As I said yesterday, some of the very best exercises that you can for your overall health, strength, and fitness are also the simplest ones. Case in point - the burpee - which I spoke about yesterday - so in case you missed yesterday's note, check the blog, and it'll be up there.
And some of these exercises are SO simple (in theory) that the gym-crazy populace would scoff at the mere thought of doing them. The burpee is one such "simple" exercise that has the potential to bring even the most 'roid-crazed gym monster to his knees within a matter of minutes, but it is by no means the only one.
This morning, I added in two such, simple, but extrememly demanding movements into my routine. These are the bear crawl, and the reverse bear crawl (also known as the "crab walk" in some circles). I cover the bear crawl in Fast and Furious Fitness, but there are many who have overlooked this wonderful exercise for the upper body. Big mistake - this seemingly simple movement adds in GREAT value to your routine - and whats more, it does so in less than a minute for most folks.
Don't believe me? Well, get on your hands and feet, and crawl around like a bear for a while. I'll bet you twenty smackers that the average person thats never done this before will be breathing heavily after about 20-25 seconds or so, and it'll take time for him to work up to a minute. Then do the same thing, only walking backwards. WHOA!
And thats just the start. When you think you've gotten good at it - try doing the same thing uphill. That one is enough to whoop even the fittest of us - I cover this routine in Fast and Furious Fitness as well.
And we haven't even gotten to the reverse bear crawl, which is a movement I do NOT recommend for those that are not good at the regular bear crawl. This one will have you panting within a matter of seconds - just holding the position is more than what most folks can do.
Now, as I said, I mixed these up into my regular routine, but believe me, if your just starting out (or if you haven't done these before), these two movements alone may well make up the majority of your workout, and you'd still be whooped pretty well when done. I've done these movements before - but I was still fried at the end of my workout. Combine this type of thing with burpees - and other exercises, as I did today, stick at it for a month or so, and you'll soon find yourself dropping waist sizes faster than you can say voila.
And that's just the part about dropping weight - you'll FEEL great as well. ANY exercise which causes you to huff and puff like a runaway locomotive will do that for you, and these are a few exercises that fit the bill perfectly. I should know - I'm feeling the positive energy pulsate through my veins right now, and this is an hour or so after my routine!
OK, enough for now, my friend. Have you ordered your copy of Fast and Furious Fitness yet?
Those that scoff at bodyweight exercises as being "too easy", or not "tough enough to build real strength", and so forth don't have a clue.
This morning, I did a "finisher" that I haven't done in a long, long time. A "finisher" in my book being an exercise that finishes my workout off - both literally and figuratively speaking - as one should have nothing left in the tank after a finisher". Now like I said, I hadn't done this particular movement in a very long time - it was one of those "forgotten" exercises (for me), you might say.
So I start. I pump out one rep, and think "ah, I can still do it. No problem". On to rep #2, which somehow didn't seem as easy. And so forth. The sweat started to roll off me like raindrops off a slanted roof after just a few reps. Each rep became progressively harder, until I stopped at rep #15 or so.My lungs were burning, and I felt like my legs were going to buckle under me at any moment.
"This is ONE evil exercise, buddy", my inner voice told me.
"It is for sure. Get on with it", I responded.
And get on with it I then did. I completed my first set, then did another two sets of these, before I was ready to shout "Uncle" (for the more imaginative of you out there, insert expletive of choice).
And this exercise, my friend, is something SO simple that you wouldn't believe it could provide such a hell of a workout. It's the much under-rated and oft-forgotten BURPEE - and it's a movement that can bring the fittest of us to our knees in less than two minutes flat.
What does the movement include? Well, simply put, you crouch down on the floor so that your hands are by your feet, and from that position, you move your feet back to a pushup position while keeping your hands at the same position. You do a pushup, immediately move your feet back to where they were, and then you jump up with arms extended as high as you can. That's one rep. You repeat for as many reps as possible.
Yes, it's simple enough - a pushup, jump and squat - I said the exercise was simple to start with - but does simple make it EASY? Not a chance, my friend, and for those of you that doubt, get down on the floor right now and pump out a set of 20, or whatever number you think might be challenging enough for you, and THEN let's talk. The exercise is aptly titled as well. . .those of you with excess flatulence or distended stomachs might even experience "relief" in a way, if you know what I'm talking about, hehe.
