Neither parallel nor perpendicular

Staying with the theme of working out muscles we tend to neglect or ignore, I bring you the obliques. Your core will never be as strong as it should if you fail to work out these muscles.

What

Obliques for a solid core

The obliques, there are two of them the internal and external obliques cross diagonally from the bottom of your rib cage to your pelvis. They help us to stay stable while in an upright position. As the 0bliques play a key role in the function of rotating the trunk, you’ll want these to bring strong especially if you are a martial artist.

How

If you understand how you work out a muscle, then you know you do this with a concentric contraction, eccentric contraction, or an isometric contraction. The first two work when a muscle crosses a joint such as the bicep which we work out by doing bicep curls that incorporate the elbow joint. Also, you are working the muscle along its length, which runs parallel with our arm. So how do you work a muscle that crosses our body in the midsection from one side to our centre? With some movement and isometric (without movement) contractions. Since the obliques don’t cross a joint we are somewhat limited to the number of exercises for this. Let’s get to it.

        • Ab Bikes: If you have ever participated in one of my workouts then you are familiar with this exercise. Think of your body position when on a bicycle. Now, lay on your back and resume that position. Make fists with your hands and keep your hands at your ears, elbows in parallel with your upper body. Keeping a 90 degree bend in your legs, extend one leg while bringing the knee of the other in. As you bring the knee in, bring the opposite elbow to that knee. Think of the motion you are trying to achieve is bringing your lower ribs on the opposite side to the knee that is coming in. You can hold at the top of the exercise for 3 seconds and actively contract the obliques. Also to add intensity slow down the exercise keeping your core tight. Finally, do not grab your head. This is why you make fists with your hands and keep them at your ears. Don’t let your hands come away from your ears just to reach your elbow to your knee. The purpose is to do the rotation using your core and that motion gets your elbow there. Try to do 3 sets to fatigue.
        • Russian Twist (With and without medicine ball): Alright, lying on your back, sit up and make a V shape with your body, the lower part of the V being your hips. Your upper body is one side of the V and your upper legs are the other side of the V. The closer you bring your feet in the easier it is. If you need to, keep your feet on the ground to take some strain off of your lower back. Keep your core tight. Without a medicine ball, have your hands at your waist and reach to your left side with both hands and touch the ground. This gives you the rotation you need. Now do it to the right side. Keep going back and forth. With a medicine ball do the same while holding the medicine ball and try to touch the floor with the ball. To add intensity, you can also do this while lowering your shoulders back and extending the feet and then coming back up, think of this as a smooth in and out motion. If you have a hard time with this because your core is not developed enough then stop. As always if you experience any pain stop immediately! Exercise should never be a painful thing. Try to do 3 sets to fatigue.
        • Cable Woodchop: You’ll need a band for this, particularly a band that you can attach to something. For this exercise you’ll start on your right knee and on your left foo, a half-kneeling position. Think of your hands together raised up by your left shoulder like you are clasping a sword, ready to slice your opponent across their midsection and ending the movement to the right of your right hip. Don’t extend your arms, keep the elbows bent, and do this motion while rotating your upper body. Remember that to work obliques you need to bring your ribs to your hips. When placing the band for this exercise you will need to have it to one side and in front of your body a bit, about a foot. Same type of motion we are doing here as we did with the previous exercises. Do 10 – 12 reps then do the other side, know on your left knee and up on your right foot. Do for 10 – 12 reps and 3 – 4 sets total.

Finally

I hope this makes sense to everyone. Focus on proper technique instead of trying to achieve a higher number. Sacrificing technique to achieve another rep or two will not benefit you. And lastly, invest in yourself and book a few sessions with a certified personal trainer. Your trainer can correct your technique, ensure you are executing correctly, make adjustment recommendations based on your body and answer those questions you have while you are working out.

Yours in health,

Darryl

This may help you run again

You love running but you had to stop. The pain down the front of your shins was too much. If you suffer or have suffered from shin splints then you might want to try this and see if it helps enough to get back to running.

What

Tibialis anterior. Another one of those neglected muscles. This muscle runs along the bottom part of your leg next to the shin bone. The tibialis anterior plays an important role in not just running but also walking, sprinting.

