exercises

the 1, 2, 3 getting started plan

With today being the first of the month, and the first day of the 2nd half of the year, I thought I'd share a simple idea to get started down the road to fitness. Here's a simple routine to get off the couch and work lots of different muscle groups in a short amount of time:

Push-ups, Sit-ups, Squats

  • July 1st - do one of each. That's it, just one.
  • July 2nd - do two of each.
  • July 3rd - do three of each.
  • and so on.
  • Each day, add one more of each exercise to what you did yesterday - you'll do the same number of each exercise as the day of the month.
  • It doesn't matter if you do them all in one set, so long as you do them all on that day. For example, on the 20th:
    • do 20 in a row, all in one set. Or,
    • do as many as you can, take a short rest, and then continue. Take as many breaks as needed to get to 20. Or,
    • do 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening.
    • As long as you 20 of each exercise on the 20th, you're on target!


The first few days may seem easy. That's OK - half of the battle is mental, and simply getting motivated to do the exercises is just as important as the physical exercises themselves. You're changing habits and building routines, which isn't easy in and of itself. Just relax and keep at it - it'll get physically demanding soon enough.

By the end of the month you'll be doing 31 push-ups, 31 sit-ups, and 31 squats in a single day. (and you will have done 496 of each during the course of the month!) This will be a great starting point to build from next month.

Remember - the goal is long-term health and fitness. You're not going to completely change your body this month; you're simply making forward progress down the path of creating a better you. Six months from now, a year from now, 5 years from now - it won't matter whether you started with 1 push-up or with 100; if you exercise consistently you'll be "fit".

Now go get after it!

- Chris Butterworth

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coming back from injury - attitudes and expectations

The second half of 2014 wasn't my best year. I fractured my ankle in June, and then pulled my groin in November. And I don't have a specific injury to site, but my knee has been tweaky and just hasn't felt right.

Add in the extra time commitments from coaching soccer and the holidays, and I had gotten off track (to say the least) on working out. I've even gained some weight from the lack of activity.

So, I get to the end of the holidays feeling a lot better, and wanting to get back into the swing of things, but still a little concerned about my knee. What's a good game plan for getting back into working out when you're not 100%? I decided to find out.

Aerobic Activity - I went for a jog with some interval runs mixed in - not full-out sprints, but a good running pace - and I felt ok. I went about 2 miles; not an endurance feat by any means, but enough to know whether my body would feel pain from the repetitive motion. Nope - so far so good.

Sports / Games / Competition - Next I played a VERY slow game of soccer. I did not push myself to the breaking point, selling out my body to save a goal or anything like that. I played mostly at jogging speed, with a few bursts of exertion to make a forward run or to get back on defense. No injury setbacks to report - check.

Weight Lifting - Finally I did a kettlebell workout, but I used my wife's 15 lb bell. It felt funny to use something so light, but it felt great to be able to get through the motions and put some stress on my body. I did swings, cleans, snatches, figure 8s, around the worlds, presses, and lawnmower pulls, and when I did them quickly and without rest I was able to get a great sweat going. Any pain? Nope - just some muscle soreness the next day, which was to be expected. Ok to continue.

It can feel a little scary working out again after injury, wondering if your body will hold up. It also takes a bit of a mental reset - you have to give yourself the ok to not max yourself out or hit a PR. In fact, if you're not ready for it, it can feel discouraging to run so slowly or to lift such light weights. But it also feels great to get back to exercising. Time will tell whether I ever get back to my previous levels or not. If so, great! If not, great - I'll set new PRs and new expectations.

I'm sure age plays a role as well. When I was in my teens and 20s I would have demanded a full recovery to previous levels from myself. Today, in my 40s, I'm happy to settle for fitness.

I'm looking forward to seeing where I can go from here - hopefully continued improvement without any setbacks. Cross your fingers for me..

- Chris Butterworth

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kettlebell swing

kettlebell swing


If you're planning on doing a kettlebell workout, you'd better get familiar with the Kettlebell Swing.

