So…it’s been a while….thought I’d give you all (and myself) a break from my social media battering.
This blog is just some thoughts regarding your fitness for the rest of 2017 (once the January re-bound has subsided).
1- it’s still only January…you will need longer than a month to be a ripped Adonis…much longer…this is your start point for that journey…give it time.
2- don’t be consumed with all of trainers posting videos of themselves doing something advanced (include my videos in that)…they didn’t get out of bed and just have the ability to perform such endeavours…there is a lot of work gone into it beforehand…use it as inspiration or un-follow them…concentrate on you and how you’re doing.
3- fitness is a very personal thing…your reasons will differ from someone else’s…circumstances will change…so will you…and with that so will your fitness goals…they are your business…keep it that way.
4- 12 months seems like a long time looking ahead, but only seems like a snapshot looking back…you’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve in that time if you want to…the same goes for not doing anything…you’ll be surprised what you may lose…remember that each year it becomes a little bit harder to carry out the same resolutions…think about it.
5- you’ll never be perfect…none of us are (although some of us like to think so)…accept that fact and keep going…who’d want to be perfect anyway? Perfect is boring.
It’s that time of year again…you know it…the one where you apparently need to get really ripped in time for Xmas…and then hide it all under your jumper, jacket and scarf…
Or is it the time of year when the internet gets flooded with the same memes about “the only bad workout is the one you haven’t done” or “earn your Xmas”?…most of it insinuating that you need to thrash yourself to death in order to be able to enjoy your life…
However, if you are a rational human being like myself you’ll probably stick your middle finger up at all of those memes and tell them to go fuck themselves, then try and find another solution to the problem of maintaining a level of fitness, strength, and yes…aesthetics over the Xmas period…well…look no further…because I’ve got your back.
After eating your own bodyweight in cheese, drinking red wine through a straw for the best part of 24-48 hours you’ll probably not want to go and annihilate your already overly stressed body with a death workout suited to Satan himself…something a bit more forgiving maybe?….
The other option is to utilise any of my ‘Xmas tick over workouts’ below…designed to give you just enough activity to counteract your over indulgence, and hopefully go back to your previous routine with as little disruption as possible…
Workout 1: press-ups x 10-15 reps then 3 steady walks up and down the stairs or slow jog 3 lengths of the garden/street etc. Do this 3 times then rest for 1-2 minutes. Then 20-30 lying leg raises followed by 3 steady walks up and down the stairs x 3, then rest for 1-2 minutes. Finally perform 15-20 squats followed by 3 steady walks up and down the stairs x 3. Done.
Workout 2: 5 rounds of: pull-ups x 5, hanging knee raises x 10, walking lunges x 20, rest 1-2 minutes.
Workout 3: Go for a walk for 40-60 minutes, then every 5 minutes perform (depending on surroundings) either 5 x pull ups or 10 x press-ups, 15 x leg raises (I’m avoiding sit-ups if you’ve been drinking and eating a lot for a reason), 20 x squats or step-ups onto a bench or platform…mix it up a bit and don’t go hell for leather just concentrate on form.
All of the above can be done at a steady pace or faster if you feel better than you thought, and can be done with minimal equipment (tree branches or playground for pull-ups> press-ups anywhere)…you might find you want to puke enough over the festive period as it is, don’t let exercise be another reason for it…enjoy your Xmas folks!
Just like politics…the fitness industry is full of shit…it’ll tell you what you want to hear at the expense of the truth…gurus and experts popping up all over the place telling you how to construct carb free meals with zero flavour and about as much appeal as a hard poke in the eye.
There is a lot of un-real expectation in society of how you should look and how you should train…the whole industry relies on repeat customers for 6,8 or 12 week weight loss plans, this is clever because they simply aren’t sustainable…once the novelty wears off things usually head the other way and it’ll only be a matter of time before you have to go back to chicken, broccoli and burpee hell.
There are a few truths that I think everyone needs to understand and the quicker that they become instilled the better:
1- it’s ok to have some body fat > both males and females (females especially) need body fat in order to carry out processes in the body essential to be healthy and happy…the implications for too little can be as bad as too much.
2- looking good doesn’t supersede function > when you’re 50+ years old I guarantee you’ll give zero fucks about how your abs look when your back is unable to withstand the rigors of daily life, or you can’t grip the kettle to make a cup of tea because your grip has deteriorated.
3- one training style is better than another > this is simply subjective. One size doesn’t fit all.
