Natural Strength and Fitness

Let’s kick this off by stating that all movement is good, so long as it doesn’t hurt. No, pain is not weakness leaving the body. It’s a signal to stop doing what you’re doing. The fitness world is a packed arena full of good movement from yoga, pilates, barbells, kettlebells, calisthenics, walking, running etc etc. It’s all good. Moving is good. Feeling good is good.

But here’s a question, is what you are doing now going to serve you when you are both out of your exercise modality and when you will be old(er)?

It’s great to be flexible, but are you strong? It’s awesome to be strong, but can you get to the floor and play with the kids or grandkids?

It’s mighty fine to have an exercise habit but are you useful?

This is something I’ve been acknowledging for a while now after the realisation that some people are great in the gym but, well, kind of suck at life usefulness. A bold and cheeky statement, but a truism all the same. It is oh so very important to go to the gym, develop strength, mobility and to go for a good walk or run, but I believe we are missing the boat somewhat by not using our exercise time for a higher purpose. Life.

Life is not just going to the gym (#gymislife) as many will propose. Life is living well, with great function until the day we die. Doing the housework without getting out of breath. Tidying up the garden without putting your back out. Playing with the kids without limitations. Having the confidence to go for a good bush walk, climbing over boulders and jumping over creeks. And as we age, still being able to do all of this as well as dress ourselves and climb the stairs with an armful of groceries.

Note, I made no reference to doomsday preparation or the zombie apocalypse. I’m talking about real-world, purposeful exercise.

Believe me when I say I love kettlebell swings and presses. Like as much as Thor loves Beer, I love Kettlebell training. But while the kettlebell swing does develop strong, snappy hips, it’s not the best preparation for jumping over things. It’ll help a lot, but will not develop the ankles and feet for take off and landing as well as propulsing the body through space. The kettlebell press teaches great pressing mechanics but not necessarily the pressing ability to push over the top of a wall, branch or throwing a heavy object. Pressing a weight will help, but it’s not complete.

Yes, strength training with weights from kettlebells to barbells is fantastic but maybe they lack some reality or context to the real world.

Here’s a fun challenge to contextualise your training

If you train 3 times a week for example, how about taking one of the sessions and adding context. By that I mean converting each exercise or movement on your list and making them real world applications of that movement. This session wouldn’t mean a max out type session, but the execution of purpose behind each movement.

To demonstrate, here are some ideas.

The Deadlift, or Lifting & Carrying or Forward Jumps?
Bench Press, or Crawls or Vertical Presses?
Barbell Squats, or Step ups or Balancing Walking Split Squats?
Good ‘ol Rows, or Hangs or Traversing?
Planking, or loaded carries. Perhaps tripod balancing & vaults!
Burpees, or the Prone Get Up, or maybe crawls to a hang & foot pinch?

There are no reasons ‘not’ to practice traditional strength movements. They are great at develop specific strengths. What I would love to see more of is the practice of using these traditional lifts with a flare of real-world applications.

A greater use of our time spent in the gym would be in helping others. Be that assisting the elderly, disabled, volunteering to help maintain our green spaces putting your hand up when people ask for help on social media. We’ve almost gotten to a stage when meeting new people is fearful. Eye contact is dwindling or shielded behind our smart devices.

As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats put it, ‘There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met’.

Train to be strong, useful to yourself, your family and community.

I would love to hear from you if you already train / exercise / workout this way. Likewise, if you’d be interested in learning more and how to apply this concept to your own training, just get in touch.

Jamie

The Squat Get Up

Adaptability is sown from practicing specific variety and getting to the floor and back up safely, effectively and efficiently happens by no accident but by frequent practice.

I’ve spoken about the benefits before of being able to get up from the ground with strength, grace and perhaps some flare and the Squat Get Up has all of those aplenty as well as great mobility.

Like the Side Bent Sit Get Up, the Squat Get Up entails a back roll, to a deep squat position and then standing up.

Like this.

Unlike the other get ups I’ve covered so far, the squat get up does actually require a few more physical competencies before being able to perform it.

  1. Having a a happy spine is essential to roll back on the floor.
  2. Having good hip mobility to roll into the deep squat position is needed.
  3. Having adequately mobile ankles is essential too, to sit in that deep squat.

Thankfully, practicing each of the components of the Squat Get Up will nurture these qualities.

As usual, let’s get to the video demonstration.

It should be reasonably obvious what’s going on with this get up, but let me list the key points.

  1. Start from a tall sitting position, knees flexed. Holding shins is optional.
  2. Flex spine and roll back onto the upper back, keeping chin tucked in.
  3. Roll back to the tall sitting position.
  4. With momentum and reaching arms in front of you try to roll into a deep squat. The feet might be close but a little wider is fine too.
  5. Stand up and return in the reverse sequence.

Got any feedback or do you need any personal help with the get ups? I’d love to help. Get in touch below.

How much you Function bro?

