Pushups: It has been my observation that only an extremely small portion of the adult population in the US can even do one single push-up at this point.
I can’t tell you many dozens of times I’ve had this verbatim conversation with a male client on his first day to train with me:
Me: Can you do a push-up?
Client: Yeah of course!! (ie: what a stupid question, why would you ever ask that??)
Me: Ok, how many pushups do you think you can do?
Client: At least 20-25
Me: Ok great.
5 minutes later - after we finish the initial fitness consultation/goal discussion etc and start our first workout.
I have them get down on the floor to try pushups and - trying with all their might - they get exactly ZERO pushups. Zero.
It’s always a humiliating moment for them as they are absolutely baffled as the reality sinks in. Last time they checked (20 years ago when they were 20 years old) they could do at least a couple dozen pushups...and they just assumed that they still could today 20 years later.
I have observed that the fitness gap between trained and untrained people is massive. Astoundingly massive. People who are out of shape generally don’t have any idea just how our of shape they are. Then they just show up to the gym and say “I want to lose 50lbs ASAP.”
Then I have to break the news to them that their body is 1) not even currently capable of performing the exercise necessary to achieve that goal at the speed they desire and 2) if they actually did try pushing they body hard enough to achieve such weight loss quickly, they would likely get themselves injured because their connective tissues are all weak, inflexible, and vulnerable - making them seriously susceptible to injury.
I then have to explain that we:
It is never a fun conversation. Not at all. Thankfully, I have found that most adults who come to me are mature enough, and have been successful in other areas of their life, to actually digest the information well and immediately recognize the truth of the reality that I am explaining.
They didn’t get fat and weak overnight and they’re not going to get lean and strong overnight either.
It may have taken them 20 years to get as out of shape as they are. It won’t take 20 years to get back in shape of course. But it won’t take 20 weeks either. It’s going to take at least a couple of years of serious effort to get them to a point
It’s not different than any other area of life...
Rust and rot destroy. A garden untended, fills with weeds. A bank account that is withdrawn on continuously - but never deposited into - runs dry. These are simply realities of life on earth.
When items are left unmaintained, they fall apart. Rebuilding them is not easy.
However maintenance is fairly easy. But it requires consistency. And consistency requires discipline.
Discipline. Not a fun word, I know. But it’s life. And unfortunately the facts don’t care how we feel about them. They are not sensitive. They just ARE.
We can deny them - to our own detriment. Or accept them - and do what it takes to cooperate with them - and flourish.
Training that is addressed with an approach to applicability to real life can really make a massive impact in your day to day life as it can make it easier to lift objects of all sorts and sizes, easier to maintain balance in a situation where most people would fall, make it easier to jump or step up onto high surfaces when no regular steps are available, or even make it easier to chase down you kid when you're walking with them and they suddenly bolt off.
The reality is that training that take a practical approach to fitness can really be useful. Not only that, but if the body is trained to perform well at the tasks it was designed to do, it should not be surprising that it will end up looking pretty darn good too as a natural side effect!
If you will simply focus intelligently on the function, you will be blown away at the appearance changes that can take place as well.
So make your body more useful in 2016 and see what a difference it makes in your life!
We recently got a Glute Ham Developer at our gym. Ok, so lemme tell you the short version...it is AWESOME!!!
The longer version is that it provides a host of ways to strengthen your hip extension power which is the primary driver of explosive total body power and functional strength. That's on top of the fact that at its core, this is a bodyweight strength based apparatus and each exercise that can be performed on it must first be mastered with your bodyweight before moving on to weighted versions.
The hips are what drive dozens of crucial athletic moves such as:
Beyond that, the hips are what drive primary lifting strength when lifting and object from the ground. The hips and core are truly where you make or break your functional strength.
You can have strong arms and legs but if your hips and core are jello then there is nothing to tie it all together and make it actually work in any kind of integrated functionally useful manner.
A list of just a few of the excellent exercises that can be performed on the Glute Ham Developer:
We've all been there. We hit the wall on a set of a strength exercise such as dips, squats, pulldowns, rows, or whatever the exercise happens to be. We've run out of gas and just can't get another rep.
Well, often times you can get another rep...sometime even two more reps.
If you'll do two simple things, often times you can get another rep or even two more reps when you thought you had reached your limit.
Its as simple as this:
The way it works is this:
The core (abdominal area of the body) stabilizes your spine. When your spine is stable, your nervous system tells your muscles that its safe to contract at maximum force because the spine is stable and safe. So by activating your core intensely you are essentially telling the body that the spine is stable and that its okay to contract your muscles at their absolute maximum intensity.
Gripping your hands tightly stimulates the nervous system and the nervous system is what stimulates your muscles to contract. By tightening your grip, you intensify whatever other muscles contraction you are engaging in elsewhere in the body.
These two little tricks are simple. But they are highly effective.
Try them next time you get stuck on a rep and see what happens. you won't be disappointed.
When I was growing up there was often a phrase my friends and I would use to describe the unexplainable level of strength that many old dudes we knew seemed to have: "Old Man Strength" is what we called it.
We didn't know what caused it but we certainly noticed that our coaches, our dad's, our friends' dads, grandpas, etc, etc could all just grab us when we were misbehaving and immediately render us harmless with their seemingly iron grip. It didn't matter how skinny or old they were or how little muscle they seemed to have; they could almost always manhandle us even when we were lifting big weights in high school and thought we were strong.
The reality is that these old men had super strong hands from many years of labor and regardless of how much muscle we had packed on in football off-season, our hands had not had the level of training that these men had. We'd been working all of our big muscles while holding a skinny little barbell. That's fine of course, nothing wrong with that. The only issue is that very few things in life are shaped like that skinny little barbell which allows you to wrap your fingers all the way around it giving your a solid hold on the weight.
When you're doing things in real life, most things have odd shapes and textures which requires the hands to grip in many different ways. There are
The list could go on forever, but the point is that in real life, the hands have to hold a variety of different objects with a variety of different shapes and if you have strengthen your whole body without deliberately strengthening your hands as well through various gripping exercises then the strength that you have developed in the gym won't be much use to you in real life.
Hand strength is the great limiting factor in the transition from gym strength to real life strength for most people. Don't be one of them. Train your hands deliberately and make your strength useful to real life.
Not everybody wants to be ultra-strong. Some people just want to be able to play with their kids, throw the ball with them, wrestle with them, run around the back yard with them, etc.
As basic as this goal may sound, a large portion of adults in the United States today are not capable of doing this without risking injuring themselves because of the deconditioning that their bodies have undergone through years and years of sedentary living.
Plenty of people, on the other hand, exercise regularly, look the part and yet still find themselves incapable of partaking in such simple activities as playing athletically with their kids because of a lack of flexibility and functional strength and agility. These people have spent hours on the weight equipment and cardio machines at the gym and yet have ultimately not found what they have achieved to have actually impacted their functional bodyweight strength in any significant way.
This all goes back to what the goal initially was and whether the training approach reflected that goal. If agility, flexibility, balance, and strength relative to body size are the goals then sitting down on a weight machine and pushing the weights through their predetermined range of motion with the machine stabilizing the weight for you is not going to result in achieving your goal. In fact utilizing machines with the hopes of gaining true useful bodyweight strength may actually be detrimental to your chances of accomplishing that goal. The reasons for that are specifically what we'll discuss in the next post.