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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Parkour Drills for At-Home Training

Via Straight to the Bar:

Traceurs usually train for speed, endurance and coordination, but the drills presented in the video can add spice and variety to any at-home training program. Use the drills as a warm-up or add resistance and focus more on strength and power.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Read My Meat #2: 9 Articles You Should Be Reading

Important articles (and their micro-summeries) to read and pass on...

Difficult-Difficult, Difficult-Easy (Alwyn Cosgrove)
Learn to differentiate between what is difficult in general and what is difficult for you and watch yourself grow.

Research Review: Could Green Tea Actually Be Bad For YOU? (Precision Nutrition)
Your immune system may not like all that tea you've been drinking, but it all depends on T-cell dominance.

All About Intermittent Fasting (Precision Nutrition)
Lower-Calorie diets are proving their worth, but this style of fasting has yet to be tested thoroughly.

How to eat healthy for less than $5 a day (Gym Junkies)
Watch the video, learn some tips. I know I did.

Increase productivity by learning a lesson the first time (Unclutterer)
Ask yourself: (1) What worked well? (2) What didn't? (3) Why? (4) What can I do about it in the future?

Gravity is just a theory (Seth Godin)
Marketing something people already believe is much simpler than marketing a new idea. Know where your product falls and make smart choices.

The Principle of the Slight Edge (Alwyn Cosgrove)
Knowing just one thing your competition doesn't gives you an advantage. No matter what you do, take away at least one valuable thing.

Things I’ve Learned and Loved in 2008 (Tim Ferriss)
20 more reasons why Tim Ferriss is the man! If you haven't read is book, do so! He's writing an updated edition as we speak, so stay tuned.

Love (and annoying) (Seth Godin)
Few people will love your product or a lot of people will find you less annoying than the other guy. Either is good, but you can't do both.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

7 Tips For An Awesome Mid-Section

Let's get something clear: You already have six-pack abs. In fact, we all have a perfect six-pack. It's just hidden beneath a layer of fat and skin. Only after we eliminate the layer of fat can we see the awesome, (and oh-so-coveted) musculature underneath it.

Not only should your core look good, but it should also work well and support your efforts in the gym. In return for this support, you promise to take your newly remodeled mid-section to the beach where it can view and converse will the other newly remodeled mid-sections. The direction and content of those conversations are between you and your mid-section; I'm not responsible for anything your mid-section might say…

Tip #1: Change Your Diet
Expend more Calories than you consume and the fat will burn off. We all know this and there are countless articles written about it. Some are on this blog. Feel free to search.

Tip #2: Train For Form and Function Will Follow
A well-developed core will do four things:
  1. Provide stability during static and dynamic activities
  2. Provide endurance against various stressors
  3. Provide strength for heavy loading of the trunk
  4. Provide power to move those heavy loads through space
And like any muscular system, your core can be trained through a well-designed, progressive and periodized training program.

Tip #3: Stability First, Than Mobility
Stability of the core is how your body transfers force from one extremity to the other (legs to arms, for example) and is vital to every movement pattern you may do during the day. Everything from lifting shopping bags to pushing a baby stroller will benefit from a stable core.

Core stability is trained through isometrically contracting the abdominal muscles at various angles and intensities for set periods of time against some form of resistance. The most famous core stability exercise is the Plank. There are many versions of this exercise, but most people should start on their elbows and toes, with the rest of the body elevated off the ground. Once you can hold that position for 120 seconds without rest, progress to a more challenging variation.

The Plank

Tip #4: Better Stability Leads to Greater Endurance
As you progress holding the plank for longer and longer periods of time, you are also training for core endurance.

Endurance comes from sub-maximal contraction of the musculature over a long period of time and is useful for preventing muscle fatigue. The contractions are not isometric. Any form of "balance training" may be considered endurance training. By placing the body in an unstable environment, it continuously makes minor corrections and adjustments in relationship to the instability. For example, stand on one leg and pick something off the ground. Notice how your body wiggled slightly as you bent over? Those are the minor corrections I was talking about.

Endurance exercises can be performed bilaterally and unilaterally. I find contralateral movements to be most effective at targeting the core muscles, but all endurance exercises are beneficial. Some examples are the Swiss-ball Pushup, Standing One-Arm Shoulder Press, and Squat and Deadlift variations.

Swiss-ball Pushup

Train at ±60% 1RM in the 12–18 rep range per set.

Tip #5: To Increase Strength, Train Near Maximal Resistance
Core strength is the ability to produce maximal force, which lets you lift heavier and heavier loads. To increase maximal force you must train with heavy resistance. Using medicine balls and weight plates are the simplest ways to add resistance to an exercise. Remember to train in all plans of motion—flexion, extension and rotation. Examples include Swiss-ball Crunch, Russian Twists and Hanging Leg Lifts. Train at ±85% 1RM in the 6–12 rep range per set.

Hanging Leg Lifts

Quick Note: When performing leg lift variations, always train in a full range of motion. Hip flexor activation is greatest from 0°–90°; and abdominal activation is greatest from 90°–180°

Tip #6: Train Power to Increase Force Production
Power is the ability to produce high force output in a short period of time and eventually translates into more strength and speed due to the Force-Velocity Curve. Speed becomes most important when training for core power. Resistance bands and medicine balls are the most useful when training at high speeds. Ball Slams, Tornado Ball and Twist variations are all examples of good Core Power exercises.

Train at ±70% 1RM for 3–5 reps per set. Don't be afraid to lower the resistance if you aren't getting good speed on an exercise. The primary focus is maintaining high velocity, so complete recovery periods between sets is very important.

