Quarantine Cardio Workouts with 8 Simple Body Weight Moves!!

One of the biggest short comings to working out at home, is many of us (myself included!) struggle at times to get the heart rate properly elevated. The bottom line is, it is difficult to get a challenging workout in when you’re out of your ‘element.’ Therefore, unless you have a piece of cardio equipment at home, there’s a decent chance you’re not able to get your heart rate to a level that would constitute true cardiovascular work.

With most of our other daily activities grinding to a halt, it is essential to still have a cardio component to your home-workouts in order to keep the Quarantine weight gain to a minimum. Below I’m going to outline 8 exercises- that are all body weight- and when done to maximum effort, in the combinations I present, will get you feeling like you just did a series of sprints. In order to get the most out of this workout, I would still recommend you downloading a timer app (as I’ve stated previously, my preference is simply the ‘Tabata’ APP).

****Not all of these exercises will be right for everybody. There is a plyometric component that may cause joint discomfort to some. IF you feel any discomfort, immediately regress to the basic strength move- in other words, take the jump or plyometric component out of the move. ****

Parameters:

  • Repeat Sequence for 3 – 6 Rounds
  • Work Time: 20 – 40 seconds (begin with 20, and build up from there)
  • Rest Time: 10 – 20 seconds (always keep the 2:1 work to rest ratio)
  • Rest Between Rounds: 45 – 90 seconds

Exercises:

Ice Skaters

The goal with this one is to get as far as you can side to side. Think about your range of motion like a rainbow though, trying to get “up” as well as “out.” Realistically, if you’re getting yourself outside shoulder-width, and staying relatively low, you’re going to get a great burn in your quads and glutes, and your heart rate is going to spike!

Pushup- Position Spiders

Bring your foot all the way up towards your hand, dig into your hip flexor. Hold for 2 seconds then perform a “full switch” to the opposite side. This gets challenging from a cardio perspective, so if you need to, regress the move and tap your foot in the middle.

Squat Jumps

Try to get to about 90 degrees with your squat, then jump up throwing your arms up with you. The biggest key to this move is the “soft land.” In order to achieve a soft land, you’re focusing entirely on “absorbing the land” through soft hips and soft knees. Especially if you have achy joints, this type of impact may not be right for you. You can try performing it on grass- as I demonstrate in this video- or regress the form to simply “explosive squats.”

Push-up Position Toe to Opposite Hand

Rotate your hips through and kick your toe to your opposite hand. There is a lot going on with this move, where you’re getting a rotational component through your hips, plus some serious shoulder stabilization by holding yourself on one arm. Just make sure with your set-up, that your shoulders are directly overtop your hands- otherwise, you’ll wind up putting a lot of unneeded stress on your shoulders. Also, try to keep the leg that’s “kicking” as straight as you can.

Split Squat Jumps (Left side only)

Perform this exercise with only one side leading the entire set. Make sure you’re achieving full ROM by having your back knee get close to the ground on the descent. Then jump as high as you can throwing your arms up with you. Again, the landing needs to be soft. Focus on soft hips and soft knees, and try to “absorb” the landing. If this move is not right for you, regress to a standard split lunge, with explosive reps for the tempo.

Push-up Position Knee to Opposite Elbow

This move also has a HUGE rotational component to it, but now you’re basically turning into a healthier version of the bicycle crunch (significantly less of an impact on the lower back). As you rotate your hips through, crunch your elbow down slightly and drive your opposite knee up as high as you can. The goal is to touch the elbow to the knee every time. Aside from the tremendous abdominal work, this move is also great for your shoulder stabilizers and overall upper body strength as well!

Split Squat Jumps (Right side only)

Perform this exercise with only one side leading the entire set. Make sure you’re achieving full ROM by having your back knee get close to the ground on the descent. Then jump as high as you can throwing your arms up with you. Again, the landing needs to be soft. Focus on soft hips and soft knees, and try to “absorb” the landing. If this move is not right for you, regress to a standard split lunge, with explosive reps for the tempo.

Bear Crawls (6 steps up & back)

To achieve the proper body position for this move, simply assume a perfect quadruped position (shoulders over top your hands and hips perfectly overtop your knees). Then from there, simply raise your knees just off the ground. Be sure to always maintain a flat back with your butt down any time you’re bear crawling. (6 steps up and back will provide a bit more of a cardio component than my usual prescription of 4). When you’re “stepping,” make sure you’re explosively driving your knee forward, but it should always stay behind your elbow. This will ensure you maintain perfect posture the entire time.

PRO Tips

FIRST and foremost, before you dive headfirst into this workout, make sure you check out my blog from earlier this week to get a nice warm up in. (Click here to view that) Many of these moves are challenging on the hips, adductors and shoulders, so it is imperative you are properly warmed up to avoid injury.

Second, don’t be afraid to play with the tempo of these exercises. For example, cut the set in half and change the tempo for the second half of the set. If your set is 30 seconds long, do the first 15 seconds of reps at a slower tempo, then the second 15 seconds as hard as you possibly can- to the point that you can’t possibly do one more rep when the time is up. This method will allow you to train both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems- similar to sprint intervals with jogs in between.

Third, the exercises are laid out in a way that you can go through the rounds in a “snake style” exercise order. In other words, Round 1 you’d start with Ice Skaters and end with Bear Crawls. Then Round 2, you’d start with Bear Crawls and end with Ice Skaters. With Round 3 beginning with Ice Skaters and finishing with Bear Crawls, etc. etc. This is a great way to break up the monotony of 5 or 6 rounds. It’ll also getting you “feeling” exercises a little different by doing the combinations backwards.

My final piece of advice during these tumultuous times in our society is to get outside and do this workout if you can! I went through this exact workout in the exact location I filmed it, and man did it feel good to be moving around outside!! I understand that not everyone has a yard with proper separation from others, however, even a porch would be great. Try to fill your lungs with some fresh air, and it will do wonders for you mentally as well as physically!

Stay safe and stay tuned for more free workouts coming this week!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Home Workout Options to Avoid Missing Workouts During Quarantine

Working out at home is not an ideal option for many. There are a multitude of distractions- from pets to children to just simply preferring to watch TV on the couch instead of exercise. Currently, home workouts are our best option to remain safe from catching or spreading COVID-19 though. To aid in this reality, I wanted to provide some tips and sample home workout options- that don’t require a single piece of equipment.

Tips to Successfully Exercise at Home

  1. Dedicate a non-negotiable time to workout– just like you would if you were going to the gym. A lot of times, since we’re in the comfort of our own homes, we’re far too flexible with “I’ll workout later”- ‘Later,’ then becomes 9:00 PM and you’re winding down for bed. Keep in mind, your future self is always the most ideal version of yourself. If your schedule allows it, still try to exercise at a similar time you normally would go to the gym. This will help keep a sense of normalcy to your routine.
  2. Get creative. Just because you don’t have the benches, machines, or all the dumbbells that a gym offers, doesn’t mean you can’t get a little creative with making your own workout equipment. Use a couch for Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, or a Chair (preferably a sturdy one!) for step ups. Cans of soup or gallons of water both provide decent substitutes for light weights, if you’d like to add resistance as well!
  3. Use an APP to time your workouts. My preference is simply the “Tabata” App. It’s free and does exactly what I need it to do. It keeps track of the sets, the length of the workout and the rest time. There are many free apps out there though that you can use- pick one and download it. This will keep your workout regimented. Even if you’re not necessarily someone that does HIIT workouts often, I would highly recommend doing timed workouts at home- unless you have the appropriate weights to do strength workouts. (In that case, you can basically go about your normal sets and reps and get an effective workout) If you have minimal equipment though, the best way you can get your heart rate elevated and get a really high quality workout, with JUST YOUR BODY WEIGHT, is to train in a timed fashion.

Body Weight Warm-Up/Mobility

Parameters:

  • 3 Rounds
  • 30 seconds of work per exercise
  • 5 seconds of rest between exercises
  • 30 seconds of rest between rounds

1. Jumping Jacks

2. Hip Circles (15 s. each side)

3. Seal Jack

4. Cat Cows

5. Run In Place

6. Hockey Stretch

7. Bird Dog (15 s. each side)

8. RKC Plank

Body Weight Workout A

Parameters:

  • 3-5 Rounds
  • 20-30 s. seconds of work per exercise
  • 10-15 seconds of rest between exercises
  • 30-60 seconds of rest between rounds

1.Alternating Front Lunge

2. Push-Up Position Spider Stretch

3. Alternating Reverse Lunge w/ Twist

4. Push-Up Position Arm to Side

5. BW Squats

6. Push-Up Position Arm out Front

7. Alternating Lateral Lunge

8. Push-Up Position Opposite Shoulder Taps

Body Weight Workout B

Parameters:

  • 3-5 Rounds
  • 20-40 s. seconds of work per exercise
  • 10-20 seconds of rest between exercises
  • 30-60 seconds of rest between rounds

1.Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (Left) ** Do bodyweight if you don’t have a dumbbell, and this is a great opportunity to use a couch or love seat to put your rear foot on, in place of a bench **

2. Bear Crawls

3. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (Right)

4. Lateral Bear Crawls

5. Step Up (Left foot leads)

6. Toe Touches (Same move, just minus the Swiss Ball from the video)

7. Step Up (Right Foot Leads)

8. Reverse Crunches

A Note on Tempo…

Just a reminder, when you’re doing a timed workout, the goal should always be:

“Perform as many quality reps as possible in the allotted time.”

In other words, walk the fine line between keeping a quicker/high speed tempo, but also not rushing through the reps to the point that someone else wouldn’t be able to tell what exercise you’re doing!

GO GET IT DONE!

Whether it’s any of the workouts I’ve outlined above, or another type of in-home workout, it’s important to maintain some of your routine during these stressful times. Getting a good workout in, will restore an aspect to your life that feels normal. Be safe, be productive in your time home, and remember:

“This too shall pass.”

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

What Constitutes “Functional Training” ???