4- hitting your fitness goals will bring you eternal happiness > we are much more complicated than just how fit we are physically…Yes this is very important, but sometimes we need to find other things to make us happy. If going to the gym stops you spending time with your family, or your restrictive diet plan destroys your social life then you need to review your priorities.
5- food isn’t the enemy > we are designed to eat a varied diet and our bodies need food to work at their best…eat it, enjoy it, just recognise what over indulgence is.
The above won’t guarantee you ripped abs in 6 weeks…it’s much better than that.
So last night I was flung into a dilemma…minutes before I needed to leave to take my Monday kettlebells and conditioning class it became apparent that I had picked up some kind of tummy bug…and it wasn’t bothered that now I had to go and stand in front of a group of people and demonstrate the finer elements of some advanced swing versions etc…
However I persevered and decided that I could take on natures call and do the class anyway…I started the class and repeated one of the common cues that I use; ‘squeeze the glutes’ as they were swinging the menacing lumps of metal around…deep down I was telling myself what I should be doing…and trust me I was squeezing…
So after a successful class and actually keeping my mind off what could have been a massive disaster I realised that I had really activated my glutes by sheer clenching tension…I picked two kettlebells up off the floor with perfect deadlift form and had the deepest contraction in my glutes I could remember…winner
All in all I was quite happy to have survived the class without shitting myself and I was also pleasantly surprised at how well my ass seemed to be functioning…I’m not saying stomach bugs are a good thing but somehow I’d managed to create some good from it…
Today I feel much better but I don’t think I’ll risk another session…just in case I’m not as lucky next time.
So it’s that familiar story again…you were practicing handstands and your left shoulder burnt out well before your right…so you decided to do some overhead press with dumbbells and nearly caved your skull in when your left shoulder let you down again…must be because your right handed…or is it something you may be able to address?
Going into the gym and putting your shoulders through their range of motion is all good, but if you have a blatant weakness that you notice every time you go into the gym…shouldn’t you be addressing it?…if you’ve answered yes to that question and you want to know how, then read on….
Your joints react in a very similar way to a knot on a rope if they are unprepared…the un-even stress and tension on an unsuitable knot make it become the weak point…the more wear and tear, the weaker it becomes until it finally snaps…if a stronger more reliable knot is used then it’ll last longer and bear more load…apply this to your shoulder.
The shoulder has a the largest range of motion in the body and with that comes instability…instability leads to stress…from stress to injury…we need to create stability…how?…straight arm strength…and yes you may be surprised at how simple it may be to start improving.
Straight arm strength is important because it transfers the load to the joints in the correct way…making them work as they should and support you properly…examples of types of exercises used for this are: straight arm planks (including side versions), hangs and support holds…each one of these exercises requires that you stabilise the shoulders in a certain way in order for them to work and make you stronger.
Key points for each exercise:
Planks: push the shoulders away from the ears, screw them out so the pits of the elbows face the front (the way you are looking). Don’t let the shoulders roll forwards and in…too much tension in one part of the joint will eventually lead to weakness and injury- remember the knot in the rope.
Hangs: drive the shoulders down and pinch them back. Feel the lower traps start to fire off and contract rather than just lengthen out…the shoulders are fixed in close to the body now and you’ll be much more secure.
Support holds: on dip bars or parallel bars push the shoulders down the back and open the chest to pinch them together. Keep the crown of the head up to the ceiling and chin tucked in…this will stop your shoulders rolling forward and straining them much in the same way as the plank.
Assess how each shoulder feels…does one side want to come forward? Is it your weaker side? Then push and screw it back into place and hold it there!!!!!
Try 3-5 sets of 15-30 seconds of the above as part of your warm up or as part of core conditioning…do it for 4-6 weeks.
Eventually that weaker shoulder will start to feel better and you’ll find your handstands and overhead press improve as a knock on effect…be patient and consistent…your shoulders will thank you one day!
Any questions regarding this add them to the form below and I’ll help you out!
…So you’ve made it to the top of your safe place; at least for now you can chill out and recover whilst planning your next move. You aren’t the only one who thought that this may be the best place to come- there are others up there…time to team up and get the fuck out of the wider area to somewhere more permanent. One problem…those little flesh eating blighters are at the bottom of the ledge and are slowly piling up.
This calls for aggression and strength- grabbing some heavy boulders you launch them off the ledge and onto the amassing horde below. Then with the help of a few friends you gruel a massive boulder up and push it down the bank creating a giant zombie pate…its time to move, and fast!!!
