Same Strategy, Same Results

Last night I was putting together a storage cabinet for my girls’ playroom. I was attempting to put one of the screws in that attaches the bottom piece to the side. It wasn’t working. I was having trouble lining up the holes of the two pieces. But I kept trying. And trying. And trying.

After about my sixth attempt I said to myself, “OK, maybe I need to try something different.”

DUH!

 Duh: DUH

I was being stubborn and insistent that the way I was attempting to get that screw in was going to work.

There’s a saying that goes along the lines of – if you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do be willing to do something you’ve never done.

When you hear it in a nice little phrase like that, it seems simple, right?

Well it is simple, until it comes to putting it into practice.

Because, much like my attempt to put together the storage cabinet, we tend to want to do things in the way we’ve already decided they should be done…even if it causes us to spin our wheels.

This is what most of us do when it comes to losing weight or getting healthier. We get all geared up for the attempt, and go straight to the same strategies that have failed us time and time again.

Why? Because we’re sure that those strategies (excluding entire food groups, massive calorie cuts, intense exercise everyday, etc.) are the ones that are going to work.

Pro tip: they (probably) wont. They wont because they never have. And, just like me trying to build that cabinet, repeated attempts with the same strategy that has never brought about results doesn’t make any sense.

So what do you do instead?

The simple answer – SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

The complex answer – it depends.

It depends on your habits and practices. It depends on your history with food and exercise. It depends on your environment. It’s a question I can’t answer without spending some time talking to you first. Which is something we can definitely do. Identifying sustainable ways to improve peoples health is what I do, and having someone with experience look at your patterns and behaviors might be just what you need to get to the next level.

However, in general, look for small ways to improve. Ask yourself, “How can I do this a little better?” You probably know where you’re coming up short. So instead of falling into the same old routines that got you nowhere, look for ways to take the ways you’re coming up short from a 1 to a 2. And then from a 2 to a 3. And so on.

Don’t overthink it…in fact, you might be better off under-thinking it…at least at first.

We’re good at over-complicating…especially when it comes to trying to lose weight. So stop. Take a step back, and look at how you can make some small improvements. Because the truth is, better is better. And “better” is really all any of us are looking for.

Abs of Adamantium: Inchworms

It’s east to get caught up in fancy equipment, complicated techniques, and the “latest and greatest”. I mean, we’re constantly facing a barrage of information from an industry that tells us we have to be doing the new exercise and eating the latest miracle berry if we’re ever going to lose that stubborn belly fat.

But, the truth is, most of the “latest and greatest” is for show, and to make sales. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against novelty when it provides a new way to do something that is beneficial, or if it fills a need in a unique and needed way. But I’m typically not a fan of novelty for novelty’s sake. I think the basics done consistently can go a long way.

And it doesn’t get more basic than a good old body weight exercise. Which leads us to this weeks “Abs of Adamantium” exercise – Inchworms.

Inchworms

Cues:

  • Begin with your hands and feet on the ground, as close together as you can.
  • Walk your hands out while keeping your abs braced tight.
  • Avoid sagging through your lower back. Notice in the video my low back stays neutral in the extended position. I’m not taking my weight in my spine. This is important to avoid. This is an ab exercise, not a “let’s see how much my low back can take” exercise.
  • Walk your hands out as far as you can while keeping tension in your abs, and the work out of your low back. The further out, the harder the movement.
  • Walk your feet back to you hands, keeping your legs as straight as you can.
  • I like to program these anywhere from 6-12 reps.

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

Why Everyone Should Get Stronger

Yesterday I was on a phone call with an online client. He was sharing his frustrations with his lack of consistency with his workouts, but also his desire to get stronger over the next few months.

I told him, “Listen man, the reality is that if you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker. We think we maintain strength because we’re busy, but we don’t. Unless we’re actively reaching for strength and putting our bodies under stress that illicits a strength response, we’re losing our strength. It might be subtle, and it might be slow, but it’s happening. We’re just reinforcing our poor movement patterns, which lead us to live in weaker positions, and set us up for injury. We can maintain our strength gains for about 28-30 days, after that we’re losing them and we’re getting weaker.”