The beauty of a kettlebell workout is that there isn't a break between exercises; the kettlebell flows smoothly from one exercise to the next. This is why it provides such a good cardio workout, in addition to helping you build awesome full-body strength. And the Kettlebell Swing is the center of it all.

Rather than try to describe the exercise and build a how-to article, I'm going to defer to others who have already done so (and done a much better job than I could do). You'll find below photos, videos, quotes from articles, and links out to my favorite sources regarding the Kettlebell Swing. Enjoy.

Posture and Form - images

Men's Health shows us the proper form:

kettlebell swing - up position

kettlebell swing - down position

These images were clipped from a terrific 2:31 video on menshealth.com with lots of instruction and demonstration - I suggest watching it here. (they don't offer an embed feature, so you'll need to click the link..)

Here is another image, where kettlebell expert Steve Cotter shows how you should be loading your hamstrings and glutes in the down position:

kettlebell swing - down position

That image was clipped from this video (embedded below). This is a great introduction to kettlebells video that I watched dozens of times when I was getting started a few years ago.



More Videos

Here are a couple other videos I've watched more than once..



This video is one of the most corny, kitchy, goofy music, home-made, youtube videos out there. But it's catchy, and it shows one man's story of how much strength he's gained, and how much weight he's lost by using a kettlebell. Once you start working with a kettlebell, you'll realize how strong this guy is!



Here is another video, with the same strong man (and the same kitchy music), only this time he has a friend - another super-strong kettlebeller, and the exercises they do together are very impressive.

a Compelling Case for Kettlebell Swings, from author Tim Ferris

I'm sure you've heard of Tim Ferris, uber-author of the 4-Hour Workweek, 4-Hour Body, and 4-Hour Chef. If you haven't read Tim's work, his blog is a great place to start.

The Perfect Posterior. Tim wrote a post last year titled: "The Perfect Posterior: Kettlebell Swings and Cheap Alternatives", in which he described stories and amazing results - for men AND women, and focused around the kettlebell swing as a primary (or only) exercise. The stories include:

  • a mother of 2 who lost more than 100 pounds while working out for only 20 minutes at a time.
  • a Samba dancer in Brazil who could balance a tequila shot on the top of each butt cheek.
  • a girl of Chinese ethnicity with a "surfboard-like profile" who was transformed and then voted one of the top-10 sexiest girls in her university
  • Tim's own story of reducing his body fat percentage and increasing his strength in the deadlift.

... All from doing Kettlebell Swings.

There's a lot in there - read the article!

Another strong opinion in favor of the Kettlebell Swing: Yavor at RelativeStrengthAdvantage.com, in an article titled "The Kettlebell Swing - Kick Ass Exercise for a Kick Ass Body", writes:

"The Kettlebell Swing is quite possibly the easiest and at the same time most effective tool when it comes to training the whole body for multiple fitness qualities at the same time. When done for high volume of reps it makes you sweat and huff and puff thus making you fitter and leaner at the same time. The high rep kettlebell swing burns tons of calories and trains your heart and lungs."

Conclusion

If kettlebells aren't a part of your workout routine, they should be. They build strength, endurance, and flexibility, all while using the Fit-20 principle of working multiple muscle groups simultaneously to maximize results while minimizing workout time. And the Kettlebell Swing is a great place to start!

Train hard,

-Chris Butterworth

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shadow boxing

shadow boxing


Shadow boxing will work your muscles in combinations and angles that you aren't used to, which means you'll feel the results in a way that's completely different from anything you've done before.

For those of you who have never boxed before, the stance and movements may feel awkward at first. It's also a discipline which is much easier to teach in person, visually, than by writing. So let's start with a video.

Here is Australian boxing champion and personal trainer Paul Denholm "Denny the Trainer" giving an overview and some great examples:




Notice how smooth he is - every motion flows, from one to the next. Foot movements, changing angles, jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, without ever being off-balance, bent over, or lunging forward.  That's how we want to look.

