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What athlete do you look up to? Whose physical qualities (i.e. speed, strength, power) impress you the most? If you enjoy spending time in the gym lifting weights, chances are you've already googled your favorite player's name to see what kind of workouts he or she performs.

The training sessions that are shown online are usually the most grueling ones, meant to challenge even the fittest individuals. Naturally, you end up giving that workout a try because if it's good for them, it has to be good for you.

The mistake that I see most people make is that they structure their training program around the hardest sessions they have seen or read about online. This leads to a 6-day-per-week, high-intensity program that leaves you lying on the floor, gasping for air after every single session. And while you might think that this is what the pros do day in and day out, the reality is slightly different.

What you see: the tip of the iceberg

It turns out that what is shown online and on TV is only a very small portion of a top athlete's total training regiment. We love seeing people go through intense workouts, so that's what is shown to us. Nobody wants to watch a 40-minute video of a professional athlete getting a regenerative massage or watch an elite sprinter performing low-intensity running drills for an entire workout. We want the flashy, the loud and hard-looking stuff because we think that these hard training sessions are what build top-level athletes.

Don't get me wrong: when these professionals "go hard", they really give everything that they have. But it's a big mistake to think that they do these very taxing, high-intensity workouts all the time.

The majority of their week is actually spent performing work that isn't excessively hard in itself. But it's this "boring" work that allows them to push as hard as they do in the gym when the time is right. This lower intensity work lays a strong foundation upon which intensity and volume can be built.

Here are a few examples of low-intensity activities that top-level athletes perform more frequently than you might think:

- Low-intensity cardio

- Mobility/stretching

- Regenerative work (EMS, massage, physio, chiro, etc.)

- Technical/tactical drills

- Tempo runs

- Relaxation/breathing/meditation practice

- Core work

- Light medicine ball circuits

- Weights under 80%

Recovery: the missing piece of the puzzle

You want to work hard in the gym, and that's a good thing. If you want to get great results, you need to earn them through hard work. What you also need to do is spend some time focusing on your recovery to ensure that this hard work actually ends up being beneficial to you.

"It's not about how much you train; it's about how much you can recover from."

If you only perform hard workouts all the time, your body never gets a chance to regenerate itself and grow. You're left in a constant state of fatigue that will eventually lead to performance plateaus and leaves you more vulnerable to injuries.

By putting a little bit more effort into your recovery, you will positively affect your progress and make a significant difference on your overall performance. Recovery can take many forms, but the basics are the following:

Nutrition - eat enough protein to maintain/build muscle mass, enough fats to sustain overall health and hormonal balance, enough carbohydrates to support your level of activity, and enough "greens" to guarantee a sufficient intake of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

Sleep - aim for 8+ hours of quality sleep each night. If you want to train like an athlete, you need to sleep like one. Avoid screens before bed, keep room temperature on the cool side, and black out light completely to ensure optimal rest.

Stress - manage your stress levels to avoid any detrimental effect on your performance. Spend quality time with your friends and family, practice relaxation/meditation regularly, and avoid situations and people who have a negative impact on your overall mood, health and well being.

This snippet is from http://www.fatiguescience.com. Click on the link for the full infographic.

  Structure of training: a high-low approach

So when do you train hard and when do you take it easy? One of the simplest and most effective ways to structure your training to ensure the best results is to use a "high/low" approach, popularized by the late Charlie Francis.

World-renowned sprint coach Charlie Francis (right) with his athlete Ben Johnson (left)

 Credit: Gary Hershorn/Reuters

The premise of this training structure is that anytime you are focusing on maximum speed or explosion, your central nervous system (CNS) is being taxed. Charlie Francis reminds us that "on any given day, there is only so much CNS energy to expend. Whether you access the CNS energy pool via the arms, or the legs, or both, it doesn't matter, when it's drained, it's drained."(1)

After a true "high-intensity" session, a minimum of 48 hours must be allowed before the next intense training workout can take place.

CNS-taxing activities include:

- Sprinting work

- Heavy resistance training (2-5 rep range)

- Plyometrics (explosive jumping, hopping, skipping, bounding)

- Stair/hill running

- Max effort agility drills and conditioning

- Sparring or heavy bag work

- Explosive throws


Between your days of high-intensity work, you will be focusing on low-intensity activities and regeneration means outlined above. These "easy" workouts won't tax your nervous system and will allow it to fully recover before the next high-intensity workout.

As a general rule, you should aim for 2 to 3 "high" days per week at the most.


Sample Training Week (3 high days)

Monday (high)

Heavy resistance training (above 80%)

Tuesday (low)

Tempo Runs + light body weight circuit

Wednesday (high)

Hard hill sprints

Thursday (low)


Friday (high)

Heavy resistance training (above 80%)

Saturday (low)

Low-intensity cardio

Sunday (low)


Download your free weekly template here


Auto-regulation of training

The last thing you need to do if you truly want to train like an athlete is to monitor your recovery status consistently. The high/low training structure is an excellent template but it will only give you the best results if you remain flexible and adapt it on the fly, according to your body's readiness to be taxed at the highest level.

For example, if you're supposed to do a heavy resistance training session but you haven't been able to sleep enough and you still feel crushed from the previous hard session, it's a good idea to adjust the training accordingly.

It's not easy to listen to your own body and decide if you are ready to push hard or not. We’re led to believe that no matter how you feel, you need to push yourself to the limit every time you train in order to get better. This is not the most sustainable approach to training. In addition to that, if you don’t have a qualified coach who can adjust your training depending on how you look and feel, you need a valid way to do this yourself.

The cheapest and most effective way to monitor your recovery status is to measure your heart rate (HR) when you wake up. Take a week to establish a baseline value while getting lots of sleep every night. Once you've done this, use that number as a reference point and compare it to your HR when you wake up. If the morning value is close to your baseline, you're good to go hard. If you're 5 beats higher, take it easy. If you're over 10 beats higher than your baseline, it's probably a good idea to switch the planned session for a low-intensity workout.

For those of you who are willing to invest into their training, are now widely available. These systems will do the thinking for you and tell you if you are ready to push hard or if you should take a rest day instead.


If you want to train like an athlete, you need to live like one. It’s not enough to work hard inside the gym and on the field; you need to keep working every other minute of the day to ensure great results and reduce your chances of getting injured or over-trained. You also need to organize your training intelligently and not be afraid of the “easy” work. Only then will you be able to express your full potential and see what you’re truly capable of.



(1) Charlie Francis - The Charlie Francis Training System

The post So You Want To Train Like An Athlete? appeared first on Upside Strength.

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Thanks to Hawaiian_Mike on Urban Dictionary, we now have a definition for what a "Dad Bod" is:
Lucky Mike
In the process of caring for your child, you’ve completely forgotten to take care of yourself.

Now you need to do something about it.

Luckily, I have the solution for you. 

80/20 Rule
When talking about new parents and fitness, more is NOT better. The last thing you want to do is add 5 workouts to your weekly schedule when you’re already sleep deprived, not eating well and stressed out of your mind. This will cause more harm than good.

To benefit from any kind of training, you need to be able to recover from it. Sleep, nutrition and stress levels have the biggest impact on your recovery. 

Aim for 2 workouts per week to start. As your fitness level goes up and you find more time in your schedule, you can increase the number of workouts to 3 or 4. Anything more than this in unnecessary unless you’re competing in a sport that requires higher amounts of training. 

Picking the Right Workouts
There are endless possibilities when it comes to picking workouts. But following the rule outlined about, you’ll be looking for one thing in particular; efficiency.

The best “bang for your buck” workouts aim at building muscle (strength training) or high intensity workouts where you go all-out for short period of times, followed by longer rest periods.

