When people hear I have been to the gym or worked out whilst on holiday they usually think I'm either crazy or obsessed. This is usually the attitude of someone that does not view exercise with the right mind set and has never regular trained as a lifestyle habit and only as a means to an end (or more commonly as a means to ease their guilt without ever really reaching any end).
If you train regularly as part of an ingrained routine (whether this is weight training, running, swimming etc) you will know that exercise/working out is something that gives you a mental release, makes your day feel productive from the onset, provides a sense of achievement, promotes ambition, teaches persistence, perseverance and that rewards can be attained from hard work and dedication. These are all factors that promote a healthy mental state and positively affect your mood in the moment and attitudes in many areas of your life.
Yes, there are times when you have to drag yourself up and get yourself down to the gym/track/pitch but as anyone who has truly integrated exercise into their life you rarely regret getting up and getting moving.
So if you exercise is a something that you can enjoy and gives you a feeling of satisfaction and achievement then why wouldn't you do it on holiday when you have much more free time than any other time of year.
Learn to live it and you'll learn to love it. All the best from Reykjavik!
Happy New Year everyone, thanks for following my posts. This month I've decided to put together some advanced calisthenics (body weight) exercise videos to inspire and entertain. Enjoy!
Deadlifts are a make or break exercise, the physical benefits of training them properly are huge, however they are also easy to get wrong without proper instruction/knowledge. They are designed to strengthen your lower back muscles to support your spine, not stress it.
In this article I have put together a compilation of my own thoughts alongside some of the best deadlift resources I have come across from various strength coaches.
Benefits of Deadlifting
- Great for Strengthening/developing posterior chain muscles, mainly: Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower back
- Improve Sports Performance: Run Faster, Accelerate Quicker, Jump Higher, Jump Further (all due to development of posterior chain function & improved power of hip extension)
- Prevent Injury: Glutes and hamstrings play a vital role in knee and lower back health as. With regards to knee health, strong glutes and hamstrings can help prevent injuries. Many injuries are due to disproportionate strength between muscles groups, hamstrings and lower back often ignored whilst quads & abs get all the attention. A strong posterior chain can help keep your back healthy as well. The deadlift position is the strongest/safest way to lift a weight from the floor (whether it's a dumbbell, barbell or heavy furniture).
How to Deadlift
The Set Up
- Grip Options: Double overhand used when lifting below 80% of max. Anything over this use a mixed grip if the bar is slipping. A mixed grip means having one overhand and one underhand, make sure this does not twist your posture in the set up position.
- Foot Width - to determine you optimal foot position for max power output set your feet up ready to do a max vertical jump, this is usually also the optimal starting foot position for your deadlift.
- Shins close to bar - Bar shouldn't be in front of toes (vertically) at any point in exercise
- Tripod foot pressure: Pressure balanced between big toe, little toe & heel
- Hips pushed back: Push your hips back as you lower yourself down to the bar. Do not simply squat down. You want to push your hips back (helping load your glutes and hamstrings) as far as you can without rounding your lower back, and then bend the knees slightly to get you all the way down to the bar.
- Big breath to create high intra-abdominal press: Take a deep breath into your belly. This will activate your diaphragm, and increase intra-abdominal pressure. Don’t try to breathe in and out during the lift phase if you’re going to go relatively heavy, you need to take a deep breath and hold it to keep your spine stable and lower back healthy until you get to the top where you can exhale and take another breath.
- Maintain/Achieve neutral spine: Compress ribs slightly down and hips up at front without hunching upper back or rounding lower back. If your back is flat there should not be an exaggerated arch in lower back and no/minimal flexion (curve) in upper or lower back in the set up or during the rep. Head/neck should also be neutral & not arched back.
- Keep bar close as possible to body throughout lift.
- Lead lift with Chest, not hips: Starting lift by popping hips up will round the lower back putting it in a compromised position.
- Finish with hips: Squeeze glutes driving hips forwards at top, do not excessively arch lower back (typical fault for people with weak glutes)
- The descent: To put bar down, initiate movement with hips pushing back before bending knees or they will get in the way on way down.
- If you are struggling with your mobility/flexibility I encourage you to spend some time fixing your movement restrictions before doing a conventional barbell deadlift. In the mean time you can use the trap/hex bar deadlift variation. Staying only with this type of deadlift will lead to good quad development but sub optimal glute & hamstring development compared to the conventional deadlift.
