Monthly Archives: May 2013
It seems like as long as I can remember every workout had to be four days a week with two days devoted to the upper body and the other two be all about your lower half. If you were in college, then the upper body days were broken up into chest and tri, back and bi days, and the lower body days were skipped and replaced with more benching and bicep curls. All jokes aside, the upper lower split is a great way to workout and get results, if you have time for it.
The often forgotten full body workout is another option as well. The full body workout is not as popular due to the fact that it did not have a following behind it. What I mean by this is that the split body workout had the bodybuilding craze backing it. But there are some distinct advantages to using a full body workout over the split routine. These I will most certainly discuss in more detail later on.
I am partial to the split routine because it is the one I have used the most over my lifting career. I have focused primarily on strength, and in my personal opinion believe that if you are trying to get strong the split routine is the way to do so.
By breaking up your days into upper body and lower body days you are able to focus more of your energy on a particular region of the body. This results in more weight lifted for the group of muscle you want to target.
This structure also works well with people that are training for size, like bodybuilders or people who like beach tanning. The four day routine gives you the ability to break days up into more specific focuses, or foci, again letting you focus your energy on the group of muscles you would like to see increase in size. This is where you would see the back and bi, chest and tri, and legs scheme.
There are some downsides to the split routine. The big one is that it takes up four days, and most people have a hard time making it one day a week to the gym. So a four day commitment would be out of the question for many people.
Full Body Routine
The full body workout has a lot going for it. If you are a person that can only go to the gym two to three times a week, I would highly recommend this routine. The benefit of this routine is that at every workout you are hitting all of your major muscle groups. If you do miss a workout, I would argue that missing a workout on a full body routine is less detrimental then missing one on a split routine.
When working with athletes, the full body routine makes more sense then the split. This is because an athlete uses all their muscles during a sporting event. So training all of their muscles during the same block of time also makes sense as well. During the in season athletes may only have one to two days to devote to lifting weights, so a full body routine would be the better choice. This allows them to hit their upper and lower muscle groups up to two times per week compared to just one with the split.
Both of these routines offer some benefits. I would argue that the split is better for building strength and hypertrophy, whereas the full body routine is better for athletes and people that feel they don’t have the time or have commitment issues with the gym.
These two ways of organizing your training are just two of the most popular ways to organize. There are many different ways to structure your workout week. When it comes to choosing which one is best for you, I would recommend looking at how much time you are willing to give to the gym first. After that, look at which way you prefer to workout. It all comes down to what you like to do and what you will stick to doing.
The reason why I ask this question is because if you don’t know why, then why are you doing it. If you know why you are doing something then there is value in the thing you are doing. As you can guess, since this is a blog devoted to fitness, I am going to relate all this to your fitness life, or at lest give it the old college try.
I was thinking a little while back to why I workout and why do I care about my health (other then the reason that it’s what I make my living doing). If you have been reading this blog for some time then you can guess that I love food, and I am not talking steaks and chicken, I am talking Ben & Jerry’s and Twix. The more filled with simple sugars the better, I don’t just have a sweet tooth, I got sweet teeth.
This love of sweet things has led me down a path of laziness and obesity in the past. Don’t believe me? Here are the pictures to prove it. When I was in 5th grade I weighed a nice 175 and strutted one horrid hair cut, don’t know which one was worse for my self esteem, being over weight or the hair cut. With my pre dinner snack consisting of a two pound bag of Swedish Fish and crushing bags of Saltine crackers I was able to get to 260 by my freshmen year of high school.
During my school years I was never comfortable with the way I looked. I tried different things to make myself feel less fat. I remember wearing Hawaiian shirts because they were loose fitting and made me feel less big. When Under Armor first came out I would always wear one of their dry fits under my shirts since they made me feel thinner.
I started hitting the weight room four days a week as a freshman in high school. Slowly the weight started coming off. By the time I was a senior I was down to 215. After my freshman year in college I decided to change up my diet and started eating healthier and dropped down to a solid 195 and 10% body fat with a good diet and hard work, to put this in perspective the last time I weighed 195 I was in 7th grade. With all this weight loss I gained confidence in myself and have become comfortable with who I am.
So my answer to the question “why I do what I do”: I did what I did back then to feel better about who I was and gain confidence. I do what I do now because I don’t want to go back to being the old me, each day I want to be a little better then the me of yesterday.
So why do you do what you do?
Is it to be able to play with your kid, to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and say, “who’s that sexy beast, O that’s right, its me”, or it could be you just want to be the best you, you can be.