In the last two decades, there have been countless “buzz words” that have popped up in the fitness industry. These terms or phrases are usually grounded in good intent and decent methodology, however, over time their meanings begin to fade. HIIT, Tabata, PIYO, Oxygen Deprivation, Altitude Training, Muscle Toning, Muscle Confusion, etc. are words that have flooded class descriptions over the last several years.

Most recently I’ve noticed the complete over-classification of workouts considered to be “functional training.” A giant misconception that should be debunked is that functional training can be implemented as a ‘one-size fits all’ approach. What may be considered functional for one individual may in fact be extremely detrimental to another. Therefore, before we look into exactly what constitutes functional training, keep this one truth in mind:

Functional training ultimately depends entirely on the individual’s physical needs and goals.

What Does “Functional” Training Actually Mean?

Functional training includes a series of exercises that best correlate with an individual’s everyday life/activity.  This style of training should be centered around injury prevention through an emphasis on balance, mobility, full body strength and movement!

While many exercises and planes of motion can be carried over to a wide range of gym-goers, keep in mind points of emphasis will vary from one functional workout to another. For example, a rotational college athlete is going to have different functional needs than a mother who just gave birth 6 months ago. Just like a 75-year-old grandfather is going to have a different set of parameters that have the most “real world” application to him.

The question you need to answer for yourself is: what type of activities does your everyday life entail? Do you work a job that you are constantly picking up heavy material and carrying it for a distance? Conversely, do you sit for extended periods of time at your job, or on a commute? Are you in the restaurant industry where you have to balance and carry large heavy trays over your head? In your free time do you play beach volleyball, tennis or golf? Do you have a grandchild that you enjoy picking up? Or maybe you’re on the ground playing with your grandchild and the ability to steadily get up from the floor is paramount for you? Do you have a medium to large dog that needs to get lifted into your car from time to time?

The answers to these questions shouldn’t mean you should omit aspects of functional training from your programming. Instead, it should provide the groundwork for what aspects of functional training should be emphasized more than others.

Functional Training is comprised of elements such as:

  • Unilateral Training versus Bilateral Training
  • Varying the planes of motion in which you train
  • Accessory Work (this includes the type of core and mobility work you include in programming)

Unilateral Training Methods VS. Bilateral Training

I’ve written numerous times in the past on the benefit of unilateral training in the context of metabolic output and eliminating a bilateral deficit- here though I will highlight the benefits that unilateral training serves in relation to functional training.

Just to review- unilateral training means you are training one side/limb of the body at a time (versus bilateral which would be training both limbs).  The immediate advantage to this style of training, from a functional perspective, is the balance and subsequent core activation it forces you to exhibit. For any gym patron, balance should be an underlying priority with your training programs. Remember, functional training should be rooted in injury prevention. Nothing will wreak more havoc on an individual’s health (both in and out of the gym) than poor balance.

Balance training has an extremely wide spectrum of how it can benefit every type of trainee. A high level collegiate athlete (regardless of sport) needs to have balance and body control on the court/field of play to move most efficiently. Similarly, an older client also needs balance training in order to perform tasks such as confidently going up and down stairs with something in his or her hands’.

Even if you think you’ve got a good handle on your balance, it should still be a priority of yours to always maintain solid balance levels- especially as you get older. Everyday life is a series of curveballs, and having good body control and spatial awareness will protect you against an uneven sidewalk, loose step board, quick cut in a sporting event, or rogue toy on the floor. Even walking on uneven surfaces such as the beach or a wooded hike, can put someone with poor balance in a precarious situation.   

Due to the importance of balance in everyday life, I feel that unilateral exercises for most individuals generally provide a more functional option. That is not to say I am against bilateral strength moves, nor am I saying they are not functional. Traditional Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses, Rows etc. are all extremely important movements that should be incorporated in any good exercise routine and are functional for certain populations.

The reality is though: many individuals wind up putting more strain on their body (lower back, knees and shoulders) by forcing themselves to perform traditional bilateral strength moves- under the context of ‘they’re functional.’ Or, others will completely throw functionality out the window and instead turn to isolation moves such as machine Leg Extensions and Leg Curls, because they think they ‘can’t squat’ or they ‘can’t deadlift’- which is not always true either.

Strive to find the right variation of Squats, Deadlifts and Presses for you and your goals. In other words, if traditional bilateral strength moves do not negatively impact your joints or lower back, then they can most certainly be at the center of your functional program. That being said, this doesn’t mean you should discount the functional value of unilateral strength work though.

Therefore, a blended program with both bilateral and unilateral strength work incorporated will provide the best option for some- if both training styles are right for you, this provides a great option to reap the structural and overall strength benefits of bilateral moves, as well as the balance, body control and core activation of the unilateral exercises as well. Generally with a blended style, I’d organize this type of workout into 2 unilateral strength move days and 1 bilateral strength day (or visa versa).

Best Unilateral Exercises to Train Balance

There are two options to effectively train your balance unilaterally.

  1. Direct Balance Work
  2. Indirect Balance Work

If you struggle significantly with your balance, I’d highly recommend beginning with direct balance work. This would start as simple as a Single Leg Balance Hold from the floor, working towards having the ability to bring your knee up to about hip level and hold at 90 degrees for 30-60 s. without falling and maintaining perfect posture. The progression from there would be to add in movement of the leg in the air, to increase the difficulty- in other words you’d be putting yourself in a controlled yet more unstable environment. These are fantastic options to add in as rest time between sets of traditional strength moves, or they can be inserted at the end of a warm-up series. Keep in mind, the more fatigued you are, the more challenging your balance work will become.

Some examples include:

Single Leg Balance Hold (Airex Pad)

Single Leg Balance Hold + Leg Extension (Airex Pad)

Single Leg Balance Hold + Hip Abduction (Airex Pad)

Indirect balance work would be considered moves such as a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, Single Arm Single Leg RDL, Reverse Lunge, Step Up, Single Arm Chest Press, Single Arm Row, etc. Anytime you’re on one leg or using one arm, while simultaneously performing a strength move, you are indirectly training your balance. This is a fantastic functional option because you’re not only working the strength move and balance, but you’re also exhibiting body control and core activation to perform the repetitions. Incorporating unilateral strength work into your programming will increase your total body coordination and strength as well as greatly reduce the risk of injury.  

Examples of Unilateral Strength Moves:

Rear Foot Elevated Spilt Squat

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

Single Arm Single Leg RDL

BW/DB Step Ups

Single Arm DB Chest Press

Split Stance Single Arm Cable Row

Half Kneeling Single Arm Lat Pulldown

To Be Functional, You Must Train in ALL Planes of Motion!

The plane of motion in which you train is largely determined by the type of gym you train at. If you are in a more “traditional” gym setting with lots of machines, some squat racks and dumbbells, more than likely you train almost exclusively in the sagittal plane of motion (straight up and down). The negative to this style of training is: life does not occur only in the sagittal plane. You need to incorporate both the Frontal (side to side) and Transverse (rotational) planes of motion into your training regimen in order to consider your workouts fully functional.

Failing to train in the Frontal and Transverse planes of motion will put you at an extremely high risk of sustaining a future injury. Moving quickly laterally- like you would playing pickup basketball or a backyard BBQ game, will often result in a groin pull, or at least tenderness. Twisting and lifting something up simultaneously- like putting groceries away in a high cabinet, or turning around in a vehicle to put something in the back seat- can result in an abdominal strain. Not to mention if you’re a high school/college athlete or play in an adult recreational league, you are severely exposing yourself to injury if you don’t train in all three planes of motion.

Therefore, if you want your training program to be considered fully functional, I highly recommend you train in each of these planes of motion. Understandably, the majority of your time will be spent in the sagittal plane of motion- because Squats, Deadlifts, and Press variations all occur there. It is up to you to incorporate accessory work- either in the warm-up or later in workouts- that emphasize the frontal and transverse planes of motion as well.

This is where you need to circle back to the question I asked in my open- what does your everyday life/activity entail? If you love playing golf on the weekends, then putting an emphasis on rotational work, would be highly beneficial to you. What this means is you should include 2-3 rotational moves throughout each of your workouts. Even though golf is a rotational sport and there is not much side to side movement, you should still include frontal plane exercises in order to maintain a well-balanced functional workout- even if it’s only for 1 exercise per session. This is a prime example of how you can put emphasis on a certain aspect of functional training without discarding anything.

Exercises in Transverse and Frontal Planes:

Split Stance T-Spine Slam


Rope Chop (High to Low)

Lateral Lunge (BW or w/ Resistance)

Lateral Bear Crawls

Mini-Band Lateral Walks

Mini-Band Ice Skaters

Accessory Work

The final aspect that makes a workout ‘functional’ is the existence of proper accessory work. This includes mobility and core work that will make your total body strength significantly better and also allow you to move more efficiently in everyday life .  You have a few different options how you can incorporate this accessory work into your routine.

First, you can dedicate entire days to mobility and core. For example, if you did traditional strength work Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then that would leave Tuesday and Thursday as great options for extra mobility and core work. Your second option, would be to incorporate mobility and core work daily as an extension to your warm-ups. Finally, the third option would be to integrate core and mobility work during traditional rest periods, within the workout. (This is my favorite option, because it provides for ‘active rest periods,’ where you stay moving for the entire workout. )

Why Include Mobility and Core Work in a Functional Workout?

Under the context of: functional training being centered around efficient movement and injury prevention, having proper mobility and a strong core is of paramount importance. Tight hips, tight hamstrings and a weak core are the main ingredients for a dysfunctional body. Having these components, but continuing to blindly build strength, is like building a house on a foundation made of sand. At some point, your body will break down. Who cares how much you can bench press, if you can’t get out of your vehicle without your back feeling like it’s going to seize up?

Mobilizing your hips (adductors, glutes and hip flexors) as well as your hamstrings and upper back, will make you move and feel infinitely better in every day life. These don’t have to be marathon yoga sessions, nor am I saying to cut back on your traditional strength work in lieu of stretching. Instead, find the time to incorporate mobility moves that you need the most. Having proper mobility will allow you to move more efficiently and ultimately keep you more injury-free- two of the main components of functional training.

