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Application of the Flex … ion (Applying Lessons on Joint Action and Planes of Motion)

This post is built upon my previous post on joint actions and the planes of motion. If you haven’t read that then I’d advise you do so, otherwise this might be a bit confusing (unless you’re familiar with anatomy and kinesiology … that’s right, we get ‘sciency’ this week). You may be thinking ‘Great, now that I know how my joints and muscles move, but what do I do with this?’. We apply it to exercise is what we do with it! We use it as a means of finding variation in our basic routines so that we are never bored, restricted based on gym equipment availability, or due to a busy or rudimentary gym. Let’s apply together.

Taking into consideration the planes of motion and the actions of the joint, we can begin to apply this knowledge to the individual muscles as we work them. For the purposes of this lesson we will take the legs and the deltoids (shoulders) as our two examples.

Starting with the quads, if we were to apply the former lesson we can start with the basics of flexion and extension. Think in your head about extending your quads outward and then bringing them inwards. This is a pretty basic motion right? Now we need to translate this into an exercise. The first two immediate exercises that come to mind (whose primary movement utilizes the motion in question) are leg extensions (for extension) and squats (for flexion). Both of these involve the increase and decrease of the angle of the quad in comparison to the rest of the leg.

Leg Extension full

Squat full

To expand now that we have a basic example, we can also think of additional alternatives such as lunges (flexion) and leg press (extension). The same can be done with the hamstrings which sit on the opposite side of the quads. Thinking of flexion we can think of lying leg curls, seated leg curls, and glute ham raise. In thinking of extension we can think of romanian deadlift variations.

Lunge full

Leg Press full

Romanian Deadlift full

The interesting thing about anatomy and kinesiology is that in all of the analysis that we just did we were only considering flexion and extension, however as part of that came abduction and adduction. This is when we bring the weights away from our bodies and back, up and down. Just like that we added in two additional factors without even realizing it!

Transitioning into shoulders, or deltoids, it is a little easier to imagine abduction and adduction being incorporated into the mix. If we break down a lateral raise this involves abduction as we raise the weight upwards and away from the body, then as we lower the weight down we transition into adduction. The same can be said for front raises as well as rear delt flys, these are just on different planes.

Lateral Raise full

Front Raise full

Rear Delt full

We can do raises all day every day and build a decent amount of size, however this can get boring. To add variety we can start to focus on our hands (remember the lesson on supination, pronation, and neutral position?). Typically when we think of a front raise we think of someone holding a pair of dumbbells, hands facing downwards (pronated), raising upwards and then downwards. A variation of this utilizes a supinated grip, sometimes performed with a barbell. This variation adds greater stress to the anterior (front) deltoid, which can be advantageous to building that three dimensional effect that many are looking to achieve.

This same principle can be applied to most exercises for most body parts. Simply changing the hand placement can significantly change how and what muscles are being stressed, adding an easy source of variety to our everyday routines. In knowing the primary function of the equipment at your disposal, basic anatomy and kinesiology concepts, and an overview of how our joints are meant to function along with the planes of movement we have an unlimited resource of exercise options no matter the situation. Busy gyms, low equipment, no equipment, etc. should no longer be an issue if you can leverage the aforementioned tools. Happy remixing!

Hit ’em with the Flex….ion! (Joints & Planes of Motion)

How self-aware are you? Do you stop and think about how we as humans walk? How we as humans move side to side and front to back? How we bend over, open our hands and close them, lift our arms up and down or bend them at the elbow? Maybe you’ve never thought about this before but you exercise (cardio counts) and you’ve put at least one thought into that?

 

If you’ve ever had one of these self-aware thoughts, or even exercised and  concentrated on the movement (maybe even experiencing a “mind-muscle connection”), then you’ve thought about your joints moving and the planes of motion, even if you didn’t realize it. Today we break down exactly how we move, from the planes of motion, to our joints, ending on how our hands grip. Each are equated to an exercise to keep things applicable. This rolls into the next post where we take this lesson and apply it to being able to find variation in basic routines so that we’re never bored, restricted based on gym equipment availability, or due to a busy or rudimentary gym. By the way yes, when you hit ’em with the flex you literally are using flexion … see, you’re already learning!

 

Planes of Motion

Planes_of_BodyFrontal: Passes through the body from left to right

Frontal Exercise Example: movements in which your arms or legs raise or move side to side (i.e. Lateral Raise, Jumping Jacks, Leg Raises, Lateral Lunges)

Transverse: Passes through the body horizontally, parallel to the floor, dividing the body in half from top to bottom

Transverse Exercise Example: movements that involve twisting or rotations (i.e. Abdominal Twists, Neck Rotations)

Sagittal: Passes through the body from front to back, dividing the body in half left to right

Sagittal Exercise Example: movements that occur in the sagittal (front to back) plane (i.e. Walking/Jogging/Running, Sled Pushes)

 

Joint Actions

Flexion: bending motion, where the angle between body parts decreases

Horizontal Flexion: where the angle between bones decreases on a horizontal plane

Extension: straightening motion, where the angle between body parts increases

Horizontal Extension: where the angle between bones increases on a horizontal plane

Body_Movements_I - Copy (2)

Abduction: movement away from the body

Abduction Exercise Example: Lateral Raise Upwards

Adduction: movement toward the body

Adduction Exercise Example: Lateral Raise Downwards

Circumduction: movement in which the joint is the pivot point and the body part of focus moves around this pivot point, this will combine flexion, extension, adduction, and abduction

Body_Movements_I - Copy (4)

Elevation: raising the scapula upwards

Elevation Exercise Example: Shoulder Shrugs

Depression: lowering the scapula downwards

Depression Exercise Example: Retracting/Setting Scapulas during Squats

 