You could do a strength focused session once or twice a week, where you complete 3 to 4 compound lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chin up, pull up, rows) each session. Building muscle will increase your resting metabolic rate, so you'll burn more fat even when you're not exercising. It will also boost your metabolism for up to 72 hours, which will help you lose that beer belly faster. You need to set your 6 pack free!

Wearing your 6 pack on the outside is not an option
You could also do some high intensity interval training (HIIT). These workouts are extremely time-efficient. Be sure to warm up appropriately before going all out. Pick simple movements that allow you to push yourself hard without risking injuries (hill sprints, indoor rower, exercise bike, etc..). Do a short interval at 90-95% effort, followed by a longer rest period (around a 1:4 work to rest ratio). Repeat this 3-6 times and you’re done. Finish with a thorough cool down/stretch. 

If you want to get some longer cardio done, put the little one in the stroller and take off for a long walk. Keep a fast pace to elevate your heart rate. This will not only increase your aerobic capacity, but will also help you recover from the harder training sessions. You don’t need to pay the gym to run on a treadmill. If you want to make it more challenging, throw some weights in your backpack before you step outside for your walk.

"Let's go for a walk, honey"


Fitting it Into the Schedule
Before you tell me that you don’t have time to do anything more than what you’re already doing, take 10 minutes to write down (in 30 minute chunks) what your week is really made of. Then, make the grown up decision to use “Pokemon Go time” and “Netflix time” to take care of your body.

Another option is to get a sitter and partner up with your wife. Go workout together. You don’t need to be doing the same thing, but that way you’re spending time together without the baby.

Hit a quick workout during your lunch break at work. Find a colleague to partner up with so you keep each other motivated when times get tough.

You can also workout when the baby is sleeping. Whether it’s during the mid-day nap or later in the evening, just be ready to throw down in the living room as soon as the little one goes down.

Stop the Pizza and the Beer
If you're exercising and eating real foods, you'll drop weight. Stay away from processed crap, eat your greens and make smart decisions when you're eating out.
Don't Make Excuses
Make time for it. Your health and fitness will determine the quality of your life as you age. They will also influence how well you’ll be able to take care of your children.  Exercise is an investment that provides a steady return on investment when done regularly. So start investing in yourself today!
Sample Workouts
Download this free PDF with sample workouts (no email required) to get you going! Don't be afraid to if you come up with any questions.
Taking It One Step Further
Consider working with a fitness professional to ensure that the exercises you use are appropriate for your current level of conditioning and skill. This will also provide you with support and accountability which are key factors when it comes to changing habits and achieving long term goals!

The post Combatting Dad Bod: Fathers Deserve Fitness Too! appeared first on Upside Strength.

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If you want to start a weight training routine, you already know that the squat is a staple exercise. Unfortunately, too many people jump straight to squatting with a barbell. Although it’s a fantastic exercise, it turns out to be one of the most complex squat variations out there. This means that you should work towards it, but that it isn’t necessarily the best beginner weight training movement to start with.

In this short article, I’ll lay out 5 simple squat progressions that you can use to learn the squat safely while still getting a great workout!

#1 – Quadruped Rock Back

It might surprise you that we’re starting on the floor. However, this very stable position is a great way to get the basics done right.

You can include this exercise in your warm up before any workout. It will teach you how to control your core and hips during a squatting movement. Use a long exhale (pushing air out) to tighten your core and proceed to rock your hips back while keeping a flat back and your abs engaged.

Pro tip: Ask a friend to tell you if your hips are “tucking under” at the end of your rock. On the next attempt, focus on keeping your hips aligned with your spine and stop just before the “tuck” begins. over time, gradually increase the depth of the movement.

Quadruped Rock Back | Upside Strength | Vancouver Personal Trainer - YouTube
#2 – Pole Assisted Squat

This exercise can be used either in the warm up or the workout. This will depend on your level of control, your body weight, and your strength. If you are carrying excess body fat that you are trying to shed, adding more weight could do more harm than good. Instead, use this variation to accommodate yourself with the squatting motion while remaining safe and secure.

Pro tip: As you progress and get stronger, you can gradually let go of the pole to transition into an unassisted bodyweight squat.

Pole Squat | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube
#3 – Goblet Box Squat

This is one of most under-utilized, beginner weight training exercises for the squat. Using the box will provide you with a lot of feedback and help you feel your body moving through space. This awareness will develop steadily as you progress through your training, and exercises like these will help you learn while you get stronger.

You can virtually use any implement for the goblet box squat: a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a medicine ball, a plate or any other object that you can easily hold in front of your chest.

Pro tip: I see a lot of people going down too fast and hitting the box hard. Don’t make that mistake. Use the box by slightly grazing it before going back up, instead of slouching down on it and letting go of the tension in your core.

Goblet Box Squat | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube
#4 – Double Kettlebell Front Squat

If you have access to kettlebells, this is a great progression to get you closer to using a barbell safely. Once you’re set with the bells in the front rack position, give a big exhale to tighten your core. Maintain a straight back throughout the squatting motion and don’t let the weight pull your upper body forward. Keep pushing up into the bells with your elbows.

Pro tip: Once you are proficient with this movement, try using only one kettlebell to challenge your core from all sides.

Double Kettlebell Front Squat | Vancouver Strength Coach | Upside Strength - YouTube
#5 – Landmine Squat

Our last exercise today, popularized by the one and only Ben Bruno. I’ll let him take it away with the demo and the explanation:

Ben Bruno Teaches the Landmine Squat - YouTube
Beginner Weight Training: Master The Squat

With these beginner exercises under your belt, you can now safely transition to learning the barbell squat and its multiple variations.

[Question] What is your favorite exercise to master the squat? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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The post Beginner Weight Training: 5 Progressions To Learn The Squat appeared first on Upside Strength.

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For the longest time I was convinced that "cardio" was a complete waste of time. I thought that all you really needed was a couple of hard interval workouts every week to keep the ticker going. In my mind, anything over 20 minutes was just too much.

Here’s the truth: I was dead wrong.

​Thanks to the influence of a few smart people around me (Justin, Pat and Carmen, I’m talking about you), I recently started reading more in order to increase my understanding of everything related to the human body. Along the way I picked up a copy of Joel Jamieson’s Ultimate MMA Conditioning book, recommended by many as a great starting point in the realm of energy system development (ESD).

For the longest time, ESD had been in my “what you don’t know you don’t know” category, somehow remaining completely off my radar (or maybe I just didn’t want to see it, but that’s a discussion for another day). But once I finished Joel's book, I realized how little I actually knew about energy systems. If I wanted to become a better coach, I had to dig a little bit deeper to get a better understanding of it all.

By "a little bit deeper", I mean that I took a one way ticket to the bottom of the ESD rabbit hole. A couple of months later, I’m slowly emerging to the surface again, and one thing is now clear to me:

Cardio is one of the most important aspects of your overall fitness.

And that’s true REGARDLESS of who you are.

If you’ve spent any amount of time with me, you know that I hate generalizations. But this time I’m confident in saying that EVERYONE would benefit from better cardiovascular capacity.

For those of you who don’t care about (or as scared of) the science behind the energy systems and how they work, I encourage you to skip the following section and go straight to the 7 reasons why you need cardio training in your routine.

Energy Systems 101
Every action in our body requires energy. This energy is found between the bonds of a molecule called Adenosine Tri Phosphate (ATP) which is commonly referred to as the energy currency of the human body. When ATP is broken down (ATP => ADP + P) through chemical reaction, the energy in the bond is released and made available for the body to use.

