Feel Good Friday: Improve Your Posture and Move Better with Wall Slides

You have likely at least once found yourself sitting for a prolonged period of time in front of your computer. I am also confident in saying you likely got uncomfortable at some point. You many have noticed your head drooped, your shoulders slumped forward, your neck may have become fatigued.

 Runners also may have times noticed that at the end of their runs their upper backs may feel tired. Many runners no doubt do not look the same at the end of their run as they looked when they started. Posture can affect many of us, from desk dwellers, to runners and cyclists; to lifters of various types our posture is important not just in how we look but also in how optimally we perform.

Once quick and simple way to keep your shoulders and posture healthy is by using an exercise called the Wall Slides. I like to use wall slides in my own training as a warm up for shoulder health and posture.

You can view the exercise here. Stand against a wall with your feet slightly away from the wall. Also be sure to keep your entire back pressed up and flat against the wall. Begin sliding your arms upward. Make sure to maintain arm contact with the wall during the upward rotation. As you slide your arms downward be sure to focus on the retraction (shoulder blades coming towards each other), and depression (shoulder blades moving downward).

This is an exercise that you can easily do a few times per day if you are stuck at a desk. You can also it use it as a warmup for days when you might be doing exercises that involve the shoulders. Some of these might include bench presses, overhead presses, etc.

If you enjoyed this tip and this exercise please check out my other blog post about exercises you can easily do to start moving and feeling better. I plan on adding to these weekly so be sure to check back frequently.

Happy training!

 

Legend Compression Socks: A Review

Tuesday night I was extremely excited as I went to may mailbox to retrieve my mail. I saw a package inside waiting there for me. I felt like Ralphie Parker from A Christmas Story awaiting his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring.  The bills could wait. At least the others might have been bills; I did not have time to look as they were quickly ushered aside. What was the reason for my excitement?  I received a package from Legend Compression. They were sending me a pair of compression socks to try out. I am a fan and believer in the numerous benefits of compression wear. I have used various compression apparel before.

In full disclosure I applied to be an ambassador for Legend. However I had never previously worn their product. They thought after going over my application that I would be a good fit. I looked over their information and felt it was a great fit for me as well. So now I was a bit nervous. What if I did not like the compression socks? I could not honestly tell my social media followers that I liked a product that I truly did not. That just is not me and not how I operate day to day. Let yes mean yes, and let no mean no.

Well I guess it was time to for the unveiling. I opened the package and saw the socks right away. There were some other informative materials inside along with the official letter informing me that I had been selected to be a Legend Compression brand ambassador for 2017, and cool Legend wristband with the writing of #BeaLegend. As a brief aside I cannot tell you how much I love that slogan. The potential issue would I even like the socks?

It was time to try the compression socks on. I am trying the Legend Compression Performance Socks in black. Right away I noticed that the socks were neither too thin nor too thick. I have found in the past with other brands that if they are too thin my feet feel like they slip slightly inside my running sneakers and that is even with following a size chart to I ensure  I wearing the proper size.

They were also the easiest compression socks I have even put on. Some others I have worn were like a workout just to get on. I even tore a hole in pair once so these were a real treat to get on. I felt the cushioning in the toe and heels soon as I pulled them on. This is also the first pair of compression socks I have worn that had any cushioning built in. That is a huge plus in my book. As I ramp up my training and wear track shoes my feet can get very sore, so any extra cushioning is more than welcome.

As I pulled the socks up over my calf I truly did feel the graduated compression. Walking around after getting the second sock on was such a departure from other socks, as I really did notice in a great way the  cushioning. I put my sneakers on and also noticed that due to the fact that socks were not too thin that my feet did not feel as though they were slipping inside my sneakers. I have had that issue with other brands.

Now would come the true test as I got them outside and put them into action. Today was a good day to do so. It was cold with a wind chill in the low 30’s and rainy. As I headed out the door once again my feet felt very secure inside my sneakers no matter how fast I ran. With it being so cold and with the wind I felt the socks being a bit thicker really helped to keep my legs warm. In all I ran about 7 miles of warmups, and speedwork on  the beach.  By this time my right sneaker was soaked to the point I stopped to dump out water. Now for the next test, how would the socks perform when wet?

They performed perfectly. No blistering, no feet sliding around in my Mizunos. I could not have been happier with how they performed. I could not wait to share my review once I got home. So here are the pros and cons.

Pros

*Graduated Compression

*Enhanced Endurance

*Greater Power Output

*Decreased Recovery Time

*Achilles and Arch Support

*Calf Muscle Containment

*Cushioned Toe and Heels

*Comfortable and Breathable

*Seamless Toe Construction

*Prevents Blisters

* For Men and Women

*Made in the USA

*Does Not Cause Foot Slippage in Sneakers

*Comparable Price

Cons

*Not as many choices of color as of yet.