His response, verbatim, “Well shit. That sucks.”

Indeed.

But no matter how much it sucks, it’s the way it is.

You could say that I’m biased about strength training because I’m a personal trainer. Maybe. Or, maybe I’m such a believer in strength training because I’ve seen the incredible impact it has on improving the quality of people’s lives.

Yeah, that’s it.

I believe that no matter what your goals are, you should strength train.

Before we go further, let’s clear one thing up. When I say/type “strength training” there’s a chance you have your own preconceived idea of what that means. It may be positive, it may be negative, or it may be neutral. Whatever that preconceived idea is, set it aside for a minute. When I say “strength training”, I mean training in a way that gets you stronger.

That’s it.

Strength training might make you think of lifting barbells with hundreds of pounds on them, or grunting loudly while bench pressing twice your body weight. Sure, that’s part of it. But strength training is also moving from struggling to do a body weight lunge, to doing it well, and then to doing one while holding 5 lb dumbbells. Strength training is doing two more reps on an exercise than you were able to do the week before. It’s even improving your posture so that you can stand up straight all day long.

In short, the umbrella of strength training is broad and much more diverse than you might have previously thought. This means, no matter who you are, where you are in life, or what your goals are, you fall under the umbrella too.

Let’s look at a few examples of how strength training can benefit different populations:

The High School Athlete

  • Strength improves neuromuscular coordination, meaning you get better at using your body effectively and efficiently.
  • Strength training makes you stronger (duh), which means you can run, throw, swing, hit and tackle with more force.
  • Strength training creates stronger joints and ligaments, which reduces the chance of injury.
  • Strength training helps improve the cardiovascular system.
  • Strength training can improve energy and mood. Both important things for a kid who is easily wiped out from growing, and long school days followed by practice and homework.

the video gamer

  • Kids (or adults) who are “gamers” tend to spend a lot of time being inactive, and in less than ideal postural positions. Strength training addresses both of these problems by providing an increase in activity and time spent in other, more ideal, postural positions.
  • Strength training can help reduce the chances of health problems that are associated with inactivity.
  • Strength training can help increase muscular and ligament strength, reducing the chances of injury. A high risk in inactive populations.

The Busy parent

  • Strength training helps retain muscle mass, keeping your metabolism higher.
  • Strength training burns calories, helping you maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Strength training helps increase your energy levels. What parent doesn’t need more energy?
  • Strength training can help reduce the chances of developing, or help manage the symptoms of, many chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Strength training helps improve cardiovascular health which tends to decline as we age.
  • Strength training gives you time to yourself. A much needed thing for most parents.

the desk jockey

  • Strength training has similar benefits to The Desk Jockey as they do to The Gamer, except it might be more more important due to the extended hours spent hunched over a desk.
  • Strength training provides an increase in activity levels to a potentially otherwise inactive lifestyle.
  • Strength training gets you out of the hunched over position associated with working at a desk, and puts you in more favorable positions.
  • Inactivity leads to a reduced metabolism and muscle loss. Strength training helps combat both of these issues.

The senior citizen

  • One of the greatest benefits strength training provides those who are older than 65 is an increase in bone density. As we age, osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) sets in. Strength training directly increases the density of your bones, which is the exact opposite of what osteoporosis does. In short, strength training equals stronger bones. Something desperately needed in older populations.
  • By the time we’re 65 or older, our bodies are fairly set in their ways when it comes to movement patterns, unless we directly do something to change that. Strength training provides that opportunity. We can change how we stand, sit, and live life. This can reduce the chances of injury.
  • People who are stronger tend to recover from injuries, illnesses, and surgeries much quicker than those who don’t. You know who gets sick and injured frequently, and has a lot of surgeries? Senior citizens. It’s easy for a surgery or major injury to change someone’s life for the worse. This is less likely when an individual is strong, and active.
  • Chronic diseases are very common in the 65+ age group. In fact, the National Council on Aging reports that almost 80% of older adults have one chronic disease, and almost 70% have two. As mentioned before, strength training can directly effect your ability to manage the negative side effects of chronic diseases.

