Do You Even Plank?

If you’ve never seen an advertisement for Abdominal training, or Ab Workouts, or Six Pack this and that, well done. You’re probably one of the lucky ones who haven’t been inflicted with horrific images of back busting silliness all in the name of grabbing attention to a program, product of instagram likes.

Whilst there is plenty of great information out in the interwebs, most of the time we only see the very well marketed, sparkly sensationalised ‘stuff’.

Commonly we’ll see 4 week programs with an irrational progression where arbitrary volume is added by time or repetitions regardless of the readers ability or actual progress. We’ll see recommendations for 3, 4 or 5 minute plank holds or worse still, a list of multiple exercises to target the waist muscles and all at the same time, totally disregarding the readers ability.

My good chiropractor and physiotherapist friends rub their hands in glee, simultaneously frustrated by the lack of  respect for the body.

There is nothing wrong with challenging the plank position every now and then, but there needs to be a solid foundation of strength first.

Abdominal strengthening is much like the strength training of any other part of the body and doesn’t need a special formula for excellent results. For beginners the rules are simple – learn tension for brief moments long before challenging longer efforts (which we’ll get to shortly).

Tension?

In training and coaching we have both the teaching ‘how’ to do something and then we’ll have the cueing. Cueing is a reminder of the key instructions. Generally a frequently used word, or short sentence, again just as a reminder of the important stuff to do.

Tension is one the most important aspects to help develop strength and it could be summed up by one cue – ‘squeeze’. Once you learn the how of building tension to execute a strength movement better the gentle reminder of “squeeze” is often all that’s needed to remind the lifter to, well, squeeze everything to get tight.

The plank is the ultimate squeeze exercise. There is no movement (apart from breathing – that is rather important). The plank is an isometric and something we use in the gym to teach control of tension that is then applied to other movements like the top of the deadlift, or the kettlebell swing, the squat, military press, push up, carries – you see a pattern here? Every strength exercise requires tension, the act of squeezing.

Why? Tensioning up is like loading a spring, compressing it, readying it to recoil with explosive power and awesomeness. Secondly, being tight aka tense, serves to protect the joints, the spinal column in particular and muscles. There is a time for relaxing but not when attempting to deadlift.

Whilst tension practice with the plank is a great tool, performing the plank is also just fine to practice, to get better at planking. It’s ok… really. It’s fine to have a personal goal you know. As a brief side note, you’ll observe many extremists (and social media has an abundance of shouters and followers) who will say you should just do the big lifts and stop faffing around with the small stuff. No one has the right to demand you only do A, B or C. If you want to focus on getting better at something – do it. It’s glorious to celebrate a victory not matter how big or small. Celebrate 🙂

Back to the Plank

Let’s take a peek at a good plank and then a terrible plank before looking at progressions.

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How Much?

Like any other strength movement, short sets are great for maintaining technique and the tension I’ve spoken of.

I typically refer to the volume of an isometric set in terms of breaths. That is, I practice a high tension plank for the duration of 5 breaths for 3 or maybe 4 sets. Can we do 10 breaths? Yes. But master 5 breaths first off.

For a beginner we even take a graduated breathing repetition scheme. Set 1 for 1 breath with the best tension we can muster. Rest then hold for 2 breaths, 3, 4 and then 5. That is 5 sets of gradually more volume for a total of 15 breaths. And that’s perfect – a good starting point for a beginner.

Once the basic plank is awesome, then we can start to play with progressions. We can progress by complexity as shown below or by adding time. This is when we can start to look at holding a great plank for 30 to 60 secs and perhaps more if form is sustainable.

I’ll stop at this point as it’s tempting to provide a challenge haha. If you’ve read this and think you need to work on your plank form, do just that before looking for sexy, fun ways to just make it harder to do. There is nothing sexy or fun about getting a tweaked back due to sloppy plank form.

Got any questions, just fill in the form below.

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Do you Eat like you Drive??

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Most people find that come Thursday or Friday, that their good ol willpower for the week has taken a few hits, dwindled, faded away, leaving urge after urge to give into temptations.

I had just this conversation with a gym member today who explained that she’d had (in her opinion) a bad breakfast. “It’ just took over” she said. She then went on to say, “I may as well just give up for the week and restart on Monday.”

Have you heard yourself say this too?

I used to for sure, as did my wife, my clients of past and probably heaps of people trying to improve their nutrition.

It’s an easy and simple solution. Just give up and try again next week.

But really, is this really going to help the long term goal of improving nutritional habits and fat loss?

We are human. We have faults. We make mistakes. Willpower is not an endless supply of strength. It does dwindle and is much more fickle than you’d believe.

 

What we discussed next has been a massive thought process shift for many clients. A skill like any other skill, the ability to just say, ‘I fluffed up, let’s accept the ‘bad’ meal and move on’, is quite powerful.

