Mobilize Your Back

Your T Spine is very important when it comes to being in any upright position while lifting weights. Whether it is the front squat, clean, snatch, or even the strict press, having good mobility in your upper back will help you be in better positions for these movements. Below are two mobilizations you can do to help improve these areas.

1) Foam Roller Extension: Lie down on the foam roller with it resting horizontally across your back. Just below your shoulders. You will want to keep your feet and butt on the ground as your extend back. Try to wrap the foam roller with your back. The key is to not let your neck hang back because you will not be targeting your back at this point.

2) Back Rotation: In a seated position, cross your arms on your shoulders and point your elbows forward. Without moving your head, try and twist to each side as far as possible. Repeat for 10 repetitions per side.

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Learning the Clean Pt. 3

Welcome to part 3 of learning the clean! This is the last instalment to the 3 part series going over the olympic lifting movement of the clean. To recap, last time we went over the knee position and the catch. The last portion is down to the floor and going back up.

1) Floor Position - Descent: Once the bar is at the knee, the last portion is to lower it to the middle of your shines which is called the floor. From the top of the knee, we transition the dominant muscle group from the hamstrings to the quads. From the knee you bent your leg to lower the weight to the floor. You want your shoulders to stay over the bar but have an upright position. Arms are straight and shoulder blades are pinched together.

2) Knee Position - Ascent: From the floor position, we bring the weight back up to your leg to the same knee position. To do this, you push the knees out to get them out of the way. The knees will go slightly back to transition the dominant muscle group back to the hamstring. From this knee position, you continue up your leg to the first hip position followed by extension.

A couple pointers as you go from the shin to the knee. First you want to maintain the same back angle as you raise the weight. Secondly, you want to push the knees back but not completely straighten the legs fully. This will help you maintain a good position.

Learning the Clean Pt. 2

Learning the Clean Pt. 2

Welcome to part 2 of learning the clean! This is the second instalment to the 3 part series going over the olympic lifting movement of the clean. To recap, last time we went over the hip position and extension. Next we will go over the catch and the knee position.

1) The Catch: After extending upward, you will receive the bar in the front rack. The front rack is a shelf that is created by bringing your elbows through and high. The bar will rest on your shoulders but not choke you.

2) Knee Position - Descent: Now that we have the catch position, we will go down further towards the floor. The next position is on top of the knee. Keep the bar riding along the leg as you bring your torso down. You should feel your hamstrings working at this point. Keep your shoulders over the bar and your legs slightly bent. your legs should not move, the upper body should only hinge at the hips.

3) Knee Position - Ascent: As you bring the bar up, you should be using your glutes, hamstrings and back muscles to ride the bar back up your leg to the hip position. Three major keys while performing this movement. First, don’t move your legs, only hinge at the hips. Secondly, do not let your knees shoot forward. Last point is make sure you bring it back to the hip position before extending.

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Fitness Resolutions - How to Stick

With the new year approaching, many people will be starting resolutions which is great, but many times they don’t stick. Sometimes you need some help making the change, so here are some tips that will help

1) Make it a Habit: Exercises consistently, at the same and make working out and eating properly a habit. If it is something that you only do once in a while or inconsistently, changing your lifestyle will never work. It is something you have

2) Not a Short-Term Fix: As mentioned above, this is a lifestyle change. Make sure that you are not just trying to get in shape for the summer or for a wedding, but this is something you are looking forward to improving. If you ask anyone who has been in fitness and exercising for a long time, they will say the same thing. It is hard work, there are no shortcuts and there is nothing you can do to bypass consistency.

3) Enjoy the Process: Don’t forget to have fun while exercising. Try new things, learn different exercises/activities/methods. Remember since this is a lifelong change, it should be enjoyable and learning new things is the best way to have fun and get better!

Learning the Clean Pt. 1

The clean is a very complicated olympic lifting movement that uses a lot of body parts. What’s great about this movement is that it reinforces itself, meaning you know when you do it properly and when you don’t. Today we are going to review the first position in a 3 part series.

