Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Be inspired: "The world is your gym" - Ross Enamait

Since reading a few articles on Ross Enamaits blog, I have been looking at stuff in a new light.  Everything I pass now, I wonder how I could use it in some way to challenge myself.  Simple things like poles, fences, walls, slabs of concrete, are all now portable - use anywhere - pieces of gym equipment.  Yesterday was inset day and also the last day before my son starts school.  I thought I'd use the day to teach him how to ride his bike without stabilisers.  The journey to the park turned into a mini-workout, with my son getting as much involved as I was, only stopping until he was bored and wanted to move onto the next.  Our first stop was a barrier to stop cyclists from charging down an alleyway.  We together performed tonnes of exercises, pull-ups, muscle-ups, jumping, swinging and poking slugs with sticks.  I took a few pictures and posted them on instagram while we were there...

We also found things to do with a post we found in a field...

If you are interested in reading the original articles, you can find them here:

The World is your gym 1

The World is your gym 2

Monday, 29 July 2013

PR on deadlift (205 kg / 250 lbs)

Another video I made several months ago that forgot to post on the blog.  This is still my PR for my one rep max on deadlift.  I haven't gone heavy in a while, so looking forward to doing something soon.

Playing with Jump Rope transitions

Here is a video from a while back I didn't share on my blog.  It shows my progress with switching between running in place and double-unders, something I refer to as transitioning.  It's quite a frustrating skill to develop, since it's mostly about timing and speed; double-unders are difficult to perform without speed and it's cumbersome to try and change the speed of the rope when making a transition.  As you can see, it's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Your home is your gym

Inspired by this post: http://rosstraining.com/blog/2013/07/19/rosstraining-on-instagram/

I felt the urge to explore things around the home I could use as exercise equipment.  The hardest to find are things to use as pull-up equipment, since not much around the home is sturdy enough to support my weight.  However, the stairwell makes for a great pull-up station, even though there is little prospect of being able to use it for muscle-ups.  But everybody has a solid floor, on which you can perform infinite variations of press, squat and lunge movements. #NoExcuses

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Advice: It doesn't have to be that complicated

I was in the gym yesterday and was approached by someone asking various questions, from the age-old "how to lose some weight?" and "how to make" this or that "bigger?".  So one question that stuck in my mind was "How do I make my shoulders look wider?".  The simple and honest truth is, you can't make them "look" wider, you have to make them "be" wider.

At the time, this guy was using the squat rack, albeit the wrong way round, given he couldn't see where to rack the bar with his back to the rack.  After pointing out that he is likely to get squashed under the bar if he falls forward and foul of the rack arms, he realised why the mirror is the other side of the rack; not for posing, but so you can see what you are doing with the bar.  Obviously fairly new to this, I adjusted my response accordingly, though I may have sounded a little patronising:
"If you want to make your shoulders wider, you need to regularly perform the shoulder press."
He questioned it as if I wasn't revealing some secret formula to building shoulders.  But I explained that there is nothing untoward about body building.  You just need time, patience and consistency.  Pick an exercise and stick with it until you see progress decline.  When this happens, change it.  When it happens again, change it back to what you were doing before or change it again.  Variation is sometimes all that is needed to overcome a plateau.

I think more often, people are under the impression that you can transform your body over night.  I even see some guys who believe in this ideology so profusely that they think they have actually transformed their bodies in a few months, when all they have actually done is increased their body fat percentage through eating too much weight gaining supplements.  I wouldn't mind, except they strut around the gym with their chest puffed out and traps poised like their lats are too big to stand with their posture otherwise, throwing weights on the floor to make some kind of statement (what is it by the way, I haven't actually figured this out?).  These people identify themselves when they pick up 25 kg dumbbells and shout "encouraging" words at each other when they get to their sixth and final rep, before throwing the weights on the floor in the most irritating and cumbersome way possible.  Well done, you deserve a pat on the back!

