Commitment to the Journey

What is your definition of commitment?  What words would you associate with it?

  • Consistency?
  • Dedication?

According to the dictionary, or at least the definition that Google gave is “Commitment is the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, or anything else.” In the case of your body and health, it’s about a commitment to yourself, and that can be a hard thing to do mentally.  It almost sounds selfish to dedicate resources like time or money to something all about you.  And while it probably is, it is the best form of being selfish.  It’s about taking care of yourself, and making yourself & your health a priority.

How many of us have put ourselves low on the totem pole?  I know I have.

How do we start this commitment to ourselves?

By getting quality sleep, following a solid nutrition plan, and maintaining an exercise program that yields results.

One of the biggest issues towards building a lasting commitment is that we get so wrapped up in attaining our short term goals that we lose focus on the long term goals of maintaining our health and staying injury free.  There’s a saying that goes, “Are you exercising for now, or for longevity?”  This can equally be attributed to any nutrition program as well. If you’re aiming for longevity, there are smarter ways to train and eat.

 

It’s a Journey

Lasting commitment to health and fitness means understanding that it’s a lifelong journey that begins with a single step.  It means understanding that a lasting commitment is more than a week or a month or some secret, magical number of days.  How many 30 day shreds, 21 day fixes, etc have you heard of?

It’s even more than a year.  It’s plural. Its years, decades even.  It is most certainly not a sprint. Realize that each and every day is going to bring you closer to your goal.

Look Forward, Not Behind

Avoid Quick Fixes

Time and time again we try to look for that next thing, that one key object that will magically transform your life.  Whether it’s a new shake, or a new supplement, or a new exercise program, we’re looking for the secret.  We go to great lengths to find the quickest and easiest way to get results, to find that one “magic pill” that will make our lives easier and/or better.  Here is something to remember:

If there is no physiological reason as to why something will work,

then it’s most likely a gimmick that won’t have long lasting results. 

Looking for such answers never leads to building a lifelong commitment to your health.  It’s a band-aid solution.

Take time to analyze what you’re doing and determine if it is actually healthy for you.  Is it a solid exercise program that focuses on results, strength training, and conditioning?  Is it a solid nutrition program that doesn’t demonize certain nutrients, or tells you to avoid this or that?

A lasting commitment to you is all about better choices.

One Step at a Time

Avoid the temptation to go balls to the wall right off the bat.  Starting a new program or a new lifestyle typically results in jumping in 100%.  We go full force, changing just about everything about our lives at once.  There’s only one problem with that.  Statistically it always fails.  Changing too many things at one time pulls you in too many directions, with too many things to concentrate on.  What is more important, and thus more successful over time is developing habits, making small changes every few days, weeks, or even months.

 

Picking the Correct Goals

How many times have you told yourself or someone else, “I have to lose such and such weight by ___?”  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

  • Why that specific number of pounds?
  • Why that date?

or other questions like:

  • What happens after that date?
  • What happens after you lose that amount of weight?

It solely focuses on an end outcome with no connection to behavior.  Yes, it is important to have short term goals, but it is also, for the sake of a lifelong commitment to have long term goals, such as maintaining that weight.

Since we’re talking about long term goals, its important to set up a framework in order to get there.  This is where we take our long term goal and break it up into chunks.  Chunks are smaller goals that we can set that make up a shorter time frame.  Then set up even smaller goals, daily goals that have an actionable step to them.  This can come in form of daily behavior or habit goals of drinking more water, or eating vegetables at every meal.  Picking behaviors that you can modify and adapt over the course of the rest of your life sets you up for that commitment we talked about earlier.  Over the course of time, hitting those daily targets creates lasting commitment.

Enjoy Yourself

How many of us over analyze every food choice or rest day?  There is unwarranted guilt associated with eating something less than healthy or skipping a day of exercise, or just being human.  That’s an issue.  Too often we get feelings of disgust with ourselves if we miss a workout or have a bad day or a bad meal.  Look, one bad day or one bad meal won’t ruin your progress, just like one good day or one good meal will not make your progress.

Having that guilty feeling for enjoying yourself is just silly.  We’re all human.  We do things that make us feel good, whether its eating something that we know isn’t great for our health or skipping out on a workout do something else.  Life is short and if you’re not enjoying it, then what’s the point.  It means not always being perfect in our pursuit of health, fitness, and nutrition.  Lifelong commitment to those things means allowing yourself some wiggle room to veer off course, if you’re following sound principles and behaviors, it’s easy to get back on track.

