exercise….what is it good for?

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Exercise is not the most important thing when it comes to losing weight.

People who want to lose weight tend to think the more they move the more weight they will lose.  This falls under the myth that our weight is controlled through the amount of calories we consume vs. the amount of calories we burn.

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Target acquired.  Prepared to drop truth bombs

You can’t simply outwork a bad diet.  The fact is if you want to truly lose weight, paying attention to the quality of your nutrition is essential. But that is the topic for a future post.

Exercise, while not the most effective weight loss tool, plays a vital role in living a happy and healthy life.  Below we will take a look at the positive impact exercise brings to the table.

  1. Increased Strength
  2. Increase Mobility/flexibility
  3. Injury prevention
  4. Increased bone density
  5. Improves Cardio-vascular function
  6. Improves Coordination
  7. Metabolic effect
  8. Mental health

Increased Strength

It is necessary for us to  exert forces onto objects in this world.  We require to generate force when we walk or try to lift a 300 lbs barbell.   Hell we need to generate force just to keep our spine erect and stable.

Our muscles are what allow us to generate force.  It is through exercise that we are able to develop the muscle strength so we can exert force to manipulate objects and be able to move.

Athletes require the most force production.  Things like speed and power require athletes to be able to manipulate the ball, ground, their opponent etc. in a variety of ways.  This requires a lot of strength and force production from their muscles.

I am not saying everyone needs to be on the level of an athlete, but we should have enough strength to perform everyday tasks like carry groceries or put dishes away in the cupboard.

Increased Mobility/Flexibility

Technically this could fall under strength as well.  Strength is not just about how fast our muscles can contract and relax to generate force, but also the distance the muscle/joint can move.

When we talk about flexibility we talk about lengthening our actual muscles.  When we talk about mobility we talk about taking a joint through a full range of motion.

If flexibility and mobility are limited so is our strength.  Tight muscles prevent us from efficiently generating force.

Exercise is like the oil which helps us move.  Proper exercise should take our muscles and joints through their full range of motion which in turn stretch and strengthen muscles.

Keep in mind, like strength, changes in mobility and flexibility are gradual and you should see results over a period of time.

Coordination

Exercise helps our body learn how to move properly.  Our bodies use groups of individual muscles to perform movement.

Muscle groups are activated by our central nervous system (brain and nerves) to perform movements.  These are called motor patterns.  The more a motor pattern is trained (muscle activation) the easier it becomes for us to do.

Many times I find that my clients have developed poor motor patterns from years of using wrong muscle groups.  This often occurs for two reasons.  One being muscle tightness that restricts movement. And two smaller muscle groups take over the workload of bigger muscle groups because the bigger muscle groups are not being activated or are weak.

This is most evident in the hip hinge (or dead lift) movement where people use their low back muscles instead of their powerful posterior leg muscles (hamstring and glutes) which are deactivated or tight from things like prolonged sitting.

Injuries can also effect motor patterns as we tend to compensate by using other muscle groups to perform a task that the injured area usually performs (i.e limping).  This is why therapy is important after an injury to strengthen and relearn motor patterns.

Exercise is a way for us to create a controlled environment to re-develop good motor patterns and to relearn proper movement.

Increased bone density

Loading the body with heavy weight helps our bones become denser.  Dense bones mean less breaks, and also helps prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.

Injury Prevention

The combination of strength, flexibility/mobility, increased bone density, and coordination goes a long way to helping us prevent injuries.

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Increased cardio-respiratory function

Excuse me as I get sciency for a second.

Exercise helps keep our cardio-respiratory function running efficiently.

Our cardio-respiratory system provides us with two functions.

  1. Deliver oxygen throughout the body
  2. Expel the body of acid (carbon dioxide)

Our muscles require oxygen to produce energy so they can exert force onto objects.  Blood carries oxygen throughout the body

During exercise we place our body under stress.  In a stressed state we need to get oxygen to the muscles quickly.  This is why our heart rate increases, because we need oxygen rich blood to keep creating energy to complete our task.

The by product of using energy is acid.  Our body doesn’t like being in an acidic state and therefore needs to get rid of the waste quickly through exhalation.

The stressed conditions work to help our heart and lungs work efficiently to get oxygen rich blood into the body, and acidic carbon dioxide out of the body improving the health of our cardio-respiratory system.

Exercise is also great at lowering blood pressure as it requires the muscles to absorb sugar out of the blood to create energy.

