Home Posts tagged "Workout Routines"

Workout Routines: 6 Tips for Adjusting to Exercise in the Morning

We are creatures of habit - not only psychologically and socially, but physiologically as well.  If you need proof, all you have to do is read up on shift work disorder, which shows that simply changing one's sleep and work schedule can have some profound consequences for our health.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that changing the time of day when one's workout routine takes place is a huge deal for everything from mood to performance.  Perhaps the most common adjustment that takes place is when someone decides to exercise in the morning.  It may be because a long day at work is too exhausting to be 100% when you hit the gym after it's over, or you may just not want to wait for equipment access in a crowded gym at 6PM.  Or, it could be because a parent is super busy with kids' after-school activities, so first thing in the morning before they wake up is the best bet for getting in a strength and conditioning program.

Whatever the reason, the adjustment to exercise in the morning is without a doubt the toughest "time change" one could make.  With that in mind, here are five keys to making it a smooth transition:

1. Get to bed earlier.

This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how many people complain that they can't get results from exercise in the morning without realizing that they're still going to be far too late at night.

If you're someone who is accustomed to sleeping 12AM-8AM, then racing to be to work at 9AM, it's going to be an adjustment if you want to start training at 6AM before you head to work.  You're only making it tougher if you decide that you're simply going to sleep 12AM-5AM. It's also going to crush your productivity for the rest of the day, as you'll be sleep walking rather than enjoying the post-exercise energy boost most people experience.  If you want to be up at 5AM or 6AM to train, you've got to be in bed by 10PM.  In fact, I always tell my athletes that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight.

2. Stand up for a bit.

Dr. Stuart McGill has made some fantastic observations on spine stiffness first thing in the morning. In a nutshell, when we lay down to sleep at night, our spine is decompressed, so the intervertebral discs actually collect water.  This increased hydration status builds annular tension within the discs, and makes the spine stiffer overall.  This isn't a good kind of stiffness, though; more stress is placed on the ligaments and discs than the soft tissue structures that typically protect them.

Simply standing upright and moving around decreases the hydration status of the discs - and, in the process, actually makes us shorter as the day goes on! While I don't know of many people that want to get shorter, the good news is that this height reduction reduces the spine stiffness and allows us to move the spine more safely and effectively.  While disc hydration diminishes over the course of the entire day, the majority of it occurs in the first hour that we're awake.

With this in mind, you're someone with a history of back pain, you're probably best off not incorporating exercise in the morning, especially if your workout routine includes a lot of bending and rotating.  If you're going for a walk or light jog, though, it's probably not a big deal.

Conversely, if you're someone who plans to use some of these more challenging compound movements and have to exercise in the morning, I'd encourage you to get up 30 minutes early and just focus on standing up, whether it's to read the paper, pack your lunch, or take the dog for a walk.

3. Take a hot shower before exercise in the morning.

One of the biggest struggles a lot of folks encounter is getting warmed up in the morning.  Folks usually turn the heat down at night while they're asleep, and it's obviously colder outside at nighttime.  You might think I'm nuts, but hopping out of bed and into a hot shower is a great "body temperature transition" strategy that bridges the gap between bed and exercise.  And, since you'll be standing in the shower, it also helps to accomplish tip #2 from above!

It only has to be 25-30 seconds to get your body temperature up a bit, and then you can take your "real" shower after you sweat up a storm.  As an alternative to shower #1, you can always splash some hot water on your face and drink a cup of coffee.  There's no way you're getting out of shower #2, though, Smelly.

4. Extend the warm-up.

In line with points #2 and #3, it's a good idea to add a few more dynamic warm-up drills to your pre-exercise routine.  Typically, our athletes do between eight and ten drills, but those who exercise in the morning are better off with as many as 15.  It might add five minutes to your dynamic warm-up, but that's far better than spending far more than five minutes in physical therapy for an injury you got from insufficiently warming up!

In line with tip #2 from above, you likely want to focus on more standing variations in your mobility exercise selections.

For some additional options on mobility drills, check out Assess and Correct: Breaking Barriers to Unlock Performance.

5. Tinker with various nutrition approaches.

I've heard thousands of different nutritional strategies outlined for those who want to exercise in the morning, but the truth is, everyone is different.  I have known folks who will throw up anything solid that they consume prior to exercise, and others (myself included) who could eat a giant breakfast and keep it down just fine.  For most, I think sipping on a shake as you start the training session is a good place to start.  If you handle that fine, you can consider having some solid food before the training session, if you find that you're hungry in the middle of the training session.