Reframing functional training for the masses.

The whole ‘do you even [enter an exercise]’ phrase is a parody of modern gym culture with dudes and dudettes comparing each others infatuations in the gyms with one-another. “Do you even lift”? Condescending proclamation that you are smaller than me, or “Do you even bench bro?” Context: my chest is bigger than yours. Ah, what a wonderful day and age we live in! All in jest naturally but essentially such expressions continue to draw the gym and fitness world towards body part, size and looks focus. Isn’t it about me and not you?!

I’d like to jump in with my effort now albeit rather late in the game but with this question: “Do you even function bro”?

NOT FUNCTIONAL TRAINING

Functional training all started to become a buzz definition in gyms in the wake of its appropriate use in physiotherapy settings. What started at daily activity task specific training to rehabilitate poor movement habits morphed into taking elements of everything a human can do (regardless of efficacy) and turning it into a competition with oneself and others. This meanders into the CrossFit territory which has in of itself and training concept, exploded in popularity. CrossFit has done wonderful things for developing community based fitness lifestyles, bringing popularity back to gymnastics and Olympic lifting and for promoting gyms absent of machines.

My only criticism is that it’s conceptual training model of high intensity generalism leads to high risk factor exercise for the masses who do run blindly towards the high intensity functional training model when in need of a dose of exercise. Nothing wrong with HIIT from time to time, but it needs to be timely and appropriate – not a fix for all. This though is no longer a CrossFit problem but a greater problem in the pop-up copycat gyms who are jumping onboard the model, both in terms of the pursuit of high intensity training and business.

Generalism is a fine approach to improving ones physical capabilities and indeed, us humans are perfectly designed to be generally adapt at all physical expectations. We have evolved successfully by walking, climbing, running, jumping, carrying loads, picking up loads, squatting, pushing and pulling things, rotating, explosively moving and moving with intricate detail and control.

Modern human is potentially losing many of these qualities at a gross scale, but that’s a conversation over a stiff drink sometime.

Adding high intensity to complex movements is where the line should be drawn however.

The value system for many fitness organisations and programs has a broken gear box, where 5th gear seems to be the only gear. If you’re not breaking a sweat and breaking down with fatigue there’s a “what’s the point?” attitude. However, as expert generalists we shouldn’t be applying high exertions to every function we can perform. Whilst some activities like running (safely) and walking uphill lend themselves well to high efforts, snatching a barbell (intended for single repetition efforts) for multiple repetitions is a complex movement with a high risk to reward ratio. So too are all movements requiring fine skills.

If we value functioning as a better human shouldn’t we practice and develop our exercise skill and quality culture rather than fatigue culture?

What if we used our gym time as contextual strength and fitness practice and development?

As much as I love to finish my training sessions, I certainly don’t rush them to the detriment of movement quality or risking injury, or to beat some arbitrary time. I focus on completing the task at hand well, better than before but within my capabilities. My comfort zones might get shoved gently to encourage adaptation but I’m certainly not allowing ego to take over for some imaginary trophy at the end of it!

The goal is to keep the goal the goal. A now famous quote from coach Dan John. It shouldn’t require definition. My goal, everyones goal in performing physical training should be progressing positively our health, fitness and strength outcomes. It’s not a race but a credit based scheme we keep adding to until we might need to make a withdrawal. For instance, when your partner hurts an ankle during a bush walk and you’ve to support them or carry them back to the car. Or when the car breaks down and you’ve to push it somewhere safe. Maybe something more sporty, when you place high priority on the winning now and health later! Most sports fall into this realm.

Much recent sports science research supports the gradual moderation approach to long-term progress rather than transient (brief) benefits from a 4 week smash in the gym. It seems the body holds onto the benefits of our physical practices from moderate efforts with only occasional higher efforts, well planned in a training cycle.

Contextual Training

Exertion levels aside, the choice of our strength movements are really quite simple. I’ve left this last part for the end of my chit-chat.

Ask yourself this: What does your life require you to be stronger at?

Early I mentioned the general physical qualities we excel at. Let’s look again:

Walking, climbing, running, jumping, carrying loads, picking up loads, squatting, pushing and pulling things, rotating, explosively moving and moving with intricate detail and control.

If you called these 12 categories of strength and fitness, you could take each and slot in a variation that suits your needs.

Whilst walking, climbing, running are simple without much variability, the carrying, picking up, squatting, pushing, pulling and rotations will most definitely have some personalisations.

If you’re a mother or father of two young children these will have very specific personalisations.

If you’re a labourer you will have your own personalisations too, as too will sports people, people who sit or stand for a living and of course the elderly will have a set of strengths and skills required to make life better.

That is the goal isn’t it – to make life better.

I used to love heavy barbell squatting, bench pressing and even bicep curls but to be honest, I got bored after a while once I achieved what I wanted from them and I got frustrated once I started to pick up some overuse injuries. It stopped being contextual to my life. That was up until 2012. Things have evolved since then thankfully.