And since we're doing this as part of our workout, and not as a way to prepare to get in the ring and hit somebody (or get hit by somebody), we're going to focus on some simple, basic punches and combination.

I recommend keeping it simple, and combining some basic punches into combinations. Try doing each of these a few times before moving onto the next one. Once you feel comfortable with all of them, you can start mixing them up randomly (or as your imaginary opponent gives you an opening!)
  • jab
  • jab - jab
  • jab - cross
  • jab - jab - cross
  • jab - jab - jab
  • cross
  • jab - cross - hook
  • jab - uppercut
  • jab - jab - uppercut
  • jab - cross - uppercut
  • jab - cross - hook - uppercut
  • any other combinations that flow through your body
  • lots of leg movements - forward, backward, circling to the right, to the left

Here are a few well-written articles explaining the basic punches in more detail:


Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, doctor, or current or former boxer.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.


Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

mountain climbers and mountain jumpers

mountain climbers and mountain jumpers


Talk about versatile exercises; you can crank these guys out just about anywhere, even in your cubicle at work! No weights required, and they'll work your upper body, lower body, and cardio.

How to perform Mountain Climbers (scroll down for Mountain Jumpers)
  1. Start in a push-up position.
  2. Bring one leg forward, so your knee is close to your chest.
  3. Move that leg back to starting position and bring the other leg forward.
  4. Repeat
  5. As you feel comfortable with the movement, increase your speed so you're basically running in place, from the push-up position.

Here's a terrific video by Shanay Norvell showing excellent form:




Mountain Jumpers

Mountain Jumpers are almost the same as Mountain Climbers, except you'll pull both feet forward at the same time, so that you're "jumping" rather than "climbing" the mountain.



Here's a video demonstration put on by MMA Armor (photos above were clipped from this video).





Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.


Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

dumbbell lawnmower rows

dumbbell lawnmower rows

Here's another exercise which works multiple muscle groups at the same time - your legs, core, and back will all feel this one.

Start by holding one dumbbell, medium weight. Stand with your feet staggered - back foot points sideways and front foot points at a 45 degree angle. Hold the dumbbell in the hand on your back foot's side. Lean forward, putting all your weight on your front foot, with the dumbbell hanging at your side, near the floor. Pull the dumbbell up, quickly and smoothly, to shoulder height, as you simultaneously pivot your body weight over your back foot. Reverse the motion and lower yourself back to the starting position.





Video - this exercise is much easier to explain by watching a video; check out this one published by Mens Health Magazine.


Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.


Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

running lines - suicide drill

running lines - suicide drill


This one should bring back memories from all you former high school athletes out there. And the beauty of high school athletics - when kids are old enough to be pushed like professional athletes, but young enough to have the recovery time of a kid...

The drill helps build speed, agility, explosiveness, and endurance.

Running Lines (Suicide Drill)

1.) Step off 25 yards (or use large steps), placing a marker at each 5 yard increment. (5 yards, 10 yards, 15 yards, etc.) 
2.) Start at the beginning of your 25-yard stretch.
3.) Sprint to the 5-yard marker, bending down to touch it with your hand.
4.) Sprint back to the beginning, and touch the end-line with your hand.
5.) Repeat for each marker.

Variations

Football, Soccer, Basketball - each sport uses the existing lines on the field. (I've heard of some high school football coaches using every 5-yard line from end zone to end zone!)

Distances - OK to add length between markers, additional markers, and/or overall length to the course.

Obstacles - OK to add hurdles, box jumps, ropes/tires, or other stations for quick bursts of push-ups, sit-ups, etc.


Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.


Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

dumbbell thrusters

dumbbell thrusters


I can't say it often enough, how much I love exercises that work out multiple muscle groups at the same time. It's in the same line of thought that Fit-20 workouts are meant to work your entire body in a short amount of time, it gets even better when you can do most of the work with one exercise. This one will work your calves, quads, butt, chest, shoulders, and triceps.

