the heavens crushing down

You might not be a Titan condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity but who doesn’t want bigger shoulders anyway?

That is the topic of today’s post. Keeping it simple, I am going to give you the formula to help you get there. I’m not saying it will be easy, hard work will definitely be involved but it will be simple in what you need to do.

What

shoulder
Strong shoulders

Let’s look at shoulders. Broken into 3 muscle groups, the anterior deltoid (front of the body) the lateral deltoid (the side of the body) and the posterior deltoid (the rear of the body). I have excluded the muscles of the rotator cuff as that is a large topic in itself.

Most of us, and I do mean most, have over developed anterior deltoids. This is largely due to the lives we live. Our arms are out in front of us mostly; using a keyboard, working on things with hands in front, and also carrying heavy items. This tends to over work the anterior deltoids leading to them being stronger than the other two deltoids. I’m going to include exercises that will involve all 3 deltoid groups but you may want to check with a personal trainer to see if you fall into this group and should be focusing on the lateral and posterior delts more that the anterior delts.

Let’s get to it.

How

Posterior deltoid:

        • Bent over dumbbell rows: This is a great exercise to work the back of the shoulder. Holding two dumbbells at your side, bend over at the waist keeping your back arched as to keep a good posture. move your elbows out so your arms are almost perpendicular to your torso. You should now be bent over almost to 90 degrees with both dumbbells touching just below your chest. Keeping a bit of a bend in your elbows, bring the dumbbells out and up so they are almost parallel to the ground. You should look like a giant letter T with a head on it. You may find your hands will want to fall back towards your waist. Don’t let them. Hold at the top for 3 seconds then bring the weight back towards under your chest but not all the way as you want to keep the resistance on your muscles. This exercise can also be done on a bench. Sitting on the end of a bench bring your chest to your knees and do the flies from there. Do you feel this at the back of your shoulders?You should. Don’t have dumbbells? Move onto the next exercise.
        • Resistance band Rear Delt Fly: This exercise mimics the bent over dumbbell row exercise except you are standing and working only one shoulder at a time. Attach one end of the band to a stationary object that will not move at a height that just below your shoulder. Grab the other end of the band and position yourself so your hand is just on the other side of the centre of your body. So if I’m using my right hand, my hand should just be on the left side of centre of my chest. Now mimic the same motion as the dumbbell fly exercise keeping the arm slightly bent, bringing that hand to the outside of your body so your arm is almost extended but still slightly bent.

Lateral Deltoid:

        • Lateral Raise: This is kind of like the dumbbell flies in that the motion is very similar but you wont be bent over and the weights start just in front of your legs. Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, legs soft (this means you have a slight bend in the knees) the dumbbells just ahead of your centre in front of your quads, with that bend in the arms bring the dumbbells up and out so you for a big T with your arms. Resist the urge to spring into the motion using your legs to help carry the weight up. This would be cheating and you don’t want to do that, yet (we’ll talk doing negatives later). Keep the wrists soft too, almost like you are pouring out from a jug when your hands get to the top.
        • Resistance Band Lateral Raise: Just like the above exercise but with resistance bands. I’m a fan of resistance bands. If you have read my article you know the benefits are constant resistance where as with free weights, or even machines, there is a point in the motion of the exercise where resistance drastically falls off. If you are using bands be sure to use ones that give you the resistance you need to keep in the range of adding muscle and strength and not endurance.

Anterior Deltoid:

        • Front Dumbbell Raise: Pretty much the same as the lateral raise except the dumbbells are brought up in front of you kind of like you are holding up your hands to push someone away from you. Keep knees and elbows soft and again, don’t bring the weight all the way down to the point the resistance is lessened.
        • Resistance Band Front Raise: Again, same as above but with resistance bands.

The standards:

        • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Working the anterior delts, this also works the tricpes, the muscles in the rotator cuff, the trapezius muscles. And it helps make you stronger when lifting things overhead. Using two dumbbells, sitting or standing, start with the dumbbells at your shoulders like you are ready to press something upwards. Lift the weights up above you until your arms are almost straight (keeping soft elbows). Do not lock out your arms as we want the resistance to stay on the muscles, not the joints. Bring the dumbbells down but not too low that the resistance comes off of the muscles.
        • Shoulder Shrugs: It’s like it sounds but with weights. Using two dumbbells at your side, be sure to keep your hands centered at your side, shrug your shoulders like you are bringing your shoulders to your ears. This exercise mainly works the trapezius muscles and in turn strong traps helps with improving posture as they pull your shoulders back and help to stabilize your neck and upper back. Also, you can use much more weight doing shrugs than you can doing raises so this helps in developing forearm and hand strength. Try not to use aids such as wraps to help hold the dumbbells if you are using heavy weight. In my opinion, it’s better to drop the weight and hold the dumbbells using the strength of your muscles. Think of it as putting your hands on your knees when doing lunges. You may be developing stronger legs but by putting your hands on your knees you have eliminated the stabilizing muscles, your core muscles, from working and your core will not be strong as it should be when doing this type of movement.
        • Resistance Band Shoulder Shrugs: If your resistance bands have the ability to attach a grip then you can use them for shoulder shrugs. Depending on the type of resistance band, you can stand or sit and have them under your feet to make them the right length to give you the right amount of resistance.

Tools

presses
Shoulder presses

My explanation on how to do these exercises make sense to me but maybe not to you. Check Youtube for video’s on these exercises if you need to. Or, engage a personal trainer to show you and to ensure your form is correct. Remember, incorrect form may not manifest itself in an injury immediately. It may take months before the damage done has been felt. I’m not self promoting when I recommend to hire a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be  a long commitment. It can be short term to educate yourself on proper form and then a check up or a few. It could be money well spent preventing a future injury.