Hand Positions

Supination (hand): palm of hand facing upwards

Supination Exercise Example: Bicep Curl, Low Cable Fly

Pronation (hand): palm of hand facing downwards/backwards

Pronation Exercise Example: Wide Grip Lat Pull-down

Neutral: straight alignment, thumbs upward with no supination or pronation

Neutral Exercise Example: V-Bar Cable Rows, Neutral Grip Lat Pull-down

forearm-supination-pronation-hand

 

Congratulations! You survived a lesson joint actions and planes of motion (let’s call it Kinesiology 101)! What is the logical progression after 101? Some would think 102, however in order for this knowledge to sink in properly we are going to go into a practical application of everything that we just went over. This is where the real fun begins. This is where we learn how to handle the scenario where you walk into a crowded gym and all the equipment that you need for your routine is taken, or you’re forced to workout in a hotel-like gym with limited equipment, or you’re simply bored with your current routine and want to switch things up for the day. We take the knowledge we just gained and apply it to what we already know about the function of machines and equipment to come up with a near infinite supply of exercise variability at our disposal. Make sure to tune in to the next post to expand your mind, one corny joke at a time!

How to Get Over a Weight Loss Plateau

Have you been losing weight and now you’re stuck and don’t know what to do? Maybe you want to lose weight but don’t know where to start? Start by continuing to read below. How simple is that!

Eat Healthier Food. This is probably a given but if you aren’t already eating healthy food, start. Replace your hot cheetos with a salad. Eat less processed food and more lean meats. Increase your protein intake. Begin to drink more water and CUT OUT SODAS. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Basically all of the things that your parents/guardians told you that made you roll your eyes when you were a kid but now that you’re grown you’re realizing were right (not that you’d tell them that).

Begin Tracking Your Food. If you aren’t already tracking your food the first and easiest, yet possibly most tedious for some, thing you can do is begin to track the food that you eat. Personally I never realized how much junk and randomness that I ate before I started tracking my food and I bet the same will go for you. Even if you think that you’re already eating healthy you probably aren’t eating as healthy as you could be.

Tracking encourages you to analyze every potato chip and french fry that you eat because you begin to see simply how many calories your food make up and the macronutrient breakdown of each. The first time I realized how many calories were in the chips and queso that I ate on a regular basis I was horrified (900 calories for reference).

Don’t worry, I know it’s tedious to stop and track everything you shove into your mouth but it will be worth it in the end. Apps like MyFitnessPal and Lifesum make this extremely easy with their barcode scanners that have you scanning in all your foods like a grocer. This is step two, if you aren’t already doing it.

Adjust Your Macros. Let’s say you already track your food. Easy, you say! Most jump to adding additional cardio immediately from here. STOP. Adding additional cardio should be your last option. We will discuss this a little bit later. After you’ve been tracking your food for a bit you should have enough data to begin to analyze your incoming macros (this is macronutrients; i.e. your protein, carbs, and fats). Macro percentages are very specific to the individual. What works for one person may not work for another. Due to this it is important to tweak your macros if something isn’t working for you. If you started out at 40% P/50% C/10% F maybe try lowering your carbs to 40% P/40% C/20%F. Equally something like the Ketogenic diet can be attempted in which fats are extremely high, carbs are very low, and protein is moderate (20% P/10% C/70% F). These are just examples. You can manipulate your macros in any way that you wish, lower your carbs, raise your carbs, lower your fats, raise your fats, etc. This should trigger a change without having to adjust your calorie intake.

Lower Your Calorie Intake. If after you’ve adjusted your macros you’ve stalled once more then it may be time to lower your weekly calorie intake. In order to maintain weight one should be ingesting the same amount of calories that they expend. Calorie expenditure includes your basal metabolic rate (formula below) + calories expended (burned) during any physical activity. In order to lose weight you should manipulate your calorie intake so that you are ingesting less calories than you expend.

One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. This means in order to lose one pound of fat a week you should have a 3,500 calorie deficit, equating to 500  calories a day. Take your total calorie expenditure (basal metabolic rate + calories expended during physical activity) then subtract this from any calories ingested and it should equate to around 500. This should ensure that you lose around one pound of fat a week, depending on your current physical fitness and BMI level (higher BMI levels tend to lose fat at a faster rate than those with a lower BMI level). Make sure not to adjust your calories too low, this can be dangerous. Losing one pound a week is average, one and a half is intense and two pounds a week is extreme (in regards to calorie planning, as explained earlier actual calories burned may vary per individual). Find out how many calories you should be ingesting to begin with this calculator.

Harris-Benedict Equation revised by Mifflin and St. Jeor in 1990
Men BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
Women BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161

Adjust Your Cardio. FINALLY, you must be thinking. When is she going to talk about cardio? What about cardio? I JUST … WANT … TO DO … CARDIO! (said only the crazies ever) Seriously though, as I mentioned earlier cardio should be the last thing that you manipulate. If everything else has been changed and you are still stalled in your weight loss ONLY THEN should you increase your cardio or try to implement HIIT/sprints. I would personally add in some sprints or HIIT sessions to your workout routines to increase your fat burning potential (compared to a lower intensity, yet longer duration cardio session). There has been plenty of research1 that shows how effective HIIT is at burning fat during and even continuing after the session. This same research shows that HIIT is not only effective in the short term but continues to be effective month after month (again more effective than steady state cardio).

All of this is not to say that you should only be doing HIIT. I am a firm believer in variety. That whole spice of life deal. Add in some LISS here and there. Personally I do this on my leg days, I’m beat enough as is after going ham on squats let alone killing myself with sprints. There is also MISS, which is honestly something that hasn’t been on my radar but is a strategy that I’m definitely going to tap into. MISS is medium intensity steady state cardio. The aim here is to keep your heart in the cardio range throughout the session. An example of this would be to take a long steady jog. Benefits of this are endurance training, especially those training for events like marathons or a Tough Mudder. If this is the only type of cardio being done note that there is a possibility of some muscle loss, however this is a side effect of weight loss in general.

