Archive for toronto personal training

Building and Assessing Your Foundation

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on November 7, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I think it’s always good to be aware of what makes up the foundation of your health, movement, training, etc. Generally with health we can get into nutrition, social and emotional factors of weight, diet, training, and body image, and training factors like muscle imbalances or rest and recovery.

That’s a lot to get into, so I just want to focus on the physical body and the way it moves. There are a lot of opinions out there about the different basics that make up a workout, and what level of function a person has within different movements.

Gray Cook and Lee Burton and the rest of the minds behind the Functional Movement Screen have come up with a great resource to assess the way a person moves, and direct further attention to the areas of need. It is not the be all and end all of performance training but a good starting point.

I want to take a different approach and talk about an exercise/movement that can serve both as an assessment and practice for developing many of these basic movement patterns. In fact, I know it’s something that Gray values very much in his work for these reasons.

It is called the Turkish Getup and is an exercise that comes from the Kettlebell world. It’s important to note that it is also possible to do the exercises with a dumbell, so if you don’t have access to kettelebells regularly, don’t lose any sleep over it. In a nutshell, the TGU is an exercise where you start in a supine position (laying on your back) with the kettlebell overhead, and must work your way up to your feet, with the kettlebell above you at all times.

Here are some points as to why I love this movement so much. It utilizes some of the key aspects of body control that everyone should possess. The ability to roll/twist, keep your shoulder blades stable throughout a complex movement, use your glutes to create stability and movement, and an ability to keep your torso rigid through coordination of your core muscles. Having a person go through the TGU can either show me areas where they are weak, or give me an opportunity to have them ‘figure out’ through some cueing, ways in which to develop these basic characteristics.

Here are some brief pointers about the journey from supine to standing…

Step 1

Start with the kettlebell above you, with your arm extended, and your shoulder packed in tight. Bend the leg on the same side of your body as the kettlebell is, and have your foot flat on the ground. The other arm and leg are both extended. NOTE: The arm that starts extended should ALWAYS stay extended, and the foot on the ground should stay in that place for the whole movement.

Let’s imagine the kettlebell is in the right hand.

When you are ready, you are going to ‘crunch and punch’ the kettlebell up, while also rolling onto your left elbow.

Step 2

You are going to reach up again with your right arm, and extend your left arm underneath you, so you are resting on your left hand, both arms extended.

Step 3

You are going to push your right foot down  into the ground, contract your glutes and hamstring, and try to fully extend your right hip. This full extension is crucial for providing space for the next step

Step 4

With your hips up in the air, you are going to try to pull your left leg under your body and place your knee on the ground between your left hand and right foot. Your upper body should look like a T.

Step 5

Now you are going lift your torso so its tall, with your right arm back overhead, and left arm at your side. You are also going to turn your left knee so it is facing forward again and you are in a half-kneeling position.

Step 6

Now you need to pushoff with your legs and rise to a standing position with feet beside each, and arm still overhead.

Step 7

Now repeat all of steps 1-6 in reverse, to get back to the starting position properly.

Here are a couple videos I have made to show the technique. Notice that there should always be a slight pause between each step, so that a proper foundation can be set before proceeding with the next movement. With this move we are looking for stability in each position, not speed.

It’s About Getting Better!

New Things are Happening!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

It’s a really exciting time for me this fall. Not only am I finishing up my first semester of a Masters of Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) with a great program at Edith Cowan University, but i’ve also joined forces with some extremely bright and talented professionals. I am happy to announce that I am working as an Athletic Development specialist at FITS in Toronto. FITS was started by Dr. Thomas Lam who is just an absolute pro, with a background of knowledge and experience that is world-class, in rehab and performance enhancement. He is going to have an enormous influence as a mentor and teacher for me, as I continue on my journey to become a true expert in this field!

I will continue to provide content here as well as provide content for FITS so keep an eye on that as well.

Do any of you guys have any exciting changes coming up?

Let me leave you with a video of my training partner Mike and his recent demolition of his previous pull PR! We’ve been crushing it lately in the gym and its showing!!

Cory Kennedy

Miracles are meant for the movies…

Posted in Health with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I can never truly decide what people believe. I always assume that they don’t believe the commercials, the tabloids, and some of the daytime talk shows. Unfortunately, I think many still do. There is no acai berry secret weight loss diet. There is no grapefruit makes-my-belly-go-away diet. Body transformation is about making the difficult decisions on a daily basis, not miracles. Here are the major keys to changing the way you look, feel, and perform. You can’t follow one and not the others, they all interact together.

