Monday, July 12, 2010

Knowing is Half the Battle (of the Bulge)

The importance of monitoring your caloric intake when it comes to dieting and losing weight.

Losing weight may not be the easiest thing in the world, but the basic premise isn’t quite rocket science. It isn’t always all about the exact foods that you consume as much as burning more calories than you are consuming – if you follow that simple formula, you can drop dress or pants sizes. Too many people fall into the trap of believing that because they are eating “health food” (some of which may not even be all that healthy) that they are setting themselves up for success in their weight loss endeavors – but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Read More Here

Friday, July 9, 2010

Making the Most of Limited Space with Adjustable Dumbbells

New article up over at HealthMad...

Using adjustable dumbbells in place of traditional strength training equipment to save space without sacrificing workout quality.

Not everyone has a gym or health club right around the corner from their home and those of us with already full schedules may not want to spend an hour+ driving round trip to get a good workout in. A home gym is a great way to build muscle, burn fat and get fit; but what about those of us who live in apartments?

Read more: Here

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pumping Up the Intensity and Maximizing Results

New article up at MadHealth...

Lack of Time is No Longer an Excuse

The health and fitness benefits of performing high intensity intervals.

It’s the most common reason out there to avoid going to the gym – long hours at work, helping the kids with homework, making dinner and doing dishes all leave you with, “not enough time to exercise.” Well guess what, some of the fittest people in the world do those very same things but still manage to do something to make themselves healthier every day. Their days are the very same twenty four hours that yours are, so where do they find the 45 minutes to an hour a day three or four days a week to keep their weight down and their bodies healthy?

Read More here

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Article up at HealthMad

Write It Down, Reap the Rewards

The benefits of keeping a workout log/journal to help you reach your health and fitness goals.

If you have your eyes set on a goal of losing weight or packing on some lean muscle in the coming months, you could greatly benefit from keeping a detailed workout log. Accountability in a workout program is crucial if you actually want to achieve your desired goal and guesswork certainly has no place in the gym.

Read more: here

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Importance of Variation

Some people plod along with the very same workout performed at the very same pace for week after week and month after month and wonder why they never really see any improvement.  The main reason behind the lack of results comes from the fact that you body has gotten used to the workout being performed - that what you are doing is no longer challenging enough to yield any positives.

On the other side of the extreme lies Crossfit, where workouts can change drastically from one day to the next.  While I don't think it's completely necessary to perform workouts that are entirely different every single time you step into the gym, this methodology has seemed to work wonders for many of the followers.

The point here is that change is not just a good thing, it's a necessity if you want to continue to get results from your fitness plan.  You either have to change the exercises you are performing, change the set and rep scheme, change the frequency - you've got to change something or you will stagnate and the progress that you were making will cease.

About a year and a half to two years ago(?) I was in a workout funk, focusing too hard and too long with a similar routine in order to try and reach a goal.  Both my hands and my lower back were in dire need of a break, when I paid professional stuntman Nick McKinless' website Beyond Strong a visit - Nick was talking about performing the workout from One Hundred Push Ups a try as a break from his recent regimen and after exploring the website I thought I might give it a shot as well rather than taking a layoff.

I performed the initial test via the website then followed the program as prescribed according to my results.  Even though this was completely different from what I had been doing the program kept me moving, allowed my overtrained muscles a much needed break and also gave me the motivation to hit a long time goal.

There are now free workouts linked to the On hundred Push ups site for squats, sit ups and pull ups - the programs are free, very easy to follow and allow you to get the rest you may need from your current plan in order to come back fully refreshed and focused.

Though these programs are excellent examples of something that you can do to break up the monotony, you can really switch up your current program however you'd like.  The important thing is to not allow yourself to perform the same movements for so long that you stop seeing positive results.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pressed for Time? Try This

It's billed as the Ultimate Warrior Workout Challenge and what it consists of of the maximum amount of push ups, pull ups, sit ups and dips that you can perform in a minute each consecutively.  The exercises are performed in the exact order listed and there are no rest periods, so the complete challenge takes exactly four minutes to complete.

I don't know that I'd use it as a regular workout, but if your were extremely pressed for time and still wanted to get in as kick butt a workout as possible - this would certainly be a good way to do it.

The video below features Nate Green, of The Nate Green Experience, and has been out for almost two months so some of you may have already come across it.  Yesterday was the first time i actually gave it a shot, and I gotta tell you, it's harder than Nate makes it look.  If you actually push as hard as you can and use proper (like that displayed in the video) without cheating, you will be surprised at just how intense those four minutes can be.

Check out the video here:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Scorching Hot Weekend

It didn't take long for the Dog Days of Summer to hit us in the Northeast.  It was in the mid 90s with high humidity yesterday and it looks like Mother Nature has more of the same planned for us today.  When the extreme weather hits, lots of people use that as an excuse to bag their workout - I hear lots of "it's too hot to run," or "I can't ride my bike in the rain," but don't fall into this pattern.

Once you start making excuses to skip workouts, even if they seem perfectly viable, it only gets easier to make an excuse to skip the next one.  You can still workout in the heat, in the cold or in the rain if you take the proper precautions to ensure that you are prepared.

According to the ever reliable weather people, it felt like around 99 degrees yesterday at noon but I didn't use that as an excuse to alter my plans.  I strapped on my running shoes and set out on a four+ mile run any, I knew it was hot so I made sure I had more than enough water to get me through the workout and I stuck a little closer to home.

If you've got to alter your plans a little to get in a workout - do it.  There is no need to blow off a workout just because it's warmer, cooler or wetter than you had hoped.  Take the proper precautions to be safe and get the workout in regardless of what the elements throw at you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Only a Few Days Left of Work

July 1st marks the first day of my life as a full time freelance writer - it also marks the first week day of the last several months that I won't be responsible working 8-10 hours doing sales then following that up with anywhere from 2-5 hours of writing.