Now there are those that might say "15 reps? Pah! I could do more of those in my sleep". And while you might or might not be able to do burpees "in your sleep", remember that I'm doing this as a finisher. And for today, that meant doing it after 250 pushups (30 of which were handstand pushups) - which makes it a total of almost 300 pushups. NOT for the fainthearted, and certainly not for those looking for an "easy" workout.
And for those that are wondering, you can do this exercise both as a finisher, as well as part of your regular routine - your imagination is the only thing that limits you.
I don't cover this exercise in Fast and Furious Fitness, pretty much because I regard it as an advanced exercise of sorts, requiring a solid base to work upon, but I may well incorporate it into edition #2, which should have an "advanced" exercises section. Again, this movement is NOT for beginners - make sure you get good at doing regular pushups, jumping rope, and other things before attempting this one.
Well, my friend, there you have it - a simple movement that's enough to give you a solid overall workout. I'll cover more such movements in the future as well. For now though - have a great day - and remember that the SIMPLE things in life are often also the BEST!
PS: Building a solid base is easy enough if you have the right tools at your disposal - and Fast and Furious Fitness sure qualifies as the "right tool" to get the job done: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/83-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book
PS #2: For those of you that try building a workout around burpess, be sure and write to let me know how it goes!
Ever thought of getting in a complete workout from head to toe without a single piece of equipment (that includes even basic stuff like a jump rope, chinning bar etc)?
Have you ever wished that there was an exercise you could do day in and day out to give you a fabulous workout, 365 days a year, regardless of the weather outside?
Looking for an "all in one" exercise that hits the core and upper body like a Mack truck?
If your the average person, I'll bet you've answered "Yes" to at least one of these questions.
Now, the question stands - WHAT is this one single exercise that will get me in great shape regardless of external conditions? WHAT is this one "magic" exercise that I'm talking about that can be done virtually anywhere?
It's not sprints, although those will get your butt in great, great shape. It isn't jumping rope, and it isn't doing pull-ups - although both these exercises SHOULD be a part of your routine. And it sure as heck ain't "long distance running" either.
So, what is it, you ask.
Well, the answer is simple - it's nothing but the good old pushups. Yes, you heard that right - pushups can be, and ARE a complete workout unto themselves. This is a tough one for most people to accept, and yet, strange as it might sound to most folks, pushups tax every part of your body from head to toe, and ensure you get a fantastic workout in for the day.
Don't believe me? Well, I did 200 pushups as my mainstay today. And while I'm not going to bore you with the gory details, let's take a look at the exercises I did on the last 50: -
30 handstand pushups (in sets)
20 "arms extended" pushups (in sets of 10)
By themselves, these two exercises can give you a COMPLETE upper body and core workout - if you know how to do them correctly. Form is paramount - for good form on these, see Fast and Furious Fitness - and YES, it will take you time to get good at the exercises, but the fact remains that you could do these two exercises on a daily basis, and not have to do much else for the upper body and core.
Ok, so what about the lower body? Well, the "arms extended" pushups DO tax the lower body - but if your not satisfied, try on some "table" pushups for size, and then tell me how your thighs and hamstrings feel. Looking to blast the forearms some more? How about fingertip pushups? The list goes on and on - there is not a single body part except maybe the neck that pushups (done correctly) don't hit.
Now, am I saying that you shouldn't do anything else other than pushups? NOT at all - on the contrary, I highly recommend you mix things up once in a while, and work on pull-ups and other exercises along with your pushups. For instance, I myself did 500 rope jumps and a back bridge along with my pushup routine today. The point I'm trying to make is that pushups are an exercise that leave you with NO excuse not to get a good workout in - irrespective of other factors. And in today's world, where most procrastinate on end when it comes to exercise, this can only be a good thing.
So, my friend, have you done your pushups for the day? if not - it would be a great idea to get them in NOW - NO excuses allowed!
All for now - back soon with more!
PS: For those of you that have a copy of Fast and Furious Fitness, I've been preaching to the choir on this one. For those of you that don't, push on over HERE to grab your copy pronto.