1) Hip Position: We will be starting the bar at the hip and making our way down. However, the first step is to start the bar at your high with shoulders back and legs slightly bent.

2) Hip Extension: The first motion is to extend the hips, coming up on the toes and shrugging at the same time. Try to create as much upward momentum and force as you can.

3) Full Extension: The next step is to combine the legs and arms. As you extend your hips, pull on the bar getting your elbows up as high as you can. Again trying to create as much momentum upward as you can.

All of these steps combined is called the “3rd Pull” - there are 3 phases and this is the last set. As mentioned in the beginning, we will be working top down so next week we will cover the next portion!

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Alternative Ways to Improve Strength

Wait, there is more that you can do to improve your training besides just training? Yes! There are many other ways you are able to improve. Here are some unconventional ways to improve:

1) Film Yourself: A lot of gyms will have mirrors, but I like to preach not using mirrors so that you can learn how to use your body and feel the weight instead of just watching yourself in the mirror. But on top of this, you should film yourself from different angles. You may notice things that your body is doing without even knowing it. You can also detect imbalances and improper movement that a mirror won’t show you.

2) Continue Learning: Watch videos, take courses, whatever you can to help you improve. You may learn techniques that you did not know of. Information can be passed along and there may have been a warm up or exercise or stretch you didn’t know of that could benefit you.

3) Have Someone Watch You: Having another set of eyes is great to pick up on things that you may not notice while lifting. They may provide different cues or comments than you are used to that can help you improve.

Lower the Weight

“One step back, three forward” is a common saying. This saying can be equally applied to fitness and lifting weights. Here are some reasons why slowing down, lowering weights and taking scheduled breaks can benefit your fitness:

1) Improve Form: After lifting heavy weights consistently for a long time, your form might break down to try and lift heavier weights than you are accustomed to. Taking a step back and decreasing the weights to reinforce good form can be beneficial. If you continue to lift heavy weights and not take time to review proper form, that improper form can become a bad habit that is engrained in your technique.

2) Gives The Body a Rest: If you are training consistently and trying to push your boundaries, your body is accumulating fatigue over time. Lowering the weights for a week or two to reset your body is beneficial for long-term improvement.

3) Change Stimulus: Lowering the weights but adding variation to your exercise (repetitions, tempo, etc.) will help you change up your routine. If you are looking to get stronger, constantly testing your strength is not the best way to improve. Doing lower weights will help you increase volume and still build strength without constantly pushing your 100% capacity. This is also called percentage work, doing repetitions at a lower percentage of your 1 rep max.

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Training Mindset

Training Mindset

Through my own training and helping others, having a good mindset going into a training session and even when training is super important. Don’t get me wrong, the body does have limitations but sometimes the mind can trick you into selling yourself short. So here are a few tricks to keep pushing when you feel like slowing down or quitting:

1) Count down - Give yourself 5 seconds rest. Count down from 5 to 1 and then begin the set/exercise again. It is a great way to get you going and cut down break time.

2) Focus on one set at a time - If you try to look too far ahead and think, “I have 80 more repetitions to go,” you are bound to fail. You need to think about smaller sets and increments. This makes it more manageable and you are more willing to get it done.

3) Have a training partner - Having someone to go through tough workouts with you is key. Naturally when you see them push hard, you will want to keep up. The energy between you and your partner will help you push to another level.

Some days, you will have bad training sessions and that is inevitable. Don’t let it drag you down and carry over to the next few workouts. Just move forward and put in more effort next time.

Full Body vs. Isolated Movements

Working every muscle body in your body is imperative to having a well rounded fitness routine. But when should you do full body and when should you do smaller, more isolated muscles?

Full Body Movements

Start your workouts with full body exercises. Squats, deadlifts, shouler press, bench press, cleans, snatches. All these exericses are good full body movements. They require a lot of muscles to perform the movement and for this reason you can increase the weight used for these exercises. This is beneficial because it is the best way to help you build muscle and strength in the most muscle groups. This will also help burn more calories as you are moving more weight over greater distances.

