Category Archives: Strength and Conditioning

More Human Flag!

Human flag with legs tuckedEditors Note: Click the words Human Flag Training for a newer, more thorough post on this topic.

The human flag is one the greatest tests of strength known to mankind. Some people would see that as something to shy away from.

I see it as a challenge!

The textbook form for a human flag involves keeping your arms straight and you body parallel to the ground. Like this guy.

On the way there, easier variations (flag with tucked legs, higher angle, etc) can act as precursors to the textbook flag position.

While I believe that everyone has the potential to perform at least some variation of a human flag, most people will be convinced that it is impossible for them upon their first attempt.

However, if you endeavor with patience and dedication, that which was once deemed impossible can become reality!

Watch the clip below to see more of my human flag training:


Working your Biceps and Triceps

Gun showAnyone can get tickets, but if you want to be IN the gun show, you gotta earn it!

The biceps curl is one of the most popular and famous exercises that there is, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the most efficient.

Personally, I prefer compound exercises like pull-ups and rows. Funny thing is, if you do pull-ups or rows, you’re already doing bicep curls.

Think about the motion your arm does when you do a curl. Now think about a pull-up. The same activity is happening at the elbow joint: flexion.

The only difference is that when you do a pull-up or a row, you’re also working the muscles of your back and shoulders. That sounds more efficient to me. There are so many variations on pull-ups and rows (such as the Australian pull-up) that you can keep yourself busy for a while without having to concern yourself with isolating your biceps.

You can do pushups at home.  It's no big deal.

You can do pushups at home. It's no big deal.

Triceps extensions are pretty much the same story.

The triceps muscles are activated any time you extend the lower half of your arm away from the top half.

If you do compound movements like push-ups, overhead presses, and dips, you work your triceps PLUS a whole slew of other muscles.

Pullovers are another great triceps exercise. (Plus they work many other muscles!)

In the world of bodybuilding/training for pure aesthetics, I will grant that curls and tricep extentions have their place. (Bodybuilders still do pull-ups, too, though!)

However, if performance is a higher priority, then you’re better off focusing on compound movements. Don’t worry–you’ll still be able to get into the gun show!

Jumping Rope for Cardio

Jump Rope Cardio
Jumping rope is not just for kids. It’s a fantastic way to build stamina and athleticism, plus it’s a great method for burning fat.

In fact, it’s one of the best forms of cardio conditioning out there–way better than a treadmill or elliptical trainer.

Jumping rope can also have a huge impact on improving your coordination and agility.

You can probably expect to get winded and feel uncoordinated the first time you try jumping rope for cardio, but after a few sessions you will start to get the hang of it.

Basic Jump Rope Techniques
The first thing to learn is the standard two-foot jump. Start with the rope behind your heels, then whip in over your head and jump over it with both feet at the same time. If you are brand new to this, it might be best to just practice single jumps, resetting your rope after each rep. Eventually the aim is to transition from jump to jump as smoothly as possible.

Once you get that move down, you can try alternating feet like you are jogging in place while the rope passes beneath you on each step.

Crossovers and Double Unders
After you’re comfortable with the basics, you can start to play around with crossover jumps. This means you switch the position of both hands to the opposite sides, so your left hand winds up outside your right hip and your right hand is outside your left hip. It takes focus and coordination to get the timing right for this one, so be prepared to put in some practice before you will be able to perform them consistently. Also be prepared that you may need to jump a bit higher in order to stay in the air long enough to cross your hands back and forth between jumps.

A double under refers to a jump in which the rope goes underneath the feet of the jumper twice during a single leap. In order to perform a successful double under, you’ll need to whip the rope extremely quickly and jump higher than normal to make room for the rope to pass beneath you twice before you land.

Programming Your Jump Rope Workout
In the beginning, I suggest simply practicing the basic techniques before you worry about any specific programming. You can practice for a few minutes at the start of your workout as a warm-up, or do it at the end. You can also do it on a separate day entirely. As long as you get it in, when you do it is up to you.

Once can comfortably jump continuously for at least 60 seconds, you can try doing intervals where you alternate between one minute of jumping and one minute or rest. Keeping that pace up for 20 minutes can be surprisingly tough at first! As your technique and conditioning improve, you can aim to make your jumping intervals longer and your breaks shorter. You can also increase the length of your sessions.