Mix it up. Use various principles to add strength and muscle. Principles such as negatives, pyramids, stacking, etc.

Goal

If your goal is to add size, and with size comes strength, DO NOT DO MORE THAN 12 REPS. If you are serious about adding size, keep reps under 6. This is why you never see power lifters doing endurance sports, or lifting lighter weights to get more reps. This does not mean use the same weight you would have when doing 12 or 15 reps and do only 6, it means using heavier weights, or more resistance.

The muscles need to be stressed to the point there are micro tears for growth to happen. Stopping at 6 when you could have done 8 will not help you achieve your goal.

Stick to 2 exercises for each muscle group doing 3 sets for each exercise sticking to the appropriate amount of reps. Do this to start. If the muscles are stressed and you notice this with the normal muscle pain than great, you are doing well. If not, add another set.

Eat. Eat as much whole foods that are plant based as you want! No worrying about how much protein you are getting as you will get what you need. Did you know the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for the average woman is under 50 grams? The world we live in has us believing we need so much more. And more isn’t always better. More protein means more work for our kidneys and it’s unnecessary and if you are getting this in the form of a supplement you are just throwing your money down the toilet, literally. If you find you are not adding weight than you probably are not eating enough whole foods and may be eating too many processed foods that won’t help contribute to building muscle tissue.

Finally

Right amount of sets, reps, eating well. Listening to your body’s feedback and reacting to it. Setup a schedule and follow it. It is that simple. I know! I used to be a big guy in the sense of muscle once weighing in at 200 lean lbs and squatting over 300lbs. I was mentored years ago by a friend who went from 150lbs to 210lbs. He knew what he was talking about and he was walking proof and I took that knowledge and applied it to myself.

Do the same for yourself and you will get results. Will you have the same results as others? Not always. We have different body types and those underlying body types will always be there at the core. But you will change your body. You are sitting at the wheel, molding the clay, shaping it the way you want.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Don’t fear death…

fear a life unlived.

I don’t know why but today I’m in somewhat of a philosophical mood. I was recently told that I should write a book as I’m a philosopher. I was in Okinawa Japan recently and had the charge of 5 kids to make sure they remained unscathed on their first voyage away from home, almost half way around the world. Devinda, a really smart 16 year old was in a group of 3, him and 2 boys that are 14 years old (constantly arguing who is the oldest of the 2). One day while talking about responsibility I brought up how he has his whole life in front of him and is now experiencing something that many people will never have the chance to. We talked about other things too and that is when he told me I should write a book. It kind of made me laugh. Devinda’s an awesome person. Mark my words, I know one day a lot of people will  know the name Devinda Epaarachchi.

I had to laugh when I heard that though. I don’t look at myself that way, having words of wisdom, I’m just some guy who tries to help when and where I can. And I can’t see writing a book. Who would read that?!

What

So what am I going to write about today? Today’s subject is goals. You have to have them. You do! And they don’t have to be lofty goals either, just goals no matter how small.

A goal can be running 10k in a race. A goal can be running a marathon race. Those are somewhat big goals, right? To many yes, but to others no. A goal can be something a basic as focusing on a body part that you feel needs improvement. Maybe you want bigger shoulders, or larger legs? Take that and make it a goal.

Let’s look at larger shoulders as a goal. What does that mean, larger shoulders? Wider, bulkier, stronger? First thing is to define the goal. Let’s define this one:

      • Larger shoulders: I want the 3 heads of my shoulders to be defined and larger than they are now.

That’s it. The goal has now been defined. Shoulders larger in size and also having the 3 muscles that make up the shoulder clearly defined. So now what, what is next now that I have a goal?

How

You have to put a plan into effect but it needs to be a good plan, something, a plan that will get you what you want. If I were to break down this goal into a plan it would probably look like this:

      • What exercises target the 3 heads of the shoulder, the anterior (front), the laterial (the side) and the posterior (the rear, the most neglected of the 3)?
      • How do I do these exercises to work these muscles?
      • Document current strength doing these exercises: how many reps/sets and how much weight?
      • Photos: What do my shoulders currently look like? Take pictures but be sure to take them in a controlled environment so when you take photos later on you can compare knowing the environment such as lighting is the same and your results can be compared realistically
      • Duration. What is the duration of the goal? Do I want bigger shoulders in 8 weeks? Is this a realistic time frame?

Does this help make things clear? Some of it may not be. Let’s look at duration. Do you know what is a realistic time frame to reach your goal? Now, if you want crazy big shoulders 8 weeks may not be long enough, you may need 26 weeks for your goal. If you aren’t sure, hire a personal trainer to help you out. They can provide realistic targets to your goal.

Why

Goals, I think, are good ways to keep motivated. I find also they help to keep the energy up, they help you to get through those times where you feel you are just spinning your wheels. Goals help to add purpose to your workouts.

Goals can also help you get through those times that are tough. It may help you focus on a specific thing to help you get your mind off of other things.

Finally

I’m no philosopher. I really don’t think I have any words of wisdom. If this article helps you become what you want to become than I’m happy for you.

Do you have your goal? Is it something you really want? Are you going to do what you need to to make it happen?

I hope you will. You are awesome and I have never doubted that you have what you need to do it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

But the monkey on my back

Wont’ stop laughing

Stretching before exercising, specifically static stretching (no movement) will hinder your performance. Then why do people static stretch before working out? Good question. I see it often myself. Classics such as crossing an arm across the body to stretch the shoulder to the good ole hamstring stretch while sitting on the floor. But kidding aside if there is any stretching to be done before working out it should be only dynamic stretching.

Why

shoulder stretch
Static shoulder stretch should be done after the work has been done

Let’s look at static stretching. Why do we do it? Static stretching is done to become more flexible, to lengthen short muscles which in turn should help in injury prevention whereas dynamic stretching (stretching with movement such as crossing your arms back and forth) helps to lengthen muscles but more importantly warms up the muscles and tendons.