I'm excited to say the least, this endeavor is going to mean more time with my family, less stress and a whole lot more time for working out.  Though I've managed to get pretty good at squeezing the highest work load possible out of the shortest amount of time when it comes to my workouts of late, having that extra time to really focus on achieving goals is going to be great.  I've got an arm's length list of goals that I have been compiling and now I'll actually get to tackle them head on without taking even more attention away from my wife and kids. 

I've been busy, very busy, but I never used that as an excuse to ignore my health - there is always time to be made during a given day to get in some physical activity.  I didn't have 2-3 hours a day set aside for working out but I manged, even on the busiest days, to do something to make myself stronger, faster or healthier.  This new career path is going to allow me more freedom to train, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't make the time if things had stayed the same.

Instead of making exuses about having too little time or being too tired, use that fifteen minutes you would have used griping to get in a short workout.  Then do it again tomorrow and the next day, even the longest journeys start with a single step - take that step today and do something to make yourself healthier.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kickin' it Old School

I don't know if it's all the World Cup action we've been watching or the fact that two of her cousins are active in the sport, but lately my daughter has been talking more and more about playing soccer.  Registration is coming up soon and we have been kicking a ball around a bit of late, and yesterday I took out a footbag (hacky sack) for her to try some kicks on.

I know the two sports are different, but there is nothing like kicking a footbag to develop the dexterity and foot/eye coordination required to excel in soccer.  I spent plenty of time every day during middle and high school kicking both by myself and with who ever was around, and at that time I had no problem what so ever handling a soccer ball.

It took her a few minutes to grasp the concept, but once she made contact a few times she seemed to really enjoy it.  It's been a good fifteen years since I've had an eager footbag partner - if she keeps up interest this could be good for my cardio and flexibility.

For those of you who don't have a whole lot of familiarity with the sport of footbag, or haven't seen what's been going on in this still pretty underground activity - here's a video of what some of these outrageously talented individuals are capable of with nothing more than their feet and  filled bag not much bigger than a golf ball...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Get Reflective

I'm the parent of two young children and that means that I have to get creative sometimes when I workout. Of course they come down to the gym with me and go on bike rides, but I can't very well take both of them with me on a ten mile run - so that means that I have to wait until after my wife gets home from work to hit the road.

Back in the old days I wasn't much for safety equipment, but all of that changed when I started a family. So now, at 10:30 p.m., when I strap on my running shoes - I also strap on some reflective gear to make me visible to drivers.

I've tried a number of different nighttime running apparatus: everything from blinking lights to arm bands and vests to hats and I've certainly been able to pick out a few favorites and a few that I'd rather skip the road and stay home for a run on the treadmill than wear again.

The Amphipod Luminous-Lite Reflective Vest is the vest that I use when I head out on late night runs for a few reasons...

Number one - It's super lightweight, allows for total freedom of movement and it stays where it's supposed to, making it the most comfortable vest on the market - in all seriousness I barely even notice that I'm wearing it.

Number two - It's super easy to put on and take off, the last thing you want to do when your exciting about getting out on a run is to struggle for ten minutes fighting on an ill fitting vest and the last thing you want to do after a brutal ten miler in the heat is struggle with anything.

Number three - It will make you noticeable without making you a spectacle. This vest is easy to see from all angles, which will keep you safe, but there are no big flashing lights or bells and whistles that will draw undue attention or distract you while you are trying to focus on your run.

For these reason, the Luminous-Lite Vest from Amphipod takes home top honors on the list of Best Reflective Running Gear:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Number One in Protein

Wow - it's been a while since I've posted, a lot has happened in the past six or so weeks... My wife had her appendix out, I had my wisdom teeth out and I've gotten a few more writing gigs, which has made for one exceedingly busy life for me. All seems well now, I'm back at close to one hundred percent and have squeezed in the time for a few wicked workouts over the course of the last few days, thanks in part to the best protein powder available today...

As an avid strength trainer, I know the importance of protein in my diet, but I do probably take this necessary nutrient for granted at times. Over the course of the last few weeks though, with several days where I couldn't really eat because of the oral surgery and during the days where I was rushing my daughter to school, then rushing to the hospital, then rushing to the doctor, etc. I practically lived on my favorite protein powder - Nitrean from AtLarge Nutrition.

The lack of solid food for nearly a week did have me drop a few pounds (about four to six), but the high quality protein blend in Nitrean made sure that none of it was muscle. I've always loved the taste of Nitrean, which is head and shoulders above most other protein powders on the market ( believe me, I've had my fair share of protein powders over the years) and the mixability is unparalleled - I mix it in a regular eight ounce drinking glass with a fork in just a few seconds and there are no lumps or clumps.

I've known for some time that Nitrean was pretty special compared to other protein supplements, which is why I ranked it number one on the list of Best Protein Powders - I guess I just didn't know how much I loved until I was practically living off of it:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Finished Born to Run

Actually I finished it a few days ago, but I'm still overloaded with assignments so the old blog has been suffering. A brief review...

In short - this book was incredible, and not just because I enjoy running. The writing was easy, the characters were captivating and story itself was easy to relate to. If I had the time to invest, it's likely that I wouldn't have put it down - and that's about the best recommendation that I can give a book.

Upon finishing, I looked up Micah True (a main character) on Facebook and was surprised to actually find him there. It seems as though "Caballo Blanco" as he is called is writing a book of his own and just from getting to know him in Born to Run, I'm very excited about that possibility.

Doesn't matter if you are an avid runner, a casual stroller or a couch potato - Born to Run is a great tale and certainly worth the read.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bodyweight Complexes and Conditioning

I have been working, just not positing - lots of writing assignments have occupying my typing time, which is a good thing for my wallet but not so good for blog updates.

This week has consisted of lots of bodyweight work, plyos, running, stair work and a fair share of mobility. To fit everything possible into my schedule I've done a bit of "greasing the groove" for push up variations and lower body movements throughout the day and working indoor conditioning in the evenings after the kids are in bed.