After getting down you’ll need to make a sprint for it and then get a wiggle on again before they close in…but it’s just typical that someone has taken a tumble on the way down and can’t run or walk. Now as tempting as it may be to leave them as zombie bait, that’s not an option- you’re going to have to carry them.
No time for sloppy team co-ordination, you need to get them across your shoulders and solo this one for few hundred metres until you have space…so that’s what you do! Trust me this is going to hurt, but sometimes that’s the best option. Better make that time in the gym count….to be continued…
Being strong is massively important no matter what activity you are doing; your less likely to get injured, you’re more efficient, and you’ll be able to forcibly manipulate the environment to your advantage. Above there are a few examples of how strength directly applies to a performance (again its worst case, but that can bring out the best in you). Lifting, throwing, sprinting and carrying are all key examples of functional strength applications- every single one is essential…without strength these attributes become limited. Become stronger!!
Take away tip from part 2:- develop your strength; use a quality over quantity approach, and always maintain it. Squat, lunge, hinge (deadlifts), push (press-ups, overhead press), pull (rows, pull-ups) and carry. Start with bodyweight and perform everything correctly before moving on and adding load. Once you can do it efficiently, then condition the movement and develop your ability to repeatedly carry them out.
So you wake up one morning and you open the curtains and to your surprise there is a large number of zombies heading down the road…they aren’t the fastest things you’ve ever seen but there sure is a lot of them. During that split second of thinking “What the actual fuck is going on?!!!” your body goes into fight or flight mode- in this case its flight mode (fighting them may be one risk too much).
You grab what you can as quick as you can and exit the house out of the back door and head over a number of gardens and away from the danger as fast as you can…but you can see more of them…you’ll just have to keep moving, unfortunately hotwiring a modern car isn’t an option so running it is.
You know a place…a couple of miles away from here that will be high enough and too difficult for them to get to you-you’ll have to climb, jump and haul yourself up there…you hope you’re strong enough- if you are you can plan your next move in relative safety…to be continued….
Above is the most unlikely event you’ll ever face; but it puts a few things into perspective for anyone who is trying to find that functionality in their fitness. We are animals-advanced, civilised, but still animals. We have attributes that evolution has developed for us in order to stay alive and thrive. The problem is that the fitness industry has largely tried to write a lot of this out of fashion in order to make sales on the newest thing.
If you want to be functional then remember how we are built, why we are built and then plan your fitness around it. We can be hunters and prey depending on the scenario. Sometimes the only way to survive is to run and come back fighting another day-if you can’t run fast enough for long enough you might be zombie food. If the only way to escape the zombie is climbing then I hope your equipped to do so.
Get outside and see what your body is capable of…test it out, find it’s shortfalls and then train it to adapt. If you struggle to keep moving then you are going against your genetic make up- the one thing that is responsible for your very existence.
Take away tip from part 1:- develop endurance; learn to walk, run and navigate your environment efficiently for extended periods of time. Don’t favour short and intense over long and slow- both should be at your disposal.
Is mind-set something that can be developed or is it something that is a pre-determined part of you as a person? Some would argue that its nature that has the biggest impact, and some would say it was nurture…but does this really matter? The answer is no.
Each person takes on a new fitness challenge or routine in a different way- some seem more accustomed to doing this without any external help such as a personal trainer or supportive partner, but that isn’t to say that you can’t one day be the same.
Our mind-sets have been developed through experiences we may not be totally aware of; as a child you may have had an experience which has made you subconsciously afraid of putting yourself out of your comfort zone; so you hold back or don’t even try to push yourself in the first place. Can this be undone? Yes.
There are lots of ways to change your mind-set and attitude towards your new fitness journey, but one I particularly like is regular self evaluation. This allows you to monitor how far you have come, how much positive change has taken place, and acts as a reference to a time when things weren’t as you wanted them. It will make you accountable to yourself and no-one else. Eventually you’ll become naturally motivated and won’t need the diary any longer.
-start a fitness diary and have a section at the start and end of each week for how motivated you are, and how you feel in general.
-set yourself small weekly goals you could easily achieve e.g. drink 1 litre more water per day or eat breakfast every day.
-at the end of the week evaluate how you feel compared to the start of the week- hold yourself accountable.
-if you didn’t achieve then say why, and this becomes your motivation to improve.
It’s become apparent to me that over the 12-18 months there has been a lot of pictures and videos of me half naked, in my garden(s) training. This isn’t because I have a lack of clothes or because I’ve been thrown outside by my girlfriend (well sometimes anyway), but because I have made a commitment to prove to myself and also the people who follow Iron soldier that to improve fitness and strength doesn’t require an absurd amount of kit.
