Archive for January, 2011

Just Stick with the Program?

We are almost one month into the New Year and one common theme for many people at the beginning of the New Year is to set some resolutions and to add some sort of new routine into their lives so that they can be better people.  These new programs can cover a new diet strategy, training program, even lifestyle routines.  We all know that for most people, including yours truly, resolutions are as easily made as they are broken.  Chances are that new lifestyles, diets and training programs are doomed before they are even started.

There are varying degrees of resolution breaking.  Some break them entirely and give up while the good ones are compliant about 60% of the time.  We need to look at resolutions differently and create a new formula to be successful.

As I see it, the biggest problem with resolutions is the potential success rate.  Usually, to abide by a set resolution you have to be firing on all cylinders to be successful. Let’s take for example the common resolution; “This year I am going to be more frequent with my training.”  So what happens if you have a vacation, a business trip or your kids come home and share with you the latest and greatest strand of flu; you can’t train, your resolution is now shot down.

Along those same lines many will often choose a new training program to follow. Most often I find that in order to follow the specific protocols, the stars have to be aligned just right to get all of the work done that the program calls for.  Again, if you are traveling, sick, or tired, sore or injured, all is lost.  You now have to revert back to week three, and you will never get to the end of the program.  Before you give up entirely, I have a solution to help get you to where you want to be by the year’s end.

First off ditch resolutions and set goals.  Goals just work better; they are specific and not quite as ridged as resolutions. The other nice thing is that goals are essentially open-ended.  If you set a goal for the year you can achieve it on the first week or bang it out at the end. There is nothing more satisfying than completing that grueling deadlift PR on December 31st at 11:55pm; No matter how long it takes you, the goal was set and the mission was accomplished.

Goal achievements do not just magically appear in a box of crackerjacks, they require a plan of attack.  After you set your goal it is now time to think about how you are going to obtain it within the time you allow yourself.  I do recommend that you follow a plan, but if you choose to follow a specialized program generated for the masses, please realize that not everything in the program is going to be right for you in either achieveing your specific goals nor do they allow for changes dependant on non-optimal circumstances.

What seems to currently work well for me is to have a very basic program based on a few main training goals I would like to accomplish and some movements that I need in my training program.  I consider soft tissue work, mobility and flexibility important (especially for my hips) so I do some daily.  I find it is easy to adjust a basic program while still keeping my goals in perspecive based on how I feel on a particular day. For example, I tend to do fewer weights and more mobility training when I am very tight, tired or when I am not feeling strong in general.

One of my current strength goals is to get my deadlift to a new PR.  I have decided to do two different days of deadlifts; one day following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program (for the record I do not make any money off of this product.  This program is great for its simplicity and overall effectiveness at increasing strength in the big lifts.  I also incorporate one additional day of deadlifting not following the 5/3/1 program.  This may include light weight with high reps, some fast single pulls with moderate weight or varying my pulling position, like a sumo stance.  The only program I adhere to is the 5/3/1 for my deadlift and it seems to work well because the volume is low.  I do not have a specific day when I do the 5/3/1 deadlift, I go by how I feel both physically and mentally.  If I was training all weekend and was tired coming in on Monday, I may defer until Tuesday and do some light work on Monday.

I don’t follow a specific program when it comes to some of my other goals, I basically have other movements that are important to me and I perform some variation of these movements onece a week.  Some of these movements include: pull-up variation, single leg movement, pressing variation, rowing variation, kettlebells (swings, long cycle or snatches) push up variation, and some conditioning.  I simply perform some variations of these movements when I feel like I will have a good day performing them.  I do tend to mix up the variations of the movements to keep things progressing.  For example for the pull-ups; one week I might perform 10 sets of 6 reps at body weight with 45sec rest.  The next week, if I am feeling strong, it might be 4 sets of 5 reps with added weight and longer rest.  It all depends on how I feel and which variation will give me my best performance for that day.

Don’t beat yourself up over resolutions, sit down and write out some specific goals and have an idea of how to achieve these goals.  Perform your training around your goals and how you feel rather than what day and workout you are supposed to be on according to a specific program.  Finally record your progress either electronically or in a good old fashion workout journal, the journal does not lie about progress and accomplishments.

Good luck and make 2011 your year!

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Sunday, January 30th, 2011 Sports Performance Training No Comments

Five Ideas We Can Take with Us from Jack LaLanne

As I was finishing up my second article for this newsletter I read on the web that fitness icon Jack LaLanne had passed away on Sunday January 23, 2011 at the age of 96.  Immediately I decided to postpone one of my articles and save it for the February newsletter so I could briefly reflect on Jack LaLanne ‘s life and see what lessons could be cherished and remembered to make our lives consistently thrive.

