The following is roughly an hour long workout that seeks to mobilize and activate tight and underactive muscles surrounding your knees, hips and shoulders. After about 25 minutes of mobility and stretching, there is 15-20 minutes of activation work with minibands. Then the workout concludes with 10-15 minutes of full body strength work.
If you’re interested in purchasing the minibands we use in class, click here.
**If you have chronic health concerns, please consult with your doctor before trying any of the following, to make sure that exercise is right for you! **
Session #16 (5/5/21)
Supine Mobility → 2 x 20 s. Each
Knee to Chest
Glute Bridge Marches
Quadruped Mobility → 2 x 20 s.
½ Kneeling Adductor Stretch
PUP Spider Abbreviated Flow
Standing Mobility → 2 x 20 s. Each
Knee Hug + Quad Pull
Side on A-Skip
Open the Gates
Close the Gates
Body Weight Squats
World’s Greatest Stretch
A. 3 x 20 s. Each (Band Above Knees)
Fire Hydrants (L)
Fire Hydrants (R )
B. 2 x 20 s. Each (Band Around Wrists)
3-Way Seal Claps
T-Downs (10 s.)
C. 2 x 20 s. Each (Band Around Ankles)
Hop Scotches (Low/Tall)
2 in 2 out
D. 2 x 12 s. Each (w/ 2 s. Pause)
Backburners (T’s/Y’s/I’s/W’s/Hands Behind Back-Palms Up/Palms Down
Full Body Strength 2 x 20 s.ON/ 10 s OFF
Iso Squat Hold + Reps
Split Squat Jumps (L)
Iso Squat Hold + Miniband Rows
Split Squat Jumps (R )
Lateral Lunge + Curtsy Lunge (L)
Lateral Lunge + Curtsy Lunge (R)
If this workout interests you, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how to receive the recording or to get on the mailing list for future live workouts!
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.
What separates those that achieve their fitness goals, and those that consistently do not, are most likely found in my top 5 lessons I’ve learned over the last decade. These lessons have become pillars and have shaped my own training habits, as well as the routines of thousands of clients I have worked with. Similar to lessons #10- #6- which I shared in my last post– none of these are particularly ground breaking or original to me. Despite their simplicity, most of these top 5 lessons are found in countless individuals who routinely achieve their fitness goals.
I implore you to take the time to evaluate your own fitness lifestyle and overall health, and objectively analyze whether any of these lessons can positively impact your daily training habits!
Top 5 Lessons
#5 Chart Your Workouts to Tangibly Measure Progress
Are you old school? Or head over heels in love with technology? Or are you like me and like a blend of both? I personally love technology for monitoring my heart rate, my daily step total, tracking distance for runs and walks; but I love being old school for charting my workouts. From my first workouts that started this journey over 10 years ago, all the way up to the present day, I have charted my workouts in a marble composition notebook, with each day separated by post-it notes. (The reason I organize it like that, is so week to week I can just look directly above and see what my weights were.)
Part of my need to chart my weights is most likely rooted in the fact that I was a college athlete, and getting stronger was a necessity. Add in the fact that my sport in college was baseball, and it’s no wonder why I love analyzing my “stats” from the weight room. It is perfectly fine to not be as in love with this aspect of the process as I am, however, I do feel it is an extremely valuable component to your fitness routine, for 2 main reasons.
First, charting your weights will tangibly allow you to see your results. Are you having these types of conversations with yourself? “I’m pretty sure I just hit a PR for “x” rep total” or “I think I just finished that HIIT workout 1 minute quicker than last week.” By charting your weights, you take the guessing out of the equation, and you can tangibly see your results- or lack thereof! If you notice you’re not progressing in the right direction, then it’ll give you a quicker clue to get back to the drawing board and make an adjustment!
Secondly, I can personally say that having 10 years-worth of exercise journals on my book shelf is one of the most satisfying components of my fitness journey. There is certainly a pride factor in filling up a composition notebook, cover to cover with literally thousands of pounds worth of weights charted. No matter how successful you are in achieving your fitness goals, everyone has down days where you question what you’re doing and/or why you’re doing it- having these journals sitting on my bookshelf though has served as a source of motivation. Almost like an imaginary gym partner, the charting of my workouts has held me accountable for 10+ years and I don’t ever plan on changing.
*Side note- there are plenty of great apps (My Fitness Pal being one of them) that allow you to chart your workouts on a device of your choice. My preference is pen and paper, however, I know that is abnormal in 2020. Find an app that works for you, and you will still be able to reap the exact same benefits I outlined, just on a different platform!
