Technique Tuesday: Plank

This weeks edition of Technique Tuesday is all about the plank.  Why the plank?  1, because it can be tough to get into the right position and 2 it is one of the basic exercises in which every other exercise we do can be based upon. The positioning we use for the plank creates context for the positioning we’ll have for all of our other exercises.  What this really means is we’re looking to maintain a braced core, keep alignment through the shoulders, ribs, and hips, and keep a neutral spine.  If you can own this position, you’ll make everything else you do that much easier.

plank

Two of the most common faults with this exercise stem from either an excessive lumbar extension or and excessive hip hike.  Both of these are big NO’s when it comes to the plank.

To create a solid plank, go through this checklist:

  • Neutral Spine- meaning a straight line from your head to your butt.
  • Elbows Under Shoulders- straight line from the elbows to the shoulders.
  • Feet Shoulder Width Apart
  • Glutes Engaged- Want to see a slight posterior tilt to the pelvis.

Lastly you want to breathe while holding a plank.  That can be considered another fault as holding your breath is a way to compensate for poor core strength.  So the last tip is to breathe.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can progress further by:

  • Adding movement
  • Change the base of support- feet closer together, one foot or arm off the ground, or opposite arm/leg off the ground
  • You can change the lever arm

 

 


Unhealthy Habits Part 2

Last week in Part 1  we discussed why unhealthy habits should be taken more seriously than we give them credit for. We have goals, whatever they maybe, yet if we find ourselves succumbing to actions that are holding us back, we will never reach them. Whether they are short term; be leaner, stronger, faster. Or if they are long term; be healthier, live longer, move pain free and willfully.
We discussed writing down the habits that make up your life.  Ones that increase your quality of life and even those that might be indulgent and may not benefit our health in the long run. Did you do that?
Good!
Let’s look at your habits:

•Do your healthy habits out weigh the unhealthy ones?

Obviously it’s impossible to live a healthy lifestyle 100% 24/7 every day! You’re human, you would go insane! However, we want to stick to the 90:10 guideline. 90% of the time is your life run by healthy habits? If so, a 10% break is well deserved. Not to indulgence but 10% is enough to enjoy a little break and still not veer from your short and long term goals.

• Is there a pattern to your habits?

We know most people have a routine. Fortunately, most of our healthy things we do occur in routine. (Shower, brush teeth, take vitamins, eat breakfast, drink water.. etc) are you keeping up with your routine when it comes to the healthy habits?
There can also be a pattern when it comes to the unhealthy habits. For example, Do you have to have alcohol with every meal? Do you have a dessert after dinner every night? Is there a midday snack that you have everyday? Perhaps you start and end each day with a cigarette?
Just as there are patterns for beneficial habits, there are patterns we have developed that cause us to be reliant on those we wish we could cut out of our lives.

• Which habits occur the most throughout your week?

Look over your list, highlight the top three habits in both columns. Find the ones that occur daily or multiple times throughout the day. What are they? You may be shocked by your own behaviors when you really sit down and analyze them.
Next week, we are going to take these three questions and change your habits to help you reach your goals!

Sled Drag Variations That Build Strength, Speed and Size

The sled, or prowler, is one of those tools that can be used to pursue several goals, depending on how it’s used. Strength, speed, size and even injury prevention and rehab are all possible using sled drag variations in your programming.  Sleds and prowlers can be loaded in many ways, depending on what you are looking to accomplish. For example, loading a prowler with heavy weight and reverse dragging it develops strength in the lower body. But if you reduce the load slightly, it can be a useful rehab exercise for those with knee problems.

Technical Basics

Keep Moving. The hardest thing to do is stop and start over. Constant movement makes whatever load you pick slightly easier to drag.

Small Steps. Similarly, taking small steps helps you keep your momentum going and also keep your body in alignment.

Body Alignment. As with any exercise, keeping your shoulders, ribs and hips in alignment is essential for success. It ensures that your core muscles are performing as they should, and that the movement is targeted where it will have the greatest benefit.

Prowler Drag

  • Reverse Drags
  • Forward Drags
  • Crawls

Sled Drag

  • Lateral Drags
  • Overhead Drags
  • T-Y Drags

Continue to Stack.com


Break the Unhealthy Habits

Are You Imprisoned by Unhealthy Habits

There are several occasions in which we find ourselves relying on our old habits. Whether it is a stressful situation and we find ourselves relying on old patterns as a means of coping, a fun atmosphere where we find ourselves going to our unhealthy habits to relax, or if we are just looking to kill time or are bored; we will see the easiest route is to fall into an unhealthy habit.

Taking time and effort to put forth developing healthy habits is on the short list of priorities in this busy day and age. However, if we take the time to develop them, they can be our go-to, in the aforementioned cases.

Why is it bad to rely on unhealthy habits? A habit is an ingrained pattern that we have developed. Now if that pattern is not healthy for us, such as drinking alcohol in excess, smoking, drugs, over indulging on junk food, we can find ourselves in an unhealthy state. This unhealthy reliance on patterns that are destroying our body can put us at serious risk as well as setting our course for reaching our goals way off.

Are you imprisoned by these habits?

This week, take a look at your daily routine and habits. Write down positive habits, those that encourage healthy patterns and those that will help you reach your goals. Also, write down the habits that are hindering your growth; Physically and mentally. Next week we will discuss what to do with these lists.