Whatever your reasoning is for living a healthy life style, don’t forget why you do it.
No new fresh to death blog this week. Truth be told I got a little behind this week. I would love to blame it all on the fact that I am graduating this saturday, but the real reason was I got myself into a time management funk. What this means is I just spent countless hours playing disc golf (my new found love) and getting lost in the black hole that is watching Youtube videos.
Next week I promise, well almost guaranty, promise seems like a really strong word, a new post filled with adventure, laughs, and some hot romance (or just filled with stuff I know about, so mostly romantic lifting).
So to make it up to all you knowledge hungry, weight crushing people out there here are some good articles to get your knowledge fix for the week.
Last week I put out a blog on increasing your grip strength to help increase your overall strength. If you have not read it yet give it a reads: 5 Ways for You to Get A Grip
As for the rest:
The difference between a successful lift and a failed lift may come down to something as small as the ten digits that make up what is known in laymen’s terms as your right and left hands, respectively. Without them you could not lift anything. Go out and try and lift something without your hands, it just doesn’t work.
Before I go too far into this blog I just want to point out the level of creative quality that goes into my titles. You may think I spend countless hours thinking up these gems of titles, truth is they just come to me, it’s a gift I must bear everyday.
Your hands, in many cases, are the only thing linking you to the weight. What this means is if you want to be strong, then the link between you and the weight must be strong as well. You can get around this by using straps that tie you to the weight but if you are an athlete this does not help you. You are not fixing the problem, but rather finding a way around the problem.
To fix this problem here are 5 exercises that will help increase your grip strength and give your forearms as big as a gorilla’s.
Grip the Weight
Too often I see people just holding dumbbells in their hands loosely with a false grip (just the fingers holding without the thumb), its just laziness on their part. When you pick up any weight or cable, or what have you, make sure you grip it like someone is trying to take it from you.
Another big thing I see with people using dumbbells is that they hold the dumbbell with the head of it resting against their thumb and index fingers. If you were to move your hand to the middle of the dumbbell where the knurling is, you will notice that you have to grip the dumbbell tight to stabilize the weight causing your forearm muscles to do more work.
These two fixes of squeezing the weight and holding a dumbbell in the middle are two things you can do with every exercise that will help increase your grip strength immensely. The reason is that you are now actually griping the weight instead of just holding the weight.
I love farmer’s carries. They are great for so many reason and one of the reasons is they can be used to increase grip strength. I can’t forget to mention that any exercise that requires you to carry heavy weight over a distance just looks awesome.
To do a farmers carry all you need is a heavy object that you can pick up and hold at your side and then walk with. So dumbbells, barbells, trapbar, kettlebells, or a child will all work. As long as you can grip it tight and then walk with it you’re all set for a killer forearm workout.
Over Hand Grip Deadlifts
When you start off deadlifting, many will start with an over hand grip and as the weight becomes heaver you will most likely switch to an under over grip, so you can grip heaver weights without dropping the bar.
Another great way to increase your grip is to go back to the over hand grip. You will probably not be able to lift as much as you were with the under over grip, but you will only be doing the over grip for a few weeks and then switch back to the under over. The point of this is that the over grip forces you to grip the bar. If you don’t then you won’t be able to hold on to it. Or you will just fall into a false grip, which counts for jack!
Towel Chin Ups
I personally love chin ups, I think they’re the cats meow, and anything that makes them more challenging I am all about. One of those ways is to drape a towel over a chin up bar and then grab each end with your hand and proceed to do chin ups.
This works well. A towel is hard to grip anyway and then add on to that the fact that you have to lift your whole body while holding the towel adds a whole new level. The end result is some strong ass fingers and some mean arms.
Fat grips are plastic grips that fit over anything that has the circumference of a barbell. They can make any exercise a more grip demanding exercise when these puppies are used. Literally any exercise, you want to make bicep curls more grip focused throw on some fat grips. How about a Turkish get up? Never done it before but I am guessing the result would be me with some swell arms.
As you can see there are a number of ways to make your grip stronger. With a strong grip you will be able to lift more, and people with strong grips give great handshakes and a strong handshake leaves people with a better impression of you. This can lead to you having more friends and a better job. What I am getting at is grip strength is the key to unlocking your life’s true potential.
So get out there and grip some heavy ass things!
The past two weekends I have been away at conferences. There was the Elite Training Workshop at Cressey Performance and the NSCA Maine State Conference at the University of New England. Oh, and I was also an invited speaker for the UNE research symposium.
Let me just dust my shoulders off before proceeding.