(To see an in-depth look at the benefits of charting your workouts, click here)
#4 Don’t Major in the Minors
Regardless of whether your goal is to build muscle, burn fat or exercise for general health, there is one principle that holds true- do not major in the minors. In other words, you must spend the bulk of your time focusing on compound moves, as opposed to isolation work. (Reminder: compound moves are those that are multi-joint, versus isolation exercises, which are single joint.) Unless you are one of the fortunate few without a busy, structured, daily schedule, time is usually of the essence when it comes to working out. Your goal should be to spend around 45-60 minutes training, and that (combined with proper nutritional habits) should put you well on your way to achieving any goal. If there’s only a 45 minute window to train, you would be best served choosing exercises that provide the absolute most bang for your buck, to maximize every minute you’re in the gym.
Not every one of these movement patterns needs to be in every single lift. It very much depends on how you choose to organize your training days. For example, if you have a Full Body Training Split, 3 days per week, then you’ll want to hit each (or minimally most) of these in a workout. Conversely, if you’re training in an Upper/Lower split then you would break it up accordingly. Even if you break your workouts up into a Bodybuilding Style Split, you still need to put the emphasis on the compound moves. In other words, you shouldn’t be focusing on the Pec Deck or the Leg Extension machine until you’ve completed your Presses or Squats/Deadlifts respectively. Regardless of what muscle you’re aiming to build or develop, a compound move will almost always still develop it best. For example, a Supinated Grip Chin-Up is one of the best exercises for building your biceps. Similar, to a squat or lunge with proper depth being ideal for developing glutes.
Social media has done an incredible job connecting the world, however, it makes it extremely difficult for an individual to maintain a consistent routine, rooted in the basics. If you follow a decent amount of fitness pages, you can’t scroll through an Instagram feed without seeing several “new variations” of exercises. While this can be great for adding spice to your workout, it can also completely hijack your consistency in performing the basics. Like I mentioned in my last post regarding ‘growing your own personal Exercise Encyclopedia,’ it’s so important to know and be comfortable with variations, however, they should never take precedence over the major moves.
Objectively look at your workout and the exercises you are currently performing. Compare that with the amount of time you have to spend in the gym and ask yourself: ‘are you fully maximizing your time?’ Remember, compound moves build the most strength and muscle, burn the most calories and subsequently positively improve your metabolism the best. Never major in the minors!
#3 Supplementation is Extremely Overrated
There’s an adage regarding weight loss that says, “You’ll never out-train a bad diet.” The same is true regarding supplementation- you’ll never be able to use supplements to replace poor nutritional habits, or a lack of training. Over the years, I’ve been asked hundreds of times by clients and every day gym goers, what’s the best pre-workout/ post-workout/fat-loss/BCAA supplement etc.?
It’s admirable to ask a fitness professional this question and not just type it in on google, however, the answer has always been the same and most likely disappointing to them- it depends. Every single person is different and responds differently to supplementation. I usually recommend that before they start jumping off the deep end into the wild west of the supplement world, take an objective look at your training and nutritional habits first.
If you’re not eating or hydrating properly surrounding your training session, and you’re only doing 3 sets of 10 with sub-maximal weights, with your rest times being wildly inconsistent, then supplementation is not going to fix your lack of results. This is the “magic pill” syndrome, where most people are looking for the quick fix. They want that supplement “stack” that is going to just catapult them towards the results they want. Unfortunately I have bad news- there is no magic pill, or supplement stack- it begins and ends with YOU and the effort and commitment you put into training hard and eating right, most of the time.
Over the years I’ve taken many different pre, intra, and post-workout supplements, and yes I have some preferences that have certainly assisted in my performance and then recovery, however, when I first started 10 years ago, I did not take any supplements. I also always cycle off supplements as well- the bottom line is nothing you see in GNC or Vitamin World is FDA approved, and we don’t really know the long term effects on even the safest products on the shelf. The supplement industry (and fitness industry in general) are still in its infancy stages, so to be taking any supplement long-term, I feel is risky.
There are natural (and cheaper!) ways to achieve the same basic effects as some of the supplements you pay $30-$60 for. In lieu of a pre-workout, you can have an apple with peanut butter and some black coffee. Right there you’ve got some natural sugar (from the apple), protein and a little carbs from the peanut butter, and caffeine from the coffee. Yes, most pre-workouts have varying amounts of BCAA’s in them to assist in “muscle buffering capacity” (in other words, prevent the build up of lactic acid, and thus enhance performance). However, the research on BCAA’s is relatively inconclusive with their actual benefit in regards to supplementation. We produce essential amino acids continuously in our body, and ingest the rest through proper nutrition. I would argue, you’re need for a pre-workout would be more placebo-based than anything else.
