A Case For Crawling…In Your Workout!

When was the last time you crawled?

On your hands and knees or hands and toes?
Forward, backward, sideways, clockwise, counterclockwise?oksanakuzmina7

Many haven’t crawled since they learned to walk as babies.

Go crawl right now. On your hands and toes, down and back in the nearest hallway. I DARE YOU!

I bet it’s harder than you thought it’d be!

Crawling is called a primitive movement (along with rolling, pushup, and quadruped). It’s a basic, yet critical, pattern we learn during our physical and neurological maturation as it develops the strength, coordination, and stability that translate into higher level activities such as running and climbing.

Crawling is similar to many things in life; if you don’t use, it you lose it! Your body forgets how to crawl, how to recruit muscles in those fundamental patterns, how to stabilize your body in dynamic positions, and how to coordinate arm and leg movements. Your ability to move (pain and injury free) deteriorates from there because the foundation is gone!

I’ll show you how to start rebuilding your foundation. The most fundamental of the many styles of crawling is the bear crawl (or table top crawl).

_backwardsbearcrawl-the-21-exercises-from-the-get-ripped-anywhere-outdoor-series_0

In this crawl, the opposite arm and leg move together. The left leg and right arm “step” forward, then the right leg and left arm “step” forward. The challenge is keeping your back straight and hips level through the movement. With clients, I’ll place a foam roller or light, plate-like object on their lower backs while they crawl, forcing them to stay level during movement to prevent the object from falling.

From Eric Cressey’s High Performance Handbook I learned a variation of this crawl where you inhale as you take each “step” then hold the position in place as you exhale,”crunching” your ribs down toward your pelvis.

Once you master forward crawling, then comes backward crawling, sideways crawling, and circular crawling….next add resistance!

Resistance can be added as a weight plate on top of your hips, resistance bands around your hips or shoulders, towing a kettle bell behind you, etc. Just don’t venture there until mastering the basic technique!

I like this video of some other crawling variations:

Here’s your challenge: 

  • Add 3 sets of 20 steps of bear crawls into 2 of your workouts this week, in your warm up or as a superset to another exercise.
  • Post a video and tag or hashtag K8IrelandActive bear crawling!
  • Comment below with your thoughts on crawling after giving it a try.

For more reading about crawling check out:

Functional Movement

Marks Daily Apple

Advertisements

All About That Bass!

Everyone loves a nice, strong booty but getting one takes work!

Activation Drills

The first challenge many face on the road to booty gains is muscle activation. A great percentage of our days are spent, not generating power through our bums but sitting on them! For many, getting those gluteus muscles firing properly takes some persistence with activation drills. Try one or all of these at the beginning of your workout:

  1. Prone Scorpions (8 reps on each side)
    Lie facedown with legs together and arms out to a “T.” Squeeze one glute to initiate the movement, then swing it over toward the opposite hand. Touch toes to the ground and return to the starting position. Focus on keeping the opposite shoulder and hip on the ground.
  2. Birddog (6 reps on each side)
    Start on all 4’s, keeping the core tight by drawing the belly button toward the spine. Extend opposite arm and leg while keeping torso still and straight. This exercise has a bonus of also being a great core activation drill!
  3. Supine Bridge (10 reps)
    Position feet slightly wider than hip-width, push through the heels, and raise hips up. Squeeze your booty at the top position and hold for a second or two. Then lower to just above the ground before repeating.
  4. Bowler Squat (5 reps on each side)
    Balance on one leg, keeping that knee soft (slightly bent, not locked out). Push your booty back and use the opposite leg for a counterbalance as you reach down and across the body with your opposite arm. Keep your back straight! This exercise has an added benefit of reinforcing proper hip-hinge technique.
  5. Wall Marching: Glute Isometric Hold  (2 reps on each side, holding each rep for 5 seconds)

Booty-Building Exercises

The next step is building strength and size in the glute muscles. Here are a few of my favorite exercises.