6. Recruit a training partner.

A training partner is almost always a good idea, but this is especially true when you're up at the buttcrack of dawn and not necessarily in the mindset to really push yourself.  Plus, when you're awake for exercise before the sun rises, you're far more likely to hit the snooze button if someone isn't waiting for you at the gym.

While training first thing in the morning isn't exactly ideal, it may be your only option for staying consistent with your workout routine - and consistency is the name of the game.  Implement these strategies to get the most out of your early morning training sessions.

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Why Your Workout Routine Shouldn’t Be “Routine”

Last Saturday night, the power went out at our house thanks to a rare October snowstorm in New England. Expecting it to come back on pretty quickly, I went to bed Saturday night assuming I’d wake up to a normal Sunday morning.

Instead, I woke up and it was 49 degrees in my house. And, that wound up being par for the course through Tuesday at about 4pm. No hot showers, no refrigeration, no coffee in the morning: it makes you realize how much you take some things for granted.

It’s not all that different than what you’ll hear from injured and sick athletes. We always just believe that we’re going to be healthy – and it’s that assumption that leads us to put too much weight on the bar and lift with poor technique, have the extra beer, go to bed an hour later, or make any of a number of other small, but crucial decisions that interfere with our short- and long-term health, and the continuity in our workout "routines."

I wish I’d foam rolled even when I wasn’t in pain.

I wish I’d done that dynamic flexibility warm-up even when I just wanted to get in and lift.

I wish I’d eaten my vegetables even though I was just trying to shovel in as much calories as I could in my quest to get strong and gain muscle.

These are all things I've heard from injured people. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Some of these decisions are made out of negligence, but often, they’re made simply because folks don’t know about the right choices. I mean, do you think this guy would really continue doing this if he thought it was good for his body?

Nobody is immune to ignorance; we’ve all “been there, done that.”

Almost a decade ago, I had no idea how much soft tissue work, high volumes of horizontal pulling, and thoracic spine mobility drills could do to help my shoulder. It’s why I stumbled through fails attempts at physical therapy with that shoulder back in 2000-2003, only to accidentally discover how to fix it with my own training in time to cancel my shoulder surgery.

Back in that same time period, nobody ever told me how eating more vegetables would help take down the acidity of my diet, or that Vitamin D status impacted tissue quality and a host of other biological functions. I never knew most fish oil products you could buy are woefully underdosed and of poor quality. Now, I crush Vitamin D, fish oil, and Athletic Greens on top of a healthy diet that’s as much about nutrient quality as it is about caloric content and timing.

In short, I didn’t know everything then, and while I know a lot more now, I still don’t claim to have all the answers. Nobody has all of them. So what do you do to avoid taking important things for granted?

Get around people who have “been there, done that.” Ask questions. Follow workout routines they’ve followed, and consult resources they’ve consulted. I touched on this in my webinars last week.

I also discussed this topic in a blog about strength and conditioning program design a while back. The best way to avoid making mistakes and taking things for granted is to be open-minded and learn from other people.

With that in mind, let’s use this post as a starting point. What mistakes have you made when it comes to taking things for granted? And, what lessons have you learned? Post your comments below.

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Experience Doesn’t Come Easily When It Comes to Strength and Conditioning Programs

As I sat down to write this blog, I recalled a quote I heard some time ago, but only with a quick Google search did I discover that it came from Pete Seeger: "Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't." Seeger might be in his 90s and done singing, this quote definitely still resounds - and will continue to do so - in the field of strength and conditioning, even if that wasn't his intention. I think one of the reasons it gets us thinking so much is that there really isn't a lot of fine print to read; the strength and conditioning field is still in its infancy, especially since there was very little research in this area before the 1980s.  And, just when we think we learn something and publish it in the textbook, we discover that it's completely false (the lactic acid debacle was a great example).   Moreover, we're dealing with constantly changing demographics; as examples, obesity is rising dramatically, and early youth sports specialization is destroying kids' bodies and fundamentally changing the way that they develop (examples here and here).

So, it's hard to learn how to do things the right way (or at least head in that direction) when the information wasn't available - and the population to which it applies is constantly changing.  It's like trying to change the tire on a moving car - and doing so without having instructions on how to use the jack in the first place. Moreover, even when the information is out there, we appreciate that no two people respond to the same stimulus in the same way - and my experiences with baseball players with elbow pain serves as a great example.  I've seen dozens of post Tommy John surgery athletes in my career.  Some start throwing before the three-month mark, and others aren't throwing until six months post-op.  Everyone heals differently - and even once they get back to throwing, every guy is unique.  Some have more shoulder stiffness than elbow stiffness after the long layoff, where it might be vice versa for other guys.  Additionally, many post ulnar nerve transposition pitchers have a lot of elbow stiffness when they return to throwing at 6-12 weeks post-op, while others have absolutely zero complications with their return-to-throwing progression.