What this all means is me spending a total combined time of roughly 24 hours sitting in cheap plastic unsupportive chairs, which has done wonders for my back. Luckily it paid off with me cramming my mind full of new ideas and knowledge, and a couple of cool drawstring swag bagz, spelled with a “Z”. Score!
Since all this new knowledge has been bestowed upon me, I will also let you drink from the cup of knowledge. Sorry, I can’t give all of you cool free drawstring swag bagz as well, but if it makes you feel better I would if I could.
Assessments, They’re Important
You have probably heard the saying “if you’re not assessing your guessing”, well it rhymes so it’s right.
When you are working with a new client, how are you supposed to know their past history and how they move, if you don’t do an assessment? The assessment should consist of some kind of questionnaire that delves into the past history of activities and injuries, along with some kind of movement screen.
From this information you can pull areas of weakness and exercises that they should and should not be doing.
If you are part of a gym that does not have coaches that can perform a full assessment, I would recommend you look into the self movement screen. This will at least give you some idea of some imbalances that you may have that you are unaware of.
So don’t guess, assess.
Look at the Demands of A Sport
Every sport requires a different skill set. There may be some overlapping between sports, but there is some facet of the game that makes it unique and that is why baseball and soccer have different names.
Baseball pitchers don’t have to run a lot so why go for 5 mile runs? Same with hockey players and football players, they are all quick explosive sports. Running long distance is the antithesis of this.
Side Note: I just used a big word in my writing and did not even have to find it in a thesaurus – little win.
Looking at overall energy demands of a sport is important, but it is also important to look at the movements that are used in the sport. Look at the work to rest ratio, the explosive vs. non explosive movement, and linear and lateral movements. A program should take all this into consideration.
Train for Effect
Well this sounds like a no brainer. Everyone who works out is training for some kind of effect, whether that is strength, fat loss, or sexiness. Everyone is training for an effect. So what does this mean?
When you write your exercise program you should not just think of exercises as movements that strengthen muscle groups – anyone can do that. I could pick any meathead in the gym to write me a program to get me stronger and there is a good chance some of my weights would go up, this doesn’t mean it was a good program.
There should be a purpose for each exercise. You have depressed shoulders so you program exercises X, Y, and Z to help fix that; your core is weak so you program this exercise over that exercise. The point is you want your exercises to cause an effect, its not just sets and reps with bench, squat, and deadlifts. Writing a good exercise program is so much more than that.
Think about the effect you want to cause.
Base of Aerobic Fitness
This is an idea that I guess I have always known but never actually put much thought into it. Your base of aerobic fitness is what allows you to progress to more strenuous activities, like sprinting. Without a base the individual will have nothing to build off of.
For example if you have a client, or you yourself have not had any form of training in over a year, you can not expect them to know how to pace themselves. By developing an aerobic base first, this will lead to better endurance, allowing them to do more work. Once you, or your clients, have an idea of how to pace yourselves then you can move on to harder activities.
What I mean by pacing is that a sprint should not be the same speed as a jog and visa versa. Without an aerobic base you and your clients may not know the difference or be at a fitness level to perform at a higher level. So get that base and then build off of it.
Ice Cream, Hot Dogs, and Omega 3’s
What do all three of these things have in common? Well, nothing really, except ice cream and hot dogs are not the healthiest food choices. So what is omega 3’s doing linked with these two outlaws of food health.
With our ability to inject almost anything into any food, we now have the ability to put omega 3’s into any food we want to. This includes foods like ice cream and hot dogs. So now my junk food will have some resemblance of being good for me.
So instead of taking fish oil pills I can now just eat some ice cream to get my daily recommended value of omega 3’s. And people can now say, “It’s ok that I eat ice cream every day because it’s good for me.” Let me just say, and this is my last point, a part does not make a whole. Just because something has some healthy part to it does not make it inherently good for you.
PRI Is A Lot of Smart
After hearing about PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) I now fully understand what the phrase “drinking from a fire hose” means. What is PRI? Well it was developed by some smart PT by the name of Ron Hruska.
Their principles are: “To explore and explain the science of postural adaptations, asymmetrical patterns and influence of polyarticular chains of muscles on the human body. To develop an innovative treatment approach that addresses the primary contributions of postural kinematic movement dysfunction.”
Intriguing right? Sounds like a whole lot of smart to me, something that I will have to look into.
These are some of the big things that I learned over the past two weeks. So assess, don’t guess, look at what the sport demands, train for an effect, get that aerobic base, ice cream is awesome but still not good for you no matter how you dress it up, and PRI, that is just smart.