Rather than disrupting the process of building a new habit, simply brushing off the mistake as a one off mistake allows us to move on and get back to the game. No need to inflict guilt.

What made the idea stick though was this analogy I posed to her.

“What do you do when you clip the curb with your wheel when driving? Do you keep clipping the curbs until Monday morning or do you deal with it, brush it off as a mistake and get on with life?”

I shouldn’t need to answer that question for you. You can see clearly what it’s aimed at.

We all give in at some point. Often our other half or friends tempt us with chocolate or that big glass of wine. If you do give in, it’s fine. Deal with it by accepting it then move on and don’t wait to Monday to stop hitting curbs.

This might be a real skill to practice. You may start with this: ‘Whenever I drop off my nutrition goals, I will accept it as a one-off, forget it and move on as normal’. Hopefully you won’t have many drop offs and hopefully you’ll not clip many curbs too.

Need any help with your own nutrition goals and habits? Just shout.

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.

Is HIIT a component of Wellness?

There are many quotes we bounce around the interwebs these days but today I’m quoting Benjamin Franklin when he wrote in his letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

A commonly used quote that denotes life has two certainties but yet, many, many variables. Let’s call these variables ‘choices’ just for today in this short piece.

We all have choices to make in our lives and especially true of our health and fitness choices but it does seem like most exercisers are simply following the herd without really looking at what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Just because something feels good, that doesn’t make it good for you!

I was going to write up this blog post but instead decided to talk to you instead. If you can’t watch all 10 minutes, that’s okay but I get into discussing HIIT (high intensity interval training) and how it’s showing NOT to be the best, most sustainable choice of exercise to benefit our lives.

You could just leave it there. You’ve read that I’m about to discredit HIIT as a training method and that simpler, less painful training works better! To find out the details, how about just watching the video?

Next time I’ll chat about the alternative to HIIT training that’s both healthier long term and actually provides better results – go figure!

Maybe a shorter video for that one haha.

Until then, be good to yourself 🙂

Jamie

 

 

Part 2 

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

HOW TO MAINTAIN GAINS OVER THE HOLIDAYS – PT.3

Welcome to part 3 of my short series about how to sustain a minimum affective dose of strength over the Christmas period. In part 1 and part 2 I covered variations of three staples of strength. Push, Hip Hinge and Squat have been chosen for simplicity and variety.

In this part I ramp up the effort a little. This is not obligatory of course, just an option if you wanted to increase the effort of part 2’s suggestion.

  1. Continue to practice the A-frame inverted press, maybe with a greater range of movement or try the option shown, the Bear Crawl. Aim for 5 presses or 5 paces of the bear crawl
  2. True Single Leg Deadlift. Stand tall, abdominal wall tense. Lift one leg, keep it limp. Inhale and drive hips back allowing knee to bend a little and grip floor with foot. Exhale and drive hips forward. Swap leg or stick with the same leg and repeat for 5 reps.
  3. Single Leg Box Squat. Stand in front of a knee height step or gym box or dining room chair. Stand on one leg and hip hinge first and lower to find the box. Rest back a little before tightening up the torso and driving back to standing. For a harder option, just touch and go with the step. If you have aspirations to accomplish a pistol squat, this is a great strengthener in preparation.

 

Got any thoughts or feedback? Get in touch below.

 

Do you like the idea of 10 minute plans to build your fitness and strength program? This is exactly how we plan most of our programs for clients. Our Online Membership is a fine example of 10 minute blocks where we assemble our daily routines with blocks of 10 minutes. Short on time – do 1 block of 10 mins. Got plenty of time – complete 3 to 4 blocks of 10 minutes.

Check out the online platform by clicking below.

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Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

How to Maintain Gains Over the Holidays – Pt.2

In part 1 we looked at just 3 moves to keep us ticking over during the busy festive period.

Today, in part 2 I’ll show you a simple progression or variation of the Press, Squat and Hip Hinge.

  1. The A-frame press version of an inverted press is a great progression to the kneeling inverted press. Somewhat harder, but as you’ll see in the video, your ability will dictate the range of movement. Your legs can be bent or straighter, and you can just bend at the elbow if your strength requires it. With practice you would be able to progress the elbow bend to the point where you can reach the floor with the top of your head. Practice makes progress.
  2. The kickstand squat is almost a 1 leg squat but not quite. It doesn’t require too much balance (compared to a true 1 leg squat) but allows you to focus on the strength and mobility of one leg at a time. Weights are optional.
  3. The Single Leg Deadlift is also a great option to strengthen 1 leg at a time, but more the posterior of the lower body. Balance is required but pay attention to the variations spoken about in the video. To develop better balance we first need to explore losing it, albeit carefully!