- Use flat soled footwear when possible for deadlifting
Putting it into Practice
The Video below shows one of my client performing her 5 reps max deadlift, despite her being at her max weight note how well she holds her back position together throughout the lift.
What is a superset?
A superset can be slightly different to different people but I am referring to a superset as two different exercises that are alternated between and performed after one another for a given amount of sets, with or without a rest times added. This is instead of the more classic weight training protocol of one exercise alternated with rest periods.
As anyone who has been trained by me, or trained with me knows I am a big fan of incorporating supersets into my workouts. Without them I would have to spend almost twice the time in the gym that I currently do to get the same volume of work done and cover all the areas I want to work on. I currently do 4-5 one hour weight training workouts per week with a little ‘classic’ cardio added on top. This is a lot less time per week working out than a lot of people I speak to who are as keen about fitness as I am, yet I still manage to get good results.
Example of Superset pairs:
Day 1 of my routine works Chest & Back. The first superset I use alternates barbell bench press with chin ups. If you are looking at maximising your time in the gym, super setting opposing muscle groups allows for much shorter rest intervals whilst still allowing adequate recovery time for fatigued muscles. For example, a heavy bench press takes me around 90-120secs to recover from, however if I do a chin up in between bench sets my chest still recovers to a degree whilst working opposing back muscles in the chin up. I can then just add a 45-60sec rest before going back to my bench set. In my program it is written out as:
A1. Bb Chest Press (8reps) x4 sets No rest
A2. Chin Up (8r) x4sets 60sec rest
An example for arm superset
B1. Cable Straight Bar Bicep Curl (12r) x 3 sets No rest
B2. Rope Tricep Pushdown (12r) x3 sets 30sec rest
Supersets can also be used to increase the stress/shock a muscle into adapting by performing two exercises in a row on the same muscle group. e.g. Pairing an Overhead Barbell Press with Dumbbell lateral raises then taking a 90sec rest before repeating. This is a great method when your body is getting used to a current routine but not something I do for the bulk of my sets.
Opposing Muscle Group Superset Benefits:
- More sets done in a given space of time means more exercise can be done per workout
- Higher heart rate maintained throughout session enhancing cardiovascular benefit
- Can allow extended rest periods for muscle groups due to time taken during opposite movement and the shorter rest time adding up to more recovery time than would have been taken in classic lifting
- Less injury, a whole session of pressing movements gives me shoulder pain as the front of my body tightens up, sending blood to my back muscles helps keep my upper torso better balanced and shoulders pain free
There are definitely exercises you should not pair up, for example do not pair a deadlift, or squat with an exercise that fatigues your lower back, your spinal supporting muscles needs to be fresh for these technical lifts. Also do not pair up cleans or snatches as they are already full body movements and you do not want to create a weak link in the lift.
Please comment on my Facebook page with any questions. I also offer online training/programme design, see my 'Services and Prices' page for details.
Everyone always looking for the latest training method, the new super food, or a revolutionary diet trend and losing sight of the basic principles of training & nutrition that have proven to work long before these fad were ‘discovered’ and will be there long after we've forgotten about them.
So what are the basics?
Base 90% of your workout around the large compound lifts (Squat, Deadlift, Pull Up, Dips, Lunge, Overhead Press, Horizontal Row& Bench Press) and do a few extras in the other 10%. To grow or maintain muscle size lift close to failure within 8-12rep range, to get stronger lift weights in the 1-6rep range. Higher reps/set = less sets & visa versa. Train 3-5 times per week.
Do some cardio each week, if its interval based make it is short & intense (10-30mins), if it’s continuous steady pace, more isn’t always better. If you are going for over an hour just go faster and cut the session time back to 40-60mins.
Nutrition Basics (Simple but a challenge to stick to)
- Minimise processed & artificial food (including sweeteners)
- Eat 1.5-2g protein per kg of bodyweight
- Eat lots of vegetables with a wide variety
- Minimise sugar/high GI carb intake
- Don’t be afraid to eat natural health fats
- Make carb sources high in fibre & low GI
- Stay hydrated
- Set some goals with a time scale to meet them.
‘If you don’t know where you are going you will probably end up some place else’ – Laurence J Peters
- Do not have conflicting goals, you can not get better at everything all at once. Pick an area to focus on, once you have achieved your goal, set another in different area of weakness. You are not going to effectively improve your endurance capacity whilst simultaneously increasing your max power output.
Keep it simple, be consistent, do the basics well and get some results!