So have that beer and burger

 

Final Thought

Building something that lasts over a lifetime means making smart decisions about your health.  It means not putting so much pressure on yourself and over analyzing every little decision.  It means enjoying your life because it’s the only one you get to live.

“Most people are focused on the result, I look at the results as a bonus. 

Sure I have specific goals that I’m working towards but I think the process of getting there is much more important than the end result. 

It’s the work that transcends, the work builds character and sharpens you.  The work teaches you humility and aggression. 

The work strengthens you physically and mentally. 

The process is really what it is all about….the results…they will take care of themselves.”


Technique Tuesday: High-Low Chops

This weeks edition of Technique Tuesday focuses on high-low chops and the multiple stance variations you can do with them.  From standing to half kneeling to split stance, each one provides its own unique challenges, however the basics of the chop stay the same no matter what stance you use.  You want to move from the core, turning the shoulders and chest, while maintaining stable hips.

Before we get to our technique tips, lets take a quick look at why we would do chops.  Chops are a great way to train the core through anti-rotation, meaning you are fighting the rotation of the core & hips.  Additionally, you’ll see some thoracic spine mobility improvements.  Being able to control the hips while moving the T-spine will create a better understanding of dissociating the shoulders from the hips, and that will have tremendous carryover, especially if you are a rotational athlete (baseball, golf, hockey etc).

What Not to Do

What you want to avoid are the two most common errors:

  • Too much range of motion
  • Using the shoulders & arms

Too much range of motion shows up in the form of pulling the band too far on the low side as well as going too far up on the high side.  Both end up resulting in the what is the second common error of using the arms and shoulders.  Instead of using the core to turn the trunk, the go to is to pull with the arms, mostly because its “easier.”  This could be a matter of not having the requisite strength to perform the movement or just not knowing how to dissociate the arms from the trunk from the hips.

What to Do

To create a high-low chop that will light up your core, you need to think of the hands and arms being an extension of your chest and shoulders.  This one tip will set you up for success as you’ll be able to initiate the chop from the core, rather than the shoulders.  Once you’re solidly braced, the second tip I’ll throw at you is to squeeze your armpits.  This will keep the shoulder blades in place, creating more stability throughout the chain.   From that point, just work on small ranges of motion, keeping the arms straight the whole time.  If at any point you feel like the arms are going to take over, either reset yourself, or pick a lighter band to use.

 

 

 

 

 


Everything Works

 

Everything works, till it doesn’t.  Meaning that anything you do will work, but it won’t last forever.  Your body adapts, and gainz start to be less frequent.  We’re all looking to improve some aspect of our lives, especially when it comes to fitness and exercise.  That’s likely why we jump from program to program, looking for the next best thing that will bring us closer to our goal.  However, we get stuck in a loop of doing the same program over and over again, and we eventually hit a plateau.

Everything works….for about 6 weeks- Dan John

At that point, you have to switch up a few variables so that you can progress.  Then the body will eventually adapt again.  Your body is an amazing organism.  It can adapt to almost any situation.  If you put stress on it, eventually it will adapt and get stronger along that pathway of stress.

This doesn’t mean to haphazardly alter your workouts all the time.  If doing the same thing over and over again leads to plateaus, performing different things all the time doesn’t leave the body any room to adapt, and in those cases you wont see any progress at all.  It’s a double edged sword.  Too much variability, nothing happens.  Too little, and things get stale and stagnate.

New Variables

Within your workout itself, there are simple ways in which your workout can be taken to a new level.  These are simple variable changes.  The key is only altering one thing at a time.

  • Reps– Most people stick to a typical muscle building range of 8-12, with people seeking to “tone up” reaching the 15+ range.  It may be time to consider changing your rep range to something you’re not used to.  If all you’ve been doing is squatting for sets of 8-12 at 150lbs, it’s time to level up and do 3-6 reps with a higher load, like say 185-200lbs.
  • Sets- Like in the example above, we tend to stick to a general 3 sets of whatever amount of reps we’re doing. Somehow 3 became the magic number.  Adding in sets contributes to the overall workload of your training.  Using our squat example, if we end up doing 3 sets of 10 reps at 150 that’s 4500lbs of work.  Contrast that with something like 5 sets of 10 reps at 150 and we end up doing 7500lbs of work.  More work = more calories burned.  That’s an oversimplification, but adding in more total volume can create new gainz.
  • Intensity- This is simply a matter of adding to the intensity of your training in terms of load. Upgrading to a higher intensity will again force you to challenge yourself to do more work.  If you’ve stuck to that set of 10 squats at 150lbs, what would happen if you suddenly tried 10 squats at 165 or even 170lb?  How do you think your strength levels would change?  Odds are you would end up a whole lot stronger.