Don't even think about it

Nutrition – You can’t get lean without it, but you can stay lean with low levels of exercise if nutrition is spot on. Ask a professional for some input about the ways that you can manipulate your diet to enhance fat-burning, muscle building, and recovery. Once you get the ‘rules’, it’s about keeping disciplined. There will be at least one tough decision per day about a snack, or meal that you want to buy instead of eating at home, or eating something you packed. Those tough decisions are the ones that lead to great results. If you are willing to invest in your health and body, go here and buy their system. It is probably the best combination of educational materials about nutrition, rules to follow, cooking instructions, and of course delicious recipes. Don’t worry about calories, worry about eating quality foods with as few ingredients as possible! The portions will take care of themselves. One thing you want to avoid, is cutting out all fats. I know a lot of people do fat free in everything and get blinded by calories and grams of fat. There are essential fatty acids that your body needs on a regular basis. Also, making sure you have plenty of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids can actually promote fat loss, so keep them in your plan! [If you don’t ingest healthy fats in your diet, your body will assume you’re not getting any and hold on to the fat you have!]

Exercise – Everyone always wants that perfect fat-burning workout. There are many ways to skin a cat. I’m not saying that you can’t program for fat loss, but for most people, they don’t need to get too specific. It’s always about moving more and sitting less. Also, you could probably use a boost in intensity. Intervals over steady-state cardio might give you a big performance boost if you aren’t used to that type intensity from your conditioning work. Adding in a brisk walk every other day, especially in a fasted state (like before breakfast!) can do wonders for increasing fat loss during a transformation. For your weight training, there are a few different strategies that work. You can do circuits and complexes that essentially combine intervals with resistance training, or you can focus on hypertrophy and strength and just make sure you are doing some conditioning work later. Sometimes it takes introducing loads your body has never felt before to see change, whether its getting big or leaning out.

Recovery  – The biggest key to making exercise and physical activity a regular part of your life, is being able to recover optimally from each training session. Being sore and tired just discourages you from being active again. Invest in the little things like foam rollers, massage sticks, lacrosse balls, and stretching bands. Do this work regularly. It helps keep you injury free and reduces stress on the body’s tissues. You want to feel as good after you train as you did before, so that tomorrow you are excited and motivated to be active again. Contrast baths/showers are also effective, as are saunas and focused work from a soft-tissue specialist/manual therapist. Since most people should have a good list of dynamic warmup exercises to get them ready to train each day and maximize range of motion in their joints, having a workout where you cycle through all of these a couple times for 30 minutes is a great way to enhance recovery, practice certain athletic positions and improve blood flow throughout your body. If you want a good self-help guide to soft-tissue work, check out this amazing project.

Supplements – This is the one we’ve been waiting for. What is Kim Kardashian taking these days? Brad Pitt? Chaz Bono? Well, I’m not entirely sure, and at least one of them probably requires a prescription. This section is the most optional of them all. You can use certain supplements to help boost progress, but its the first category you can do without if you are on a budget or merely simplifying your approach. As always multivitamins should be a staple for anyone active. Cover your bases. Next is a decent protein powder. You should carry around 3-4 scoops in a ziploc bag or a piece of tupperware, so that you are ready in case you get hungry at a time when a snack isn’t packed. It’s also good when you are travelling, as you really only need water and a bottle to make it work. Fish oil pills or liquids provide those essential fatty acids I talked about earlier, which are very important for staying healthy and burning body fat. I highly recommend these ones. Green tea and green tea extract are helpful supplements, just remember the active ingredient, ECGC works synergistically with caffeine, so a good cup of brewed green tea is the best choice. Other than that, go check out this article to find out more about peri-workout nutrition.

The Good Stuff

Stress/Sleep – Finally, the more stress you carry, the harder it is to transform your body, therefore, meditate, drink tea, read, get a massage, and most importantly sleep. Sleep is where most of the body’s adaptation to exercise occurs, so it’s imperative that you get plenty of it. Don’t forget to smile. You get to choose whether a particular event will bum you out or if you’ll shrug it off and get back to work. Don’t take everything too seriously, it may be wearing your body down!

I know this one was a little long, i just wanted to remind all of you that when you are looking to accomplish something with your health and performance, it is important to remember that it is a JOURNEY, not a quick program or supplement. Live hypertrophy, live fat-loss, live high performance. You can’t have it both ways. Plan for it all!

It’s About Getting Better!