I know this is a small sampling of all the populations out there, but it goes to show that strength training can positively impact anyone, no matter age, interests, or lifestyle.

The bottom line is this, strength training can help keep you healthy, keep you leaner, help you recover more quickly, and increase the quality and quantity of your life. I don’t think there’s a single population or person out there that wouldn’t benefit from those things. Including you.

Build-A-Booty: Hip Extension

A weak butt can be problematic.

Sure, a nice poppin’ booty is all the rage right now, and that’s all good. But more important than the aesthetic of a big butt is developing a backside that is strong.

A weak butt can often be the cause of hip pain, low back pain, knee pain, and other issues. It’s also pretty common for people to have weak glutes (booty, butt, cheeks, etc.).

Squats, deadlifts, and lunges are great. They definitely have their place in developing a strong backside. However, it can be common to rely on the quads, hamstrings, and low back to perform a lot of those movements, so doing some work directly for the glutes can have a huge benefit.

Hip Extensions are a great way to do just that. Now technically “hip extension” refers to the action of extending the hips. Think like when you’re standing up from a bent over position, and your thighs are positioned in front of your body That movement that brings your thighs and hips in line with your torso…that’s hip extension. Technically, any movement that puts the body through that pattern is a hip extension. That being said, I refer to this movement specifically as “Hip Extension”. If that’s confusing, sorry.

Hip Extension:

Cues:

  • Tuck your chin down to your chest, give yourself a big hug, and round your upper back. This may not seem like a desirable position, and if you’re talking about spending a lot of time in this position, you’re right. However, rounding the upper back for this movement prevents you from cranking through the low back. We’re looking for movement in the hips, and very little to no movement in the low back.
  • Pull yourself up by contracting your butt and hamstrings. Avoid using your low back.
  • At the top of the movement, drive your hips into the pads and squeeze your butt as tight as you can.
  • Keep your chin tucked and upper back rounded at the top of the movement.

I suggest starting with body weight on these. Keeping the movement in your glutes and hamstrings, and out of your low back can be a little tricky at first. Once you have that form down, feel free to load them up with a plate, dumbbell, or kettlebell.

I like doing these for lower reps (6-8) for building strength, as well as at a higher rep range (12-15) for a good pump and some muscle growth.

Give them a shot and let me know how they go!

Faster Fat Loss with This One Thing

I’ve been a little M.I.A. from the social medias and blog-o-sphere this week. We are in the process of painting and prepping our new house, getting ready to move in. To say it’s been busy would be an understatement.

So, if you’ve missed me, sorry.

However, I wanted to pop in, say “hi” and give you some quality content at least once this week.

So here I am, doing just that.

When it comes to getting stronger, getting leaner, or getting healthier, most people lack one thing.

It’s not the perfect meal plan, or the perfect exercise regimen. It’s probably not a lack of information, or a need to do more research.

What is it? Consistency.

I am a big believer that a half crocked plan done consistently will get you further than the perfect plan done for a short period of time.

Imagine you take the time to plan everything “perfectly”. Your meals, exercise, sleep, hydration, stress management-everything is planned to a “t”. And you follow this plan for a few days, then don’t for three days. Then you get back at it for one or two more days, and then abandon it altogether. How much progress do you think you will have made?

On the other hand, what if you didn’t worry about getting everything perfect, but just made a few changes that you could keep consistently. Say, eating more vegetables everyday, and planning all your dinners for the week. And, what if you’re able to do that 5-6 days a week for the next two months. Think you might have better progress than the first scenario?

Definitely.

Now, if you think I’m advocating poor planning, you’re missing the point.

