Exercises You Should Be Doing: Swiss Ball Toe Touches

My wife is awesome.  If you know her, you already know that, but she often does something that reminds me of just how awesome she is.  Yesterday, I was in a bit of a funk all day long ( a looooong day at that), and she made it all better with food. I came home to ginger marinated elk steak, a variety of steamed veggies (onions, pea pods, broccoli, red peppers, green beans) with some vinagrette on them and brown rice.  Then for dessert, strawberries with the tips dipped in chocolate.

Who says healthy food can’t be a pick me up?

To say the  least, it was a freakin’ delicious meal.

Anyway, on to your abs and how you can make them hard as diamonds.  That’s right…diamonds…

Swiss Ball Toe Touches are a pretty challenging exercise for most clients.  They certainly aren’t appropriate for those who are at a beginner level.  I usually don’t have anyone do these until they can do some solid sets of Spiderman Planks with good form.

Here’s what they look like:

Here’s how to do them:

-Get into a push-up position with the front of your feet on a Swiss Ball.

-Brace your abs, back and butt.  Keep them flexed as tight as you can through the movement.

-Once your body is tight, take one foot off the ball and touch your toes to the ground.  Then place your foot back on the ball.

-Repeat with the other side.

I like to have clients do 8-12/side.

Modifications:

-To make the exercise a bit easier (to regress it) place your shins on the ball.  This will give you more stability and take some of the work out of your abs.

-To make the exercise more difficult, slow down the speed of your legs, and reach out farther with the foot that is touching the ground.

Try them out and let me know what you think!

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Just because someone says they’re an expert…

I like to read fitness magazines.  I usually don’t agree with a lot of what’s inside of most of them, but I find them entertaining.

I was reading one last night (one geared towards women, but I wont say which one).  Somewhere in the middle of this magazine there was a section where readers could send in questions and “expert” Jillian Michaels would answer them.

(I know, I know I complain about her a lot…maybe too much, but when someone is as arrogant as she is and continually says/does dumb things, I have a hard time not nailing her for it.)

Anyway, one reader asked her about how to best train her abs.  Jillian mentioned the three main abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and the obliques), and then went on to prescribe some crappy exercises to train each of these muscles specifically.

In a second question, a reader asked about training her lower abs more than her upper abs.  Fortunately, Jillian set her straight and correctly told her that there are no “upper” and “lower” abs.  However, she then went on to say how the three abdominal muscles she mentioned in her earlier answer, run up and down the body…

This may not mean anything to you, but this is a huge misunderstanding of abdominal structure.

She’s right about the rectus abdominis.  They run up and down.  However, the transverse abdominis runs side to side (in fact that’s what the word “transverse” means), and the obliques run diagonally across the body:

So this means that a TV trainer/expert/consultant/writer/self-proclaimed “worlds best” at fat loss has zero understanding of human anatomy.  Even if I give her the benefit of the doubt, she completely misunderstands the musculature of the torso.

Does any of this sound like an “expert” to you?

Feel free to share this on Facebook or e-mail it to a friend.  Your support is appreciated!

That room’s a liar!

Happy President’s Day to everybody!

A few weeks ago, I saw a pretty cool video.

Here it is:

(If you don’t watch it, this post will make zero sense. It’s only 90 seconds long.  Seriously, this wont make any sense.)

I find it very interesting that the mind is so set on the idea that walls are square, and that they always are, that it views the girl as growing larger rather than seeing a distorted room.  That’s a pretty powerful preconceived notion.

This concept can apply to many areas of our lives.  For some people, no matter how badly they want to lose weight, get stronger or get lean, they are completely unable to imagine themselves successful.  Much like the distorted room, they are unable to see their perceptions for what they really are and they limit their potential.

How about you?

Have past failures determined your future for you?

Have you tried to lose weight with no success and are now determined that that’s the way it will always be?

Have you tried to eat healthy and failed miserably over and over again, only to decide that crappy, processed food is the only diet you can stick to?

Maybe it’s time to step back and check your perception.

Maybe you need to see the room for what it really is…a flat out deception.

Good Reads

I woke up this morning with a fever and a body that felt like it had been through a bar fight.  Although I’m feeling quite a bit better now, I have very little creative energy, so I’m letting other people do the talking for me today.  Here are some good reads that are definitely worth your time:

The Hero Handbook, by Nate Green.  This is actually a PDF you will need to download, but it is definitely worth it.  Nate has put together an extensive list of attributes that make people stand out from the Average Joe, as well as how you can apply them to your life.  It’s pretty long, but can be easily read in a couple sittings.

Are You Really Healthy? by Tony Gentilcore.  Tony discusses how simply taking care of yourself (i.e. eating well and getting some sleep) can keep you from getting sick as well as help you get over sickness much quicker.

Blocked 90-90 Split Squats, by Mike Robertson. Mike discusses a modification of the split squat.  It’s a great movement and I’ve been incorporating it into some of my clients programs.

Have a good weekend!

Exercises you should be doing: Bird Dogs

Let’s face it, we aren’t exactly an active society.  Sure there are those who spend their free time lifting weights, riding bikes, rock climbing, running, yoga-ing, etc.  But they are the exception to the rule.  And those who do those activities regularly are even more rare.  On the whole, we sit and sit and sit, and then complain about how crappy we feel.


The good news is that there are really simple ways to begin to feel better, and regain mobility.