The primary job of our three energy systems is to put P back together with ADP, resulting in more ATP to keep powering our bodily functions. In order to accomplish this task, each system employs a different strategy. Note that the energy systems don't PRODUCE energy, they simply recycle the products of the breakdown of ATP.

We all have a certain amount of ATP stored in our cells that is ready to be used instantaneously, but that reserve gets eaten up in the first couple of seconds of effort, requiring the energy systems to kick in and do their part.

As you see on the left side of the graph, the phosphagenic system is able to deliver ATP at the highest rate, but only for a short period of time (10-12 seconds). Think about a 100m sprint or a heavy clean & jerk. These events will mostly rely on this high-power, anaerobic (no oxygen involved) system.

At the opposite side of the spectrum we have the aerobic (or oxidative) system. This one doesn't deliver nearly as much punch, but is extremely efficient once it gets going. Provided enough fuel and oxygen are available, it can virtually run forever. When you are performing a low to moderate level of activity, like long distance running, you are primarily relying on your aerobic system. This pathway is the only one that relies on oxygen to perform it's job.

The third system, the glycolytic system, operates between the phosphagenic and the aerobic systems. It can deliver a high amount of ATP, but can only run smoothly for about 40 to 70 seconds until byproducts accumulate in the blood and force you to slow down. Just like the phosphagenic system, it operates without oxygen (anaerobically). It's the most painful pathway to train. Think of your last interval training session - you were likely tapping heavily into your glycolytic system.

So why should you focus so heavily on the aerobic system? Since you have three different pathways, shouldn't you be training all of them to some degree to get the best results?

While you definitely need to train each system to some extent, here are 7 great reasons why the aerobic system should be your primary conditioning focus, regardless of the activities or sports you practice.

#1 - It can help you live longer
In 2008, Ruiz et al. conducted a study(1) to assess the influence of muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness on healthy aging. They followed over 8000 individuals for 18 years and determined that people over 60 years old that were “strong” (classified in the upper third for strength) had 50% less chances of dying than those who were “weak” (classified in the bottom third for strength). They also found that regardless of strength levels,"individuals with higher cardio-respiratory fitness had a greater life expectancy than low cardio-respiratory fitness counterparts”.

This means that you should strive to be strong and have good cardio at the same time, but at the very least you should work on having good cardio!

#2 - It will improve your strength training
Yes, you read this right. Training your aerobic pathway can help you lift bigger weights. By increasing the ability of your fast twitch fibers to utilize oxygen, you can increase their endurance, which will allow you to do more work. The more work you do, the bigger your potential for strength gains. It’s that simple.
#3 - It will make your heart more efficient
The right kind of aerobic training can increase the size of your heart's left ventricle. With this increase in size (called eccentric ventricular hypertrophy), the heart is able to pump out more blood with each contraction. This means that it won't have to work as hard to get the same amount of blood pumped.

A good indicator of your heart's efficiency is your resting heart rate: it should be under 60 bpm. If you are an athlete, aim for the mid to high 40s.

#4 - It will help you relax and recover better
Research (2) has shown that endurance (aerobic) training increases the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This will help balance out your autonomic functions (i.e. internal regulation mechanisms) so your body can better shift between "mobilization" and “restoration” states, instead of being stuck in fight-or-flight mode (mobilization) all the time. This will greatly enhance your growth and recovery potential. Better autonomic balance can also positively affect your mood, emotions, behavior and social interactions (3).
#5 - It will make you faster
That’s right, training slowly will make you faster. It sounds completely backwards, but bear with me for a second.

In order to produce force, muscle fibers contract (and relax) between 5 and 50 times per second. The higher the intensity of the effort, the higher the number of contractions per second (also called “Rate Coding”). Between each contraction, a muscle fiber needs to be inhibited (or “turned off”) in order to be contracted again. The inhibition - or relaxation - phase has a very high energy cost. In order for it to happen smoothly, you need a high concentration of ATP (i.e. energy containing molecule) in your cells.

Mitochondria: this is where the magic happens
Through aerobic training, you can increase your mitochondrial density (or the amount ofmitochondria each one of your cells contain). These are like small power plants inside your cells that rephosphorylate (i.e. “putting P back with ADP”) most of the ATP in your body.

Cardio training also increases muscle capilarization (how many blood vessels run through the muscle). This will increase the amount of oxygen available to the mitochondria to turnover ATP more rapidly. Both these aerobic adaptations will result in more ATP being available within the cell at any given moment, which will improve the rate of inhibition of your muscle fibers. This, in turn, will improve your speed of movement by allowing you to contract your fibers at a faster rate.

#6 - It is the most trainable of all three systems
Talking about improvement potential of the different energy systems, Issurin wrote:
"[the] most pronounced changes can be attained in aerobic abilities. More specifically, long-term endurance training can induce an increase in aerobic enzymes of up to 230% (Volkov, 1986). Similarly, mitochondria count, myoglobin content and muscle capilarization increase dramatically. As a result, maximum oxygen uptake can be significantly improved [...].

Unlike aerobic ability, anaerobic [phosphagenic and glycolytic] metabolism can be improved to a lesser extent. This applies to anaerobic enzymes and particularly to peak blood lactate, whose increase is relatively small even when training is very intense."(4)

Here's what this means is plain english: Training your aerobic system is going to bring you the best returns on your time and effort invested. The starting levels of your phosphagenic and glycolytic systems are strongly determined by your genes and your potential to improve them is small. So if you want to get the most out of your training efforts, train your aerobic system first and foremost.
#7 - It provides long-lasting adaptations
Once the training of a given quality is stopped, this quality (e.g. muscle strength) will slowly revert back to it’s pre-training level. But not all fitness qualities are retained equally. Different training adaptations are lost at different rates.

For example, adaptations acquired through consistent strength training (i.e. increased muscle strength and bone density) will be retained for a long time (months to years). In the same way, aerobic adaptations like heart hypertrophy, increased capillary density, lower resting heart rate and maximum stroke volume all have long “lifespans”.

On the flip side, most adaptations acquired through training of the anaerobic systems (i.e. increase phosphagenic/glycolytic power, capacity and efficiency) will only last a few days to a few weeks.

For that reason, you should spend most of your time training your aerobic system since the changes that it will generate in your body will last the longest. Your anaerobic training should be programmed intelligently according to your competition/yearly training schedule.

How to get started with endurance training
Before you start including cardio back into your routine, track your resting heart rate for a few days to get a benchmark value. You can take it by hand (on the jugular or the wrist works best) or invest in a heart rate monitor with chest strap (like this one) for just over $50. Once you start training, having this tool will ensure you’re actually doing your cardio the right way.

Average heart rate value:
>60bpm: Start taking your cardio seriously (2-4 sessions per week)
<60bpm: Good average for most people but can be improved (2-3 sessions per week)
<50bpm: Athlete caliber conditioning. Aim to maintain (1-2 sessions per week)

Once you’ve established how much training you need, your goal should be the following: During each cardio session, spend 30+ minutes being continuously active while your heart rate remains between 125 and 150 beats per minute.

This could be done by running, rowing, cycling, pushing/pulling a sled, doing a light weight circuit, etc. Each week, increase your total volume of work (e.g. 5+ minutes per workout each week) for 4 to 6 weeks. After this training cycle, re-test your resting heart rate to see the improvements you’ve made.

Remember that this is just one way of improving your aerobic conditioning. Joel Jamieson outlines 8 different methods in his book. If you do the work outlined above, you will have built a solid foundation for your energy system development. Afterwards, you can take the next step and figure out what other training methods would fit your specific needs.

If you need help figuring out exactly what to do next, contact me today to set up a free consult, so I can help you figure out where to go with your training to get the best results possible!