Post-Workout (depending on the time of day you train) you can have a recovery meal, rather than a recovery shake. Eggs and oatmeal in the morning will give you protein and complex carbohydrates, while grilled chicken and brown rice give you an afternoon or evening option. The main purpose for taking a post-workout shake is to assist in the process of muscle recovery- helping to repair the broken-down muscle fibers. However, eating a meal high in protein with a side of complex carbohydrates, will just as effectively assist in muscle recovery- again without spending the large amount of money on a product that may or may not have the advertised ingredients! (Any supplement that is not 3rd party tested, has often been debunked on not having the amount of protein advertised on the label)
In conclusion, supplements can certainly assist in your fitness journey. However, they must be viewed strictly as supplemental to great training and nutritional habits. If you don’t have either of those, then there is no legal supplement in the world that will fix your issues. If you do find some supplement combinations that work for you, be sure to cycle off them for at least a month at a time to let your body reset. Listen to your body honestly and if you feel any sort of chest fluttering or GI distress, immediately stop taking the supplement and turn to a more natural option.
There is no magic exercise combination or one special diet that will make your fitness dreams a reality- in order to get your body to change, you must get yourself outside of your comfort zone. This should occur in the gym through vigorous exercise, in the kitchen by making proper nutritional choices and with recovery, by turning off the TV and getting the proper amount of sleep. (For my purposes, I want to focus on the training benefits of getting comfortable being uncomfortable!)
When you initially begin your fitness journey, doing 3 sets of 10 for sub-maximal weight for 6 or 8 exercises, each training session will yield results- especially if you were doing little to no weight training previously. However, after several weeks, your body will stop adapting and you’re going to start blaming things like genetics, or you’ll think you’re doing the wrong exercises. Your commitment will naturally start to wane, and next thing you know, you’ll be back to an inactive lifestyle, falling well short of achieving your goals.
In order to get your body to change, you must give it a reason to change. For example, if you want to break a PR on an exercise, training sub-maximally at higher rep ranges will not help you achieve your goal- you must train with your max weights, and push yourself beyond the point of failure (with the help of a spotter of course!). If your goal is to build muscle, then you can’t do individual exercises with just 3 sets of 10- you have to get outside your comfort zone. Add in volume by pairing exercises and perform additional sets, making your sets more like 5 x 12 or 6 x 10. In order to lose weight, there has to be components of your workout where your intensity is through the roof- whether that’s through a HIIT circuit, metabolic finisher, or sprint workout. Look at your workouts and honestly ask yourself, are you pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone?
Physical change will never occur comfortably. You’ve got to feel your muscles on fire at times, your lungs burning so bad your doubled over, or have a spotter help you complete a set. These are examples of living outside your comfort zone within the gym. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable will be initially challenging mentally. The key is being able to turn your brain off and push through the imaginary pain.
I say “imaginary” because when your muscles are burning from lactic acid, or your lungs are on fire because you’re sprinting or going so hard with an exercise- that’s pain that will immediately go away once the exercise is stopped. It’s important when you’re pushing yourself, to distinguish between this imaginary pain and “real pain.” Real pain would be a shooting sensation in your joints (knees, shoulders, elbows, ankles and lower back)- if you experience that type of pain- that is grounds for not pushing through. Understanding this key difference is essential in living outside of your comfort zone. Know that the burning of imaginary pain is only temporary, and once the set is concluded you’ll feel better, but not before your body has been given a reason to change!
Keep in mind, you cannot train exclusively outside of your comfort zone though- this would certainly be grounds for injury. You must pick your spots, whether it’s the last few sets of a sequence, or a metabolic finisher to the workout- those are great times to go beyond the point of failure. Having these moments within your workout will exponentially improve your mental state as well, because you’re performing a perfect simulation of life. You’re imposing controlled adversity upon yourself, understanding that it’s only temporary so you’ll continue to push through until the set is complete!
When people ask me how I’ve achieved the physical goals I’ve set for myself, my answer is extremely simple- when everyone else stopped at rep number 8, I’ve developed the ability to turn my mind off and push to 15. When everyone else was jogging for the last 30 seconds, I was all out sprinting until I couldn’t take another step. I implore you to give your muscles and your body a reason to change- and watch the results take off!
#1 Consistency is KING
In each of the lessons I’ve learned over the course of the last 10 years, there’s been one single underlying element, that has made all the difference: the ability to consistently repeat healthy habits. Every training goal I’ve set for myself, or clients, has been achieved through a commitment to consistent and positive action. Being capable of repeating healthy habits will make any fitness goal you set for yourself attainable.
Over the years, I have routinely fielded variations of the following questions:
“What is the best workout?”
“What is the best diet?”
“How many days per week should I be training?”
“How long should my training sessions be?”