For variety’s sake, I recommend practicing some crossovers and double unders, particularly during longer sessions. Be aware that these moves will be more tiring, however, so you may need to adjust your work-to-rest ratio to account for this. One of my favorite ways to practice crossovers and double unders is simply to pick a total number to aim for in a single session, then hit that target in as many sets as it takes, with as many breaks as needed. At first, you might aim to perform just 10 of each in a given session, as you will miss many of your early attempts and expend a lot of energy doing so. As you get more proficient, you can increase that number to 100 or more.

Check out the video below for more:

If you want to get a jump rope like mine, check out Crossrope.

My MMA Workout w/ Matt Ruskin

Kettlebell rowEverybody needs training–even me.

Luckily, I got to be on the other end of a training session recently–with Matt Ruskin, an MMA fighter, ex-marine, and all around badass.

Matt took me a bit out of my element by giving me an MMA (mixed martial arts) style workout. As he points out, “MMA training challenges your equilibrium by constantly making you switch from being on the ground to being on your feet.”

The exercises we did all involve explosive changes in direction, and when all was said and done, I was pretty beat.

Watch the video below to see how it went:


Starting position for a pullover--note the open grip.

Starting position for a pullover--note the open grip.

Most of my clients tend to whine (to varying degrees) about doing exercises such as lunges, or step-ups. Today’s exercise, however, is one of the few that people actually seem to like doing!

Pullovers work your chest, back, shoulders, triceps, and abs, as well as other stabilizer muscles.

To do a pullover, start by lying down on a bench, with a dumbbell over your chest.

Lower the weight back behind your head in a slow, controlled fashion while taking a deep breath in. Exhale through your mouth while pulling the weight back up and over.

Lower the weight slowly and with control.

Lower the weight slowly and with control.

If you want to emphasize more of your chest and triceps, keep your elbows close together; to put more emphasis on your back muscles, keep your elbows out wider.

I usually like to do pullovers with a dumbbell, using an open grip, which involves putting both hands flat against the bottom of the dumbbell and curling your fingers around the edge. Pullovers can be done with a barbell as well, which allows you to experiment with a wider grip.

Pullovers are typically performed on a bench, although you can do them on a stability ball to add more of a core challenge.

Trainer Tips:
If you are more interested in putting mass on your upper body, then the bench is the way to go. When you do a pullover on a ball, you will have to use a lighter weight to account for the added stability factor, which makes the focus of the exercise less on building raw strength.

Pullovers might not be appropriate for people with certain types of shoulder injuries. Check with your trainer or doctor if you have a history of shoulder problems before doing this exercise.

Getting Started in the New Year

outsideChristmas and New Year’s have come and gone and now the aftermath of all the partying and pastry eating is probably evident on the scale. Even if you haven’t needed to move down a notch on your belt, the new year is always a great time to renew your interest in fitness.

That’s right folks, it’s time to get focused on exercise again–after all, it is going to be summer before you know it. If you’re planning a trip to the beach when it gets hot, better start planning to put in some work at the gym now. Not that vanity is necessarily the best motivation, but I digress.

jumpingIf you’re reading this at all, that’s a good start. It means you must have a desire to improve yourself–and that’s the first step!

So maybe you have the desire to improve your fitness level, but you don’t know where to get started. Well you don’t necessarily need to join a fancy gym or hire a trainer (although those things are nice!), because I will show you some quick exercises that you can do without eating up a lot of your precious time or spending any money.

There is no excuse not to exercise!

In the video clip below, I demonstrate 3 basic exercises, with variations for different fitness levels, that you can do at a local park or even at home. Remember to dress appropriately for the cold weather when you are working out outdoors this winter.


One Arm Australian Pull-ups and More!

When doing a one arm Australian pull-up, you are down under the bar

When you do a one arm Australian pull-up,
you wind up down under the bar!

Last month I gave you some tips to get started on building up to one arm pull-ups. Here are three more tools to have in your arsenal along the way.

The One Arm Australian

The one arm Australian pull-up is a worthwhile exercise in its own right, though it’s never been one of my favorites. However, it can be a useful tool to help build towards a classic one arm pull-up. Since at least one leg stays on the ground, it is a little easier to perform than a regular one arm pull-up.

