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

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Tip

Moving better and getting stronger is rather contextual. For an average gym attendee it’s a clear message; “I want to lift heavier stuff” or “I want to carry out more complex movements”.

But, if you’re an individual with back pain (or any pain) at rest, whilst carrying out day-to-day activities or whilst trying to engage in exercise, the message is different. It becomes qualitative rather than quantitive. Working out hard or following the most advanced, cutting edge, progressive strength training plan is irrelevant at this stage.  Getting out of pain and discomfort is top priority.

Most of the general population will have some form of mobility issue. It could be as simple as a slightly stiff ankle or hip or shoulders none of which seriously affects the quality of life or it could be as impactful to cause pain and discomfort.

One area of mobility impairment I observe in the gym is thoracic spine mobility restrictions, or in simple terms, the limited range of movement of the upper body through rotation or side bending and also overhead reaching activities.

The thoracic spine (aka the T-spine) comprises the 12 vertebra that covers the shoulders to the waist, or the rib cage portion of the torso.

If the thoracic spine has restrictions, the lower backs lumbar spine will compensate and attempt to move more, not something it’s meant to do. This can often result in fatigue, pain and discomfort. Where I see the restrictions more often is at the top end, where the neck and shoulders take on more work and become stiff, tired and strained. Essentially when the upper torso doesn’t move well, the arms end up compensating and over-reach. There is indeed plenty of research that supports the theory that thoracic spine movement dysfunction is linked to pathologies and pain in the neck, shoulder, and elbow (Heneghan et al, 2017).

Thankfully there are systems in place to help rectify this the help of health practitioners and some trainers who may have qualifications in postural restoration – and positive outcomes can be quick. One study showed that after just three weeks of thoracic spine mobility and strength exercise practice, that participants improved movement competency, strength, posture and pain relief.

Today I’d like to share a couple of T-spine mobility drills we practice often but with a couple of tips added to help make the most of them. We are only human and oftentimes we’ll try to cheat, or get a bit complacent. My modified versions of two common drills have helped many clients actually get the benefit of the moves.

 

Have a go and see how you feel but naturally, of you’ve got pain, maybe go see your local physiotherapist for personalised guidance.

Jamie

How to Bulletproof Your Future

Part 1

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In the gym it’s pretty obvious how we spend our time. People turn up, we warm up, we do some strength work and movement skill work, have a chit-chat then say our ‘see you next times’.

The why and the what else is all-too-often not discussed in much detail apart from some passing suggestions about getting in some aerobic work and keeping up some stretching at home etc.

This year, my goal is to help people bulletproof their futures. 

I’d love to be offering a proverbial radioactive spider to help turn you into a superhero version of yourself, and actually, compared to to an alternative, I might be doing just that!

This year I will naturally be spending time espousing the benefits of strength and mobility training, because that what 90% of my gym time with people is spent doing. BUT, I am going to be spending more time promoting the other stuff, the things we probably do not spend enough time promoting.

My role is that of a health and fitness promoter, not just a personal trainer. Fitness is what most of trainers spend lots of time on but health… meh, we could be doing heaps better at that.

Our bodies maintain a healthy balanced system when it’s treated as intended. It’s a bit like a bike chain. Left unused it will rust, stiffen and eventually fail when used. Our bodies have a blueprint, a design and a purpose. There are a number of things we are meant to do daily and frequently to sustain the balance.

Let’s look at these briefly. I will be spending time over the coming weeks looking more deeply into these according to what research has found and I’ll cover to how to action improvements.

  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet of plants, proteins, fats and water too.
  • Stay strong in all the movements our mechanics perform in.
  • Walk daily and get out of breath from time to time.
  • Move well and often without restriction, pain or discomfort.

What happens when we drift away from our intend? We specialise. This is a subject that puts the cat right amongst the pigeons.

Whilst admiring a specialist and their very particular set of skills, they have most likely sacrificed many other essential elements of what makes up complete health. 

A few general examples:

  • The cyclist who does not work on their strength training
  • The powerlifter who neglects their body fat levels and aerobic health
  • The overly busy father who works 55 hours a week yet neglects his family
  • The very busy mum who focuses entirely on her children and family and neglects their own fitness and nutrition
  • The Gymnast who focuses wholeheartedly on their sport and sacrifices their joint health

While you can admire all these people for their dedication and successes, isn’t it a shame they sacrifice to do so. It’s not a moral shame either. It’s a shame that the essential physical components that make us fully operational humans are missing. Being mobile, strong, aerobically capable; being able to fully recover from each day with good nutrition and adequate sleep is what amounts to enable our bodies to thrive. Being good at one thing is fine, but the pay-off is a health trade-off. 

