Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tough as Nails Barbell Fat Loss Complex

This week I've been a bit inspired to boost metabolisms everywhere as a result of the gluttonous holiday parties looming large in the rear view mirror.  And with the feedback coming in, these complexes (Bear Cub Complex and Grizzly Bear Challenge ) have been said to be enjoyable upon completion, but definitely not during. 

Finally, if you have survived the introductory Bear Cub, withered the punches that the Grizzly Bear had to offer, then you might be ready for the ultimate challenge:


First, it's called the Polar Bear challenge because after it, most people are usually a lighter shade of white than they were before.

Grab a stopwatch, and for beginners, just the 45 pound barbell will do.  More advanced lifters can start at 65 perhaps with bumper plates, but anything else is probably too aggressive.  Here's the complex:

  1. Deadlift
  2. Romanian Deadlift
  3. Bentover Row
  4. Clean
  5. Front Squat
  6. Push Press
  7. Back Squat
  8. Good Morning
Instructions: each exercise is performed WITHOUT setting the bar down, and continually moving to the next movement
Rep scheme: 8 for the first set, 7 for the second, 6 for the third, etc all the way to 1.
Rest: start with 1 minute rest between sets until you feel you can go before the 1 minute mark.
  • 8 reps of each, rest 60 seconds
  • 7 reps of each, rest 60s
  • 6 reps of each, rest 55s
  • 5 reps of each, rest 50s
  • 4 reps of each, rest 45s
  • 3 reps of each, rest 40s 
  • 2 reps of each, rest 30s
  • 1 rep 

Few thoughts:
  • This complex is NOT an excuse to use sloppy form and injure your back
  • If you are not familiar with the clean, do NOT attempt it, but rather, seek out a qualified Olympic Lifting Coach and learn the lift before adding it in
  • If you're losing your grip, be smart and set the bar down for a few seconds
  • the limiting factor for most people will be how much they can overhead press
  • Doing this in a squat rack helps the transitions, without a rack just makes things more interesting
  • My highest weight used is 89 pounds (45 pound plates with 10k/22 pound bumpers on each side) and the time it took was 18m57 seconds
  • My Fastest time with 65 pounds is 14 minutes 19 seconds
Good luck!

-Coach Kev

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Interval Fat Loss Workout

As we near the end of 2011 and start of 2012, for many the focus on fitness begins anew.  Picture this scene: in most gyms and exercise facilities, the busiest areas will be where the treadmills, stepmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes are located, also known as the 'cardio area'.  I have actually seen lines at some health clubs, with individuals waiting for their turn to use the equipment. 

For those who do cardio the traditional way, where the user watches Sportscenter or the View, while maintaining a steady heart rate, their efforts are almost useless.  In addition, the traditional gym goer who expends an increasing amount of energy and time focusing on 'output' (or exercise) instead of simply changing and improving 'input' (nutrition) will be soon frustrated at a lack of physical changes. 

Still, because it is important for lung and heart health, cardio can not be overlooked, but rather, looked at differently.  Research is quite emphatic and clear in which form of cardio is actually the most beneficial, for athletes, cardiovascular rehab patients, and general fitness lovers: interval training. 

Interval training, consisting of varying amounts of 'work' and 'rest', has shown to be the most effective form of cardiovascular activities that smashes fat.  The key here: the calories burnt AFTER this form of exercise easily outnumbers the calories burnt DURING the workout.  This phenomenon, also known as EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption), is why serious athletes, whose workouts consist of this 'stop, go' approach, are easily the fittest on the planet. 
Football: stop, go.  Get lean muscle tissue.  
Marathon runners, whose workouts consist of mostly steady state, are hardly considered the fittest, not to mention aesthetically pleasing athletes. 
Marathon runners: skin, some muscle, and bone. 
Alright, enough about the comparisons.  If you want more information about the differences, check out a guest blog post from Mike Boyle HERE

Here's one of the toughest interval workouts I have done in a long time, written especially for the treadmill or outdoor running:

Pyramid Interval Workout
Run: 1 minute
Rest: 1 minute
Run: 2 minutes
Rest: 2 minutes (rest 1 minute, active rest (side shuffle, jog) 1 minute)
Run: 3 minutes
Rest: 3 minutes (rest 1 minute, active rest 2 minutes)
Run: 2 minutes
Rest 2 minutes (rest 1 minute, active rest 1 minute)
Run: 1 minute
Rest: 1 minute

For beginners, once through this, done with 100% effort during run portion, should be plenty.  More advanced runners and athletes can repeat 1-2 more times.  I started doing 2 times through and was quite tired.  Total mileage for 2 times through should be just over 4, depending on pacing. 

For your sake: include a warm up that includes dynamic movements, along with cool down stretches after the workout. 

Good luck!

-Coach Kev

Thursday, December 8, 2011

(One of) My Favorite Glute Exercises

The Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (SL RDL)

From balance to coordination, strength to stability, this exercise touches on almost any quality you wish to enhance.  In this video I demonstrate some of the cues and ways to challenge yourself along the way.