If muscle retention/gain is a goal alongside weight loss then I’d highly recommend prioritizing HIIT and sprints2 as your primary form of cardio (specifically incorporating cycling over the treadmill if strength, endurance, and muscle retention is your top priority3).

Still Stuck? What happens if you’re still stuck? You’re tracking all you’re food, you’re eating healthy, you’ve manipulated your calories, you’ve lowered your calories (at a healthy level), and you’ve increased your cardio yet you are STILL stalled. What next? It may be time to evaluate what is going on inside of your body. Personally this is where I was. I tried everything yet I was still stuck so I started to look at what was going on inside of me, specifically my metabolism. Historically I don’t eat very much, especially for my height and weight. This, over time, has become the issue. My metabolism wasn’t functioning correctly due to the lack of food intake over time. Then on top of everything that I was doing I pushed myself even further into chaos. I’ve had to stop and reevaluate things to realize this and since then I’ve been taking steps to improve my metabolism and overall stomach health. It may not be your metabolism, it may be allergies or intolerances that you may not be aware of, or a number of other external variables that you haven’t noticed (one being stress which affects us in more ways than we sometimes like to admit).

This metabolism “rehab” is a journey that I’m still on. So I’ll let you know how it goes, however it is important to remember not to solely focus on our exterior to the point where we neglect what makes up our insides. We need to focus on being fit and healthy inside and out as our primary goal, then bring in goals like fat loss, muscle gain, and performance increases (etc.). Only then … (say it with me) … can we truly evolve.

 

 

1 Boutcher, Stephen H. “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss.” Journal of Obesity 2011. 868305 (2011): 10. NCBI

2 Naimo, M. A. et al. “High-intensity Interval Training Has Positive Effects on Performance In Ice Hockey Players.” International Journal of Sports Medicine 2015. 36(2001): 61-66. Thieme

3 Gergley JC. “Comparison of two lower-body modes of endurance training on lower-body strength development while concurrently training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23 3. (2009): 979-987. NCBI

Lessons Learned after Never Finishing a Program (Ever)

I’m someone who is on a constant hunt for the perfect program. I tend to get bored with a single routine after around three weeks, regardless of how interesting or varying the program may be. This leads me to ending it early just to jump on a new program every … single … time. I tell myself that I’ll stick through it this time. That this one will be different. Even for my four week programs … never. Over the years this has translated into trying quite a few different programs, experimenting with quite a few different techniques. Along the way I’ve learned a few things about programming and training as a whole.

Long term consistency is just as important as short term consistency. You always hear to stick with your programs through the end. I completely agree. To reap the full benefits of any program you should complete it to its end. I, however, am somehow unable accomplish this. I just get SO BORED! It’s a mental thing at this point, I get it, but a fact is still a fact. At first I would get really upset and down on myself for this trend. I thought I was a quitter, unable to complete even the most basic of tasks. However over time I realized that I was still making progress. I was still losing weight when I wanted to. I was still making strength gains when I wanted to. I was still learning a great deal about fitness, programming, nutrition and everything that comes with living a fit life. All of which would have also come with completing those extra few weeks of the program that I had skipped out on. At that point I stopped and looked at the bigger picture and realized that even though I was jumping around from program to program, I was still consistently in the gym day after day, week after week, building the body that I had been striving for all along. If you can do that, get in the gym on a consistent basis with some sort of goal, then regardless of programming I think you are doing an alright job.

I’d like to make special mention that the antonym to what I just said is getting in the gym, even consistently, with no purpose at all. It’s important to have some sort of purpose, a driving factor or goal that you are working towards. Otherwise we find ourselves aimlessly walking about, never really accomplishing anything in our sessions.

So note the difference, getting in the gym on a consistent basis with a set goal in mind (regardless of programming) tends to lead to expected results over the approach of consistently getting in the gym without a set goal in mind (i.e. lifting willy-nilly).

Lifters come in shades of grey. We are very quick to categorize ourselves, speaking in terms of “we” in regards to society as a whole. In this specific instance I mean categorizing the type of lifter that we are. Bodybuilder, Powerlifter, Crossfitter, etc. What I’ve learned in trying the various different programs that I’ve run is that I don’t fit into a box. My categorization is not that black or white, I’m better described in shades of grey. While I love the feeling of lifting something heavy, the essence of powerlifting, I also enjoy building and shaping my body to match the image that I see in my mind. On top of that I don’t only want to look good, I want to be able to perform in an athletic sense. I want to be able to run if I need to (zombie apocalypse I see you), row because it feels amazing, jump because I think it looks cool (just being honest … as well as the power benefits that this skill brings), and do anything else that in my mind an “athlete” would be able to do. I love pushing my body to its limits to see what I’m capable of. With all of that I don’t fit a single category, and I don’t have to! I do what I love and I love what I do. That’s all that should matter.

Just because you fail at a program once doesn’t mean you will fail at it for forever. The first time I tried the program Charlie Mike designed by Ashley Horner on Bodybuilding.com I failed at it. It’s a mix of the big 4 movements of Powerlifting followed immediately by intense conditioning and some Olympic lifts in quick succession. Those combined back to back was something that I had never done, and I’ll admit that my cardio is not the best so I struggled to the point of giving up entirely. Recently I decided that I needed a challenge so I decided to take on this program again. Now I’m doing it! I’m actually able to perform the movements as prescribed, and even though it’s exhausting, I can do it and I LOVE IT.