How to perform a dumbbell thruster
  1. start in a standing position, feet shoulder width apart, with a dumbbell in each hand held at shoulder height.
  2. drop into a squat position.
  3. explode upward into a standing position with the dumbbells over your head.  It should be one motion - not a stand followed by a shoulder press, but one motion from squatting to locking them out over your head.
      

images from the Mens Health video demonstration; link to video below.

Video Demonstration - click here.

double-pump dumbbell thrusters - A variation where you do a 2nd squat in-between each thruster.
  1. standing.
  2. down into squat.
  3. back up into standing.
  4. down into squat.
  5. explode into thruster.

Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).


Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

100 Ups

100 Ups


Sometimes you come across an exercise which is not just a great workout, but also helps your other workouts become even better. (much like a great point guard in basketball makes the rest of his team better.) This is one of those workouts.

100 Ups will make your heart pump and your lungs burn, and you'll feel the workout in your body once you're done. But even better is how much of an impact it will have on your running form - do this exercise often and the rest of your running will get faster, smoother, lighter, and less painful.

How to do 100 Ups

  • Stand with your feet slightly less than shoulder width apart.
  • Quickly draw your right knee upward (so your thigh is parallel to the ground) and your right elbow back (so your hand is next to your chest). At this point you are standing on your left leg, with your back and shoulders straight, and your head facing forward.
  • Next, slowly place your right foot down and relax your right arm. Your foot should land in the exact same position is was in previously.
  • Now do the left leg & arm.
  • Repeat 50 times on each side, for a total of 100 "ups".


Adding Speed - once you've got the movements and balance down pat, you can speed up the motion. Eventually you should be running in place, with what looks like a high-step march.

Videos

Here's a video from the New York Times, with author and ultra marathoner Christopher McDougall discussing the history of the 100 Ups and giving a demonstration.




Here's another video (from naturalrunningstore.com) showing a similar demonstration.





Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).


Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.


Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.



Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

dumbbell swings

dumbbell swings


This is another great full-body exercise. You'll feel it in your legs, butt, core, back, and shoulders.

The best, most simple description I've found comes to us from Men's Health Magazine:

"Hold a (dumbbell) with two hands, and drop into a squat, then explode upward through your heels until your hips lock in a standing position, the momentum driving the weight up over your head. Then drop into a squat and repeat."




Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.


Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

burpees

Burpees are one of those love-hate exercises - you'll hate doing them, but you'll love what they do for you. Burpees are a simple exercise, don't require any equipment at all, and work just about your entire body, very quickly, with just a few reps.

How to do a Burpee
  • From a standing position, squat down and place your hands on the floor next to your feet.
  • Kick your legs backward, so you're in a push-up position.
  • Pull your legs back to their starting position, and explode upward, ending with a jump into the air.


Here's a quick video demonstration


Learn More:  There's a great write up with more information, and even some additional types of Burpees, on the Art of Manliness website. (this is a blog worth subscribing to, by the way, so check it out.)

Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

intervals

Interval training is a method where you perform an exercise at a very high level of intensity for a short period of time, followed by doing the same exercise at a slower pace while you catch your breath. Repeat.

Intervals can be used with just about any aerobic activity - running, biking, swimming, jumping jacks, dancing, etc. You can vary the time & distance of fast vs slow based on your abilities and intensity.
  • Distance - run 100 yards as fast as you can, at a full-out sprint. Then jog slowly back to the starting line, and sprint again. No resting in between sets - the jogging portion is your rest.
  • Longer distances might include 1/4 mile at a pace too fast to keep for long, but not an all out sprint.
  • Shorter distances are ok, too - more exploding off the line with less maintaining top speed involved.
  • Time - sprint for 10 seconds; slow jog for 50 seconds; repeat. This becomes 1 minute for each interval.
  • You can increase your time increments as you get stronger and fitter. Keep in mind, though, that more time sprinting equals less time recovering - 10 seconds / 50 seconds, 15 / 45, 20 / 40, etc.
  • For longer distances, exchange sprinting for running fast - run fast for 150 steps, jog for 150 steps. Repeat the process for the duration of your run.
Intervals vs Steady Pace

I find that I can run a given distance, say 5 miles for example, faster when I hold a steady pace. But when I do 100 yard intervals for that same distance (5 miles equals 44 sprints of 100 yards each), I'm completely wiped out - more tired, more sweaty, more heart-pounding, and much more sore the next day.

