There are dozens of different directions that your body can move. But I have found that if you train your body to move in five basic directions, all the other ones usually take care of themselves.
So over the next five days we'll be covering those basic movements. Today is day one of the five basic directions: hip flexion.
Also known as hamstring flexibility, because when you go into hip flexion, you are stretching your hamstrings.
*** Side Note: Many people think that their hamstrings are tight, but in reality they are not. To see if you actually have hamstring tightness, visit my hamstring flexibility blog post.
To determine whether or not you need work moving and hip flexion, we want to do two main things:
The main Exercise that we will use for hip flexion strength is supine leg raises.
How did you do in the exercise? are you able to get your leg vertical, just by engaging your quad and hip flexer?
Next, for the hamstring flexibility portion we will use Static Wall. Lie on your back with your legs up a wall. Ideally, your sacrum should be 100% flat on the floor.. Once you can get your sacrum to the floor, work on getting your hips toward the wall. This is a great exercise to test hamstring flexibility.
Keep your knees straight and flexor ankles, pulling your toes down toward you.
Hip flexion advanced:
One more level here. To progress both of these two exercises, basically combine them. Imagine doing Static Wall with no wall. You should be able to do this. If not, you need to work on your hamstring flexibility and hip flexer strength.
How did you do? Are you able to do all three versions of the test? Do you think it has more to do with your lack of hamstring flexibility or your lack of quad/hip flexer strength?
If you are good at all three of these exercises, don’t worry about hamstring flexibility for now. You probably can take a break from stretching your hamstrings. Instead, focus on strengthening your quads and hip flexers.
Even if your hamstrings “feel tight,“ refrain from stretching them for the time being, until you have assessed the other for movement patterns. Sometimes the hamstrings can play tricks on you, as I noted in the hamstring assessment blog post. If the hamstrings are too weak and flexible, sometimes they can actually feel tight.
Some trends that I’ve been noticing.
Almost every woman that I’ve ever trained has this hip flexion ability mastered. Even women who claim to have “tight hamstrings“ usually display a good range of motion this direction. Most men, however, don’t. Of course there are exceptions, but I would say at least 90% of my clients fall into this generalization. Having said that, if you don’t fall into that category, don’t worry. I really don’t think it matters too much. Just a general observation.
In the next four blog posts I’ll be talking about the other four Major Movement Patterns that are vital to consider when building a strength and/or flexibility program. They include:
Thanks for tuning in. I know you're serious about your health because you stuck to the end. If you have any questions, let me know and I would be happy to answer them.
It seems like everywhere you go people are debating the merits of certain exercises.
Squats. Deadlifts. Compound. Isolation.
But how do we know which is best?
Honestly, I think this whole debate is silly because they are the same. Technically, every exercise is a compound exercise. It’s practically impossible to fully isolate a muscle. Everything you do has an effect on the rest of the body.
Even if you were able to isolate a muscle, every time you engage a single muscle you are creating a change in the entire body.
For example, you could do bicep curls until you’re blue in the face, and you are still affecting your entire body. Doing a lot of arm movements and strengthening will raise your center of gravity, while doing leg strengthening will lower your center of gravity. This also relates to how you hold and engage your core, or midsection.
So instead of asking a limited question of “which is better, isolation or compound exercises?“ I find it more valuable to ask a question that is all inclusive, such as: “when is the best time to use each specific type of exercise?“
Being inclusive with compound versus isolation exercises also allows you to be inclusive in other areas. If you have a tendency toward doing a lot of weight lifting, perhaps you should be all inclusive toward yoga and Pilates. If you stretch a lot, perhaps you need to do more strength work.
There is no one single modality that will do everything for you. It’s far more valuable to be good at everything then it is to be great at one thing.
So, this is what I do personally with regards to isolation and compound exercises.
The first part of my workout is my warm-up. During the warm-up I’m doing isolation exercises but at a very low intensity.
The next part of my warm-up is integration exercises that are a little bit more compound in nature, Such as inchworm, bear crawl, etc. Exercises that are forcing me to use my entire body, and specifically my core.