I really wanted to find at least a couple negatives to balance out the some of the positives but I cannot.

I am honored and blessed to represent Legend Compression in 2017. While we cannot all #BeaLegend that slogan should remind us we should all strive to be in all we do.

Please feel free use my link below and save $15 if you would like to try a pair.

http://sharethelegend.refr.cc/jasonm

Workout Q&A – Lower Body Training

Recently someone reached out to me to ask a couple strength training questions. The two questions were very interrelated. I thought sharing my answer would make a great blog topic in case any others might share the same question.

The question was from someone who currently strength trains twice per week. One session focuses on upper body and the other focuses on the lower body.

Their  question was, “Should I squat and deadlift in the same session since I am only training my lower body once per week?” The other days the person runs or bikes. There was also a second question regarding whether there should be any other lower body exercises added and if so what order?

Since they are only training lower body once I suggested the same thing I do with my clients. I would opt for using the Hex-Bar Deadlift. It is neither a true deadlift nor a true squat, but rather falls somewhere between. This makes it a great option for someone who is training lower body only once per week. I also choose Hex-Bar Deadlifts because they have been proven to build more power when compared to squats.

Now to I would like to address the secondary question. I like to use bi-lateral (both sides working together) first especially if that is the main strength move. I like to follow that up with uni-lateral; (single side) ancillary exercises. In this case I suggested a super-set (two exercises back to back) of a knee dominant movement such as Bulgarian Split Squats (one of my all-time favs), split squats, lunges, etc, along with a hip dominant movement like Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts.

The workout would look something like this, with the sets/reps, rest, dictated by your specific goal or goals.  

Main Strength/Power Exercise: Hex-Bar Deadlift

Ancillary Exercises Super-Set

A1) Bulgarian Split Squats

A2) Single- Romanian Deadlifts

  • As a side note I would suggest training in this fashion if training the upper body as well.

Whether or not you incorporate this particular workout template or not, know that there are many ways to structure a training plan, and many different means to the same end. I just presented one way I would approach creating a training template based on a two day split.

 

 

A Healthy Wine? FitVine Wine: A Review

Ah…a nice quiet house on this Saturday night. It is a perfect time to sit down and blog a bit. My youngest daughter is fast asleep. My oldest is out with her grandfather for dinner. On the weekends I like to kick back on a Friday or Saturday night and have a glass or two (or three) of red wine. It is said drinking a glass of red wine is equal to an hour in the gym. So you really cannot blame me if I find a nice bottle of red and want to enjoy a couple extra hours in the gym.

I am far from a wine aficionado. I do not know what it means to let a wine breathe. Does wine even have a Vo2max? How about a dry wine? Did it drip somewhere and dry there?

All jokes aside I was given four bottles of FitVine Wine for Christmas from my brother. Right away I was intrigued by the label. It has a runner on it and the slogan, “We crush grapes, You crush life.”

FitVine boasts that their wine making process yields a high-quality wine with higher amounts of anti-oxidants. It also has no residual sugars. So it is not overly sweet, and is a dry wine. Yes I had to look up what a dry wine was for this blog post, because I truly did not know.  The wine also has lower carbohydrates due to the no residual sugars, fewer calories, and fewer sulfites. Sulfites can affect some people and give them the headache that you often hear people complain about after they drink wine.

I can only speak on the Pinot Noir as I have had any of FitVine’s other wine offerings. I tend to drink mostly pinot noir as pinos have more antioxidants than other wines. The Fitvine grapes have higher levels of anti-oxidants like resveratrol, polyphenols, and proanthocyanidins . These are very strong and beneficial anti-oxidants.

Now that we have discussed the bottle and label, as well as the all-important details about what is in the wine it is time to discuss the actually wine’s taste. Their pinot noir contains 95 calories per 5 oz., glass of wine.. and 3.4g of carbohydrates at 13.9% alcohol. I got that last part right from the Fitvine site. Most wines have roughly 123 calories per 5 oz.  One thing I noted as I poured it into my glass was that it did not seem as dark as I expected. Once again I am no wine snob, but this is what I noted. I was worried it would have a watered down taste. That was not the case at all. It had a great taste and as mentioned above not having the residual sugars was not too sweet. Right away I noticed the taste of cherries and cedar. It also has hints of orange blossom and honey. My taste buds gravitated toward the cherries and cedar. I also enjoyed the fact that there was no strange lingering aftertaste, which I do not personally care for. My wife, brother and I all commented after that the wine tasted “clean.”

Now here are the pros and cons.

