Crawl, Walk, Run
So I’ve encountered a lot of people recently who are doing exercises and weights way beyond their current abilities.
And they feel entitled to do the workout moves even though they really aren’t doing them correctly.
They feel entitled because they believe they are in shape. Because they’ve been doing intense stuff for years. Because another trainer let them do it.
Well, I’m sorry, but you don’t just get to do an exercise, you have to earn it.
I mean think about it right now…Do you actually do a full push up? Is your push up perfect?
Is your body in a perfectly straight line? Do you touch your chest to the ground and then completely lock out at the top?
Or does your chin jut forward? Are you’re arms at 90 degrees from your body? Do your hips sag toward the ground or is your butt up in the air?
Be honest with yourself because I can tell you now after hours of watching push ups that 95% of the people out there can’t do a push up worth SHIT.
Sorry to curse, but seriously I am just fed up. I saw all these men and women deciding that they deserved to do the toughest push up progression when they honestly weren’t even near ready.
Is it pride or bragging rights or just that we want to be “bad-ass” that make people stupid enough to do something truly beyond their level?
Or do people really just not realize how bad their form is? Do they not equate their nagging injuries to the fact that they are trying to run when they haven’t even learned to crawl properly yet?
And the funniest part is that I don’t consider myself a stickler on form. I believe that there is a scale of “acceptable” form aka form that is good enough that the person won’t get injured, BUT that as the person gets stronger will be worked to be improved.
However, the form I’ve seen is just completely unacceptable especially since people keep pushing to do something harder than they should.
Why does everyone believe they are above progression!?!
SLOW DOWN PEOPLE!
FORM is important to the extent that it PREVENTS INJURIES! And usually correct form means that you are doing something in the most efficient and functional way possible – the way that will truly give you the most power and STRENGTH.
So why waste your time on incorrect form and just keep pushing ahead when you won’t get near as much out of the move as you could if you just slowed down and took the time to properly engage the correct muscles?
Maybe you never thought of it that way…huh?
Stop trying to run before you can walk and walk before you can crawl. If you take the necessary time at each stage, you are going to find that not only will your lifts be stronger but that you will also suffer from fewer injuries!
So try a push up. Before you do that hard variation you saw in the magazine, ask yourself if you can really even do more than one round of 20 perfect push ups in all of the levels leading up to that new variation.
If you can’t, spend some time EARNING that new variation! It may be a great way to motivate yourself to work hard over the next few weeks or months!
Check back soon for a post about how to do a perfect push up…And in the meantime learn how to do a pull up!
Building a House – Progression
When planning out your workouts, when planning out how to reach your goal, what factors do you consider?
Do you build on what you’ve done the days and weeks before?
Or do you randomly draw exercises out of a hat based on what is sore…or what you want to work that day…or maybe even what just seems like it would be killer?
Most people take no time to create a progression. They just string together exercises and workouts that are tough or have certain moves with no thought as to how they are going to measure their success or how the workouts will actually build toward their goal.
And then they wonder why 3 months later they still haven’t gotten results.
If you truly want to reach a goal, you’ve got to PLAN out a way to get there. I call this plan a “progression.”
It is a progression because over a set amount of time, it will work to step-by-step get you closer to your goal.
It is like building a house.
You don’t randomly throw bricks together and hope it comes out right. You have a plan.
And then you don’t start for with the roof or even the second floor.
You build from the ground up!
Your workout progression should work the same way.
You first build a base, you lay the foundation.
Work on form. Focus on correcting imbalances by lengthening and loosening some muscles and activating others. Learn the basics.
Then once you’ve learned the basics, you start to advance moves or add weight.
Make yourself EARN harder moves…EARN heavier weights.
Build up your strength slowly so that you allow your body to adapt so that you don’t get injured and have set backs.
And while you are planning out what moves and what weights will get you to your goals, consider repetition and set schemes. Think about rest intervals.
Consider how many days you are going to lift and how long the workouts will be. Also how often are you going to include cardio? What type of cardio?
WOW! Lots to consider right?
YEP! But if you put some thought into each of the pieces ahead of time, you are going to be much more likely to hit your goal AND when you hit your goal, you will actually KNOW what it takes to get you back there if you ever need to retrace your steps.
Even if you don’t hit your goal, you can then tweak things, taking out things that didn’t work and adding in new things that may work.
Otherwise you will just end up floundering around time and time again with no way of knowing what works and probably never actually hitting your goal.
I know it seems random, but it really does seem like building a house….not that I know that much about building a house.