Getting a sensible workout routine together - and sticking to it like billy-o is one of the BEST decisions you'll ever make in your life. Elementary, I know, but my dear Watson, you'd be amazed at the number of people that put off or otherwise never make this one simple decision that can change their lives for the better.
There are a ton of excuses that folks like to make to convince themselves that "that type of workout is just not for them". You hear people complaining about lack of time, lack of exercise equipment, lack of a decent gym or other area to workout nearby - and so forth. And truth be told, these are all excuses when it comes right down to it - where there is a will, there is ALWAYS a way, and this is especially so with exercise.
Now, something you'll hear people talk about a lot of times is the weather. For instance, someone living in hot and humid subtropical Asia (or elsewhere) may complain about his daily run due to the heat, and end up skipping it altogether a lot of days. On the other end of the spectrum, those living in Scandanavian countries deal with snowy conditions (and zero daylight) a lot of the year - but does that mean they should stop exercising outdoors for themajority of the year?
Let's think about it - what good would it do to get on an exercise program "when the weather is good" and then do nothing "when it's bad"?
It's summer where I live currently - and that means temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius (over 113 F) IN THE SHADE. Does that mean I've cut back on my workouts, or have stopped trying to achieve my best during each and every workout? Absolutely not - even if it means dripping with sweat for the majority of my workout. Trust me, there are times where I feel like I'm breathing in molten lava instead of air - thats how hot it is - but I keep going.
And just so you know, I do NOT workout in air-conditoned gyms and do NOT have ceiling fans or A/C's running if I workout at home. I aim to create a spartan environment in which to workout - so if it's my living room, it'll be me, the carpet and the wall - and nothing else. Yes, I'll sweat up a storm - and YES, it'll make the workout that much tougher to accomplish - but believe me, I feel like a billion bucks at the end of it - and so will you if you do something similar.
Those of you that are familiar with my writings know that I spent a few enjoyable years in China a while back. Part of my workout there was to climb a long, steep hill near my house on a daily basis - in sapping hot and humid conditions (sometimes I'd climb during the middle of the day if that is when I had time). I climbed this hill when it was HOT - I climbed during pouring rain (when almost no-one would be at the hill) - in short, I climbed darn near EVERY DAY without missing a day unless I really had to. And the results of this showed as well - those of you that have read Fast and Furious Fitness will know what I'm talking about.
Now, I'm not necessarily asking you to go to giddy limits here. You don't have to climb in the rain, and you don't necessarily need to workout during the middle of the day - but what I'm saying is to FIND A WAY to get your workout accomplished, irrespective of the weather conditions. This may mean modifying your workout a bit, or it may mean changing the time of your workout. Whatever it is, make sure you "get her done" - and do so like you mean it.
Finally, the other side of the coin is that you do need to respect weather conditions to a degree. For instance, I usually finish off around 2 bottles of water during my workout these days - I don't think I could maintain the intensity of the workout without replacing some of the fluid I lose. And if you run in cold weather, make sure your wearing protective clothing while you do so. And so forth.
The main point I'm trying to make here is to find a way - and strike a BALANCE that allows you to get your workout in regardless of weather conditions - and do so SAFELY.
Find that balance, and you'll be that much further down the road of strength, health, and lifelong fitness.
PS: I talk about Fast and Furious Fitness in this note - it can be found right HERE.
One of my favorite proverbs goes such "A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link."
We've all heard it before. You can have the strongest pieces of metal holding that chain together, but one little weak piece will cause it to snap in two when push comes to shove.
And the same applies to your body as well. You can have the strongest arms and legs in the world, but weak lower back muscles will always limit the amount you can push and pull. You can have huge biceps, but weak forearms will always limit your gripping/pulling potential. Strong quads coupled with weak hamstrings are an open invitation to injury, especially if your an athlete. And the list goes on and on.
So, what can YOU do to ensure that you strengthen all your weak links?
Well, for one,you can base your workout upon compound exercises that work several groups of muscles together as opposed to exercises that claim to "isolate" certain muscles. This means, that for example, you concentrate on getting better at doing pull-ups in good form rather than sitting on a chair and pumping out curls to "develop the peak of the biceps muscle". Remember that exercises that work several large muscle groups together are the BEST exercises you can do - not just for overall development, but also to ensure that any weak links in the chain are quickly identified and fixed. Try doing pull-ups with a weak grip - it just won't work unless you strengthen your grip.