This is one of a few programs that I tried once, didn’t think I could complete, then later, after advancing my personal fitness, came back to crushed. Just because you fail at a program, or at anything in life, doesn’t mean that you will fail at it for forever. Always try again. Try again until you succeed, and if you love the program and want to do it again then go for it!

Don’t take the fact that you didn’t finish as a sign of complete failure. Everyone tends to hammer in over and over again not to start unless you are going to finish; that there isn’t a point. That you don’t want to become a FAILURE so finish what you started. While I agree that in the perfect world we will all finish the things that we start, the world isn’t perfect. Sometimes we just don’t finish; but should we take that as a sign of complete failure? Should we say that we shouldn’t have even tried to begin with? HELL NO! I’m much more of a big picture thinker in this aspect. I like to look at the journey that I’ve made, the knowledge that I’ve gained, and the things that I actually did accomplish (because I can guarantee that you accomplished at least one thing). Did I lose weight? Did I get stronger? Did I become more athletic (even if just a little)? Did I learn something? If yes then you succeeded at something, and usually that taste of success makes you keep on wanting to try again. Yes you quit your program, but you will take the things that you’ve gained along the way into your next program to propel you further than had you not tried at all.

Along the way I’ve lost weight, learned that I wanted to not only wanted the body of a muscular goddess (hey, we can all dream right?), started to become more athletic and learned that it is definitely something that I want to pursue. In trying a powerlifting program and seeing my strength spike I learned that I may have a potential just waiting to be tapped that makes me extremely excited, so I’m now choosing programs that allow me to lift heavy as well as progress my athleticism and gets me one step close to that goddess status.

Look at the bigger picture. We are constantly learning, regardless of what we do. If we harness that knowledge and take it with us wherever we go, in whatever we do, there is no telling what we can accomplish.

Kettle Bell (Only) Bicep Workout

Don’t have a gym membership but like to workout at home? Have a gym membership but it has minimal equipment? Have a membership to a great gym but it is packed 24/7 and you can’t get on the machines that you need? Or maybe you just don’t want to leave your home for your own reasons but you still need to get in that workout.

 

Regardless, I’ve got you. We are going to embark on a series of at home workouts that require minimal (if any) equipment to get around all of these situations so that we can always fit in our fitness. The series won’t be sequential, for those who this type of post doesn’t completely apply, so expect varying post topics spread between each series post. However for those that are interested let’s get into it.

 

The only piece of equipment that you’ll need for this is a kettle bell. If you have a gym membership then most gyms have a set. If you are at home it is a great piece of equipment to own. If it is your first, and you are only interested in getting one, I’d suggest getting one that is heavy enough that you can squat while holding it but light enough to curl with. This is a great starter kettle bell. Shapes, sizes, and colors are all up to your preference as in the end they won’t matter. Whatever gets you lifting is what you should get.

 

Today’s workout is for the bicep. I figured Friday would be a great day for a bicep workout as this is a bit of a vanity muscle that most young men squeeze in before going out at night for the extra pump effect. Why not save yourself some time by doing that workout at home, rather than the gym, this time around! For those of us who aren’t young men, this workout is just as applicable (we just might not be working out late night and then flexin’ on ’em 😉).

 

I’d recommend around three to four sets each exercise, and as many repetitions as you are comfortable with. For biceps I usually aim for around 10 – 15 as this is in the hypertrophy (muscle building) range. One word of caution, throughout all of these movements make sure not to let the kettle bell swing your entire body. You should be in control, not the kettle bell. A slight amount of movement back and forth is fine as long as the contraction is felt in the proper place (I specify where in the bicep each exercise is working) and cheating is not occurring. Remember to check out the Anatomy section of the site for an in depth look at the bicep. It may take some time to perfect this balance  of movement while finding your comfort zone, but once you find it you will know. Don’t let your ego take over, be humble and lighten the weight if you need to. I won’t judge you ☺️ .

 

Watch the workout on Instagram here for video examples of how to perform each movement! If you are a visual learner like me visual aids are essential.

 

Single Arm Kettle Bell Curl. Hold the kettle bell in one hand with your arm at your side. Make sure to have your wrist supinated, which basically means to have the palms facing upwards. Side Note: This twist in the wrist makes this movement a great bicep movement as supination is one of the primary functions of the bicep. Curl the kettle bell upwards in a controlled motion until you reach either 90 degrees or around 175 degrees, this is based on your preference. Once at the top of the movement lower the kettle bell to the original position, maintaining the controlled motion. Repeat for each arm. Think of a dumbbell bicep curl as a similar movement. In working the biceps unilaterally this will especially assist with anyone who observes imbalances in their muscles. If one bicep is slightly larger than the other feel free to do extra repetitions on the smaller side. Over time the muscles should even out. All unilateral movements provide this flexibility.

 

Two Arm Kettle Bell Curl. This is essentially the same movement as the single arm curl except you will be holding the kettle bell with both arms and curling up and back down, continuing with the controlled motion. This is similar to a barbell curl and will allow you to go heavy. The benefit of being able to increase the weight here is to build overall mass on the bicep.

 

Hammer Kettle Bell Curl. Hold the kettle bell by the handle on its side in a fashion that your wrists are neutral yet comfortable. This is a neutral position versus supinated or pronated. I was able to do this two different ways so find a way that is most comfortable for you while you can still perform the movement. The most important aspect is that your wrists are neutral throughout the movement. This allows you to target the long head of the bicep and the brachialis (the overall length and bulk of the biceps, not the peak). To perform the movement, keep the wrists neutral and curl up in a controlled motion. Similar to the regular curl stop at either 90 or 175 degrees then return to the original, end position in a controlled motion. Repeat for each arm.