“How can I lose weight/build muscle/gain strength?”
While there are individual nuances that go with each of these responses, there is one truth that is present in every single answer- CONSISTENCY IS KING. Whatever goal you have, and whatever route you chose to take to reach that goal, is your own individual decision. There may be a more efficient way or a safer way to reach your goal, however, there is really no wrong method- as long as you can be consistent.
In order to achieve your health and fitness goals you must be consistent in each of the following areas:
Being consistent with your recovery starts immediately after your training session. At the conclusion of your workout, it is imperative to rehydrate, and consume a protein filled meal or a shake. From there you must continue to stay hydrated throughout the day, and also take advantage of recovery methods such as foam rolling, extra stretching, a massage, hot bath, etc. The last piece to your daily recovery should be a commitment to getting a great night’s sleep.
Everyone is different regarding the amount of sleep they need; the old adage of adults needing 8 hours of sleep is not necessarily true (or sometimes realistic- if you’ve got a new born especially!). Some need 10 hours of sleep to function highly, while others only need 6. The biggest challenge for you, is to find the right amount of sleep that works for you, then work to consistently hit about that hour total every night. It will take diligence to turn off the tv and miss the end of a sporting event or show, BUT, consistently getting the proper amount of sleep will do wonders for how your body responds and recovers to vigorous training!
As I mentioned in my last post, it is important to view your eating habits as a nutritional lifestyle as opposed to a diet. Diets are short term, and often present a “restrictive mindset” regarding what you can’t eat. You don’t need to be perfect with your nutrition to get great results- you just need to be consistently good! My recommendation that I’ve used for years is make your goal to have 19 out of 21 meals per week be nutritious and wholesome meals- leaving you 2 flex options, that ideally you’d have on non-consecutive meals. If you make the proper nutritional choices 19 out of 21 times that leaves you at a 90% success rate- which combined with proper training habits, will over time yield sustainable and lasting results!
Also aim to be consistent with your meal timing- don’t bounce from intermittent fasting, to 6 meals per day to 3 meals per day- let your body get into a routine nutritionally as well. Commit to a style of eating, and stick with it for at least 4-8 weeks to evaluate the results and if it worked for you. Remember there’s no universal right or wrong style of eating; individually it depends on what you can do consistently for 6 months, a year, 5 years etc.
Training Frequency & Exercise Selection
I’d rather see a new client walk in the gym doors 3 days per week for 6 months than 6 days per week for 3 weeks. This is the ultimate test of slow and steady wins the race. The natural tendency, based on the type of society we live in, is that we want our fitness results yesterday! That desire must be put on the back burner- let it fuel your passion to keep showing up week in and week out. However, resist that temptation to hit two a-days 6 days per week. That is a recipe for burning yourself out, through either mental exhaustion or injury.
If you’re going from no activity to deciding it’s time to go to the gym, I’d start with 2 or 3 days per week. Especially if you’re resistance training, this will allow for the proper amount of recovery between sessions and it will also keep the entire process fresh (Remember, don’t confuse this recommendation with me saying you’re only getting 2 or 3 days worth of activity- I want you to have “Active Rest” on your days off from the gym as well). Gradually after a month or two of consistently hitting your 3 days per week, then maybe consider adding in an additional day. The worst thing you can do though, is go to the gym 6 days one week, 2 days the next then 4 days after that. Start small and work yourself up in gym frequency so your body can get into a routine as well as avoiding burning yourself out.
Once you’ve got your gym frequency down pat, it’s time to evaluate your exercise selection. It is important to always having your training sessions centered around fundamental movement patterns- regardless of your goal! The compound moves I mentioned before- squats, deadlifts, presses and rows- should be the basis for every training session. In order to achieve your goals, you must consistently perform these movement patterns with the proper variables (reps, sets, rest time). If you constantly are doing “new” workouts, with no emphasis on the fundamentals, then your body will never get stronger or progress in any one area. Essentially, you’d be spinning your wheels in terms of reaching your goals!
How to Become Consistent?
In order to become consistent in all 3 aspects of your fitness journey, you must fall in love with the process. As difficult as this might be, if you’re truly committed to your fitness goal, you must be invigorated to walk through those gym doors, or roll out your yoga mat, or meal prep your weekly meals. Some ways to help embrace and ultimately love the process, would be to clearly identify your “Why?” Are you exercising to fit into a wedding dress? Because a doctor showed you blood work results? You want to live a long and healthy life for your spouse and children? Your “Why” should give you goosebumps when you think about it, and should put some pep in your step when you think about the journey you are on.