So why is this a bad thing to do before working out? Because of the strain you are putting on your muscles. With this strain you are actually decreasing muscle strength. Studies have shown that the decrease in strength can be upwards of 30%! Yikes!

To prepare for your workout, or event a proper preparation should help increase performance not negatively impact performance. It should do this by warming up the tendons and muscles thus loosening them and increasing the range of motion. Warm muscles and tendons use oxygen from the blood stream more efficiently and also use glycogen, stored fuel, more efficiently. Static stretching on the other hand can leave strained muscles weakened for up to 30 minutes because of the stress put on them.

What

warming up
Warming up incorporating dynamic stretching will increase your performance

It’s like almost anything we do. Unless we have educated ourselves on the matter we are usually doing things that we learned a long time ago by someone with good intentions but not educated in the area. I think, and I may be wrong, that a lot of things we do when it comes to working out, running, swimming, biking, or any physical activity unless at an elite level where there are professional coaches and trainers, were learned from school. Learned from the gym teacher who might have been a great football player, or might have done well in track when she or he were in school years ago but doesn’t have formal training in these areas. So they pass on what they learned years ago by someone who was great playing football, or might have done well in track….

Do you get the point? This is why I became a certified personal trainer when I received the rank of Nidan (2nd level) black belt and started running students through workouts more frequently. I felt I would be doing a disservice to our students to be doing the same thing my teacher did and that didn’t sit well with me. I wanted our students to be the best they could be, properly prepared to excel physically and mentally.

Who Cares?

growth
Everyone can grow

But you might be saying what’s the big deal? I still get in my workout regardless. This is correct. For some people showing up, doing the workout is all they need. But to others it’s more than that. Also, think of it in another light. Success is a great motivator. I really believe that you are your own competition. You compete against yourself every time you workout. How many burpees did you do, how quick were you when doing bag work. How we workout could determine if we workout again. If you constantly feel like you are not improving then it could get tough to find the motivation to go back and workout again. But, if you performance is increasing because of doing a lot of right things than who does not like that? Success is a great motivator and this is why I believe in keeping  a journal of workouts. It shows you the growth you have made and with seeing that how can that not motivate you?

Finally

Static stretch after your workout. Dynamically stretch before your workout to warm up your muscles, tendons and to dynamically lengthen the muscles through movement.

Another tool to help you succeed!

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

at the lower realm of things

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write out a post. But, today seems to be a good time as I’m taking a break from getting outside work done around my house. And, who doesn’t like an afternoon coffee, especially a Mexican Chiapas!

What

When we think of strong legs, large legs we often think of the upper leg, the quads. I like to throw hamstrings in there too as they can get neglected. I think of the hamstrings as the triceps to the upper arm. Most people work biceps and neglect triceps but you need to strengthen both triceps and hamstrings to keep a well balanced body both in strength and injury prevention.

legs
Never neglect the legs

Often what gets overlooked is the calf muscles. Running from the ankle to just above the knee attaching to the lower femur the calf muscle aids in the ability of all leg movement. The calf muscles are comprised of 3 muscles:

        • The Soleus: this runs between the other two muscles largely seen below the diamond shape of the calf muscles to the achilles tendon.
        • The Gastrocnemius: These are the two muscles on either side of the Soleus, the muscles that give that diamond shape just below the knee.

These muscles are what moves the heel up when we walk, run, jump or any movement that requires the heel to come off of the ground.

So now that you have a bit of a better understanding of the calf muscles, why do we need to work them? One reason is to prevent injury. A survey of 14,000 injured runners revealed that the 2nd most common injury were calf pulls.

Strong calf muscles means stronger and more stable feet. Ankle rolls are less likely to occur. Also, if you have a pronation or supination (foot turning inward or outward) in your feet, strong calf muscles can help correct this producing a balanced, more neutral stance, thus reduced risk of injury.

More power can be realized when your calf muscles are strong. As mentioned earlier the calf muscles are what lift your heels, your feet off of the ground. Want to increase your explosiveness for any movement where you move your feet you want to strengthen your calfs.

What

Here are some exercises you can do to achieve the ultimate strong calf muscles, those bulging diamonds just below your knees:

          • Calf raises: This exercise totally isolates the calf muscles. It will add time onto your workout but if you are looking to target your calf muscles this will do it. The exercise can be done on the edge of a stair tread, a 4 x 4 square piece of wood that is long enough to support you or anything where you can stand on the balls of your feet and lower your ankles as far as they will comfortably go. The idea is to lower and lift your heels, holding at the top to get that extra contraction of a couple seconds. You can also add weight by doing one leg at a time, having a dumbbell in one hand and supporting yourself with the other. Or, you can wear a weight vest to add weight. Or, you can go to a gym and use the calf raise machine. Whatever method you use you will want to keep in mind what your goal is. If your goal is to add strength you will not want your reps to be greater than 12.
          • Lunge Pulses: Stand with your feet together. Step forward into a lunge with your right foot. Bend your right leg 90 degrees at the knee and extend your left leg behind you, knee bent. Be sure not to have the foot too far behind you as you will want a bend in this knee. Now,  pulse up so that your left leg is straight. Bend to complete one pulse. Attempt about 15 reps then do the other side. This exercise is great for working the Soleus muscle of the 3 calf muscles.
          • Mountain Climbers: Position yourself like you are in the starting blocks for the 100 meter dash. Kind of a modified pushup position. Now, alternate bringing one knee to your chest and then the other. Kind of like running on the spot. Your feet should glide above the ground, not dragging along. Mountain climbers are great to strengthen the whole leg but really help in strengthening the calf muscles. You wont add much bulk or strength though as your reps will be much higher than 12 – 15.
          • Jump Rope: This is more of an isometric contraction of the calves since your heels remain off of the ground the whole time and the heel will never drop below ground level. Since the heels are always up the calves are always in the concentric contraction state making it an isometric contraction, contraction without movement.

