Saturday, September 20, 2014

Simple is Hard


Life is complicated these days but when it comes to working out, simple workouts done hard are the fastest way to get the best results.  

1. Eliminate most isolation exercises. These are exercises that essentially work only one muscle at a time. This would be exercises like leg extensions, tricep "kickbacks" and ab crunches. Leave the more complicated stuff for later and Yes, I did say ab crunches, stay with me here!

2. Focus on compound exercises (exercises that work many muscles at a time) like squats, standing overhead presses, pull-ups, bench presses, stiff legged dead lifts, and dips. BTW --squats do far more to strengthen and shrink your waistline than crunches will ever do!

3. Do the six exercises above three times per week. Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. 2-3 sets and 6-20 reps each. And remember to do each rep slowly, I am talking four seconds on the way up and 4 seconds back down.

Doesn't matter who you are...man/woman, young/old, beginner or pro, the fastest way to great results are doing the basic exercises as hard as you can and then next time  -- do them harder. It took me 10 years of working out with little results to figure that out and another 10 years to actually do it! Don't let that happen to you, start your Simple but Hard workout ASAP!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The next time you exercise, do one more.


Whether you're an NFL football player or someone who just wants to get in shape, doing that additional rep (even when you think you can't!) is the cornerstone of progressive weight training. The simplest way to explain it is next time you workout, do one more rep, pound, or both, than you did the previous workout. Here's how you can apply it so you never plateau:

1. If your goal is 8-12 reps for an exercise and you make it to 12 reps with relative ease, don't stop at 12 -- try a few more until you go to momentary muscle failure!

2. If you meet or exceed your rep goal, add on the least amount of weight you can on your next workout for that exercise. For example -- let's say you did 12 reps of 100lbs on the bench press. For your next workout, add a 2.5lb plate to each side for 105lbs. You may only do 8 reps with the new weight, but stay at 105lbs until you meet or exceed 12 reps. Then move up again.

3. It's impossible to remember all the sets, reps, weights, and exercises of every workout. Log all your workouts on your phone so you know what you have to beat the next time.

Progressing in reps and/or weights with each workout is the foundation of great results!  The sad news? It's seldom understood or done properly. Follow the above steps and it'll keep you moving in the right direction with your workouts. I promise!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Butkus never did Power Cleans, Here's Why...


Butkus never did one power clean his entire playing career or life for that matter.  Now a days, I think it's against the law if you don't do a power clean or flip a truck tire in a sports drink or shoe commercial. These exercises may look impressive but what are they really doing?

Now it was once said "if you had to build the perfect linebacker, it wouldn't look much if any different than the real Dick Butkus"Why am I bringing this up?  Because most superstar athletes are determined almost entirely at birth (with great genetics). That being said, Butkus' genetics were built perfectly for playing football. Not too tall or short at 6'3". A long torso and short legs which gave him incredible leverage.  He had an abundance of fast twitch muscles in his quads (note: one of the few areas that can be tested, which Butkus was tested) and the ability to quickly recruit a large percentage of the fibers.  This is stuff you're born with...power cleans or other explosive exercises can't improve any of these things.

The mainstay for most football strength and conditioning programs, power cleans are thought to build more explosive power and training the "fast twitch" muscles.   First off, fast and slow twitch muscles are a extremely complicated subject, football and strength coaches oversimplified this process for decades and understand nothing about it.  A personal trainer or coach that tells you that an exercise is training the "fast twitch" muscles has no idea how the body actually works and you should run, and run away fast!  

During a power clean, how do you get the weight started?  Is it a smooth slow contraction where the muscles do all the work with no momentum? Or is it a sudden violent jerk?  We all know it's a sudden jerk.  After you've jerked the weight hard enough to get it started, you're muscles are really doing no work until the weight travels high enough until you can rotate under it and catch the weight.  All the while exposing your joints, muscles, bones tendons, ligaments to an insane amount of force. Bottom line: In a power clean you are throwing the weight, you have to, otherwise you wouldn't be able complete the movement.  When you throw weights, there's a high chance of injury.

Do power cleans relate to football?