The truth is, these things take time.  Don't expect to see results overnight and don't be consumed by what you read in magazines or on the internet; especially not from someone who is kindly taking your money for advice.  If you think about it, magazine publishers and personal trainers aren't going to tell you how simple it is to actually achieve your goals, because then you wouldn't buy their magazines or pay extortionate rates for them to tell you how important it is that you use a bosu ball, balancing on one foot, performing bent over rows in order to build "the shoulders you have always wanted".  Maybe I am wrong; maybe people want to balance on a one foot stood on a bosu ball, believing this is the best way to build their shoulders.  Maybe the magazines are just a front for an undercover ring of one legged bosu ball shoulder press experts?  If so, I'll stick to what I am doing and what I know works and mind my own business.

My one piece of advice that covers pretty much any muscle group is: Keep it simple.  That's it.  If you want to know how to build a particular muscle, just stand in the mirror and identify ways of flexing that muscle as part of a compound or in isolation.  There will be many ways you can flex a muscle, but you need to identify what works best for you!  Generally, everything boils down to three basic principles, since these principles are pretty much all that the body is mechanically capable of:

  • Pushing / Pressing
  • Pulling
  • Twisting
You can apply these principles to any part of the body and use the principles to formulate exercises to work selective or collective muscles.  But one thing for sure is, you will not invent anything new!  There is already a well established collection of simple exercises out there that have stood the test of time.  Eventually, everything leads back to these basic exercises and eventually everybody realises, that because something is so simple, does not make it ineffective.

So, if you want to build your shoulders.  I urge you to stop trying to discover the best way to build your shoulders or the most obscure way to build your shoulders.  Instead, just go an pick up some dumbbells and start pressing them above your head.  Before long you will need heavier dumbbells or will be performing more repetitions.  This is an indication what you are doing is working, so stick with it.  

Again, if you want to build your chest, perform push-ups.  When push-ups are too easy, use dumbbells.  I never advocate barbells, simply because they are not necessary and add an element of danger when trying to lift to failure.  Dumbbells can be dropped on the floor if your spotter is rubbish.  Better still, holding one dumbbell means you can spot yourself with your other hand, then switch sides.  

Make sure you do pull-ups.  Start by lying under a squat rack.  Keep your feet on the floor and pull your chest towards the bar.  The more upright you stand, the easier it is, so start fairly upright and gradually become more horizontal over time.  Eventually you will have enough strength to muster a real pull-up.  Once there, do those to failure.  When that's too easy, you will be at a stage where you will be able to figure out what to do next.

Do dead lifts and squats.  These are all important compound exercises that will help you build strength all over.  It will help you become more stable and more confident with weight.  As a minimum, perform leg presses regularly.

Don't get caught up on what you can see in the mirror.  Exercising those T-Shirt muscles will have you looking weird from angles you can't see yourself from in the mirror.  Your posture will end up wrong and you will most likely end up with an injury years down the line.  Instead, keep everything balanced.  If you work your chest, work your back next time.  If you pull, push in the opposite direction.  Work your legs!!  There is nothing worse that the guy with an enormous upper body and stick thing sparrow legs.  It looks ridiculous.  If your legs are behind, work them twice as often as the rest of your body.  Let them catch up.

If you don't like a particular exercise because it's too difficult or doesn't massage your ego enough, then that's all the more reason to do it.  Usually if something is hard, there is a reason.  That reason will be that your are not as strong as your thought you were.  Stop doing those easy exercises and concentrate on something harder, something more challenging.