The point is that you need to focus more on being consistent than getting everything right.

Maybe it’s time to stop “planning” and start doing. And start doing more consistently. It might take you further than all your planning ever has.

Abs of Adamantium: Statue of Liberty’s

If you missed last weeks “Abs of Adamantium” post, you can read it here, as well as get my explanation for the title of this series.

Today’s post, I’m pretty sure, is something you haven’t seen before. I developed these around a year ago, and quickly began implementing them in my clients programs…because they’re awesome.

A little background on properly training your core…typically we think of training the abs via crunches and sit ups. I discussed this in more detail in the post of linked above. In addition, one of the primary roles of the abs is to stabilize your torso. Not to bend it forward like a sit up, but to keep it from bending.

This movement is classified as an “anti-lateral flexion” movement. Put simply, this means resisting forces that are trying to bend you sideways.

There are a bunch of ways to create anti-lateral flexion, but this one (I am 99.9993% sure) will be brand new to you.

Statue Of Liberty’s

The Set Up:

  • Attach a band around a heavy dumbbell, bench, or cable column…basically anything that wont move.

Cues:

  • Brace your abs tight. Imagine that someone is going to punch you in the stomach, or that you’re constipated and are trying to get things going. That kind of abdominal tension is what you’re looking for.
  • Raise the band overhead, while maintaining that abdominal tension.
  • Resist leaning towards the band.
  • You should feel almost all of the work in your abs, and not in your shoulder.

Hold for 10-20 seconds per side.

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

The Smallest of Things

This morning I’ll be heading to close on our new house. EEK! Needless to say, we’re pretty excited to be spending the next several hours signing papers. Seriously.

But before I head out, I wanted to drop something here for you all to chew on.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

In James Clears book, “Atomic Habits”, he discusses the power of small habits, and how they add up over time to make huge changes.

Image result for atomic habits

(By the way, I highly recommend this book. It’s an enjoyable read and full of practical nuggets of wisdom. Even though I’ve been preaching the benefits of small, sustainable habits for a long time, I learned a lot from this book.)

In his book, Clear talks about how winners and losers have the same goals.

He writes, “Goal setting suffers a serious case of survivorship bias. We concentrate on the people who end up winning-the survivors-and mistakenly assume their ambitious goal led to their success while overlooking all of the people who had the same objective but didn’t succeed.

Every Olympian wants to win the gold medal. Every candidate wants to get the job. And if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers.”

So what does then?

Habits.

Small changes, developed into habits, and then built upon over time.

Let me be very blunt.

Your continued attempts to completely exclude entire food groups, restrict food choices, punish yourself for eating “bad” foods, and take on every possible healthy behavior at once in an effort to lose weight has never worked.

It has never worked, because it will never work.

To continue to make attempts in the same manner will continue to leave you frustrated, unhealthy and feeling like you aren’t cut out to be a healthier, leaner, or more fit person.

It’s a nasty cycle that keeps you unhappy and keeps you spending money on BS diets and products that promise “quick and easy”.

You have to stop the cycle.

You have to believe in yourself.

You have to believe that you are capable of investing in yourself.

That you are someone who deserves to feel good, and be healthy. And that the reason you might not feel that way is not because it might be true, but because an awful industry that claims to be invested in your health is really only invested in lining their pockets by preying on your desperation.

You can do this, but you have to change your habits. You have to develop new and healthier habits. You HAVE to. It’s non-negotiable.

Make very small changes. Do them consistently. You might think that taking on one small thing at a time sounds like too little, but ask yourself how taking on too much at once has worked out for you in the past. Has it got you anywhere? At all?

Guess what? Developing habits takes time. It’s hard work. It’s not easy.

But it’s doable. And it’s worth it.

If you want to work with someone, I’m here. This is what I do everyday-help people change their habits.

Either way, you have to do the hard work. You have to take small steps before you can take big ones. It sounds cliche, but it’s the only way you’ll ever do this long-term.