Power cleans are a closed skill set, meaning that the environment is the same with the same movement pattern each time.  Football requires and open skill set, meaning the environment is always changing and you have to be flexible with how you respond each time.  Power cleans have no relationship or transfer to anything done in football or any sport for that matter.  If your sport is doing power cleans or cross fit, then do you need to do power cleans, just find a good orthopedist.

What exercises should you do to increase explosiveness and power for football?

No exercise can reproduce the countless number of explosive moves you do while playing football.  Whatever cards you were dealt genetically will be improved by building strength in the safest and most productive manner.  In general, train all the major muscle groups by doing the basics and using the most sophisticated equipment possible. If barbells are all you got then do the following exercises along with neck training, Squats, Deadlifts, Standing Presses, Pull Ups, Bench Press, Bicep curls, and Dips will literally do wonders if done right.  There are many variations but this is a great place to start.  With good equipment you'll have better options.

What form should I use while lifting weights?

One of the best way to lift weights is negative accentuated training.  This means you smoothly lift the weight in a slow controlled manner and lower the weight even slower.  For example take 2 seconds to lift and 4 seconds to lower.  Depending on the exercise, a pause should occur in the isometric position.

Workout to prevent injuries and increase performance.  You'll get more than enough explosive work during a full season of practice, pre season games, regular season games, playoffs, and hopefully Super Bowl. Play fast and practice fast, take care of your body.  Set yourself up to be just as strong at the end of the season. After all your body is an investment, if you don't take care of it you can't play.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The 5 Worst Football workout exercise habits you need to break today

For many football players, doing the right or wrong exercises in the gym can make or break your season. Worse yet shorten your career.

Your body is an investment and you think, "Where do I focus my efforts? Do I do speed, agility, and quickness drills? Should I lift weights explosively? Are plyometrics the way to go?" You fumble around the gym, pretending to know what you are doing and hopefully not get hurt in the process. And soon football is something you used to play. Career over!

It really doesn't have to be that way if you know what to focus on. First, erase everything you've learned about exercise and working out for football. Keep it simple, get good at the basics and start by avoiding these 5 bad habits!

1. Combining skill training and strength training

Johnny Manziel,  has little transfer to the football field.
The research on skill transfer is very clear...skills don't transfer from one task to the other.  Skills are classified as "open" or "closed".  Exercises like power cleans and flipping truck tires are examples of a closed skill, even tho you can't make a sports drink commercial without someone doing them, they have no transfer the "open" skill set the game of football requires.

The right approach is to build strength in safest and most productive way in the gym by doing proper weight training, then go out to the football field and practice your skill for your sport and position.  This means that if you're a quarterback working on throwing mechanics and footwork, do so in helmet and pads on the football field and not on a beach in the sand with a bungee cord strapped to your waist.

2. Avoiding Exercise Machines

Are machines better than free weights?  It's an age old question and everyone has their opinion.  The facts are, your body is a rotational animal and free weights have resistance from one direction, physics tell us that there's only a very small part of any free weight exercise where there's direct resistance on the muscle. 

If you're using the best machines available (which few teams do), machines are far more productive than free weights because they give the proper resistance throughout the range of motion.  In understanding the limitations of free weights you can adjust your strength and conditioning program accordingly to the most productive exercises.

3. Taking a Fast & Furious Approach

Urlacher demonstrating how to throw weights.
There are more injuries in sports now more than there ever was.  I see so many athletes doing their weight training completely wrong. Fast reps, not complete reps, etc. Exercises like power cleans, plyometrics, and explosive exercises are the single most cause of injury either directly or indirectly today.  They put your body under a tremendous amount of force that can set an athlete up for a disastrous injury.

During weight training, take 4 seconds to lift and 4 seconds to lower the weight and pausing in the contracted position. When you're lifting the weight slow and controlled your muscles actually do all the work, not momentum which not only builds strength faster but is much safer as well. 

4. Plyometrics

JJ Watt...great for the sport of jumping on dressers.
Jumping up on plyo boxes and various plyometric hops may look impressive but at what cost?  The joints and connective tissue take an absolute beating during plyometrics.  Explosive power is almost entirely dictated by your genetics, some people have advantages and some don't.