 

Eccentric Focused Kettle Bell Curl. This motion is performed similar to the single arm kettle bell curl, except on the downward motion(i.e. the eccentric motion) of the lift take 3x as long as you took to raise the kettle bell. The tempo should be 1-1-3 (take 1 second to raise the kettle bell, 1 second at the top, and then 3 seconds to lower the kettle bell). Repeat for each arm. Feel free to take longer than three seconds, this is simply a minimum amount of time. This extends the overall time under tension, which is another way of increasing and/or varying stress on the body. This means that rather than constantly increasing weight as a means of taxing the body for the purpose of your various fitness goals, try to keep the weight and repetitions the same and simply alter the speed of the motion. The speed can be altered either on the concentric/upwards motion or the eccentric/downwards motion or both. We often shift weight, sets, and repetitions, but we never think to change our speed, which also massively affects our time under tension. In addition to time under tension, there has been research that proves that the muscle fibers are stressed more during eccentric movements which equates to greater muscular strength and growth. That is the purpose of this variation.

 

Kettle Bell Drag Curl. Hold the kettlebell in one hand at your side with wrists supinated. This is the same beginning position as the Single Arm Kettle Bell Curl. Begin the motion by dragging the kettle bell up your side, maintaining the supinated wrist position. Your elbows should bend as the motion continues. The top of the motion ends depending on your flexibility, but it should be around the bottom of your chest. Once at the top lower the kettle bell back down the same path down your side, in a controlled motion. Repeat for each arm. This motion works the short head of the bicep, which is the peak that most of us admire as well as aim to get. Side Tip: Another motion that will work the peak is a concentration curl which can also be performed with a kettle bell.

 

Kettle Bell Curl Complex. This one is for fun and variation. It has all of the benefits of the Single Arm Curl as well as the Two Arm Curl in one, as well as being able to mix things up and do something a little more technical at the end of your workout. If you are like me you want your last exercise to hammer and exhaust whatever muscle you’re working out to the point that you know that you have no option but to be done. I may be crazy but I like leaving my workouts satisfied, and nothing makes me feel so more than knowing that I could do absolutely nothing more. To perform this movement start with a Single Arm Kettle Bell Curl, then once at the bottom of the movement immediately switch to a Two Arm Kettle Bell Curl by grabbing a hold of the kettle bell with both arms and curling. Once complete with the Two Arm Kettle Bell Curl switch to the opposite arm and perform a Single Arm Curl. Once complete begin the return process by performing a Two Arm Kettle Bell Curl, then return to the original arm and do another single arm kettle bell curl. For the first two sets of this choose a reasonable repetition range for your fitness level. For the last set repeat the complex to failure. This is the burnout finisher that should push you to your failure point but leave you feeling satisfied, knowing that you killed this workout.

 

Give this workout a try and let me know what you think! Also look forward to the rest of the series going over workouts for the rest of the body requiring minimal to no equipment so you can evolve your attitude, evolve your body, and evolve your life.

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Gym Bag Essentials

If you’ve been here with me for the last few weeks I think you know by now that I’m an avid gym attendee. If you are new here then welcome! I’m an avid gym attendee!

Now that that’s covered some might be wondering what to take to the gym? What goes in the all-important gym bag? We can’t prepare for every single situation in the world, but we also shouldn’t be switching out the contents every single day (at least I don’t … I’m all about working for my gains but that’s a bit of a stretch). What most of us look for is a happy medium between the two. A bag that we can take every day that doesn’t require a large amount of maintenance, except for the one off workout in which you do something that requires a special equipment that you might bring for that day alone. I don’t claim to be the one authority on gym bags, but I can tell you what’s in my gym bag and what I would recommend for you to bring in yours. I’ve included some nice to haves in the event that you do the similar type of training that I do (a hybrid hodge-podge of weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, and overall athletic training).

Sneakers. I aim to wear sneakers that on one end provide enough support that I can walk or run on the treadmill without injuring my feet and lower back, yet on the other end are also flat enough that they can be used for deadlifts and squats. With these types of lifts you want as flat of a shoe as possible (think Converse) so that you have a solid base. The solid base is so that when you are pressing downwards to gain leverage you aren’t trying to press through an inch of rubber. You want as little of that pressure and force to be sacrificed so that this power can be used for the lift. Ideally you could just bring two pairs of shoes and change throughout your workout, but I’m a tiny bit lazy and I don’t like to sacrifice the space in my bag for that. So I look for a balance; a multipurpose shoe that can fit both of my needs. So far I’ve been able to find it without issue and without seriously affecting my workouts.

Water Bottle. Gaaaaattttorrraaaddddeeeee. H2O. Gaaaattttttoooooorrrraaaaaddddeeee. H2O! Whew. Sorry. I had to get that Waterboy quote out of my system. Hopefully you understood that quote if not … don’t worry about it. I’ll just continue to be weird over here in my little corner of the internet. I don’t mind ☺️.

We often forget how important hydration is to an effective and efficient workout. Dehydration can occur easily without us knowing, and when it does it can significantly decrease our performance. I personally try to drink at least 2.1 L of water a day while others aim for upwards of 2 gallons a day. The water bottle that I bring to the gym to help me reach this goal is rather large, because I’m forever thirsty, but I’ve made sure that it is small enough in terms of circumference that it fits into the cup holders on each of the machines. This allows for maximum convenience and accessibility while using equipment so I’m more likely to drink the water I’ve brought rather than let it sit on the floor throughout the entire workout getting warm. You never want to be mid-run and parched but not be able to hydrate because your water bottle didn’t fit into the cup holder.

Headphones. I personally keep two pairs of headphones in my bag. One pair are bluetooth that are my main pair so I don’t need to worry about the cord getting in the way; you only have to knock your phone off of the treadmill one too many times and watch it drop down and then fly backwards behind you because you hit the cord on accident to invest in a pair of bluetooth headphones. The other are a pair of regular aux corded headphones in the event that the bluetooth headphones inevitably die. You never want to do cardio without headphones … RIP you if you have to do cardio in silence.