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26791164
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10758814
(3) Stephen Porges  - The Polyvagal Theory
(4) Vladimir Issurin - Principles and Basics of Advanced Athletic Training

The post 7 Reasons You Need Cardio and How To Do It Right appeared first on Upside Strength.

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At the beginning of the 20th century, Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, made an interesting observation. He noted that in Italy, 20% of the population owned 80% of the property. He later observed that in his garden, 20% of his pea pods contained 80% of the peas produced. This lead Joseph M. Juran to suggest the "Pareto Principle" in 1941, signifying the unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. He famously coined it "the vital few and the trivial many". But what does this have to do with primary movement patterns?

If you want to get the best results in the gym, you need to focus on the right exercises. The problem is that when you don't know where to start, you can get fooled by exercises that "look cool" but that fail to deliver. What I'm offering you today is not a shortcut, but rather an easy way to pick the exercises that will help you reach your goals with the most efficient use of your time and energy.

Primary Movement Patterns
Primary movement patterns are basic movements that your body performs frequently. They all involve multiple joints, which means they recruit the most amount of muscle out of all the exercises you can think of. If you want a balanced training plan that will make your stronger, help you move better and promote muscle growth, that's where you need to start.

By using primary movement patterns as the foundation for your program, you are effectively applying the Pareto Principle to your training template. Even if your gym routine isn't perfect, this ensures that you are performing the best "bang for your buck" exercises first and avoid wasting your time and effort on movements that aren't worth your while.
Here's a concrete example: Instead of performing a barbell curl (bicep focused), dumbbell flies (shoulder focused) and dumbbell pull overs (lat focused) - 3 different exercises, you could program chin ups instead. The chin ups will work these muscle groups just as much, if not more than what the three isolation exercises did separately. In this scenario, the chin up is part of "the vital few" (primary patterns) while the isolation exercises are "the trivial many"
"Does your program include all the primary movement patterns?" Click to Tweet
How many primary patterns are there?
If you look around the internet, you will find many different answers to this question. The truth is that all the movement patterns belong on a continuum rather than in strict categories. For example, some people consider "unilateral lower body" to be its own pattern, while others include it in the bigger "knee dominant" and "hip dominant" patterns.

From my findings, there seems to be 10 distinct primary movement patterns. They cover the most bases in terms of how your body moves in the gym. They are all biomechanically different enough from each other that it's hard to justify grouping them into fewer categories. 

10 primary movement patterns:
1. Gait/Locomotion
2. Knee Dominant/Squat
3. Hip Dominant/Hinge
4. Single Leg
5. Explosive (unloaded)
6. Explosive (loaded)
7. Upper Body Push
8. Upper Body Pull
9. Core Control
10. Loaded Carry

Now let's have a look at each pattern, what it entails and why you need it in your training plan.

 Primary Movement Patterns Cheat Sheet
Download your free PDF handout that includes over 90 exercises organized by pattern so you can pick and choose the right movements for your gym training routine. I took all the guesswork out of the equation for you by compiling that list. All you have to do is click that link and enter your email address to get instant access.
#1 Gait/Locomotion
This category includes a few different activities such as walking, running and crawling. All of these might not fit into a "gym routine", but be sure to include them in your weekly program.
Even though Bruce Springsteen and Christopher McDougall would disagree with me, I think we were born to walk. If we look at hunter-gatherer populations that still roam the earth, they spend a lot more time walking than they spend running(1).
The closer we can get to mimicking the daily activities of our ancestors (without going back to living in the trees), the more likely we are to be healthy. So including 30 to 60 minutes of walking every day is a great place to start for most people.
While slow, long distance running isn't very popular these days, it still brings many health benefits to the people who take part in it. If you're free of injuries, you shouldn't wait too long to get started!
Sprint training has been shown to be a very time effective way to reduce body fat(2)(3) and decrease waist/hip circumference(4). Including some sprinting in your training will also help you stay athletic and give you the ability to move fast when you need to.

Because of it's high demands on the joints and the metabolism, take the appropriate steps before throwing yourself into all-out sprinting. For more information on this topic, check out Eric Cressey's great article, "So You Want to Start Sprinting?".
Crawling is the foundation of your gait pattern. It teaches your hips and shoulders to work together in a coordinated way, getting your body to work as one strong unit. In this position, it's a lot easier to maintain good core control compared to when you're standing on two feet while fighting gravity.

Moving around on all fours also strengthens the link between your sensory systems. This will help you develop reflexive stability, which allows your body to anticipate movement before it happens and also react to movement as it happens. Reflexive stability plays an important role in balance and coordination(5), so don't forget to "stop, drop and crawl" once in a while.

Crawling | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube
#2 Knee Dominant/Squat
Squatting is one of the most important movements to train and maintain throughout your life. And even though we shouldn't necessarily try to squat like babies, it's arguably the most practical movement pattern of all. With a good squat, you will ensure long-lasting hip and knee health, all while developing strong legs and a stable trunk.

The squat also engages a considerable amount of muscle which makes it a staple in any workout program, regardless of whether you're training for health or performance. When trained with proper form and adequate load, the squat will recruit virtually all the muscles in your body.

There are many ways to squat, but you should always pick the variation that matches your level of skill and strength to stay free of injuries and keep progressing consistently.


Bodyweight Box Squat | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube

Barbell Front Squat | Vancouver Strength & Mobility Coach | Upside Strength - YouTube

#3 Hip Dominant/Hinge
This movement pattern includes all the exercises that involve hinging at the hip. These will mainly recruit the hamstrings, the gluteal muscles and the spinal erectors. A heavy deadlift will recruit just as much if not more (6) total muscle mass than a heavy squat and will also challenge your grip strength, which is an important marker of health (7). Hinging exercises can be performed in many different ways and with a variety of implements. Here are few examples that you can include into your training: Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift, Barbell Hip Thrust, Dumbbell RDL, Barbell Sumo Deadlift. Although the straight bar deadlift is a popular variation used by many gym-goers, the potential risks associated with performing this lift from the floor suggest that an elevated starting position or a different hinging variation might be more appropriate for most populations.

A post shared by Sean Seale (@upsidestrength) on Apr 2, 2015 at 5:28pm PDT

 #4 Single Leg
Once you've mastered the bilateral squatting and hinging patterns, you can start working with unilateral variations such as step ups, single leg RDLs and Bulgarian split squats. These exercises will highlight imbalances that you have between your left and right sides and allow you to correct them.

They also put a great emphasis on core stability, since you have to control the two sides of your body moving in different directions while remaining braced. Above all else, they have great transfer to field sports when compared to bilateral movements. If you need to run, cut and change direction at any point, it all happens on one leg.

Barbell Split Squat | Vancouver Strength & Mobility Coach | Upside Strength - YouTube
  #5 Explosive (Unloaded)
When performing unloaded explosive exercises, you're trying to exert maximum force in a short interval of time, taking advantage of the elastic and reactive properties of your muscles. This is a great way to contrast the heavy strength training that you do in the gym. Including some jumps or light medicine ball throws will allow you to improve your power (how fast you use your strength), which will keep you fast and explosive.

Although basic explosive exercises can be safely implemented for most populations, it's important to have a very good foundation of strength before undertaking any true plyometrics such as depth jumps.


Standing Box Jump | Vancouver Strength Coach | Upside Strength - YouTube

Rotational Med Ball Throw | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube

#6 Explosive (Loaded)
When it comes to improving your ability to produce power, it's hard to beat loaded explosive exercises. These require a very good foundation of strength because of the high demands they place on the muscles and the joints. They will increase your jumping ability, sprinting speed and can have great effects on changing body composition, because of the high demands they place on the metabolism.

