The Best Lunge You’re Not Doing

I like lunges.

Not in a “I’m really enjoying myself” kind of way. Because who likes doing lunges? A root canal might be more fun. Or maybe listening to hours of Nickleback.

Just kidding, that’s way worse.

But from a benefit standpoint, I really like them a lot. Single leg work is really important for just about everyone, and it can do so many good things for the body. Not to mention lunges are pretty great for making your legs and butt nice and firm.

However, both forward lunges and walking lunges can be pretty problematic for people with any kind of knee issues.

They can make the ouchies get ouchier.

Both forward and walking lunges require deceleration at the knee joint. When you step forward into a lunge your knee joint acts as a shock absorber when your foot hits the ground. That’s when things can get cranky for some people.

Image result for knee pain

This is where the Reverse Lunge can be very beneficial.

The Reverse Lunge is a common player in the programs I write for my clients. There’s a really good chance that if a client isn’t doing them in their current program, they’ll be doing them in their next one.

Reverse Lunges take care of the deceleration problem by stepping backwards instead of forwards. As you’ll see in the video below, instead of the front leg stepping forward, it stays static. This puts the knee joint in a much more stable position, and can take the issue of knee pain with lunges away completely for most people.

Beyond the science-y stuff, Reverse Lunges hit the hamstrings and butt more than forward or walking lunges do, which means they give the legs a better all around workout.

I use them for everyone, not just those with knee pain.

Let’s take a look at how to do them.

Reverse Lunges

I’m using dumbbells here, but I would suggest starting with body weight.

CUES:

  • Keep your chest high, and avoid letting your torso lean forward.
  • Step backwards, and bend your front knee to a comfortable depth.
  • Keep your front shin vertical.
  • Think of your hips sitting back and down.
  • Drive through the ball and heel of the front foot on the way up. This is a single leg exercise, so keep most of the work in the front leg.
  • Avoid launching yourself forward through your back foot.
  • Squeeze that booty tight at the top.

I typically have clients do these in the 6-10 rep range. But they can definitely be programmed at lower reps for strength, or higher reps if you want to be miserable.

Give them a shot and let me know what you think!

**If you haven’t yet, download my FREE eBook “Fast Food Survival Guide”! At the top of the page on the right, simply click on the image to print or download!**

Three Reasons Moms Should Strength Train

I don’t know if you know this, but I’m not a mom.

Not even a little bit.

Sometimes my daughters accidentally call me “mommy”, but that’s about as close as I get to being one.

I have, however, trained a lot of moms. In fact, over the last eleven years of being a trainer, the bulk of me clientele has always been moms. (I realize that’s a typo and should say “my”, but it sounded kind of pirate-y so I left it. Cuz pirates.) And over those eleven years of being a trainer, and training mostly moms, I’ve noticed a thing or two.

Or three.

Some benefits to strength training are universal. Everyone can benefit from a stronger body. So, while not all five of these reasons pertain exclusively to you as a mom, they all apply specifically to moms and the unique strengths and challenges you have.

Getting Healthy After Pregnancy and Labor

*I spent about ten minutes staring at my screen trying to figure out how to title this first reason. I’m not sure I’m settled with “getting healthy” because it implies that a new mom isn’t healthy. Which is not necessarily true. And phrases like “reclaim your pre-baby body” or “take your body back” aren’t messages I want to spread. So, for now, I’m sticking with getting healthy. If you have a better idea, I’m open to your suggestions.*

While the process of pregnancy and labor don’t automatically mean a new mom is unhealthy, it can. Or at least that things maybe aren’t as ideal as they could be. The reality is that pregnancy takes a toll. I honestly don’t know how you do it. During both of my wife’s pregnancies, I thought many times, “I don’t think I could do this.”

As a mom, you have my admiration.

Growing a human in you for nine months and then pushing it out of your body can cause some things to change. Ligaments and tissues become more relaxed to allow for more space inside of you. Internal pressure can make for some chronically achy muscles. Your abdominal wall can separate (diastis recti) which can make your core musculature weaker. Not to mention that your hormones are completely different than they were before you were pregnant.