I've also taken to some after dinner walks with the kids now that the weather has broken and though that isn't quite as intense as some other things I do, we are all moving together and having fun and it's better than being planted in front of the monitor.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Runnin' Man

Took off of work today and that meant hitting the pavement this morning for some road work. It was cold and miserable, but that didn't effect the run at all - just under four miles, interspersed with some sprints and what I envision to be my "marathon pace."

Since adjusting my form, I don't feel any pain anywhere during or after running and I feel as though I'm moving much more efficiently, not too far back in the past an almost four mile run with lots of speed play (including sprints) would have had me sucking wind at the end - today I felt like a million bucks after cooling down and getting inside.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Still Nursing the Thumb

I've been putting in the work, but it's not been very exciting. The thumb of my left hand is still hurt, which has meant virtually no weight training and certainly no grip training. My workouts have pretty much been conditioning based with some body weight strength training (mostly leg, along with some dips and such, nothing that will further aggravate the injury).

On the up side, my wind seems to be improving pretty quickly and from the body weight movements that I've been doing, it doesn't really seem as though I'm losing any strength, but we'll test that out for sure once the thumb has completely healed!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Best Hydration Belt

Planning on taking on my first marathon this fall has me doing quite a bit of conditioning work in addition to my "normal" training - and now that the weather has finally seemed to break, I've actually gotten outside on some training runs. The longer the training run that you're planning, the more important it is to have a convenient way to hydrate yourself - sure you could carry a bottle (and some people prefer this method), but it's easier for me to maintain proper mechanics and get the most out of a long run if I don't have to worry about holding onto something for God knows how many miles.

So - for those of you who are avid runners looking for the best possible hydration belt, or for those of you who are just getting ready to take part in the wonders of scampering tons of miles per week (with or without a race goal in mind), I give you the # 1 pick for hydration...

The Run Lite 3 from Amphipod is so lightweight that you barely realize it's there, but it hugs tight enough to stay exactly where it's supposed to without bouncing around as you pound the pavement, track or trail.

The beauty of this belt (and the entire Run Lite line from Amphipod) is that you can truly make it your own. If you are going out on a three mile "out and back" that you are greatly familiar with, you can pop one bottle into the clip and have enough to get you through your run without adding any extra weight. If you opt to go on an a wild excursion that will last much of the day you can add extra bottles to the belt, but position them at any place you choose so you can be completely comfortable even though you are carrying enough to hydrate an army.

The Run Lite 3 is just about the easiest belt to use as well, rather than fumbling with pockets and pouches - the bottles snap into clips so easily and securely that you can remove and replace them with one hand, but with no fear that they'll come loose and hit the pavement after heavy jostling.

The Amphipod Run Lite 3 is the most comfortable, most convenient and easiet to use hydration belt that I've ever tried - for long or short runs, that's why it takes the top spot on the list of best hydration belts:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Conditioning and Thumb Injury

I honestly don't know exactly how it happened, I didn't feel anything until a while after my workout the other night - no pull, no pop, not even a twinge but about an our after my indian club workout a few days back I felt a deep ache at the base of my thumb. At first I didn't think a whole lot of it, but it hasn't really shown much sign of improvement - it's pretty much holding me up from doing any serious strength work involving my left hand.

Sooooo, my workouts have been focused on the conditioning side for the last few days. I've been doing stair sprints, plyos, hill sprints, high rep bodyweight squats and chair squats - my quads are suffering, but in a good way.

I've waded my way through about half of Born to Run in the little free time I get at night after the kids are in bed, and so far it just keeps getting better and better.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Last Night's Workout & Reading

Last night's workout consisted of supersets of deadlifts and clean & press.

This was a combination that I have never done before in a superset - one word that comes to mind is Brutal! I kept the weights relatively light and worked with purpose throughout - no wasted time or movement and it didn't take too long to feel all but spent.

After a few minutes of recovery from the supersets, I spent a little time with my homemade indian clubs and working on general mobility. Overall it was a great workout, and though I expected to feel it a bit today I'm a little surprised by just how much the clean & press effected me (in a good way though).

Once workout and shower were done, I settled down and started reading Born to Run, which arrived on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. I cruised through the first few chapters prior to bed time and am thus far very impressed - you can expect a review once I've finished it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Outrageous Feat of Strength

Just stumbled upon this video of Rob Russell flipping an 80k kettlebell - not 80 pound, 80k. For those of you not in the mood to do the math, or away from a program that will do the calculation for you - that is around 176 lbs.

I've juggled kettlebells quite a bit, have played around with some interesting techniques and practiced with what I thought were some pretty heavy bells considering - but this feat is absolutely incredible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Yesterday hit about 55 degrees in our neck of the woods, so the beginning part of my workout was spent in the great outdoors. 2.5 mile walk with the weighted vest loaded to full capacity - felt good, the sun was out and for the first time in the last several weeks (probably months), I didn't encounter any snow at all.

The rest of the workout consisted of mainly core and mobility work: planks and side planks for time, shoulder dislocations and plenty of stretching. I didn't make it out to get my sandbag materials, but I plan to hit the old Depot one night during the week so I can have it all put together by the time next weekend rolls around.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Last Night's Workout

Nothing too crazy - one ten minute set of swings, switching hands as needed started the night off. I followed up with 50 BUPs switching hands as needed and finished the whole thing off with some mobility work - in and out in less than 30 minutes.

I ordered Born to Run yesterday as well, I've heard great things about it - and considering my contemplation of running a marathon this fall, it seemed an appropriate read.

If this weekend is less hectic than the past few, I plan on hitting Home Depot to pick up the necessary supplies for making a new sandbag. It's above forty degrees outside and for the first time in a looooong time, there isn't any snow on the ground - it that holds I'll try and hit the backyard for some much needed, open air working out.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is your Gear doing more Harm than Good?