These are immediate variables that you can alter to upgrade your workout.  Give those a try, and you’ll surely notice a difference in your workout.

Other things you can change may not be so obvious.  When it comes to our workouts, we stick with what we’re good at.  It’s human nature to enjoy doing things you excel at.  It’s a lot harder to challenge yourself and push to your limits.  And we all have things that we aren’t good at and need to work on.

But real growth comes from doing things that we are not so good at.  In that regard, altering your workout can and should include exercises we hate, but also variations of exercises we love.

  • Exercise Selection- This section is going to go in two different directions. A great way to level up your workout is to do exercises that you’re not used to, or that you’re not good at.  This will certainly challenge you and make you work hard.  And in all likelihood, you’ll see improvements in strength.  From personal experience, adding in exercises I hated ended up upgrading my ability in other areas.

Another way exercise selection can upgrade your workout is by selecting variations of exercises you were doing.  If you were doing barbell back squats before, switching to a front squat will completely alter your workout and level you up a notch.  Find ways to change the exercises you are doing.

  • Program Change- Sometimes our programs need to come to an end, and a totally new one needs to take its place. It could be as simple as changing how you’re working out.  If you’ve been weight training to build strength, try switching to a more metabolic workout in which you still lift, but at a quicker pace in a circuit, or superset.  Trying to do more work in less time changes another variable, one of density.  If you can fit more work in less time, you’ve likely seen an improvement in your exercise program.  Now, if all you’ve been doing is running or other forms of cardio, change it up to include more weight training.

These are simple ways to avoid plateaus and makes sure you progress all year round.

 

Takeaway

Henry Ford said it best, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  Add some variation to your workouts and level up your life.


Core Exercises You Should Add

 

When you think core exercises, you might think this image here:

Image used under license from Freestock.com

<a href=”http://www.freestock.com/photos/man-at-the-gym-doing-abs-9791299″>Image used under license from Freestock.com</a>

Or it might be the person on a mat somewhere in a gym in Anytown, USA doing endless amounts of crunches in all sorts of various positions.  How many ways can you do a crunch? The world may never know.  The hope is that by doing those crunches you’ll achieve that aesthetic “6 pack” look.  But that’s largely dependent on low body fat, which is an entirely different post.  What we’re really looking to do is train our core to resist movement and to provide stability.  In other words, they’re meant to resist forces acting on your body.

There is a lot of research, mostly done by Dr. Stuart McGill, on spinal biomechanics for flexion exercises and how much compressive force there is on the spine.  Most of the exercises listed below are going to look like they don’t do much, but they will have a tremendous impact.  These fall under the categories of anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation.  Additionally there are drills like get-ups, crawls, carries and breathing that play an important role in core training.

Speaking of the core, have you ever seen that movie, The Core?  It’s freakin epic, who knew the middle of the earth was a giant geode?  Go watch it…seriously go now.

Basic Anatomy of the Abs

Think of your abdominal muscles like a cylinder or a box.  You have your front (rectus “the six pack”), your sides (obliques), the back (multifidus/erectors), top (diaphragm) & bottom (pelvic floor, which is severely underrated).

When training the abs, we stick to flexion exercises like crunches and sit-ups because that’s what we know.  However, that only trains one aspect or one muscle of the abdominals, rectus abdominus.  There are other muscles that need to be engaged as well.  We need to start thinking of training our abdominals as a unit if we want to strengthen all of our movement patterns and actions while exercising, as well as in everyday life.

Unfortunately, the importance of such training is severely underrated in a typical gym setting.  How often do you see people  If we think about how power and force runs through our bodies, the wave of contraction in all exercises and movements runs from our center, out to our extremities. So let’s take a look at some essential methods to train our abdominals as a whole that everyone can benefit from by adding to their routine.