Conditioning Workouts

Interval Training or conditioning has become really popular over the course of the past few years, in part due to the fact that you get more “bang for your buck” when it comes to exercising.  This means you don’t have to dedicate hours of training to get results.  You can get them in as little as 4 minutes with the right protocol.  However, the catch is that you will be challenged; you will be pushed to your limits.

These workouts are typically short, intense bursts of exercise followed by a rest period. The purpose behind this is to tap into an after-burn effect known as EPOC or Exercise Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.  What typically occurs during a high intensity workout?  The body will use more oxygen than you are able to consume, putting you into an “oxygen debt.”  Once you finish your workout, you’re going to need to repay that “debt,” resulting in a continuous calorie burn, even after you’ve stopped exercising.  This has the potential to last for hours post workout.  Talk about a boost in metabolism!!

Aerobic exercise on the other hand typically does not tap into this after-burn effect.  When you go for a jog or a bike ride, you end up replacing the oxygen you consume at a 1:1 ratio.  Aerobic exercise does have its place, just not in this article.

Benefits

Right now you may be asking yourself “What are the benefits to doing a HIIT workout?” Among the short amount of time they take up and the increase in calorie burn post exercise, there are several other benefits to doing high intensity intervals.

  • Improved Body Composition
  • Increased Metabolism
  • Increased Insulin Sensitivity
  • Improved Cholesterol Levels

 

The Workout

When designing your workout, you want to take a few things into consideration.  First, when it comes to exercise selection, use exercises that require multiple joints (think squats, lunges, push-ups).  Second, use exercises that will make you work in multiple planes of movement (think lateral & rotation).  Lastly, don’t just use bilateral exercises, incorporate unilateral or single limb exercises too (think one arm row, or one arm presses).

Here are two ways to structure your training that will push you to your limits using a timer as your guide.

Workout 1: With this workout, you are going to select 4 exercises that fit the criteria above.  It becomes an easy template for an intense HIIT workout.  To give you an idea, let’s select:

  • Kettlebell Swings (KS)
  • Push-ups (PU)
  • Alternating Lateral Lunges (LL)
  • Rotating Medicine Ball Slams (MB).

Each interval is going to last 20 seconds, and with each subsequent round, the rest period is going to decrease and the work period is going to increase.

Round 1: KS – 20s rest – PU – 20s rest – LL – 20s rest – MB – 20s rest

Round 2: KS – PU – 20s rest – LL – MB – 20s rest

Round 3: KS – PU – LL – 20s rest – MB – 20s rest

Round 4: KS – PU – LL – MB

As you can see, the rounds will get more and more difficult as you go on due to the lack of rest between exercises.  This will create that oxygen debt mentioned in the beginning.  Feel free to try this workout with different interval times and different exercises.  This a great circuit to put together as a finisher to a strength session.

Workout 2: This one is a little different than the previous workout.  Using this interval system, you are going to be working for 30 seconds and resting for 20 seconds in between each exercise.  With an entire circuit of negative rest, you’ll really create that oxygen debt or EPOC.

Using the same principles as the last workout, you’re going to select 10 exercises for this circuit.  Remember, multi-joint, multi-planar, and don’t leave out those unilateral exercises.

  1. Goblet Squats
  2. Left Arm Dumbbell Row
  3. Right Arm Dumbbell Row
  4. Left Leg Reverse Lunge with Left Arm Press
  5. Right Leg Reverse Lunge with Right Arm Press
  6. Battle Rope Alternating Waves
  7. Kettlebell Swings
  8. Push-ups
  9. Ice Skaters
  10. TRX Pikes or TRX Crunches

Perform this circuit, or any circuit you come up with for at least 3 sets.  If you want to challenge yourself, track the number of reps you do each round, and try to beat it each subsequent round.

Workout 3:  This last workout focuses on density training or doing more work in less time.  This is less about tracking time and more about getting a ton of work done.  In this example, pick 2-5 exercises, pick a rep range, and then pick how long to work for.

  1. Goblet Squats x 8 reps
  2. Single Arm DB Rows x 8 reps each
  3. Kettlebell Swings x 8 reps
  4. Pushups x 8 reps

Get through this circuit as many times as you can in 8 minutes, then rest 5 minutes.  After your rest time is over, go through the 8 minutes again, trying to beat how many rounds you did the first time.

Last Takeaways

There are a few final tips or words of caution to think about before implementing HIIT workouts into your training program.  The first is on form and mechanics.  Just because you are pushing yourself to your limits, doesn’t give you the go ahead to let form and mechanics suffer.  Don’t let form go out the window in order to complete reps as you will end up forming compensation patterns or worse, injuries to complete workouts.

Avoid adding weight or intensity just for the sake of making it more intense.  Be smart about your progressions.  They are called progressions for a reason.  Earn them.

More is not necessarily better.  Better is better.

Try to select exercises that are relatively low in skill, meaning they don’t require a high degree of technical ability, and don’t have a high rate of fatigue.

Lastly, because these types of workouts require so much effort from your body, make sure you program in proper recovery time between bouts of HIIT.  Use lower levels of intensity in order to make sure your body is ready for the next training session or build your high intensity exercises around your strength program for even better gains.

We don’t get stronger during our workouts,

we get stronger when our body has time to recover and rebuild.