Finally

balance
Balance your body

If you are already doing some of these exercises then great, you are working your calves. If you feel you need stronger calves due to weak ankles, or not having a neutral foot position, then look into isolating them and using resistance training to build them. If you need help in that area hire a personal trainer for a few sessions and you will be well on your way to stronger legs overall.

Here’s a tip. This can be applied to calves or any other muscle or muscle group. If you are a person of a higher fitness level and maintain that fitness level well, take the calves, or something else and make it a project to increase its strength. Target that muscle or muscle group every 3rd day (this gives 48 hours off for maximum recovery) and do that for 4 -6 weeks. During this period keep track of your performance at the beginning and each workout. At the end of week 4 or 6, look at your performance numbers. I bet you they have jumped at least 10%. Then, look at your calves. Larger, aren’t they.

I’m a fan of a 4 to 6 week program where you target one area and work on that area diligently. Why? Because 4 – 6 weeks go by in a blink of an eye. Take a part of your body you want to increase strength/size. Do the 4 – 6 week program. Stick to it. Document it by measuring size, strength. Then, at the end do the same. I know you wont be disappointed.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

perspective is relative

The journey is about to begin

My last post talked about a goal I have set for this upcoming year, 2019. I’ve committed myself to this goal be it a good idea or a bad idea but I feel it’s time. It’s time I’ve challenged myself because without challenging yourself you don’t grow, you become stagnant, and that’s not good.

And I love a challenge. Years ago I went through basic training and spent 3 years in the military. During that time I volunteered and completed the ships diver course, an intensive physical course that has a drop out rate of 60%. I went back to school in my mid twenties to get  a degree in computer science, not an easy thing to do going back to school as a mature student. Took up running, running long distances but never in an official event. Started training in Karate and received my black belt in under 5 years. Went back to school sort of to become a certified personal trainer. Recently started my course on plant based nutrition from Cornell University. And now I’ve signed up for a marathon at the end of April, my first ‘official’ marathon.

Why?

I’ve been asking myself that question. It wasn’t a compulsive decision, sort of. Because of my roll at the dojo, teaching all ages and being in a somewhat of an influential position, be it that I bring this on myself or because it’s been bestowed onto me, I am a believer that if you talk the talk you need to walk the walk.

I don’t bring up my position on eating a whole foods plant based diet when I am teaching unless I’m asked for nutrition advice, or it somehow comes up otherwise for numerous reasons. But, I’ve been feeling that I’m not a good role model in this regard. I want to be that person that when someone comments that a whole foods plant based diet is incomplete, that you can’t perform at your best, that you ‘need meat’ I’ll prove them wrong. I’ll show them what can be done eating nothing but plants. But I need a point of reference.

But I’m not doing this for me. This isn’t to stroke my ego, not a fan of ribbons, this is to help people become more than they are, to become the best they can be. I can’t do that right now because for too long I’ve neglected the physical side of my training.

Now

I’ve completed all of my physical accomplishments before following a vegan lifestyle. At this point I have no reference for comparison. But that is about to change.15 weeks of training and than time to run 26 miles fueled exclusively from plants.

It’s going to be tough, it’s going to suck. I’m not going to lie and paint this as a walk in the park. I’m heavier than I should be,  too much heavier. Too much beer and potato chips have added the pounds to my frame. But I’ll do it. I have to.

I want to do something that can make a positive change in this world. I want to be leading the 5 mile run on May 4th for our next group of future black belts. I can’t influence everyone but if I can show a few people what eating only plants can do than maybe they’ll see through all the lies perpetuated by the media and society, that we can’t survive without killing animals and consuming them. I know this. More will find out. I’m going to draw a picture the size of a mountain.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Check back here frequently for updates on my progress. This just might become a mini story.

the bridge came up short

Abdominals

Understanding how muscle contraction works can greatly help you in working the muscles you are trying to work. As an example let’s look at the bicep muscle. The bicep muscles (there are 2, hence bicep) originate at the coracoid process (part of the scapula, the shoulder blade) and has an insertion point of the radius bone in your lower arm. To work the bicep muscles we grab an appropriate weight be it a barbell or dumbbell and starting with our arm straight we then bend our arm, bringing the weight up towards our shoulder. Most muscles are worked this way. The muscles will typically cross a joint (the elbow in this example) and we work that muscle by using the joint it crosses. The same with the tricep muscles originating from the humerus (upper arm) and having an insertion point of the ulna (lower arm) crossing the elbow joint. We work the tricep muscles inversely to how we work the bicep muscles. Makes sense.

So knowing this can help in how you work the muscles as the primary movers or secondary movers or stabilizers. Our abdominal muscles are a good example of this. Our abdominal muscles are comprised of the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis. The rectus abdominis is what we all understand as our abs, this muscle group is what we see when we have an 8 pack (tough to get, most only achieve a 6 pack). The transversus abdominis we don’t notice that much as sits just below and beind the rectus abdominis but also behind the external and internal obliques. It sometimes is referred to as the girdle muscle as it wraps around transversely. Connected to our illiac crest (pubic area) and the cartilage of the lower ribs it does look like a girdle. With this large muscle having fibers running transversely it is a key component of the core. No joints being crossed.

The rectus abdominis originates at the pubis and inserts on the 5-7th costal cartilages (ribs), and on the xiphoid process of the sternum. No joints being crossed.

So here we have 2 muscle groups that don’t cross any joints in our body. How do we contract the muscles if they don’t cross a joint? Think of that when doing exercises such as leg raises. If the motion of raising and lowering our legs does not cause the concentric or eccentric contraction of our core muscles because those muscles are not connected to our femur (upper leg) bone then how is this an exercise for the core?