How

        • Seated Toe Raises: This one is easy as most of us spend a fair amount of time sitting.  While sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor comfortably. Now keeping your heels on the floor raise up your toes. Hold and contract for 5 seconds. To add difficulty try balancing a small dumbbell on your foot. Do this 10 – 12 times for 3 sets for each foot.
        • Isometric Toe Press: Sitting, or lying down, put the heel of one foot on the front of the other foot. Now press upwards into the heal and hold for about 10 – 20 seconds. Switch it around and do the other side. Do this 10 – 12 times for 3 sets for each foot. Don’t let your foot you are working go below your heel.
        • Sitting Toe Push: While sitting on the floor with legs straight out in front, grab a band with proper resistance and place under the upper part of your foot. The work in on the downward motion so while holding the band, bring your foot as close as you can towards you while keeping your legs straight. Now, push down on the band with your upper foot. Do this 10 – 12 times, for 3 sets on both feet.

Finally

The movements are all the same really, just different tools, or body positioning. The key is to understand that keeping the heal stationary and the lifting of the upper foot with resistance, or the pushing down of the upper foot with resistance is what works this muscle. Another key point is to not let the upper foot go below the heel. This will then activate your other calf muscles, the ones that may be strong enough already.

Work the neglected Tibialis anterior and enjoy the pain free running.

Yours in health,

Darryl

are you up for a challenge?

How are you doing? How are you handling the world we live in today? It’s pretty much impossible to go out and do the things we used to do, and this can impact your fitness. But let’s not let that happen.

Continuing with my theme of working out the muscles we tend to neglect, here is a post on working those muscles in our butt that typically are neglected. Remember, neglected, weaker muscles can end up in muscle imbalances that can lead to injury.

What

Squats build strong legs and glutes

Our butt, the gluteus maximus. It gets all the attention these days but cannot reach its full potential without the two muscles that stabilize the pelvis: the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Looking at both words helps us understand a bit more about these muscles. Medius is the middle, the muscle between two others. Minimus is minimum, or small, the smaller of the 3 muscles. These two glute muscles are vital for athletic performance and crucial for walking and climbing stairs. And another benefit albeit a visual benefit is when strong they lift up the glutes.

How

Let’s get to it. Here are exercises to do to work the medius and minimus:

      • Sideways Squat Step: You’ll need a resistance band to do this. Using the correct resistance so it’s hard but not too easy, step inside of the band and position it around your ankles. Now, positioning yourself into a squat position, step sideways in one direction for about 8 – 10 steps, then go back in the other direction. That’s one set. When doing this keep the resistance high and do your best to not let your knees turn in. Do 2 – 3 sets.
      • Side Bridge Leg Raise: While in a side bridge position, lift the upper leg straight up, then bring back down not letting the leg touch the other leg. That would be a break and we don’t want that. Again, slowly lift the leg up as high as it can go then lower slowly, not letting it rest. Do 12 – 15 then do the other side. That’s one set. Do 2 – 3 sets.
      • Squat Walk: Try not to laugh when you do this one. Like the first exercise, Sideways Squat Step, put one band around your ankles. Now add another band just above the knees. Staying in a squat position you are going to ‘walk’ forward, then backward. Keep toes pointing forward and knees out. The band around the ankles keeps tension when walking and the band above the knees keeps pressure on the glute muscles we are working. Do 10 steps forward and 10 back. That’s one set. Do 2 – 3 sets.

And of course, don’t forget to stretch:

      • Figure 4 stretch: Lying on your back, bring your left knee towards your chest then grab that foot and bring that foot across your body so your lower leg is running straight across your body, knee on the left side, foot on the right, Know, bring your right knee back towards your body and have your left foot/ankle on your right knee. That’s the figure 4. you can gently push your left knee down a little bit so it doesn’t move as you bring your right knee towards your chest. You should absolutely feel this in your glutes.
      • Half Lord of the Fishes: Sitting on the floor both legs straight out in front, bring your right knee to your chest like you are hugging it and place your right foot on the outside of your left upper leg. Now bend your left leg and bring your left foot under your right glute. For a deeper stretch rotate your torso to the right.

When stretching there will initially be resistance by the muscles you are stretching. This lasts for up to 30 seconds. You should then feel the muscles to start to relax and that’s when you take the stretch a bit further. Now, hold for at least 60 seconds but if you can try to hold for 2 minutes. As the muscles relax a bit more take the stretch a bit further.