Second, you need to make sure you actively strengthen your weak links instead of ignoring them. So in the example above, avoiding the pull-up in favor of the lat pulldown machine is NOT the answer. Work the exercise until you have a solid grip - and work your grip in particular as well - in other words, ensure you strengthen the weak link to the fullest extent possible.
Remember, a weak link means you have a problem. And when you have a problem you don't ignore it and hope it'll go away on its own. You must actively FIX that problem - and the very same thing applies to weak (or underdeveloped) parts of your body as well.
By the way, this little gem of a saying doesn't just apply to fitness - this applies to business, daily life, security, and just about anything else you can think of. Think of a Ferrari with a powerful engine but a suspension that is about to fall apart. You get the point. . .insert example of choice, but the fact remains that weak links are there to be fixed - not ignored.
Do so, and you'll notice a vast improvement in your overall strength and fitness levels within a few days.
PS: - The best compound exercises can be done with little other than your own bodyweight. That's right - you don't need a single weight to get in a decent workout. Check out Fast and Furious Fitness for some GREAT compound exercises that YOU can include into your routine today!
Let's face it, there are some body parts that most of us like to train more than others - and some that a lot of us ignore (but shouldn't be).
For example, 8 our of 10 average trainees would list "chest" and "abs" among their most favorite body parts to train. And chances are that they'll work these parts a LOT more than other, more vital body parts. Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing always - work the chest and abdominal area in an useful, functional manner, and you'll do good - but the key thing to note here is balance. Most folks neglect working the back and legs hard - and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a trainee.
And though legs and back are often ignored by a lot of folks, there's another vital part of the body that escapes even the minutest attention for 99% of trainees out there. To put it another way, if 2 out of 10 trainees focues on hard, tough leg and back work - there's a good chance that ZERO focus on the body part I'm about to talk about.
So, what body part is this?
The answer is - the hamstrings - the muscles at the back of your thigh. They are the second largest muscle group after the quadriceps - but sadly, they don't even get 10% of the attention that the quadricep gets.When we talk about working the legs, it's usually quad/calf work that we're referring to. And this is a big, big mistake - the hamstrings perform many vital functions, ranging from allowing you to bend over without pain, assisting in walking, sprinting and climbing, and performing a variety of athletic movements.
Like the back - you might not be able to "see" it in the mirror - but this does NOT mean you forget about the muscle. You may have the strongest quads around, but weak hamstrings will ultimately always limit your performance in whichever athletic endavor you choose. Additionally, you run the risk of injury if you overdevelop the quads, and neglect the hamstrings - and most such injuries take a while to heal. Not good.
I've been guilty of not training my hamstrings hard enough in the past, and also as of late. This point struck home rather rudely when I did a set of split lunges (or, 3 sets of 10 to precise) yesterday - which led to that all familiar "wobbly" feeling in my hamstrings which means I've worked a muscle group that I haven't worked in a while (and in a way I haven't for a while). I can barely walk today - OUCH!
Now, just so you know, split lunges are an ADVANCED exercise - and they are NOT for those that are just starting out. If you are just starting out, the regular lunge is a great way to strengthen the hamstrings. Work on these for a while, and also work on strengthening the other parts of your leg at the same time. When you've been doing that a while, ease into the split lunges - but again, a word of caution - these can make you incredibly sore through the glute/hamstring region, so be sure not to overdo them at the start.
There are many other great ways to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings as well - I cover some of the best ones in Fast and Furious Fitness. Grab a copy ASAP, and start working on some of the exercises within - you'll start discovering "hidden" muscles in your body that you never knew existed.
And that endeth today's tip. More later!
Training on (or with) thick bars is something that I've always enjoyed. This could mean doing pull-ups on thick iron bars, swinging across the monkey bars in the playground, or simply lifting odd objects that have a thick handled grip. I enjoy training this way whenever I have the time, and believe you me, this type of training is one of the toughest you can do,especially when it comes to lifting, pulling and carrying movements.