This is where it’s up to you. These abdominal muscles will play a stabilizer role in this exercise helping you to keep you core stable as you keep your back on the floor. But, you have to actively think of this, you have to focus on these core muscles engaging and stabilizing your body, your core. What also helps with this is using the isometric contraction to contract the muscles.

planking
planking comes in many ways

Isometric contraction is contracting the muscle without lengthening (eccentric contraction) or shortening (concentric contraction). How can you do this with the abs? Think of tightening your abs as if someone was going to punch you in the gut. The muscles are contracting but not lengthening or shortening. You can also do this: Suck in your abs drawing in your lower abdomen below your naval, and hold it. This is referred to as hollowing or vacuuming. You can do this, and isometric contractions anytime; sitting, standing, working, etc. Do this and hold it for 10 – 15 seconds to start, and be sure to continue to breathe. Then increase the time to 30 seconds, or a minute. Be sure to incorporate this into workouts when planking, etc.

Let’s look at some exercises we can do to strengthen these muscles:

  • Russian twist: Starting seated with knees together and bent, raise your feet about 6 inches off of the floor and lean back slightly. Twist from side to side keeping your core tight in that vacuum state and as you twist bring both hands over try to touch the ground.
  • Plank: Staring laying down on your belly lift your body up onto your elbows and toes. Keep you hips up imagining a line from your shoulders to your ankle and your hips intercepting that line. Keep the belly sucked in actively engaging the transversus abdominis. To add difficulty lift a hand up straight out ahead and to add even more difficulty do the same with a leg lifting the opposite foot off of the ground  keeping the leg straight.
  • Crunches: If is very important to keep a neutral spine while doing crunches. This means not pulling on your head and curving the spine while crunching. Most people do this because it makes it easier and makes us feel like we are being successful. Doing more of something that can hurt us is not being successful. Keeping your spine in a neutral position put your hands by your ears and look straight up. Now, bending at the hips, contracting your abs, lift your shoulders up off the ground. Now, lower back down but don’t let your shoulders touch the ground! Keeping the load on the abs by not letting your shoulders touch the ground thus eliminating the rest is really hard but this is what will get you a strong  transversus abdominis and will help prevent back injuries and will also help in giving you that flat stomach most people are looking for. Technique is key as always

Working muscles that don’t cross a joint is harder as it requires much more concentration and focus since it’s not as easy as moving a limb. YOU HAVE TO ACTIVELY ENGAGE THE MUSCLES BY ISOMETRIC CONTRACTION OR BY HOLLOWING. Not doing these things will result in putting in lots of time but not getting the results you want and need.

This post is just the beginning of building a strong core. My plan is to break it down even further in upcoming posts. But this should get you started and covers enough to give you a strong back supporting core.

And remember, if a muscle does not bridge a joint, bending a joint does not work it directly.

Yours in health,

Darryl

We’re gonna vent our frustration

You want to make the time but you can’t. If you have read my posts you may have read one that talks about prioritizing the things that are important to you in your life and to make the time to do those things. It looks great on paper but not easily done.

I’d like to think I have all the answers.

 

You want to make the time but you can’t. If you have read my posts you may have read one that talks about prioritizing the things that are important to you in your life and to make the time to do those things. It looks great on paper but not easily done. It can take some time to change your habits and have the new things you do become your habits. But lets not get too deep into that and instead here is a post on how to maximize the time you do have so you aren’t taking a hit physically.

 

The workout

Let’s start by warming up. PRO TIP: Never start exercising without warming up the body. Not warming up can lead to immediate injury or incurring an injury later. To warm up you can do things like jumping jacks, mountain climbers (at a bit of a slower pace), rotating your arms backwards/forwards, leg swings, etc. The goal is to keep everything moving and to also get your heart rate up to about 120 bpm’s (beats per minute). Here is a simple warm up to do that.

*WARNING* The following is a high intense workout. Consult with your doctor before starting any physical program and also before changing your workout to something more intense.

The warm up

Exercise: Jumping Jacks. Duration: 30 seconds. If you don’t know how to do Jumping Jacks then google it. Doesn’t everyone know how to do these?

Exercise: Arm Crosses. Duration: 60 seconds. Cross your arms like you are giving someone a hug then swing back to open up your arms. Alternate each time which arm is the upper arm. Gradually let your arms open up a bit more each time, dynamically stretching the front of your shoulders.

Exercise: Leg Swing. Duration 60 seconds. Starting with the left leg, bring it as far back behind you then swing forward trying to touch your outstretched right hand. Then do the other side. The goal is to increase gently the backwards and forwards motion of your leg swings. Keep switching from one leg to the other.

Exercise: High Knees: Duration: 60 seconds. Using your core and leg muscles, raise a knee up as high as it will go keeping that foot under the knee, not behind close to your bum. Then do the other leg. The objective here is to do this in a controlled fashion, using the muscles to raise the knee, and not bending forward crunching up. Change back and forth from one leg to the other at a pace that isn’t too quick as again we want to maintain control and also keep our heart rate at 120 bpm as we are warming up.

Exercise: Arm Rotations: Duration 60 seconds. You can do this using both arms at the same time or alternate back and forth. Swing arms up and behind you like you are making big circles. Don’t go too fast as you don’t want centrifugal force to take over possibly causing an injury. You can change direction to a forward rotation half way through.

Exercise: Mountain Climbers. Duration: 30 seconds. Position yourself like you are in the starting blocks for a 100 meter dash, weight on your hands, one foot forward, one back. Now alternate quickly which foot is forward and which one is back. Keep this alternating, back and forth motion going like you are running nowhere. Think of your knees driving forward and backwards. Keep the pace at a rate that keeps your heart rate around 120 bpm.