The next part of my workout I go more towards the “compound“ exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
The end of my workout will be higher intensity isolation where I’m pretty much aiming toward muscle failure.
At the end I will typically do some type a full body integration again, this time with a higher intensity, such as jump rope or sprints.
That’s it. That’s how I integrate isolation and compound exercises, specifically in regards to weightlifting.
Now, should I dance more? Do more yoga? Take a martial arts class? Probably. Variety is not only the spice of life, but it’s what the body needs to continually adopt to higher levels of ability.
What do you think? Do you agree with my exercise sequence? What is your work out look like?
I hope you enjoy this blog post. Thanks for waiting until the end. If you have any specific questions about fitness, health, healthy habits, let me know. I’d be happy to answer them.
Lifting weights is a fantastic form of exercise, so is core work, and so is cardio... if you do it correctly. The reason why say that it must be done correctly is because I notice very frequently how often people lift weights with a good program, but follow improper form. It pains me to see runners limping along, obviously struggling, yet still shuffling along.
One of the easiest ways to hurt yourself is to try to lift too much weight in the weight room, run too fast on the track, or generally just exercise too much without enough recovery.
The one overarching skill that you can cultivate in order to prevent this is to bring the entire experience internal.
What I mean by this is that instead of looking externally toward the numbers:
Have you ever seen somebody in the weight room who can lift an obscene amount of weight on the bar but hardly has any muscle development? On the other hand, have you ever met somebody who has very developed muscles yet is not the strongest person in the gym?
Have you ever met someone who looks like a fit runner, yet only runs 3 miles per week? On the other hand, have you ever met an accomplished marathoner who looks as if their body is so tight that it's a wonder that they can still stand upright?
Of course, some of the above scenario’s can be chalked up to genetics. But, I have also seen my fair share of poor training practices contributing to poor results, even if they looked good on paper.
So what is the differentiating factor? What makes a program good and another in effective?
It’s all about focus. Focus is what makes one fitness program good, specifically one person‘s execution of the fitness program.
If you are going to do an exercise, do it 100% correct. If not, you are risking a lot. First, you are setting yourself up for injury. Second, you’re basically taking a good program and making it sub par. You can take the best program, used by professional athletes, and make it into a bad program if you do it improperly.
On the other hand, you can use a very basic program and make it great if you focus on form and proper progression.
Some ways to prevent yourself from exercising improperly are:
I hope this helps inspire you to put yourself first. Make the shift from an externally-driven fitness program to one that is solidly focused inside yourself. Nobody can do this for you. Fitness is the one endeavor that you can't outsource (that sounds like a good blog post title in itself).
Get serious about your health. Put it first. It's hard to get it back once it starts to slip. Going inside, checking on what your body needs, is the best first step to reaching your fitness goals.
All the best to you. If you need help, let me know.
What’s easier, pushing a boulder up hill, or keeping it up the hill?
What’s easier, getting fit, or staying fit?
If you are new to fitness, there’s one thing that you need to know. You’ve heard that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Well, with fitness, the fit get fitter.
I’ll be brutally honest here, if you are not in shape right now, the deck is stacked against you. Your body does not want to be fit. It’s not efficient. Your body will only lose weight if it absolutely has to.
That might be bad news at first, but it should also keep you motivated during hard times.
Think of it like this. If you know that it will take you at least six months of dedicated effort to achieve results, then you shouldn’t complain about why things are not happening unless you’ve gone through those six months with full effort.
This is why having a personal trainer so valuable, because that trainer is at the top of the mountain and they can reach their hand down to help pull you up. Your friend who is also not fit, is not in the position to pull you up like a trainer does.
One very important thing that can help you climb the mountain of fitness is to find something that you enjoy, or at the very least can tolerate. But beware, enjoying your fitness program typically only happens when you are fit. The fit get fitter.
If you can just hold on, just long enough for some "magic" to happen. Because once you start seeing just a little bit of results, you will start to associate those results with what you did to get them. At that point, you may begin to develop that fitness mindset. That pure enjoyment, not because it’s so fun, but because the results are so great.
Let me break down the three steps that I just detailed.