The King of Exercises

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I’d love to start this off by saying how important deadlifts are for increasing strength and power, which translates directly to speed on the field, ice, and track. Here at REP that’s not our style though. What is more important about deadlifting is how crucial it is for EVERYBODY to move better and restore balance to your body. It is crucial to get out of constant hip flexion by introducing the best hip extension exercise. It combines a hip hinge and a squat pattern, two basic moves that everybody should master for physical literacy, yet with most clients, these are missing. If you aren’t comfortable doing a deadlift, or aren’t 100% sure you are GREAT at them, go see a pro and get some work in. If the deadlift is the ‘King of Exercises’ then a poorly executed deadlift just might be the ‘Kingpin of Exercises’, the mob boss responsible for crime and destruction on the streets…or your tissues…

The Basics

You want to set up behind the bar with feet about shoulder width apart. This stance should be more narrow than a squat. The bar should be right up to your shins. Play around with your grip (you can use double overhand or alternating grip… I’d suggest staying with double overhand until it starts to get too heavy) width to find what feels most comfortable.

The Setup

I just gave you the basics of positioning, so now let’s talk approach. From a standing position, make sure your chin is tucked down and core is engaged. Next, sit down a little bit, like a quarter squat, by pushing the hips back. Then you will hinge at the hip and place your hands on the bar. You should be looking at a spot on the ground about 3-4 feet in front of you, not at your feet.

The Lift

When you are executing the lift, there are 3 things that we absolutely don’t want. First, is your hips and shoulders rising separately. This will put a ton of strain on your back if your hips pop up, then your shoulders start to come up. Second is any major lumbar flexion throughout the lift. A lot of times, if your hips pop up first, then you are likely going to go into lumbar flexion, since your spinal erectors are rarely strong enough to lift the weight on their own. Third is an exaggeration at the lockout position of lumbar extension or cervical extension. You do not need to lean back to make sure it’s complete. Your shoulders should not end up behind your bum (looking from the side). We are looking for hip extension, not lumbar extension. Full hip extension should leave you locked out in a straight line, head to toe. With the neck, some people look way up to the sky for this same purpose. Don’t do it. Leave the chin tucked and the neck in neutral.

One of my favourite cues for having a well-coordinated lift off, is to try ‘pre-lifting’ the upper back/shoulders. This tends to give the stiffness in the arms and upper body that you need to ensure your legs do most of the lifting.

Here are a couple of videos that you can look at to help give you an idea of what to do…

(Unfortunately the above video was filmed before I understood the importance of neck packing; the chin should be tucked more than it is in this video for a straighter spine)

RECAP

Some key points about deadlifting…

  • A 2x body weight deadlift is the bare minimum for any elite athlete.
  • Anybody who lifts regularly, no matter the age or athletic status, should be able to deadlift body weight
  • You do not need to go into hard lumbar extension to exaggerate the finish.
  • You can put serious mass on through your legs and upper back with deadlifts
  • If you don’t use straps, your grip strength will fly through the roof!
  • They do contribute greatly to the ability to jump and sprint
  • They are probably the best full-body posture exercise out there

If you don’t deadlift, start now. Get someone to look at your technique. Learn how a good deadlift FEELS then you can start progressing up in weight. Make them a cornerstone of your programming.

It’s About Getting Better!

Grip it and Rip it!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

As you’ve probably noticed, many of the articles I write come from real world examples. Something in the gym or on the street which tells me that the public is dying for certain information. In this case, this article was sparked by some guys I saw training in the gym the other night. No, not the guy who was doing Barbell Military Press in the squat rack on a Bosu ball, that’s not worth an article; it was the 2 guys working hard but wearing lifting straps for their ENTIRE workout. Are lifting straps bad? Not necessarily, but they can have their place and are definitely not needed. They aren’t making you better as an athlete.

When it comes to separating yourself from other athletes, you need to start focusing on the little things that can make a big difference. In this case, what is being lost by these two young lifters is their grip. Grip strength is essential in any sport or activity in which you need to pull on anything or at the very least maintain a hold on something. So basically, grip is important for nearly every sport out there. Another way I like to look at it is, your hands are your point of contact for many actions and thus are a necessity for transferring power. Look at any climbing or pulling activity, what will monster lats or scapular retractors do when you can no longer hold on or maintain a tight grip? Nothing. The importance of a strong grip can be seen throughout most major sports. As a safety in football, tackling was a big part of my game. There are many times when saving a touchdown means pulling a guy down by his jersey. A strong grip could be the difference between winning and losing; a weak grip and the guy scores, a strong grip and they’re forced to punt. So ask yourself, when’s the last time you focused on your grip training?

How does your grip compare?