The same is true for core work- and I’m not talking about ‘Hollywood Abs’ core work. Training your deep core muscles (from your shoulders to your glutes) will give you a rock solid foundation that can bulletproof you from injuries- particularly in your lower back. If you have a weak core, the main focus for you initially should be the concept of “bracing.” In other words, by bracing your core you are thinking of squeezing your abs down like you’re about to get punched in the stomach- this concept will activate your deep core musculature. Don’t put a premium on holding a plank or doing an ab move for 2 or 3 minutes. Instead, try for 20 seconds with absolutely the hardest ‘bracing’ you can possibly muster. Then build up from there.

Examples of Core Work & Mobility:

RKC Plank

Swiss Ball Stir the Pot

Reverse Crunch

Bird Dog

Swiss Ball Dead Bug

1/2 Kneeling Adductor Stretch

Hockey Stretch

Weighted Carries

An accessory exercise that is worth noting that should be included in any functional strength program is the Weighted Carry Progression. This is about as functional as it gets- simply pick up a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettle bells, and walk until you can’t hold them anymore. (Your goal should always be about 20 strides total) This a fantastic option for total body strength work, and depending on which variation you use could also put a tremendous emphasis on your core and shoulder stabilizers as well.

Weighted carries arguably have some of the most carry over to real life application because how often do we find ourselves having to pick up and move a piece of furniture? Or attempt to carry in every grocery from the car? As I mentioned earlier, if you are in the restaurant industry, the ability to confidently carry a heavy tray overhead with one hand is an absolutely crucial skill to possess. These are implemented best at the end of workouts, potentially within a metabolic finisher, depending on skill level.

Examples of Weighted Carries:

DB Farmers Walks

Suitcase Hold DB Farmers Walk

Single Arm Overhead Farmers Walk

Is Isolation Work Functional???

As I stated in the open, one truth regarding functional training is that it is dependent on the individual. Therefore, the inclusion of isolation moves shouldn’t necessarily be written off as completely non-functional. If other aspects of functional training are present, they can be incorporated and it will benefit the individual. For example, if you’re 85 years old, and you cannot safely perform an assisted squat, in order to maintain lower body strength levels- which at the end of the day is crucial to his/her functionality- then isolation moves would provide the best option to do so. I would still put a premium on balance, mobility and core work, however, in this scenario isolation work will be extremely beneficial.

In addition, for those solely interested in putting on muscle, traditional bodybuilding isolation work could be considered functional because aesthetics are the main goal- this is only true if full-body moves are centrally focused, and you’re also training in different planes of motion. If you look at some of the most successful bodybuilders of all time, they still hit their compound (functional) moves and worked in various planes of motion, in addition to the isolation work they performed. As long as isolation exercises are acknowledged as accessory work, then they won’t necessarily hinder the overall functionality of your workout.

Final Thoughts

Functional workouts are all the rage right now in the fitness industry- which is a good thing, because for an average gym goer, translating what you do in the gym to everyday life should be high on your ‘why I go to the gym’ list. Ultimately you should be exercising to increase your overall longevity- which could refer to your lifespan, work career, and/or an activity you enjoy.

Where I’ve gotten lost though is the over-classification of functional. Similar to isolation work, what may be considered functional for one person is most certainly not for another. Olympic Lifts, Box Jumps and Burpees would be examples of exercises that may not be right for everybody. These exercises could be considered functional for competitive athletes, military or those with a specific goal of competing in an Olympic Weight Lifting or a CrossFit competition.

However, average Janes and Joes do not need to be doing Power Cleans to Split Jerks supersetted with Box Jumps. [In that situation, I would lean towards a more functional option of a Dumbbell Push Press supersetted with a medicine ball slam. You’re getting a lot of the same basic concepts- full body explosiveness with an overhead component, however, you’re mitigating the injury risk by moving away from a complex move- such as an Olympic Lift- where any number of things could go wrong and send you to a doctor’s office]

Keep in mind, one of the first rules of functionality in the weight room is injury prevention- if the risk of injury outweighs the reward of what the move is going to provide, I have to consider it non-functional at that point. This goes for Squat, Deadlift and Press variations- if a BB Back Squat causes lumbar compression and subsequent lower back pain, then that move is not functional for you. A more functional option may be a Front Foot Elevated Split Lunge, where there is less spinal compression. Conversely, if you do not have back pain after performing a BB Back Squat, then it’s got tremendous functionality in regards to lower body strength gains.

Be aware of what is most important to you in your life outside the gym walls. Figuring out those answers, should ultimately determine the proper variation of exercises, the planes of motion and the type of accessory work to include in your own individualized functional program. You should never stray too far from the basic movement patterns. The most important thing is finding the right variation of a movement that best aligns with your goals, body type and functional needs.

While movement is generally the key to optimal health, properly programmed functional movement will allow for longevity in the areas of your life you value most!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

“Food Is Love” Reconciliation

So many of our eating habits are determined during our childhood, and become increasingly more difficult to change the longer we allow them to persist into adulthood. Not all of these nutritional habits are bad, however, some can certainly cause health concerns later in life.

For example, I come from a large Italian family, that greatly associates food with happiness. Still to this day, if my 93 year old Gram thinks I’ve lost too much weight in my face, that means I must not be eating, so therefore I must be unhappy- as opposed to the reality of me tightening up my nutrition. Cleaning your plate and going back for seconds or even thirds had always been the way to make my Gram happiest.  

For an old-school Italian family like mine, food is also representative of love as well as happiness. Memories of sitting around a big table, sharing stories over our favorite meals, always puts a smile on my face. 

Pasta, to this day, tastes best to me on Sunday’s- with as many people as possible at the table. This is the day of the week we were raised to eat it on, with the sauce and meatballs cooking all day. In addition, Friday night was always pizza night at my Gram’s, where all of my aunts, uncles and cousins would convene to hold court on the past week. The kids would do their homework before the pizza came, then we would all talk about our week at school or work, over dinner. 

Pasta and pizza. Two foods that bring back the fondest memories of childhood for me. The problem I faced as I became increasingly aware of my nutrition as an adult, is that neither pizza or pasta would register on any list of healthy meals that a quality nutritional plan should be centered around.

For a few years, I mainly steered clear of both these foods. Which certainly served me well from a physique standpoint, however, what I noticed was that when I did indulge in pizza or pasta, I would eat an exuberant amount- almost to the point of making myself sick. This was the result of a ‘deprivation’ style mindset regarding nutrition.

In this write up, my goal is not to give a hall pass to eat whatever food brings you the most nostalgia or makes you ‘happiest’- because very often, these are not the healthiest choices- however, I hope to offer insight on some strategies to implement that will allow you to guilt-free enjoy meals that mean the most to your soul.

The biggest question is, how can you reconcile healthy nutritional habits, while also feeling the cultural love of the food that resonates the most with you?

Don’t Ignore Your Culture- Learn to Incorporate It in a Healthy Way

Feeling deprived is one of the leading reasons healthy eating habits fail to adhere to most individuals. If you constantly feel like you “can’t” have this or that, then you’re going to sour very quickly on eating healthy. This emotion tends to become even more intense when you are dealing with a food that means more to you than just it’s nutritional components.

For myself, if I continued to deprive myself of some of the foods that I identify as cultural (i.e. any type of pasta, meatballs, Italian sausage) I’d be miserable about it- and when I did submit to my cravings, I would over-indulge. The key is finding the balance of incorporating them into an overall healthy lifestyle.

Employ the 19 out of 21 Rule to Eliminate Deprivation Dieting

This is a topic I’ve written extensively about in the past, however, it bears repeating because it is ultra-important when approaching your nutritional plan as a whole. Cheat meals become the downfall of a lot of healthy eating habits. Because we live in an all or nothing society, it seems most people are either doing Keto or eating Stouffers and take out several nights a week- with no in between. Our nutritional lifestyle DOES NOT have to be perfect in order for it to be effective- it just needs to be consistent. Most diets wind up failing because there is such a rigidity surrounding how strict they need to be- once a cheat meal happens the wheels fall off and we think “F**k it- I might as well eat what I want. The diet’s blown.”

The main adjustment to your nutritional perspective is to look at your meals from a weekly perspective rather than daily. Regardless of the number of meals per day, consider that you roughly have 21 “main meals” per week (breakfast, lunch and dinner). If you make positive food choices for 19 out of those 21, that means 90.4% of your meals were healthy. Physical Therapist and Strength cCoach, Gray Cook, once said: “If you do anything 90% of the time, you’re going to have damn good results.” And he is 100% right. As long as you’re able to throw the brakes on if/when you have those 2 flexible meals (I’d recommend them being non-consecutive for best results), you’re going to be well on track to maintaining a healthy nutritional lifestyle.

Again, the act of deprivation will almost certainly lead to the demise of healthy eating habits. Rather than thinking in the negative, change your mindset to think more in the positive regarding your food choices. For example, rather than saying to yourself, “I can’t have pasta and meatballs.” Instead say to yourself, “I can have pasta and meatballs in moderation.” When you feel like you’re being deprived, it will lead to more often nutritional benders.  

Portion Control

If the meal that you identify as part of your culture is not particularly healthy, that doesn’t mean you have to cut it out altogether. It just means you need to be smart with two aspects of the meal:

  1. Your portion size
  2. The food/drink surrounding your meal

The first key is managing both the portion you consume, but more importantly, the amount you are preparing as well. Traditional portion control is pretty self-explanatory- eat until you are satisfied as opposed to the feeling of being “stuffed.” A second helping should be focused more on additional vegetables or protein instead of the carbohydrate option(s). The latter aspect of portion control (the actual amount of food being cooked) was a difficult transition for me, because I come from a family that doesn’t cook for just one meal- we cook for leftovers.

This is a great method to employ with healthier food options- being able to stretch a few meals out of one will immensely cut your grocery bill down. Health and physique-wise, the issue arises when you start stretching meals out of questionable food choices (in my case, pasta).

If you are not careful, overcooking could result in you having 2 or 3 additional unhealthy meals. Add to the fact that if you’re like me, and you abhor throwing food away, you’ll most likely finish the leftovers. By overcooking and saving the leftovers of your one special, cheat meal, it will inevitably get extended into several sub-par meals.  