You are not fit, and you don’t like exercising. It’s a chore. Somewhere deep down you don’t even believe that there’s a connection between fitness workouts and results. You live in Hopelesstown, USA.
You are still not really fit, but you’ve begun the process. You’ve seen enough to be able to correlate your exercise program with your preliminary results. In this step you have "directionality," meaning you are not to the final destination but you can tell that you are on the right path. You know at a deeper level that if you continue to walk this path you will get to where you want to be.
You have built up some serious momentum. Momentum is your friend here. You are in the stage where you could stop working out for months and still at least maintain a general fitness level. But you would never let that happen, because you are so tied to fitness as part of your life that not working out seems weird to you. You are fit and the fit get fitter.
If you are a beginner, don't give up. Reach out to someone who can help you get past the hard part. Because, I promise you, there does come a point where it's harder to NOT workout than it is to workout.
Let me know how I can help. Thanks!
When we embark upon a new fitness program, we naturally assume that over the course of those workouts we will progress in our ability. Whether that means we can lift more weight, or perhaps run faster, or recover quicker.
But if you are a human, I recommend that you do not worry about the quantitative numbers when you are thinking of progression. Instead, think about the qualities that you want to progress.
I made a distinction in the last paragraph between quality and quantity. Specifically, in fitness I mean that the quantity refers to the cold hard numbers. How much weight did you lift? How fast did you run? How many reps did you do? These are very easily quantifiable, and because of that easy to track and determine whether not you are progressing.
But tracking numbers only can be limiting. Mainly, It sets us up for externally-driven results. And instead of trusting our own inner guidance, we are being driven by numbers, data, and analytics. This is why I don’t wear a "smart" watch when I workout. Frankly, I don’t give a $*!+ what my watch says about my workout. My experience of the workout is much more important.
I will admit that tracking qualitative data is more difficult, but, in my opinion, far more valuable. Tracking things like the ease at which you lifted a weight, how it felt when you ran up that hill, or which muscles you felt in a specific exercise are incredible ways to gauge progress.
I’m very fond of saying that fitness is just a two-step process: step one is figuring out where you are at this moment right now, and step two is taking the next logical step or progression.
Where people get into trouble, and by that I mean injury, is either they are not honest with themselves in regards to where they actually are. Or they think they are taking one step when in reality they are trying to take seven. Or, of course, they could be doing both.
So how do you know if you are progressing to quickly? I love using this little graphic to explain this to people. Especially people who don’t think so kindly of the fitness Industry. The whole “no pain no gain“ propaganda in the past decades has scared off so many people. When you were a little kid, recess was your favorite subject because it was fun and you got to play with your friends. As an adult, exercise should be your favorite subject. If it’s not, one reason might be because you have accepted some of that no pain no gain garbage as gospel truth.
You have a specific ability level that can be represented by a circle. All movement within that circle can be done by you easily, with good form, and you feel all the right muscles. Any motion that falls outside of that circle, does not feel good, you can compromise or form, and you feel all wrong muscles.
The no pain no gain philosophy will have you do workouts all over the place, with little regard to how it feels or how it looks. This is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you going to get injured eventually, but you really are not even going to get the results that you want because you’re not targeting the right muscles properly.
Instead, our goal should be to do exercises and workouts with in our ability, but just pushing up to our limit.
And because our abilities change every day, based on a lot of factors such as how much sleep you got last night, how you've been eating, sleeping, and the stresses in our lives, etc. We should track qualitatively how we are doing in our workouts. Yes, we should use “soft“ assessments such as feelings.
Living in Silicon Valley, I am constantly inundated with people's over reliance on technology. Technology has a place, but for the most part outside of your workout. No amount of technology is going to help you get to your pinnacle level of fitness, because your pinnacle is inside of you. Ultimately, getting fit, healthy, and happy takes a connection to the deeper part of you, your spirit. The more you gauge your progress based on the needs of your spirit, the better off you will be.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know below, I’d love to start a dialogue about this.