  • Barbell Hip Thrust (3 sets of 8 reps)
    1.-barbell-hip-thrust-420x420_0.jpg
    For everything you need to know about hip thrusts, Bret Contreras is your guy! Check out this article.
    As a side note, this may not seem like the kind of movement you want to do in gym…in public, but trust me! The benefits far outweigh the potential awkwardness, and when in doubt, just avoid eye contact!
    7bi68
  • Banded Squats + Side Steps (2 sets of the following sequence)
    Step 1: Place mini band above or below the knees (I prefer below)
    Step 2: Take 10 steps sideways to your left, maintaining tension in the band at all times.
    Step 3: With legs a little wider than hip-width, perform 10 squats.
    Step 4: Take 10 steps sideways to your right, maintaining tension in the band at all times.
    Step 4: With legs a little wider than hip-width, perform 10 squats.
    d02a04a382375eea86ccb6d5d78f944c
  • Bulgarian Split Stance Squat (3 sets of 8 on each leg)
    Start with this exercise unloaded- Good luck!
    posterior-power-5-moves-to-wake-up-your-glutes_c
  • Kettlebell Deadlifts (3 X 10 Reps)
    Sit back, keep your heels down, and back straight. Push through your heels while coming up and squeeze your booty at the top.
    4853669_how-the-kettlebell-can-improve-your-deadlift_tc3053edc

Also, check out Bret Contreras’s (Known as the Glute Guy) 30 Day Ultimate Better But Challenge!

Give these a shot! Take a video/picture of yourself! #k8irelandactive

A Warm Up and A Workout

I write a lot about the pieces of the workout puzzle. For a change, here is a workout to try!

Dynamic Warm Up

  1. Start with some foam rolling. Get 4 positions on your thighs:  front (quads), outside (IT Band), inside (adductor), back (hamstrings). Then, roll calves, glutes, upper back, lats and pecs. Only spend 10-20 seconds on each body part.

2. Perform some mobility drills

Rocking Ankle Mobility, 5 times each side

Side Lying Windmill, 5 times each side

Back to Wall Shoulder Flexion, 8 times

High Knee Walk to Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach, 5 times each side

Workout

The last 2-3 reps of a set should be difficult, but you should be able to perform all sets with good form. Challenge yourself!

Exercises A1, A2, and A3 are performed in order, one set of each, then repeated for 3 total cycles.

A1. Inverted Row (8-12 reps)

3743CB32D2C136941715AF47C54F6EA.standard.jpg

I like to use a secured smith machine for this. Keep your core engaged, glutes squeezed. To make this harder, make your body more horizontal (lower the bar or raise your heels onto a box. To make it easier, position your body more vertically (raise the bar).

A2. Incline Pushup (or regular pushup if you can do it with good form) (8-15 reps)

incline-push-ups

You can use the smith machine bar for this exercise as well, or a bench as pictured. The keys are good form and full range of motion. You should position your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your sides, and you should descend until your elbows make 90-degree angles. Similar to the rows, keep your core engaged and glutes squeezed the entire movement.

A3. Deadbug (10 reps each side, 20 total)

The picture above with the arrows depicts the starting position for this exercise. The key to this movement is to keep the abdominals engaged the entire time by actively trying to press your belly button toward your spine and your lower back into the ground.

images

The next picture is the most basic progression of this exercise. One leg at a time lowers to the ground, then comes back up to the starting position. Keep the lower back in contact with the ground the entire time.14499256(400x400).jpg Once you master that movement, begin to straighten the legs as you lower them to the ground. After mastering that, add the arm movement, lowering the opposite arm while straightening the leg, keeping the lower back in contact with the ground.

Perform one set of each exercise, B1 and B2, then repeat for 3 total cycles.

B1. Stiff Leg Deadlift (10-12 reps)

Stiff-Leg-Deadlift

This is basic hip hinge movement. Start light–just a barbell. Position hands just outside of the hips. Keeping the back straight and knees soft (not locked out, but not bent much), bend at the hips and slide the bar down your legs. Think about trying to touch the wall behind you with your booty as you bend over. Lower the bar until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings (the back of your legs). The, push through your heels as you raise to standing. Squeeze your booty at the top position.