You have to create the blueprints so you know where everything is going to go. You’ve got to get the right tools. You’ve got to know where to start. You’ve got to lay out the plans to get it finished. You’ve got to understand your timeline.
You’ve got to lay a foundation and then build upon it sometimes using fancy things and sometimes using the basics.
The point though of all of this is that you’ve got to have a plan and you’ve got to start from the bottom up.
Ok so after all this rambling, I’ll try to break it down a bit more. Say you want to lose weight and get toned (hey it’s about to be bikini season and this seems to be about every other woman’s goal that comes into the gym).
A basic outline of a progression may be strength training 3 times a week with cardio 2.
With the strength training being three times a week, I would recommend some sort of full body-ish workout each of the three days. I would break down each day into maybe something like this…
Monday Press and Squat, Wednesday Pull and Hinge and Friday Rotational.
I would then select appropriate exercises based on the outlined movement patterns above. I would give them basic exercises to start. They would then have to EARN the harder more fun moves. Master the basic squat motion and then we will talk about fun squat variations. You don’t just get to do the fun variations…You’ve got to earn them.
Just like you EARN heavier weights.
I would start the person out with either light weights or even body weight movements for about 15-20 reps (of course depending on their level of fitness). Over the weeks I would progress them to heavier weights and lower reps. I would probably never really get below 8 reps. If I did go below 8 reps it would only be for a week.
Also, the weights would change slowly, allowing the body to adapt slowly.
Yes..Usually drastic changes lead to drastic results. But they also lead to lots of injuries that could have been prevented by just being a tad bit more patient!
While I’m a fan of the maximal strength rep range, it isn’t necessary for a goal like the one listed above unless the person does really fall in love with lifting. It may also be something to bring up in a later progression.
AND even though I’m not a fan of higher rep ranges (they are good…just mentally I hate counting to 20 haha), it is important to cycle back through that 15-20 rep range to give your body a break from the lower ranges.
Plus your body adapts to whatever it is doing so mixing it up can help you break through any plateau you may have hit!
Each progression would last about 4 weeks before I would give an active recovery-ish week and change up the workouts.
If you don’t change things up, you may hit a plateau, BUT this doesn’t mean changing things up every day or even every week.
Some consistency is key. It helps you track progress and it helps your body build up moves before you change things up again and make it adapt to new moves and weights.
And you don’t only need to build slowly with weight training. Cardio is the same way. You need to build an aerobic base first. Start with some long slow cardio. Build your base. Then as you up your aerobic endurance, add in some sprints. Start your sprints with a 1 to 3 or 5 work to rest ratio. Then decrease your rest as you get more fit. You can also play with making the sprint longer, BUT consider what you are trying to achieve.
What energy zone are you trying to work?
Consider the variables! What are you trying to accomplish and will the workouts you are doing TRULY get you there?
Anyway, so next time you lay out your goal, plan out how you are going to get there.
Things don’t just magically happen. If you want something done, lay out a plan to do it! Don’t just flounder around using random tools!
The New Normal and Periodization
It’s funny…when you first lose weight or lift a new PR, you feel super good about yourself.
But then after a while, when you stay at that weight or keep lifting around the same amount, you aren’t as happy or as proud with where you are.
It is obviously still a good point if you were happy to get there, but at some point, you begin to expect and want more.
You can actually become super UNHAPPY with where you are even if it is miles beyond where you started.
It’s like we get used to our success and begin to not see it as the success it once was – we begin to see it as the new normal.
And once something is our normal, we just seem to want to improve on it.
I know I do.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be satisfied no matter how much I achieve. Sometimes I just keep pushing and pushing expecting more and more NEVER giving myself a chance to take a break and enjoy all that has already been accomplished.
But you will drive yourself crazy that way.
Yes we can always become better, fitter, stronger, faster.
But is always pushing forward really good? Don’t you need to at points sit and enjoy what you’ve already accomplished?
Don’t you need to give yourself a break even if it is just a mental break from constantly pushing forward?
I whole-heartedly believe in giving yourself a “break” every few weeks if not a small break every week.
This new “normal” that you achieve can easily become a plateau if you keep pushing forward at the same pace day in and day out.
Honestly, your body and your mind can’t handle the same intensity day in and day out and sometimes you are lucky if you simply plateau when you don’t give yourself a chance to relax and reflect. You run the risk of actually going BACKWARDS if you never give yourself a break!
So once you’ve achieved a new normal, how do you use a “break” to keep you moving forward?
What do I mean by periodization? I mean that you cycle through times of intense work and really pushing toward your goal, working harder and harder, and then taking a little time to let your mind and body recuperate BEFORE you push forward again.