PROs:

*No residual sugars

*Lower carbohydrates

*Lower amount of sulfites

*Great tasting Pino Noir

*Higer levels of antioxidants

CONs:

*Not readily available

*Shipping can be pricy

* No nutrition label. I had to poke around on their site to find the nutrition information

This will be a wine I will definitely be purchasing in the future. I love that they offer a healthier choice for athletes and others looking for a healthier option when enjoying a nice glass of wine.

Cheers!

Feel Good Friday: Three Quick Warm-up Exercises to Help You Feel Good

Today I would like to share three of my favorite posterior chain exercises. These are great exercises to activate and wake up muscles of the posterior chain. These are important muscles for sprinters, distance runners, and those getting ready to get after it in the gym. They are equally important to those of you that may be stuck at a desk all day. Prolonged sitting can cause some of your muscles to become shortened while other muscles may become overly elongated. It is vital to optimal functioning that these muscles from your feet on up are working together and can also help reduce the chance of injury.

This following is a quick circuit designed to “turn on” those muscles of the posterior chain.

I this first exercise we are focusing on the rear deltoid or posterior shoulder as well as some of the muscles of the upper back like the rhomboids, teres minor, etc.

 

The second exercise take the basic plank and adds more dynamic elements to not inky make it more challenging but also o brings into play other muscles not used when just simply holding the plank for time.

The third and final muscle activation exercise in this short but super effective circuit is the Cook Hip Lift. I like this exercise as it takes the simple bridge exercise and makes it harder and better. By pulling the knee in toward the chest you do not get as much compensation in the lumber spine, or lower back. This allows the muscles here, the gluteus maximus  and the hamstrings (bicep femoris) to work together and not in isolation as with when using a leg curl machine. In real world activities, running, sprinting, jumping, etc., the glutes and hamstrings work together and not independent of each other.

The bands I used in the videos can be purchased at sports equipment outlets. I prefer to order from Perform Better. The bands I get from them seem to last far longer than from other places. They also ship things out super-fast, which is important for when I need equipment for myself or clients.

The Importance of Balance in Corrective Exercises

Sunday was the first day of working with my daughter on corrective exercises. She has been dealing with tendinitis and Osgood-Schlatter disease in her knee. That sounds really ominous but it is not a real disease. It is however a condition that needs to be addressed. She had aggravated it while playing soccer just before Christmas. We had already been training earlier in the year together on strength training with both bodyweight and with weights as well as work at the track. Now though is a chance to back off of that. After meeting with a specialist  it was determined it is time for some corrective exercises as we work to regain the strength she needs for soccer and ballet.

As with my clients my daughter was wondering why when we trained we limited the repetitions performed on the stronger non-affected side. When training incorporating corrective exercises I believe it is important to allow the affected side to dictate the reps to be done on the uninjured side. The reason for that is because we do not want to create muscle imbalances by creating further disparity in strength between, in this case her legs by allowing one side to perform its usual volume.

I will provide an example here in the video. Here she is doing single leg  step-up-and-over from a low box with a focus on the eccentric portion of the movement. I had her begin by using her injured side and had her do the repetitions until her knee and leg got tired. In this case she completed six repetitions. She followed that up by doing only six repetitions on her stronger leg, again maintaining a balance in our corrective exercise training. We kept this up over each successive set of this exercise and also followed this same pattern for each of the unilateral (single side) exercises we did.

It will be important to continue in this fashion until there is a similarity in the amount of repetitions performed between both sides. This is just one factor in programming for corrective exercises but an important one and becomes even more important the closer she gets and someone else would get to returning to training and a normal activity level. In training balance is an important factor especially in the presence of injury.

The Hardest Part is Opening the Door

Have you ever needed a run so bad but at the same time had a hard time getting yourself out the door?  I was having one of those days today as well. Things have been a little hectic to start the New Year, but as stressful as it has been I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things will hopefully get better as the year goes on. I am confident that they will. I am aiming to be more positive in all aspects of my life. It is not necessarily a resolution as much as what I hope to not only accomplish for myself into the years beyond 2017.

So after much delay I pushed myself out the door. In more ways than one that honestly was the hardest part of the workout. It would have been far easier to just sit and wallow and allow my thoughts to get the best of me, but I am stronger than that. Allowing myself to succumb to those barriers would not help me in the long run.

I started out on the road after my Garmin connected really fast. Of all days I am glad it did. I think I used my anxiety and frustration today to my benefit. Once I got one foot moving in front of the other I only continued to run harder and harder. This was only supposed to be a warmup leading me to the largest hill in the area for some 200 meter runs up it. I went out way to fast with the only thing slowing me down were some smaller hills and having to dodge garbage and recycling bins.

I finished my very fast “warm-up” and got right into my hill repeats. The more I ran the better I felt mentally. The better I felt mentally the better I ran. How funny the workout I could barely get myself to do I now felt sad to see winding down to its end with each successive hill repeat.