Before you decide to learn the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk, explore less skill demanding exercises first (eg. Trap Bar Squat Jump). Even though the Olympic lifts have become very popular in recent years with the rise of CrossFit, they take a lot of time to practice and require near-perfect mobility to be performed safely.

Trap Bar Squat Jump | Vancouver Strength Coach | Upside Strength - YouTube
  #7 Upper Body Push
Anytime you are moving an object away from your body (or moving your body away from an object), you're following a pushing pattern. This can happen in many different planes, from vertical (dips, overhead press) to horizontal (bench press) and virtually everything in between (inclined press, landmine press, etc...).

All these exercises are extremely effective at building upper body strength and should be a staple in any serious training program. They mainly target the chest, the shoulders and the tricep muscles. They can also be performed in a unilateral manner (single arm dumbbell press, etc..). 

HK Alternating Cable Press | Vancouver Strength Coach | Upside Strength - YouTube

Dumbbell Floor Press | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube

It's important to add that all free weight exercises performed with your upper body will require you to stabilize yourself, also involving your core and your lower limbs. So even though the work is focused on the upper trunk region, you are still using "whole body" exercises.

If you want to press weights over your head, make sure you have the pre-requisite shoulder mobility before you begin. Failure to do so will result in compensations that can lead to injuries down the line. As a rule of thumb, if you can see your ear from the side when your shoulder is fully flexed, you're good to go (see pic below).

Awkward face off - my right shoulder (left picture) is overhead-ready while my left shoulder (right picture) still needs a lot of work
  #8 Upper Body Pull
The upper body pulling pattern is the opposite of the upper body pushing pattern. Anytime you are pulling an object towards your body (or pulling your body towards an object), you're following a pulling pattern. These movements will primarily recruit the upper back, lats and biceps.

Just like the pushing patterns, these pulling exercises can be broken down into different planes of movement. Pull ups (vertical) and dumbbells rows horizontal) and two great examples of these different planes.

Vertical pulling or any kind of hanging exercises requires the same shoulder mobility as vertical pressing exercises (see pictures above).

Standing Box Jump | Vancouver Strength Coach | Upside Strength - YouTube

Rotational Med Ball Throw | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube

#9 Core Control 

When the topic of core strength comes up, most people immediately think about crunches. While crunches surely have their place in a smart training program, "[a] balanced multi-planar approach to core training that incorporates a combination of isometric and dynamic exercises is warranted to prevent any particular spinal segment from accentuated stress and to ensure proper spine-stabilizing biomechanics."(9)

Isometric muscle actions "[occur] when a muscle generates a force against a resistance but does not overcome it, so that no movement takes place."(11) A front plank is a great example of an isometric core exercise.

A dynamic muscle action involves concentric (shortening) and/or eccentric (lengthening) contractions of that muscle which result in movement. A dumbbell side bend fits that description perfectly.

Challenge your core in all planes of motion
To ensure you train your core in a balanced way, include exercises for all three planes of motion. Here are a few examples for you to use:
Sagittal: Front Plank (isometric), Crunch (dynamic)
Horizontal/Transverse: Pallof Press (isometric), Pallof rotation (dynamic)
Frontal: Side Plank (isometric), Barbell side bend (dynamic)
#10 Loaded Carries
These are probably the least utilized and most underrated exercises out there. Whether you're into "functional training" or you just want to be a better human, look no further. Carries will improve your grip strength, strengthen your rotator cuff, challenge your hip stability, all while providing you with a great conditioning stimulus.

Suitcase Carry | Vancouver Personal Trainer | Upside Strength - YouTube

tonygentilcore.com Crossbody Carry - YouTube

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Making progress in the gym is what we should all strive for. However, I still see too many people always using the same weights or never changing their training routine. This will only work for so long, until they reach a plateau and stop improving.

On the flip side, I also see a lot of beginners go straight to loaded barbells and heavy dumbbells with poor technique, putting themselves at risk for injuries by not knowing where to start.

This 5 step guide will provide you with some simple guidelines to help you pick the right exercises and understand how to progress them over time to get the best results possible.

  Step 1: Pick The Right Exercises
Before we get into the details of how to progress an exercise, we first need to make sure that you pick the right movements for the goals you have set.

If you want to increase your whole body strength, you need to focus on primary movement patterns, including compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and chin ups. But if you just want to increase the size of your upper body, you'll need to be more precise and target that body part with a combination of compound lifts (barbell rows, bench press, etc.) and isolation exercises (tricep pull downs, bicep curls, chest flys, etc..).What I'm saying is that you can't pick random exercises to include in your routine. Just because your friend does it or because you saw it on Instagram doesn't mean that it has a place in your workouts.

You need your work in the gym to have the best transfer possible towards the outcome you're seeking (following the principle of specificity). This will ensure that you take the shortest route to success without wasting unnecessary time and energy.

You also need to match the exercises that you pick with your current levels of strength and skill. If you've never lifted a weight before, starting with a barbell squat (the bar alone weighs 45lbs) is probably not the best choice. It would be much safer to start with a less complex exercise, like the bodyweight squat or the goblet squat.

Now that you know what exercises to perform, it's time to get to work. But before you start piling on the weight, you need to ensure that you can perform the exercises safely and efficiently. This is where the importance of lifting technique comes in.

Primary Movement Patterns Cheat Sheet
Download your free PDF handout that includes over 90 exercises organized by pattern so you can pick and choose the right movements for your gym training routine. I took all the guesswork out of the equation for you by compiling that list. All you have to do is click that link and enter your email address to get instant access.
  Step 2: Master Technique
I don't care who you are or what your background is. If you want to keep progressing in the gym consistently and avoid getting injured, you NEED to learn how to lift with great technique. This is a prerequisite that is overlooked by many beginners and even intermediate lifters.

The best way to learn good form is to practice it. But just going through the motions isn't enough. You need to spend time in "dedicated practice", focusing on every detail of the movement you're performing.

You're Doing It Wrong!
This is ideally done under the eye of a trained professional who can spot mistakes and give you appropriate feedback right away. Another option is to find knowledgeable training partners who can show you the ropes.

If you're training alone (not recommended for beginners), I suggest you film yourself lifting light weights for 10-15 easy reps and compare what you see and feel with technique videos online (check out over 160 exercises on the Upside Strength YouTube channel).

This step is easy to skip over, but you need to look at it as a long term investment. If you take the time to learn technique first, it will open up the following weeks, months and even years to consistent progress. On the other hand, if you neglect proper form you might start using more weight sooner but you will quickly hit a wall, stop improving and put yourself at risk for injuries.

Now you're doing the right exercises and you're doing them well. Let's look at how to progress these exercises over time.

  Step 3: Apply Progressive Overload
Along with specificity (we talked about it in step 1), progressive overload is another very important training principle. This fundamental law of training says that "a training adaptation takes place only if the magnitude of the training load is above the habitual level." (Zatsiorky & Kraemer, 2006)

In plain English, it means that if you want to keep improving, you need to do a bit more work today than you did yesterday. This sounds simple, but most people have a hard time taking this concept and practically applying it to their training.

One thing to understand is that applying progressive overload doesn't necessarily mean increasing the weight. The goal is to be doing a little bit more total work than you did the previous week or training session.

Here are a few ways you can accomplish that:

-Increase the load (more weight)
-Increase the volume (more sets and/or reps)
-Increase training frequency (more days per week)
-Decrease rest periods between sets
-Change lifting tempo (E.g. lift slower)

To make this as practical for you as possible, here's a real world example: Greg started training with me about 7 weeks ago. One of the exercises in his routine is a dumbbell row. Below is the progression we have followed so far.