B2. Walking DB Lunges (20 steps, 10 on each leg)

Walking-Lunges-with-Dumbbells

Grab a pair of light dumbbells (or heavier if you’re feeling ambitious!). Hold them at your sides like suitcases. Take a large step forward, drive your back knee into the ground and bend your front knee (don’t let it go forward past your toes). Also be sure not to lean too far forward with your torso-keep it upright!

Perform 3 cycles of exercises C1, C2, and C3:

C1. Bench Dips (10-15 reps)

To make these easier, keep your knees bent and use your legs to assist. To make these harder, straighten your legs, elevate your legs, or place a weight plate on your lap.

C2. Glute Bridge (15-20 reps)

bridge.png.jpeg

Keep your hips, knees, and ankles in a line. Push through your heels and squeeze your booty at the top. To increase difficulty, hold the top position, squeezing your glutes for 2-5 seconds on each rep.

C3. Prone T’s on Stability Ball (10-15 reps)

ITYW.jpg

Position chest against stability ball. I like to keep the knees on the ground in this exercise (contrary to what’s pictured). Raise arms straight out to the sides and rotate thumb-side of hands toward the ceiling.

This workout should take about an hour.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

If you are interested in training with me, contact info is on my About page.

#k8irelandactive

How Food Is More Than Fuel

ffc2b4154bedadb7b3310606a3990127

Food is a complex issue.

There’s a reason that our society struggles with weight management, and it’s not necessarily because we don’t know how to eat well. I’m sure many of us understand we’d be a whole lot healthier if we ate more whole foods and less sugar, avoided fried or processed things, drank less alcohol, and limited our soda consumption. So, why don’t we?

I’m the biggest culprit of it all– I really know a lot about how to eat well. So why isn’t my diet better?

The way we eat is not just a physical, biological process–it’s highly psychological! When we eat we are not only fulfilling our bodys’ fuel needs, but often, other emotional or psychological needs as well.
55900-47304

In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week this week, I’m writing this article to share some insight into the complexity of eating behavior.

Adaptive Roles of One’s Diet

  1. Identity
    A person uses the way they eat to define who they are. “The skinny one,” “the fat one,” and “the health nut” are all identities that people take on having to do with the way they eat. Personally, I’ve been “the health-conscious” person to the point where I felt embarrassed to eat a food that was unhealthy or in a large portion in front of others. Coworkers would remark,”Look at Kait’s lunch, it’s always so healthy.” I’d only eat candy or burritos or fried food when I was alone, because heaven forbid someone see me eat something unhealthy and I lose that identity of being the health-conscious person.
    Unknown-1.jpeg
  2.  Distraction or Numbing Emotions
    Eating becomes a way of distracting from life’s problems when one is unable to cope. Instead of being unhappy, stressed, or burdened from the life problem, the central focus becomes one’s diet and the goal of losing weight. Sometimes people eat to “stuff” down uncomfortable feelings. In concentrating on eating, one can space out instead of focusing on the problem. I have some crazy mental association between relaxing and binge eating. If I’m stressed I need to relax so I binge…which is actually counterproductive considering that binging causes more discomfort and anxiety (i.e. more stress).
  3. Control
    When life feels out of control, eating becomes the one area that no one else can control. Sometimes our bodies become the battleground for self-assertion.
  4. Social Habits
    If you are female and you break up with your boyfriend, what do you do? Grab that pint of ice cream!
    Unknown-1Rough, stressful day at work? You need a drink….or 5.
    images.jpeg

 

What characterizes an eating disorder?

There are a variety of eating disorders that exist, some more well-known than others: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, orthorexia, purging, night eating syndrome, body dysmorphia. Do you feel immense guilt after drinking an In-N-Out milkshake? Would you still love yourself 5 pounds heavier? Do you opt out of a family dinner just because the meal isn’t the healthiest? Do you feel like certain foods have control over you or cause you to lose control?

the-endless-binge-restrict-cycle-infographic-by-body-love-wellness-light-background

Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.

Research suggests that up to 50% of the general population demonstrates problematic or disordered relationships with exercise, body, and/or food, but clinical eating disorders only occur in 1-3% of the population. The difference lies in the degree of symptoms one experiences and how much they interfere with one’s life, health, and ability to function day to day. There are some common symptoms of eating disorders like food restriction, binge eating, purging, excessive exercise, and use of diet pills and/or laxatives. Symptoms that are not as well known include basing one’s self worth or self esteem highly or exclusively on weight or body shape, or having an obsession with or high amount of anxiety surrounding certain foods, calories, or food groups.