The foundation for any fitness program is the core. But how do you begin to develop the core? Search YouTube for the best core videos? Sure, you could do that. But first, I recommend a quick assessment to determine how strong and balanced your core is to begin with. Because then you will know what you actually nee to work on.
The term core is a bit of a buzz word. It’s commonly known as the abdominals, or six pack. I take a broader view of the core muscles. So, I consider hips and shoulders to also be a part of the core. Core also refers to your front and your back. When you are balanced in all the core muscles, your body functions properly and you feel strong.
I’m going to take you through the My Core Balance Core Assessment so that you can know where you stand with your core strength, stability, and balance.
If you haven’t already downloaded the scoring sheet from the previous two assessments, be sure to click here so you can download that document.
At the end of this workout, you will not only know which of these exercises your weak in, but you will know which general ranges of motion you are weak. That way, you can systematically work on strengthening those weak areas. Once all the areas are brought up to a strengthened and balanced position, then I would recommend that you are ready to do general core workouts that you find on YouTube. But until then, it definitely would be beneficial to focus on your week areas to bring them up..
We will be assessing the following exercises:
Watch The following video and follow along with your scoring file. If you haven’t done the flexibility and range of motion assessment, I recommend that you also do those.
Each of these exercises in the core assessment falls on a continuum. Every exercise has a way to make it easier, and also a way to make it harder. So when you were good at all these core exercises in the assessment, Then you’re ready to progress all of these exercises together.
How did you do on the assessment? Can you honestly say that you are balanced? If not, seriously think about bringing up your deficiencies before you try to make your strengths stronger. The assessment tells you have strong each exercise is and even color codes it for you so that you can see it with a quick snapshot.
Self assessment is great, and sometimes you want a little bit a help. I understand it, and would be happy to help. Click here to schedule a 30 minute assessment with me, either in the studio or through a video call.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below. Thanks!
Range of motion is foundational. Do you have a mobility to move your body in multiple ranges of motion the way that you were designed? Any limitation can hurt your performance in sports and life. Much more, limitations in range of motion can cause physical pain.
You might have already read the flexibility assessment from yesterday's blog post. Maybe you're wondering if they're the same thing. So first, we need to briefly define the difference between flexibility and range of motion.
Simply, flexibility is passive and range of motion is active. What I mean by that is to determine my flexibility I can lie on my back and have somebody manipulate my legs or arms. When I refer to range of motion, I’m talking about my ability to contract a muscle in order to take its opposite muscle into a full range of motion.
It’s helpful to get some background knowledge first. Specifically, about muscle action, and muscle opposites. When you do a bicep curl, your tricep is lengthening. The tricep is the opposite muscle from the bicep. Every muscle in the body has at least one opposite.
When you shorten a muscle to its absolute full shortened end range, the opposite muscle is at its lengthened end range.
Watch this video about the end ranges of the biceps and triceps.
Benefits of range of motion
I am a much bigger fan of range of motion then I am of flexibility. Here’s why. When you are stretching muscles, there is very little muscle engagement when you are doing flexibility work. On the other hand, with range of motion you are not only increasing flexibility but you are gaining strength and stability at the same time.
When one muscle is engaging, the opposite is forced into a stretch. So limitations in your range motion usually occur when one muscle group is not strong enough to overpower the tightness of the opposite muscle group.
The following 14 exercises represent a large part of your body, and will help you accurately assess your range of motion. If you have not downloaded the free assessment tool, click here to download it now.
How did you do? The good news is that the first step in getting more range of motion is to assess where you are. Once you know that, It’s very simple to take the next step and simply do the exercises daily that you are not very good at. You will notice that as you get better at the deficient exercises, you will be feeling much better. The body likes balance. The body likes symmetry. The closer you get to full balance and symmetry, the better you’ll feel.
Try to do these exercises daily, and when you’re ready move onto the next assessment, core.
Is there anything that was unclear? Let me know what questions you have, and I’ll be happy to clarify.
As an individual who is looking to better their life, naturally fitness will be a major piece of that improvement. This 4-part series of blog posts will help you achieve your goals, by first ensuring that you have a good place to start: assessing your progress.
Today let's talk about flexibility.