For me those three items are all I need to get into the gym and get in a good session. The following are some nice to haves to elevate your fitness game.

Pre-workout. I do the majority of my workouts at 5:30 AM so a pre-workout or caffeine of some sort is essential. This can be in the form of an official pre-workout blend, a fat burner to get the heart rate pumping (because in reality that’s what a fat burner does, it increases your heart rate. It’s not some magical recipe for burning fat), or simply caffeine … because caffeine. No seriously, caffeine has been proven to not only wake you up but also increase the metabolism (if an infrequent user), work the central nervous system by recruiting muscle fibers and exciting the spinal cord while lowering perceptions of fatigue and muscle pain, improve sports performance, and increase the heart rate which, similar to fat burners, means an additional amount of calories are going to be burned with exercise.

With all of this said there should never be a time in which you rely on a pre-workout to get into the gym. If you ever find yourself taking a pre-workout (or any supplement) as motivation to get into the gym then stop taking it. This is where an unhealthy dependency begins to take place. You should be looking within for fitness motivation, not on external, chemical motivation. They are called “supplements” for a reason.

Weight Belt. If you plan on doing heavy lifts such as deadlifts, squats, or overhead presses then a weight belt is extremely helpful. It will help to stabilize your core and help to keep you safe, however this is another situation in which you shouldn’t overly rely on external assistance. For instance depending on your personal fitness abilities, you probably shouldn’t be wearing your belt when squatting the bar. The aim is to build up your core strength. When you get to a point in which you feel too unstable then begin to wear the belt. You should continue to test your core strength to ensure that you aren’t wearing it unnecessarily. Don’t expect to gain a lot of weight on your lifts when going from not wearing a belt to wearing a belt, this is a common misconception. You may gain a few pounds, but you shouldn’t solely rely on this to advance your progress. It is an aid.

I mention the three movements above, however if there is ever a movement in which you don’t feel stable then it may be a good idea to wear a belt. A common movement in which people wear belts is while bench pressing heavy. You should follow your personal preference with this. For additional tips on how to wear a weight belt see the Rhino Fitness Evolution Instagram. Link found below or here.

Knee Sleeves (Wraps)/Elbow Sleeves (Wraps)/Wrist Wraps. Similar to a weight belt all of these pieces of protective equipment are optional, should not be solely relied on to advance major weight on your lifts, and should be used based on your personal preferences. I personally love using knee sleeves. I’m extremely pigeon toed, I’m slightly bow-legged, and I experience severe shin splints. I’ve also had heel and minor knee issues while growing up. Regardless of all of this I love to cycle, row, and I’m trying to run as much as I can (when my shin splints aren’t slowing me down). I know that I need to protect my knees if I want to have the type of longevity on my fitness career that I want. This is why I wear my knee sleeves. Others have had previous wrist injuries that have prompted their use of wrist wraps, while others just prefer to wear elbow sleeves for the security because they feel shaky while benching. As I mentioned before we shouldn’t be relying on these to perform the lift properly (outside of serious injuries), however if they can help to protect us and make us safer then their use is highly encouraged.

Fitness Tracker/Heart Rate Monitor. It’s important to have an effective workout, be it in 30 minutes or 3 hours. To do this we should keep our heart rates up (unless there are other specific goals in mind). This is why I like to keep a heart rate monitor or fitness tracker on me at all times. I personally have a Fitbit Charge 2 HR and I love it. I can keep track of every workout that I do, my heart rate throughout the workout to ensure I’m exerting the proper amount of effort (and if I’m not you bet I’m pushing myself harder!), and the calories exerted throughout the workout, to name a few of my favorite features. In addition to overall workout data and the generalized data that it compiles throughout the day, I like the fact that I can integrate it with the other apps that I use like MyFitnessPal to track my food intake so I’m positive that I’ve maintained my calorie deficit or surplus, depending on my personalized goals. With the built in tracker goals it is extremely satisfying to see that I’ve met my step, stair, calorie, mile, and exercise goal for the day and week. Oh gamification, you’re so effective!

Protein. I know that the “anabolic window” is a bit of a controversial topic, but I’m on side of getting it in when you can. I’m not about to run to my locker, pushing down the elderly lady that’s in my way, just so that I can suck down that protein shake and not lose my precious gains. I mentioned that I workout in the mornings so when I’m done I head home, get ready for work, then make my breakfast that is rich in protein. I get it when I get it. I’ll leave this one up to you as well, it is quite convenient to have protein with you in case you aren’t going straight home or are going to be out and about all day. It’s also nice if you’re worried that you won’t meet your protein intake for the day.

These are the items that when I’m asked what are the “essential” pieces of gym gear, or even the “nice to haves”, that I would respond with. However while these items are all nice to have, and they may make your gym/fitness experience a little more nice, they are not absolutely necessary. All you need to fit fitness into your life is you. You don’t need any fancy accessories, equipment, or even a gym. All you need is you.

Do You Even Bench? (How To Start, Improve & Evolve)

Monday, International Chest Day; synonyms with Bench Day. A movement loved to point that the majority of the fitness industry beings it’s week with it. It’s one of the first movements that men flock to when they walk into the gym, other than the bicep curl, and a movement that they continue to hit session after session in their journey to attain the perfect muscular frame. At the same time it’s a movement that we as women tend to shy away from. Maybe it’s because we fear we don’t have the upper body strength for it, that we can’t complete the movement, or maybe we plain just don’t like doing it. Whatever the reason we should be doing it. It’s a great compound movement essential for chest, shoulder, and triceps development. It also helps to increase your overall power, essential for training, and increases bone density in the bones involved while benching (bone cells deposit bone tissue in the arm, hand, shoulder, and chest bones).