The next key to being consistent is to set a workout time that is non-negotiable for you. As I’ve mentioned previously, I feel early morning workouts to be superior- mainly from a consistency standpoint. If you want to consistently complete your workouts, perform them early in the morning, before life can get in the way. If your fitness goal is important to you, you’ll make the lifestyle adjustments to make that happen.
The final aspect to making consistency king, is to always start small. In an instant gratification society, you must have patience and not burn yourself out. 10 years ago, I started exercising with a 3-day split with each workout being only 45 minutes. I did that for almost 3 months, before I only added in 1 more day. For years prior to this, I had been a yo-yo gym goer, where I was notorious for hitting 6 days per week and then I’d lose interest after about 3 weeks. Doing only 3 days per week, with quicker training sessions was perfect for me. It was enough time in the gym to start achieving short term goals, but it was also infrequent enough to keep everything fresh and not burn me out. When looking to build your consistency, start small and build a sturdy foundation in all aspects!
There are many aspects of my actual training style that have been tweaked and changed over the years. I’ve gone through different phases of bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, kettle bells and multiple Half Marathon Trainings. The lessons I’ve learned though have been intrinsic and present through each of these stages. These pillars have allowed me to achieve every fitness goal I’ve ever set for myself and help countless clients achieve theirs.
As I’ve mentioned multiple times, prior to 10 years ago, I was a Yo-Yo gym goer. These pillars have allowed for me to make fitness a priority in my life and never wander far from my goals. Since the health world is constantly evolving, I’m very much looking forward to the new lessons I will undoubtedly learn over the course of the next 10 years in the fitness industry!
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.
As gyms around the country begin to reopen, countless patrons will be clamoring to restart their normal fitness routines. One thing to be cognizant of though, is the danger in restarting an exercise program after an extended absence. Due to the layoff from resistance training, most individuals will be extremely susceptible to sustaining soft tissue injuries (muscle strains) as well as injuries surrounding joints. This is due to the likely atrophy of muscle fibers, in particular the small stabilizers surrounding joints. (Studies have shown that muscle atrophy, or the loss of muscle, can begin to occur after only 1 week of inactivity!)
Even if you did a great job of exercising during quarantine, more than likely you were not able to train with the same intensity or frequency that you would normally, in a gym setting. Therefore, it is imperative to be careful about the exercises you select, the intensity you use, as well as the frequency at which you attend the gym- minimally for the first 2-4 weeks- in order to avoid muscle strains or impact related injuries. While a return to the gym is so exciting for many, it should be made clear how physically vulnerable you are to an injury at this juncture. Enduring an injury now will only further delay your ability to be in the gym on a consistent basis.
Once your local gym reopens, I implore you to keep the following principles in mind to assist in keeping you free from potential injuries!
#1. You’re Not Going to Get It All Back in One Workout…or The First Week!
Unless you were fortunate enough to have a full home-gym set up with access to your normal equipment and weights, more than likely you’ve experienced some sort of regression in the last 8-10 weeks. Whether that has been strength loss, muscle loss or weight gain- it is imperative that you understand, you will not make up for 2 months-worth of missed or subpar workouts in your first session.
As difficult as this may be to accept, you’ve got to start back at square one with all aspects of your exercise program. IF you follow this principle, the strength/muscle gains and fat loss will happen before you know it. However, if you try to jump right back in where you left off, while also adding in 2 a-days for 6 days, you will more than likely be burned out or hurt after 2 weeks.
It is imperative you take it slow upon your gym return because when you perform resistance training, you are breaking down muscle fibers while also putting various levels of stress on joints, tendons and ligaments in your body as well. By taking a prolonged hiatus from resistance training, the small muscles surrounding your joints have most likely become weak and underactive. Therefore, it is imperative that you start slowly and give yourself plenty of recovery in between training sessions to allow for the body to begin the adaptation process again.
Strive initially to make small and sustainable changes to your fitness routine. If you were exercising 1-3 days per week during quarantine, don’t exceed 3 days per week at the gym initially- even if you were previously a 5 or 6 day per week gym-goer, I would highly recommend not jumping right back into that full schedule. Be sure to give yourself a full 24 hours between training sessions to allow for your body to properly heal and recover. In addition, you should also strive to make your workouts efficient and no more than 45 minutes. It doesn’t matter if before quarantine you spent 90 minutes-2 hours in the gym daily- by beginning with 45-minute workouts you will be able to focus on getting in high quality training sessions without having unnecessary amounts of volume.
Each week you continue going to the gym post-quarantine, you can add in a day of training or extend your workouts by a few minutes, but be sure to make your changes incrementally. Going from one extreme to another, will only cause a physical breakdown of your joints, tendons and ligaments that will eventually lead to a burned out feeling mentally as well.