Motivation Sucks, Try Momentum Instead

If you’ve been following any of my social media accounts for long, you might be familiar with my thoughts on motivation.

Saying it “sucks” might be a little strong. Motivation, in and of itself, doesn’t suck…but the way that we use it and try rely on it does.

Motivation is defined as “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”. Did you catch that? “Desire”…”willingness”. Those words speak to feelings. Motivation is entirely reliant on what you WANT to do.

Here are some things I want to do on a regular basis:

  • Stay up late
  • Sleep in
  • Take a nap
  • Eat an entire bag of gummy bears in one sitting
  • Eat second and third helpings, or until I’m uncomfortably full
  • Have cereal at every meal

I’m super motivated to do all of those things. I would never have to hype myself up, or talk myself into doing any of them.

Here are some things I’m rarely motivated to do:

  • Stop eating before I’m full
  • Make sure I’m getting fruits and vegetables each day
  • Go to bed earlier so I’m well rested
  • Meal plan for the week
  • Grocery shop for my meal plan
  • Go workout

But I tend to do these things on a regular basis.

The thing about motivation is that, like ALL feelings, it fades. Maybe you just talked to your friend who has been eating better and exercising regularly, and she’s lost 20 lbs. You get all fired up and say, “My turn!” So you go to the store, buy a bunch of fruits and veggies, and lean meats. You call the gym where you have a membership, but haven’t set foot inside of for months, just to make sure they’re still open. They are. Whew! You feel so ready and pumped to get started on the road to a healthier you.

Fast forward a week, or two. Maybe six. Still buying those fruits and veggies? Still using that gym membership? There’s a good chance the answer is, “no”.

Sound familiar? Probably.

I think we’ve all been there more times than we would like to admit. Why? Because we tend to rely solely on motivation…if we “feel like it”. If we are “in the mood”.

If you are solely relying on whether or not you feel like eating better, or if you feel like exercising, you’re probably going to spend a great deal of your days not doing either of those.

So what’s the alternative?

Momentum.

Do you know what the definition of momentum is? ” Strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.”

Strength or force that comes about from a series of events…like choosing to do the things that will move you closer to your goals, even when you don’t feel like it.

That’s how momentum is built. By repeated action. Repeated actions become habits. They become what you simply do. Day in and day out.

Motivation can be great for a jump start. Used appropriately, it can be the impetus to get you started. But that’s all it is. It’s the spark that can start the fire. It can burn hot for a moment, but quickly fades away. Momentum is fanning the flames, tending to the fire, and feeding it more wood so it can burn hotter.

If you want long term success, you have to quit relying on motivation to get things done. It will never work out. Build momentum. Build strength and force to what you are trying to accomplish, buy taking repeated action.

Even if you don’t feel like it.

Strong Legs, Strong Abs: Offset Dumbbell Rotational Squat

I’m not a fan of novelty for novelty’s sake.

That guy doing squats on a Bosu ball while juggling kettlebells? It looks cool, and will get a lot of likes on the Gram, but it’s probably a pretty stupid idea for just about everyone (read: everyone).

People think “new” and “inventive” are synonymous with better. When it comes to exercise, that’s often not the case.

(Looking for intelligent workouts that are focused on developing strength without needing to be an acrobat? Let’s chat about that.)

That being said, sometimes I run across something I haven’t seen before that makes me go, “that makes a lot of sense.”

The Offset Dumbbell Rotational Squat is one of those exercises.

I swiped these from Nick Tuminello, who has a penchant for coming up with inventive exercises that actually make sense.

The Offset Dumbbell Rotational Squat does several things that I like. First, it’s sort of a hybrid of a single leg and double leg exercise. The offset load challenges the weighted side much more, but you have the benefit of the stability you get with two legs. Second, the offset load creates a unique demand in your abs. Uneven loading forces your abs to stabilize your torso, so you don’t lean to one side. Third, the rotational component gets people moving in ways that they tend to not move very much. We’re good at forward and backward, but rotating? We don’t do that very often. And when we do, we tend to put all that movement in our low backs. This exercise doesn’t just get people rotating, but rotating correctly.

