Exercise

Playground Workout Video for Developing Abs and Core Strength

I often talk about the knees-to-elbows and toes-to-bar exercises that I do during CrossFit metcons. They are a great way to develop not only your abs, but your entire core. But, they are often hard to perform; either because someone isn’t strong enough to hang off a pull-up bar for that long or because their…

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CrossFit Metcons Are Not Enough.

I just read this article a couple of days ago and it compelled me to share some thoughts. Why Adding Weight to the Bar Is the Whole Damned Point How was it possible that grown-assed men who have been doing CrossFit for over three years were struggling to squat sets of five reps with a…

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Getting fit and strong isn't always fun. It isn't easy either.

I think some people have the wrong expectations about what it takes to get stronger and fitter. Yes, it is “fun” in its own way; usually after you’re done with the workout or enjoying the results of being consistent and committed.

But it is hard. It is supposed to be hard, and that isn’t always pleasant while you’re doing it. Actually, if it is pleasant during the actual lifting and working out, you aren’t training hard enough. It kind of sucks right in the middle. Your body may be hurting, you’re breathing hard and sweating, your heart is pounding, and you may even feel slightly nauseous.

But, you have to push your body past the comfort zone to shake it up. Make your body say; “What in the hell is going on? Since when do we need to keep lifting heavier and heavier weight, or running faster and faster? I better make some friggin’ changes to this body to handle this crap that this crazy fool keeps throwing at me.” And that is when you grow.

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Weight-loss Drug Qsymia vs. Exercise

The FDA approval of a weight-loss drug called “Qsymia” generated a bit of buzz today. So, I felt the need to create a quick table highlighting the benefits and potential side effects of this new drug vs. good ol’ exercise. Yes, I know it is a little tongue-in-cheek. But, I am so very tired of people waiting and hoping for some miracle drug that will enable them to lose weight without all of that pesky exercising or eating healthy. Is it true that some people may not be able to exercise enough to control their weight? Yes, that is true for some people. But, let’s be honest here. Do you truly think that only people with the most extreme cases of obesity and special circumstances will be asking for this drug? The pharmaceutical company wouldn’t make its multimillion dollar profit if that was the case.

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So You Want to Try CrossFit?

Andrea Ager CrossFit Games 2011So, you’ve heard about this CrossFit thing and you’ve decided to give it a shot. But, maybe you are a little worried because you’ve heard about it from friends who do it. Or you’ve watched a few videos of some of the elite (or insane) athletes doing crazy workouts. You don’t think you are that strong, that fast, or that fit yet.

Don’t worry about it.

Seriously. The nice thing about CrossFit is that everything is scaled appropriately for your capabilities and experience. So, everyone starts out light if they aren’t familiar with weight lifting. Heck, for the Overhead Squat I spent weeks using nothing but a wooden dowel until I became more flexible and skilled.

One of the most important things to focus on when you are just starting out is to take the time to get your form and technique perfected before trying to go heavy. Don’t be shy about scaling the lifts and WODs (i.e., workout of the day) by using less weight or scaling the technique (e.g., doing burpees without the push-up component). A good coach will recommend that when you are new and tell how you to scale, because he or she wants you to get the most out of the program and not get injured. So, focus on learning in the first few months (and it does take months) so that you become really good at the lifts and exercises. Then, once you feel comfortable and you’ve worked through the adaptation (you will be sore a lot), you can start adding more weight. Your coach will help you program that.

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Killer Abs and Core Workout with the L-sit Chin-up

The L-sit Chin-up is a killer exercise with a movement that is borrowed from gymnastics. It helps strengthen the abdominal muscles, hip flexors, shoulders, back, biceps, and builds up your entire “core”. Your core strength involves all of the muscles of your abdominal region and back, and they are critical for supporting your spine and keeping your body stable and balanced during many different exercises and weightlifting movements. The stronger your core is, the better you will become at lifting weights and body weight exercises; plus you will reduce your risk of injury.

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Great Training Program Videos for 4 Critical Lifts

I just discovered the “6 Weeks to Superhero” series from T Nation and have really been enjoying them. It features Christian Thibaudeau, who is actually a bodybuilding coach. But, I think some of the lifting tips and training exercises would also work well for someone who just wants to get stronger and better that these 4 critical lifts:

Deadlift
Squat
Bench Press
Overhead Press

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Struggling with Push-ups? Try the 1-minute Push-up.

woman doing pushupI know a lot of people struggle with push-ups. There are, of course, lots of ways to train your body to perform push-ups. Most people tend to focus on volume: Do more push-ups more frequently. This does work to some degree. I remember when I would just keep doing push-ups all day long, whenever I had a free moment. Just drop and do 10-20 quick push-ups. By the end of the day, I had done anywhere between 150 to 250 push-ups. It certainly helps.

But, my real breakthrough in push-ups came when I started experimenting with isometric push-ups. You’ll find a lot of variations of what people mean by isometric push-ups, but it basically involves doing push-ups very slowly and holding your body at different points in the range of motion. It creates constant tension in the muscles and builds up incredible strength. For mine, I started out with a goal of a 1-minute push-up: Take 30 secs to slowly lower yourself to the bottom of the push-up (do not rest on the floor) and then take 30 secs to push yourself slowly back up to the top of the push-up. Then I worked up to 2-min push-ups. A full minute to slowly lower down and another minute to slowly push back up.

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Exercising with a Friend

Toys lifting weights togetherI personally believe that a big reason many people fail to maintain a regular program of exercise is that they are trying to go it alone. This chart from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that more than 50% of men and women exercise solo (source). When men exercise with others, it tends to be more often with friends (e.g., I bet it’s team sports). Women, on the other hand, tend to exercise more with family.

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The Benefits of Green Exercise

Ansel Adams photograph of Snake river

I first wrote about Green Exercise in post on trail running last year. It is “physical activity in the presence of nature.” There was some interesting research published that even just 5 minutes of green exercise decreases the risk of mental illness and improves the sense of well-being. While all types of natural environments produced advantages, including green urban environments (e.g., a city park), researchers noted that those that contained water resulted in greater benefits.

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