Learning not to overcook is an area I had to make a serious adjustment. Instead of making a cauldron-sized pot of sauce and 2 dozen meatballs (for just my wife and I), I’ve scaled back to just enough sauce and meatballs that appropriately correspond with the amount of pasta I’ll be cooking that night. This way I don’t have the extra sauce and meatballs that may turn lunch for the next several days into different pasta variations or homemade meatball hoagies…as much as I would love both of these options, neither qualify as high quality nutritional choices.

The second aspect of containing “the cheat” is paying extremely close attention to the food and drink being ingested outside the main meal. In my case, this would be eliminating (or minimally greatly reducing) the garlic bread, bruschetta, copious amounts of Italian desserts and wine. Each of these options go great with pasta and meatballs, and in the past I have consumed all of them…in the same meal! In order to be conscious of my overall nutrition, I acknowledge that my cheat is the pasta and meatballs and accordingly limit any unhealthy appetizer, dessert and/or drink options.

An inability to limit food surrounding your main meal is an example of how a special, meaningful meal, can be compounded into a bigger nutritional binge. The better you can limit the ‘side’ food choices, the more flexibility you’ll have with the actual meal itself!

Make Small Adjustments to Traditional Dishes

This is a fine line to walk because if your family is like mine, when you repeat a special dish you’re either trying to emulate how someone else made it, or you’re putting your own spin on it. Both of these options are putting a premium on the ‘taste’ of the meal, so any adjustments you make to traditional dishes will most likely need to be small- in order to maintain their status as ‘traditional.’

This could be as simple as using marginally less salt, substituting whole wheat for white (where applicable) or even changing the method in which you cook- such as baking or broiling instead of frying. Examine your recipe closely and over time, experiment with different ways you can make your traditional dish marginally healthier. Every little adjustment helps, and shows simultaneous commitment to your culture as well as maintaining a mostly healthy nutritional lifestyle.  

Embrace the Cultural Aspect of Nutrition and Lead a Fuller and Healthier Life

In order to achieve total health, it is imperative to live a full and balanced life. Too often, hard-ass nutritional coaches or fitness personalities label nutrition and food as merely “fuel” to your body. Or they’ll say things like “your body is a temple, think carefully about what you put in it.” While these are very true statements, they simply are not a realistic nutritional mindset for the majority of normal people. It creates a stigma of guilt associated with flexible diet choices.

Many cultures are like the Italians that associate food with family, love and memories. While food should never control you, it is necessary to find the balance of leading a mostly healthy nutritional lifestyle, while still finding time to incorporate meals of substance for your soul. Take the appropriate steps to minimize the negative impact your meal will have on you, and enjoy the memories and love you will feel as you prepare and eat a meal that is special to you!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

3 Tips to Make an Early-Morning Gym Routine Work!

One of the top reasons we stop making fitness a priority in our lives is due to a perceived lack of time. Life admittedly gets incredibly hectic as we get older. Increased work responsibilities, potentially the need for a second job, a significant other, children and not to mention also trying to balance a social life as well.

Finding the time to make a consistent gym routine a priority is an extreme challenge- especially when exercising in a public, social setting, may not be something you love in the first place. It is very easy to let a fitness routine fall by the wayside, as the whirlwind of life rolls days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, since the last time you set foot in a gym.

There’s always one piece of advice I give to anyone who truly wants to make fitness a priority, but struggles with the time commitment- adjust your schedule so you can go to the gym first thing in the morning. There are innumerable physiological benefits to why working out in the morning will enhance your fitness results- increased energy throughout the day, consistently better food choices, better focus and improved sleep patterns, just to name a few- but the most important one I feel is the ability to not let ‘life’ get in the way of your consistent gym routine.

When you exercise early in the morning there is [usually] only one obstacle to you getting to the gym- your own willingness to drag your ass out of bed and go! There are no PTA meetings, Happy Hour Drinks with co-workers, or dinner with your parents happening before sunrise. Once you establish an early morning gym routine, you’ll be amazed at how infrequent you miss a planned training session. This in turn gives you great consistency in your training frequency that will ultimately allow you to achieve your fitness goals!

The question is, when being a morning person is so unnatural, how can you can make an early-morning gym routine a reality instead of just a pipe dream?

3 Tips to Make an Early Morning Gym Routine Last

  1. “Failure to prepare is preparation to fail.”

The key to making an early morning exercise routine consistently work starts the night before. There is a whole series of steps I take before I go to bed, that makes the next morning go infinitely smoother. I program my coffee maker, set my clothes out, pack my gym bags and leave them by the front door. My normal routine involves walking in the gym doors to train myself anywhere between 4:15-5:30 AM, and one key I’ve found after years of doing this is: the less trivial thinking you have to do first thing in the morning, the less daunting the wake-up routine becomes. For example, something as simple as laying your clothes out the night before, immediately takes the thinking out of “what should I wear?”

Whether you drink coffee, a pre-workout supplement, or just solely water before your workouts, set everything out the night before. This way there is no rummaging with coffee filters or shaker bottles. Especially if being a ‘morning person’ is not natural for you, the more ‘grab and go’ aspects you can create for yourself, the better. Your goal for preparation needs to be making things as easy as possible on yourself to get out the door.

2. Set your alarm earlier than you need to get up and RESIST hitting the snooze button

A conversation I routinely had with college athletes when they had 6 AM lifts was: don’t set your alarm for 5:45 and expect to be fully functional and be ready to go at 6. This is extremely common with night owls, or anyone that wants to get every second possible of sleep- they will set their alarms for the last possible second before they have to get up. This is a recipe to either be late to the gym and cut your session short, injure yourself because you’re rushing and didn’t warm up properly, and/or ultimately feel worse throughout your morning routine because you’re waking up as you’re doing vigorous activity.

What I’ve found is that as uncomfortable as it is, give yourself a running start. Set your alarm significantly earlier than you need to be up. While this will technically result in getting maybe a half hour or 45 minutes less of sleep, you will wind up feeling so much better if you use this extra time to ease into your morning.

For example, if you’re the type of person that needs to work out with food in your stomach, you should get up an hour (at least) before your planned workout and have your pre-workout meal (Apple with peanut butter, oatmeal or a power bar are a few great options). This will give you plenty of time to digest and leave you ample time to properly hydrate and implement another healthy routine- such as meditation, journaling or reading- that will help get you in the right frame of mind to crush your day. Giving yourself the extra time in the morning so that you’re fully functioning mentally by the time you walk in the doors of the gym. This practice will greatly enhance the overall quality of your workout from start to finish.

3. Chug water when you wake up

For all of us caffeine addicts, typically our first instinct in the morning (regardless of what time we’ve woken up) is clamoring for the coffee pot. Consuming some caffeine before a morning workout could be essential to you having a successful morning routine, however, fight yourself to not let it be the very first thing you drink. Whether it’s a cup of coffee or a pre-workout supplement, put them on hold until you’ve drank 16-32 ounces of water. Personally I like my water to be room temperature so I can get through the whole amount in about one sitting, however, others love ice cold water because they say the shock of the coldness aids in waking them up. Regardless of your preference, the importance of water consumption is unprecedented when it comes to ‘feeling awake’ first thing in the morning.

The main reason for consuming water first thing upon waking up is simple: we wake up from a night of sleep in a dehydrated state. Consuming any sort of caffeine will further dehydrate you, which is not what you want going into a workout. Also, a common side effect of dehydration is feeling tired. Especially at first, you’re already going to feel tired transitioning to an early morning gym routine, so don’t compound the issue by also being dehydrated.

Final Thoughts

If an afternoon gym routine is ingrained in your schedule, and you don’t let hell or high water impact your consistency of getting workouts in, then honestly I wouldn’t change a thing. There are plenty of scientific studies that tell you when the “best time” to exercise is, however, I would argue the best time is simply whatever time you can repeat day after day, week after week, month after month.

If you can consistently get in the gym after work with high energy levels, then that’s awesome! Keep it up. But, if you keep missing your planned 5:30 PM lift, because the couch at home is more appealing than the Squat Rack- especially after a long day at work- I highly encourage you to try a few (if not all) of the tips I laid out above and attempt integrating a morning gym routine.

By adding exercise into a morning routine, inevitably you will wind up making healthier decisions throughout the day as well. You tend to eat healthier, have more energy and possess a huge sense of accomplishment that your workout is already out of the way. Any activity (such as an after-dinner walk) you do throughout the rest of the day is gravy and will only add to your health and fitness routine. Just like anything, don’t expect an early morning routine to be easy at first. It will be difficult, and initially you will be more tired. However, your body will ultimately adjust and after about a month of consistently hitting early AM lifts, you will find the routine to be more second nature.

The biggest key to getting results, regardless of your training goal, is consistently exercising and eating healthy. An early-morning gym routine tends to naturally put most people on this track, which allows for sustainable long-term success!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Why I Do 10,000 Swings Every January

The last several years, I’ve found the best way to set the tone for my New Year is to complete the infamous 10,000 Kettle Bell Swing Workout by Coach Dan John (side note- who is one of the absolute best coaches in the fitness industry, and I highly encourage you to look up his books and articles). I want to take this opportunity to explain some aspects of this challenge that I feel anyone can apply to their own training. I will touch on: why I choose to push myself outside my comfort zone, the timing for when I do this workout, and the physical and mental benefits I gain that carry over throughout the year.

Before I dive into the specifics though, there are a few important disclaimers about this workout. First, I have been training with Kettle Bells for 10 years now. The first time I did this workout, I had been using them for 5 years and had been taught proper technique from some very high quality coaches. In other words, by the time I did this workout for the first time I was well-versed with the proper technique for a Kettle Bell Swing. Therefore, if anything you read in this article peaks your interest- but you’ve never trained with a Kettle Bell- I highly suggest you first work tirelessly on perfecting your Kettle Bell Swing. This needs to happen long before you even begin to think about attempting this challenge.