Summary

Here’s what the warm up looks like:

Jumping Jacks:  30 seconds

Arm Crosses: 60 seconds

Leg Swings: 60 seconds

*Mountain Climbers: 30 seconds

Arm Rotations: 60 seconds

High Knees: 60 seconds

* You can substitute Jumping Jacks for Mountain climbers if you find the load too much on your wrists or shoulders.

Workout

Now that our body is warm let’s get into it.

*WARNING* The following is a high intense workout. Consult with your doctor before starting any physical program and also before changing your workout to something more intense.

The following workout is a high intensity interval training workout. Specifically because this is meant to be done with little time this is a Tabata workout. As with any workout, it is very important to follow the spirit of the workout, of Tabata. 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest for a period of 4 minutes. The 20 seconds is 100% effort while the 10 seconds is 0% effort. Basically the 10 second rest period should be spent trying to get your heart rate back down quickly by focusing on deep breathing and quieting the mind.

One more time. Tabata: 20 seconds 100% effort, followed by 10 seconds 0% effort intervals for a duration of 4 minutes. There are plenty of free Tabata apps for smartphones. I would recommend using one of these.

You will know if you truly adhered to what a Tabata workout is if when you were done you were a big pile of goop. Really. Although a short period to exercise (4 minutes) you should be exhausted because during the work phase of Tabata you really did give it 100% effort. Read here to find out the benefits of this type of exercising.

Exercises

Burpees. That’s it. You really need only one exercise for a good Tabata workout. And the great thing is you can do burpees pretty much anywhere. No special equipment, no large space needed. I like to use burpees for this because it’s an exercise that increases our heart rate to max as quickly as possible and also keeping in mind constraints like space, equipment. Be sure to always use full range of motion, lowering yourself down into the squat all the way before kicking your feet out behind you, to almost the same position as a plank.

Can you do other things? Sure. You can sprint for 20 seconds. You can do alternating lunges with a really quick foot change. It has to be quick. If you do your lunges without the quickness your heart rate is taking longer to get to max. And again, you have only 20 seconds. High Knees at a fast pace? Maybe, if you really push it. I’m not a fan of this because high knees end up being middle knees then lower knees. It’s too easy for the intensity to slip. It’s hard to do that with burpees if you keep moving. You are forced to move your whole body. It’s excruciating. That’s why everyone hates burpees.

Done

Now that you have completed your Tabata and you are dead, don’t just stand there. Jog lightly or just shuffle the feet so you are still moving and focus on breathing. Stay loose, let the arms move. Deep breaths (and I mean deep) in through the nose and then force the air out via your mouth. This has to be active breathing, not passive. Forcefully breathing in and out using the full capacity of your lungs will get rid of the residual air in your lungs and replace it with fresh oxygen full air thus bringing your heart rate down to a lower level quicker. Also by moving your body around you prevent blood from pooling. Keep this up for whatever time it takes you to get your heart rate back to about 120 bpms. You can then let your heart rate come down to about resting rate as you spend 5 minutes for stretching. Don’t want to stretch? Read this and maybe you’ll change your mind.

Stretching

I’ve done many posts on stretching and hopefully you have read them and are an avid stretcher. Because of this I’m not going to spend much time on this. Try to spend at least 5 minutes stretching. The payoff will be huge with benefits such as injury prevention, better quality of life due to increase in mobility. One thing I will say is don’t stretch the muscles that don’t need it. Spend time on your weak areas. Not sure what those are? Hire a personal trainer.

Lastly

That’s it. 5 minutes to warm up, 4 minutes of work, 2 minutes to cool down, and 5 minutes to stretch. 16 minutes of your day, ahh, let’s round up to 20 minutes. And this isn’t some crappy thrown together work out that you won’t see results from. THIS GETS YOU RESULTS.

It’s intense and demands a lot of you. Because of that be sure to get your rest. And because of the intensity you cannot do this every day. How often you can do Tabata is based on things such as your current level of fitness, age, injuries, health issues, etc. If you are not sure hire a personal trainer. But be sure to understand these things to help prevent injury or health issues.  And again:

*WARNING* This is a high intense workout. Consult with your doctor before starting any physical program and also before changing your workout to something more intense.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

same time, different year

I think each of us deal with two primary voices we hear from our brain. One voice, the voice that tells us to stay in bed, the voice that tells us that there will always be tomorrow to get up and go running, the voice that tells us to indulge more than we should.

Will it be different?

 

Clocks have been set back an hour, darkness upon us earlier into the night. Getting colder and colder as the weeks go on.

This time of year along with the deep winter months can be tough to keep yourself motivated. The darkness can effect us in a bad way, and during the day when it’s not sunny out, that can keep us in the dumps some times, or most times. What can be done about it?

The voice

I think each of us deal with two primary voices we hear from our brain. One voice, the voice that tells us to stay in bed, the voice that tells us that there will always be tomorrow to get up and go running, the voice that tells us to indulge more than we should. We have another voice, the voice that tells us how better we will feel after the work out, the voice that tells us we will be closer to our goal if we work out, the voice that in a sense lets us know what the right thing to do is. But, the first voice is very strong. It’s strong on it’s own but can be strengthened by events from our life, things that have shaped us. And it can be hard to ignore. The first voice is the voice that we should ignore and not pay attention to. Some times the messages from that voice can be really hurtful, the messages like we’re not worth it, we don’t deserve it, it’s too scary, what if I fail, and it doesn’t matter anyway.

That voice is 100% negative, not benefiting us in anyway. It’s hard to ignore, I know, but we have to. We have to not listen to it as it does us no benefit to listen to it. It will never be the voice that gets us to where we need to be to cross the finish line in our next race, to complete our next triathlon, the voice that gets us the job we want. It’s the voice that will stop you from doing all of those things, if you listen to it.