Note that when I'm referring to thick bars, I'm not referring to your usual chinning bar or dumbell handle - I'm referring to bars which have a diameter of at least 2 inches, preferably more. I personally do my pull-ups and other related pulling movements out in the park - not on a pull-up bar - I use the thick, cast iron bars which make up the swing set, or the sides of the monkey bars.
And whats so special about thick bar work?
Well, for one, you build your grip without even thinking about it. Look, doing sets of 5 good pull-ups on a THICK bar is WAY different from doing them on a regular bar. First, you have to struggle to hold on during the entire set - which builds immense forearm and finger strength and power. Try completing that last pull-up when your fingers are struggling to just hold on to the bar - it's not easy.
Second, you build up the ligaments and tendons of your wrist and fingers to an amazing degree when you work with thick bars. The very act of gripping on to a thick bar (2.5" diameter or more) ensures that you build the gripping muscles - but more importantly, the ligaments and tendons that are the driving force behind the muscles. And it's nigh impossible to do well on thick bar exercises without strengthening everything. You may be able to curl impressive poundages in the gym, but chances are that you'll be able to curl less than half that if you work with thick bars (and the same weight) - and the reason will likely be weak connecting ligaments and tendons.
Third, working with thick bars ensures that you a) minimize the chances of wrist or finger injury in the future and b) the added blood flow to the fingers, wrist and forearms ensures that you recuperate faster from previous such injuries. I should know - I injured my thumb (and the ligaments in the palm as well) pretty badly a few days ago while doing fingertip pushups, but I could do pushups with minimum pain the next day, and a few days later - the thumb is almost back to normal. And part of the reason I've recovered so quickly is the thick bar work that I do.
Last, and by no means the last, your performance will improve tremendously on all your regular exercises once you begin doing them with thick bars. Stuck at a max of 5 reps for the pull-up? Well, find some THICK bars - and work up to doing sets of 5 reps on those for a couple of weeks, or however long it takes you. Then go back and test your self on pull-ups on the regular bar - I think your going to be amazed. And this doesn't just go for pull-ups; it applies to other exercises as well.
There are more reasons, but these three should give you enough motivation to get started with some thick bar work. I personally did 25 pull-ups along with assorted grip exercises out in the park today AFTER my regular workout - and my forearms are feeling it for sure at this point.
And lest you think that bodyweight exercises are the ONLY thing you can do when it comes to thick bar work, well, think again, my friend. You can incorporate this type of training into your routine even if you prefer lifting weights - or you can combine lifting odd objects with bodyweight work - which by the way is something I highly recommend.
Either way, make sure you DO incorporate some sort of thick bar work into your routine - you won't believe the gains you make!
PS: Thick bar work is something I talk about in detail in Fast and Furious Fitness. I also show you various exercises you can do on thick bars in the book. Grab your copy ASAP and get started on the road to astounding levels of gripping power.
I've often spoken about fingertip pushups as being one of the very best exercises that you can do. In addition to being a great finger, wrist and forearm builder, the fingertip pushup also develops the much ignored (and yet, equally, if not more important than the actual muscles) ligaments and tendons of the fingers. The exercise was a favorite for many an old timer, and you'll still find it being used extensively by boxers, wrestlers, and the like.
But, while it goes without saying that the fingertip pushup is something you need to work upon, here is something I haven't discussed before - and that is to concentrate deeply on your fingers while doing the actual pushup - perhaps even more so than while doing regular (or other) pushups.
Now, concentration is important in ANY form of exercise - you need to focus on each rep and perform it as if it was the last rep of that exercise you'd ever get to do. Again, this goes true for any exercise, be it sprints, pull-ups, lifting weights, yoga, whatever. So why am I telling you to focus more while doing the fingertip pushups?
Well, I started my workout off yesterday by doing a light set of fingertip pushups. Eased into my regular pushup workout that way, and all was going well. I was feeling strong on the day, so attempted a set of 20 fingertip pushups after doing 110 other styles. And they went fine - until rep #17 - when I felt my right thumb suddenly "slide" forward in front of my palm, and take my entire bodyweight on it as it did so.
OUCH! Now, THAT is something that hurts - those of you that have experienced thumb injuries of this type before know what I'm talking about. I couldn't even move the limb for a few minutes after that. Sensation gradually returned, and I somehow finished off the rest of my routine, but not without experiencing some serious discomfort in my right thumb.