I sit at 91kg bodyweight quite happily with very little fluctuation. I maintain a healthy level of body fat and don’t really get caught up in the fitness industry’s obsession with everyone having to look like they have been carved out of stone and painted that horrible shiny bronze colour. I can also hold my own when it comes to strength and physical ability.
The reason I’ve mentioned all of the above is because I have done this by using a simple approach to training that other people could look at and then go outside (or inside if they wanted) of their house and with a consistent approach….achieve a better version of themselves.
The fitness industry has become so diluted in the past 10-15 years that people could be fooled into thinking that without a gym or loads of kit your chances of being successful are very slim…This couldn’t be further from the truth. In the past year I have done some of the best workouts of my life whilst working in about a 2 metre square space, and hanging off my front door lintel. The key factor was that I had the intention to work hard, do the basics well, and make myself adapt to what I had…and I have.
To anyone reading this…if you want to hit targets or improve yourself and don’t know where to start, then follow the guidelines below:
1- learn the basics of squats, lunges, press-up variations, pull-up or row variations and core exercises such as planks and dish holds. Start with the easiest variations and get the form right-numbers come with time.
2- Running and sprinting are free, don’t go to a gym and use a treadmill- just go outside. Haven’t got a decent space? Do it on the spot. Do short intervals or longer efforts, but don’t push too hard to start with.
3- Focus on as few things as possible when starting out- strength and form are always my start points. If you have too many targets you won’t see an improvement. You’re after a 1% improvement not turn into an athlete overnight!
4-Use your garden!! It’s outside, it’s your space, and used correctly will become your gym! You can also wear whatever you like- bonus!!
5- Follow Iron soldier fitness training on Facebook or ironsoldierfitness on Instagram for some ideas!
You’ve just walked into the gym, hit some squats-maybe some deadlifts…you’ve done some high rep accessory work and then finished with a circuit of some description which has ruined your ability to walk back out of the gym…you then wake up the next day (or the day after the day after) and you find just walking down the stairs is giving you pain and discomfort never experienced by anyone EVER!! We’ve all done it, but when this been happening 5-6 times per week for an extended period of time do you wonder whether you may be caught in the vicious DOMS cycle.
DOMS is short for delayed onset muscle soreness- this is when the body is exposed to a new stimulus or has been pushed through an intensity it isn’t adapted to yet and as a result micro damage to the muscle fibres occurs. The body tries to adapt to this by becoming stronger, however this is where people start to get embroiled in the constant chase for DOMS and the true pursuit of fitness is lost.
This also leads to another point about overtraining…if you’re pushing that hard every session that you physically cannot recover effectively, then you are running the risk of overtraining. Overtraining in the most simple terms is when the body starts to become rundown from activity and performance starts to deteriorate. This can also have health implications due to the immune system becoming overtaxed.
So this is where the catch 22 becomes apparent…you train so hard, so regularly, that your actual ability to function away from the gym is massively impaired…yet to combat this you go to the gym and train hard. Eventually you will be affected by this – usually with injury, illness or your inability to perform at your best (in a sporting arena or work) due to the constant state of stiffness and pain.
To overcome this problem you need to look no further than Olympic athletes!! They periodise their training in order to peak for competition at the right time, and also maintain the longevity of their careers. Having DOMS the week of your event and struggling to even sit on the toilet all week isn’t going to win you any medals.
Ok so we’re not all Olympic athletes, but we can take a leaf out of their book and learn to schedule more recovery time into each week or each month if that seems easier. Below are a few ways to do this, and will not only break the DOMS cycle but also mean that for a good proportion of each week or month you will be reaping the benefits of all of your hard training.
1-have one day per week where you focus on mobility and movement. Try to maximise the movement in your joints and just enjoy the freedom it brings. Yoga, animal flow or just a basic stretching routine all work well here!
2-similar to above apart from you could use just low level cardio type exercises to get the body working and pushing the toxins built up from your other sessions out of the muscles. Swimming, rowing, walking or biking can work to good effect.
3-have a de-load week every 4th-6th week. A de-load week is where the intensity and volume of your workouts are brought down by a decent percentage, and allows the body to adapt to the work you have put in on the previous weeks. Great for serious gym goers!
4-get a massage. This will help to relax you, break up tight muscle tissue and speed recovery!
5-LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If you feel tired, stiff and ill then rest and recover! If you must do something then active recovery as in 1 and 2 is the way!
Any questions on today’s post then fire them in the form below!