If the game is changing, and we never really knew what the game was in the first place - and each person is unique, what do we do?

The only thing we can do is draw on personal experience and the lessons that it's provided to us.

To that end, if you're an up-and-comer in the field, you have to look at continuing education as a multi-pronged approach.  You've got to read the textbooks and stay on top of the most up-to-date research, but you also have to be "in the trenches" to test-drive concepts and see how they work. If you're not in the industry - but want to make sure that you're getting the best possible strength and conditioning programs - you need to seek out expert advice from someone who has "been there, done that."  Honestly would you want to be on the table for a surgeon's first surgery? I know I wouldn't. A final option, at the very least, is to educate yourself fully on how to write your own workout routines. That's one reason why I created two free webinars for you: The #1 Reason You Are Not Making Progress and How to Create a Real Strength and Conditioning Program. You can check them both out HERE at absolutely no charge.  I'd just ask that you help spread the word with a Facebook "like" or comment or "Tweet" if you enjoyed what you saw.

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Strength and Conditioning Programs: Eliminate Distractions to Gain Muscle, Lose Fat, Get Strong, and Take Over the World

As most of you are probably aware, Hurricane Irene worked its way up the East coast of the U.S. this past weekend and really threw people for a loop with flooding, power outages, fallen trees, and all sorts of damages.  My wife and I got off pretty easily; we just had to go eight hours on Sunday without power - a far cry from what a lot of other folks encountered.  And, our dog, Tank, was entertained all day as he played weatherdog and stared the window to watch the rain.

Oddly enough, those eight hours proved to be wildly productive for me.  Thanks to a fully charged laptop battery, I was able to write a half dozen programs for clients, a blog, and the introduction of a new article for T-Nation.  I read over 100 pages in a book, took a nap, and even went over to Cressey Performance to get a day ahead on my strength training program...in the dark and without music (for the record, this is one more reason free weights are better than machines: no electricity needed).

In short, it was an extremely productive day for me in comparison to typical Sundays in spite of the fact that the weather outside was miserable and it would have been very easy to get antsy from "cabin fever."  What made this day so much more productive than many others for me?

There were zero distractions.

No Facebook and no twitter.  No emails or text messages.  No television or phone calls. No absurdly painful "I feel like I'm shopping at Old Navy" techno playing on Tony's iPod.  It was absolute bliss.

Now, don't get me wrong; human interaction is a huge part of my daily life as a coach, writer, consultant, and barrel-chested freedom fighter.  I don't just sit inside and think of ways to avoid human interaction so that I can be more productive.  However, some peace and quiet sure is nice - and that's why, in fact, that this blog is being written at 6:40AM.  It's an empty house with complete silence.  In a few minutes, I'll head over to the facility - an empty facility with complete silence.  A good hour or so in there before anyone else arrives gives me the leg-up on the day that I need to be productive.

It's taken me 360 words to get to my point, but the take home message is very simple:

If you want to be successful in your
strength and conditioning programs,
get rid of the distractions around you.

I talk to athletes about how everything they do takes them one step closer to their goals - or one step further away.  Each decision they make should be a calculated choice that weighs pros and cons in the context of their goal.

For instance, a training partner can be a great addition to a strength and conditioning program - but it can be an unbelievable failure if that individual is always late for training, gets too chatty between sets, or is an inattentive spotter.   That's a distraction that you have complete control over keeping or removing from your life.  A bad one can destroy you - but a great one can be a huge advantage.

However, most distractions aren't so easy to eliminate.  Family life, work, injuries, car troubles, inclement weather, busy gyms, and a host of other factors can all create stressful distractions that interfere with progress.  The most successful clients I've encountered are the ones who understand how to balance all these competing demands and keep distraction out of the task at hand - whether it's lifting or working on a big project.

Here are my top five suggestions on how to get rid of or manage some of the most common distractions and inconveniences that can sabotage your strength training program.

1. Leave your cell phone in the car - I can say without wavering that this is the single-biggest distraction I see nowadays, as mine rings off the hook on most days.  However, back in March, I went nine days without mine while I was in Costa Rica and the world didn't end.  I'm happy to report that shutting yours off for 90 minutes won't lead to any catastrophes - and you'll get strong in the process.  This sign over the gym entrance at CP says it all.