And when talking about workouts, I don’t mean the day or so you take each week to let your body recover from the week of workouts. AND I don’t mean a complete week off from working out.
When you create your workout program, you want to create a progression. A progression can be anywhere from 4-6 weeks in length. And over those weeks you should build each week on what you did the week before. This means heavier weights or maybe even earning more advanced and complicated variations of moves.
But anyway you look at it you are PROGRESSING. You aren’t randomly picking workouts. You are building each week toward a goal…even if that goal is simply to do a heavier squat or be able to use weight on a single leg deadlift.
And then after building for those 4-6 weeks, you need to recover. This can mean going back to body weight for a week. It can mean completely switching up your progression or even just doing different workouts for a week.
Whatever it is, you’ve got to give your body and your MIND a break from the constant pressure to move forward.
Same goes for dieting. And again I don’t simply mean a cheat meal or even a cheat day each week.
Sometimes you have to let go completely…like on a vacation. Sometimes you have to take a couple of days and just enjoy even if they aren’t on whatever usual schedule/plan you follow.
Your mind and body can’t keep pushing forward all the time. You’ve got to give yourself a chance to relax and enjoy your new “normal” but still improved/better/fitter/happier state before you push forward again.
So think about your program right now…Are you actually building toward something or just haphazardly going about things and then getting mad when a new normal turns into a month-long plateau?
Have you been working at the same intensity for the last three months and been wondering why you haven’t seen results?
Give this a shot. Write up the next few weeks and then PLAN in a week to enjoy how strong you’ve gotten while not focusing on moving forward or your goals for the next few weeks. Plan a week every 4-6 weeks where you are going to just enjoy and PLAY!
The easiest thing ever is to kill someone with a workout and make them have to barf.
Yep it’s easy.
Make them do hard exercises as fast as they can. BINGO!
But seriously what does that accomplish!?! So you FEEL like you got a great workout…But what does it really improve!?!
Is it really making you lose weight? Or are you just getting worn out?
Is it really making you perform better? Or do you just feel rundown?
I mean stringing a buttload of tough exercises together and making someone do them super quick may be difficult but the workout is totally bogus and TOTALLY LACKS DIRECTION!
But trainers continue to do it and clients continue to want it. I’ve even had friends who will go do cardio after a weight training workout just because they felt like they hadn’t sweated enough and weren’t totally exhausted.
While I understand WHY people like killer workouts that doesn’t mean they are always right.
Or good for you.
Honestly, I prefer to work below the barf line. Heck I even like not necessarily being sore the next day.
Honestly. I just want a well thought out workout which doesn’t necessarily mean a killer workout each and every time!
A killer workout each and every time leads to overtraining, which leads to injury which means forced time off.
I don’t have time for that!
I don’t feel like being sidelined with an injury!
So I plan and progress my workouts. I do stabilization days, which include lots of isometric holds. I do strength days, which can mean slow, heavy lifts that don’t even make me break a sweat.
And yes…occasionally this progression does mean workouts that absolutely destroy me.
BUT THEY ARE WELL THOUGHT OUT…Not just freaking hard exercises done as quickly as possible without rest.
Actually most of the “killer workouts” I do aren’t at all like most people do to create killer workouts.
But I was very very very close to barfing. Only of course because I worked as hard as I could.
So what are the killer workouts that I accept?
300 ft in one minute on the VersaClimber.
Or like today…
VersaClimber 30 seconds on 1 min 30 seconds off for 5 rounds
Tsunamis 25 on about 2 minutes off for 5 rounds
5 rounds with over 2 minutes rest in between each round:
Sled pushes 100 ft
5 Squat Thrusts
Doesn’t seem like much right? It isn’t the hardest exercises EVER with no rest. But guess what!?! It made me feel more destroyed than almost any other workout I’ve done.
And I didn’t have to do it super quickly to feel destroyed.
It was a well thought out program with movements to help me progress toward competing well at the Kettlebell Competition.
And I probably won’t be doing another workout like it for a little while.
Because…For one, I don’t need to. There is no point. It wouldn’t get me closer to my goals. And two, it would only make me risk injury!
And when I say that workouts like this put you at risk for injury, I mean that workouts like this put a ton of strain on the body and usually only serve to perpetuate bad movement patterns.
If you want the most out of your workouts, even the killer ones, you need to do some non-killer workouts to improve your movements so you actually get the most out of everything that you do.
Stop wasting your time on killer workouts and really start working toward your goal.