Keep your food/body relationships healthy:

  • Avoid classifying foods as good or bad. Food doesn’t have morality; you are not good because you eat broccoli or bad because you eat pizza. There is a time and a place for all foods.
  • Limit social media time. It’s easy to get caught up in comparisons, but when most people share pictures on social media, they are sharing pictures that reflect the best versions of themselves. These posts don’t tell the whole story–the struggles, the vulnerabilities–these pictures are the highlight reel. Check out Sohee Lee’s short article called Don’t Be Fooled By Photos.
  • Be as objective as possible about physical assessments. It’s been said that one should view his or her scale weight with as much emotion as he or she would count the number of white cars in a parking lot.
  • Don’t make a habit of “punishment” workouts or diets. “I ate X so now I need to do an extra workout this week.” “I binged last night, so I’m not eating any carbs today.” Be consistent with your diet and workouts and the results will come.
  • Make a list of all your amazing qualities that are not related to your body or diet. (I’m really organized, I listen well to others, My dog loves me)
    reazons
  • Be aware and respond to your own red flags. (Isolating yourself from others, becoming secretive about food, anxiety, depression, giving a lot of emotional weight to things like your scale weight, binge eating episodes)
  • Set realistic goals and focus on your system to make progress day to day. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds in the next 4 months, focus on your plan of going to the gym 4 days a week and eating enough protein each day. I like focusing on the small steps because it allows more opportunities for success every day instead of just one big moment for ultimate success or failure 4 months from now. Read my article on goal setting to learn more.
  • Forgive yourself!
    forgive-yourself-life-is-too-short.jpg

Further Reading

Body Dysmorphia in the Fitness Industry

Why Can’t I Stick to My Diet? The What-The-Hell Effect Explained

How to Break Free From Binge Eating

The Candy’s Not Going Anywhere

Ban No Foods

How to Stop at One Cookie

When Good Fitness Habits Go Bad

What are your thoughts? Let me know!

Strength Training for Fat Loss

So, you want to lose weight?

To start out, let’s make an important clarification:

  • Weight Loss: Doesn’t specify where weight is coming from. Weight can be lost from all sources including muscle, fat, water, limb amputation, organ removal, etc.
  • Fat Loss: Specifically, losing body fat, preferably while maintaining muscle mass and all limbs.

You want to lose fat, but how?

Option A: Spend countless hours of your week on a cardio machine

A 2011 study found that, on average, it takes 86 hours of  (steady state) aerobic exercise to lose 1 kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). If your goal is to lose 8 pounds (about 3.5 kilograms) that is 301 hours of cardio, or 3 hours and 20 minutes of cardio every day for the next 90 days. No thanks!

Option B: Embark on a strength training program. This is my choice. I’ll tell you why!

Reason 1: You’ll burn more calories doing nothing

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of Calories the body burns at rest on a daily basis, and it is directly dependent on the amount of lean body mass (i.e. muscle mass) one has.

Lean body mass: mass of the body not including fat.

The more muscle one has, the higher his or her lean body mass, the higher his or her BMR. Research estimates that each pound of muscle burns an extra 30-35 daily Calories. If a person gains 5 pounds of muscle, he or she will be burning an additional 150 Calories every day and losing an additional pound of fat every 3 weeks or so.

Reason 2: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)

After periods of intense exercise, one’s metabolism can remain elevated for several hours after training. Oxygen is the currency of the body during exercise. During periods of intense, anaerobic exercise, the body depletes its oxygen reserve and goes into oxygen debt. After finishing the training session, the body must continue working to pay back this debt and does so by taking  in more oxygen over a period of time. The more oxygen debt, the longer the body takes to repay it.

Lifting weight can have a much greater effect on EPOC than other types of exercise. With enough intensity, this EPOC can last more than 38 hours after a workout.

For those of you who doubt the intensity of weight lifting, I suggest wearing a heart rate monitor during your heavy deadlift or squat sets. My heart rate gets as high as 170 beats per minute on those.