Rhino, you might be saying, I already do bench! That’s great, keep it up! One question though, are you performing the movement correctly? If you aren’t sure, or if you aren’t performing it at all, then that’s what this post is all about … if you hadn’t already read the title and jumped right in you eager beaver!

Check out a quick video demonstration with queues here.

1. Lay back on the bench. I like to have my eyes right under the bar. This varies slightly with every bench, so get adjusted before unracking the bar, but keep this as a general rule.

2. Once you are lying correctly place your feet firmly on the floor and keep them there. Don’t tap dance and move your feet around throughout the movement. Your feet are meant to stabilize you, so let them.

3. Next notice that your butt is on the bench. Keep it there. No matter how difficult and heavy the weight gets do not let your butt leave the bench until you complete the lift. In powerlifting this disqualifies the lift entirely. You may not be powerlifting but you should want to perform the movement properly, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this, so keep your butt on the bench. For advanced lifters using your posterior chain as a leverage can be advantageous. This enables the butt to stay on the bench throughout the lift, yet still use your legs and hips to help propel the bar upwards from the bottom of the movement. This is a bit tricky to master but you will be surprised how much this adds to your lift.

4. This next one is based on your preferences. You can arch your back or choose not to. Powerlifters and those who lift with a strength training mindset will tend bench with an arch in their back. This decreases the range of motion, meaning that they will be able to lift more weight. In addition it transfers the weight being lifted from being primarily on the pectoral muscles to spreading to the shoulders and the triceps. This means that they will be able to push much more weight on the bar.

All of these points translate to major benefits during powerlifting competitions, however they might not be appealing for a bodybuilder or average lifter looking to improve their appearance. Lifters with these goals will want to bench with a flat back. While this lengthens the range of motion it also transfers the weight back to the pectoral muscles, which sets them up for greater overall development of the muscle as they desire. Don’t worry, the assisting shoulder and triceps will also be developed. I personally sit a little in the middle. With this approach I find that I can reap the benefits of both worlds. As I said, this is all based on your personal preference.

5. Grab the bar in your hands and take a deep breath outwards. You should be inhaling but not sucking your stomach in. Notice how my stomach expands outwards as I inhale. I know this isn’t the prettiest but it’s effective that’s going to lift the weight not pretty, not that we can’t be pretty at the same time! The reason we expand outwards is to brace the core. Think of this as part of your foundation. You don’t want a shaky foundation while you are trying to perform anything. You want to be as solid as possible. So take a deep breath outwards and brace your core.

6. Before you lift off (lift the bar off the rack) contract and bring your scapulas together. You can also imagine pinching your traps (trapezius muscle) together as if to hold a piece of paper in the middle of it. This should create a tight firmness, a solidity, in your upper back. If you are having trouble feeling this another queue that helps is to imagine bending the bar around your chest starting with the pinkies. This should queue your traps and scapulas to contract. All of this, including bracing the core and planting your butt and feet, is to build that solid foundation so no matter what weight we throw on the bar your foundation can take it on and conquer it.

7. Now that we have a solid foundation we will lift off, this can be done on our own or with a spot. Lower the bar in a controlled motion to the lower part of your chest. Don’t let the bar drop with gravity, you should be in control. Stop when the bar touches your chest. This is the bottom of the motion. You’ll notice that this isn’t a straight up and down movement. The bar will move in a diagonal path, this is normal.

8. Raise the bar back up in a controlled motion and end with your elbows locked. This is the top of the motion.

9. You’re done! Great job!

Common Mistakes

Holding the Bar with Too Close Grip. This can contribute to wrist and shoulder pain. The hand placement should be a bit outside of shoulder width with the elbows still bent. I personally make sure that the line on the bar is in line with my index finger. I am a little taller than 5’7″, to give you an idea of my wing span.

Lowering the Bar Too High on Chest. Many lower the bar from the upper chest all the way up to the neck. This can contribute to shoulder pain. The bar should be lowered to your lower chest, near the bottom of the breast.

Butt Lift-Off. While using your posterior chain can be advantageous, some lifters raise up off the bench entirely while pressing upwards. This does nothing for you whether you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or casual lifter. Keep your butt down or get out of town (sorry, I had to).

Hopefully you found this helpful. The bench press is one of the essential compound movements that everyone can benefit from. So let’s get past any stigmas that exist and get better! Evolve your attitude. Evolve your body. Evolve your life. #RhinoFitnessEvolution

Can I Get a Little Confidence?

Years ago I did a free one week trial at a popular commercial gym to see if it was the gym for me. I remember walking in bright eyed and bushy tailed thinking I had finally made it. All of the fitness articles I had been reading had culminated to that moment, that I would finally be able to mold the body I had wanted with the equipment at my fingertips. I grabbed my first barbell, raised it quickly above my head and held it there looking straight ahead. I had caught sight of myself in the long, full body mirror on the wall. In that moment seconds froze as I hyper analyzed every inch of myself, over correcting to the point of obsession. All of a sudden it dawned on me, everyone around me (all of whom were much more advanced than me) could also be hyper analyzing me just as I had been doing to myself. I had to get away from there. I ran to a corner far away from people, but I felt like I couldn’t escape it. No matter where I went in that gym I felt like I was suffocating in judgment. I got out as fast as I could and didn’t go back for over a year.

 

I had a major case of gym phobia fueled by a severe lack of self-confidence. I see now that those people could care less what I was doing, it was all on me and my confidence. Once I gained confidence in myself and my abilities I was able to enter the gym again and now it is hands down my favorite place to be. This is a major transformation fueled by confidence. So how does one get this kind of confidence in regards to the gym and fitness (because believe me, my personality has a night and day difference when it comes to being in and out of the gym)?