When attempting the one arm Australian pull-up, concentrate on engaging your abs and your back muscles–don’t just focus on using your bicep strength. Remember that when you do a one arm Australian, it’s natural for your body to roll a little bit in the direction of you arm.

Keep your whole body tight when performing a one arm flex hang

Keep your whole body tight when performing a one arm flex hang

The One Arm Flex Hang

The flex hang, which involves holding your body at the top of a pullup position, is commonly used to build strengh and endurance in the upper body. Female marines are required to perform a flex hang in order to prove themselves worthy of that title.

The flex hang can also be performed using only one arm. At first, I recommend keeping your legs tucked close to your body as it will allow you to engage more core strength. As you get better you can try practicing with your legs extended.

Weighted Pull-ups
Weighted pull-ups are another great way to build the strength that you’ll need to perform a one arm pull-up. Just like the one arm pull-down, pick a weight that you are only able to get around 3 reps with. Going for a one rep max on this is also beneficial, but make sure that you are warmed up first!

Don’t assume that you need to be strong enough to pull double your body weight with two arms in order for it to carry over into a one arm pull. Once you can do weighted pull-ups with around 65-75% of your body weight, that will roughly translate into a one arm chin-up.

Keep in Mind
It’s important to mention when discussing one arm pull-ups (of any kind) that your secondary arm does not touch your primary arm in any way. It can be stiff against the body or it can be out in the air, but if you are holding your arm or wrist you are not doing a true one arm chin.

The one arm pull-up (or chin-up) is a very elusive move and requires a lot of patience, consistency, and dedication. So the question you need to ask yourself is this: How badly do you want it?

Watch this video for demonstrations and more!

Plyo Pistols

Fire that pistol!

Fire that pistol!

I am always seeking out new physical challenges and the pistol squat is one of my favorite exercises. So when I came across this video of Steve Cotter doing jumping pistol squats onto a ridiculously high step, I decided that was a skill I wanted in my arsenal.

Of course there’s only one way to make that happen–practice!

The box that I am jumping onto isn’t nearly as high as Steve’s, but I am just starting out! Gotta keep practicing–It’s always a work in progress!

Keep in mind that doing this sort of thing at all is still a very advanced technique. The more difficult the physical challenges get, the more careful you need to be of the risks involved. You should probably first get comfortable with plyometrics and pistol squats on their own before combining the two.

Check out the video below for more!

The Double Kettlebell Get-Up

Two Kettle Get up Last month I introduced you to one of my favorite exercises, The Turkish Get-Up.

In today’s video, I attempt a new feat of strength–performing the Turkish get-up with two kettlebells in one hand–The Double Kettlebell Get-Up.

Just holding on to both kettlebells at the same time is a challenge in its own right!

The combined weight of the two Kettlebells is 70 pounds. I weigh around 165 pounds, so it’s not quite half of my body weight. I’d love to eventually build up to doing a get-up with my entire body weight!

There’s always a new challenge out there–don’t get complacent with your workouts!

Running Accessories: Heart Rate Monitors

I'm in there somewhere In life, there are things that you need to have and there are things that are nice to have. You need basic things like food and shelter–we can’t survive without them.

On the other hand, luxuries like cell phones and elevators fall into the category of nice to have. Sometimes we feel like we need them–but we wouldn’t die without them.

In running, the only thing that you really need is your body itself. For me, that simplicity is part of the appeal of running.

Hopefully you have a body already, so let’s focus on some of the other things, the ones that are nice to have. Afterall, there is nothing wrong with having nice things.

Heart rate monitors typically have two components: a wristwatch and a chest strap.

Heart rate monitors typically have two components: a wristwatch and a chest strap.

Heart rate monitors allow you to gauge your intensity by telling you your average heartbeats per minute.

This can be be helpful if you have a tendency to sell yourself short and not push yourself hard enough. It can also be helpful if you are bad at pacing yourself and push too hard at the start.

The biggest drawback of wearing a heart rate monitor is that it can be uncomfortable, especially during longer runs. They often have an elastic band that wraps around your torso, which can get sweaty and start to feel heavy after several miles. Many heart rate monitors have other features as well, like calorie counters (which don’t always give accurate readings).

While heart rate monitors have their pros and cons, I think that they are overall a worthwhile accessory and can be a valuable performance tool. There are other means to track your intensity (like a simple wristwatch, for example), but the heart rate monitor is probably the most reliable, without being too much of a hassle.