Tip #7: Don't Train Everything at Once!
Decide which of the four attributes of a healthy core is most beneficial to you right now and begin a program that targets primarily that characteristic. After completing the program, select the next most beneficial attribute and begin a program that targets that characteristic. Cycle through the four attributes in a periodized manner to achieve a healthy, well-balanced core.

Using exercises I've already mentioned in this article, I might design the following example program for myself:

Phase I – Stability (4 weeks)
Week 1
Plank = 60 sec x 1
Week 2
Plank = 80 sec x 1
Week 3
Plank = 100 sec x 1
Week 4
Plank = 120 sec x 1

Phase II – Endurance (4 weeks)
Week 1
Deadlift = 60% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1
Week 2
Deadlift = 60% 1RM x 16 x 16 x 16 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1
Week 3
Deadlift = 70% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1
Week 4
Deadlift = 70% 1RM x 16 x 16 x 16 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1

Phase III – Strength (4 weeks)
Week 1
Swiss-ball Crunch = 80% 1RM x 6 x 6 x 6 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 14 x 14 x 14 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Week 2
Swiss-ball Crunch = 80% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Week 3
Swiss-ball Crunch = 85% 1RM x 6 x 6 x 6 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Week 4
Swiss-ball Crunch = 85% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)

Phase IV – Power (4 weeks)
Week 1
Tornado Ball = 70% 1RM x 3 x 3 x 3 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 10 x 10 x 10 (2–3 min rest between sets)
Week 2
Tornado Ball = 70% 1RM x 5 x 5 x 5 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 6 x 6 x 6 (2–3 min rest between sets)
Week 3
Tornado Ball = 75% 1RM x 3 x 3 x 3 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 8 x 8 (2–3 min rest between sets)
Week 4
Tornado Ball = 75% 1RM x 5 x 5 x 5 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 8 x 8 (2–3 min rest between sets)

The above is not a complete program and only serves as an example of how a good program might progress. Please seek the guidance of a qualified fitness professional before beginning any training program. If you would like my assistance designing a program tailored to your specific needs, feel free to contact me.

Do not neglect your core. Implement solid, periodized core training into your program now and start seeing results both inside and outside the gym. Your mid-section will thank you.



Andersson EA, et al. Abdominal and hip flexor muscle activation during various training exercises. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1997;75(2):115-23.

Lewis CL, et al. Anterior hip joint force increases with hip extension, decreased gluteal force, or decreased iliopsoas force. J Biomech. 2007;40(16):3725-31. Epub 2007 Aug 17.

Willardson JM. A periodized approach for core training. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2008;12(1):7–13.

Workman JC, et al. Influence of pelvis position on the activation of abdominal and hip flexor muscles. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1563-9.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How To Become The Best At Anything

Via Seth Godin's Blog:

According to Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Outliers: The Story of Success:
  1. Where you're born and when you're born impact your level of success.
  2. Becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work.
  3. Points #1 and #2 are far more important than magical talent.
I can't change where and when I was born, but I can work hard at becoming a superstar.

I did the math: 10,000 hours equates to about 416 days, or 1.1 years, of non-stop practice. If you practiced for only eight hours a day (the average work-day), it would take you 1,250 days (3.4 years) to reach 10,000 hours. Practice four hours a day and it would be 2,500 days (6.8 years). Practice two hours and you need 5,000 days (13.6 years).

Seth points out that not every niche needs 10,000 hours to accomplish greatness. The more established a market is, Seth says, the harder it becomes to get through "The Dip." If the market is small or novel, The Dip is shallower and requires fewer hours to establish credibility and to be perceived as the best. From Seth's post:
Yo Yo Ma isn't perfect... he's just better than everyone else. He pushed through the Dip that others chose not to. I'm guessing that there are endeavors (like being CEO of a Fortune 500 company or partner at a big law firm) where the rewards are so huge that the number is closer to 20,000 hours or more to get through the Dip.

The Dip that Seth refers to is the period of time when a new project seems hopeless and doomed to failure. The Dip is similar to "Stage 3: Crisis of Meaning" in an entrepreneur's emotional cycle. Get past The Dip and glory abounds!

I agree with Seth's assessment of the 10,000-hour mark. Still, the mark helps put effort into perspective and gives us an objective goal to reference against our progress.

For example, I've been a Certified Personal Trainer for at least two years, working mostly part-time. This means I've acquired roughly 2,080 hours of experience, or 20% of my 10,000 hour goal, toward becoming a superstar.

Now suppose we deconstruct, Tim Ferriss-style, what it takes to become a successful trainer. What are the steps involved? What milestones would I need to achieve before I became an established and sought-after expert in my field? More importantly, what are we defining as "success?"

I leave the answers to those questions for a later post.

Friday, February 6, 2009

See Your Goals. Literally.

Via Straight to the Bar:

Girlwith Noname wants to see her abs, so she put photos of various hot bods on her wall as a constant reminder of what she's trying to achieve.

I think this is a great idea and it may be just what you need to keep yourself in the zone to reach those challenging goals.

I was thinking that it might not be a bad idea to also post progress photos of yourself on your "Visualization Wall." This way you have an objective record of where you've been and how far you've come.

Great stuff Girlwith. Keep it up!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Client Testimonials #2

Patrick Rock, 24 (Jan 2009, Chicago):
Derek was absolutely essential in me being able to stick to that all too common New Years Resolution. I went from couch potato to gym regular and have been faithful for over a year. I was intimidated by the weight room but Derek taught me the basics and how to effectively train. He quickly identified my weaknesses, personalized a routine and made me stronger in ways I didn't expect. He keeps my routine fun and fresh, consistently updating as my abilities grow. Derek has helped me more than just be happy with my body for the first time in my life, I now love the gym and am able to identify my own weaknesses. If you want a trainer dedicated to his clients, Derek's your guy.