I take a look around the gym and I see more and more “safety” accessories on the bodies of weight lifters and while I’m a firm believer in preventing injury while in the gym, I question whether much of this gear is really necessary. It’s much easier to be safe by learning how to properly perform a lift than by the addition of more and more equipment to do the job that proper technique should be doing.

If you are a competitive power lifter or a strongman competitor, it makes plenty of sense to strap on the equipment in training that you’ll be using during competition. Things like bench shirts, deadlift suits and compression shorts do add pounds to lifts and they require a certain amount of technique to perfect, so if you are going to be using this gear during competition, training with it would be wise so you are fully prepared when you jump up on the platform.

If you are a recreational lifter, with no plans of participating in strength competitions where gear is allowed or required, you might be doing yourself a terrible disservice by regularly training with a bunch of excess and possibly unnecessary gear.

Weightlifting belts, straps, gloves, wraps and sleeves can serve a purpose, if you have the end of a six week cycle coming up and you are planning a max effort squat or deadlift to gauge your progress, by all means strap on your lifting belt through your heavy work sets and your max attempts. If you are planning an extra heavy bench session and feel more comfortable doing so with compression sleeves and wrist wraps you shouldn’t hesitate to wear them, but if you are someone who goes to the gym with the prime objective of getting stronger and building a better body, you might be better off without all of the accessories.

Even the most basic and common safety equipment can negatively affect your training by eliminating some parts of your body from the equation. Lifting straps allow you to do deadlifts, bent over rows, lat pull downs and pull ups without having to worry about your grip strength bringing your numbers down – while this may look good on paper it can seriously inhibit your functional strength. You can’t develop “real world” or usable strength by completely neglecting your grip – how many times will you come across a situation outside of the gym where you have to move something and there are straps available to assist you in the lift? That’s not to say that you need to spend extra time focusing solely on grip training, but tossing away the straps and performing the movements mentioned above without the extra assistance will help you to develop a powerful grip and make you an all around stronger person – even if your numbers do drop off a bit without the help.

The same goes for a weightlifting belt – a lot of proponents claim that they can’t do certain movements at all without one do to nagging injuries or pain, but what many people fail to realize is that performing movements like the squat and deadlift without the aid of a belt is one of the best things that you can do to strengthen your entire core and ultimately eliminate those nagging injuries, aches and pains. Properly performed squats and deadlifts give all of the stabilizing muscles in your core an incredible workout – if you constantly wear a weight belt while performing these movements you are removing nearly all of this added benefit. During exceedingly heavy sets, the addition of a belt can be a benefit, but for all warm up and regular work sets you should be reaping the full benefits of these movements by forgoing the use of gear.

Don’t let yourself become a slave to the numbers and get fooled into thinking that just because you can move a few extra pounds while you are all suited up in a variety of gear that you are actually getting a better workout. Lifting big weights is an incredible feeling, but to be a completely and functionally strong athlete, you can’t neglect any area of your body and doing most or all of your sets with equipment will force you to neglect very important pieces of the overall fitness puzzle.

If you’ve been doing all of your training with gear up to this point, dropping it and doing your lifting “raw” might feel like a pretty large slap to your ego, but you’ve just got to understand that you’ll be doing a lot more for your overall strength by adopting this new methodology – and if you are experienced with strength training and use proper form and follow a sound training protocol, the gains should come quickly as the previously neglected areas of your body get up to speed.

You should begin to notice almost immediately how the switch to gear free lifting translates to tasks in your everyday life and you’ll feel good aches in areas where you may not even had known that you had muscles previously. You’ll develop an iron grip and a bullet proof core without adding additional exercises or time to your workout and when you do strap on the gear for your max effort attempts you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the noticeable jump due to the fact that you have become equally strong in areas of your body that were previously major areas of weakness due to unintentional neglect.

People are always looking for ways to make the most out of the time that they spend in the gym and this is one of the best possible ways to do that – all of your stabilizing muscles will be called into play every time you perform a lift “raw” that you had previously performed using some kind of supportive or protective gear. Start out and progress slowly and train intelligently and in no time you’ll be thankful that your protective gear is no longer holding back your results or your functional strength.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Importance of Defining your Goals

Lots of people thoroughly enjoy their time in the gym and many others struggle each and every day, literally having to drag themselves out of bed in order to get their prescribed workout completed. It would seem obvious that the person who enjoys a good workout would likely have less trouble reaching their individual goals than the person who could barely stomach driving by the gym, but this isn’t always the case.

The ability to successfully achieve the goals set and doing so in a timely manner can depend upon quite a few factors, the least of which may be enjoying breaking a good sweat. If you don’t have a properly designed plan that focuses on achieving your ultimate goal, that goal could be very hard to come by - regardless of your level of passion and commitment to your workout.

For example - if your goal is to be a world class competitive bench presser, than the flat bench press would probably be the most likely choice to center your workouts around, in doing the exercise that you need to improve upon to reach your goal you will be both strengthening the particular muscles that need the most strengthening and you’ll be improving your technique which will also generate overall improvement. Of course you would need supplemental movements in your routine as well, many of them would work to strengthen the secondary muscles involved in the movement - the shoulders, triceps, lats and core; but the primary focus would be the flat bench press.

Following this very basic example, it should seem fairly obvious that if your goal were to cut your percentage of body fat by 5% and improve mobility that the bench press may not necessarily be the ideal focal point of your workout program, why then do I see so many men with so many different goals lying on the flat bench and pressing away three days a week?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the allure of the bench press - I also understand that is a pretty effective exercise for strengthening the pecs, what I don’t understand is why it is the focal point of so many exercise routines. We no longer live in the dark ages where this information is so exceedingly difficult to come by, there really aren’t any secrets anymore; in fact, there are a number of sources online where you can obtain high quality training information for free these days.

Too few people seem to be willing to do the appropriate research required to ease the road to their goal, and ultimately those are the people who eventually become frustrated with the lack of results and end up giving up. The problem in many cases isn’t genetics or the lack of time to be able to achieve a good workout; it’s a total mis-structure of the plan in relation to the goal.