How

How do I know? Because I honestly believe that all of us can do those things. All of us have the parts, the tools, the capabilities to do anything we want if we work at it and do what is needed to accomplish great things. 30 years ago running a marathon was a HUGE deal. You were an elite athlete if you completed a marathon. Today? It’s not uncommon to know people who have done that. Now, people are running ultra marathons, multiple day endurance races. People are completing 5 ironman triathons in 5 days! But of course these must be gifted people, people who genetically are superior. Nah, I don’t think so. These people are no different that you or I. They have struggled like you and I. They still struggle, everyone does. They decided though to not listen to that first voice but listen to the voice that is the positive voice, the voice that says if you want this then do it. Get up in the morning and do it. Tomorrow is there but what are you doing today? The voice that says you can do it, why not?

Why Not

And why not? What is holding you back? Really, what is it? Fear, intimidation, lack of time, self doubt? Whatever it is you will never get started and do these things if you don’t address them. Fear of failure? I’d rather fail at something than not try at all. You learn about yourself when you fail, you learn the good things about yourself. Failure should be something we accept especially if we tried our best. And if anyone criticizes you because of it then maybe you don’t need to hang around those people any longer. It is so easy to sit back on the side lines and criticize people for falling, for failing. But if you fail than so what? You TRIED to do it. And there’s next time. Look honestly as to why you failed and make changes. And what was the failure anyway? Did you fail to complete the marathon but completed half of it? Wow, you just completed a half marathon! Pretty awesome!

Be honest with yourself be it a success or failure. Analyze and determine what things could have been done differently for a better outcome. And move forward. You only harm yourself dwelling on failures.

Lack of time can be remedied by reducing time spent doing things that do not get you to your goal. We all love spending time on the internet but if that is preventing you from reaching your goal than it’s not helping you. Sometimes we do these things because we can zone out, relax. Try meditation to relax. There are many more benefits to this than passively watching vids.

Self doubt is a real killer. I think most of us, or maybe all of us have that in us. Sometimes self doubt is used to stop us from starting something new, or making a change in our lives. We’d rather go through life dealing with the same shit every day, knowing how much we detest it instead of making a change. It’s familiar, comfortable even though it’s harmful. I had an opportunity to become a ship’s diver, a 6 week course with a 60% failure rate. As it got closer to the course I was scared shitless! I heard so many stories of so many failures that I almost pulled out. To this day I’m glad I didn’t. I became a member of an elite team and also had the opportunity to become  a full time commercial diver. I finished first in my class. Now, if I did pull out I would never have had the opportunity to learn these things about myself.

The other voice

Listen to the voice that tells you what you need to do to achieve your goals. Listen to that voice that says to get out of bed even though it’s cold and miserable outside. Surround yourself with positive people who encourage you to do these things that make you grow as a person. You will become a passive influencer. Become that roll model for younger people. We need more of those. Too many people of lesser quality are influencing our younger generations. No longer is the message to push yourself hard, to do great things with your life, to strive to achieve that huge goal. Instead they are learning that money is everything no matter what the cost. Shallowness rules the social media networks.

Become someone you want to be and let that rub off onto others. It’s awesome to do that and give back what you got. Be that person you need, or needed in your life for someone else.

Lastly

I didn’t think this post was going to be this long. I only meant it to be a post about helping you with this time of year but if it helps you get that kick in the ass you need than it was worth it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Savin’ the world from Solomon Grundy

I’m probably guilty of it just as much as anyone else. I try to incorporate exercises that work parts of our body that we neglect but I too sometimes forget about the lower back. I’d think it’s a safe bet to say most of us don’t exercise our lower back. When was the last time you did supermans? That long ago eh.

To carry on, …, and keep goin’

 

I’m probably guilty of it just as much as anyone else. I try to incorporate exercises that work parts of our body that we neglect but I too sometimes forget about the lower back. I’d think it’s a safe bet to say most of us don’t exercise our lower back. When was the last time you did supermans? That long ago eh.

And I’m also going to say if you did them you probably did them incorrectly. Some of us when we exercise want to go full in, are not happy with small subtle movements. That’s primarily the problem when people do supermans, they want to put too much into it that they end up not even building the muscles they are trying to build. Let me explain.

What

Supermans is an exercise that everyone should be doing. Supermans targets the erector spinae, a group of muscles that extend from the base of the skull to the sacrum. Sitting a lot? Having back issues once in a while? Posture not that great? Been neglecting the lower back? Then supermans is what you need. A strong core is not only the abs, but also the back.

How

I think we know the exercise supermans. It’s done how it sounds. Lay on the floor and project your body just like superman flying about, arms, legs out like you are flying ready to save the world! Right? Not really. It’s more sublime than that unless you have been doing them for a long time and have mastered not letting your body engage your glutes because that’s what the body wants to do. That’s the hard part, easing into it so the glutes don’t end up taking over.

Easy

But who doesn’t want to look cool, arms out in front, legs up off of the ground. The problem is when you put your core into a situation where there is a large load, muscles kick in to help you support that load. Muscles such as the glutes, and abdominals. But we want to work the lower back, not these muscles. And being honest with you, the way I want you to do them actually looks quite silly. But, it’s a great way to learn how to engage your lower back and not the glutes.

Here we go. Laying on your stomach, I want you to put your hands under your chin. Now, staying really relaxed, concentrating on your lower back, with your hands under you chin, touching your chin, raise your head up from the floor about 2 to 4 inches. Do it slowly constantly thinking of your lower back doing the work, not your glutes. Hold for about 30 seconds to a minute. Relax for about a minute then repeat, relax again and repeat again. Did it work? Did your lower back do the work and told your glutes to eff off? No? Then try again. Actively think of the lower back engaging and actively think of the glutes staying relaxed. It takes time so keep trying and don’t give up. You will get there.