Second, this workout very well may not be right for you and your goals- which is totally fine. I’ve never once recommended any client of mine to do this just because of the physical and mental toll it will take on your body. I’ve explained countless times what it is, and the benefits of the workout, but I would never make a client do this workout because the risk and reward don’t align for me as a fitness professional. This workout is a challenge, and it will take you well outside of your comfort zone to a place that not many people are comfortable being.

My goal in writing about my yearly experience with this 10,000 Swing challenge is not to necessarily motivate you to pick up a Kettle Bell and start acting like Pavel. Instead I hope to motivate you to find a way to get outside your own individual comfort zone in 2020. Whether that is signing up for a 5k, committing to a new style of training, or simply taking that class that’s always intimidated you- have the courage to push yourself beyond what’s comfortable this year to spark both mental and physical change.

Just as an FYI, What Is the 10,000 Swing Challenge?

Here is the original article by Coach Dan John with the nitty-gritty specifics of the workout laid out:

10,000 Swing Kettle Bell Workout

The cliff note version is this:

You train either 4 or 5 days per week (depending on your time frame), and each day you perform 500 Kettle Bell Swings. When it’s all said and done you will perform 20 workouts that total 10,000 Swings. On 4 of the 5 days you have a corresponding strength move mixed in with the swings (with the 5th day being just swings). The way the article is originally laid out in 2013, Coach Dan John suggests doing 5 clusters with the reps of swings as follows:

10, 15, 25, 50 (which equals 100 swings, that you would repeat 5 times- in between the first 3 clusters, you would hit your strength move for the day- those are explained in the T-Nation article above as well)

I’ve completed the 10,000 Swing challenge multiple times in this manner, however, Coach Dan has since revised the rep scheme to a much more manageable style of:

15, 35, 15, 35 (still equaling 100 swings that you would repeat 5 times with your strength moves still mixed in after the first 3 sets) This is much more manageable because by the end of 50 Swings with a 24 KG Bell, your form is questionable at best. With this “new” rep scheme, you still get all the great benefits this workout has to offer, just the quality of reps are ultimately significantly better.

Why Do I Complete This Workout Every Year?

#1 Competitive Spirit

I am a former collegiate athlete, but I consider myself a lifelong athlete. I don’t play in alumni games or adult sports leagues, therefore, I need to find other outlets to channel my competitive nature- which is the main reason I perform this workout. The completion of 10,000 swings in a month is only one aspect of the challenge though. The other, more gratifying aspect, is the fact that I time myself every workout; meaning I’m competing against myself and a stopwatch the entire month.

The body adapts quickly to this style of workout, so you naturally get quicker and need lest rest time, however it’s fun to see how much you can improve your time over the course of a month. For example, my first session this year I finished in 41:35. My 20th session I finished yesterday was in 18:30. (To further put these numbers in perspective, the first time I ever did this challenge 5 years ago, my time was 1:05:22!)

Competing against myself and the clock is something that I embrace every workout. It adds intensity to an already grueling physical and mental challenge. I’ve found that having the ability to compete against myself is one of the best ways to promote absolute personal growth.

#2 Reset Button

While much is made of New Year’s Resolutions- and a lot of gym regulars scoff at them- January is a time for me to hit the reset button as well. It’s not that I get completely out of my routine from Thanksgiving to Christmas, or put on large amounts of weight; but rather, my workouts tend to get a little stale, and with family parties resulting in seemingly constant travel, I tend to get thrown off my daily routine a bit. This ultimately results in training at irregular times or even locations. So, while the workouts still take place, they may not be the highest quality of the year.

Accordingly, I look at the 10,000 Swing Challenge as an opportunity to hit the reset button, and squash any questionable tendencies I got into (regarding either training or nutrition) over the last month or two of the previous year. This workout generally serves as a fresh start for my training and reignites my good training habits.

#3 Physical Challenge

Completing 500 Swings, combined with a strength move in a single workout, is a physical challenge that speaks for itself. This is something that is certainly challenging for me physically. The key is though, it is realistically challenging for me. The best way for me to describe the workout is: it is uncomfortable rather than impossible.

There are plenty of ‘crazy’ workout challenges out there that would push me outside my comfort zone- but not all of them are safe, or right for me and my goals. The key is finding something that aligns with your goals, but also won’t hurt you in the process. It is a very fine line to walk, especially with a workout such as this- like I said in the open, if you’ve never done a Kettle Bell Swing or you don’t have proper form, this 10,000 Swing Challenge will physically wreck you.

Therefore, it is imperative to have prudence when you chose to challenge yourself physically. Be sure to weigh the pro’s and con’s of what you’ll get out of the workout. If you’re unsure of how to safely push yourself outside your comfort zone, my best recommendation would be to hire yourself a good coach. Someone that can correct your form when it starts to break down, but will also safely push you beyond your self-imposed limits.

Over the course of these 20 workouts I see vast improvements in my overall strength levels. In particular my legs (glutes and hamstrings in particular), core, shoulder stabilizers and grip all get significantly stronger. I generally lean out, but not to the point where muscle mass is lost- any weight I lose is body fat. Even though I go a full 4 weeks without performing any type of resisted horizontal press, deadlift or row, I do not lose strength in any of these movements. The overall physical strength gained from this challenge directly carries over to every basic strength move.

#4 Mental Challenge

Training to increase mental fortitude is one of the most underrated values of vigorous exercise. Completing these 10,000 swings challenges my mental strength because I am doing the same exact move 500 times per day. In order to successfully complete this workout, you must have the famous Wim Hof ability of “mind over matter.” Being able to “turn your mind off” and go somewhere else, yet still focus on the quality of reps you are performing, is a skill set that is developed as you go through these 20 workouts.

By completing this type of challenge each January, I feel that it gives me an added mental edge. My mindset gets hungrier for more challenges and I also have renewed confidence that I can get through any obstacle that may come my way in the coming year- in or out of the gym. The benefits of conquering a challenge that pushes your limits is ultimately the main reason I highly encourage you to find your equivalent to the 10,000 Swing workout- in addition to the physical gains you will reap, the mental growth will benefit you time and again over the course of the year.

In Conclusion

At the end of a month’s worth of Kettle Bell swings, physically my body feels strong and lean. Mentally, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment by completing a workout that not many people have the patience or diligence to do on their own. My reset button is completely hit and I feel invigorated with my training moving forward in the New Year. My competitive fire is also temporarily quelled, and I feel the same satisfaction that I used to feel after I beat an opponent as an athlete.

In order to feel these positive emotions, I highly encourage you to take the time and find an aspect of your fitness journey that you can safely get yourself “uncomfortable.” As famous strength coach Tim Grover says, the key to physical and mental growth is getting “comfortable being uncomfortable.” If you want your body and mindset to change for the better, make sure you’re giving yourself a reason to change.

Keep in mind though, as much as it’d be exhilarating to do challenges like these all year round, it is most certainly not in your best health interest to do so. You must strategically implement these types of challenging workouts throughout the year. Understand that you will still make tremendous gains toward your fitness goals, even if every single workout is not at peak intensity, like in a challenge.

Find your own individual way to challenge your mental and physical capacity in 2020 and give yourself a true reason for growth!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Eliminate ‘Bad’ Push-Ups from Your Workout Routine

Do your Push-Ups look like this?

One of the first strength movements we are taught as children in elementary school is the basic Push-Up. It is a staple of many training programs- and rightfully so. Unfortunately it is taken for granted that everyone knows ‘proper form’ when executing this move. A Push-Up with good form, is a great indicator of upper body and core strength and compliments every resisted strength exercise.

The problem I see though on a daily basis is the quality in which Push-Ups are being performed. Just as I demonstrate in the video above, I routinely see elbows flared out, scapulars (shoulder blades) digging together and hips raised or dropping well below the upper body, preventing full range of motion- all in the name of completing a certain amount of reps. Each of these flaws will ultimately result in shoulder pain, back pain or both- without ever getting you better at performing Push-Ups.

For my clients, the focus is not on quantity, but rather high quality. Therefore, we work towards performing a Push-Up as follows:

Elbows at about a 45 degree angle. Hips in line with the upper body throughout the movement, shoulders directly over top your hands. The tempo is controlled on the way down and explosive on the way up. And the depth is about a ‘fist-width’ from the ground.

If you cannot perform a Push-Up with the parameters I just outlined, you’d be best served to stop attempting full Push-Ups, and instead work from the Push-Up Position Plank.

Why Not Perform the Full Rep?

In the more is better age of fitness in which we now exist, you may be confused as to why I’d recommend doing less by not performing full reps of the Push-Up. While on the surface it may seem like you’re doing less, you’ll ultimately reap far more benefits from first mastering the Push-Up Position Plank. Ultimately you will progress by adding in subsequent variations from the Push-Up Position and still get more ‘reward’ than performing countless sub-par Push-Ups.

By working from a quality Push-Up Position for a set amount of time, you’re directly strengthening the muscles you need to perform a full Push-Up. In this position you also will get comfortable with holding your own body weight, and in time and with the proper progressions, you will be able to perform full Push-Ups with absolutely perfect form. In order for this to happen though, you need to build from the ground up and work through each Push-Up Position Plank Variation.

When I say “Push-Up Position Plank Variations” this refers to any movement from the basic PUPP- the moves I outline below are what I feel to be the most basic but also most effective. Each of them will at some point put your bodyweight on one hand. When this happens and you properly drive your hips down towards the ground, you are getting a tremendous amount of anti-rotational abdominal work. Not to mention the normal core activation you get from bracing your abs during a Push-Up Position Plank.

What is Anti-Rotational Abdominal Training & Why is it Important?

Any move that you resist your hips rotating, is considered anti-rotational. This action occurs in the transverse plane of motion, where rotation occurs. Consistent anti-rotational training will not only improve your core strength but also enhance your balance and coordination as well.

In terms of full-body health, this is a far superior option to working your core (obliques in particular) compared to the “old-school” body weight options of: Russian Twists, Bicycle Crunches or V-Ups- all of which greatly compromise your lower back.