With 4 preseason games, 16 regular season games, playoffs, not to mention all the camps and practices you get more than enough explosive work in. Nothing prepares you for the explosive moves on the football field better than just playing the game of football.  You barely have enough time to recover from normal football life let alone additional wear and tear of explosive plyometrics.

5. Using Speed Gadgets

RGIII...Injury after injury...here's part of the reason.
Parachutes, bungee cords, speed ladders, and special speed shoes are among the many gadgets that do not increase your football speed.  None of these gadgets will help you be faster covering a running back coming out of the backfield or keeping up with a receiver running his route.

Changes in stance, footwork, hand placement, and eliminating unnecessary movement is by far the most productive way to increase your speed and quickness.  Also take time on a regular basis to practice running technique and running fast.  Yes, I said practice running fast! I know it makes too much sense doesn't it?

I'll be writing in depth articles on each of these topics in the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dispelling Diet Myths: How to break those bad diet habits today!



There isn't a more confusing time for starting a healthy eating plan than now. You probably have tried most of the fad diets out there. including a few new ones, and I'm here to say that it really comes down to these 3 things. Diets do not work long-term. It's all about a healthy eating plan and a little bit of knowledge.

1. Whether you eat 10 times or 2 times a day, your total calorie intake over 24hrs determines weight your loss/gain. Start keeping a record of the food you eat for the first week, along with the caloric intake, and I am willing to bet you'd be surprised at what you find!

2. Be realistic with the diet plan as it relates to your food preferences. If you love bread and the new diet that says absolutely no to bread, it will never work long-term! Don't set yourself up for failure before you even start.

3. Unless you're an alien, every human being on planet earth works on a calories in/calories out to gain or lose weight. Try and make the calories you eat as healthy as you can with the right amount of calories for your goal. Stick to your caloric goal daily. It is as simple as that.

I've personally tried all the diets out there and all of them at best work short term. The important thing is to find what works for you and don't be afraid to change the plan if it's not working.  


Comment below on any diet or nutrition questions that may be standing in the way of you getting to your health and fitness goals

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

How to regain your strength after a Neck Injury: Hatcher back in the game

Jason Hatcher, a beast defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, and I trained while he was in L.A. over the team's bye week. He's having a standout year but was sidelined by a Stinger in a week 9 win over the Vikings and lost much of the strength in his left arm.  

Since his injury, the Cowboys were beaten bad by the Saints while giving up record yards. For Jason, it was important as ever to get back on the field to help his team ASAP, that's why I was brought in. I knew I had to develop a serious program to get him back to pass the Cowboys strength test and get back in the next game against the Giants.

You've heard of Stingers but for those that don't know, a Stinger is a spinal cord injury usually in the neck that affects the nerves of one of your arms.  Numbness and/or weakness can last for hours or days depending on the severity.  

First, I had him do specific movement assessments just to see what's working and not working. Then I can develop a plan of action to make him as strong as possible in the shortest amount of time.

2 1/2 lb weights never felt so heavy!
You can see that something is going on with the left arm.
As it turns out his left arm may have been at best, 15% of its normal strength. We had alot of work to do and not alot of time.  I started him with activation techniques along with exercises to integrate the muscle group back in with the rest of the system so that it works well from the central nervous system standpoint.  

If you're trying to be the best athlete performing at the highest level or just feel better, it's important to have a balanced foundation that's not compensating. So I also did a full body assessment because everything is connected to everything, if one muscle isn't working right it literally affects the whole body. Jason really takes care of his physique inside and out but he still had a few postural deviations and muscle imbalances that could also contribute to other injuries. His issues probably had to do with the fact that he gets into the equivalent of 70-80 car accidents during a football game each week! 

We finished up our session on the flexibility work he needed to take care of some of the compensations. Stretching can be good but only if its done the right way on muscles that actually need it! 

The next appointment was for the strength workout. I used techniques that I'd say less than 10 people in the country know what they are and how to do them properly....

BTW he made the starting line up for the game against the Giants...stay tuned!

Any questions about what exercises we did tweet @FitLike51.