So mix things up and try this stabilization workout!
5 rounds of 1 minute holds on each exercise. Try not to rest between exercises, but take a short rest between rounds.
Toes (literally just balance up on your toes as high as you can. Don’t rock to the outside toes either, really use the big toe!)
Squat hold (squat at lowest to 90 degrees or to right above where compensation occurs. Keep the chest up!)
Bat Wings (AKA scapular hold. Pinch your shoulder blades back and lean against a wall only your elbows touching.)
Push up Hold (So set up at the top of a push up and try to hold from your hands and toes. Keep everything in one straight line without sagging!)
Glute Bridge Hold (Lay on your back and push up, driving through your heels and upper back. Once a minute becomes easy, do a single leg bridge)
Pull up hold (Do a chin up and hold at the top with legs straight for as long as possible. If you need to, straighten your arms and hang at the bottom until the minute is up)
Not a long workout. A great stability/recovery day so you can get everything working properly! TRY IT!
P.S. Going back to my whole New Year’s Resolution theme of the last couple of days….Not doing killer workouts, especially at the beginning is super important. For one, your body isn’t ready to handle workouts like that and you risk injury. And two, you risk making yourself so sore that you can’t workout for days, which won’t help you get into the habit of working out consistently, which in turn will only make it harder for you to get on track to reach your goal!
Progressing toward the elusive perfect push up and pull up
I have many women and even some men tell me that they want to be able to do perfect full push ups and push ups.
And I say “OK!”
Because there is a way to get there! Consistent hard work and a well thought out progression based on what you need to work on will get you there!
So this really applies to any exercise that you want to be able to do, but honestly two of the exercises that most people can’t do, but should be able to do are the push up and pull up (also, most people recently have been telling me they want to be able to do these two moves so I figured I would focus on them).
First, consider all of the muscles used in the move.
For push ups, you use your pecs, shoulders, triceps, core and even your quads and legs. Most often though, people need to focus on core strength and either shoulder or tricep strength.
For pull ups, core and back strength are essential. The grip you use will also determine how much bicep is involved.
Once you identify the muscles used, you can work on those muscles. That doesn’t mean you have to start doing tricep extensions and bicep curls.
You can still do compound movements.
So to work on improving your push up, first assess where you are. Can you do a push up with your hands on an incline? Can you do a push up from your knees? And when I say “Do a push up.” I mean a PERFECT form push up from that position.
Same goes for pull ups. Can you do jumping pull ups? Can you do pull ups where you jump up and slowly lower yourself down? Can you do a pull up and hold? Or can you do a chin up but not a full pull up yet?
Get a clear picture of where you are starting from. If you know exactly where you are at, you can design a program that will get you to where you want to be.
If you don’t have a clear starting point, how the heck are you going to outline a clear progression!?! You won’t know how long it will take you to get somewhere if you don’t even know where you are starting from!!
So once you know what muscles are involved and where you are starting from, you must create workouts that strengthen your weak areas and progress you toward you end goal.
While you will want to do lots of push ups and pull ups during your progression they shouldn’t be the only thing that you are doing.
For push ups, do some core strengthening exercises. Do some crawling that targets your shoulders, core and quads. Do some form of dips, be they full dips or dips off a bench. I mean even get creative with it. Try some chest flies on the slider. Do some ab roller to work your arms and core. Battling ropes can be good. Medball chest passes are a good explosive way to work your upper body.
There are lots of ways to work. Pick exercises that target your weak points!
For pull ups, battling ropes again can be good. Working on different variations of pull ups can help. Try some medball slams into the ground. You can do ones straight ahead or rainbow slams where you slam it down on each side. Do some inverted rows. Some pivot prone pulldowns. Work on your grip strength. Heck even just playing on the monkey bars will definitely help!
And the good part about some of the things that you can do to work on both of these moves is that they will improve your overall posture and strength not JUST progress you toward a perfect pull up or push up.
There are even moves that can benefit both exercises in some way such as the parallel bar press. Just hold your body straight up off of parallel bars or a dip machine. Don’t be a “turtle” aka keep your shoulder blades pull back and down and your spine long. Your neck should be long and not tucked back into your shoulders like a turtle pulling its head into its shell. Just hold. Keep your abs engaged and your shoulder blades retracted. You will feel this in your back and your arms and even your core.
Anyway, there are a bazillion ways to strengthen your body to progress toward a pull up or push up. Don’t just flounder blindly and HOPE you will get there. SET UP A PROGRESSION!
If you need help or want some exercises to help you strengthen your weak points, let me know! 🙂