The surprising thing to many people is that your passion or enjoyment for your workout may have very little to do with the level of success that you actually achieve from the time that you spend in the gym. You could literally enjoy every second of every hour that you spend working out for each of the six days a week that you visit your neighborhood gym, but if your plan isn’t properly tailored to reach the goals that you have for yourself you may never reach them; meanwhile the guy working out on the machine next to you struggles through each and every rep might reach his goal in what seems like record time because his routine has been well thought out in accordance with what he is trying to achieve.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with the bench press, I do it myself, but unless your primary objective in working out is to improve your bench press then it may not necessarily be the prime choice for a focal point of your routine. The same goes for a number of individual movements that I see being performed as the primary movements in routines everyday - dumbbell curls, lateral raises and dumbbell flies may all have very good places in routines as secondary movements depending on the individual goal, but none of them should be the primary movement in someone’s exercise routine.

If you don’t have a definitive goal - it’s time to get one, because the majority of your efforts in the gym will yield little return if you have no goal in mind. If you have a goal, thoroughly examine your workout routine in relation to your goal to ensure that the movements that you are performing will produce the results that you are after.

This is where some trainees simply can’t get along without the help of a good personal trainer (notice the italicized good in front of trainer, it’s not a mistake - if you are going to seek out a trainer to hire make sure that they are educated, respected and capable. Don‘t start spending money on a recommendation from your health club, get real life references), a trainer can help you define your foggy goals into something more concrete and tangible and they should be able to construct a solid road map to help get you there.

If you have plenty of experience in the area of fitness and proper diet, if you’ve properly educated yourself on these matters, you may not need to enlist the help of a trainer - but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the routine that you’ve designed for yourself will be an effective one to reach your goals. Every six weeks it’s good to re-examine the things that you are doing in the gym and to go back over your training journals to see exactly how you’ve been progressing.

There is no one perfect training routine, even people of similar ages and body types who have virtually the same goals may require different training programs in order to reach those goals. The key to your ultimate success is to develop as sound a strategy as you can toward your ultimate goal, then keep meticulous records as you progress and make any necessary changes along the way.

Some people let ego or single moment achievement get in the way of real life goals, you shouldn’t go to the gym and just bench press because that’s what all of your gym buddies do, nor should you sit lackadaisically pedaling in the spinning class because you think that it’s a good chance to pick up a woman - define your goals first, then train soundly to achieve them.

What Might have Been

The following post will be an article that was slated to run in a popular online magazine in December of '09. Sadly, like many seemingly solid ventures, this one couldn't fight it's way through the tough economic times and the articles (there are two in total, the second will be posted tomorrow) came back to me and I figured I'd post them here to give them the opportunity to be read.

Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Conditioning and Tiny Personal Trainers

Yesterday, the prime focus of my workout was conditioning - which was completed with a series of intervals on my road bike in a stand in the basement (lousy Winter weather is still keeping me inside - come on Spring!!!)

The second half of my workout was personal trainer led - by my five year old daughter. She had just finished winning an "Olympic" medal in her gymnastics class on Saturday, the Gold no less. She insisted on taking me through the training steps that got her on the podium, and I was more than happy to comply.

I did things called she called "Spidermans," and "circles," "X's" and a wide variety of things that apparently didn't have a name. It lasted about twenty minutes and was actually a lot more intense than I would have expected - I'm not surprised she won the Gold!

Friday, February 26, 2010

High Pulls and Swings

Last night I wanted to take a break from the norm and get a full body workout with conditioning at the same time. I decided to turn to my trusty friend, the kettlebell...

I started out with a set of high pulls with the 24k - 10 minutes, switching hands as necessary. I moved on to a set of swings (also with the 24k) for another ten minutes - same as the High Pulls, switching hands as necessary. Twenty short minutes, but by the end I was huffing, puffing and sweating as though I had done an intense 60 minute cardio session - and I got the added benefit of hitting strength and conditioning at the same time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Twitter and Finger Walk with Me

I've finally crept into this century, that's right - I'm on Twitter. If you'll glance to the right you'll see my most recent tweets and you'll also be able to "follow me." For now I plan on keeping the twitter updates to just my "Best of" lists on Bestcovery, but as time goes on there may be a smattering of different info being tweeted.

Last night I tried something different, I did some finger walking on a sledge hammer. It is not the easiest exercise to explain and it's far from the easiest exercise to perform but it really taxes the hands. Grip Master Paul Knight had a great instructional video up on Youtube a few months back, if I can find it again I'll post it up for all to see - if not I may try to put a video of myself doing it to give you an idea (of course, the weight I'll be using will probably pale in comparison to Mr. Knight), but it is really one heck of a workout for those interested in training grip.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sunday's Workout

Sunday's Workout focused on grip, but prior to digging in to that portion I started out with some super sets of close grip bench and rows. After warm-ups I did four super sets increasing weight with each in the 5-7 rep range. Weights were heavy enough that 7 reps was (or would have been) difficult to hit, but not so heavy that I was completely spent.

Grip work consisted of two hand and one hand pinch, rotating thick bar and some grippers - pinch felt solid but my grippers seemed weak, probably could have used one more day off from the gripper workout the other night. Been doing a bit of research on arm wrestling training and have found some pretty unique exercises that I may incorporate into some workouts later this week.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Impromptu Gripper Workout

Wife is out with the girls and the kids are in bed, so I decides I might as well get a little grip work in!


HG150 X 20 each hand
HG200 X 20 each hand

Work Sets

Lvl 5 X nr fail each hand
Lvl 6 X nr fail each hand
Lvl 7 X nr fail each hand

Strap Holds

Lvl 6 X fail 2 times each hand

May not look like much to those who don't have any experience with grippers (or probably to those who are seriously advanced gripsters), but this was a pretty intense grip workout - much forearm pumpage and some seriously tired hands by the finish.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Barefoot Shoes?