Improves metabolic efficiency

More science on the way.

As I already  mentioned our muscles require energy to generate force.  Oxygen is one way we create energy.  Another way is through a natural sugar called glucose.

Glucose is the simplest way for us to make energy.  We get glucose from breaking down carbohydrates.  Glucose from carbohydrates are found in our blood, but get absorbed and stored in muscles and liver.  If all those stores are full that is when they get stored as lipids (fat) in the body to be broken down when our glucose stores run dry.

After an intense workout our muscles need to refill their energy stores so we are ready to perform any task that might come our way.

Glucose can either come from breaking down carbohydrates that we consume, or from lipid stores.

The hormone insulin helps the muscles absorb glucose out of the blood.

Now I can already here you saying “but Steve if our muscles break down fat won’t that mean exercise causes us to lose weight?”

Yes exercise does help us lose weight.  But nutrition plays a more important role.

While exercise increases our efficiency to absorb glucose, you can’t continue to overfill the glucose stores in the muscles because then they get stored as lipids.  Controlling sugar intake is vital to keeping this in check and no  matter how much you exercise you can’t escape this.

Exercise improves mood

Exercise not only helps us physically but  mentally as well.  Exercise is a great way to deal with stress.

When we exercise it offers us an escape.  For a brief amount of time we are able to take our mind off of what is going on in our lives, and are forced to be in tune with our body to hit a PR lift or just get through an intense workout.  It’s like a daily mini vacation.

On top of the mini vacation it offers a release.  Exercise, especially of the intense variety, requires us to generate force.  Exerting our force onto something does wonders to help us relieve stress.

This is why people love to hit the heavy bag after work or scream into pillows.  These actions are forceful and help us to relieve pent up stress.

Exercise also helps us release endorphin hormones.  Endorphins give us a euphoric feel.  Some people call this a “runner high.”  These endorphins are natural anti-depressants that allow us to develop more self-esteem and happiness.

Exercise is a great self-esteem builder by itself as well.  Seeing ourselves progress by lifting more weight, or performing new movements (or movements we never thought we could do again) plays a major role in improving our mood and feeling happier.

Although exercise might not be the weight loss tool we all thought it was, it plays a vital role in keeping us healthy and happy.

 

Why and how you should train outside

Looking to spice up your routine? Well today I am going to tell you why training outdoors might be a great option for you and share with you a few of my favorite ways to train.

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Was this you all winter?

I absolutely love when it gets warm out.  It means I can come out of hibernation and get back to do things outside like golf, grilling, and working out.

Training outside has many benefits.  One being getting vitamin D from the sun.  You can also kill two birds with one stone by getting fit and working on that killer tan (I can already here my mom telling me to just make sure I wear sunscreen).

Training outside can add a new level of freshness to your routine.  No one ever said your training had to be all work and no play.  The change in scenery can make your workout feel less like a work by turning the world into your playground.

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Getting outside also provides me with so much more room for activities, and no we are not talking about aerobics and step class either.  I love the freedom to be able to move.  The more space I have the cooler things I feel like I am able to do.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to train outside.

Swimming

Swimming is a great workout conditioning workout that will also hit muscles you didn’t even know you had.  For people who suffers from joint pain this might be a great option for you as the water takes some of the weight of your joints.

Plus it’s a great excuse to get to the beach….and who doesn’t love the beach.

Kettlebells

My old friends.  I love these things partly because I can take them anywhere.  I drag them outside all the time for killer workouts anywhere.  I even sneak one or two with me on vacation so I can stay on top of my training.

Sleds

Sleds are a great tool that builds amazing strength and conditioning, but require a lot of space to use them.  I love pushing them, dragging them, pulling them.

Sleds can do much more than just lower body movements.  Add a handle to it and now you can work upper body exercises like rows, presses, curls, etc.  On top of that you can even combine the two and perform full body movements for a whole new level of suck.  One of my favorites examples of this is the explosive rows.

Usually sleds are big and bulky, but I love the magic carpet sled from Spud Inc. because they are light weight, and can fold up making it easy to store and take wherever it is you want to train.

TRX

The TRX originated as a way for Navy SEALs to train while out on a long mission.  This is why it is light weight and transportable and also hooks around anything that can hold you.

Because the TRX allows you to move in some unique ways.  There are countless ways you can twist your body, while at the same time staying focused on stabilizing your joints and core.  This is a great tool for anyone looking to build strength and lose weight with body weight movements, but this tool can really help tennis players or golfers improve their game my mimicking movement patterns of their sport.