2019 is the year I’ll be wearing more of my health promotion hat and not just my PT hat. So much of my last 10 years have been spent on learning and developing better knowledge and application of training programs, exercises, progressions, regressions and systems but one thing has become quite apparent – it just doesn’t matter if we are not getting the basics of health in place.

If you’re following a training program, not getting stronger, not losing fat, not feeling fitter, most likely it’s not the training that’s to blame, it’s the poor attention given to these other components. 

Before contemplating becoming an expert or a specialist, weigh up being a really good generalist. Being able to undertake a wide array of components of being human is so much more wealthy than being awesome at one or a restricted number of things. 

Until next time, do weigh yourself up. What are you doing more of or what are you doing proportionately less? Consider that list above:

  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet of plants, proteins, fats and water too.
  • Stay strong in all the movements our mechanics perform in.
  • Walk daily and get out of breath from time to time.
  • Move well and often without restriction, pain or discomfort.

 

Part 2 – Sleep 

 

New Year Promise

I was talking to a client this morning who mentioned that her local park run event (5km recreational running events held weekly) broke its attendance record and we dully laughed knowing that attendance will most likely drop within the next few weeks.

This will be the same observation in gyms, other recreational sporting events, slimming groups and other dieting support groups.

Why?

Dreams built off of lofty goals. Goals that are unreasonable, unmeasured, unhealthy and based on poor knowledge of how to achieve the goals. If you’ve had the new year resolution conversation, I’m sure you’ve heard something along the lines of, “I want to lose 5kg”, or “I want to get fitter”, whatever that means. I bet you’ll rarely hear, “I am promising to myself to get healthier”.

And that, ultimately is why anyone should start to exercise – to improve ones health.

Health goals could include:

  1. Losing fat.
  2. Lowering stress.
  3. Sleeping better.
  4. Lowering blood pressure.
  5. Lower risk factors associated with heart disease and cancers.
  6. Rebalancing hormones.

Here’s one interesting fact. Aerobic exercise carried out daily has repetitively shown to help ease or remedy all of the above. Additionally, addressing any one of the above items has been shown to help with the others on the list.

Wanting to exercise to improve your 5km run time or increase your deadlift should be queued behind having great health first.

So let’s clear up what great health is and what does that mean in relation to the above list.

If you are overweight, your health is at risk. It doesn’t matter how happy you are if you are overweight, the facts of the matter are that carrying around excess weight be it from extra fat or muscle (now that’ll rattle a few people) is or will negatively affect your health.

A simple way to measure if you are overweight apart from the obvious, is this guide.

If your waist is more than twice you height or BMI is over 25 then you are overweight.

Stress is pretty much self determined and heavily influenced by the the things we do onto ourselves. Not always of course, but the way we react to day to day stresses varies from person to person.

Some signs of stress:

If you are getting angry at people around you or at yourself, you are stressed.

If your sleep is affected by not being able to let go of your day to day difficulties, you are stressed.

If you are experiencing negative feelings or emotions about yourself, you are stressed.

If you are getting frequent headaches, chances are you are unduly stressed.

If you are experiencing stomach, gut and bowel problems such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, then your body is under stress.

If your blood pressure is higher than healthy thresholds, then your body is under stress.

If you’ve just increased your weekly high intensity exercise by more than 20%, you are stressing your body unduly.

If you only perform high intensity exercise, you are putting your body under excess stress.

If you drink more than the recommended units of alcohol per day, you are stressing your body.

… The list could go on. For many of these, talking to your doctor is vital.

The presence of ill-health is a clear indicator too that hard exercise has no place in your routine.

The point is, if your body is not operating as it normally should, it is under stress. Taking on extra and ‘intensive activities’ has no place in your weekly routine until good health is restored. Hard exercise is a stressor on the body so adding more stress to an already stressed system should clearly be seen as unwise.

The picture being painted here so far is that hard exercise has no place in the life of an unhealthy person that includes one who is overweight, overstressed and under sleeping.

If you are a beginner and overweight and maybe exhibiting some other health issues and you want to improve your health and fitness, going out for a run, carrying out some random HIIT workout from Youtube is NOT what you should be prioritising.