Isolated Movements

Isolated movements are beneficial for a few reasons. First, they can help fix imbalances and weaker muscles. For example you can correct weaker muscles on one side of your body. Additionally, isolated movements are good for aesthetic purposes. Developing smaller muscles are important for physique as well as an overall developed body.

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No Secrets Here

There is no “secret” workout or set way to workout to achieve your goals. There are many ways to get to the same goal. There is no new piece of equipment that will get you into perfect shape. However, there are general principles that you should follow:

1) Train often, train consistently: This is probably the best way to get to your goals. Want to get stronger in your squat? Squat more!

2) Train big muscle groups: Training big muscle groups will result in more muscle which is beneficial for ANY fitness goal.

3) Incorporate different aspects: Heavy weights, lighter weights, long cardio, short cardio, whatever it is, make sure your program has varity to expose you to different stimulus!

4) Intensity: If you’re going to train, try your bet every session. That doesn’t mean that every session will be its best, but giving 50% effort will result in 50% results.

Ryan's Lifting Principles

After many years of lifting weights and working out, the biggest thing that I have recognized is that continually improving is the best way to achieve your goals. However, you can’t achieve these goals when you are injured. Below I have explained my principles for a long and prosperous fitness journey.

Technique

This is the base and biggest component of exercising and lifting weights. If you do not have good technique you are bound to injury. Continually practicing bad technique leads to poor form until you hit the point of injury, it is inevitable. Take the time to learn movements properly.

Consistency

The next principle is consistency. Can you perform the proper technique of the exercise over and over again? Can you perform it with light, medium and heavy weights? If so, then you can move onto the next principle.

Intensity/Speed

Great so you have good technique and can perform the exercise properly over many repetitions. However can you increase the rate at which you can do those exercises properly? If not, slow down to ensure good technique.

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Listen To Your Body

When training, it is important to listen to what your body is telling you. It could be giving you signs that you are totally unaware of because you are determined to reach your goals. Determination is very important but being smart while you are training is equally as important.

Overtraining

Do you find that your workouts are sluggish and weights feel extremely heavy? This is a sign that your body may need a break. This does not mean stop training, but try using lighter weights to allow your body to rest and come back the next week ready to get strong.

Sickness

If you are feeling light headed, have a cough or sore throat, listen to your body. It is telling you to rest and recover. If you are very strict with your exercise routine, taking 2-3 days off to recover will not ruin your progress.

Progress Slowing Down

Relating to overtraining, if you are finding that weights are not improving and that you are unable to improve, this could be your body telling you that you need to change up your routine. Mix up the exercises, weights and repetitions to surpass

Injury

That little twinge that you are feeling in your back? Your body is telling you to get it checked out before you lift heavy. Let it rest or go get treatment before you try to push the limits and your body will thank you.

Key Areas to Stretch

Key Areas to Stretch

1) Hips: Hips are essential in squatting sitting often can reduce range of motion in the hips keeping them mobile is essential.

2) Thoracic Spine: The T-spine helps you stay upright in a lot of movements, resulting in good positioning for lifting weights.

3) Shoulders: Shoulders are involved in most upper body movements so it is important to keep them healthy.

4) Ankles: Relating to hips, ankles can become tight from poor shoes and high heels. Keep them flexible to help with squatting movements.

Methods To Fix Imbalances

Do you ever find one side weaker than the other? Or maybe you are having trouble and some discomfort because there are muscular imbalances in your body. For example having weak back muscles may lead to poor posture and painful shoulders. This is normal and most people have these imbalances. However, there are ways to improve the discrepancies.

What Are Imbalances Caused From?