If you’re not a new mom, this still applies. Many of those changes that occur in the body during pregnancy and labor don’t automatically reverse themselves. They tend to hang around, unless we actively do some work to change that.

This is where strength training comes in.

Proper strength training should focus on correcting imbalances, strengthening muscles that are weak, and simply make your body feel better. While this applies to pretty much everyone, it applies to you as a mom in a unique way, because your body has been through things no one else’s has.

More Energy

Whenever a mom starts training with me, “feeling tired” or “lack of energy” are some of the most common complaints I hear. And boy does it make sense. Kids can be exhausting. Even the most well behaved kids require a ton of your time and energy throughout the day. And then you throw in nightmares, wet beds, and middle-of-the-night-sicknesses and you’ve got a recipe for one tired mom.

While strength training can’t reduce the demands that kids place on you, it can make you better equipped at handling those demands.

Strength training not only helps improve your mood (which feels like an energy boost) but it also helps you sleep better. Better rest means more energy and makes daily tasks easier to do. And the easier tasks are to do, the less energy you spend doing them, meaning you’ve got more energy for other things.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client who is a mom tell me how much their energy levels have improved from strength training.

Try it for just two weeks. You might be surprised at how much better you feel, and how much more energy you have.

*Want to work with me for those two weeks, risk-free? Drop me a note and let’s get you rolling!*

Increased Confidence

Let’s be honest, we’re all bombarded with images and messages that make us feel less than perfect. We see posts on social media that only show highlights, and assume that’s how people live. We walk through the check out line and see images of so-called beauty standards that we’ve never come close to meeting. And then people who are supposed to care about helping us be healthier and happier make it even more difficult and seem even more impossible.

I don’t think there is a demographic that is bombarded with these negative messages more than moms.

You see it and hear it everywhere.

The beauty of strength training is that it removes the focus from others and what they’re doing, and puts it solely on you. You start focusing on yourself as your only competition. Not in an unhealthy way, but in “I’m going to be better each day” kind of way.

There’s a deep, root-taking kind of confidence that grows when you are able to do more reps with a certain weight, add weight to a barbell or machine, or run farther or faster than before.

You start to believe in yourself.

You start to prove to yourself that you are capable of making healthy changes.

You develop mental fortitude by pushing through discomfort and digging deep to finish a challenging set.

You start to feel confident in your own body and mind.

And that changes everything.

It changes how you walk into a room. It changes how you interact with people. It changes how those social media posts and magazine covers affect you. And it changes how you see yourself when you look in the mirror.

So, mom, I truly believe there is so much potential for strength training to impact you positively. To prove to yourself that you are more than you give yourself credit for. Whether it’s with a trainer like myself, or on your own, give strength training a shot. It just might be one of the best decisions you make.

Ten Lies the Fitness Industry Tells You

Sometimes I feel like cranky old man. I’m not as laid back as I used to be, and this is never more true than when I’m all fed up with a healthy dose of B.S. from the fitness industry.

Today I’m all geared up to yell at the kids to get off my lawn. But the “kids” are fitness industry “leaders” and my “lawn” is you. That’s right, you’re my lawn. That’s why I water you, and feed you, and pick up the dog poop. Because I…care.

That analogy went a little sideways, but I think it makes sense if you look at it right. No, tilt your head a little more. Yeah, there you go. See, now it makes perfect sense. Right?

OK, Michael. Don’t scare them off.

There are a lot of lies the fitness industry perpetuates that really grind my gears.

Image result for grind my gears

But below, in no particular order, are my top 10. These are my top 10 because they shame people, and/or make it harder for people who are looking to be healthier to make sustainable progress.

If you disagree, or have your own you’d like to add, drop your thoughts in the comments below! I’d love to talk further about these with you.

Let’s go!

#1. You have to diet to lose weight

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page with this one. When I say diet, I mean what we all think of when we hear the word “diet” – restricting food in some way, usually via a popular method (gluten-free, keto, Atkins, etc.) with the intent to lose weight.