Intervals pack a punch, and are a great way to turn up your intensity!



Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

inverted rows

inverted rows

I like exercises that work multiple parts of your body, especially when the back is one of them, and that don't require special, expensive, or only available at the gym equipment. This exercise fits the bill.

How to do an Inverted Row

Lay below a bar (or barbell) or other sturdy piece of equipment, as if you were going to do a bench press. Then, instead of lowering the bar to your chest & pushing it back up, you raise your body to the bar & then lower it back down.  That's it - simple, easy, effective.



Beginners - make the bar higher, so your body is closer to a 45 degree angle (just a little closer, you don't want to be vertical for this thing), and the exercise will be much easier.

Experts - start with your body parallel to the floor. If that's too easy, start with your feet elevated off the floor. Still too easy - time to do pull-ups instead.

More Info - Steve Kamb over at NerdFitness has a great write-up on inverted rows. The following is some of what Steve wrote - I recommend reading the rest of the article here.

How to do it:
  • Lie on the floor underneath the bar (which should be set just above where you can reach from the ground).
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip (palms facing AWAY from you).
  • Contract your abs, and try to keep your body a completely straight line. Your ears, shoulders, hips legs, and feet should all be in a straight line.
  • Pull yourself up to the bar until your chest touches the bar.
  • Lower yourself back down.

Tips & Tricks:
  • Don't let your ass sag (on purpose anyway…maybe you have a saggy ass – not my place to judge).
  • Don't flail your elbows. Grab the bar with your hands a little closer than you would if you were doing a bench press, and keep your elbows at that angle from your body.
  • Pull the bar towards the middle of your chest. Don't pull the bar up towards your throat, or down towards your belly button.  Right in the middle!
  • Keep your abs tight. Keep your abs tight throughout the whole routine.  Your body should be a straight line the whole time, and the only thing moving is your arms
  • Think of pulling your shoulder blades together at the top of the exercise.
  • GO all the way. Don't half-ass it.  Lower yourself until your arms are completely extended, and raise yourself until your chest touches the bar.

A couple of videos to watch:


Joe DeFranco doing an advanced inverted row (notice his feet are elevated.)


Here's Steve Kamb showing no excuses allowed on this one - no gym? use the kitchen table!



Don't have a barbell handy, or a table that works? How about a good old fashioned broom stick and a couple of chairs?



Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

dumbbell renegade rows

Dumbbell Renegade Rows

A challenging way to work your upper body - back, shoulders, and arms.

Start in push-up position, with each hand holding a dumbbell (dumbbell resting on the ground, hand around the dumbbell handle.) Pull one arm straight up so it's next to your chest; you'll be balancing on the other arm. Lower your hand back to the ground, then do the other arm.

It's probably a different exercise from anything you've done before, so start with smaller weights until you get used to the balance and movements. Once you're comfortable with the exercise, move up to weights which challenge your body.

You can make it even more challenging by adding a push-up in between rows, varying how often depending on your conditioning. 3 rows then a push-up; 2 rows then a push-up; alternating 1 to 1; or even 2 push-ups then a row..

Here's a short video by sixpackabsguide showing a good technique.




Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

lunges

Lunges are another awesome exercise for toning & strengthening your legs, butt, and core. They're portable (can be done anywhere) and deceptively easy (they seem easy, at least to start with, but then your legs & butt will be very sore the next day!) They're also a simple, straight-forward exercise - just lunge forward, and then back up, first with one foot and then with the other.

For more information, Shape magazine has a nice article on how to do a proper lunge.