Sprints

Sprints suck, but they are great muscle builders and fat burners.  I often like to throw these in on leg days as conditioning/accessory work.

Sprints are equal to heavy lifting when it comes to intensity.  Heavy lifting and sprints both require a max effort and because of that really taxes the central nervous system.  That is why they are so effective in building muscle and burning fat.

Make your sprints extra spicy by finding a nice steep hill to sprint up.  This will really crank up the fat burning and muscle building process.

Walks/hikes

Walking and hiking are at the other end of the intensity spectrum than sprinting, yet very effective form of exercise.

Walking and hiking are great for conditioning, active recovery, and fat loss (even more so than jogging).  I also find walking to be very relaxing and helps me to clear my head and just enjoy the outdoors.

If you want to spice up your walk wear a weighted vest.  This will challenge your back, core and leg muscles like you wouldn’t believe.

Carries

Loaded carries are awesome, and being outside gives you enough space to carry as far as your heart desires.

Carries provide strength and conditioning all thrown into one simple thing.  Pick up something light and see how fast it takes for you to go a long distance, or pick up something heavy and go for a short distance.

There are really no wrong ways to do this.  Double arm, single arm, farmers, waiters, over head, mixed carries.  It’s all up to you.

Yoga

Doing yoga is already relaxing for both the mind and the body.  But there is something about doing it outside that relaxes the body even more and really let’s you become with nature.

Play ground

Playgrounds aren’t just for kids.  They make for great gyms.

I love showing up to the playground around the corner from my house with random equipment like resistance bands or my TRX.  Sometimes I’ll show up with no equipment at all and just make a workout up on the spot using things like monkey bars for pull ups and a park bench for dips.

Using only the environment around makes things  fun, challenging me to be creative, functional and different than the normal routine.  Give it a go.  It will be interesting to see what kind of things you can come up with.

Games

Workouts don’t always have to be structured and tedious.

In fact breaking from the structure can help keep us fresh.  Whether it be golf, tennis, baseball, softball, basketball etc just get outside and have some fun.

Personally I play rugby sevens over the summer and consider that my conditioning workouts.  Nothing too complicated just running around with my friends and having some fun.  Plus I like the feeling of using my fitness for something.

Do you have a cool way you like to workout outside that we missed?  We would love to hear about it in the comments below.

10 Great Exercise Options for Beginners

Are you just getting started at the gym and don’t know what to do?  Well I am here to help you out by providing you with this 10 exercise road map to help you get from fitness newb to fitness pro.

Starting something new is always scary.  This is most prevalent at the gym.

The gym has a bunch of equipment and people people who might be intimidating because they are lifting heavy weight, make a lot of noise, and we have no idea what it is they are doing or what that machine is used for.

It an be quite overwhelming seeing other people doing a million different exercises, wondering if you should be doing that in your workout.  I know that feeling.  I have felt both as a trainer programming for clients, and when developing my own workouts.

As a newbie there are only a few things you need to be focusing on.   You should be focusing on building strength, learning good form, and building up your ability to do work (work capacity).

When selecting exercises to include in your training you need to look at the type of movement the exercise is and not so much which body part it works.   After all we are not put together piece by piece in a lab like some sort of Frankenstein monster.

We require our different body parts to work together to help us perform everyday movement.  We need to view our training the same way.   Putting the focus on movement will cover all of the body parts you wish to hit in your workout in a more efficient manner.

The movements you need to make sure you cover are pushing, pulling, squatting, hingeing (bending at hips), carrying and twisting.
The 10 exercises below will help you master these movements and progress to more advanced exercises in the gym as you get stronger and in better shape.

  1. Plank

    The plank is amazing for teaching us how our core should be engaged in our lifts.  Focus on creating a straight line in your body from head to toe.  You can do this by tightening your abs by pretending to brace as if you’re about to get punched in the stomach.  At the same time you should be squeezing your butt tightly.  If done right this should make your body feel as stiff as a board.  We don’t want to see butts up in the air (not squeezing glutes) or any bellies sagging to the ground (not keeping core tight).  I typically like to hold planks for a short amount of time (10-30 seconds) for 5-10 rounds.

  2. Goblet Squat

    Squatting is a must in any program.  I mean without squatting we would never be able to sit down or get out of a chair.

    The Goblet squat is a great way to build strength and work on form.  Holding the weight in the Goblet position (holding a kB or DB at chest level with both hands) forces us to keep our chest up and engages your core.