I don’t know what the formal definition of diet is, but I think that was a pretty good one.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I need to go on a diet.” Thousands? Probably, honestly. And how many times a have you heard a fitness professional talking about the need for people to go on a diet? Maybe just as many times. We are beat over the head with it, and it’s ingrained in us that the only way to lose weight is through restriction, and deprivation.

Want proof that diets tend to not work? You are probably your own proof. How many times have you gone on a diet and had it stick? There’s some pretty solid and specific-to-you proof.

In fact, I would argue that diets rarely work. They fail to address the real issues (your relationship with food, your habits and behaviors, your coping skills) and act as a quick fix that falls apart before too long.

Also, can we take back the word “diet” already? I mean, really we’re all on a diet, because a diet is simply what we eat…healthy or not. Do you eat McDonald’s every day? That’s your diet. Do you only eat vegetables and fish? That’s your diet. The food you buy your dog? That’s their diet. Plus some scraps from the table because he’s such a good boy! Such a good boy!

Whatever you eat, that’s your diet. And you don’t need to restrict or deprive yourself to lose weight. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

#2. You aren’t healthy unless you’re lean

I hate this one. I really hate it. It makes people disappointed in their progress because they feel like it’s “not enough”.

Lean does not automatically mean healthy. Just like body fat doesn’t automatically mean unhealthy. You can be very lean and be emotionally, mentally, and physically unhealthy. I’ve seen it many times. You can also be considered overweight and be very healthy in all those categories.

It’s almost like judging someone’s health by the way they look is a really stupid thing to do. So don’t listen to anyone who says it’s not…including yourself. Let actual health markers (blood pressure, labs, annual doctors visits, etc.) determine that. Not the scale.

#3. Fit people are very lean year round

Hang around someone who is prepping for a body building or fitness show, or getting ready for a photo shoot for very long and you will quickly learn that getting to high levels of leanness is incredibly difficult for most people. There is so much work that goes into getting stage or photo ready…it’s grueling. And potentially dangerous. Water and sodium manipulation, diuretics, extreme dehydration…just to “look good”. Not too mention perfect lighting and Photoshop to make them look even better.

There’s a really good chance that the people you see on magazines only looked like that the day the had their photo shoot, and won’t look like that again until their next one.

That Instagram “model” who posts pictures of her abs every day, maybe she looks like that all the time, or maybe she posts a bunch of pictures over several months, all from the same photo shoot. That absolutely happens.

Sure, we all know people who seem to be able to stay quite lean throughout the year, but that’s the rarity not the norm. And it certainly doesn’t indicate any level of health. People work very hard, and often put their heath at risk getting lean enough to be considered stage or photo shoot ready. And the process is often incredibly disruptive to their lives. I’ve been around them. They’re usually miserable.

Don’t make the assumption that they walk around that lean on a daily basis, or that a high level of leanness is any kind of indicator of being healthy or fit. It’ll only make you frustrated with progress that you should be celebrating.

#4. You need to detox your body

I’ll be honest, I’m so tried of detoxes. I’m tired of hearing about them. I’m tired of people peddling them. I’m tired of people’s health being negatively impacted by them. And, I’m tired of people not giving their bodies enough credit.

I’ll keep this short. Your body has it’s own detox system. If you have a liver, kidneys, and skin that you can sweat through, you’re body is detoxing just fine on it’s own.

“But I did a detox once, and I felt so much better!”

Of course you did. You stopped eating a bunch of highly processed foods, stopped overeating, and were better hydrated. Anyone would feel better doing that. It’s not the detox that made you feel better.

#5. Starvation mode is real

I’m willing to bet that more people than not believe that starvation mode is a real thing. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, starvation mode is the notion that if you eat too little for too long, your body thinks you’re starving, will stop you from continuing to lose weight, and possibly even cause you to start gaining weight. However, despite how much so called fitness pros perpetuate it, it’s flat out not true.