Variations:
  • Standard lunge - feet shoulder width apart; arms at your side or on your hips. Step (lunge) forward with one foot, slowly lower your body, then push off your front foot and return to your starting position. You can either do reps with one leg at a time, or you can alternate legs. Increase the difficulty by holding weights.
  • Walking lunge - instead of returning to the starting position, you take another lunge forward with the opposite leg, walking yourself across the room.
  • Reverse lunge - same mechanics, but you step backwards, so the leg that doesn't move is the one which gets the workout.
  • Side lunge (Angle lunge) - step your leg sideways, or at a 45 degree angle. 
Here's a video from LizYArtur demonstrating proper form:



Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me).

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

squats

Squats are an amazing exercise for working out a lot of muscle groups, making your heart pump, and building muscle while burning fat at the same time.  If you do them right, you'll work your back, abdomen, butt, and legs.

For more information, fitsugar.com has a simple write up on proper form.  (although their picture in the post shows a woman squatting with her knees extending out past her toes, which is exactly what their article says not to do..)

Variations:

  • Arm Positions - arms out in front for beginners. As you master the exercise, move your hands behind your head, or hold your hands shoulder height with palms facing forward.  Both of these force your shoulders back & your chest out, and keep more of your body's weight backwards, which makes your legs work harder.
  • Weighted Squats - when you get to the point where you can do the reps required without feeling wiped out, pick up a couple dumbbells to add weight.
  • Speed - start with steady, stable movements up and down, while you focus on your form. Once you've got the movements mastered, you can hammer out fast squats for a major cardio session, or you can do them very slowly for a deep muscle workout.
Here's a video by personal trainer Mike Teo:




Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me.)

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

sprints

Sprinting is different from endurance running.  Very different.  In fact, take a look a sprinter and a marathoner next to each other.  Sprinters are powerful - big, strong, sculpted.  Watch a sprinter run; you'll see their arms pumping, generating extra power, right along with their legs.  Contrast that to a marathoner, whose hands glide gently out in front, trying not to waste energy better used by the legs.

Here's a picture of marathoner Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) snapping the tape to win the 2009 Boston Marathon.



Here's a picture of sprinter Usain Bolt (Jamaca), shirt ripped off in frustration after a false start.



He is a strong, powerful, fast man; muscled, chiseled, and without an ounce of fat.

Now let's watch him run.  Here's a video of Bolt setting a world record in 100 Meters back in 2009.




Imagine running like Usain Bolt.  Arms pumping furiously with every step.  Legs pounding the ground one after the other.  10-15 seconds of all-out exertion, leaving nothing in the tank.  That's how you should be sprinting - leave everything you've got at the end of each sprint.

Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me):

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

push-ups

Another one of the hard to beat exercises that works a great deal of your upper body muscles - chest, shoulders, triceps, and core.  These are the same push-ups you remember from being a kid, but done right, they can have a big impact on your strength and fitness level.  Add in the fact you can do them anywhere, and we'll make push-ups a key component in our fitness routine.

Variations:
  • Standard push-up - head & back straight, hands below shoulders, slow steady movement.
  • For Beginners
    • Knees on ground - for beginners, rest your knees on the ground; everything else remains the same.
    • Hands elevated - another one for beginners, place your hands on a bench or step (12-18 inches above the floor).  You'll work most of the same muscles, but the exercise is a bit easier.
  • Advanced push-ups
    • Feet elevated - a more difficult push-up, with added work for the shoulders.
    • One handed - spread your feet a little wider, and move one hand closer to the center of your body.
    • Clapping - do the standard push-up down motion, then explode upward so your hands come off the ground.  Clap your hands in the air before catching yourself for another nice, controlled down movement.
  • Adding Core Strength
    • Arm raises - do a standard push-up.  Then, from the up position, rotate your body while raising one hand up, into the air above you.  Switch arms each "up".
      • You can also try raising your arms (one at a time!) out in front of you, rather than sideways - it gives a similar but different burn.
    • Leg raises - do a standard push-up.  Then, from the up position, lift your leg off the ground, slowly, as high as you can.
    • Knees forward (while down) - do a standard push-up. From the "down" position, bring your knee forward towards your elbow on the same side of your body (right knee to right elbow).
    • Knees forward (while up) - do a standard push-up. From the "up" position, bring your knee forward to the elbow across your body (right knee to left elbow).
    • Push-up to Plank - do a standard push-up. From the "up" position, lower yourself into a plank position (forearms on ground supporting your push-up form) for a 5 or 10 count (or more, depending on your ability). Raise yourself back to the "up" position, and repeat.
  • Combining multiple exercises
    • As you get more advanced, try mixing a combination of the above options. You can also add Mountain Climbers or Mountain Jumpers to the mix.
    • Example:
      • 3 push-ups
      • short burst of mountain climbers
      • 3 push-ups
      • down to plank
      • 3 push-ups
      • 3 knee-forwards
      • 3 push-ups
      • 3 arm raises
      • 3 push-ups
      • short burst of mountain jumpers
      • and on and on - mix and match the numbers and the exercises to fit your needs