Flexibility is more than just whether not you can touch your toes. Flexibility is dynamic, it’s 3-D, and a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Obviously we cannot change what you were born with. However, many of us can make great strides in our flexibility… Once we have identified where we need work.
It’s not enough just go to a stretching class and stretch every muscle that feels tight. What ultimately helps, is when we pinpoint the exact ranges of motion that we are deficient, and systematically work to improve those. That’s the point of this blog post today.
These 10 basic exercises will give you an accurate gauge of your flexibility. In addition, we have a pattern assessment tool that can help you understand if you have specific patterns that are tighter than others.
The assessment tool that we are using can be downloaded right here.
This tool also includes the other units of Range of Motion, Core, and Strength. Based on your scores, not only are you going to notice patterns and get recommendations for which exercises you should be doing, but we’ve also programmed the document to give you recommendations on which type of strength training and cardio you should be doing.
The video below will take you through the following exercises.
How'd you do? Make sure to set a reminder to check back in on these in a month. In the meantime, just work on the exercises that you're not very good at right now. You will be surprises at how good you get with some focus.
I can tell a lot about your level of fitness by how flexible you are, and more specifically, the relationship of your tight muscles to your flexible muscles. If you want a one-on-one assessment, let me know and I can help you with this step of the process.
Any other questions, let me know. Thanks!
So you’ve finished your workout. Congratulations! Although oftentimes it's tempting to forget about the other side of the coin, it’s so important to remember recovery.
If you are doing workouts that are not particularly challenging, and are more about stretching and balance, then in a way your workout is your recovery. But if you are doing intense workouts, you will definitely need to actively pursue some recovery. That’s what we are talking about in this blog post.
If you did not check out the first four parts on how to build a my core balance work out, click here to start at step one, the hips. If you’ve already finish your workout, let’s get started with recovery.
There are two main categories that we are going to discuss in this post, the first is stretching and the second is myofascia release.
From the term stretching, you would think that the main goal is to elongate the muscles. Although this is only half of the equation. What this should be more accurately called is gentle range of motion.
Every muscle has the ability to contract and relax. When a muscle contracts fully, it takes a joint to a particular range of motion. Another thing that happens as one muscle contracts fully is that it’s opposite muscle stretches fully. Every muscle in your body has at least one opposite muscle, called its antagonist.
We want to think in terms of antagonists when we are stretching. After all, we did that when we were engaging muscles too. We always want to think in terms of opposites. So, when you stretch the hamstrings, you also want to stretch your quads. When you stretch your biceps, you also want to stretch your triceps. Thinking of stretching in this way will help you learn more about muscular anatomy, too. This is a very beneficial thing to learn, because you will be taking this body of yours with you your entire life.
Thinking of stretching mainly as range of motion is beneficial, And it’s also easier. Because now we can apply the same range of motion knowledge just in a more gentler way.
The main stretches that I recommend are the following:
Prone quad stretch
Static wall splits
Sitting floor twist
Cats and dogs
The second part of recovery is myofascia release. You’ve probably seen foam rollers. And, in fact, you can actually use pretty much anything to help release the muscles and the fascia. Fascia is a web-like part of your body that covers the entire anatomy. Everything is wrapped in this stuff. And just like muscles, it can get tight and pulled out of whack.
Imagine wearing a skintight shirt, and you pinch part of the shirt and pull. This pull will affect the shirt material even several inches away from where you pinched. This is how fascia works as well. It travels in lines, and one injury can affect the entire body.
A quick note about intensity
This should not hurt. In fact, it should feel fantastic. Imagine getting a massage where you got to control how much pressure they put into your body. That’s what you’re doing right here. Lie down on a foam roller, tennis ball, or any other firm object, and explore where you feel tight.
Your exploration will take you to wherever you are tight, but I recommend hitting these major areas on your body as a starting point:
Rolling out on these areas will help you get close enough to the tight spots in your body, then you can follow the feeling and find some details as far as what is tight.
There you go! You are done with your full balanced workout in five parts. Follow this template, and gradually ramp up the intensity of the exercises as your body adapts to get stronger and more flexible.