Week 1: 15lbs x10 / 15lbs x10 / 15lbs x10 (3 sets of 10 reps at 15lbs with each arm)
Week 2: 17.5lbs x10 / 20lbs x10 / 20lbs x10
Week 3: 20lbs x10 / 20lbs x10 / 22.5lbs x10 / 22.5lbs x10
Week 4: 20lbs x10 / 22.5lbs x10 / 25lbs x10
Week 5: 22.5lbs x12 / 25lbs x10 / 27.5lbs x12
Week 6: 25lbs x15 / 27.5lbs x15 / 30lbs x15 / 30lbs x15
Week 7: 30lbs x15 / 35lbs x10 / 35lbs x10 / 35lbs x12

Put in graph form (I know how much y'all like graphs!), you can see that through this gradual increase in reps, sets and weight, Greg is progressively lifting more total weight each week. This is progressive overload in a nutshell.

Total workload (blue line) and max weight (red line) on the Dumbbell Row
You might wonder why there are dips in the curve. These represent lighter days (when Greg was excessively sore/tired) that required some adjustments to the workload. It’s important to listen to your body and plan your work accordingly. As long as the general trend is going up, you’re doing it right.
  Step 4: Change Your Routine Every Few Weeks
I’m going to introduce another big principle of training: Accommodation. This important feature applies to all biological systems. According to this law, “the response of a biological object to a constant stimulus decreases over time.” (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006)
Accommodation or the law of diminishing returns
When you are exposed to a new exercise, the first few weeks will yield great returns. But as time goes on, the progress you can achieve by training that particular exercise diminishes. Dan Jon famously said, “everything works for about two weeks. Nothing works after about 6 weeks”. A good rule of thumb is to change your program every 4 to 6 weeks to prevent performance plateaus.

When you change your program, you need to provide enough novelty for your body to adapt to a new stimulus, but you also need to stay close enough to what is required to reach your goal. You’re avoiding accommodation while respecting the principle of specificity.

Let’s say that like Greg, you are working on improving your upper body pulling strength. You’ve been doing dumbbell rows for the last 5 weeks, performing 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps each training session, gradually increasing the total workload (progressive overload). Now comes the time to switch things up. For the next 4 to 6 weeks, you can switch to a barbell row for 5 sets of 5 reps. This way you’re still working on your pulling strength, but the stimulus is different enough (different exercise variation, different loading scheme, different weights used) to allow your body to keep adapting to it.

Modifying your routine every few weeks also brings newness into your training which will help you stay engaged and motivated.

  Step 5: Progress To More Complex Exercises Over Time
If you can implement the first 4 steps into your training routine, you’re already ahead of the game.

The last thing you need to do is to slowly work your way towards more complex exercises over time. This will add more exercises to your repertoire, allowing you to pick from a wide range of movements for your training. The more options you have, the better.

In most cases, the harder exercises will become necessary as you become stronger and need to start using bigger weights. For example, you can only use so much weight on a goblet squat before your ability to squat surpasses your ability to hold the dumbbell in front of you. At this point, you will need to move to an exercise that allows you to use more weight, so you can keep building up your leg strength without being limited by your upper body strength. See the progression below as an example:

Bodyweight Squat > Goblet Squat > Kettlebell Front Squat > Barbell Front Squat > Barbell Back Squat

As you learnt in step 2, you'll need to take a few sessions to practice those new exercises before you add a lot of weight to them, even if you’re already “strong”. The more exercises you learn, the better your movement base will become and the easier it will be for you to learn new exercises.

Squatting Done Right (Credit: Hookgrip)
No matter what program you use, what exercises you perform or what “method” you follow, you will always be chasing one thing: adaptation. In today’s guide, I laid out the 3 most important principles of adaptation to training which are

Progressive Overload, and

If you can understand these principles and apply them to your training in a practical way, you will keep making progress for a long time. Always put things into context before deciding if something is good or bad. In my book, it’s all shades of gray. Stop trying to get “yes"/“no” answers. Instead, start thinking critically and use the information that you have at your disposal to make intelligent, informed decisions about which path to follow.

If all this makes sense but you'd rather work with a professional, you can contact me today for a free consultation. We'll go over your personal situation and goals to determine the best approach possible and take all the guesswork out of the equation.

 Primary Movement Patterns Cheat Sheet
Download your free PDF handout that includes over 90 exercises organized by pattern so you can pick and choose the right movements for your gym training routine. I took all the guesswork out of the equation for you by compiling that list. All you have to do is click that link and enter your email address to get instant access.
Science and Practice of Strength Training - Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006

The post A 5 Step Guide To Guarantee Progress In The Gym appeared first on Upside Strength.

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This two-day seminar was led by Dr Andreo Spina, assisted by his instructors Dewey Nielsen, Hunter Cook and Bryan Marugg.

In Andreo's words, FRC is "a system of training which applies scientific methods to the acquisition and maintenance of:
1. Functional mobility
2. Articular resilience
3. Articular health & longevity"

Functional mobility is defined as "the ability to actively achieve a range of motion". This differentiates it from flexibility which is "useless range", or a range of motion that one has no control over.

The FRC seminar couldn't come at a better time: I've been doing a lot of reading recently on training for health (as opposed to training for performance) driven mostly by my personal interests, but also because most of my clients just want to live happy, healthy lives. They couldn't care less about lifting the world in the gym. So finding a system that can "make your shit work nice" was just what I needed.

Below are the 4 main lessons I took away from this great weekend of learning.

  Lesson 1: The body is much more complex than we think
Andreo made it clear that our current understanding of physiology and the lines we draw between muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and other connective tissue are at best, arbitrary. They work great on corpses where we can decide to cut out this part or that part based on how it looks. But that doesn't work on living bodies. Each connective tissue blends seamlessly into the next, displaying a continuous process rather than clear-cut separations between elements. All tissues are interconnected. In Andreo's words, it's just "a whole bunch of stuff".

On a neurological level, things get even more complex. We have more than 100 billions neurons interacting with each other at any given instant, in turn controlling trillions of muscle cells, each made of around a hundred thousand sarcomeres (basic contractile unit). 

And if you think that you're reinforcing the same muscle patterns when you practice a given movement, you're dead wrong. Let's take the squat for example. If you were to check for muscle activation on a set, each repetition would give you a different result as to what muscle fires first, what part of that muscle fires more intensely than the others, for how long, etc...

In short, there's a lot of things going on and we're still very far from understanding exactly how everything works and interacts. Trying to break it down into simple biomechanics is a failed attempt at representing the complexity of human movement.

Movement ≠ Mathematics
For those reasons, FRC focuses on working each joint individually. If we can provide the best "hardware" to our nervous system, it will take care of the rest. It has evolved over millions of years into what it is today and trying to influence it directly is playing way above our pay grade because of how little we actually understand about it.

Focus on the joints and just "make your shit work nice".

  Lesson 2: Force is the language of cells
We know that to make a muscle grow, we need to impose progressively heavier loads on it while remaining below the load bearing capacity of that muscle. What Spina exposed during his lectures was that this is true for ALL connective tissues. Tendons, ligaments, bones, etc. Mechanical stimuli is a potent biological regulator that leads to responses such as cell growth, cell differentiation or even programmed cell death.

So when we stop applying force to a cell or a give area of our body, our system adapts by discarding the receptors in that area to avoid wasting energy on inactive cells. That's why astronauts' bones get weaker (no gravity to fight against), why bones density increases with weight training and why your leg in a cast just goes to waste after a while.