Now, it's not as if I never do fingertip pushups. It's not as if they are something new to me - they're not. But yet, I managed to injure myself doing something I do most of the time. And the reason behind that was that I perhaps lost focus just a little bit while doing the pushups.
ALWAYS remember that while fingertip pushups strengthen your entire forearm from finger to elbow without belief, they also place tremendous stress on the fingers and supporting joints. And unlike with regular pushups where your large chest muscles start "talking" to you when the reps get tougher and tougher, your fingers generally won't give you any such advance warning - so you have to pay extra attention to them. You DO need to push your limits, as with any other exercise, but you need to do so with extra caution.
Second, it is important to note that fingertip pushups are meant to be done with ALL fingers - at least until you get really good at them. You'll see most people unknowingly shifting focus to both the thumbs as they tire - and this is something you do NOT want. This greatly increases the risk of thumb injury; and thumb injuries can get real serious, and take a long time to heal, so you want to be extra careful on this one.
Again, note that you can attempt to perform the fingertip pushup with three - or maybe even two - fingers once you get real good at the movement (in fact that should be one of your goals), but start out with extreme caution. Finger (and especially thumb) injuries are nasty, and take a long, long time to heal sometimes - so avoid them.
Anyway, I soaked the thumb in warm water and salt yesterday, applied a lot of "magic" spray, and the finger's much better today. The fact that I perform finger exercises probably aided in recovery, but even so, I took an unscheduled break from all upper body exercises today. Want to make sure this heals up for the most part before I place more stress on it, and going by the evidence on offer, I seem to be on track for a great workout tomorrow!
And thats that for the day. If you workout today, make it a great one!
PS: For more powerful wrist and forearm builders, take a gander at some of the other exercises I mention in Fast and Furious Fitness.
I know, I've been remiss. Haven't posted in quite a while, and for those of you that are used to getting these tips in your mailbox, I apologize - I've just been extremely busy over the last few days. Happens sometimes - I'm sure you know the feeling!
Anyway, getting back to training - I wrote a bit about sit-ups and how I consider them to be superior to crunches in my last post. And today, we'll talk a bit more about sit-ups and how there are literally dozens of ways you can make even this simple little exercise much tougher.
For those of you that haven't already got the book, the sit-up that I teach in Fast and Furious Fitness is the "traditional" sit-up - i.e. palms interlocked behind neck, bent knees, and "pulling" yourself up from that position using your abdominal muscles. This one is a great, great exercise - a favorite with many of the old timers, and thats the only version of the movement I show you in the book. And truth be told, if you get good at doing the traditional sit-up, and do them regularly, you really won't need many more pure abdominal exercises.
But, there are ways you can make this exercise more effective - and tougher as well.
One of the ways that I like to do sit-ups is to lie down on my back on the floor with my legs stretched out, and then sit up to a sitting position using my abdominal muscles - but I do so while keeping my legs STRAIGHT. And unlike the traditional situp, my arms are straight as well beside me. The best way to explain the position is to picture a man lying in a coffin, completely still with arms and legs stretched out straight in front of/beside him. That, in a nutshell, is the starting position of this particular movement.
(OK, that description was sort of macabre - but I think it illustrates the position perfectly!)
From this position, you then "situp" to a sitting position using your abdominal muscles WITHOUT moving your legs. You do NOT lock your fingers behind your neck; instead, you allow your arms to come up with you naturally into a sitting position. And again, you use your ABDOMINALS to accomplish this movement - with no assistance from the arms or legs. Lie back down, and repeat for reps. And that, my friend, is one of my favorite alternate ways of performing a sit-up.
Why do I like this method? Well, for one, it eliminates the slight momentum that a lot of people use while performing the traditional sit-up. And while some don't have the form down pat, it's also a fact that the traditional sit-up makes it much harder to eliminate momentum as your muscles tire simply due to the nature of the movement. THIS particular movement though ensures you focus on your abs - and your abs alone - to lift yourself up to a sitting position.
I generally do 50 or so of these during my regular workout - and believe me, my abs are on FIRE after 40-50 consecutive repetitions. In fact, done correctly, this movement will prove to be hard to do for 10 reps if your a beginner - so work into it accordingly.
