Categorized as: Exercise

I hacked the dreaded warm up

By: Coach Mario

I can’t think of many things I hate in life but warming up for a workout is definitely one of them.

For me, I don’t have the convenience of training for long periods of time. So my window of opportunity comes between coaching classes and office hours. From start to finish my session lasts 25 minutes. Warming up would drag that time out even longer.

For me, the purpose of a warm-up is about getting my body primed and ready for intense training. I call it getting “hot and sweaty”. Until that moment comes I jack around in the gym until I feel myself break a sweat. I’ve never regretted warming up before lifting heavy but something in my mind always tells me to skip it. You know exactly what I’m talking about. 

As I’ve gotten older I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for preparing my body for training while removing the monotony that is attached to stretching and jogging.

These are some of my favorite creative warmups:

  1. Tabata Squats

Tabata is an interval of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest; repeated 8x. Every set I flow through Air Squats at whatever pace I feel like. I use the squat because of it’s bigger muscle group in comparison to the upper body. But really there are no limitations to the body weight exercises I use. Use a timer to hold yourself accountable.

2. Ladder Drills (video)

It’s rare we train for speed, agility, and quickness but ladder drills can be a great addition to a warm-up. It’s fun, challenging, and different from the traditional norm of warm-up exercises. I go back and forth until I can’t come up with other movements to complete. That usually does the trick.

3. Barbell Warmup (video)

This is by far my favorite warm-up because I heart weightlifting. It becomes, even more, fun with I add a Tabata interval to the mix. Every set I change the barbell exercise. Matter of fact, I don’t know the exercise I will perform until the prior set is over. Not only am I breaking a sweat, my heart is pounding ready and prepared for the training session.

There’s tons of evidence that promotes the benefits of a sound warm up. More than that, I just feel and perform better when I spend time preparing for my workout.

Doing something will always trump doing nothing.

Give it a try. Let me know what you think!

Kipping Pull-Ups: The Truth

Here’s what you need to know…

  1. No exercise is more divisive than the kipping pull-up and its “butterfly” cousin.
  2. A kipping pull-up is to the strict pull-up what the push press is to the strict overhead press.
  3. If you can’t perform strict pull-ups, you should not be kipping.
  4. If your main goal is to build muscle, kipping pull-ups alone won’t do it for you.
  5. Kipping can be used for hypertrophy however. Do strict pull-ups first then squeeze out a few extra reps using a proper kip.
  6. The butterfly kip isn’t necessary to learn unless you’re a CrossFit competitor and it works better for you. If any pull-up variation is going to cause an injury, it’s the butterfly.

Kipping: Legit Exercise or Circus Act?

Want to start an augment? Just bring up the topic of kipping pull-ups. Want to cause a fist fight? Expand the conversation to butterfly kipping pull-ups.

On one side you have traditional strength athletes and bodybuilders. On the other, CrossFitters. Let’s bridge the gap and objectively discuss the pros and cons of kipping. Read More…

TRY SOME SQUAT THERAPY TO IMPROVE YOUR POSITION AND FOCUS

Let’s take a moment to talk about how working some squat therapy into your life can help you not only achieve all the difficult positions of the squat, but also give you a focus point for each so that you can make more gains while lowering the risk of injury.

Squat therapy is not new but I venture to guess you don’t regularly work it into your routine, which is why I want to encourage you to start incorporating it into your warm-up on a squat day.

How to Perform Squat Therapy

1) Start by facing the wall with your feet in squat stance (under the hips) and standing about ten to twelve inches away from it. Focus on tight abs and squeezing your glutes.

2) Extend your arms above your head and activate your lats and scaps by pulling your shoulders down and toward the center of your back. In this position, you should be focusing on: keeping the chest up; staying tight in the upper back, and keeping the lats engaged so that they form a shelf for your arms to rest on.

3) Initiate the movement by sending your hips back slightly before you begin to pull yourself toward the floor with your hamstrings. Everything you focused on in the first two steps should still be a focus as should be keeping the weight toward the back of your foot and externally rotating the hips. If your knees touch the wall, you probably initiated with them instead of the hips. Keep practicing this step until you get the hang of sending your hips back and down. Read More…

Stop Rounding Your Back!

Rounded backs have always peeved me. The worst is when you’re rounding when you’re NOT even fatigued. In situations where you are fresh, there should be no excuse to round your back on any exercise. Not only does a rounded back exponentially increase your risk of injury, it also decreases performance due to a lack of structural rigidness. This is very similar to pulling a boat with a rubber band instead of a chain. 
 
There are three main reasons why rounded backs happen:
  1.  Lack of awareness – bad habitual posture
  2.  Poor flexibility in hip flexors and hamstrings
  3.  Lack of spinal erector strength AND Lat activation
In many cases, a rounded back is a combination of all three reasons listed above. So how can we get your back to straighten out under load?
 
Default posture: You should be aware of what your default posture is when sitting, standing, and walking. You should always try to draw your shoulder blades together and stay rigid in the abs. If your default posture is excellent, it will be easier to maintain in all situations.
 
Hamstring and Hip Flexor Stretches: If you’re too tight in these muscle groups you have to work way harder than you need to just to get in basic positions. Loosen up the hammies here, and hips here
 
Lat Activation: When pulling from the floor the, the fastest way to improve your positioning is engaging your lats. Check out this video for detailed instruction.
 
You have to work on this on your own at home or before or after class. It’s not going to magically happen overnight either. 

Skin the Cat

How to do the Skin the Cat exercise

  1. Grip the gym rings and begin in a dead hang position, with hands turned out.
  2. Keep the arms and legs straight. Point the toes and raise the legs up, continuing the movement until the feet pass up through the arms and over head into the pike inverted hang position.
  3. Continue to pass the feet round and down toward the ground (although not touching) into the extended ‘skin the cat’ position. The arms should be fully extended.
  4. Lift your hips and raise the legs back and over to the starting hang position.

Notes:

  • Keep the body tight with muscles engaged at all times.
  • Allow the rings to turn freely throughout the movement so the joints track naturally. 

Skin the Cat guide

The skin the cat exercise is a foundation gymnastics movement and can be found as a progression exercise when training for the popular lever strength holds (see front lever and back lever). It’s also an excellent warm-up exercise or can be used for conditioning repetitions as part of a bigger routine. 

The benefits of the skin the cat movement include –

  • Full range of motion in the shoulders (which should have carry over benefits with other exercises such as dips, pull-ups and chin-ups). 
  • Learning basic ring strength, control and coordination skills for more advanced exercises. 
  • Full upper body stretching. Read More…

9 Benefits of Handstands That Will Make You Want To Stand Upside Down

What Is A Handstand?

Benefits of handstands

We don’t want to sound pretentious, but a handstand is exactly what it sounds like; standing on your hands. Of course, this involves inverting your whole body so you are standing on your hands instead of your legs. Technically speaking, doing a handstand actually qualifies as an isometric exercise. Isometric exercises involve static training, or in other words pushing against an object that doesn’t move or holding a certain position for a prolonged period of time. Isometric exercises have various benefits and that goes for handstands too.

Benefit #1: Building Core Strength

One of the biggest benefits that you can get from doing handstands on the daily is the building of your core strength. Of course, handstands train your arms and shoulders to be stronger, but that isn’t all. Being upside down and standing on your hands forces you to engage your core very much.

It takes all of the strength that you can muster in your abdominal muscles as well as in your back to stay upright and balanced while doing a handstand. Since you need to stay stable while doing a handstand, because it does require a lot of balance, it forces you to use the various muscles in your core to achieve that balance. Read More…