Over a 10 minute period rotate through these 3 moves for roughly 5 repetitions each. Do be sure to warm up first off of course.

Here’s the video 

 

Got any thoughts or questions? Get in touch.

 

Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

Have a Healthy and Stronger 2019

IMG_6958Christmas is getting so close and I plan to let my hair down, eat what I want and enjoy myself with family. I hope you will too.

I am also looking forward to January though, when it’ll be time to put focus back on health and fitness Fitstrong Brisbane.

On Monday 7th I’ll be kicking off our January Challenge with an emphasis on creating better nutritional habits and following a simple but effective training program.

Random workouts from Youtube or a magazine are fine if you just want to build up a sweat, but they rarely result in achieving goals. I can proudly say that we follow training plans all year round at FitStrong. These are laid out to address and prioritise specific goals and not just to get tired, sore and sweaty. I could poke you with a stick if that’s the goal!

Our systematic approach is applied to both in-person training at the gym and for online training members.

Okay, back to you now. Ask yourself.

  • Are you committed to improving your fitness and health in 2019?
  • Can you set aside 15, 30 to 45 minutes for yourself daily or 2 to 3 times a week?
  • Have you got a health or fitness goal?
  • Do you want the assistance of a very experienced coach?

If you can answer yes to these, please do consider joining us at FitStrong either as an online member or at our Albany Creek gym. Our training options can meet any budget from $1 a day to more higher ticket detailed packages.

Check out our Online Membership site below:

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If you are ready to take 2019 by the horns and get healthier and stronger, get in touch below and I’ll get back to you with start-up options that won’t break the bank!

How to Maintain Gains Over the Holidays

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the value of sticking to a plan both in terms of a timely routine and working with the big important albeit simple strength moves.

You know: 

  • Squat
  • Hip hinge
  • Push stuff
  • Pull stuff
  • Carry stuff
  • Brace your torso

This does get challenged especially at busy times of the year and not just at Christmas time. The overwhelming feeling of, “sure what’s the point if I can’t do a good 45 minutes in the gym” is all too common a thought and a downfall in maintaining the benefits of exercise. You don’t have to firing on all cylinders all year round and a reductionist style program maintained briefly can help the body rest, progress and give you some mental uplifting too.

I’ve already espoused the benefit of aiming for even a short 10 to 15 minute routine and this week I am doing it again.

Repetition is the mother of all learning.

This week I am supporting the use of three strength moves to practice, with some progressions built-in in case you want to play along and experiment with what a light, medium and harder 15 minute routine could look like… with just three movements.

This light, medium and hard approach is how we build our programs here. We rotate through these relative intensities to provide opportunities to focus on learning and practice, working a bit harder and then perhaps testing the body and progressing forward.

This week let’s look at the:

  1. Inverted Press (for the upper back and shoulders / arms)
  2. Squats (for the backside and thighs etc)
  3. Hip Hinging (for the backside, hamstrings etc)

Here’s the video

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Need to ask me something?

 

Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

 

Nothing Wrong With Taking It Easy!

We get bombarded with messages from commercial fitness that we need to hit the gym and hit if hard or, like, what’s the point?

Now, before you start to think I’m wimping out in my old-age, I’m not saying to take every exercise session as a doddle in the park. Yes, sometimes you have to get a little bit uncomfortable, but not every time you exercise.

Today I’ll share a routine where I start with our simple daily mobility movements and then move onto just a little bit of waking up for the big body parts. As I explain, I could move onto more strength focussed moves afterwards, or I could just get on with my day. Stick to your plan. Oh, you do have a plan don’t you? If not, see me after class!

Follow along with the video to get your day off to a good start.

 


 

IN OTHER NEWS

I am looking for people who want to avoid the gym and exercise from the comfort and convenience of your own home.

Save your precious time, listen to music you want to listen to and follow specialised programs for busy people. Members of FitStrong Online follow what they can when they can. From as little as 10 mins to as much as 4 blocks of 10 mins. It’s your choice… and it’s just $1 a day!
FitStrong Online Membership offers: 

👉🏻Ongoing training programs
👉🏻Bodyweight and Kettlebell focus
👉🏻Teaching videos for all the major exercises
👉🏻Live training sessions 😀
👉🏻Efficient 10 minute workouts
👉🏻Currently 28 different programs – potentially 42 months worth!!!!
👉🏻6 – 12 Week Challenges
👉🏻NO CONTRACTS. Try a month and cancel if it’s not for you
👉🏻Mobility tips to get less stiff and achy
👉🏻Access to the most successful special programs we’ve delivered
👉🏻Q&A opportunities at the tap of a button
👉🏻Nutrition and Lifestyle guidance
👉🏻Accountability Calls

Interested? 

To check out the membership site, click below.

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