Anti Extension

  • Rollouts- Can be done with a number of tools like the TRX, glide discs, or an ab wheel (yes those actually do serve a purpose). A great variation or regression to this exercise is performing slow negative rollouts where you resist the movement all the way to the floor.  This can increase your core strength and stability through a full range of motion till you are able to do a full rollout.   Make sure you’re engaging your abs and your glutes.  This will ensure your spine stays in neutral.

  • Dead-bug with Banded Resistance- The classic dead-bug exercise is great for creating anti-extension strength. Adding a band in, to fight extension of the arms will put a lot more demand on the abs, especially as you extend one leg.  One important tip is to make sure your low back keeps contact with the ground as you extend the leg.

 

Anti Rotation

  • Chops- Chops can be performed in multiple directions with different effects on how your abs will work. At AMP we have a wide array of tools in order to do chops, from ViPRs, to bands, to medicine balls.  The main two involve a downward chop and an upward chop.  In addition, you can perform these in a number of positions, including a standing position, to tall kneeling, to half kneeling.   In this variation demonstrated, we’ll start in a split stance while chopping from high to low with a ViPR.  The important thing to remember is you are trying to resist movement, not create it.
Chops and Lifts
  • Horizontal Pallof Presses- Just like the chops, these can be from different static starting positions. You can progress these static exercises to more dynamic ones by adding in movement patterns, but for now let’s stick with holds.  In this variation, the starting position is a half kneeling position with a band press out.  These were even a topic of a Technique Tuesday video that you can check out here.

Anti Lateral Flexion

  • Side Plank- The most basic form of an anti lateral flexion exercise, it will definitely challenge you.  Make sure you are lined up correctly, with the feet, hips and shoulders all in alignment.  Too many people stick their butt out and lose out on all the gainz possible.
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  • Vertical Pallof Press- Just as with the horizontal Pallof press, these can be performed with various starting positions. In the exercise shown, we’re going to be in a tall kneeling position, while pressing a band overhead.

Miscellaneous

  • Breathing- This is usually one of the first drills I teach to my pre-natal clients, but works well for just about any client. It has tremendous carry over to other exercises, namely the Banded Pullovers mentioned earlier.  This is an underrated and often overlooked exercise that can make your abdominals stronger.
  • Crawling- When was the last time you crawled around on the ground? This last exercise may not look like much, but requires stability throughout your entire body, especially your abs to perform.  Integrate your entire abdominals with these slow beast crawls.
  • Loaded Carries– There are numerous ways in which to carry heavy things around.  From Farmers Carries, to Offset carries, to Overhead Carries.  You can basically do anything you want here as long as you have the right technique.

 

Takeaway

Next time you hit the gym, avoid the line for the ab machine, steer clear of the crunch marathon going on in the corner, and use some of these killer exercises.

Remember this: An exercise doesn’t need to look intense in order to have an intense change on your body.

Simple movement, or in this case, the resisting of movement, can be a great challenge for your body and give you the change you’ve been looking for in strength and aesthetics.

The core serves a purpose, stabilizing the pelvis & spine.  If they can’t do what their intended purpose is, your body and your performance will suffer.  Don’t have abs that are “all show and no go.” Make sure they can function as well.

And remember, no matter how much abdominal training you do, you’ll never see them till you get your nutrition in check.


Technique Tuesday: Knee Tucks

This edition of Technique Tuesday focuses on a core exercise that we use often in our training sessions and bootcamps, knee tucks or suspended crunches.  These are typically done using glide discs, but the TRX can also accomplish the same goal, albeit slightly harder.

The Basics

In the last edition of Technique Tuesday, we went over our plank position in the last edition of Technique Tuesday.  If you missed it, just click here to review.  Starting in a push-up position, with the feet on glide discs or in the TRX foot cradle, maintain the basic plank.  From this point, you are going to use your core to drive the knees in towards the chest.   Once the knees get slightly past the hips, push the feet back to the starting position.

Two key points to remember:

  • Elevate the hips as the knees come in to maintain a neutral spine.
  • Avoid rocking the entire body to get through the exercise

One way to ensure a solid knee tuck that will eliminate the first technique breakdown is to put a foam roller under the hips.  This will give you a target to shoot for as the knees come in.  Hit the roller and you’ve likely dropped your hips and knees too low to the ground.  Hover slightly above the roller, and you’re in a better spot for more effective knee tucks. Practice these with the roller first, then progress from there.