It has about as much scientific backing as “put on a coat or you’ll catch a cold.” We’ve heard it a lot, but hearing something a lot doesn’t make it science.

Yes, metabolism slows as we eat less food over time. That’s what the body does. Eating less food, and carrying less body weight will cause your metabolism to drop because it doesn’t need to operate as high as it used to. There’s less food to digest and less mass to maintain, so it doesn’t need to expend as much energy. That’s simply the body maintaining homeostasis, not some negative effect of you eating too little. Your metabolism may slow down some, but if you’re truly in a caloric deficit, you wont stop losing weight.

As far as actually gaining weight because of a prolonged calorie deficit? Nope. That’s flat out false. Need proof? Check out the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Look at videos and pictures from the Holocaust. If this were true, wouldn’t those starving third world countries be filled with overweight people instead people who are emaciated?

The fitness industry needs to stop spreading this falsehood.

#6. Carbs make you fat

Carbs have been getting a bad wrap for quite a while now. And the rise in popularity of low carb diets, like keto, have only furthered the demonetization of things like fruit and grains.

People really like to spread information that is sensationalized and not backed by any evidence.

The statement “carbs make you fat” fits this bill.

When someone tells me that carbs are bad, or make you fat, I find it interesting to simply ask them why. Usually, I’m met with blank stare. They have no idea, nor do they have evidence for what they’re saying. They’ve just heard it repeated so much that they believe it. I don’t put the blame solely on these people, after all we’ve all had that message beat into our heads by an industry that is supposed to have our best interest at heart. But, at the same time, we need to take agency for ourselves and make sure we’re well, and accurately, informed.

No food (not even ice cream and cookies) can cause you to gain weight on it’s own. Gaining weight, put simply, is the result of eating more calories than your body needs on a regular basis.

That’s it.

Can eating too many carbs cause you to gain weight? Yes. But that’s the result of the amount, not the carbs themselves.

#7. Lifting weights will make you bulky

This is another one of my least favorites on this list. First, it’s flat out not true, and is only perpetuated due to a gross lack of understanding of how the human body works. Second, it often discourages women from strength training. And everyone, women included, could benefit greatly from strength training.

Muscle gain is a two part process. First, there must be enough damage caused to the muscle, typically via strength training, to cause a growth response. Second, there must be enough extra energy (excess calories) in the body to facilitate and support that growth. Building muscle takes energy. If the energy isn’t there, it wont happen.

Can lifting weights cause muscle growth? Absolutely, but ONLY if coupled with an excess of calories over an extended period of time.

#8. Sugar is toxic

This one.

Ugh.

Let’s talk about “toxic” for a minute. If someone is going to say something is “toxic” they have to mention dosage. Otherwise, they might not fully understand the concept of toxic. Most things can be toxic at a certain dosage.

Like water.

Yes, water can be toxic. In fact, too much water can literally kill you. That’s right, the most benign thing in the world can literally kill you if you get too much of it. Now, you’d have to drink an absolute ton of it to be in danger of this, but it’s possible.

Dosage matters.

If someone is going to say “sugar is toxic”, it needs to be immediately followed with “at a dosage of”, or they don’t really grasp what they’re saying. Again, this amounts to something that gets repeated so much, no one questions it, and spreads it like wildfire.

Now, can sugary foods be problematic? Of course. They’re delicious, and designed in a way that makes us want to keep eating them without feeling satisfied. But, that doesn’t make them toxic.

*It’s worth mentioning that most of the foods we label as “sugary” (ice cream, doughnuts, cookies, milkshakes) also contain high amounts of fat. So to say the issue with these foods is the high sugar content is really missing the boat, and not looking at the full picture.*

#9. Soreness is an indicator of a good workout

Nope.

Soreness is an indicator that you did something you haven’t done for a while, or before. It’s due to repeated motion through a range of motion you’re not used to, or with a load (weight) you’re not efficient with yet.

That’s it.

#10. Your worth is determined by your size/shape/weight

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

If anyone tells you this, or implies this, know that they are flat out wrong.