Sometimes the battle is not hitting certain splits, or reaching an amount of miles. I think sometimes the fight is to just get out there. I won on both fronts today.

The next time you struggle being able to get out there for a run focus on knowing how good you feel after. Focus on the knowledge that circumstances were not enough to stop you. That can only make it easier the next time you face that struggle or a barrier. Also, I cannot imagine too many people have ever said they felt worse for having gone for a run. All it takes is putting that one foot in front of the other just like in one of my favorite Christmas specials from my youth. (True story: The song from it pops into my head on tough runs).

Here is a quick break down of my training today.

 

 

Wednesday Jan. 4th 2017 Hill Repeats

run2.30 warmup

4x 200 meter repeats uphill with 200 meter downhill running after the first three.

On the 4th repeat I stayed at the crest to do another flat 200 meter run.

(I felt amazing!)

.75 recovery jog (which brings me back to the base of the hill)

3x 200 meter repeats uphill with 200 meter downhill running after the first two.

On the 3rd repeat I stayed at the crest to do another flat 200 meter run.

Another .75 meter recovery jog (once again bringing me back to the base of the hill one last time).

2x 200 meter repeats uphill. With one downhill run.

On the second repeat I stayed at the crest to do one last 200 meter run.

Then I ran roughly .50 to another smaller hill where I did three sets of hill bounding.

I finished off with some stretching, and the legs up the wall pose for 5 minutes

Create a Stronger Core and Glutes with the One-Arm Kettlebell Swing

Yesterday I shared a variation of a strength exercise for the posterior chain of the upper body. Now today I would like to share a total body exercise using a kettlebell that I love that targets the posterior chain of the lower body and also the core muscles. Keeping those muscles strong is important for injury prevention and performance as well as overall strength.

You may have done kettlebell swings within your own training or maybe even used a dumbbell before. I like to have clients and also use another version in my own training, the one-arm kettlebell swing. The one-arm kettlebell swing is a nice way to challenge your body further.

It also has been proven to activate your core musculature more than the double arm swing. You can read more here .

You watch a video of the one-arm kettlebell swing here. I have also listed some key points of emphasis for performing the kettlebell swing.

1)      This exercise is a hinge, meaning the most action takes place around the waist and not the knees. It important to remember that the KB swing is NOT a squat. Your knees should be doing the movement.

2)      Be sure to swing the weight not lift it. Think of a pendulum. Once you being the kettlebell swinging you should feel like you are controlling the arc not directly lifting the weight.

3)      At the top of the movement be sure to fire your hips and contract you glutes before descending into the next repetition.

4)      Along with the above be sure not to arch your back and lean back. That is not part of the exercise and could cause you to injure your back.

5)      At the bottom of the swing allow the weight to pull you and allow the weight to travel between your legs. At the bottom of the movement your chest should be perpendicular to the floor.

6)      I have clients perform the swing stopping the KB at shoulder height. If you cannot get the weight up that high do not worry. As you become stronger and more explosive through your hips you should be able to get the kettlebell higher.

7)      Throughout the exercise be sure to keep your bodyweight on the heels. You should never go up onto your toes.

8)      Keep your core engaged. Do not suck in your stomach but rather contract and tighten your abs as if someone was about to punch you in the stomach.

9)      Do STOP immediately if you feel any strain or pain especially in your lower back. It could be die to not swinging fast enough, poor ability to keep the core engaged, or the kettlebell may be too heavy, or a combination thereof. You can try going to a lighter weight and determine if that helps.

 

The above tips and the video should get you on your way. Happy training!

Get a Stronger Back with this Bent Over Row Variation

Many of you have no doubt gotten started on the 2017 version of you. I hope some of that includes strength training with weights for all of the myriad benefits is has, such as increased muscle mass, increased metabolism, bone density, etc.

I was recently experimenting with variations of the bent over dumbbell row, which is an all-time great back exercise. This is a perfect exercise for those looking to strengthen their upper back. This is important for those that might spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, runners or bikers who can have a hard time maintaining posture when fatigued, or

anyone who is looking to add muscle and get stronger. The variation I am going to demonstrate will hit not only the latissimus dorsi but also some of the smaller muscles of the back that can get overlooked with the standard bent over row.

The standard elbow passing by the ribcage hits the lats more and allows you to use more weight so I will perform them first. Now the lats will be fatigued so I will do a drop set (dropping the weight lower to allow for more reps to be done) with a lighter dumbbell that will target some of the smaller muscles of the upper back mentioned previously.

I prefer having clients use their non-dominant side first and then make sure to keep the repetitions equal on both sides to help prevent creating muscle imbalances. This variation while not a prefect substitute for chin-ups and pull-ups can give those without a way to perform them a different stimulus.

You can also view a video of the exercise here. Happy training!