Remember at the start I mentioned the health benefits of aerobic activities? That is where you should start. It might not be the most exciting or stimulating, but you know what, getting injured, having a heart attack or stressing your body to throw up after your run is not much fun either.

Every new endeavour must start with reasonable actions that are repeatable for the rest of your life. Yep, you’re in that body for a very long time and it is your choice whether you thrive or barely just survive.

How about starting with a 30 minute walk, every day. You don’t need a membership or even fancy workout clothing. Just stick on your shoes, open the door and go walk. Do close the door behind you of course 😉

Over a week of walking you’ll expose yourself to a bit of sun, increase your Vit D, breathe and stimulate your heart and lungs and start to switch on some muscles that have been inactive for a while all with a low intensity form of exercise that you were born to do.

Forget the high intensity stressors. Feed and love your body and promise to yourself to do so every day of your life.

 

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.

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.

 

Strong is ability

Strong isn’t a size, it’s ability. 

All too often you’ll hear rebuttals to strength training from prospective clients or other adult pops with quotes like, “I don’t want to get all muscly” or, “I’m not a strength athlete, I just want to be fitter”!

I love both of these reasonings for not making strength training part of ones life, not because I agree, quite the contrary; but because I love to explain the why. The ‘why’ we do need strength training in our lives.

Firstly, the whole growing big muscles by partaking in strength training twice or maybe three times a week  for the average adult just isn’t going to result in a Popeye type explosion of all over muscle growth.

Popeye1

Muscle growth occurs with repeated high stress training for multiple sets, repeating a strength exercise to the point of muscular fatigue or momentary failure.

Strength training practice requires the exposure of high tension to muscles with maximum control but not to momentary muscular failure. 

Apart from this important factor that differentiates muscle growth training to muscle strength training; youth, great nutrition, great sleep, minimum stress, natural hormones in abundance are all required to accompany the high stress training protocols. For most of us, we’re not going to train moderately and burst into a behemoth overnight, or even after a years solid training. In reality to boot, even if you were to gain 10kg of muscle, you wouldn’t really notice it in the mirror as huge growth. You’d see a bit of muscle shape and improved posture in most cases.

In any case, don’t worry about strength training adding vast lumps of meat to your frame, it just isn’t that easy. Even for the average dedicated gym bro, adding muscle following the precise muscle gain protocols is a very challenging job.

Now then, as for the other perception that strength is for athletes, well it just isn’t. I wish I could just leave this as it is but my point warrants further explanation.

Let’s start by looking at those who believe that practicing some form of strength training is not for them or wasn’t for them; let’s look at the elderly. Frail, weak, dependant on a stick, a frame, other people or aids to carry out the most basic of fundamental human tasks, it should be obvious that people in this boat could have benefitted greatly from even the simplest weekly strength training practice.

Many hospital ‘incarcerations’ for the elderly patient occur as an outcome of a fall, when weak and brittle bones succumbed to the impact or dislocations or muscle tears resulted. We all run the risk of tripping and falling in life but having the resilience to cope is part choice and part luck.

The choice component comes from choosing to be proactive throughout our lives in regards to staying active, mobile and strong. Isn’t this a definition of ‘fitness’, being fit for our lives and all that it throws our way?

Being stronger not only safe-guards us and makes us more resilient, it makes us more able and capable.

Ask yourself this question:

On your death bed in many, many years, would you regret being strong and able or would you regret being weak and prone to pain and injury? 

Heading into the new year soon, maybe you’re thinking of taking up ‘getting strong and more mobile’. To draw this post to an end, I’d like to offer you a FREE 5 day course for home use, which will take you through some key movements to start first off addressing moving better.

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Check it out and if you’ve any further questions or you’re ready to start getting stronger, get in touch.

Keen to learn more about training with me online?

Check out our Online Membership below.

fitstrong membership subscription#7

The ‘Priority’ Kettlebell Complex

Did you know it’s totally ok to have only a short amount of time to train and to have training priorities and to expect results?

Usually time constraints mean you have to sacrifice moving forward towards gaining results in strength and fitness and have to instead make do with maintaining, or practicing. These latter two are of course vital aspects of continuing training but it’s commonly accepted that moving forward is only possible with detailed and lengthy training sessions. While this is true for big goals, you can still up your press, squat, cleans and swing strength with this simple Priority Stacked Complex.