Damn Skippy -the benefits of walking and running barefoot are pretty vast: better running posture, higher efficiency, less chance of injury...

The problem is that due to environment and climate constraints, actually running without some protection isn't really the best idea for a lot of people. Thankfully, there are a few companies out there who've been working on footwear that mimics the movement of the foot when it isn't contained or restrained. This lets you run barefoot, without actually being barefoot - here are the best of the best...

Best Barefoot Running Shoe

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mint Condition...

Well, not yet - but working on it.

Tonight's workout consisted of about twenty-five minutes of intense interval conditioning work followed by about fifteen to twenty minutes of mobility work. I've been doing a lot of work on the computer lately - both at my day job and in the evenings while writing and it has been affecting how I feel.

Doing conditioning and mobility work really seems to help how I feel, and ultimately my mood, especially after a dozen hours of sitting with less than perfect posture in front of a computer. It's not as though I didn't know this already, but sometimes I want to push so hard into the strength workouts to reach goals there, that I end up neglecting the other half of the equation to end up feeling un-balanced and being out of balance is never a good thing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Best Hand Gripper

This is a huge question among beginning grip strength enthusiasts - which grippers should I get? There are quite a few different brands to choose from and there are advocates (die hard advocates) of each. I've had, and still have, my fair share of grippers (I currently have about two dozen and have sold off quite a few others).

If you are looking for a top quality hand gripper to begin or add to your grip equipment selection, you certainly won't be disappointed by any of the following...

Best Hand Gripper

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Part Two...

On thoughts of last evenings post, I figured I'd expound just a little bit with a lead in from the POD crew - it's not just the fitness aspect of many of our lives that need attention. We're nearly two months into 2010 and I'm sure that many of you have already abandoned your poorly thought out resolutions, but that doesn't meant that you should just give up entirely until next year's ill fated attempt.

Start making changes now to better yourself, think about what you wanted to accomplish this year and what kind of benefits following through would have on your life. Did you want to quit smoking, go back to school, spend more quality time with your kids, learn a foreign language or lose ten pounds? Who cares that you haven't accomplished it yet - that doesn't mean that you can't do it, it just means that your plan had some flaws. Sit down today and focus on the things that you need to do to make your life a better one and develop a plan to get there.

Just wishing positive things to happen won't help, and complaining about the fact that wishing didn't help will do even less. Formulate a sound plan, write it down for some form of accountability, then begin to take action on the necessary steps to achieve your goal.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Every Day is a New Day

Too much time is spent worrying about what could have been, or what should have been. If just a fraction of the time we as a society spent lamenting was put toward accomplishment there would be some absolutely incredible things accomplished.

Just take a serious look at how you spend your days, make a note every time you have a conversation about not having any time to do the things that you want to do and while you're at it take a note as to how much time a day you spend watching TV and how much time you spend complaining about your job, the traffic and the weather. When you see just how much time you are wasting, maybe you'll begin to realize that you actually have plenty of time if you would just focus your energy on the appropriate activities.

If you can find 90 minutes a night to watch TV, an hour a day to surf the web and an hour on the phone talking to/texting your friends its probably pretty safe to assume that you could find a measly thirty minutes 3-4 times a week to get yourself in better shape.

All of us are only given the very same 24 hours in any given day, some of us are just more adept in focusing and using our time properly - once you get that focus and begin to make use of the ample time you have, you'll begin to see the results that you've been complaining were out of your reach.

So when tomorrow begins, make a concerted effort to save the time you would have otherwise used futilely and use it to start getting your butt in shape.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bodyweight, Mobility and Packing on Pounds

Yesterday's workout consisted of a lot of bodyweight movements performed in circuits: push ups (in varying hand positions), squats, lunges, rows and pull ups. I performed three full circuits to near failure on every movement.

I finished up the workout with about twenty-five minutes of mobility work including some traditional stretches like forward bends, etc. and some poses taken from Scott Sonnen's Prasara yoga book. I'm glad I added the mobility work to the workout, after finishing I felt more loose and limber and more focused than usual following a workout.

When you deal with people in any facet of fitness there are two sides to a broad spectrum, those who feel that they are too heavy and desperate to lose weight and those who feel that no matter how hard they hit the iron that they'll never pack on any bulk. This "best of" list goes out the the latter...

Best Weight Gainer

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Conditioning - Two Ways

Well we weren't hit quite as hard by Mother Nature this go round as we were a few short days ago, but another 17" of the white stuff (and heavy this time), made for some more outdoor conditioning work. I was on top of it this time at my place, hitting the shovel on three separate occasions so I wasn't overwhelmed once the storm had finally stopped.

We've been on the topic of conditioning for a few days in a row thanks to the frequent and overwhelming snow, but say you live where it doesn't snow very often, or if you just want a good alternative to it up here in the Northeast, what would you do?

How 'bout the old boxer's standby for conditioning - the jump rope. Skipping rope is an incredible tool for melting fat, getting in better cardio vascular shape and developing your coordination. Want to give it a shot? Look here for the best of the best:

Best Jump Rope Overall

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Snow Coming and Thoughts of a Literary Kind

Mother Nature apparently isn't through with us yet, as I type this more snow is starting to fall on our already covered community. The predictions range from 12-24 more inches, this being in addition to the already 24+ that currently sits on the ground from this past weekend's storm. Now I don't really mind the shoveling part, as I just equate it to an extra workout, but if we do get another two feet I honestly don't know where I'm going to put what I'm shoveling. Guess we'll just have to wait until morning to see what happens in this round of wacky Winter weather.

On a completely different note, something occurred to me today as my wife asked me what I wanted for my slightly belated birthday gift. I responded by requesting a book, that simple request triggered an unusual thought in my mind - when I dreamed of nothing more than to be able to make my living as a writer, I was what I'd consider to be an abundantly avid reader. I devoured sometimes two+ novels a week while working a full time job and handling all the other daily activities that life threw upon me. When I started actually making some money writing, the reading began to slow - now that I'm actually making a large portion of my living writing, I can't even exactly remember the last time I completed a full length book that wasn't some sort of training manual.