Those who have followed the life of Jack LaLanne remember him as a man who completed many feats of strength throughout his many years; like performing 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes when he was 43, or swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco in the frigid water at age 60, in handcuffs, shackles and towing a boat! Not only was he a living legend in the fitness world he is also responsible for openly preaching the importance of exercise and physical fitness for everyone, which essentially was the genesis to why trainers, like myself, are able to make a career out of what we love to do.

I never had the opportunity to meet Jack but what I liked most about him was that he reminded me of Bruce Lee in the way he had hundreds of memorable quotes that boiled exercise down to the fundamentals, making it so easy to ponder, understand and realize. I want to share five of my favorite Jack LaLanne quotes and put them into perspective so maybe we can take them with us and keep his memory and spirit alive for many years to come.

How do you build up your bank account? By putting something in it everyday. Your health account is no different. What I do today, I am wearing tomorrow. If I put inferior foods in my body today, I’m going to be inferior tomorrow, it’s that simple.

This primary message is simple; you can think of it in the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Exploring this a little deeper we can assume that this could sum up his whole philosophy for health and life. Not only are we what we eat, but like a bank account to accrue a rich and stable balance, it takes discipline, consistency and must be done over time. We can’t lose weight, become more flexible or deadlift 400 pounds in a matter of a few days; we have to frequently accumulate our training and nutrition over time until we have built up our strength and health to desirable levels.

“If you can’t use your legs, you can sit in a chair and you can do curls, you can do presses, you can do stretches. There are all kinds of things you can do. Or maybe you can’t use your upper body but you can work your legs. “

This simple statement can be interpreted as “No Excuses.” We all have excuses and some of us may have more obstacles to overcome than others, however sometimes it is better to focus on what we can do and not what we can’t. We all have the same 24 hours in the day, we all have responsibilities, we all have some restrictions and resistance in our lives; No Excuses; write down a few goals, schedule in some time, make some tough, conscious decisions and stick with it. Some days will be more challenging than others, No Excuses, do what you can and look forward to tomorrow.

“That is the beautiful part about weights: even if you are 100 years old, you can lift something. Maybe it’s only a half a pound or a pound or two pounds. It will still do something. “

I have always maintained the idea that I share with people: There must be something you enjoy when it comes to fitness. Weight training is a great activity and can be conceivably maintained for the rest of one’s life, however, if weight training is not your idea of a good time there are plenty of other activities that do not discriminate with age; swimming, bicycle riding, and dancing come to mind and there are countless others. Find the activity you enjoy and go with it, No Excuses.

“We don’t know all the answers. If we knew all the answers we’d be bored, wouldn’t we? We keep looking, searching, trying to get more knowledge.”

This parallels another one of LaLanne’s philosophies that inactivity is a killer.  Inactivity of the body as well as the mind sends a person down a downward spiral full of health and mental problems that only get worse with age if neglected. Are you a glass half empty type of person believing there is too much to learn, you are too old to take something on or that you can never learn that? Or do you see new avenues to explore with optimism, excited to take on a new venture. There is so much out there to learn not only about fitness but about math, science, business, health and travel. All of which potentially can make our lives better. Remember life is like a bank account and so is learning something new. Find something you like to chip away at and over time you will have great knowledge in something new.

“I want to be able to do things; I want to look good; I don’t want to be a drudge on my wife and my kids. And I want to get my message out to the people. I might live forever or it may seem like that.”

Exercise, health, fitness, training, however you choose to call it, it does not have to be seen as a selfish endeavor. Sure the immediate effects of performing better, looking and feeling good might seem like the positive goals we want strictly for ourselves, but they will also help the others around us as we build up our health bank account. Many people dread getting older and the potentially negative consequences that are associated with it. The physical and mental ailments not only make our own lives more difficult they put a burden on our friends, family, and society in general because they have to take care of us when we can’t do things physically and financially.

Nothing is foolproof and exercise and healthy living does not mean we are immune to any disease thrown in our way. However, you will have a better chance of living a richer and more independent life, like Jack did, if we take care of ourselves. As Jack said “I can’t die, it would ruin my image.” Even though he has passed on, living and preaching the lifestyle he did has solidified his inspiring image for lifetimes to come.

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Sunday, January 30th, 2011 Sports Performance Training No Comments

Aj Demonstrates a Challenging Double Kettlebell Complex

Aj demonstrates one of his favorite double kettlebell complexes that challenges both the upper and lower body and well as your conditioning. Two kettlebells for double swings, push ups on the handles and double kettlebell jerks. The goal is to get 250 reps total in 5 sets. Warning, this is high volume, not for the faint of heart.

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Sunday, January 30th, 2011 Kettlebell Training, Videos 2 Comments


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