#2. Don’t Forget What You Learned About Exercise During Quarantine
Just because you will once again have access to equipment you likely didn’t have in your homes, doesn’t mean you should immediately ditch the exercises that have gotten you through the last 2 months. The fundamental moves that you had to turn to during quarantine- such as squats, lunges, push-ups and planks- should not be discarded. These basic moves will provide you with foundational strength, expose mobility issues and provide a great metric for progress.
Your bodyweight squats will likely turn into resisted squats and your push-ups will transition into a multitude of press variations, however, don’t discard the value of keeping fundamental body weight moves within your workout (A great place to implement them would be an extension of your dynamic warm-up).
In addition, hopefully these last several weeks you’ve also incorporated a degree of mobility work to your routine as well. It would be remiss of you to let any mobility gains you’ve made, fall by the wayside, because mobilization will allow for better movement- which in turn will help keep you free of injury. (If you didn’t add in mobility work these last 2 months, I highly encourage you to do so upon returning to the gym, to further assist in injury prevention) You should make a concerted effort to implement mobility work during warm-ups, rest periods or cool-down stretching periods- every training session! (To read more about a simple yet effective mobility sequence, click here)
#3. Be Prudent with Your Exercise Selection
When restarting your fitness routine, the basics should be your central focus. If you’re performing a full body training split (which would be my recommendation initially), each session should have the following:
Horizontal Pull (BB Bent Over Row, Single Arm DB Row, Chest Supported DB Row)
Vertical Press (BB Overhead Press, Split Stance DB Shoulder Press)
Vertical Pull (NG Lat Pulldown, Pull-Up, Chin-Up)
Bracing Core (Plank Variations)
Rotational Core (Medicine Ball Slams, Rope Chops)
Loaded Carry (DB Farmers Walk)
The above categories don’t necessarily need to be in that order, and they can also be supersetted to assist in the efficiency of the workout. These parameters will help form the perfect outline for an effective and safe, full-body workout.
When restarting a training program, I feel that a Full Body Training split is especially effective because you’re maximizing the metabolic benefit of the workout. Rather than spending time performing isolation moves, your focus should be on exercises that give you the most “bang for your buck.” In this case big, compound moves will be your best bet.
Consider implementing as much unilateral work as possible initially as well. (Just a review- unilateral exercises are those that are performed either on one leg or with one arm) Unilateral work is superior to bilateral work when restarting your exercise routine for one main reason: unilateral work is less compressive, and you can easily put joints in safer positions.
(For a complete breakdown on the benefits of unilateral training, click here)
If you’ve been largely sedentary for the last 2 months, jumping right into Back Squats, RDL’s and BB Bent Over Rows, is a recipe for a tight lower back that could impact your next training session. Instead, choose the unilateral moves which have less compression through the spine- such as a Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat, Single Arm Single Leg RDL and a Single Arm DB Row. You’re still hitting a variation of each category, however, it’s a more structurally safe option- to start! (Just because I recommend beginning unilaterally, doesn’t mean you should never Back Squat again)
A Single Arm DB Chest Press, or Half Kneeling DB Shoulder Press will also allow you to press from a neutral grip position- which puts your shoulder at an anatomically more favorable position than with a barbell. When restarting your gym exercise routine, having joint integrity while pressing is crucial because of the potential loss in strength of the shoulder stabilizers during the last 2 months. Again, not to say you should never do a Barbell Bench Press again, however, taking the first 4 weeks back in the gym to press unilaterally from a neutral grip position will pay massive dividends in the long run for your shoulder health.
#4. Be Cautious with Volume and Intensity
This principle is an extension of small, sustainable changes. When you go from doing little to no resistance training to an excessive amount, you will undoubtedly set yourself up for injury. When you initially return to the gym, 3-4 working sets of each exercise will be plenty to get a high-quality workout, but also avoid traumatizing your body. If you normally train with high volume, you could certainly add a set or two in each week you continue your gym routine. The key is not jumping into a high-volume training program after you’ve been away from resistance training for 2 months.
The same caution should be used when considering what intensity you should be training at initially as well. If you haven’t been resistance training with your normal weights, you shouldn’t be anywhere near the 85-90% of a max at any rep scheme the first month or two. Even if you’re usually a “max strength” trainee, who spends most of their workouts in that percentage range, you should consider dropping down into more of a hypertrophy range of 65-80% to safeguard yourself against injury.
Considering your strength numbers are most likely completely different now, a better way to think about training percentages currently is- you should be able to perform at least 2 additional reps for each set. This is considered sub-maximal training and certainly is not conducive for long-term strength gains. However, in terms of a safe reintroduction to resistance training, this is your best bet. Not so much for your muscles- which would be able to handle the load, and would adapt relatively quickly- the concern should be more about the health of your joints, tendons and ligaments. It is these areas that will bark and break down and lead to an even longer time away from the gym. Training sub-maximally at first will allow for you to ease back into lifting your normal weights- in time!