If we want to maintain healthy living joints/muscles/tissues/cells, we need to apply force to them daily. In other words, "use it or lose it".

  Lesson 3: Mobility training isn't sexy
As cool as Hunter makes it look on instagram, mobility training is NOT fun. What it takes to acquire the necessary ROM, strength and control to perform such tricks will scare away even the most dedicated gym goers. It requires focus, intensity and above all else an ability to tolerate discomfort and cramping during the specific exercises.

Mobility training might not be as "fun" as doing squats, pull ups or other such exercises. But the FRC system is based on the very principles that are used to get you strong in the gym. Progressive overload through specific exercises will lead to increased usable range of motion in your joint while increasing their health and longevity. All you need is consistent work over long periods of time.

  Lesson 4: It's not only for elite athletes
Through it's broad and inclusive principles, this system can be applied to all populations, regardless of training and/or conditioning levels. By taking the appropriate steps and finding the correct progressions for each individual, it's a safe way to improve joint health and function, whether you are an NFL lineman or an office worker.
Dr Spina demonstrating controlled articular rotations (CARs)
Despite being hard and demanding, mobility training can make your life better for many years to come.

If I can reduce my risk of injuries and live the rest of my life pain-free, I'm willing to put in the work. Are you?

If you're interested in learning more about mobility training and how to apply it to your own body, leave a comment or contact me for a free consultation today!

The post 4 Lessons from Dr Andreo Spina’s Functional Range Conditioning Seminar appeared first on Upside Strength.

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When you go to the gym, or for a run, what are you training for?

Do you want to perform in a competition? Or do you just want to be "healthy"?

Before you pick either one of these goals, you need to have a few things in place in order to succeed.

Sleep. You need to sleep as much as you can without getting fired or divorced.

Nutrition. You need to eat a nutrient dense diet, devoid of sugars or processed foods. Just eat real foods!

Stress levels. These need to be kept low. Take a few minutes each day to "tune out" and allow your brain to recover.

Now that we have all these big rocks in place, we can take on our training goals.

If you're training for health, you need to focus on the following: high intensity efforts with low volume, and very low intensity efforts with moderate volume.

What does this look like in real world terms?

Sprint and lift heavy weights 2-3 times per week. In the gym, focus on big compound lifts and look for heavier loads (as long as you can control them). When you're running, look for short, all out efforts, followed by lots or rest.

On top of this, spend some time moving at least 5 days a week, at a slow pace. Walking, hiking, playing on the floor with your kids. Spend 30-45min per day at least doing this.

Now if you're training for performance, you will need to focus on the specific demands of your sport.

Competing in long distance events (marathons, triathlons) will require a high volume of aerobic training. Your body needs to be taught to sustain an effort over long (sometimes very long) periods of time.

If you're competing in a strength sport (powerlifting, olympic weightlifting, strongman) your training will once again reflect the demands of the sport. In those cases, you will be doing lots of lifting with moderate to heavy weights. The stronger you want to be, the more training volume you will need to get through.

Now you might think that you can do both. You might think that running marathons is the best way to be healthy. Or that lifting weights 5 days per week is the way to live long and prosper.

But the reality is the following:

"Health stops where performance starts"

When you're pushing your body to high volumes of training, you will inevitably affect your health in a negative way. Whether it's by increasing long term risks of heart damage from distance running or increased chances of injury because of the demands imparted on the body by frequent, heavy lifting, there's no way around it.

Always remember that when you want push your body beyond health and longevity goals, there's a price to pay for it.

What are you training for? Health or Performance?

Leave your answer in the comments below!

The post Health vs Performance: What Are You Training For? appeared first on Upside Strength.

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When it comes to warming up for a gym workout, people usually fall in one of two categories:

First are the ones who step on a treadmill for 4 minutes, do a couple of arm circles and get to work. If nobody was watching, they would walk right over to the squat rack, throw a plate on each side of the barbell and start squatting.

Second, there are the people who spend more time warming up than they actually do working out. You've seen them before. They are foam-roller-happy, lacrosse ball fiends. They spend 30 minutes rolling every inch of their body. Then they proceed to "distract" every joint they have for another 15 minutes. And that's just their "pre warm up routine".

Some people undershoot the warm up while others grossly overdo it. Chances are, you're part of one of these groups. And even if you're not, it's important to understand what the warm up actually does for you and what activities you should include in it.

With the simple template below, you will be able to put together a highly effective and time efficient warm up that will address all your needs. You won't have to worry about missing anything and will be able to focus on lifting heavy things and staying healthy, which is really what life is all about.

But before we go into the "how", let's dive into "why" to make sure we understand exactly what the warm up is about.

Why we warm up
The primary goal of the warm up is to increase our body temperature. This will have many positive effects, including (3):
-increased blood flow to the muscles
-increased oxygen delivery to the muscle
-decreased muscle viscosity (allowing them to contract and relax more easily)
-increased neuron sensitivity
-increased speed of nerve impulses

So getting a light sweat from your warm up is great. But if stop here, you are wasting your best opportunity to improve your movement quality and ultimately, your performance.

I assume you're following a weight training program worth your while, which includes big compound lifts like the squat, the deadlift or the bench press. These movements recruit a lot of muscle mass and are the best "bang for your buck" exercises whether you're looking to shed fat, get bigger or get stronger. And you know how important it is to have a strong core if you want to lifts big weights safely.

The warm up is the perfect time to include a couple of breathing/bracing exercises to make sure that your core is functioning optimally.

The only time you shouldn't breathe


Besides getting our body warm, helping us tighten our core and stay injury free, the warm up is also great at priming our minds for the work we're about to accomplish. Having a routine that you perform consistently before each training session will help you be in the right frame of mind when you begin lifting. "My mind wasn't there" moments will be a thing of the past.

Now that you know why you're doing it, let's see how you can structure your warm up to get the most out of it, without wasting your precious workout time.

Free warm up template
Enter your email below to get instant access to this resource. The template includes over 80 exercises to help you build a highly individualized and exercise specific warm up routine. This will ensure you stay focused on what matters the most to YOU without wasting your time on unnecessary movements.
Get your FREE Warm Up Template
How to structure your warm up
My goal here is to provide you with a general warm up template that you can use for the vast majority of your weight training sessions. Within this general framework, you will have to select the appropriate exercises to address your mobility issues. Also, making sure that your warm up is geared toward the main exercise you will be performing in your workout is important. Research(2,3) has shown that warm ups that are specific to the exercise performed yield better results.

For your warm up, pick one to two exercises from each section described below. Your warm up should last between 10 and 15 minutes total. If you are new to exercising, take your time to make sure that your body is fully ready before you start training.

1. Self Massage (commonly called "SMR")

This includes work done with foam rollers, lacross balls, theracanes and any other object that you can jam into your muscle to loosen it up.

The reason I didn't use the term Self-Myofascial Release is because this practice doesn't actually have the ability to alter the structure of the muscle itself or "break down" any scar tissue (see Dr. Andreo Spina's detailed explanation on this topic here).

However, Self Massage has been shown (4) to acutely (read: for a short period of time) enhance joint range of motion, without altering performance. This is likely the result of an alteration in nervous system function, temporarily decreasing muscle tone (read: resting tension) in the area.

In real world terms, this means that you need to spend 30 seconds to a minute working on a tight muscle to give it some slack, then USE this newly available range of motion ACTIVELY in the remainder of your warm up, and subsequently, in your training session. Roll out and move on. Don't linger.

2. Breathing/Core Activation

Most of us spend all day stuck in extension (see skeleton on the right), which keeps us from performing proper breathing patterns. Without going down the rabbit hole, we can simply say that having poor posture reduces our ability to engage and use our core muscles effectively. This not only limits our performance in the gym, but can put us at risk for injuries.