One of my favorite movements is the Bird Dog.

For those who are pretty de-conditioned this can be a very challenging exercise, and even for those who at a higher fitness level, this movement is fantastic as part of a warm up.

The Bird Dog helps activate the glutes, opens up the hips, and makes your abs work to keep you stable.

Here’s how to do it:

-Start in a quadruped (all fours) position.

-Brace your abs, and prepare yourself for instability.

-Working with opposite limbs, raise one leg and one arm.

-While raising your limbs, think of extending and lengthening your body.  Avoid arching your back and lifting your hand and foot towards the ceiling.  Again, think of lengthening your body.

-Squeeze your butt tight at the top of the movement.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Get leaner and stronger with the basics

People make getting leaner or stronger waaaaayyyyy too complicated.  It’s really not a difficult thing to figure out.  A huge part of the problem is that we are bombarded with information about fitness.  You can’t even get through the check out line at a grocery store without seeing “Flat Abs in 5 Days!” or “Lose 10 Pounds in Two Weeks!”  It’s seriously a bit ridiculous.  Everyone who calls themselves a trainer or fitness expert feels that they have to have something cutting edge for their clients.  After all, everything has to be new and flashy and really crazy looking to be effective right?

I look through fitness magazines periodically.  I’m usually not looking for much that’s worth while, but I find them frustrating infuriating entertaining.  They are usually filled with exercises that have you standing on one leg with every other toe touching the ground and doing push ups against the sky all while flexing your butt in time to “Don’t Stop Believing” (no faster….no slower).  And they usually have names like “Flying Monkey with a Half Moon Twist” or “Super Cruncher Awesome-Abs Blaster Dynomite!” (That may be a bit of an exaggeration.)

The point I’m trying to make is this: You don’t need this kind of crap.  In fact, I would say that trainers who feel the need to do this have ZERO confidence in their abilities to train someone effectively and ZERO ability to get results with any of their clients.  Flashy and complicated seems like it’s better.  Trainers know this and use it to keep themselves interesting to their clients.

“He must be a good trainer, he’s having her doing a Flying Monkey with a Half Moon Twist!”

What you really need is *cue drum roll*…

……the basics.

Just the basics.

Here’s the master list:

-Horizontal Pushing (push ups, bench press variations)

-Horizontal Pulling (rows)

-Vertical Pushing (overhead presses)

-Vertical Pulling (pull ups, and pulldowns)

-Hip Dominate (deadlifts, hip thrusts, glute bridges)

-Quad Dominate (squats, lunges)

-Ab Stabilization (Pallof presses, planks and all their variations)

These are the basics, and they are all you will ever need.  There are endless variations within each of these categories.  Way more than enough to keep you from getting bored.  (Which by the way is a whole other issue.  Seriously, if you’re getting so bored with a program that you need to do something different every other week, you need to address your priorities.)

Don’t over think this.  Don’t think you’re so advanced that you need to be doing bizarre movements that work your “back/core/legs/butt/chest/shoulders” all at once.  (If you’ve ever opened a fitness magazine geared towards women, you know what I’m talking about.)

A client of mine sent me this picture mail the other day:

These abs were built with nothing but the basics.

Seriously, they are all you will ever need.

How do you deal with crappy support?

Getting in shape can be a tough thing.  Getting lean and strong takes time, energy, sacrifice and some major dedication.  With all these challenges, you would think that other people (especially those close to you) wouldn’t make it any more difficult for you right?

But man, sometimes they do.  It’s an interesting thing that happens when people start to make healthier decisions, lose weight and regain control of their lives.  They begin to look better, feel better and they become more confident.  When these things happen, it’s not too uncommon for friends and family to feel insecure and become jealous.

I’ve had several clients come to me feeling pretty frustrated because their spouse is completely negative about their fitness and health gains.  Or sometimes it’s a friend who begins to cut them down.  I remember, a year or so ago, one client telling me that a friend of hers even went so far as to say that she wasn’t being a good mom because she spent 3 hours a week at the gym.  Nice friend.


Let me put out a random example.  Let’s say you live in a pretty old neighborhood.  All the houses are nice-enough, but nothing too spectacular.  They were all built around the same time.  None of them have been renovated, or have new paint jobs.  In fact, they are all a bit indistinguishable from each other.  (I just spelled indistinguishable correctly on the first try…seriously no speel chek neded.)

Now what if your next door neighbor decides to tear down his old house and builds one that’s twice as big and twice as nice in the exact same spot as the old one?  In comparison, your house isn’t going to look as good as it did.  In fact, even though nothing has changed about your house, it looks worse now.  All the flaws in it are much more glaring, right?

This is exactly what happens when people begin to lose weight/get lean/get strong.  Those around them begin to see their “flaws” magnified.  If a wife loses 20 pounds, her husband is going to be much more aware of his “party keg”.  If someone drops a couple of pant sizes, their friend, who used to be the same size, is going to be more self-conscious standing next to them.

The bottom line is this: people can either respond to the “new you” by being inspired and start to make healthier choices for themselves, or they can throw themselves a pity party and cut you down for doing the things they wish they were.

Either way, the choice is theirs.  Don’t get caught up in their insecurities.   You’re not responsible for that. Keep your head up, and focus on the energies and encouragements of those who are responding positively to your healthier choices.

Remember, the weak will always envy the strong.