    I prefer teaching goblet squats over body weight squats because of the feedback the weight gives us.  Holding onto the weight forced our chest into that up position.  This is important because if your chest were to drop, the weight would fall to the ground.  Therefore unlike a bodyweight squat we can’t get away with dropping the chest to get low and we are forced to learn good form.

  3. Push up

    This is probably the most famous body weight exercise.  I am sure everyone has done a push up at some point in their entire life.  I know when I was in school we had to do them every gym class.

    Believe it or not the push up is more then just a chest exercise but can serve as a total body exercise.

    I like to think of the push up as a plank with movement added to it.  Everything must stay tight, like the plank, as we lift and lower our body to the ground.

    As you master the push up you can make it harder by changing hand positions, adding explosiveness such as claps, add additional movement with other limbs, changing tempo and adding resistance.

    Mastering the push up IS A MUST before bench pressing.  If you can’t do 10 solid push-ups you shouldn’t be on the bench.

    Band assisted push up
    Incline Push up

    Many people just starting out may struggle with the push-up.  There are plenty of ways to help scale the push up and develop that strength.  Some of my favorite ways is to have people do burpees, add a resistance band to assist you out of the bottom of a push up, or start with incline push ups as you get more help from the shoulder muscles and have to push less body weight.

  4. Sled push/drag/pull

     

    Sleds are amazing.  They allow for us to get a lot done with very small learning curve.All you have to do is push, pull or backwards drag it.  That is literally it.  We all know how to do these movements making it an easy exercise to get started with.

    Sleds build massive strength and work capacity, and won’t leave you feeling too sore after.

  5. Pull apart

    Our back and shoulders really love this exercise.  Many of us have tight shoulders and upper backs from sitting over a desk all day.  This can lead to imbalances that can be the cause of a lot of shoulder pain.

    The pull apart is a great way to combat these shoulder issues.  Pull aparts strengthen our back muscles while stretching our chest and shoulders.  This helps or your body counteract the effects of sitting.  I like to use a light resistance band and perform a lot of reps.  This will help those shoulders feel much better and develop a bigger back.

  6. Jumps/throws

    Like the sled exercises, jumps and throws have low learning curves.  Jumping and throwing are simple movements that we have been doing since we have been little kids.

    Jumping and throwing are a total body exercise that helps us burn a lot of fat due to getting maximal force out put and is a great strength builder as our body absorbs force in the landing.  Jumps and throws are sneaky and fun ways to develop proper form for squaring because our joints have to align correctly to absorb the force of landing.

    Simple jumps you can do include Box jumps, squat jumps, and broad jumps.

    For throws you can never go wing with chest passes, soccer throw or the backwards overhead throw.  It is more important to get as much height and distance on your throws, that is why I recommend using a pretty light medball.

    Make these fun.  Make it a contest and see if you can beat your last jump or throw.

  7. Reclined row

    Rows are vital to any training.  Rows are great for building your backs and arms, but also keep the shoulder healthy.  The reclined row is a simple exercise that uses your own body weight.  All you need is a barbell in a rack, rings, or TRX straps.  Grab the barbell or straps, lay flat and pull your chest to the rings/bar.  The flatter you lay to the ground, and the further out you put your feet, the harder the exercise gets.

  8. Loaded carrywp-1490883297755.jpg

    Loaded carries are pretty much a walking plank that builds massive strength and work capacity.  You can read more about the loaded carry here.

  9. Burpees

    I have a love hate relationship with burpees.  When done right (as in controlled movement) I love them as they can help people work toward the push up, work their core, develop lower body strength, increase mobility, and increase their work capacity.  The problem is most people do them wrong by just flailing on the floor and getting up however they can.  This causes people to miss out on all the benefits of the exercise.

    1 squat down

    2 hands on ground

    3 kick legs out to plank position

    4 lower body

    5 push up

    6 pull kick knees in

    7 stand up

    8 jump

    Control is greater than speed.  It will add more strength than just flopping on the ground and trying to get up as fast as possible.  As you get stronger and in better condition speed will come.

Crawls

 Just like the sled, carries and jumps we all know how to crawl.  Hell we have been doing it since we’ve been babies.  But let me tell you, crawling isn’t just baby stuff.  Crawls develop great lower and upper body strength and mobility. It is also a huge core builder and a conditioning butt kicker.  There are many crawl variations but I like starting with the bear crawl.  At first focus on form by keeping a flat back and taking small steps.  As you get more comfortable and stronger pick up the speed and experiment with different crawls.