That’s it! It’s that simple!

Ok, not really. It’s hard to get your lower back to do the work and stop your stupid glutes from wanting to take over. But doing it this way keeps the load light and makes it easier to do the exercise properly. Once you get really good at this you can then actually do the exercise while looking like a proper superman, or superwoman, superman’s cousin.

Finally

You’ll hate doing it this way, looking all silly and stuff. I know, believe me. Whenever I have my class do this exercise I have to tell them over and over to keep their feet on the ground, and the looks I get, man lasers burning holes in me. Everyone wants to jut their arms out in front, get their feet up off of the ground but you can’t do it this way. When I see this I know everyone just engaged their glutes and their lower backs aren’t doing anything.

So don’t do that. You’re not benefiting by doing the exercise incorrectly.

Be a real superman, or superwoman and build that lower back properly!

Yours in health,

Darryl

beating ourselves up

And how to recover from it

Working out causes a lot of stress to our body. Resistance training is the process of over loading our muscles so micro tears happen. We stress our tendons, ligaments, joints by repeatedly over loading them. Generally working out as long as it’s done smartly is good for our body and our mind. But, if you are someone who trains at a more intense level, or maybe an endurance athlete then recovery becomes very important.

Endurance sports are more popular today then they were 20 to 30 years ago. It used to be uncommon to know someone who was a marathoner or a triathlete but people who run marathons, participate in triathlons are more common today. Marathons have evolved into ultra marathons and triathlons now come in different flavors testing the ultra endurance athlete. Take this for example, completing 5 iron triathlons in 5 days! Crazy! The ultra marathon is the new marathon.

It’s great if you want to do these things but you have to be even smarter with your training, which of course includes recovery. But if you are not an ultra endurance athlete, for sure you want to do what you can to reduce things that can impact your training and also impact negatively your day to day life.

Inflammation

So what is inflammation? It’s our immune system’s response to a perceived threat. When you stub your toe as an example, your body reacts by releasing immune cells, hormones, and nutrients to fix the problem. Blood flow increases, white blood cells are brought in to help fix the problem. This is your bodies natural response to an injury. Inflammation is the bodies response to injury, an attempt to heal itself, without it wounds would fester and infections could become deadly. But inflammation can become problematic causing excess swelling, mobility issues, swelling and redness.

The stress of training can cause inflammation in our body but so can what we eat. For over 20 years now studies have shown that consuming animal products can peak inflammation. Within 4 hours of consumption our body is put into a low level of inflammation. Then, 4 to 6 hours later we consume animal products again thus keeping the cycle of inflammation going. This inflammation affects our circulatory system, the heart and the lungs, causing internal damage not just decades down the road by also immediately.I’ll include the link here to information on this but basically study after study shows that you consume endotoxins when consuming animal products.

If you are someone who consumes dairy, you may notice this after having a glass of milk, or eating some ice cream and then later working out, especially a hard cardio workout. Find yourself having to deal with excess mucus, phlegm? Cut out all dairy and see if you still have this issue. I would say the biggest changes I have noticed myself after switching to a plant based diet over 4 years ago is no longer having to deal with phlegm after a hard cardio workout and generally a happier gut. I believe it every time I read it that all humans are lactose intolerant.

Reduce

Eliminate all animal products to reduce inflammation. Consume a whole foods plant based diet and be sure to eat lots of colourful foods such as deep greens, strawberries, blue berries, consume nuts like almonds, walnuts and add some pumpkin seeds. Eat lots of beans too. Try these things to see if it helps. In my opinion, the food we eat has a lot to do with our health. Think of food a health care, and medicine as sick care.

I know this is a somewhat controversial post because I’m advocating eliminating all animal products for your diet but don’t just take my words, look at living examples. Rich Roll, super endurance athlete and vegan who is in his early 50’s. John Joseph, lead singer of the CroMags, triathlete, vegan for about 30 years. This guy is nearing his late 50’s and still leads a punk band (high intense output needed for that) and still competing in triathlons. Here’s some more: Carl Lewis who is quoted saying: “My best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.” , Scott Jurek an ultra marathoner who has been vegan since 1999. Think eating nothing but plants isn’t sustainable and your performance will take a hit? In 2010, 11 years after being vegan, Scott Jurek ran 165.7 miles in 24 hours, a US record, earning a silver medal.

If vegan ultra endurance athletes at world level competition are successful, maybe there’s truth to to this, and the corporations behind selling us animal products have been doing it lying to us the whole time, telling us we need their products to be healthy. Tyson foods, largest meat producer in the US recently increased their stake in the plant based company Beyond Meat. Canada’s largest meat producer, Maple Leaf Foods recently purchased a vegan meat company, Field Roast. If these companies felt so strongly about selling you healthy products, and selling you meat was the way to do that, why would they invest in plant based products? Money. It always comes down to money. You cannot market successfully potatoes, carrots, lettuce and other vegetables but you can for sure differentiate your milk, chicken, beef from your competitors. That’s why they are investing in plant based protein companies such as Beyond Meat, or Field Roast. It always comes down to money. Oh, and forget about the government having your health in their best interest. That’s a big mistake.

 

Finally

I’m not asking anyone to become vegan. I would love you to but being vegan is not just about what you eat, it goes beyond that. If you want to be healthier, reduce inflammation so you can train harder more frequently then change your diet to a whole foods plant based diet. Don’t believe me? Do your own homework. But be sure to read studies that are not industry funded, and don’t listen to crack pot doctors or bro science. Listen to real doctors who are experts in their fields such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Michael Greger and so on. Check out Nutrition Facts dot org also.

You can do it. You just have to be smart about it. Take the red pill and start to see what is really doing on. You and your body will be so much happier because of it.

Yours in health,

Darryl