2. Always have a plan B - If you train in a busy commercial gym at peak hours, you know it can be pretty tough to get access to the exact equipment you need.  Rather than stand around and wait 15-20 minutes for it, your best bet is to go into the session knowing what would be a suitable replacement for each strength exercise.  The chest-supported row is taken? No worries; here's a blog with a few good substitutes: No Chest-Supported Row? No Problem.

Here are a few other posts along these lines that might interest you:

High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 1 (No Access to Dumbbells)
High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 2 (External Rotations without Cables)
High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 3 (Pushup Variations)
High Performance Training without the Equipment - Part 4 (More Pushup Variations)

The point is that no matter how busy your gym gets, there is always a plan B.  In fact, post a comment with the most common "shortcoming" you have in terms of equipment access, and I'll devote a future blog to the topic, outlining several potential substitutes for you.  I like a good challenge.

3. When injured, there is always something you can do to get better - To be blunt, there is nothing that bothers me more in this world than people who constantly piss and moan about their circumstances.  I've read that Walt Disney was once so broke that he ate dog food.  Years back, Donald Trump went billions of dollars into combined business and personal debt - and he's certainly turned out okay.  Thomas Edison was yanked out of school at a young age because his teachers thought he was stupid - and he went on to teenage years in the workforce that consisted of being fired multiple times.  Tiger Woods missed a big chunk of time - and an absurd amount of money - when he had his ACL reconstruction.

You, on the other hand, are going to turn into Johnny Raincloud because you have tennis elbow and can't do your curls for a week?  Cry me a river...somewhere else, please.

Put on a happy face and magical things happen.  Figure out what you can do - and then do it.

Quit your complaining; whining is just your way of distracting yourself.

For more on this topic, check out Strength Training Programs: When Did "Just Rest" Become a Viable Option?

4. Have home training options - There are going to be times when life simply gets in the way of what you had planned.  Maybe it's a sick kid at home or inclement weather that prevents you from getting to the gym.  At these times, it's incredibly advantageous to have some equipment (or body weight training templates in mind) that you can use to ensure that your strength and conditioning program doesn't miss a beat.  Some kettlebells can be great, and I'm a big fan of the TRX.  In fact, I liked it so much that I brought mine to Costa Rica, and when combined with sprinting on the beach, we had great training sessions all week.

 5. Communicate with those around you - I think that one of the reason that some folks have issues with distractions with respect to exercise is that they don't clearly relate to those around them that it's important to them.  Most people find time for training instead of making time for it.  If it's important to you, block it off in your schedule and let those around you know that this is the case; they'll be more respectful of your "important time" and let you do your thing unless an emergency comes up.

These five tips are, of course, just a few of the many ways that you can eliminate distractions from your strength and conditioning programs.  What strategies have you found to be useful when it comes to keeping your focus?

Related Posts
Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation - Part 1
Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation - Part 2


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Strength and Conditioning Programs: The Most Important Benefit

This past weekend, my wife and I headed down to Pennsylvania for some friends’ wedding.  On Saturday morning, I awoke at 7AM to her standing next to my bed absolutely covered in sweat and wearing her workout clothes.  As it turns out, knowing that the weekend would be full of not-so-healthy food and limited opportunities to exercise, Anna had taken the bull by the horns and hit up the hotel gym at 6AM to kick her day off right.  It's no surprise, as she spends quite a bit of time at Cressey Performance.

That, in itself, isn’t a particularly riveting story to kick off today’s blog – until I discovered that the only thing this hotel gym had was an elliptical, recumbent bike, and treadmill.  And, to take it a step further, Anna discovered that there was no power for any of them, meaning that they were essentially just places to rest her water bottle.  What to do? She could have said screw it and gone back to bed. She could have woken me up and asked me to write her a body weight program. She could have tried to run on the side of a busy road, or find a place to sprint in a town that wasn’t familiar to her. Instead, though, she used the knowledge and experience she had to construct her own body weight training program.  Anna’s an optometrist, not a trainer – but her skill set from asking questions, being in the right environment, and performing dozens of programs put her in a position to handle the curveballs life threw at her.