Here are the details:

  • Primary muscles recruited: glutes, hamstrings, gastroc, soleus, erector spinae, core and upper back if holding weights

  • Can be performed with simply bodyweight, kettlebell, dumbbell, barbell, weight vest, bands or cables
  • Weight can be in one hand (contralateral or opposite of standing leg), one hand (ipsilateral or same as standing leg), or both hands
  • My personal preference is to hold contralaterally; I believe this significantly increases core activation and the spiral line from the shoulder carrying the weight to the hip moving the entire body is challenged to stabilize and activate at higher levels.  Would love to see research on this!
  • Focus on pushing back with the moving leg, keeping it parallel with upper body; tight hamstrings will limit end range of motion or how high you can raise the moving leg behind you
  • Cables or bands can be resistance to enhance different weak/sticking points throughout the range of motion
    • Attaching a low cable can increase glute recruitment by making it much harder to squeeze forward at the top of the movement
  • Avoid wearing running shoes; your foot's interaction and ability to 'grab' the ground will translate to more recruitment up the leg all the way to the hip
  • Breathing: breathe in on the descent and out on the way up.  This eliminates 'stress breathing', or holding your breath, during the movement, and should help with balance issues
  • Avoid rotation from the lumbar or hip area; pointing the moving toe down towards the ground, and that heel towards the ceiling will help minimize this rotation
  • 25-30 degrees of knee bend is all that's needed to recruit the hamstring/glute 'tie-in'
  • Good balance is required if you're looking to add resistance, but give it a try just bodyweight if you're just beginning
  • Takes the low back out of the equation significantly
  • Fantastic exercise for runners, triathletes
  • If foot or calf cramps occur during the movement, stop and roll out (with tennis ball, stick, foam roller, etc) your peroneals (side of lower leg) and posterior calf muscles (gastroc and soleus)
    • Also focus more on squeezing forward from your glutes and hamstrings on the ascent
  • Can also be performed as a test: 
    • stand on one foot, touch toe then reach hand above your head, touch toe again, etc
    • Perform as many repetitions in 30 seconds 
    • Test other side, compare
    • Repeat in another month after performing loaded; should notice increased number of reps which coincides with better balance
Good luck!

Coach Kev

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grizzly Bear Challenge

Yesterday's post, the Teddy Bear Challenge, was a great introduction to the world of complexes.

Today I'd like to highly recommend the Grizzly Bear Challenge, a similar barbell circuit, but in a different format.

Here's the circuit of exercises:
  1. Deadlift
  2. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
  3. Bentover Row
  4. Clean
  5. Front Squat
  6. Push Press
  7. Back squat
  8. Good Morning
  • Each exercise is performed for 5 reps, and 5 total sets are performed
  • Limiting lift is still push press, so pick your weight based on how much you can safely overhead press, with perfect form, for 10 reps
  • Circuit looks like this: 5 reps of Deadlift, 5 of RDL, bentover row, all the way to the Good morning
  • Depending on your level of conditioning, rest for 60s after completing the circuit 
  • Track the following:
    • weight used (also, a good idea is to use bumper plates)
    • time taken to complete whole circuit
    • time rested between sets
Personally, the highest weight I've ever used (and lived to tell about it) 115 pounds.  But I do remember the most difficult part is how completely shot the forearms are after the 3rd, 4th and 5th exercise.  Let me know how this circuit treats you and the weight you used.

Polar Bear Challenge coming up next...

Coach Kev

Monday, December 5, 2011

Are you an Athlete? (Part II) Challenge!

In my last article, I took some time to look at some of the ways in which we compete in life.

Whether or not you agree or disagree about whether or not competition makes us an 'athlete', there are definitely some competitions you can 'enter' and successfully conquer.  Let's look at a few of my favorites!

 The Bear Cub/Teddy Bear Challenge

Recently, a client of mine sent me a message with a workout that was named the 'Bear Complex'.
This complex included the following exercises done with a barbell:
  1. Clean
  2. Front squat
  3. Push press
  4. Back squat
  5. Push jerk
  • Exercises completed in order, one rep each, 5 times through the cycles of each exercise before resting for one to two minutes between sets of 5 reps
  • Complete 5 rounds of the 5 cycles of the 5 exercises, and time your rest, record the weight used, and try to beat it after another week of training
  • Start with a weight that should not exceed the amount you can overhead press with good form ten times
  • Set weight down after push jerk, and perform the clean from the floor
  • Only if you have excessive hamstring tightness should you think about doing a hang clean versus full

My sample workout looked like this:

Rounds 1-6 (couldn't help myself from trying 139 after beasting 129)

Also rested 2 minutes between rounds 4, 5 and 6
Total time taken was 21 minutes.  Actually admit to feeling a bit nauseous after completing the 5th and 6th set.  Love that feeling! 

Side note: I have nicknamed this workout the Bear Cub/Teddy Bear Complex because this is a great way to start getting to know the difficult yet rewarding world of complexes.  Jumping into impossible complexes is a surefire way to get hurt and also ensure the exercises are not done with quality form.  That said, for fat loss for the intermediate/advanced client, these complexes are highly effective at both delivering a lot of reps within a short period of time and also having a huge effect upon the trainee's metabolism.

The Grizzly and Polar Bear complexes will be released tomorrow and Wednesday.  

Until next time,

Coach Kev