When I program these exercises for a new client I like to pick 5 exercises (one from each category) and create a circuit.

Circuits are great because they allow for us to keep working while letting body parts rest.  I generally set up my circuits for beginners by doing sets of 10 to build volume and familiarity with exercises, or doing reps for time (example 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest).

I generally have my clients do 3-5 rounds of the circuit.  As they get stronger and fitter I usually move them into a more strength based program where we do less reps at higher weight, for more reps, and maybe some more advanced movements.

X marks the spot!  Don’t be lost any longer.  I can help you develop your fitness treasure map with online programming.  Click here to get to X and collect your fitness treasure without having to take a million detours. 

Did I leave out a movement you love to do with beginners?  Let us know in the comments below.

101 Exercises to do with your Kettlebells

Ever wonder what you can do with a kettlebell?  Well today I am going you 101 different kettlebell exercise ideas that will help you develop great workouts to burn fat and build muscle.

If you have been following my blog it’s no secret that I absolutely have fallen in love with kettlebells.   To me kettlebells offer freedom in my training.

They offer the freedom to:

Workout anywhere

The versatility and small size of kettlebells have allowed me to create my gym in my tiny living room.  My neighbors down stairs absolutely love this  (not really).

Because of their small size kettlebells are my favorite workout accessory. 

 I love taking them and training everywhere.  Some places include in the street, at the park, and even at the beach because after all “suns out, guns out”.

The best part is none of these gyms make me pay a membership fee ;P

Train in a variety of ways and just allow my body to move naturally (press, row, hinge, squat, carry, floor work, and twist)

Kettlebells provide access to many exercises that are excellent for developing strength, conditioning, joint stability, mobility, and burning fat.

They allow you to get creative with movement.  The kettlebell has a beautiful way of flowing around the body making it easy to hit every muscles without having to travel to a ton of different machines.

The possibilities of exercises you can string together are endless.  This makes each workout fun and fresh.

Here are 101 exercise suggestions to help get you started.  I can’t wait to hear some of the challenges you come up with using these exercises.

  1. Swing
  2. Clean
  3. clean and press
  4. goblet press
  5. floor press
  6. goblet squat
  7. single arm swing
  8. single arm over head press
  9. single arm floor press
  10. single arm clean
  11. single arm snatch
  12. single arm swing
  13. single arm clean and press
  14. single side squat
  15. rack squat
  16. double bell swing
  17. double bell snatch
  18. double bell clean
  19. double bell clean and press
  20. swing burpee
  21. 1/2 turkish get up
  22. turkish get up
  23. Reverse turkish get up
  24. vertical crunches
  25. 90/90 crunch
  26. forward farmers lunge
  27. goblet lunge
  28. rack lunge
  29. single arm opposite side lunge
  30. single arm same side lunge
  31. single arm over head lunge
  32. over head lunge
  33. walking lunge
  34. renegade row
  35. curl
  36. bench press
  37. sea saw press
  38. bent over row
  39. arm bar
  40. sea saw row
  41. single arm row
  42. halos
  43. figure 8s
  44. farmer’s carry
  45. over head carry
  46. waiter’s carry
  47. single arm farmer’s carry
  48. single arm over head carry
  49. single arm waiter’s carry
  50. farmer’s/over head carry
  51. farmer’s/waiter’s carry
  52. waiter’s carry/over head carry
  53. thruster
  54. split squat
  55. walking swing
  56. pistol squat
  57. cossack squat
  58. side lunge
  59. side lunge to halo
  60. single arm kneeling over head press
  61. rotational thruster
  62. single arm thruster
  63. rotational press
  64. double bell thruster
  65. around the worlds
  66. reverse lunge
  67. wood chops
  68. russian twist
  69. bicycle sit ups
  70. rack holds
  71. over head holds
  72. farmers hold
  73. iron cross hold
  74. lateral raises
  75. front raises
  76. sumo dead lift
  77. skier swings
  78. suitcase dead lift
  79. high pulls
  80. sumo dead lift high pull
  81. Romanian Dead lift
  82. bottoms up kettle bell press
  83. bottoms up waiters carry
  84. bottoms up over head carry
  85. bottoms up turkish get up
  86. squat hold curl
  87. squat hold chest press
  88. squat hold curl to chest press
  89. windmill
  90. dips
  91. push ups
  92. mountain climbers
  93. plank
  94. L-sit
  95. swing with a row
  96. lunge holds
  97. side bends
  98. single leg dead lift
  99. Plyo push up
  100. uneven push up
  101. diamond push ups

Have a favorite kettlebell exercise that didn’t make the list?  Let us know in the comments section below.  Have fun and train hard!

