Are you meeting your goals in the gym?
Are you stronger, more mobile, more injury resistant with less fat and more muscle? If yes to all the above then keep on doing whatever it is you’re doing! It’s clearly working for you. If not then one possible avenue of exploration is to take a hard look at your programming. The shortest path to meeting your goals is to have a plan! Mind blowing I know. It’s far more productive and more interesting than 30 minutes of treadmill drudgery or whatever old routine is comfortable and safe. I’m going to share with you the fitness template that has helped me get stronger, leaner, more mobile and healthier at 40 than I ever hoped to be at 20. It’s also the template I’ve successfully implemented with all client populations whether old, young, athletic or injured.
Movements over Muscles
I’m admittedly not the sharpest crayon in the box but if I have any super power at all it is to recognize and implement good ideas when I see them. So when the idea of “movements over muscles” kept popping up in my reading, I knew something was there. Mike Boyle, Gary Gray, Coach Remedios, Alwyn Cosgrove, Gray Cook, Thomas Myers and many more espoused this concept in various iterations but when I read the book “Ultimate Athleticism” by Max Shank it all codified in my head into something simple that translated both in and out of the gym. The trick is to stop thinking in terms of individual exercises but instead of movement categories. If this concept is new to you it might take a while to get a hold on the particulars but the journey is worthwhile as autonomous movement and the realization of your health, fitness and aesthetic goals lie at the other end.
Strength Training done right
Below is the base template with video links to an example program. We will be using bodyweight and kettlebell movements for this example but the implement is arbitrary...The movement category is key. If kettlebells aren’t your speed then feel free to insert any exercise that feels good to you but remember to STAY IN THE CATEGORY! That’s the secret sauce. That’s what keeps you balanced, injury free and killing it for years to come. Also DON’T SKIP THE INTEGRATED MOBILITY! We all have knick knack injuries we are working through or trouble spots that need to be strengthened. Get some active rest and work on your business!
Basic Strength Training Template
D1) "Conditioning" (kettlebell swing interval)
What exactly are movement categories?
Movement Category #1: Pulls and pushes
The core of this template are pulls and pushes. An upper body pull is anything you pull with your hands toward your body. Think all rowing variations or pull-up variations. An upper body push is anything you push away from yourself with your arms. Think pushups, bench press or overhead presses.
A lower body pull is anything you primarily use your glutes and hamstrings for. Think all deadlift variations, hamstring curls or other hip hinging type movements. A lower body push is anything you primarily use your quadriceps for. Think all squatting or lunging patterns.
Movement Category #2: Combination and Power
Combination movements are full body exercises that introduces load to the body and gets everything working as a synergy. Think farmer walks and all other carry variations, crawling variations, Turkish get ups, squats + presses or any other movement that combines two movements into one.
Power movements are explosive movements where you do something quickly. Think kettlebell swings, all jumping variations, med ball throws or any other activity where you move a relatively light object quickly.
Movement Category #3: Core
Many definitions exist for the core but for our purposes we can define it simply as all muscles attaching to and stabilizing the pelvis and low back. Think all planking variations, rollouts and mountain climbers. The one rule here is to generally look for movements that stabilize the spine and avoid ones that overly flex the spine.
Movement Category #4: Mobility
We will practice integrated mobility in this template by replacing any rest time with active recovery prehab movements. If you have some knees that are talking to you or a low back that’s been a little spicy recently then this is your time to work on it. These movements can generally be any active stretching, static stretching, activation drill or breathing reset. If you are unsure what to do then a good default is to take whatever joint is getting a little salty and take it through a full range of motion via joint circles. Shoulder, knee, ankle and neck circles are wonderful for your joints as they encourage blood flow, proprioception, and removal of waste products. Don’t underestimate the circle!
Movement Category #5: Metabolic
The metabolic finisher will be a simple interval sequence. Intervals are efficient, effective and tend to be a bit more orthopedically friendly than pounding the pavement for miles on end. The trick here is to pick the right movement and the right work to rest ratio. You want a movement that you can get your heart rate up with so sprints, jump rope, squat jumps, kettlebell swings etc...are all good choices here. The work to rest ratio is something you have to play with but I find that starting with a 1:2 work to rest ratio is a good starting point from which to progress. So if you choose a kettlebell swing for example then you will perform the swing for 30 seconds rest for 60 seconds and repeat. Decrease the rest or increase the work for more of a challenge.
How many Sets and Reps?
Set and rep schemes are a big topic that we can unpack at a future date. In general though it can be said that all rep schemes are valid and will produce different results. Squatting for 5 is way different hit to the system than squatting for 20 so feel free to mix it up. Stick with a particular scheme for 3-4 weeks and then switch it up. With respect to sets I find that setting an amount of time for each superset or tri-set is efficient. Start with setting a timer for 10 minutes for the “A” section, 15 minutes for each the “B” and “C” sections and 10 minutes for the “D” section. Complete as many rounds of each section as you are able and move on when the timer goes off. This will get you in and out of the gym in under an hour. Enjoy!