If you have any questions on how to create a balanced, stable, core workout, let me know by commenting below. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or text me at 408–883–4442.
And I'd like to offer you a bonus, because you read to the end of the 5 blog posts. Get a 15% discount on our online programs. Be sure to enter 15discount in the space provided to get your 15% discount on our online programs.
Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for… The workout! If you’ve followed the first three days of this week, you’ve seen the step-by-step progressive warm-up to get you to this point, and now you are ready for the workout.
If you missed those blog posts, click here to start at step one - the hips. If you did not read those posts, I recommend that you do so, because a workout's worth is in its warm-up.
So you’re all warmed up. If you are doing the full version of this workout, you’ve been moving for 30 minutes already. Then this current step in the workout with last you another 20 and 30 minutes, putting your total time to 50 to 60 minutes.
If your fitness level is a skyscraper, the height of your skyscraper will depend on how well you have prepared the foundation. Your foundation is solid, so let’s get ready to build!
There are many different types of workouts that you could do at this point. You could go play a soccer or basketball game. You could run in the mountains. You could go to a yoga class, or lift weights, or do interval training. Your options are pretty much limitless.
In fact, because your warm up was so balanced, you could theoretically just go online and find a workout that looks fun, and do it.
However, if you are still concerned about balance, and making sure that this workout follows similar principles to your warm-up, then stay here and explore this path with me.
When I build workouts, I usually don’t follow a pre-planned template. However, I do follow general patterns.
The main pattern is your work-rest interval. Specifically, how much time are you going to spend on the exercise versus the rest in between exercise.
If you are going on a long distance run, for example, your interval pretty much takes care of itself. You will be doing many minutes of running followed by your rest at the end. If you’re lifting weights, your interval might be 30 seconds of work followed by 30 to 60 seconds of rest. If you are doing a high-intensity workout, your interval might be 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.
So you see how just creating different interval frameworks will produce different results, regardless of which exercises you choose. Once you create the general framework, then you can populate that framework with specific exercises.
Again, you can go dip your hand into the bucket of exercises randomly, or you can get very clear on why you would want to pick certain exercises over others. I recommend you get a full body workout every single time you exercise, both because they are more effective and a better use of your time.
I divide up workouts into four main categories:
Push and pull both relate to the arms. The corresponding warm-ups were labeled shoulders. The shoulders are more central toward the core and need to be addressed first, whereas the arms are more peripheral and can be addressed later.
Legs corresponds to hips. The hips served as the primer, and the legs flesh out that movement
Core here is labeled the same as core in the warm-up. The main difference would be the intensity and the goal. The goal of the warm-up was to move the torso through all ranges of motion without compensation. The goal of the core workout is to produce enough work to fatigue the area, producing the resulting strength and endurance.
Here is the exercise list that I would use for the specific parts of the workout:
Lat pull down
One legged squat
Core/Full Body exercises
Farmers walks/loaded carries full set ups
Hanging leg raises
As you can see, the intensity is elevated with these exercises. But again, you should be ready for them because you’ve done your hips, shoulders, and core warm-up. If you feel like these exercises are too demanding, then your option is to do the core warm-up section for longer and create a full workout with those exercises.
You might also noticed that there are not very many exercises in this section. The main reason is because, well, we don’t need that many exercises. By manipulating the parameters (the intervals) we can create different and unique workouts without really needing to add exercises.
How many sets should you do?
Typically, I will do three rounds of intervals. Here’s one example of a push, pull, legs, core workout:
Push-ups, pull-ups, squats, treadmill run
Bench press, jump rope, inchworm, Rose, lunges, farmers walk, bear crawls
The options are unlimited. You can combine intervals, exercises, and sets/reps for a lot of different variations, depending on your goals and your current ability level.
I hope this all was clear. I feel like I could write an entire book just about this one blog post, and I might in the future if you are interested.
Let me know what questions you have, and what clarifications I can make.
We are not done yet, though. After doing this workout, you will most likely be pretty fatigued. The last section is about recovery, which will help you to be in a position to exercise again and not be too sore in the coming days.