Additionally, by doing these anti-rotational moves for time, you are guaranteeing proper time under tension for your core, upper body musculature and your shoulder stabilizers. A huge downside I routinely see in individuals performing sets of Push-Ups is they want to get them done as fast as possible- which has its merit in certain instances, such as a max rep test in a pre-determined amount of time. However, generally speaking, by rushing through the reps, you completely miss out maximizing your core activation and shoulder stabilizers- which are two of the biggest benefits of being in a Push-Up Position!

Push-Up Position Plank

Regardless of what variation you choose to do, this position will always be your starting point- therefore it is imperative to make sure it’s absolutely perfect! Your shoulders should be directly over your hands (finger tips straight ahead) with your neck relaxed. The hips should be directly in line with your upper body, and your glutes should be activated. As you squeeze your glutes also focus on “bracing” down with your abs. (When you “brace,” your abs should be tensed up like you’re about to get punched in the stomach). If it’s available at your gym, try to get parallel with a floor length mirror so you can teach yourself how it “feels” to be in a perfect body position. Being aware of something as simple as your hips dropping, or your shoulders being behind your hands, will be imperative the more you start moving around within the Push-Up Position.

PRO TIP: Holding this position for a max hold is a great and most importantly safe method to test your upper body strength levels. Every 4, 8 or 12 weeks assume this position and hold until you can’t maintain proper body positioning. Especially for beginners, or those not interested in max numbers, this is a great way to chart continued improvement in upper body strength levels.

Push-Up Position Tap Variations

The same form applies for each of these variations- the only difference is where your hands wind up tapping or moving. They are listed in order below from easiest to most difficult, then the final variation puts it all together- which is a great way to make 30 seconds pass by really quick! Make sure when performing these moves keep the following in mind:

  • Shoulders ALWAYS over your hands (minimizes unneeded stress on shoulders and lower back)
  • Finger tips straight ahead
  • Hips can sway, but should never open- in other words, stay parallel to the ground!
  • Start with feet shoulder width, then adjust based on what you need- a wider stance will make the move easier, while a narrow stance makes it more difficult
  • The more controlled you perform these reps, the better quality core work you will get

Push-Up Position Opposite Wrist Tap

Push-Up Position Opposite Elbow Tap

Push-Up Position Opposite Shoulder Tap

Push-Up Position Arm to Side

Push-Up Position Arm to Front

Push-Up Position Tap Combination

Final Thoughts

Once you master each of these moves and can perform them for 45-60 seconds with perfect form, you should be ready to progress towards full Push-Ups with proper form. You may need to hit them from an incline at first, just to get used to the “new” range of motion, but as you feel more and more comfortable with the move, lower the incline until you’re flat on the floor performing perfect reps. Just because you can do perfect Push-Ups though, doesn’t mean you should abandon these variations. Remember, one of the keys to improving your total body strength gains is time under tension. Therefore, adding in a Push-Up to each of these variations will only progress the move even further by increasing your total work time, while also adding the anti-rotational component as well.

As always, start small- 15-20 seconds with perfect form. Progress in time first until you can hold each move for 45-60 seconds, then move to the next variation. These can either be built into your warm-up or mixed into the workout as well. Either way, your commitment to quality reps will ultimately yield much better results than forcing copious amounts of sub-par repetitions.

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Add These 3 Exercises Into Your 2020 Routine!

Whether you were a fixture in the gym for all of 2019 or not, this time of year is inevitably when even the most ardent gym-goers will add in new components to a routine- myself included! As long as you’re being safe with technique, and the exercise you chose properly align with your goals, implementing a few new exercises will be vital to keeping a gym routine fresh. Below, I outline 3 of my absolute favorite and most effective exercises to add in to your 2020 gym routine. These exercises have such wide ranging benefits that they can be incorporated into any training regimen, regardless of the goal!

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Execution:

Using either a bench or a Split Squat Stand (a Leg Extension/Leg Curl cushion works too!) set yourself up with one foot in front and the other elevated behind. In order to make sure your front foot is in the proper position, you should be able to see your toes through just about the entire range of motion. You also want to make sure that your rear glute stays perfectly above your back knee. If the rear glute kicks back away from your front foot, you wind up cheating the move. Don’t be overly worried about getting your back knee to the ground either. Focus on first getting to 90 degrees, then progress from there. Having a pad as a reference point is a huge help with this! The final point to the RFE Squat is be sure you stand all the way up with the front leg at the top of each rep. By working through a full range of motion, you wind up training your front glute as well!

Benefits:

The first benefit to this move is unequivocally the unilateral component. Training your legs individually ensures that both legs are getting equal work. You will avoid creating a bi-lateral deficit (one side being weaker than the other) and will greatly assist in improving your Back Squat and/or Front Squats as well.

There is also no better exercise than the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat to target your Vastus Medialis (the tear drop on your quad). This muscle is ULTRA important in maintaining knee health (particularly for anyone who runs or plays a sport- even recreationally in a backyard setting). The stronger your VMO is, the better you safeguard yourself against devastating knee injuries such as ACL tears.

Regression:

If performing a RFE Squat is not right for you at this time, then you simply perform a Split Squat with both feet on the ground. You will still get some of the tremendous benefits of the unilateral component and will also still target your VMO as well.

Progression:

If you want to up the ante and get a little extra Glute work in, elevate your front foot as well as your rear foot. What this does, is it adds to the range of motion. By getting deeper into your split squat, you now are forced to get yourself up by utilizing your front glute. (This same concept is also seen in a High Step Up). Be careful with this move, because you need to have good quad and hip flexor mobility- otherwise you won’t feel it anywhere but your hip flexors or your back quad. Take your time with the weight as well. Focus more-so on the increase in Range of Motion before you progress too heavy in the weight!

Rope/Band Face Pull

Execution:

Stand with your feet directly under your hips and put the cable just above eye level. You can either assume a pronated or supinated grip with your hands on the rope (I prefer pronated because I feel it targets the rear delts a little more). Roll your shoulders slightly forward at the bottom of the movement to emphasize a full range of motion through the shoulder capsules. Then, retract the shoulder blades and pull the rope attachment towards your eyes, flaring the elbows out, specifically trying to get the attachment to almost the bridge of your nose. To emphasize the mind/muscle connection, try holding for about a 2 count when you have the attachment all the way in towards your nose. Be sure not to compensate by throwing your chest forward or arching your lower back.

Benefits:

If you have barky shoulders, this is the movement for you! It activates and strengthens muscles that are directly responsible for controlling your shoulders when you press (either horizontally or vertically). The Face Pull is an extremely simple, but effective move that will over time vastly improve your shoulder health-if programmed consistently. Not only will it help ease chronic shoulder pain, it will also safeguard your shoulders in the future.   

The Face Pull also has huge benefits for postural alignment as well. Due to the amount of time we spend on a smart phone or seated at a computer desk, our shoulders are naturally anteriorly rotated (hunched forward). By implementing a move such as the Face Pull, you are literally pulling yourself into proper posture, and strengthening muscles that have become extremely under-active due to the smartphone/laptop posture we so often assume.

Regression:

If performing the Face Pull with a rope attachment causes any discomfort or pain in the shoulders, immediately regress to a band. All the same movement principles apply, the band will simply be less load, but also keeps tension constant. Due to the decrease in load, a band will allow for complete mind muscle connection- you should focus entirely on the squeeze of the shoulder blades as the band is closest to your nose.

Progression:

The best way to progress a Face Pull is to implement it as a superset, preceding a pressing movement. This method will activate muscles that should be firing as you press-both horizontally (chest pressing) and vertically (shoulder pressing). Again, the focus should be on mind/muscle connection, as opposed to how much weight you are using. Performing a light-medium set of Face Pulls leading into a set of presses is a great way to ensure shoulder health during pressing movements.

Anti-Rotation (Palloff) Press

Execution:

Stand with your feet just outside shoulder width and your hips square. Put your inside hand on the handle and cover it up with the outside hand. Pull the attachment to your mid-line, then before you do anything else, squeeze your abs as hard as you possibly can- like you’re about to get punched in the stomach! Then, press straight out with your arms perfectly straight and your hips remaining neutral. Depending on your ability, you can hold anywhere from 2-10 seconds for 5-10 reps each side.

Benefits:

I feel that the Anti-Rotation Press is the King of all core movements for a few key reasons. First, it exemplifies the true meaning of “core.” When you perform this movement, you should feel activation in muscles from your shoulders all the way down into your glutes and your adductors. Yes, you will get great abdominal work as well, but you’re also working on your entire core- which includes far more than just your abs.

Secondly, there are 3 planes of motion for human movement- Transverse, Frontal and Sagittal- this is one of only a handful of exercises where you simultaneously are working in all three planes of motion. By resisting the attachment pulling you in toward the pulley, you are working anti-rotationally- which is in the transverse plane. Having the resistance coming from your side (as opposed to in front of you), means you’re also working in the Frontal Plane (you’ll know you’re training in the frontal plane when you feel your adductors burning!). Then finally, by “bracing” your core and squeezing down as hard as you can, you are working in the sagittal plane of motion as well!

Finally, this is an exercise that will work your core without putting stress on your lower back. (If you do feel pain in your lower back, that means you’re lacking glute activation, your hips aren’t square, or you’re working with too much weight) So often core training is neglected because you know that crunches and 6” variations make your back hurt. Thus, starts the vicious circle of: your back hurts because your core is weak- and you don’t want to train your core because the only ab moves you know, hurt your back. If this scenario resonates with you, I urge you to implement the Anti-Rotation Press into your workouts regularly, and you will take the first big step into safely strengthening your core!

Regression:

The simplest regression with the Anti-Rotation Press is to first drop the weight down. The only reason this exercise would need to be regressed would be if you’re feeling burning sensation in your lower back. This typically only happens if you’re performing the move with too much weight- which would also result in an inability to straighten your arms all the way as well.

If a regression is needed because you do not have access to a cable, then the perfect variation to this move is simply substituting a band for a cable. All the same exercise cues still apply with a band!