Reason 3: Strength Training Decreases Hunger Hormone

Ghrelin is called the “hunger hormone” because as its level rises, one feels hungrier and as its levels decrease in the body, one feels full and satiated. A recent study found ghrelin levels fell 13 to 21 percent after an intense strength training workout.

Reason 4: Muscle is required to look “toned”

Many desiring fat loss envision having a “toned” physique. A healthy diet and a lot of cardio can get you fat loss but not the “toned” look you desire. Muscle is required for this, and it doesn’t just show up- it takes months of work!

Not only is strength training important for building muscle, but it’s also crucial for maintaining muscle. Many fat loss strategies (cardio, eating less, exercising more) put the body into a catabolic state where it is breaking down tissue for energy. Unfortunately, these tissues include muscle tissue that the body doesn’t think it needs (because it isn’t being used on a regular basis). Strength training promotes anabolic processes in the body where muscle is built (or repaired), which helps in maintaining the muscle one already has.

Too often (especially with drastic weight loss strategies) a person will lose a lot of muscle in addition to fat from his or her fat loss efforts. The result is a skinny-fat appearance and lowered resting metabolism (remember Reason 1? Your BMR is dependent on lean body mass) making it more difficult to A) continue losing weight (because of slowed metabolism) and B) keep the weight off (because the body’s Caloric maintenance level is so low).

How to lift weights to lose weight:

  1. Prioritize exercises that use many muscle groups or large muscle groups
    For example: 
    Row Variations (Working the upper back, shoulders, and biceps)

    Chest Press Variations (Working the chest, shoulders, and triceps)

    Squat Variations (Working glutes, hamstrings, quads, core)

    Deadlift Variations (Working the legs, glutes, core, back)

  2. Lift Heavy Weight
    If you are a new to weight lifting, I suggest sticking in with “easy to medium” realm as far as weights go, for the first 2-3 weeks as you learn technique and your body adapts.
    Anyone else should lift weights that are in the “medium to hard” difficulty (as long as you can maintain good lifting technique). For example, if you are performing 3 sets of 10 reps of an exercise, your last 1 or 2 reps of sets 2 and 3 should be challenging. If you get to rep 10 and feel like you could have done 5 more reps, increase the weight on the next set.
  3. Vary your repetition ranges
    If you are new to weight lifting, stay in the 8-12 rep range to learn proper form.
    More experienced lifters can play with other rep ranges. I find myself starting workouts performing 4-rep sets of an exercise and finishing a workout with a couple sets of 12-20 reps.

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

Training Guidelines for Beginners by Sohee Lee

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle by Bret Contreras


 

  1.  Friedenreich CM, et al. Adiposity changes after a 1-year aerobic exercise intervention among postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011;35:427-435

 

2-Cents on 6-Packs

How many crunches does it take to get a 6-pack?

2211695748_TootsieRoll20Owl_xlarge.jpeg

I hate crunches (and situps). To be honest, I despise any ab exercise I have to do for more than 10 reps (or 10 reps each side) to see results.

One day I’ll write an article that gets into the anatomy of the abs and what muscles make up the core. Today, I’m going to go over how to avoid the ab exercise mistake I see all the time in the gym and some super efficient ab exercises to try!

The Big Mistake

Anytime one does an abdominal exercise lying on his or her back, the back (specifically, lower back) should be, and remain, pressed firmly into the ground.

VerticalLegCrunch

The postural element here is called pelvic tilt. I like to describe it with an analogy that equates the pelvis to a pot [of water]. Now, there is anterior (meaning front) pelvic tilt and posterior (meaning back) pelvic tilt, which refer to the way water would spill out of “the pot” if it was tilted one way or the other. Here is a pictogram that describes it.

rider-seat-positions-650x442

In the left picture above, water would fall out of the “pot” toward the front of the body, so the image is depicting anterior (front) pelvic tilt. In the right picture, water would spill out of the pot toward the back of the body. This is posterior (back) pelvic tilt. You may find yourself standing with anterior pelvic tilt and sitting slouched with some posterior pelvic tilt or vice versa. Ideally, the pelvis is in neutral at all times.