#5. Don’t Forget the Value of Exercising Outdoors
One of the most beautiful silver linings to CO-VID 19 is the amount of appreciation “being outdoors” has garnished. Whether you’re dragging your yoga mat and dumbbells outside and doing your workout in the backyard, or you go for a post-dinner walk to get some fresh air- outdoor activity is being yearned for across the country.
Just because your local gym reopens, I urge you to not forget the benefit of being outside. Physically, being outdoors and absorbing the sun’s UVB rays will enhance your body’s Vitamin D production, but it also helps you mentally as well. Getting lungs full of fresh air, hearing birds chirping, seeing neighbors (albeit from a distance) are all ‘normal’ aspects of life that you can maintain. The most common question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is “when will society return to normal?” The answer to that is so unclear, that you’d be best served mentally to instead look for aspects of life that ‘normal’ still does exist. Thankfully, this virus hasn’t altered our natural surroundings. Get in nature and revel in the normalcy and beauty of spring and summertime.
With the outline I’ve provided, I’m recommending maximally only working out the number of days per week that you exercised during quarantine. This will most likely leave a few days per week that would require some non-exercise active rest. These days would be your best opportunity to continue your commitment to being outside. Whether it’s a bike ride, walk, light jog or some stretching outside- do yourself a favor, both mentally and physically, stay committed to spending time outdoors, even when your normal gym routine resumes.
The reopening of gyms across the country is a great first step in a return to normalcy for many of us. Unless you’ve been injured before, many of the most ardent gym-rats have never been away from a gym setting for this long. Therefore, from novices to the most experienced weight lifters, returning to the gym after this 8-10-week layoff, should be treated as a very delicate process.
In order to remain injury-free, you must have patience regarding the results, persistence with consistently getting to the gym and hammering basic movement patterns, as well as prudence with your judgement on exercise selection, volume and intensity. The first month back into your gym routine will be the most arduous as your body readapts to the demands placed upon it. While the injuries you may be exposing yourself to are not overly “serious” (muscle/ligament strains and acute joint pain) they will hamper your return by potentially forcing you to miss training sessions, or alter your exercise technique to avoid pain- which will ultimately lead to more injuries down the road.
One of the best ways to be successful in almost any aspect of fitness is to “leave your ego at the door.” This will be especially true upon your return to the gym- if you get caught up in what weights you’re lifting, or how quickly you fatigue, you’ll most likely get frustrated and try to prematurely speed up the process. Understand that almost everyone is in the same boat- embrace the challenge of starting at square one, and rebuild yourself from the ground up!
Stay Safe and Be Smart!
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.
If you are normally a hard gainer, whose goals revolve around filling out t-shirts or yoga pants, then this is an especially difficult time for you. If you were like the majority of the population who was a day or week late to Amazon, Rogue or Dick’s Sporting Goods, you’re most likely left with a Home Gym set up that doesn’t come close to including the normal weights you would use at the gym.
Maybe you have a single kettle bell, some bands, or a pair of light dumbbells- whatever you currently have access to, it most likely doesn’t compare to the variety of weights or machines you’re accustomed to using in a commercial gym. This is going to make it difficult to continue with your goal of strength, power or muscle gains.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do, is accept the following:
Temper your goals to align with your current situation.
In other words, if your goal was to hit a PR in Squats or Bench Press by June 1st, understand that this is most likely no longer a reality. Instead, focus instead on goals such as:
Logging quality workouts daily that elevate your heart rate
Perfecting basic body weight moves
Smooth movement patterns
Enhancing your mobility and flexibility
Adding an unfamiliar component to your workout- such as cardio
Unfortunately, 5 x 5 rep schemes just won’t work when you only have light weights to deal with. Therefore, you must display a level of adaptability with your goals and adjust to your own individual scenario. Understand that this period of social distancing will most likely result in [hopefully] maintaining the “gains” you’ve made in previous months or years in the gym- but you can also use this time away from the gym as a way to reinvent yourself by adding in new components that will benefit your future workouts.
3- C’s to Maximizing a Quarantine Workout- Circuits/Complexes/Combo Moves
#1 Circuit Training Will Make Up for Missed Intensity
If you’re not accustomed to circuit training, you may think it’s “stupid” or “only for people who are trying to be skinny.” Unfortunately, this is a very short-sighted and close-minded opinion on a style of exercising that will automatically give you intensity. With your normal intensity most likely lacking – due to not having access to heavy dumbbells, barbells or machines- it is imperative to figure out ways to mimic your normal workout’s intensity. Otherwise, you will certainly not make progress in any area, and you’ll also most likely lose interest in home workouts altogether because your workouts just won’t have the normal challenge that you’re accustomed to.