I had always looked to reading for mental stimulation, did I stop reading other people's work because I find myself so immersed in reading/re-reading my own prior to submission that I no longer really need that form of stimulation? I'm not exactly sure of the reason, but I do know that I've missed reading things written by others, things that are longer than a magazine article - so in addition to: keeping up with my study of the human body, finding the time to fine tune my own body, writing with enough passion to turn it into my full time career and spending as much time as humanly possible enjoying my family, I plan to read at least one full length novel a month (for starters)... I guess it's gonna be a busy year.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Outdoor Conditioning

Well, as many of you have probably heard, the Mid-Atlantic region was pounded with another huge Winter storm. Mother Nature hit us with somewhere in the neighborhood of 25" inches of snow between Friday and Saturday.

We had the kids out Saturday for some playing around and I got in two long sessions of "conditioning work" with my trusty snow shovel. May be subject to a few more rounds of clean-up today and the fine meteorologists have said that we can expect another four to eight inches on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grippers and V-bar

Last night I attacked the grippers, I pretty much worked my way through the entire extensive collection warming up with an HG150 for reps and working through: the HG200, BBSA, HG250, COC #2, HG 300 and finishing off with some negs on the COC #3. It was pretty long and painfully pleasurable for a gripper workout - been too long since I hit grippers like that.

Tonight I had a one track mind again - the one inch V-bar. I started off for 106 lbs for reps and worked my way up to the 180's for singles with a hold at the top. My hands were not in the best shape from last nights gripper work, but it didn't seem to have any kind of negative effect.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What You Talkin' 'Bout Phil?

Happy Groundhog Day, I suppose - seriously though, six more freakin' weeks of Winter?

The weatherfolk in our area are already frothing at the mouth with stories of severe Winter weather pounding us in the Philadelphia area, but I gotta tell you I was more than ready to wrap this whole Arctic weather thing up and get on to some warmer weather.

Last night's workout consisted of some active recovery from Sunday's heavy session, along with some core and mobility work. On the agenda tonight - Grip!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Deads and Pinching

Deads were on today's agenda in the dungeon, which is a good thing because I had a strong desire to move some iron since waking up this morning. Started out with 2 sets of warmup X 10 reps, then followed with 3 X 3 work sets and six sets of singles. Focus was on form and explosion off the ground.

Two hands pinch on my redneck Euro Pinch, eight sets of singles increasing weight with each rep. I don't do barely enough pinch work and I think that my overall grip strength is suffering because of it - my goal is to add some form of pinch work (1 hand, two hand, plates or blocks) to workouts a minimum of two times a weeks and see what kind of benefits is has for overall grip strength.

Finished up with some direct neck work with a head harness, 3 sets from all angles; some plate swings and a little core work

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tonight's Workout and Inspiration

Was cruising through the forums over at Bodyweight Culture and caught a quote in someone's signature - of course that was like 15 hours ago so I'm sure that I'd f' it up if I tried to repeat it verbatim. The basic idea went something like this... "if it's important, do it every day - if it isn't, don't do it at all."

I thought about how that pertains to every day situations and how many people tend to muddle through with things that have little or no importance while completely skipping over something that they should be acting on whole heartedly. Was that the quotes intent, probably not - but anything that makes you think along those lines is valuable, in my opinion anyway.

Tonight's workout was basic, but effective. Push Ups - lots of them & bodyweight rows - lots of them. Alternated sets to near failure, six sets of each. Followed up with a little bit of core work and a little bit of mobility. Now it's time for a shake and a shower.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Swings and Pushes

Last night's workout was quick and (not so) painless.

250 kettlebell swings
5 sets of varied grip push ups to near failure (first three sets done wearing vest loaded to 30lbs)
Squats with vest loaded to 50 lbs - 2 X near failure

Finished up with a bit of stretching and some light mobility work before tossing back a shake and hitting the showers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weighted Vests - A Personal Favorite

I'm a big fan of my weighted vest, when things are going well and I'm not sick as a dog I wear it at least a few times a week. Vests can make any bodyweight exercise more challenging or turn a casual stroll into a real workout. If you're in the market for a way to turn up the intensity on your workout, check out...

The Best Weighted Vest Overall

Grip, Grip and more Grip

Yesterday's workout was all about working grip.

I started out with static holds of a barbell in the DO (no hook) hand position, 3 sets to failure.

Then moved onto 2HP, my two hand pinch set up is as basic as can be: 2 35lb (smooth sides out) serve as the apparatus and a piece of 1-1/2 conduit serves to hold additional weight. I did 5 sets of three reps increasing weight with each set before moving onto to sets of singles with a static hold.

I finished up my time in the dungeon with some one finger lifting. I worked the middle and ring fingers on both hands with a few sets of singles and holds. The weights were kept pretty light as I haven't done too much finger lifting of late and I used no padding between my finger and the apparatus. I worked up to a little over 100lbs and could have handled more with the middle fingers but rather than risk too much weight too soon I opted to perform holds with the lighter weight.

I finished up the workout upstairs with some gripper work - nothing too fancy, work sets with the Vulcan, a little choker work and some negatives.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bodyweight and Grip

Last night's training remained on the light side, though I feel fully recovered from this past weekends viral episode I wanted to maintain a reasonably low activity level for a few more days to ensure that everything stayed at 100%.

I did a number of sets of push ups, each with a slight variation to change up the muscles that were doing the bulk of the work: standard, dive bomb, close grip, diamond grip and one legged (one set on each side). Each variation was only done for one set to near failure, rest between sets was minimal.

After my push ups were complete I did some work on the Vulcan Gripper, just a few sets at level one for warm up and then two "work sets" at level five until failure.