Before I get into specific exercises you can introduce  for your grip, let’s first look at what you can do to your existing program to help your grip get stronger. First off, ditch the straps. The more work you do with straps, the more your grip will lag in the future. If you’re training pulling exercises, all the muscles along the chain needed to be working, especially your hands and forearms. Sure, your grip is going to suffer a little early on, but how much you can hold with your hands will demonstrate your applicable/functional strength. Sure you can row 200lbs with straps on, but can you grab a 200lb running back and pull him down? Probably not, which makes your training somewhat useless.  Do yourself a favour and ditch the straps and anything else that will give you an “aid”. Choose bars/grips/tools that will make your grip work harder. Whenever possible, use barbells or dumbbells over machines, especially for any pulling. Next, try to use a handle that will require more grip: fat bars, added grips, towels.

If you’ve already started making the most of your programming but still want more grip work, you can add more exercises. One of the most underrated exercises out there is amazing for grip – Farmers Walks. Just adding farmers walks once or twice per week at the end of your workout will work wonders for your grip. Grab two fairly heavy dumbbells and do 3 sets of approx. 20 metres.

Farmers Walk for Grip Strength

Other exercises include pull ups, Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlift, DB 1-arm row, heavy shrugs, and plate pinches. All of these excercises will place a tremendous amount of stress on your grip.

The last option to improve your grip is to incorporate new tools into your grip training.

Gripper – The first tool would be to use heavy grippers. I’m not talking about going to walmart and buying a gripper, I’m talking about Elitefts for some heavy duty grippers. Look for something between 100lb-300lb.

Rice Bucket – Find a big pail and add at least 10lbs of cheap white rice. Once or twice a weak go through a circuit of various grip exercises using the rice bucket. This is popular with strongman competitors and baseball players.

Thick Grip – These tools can be added to barbells and dumbbells to create a thick bar response without having to own multiple thick bars. Options include: Tyler Grips, Grip4orce, Fat Gripz.

Now all you have to do is take some of this information and build yourself a crushing grip!

It’s About Getting Better!

Information Overload

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , on August 16, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

If there is one thing I dislike about being part of the health/fitness/training/performance industry, it’s the way information is taken and used. We have so many credible professionals working in the field with countless degrees and hours upon hours spent learning and researching the human body and methods to change it;  yet, that doesn’t stop everybody else from sharing their views on what is right or wrong in the gym. This KILLS ME! When it comes to teeth, people will refer to a dentist. For most people, they will leave car repairs to the mechanics. In the spring, our taxes get sent to the accountants. For training advice? Ask anyone and they’ll have an opinion on what is right or what is wrong. Here are my two favourite gym personas.

The Hater

We all know a few of these. In fact, we have all probably been this person before at some time or another. The hater loves to watch somebody else workout, then trash every part of what they are doing. I’m not saying that said exerciser is perfect by any means, but The Hater is usually not qualified to decide that they know better. Yet here they are, high and mighty, insisting that they definitely know better. Meanwhile, the organization or commitment to any training program for The Hater is usually scattered at best.

The Helper

For the most part, getting help from someone who knows better is awesome, and should be taken well, unless you are a stubborn mule who refuses help for anything. The Helper goes beyond this. The Helper has learned enough to know better, but not enough to keep his mouth shut. Instead of distributing hints or tips to some of the local gym buddies, The Helper insists that his way is the only way, and takes it upon himself to let EVERYONE in the gym know why they aren’t exceeding expectations right now. The Helper doesn’t take into account programming goals and individual differences because he doesn’t take the time to find out your back story. He merely inserts himself into your workout with his ‘can’t-lose’ training nugget and insists it is appropriate and a guaranteed improvement.

Realistically, nothing is going to change anytime soon, because very few people are willing to admit when they are wrong. Ideally though, these things will start to happen in the near future…

1) Experts who can walk the walk will use appropriate tact when offering help, and understand there is a time and a place for it

2) Anybody who is not a certified trainer will understand that while they may have some useful tips for other gym-goers, they don’t necessarily know better

3) Even those people who have a basic knowledge in training can see the benefit in seeing an expert every now and again to refine their approach and technique

For many of us, training is a legitimate field of expertise with a very high level of scientific knowledge and experience providing the foundation.  I look forward to a day where this is recognized by a lot of people not just a select few.

It’s About Getting Better!

Use the Buddy System

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , on August 12, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

This isn’t a new concept, but I still see lots of athletes training by themselves. There’s no way that having a good strong training partner won’t help you push harder. Eric Cressey recently put up a post illustrating how a good partner can be effective HERE . It wasn’t actually Eric’s post that reminded me about the importance of a training partner though, it was a couple other little fellows.

Notice how this guy doesn’t monkey around! While his partner just lies there, he tries to motivate him to get more work in!! Although, maybe he should’ve started with planks…

What else should you look for in a training partner? What are more benefits to having one?

Check Out the Training Partner Article Previously Posted.
Remember,

It’s About Getting Better!

(And sometimes you need help along the way)

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