Why you need to pay attention to your aches and pains

If you suffer from chronic aches and pains then stay tuned because this will be the best thing you read all day.  I will tell you why you need to stop ignoring  your aches and pains and why you need to start addressing them.

Pain is not normal.  Pain is a signal that something is wrong.

We like to ignore our aches and pains.  We try to be some tough guy that thinks the pain will just go away miraculously.   

I mean I don’t know how many times I have been told “just walk it off”

Instead of addressing the issue we let it develop into something more serious.

Outside of a freak accident (like a 1,000 lbs tire dropping on your knee) addressing your aches and pains early can go along way to preventing serious injuries from happening.

For instance non-contact ACL injuries.

These kinds of injuries are 100% preventable and make me mad to hear that this happened.

It’s not like these people just made one bad cut on the field and the ligament tore.  There are warning signs that this injury can happen.

Do your knees collapse in toward the body?

Are you pigeoned toed?

Are the inside of your legs tight?

Do you feel pain and tightness in your hips?

All of these are signs of muscle imbalances that cause our joints to move incorrectly; which leads to unnecessary pressure on our joints, resulting in pain and ultimately injury.

Most aches and pains are a result of muscles being tight or weak.  This leads to improper movement patterns. 

The the tight muscles over power the weak ones causing these imbalances to happen.  These imbalances can cause Bones to move and twist out of position.

Imbalances can occur between the muscles in our front, back and either side of our body.
All of the above can cause serious wear and tear on muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones that make up our joints.  Once they get so worn they will just give up.

Ever have an itch somewhere and when you go to scratch the area it doesn’t take care of the itch?

Pain works the same way.  The area you might feel pain may not be the location where the dysfunction is.

For example people who feel knee pain might be in the knee, but that’s not where the issue is.  

Often times it is imbalances in the hips that cause the leg to either be pulled in to the body or away from the body putting pressure on the knee.

What can you do to correct these imbalances.

The simple answer is stretch what is tight, strengthen what is weak.

Here are a few ways you can accomplish that

Foam Roll

Massage the areas where you are tight.  This will help to release knots that form in our muscles that restrict our movement and cause pain.

Stretch

Our muscles can shorten when they are in a contracted state for a long period of time.  The most common one tends to be our hamstrings from sitting.

Stretching is a great way give length back to your muscles and help eliminate pain and prevent injury.

Stability

Stability holds are a great way to build strength in our joint because it put our Bones in proper alignment and force.our muscles to hold them in position. 

For the lower body I  love single leg exercises that force me to balance.

Balancing causes the lower body to align into the proper position and activate the correct muscles.  

 If we didn’t use the right muscles and align the joint correctly we would feel umbalanced and would fall over.

Start simple with just balancing, then progress to adding in different movements (lunges, single leg deadlift) while balancing.

Work faulty movement

I typically love using resistance bands for this.  It helps provide feed back on where my faults are in movement.

When I warm up for squats I love using g mini bands. The resistance from the band tries to collapse my knees in, providing me with the necessary feedback to fight to spread the band.

This helps me train how my hips and feet should feel when my glutes are activated properly in the squat.

It’s developing the motor patterns that will keep us safe from injury as we move.

Thisis why I work a lot of yoga and strength training with my clients. These two training methods are great ways to stretch, strengthen and develop proper range of motion to help you move better and eliminate pain.

None of this will work though if we continue to be the tough guy and ignore the signs.
 

Strengthen your core with these 10 exercises

There is a difference between training your core vs. training your abs for a six pack. We covered this last week. If you missed it don’t worry I have your back,   you can catch up here.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan of training the functionality of  our core over just training for aesthetically pleasing abs.  

A strong core can help alleviate a lot of pain people have along with preventing​ many common injuries.

But how do we train our core properly to do it’s job right?  Well stick around my friend because today I am going to share with you my 10 favorite exercises to train your core.

It’s hard for me to pick just 10 movements because I honestly believe that every exercise is a core exercise.  

Every movement we make requires us to activate our core to some degree.  If we didn’t we would just flop over like a fish anytime we tried to move.