There are a few reasons why imbalances happen in the body. First, everyone has a dominant side of their body, it is inevitable. Secondly, a lot of people train a specific area more than the other causing it to be stronger than its counterpart. As for the example above, if you train your chest more often than your back, your chest muscles will tighten up and your weak back muscles cannot compensate for it. Therefore you will get shoulder pain as a result of the imbalance. Finally, everyone is built differently and is stronger in different areas of the body. You must be aware of these problems and do your best to fix them.

Solutions To Imbalances

1) Isolate Left and Right - Train each side individually making sure that you are using the same weight and reps to try and build up the weaker side.

2) Train Your Weakness - Take the time to train your weakness to make sure that you are keeping a balanced and completely developed body.

3) Stretch/Massage Over-worked Areas - This will help release the tension in the muscles that are causing the pain.

Why Bad Workouts Happen

Have you ever had a realy bad workout? Like I mean you had no motivation, no energy, weights that you can normally do feel heavy? While it may not be a common occurrence, it does happen to everyone. Below are some reasons that could cause poor workouts and what you can do about them. Causes 1) Lack of quality sleep: Whether you slept less than you normally do, had a change in sleep schedule, or were just restless throughout the night, sleep is a huge factor that plays a role in your training. Without proper sleep, you are bound to have bad days. 2) Poor Nutrition: It could have been a bad meal the day before or even a few hours before. If you are eating poorly you are not properly fueling your body to exercise and perform its best. You may feel sluggish and that is a result of eating poorly. 3) Overtraining: Maybe you have not taken a rest day or deload week recently. Your body eventually will not respond well to the training if you are going hard every time 7 days a week for months on end. Solutions 1) Take a rest day/deload week: Cut the workout short, go home and relax. Or go much lighter to still go through the motions but give your body time to recover. 2) Get Treatment: If there your body is fatigued and tired, it could be beneficial to seek a therapist to help release and relax the muscles! Stretching instead of training can also be beneficial. 

Adding Variety To Your Workout Program

Are you constantly doing the same exercises and finding that you are getting stuck in your fitness routine? Hopefully this article will provide insight on how to surpass plateaus and change up your routine.

Why add variety to your workouts? Changing up your routine is important because your body is always adapting to what you make it do. So if you are performing the same exercises over and over, your body will become very good at that but not progress after a certain point because it has become used to it.

Types of Variation: Let’s take the squat for example. If you are performing 5 sets of 5 repetitions, your body will get used to that. There are many ways to improve your squat without having just adding weight. You can perform a pause squat, holding for 3 seconds at the bottom of the squat. You can perform a split squat to isolate one leg and focus on building strength one leg at a time. Below are some variations you can use for your squat:

1) Barbell Front Squat 2) Split Squat 3) Pause Squat 4) Hack Squat 5) Lower weight, higher reps 6) Higher weight, lower reps 7) Tempo Squat - slowly descending or ascending

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How Many Days Should You Train?

It is beneficial to know when your body needs a break and when you can keep pushing. By giving your body time to recover you will not only avoid injury, but help improve your strength and fitness goals by taking a break occasionally. Here is a breakdown of how often you should train.

Newbie (0-0.5 Years): While beginners are eager to jump into exercising, they need to know their bodies limitations and give their body time to adjust to the weights and the amount of pressure it puts on the body. Beginners should aim to train with weights 3-4 times a week emphasizing good technique and form. 

Intermediate (0.5-2 Years): Intermediate athletes can train up to 4-5 times a week emphasizing technique as well as variation of compound movements to help them increase their strength. Recovery time has improved but still allowing 1-2 days of recovery is necessary. 

Advanced (2+ Years): Advanced athletes can train 5-6 days per week. Notice that even advanced athletes still need rest days to allow their body a break. Training 7 days a week is not going to be beneficial for the body and will most likely lead to poor workouts. 

Note that these suggestions are just that, suggestions. The number of days you workout is totally up to you but is just a guide to help you find a good balance between recovery and pushing yourself to improve. The categories are guidelines for people who may be looking to increase or decrease the number of days they are training. Enjoy the process and happy lifting