Your worth has nothing to do with any physical features, your size, or a number on the scale.

Your value is not impacted by what you look like in a swimsuit.

Anyone that makes you feel any different is speaking from their own inadequacies and insecurities. Shut them down, and get that noise out of your life.

Wrap-up

The fitness industry is rampant with falsehoods and lies. It is an industry that largely preys on people’s fears and insecurities to make money. It can be an ugly industry.

But, it’s not all bad. There are a lot of folks who care more about you being successful than they do about getting your money. Be careful who you let influence you. This whole “being a healthier person” thing is tricky on it’s own. Don’t let someone make it unnecessarily harder by spreading false beliefs.

If you know someone in particular who would benefit from reading this, please share it with them. Or, if you’re the type of person who likes sharing (hopefully) awesome content on your social media outlets, please feel free to do so.

Build A Strong and Sexy Back: Low Cable Single Arm Bent Over Row

Prioritizing your back in the gym is a really good idea.

There are both longevity of health reasons, and superficial “looking good” reasons to do so.

Let’s start with the un-sexy, keep-you-healthy reasons.

As we age, certain muscles tend to tighten while others tend to loosen. In the upper body we see that the upper back muscles tend to loosen and the chest muscles tend to tighten. You know that painful looking posture that is so characteristic to senior citizens? The kind of posture that makes their torso look like a questions mark? Yeah, that’s what happens over time.

Image result for upper cross syndrome

If that isn’t problematic enough, we spend a lot of time in this hunched over position. Driving, watching TV, talking on the phone, just having crappy posture in general…and these behaviors encourage that hunched over posture.

So, not only are we fighting time and physiology, but we’re actively encouraging that poor and problematic posture to settle in early.

Beyond that, a strong back, particularly upper back, keeps the shoulders healthy. Shoulders are one of the most commonly injured joints, and a large percentage of people deal with shoulder pain at some point in their lives. Making your upper back strong is a great way to help deal with those aches and pains, and even stave off injury.

Now let’s move on to the more sexy, fun reasons that you should prioritize training your back.

A strong upper back just looks good.

Dudes that fill out their t-shirts with a thick upper back and full traps, well they just look strong. And you know they aren’t afraid of hard work because a big and strong upper back isn’t something that comes easily.

And a strong back on a woman adds an extra element of “confident sexy” to tank tops, and swimsuits.

I’ve never had a client be unhappy with a stronger, more defined back.

Have I convinced you yet that you should prioritize training your back? Good.

Let’s get to the exercise shall we?

Low Cable Single Arm Bent Over Row

I’m a big fan of just about any version of single arm rowing, but I’ve really been digging these lately.

I like the unique tension that the cable provides, and I like that you have to brace the crap out of your body…(not literally, cuz ew).

CUES:

  • Keep your torso at about 45 degrees to the ground
  • Brace your abs very tight, and place your non working hand on the forward knee.
  • Pull your hand to the middle of your rib cage ans squeeze your shoulder blade tight at the end of the movement
  • Avoid rotating your torso throughout the movement.

I typically like to program these for around 8-12 reps per side.

Give them a shot and let me know what you think!

Start Your New Years Resolutions Now

There’s a good chance that you already know what your New Year’s resolutions are going to be for 2020. Why? Because they’re probably going to be the same ones you made for 2019. And the same ones you made for 2018.

Image result for new year's resolution

Why would someone make the same New Year’s resolutions year after year?

Because most people never meet their resolutions.

Ever.

About 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to keep them for longer than 4 weeks, and a mere 9% of people feel like they actually kept their resolutions long-term. 

Those aren’t very good statistics. In fact, they’re pretty rough.

Why is there such a big drop off?  Well, there are a few reasons.

First, New Year’s resolutions tend to be emotional decisions. The year coming to a close reminds us of how quickly it has passed, and how we are often no closer to our goals than we were the year before. Maybe we’re even further away.  So, we make our resolutions out of frustration and desperation for the next year to be different than the last.

This is not necessarily a great place to start from.