Progression:

Aside from increasing the weight, the other aspect you can tweak to make this move more challenging is your foot placement. For example, by performing this move from a Split Squat position (one foot in front and one foot behind and staying low), you will add in a unilateral balance component that will take the difficulty to the next level.

Be sure you master the standard Anti-Rotation press though, before you start progressing the weight or foot position!

Final Thoughts

These 3 moves will compliment any goal- muscle building, weight loss, strength building, power development and especially general health. They are functional in nature but can be molded to fit into any training regimen. As always, take the time to learn proper form first, before you start worrying about how much weight you’re doing with any of the above exercises. The underlying biggest benefit to each of these 3 moves is they bulletproof your body against injury to the 3 most vulnerable parts of your body- knees, shoulders and back.

I highly encourage you to consider adding in some or all of the above exercises in order to keep yourself injury free and on a great exercise routine for all of 2020!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

How to Make Your Fitness Goals Last in 2020- Step 2: Focus All Your Attention on 1 Main Goal & Fully Commit to a Training Method!

One of the most underrated and difficult aspects of your fitness journey is determining exactly what you want your fitness goal to be at a given time; and consequently how you want to achieve it. This is difficult because unless a medical professional tells you something along the lines of: “You must lose weight because you are pre-diabetic, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc.” your exercise goals are generally determined by what will make the future you happy. Therefore, unless you are working with a trainer, what you chose to do in the gym on a daily basis, ties into working towards a goal that you want.

There are 2 aspects that make this truth difficult:

  1. Boredom and impatience will generally lead to constant changes and alterations to your workout routine before you can properly progress yourself.
  2. There are many different training methods that will allow you to achieve your goal- not one is universally correct in every instance. The only correct method is what works best for you in conjunction with your goal.   

Just a Review…What Are the Main Types of Fitness Goals?

Individual’s main goals should fall relatively neatly into one of the following categories:

  1. Fat Loss
  2. Muscle Gain
  3. Max Strength & Power Gain
  4. General Health

There are plenty of sub-goals that branch off these main categories, however it is imperative to identify which goal you are working towards in order to create a workout that coincides with what you’re trying to achieve.  

As a reference, below is a table listing the variables that should be present for each of the above goals:

[Reps, sets, rest time, exercise grouping, accessory exercise selection, volume and training frequency, are all dependent on what your goal in the gym is. While the differences are not entirely drastic, there are distinguishing characteristics to each goal’s variables.]

VariableFat Loss/Muscle ToningMuscle BuildingStrength/Power DevelopmentGeneral Health
Reps10-15 (sub-maximal effort*)6-20+ (2/3 – full max effort)1-6 reps (Works toward Max Effort at all reps)6-12 (sub-maximal effort)
Sets2-34-63-62-3
Rest Time30-60 s.45-90 s.2-3 minutes60 s. +
Exercise GroupingFull Body**- Supersets/Giant Sets àAntagonists***Full Body OR Body Splits**/ Supersets/Tri-sets/Drop SetsFull Body/ Straight Sets or Super Set w/ BW PlyoFull Body Straight-Sets or Superset w/ Mobility & Core
Accessory Exercise SelectionFull Body High Metabolic ExercisesIsolated ExercisesOnly supplemental work that benefits main liftsAdditional Core Work/Stretching & Balance
VolumeLowHighMediumLow
Training Frequency2-3 times per week4-6 times per week3-5 times per week1-3 times per week
*Sub-maximal effort means that you’re never reaching failure within a rep range. Advanced trainees would have a % associated with each of these rep ranges, but the simplest way to look at it is sub maximal versus maximal effort (max effort meaning you have no reps left in the tank by the end of the set).

**Full Body vs. Body Split training is probably one of the greatest age-old debates in the gym setting that very much highlights old school versus new school thought processes. Full Body means you’re hitting both Lower and Upper Body every workout. Generally, you’d have minimally 1 or 2 days rest in between workouts so Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, would be the perfect splits for Full Body. Body Split training is your most common traditional body builder style of Chest & Back/ Bi’s & Tri’s/ Legs & Shoulders or some variation of that. There are certainly pro’s and con’s of each, just keep in mind, the right split for you is completely goal dependent.

***Supersets/Tri-sets mean performing one exercise right after the other with little to no rest in between. The advantage of this is workout efficiency and a greater metabolic effect of the workout in general. For example: DB Chest Press and Single Arm DB Row is a prime example of an antagonist (opposing muscle group) super set. If you threw in a Front Plank after the Row (making three exercises) then it would become a Tri-Set.

***PROFESSIONAL ADVICE ON GOAL SETTING***

As 2019 comes to a close, spend some time in the next few days reflecting on your past exercise experiences- what worked well for you in 2019 and also what did not- and strongly consider exactly what goal you want to set for yourself in 2020.

Once you’ve established your goal, consider it set in stone until you see it all the way through (minimally 12 weeks, if not longer- more on that below). Make sure to reference the table above when you construct your workout, to be sure your variables correctly align with your goal!

How Can Boredom and Impatience Hijack an Exercise Routine?

Boredom and impatience together will destroy every fitness aspiration you have for 2020. These two emotions will cause you to stray from your goals, as well as “the basics”- which, if combined with proper nutritional habits and a moderate amount of patience, will ultimately get you to your respective goal. With Instagram Fitness models dominating feeds around the world, resist the temptation to try every “new” exercise variation you come across on social media. Instead in 2020, focus on the basics I outline below:  

**When I use the term “basics” this implies fundamental movement patterns: **

  • Squat Variation (i.e. DB Goblet Squat)
  • Deadlift Variation (i.e. DB RDL)
  • Horizontal Push (i.e. Incline DB Bench Press)
  • Horizontal Pull (i.e. Chest Supported Row)
  • Vertical Push (i.e. DB Overhead Press)
  • Vertical Pull (i.e. NG Chin Up)
  • Bracing Core (i.e. Front Plank)
  • Rotational Core (i.e. Medicine Ball Scoop)
  • Loaded Walk (i.e. Farmers Carry)

When you get bored in the gym the natural inclination is you begin ‘spicing up’ your workouts. Unfortunately, when you start playing with extremely complicated variations of traditional moves, this will result in the “basics” being put on the back-burner. You generally have this feeling of boredom because of an underlying impatience- it’s been 3 weeks and your arms still aren’t 16” or you haven’t lost 15 pounds.

Understand that having exercise variety is a valuable component of a workout, however, it’s becoming proficient at the basics that will undoubtedly yield the best results. (Regardless of how you organize your workouts- full body or body part- the basics should always be central to programming). Fall in love with the process and learn to adjust variables instead of exercise selection. Notice in the table above, there is a relatively wide range of reps, sets and rest time for each goal. If you adjust just one of those variables, you’ll add plenty of ‘spice’ to your routine if you begin to feel bored.

It Doesn’t Pay to Be a ‘Jack of All Trades with Your Workouts’…

There are very few ‘absolute truths’ in the fitness industry; however, one of them is as follows: You cannot simultaneously excel at every major method of training in the gym. For example, if you’re goal is to become the best Olympic Weight Lifter in your area, you’re most likely not going to also have the best bench press and the biggest arms as well.

Furthermore, many isolation bodybuilding moves will wind up developing parts of your body that won’t be conducive for becoming a successful Olympic lifter; because those areas- such as your chest and triceps- need to be extremely flexible, instead of muscular.

Conversely, if you have a goal of adding 2” to your arms, Power Snatches from blocks, is going to do very little towards attaining that goal. Instead you’d want to gravitate more towards isolation moves throughout your workout.

These examples are personifications of the negative side of the expression- being a “jack of all trades, but master of none.” In other words, you will never actually work towards your singular goal if you try to simultaneously dabble in Olympic lifting, HIIT, Bodybuilding and Power Lifting. With each of these components present together in a workout routine, you’ll most certainly never become proficient or excel at any one method.  

Which Method is ‘Best?’

When you begin to approach “how” you want to achieve your specific goal in 2020, it becomes a slippery slope to go down because the “best way” to achieve your goal depends entirely on you. Ask yourself questions such as: What is your exercise experience? What style do you enjoy training? What equipment do you have access to? What style of training aligns best with your goal?

The following are ‘methods’ or styles of training that you can use to achieve a given goal:

  • Olympic Lifting– (Goal is maximizing power- Power Cleans, Split Jerks and Snatches)
  • Power Lifting (Goal is maximizing strength- Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat)
  • Body Building (Goal is maximizing muscular size through compound moves and isolation work)
  • Functional Training (Goal is athletic development, general health maintenance, injury prevention- an intelligent blend of the main styles of training)
  • Yoga/Pilates*
  • Kettle Bell *
  • Sandbag *
  • TRX Training *
  • Steel Club Training*

(* These methods of training can be used exclusively as their own method, or also implemented as accessory work under any of the first four styles of training)

Each of these methods listed above should be viewed as tools in your tool box. Just like if you were to use your tool box on a job (AKA your fitness goal) keep in mind, it is OKAY to not use every single tool to complete that job.

In other words, there are most certainly better options for certain goals. For example, Olympic Lifting or Power Lifting components will be best for someone who’s goal is to maximize their strength versus someone who wants to shed 50 pounds and has never exercised before. If your goal is weight loss, fully commit to functional training with elements of bodybuilding and kettle bell training for accessory work, and you’ll have your workouts ‘working’ towards your goal. Again, resist the “jack of all trade” mindset and stay away from combining several different methods within a single routine.

How Long Should I Stick with a Method Before I Switch?

To gain any traction towards achieving your goals, there must be a degree of progression within the workout. This progression doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘lifting heavier weights’ either. You can progress your workout by adding more volume (through sets and reps), eliminating or reducing rest time, completing the workout in less time (mainly for HIIT style workouts), or adding in additional training days. You should ultimately give yourself minimally 12 weeks of working towards a goal with a specific training method before you completely abandon it and try something different.

To break those 12 weeks down even further, that would be 3- 4 week phases of workouts that are geared towards one overarching goal (fat loss, muscle gain, strength maximization or general health). Every 4 weeks you can make slight changes to variables (such as sets and reps, exercise order or rest time) but continue working towards the same overarching goal. Once 12 weeks are through, if you’ve set a realistic goal, properly progressed your workouts, and your nutrition and recovery have been consistent, then you should be very close to achieving your original goal.