      • NOTE: Stretching should never hurt. You should be aware of the tension but it should never be painful.

Finally

The reps and the sets in the above exercises are general recommendations. Feel free to adjust based on your athleticism.

I hope you enjoy these exercises and if you do, keep with them. Your life might just be a bit better.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

It’s no use going back to yesterday

It’s a strange world we live in today. Our lives have been uprooted by a virus that has impacted us in so many ways that it’s unprecedented. I’ve read that the closest event that compares to the impact on people is 9/11, for us. Of course though this is a worldwide event impacting millions of people.

It is millions, isn’t it. Borders closed for who knows how long. Social interactions such as going out for dinner, the pub, a sit down coffee, and even work are gone and for who knows how long.

It’s taken me to this morning to be able to focus on this post. I’ve been fortunate in the sense that I’ve been very busy with my full time job and it’s helped to keep my mind occupied. But then you leave work and stop to pick up some groceries and you see the impact. Simple things are no longer simple.

A recent post I wrote talked about how to exercise in a small area and be just as effective as going to a gym. Little did I know who relevant that post would be today due to social distancing. That post was focused on the physical side of fitness. Today I’ll focus on the mental side of fitness and health.

Health

outside
empty the mind

Without mental health we most likely won’t have physical health. Our brain is responsible for the things we do, the choices we make. Our brain chooses that today we stay in bed and do nothing absorbed by the negative events happening around us or half way across the world sometimes. Or, our brain chooses to get out of bed and do what’s needed to be done to keep us healthy. That’s very important.

There are a ton of books, videos, podcasts that focus on having a positive attitude. I have actually purchased a book on this topic, The PMA Effect by John Joseph. Read it if you haven’t. To me, it’s a clear story of how through choices his life could have ended up totally different than where he is today.

I train and teach martial arts. I have heard and use motivational quotes all the time: You fight how you train, each day is a new day, 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration, etc. But there is one that over the years I think is very important, maybe the most important:

“Don’t worry about the things you cannot change”

It’s easy to be consumed by various things that impact our lives directly or indirectly and that can be a bad thing. Today we live in a world that we know when something devastating happens thousands of miles away. Or it can be only 50 miles away. I see people commit time, invest their mental health over a murder that might have happened in their city. They get concerned, worried, spend a lot of time engaged in this event. But they fail to distant their engagement by not fully realizing that the murdered and the murderer knew each other. The vast majority of murders are perpetrated by people who know their victim. If you are concerned about violent crime than maybe you should be training 3 times a week on how to defend yourself and now you’ve turned a negative into a positive.

I’m not being crass here. Don’t confuse this as lacking empathy. We should care about each other, our family, our friends but investing your mental health in something you cannot change only hurts you. Stress is a good thing but negative stress or too much stress no longer motivates us to act but becomes a heavy blanket preventing us from moving forward positively.

Today

It’s a new world today. I know this because I can see it. I was downtown in the city I live in yesterday, Saturday just before noon and it was barren. Parking spots abundant on the usually full streets. How long will this last? No one knows for sure. Some say it maybe months.

But we need to be strong and not worry about what we can’t change. I can’t change the fact that I can’t go out and sit down and enjoy a pour over coffee. I can’t change the fact that some businesses will lay off workers, or close.

But I can make decisions that can help. I can patron local businesses more often and tip more than usual. I can reach out to friends and family and see that they are ok. I can do things that help me stay in a more positive mindset and not get dragged down.

zen
Zen Garden

Ever wanted to try meditation? Now might be the time! Do you have a body part that needs attention? Now might be the time! Instead of exercising the same muscles switch it up. Focus on the muscles you neglect, the inside of the legs, lower back, calves, etc. Not happy with the rear muscles of your shoulders now is the time to do something about it. Then when things do get back to ‘normal’ maybe your muscle imbalance will be the muscles that used to be predominantly stronger.

But be safe about it, especially if you are working out intensely. Have you ever wondered why elite athletes get colds more often? Because when you train intensely you compromise your immunity system. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session. Moderate exercise, on the other hand, enables immune cells to circulate through the body quicker and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. Generally, after exercise ends our immune system returns to normal within a few hours.

Finally

Be smart. Be safe. Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Don’t focus on things you cannot change.

Focus on the things you can change. You owe it to yourself.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

To fall downward and rust

It’s hard.

