My favorite kind of torture is opening up the shoulders and thoracic spine. And, of course, I mean torture in the most beneficial sense of the word.
Thoracic immobility is a major problem for many people, including us fitness types. Chances are that you find yourself hunched over your trusty laptop at least once per day. Over time this can lead to a more permanent rounding of the spine called kyphosis, which is not only unsightly, but can also lead to a host of other issues and discomfort.
Check out some of my favorite thoracic opening moves below and I encourage you to start adding these in to your daily routine.
As I exhale, I extend over the foam roller. I run through this a few times, and then move into overhead reach, using the barbell as a grip. The goal is to move the hands as close together as possible during upward scapular rotation. Note that my ribs stay down and aligned with my pelvis.
This second position is advanced, so ease into...
The dead bug exercise is so versatile that it complements the novice to the advanced workout routine. The key to the dead bug, regardless of the level, is bracing. If you tend to go into hyper extension then exhale hard as you extend the arms and legs to draw the abdomen into the spine. Only lower the limbs as far as they will go before you lose core bracing. Over time as you grow stronger and more stable your limbs will extend farther toward the floor.
If you are new to deadbugs, check out the detailed tutorial HERE before progressing to the intermediate variations below.
This intermediate level dead bug incorporates a band Pallof press hold with overhead reach.
This is the heavy weight contender of dead bugs, with added ankle weights. As you can see in the video, I begin the movement with ankle weights first and then add back in the band. This helps create a safe and proper movement...
Tempo deadlifts are a great way to work on form and technique and they can also help you overcome sticking points. The eccentric pause not only can improve overall strength, but also promotes hypertrophy.
In this video, I have a 3 sec concentric tempo (may have cheated as this is my last set) using a lighter load (205lbs) with a 2 sec eccentric pause at the knees.
Add this accessory movement using a moderate rep range of 6-10. Remember the slower you go, the less load you use.
See where I'm going with this? Pauses can be an effective way to help you build strength and blow past your sticking points. Try Eccentric Pauses with these other lifts as well:
Pausing creates quite a burn but it will be well worth it.
Ready to sculpt a beautiful back and shoulders? Then look no further than these unique upper body exercises. All you need is a light pair of weights and a resistance band with handles. We recommend the versatile Black Mountain Resistance Band Set.
Straight-arm pulldowns are often thought of as an arms exercise, but it's a great accessory move for the lats. I like using a hip hinge position with these to obtain a greater ROM with shoulder extension-- which helps to move the biceps into a secondary mover position so you can use the lats as the prime movers. Try adding 3 sets of 10 to your next workout.
This is a deceivingly challenging exercise called the Blackbird.
Use small plates or light dumbbells. Don't try to be cool and go heavy. You may even want to start with bodyweight and just get the movement down. Bodyweight alone can be taxing if done correctly.
Hinge at the hips and soften the knees a bit....
I love experimenting with new quick workouts that I can implement when I'm short on time or in a rush. I try to do as much with as little equipment as possible so these two workouts fit the bill.
This is an ode to my friend, Ben Bruno, as he is the king of landmine exercises.
10 lunge (right)
10 half-kneeling shoulder press (right)
10 lunge (left)
10 half-kneeling shoulder press (left)
10 straight arm rotation
Work straight through each set without rest. Rest 1-2 min between rounds for a total of 3-4 rounds.
Grab a med ball of any size. I used 15 lbs. in this video. Perform each exercise and it's given reps consecutively without rest. Once you finish that last plank toe lift, rest for 1-2 minutes. Repeat for 3 total rounds.
5 Goblet squat/rear lunge combo
5 Reverse wood chop each side
5 Med ball push-up each side
5 Med ball plank with toe lift each side
Give these a try next time you are low on...
I love suspension trainers. I typically implement suspension exercises into my routine, but it's nice to have a full TRX (Jungle Gym) workout when you're in a time crunch.
This one I like to call Glute/Core 180, because you perform 180 reps. Perform each exercise and it's given reps consecutively without rest. Once you finish that last rep, rest 1-2 minute and repeat for 3 total rounds.
10 prone leg curl
10 hip bridge
20 mountain climber
05 jack knife
10 plank double hip abduction
Burn baby burn! Have fun with this!
Kick your workouts up a notch with these creative variations of some of our favorite exercises. All you need is your trusty resistance band and a solid mind-muscle connection and your booty will be on the road to a #glutepumpfordays. Give these a try and let me know what you think!
I love reverse hypers, but don't have room in my gym for a GHD. This is my alternative. Place one end of a band under your flat bench and the other mid-foot on both feet. Scoot your hips so the bench is nestled right in the joint and hold on tight. If your bench is light, place weight or another human on the other end.
This variation is definitely my new fav.
For the first part, press up though the scapula to go into thoracic extension, drawing the knee into the chest with a deep inhale so that your abdomen draws in and hallows. Hold for a couple of seconds and kick back hard, using the core to brace so you avoid going into extension....
Dumbbell pullovers are a bodybuilder's secret to great pecs, but they also work the lats and serratus anterior. This version uses a vertical bench.
If you can do overhead presses and pull ups or lat pulldowns, then the shoulders should be fine for this exercise. If you have shoulder issues, take precautions.
Stretch as deep as you can, exhaling as the weight moves behind the head. Throw this on as accessory work at the end of your routine, working in a higher rep range.
Ready to take things up a step? Try this version which allows for a deeper overhead reach. Bonus glute work from a glute isometric squeeze is always a plus when it comes to any exercise.
Push-ups and planks go hand-in-hand. You can get into a strong push-up position by starting from a kneeling plank rather than pushing up into position from the floor.
Here is a quick video that walks you through how I like to set up. Exercises are only going to be as successful as your set up. Get strong in those planks and it will transfer to your push-up strength.
Hey, it’s dinner time! Guess what that means? Pull out the old scale, the measuring cup and the calculator. Don’t forget the tracking app you have downloaded on your phone. Who’s ready to dig in? When you write it all down, calorie counting doesn’t seem so fun after all. In fact, it seems kind of like a job. A boring one. Then what happens when you go out to eat? Or you’re in a hurry (which is 95% of your week)?
Rather than stressing over exact measurements for all your food, give two thumbs up to this quick trick method. All you need is your hands. If you eat four times per day— which is the typical breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner—then this method will set your mind at easy:
Eat 1 palm-sized protein dense portion per meal;
Eat 1 fist-sized vegetable portion for at least 3 of those meals;
Eat 1 cupped hand-sized portion of a carb dense for at least 2 of those meals;
Workouts that work for you.
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