And while thats one way of making the movement more effective, there are so many more as well. Slight changes in leg postion, speed of the movement, number of reps - all this can make the exercise tougher. Too many to list in this note, but they'd definitely occupy space in any core training book worth the value.
Hmm - that's a thought for the day - maybe I should write a book purely about core training! Maybe I'll do so - but for now, focus on getting better at sit-ups; and you'll be on the way to a much stronger midsection than you currently have in short order.
All for now!
PS: - I speak about Fast and Furious Fitness in this email - that book can be found right HERE.
PS#2: - If you'd like me to do a book focusing purely on core training, shoot me an email and let me know - I'll do it if there's enough interest!
Today I'll cover a fairly common question - are sit-ups better than crunches, or vice versa - and why. This one may ruffle a few feathers, especially if you've been fed on the "crunches isolate the abs the best" philosophy by the "experts". So be it. . .
Long time readers of this blog (and those that have read my book) will know that I've always spoken out against crunches. The crunch, if you didn't know it already, is an exercise that requires you to lie down on the floor, "focus" on your upper abs (the six pack muscles) and lift your upper back ever so slightly off the floor - your mid/lower back does NOT move while performing the exercise. That's one crunch. The "experts" advocate doing this for high repetitions, 50-100 being a bare minimum.
A sit-up on the other hand is an exercise where you lie down on your back, and then use your core muscles to pull yourself up to a sitting position. You then repeat for as many reps as you can handle.
Now, which one sounds simpler? You got it - the sit-up - but does that make it less effective than the crunch? Not a chance in purgatory, my friend, and I'll tell you why.
First, the crunch is an abnormal movement which focuses on isolating certain small muscles to the exclusion of the other core muscles (in other words, to the exclusion of the "larger picture"). And I've always spoken out AGAINST isolationist movements. Your body works as a WHOLE, not as seperate muscles; so training it that way is always more effective. Additionally, isolate smaller muscles too much, and you've got an injury waiting to happen. It's really quite simple - ALWAYS choose exercises that work your body as a whole, rather than in bits and pieces.
Second, remember that you need to work exercises that are HARD and make you actually WORK to complete the movement as opposed to easy exercises that barely make you break a sweat. I hate to say it, but the simple sit-up is a FAR tougher movement than the so-called "modern" crunch. The situp works your ENTIRE midsection and makes you WORK to have to sit up as opposed to a crunch where you simply lift yourself two inches or so off the floor using your upper abs, and then do that for reps. If you don't believe me, do traditional sit-ups in proper form for reps, and tell me how they compare to crunches when it comes to making you puff and pant.
Third and this ties into #2: You use way more muscles in a situp than you do in a crunch. Sit-ups strengthen everything in the core - the lower back, front and lower abdominals, hip flexors, and even the obliques. Crunches on the other hand work a bit of the upper abs - and that's it. Now, think about this - what good does it do you to have two strong muscles in the core region, while your lower back and hips are weak? That sort of training is like inviting injury to your doorstep - so avoid it. Train your core as a whole - not seperate bits and pieces.
Last, and by no means least, the situp has been a preferred choice for training the midsection for ages. All strength athletes (boxers, wrestlers, sprinters etc) do plenty of sit-ups as a part of their regular routine. Mike Tyson did 500 pushups and 1000 situps as part of his daily routine, but we never heard of him doing crunches, do we? The great Herschel Walker did around 3500 situps as part of HIS routine - but nowhere do I read about him doing crunches. And the list goes on and on.
So, those are but a few reasons why I avoid the crunch like the plague - and it's why I suggest YOU do the same as well. Leave the crunches for the "toners" and "gym bunnies" - if your seriously considering strengthening your core, the sit-up is what you need to be doing - as opposed to "pumping" out high rep crunches.
And yes, sit-ups are by no means the only - or the best- way to train your core. There are many exercises that do an even better job at core training, but some of these may be too advanced for the beginner. Heck, sit-ups can prove to be a great workout even for the experienced athlete - and I've given you two examples of the same.
The simplest and most uncomplicated things usually work the best - and the humble sit-up is no exception to the rule!
PS: Along with sit-ups, there are other very useful exercises that you need to be doing to train your core to the fullest. Grab a copy of Fast and Furious Fitness ASAP to learn what these are!