Category Archives: Training

8 minutes to a better workout

Warmups are boring. Warmups are a waste of time. Warmups are going to get you ready to train and might just save you from avoidable injuries.

One of these statements is true… (If you picked option 1 or 2, then we need to have words…)

A good warmup should get you ready to move the way you are about to train, as Dan John said, “The warmup is the workout.”

Got an hour on the cross trainer scheduled? Great, warm up on the cross trainer. Then go consider handing back your gym membership and get outside for a walk instead.

Your warmup should address any flexibility and mobility issues, fire up your muscles that have shut off after sitting on your rear all day at work, get your heart rate up and get you in the zone to train well.

Here is a simple guide to getting yourself going in the gym.

Flexibility

The general rule for stretching is stretch what is tight, but if it stays tight after a couple of weeks of consistent flexibility work, then it’s more likely to be a stability/ mobility issue. The main areas I see that need to be stretched are:

Hip flexors:

Sitting all day wreaks havoc on your hips, your hip flexors shorten to adapt to the position they find themselves in most often (sitting on the commute to work, at work, home from work, in front of the tv). They need to be opened up.

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Keep your abs tight and squeze the glute on the trailing leg side.

 

Glutes: Sitting in one position all day tends to leave you more than a little tight through your glutes, given the multitude of joint angles and hip socket depth variations, you need to find where you get the best result from the stretch position.

Glute stretch

Mobility

Hip: Hip mobility or lack thereof, is a big issue for a lot of people, feeling all tight and jammed up through your hips isn’t going to help you move well and perform well in your training session. 2 great drills for this problem are:

TRX Cossack squat

Deep squat hip opener

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Keep your back straight, use your elbows to push your knees wide.

 

Tspine: Your thoracic spine is basically the area of your spine from the top to the bottom of your ribs, this is where most of your spinal movement comes from (rotation, extension/ flexion), unfortunately due to the hunched over position most of us get into, we can end up losing a lot of that movement, this simple drill can help you get the range of movement back –

Activation 

IYT: Your shoulder blades should have the ability to slide around your upper back, allowing your arms to work through a full range of movement, however due to curvature of the upper back and weakness in the mid/lower traps this becomes difficult and range of movement is lost. This 3 part drill helps you get it back. Focus on feeling the shoulder blades move around the ribs as you reach out, and squeeze them down and back as you pull in.

Bird dog: All the movement here should come from your glutes and not your low back, before you begin you need to brace your abs with a big belly breath, then breathe out with each movement, working to maintain a neutral spine throughout. To begin with, I usually have clients start with the leg only portion of the movement, only adding in the opposite arm component once they can maintain good position and have the leg drive come from the glutes.

Move

pushup variation:

These options on the pushup/ hindu pushup give you a great full body movement, building shoulder stability, upper back mobility, hip mobility, and a little stretch through your lats, hamstrings and calves.

Option 1: Straight arms throught, this helps you learn the movement and begin to build the strength needed to progress to option 2.

Option 2:

Squat: 

A good quality bodyweight squat focussing on keeping the heels down and chest up position. Aim for parallel at the bottom.

Glute bridge  – focussing on squeezing your glutes hard at the top. Imagine levering up from the bottom position and squeeze your glutes hard at the top. If you feel your quads or hamstrings doing all the work, adjust your foot position and lift your toes off the floor to find a better position to get your glutes working.

Glute bridge

Left: Single leg option, Right: double leg option.

 

While there are other good warmup options available to you, you want to keep your warmup short and effective, and I feel that these options get the job done really well.

Full warmup

Hip flexor stretch – 15-20s per side

Glute stretch – 15-20s per side

T-spine rotation – 4-6 per side

Deep squat hip opener – 3 or 4 15s holds at the bottom

IYT – 5 per movement

Bird dog – 5 per side

Hindu pushup variation – 4-8

Glute bridge – 8-10

Squat – 8-10

TRX cossack squat – 4-6 per side

Try this out before you train and you’ll feel, move and perform better.

Stay healthy

Dave

Cake versus icing

When it comes to training and nutrition, people have a tendency to get caught up in the minutiae, the little details that they are convinced are going to make a massive difference. When in fact, these are the little dot of icing on top of the cherry, on top the banana slice on top of the icing on top of the cake.

In short, most people are missing their cake.

For most of us, being consistent with 90% of the important stuff will give us the results we want. The last 10% is what gets you in stupidly good shape but usually isn’t maintainable in the long term.

Let’s look at the order of importance in training and eating when it comes to achieving the body you want:

Training

Cake:

Compound movements. The cornerstone of your training, these build strength and add muscle. Deadlifts, squats, pullups etc work multiple muscle groups, burn more calories and generally increase your awesomeness more than any other exercise.

Accessory exercises. These are the exercises that help improve your performance in the main exercises you do, Rdls, single leg  variations such as lunges and step ups, dumbbell presses, pull downs etc are usually multi joint exercises to help improve stability and strength. Generally these are going to be performed with  higher reps than the big lifts.

High intensity conditioning. Short, brutal, effective. While this type of cardio burns calories at a reasonable rate, predominantly using glucose as fuel, when it’s over, the oxygen debt created help the body burn fat for several hours after the exercise finishes through the wonder of EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption, also known as afterburn).

Icing:

Low intensity cardio. This is the long walk, half hour+ on the treadmill or bike, walking to work etc that burn calories while you do it but doesn’t create the afterburn effect. There is no oxygen debt to be paid off so calorie burn returns to baseline levels very quickly after exercise.

Toppings:

Isolation exercises. These are the cherries on the cake. Everyone likes a few sets of biceps curls now and again, triceps extensions, lat raises, leg extensions and the rest give you a pump and in some cases can help out with the bigger stuff if programmed in correctly (bicep curls to help with a pullup for example).

Unfortunately in training, especially for fat loss, (low level) cardio and crunches are still seen by many as the route to a beach ready body, but inevitably this doesn’t work.

Focus on getting stronger and I’ve yet to see many folks who can deadlift and squat 1.5x bodyweight and crank out a few good pullups who aren’t in really good shape.

Nutrition

Cake:

Total calories. This is the foundation of of your weight change. At its most simple, calories in v calories out still counts as the major factor in fat loss or muscle gain. It is of course a little more complicated but if you dont get this right, the rest doesn’t matter.

Macros. The ratio of protein, fats and carbs that make up your diet is important too. For me, Protein is the most important of the 3, since it’s responsible for so many  processes in the body and most people are barely getting enough in their diets to hit their minimum necessary intake. Fats and carbs make up the rest but this takes a little experimentation as some folks handle slightly more carbs better and some prefer a little more fat. Track, assess and adjust as needed.

Hydration. You are made up of a lot of water, you need to drink lots to maintain adequate levels. You probably don’t drink enough. Drink more water, tea, coffee.

Icing:

Meal timing. As you get closer to low body fat levels, meal timings begin to count a little more but the difference this makes is less than people think. If you are on low carbs, book ending them around training makes sense, getting 20-30g of protein in every 3-4 hours has a good effect on protein synthesis, but beyond that most of us don’t need to worry about meal timings if the previous 3 points are being met.

Toppings:

Supplements. They are called supplements for a reason, they supplement your diet, making up for any short falls you have nutritionally. A good protein powder, a multivitamin and a good fish oil will help. If you are dairy free, then maybe a calcium supplement will help. 99% of the rest are a waste of time.

For most of us who are training to move better, get stronger and look better naked, points 1-3  on both lists are going to give you 80% of your results, if you have time for the rest and you are consistently getting the rest done, then go for it but don’t rely on these to get the changes you want!

Stay healthy

Dave