It really sucks.

The alternative is what I’ll do.

I’ll do some of it but not all of it.

This is what usually goes through our mind when it starts to get tough, when it becomes a struggle.

What

be sure to lower the weights all the way

The full extent of what your body can do can be excruciating when exercising. It’s so much easier to forgo dropping right into the squat when landing after the jump of a burpee. It’s so much easier to only kick back my legs only 70% instead of 100% when completing that burpee.

Why would I do a pushup all the way down until my nose almost touches the ground when I can do more if I only lower myself 80% of the way.

Why would I bring my knees up to my waist when doing high knees when I can do the same by only bringing them up 3/4 of the way.

Why would you? I’m going to let you know why. Because it’s harder. And because it’s harder it benefits you even if you do less (you’ll do less in the same amount of time because it requires more work).

You would think that doing more is better because that is how we think. Doing more must be better. But by compromising the principle of the exercise by not executing full range of motion you are not developing strength throughout the full range of the motion. You are strengthening only the part of the muscle used during the load you are applying. You are not developing strength in your muscles that would support you when you are in those positions you are avoiding.

And sometimes this is when injuries happen. When you lower that knee to pick something up and you go to get up, when you have to move quickly from an awkward position and you push forward. You wish the injury didn’t happen. You wish at that point that you were stronger.

How

Developing strength throughout the whole range of motion is as simple as exercising throughout the whole range of motion. That’s it. It’s harder and it can suck but it’s worth it. You’ll be strong no matter what position your body is in. Prevent injury, be strong no matter when, no matter what the situation.

Finally

When your brain is telling you to give it only 80%, tell it to go away.

You are worth more, you are worth going all the way, 100%.  Don’t give any less.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

New car, caviar, four star daydream

The fitness world has evolved along with everything else in our modern age. It’s no longer ‘do you work out?’ but has become where, or how do you work out. Your Instagram post is much more impressive and gets more likes when you’ve posted your sweaty self after your Peloton bike workout.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Work hard!

The fitness industry has exploded to a $100 billion dollar industry. Identity and branding have become integral. We are hearing more buzzwords such as wellness, training, and self-care replacing terms like health and exercising. And it makes perfect sense. If there is an opportunity to get into a growing multi-billion dollar industry corporatization will find a way.

The Peloton bike as an example in Canada will cost you just over $3,000 without the monthly subscription which will then set you back $50 / month!

Gyms have become more spas than work out centres. Workout clothing has become expensive. And ancient eastern forms of meditation have been exploited too. Yoga has evolved into a more physical, posture based exercise and has lost it’s meditative and spiritual core. How many people understand some of the tenents of yoga such as sacrificing the ego, simplicity, self-discipline. Hard to do that when you are spending hundreds of dollars on the clothing you will be wearing when doing yoga.

But…

But I’m ok with that. I’m ok with that as long as you are ok with that. Want to spend thousands of dollars to get into shape? Need that $50 dollar membership to stay motivated? That’s fine as long as it works for you. What else are the rich going to spend their money on anyway?

As long as there are options for everyone. As long as people can still afford to go to a gym, buy a decent bike, participate in group physical activity and do what they feel they need to do to get into or stay in shape. Sometimes these things can get out of hand and affordable options diminish. Kind of like the gentrifications of neighbourhoods that have been happening.

But also keep in mind that you don’t need a lot to keep yourself in shape. Keeping in shape can be pretty cheap if you keep it simple. As an example here’s a simple workout that will keep you in shape and requires you to only have a small amount of space not much larger than yourself:

          • Warm up for 5 minutes doing light jumping jacks
          • Alternate the following  for a 20 minute period:
            • High knees – 2 minutes
            • Push ups – 1 minute
            • Ab bikes – 1 minute
            • Air squats – 1 minute
          • Do these for 4 x and that’s your 20 minutes
          • Cool down and stretch

That’s it. Basic? Yes but it got the job done. And once you’ve done this for a while you can change it up by replacing high knees with burpees, change ab bikes to crunches, etc.

Stay true to yourself. Do what works for you. Try not to fall into those consumer traps, companies trying to get you to believe that these things will make you whole will make you better. They really just want your money. I guess that’s why Peloton is worth an estimated $4 billion.

Work hard, be true to yourself, and love yourself. You are worth it.

Yours in health,

Darryl