Coincidentally, a strength coach from the Cape Cod Summer League came up to observe at CP last week, and we got to talking about how you never quite have the continuity you want with training athletes because they go in-season for a big chunk of the year, and because you’re always working around competition and travel schedules.  To that end, he asked me what the single biggest thing is that we focus on when we may only have someone for a short period of time.  My answer? “It’s the same thing we focus on when we have someone for a longer period of time: education.  It’s our job to make athletes informed consumers who know how to listen to their body, adapt to their surroundings, eat the right foods, get the right amount of sleep, and do the correct programs regardless of what’s going on around them.” You might think that your #1 job as a trainer is to strip 15 pounds of body fat off someone in two months.  Or, maybe it’s to put four inches on a guy’s vertical jump prior to a scouting combine. In reality, though, your #1 priority is to educate them so that they’re prepared for the days that they’re on their own. Education needs to be different for everyone, though.  A true beginner needs to be educated on everything from what to eat during/post-training to how to perform the actual exercises.  If you teach a female client to have a protein and carb shake around a session in a weight training program, then chances are that she would eventually know to grab some Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit if a shake isn’t handy when she’s on the road.  Or, if you teach a young baseball player how to do a dumbbell reverse lunge and a front squat, then he’ll be able to perform a barbell reverse lunge with a front squat grip someday when he needs a good single-leg exercise, but only has barbells at the exclusion of dumbbells.

A more advanced individual might want to know more about his/her unique muscle imbalances and what corrective mobility and stability drills to stay on top of to prevent problems from arising.  Or, these folks might just want to make use of your network to find great gyms and manual therapists in other parts of the country so that they can stay on top of their workout routines while on the road.

Results are fantastic and obviously an absolutely essential part of a successful strength and conditioning program.  However, if you aren’t educating folks along the way, then you’re not cultivating the long-term fitness success they really need, even if they don’t think to consider anything beyond short-term results. What do you think are the most important things we absolutely have to teach our clients and athletes to ensure long-term success?  And, what are the most overlooked things they need to learn to be successful over the long haul?  Post your comments below! Related Posts What a Stressed Out Bride Can Teach You About Strength Training Program Success Strength and Conditioning Program Success: The Little Things Matter Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation – Part 2

In my last blog post, Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation - Part 1, I outlined why I think it's a good idea for most people to have at least a little structured exercise over the course of a vacation that spans a week or more.  Today, I wanted to use my own vacation workout schedule as an example of how you can stay active without filling up your schedule too much. First, though, I think it's important to make two points: 1. There's a difference between "physical activity" and "exercise" - and it's fine for a vacation to include a lot more of the former than the latter.  You'll see below that I didn't "exercise" every day, but I was very physically active the entire time.  We walked on the beach almost every morning, and during our trip, we did ziplined, swam, rode horses, snorkeled, and hiked.

2. What you do before you leave for vacation is likely as important as what you do during vacation.  I prefer to intentionally "overreach" right before I leave for any extended period of time, as it allows me to essentially "write off" the first few days of travel as recovery (everybody likes to sleep on airplanes and crush awful airport food, right?). To that end, we flew out on a Saturday morning very early in the morning, so I chalked Saturday up as a travel day.  That meant that Mo-Fr in the week before were training days (MoTh - upper body, TuFr - lower body, We - energy systems work).  Since I knew I wouldn't really have access to any heavy weights to use for lower body training, I made sure that it was the last thing I did before I left.  Here's how the rest of the vacation looked (keep in mind that my wife joined me for all these sessions; it wasn't like I was ditching her on our honeymoon): Sa: Travel Day (just a walk on the beach that night) Su: Upper body TRX work consisting of inverted rows, pushups, Ys, Fallouts, External Rotations/Ws, and some curls for the girls (hey, I was pretty much on the beach; don't judge!)

Mo: Sprinting on the beach (eight sprints of about 80yds).  When the view is this good, you really can't complain about being out of breath.

Tu: Lower Body TRX work consisting of pistol squats, stir the pot (video below, thanks to Dewey Nielsen), Bulgarian split squats, calf raises, and side bridges

We: Upper body TRX work consisting of (more) inverted rows, flutters, 1-arm row w/reach, and fallout extensions

Th: 2 hours of snorkeling was plenty of physical activity for me Fr: Another light TRX session, which was just kind of a filler of inverted rows (figured I'd use this week to be proactive with my bum shoulder) and additional core work.  To be very honest, I was pretty sunburned by this point, which is why I kept it short.  Did do some prone reaches (props to Dewey below once again), which is a good exercise to try, if you haven't seen them before:

Sa: 3 hours hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park.  Not a bad view from the top, huh?