OK, enough of the “why”, let’s get to the “how”.

Offset Dumbbell Rotational Squat

Cues:

  • Keep your chest tall, and abs tight throughout the movement.
  • Keep your knees and torso square. The uneven weight will try to shift you to one side. This is where the abdominal work comes in.
  • Drive through your feet, and rotate the weighted leg as you stand up.
  • At the top of the movement, your hips, torso, chest and head should all be pointing in the same direction.
  • Do not rotate through your low back. You’ll know you’re doing this if your hips aren’t facing the same direction as your torso.

I like to have clients do 8-12 of these per side.

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

Feel Better In Five Minutes

It’s Friday.

If you’re like most people, you’ve spent the last several days hunched over a desk, and not very active.

It sucks, but that’s the way it goes for a lot of us.

We are a “sit down a lot” society.

All this sitting can cause some problems, one of which is losing mobility and range of motion. Most people describe this as feeling “tight”, or “achy”.

Lack of mobility is also one of the biggest reasons we get injured. In short, if one joint doesn’t have proper range of motion, an adjacent joint will pick up the slack, causing it to move more than it should. This is how injury can occur.

The good news is that we can regain some of that mobility, and feel better pretty quickly. Long-term changes in mobility can take a while, after all we’re working on changing movement patterns that have likely been in place for several years. However, doing some simple drills can help you feel better in the short-term, and doing them consistently can lead to that longer-term increase in mobility that we want.

Some of the most common areas to lose mobility are:

  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Thoracic Spine (mid back)
  • Hip Flexors (crease at top of your thigh)
  • Hip Adductors (inner thigh)

Below are four of my favorite mobility drills to address these commonly problematic areas. The good news is that you can do these anywhere, and need no equipment aside from yourself.

You can take a 5 minute break at the office and do these at your work space. Your body would welcome it. You can do these at home too, while you’re watching TV. Which gives you just about zero reason not to do them. My wife can attest to the fact that it’s not uncommon for me to be watching a season of The Office for the 15th time, after the kids are in bed, and drop down to the living room floor to do some mobility work.

Wall Slides

What they do: these open up your chest and shoulders by providing a good stretch at the bottom of the movement, encourage healthy movement in the shoulder blades, and prepare the mid-back for movement which can help with lack of mobility in the thoracic spine.

Cues:

  • -Keep hands as flat against the wall as possible.
  • -Pull your shoulder blades down as you move your arms down.
  • -Squeeze your back tight at the bottom of the movement
  • -Perform 8 reps

T-Spine Dips

What they do: these help regain spinal extension in the thoracic spine, and provide a good stretch in the lat.

Cues:

  • -Keep your elbows as close together as possible, and as high up on the wall as possible
  • -Keep the movement in the middle of your back
  • -Avoid moving your hips or low back
  • -Perform 8 reps

Yoga Plex

What they do: in short, a bunch. The Yoga Plex helps improve shoulder mobility, thoracic spine rotation and extension, hip flexor mobility, and puts a good stretch in the hamstrings.

Cues:

  • -Keep hips forward at the bottom of the movement
  • -Follow you hand with your face
  • -Reach your arm as far out as possible while making the arc
  • -Perform 6/leg

Split Stance Adductor Mobilization

What they do: increase mobility in the inner thigh (hip adductor), and feel really good.

Cues:

  • -Keep your foot of the straight leg flat on the ground
  • -Sit butt cheek of the bent leg back towards heel of the bent leg
  • -Perform 8/side

If you go through this whole routine once, it might take you a few minutes. If you have 5 minutes, you could certainly get through it twice.

You could do this routine as often to twice a day, every day.

Give them a shot and let me know how they go! And if you know someone who struggles with stiffness and minor aches, send this on to them. It might be just what they need to feel a little better.