For more information, BuiltLean has a great write up on push-ups, including a good video.

Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me):

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.



Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.

pull-ups

It's hard to beat pull-ups as an exercise for overall strength.  They work your back, shoulders, arms, and core.  Even though pull-ups are usually done as a body-weight exercise, you simply can't replicate the movement without a pull-up bar.  That's why, for those of you working out at home, I highly recommend picking one up - either online or at your local mega-retailer.



Pull-ups are a very challenging exercise, especially for beginners.  Here are some additional thoughts:


  • If you can't do a single pull-up, start by having a stool, step, or chair underneath the bar.  You can stand your feet on the stool, and use your legs to "spot" yourself.  Beware, however - too much spotting and you're not getting stronger.  The goal should be to use your legs as little as possible, eventually working to the point where you don't need to use your legs at all.
  • Chin-ups (hands facing towards you) are a little bit easier than pull-ups.  As you build towards being able to do a full set of pull-ups, you can alternate chin-ups with pull-ups.
  • Beginners - OK to use a stool if you can't do the full set without one.  It's also OK to reduce the number of pull-ups called for in the Fit-20 workout. (as long as you're wiped out by the end of the workout!)
  • Advanced - OK to do more pull-ups than called for in the Fit-20 workout.  It's also OK to add weight.

Other variations:

  • Pull-up grip - standard grip with your hands facing in the same direction as your body, slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Chin-up grip - turn your hands around so your palms are facing your body. This makes your arms work a little more and your back work a little less.  Most people think this is easier.
  • Neutral grip - if your pull-up bar has handles that run perpendicular to the bar, hold these handles with your hands facing towards each other.
  • Staggered grip - have each of your hands using a different type of grip.  Switch grips and do the same number with the other hand facing the other way.
  • Knee lifts as part of pull-ups - pull your knees up into your chest as you pull yourself up.  This makes the pull-up a little easier since your knees add momentum to the movement and because you're using your ab muscles to help generate that momentum.  Although easier, this adds core work to the exercise.
  • Knee lifts after pull-up - do a pull-up and hold yourself at the top while slowly raising your knees to your chest.
  • All of these different grips work slight variations of the same muscle groups. It's a good idea to vary your grips over time to allow for strengthening of your full muscle sets. But at the same time, if one of these grips causes pain (shoulder, elbow, whatever) - you're probably better off switching to a different grip than trying to muscle through something that might be causing you big problems. (and it might be time to get checked out by a professional.)


For more information - stronglifts.com has a good write up on proper technique, along with photos and video.

Legal Disclaimer (don't blame me.)

Warning - I am NOT a licensed physical trainer, therapist, nutritionist, or a doctor.  I am a regular guy who just happens to love exercise and fitness.

Exercise can be dangerous if done incorrectly or in excess.  I can't see you, and you can't see me, to know if you're doing an exercise incorrectly, which could lead to injury.

Please Please Please seek help / advice / counsel from a local professional before starting a new program, or before doing an exercise you're unfamiliar with.  This information is intended as a guide to point you in the right direction.  If you aren't familiar with the exercises described herein, I highly recommend seeking professional advice before trying them.