Second, people rarely have support, accountability, or an actual plan built in to their resolutions.  Again, because of the whole feeling desperate thing, they just kinda wing it and hope they stumble into a better result than they had last year. Vague resolutions like “lose twenty pounds”, or “get in shape” don’t really give you much to go on as far as a plan goes.

Again, not a great way to get things going.

Third, and lastly, we give a ton of power to January 1st. We treat it like it’s a holy day where we’ll be blessed with greater self-discipline and will power than we had the day before.

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the assumption that things are going to go better at the start of the new year, actually works against us.

We go into our New Years resolutions thinking things are going to be different simply because it’s the new year. Which means we’re not as prepared for the road ahead as we should be.

Things aren’t going to be any different. At all.

Losing weight will take just as much discipline and hard work on Jan 1st as it will on Nov. 5th.

Getting stronger and healthier wont be a simpler process in two months than it will be tomorrow.

The only thing you’re going to gain from waiting is two more months of reinforcing your current habits and behaviors.

Don’t. Wait.

I promise, the you that’s waiting in 2020 will thank you.

Need help getting started? Let’s chat.

Three Ab Exercises You’ve Never Done Before

Ab training.

It’s something that just about everyone is interested in, but they tend to only have a few exercises in their toolbox to accomplish it.

Crunches

Sit Ups

Planks

Small variations of those exercises.

That’s about where it stops for a lot of us.

Today I’m going to give you three ab exercises that you most likely haven’t seen before. They’re challenging, but also fun.

Well, I think they’re fun.

Often my clients don’t think they’re very fun at all. It’s OK. They can be wrong.

Let’s get to it!

Plank with Band Pulldown

These are a real challenge, when performed correctly. Having only one arm on the ground decreases your base of support, forcing the abs to work much harder to keep you stable. The pulldown action with the band provides some good work for the lats, and the constant change in tension from the band moving makes stability even more of a challenge.

CUES:

  • Brace your abs tight before beginning the movement.
  • Don’t let your hips tilt or rock side to side. This is an indicator that you’re not getting enough stability in your abs.
  • Start with the feet very wide. If you need more of a challenge, bring them in slightly.

Side Plank with Row

These are similar to the previous exercise in that they’re a plank variation, and you’ll be incorporating some work for your back. But they’re a side plank instead of a regular plank, and you’ll be rowing instead of performing a pulldown. So they’re exactly the same, but totally different.

You’ll want to start slow with these to make sure you’re not shifting front to back. The pull of the weight coupled with the instability of the side plank position makes it easy to get a little sloppy. And we don’t want sloppy.

CUES:

  • Keep your abs braced tight throughout the movement.
  • Avoid letting your torso move forward or backward.
  • Focus on getting a good squeeze in your back as you row.

Bad Dogs

As far as I know, I came up with these. That being said, I may have stole them from someone and not realized it.

(If you’ve ever had a dog that sits down and refuses to walk when you’re trying to be a good owner and get that dog some exercise because you love it and want the best for it even though it makes the littlest things so difficult some times, and for absolutely no reason, you’ll understand why I call these “Bad Dogs”.)

I’m a really big fan of these, and not just because (I think) I came up with them. They work the abs in a pretty unconventional way. They’re considered an “anti-rotation” exercise like a Pallof Press but the forces you’re resisting are coming from behind instead of from the side. They also have a bit of a plank element to them, in that the force of the band makes it easy to arch through your back and flare your rib cage. Both things you want to avoid in this movement.

If you don’t care about any of that, then let just say they’re hard and you probably haven’t done an ab exercise quite like these before. Because I invented them…did I mention that?

CUES:

  • Before you begin walking out, brace your abs tight. Think like someone is going to punch you in the stomach. That’s the kind of tension you want.
  • Walk out slowly until you feel a good amount of tension in your abs.
  • Keep your hand close to your side.
  • Avoid letting your body rotate to the side of the band, or letting your rib cage flare.
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds.

There you have it…three ab exercise that you (probably) have never seen before.

Give these a shot and let me know how you like them!