At that point- and only then- should you self-reflect and weigh the pro’s and con’s to transitioning to a different overarching goal and potentially a different training method. If you’re bouncing around from one goal and training method to another within 4-8 weeks, you’re never going to come closer to achieving any one goal you’re striving for.

Final Thoughts…Seek Consistency Rather than Perfection in 2020

Once you’ve honed in on a fitness goal to start 2020, and you determine which method of training suits your needs best, make your next priority consistency. Be consistent with training towards your main goal, as well as the method in which you’re training.

Understand that you’re going to get to the gym a lot of days and just not “feel it.” Those are the days where the most progress is made. The ability to grind out workouts when you just want to go back to bed, or go straight home after work, is the final component to achieving your fitness goals.

Strive to make commitment and consistency your defining characteristics of 2020.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your families!

And best of luck in making your fitness dreams a reality in the coming year!

How to Make Health and Fitness a Lasting Lifestyle Change in 2020: Step 1- Be Realistic!!

Have you been saying for the last 5, 10 or 15 Januarys, that this coming year was going to be your year? It was going to be this year that you were finally not going to have anything get in the way of achieving your fitness goals. You were going to get back to the body you had in college, and not a single excuse- big or small- was going to stop you. Equipped with the new workout gear and accessories you got over the Holidays, you start to break in your new gym membership by following a $300 workout you bought from an Instagram trainer.

Week one is incredible for you. You feel alive again! Your muscles are sore, you love the variety in your new 6 day per week workout. After-work conflicts were completely cleared, and even the candy bowl in the office doesn’t seem that appealing. Meal prepping was tough the first week, but it was totally worth it because you didn’t cheat even one time!

The trouble is, week 2 got a little harder. When your alarm went off on that second Monday morning you didn’t have that same pep in your step. You may not have meal prepped as extensively as the week before, thinking you could just wing it- leading to you becoming frustrated by the difficulty of making healthy meals on the go that matched up with your prescribed meal plan. Fortunately, you still hit all your workouts this week, but you weren’t quite as sore and the ‘shiny new toy’ effect wore off. You start seeing some holes in your trainer’s programming and begin to question “why is he/she having me do x, y or z?” By your sixth workout on Saturday, all you could think about was your cherished off-day on Sunday.


To start week 3, you made the fatal mistake of stepping on the scale; maybe even after a cheat meal or two on Sunday. You either lost less than one pound or maybe you even gained a little weight- according to the number on the scale. This is just earth shattering for you, because you’ve been ‘on the grind’ the last 2 weeks and to not see double digits drop off that scale is a hard kick to the gut. Nutritionally you start to consistently slip around this point. You’ll continue to hit most of the workouts though through week 4.

But by February, you’re bored with the workout, and tired of not seeing the results you expected by this point. Social commitments will start getting in the way again, and getting to the gym gradually falls by the wayside. Other priorities will begin to materialize, and by the end of February you’re down to going to the gym once every few weeks, and nutritionally you’re a mess. At this point, you’ll experience a measure of disappointment along with a feeling of here we go again. Followed immediately by a rationalization of: this year, just wasn’t my year.

Then for the remainder of the year, you’ll cycle through various periods where you try to achieve a fitness goal for a certain event (beach season, a 5k, wedding, birthday, vacation etc.). During these periods you will go through a variation of the same basic process I just laid out and yo-yo back to your normal lifestyle when it’s all said and done- ultimately resulting in next December 31st you will be right back where you currently are, if not even further from your fitness goals.

…How Can You Make 2020 Different and avoid the ‘here we go again’ thought???

My first piece of advice in making a substantial life style change is simple:

BE REALISTIC!!

Regardless of whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle or just lead a generally healthier life, you must be realistic with every aspect of your journey. Your realism must start with your time frame. Due to the instant gratification society in which we live, everyone wants their fitness transformations yesterday…Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. You have to pay the piper if you want the results, and those payments don’t conclude after 3 or 4 weeks.

To help put it more clearly, start by asking yourself this extremely simple question:

“How long did it take for you to become untrained?” (By untrained, I simply mean, got away from the body that you’d like to attain)

If the honest answer to the above question is something long-term like several months or even several years, then why do we operate under the assumption that in 4 weeks, we’re going to magically revert our bodies back to our ideal selves? It is a very unrealistic expectation that needs to be debunked and understood if you hope to have success in attaining a consistently healthy lifestyle in 2020- sustainable lifestyle transformations absolutely take time.

Learn to walk the fine line of having goals to keep yourself driven, while simultaneously being extremely realistic with what those goals should be. For example, a realistic goal for 2020 would be something like: “I’d like to lose 2-4 pounds per month.” This is an extremely attainable goal to achieve every month, because when you break it all the way down, you’re looking at losing about a half pound per week. Saying ‘2-4 pounds per month’ is remarkably more manageable sounding than “I’d like to lose 40 pounds in 2020.” If that’s your mindset going into the process, then you’re going to be particularly disappointed when you only lose 2 pounds the first month- when in actuality that should be viewed as a win, because that in fact is sustainable weight loss!

Having an overarching goal of 40 lbs for weight loss is totally awesome! The issue is you must reframe how you approach that goal to make it more manageable. If you can break your long-term goal into bite-size short term goals, you will experience a tremendous difference in your motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle in 2020.  

Be Realistic with Your Gym Frequency

The next area that you must be realistic with is the frequency in which you attend the gym. If you’re coming off a prolonged period of inactivity, then the fastest way to light your 2020 fitness goals on fire is to go to the gym 6 or 7 days per week beginning January 1st. That is a recipe for burning yourself out after 3 weeks-max. Your gym frequency circles back into being realistic with your time frame, because the driving force behind training 6 days per week is to subconsciously make up for the weeks, months or years of inactivity, as quickly as possible.

Establish a rock-solid training schedule that, come hell or high water you can repeat week in and week out for literally months- without missing. The perfect amount to start with is usually 2-3 days per week in the gym. Find a repeatable time for each day and carve it into your schedule with no flexibility around moving it.

Just because you only hit the gym 2 or 3 days per week though, that doesn’t mean you should do nothing on the other 4 or 5 days of the week. Seek to be active in creative ways- such as: going for walks after dinner, parking the car in the last parking spot away from the store or riding your bike instead of driving short distances. Resist the temptation to become a “gym rat” off the bat- I promise in time it will come. Start with small victories, and gain momentum before you start adding in extra days in the gym or cardio sessions.

**If you struggle with getting yourself to the gym on your own, I’d recommend 3 options:

  • Convince one of your friends/family members to become a workout buddy
  • Go to classes that the gym offers
  • Hire a certified trainer

These 3 options will vary in price by the gym, with obviously the cheapest option being to find yourself a workout buddy. This can be admittedly difficult sometimes because you need to find someone who’s schedule matches up with yours. Regardless of which option you choose, the idea is to establish accountability to someone other than yourself- be it your friend, instructor or trainer.

Be Realistic with Your Nutrition

Cheat meals become the downfall of a lot of healthy eating habits. Because we live in an all or nothing society, once New Year’s comes, our nutritional mindset is: “we’re going to eat perfect for all of 2020!” This flies right in the face of being realistic with your 2020 goals, because being perfect all the time for average Janes and Joes, is just not feasible- especially if you want to live a full and healthy life.

The bottom line is, our nutritional lifestyle DOES NOT have to be perfect in order for it to be effective- it just needs to be consistent. Most New Year’s diets wind up failing because there is such a rigidity surrounding how strict they need to be- once a major cheat meal happens the wheels fall off and we think “F**k it- I might as well eat what I want. The diet’s blown.”

Consider making this adjustment in your nutritional philosophy in 2020: learn to look at your meals from a weekly perspective rather than daily. Regardless of the number of meals per day, consider that you roughly have 21 “main meals” per week (breakfast, lunch and dinner). If you make positive food choices for 19 out of those 21, that means 90.4% of your meals were healthy. Renowned Physical Therapist, Gray Cook, once said at a conference I attended: “If you do anything 90% of the time, you’re going to have damn good results.” And he is 100% right. As long as you’re able to throw the brakes on if/when you have those 2 flexible meals (I’d recommend them being non-consecutive for best results), you’re going to be well on track to maintaining a healthy nutritional lifestyle the entire year!

Deprivation for the month of January will only lead to the demise of healthy eating habits as well. Rather than thinking in the negative, change your mindset to think more in the positive regarding your food choices. For example, rather than saying to yourself, “I can’t have the box of TastyKakes after dinner.” Instead say, “I can have some fruit and yogurt for dessert tonight.” When you feel like you’re being deprived, it will lead to more often nutritional benders- aka why the most “Resolutioners” have failed at sticking with their 2020 fitness goals by Valentine’s Day. Therefore, be careful with your negative thought processes, and every once in a while, give in to your cravings, but nip it in the bud before it leads to several consecutive poor meals in a row. Most of all, strive to practice consistency in all of your diet choices and the results will be there at the end of the day.

Final Thoughts

There is something beautiful about the New Year. A clean slate offers you an abundance of ways you can change in the coming year. In order for any of your fitness goals for 2020 to be realized though, it is imperative to be realistic with how you frame your goals and the time frame in which you hope to achieve them. It will be infinitely more difficult to achieve your health and fitness goals if your mindset is off entering the process. Wrap your mind around the words of one of the best motivational speakers of all time, Les Brown: “[you must have] Patience. Persistence. And Positivity” in the pursuit of your dreams.

I urge you to have the patience to give yourself the full year of leading a healthy lifestyle both in the gym and nutritionally to observe change. Practice persistence when you most want to give up. If the scale is showing you a number that deflates you, let it fuel your fire to be better next month, rather than give up. And always stay positive- be proud of the fact that you’re consciously taking control of your life and making a change to hopefully live a longer more vivacious life.

This is only Step 1 to making 2020 a year that your fitness goals finally stick- stay tuned for Step 2 next week!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.