That's why it's important to include some simple breathing exercises at the beginning of the warm up. These will restore good diaphragmatic function, activate our anterior core muscles and reduce excess muscle tone in our low back area (5). They will also enhance our movement variability, or how much range of motion we can actively access and use while training or playing our sport.

3. Mobilizing

Once our core is set and functioning optimally, it's time to hit a couple tight spots and actively loosen them up.

The main areas to target here are usually:
-the ankles
-the hips (quads, adductors, hamstrings, glutes, etc)
-the upper back
-the shoulders
-the wrists

If you're about to press weight overhead, focus on your wrists and upper back more. But if you're about to squat, you'll want to mobilize your ankles and your hips instead.

Also take into consideration any physical restrictions you might have and address them now (for example, a tight upper back from prolonged sitting).

Time to flip the switch
4. Activating

Some muscles are hard to recruit during workouts because they are shut off the rest of the time. If you sit a lot, your glutes probably don't fire optimally. This might not hinder your performance sitting at a desk, but once you're trying to move a heavy load, you'll want every single muscle fiber available to use.

If you don't, you start compensating by using muscles that aren't supposed to be working that hard. This can lead to bigger problems down the road. So now is the time to turn them on with some specific exercises.

Like mentioned before, you'll want to address the body parts that will be at play during the main exercises of your training session.

The glutes are always a safe bet. They play a big role in keeping your pelvis in a good position, allowing you to use your core optimally. They're also involved in the majority of the compound lifts you will be performing.

If you're going to be putting weight over your head, you'll want to activate your serratus anterior and your lower traps for better stability and control.

If needed, some extra activation drills can be performed between the warm up sets of your main exercise.

5. Core/Combos

The core has three main functions:
1. Transfer forces from the arms to the legs and vice versa
2. Resist deformations of the spine while allowing a high degree of movement from the pelvis and the shoulders
3. Assist in breathing mechanics

Since we've taken care of the breathing in the early stages of our warm up, we can now challenge the core with more advanced movements before we jump under a heavy load. You can get creative and throw in your favourite movement combos. DeadbugscrawlsTurkish sit-ups/get-ups or carries are all great options here. 

6. Power

By now, every part of your body should be moving well and ready to get to work. But we also want to ensure that our nervous system is fully alert and ready to produce maximal forces when we need it to.

Staying specific to your exercise du jour, perform one or two sets of an explosive exercise to make sure you're running on all cylinders.

Note: if you are fairly new to weight training, I would recommend skipping this step until you develop a good base of strength. Learn and master some power exercises during your training session before including them in your warm-ups.



Sample warm ups and free template
Once we put it all together, here's what a specific warm up will look like:
 Warm up for squats:
90/90 Hip Lift 1x8 Breaths
Side Lying External Rotations 1x8/side
Single Leg Glute Bridge 1x10/side
Quadruped Rock Back 1x10
Ankle Rock 1x8/side
Cook Squat w/Reach 1x8
- Offset Plate Squat 1x8
- Box Jump 1x5 
And if this still sounds confusing to you, here's what you can to do:
- Enter your email below to get access to this free warm up sheet which includes over 80 exercises to pick from.
- Go to the Upside Strength Youtube Channel to check out the exercise demonstration videos.
Subscribe to my channel to get more awesome exercise videos each day.
Get your FREE Warm Up Template
If you enjoyed the read, please share it with your friends on your favorite social media platform! And if you need help figuring out what exercises to include in your own warm up, leave a comment below or on any of my Youtube videos.

The post Your Warm Up SUCKS: A 6 Step Strategy to Better Weight Lifting Performance appeared first on Upside Strength.

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In today’s blog, you will get the tools to help you decide what gym to join as you begin (or continue!) your journey towards a better and stronger you!

It’s important to consider your options before your commit to a given gym. Failing to do so could result in you skipping workouts, losing motivation or you may even stop training altogether. 

Step 1: Location, location, location
The first thing you need to do is figure out what gyms are accessible to you. Ideally, you want to find a gym near your house, near your work, or somewhere in between.

To find out what gyms are in your area, go to maps.google.com and search “gym near you” or “fitness centre near you”. These two options might give you slightly different results so be sure to record both.

This should give you many options to choose from. Now you need to determine what you are ready to invest toward your fitness journey.

Step 2: Cost
Deciding if you simply want a gym pass or if you want to purchase personal training sessions is your next step. If you're an experienced lifter, you know your way around the gym and can go at it without any help. But if you're just starting out, I suggest you get a qualified trainer to look at you move and make sure your technique is on point. Having a coach at your side will ensure consistent progress and greatly limit the risk of injury.

If you decide to go with the gym pass, be ready to invest from $40 to $100 per month.

On the cheaper side, you’ll find community centres and low cost gyms. The downside of these places is that the amenities aren’t always well maintained and the equipment might not be the best. It can also be tough to train at “rush hour” (right after work) in places that are very busy.

Waiting for the squat rack...
On the other hand, some private studios offer a completely different experience with towel service, individual lockers and a lot more space on the gym floor.

In those cases, you usually get what you pay for.

If you are looking to get some one-on-one coaching, you’ll be looking at a minimum of $200 per month (1 training session per week).

Some gyms or trainers offer preferential rates for those who decide to commit for a longer time period, so be sure to enquire about such details before you decide on anything.

On the topic of time commitment: If you’re new to the gym, don’t try and get anything less than 6 months to start off (assuming you found a good trainer). This amount of time will allow you to see great progress and also get a good understanding of how the gym and training works. This will mean you can potentially train by yourself in the future. 

Anything less than 6 months won’t be worth your time. Fitness and strength take time to build. So don’t rush it!

For a complete beginner, I would suggest starting with two training sessions per week, for a minimum of 6 months. 

  Step 3: Member Profile
The atmosphere in the gym can make or break your fitness success.  Finding a place that you enjoy being at is important, especially once the excitement of just starting out wears off. The people that populate your gym will have the biggest impact on how much you want to go back to that gym as well.

Over time, you can develop strong connections and even friendships with your fellow gym-goers. You might be working towards different goals, but you are all putting in the hard work it takes to keep moving forward.

The best way to know what the atmosphere is like in a gym is to visit it, both at rush hour and at a more quiet time during the day. You can also ask the staff about the regulars when you are enquiring about their rates and membership options.

The kind of folks we have at Origins Parkour!
  Step 4: Equipment
To keep things simple, let’s say you want to get stronger and look good. Unless you are willing to spend a lot of time on your hands (like Jo does), you’ll likely gravitate towards free weights to reach your goal.

The bare minimum you'll require is a good rack of dumbbells (up to at least 50lbs if you’re a woman or 80lbs if you’re a man), a bench and some sort of bar to hang from. Those three pieces of equipment alone will provide all the resistance you'll need to work on the primary movement patterns (squat, hinge, single leg, upper body vertical push/pull and horizontal push and pull). 

Anything after that is a bonus. Barbells, Squat Racks, Kettlebells, GHDs, Cable Machines, Med Balls, etc... They’re all great to get you stronger, but you can definitely do without them if that’s your only option. 

It's Your  Decision
The best gym is the one that will fit into your schedule, your lifestyle, your goals and your bank account. Be sure to sample a few places (most gyms offer a free trial) before your make your final call. You want to pick the right place before you commit!

If you're a beginner but still want to make your own way through training, check out my Youtube Channel and use my exercise demonstrations to stay safe and get strong.

The post 4 Steps to Finding The Right Gym appeared first on Upside Strength.

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