Some of us spend more time in one posture than the other, making it habitual for our bodies, and, as you could imagine, this posture shows up in our workouts.

Try this test: Lie down on your back with your legs together, straight up in the air. Push your lower back into the ground so that your entire back is touching the floor. Keeping your legs straight, slowly lower them to the ground while keeping your entire back on the floor. Could you do it? A little challenging, right? Most of us lack the abdominal control to keep our backs flat while performing this movement.

Here is a progression to correct this!

  1. Toe Taps. 2-3 sets of 20 reps, 10 on each leg, keeping that lower back flat!
  2. Linear Dead Bugs. 2-3 sets of 20 reps, 10 on each leg.
  3. Single-Leg Lowering. 2-3 sets of 20 reps, 10 on each leg. Contrary to what this picture shows, I like to keep both arms extended in front of the body, reaching toward the ceiling.
    pelvic-tilt-single-leg-lowers-1024x768
  4. Double-Leg Lowering. 3 sets of 10 reps. Arms in the same position as the single-leg lowering exercise. For added intensity, weight can be held by the arms.
    bw-leg-lower

In addition to building the abdominal muscles to keep the pelvis in place, another component to correct is the hip flexors. Often those who have an anteriorly tilted pelvis and cannot keep their lower back to the floor while performing these exercises have overactive (tight) hip flexors. Look at the picture of some of the hip flexor muscles below. Notice how, at the top, the psoas connects to vertebrae in the low back and the iliacus attaches to the side and back of the pelvis. If these muscles are shortened, the low back vertebrae and back of the pelvis are pulled forward resulting in anterior pelvis tilt. Mobility exercises, foam rolling, and stretches that lengthen (stretch) the hip flexors will help alleviate some of that tilt.

images-1

 

Efficient Ab Exercises

Get a lot done in a little time with these Ab exercises that are staples in my routine.

  1. Static Plank Variations (3 X 1 min or less). Center plank, Side plank, arms on an airex pad, arms on a bosu ball, legs elevated, legs really elevated, feet on a boss ball, on one leg, feet in TRX. Keep that back straight, and, if anything, tuck the pelvis into a slight posterior tilt by contracting the abs.
  2. Double Leg Lowering with Crunch (3 X 10 reps). Once you can keep your lower back in contact with the ground while lowering both legs, this is a great exercise to try. Start lying on your back with arms and legs straight in the air. Lower legs to the floor while simultaneously lowering the arms. Stop an inch above the floor and raise both arms and legs to the starting position. Once there, “crunch” the arms and upper body toward the ceiling and back to the starting position. Repeat. I hold a weight (5-15 pounds) in my hands for added intensity.
  3.  Diagonal Curl Up (3 X 10 each side)
  4. Ab Wheel Rollout Variations ( 3 X 5-10 )
    This is an intense exercise. Here is a video about rollout progressions.
  5. Wood Chops (3 X 10 each side). Variations include chopping high to low, low to high, or across. Keeping your chest up and arms straight in all the movements will help with targeting the abs more and arms or hip flexors less.
  6. Prone Pike (3 X 5-10)
    20.-Swiss-Ball

Perform one or two of these exercises in each of your workouts, and you’ll be well on your way toward that summer 6-pack! Let me know if you try them!

To Learn More:

Bret Contreras is a trainer and PhD who wrote an article with EMG results of the amount of activation in 4 core muscles during a variety of exercises (EMG stands for electromyogram, and it’s a method of measuring muscle activation). Check it out to learn some other great ways of engaging your abdominals!

Supplement Showcase: BCAAs

What are amino acids? What are branched-chain amino acids? What do these have to do with my workouts, and why would I consider spending money on them?

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules, linked together in chains of thousands of combinations. They wind and loop to make various configurations of proteins, and these are the worker bees of our bodies, the molecules that “do” everything. Conventionally, shorter chains of amino acids are called peptides and longer chains are called polypeptides or proteins.
figure1

Many amino acids exists, but there are 20 standard (or canonical) amino acids encoded by the genetic code (DNA) of our body. How does DNA code for amino acids?

Continue reading “Supplement Showcase: BCAAs”