There is nothing wrong with having a movement specific goal but overall, using gym time to add to the quality of our lives should be priority and using programs that are contextual to our own lives is in my opinion, a step in the right direction.

To continue this conversation on a personal level, if you are intrigued by contextual training for your life, please do get in touch.

Until 2020, have a very Merry Christmas an awesome new year.

Jamie

How to make your exercise Fun

Not everyone wakes up every morning to enthusiastically ready themselves for the gym. For most, it’s a chore and something they feel they have to squeeze into the week somehow.

One limiting factor aka excuse, is that exercise is deemed to be hard work, uncomfortable and not much fun.

Maybe the problem is the overwhelming compulsion to make every exercise session hard work and uncomfortable just because that’s what everyone seems to be doing and what the media champions.

I have recently talked about how we don’t actually need to spend anywhere near as much time on high intensity training to find benefits from exercise, but today, let look at how to make exercise fun.

  1. Find exercise methods you enjoy and align with. There are many ways to get stronger from bodyweight, kettlebells, barbells, parallel bars and much more.
  2. Music. Yup, music of your choice makes everything better. Whether it lifts your spirits or acts as a distraction-it works.
  3. Slow it down.
  4. Gamify. You could make a game out of your routine. Have fun accumulating the repetitions you’ve set out in your plan (you do have a have don’t you?) Here’s a simple routine we employ for squats and presses. We do 10 squats followed by 1 press, the 9 squats and 2 presses and continue this reduction and addition of 1 rep until we’re 1 squat and 10 presses. Simple but quite fun. You can substitute your own favourite two movements.
  5. Focus on quality. Make your exercise techniques better, then betterer.
  6. Get a training buddy. I might be biased here but I do see better results in people who train with other people.
  7. Get outside. Whilst it might get hot in summer, exercise outdoors is great. Fresh air, greenery, birds and no stale, sweat saturated air in a box gym.
  8. Play with movement. We do tend to live in a very linear world and that is reflected too in the gym. We move things up, down, then perhaps out and in and maybe side to side. But how about going ain all the other directions?? Systems like Animal Flow and GMB have routines and practice that incorporate multi-planar moves. So much more fun in my opinion.
  9. Hit the playground. If it’s good enough for the kids it’s good enough for us adults, just don’t push the kids out of your eager way as you sprint headlong towards the swings and monkey bars.
  10. Celebrate your victories. It can be easy to dwell on the hard stuff we try to do but heck, if you managed to walk an extra km power to you and your awesome self. Whether it’s that extra km or one extra press with your fav kettlebell, it’s a victory worth marking with fist pump, yeehaw or a smile.
  11. Stop the maximum efforts. If you haven’t read them yet – go here.
  12. Reflect. Journalling might seem like a time vampire to some but, can you imagine looking back in 6 months to a year at your training and seeing how far you’ve come?
  13. Set challenges. Be realistic and set yourself a challenge or two that’s within your sights. Want to get your first 10 push ups. Start with 1, repeat 7 to 10 times and gradually increase that 1 rep to 2 over the sets and so on. Do not max out, but expand your comfort zone.
  14. Plan. Just like #13, make a plan. Look at your end goal and design your program backwards from that point to your starting point. Make lots of tiny changes in the right direction including sessions that are easier, others more hard and some just medium. It can be tricky but great fun watching your own progress especially if you follow #12.
  15. KISS. No, not the band unless that’s your #2. Keep It Simple Stupid! Don’t try to do everything, random stuff or do heaps of something you’re not sure about. Get tuition, focus on the important stuff. Sleep 7-8 hours, eat mostly great, walk daily and strength train 2 to 3 times a week. Read more about this point here.

I’ll stop at 15 tips.

Got any how to keep exercise fun tips yourself? Let me know. I’ll add them to this list and credit you if you like 🙂

 


Are you interested in learning how start Reboot Your Body to say goodbye to aches and pains? I’ll be running a series of workshops in the coming months here in Albany Creek.

Read more here.

Membership is Open

Bye Bye Summer… hello gym time!

… and today I’m reaching out to everyone in my nearby suburbs in Northern Brisbane. 

I’ve recently announced the New FitStrong Morning Membership for everyone living near to FitStrong in the Brisbane Northern Suburbs.

I am now reserving the early morning sessions exclusively for morning members.

Benefits:

  • Unlimited mornings Monday to Friday
  • 45 minute sessions within 5:30 to 6:45am
  • Professionally designed programs
  • On-board program for beginners
  • Limited to 4 people per session
  • Only $50 per week

If you want to get stronger, fitter and exercise in a small group, this could be what you’re looking for.

If you would like to chat about the morning training program further, please do get in touch below.

If you’re motivated to make your 2019 a fitter and stronger year, why not book in for your first week. Just click the link below. 

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And, if you are far, far away and would like to receive virtual training check out our exclusive online membership.

click here