A complex if unfamiliar, is a set of more than 2 exercises carried out back to back without resting the weight on the floor. An example would be performing cleans, moving straight to push presses and moving straight onto to performing front squats.

You can of course organise the sequence of the individual exercises to prioritise one exercise over the others. An example here would be performing more of the push press whilst carrying out fewer of the other movements.

A stacked complex is what I call a complex that grows per set by adding on a new additional exercise. I stack on a new exercise to practice after the first and prioritised exercise. In essence, the first exercise performed is the priority, the second is second priority and the final is least. All based on the total volume you’ll amount over the rounds.

The below routine demonstrates this idea.

The Priority Stacked Complex

Note: the 3 sets = 1 round.

Day 1.

  • Swing,
  • Swing, clean and press
  • Swing, clean and press, squat
  • Rest as needed before repeating

Day 2.

  • Clean and press
  • Clean and press, swing
  • Clean and press, swing, squat
  • Rest as needed before repeating

Day 3.

  • Squat
  • Squat, clean and press
  • Squat, clean and press, swing
  • Rest as needed before repeating

You can see how over the three sets you will perform the same movements but per day you prioritise either the Swing, Clean and Press or Squat.

In a program you could repeat the above round of the stacked complex for a total of 2 to 4 rounds, depending on repetitions. You could decide on working with a single arm / 1 kettlebell or double / 2 kettlebells, dependant on your ability and skill level.

So, let’s look at the repetitions with consideration to goals.

General Work Capacity:

6 to 8 reps of each movement.

This would amount quite a number of total reps on the final set of each round, 24 to 32 repetitions in fact. You would choose a weight that’s not close to your top strength 3 to 5 rep weight – maybe a kettlebell you could perform the weakest exercise of the complex for 10 reps.

General Strength:

5 repetitions of each movement. A conservative number for general strength development. Use a kettlebell you can perform the weakest movement in the complex for 7 reps.

Focussed Strength:

3 to 5 reps for the first / prioritised movement then just 1 for the following. You get to focus on that prioritised lift whilst performing simple practice of the others. Some may say to not bother with the following exercises and instead just perform the focussed exercise. But look, if you are stuck for time, getting any practice of the other moves is time well spent. Specialised programs are fine for a small percentage of the annual schedule and if this isn’t one of those times, keep up whatever practice you can, whenever you can. Use a weight that is 5 to 6 rep max (technical max).

There are lots of ways to build the numbers. I’m not writing this to argue a point but simply to demonstrate one solution. You could even just do singles for each movement in the complex to form a chain of heavy lifts.

Over a 4 week cycle, you could start with general work capacity, then move to general strength, to focussed strength before finishing the cycle with just heavy singles. Just an idea.

The Video below simply demonstrates the sequences listed for Day 1 with 5 reps per movement.

Got any feedback, questions or suggestions? Pop them on the contact form below.

20 Minute Freestyle Challenge

Hey ya’ll. photo-output

So, it’s a sunny Brisbane afternoon, the pool is glistening under a late spring sub-tropical sun and the glass of Johnnie Walker Swing scotch is tasting mighty tasty, but… I must interrupt my moment of bliss with a quick mention of the workout I like to throw out when I want to get stuff done in between actual planned days.

It’s a kind of snack between meals that serves as a great opportunity to practice whatever the heck I want to practice.

So here’s the game plan rules.

  1. Choose a light weight, an 18kg kettlebell in my case.
  2. Pick it up and keep ‘er lit for 20 minutes non-stop.

That’s it folks!

With no particular plan of attack or whiteboard emblazoned with exercises, just move non-stop for 20 minutes between each exercise, any exercises you know and want to work on.

The caveat; weight must not rest on the floor at any time.

I typically rotate between left and right arm and work through a list of:

  • Swings
  • Cleans
  • Snatches
  • Windmills
  • Turkish Get Up ‘downs’
  • Floor Presses
  • Presses
  • Push Presses
  • Jerks
  • The Bent Press
  • Rows
  • Bottom Up carries
  • Other Carries
  • Halo
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Single Leg Deadlift variations
  • Prying Goblet Squats

Darn, the list could go on.

This is just a workout but serves as a great opportunity to put in a practice session with a nice strength endurance outcome.

You could use a sandbag, a barbell, a medicine ball, bodyweight movements (which is actually the hardest option) and you can even use a concrete block or a sledge hammer too!

Have a go sometime you feel the urge to workout and let me know what you did.