Why does circuit training possess the potential to make up for missing intensity? Because you’re quickly moving from one move to another with varying amounts of rest time in between. You’ll also be able to pre-fatigue muscles and get them working much harder than if you were to just do straight sets or traditional super-sets. By moving quickly through the workout, you’re going to be elevating your heart rate, and increasing the metabolic demands placed on your body.
The circuits you create don’t have to be full body- even though they possess a great option to alternate between upper and lower body throughout the sequence. You can do upper body circuits, lower body circuits or core circuits- each of these will maximize the minimal equipment and space you have access to.
In order to create your own circuit, you first need to identify what equipment you have. Is it just going to be bodyweight? Or do you have a few sets of dumbbells? Next, you have to determine how long you want the circuit to be (in terms of number of exercises). Anywhere between 4 and 10 exercises will provide you with a circuit that should match your ability. Then, you need to figure out your variables- specifically your work and rest time.
When performing circuit style training, the best results are usually seen when timing yourself and trying to perform as many quality reps as possiblein an allotted time.These timed sets can be anywhere from 20-40 seconds long- depending on ability and the complexity of the moves. If you’re alternating between an upper body move and a lower body move, then your rest time can be minimal to nothing. However, if you’re doing high intensity, full body moves (such as a kettle bell swing, medicine ball slam, squat jumps) then you’ll want to lean more towards a 2:1 work: rest ratio. Finally, determine how many sets you want to do. Depending on time constraints, and how many exercises you’ve included, I’d recommend between 3 and 5 rounds to start.
#2 Use Complexes to Maintain Strength Levels and Intensity
The next step on the difficulty spectrum would be integrating complexes in your home training. Complexes can be done with either dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or even body weight. For this purpose, though I’m going to focus on complexes that can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells. The idea behind performing a true “complex” is performing 3-6 strength moves and not putting the weight down until the set is complete. This is an off-shoot of circuit training but lends more towards strength training and possesses even greater metabolic potential- due to the ‘heavier weight’ being moved.
Complexes can be organized a few different ways as well. They can focus on one muscle group, or they can be full body. It’s completely up to you and how you’ve organized your own training split.
Not everyone will have the potential to do complexes right now, due to the variation in exercise equipment you currently have access to. If you do have some sort of external weights though, consider integrating complexes into your daily workouts because they will exponentially increase the difficulty of your workout!
Challenge yourself to not put the barbell down, and perform between 5 and 15 reps of each movement, depending on your ability and the amount of weight you have access to.
I’m notoriously leery of “combo moves” under normal circumstances. My main reason for this is because combination moves, generally mean you’re short changing yourself in one of the moves. However, due to the fact that these are extremely abnormal circumstances, you have to find ways to create intensity with your workouts- and integrating safe combo moves are a great way.
A combination move, is when you take 2 strength moves that would normally be done alone, and combined them into one move. This is extremely beneficial right now, because most people don’t have access to heavy weights. Combo moves will provide a method to make a pair of 15’s or 20’s feel significantly heavier.
I implore you though, when performing combination moves, be safe. If the weight feels like it’s too much for a move, shut it down and do something different. If you continue to practice perfect form with the optimal weight, combination moves will provide a tremendous boost to your workouts as well- especially by adding them into a circuit!
While the training methods I’ve outlined above, may not fully align with your normal goals, they will provide the intensity that your current home workouts are lacking. By implementing these methods you will be able to maintain your strength levels and stay afloat during this time away from your full gym arsenal.
In order to be successful though, you must leave your ego at the door. If you’re someone who says “I only strength train, I never do cardio…” But you also only have access to 10 LB dumbbells right now, then your workouts are going to suffer tremendously. It’s perfectly fine to ditch every one of these training methods as soon as the gym lights come back on, however, in this moment these methods will allow you to maintain high levels of workout intensity with sub-maximal weights.
When performing any of these methods though, listen to your body. If something feels easy continue to tweak variables. Consider increasing the reps, the work time or decrease the rest time. Conversely, if something feels overly challenging, make the necessary adjustments so you’re still performing your workouts safely and with anatomical integrity.
Keep in mind, just because it’s “lighter weight” doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. Allow Circuits, Complexes and Combo moves to increase your workout intensity while always maintaining proper form! Be a “fitness chameleon” and adapt to the environment you currently have access to; this adaptability will ultimately allow for you to hit the ground running with your fitness goals when society returns to normal.
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.