Hmm.  I have rambled on with this way beyond my original expectations.  But this has been rather medicinal to me, firstly venting my frustration at mistakes I see all the time and secondly writing down some of the truths I have to regurgitate on a regular basis.  But if you got this far and found it hit a nerve or you found it enlightened you somehow, then I hope it helps you on your journey.  If you still believe there is magic in bosu ball balancing that will build you mystical muscle mass and super powers, you go for it, don't let me or anyone else stand in the way of your progress!  In the words of Mr and Mr Hodge, this is all just advice.  It's advice based on my own personal experiences and challenges I have faced.  If you follow it, good for you. If you choose not to, good for you.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Words of wisdom from Elliot Hulse

Yesterday I posted an entry about the Hodge Twins and essentially to treat what they preach as semantics for a well formed and well balanced lifestyle or body building programme, instead of treating their advices as schematics.  There are no such "schematics" for producing good results.  Yes, if you are new to this, then pretty much just about anything will work in the early phases of your development.  But as you progress, it gets harder.  You must contest your own body's flaws, limitations and barriers, that will be unique to you.  It is at this point you will struggle to find results in what served you for so long.  You will be craving something to produce those short term results you once saw.  A blueprint of some kind that you can follow to the letter and build muscle fast, get strong fast or get conditioned fast.  Unfortunately, although some may lead you to believe, there is no such thing.  The only things that will help you achieve your goals are:

  • Commitment
    • You must stay committed to your programme.
  • Patience
    • Lack of patience will have you questioning your goals and your programme.  You won't notice change overnight.  When experimenting with something new, give it a few months.  Be patient!
  • Experience
    • You need to try things for yourself.  Don't take someone's word for it that a given exercise will or will not work.  Create your own programme to experiment with it.  Prove or disprove if it works for you or not.  But least of all, don't consider that someone is wrong if it doesn't work in your favour; what works for you, may not work for them and vice versa.
Shortly after posting, I was trawling through my YouTube subscriptions and came across a video from Elliot Hulse; someone who I deem to be a valued professional, given he reads real material, and also someone who practices what they preach.  Whilst we both share very different goals, our approach is very similar...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Hodge Twins - A.K.A. Twin Muscle Workout

I came across these guys quite some time ago now and shared their YouTube channel with a few friends, who found them equally entertaining.  Until now, I don't think I have ever mentioned them on this blog, so perhaps it's a good time to share.  They have a few channels now, but the channel I primarily focus on is their body building channel.  Whilst I don't agree with everything they preach, I do like the fact they are honest about what they say being their opinion based on their own life experiences.  I can relate to this and often find myself in a position whereby people question my motives, regime or diet, trying to apply what works for me to their own lifestyle.  This will not work.  Not only am I genetically unique compared to anyone else I know, my daily routine and habits also differ, meaning I have a completely different resting metabolic rate.  Take my dad for example.  Genetically we are the same or at least extremely similar.  But we both have jobs at different ends of the spectrum.  I am desk bound for 70% of my day, doing my full time occupation.  But for 20% of it, I am pushing myself hard to keep up with those that can cruise throughout the day at a constant consistent pace.  The other 10% is spent running at a moderate pace, being a father and husband.  My dad on the other hand, is on his feet 80% of his day, doing a very manual job.  The extra physical exertion he experiences from day to day would mean, anything I find works for me may not work for him.  I also have no idea what his sleeping patterns are.  Energy levels fluctuate throughout the day, with most peoples optimal energy output being between 4pm and 6pm.  However, I am not most people and since I wake at 5am every morning and commute 60 miles to work, my 4pm actually arrives a lot sooner at around 12pm.  So between 12pm and 2pm, I am energetically at my optimum; the best time to smash the gym!  Everybody leads a different lifestyle, be it hobby or habit.  You can question what I do, when I do it and how I go about it, but don't think you can contest it.  I am content with my approach and I find my approach works for me.  If you have something that works too, great!  That means you have found something that works for you.  But you haven't found a secret formula, nor a magical blueprint as you might lead yourself to believe.  You have simply discovered the unique formula and blueprint that was made to work for you and you alone, and one that easily fits your lifestyle.

With this in mind, watch and enjoy the Hodge Twins, but don't take what they say as the definitive.  They are merely two very funny and very talented individuals who are sharing their experiences through their body building journey.  Of course, experiment and try some, if not all of the techniques they are sharing.  But don't allow yourself to be consumed by their success with the belief that your own success can follow, if you mimic everything they do.

This is one of my favourites, but if you can, find the link to their channel and find yourself your own favourite...