Su: More sprinting on the beach, this time for 12 sprints of about 60yds. Mo: Travel Day, so not much moving around besides the 2-3 mile walk on the beach that morning We arrived home at midnight, and I was back to my normal lifting schedule on Tuesday. As you can see, this wasn't a ton of training time.  In fact,  I don't think a single one of these sessions lasted more than 20 minutes, and all of them were done outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  I'm not saying that you have to include this much exercise in your vacations, but I am trying to show that if you are interested in maintaining an active lifestyle even when you travel, that it can be done quite easily and without a ton of time invested. Plus, most of these were body weight training exercises, so you don't need a lot of equipment to get them done. Have some vacation exercise strategies of your own?  Please share them in the comment section below. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Workout Routines: Exercising on Vacation: Part 1

A few years ago, as my wife and I were discussing where we wanted to go for our honeymoon, we both agreed that we wanted to go somewhere that we could be active.  The “sit by the pool and crush margaritas” vacation just isn’t us – and that’s why we wound up in Costa Rica for nine days in March.  From everything we read, Costa Rica was a place where you could hike, surf, ride horses, snorkel, zipline – and get your heart rate up just by driving on narrow, cliffside roads with drivers so aggressive that they make Boston cabbies look like they’re just getting their learners’ permits.

Anyway, our “active” vacation got me to thinking about just how many people completely blow it with their workout routines and diets when they are on vacation.  I know what you’re thinking: “vacations are supposed to be time off from everything, so quit being such a nitpicker!”

I’ll agree: a vacation should be completely relaxing (and ours was), but I’d argue that doing absolutely nothing on vacation is a problem for most people for four reasons.

First, vacations are almost always a time when folks are confronted with obscene amounts of food and alcohol.  You’re not just eating a larger quantity of food; you’re eating “out” more with others preparing that food.  You’re also tempted by foods that are “new” to you – which can quickly shift the macronutrient breakdown that feels best in your normal diet.  I, for instance, ate a ton of fresh fruit in Costa Rica at pretty much every meal in spite of the fact that I’m a guy who normally doesn’t eat a ton of carbs.

When so much is out of your control on the dietary front – and you’re tempted by foods you wouldn’t otherwise eat (like that third slice of cake at 1AM on the all-inclusive cruise), exercise could be your best friend.  Well, that and cracking your own coconuts when you don't have a sharp knife on hand.

(for the record, I made an awesome pina colada protein shake out of Metabolic Cooking with fresh pineapple and coconut)

Second, a lot of people see dramatic changes to their normal sleep schedule while on vacation.  My wife and I actually wound up going to bed earlier and waking up earlier while there because we were usually wiped out by the end of the day and the sun was so bright in the morning.  Plus, on a few occasions, we had monkeys throwing mangos at our roof (not kidding).

However, most people go in the opposite direction: in bed at 2AM and up at 12PM.  We know that sleep quality, duration, and timing has a huge impact on how our body functions, so canning exercise at a time when sleep is at its poorest might not be the best idea.

Third, most vacations are longer than your typical deload week, especially when you factor in travel days.  Taking 5-7 days off is one thing, but nixing your training effect for up to two weeks is a recipe for getting soft – or, even worse, falling off the exercise bandwagon altogether.

Fourth, I’ll probably take some heat for this, as I wrote in The Art of the Deload, I think that the idea of a complete deload week is a silly idea for the overwhelming majority of the population.

The last statistic I saw had 64% of Americans as overweight or obese.  Of the other 36%, there are probably quite a few people who are naturally slender and don’t even exercise – which means that maybe a quarter of all Americans actually exercise and are in a shape other than “round.”  Go to any gym, and think about how many of those 25% of the population actually work hard enough in their strength training programs to justify taking a full week off.

Fifth, traveling sometimes means that you spend entire days sitting on planes and in airports.  A long plane ride can make an 8-hour day at your cubicle feel like a walk in the park.  I know my body is always the most stubborn when it comes to warming up the day after a long plane ride.  Some moving around on vacation can really do the body good when it comes to maintaining mobility.

Now that I’ve made my case for vacation exercise, check back soon for Part 2, where I’ll talk about what we did for training in Costa Rica.

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Shoulder Mobility Drills: Scapular Wall Slides vs. Doorway Slides

The other day, I received an email from a Show and Go customer who noticed that the scapular wall slide and the doorway slide were two similar, but not identical shoulder mobility drills included in the program.  He asked if I could talk a bit more about the differences between the two - and when to use both. First, let's have a look at the two exercises.  Here's the scapular wall slide:

And, here's the doorway slide:

As the voice-over on the video above notes, the scapular wall slide is an acceptable fit for just about any workout routine.  The only exceptions would be those who have upper extremity pain with overhead motions (rotator cuff tears, etc.).