When training our core we need to work it a few ways.  We need to work flexion and extension (folding and unfolding), stabilization (remain up right/bracing), anti-rotation, and rotation.

I know it can get confusing because we are working a lot of opposite movements, but that is how complex and important our core is. 

 Our core needs to be able to perform all those movements to help us move properly and protect the spine.

I don’t want to end up like Chris Jericho reading the 1000 moves of Dean Malenko, here is my condensed list of the 10 best exercises you should do to train your core.

Plank

I love planks.  They are the most simple exercise to strengthen the stability  of our core and teach us what perfect posture feels like.  

I feel it is a pre-requisite for all movement.

If done right the plank is a total body exercise incorporating not only our abs, but our glutes, back, quads, shoulders, and chest, just to name a few.

The fun is not over once you mastered the plank.  

We can progress the plank by doing things like adding movement with the arms and legs (marches, plank jacks, renegade rows, spider mans, saw planks, T-drill, push ups, shoulder taps, etc.),  side planks, 3 point planks, and so much more. 

Dead bug, bird dog, & Crawls

I love using dead bugs and bird dogs to teach how the core flexes and extends.  

The dead bug works on the flexion (bringing everything in).

The bird dog teaches extension and hip and core stability.  

The bird dog has us work our limbs contra-laterally (opposite arm/opposite leg).  This forces us to balance on one knee (hip stability) while we extend the opposite leg and extend the arm on the other side away from each other.  This provides for some nice anti-rotational core strength.

Ever hear that you need to crawl before you can walk?  Well they were right.  

Once we mastered the dead bug and bird dog we can put the two together and begin to crawl.

Crawling teaches us how to engage the core and stabilize as we move.  It is also great for stability in the hip and shoulders.

Crawling is great for core work, strength, and conditioning.  I love crawling forwards, backwards, and even side to side.

The different directions will help to hit the core, shoulders and hips in a variety of ways.

Anything Over head

Any time we put something overhead we force our core to engage.  If our core did not engage we would collapse like a house of cards under the weight.

That is what makes things like over head squats so hard.

One of my favorite things to do is to perform single side press work.  This is great for not only engaging the core properly, but starts to incorporate anti-rotational bracing.

Breaching our core as we go over head keeps us strong, efficient, and safe so we stay up right and dont lean over and drop the weight, or injure ourselves.

Tuck variations

Knee tucks, leg raises, pikes, marches all of these would fall under the “tuck” category.  These are great for working the lower abs and deep hip flexor muscles.

I love using floor sliders or adding mini bands to these movements.


Crunches

Let’s get this out of the way, I hate sit ups.  That is why I never program them. 

 The truth is people just don’t do them right.  They use their hip muscles and low back muscles to get them off the ground.

With crunches I can put you in a position where I can teach you to brace your core properly and not use your lower back and hips to help you.

The two ways I like to do this is with 90/90 crunches and vertical crunches.  We can even build off those into sprinter crunches, v ups, and even twisting vertical crunches.

Single arm rows

Performing dynamic single arm rows is one of  my favorite ways to work in rotational work to hit the obliques.  

I use a kettlebell, resistance bands or TRX straps to get these done.  These are great for performance as it can mimic how the core moves when we run.

Ball slams/rainbows/throws

Med balls are great for the core.  We can slam them to work flexion, We can do rainbows (side slam) and hit our hips and obliques, and we can throw them a variety of ways which requires us to brace to protect the spine, and to help link our hips and upper body together to generate power.  

Throws are amazing because we can work in all directions letting us hit our core from all angles.  We can throw med balls forward, backwards, sideways, low to high, high to low, and even diagonally.

People have even made games out of throws such as med ball volley ball and med ball tennis.  See core work is fun 😉 

Carries

What more can I say about carries.  I love them.  They do so much good for us.  

There are so many way to do carries and each object and hold variation something unique.  

Try these out for your self.  Hold your object by your sides, cradled in your arms, on your back, rack position, waiters position, over head, or to make things extra spicy try bottoms up carries with a  kettle bell.  

You can even play with the weight balance to challenge your anti-rotational muscles (weight only on one side or with unequal weights in both).

All of these ways of carrying will challenge your stability and anti rotation like you wouldn’t believe.  Also like crawls they are a great way to build your conditioning up.


KB swing

Powerful extension of the abs and hips.  Also if you fight the force and the end of the extension of the swing (right before the bell comes down) it really forces the core to work hard.