 

Remember Why You Started. Was it to lose weight? To feel better about yourself? To get better at a sport or endurance performance? Competing? Maybe to fit into that perfect outfit for that perfect day, even if that perfect day is any day? Or what gets me into the gym, to become the you that you see when you close your eyes? Whatever it is remember it and hold it close. Use it as fuel to get you in the gym, on the court, track or field and get going.

 

Block Out the Haters. The gym should be your place of refuge, your zen zone, the place you go to escape the troubles of the outside world. Don’t let the actions or perceived thoughts of others keep you from your zen. Ignorance is everywhere. If you do encounter someone who isn’t the nicest then brush it off and don’t let it ruin your workout. They may incorrectly, and ignorantly, assume that you don’t belong in the gym. No one has the right to say that ANYONE doesn’t belong in the gym. Politely show them that they are wrong by continuing to perform your prescribed movements correctly, with proper form, using weight that is appropriate for you (overzealous ego will get any of us hurt), and do it all with confidence. This will send the gym hater skirting away, with their ego slowly deflating, hopefully to the point in which it should be. One workout essential for me is headphones, I keep two in my gym bag just in case. Put them on, blast your favorite pump up music, get your head in the game and keep it there.

 

Educate Yourself. Something that has helped me feel more confident has been to educate myself on fitness in general. This can include workout techniques, muscular functions, machine functions, overall gym etiquette, etc. This helps enormously with confidence in the gym. For example I know that when I walk up to do a bench press (a movement many shy away from) that I’m not only activating my chest, but I’m also activating my shoulders, triceps, and biceps, making this a compound movement meaning it should go first in my workout rather than later on. I plan on posting more about proper technique and exercises so look out for that, there may be a video or two as well. Educating yourself on muscular function as well as machines turns into having a list of alternative exercises for machines, cables, and barbells/dumbbells when any are taken on a busy day at the gym or you are just looking for some variety. This means no more aimlessly wandering around not knowing what to do and/or getting an awful workout while taking hours. Proper education translates to better workouts, both of which will do wonders for confidence.

 

You do You. Don’t pay attention to others in the gym and try to mimic what they are doing. You came in for reason; be confident in what you are doing. We’ve all seen the gym goer walk up to a machine you’ve used a thousand times before and use it in a completely different way than you. They are swinging aggressively back and forth out of control. Most of the time we know better than to do what they are doing, however this is an extreme example. They aren’t always this extreme but we should treat them as such. Stick to your guns and you do you. There is the situation where every once in a while someone does something with a machine that is so creatively genius that it blows your mind, and if you happen to have educated yourself you will know why they are doing it and what they are working out. This is the exception. When you see something new and creative, you actually understand how it will physically help your muscular function/ physique (i.e. you genuinely understand what they are doing and you don’t just want to “look cool”), you can perform it safely, and you have room for it in your routine. Maybe next week try it out on your given day that it applies to if you have room in your routine and if it makes sense for you. Overall have confidence to do what you came into the gym to do, but don’t be afraid to expand your repertoire knowing well enough to block out bad form.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things and Fail. Failure is a part of trying new things. You should expect it at some point. Don’t necessarily wait for it, because then your anxiety will become out of control. If you never begin something new because you are afraid to fail, you will never begin anything at all. Think of all the people who will have begun today while you wait and wait, a month from now they will have made changes they will be proud of while you sit and drown in your anxiety. A year from now they will look at progress pictures and bask in excitement and the significance of their journey, a journey you could have been on had you started. Sure they failed, they probably failed many times, but it’s not about the failures. It’s about getting up and continuing on when you fail. You will be so much more proud of the times that you kept going when you tripped and the times that you stood up when you fell than the times that you kept running. All you have to do is get at it.

 

Have Fun. Last but not least have fun with it. No matter what you are doing this for, even if it is for a competition, have fun with it. I will guarantee you that a judge will see the confidence on your face more if you step up, relax, and have fun rather than freak out with anxiety and dread. Imagine that facial expression difference. Now take that difference and translate it in and out of the gym. You are going to enjoy your gym sessions and benefit from them so much more if you have fun with it. I said it before, the gym is my refuge, my place of zen. I have fun with my workouts. I get that emotional release and calming aspect from it. When you freak out and panic it elicits every negative emotion that come to you. Save yourself from that and don’t worry about it. We all have bad days or bad workouts. It will be okay. Tomorrow is another day. So relax, take a deep breath, get back in there (or just get it in there) and have fun!

 

Evolve your attitude. Evolve your body. Evolve your life.

Welcome!

Welcome to Rhino Fitness! My name is Anjelica (aka Rhino) and I’ve dedicated the majority of my free time to fitness. This includes working out, engaging in physically demanding activities, researching fitness related topics to educate myself, and watching fitness movies and YouTube channels. No matter what it is I can’t get enough. 9/10 if you ask what I’m thinking about it’s going to be fitness, either that or puppies … but we won’t delve into that obsession …

The other day I had an idea. I wanted an easier way for my S.O. and I to view each of our workout routines on the go that I had made for us; outside of Excel as there were formatting issues that my OCD nature just couldn’t handle. That is where this site came from. First the two programs were loaded, then I figured it’s not enough to simply follow a program blindly, you should know what you are doing (that whole teach a man to fish thing). Thus came the exercise database and anatomy lessons sections. However what if you come here and have questions? What if you misinterpret some of the topics found within the site or simply want more? What if you don’t care at all??? Well, I can’t help if you don’t care … maybe leave and have a nice day? Regarding the others though, the blog section was born. This section is aimed to supplement the rest of the site, providing additional information and topics related to fitness that may be of interest to you.

I hope you are excited as I am as we embark on this journey together! If you haven’t already please check out the other sections of the site. They hold some pretty good information on anatomy and various training options.

Let’s Get It!