However, we can utilize the doorway slide in certain folks to get to where we want to be a bit faster.  More specifically, these folks are the ones who are REALLY immobile in their upper extremity and wouldn't even be able to get their arms back even close to the wall on the wall slides.  So, in addition to not making them feel bad about their "tight shoulders", the doorway slide actually allows us to use the doorway as a stretching implement to get a gentle stretch across the anterior shoulder girdle (predominantly pec major and minor).  There are three very important coaching points:

1. Don't let the head poke forward, as a forward head posture is simply a substitution for not retracting/depressing the scapulae or horizontally adducting the humerus.

2. Don't crank too aggressively on the shoulders; it should be a subtle stretch.  And, it shouldn't be used with those (particularly overhead throwing athletes) who already have increased external rotation and, in turn, more anterior laxity.

3. Make sure to focus on pulling the shoulder blades down and back as the elbows are lowered.  You shouldn't have movement of the humerus without movement of the scapula.

For more shoulder mobility drills and the rationale for them, I'd encourage you to check out our Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

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Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture – Part 4

This wraps up a four part series on key points to consider and techniques to utilize for correcting bad posture.  In case you missed them, check out the previous three installments of this series: Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - Part 1 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - Part 2 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - Part 3 We'll pick this up with tips 13-16. 13. Look further down the kinetic chain. I spent much of the last installment discussing the role of the thoracic spine and glenohumeral joint in distorting upper body posture.  However, the truth is that it goes much further down than this, in many cases, and isn't quite as predictable.  As the picture below shows, a posteriorly rotated pelvis (swayback posture - third from left)) can kick off a nasty thoracic kyphosis, but an excessively lordotic posture (second from left) can do the exact same thing; it really just comes down to where folks compensate.

In the swayback posture, we see more flexion-based back pain (in addition to the classic upper body injuries/conditions), whereas the lordotic posture kicks off extension-based back pain.  Stretching the hip flexors a ton will help the lordotic folks, but usually have minimal effect for the swayback folks.  So, you really have to assess the hips individually and contemplate how they impact what goes on further up.

Likewise, you can look even further down the chain.  Overpronation at the foot and ankle kicks on excessive tibial and femoral internal rotation, which encourages more anterior pelvic tilt - which goes hand-in-hand with a lordotic posture.  Further up, we may compensate for this lordosis by getting more kyphotic to reposition our center of mass and remain "functional" and looking straight ahead.

14. Get ergonomic...conservatively.

While some ergonomic adjustments to your work station can be extremely valuable, simple modifications often yield the quickest and most profound results.  I've known folks who have gotten symptomatic relief by going to a standing or kneeling desk to get away from extended periods of time in hip flexion - and by getting the computer screen up to eye level.

Likewise, I always remind people that the best posture is the one that is constantly changing.  So, regardless of how "correct' your posture may be, it should always be a transient thing.

15. Use 1-arm pressing and pulling variations.

This recommendation will be appreciated by those of you who have checked out my new product, Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better.

If you're doing the program, chance are that you've noticed that there are quite a few unilateral upper body strength exercises - often one in each upper body training session.  The reason is pretty simple; you train thoracic rotation and scapular protraction/retraction on each and every rep.

If we are doing thoracic mobility work and lower trap/serratus anterior activation drills in our warm-ups, this is a perfect opportunity to create stability within that new ROM and solidify the neural patterns we've hoping to establish (and get an added core training benefit). You simply can't get this with bilateral exercise, particularly in a supine (bench presses) or prone (chest-supported rows) position.

16. Add range of motion - not just load - to your weight training program.

This note is one that anyone with a decent power of observation could make.  Walk in to any gym, and notice the people with the absolute worse posture as they go through their workout routines.  What do they do?

They move as little as possible on every single rep.  They squat high, don't go anywhere near the chest on bench presses, or just make up "strength exercises" that amount to violent spasms.  And that's just the ignorant folks.

Among advanced lifters, you'll see a lot of folks with terrible shoulder mobility and posture sticking with board presses and floor presses (which are certainly justified in limited volumes at specific training times), and doing rows with crazy heavy weights that force them to substitute forward head posture in place of anything even remotely close to scapular retraction.

In short, these folks keep working to add load, when they really should be maintaining or even lowering the load while adding range of motion to their weight training programs.

Wrap-up

Hopefully, this series brought to light some concepts that you can put into action right away.  Down the road, I may "reincarnate" this series as I think up some more strategies - or based on reader feedback.  Are there other areas you'd like covered?  If so, post in the comments section and there may be a Part 5 afterall!

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Accelerated Muscular Development: Life Lessons from “The Hangover”

Today, we have a guest blog from Jim Smith, CSCS, the author of Accelerated Muscular Development 2.0. I wish I knew then what I know now.