In my internet surfing a ways back, I stumbled upon an excellent website on bodyweight training. I visited there a number of times several months ago and learned some very interesting things from the knowledgeable people there - my foray into push ups this week drudged up the memory and caused me to visit this morning to find plenty more good info. I don't think it will be so long before I pay BodyWeight Culture a visit again - this site is definitely worth checking out, whether you're a bodyweight freak or not, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tops in Elliptical Trainers

For anyone who wants a super low impact workout and has the money to invest, here are...

The Best Elliptical Trainers Overall

There may be less expensive alternatives out there, but these five are the best of the best in terms of features and durability.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 - A Fresh Start?

I would have liked to have thought, after the last few months of '09 plagued my family with a variety of pesky illnesses - but alas, this weekend another nasty bug swept through the clan. It started in the middle of last week with the boy, then the stomach virus ripped it's way through the rest of the household.

I'll spare the details as it wasn't very pretty, but there were missed work days, missed school days and plenty of clean up.

I'm finally feeling (nearly) back to myself and decided to keep tonight very light on the activity scale as to not aggravate anything that may still be lingering beneath the surface. I did some stretching and some light mobility work then a few sets of push ups just to get some blood pumping - it felt good to be moving again, but after four days of almost no solid food and very little sleep, I am still feeling well below normal in the strength department.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday's Workout

1" V-bar work and some playing on the Tetting Hub before getting into some bending. A decent number of 60d's were put away, mainly in double overhand style. I've definitely gotten stronger in DO bending over the course of the last few months, but I still think that there is plenty of room for improvement in technique which will allow me to crush down some bigger steel. Looks like it's going to be practice, practice, practice and doing "shoulder dislocations" and more wrist work if I want to take my DO bending to the next level.

I also did some neck work with a harness and finished off with a set of squats to failure with my weighted vest on. All in all it took about thirty five minutes, but it was thirty five minutes well spent.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday's Workout and Recumbents

Sunday had a nice variety of movements: I started out with deads in a similar vein to Thursday, around eight sets and up to around 325 lbs then I jumped into: 1" V-bar, pullovers, plate curls and some pinching. I ended up out in the cold with about a two mile walk suited up in my weighted vest. The workout was pretty quick, but there was a decent amount of weight moved and my hands and wrists got plenty of work.

I'm still working hard, contributing fitness reviews to Bestcovery for all of you who are in want or need of putting together your home gyms. Today we focus on a very important piece of cardio equipment...

Best Recumbent Bike Overall

Friday, January 8, 2010


Its been a little while since I've done any PL movements, my focus of late has been on improving my conditioning and on grip specific exercises - thus my favorite lift of all time had taken a back seat for a period of time.

Last night I decided to dust off the old Olympic bar and have at some deads. I played it very conservative, warming up carefully and slowly loading the bar. I ended up pulling 300 and some small change for a few before calling it a night, all told including warmups I did 7-8 sets and moved a reasonable amount of weight. I feel A-Okay today, no aches or pains to speak of. It felt good, I plan on putting deads back into the regular rotation of my routine as it felt like it was way too long since I last pulled.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Swinging and Treadmill Reviewing

Last night's workout consisted mainly of kettlebell swings - one set of 265 reps switching hands. The follow up to the swings included some light pinch work and some gripper work.

I picked up a new pair of kicks a few weeks back for some sprint work and haven't been able to enjoy them nearly as much as I would have liked to with the Arctic blast we are suffering through here in the Northeast. This weather is precisely the reason it's good for runners and other endurance athletes to have equipment that they can work on indoors. If the 20 degree weather has got you trapped inside, but you still want to make the best of your workout time have a look at...

The Best Treadmill Money Can Buy

and keep your health on track regardless of what Mother Nature throws at you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Guest Article for Bare Essentials

A few months back I was asked if I'd like to do a guest piece for a magazine called Bare Essentials and I honestly didn't have to think very long about it. I stumbled upon the website via Beyond Strong (Professional Stuntman and Strongman extraordinaire Nick McKinless' site) and there was a lot of good content on there.

The piece is about my view of the emergence of women in strength sports and it details three very impressive ladies including Carol Ann Myers.

You can check the article, and the rest of the magazine out by following this link:

What it takes to be a Woman of Power

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday's Workout and Getting your Punch On

Upon rising this morning I felt totally ready to hit the streets for a trek with my weighted vest, that is until I opened up the front door to get an idea of the outside temp. The thermometer read 24, but with the wind chill I expect it felt a bit closer to the teens. I'm still trying to keep some minor cold symptoms at bay, so rather than run right out into the Arctic I opted to do some intervals on my stair climber - not exactly the workout I had in mind, but a decent workout none-the-less.

You don't necessarily need to pound the pavement to get a good workout or elevate your heart rate, in fact one great indoor workout not only gets your blood pumping, but it's also one of the very best stress relievers. Hitting a heavy bag melts away all of the anxiety from a rough day at the office and will help develop your lungs, your "wind" and it will help develop a strong back and shoulders.

If you want to add this valuable piece of training equipment into your home gym, but don't know where to look first - you can't go wrong with any of the following.

Best Heavy Bag Overall

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Y'all Ready for 2010!

I took New Years Day off from working out to watch the Flyers heartbreaking loss to the Bruins in the Winter Classic and to eat a bunch of food and shoot the bull with my family at our annual New Years Day party.

Today will be back to business and I've got some interesting training goals in mind for the coming months. The question I have for you is - Are you ready to start '10 off with a bang? Do you have the best possible plan in place to achieve your health and fitness goals?

If you don't, you should stop wasting time and get to formulating that plan - any health or fitness goal becomes much more difficult (if not impossible) to achieve without the proper plan. This weekend you should set aside some time and begin putting pen to paper and listing your health goals so you can get on the road to achieving them. If you have any questions on where to start - feel free to leave them in the comments here and I'll do my best to answer them (no catches, just ask and I'll answer).