Pallov holds

Great anti-rotational exercise that doesn’t look hard, but leave me in a pile of sweat every time.

Set up a resistance band, or cable machine shoulder height, twist until hands are in line with your chest, and hold.

Start standing and then as your core gets stronger and the holds become easier start to decrease your base.  Go from standing to kneeling on both knees, then kneeling on one knee.

The same can be done with movement.  Go from holding with the arms out stretched to, adding in an up and down movement with your straight arms, or  try pulling the band in to the chest and pressing it back out, and the most spicy one would be small circles with your arms stretched out.

All of these variations will make your core scream.  Just Remember work both sides.

Do you have any favorite core exercises you would like to share?  Let us know in the comments below.

Also click this link to download my free guideon how to build your very own affordable home gym.

Abs vs. Core.  Which should you be doing?

Who doesn’t want a nice pair of six pack abs? The answer is EVERYONE.  

We have been told forever that they are THE sign of ultimate fitness.  This has made people sooooo six pack crazy that they will do whatever it takes to reach this gold standard of fitness.

But what if having the abs of Zeuss weren’t the sign of godly fitness like we think they are?

A six pack is simply a sign that you have reached a low enough body fat % that you can see your ab muscles.  This is why super skinny people tend to have abs.

See they’re not lieing when they say abs are made in the kitchen.  With the right balance of nutrition and exercise you can have a six-pack.

Our cores are meant for so much more than appearing to be chiseled from stone

Our core had the important job of protecting and stabilizing our spine to keep us upright (posture).  Without our core our spine would fold like a wet napkin.

Our core consists of more muscles than just our abs.  It consists of muscles on the front and backside of our bodies to support the spine from all sides.

 The core consists of the obliques, glutes, and low back.  Basically anything not connected to an arm or leg.

If these muscles are weak it is hard to have good posture.  Good posture keeps our bodies working efficiently, helps elimnate aches and pains, and protects us from injury as we perform movement.

I always find it funny how some of the fittest people I know don’t have a six packs but still tend to be fast, strong and powerful due to their core strength.

This brings us to the age old debate:. What are we really training for?  Looks or function?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to follow us for weekly blog posts.

Do this type of exercise to lose weight

What kind of exercise are you doing to lose weight?  If you are relying on bicep curls and sit ups to shed the pounds you won’t see much progress.  It’s time you step out of the squat rack with that curl bar, because today you are going to learn the best type of exercise to lose weight.

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I am not the curl hater I used to be.  In the past year I  have worked everyone’s favorite exercise back into my workout on upper body days.

For a long time though I hated them.

Even though I am done drinking the Haterade on them (I believe it was green flavored), I still don’t think that they are the best exercise for weight loss.

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The official beverage of SJGSports Fitness

No if you want to lose weight you need to be using compound movements

Compound movements are multi joint movements.  These types of exercises are quite effective for weight loss because they require us to use multiple muscle groups.

It’s quite a simple formula.  The more muscles required to perform a movement, the more calories we burn.

A bicep curl only involves movement at one joint, our elbow.

But what if we improved upon the curl.  Let’s say we made it a curl into an over head press. We now go from working just our biceps, to incorporating not only more muscles, but the bigger muscles such as the shoulder.

Great examples of compound movements include squats, dead lifts, kettle bell swings, presses, rows, pull ups, lunges, hip bridges, jumps, olympic lifts, crawling, etc.

The possibilities are almost endless

One of my favorite fat burning exercises to perform is the clean and press.  This exercise requires us to generate power from the hips, using back and bicep muscles in the pull, as well as our shoulder and tricep muscles in the press.

This one move strengthens and works your lower body, core and upper body.  Not to mention it will jack your heart rate up pretty quickly giving you that conditioning and endurance factor as well.

Lot of bang for your buck with this one exercise.

Give it a try with this workout

Grab a barbell, dumb bell(s), kettle bell(s), sand bag or whatever you want to clean and press.

I work out at home and tend to go double kettle bell (double 44s to be exact).

Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes perform 3-5 reps.  Once reps are completed rest for the duration of the minute.

Don’t go too heavy.  Trust me by that 6th or 7th minute it will adjust itself.

If you are feeling really spunky go for 20 minutes and alternate the clean and press with 2-3 strict pull ups.

Odd minutes: Clean and press

Even minutes: Strict pull ups

you end up with 10 rounds of each.

Simple, yet effective.

If you still have energy after all that, you are more than welcome to perform your bicep curls.

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