This is one of life’s most cruel jokes.  With age comes wisdom (hopefully) and reflection.  I often think about going back and changing certain things that happened in my past and how the outcome would have been so different. I never would have stolen that cop car… I never would have married a stripper… I never would have pulled out my own tooth with a pair of pliers… You know, stuff like that.

When you’re drunk and are hopped up on GHB, you do crazy things.  Things that you want to take back; if you could just remember them. You can’t change the past, you can just move forward, continue to educate yourself and not make the same mistakes again. Training is the same way.  I’m sure if you look back at the stuff “you used to do” in the weight room you’d probably laugh.  And that is a good thing.  You had to start there to get to where you are now.  Progression and working to always be better is the key to success. I’m no different.  I’ve made many mistakes in the weight room not only with my training but the programs of my athletes.  I’ve done things that worked and some things that didn’t work.  But I kept learning.  I kept going to seminars.  I kept corresponding with other coaches in the industry.  And I got better and learned a few things along the way.  Here are a few of those innovations that I know will help you reach your goals in the gym. Flow is the New Warm-up Gone are the days of just hitting a few arm crosses and jumping jacks before your workout.  Other staples like bodyweight squats and lunges, while very effective, aren’t really time efficient.  Also, do they hit every articulation of the lower body for a complete prep? Imagine this flow: bodyweight squat => lunge forward right leg => fall into glute stretch push back to lunge on the right leg => back to bodyweight squat Repeat on left leg Or how about this: inchworm => push-up => push-up plus => inchworm back - Repeat Now you’re getting the idea.  Fast, efficient and encompassing as many movements as possible. Stiffie or Softie? When I say stiffie or softie, are you thinking about that Jimmy Johnson commercial for ED?  I am!  Man his hair is so cool.

We both should be thinking about some of the “tools” we use in the gym.  Some tools or implements just aren’t the best choices for certain individuals when performing certain exercises. Let’s talk about broomsticks.  How do we use them?  Two immediate examples are broomstick dislocates and broomstick wall squats.  Both are great movements to open up the shoulders, chest and upper back as well as the wall squats drilling good squat form.  But is the broomstick really the best tool for the job? When we are talking about individual differences, limitations and mobility, no, it is not.  I want you to think about replacing the broomstick with an elastic band.

The elastic band is perfect because it adjusts; it stretches and relaxes according to the individuals limitations.  It does NOT force the lifter or athlete into a movement pattern.  As the lifter hits a limitation the band stretches and allows the movement to continue while dynamically stretching the limitation.  Overhead wall squats with elastic bands are great too for all the same reasons.   You’ve probably abandoned dislocates because of how bad they feel with a broomstick.  Try out these new variations and you’ll feel the difference. Learn from my mistakes and continue to evolve with your training.  This will ensure you continue to progress and bring efficiency into your workouts.  No one wants to spend hours and hours in the gym.  But when you are in the gym, you need to most bang for your buck and these new variations will help. Innovations and versatility like this are what make my new product, Accelerated Muscular Development 2.0, a complete training system.  Unlike most programs, it doesn’t just provide 12 weeks of workouts and leave it at that.  In addition to giving you two 12 week programs, I also show you how to create your own programs moving forward – which puts you in a position to innovate for yourself and build your own programs.

Years and years of trial and error have led to the creation of the AMD 2.0 program template.  It breaks the workout down into its essential components (most programs are missing these pieces) so that each section has its own priority and its own focus.  From there, it is very simple.  In fact, once you see the template and apply it to your first workout, you will never forget it.  It is so easy.  And like I said, I have been training for many years and have done a lot of things wrong.  I really feel like AMD 2.0 is the next step because anyone can apply the template to whatever program they are on.   So as you progress and finish the AMD workouts, you can repeat them or use the template with any program you want to try. The AMD 2.0 template incorporates soft-tissue work, dynamic warm-ups, the primary workouts, core training and finally a rehab component.  If you have purchased other programs, you’ll probably have noticed that you received the primary workouts ONLY.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the right way to train.  You must prepare your body to workout.  Coming into the gym from the car after a long day and not warming up will always have a negative impact on your ability to move, train to your potential and remain injury free over the long term.  There is a definite flow to a good workout and if you know how to do it, you can actually cut your workout time down significantly.  We are going for high impact and short duration workouts.  No one wants to spend 4-5 days a week in the gym with 2 hour workouts.  With AMD you’ll have 3 training sessions a week lasting 45min to 1hr.  Get in the gym, kill it and get out. For more information – and a big introductory discount (this week only) with lots of bonuses – check out Accelerated Muscular Development 2.0.
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