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Beginner Exercises: Modified Deadbug – Leg Lower

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If you are a complete beginner to exercise and core training this an excellent exercise to start with to learn the principles of proper core training.  By laying on your back you gain extra stability in regards to control because the ground provides you with support.  Also, by laying your arms out to the side you gain addition support by creating additional points of contact to the ground.

A modified deadbug usually comes after someone is taught what it means to maintain a neutral spine, how to breathe in relation to the task at hand, and how to properly brace “core” musculature.

Key Cues

  1. Brace and Breathe
  2. Keep your legs at a 90 degree angle
  3. Lower legs in a controlled manner
  4. Nothing should move except your legs

Common Mistake #1 – Not keeping a 90 degree angle

One of the most common mistakes is failing to keep a 90 degree angle from your thigh to your shins.  Many people with bend their knees to shorten the distance they need to travel in order to reach the ground.

Common Mistake #2 – Arching the Lower Back

Arching the lower back also called (lumbar hyper extension) defeats the purpose of this exercise in it’s entirety.  Here you see my stomach/chest lift off the ground when trying to lower my leg.  This is an example of poor core control.

Basic Principle of Core Training

The Quality EVERY Fat Loss Goal Depends On

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So you have decided that you want to drop some extra pounds.  You joined a gym, set some goals, and you are pumped and motivated…for all of 10 mins…then the reality of what lies ahead settles in.  You know you are going to have to make some changes, but you aren’t exactly sure how.  You read some books, talked to friends, and looked online to get some ideas. You think you know how to do it, but you aren’t all that confident that you can follow through.  Well, today’s article is for you, and it may not be what your expecting.

The Goal IS NOT really the GOAL

The truth is that the HOW of losing weight and shedding some extra pounds is no secret, and I don’t care what fitness guru you talk to, what your mother says, or whoever the hell tells you that there is some new magical way to do something that people have been doing for years.  What they don’t tell you is that you may not be cut out for it…or at least not yet.

Before you start hitting the gym, logging your food, and grocery shopping with the goal of losing weight and shedding fat, I need you to have a shift in perspective and aim your sights on a new goal–and that is to the develop the skill of self control, discipline, and willpower.

Without a strong cultivation of this skill you will be susceptible to burn out and lack of motivation–which will eventually leave you overwhelmed and back to square one.

Cultivating Self Control

To begin the process of  creating a robust muscle of self control, you need to set parameters around what a “successful action” is. Often times, newly invigorated trainees set their expectations way too high.  The set the goals of going to the gym five times a week, eating only fruits, vegetables, and protein, and preparing every meal–all of this coming from someone that has not been to the gym once in the past three months and usually orders takeout.  The likely hood of this playing out the way they envisioned is slim to none; at least in my experience.  So a new method of goal setting needs to be put in place to increase the likely hood of success, thus registering as a win for self control and increasing your ability to flex your willpower.

In the example stated above the new trainee set some expectations that are outside there level of discipline and self control.  There are several actions that need to take place in order for those goals to be met, most of which a new trainee may not be equipped to handle; therefore, it stands to reason, that the expectations you set must be attainable given your current level of abilities.

SUCCESS–FIRST AND FOREMOST

Write this down and make it part of your mantra:

The successful completion of a task is MORE important, than the task itself.

Say that to yourself over and over until it sinks in.  Soon enough we will discuss ideas around how to get from a size ten to a size six, or how to make your back HUGE, or how to squat two times your body weight, but for now your sole focus is the accumulation of “wins”–and in turn, the cultivation of your willpower and self discipline.  This means you must reevaluate your expectations.

Am I Setting the Bar Low?

Whenever I tell people to redefine their expectations in order to be more in line with their current abilities, I inevitably get the question, “Aren’t we just setting the “bar” low?”, and my response to that is “NO!”.  Think about this; to go from doing nothing to doing something is a 100% increase in productivity!  Any business would be ecstatic about that increase in growth!

What you are doing, is  you are keeping your focus on the achievement of the task at hand, and that is the accumulation of “wins”, or actions that move your closer to your goals.  So if this means that the goal of going to the gym five times a week, needs to be reevaluated and altered to, LOOK at my schedule to identify the most optimal times for me to workout this week, then so be it.  The parameters that define successful completion of this goal is to be disciplined enough to LOOK at my calendar and see what is feasible given my current obligations and mental resources.

Conclusion

Most people make the mistake of pursuing a goal without first understanding what makes the achievement of a goal possible.  We act in ways that distract us from developing a unique set of skills and embracing our personal growth, because we are too busy chasing THE goal.  The ability to exert self control and sustain a measure of self discipline plays a large part in the success of ANY endeavor, so to dismiss the significance and importance of such a skill is an oversight that can lead to the downfall of any worthy pursuit.  So do not be disillusioned by your fantasies of making HUGE changes, that will inevitably lead to a nearly impossible task, instead keep your aim true and steadfast on developing the skills that can be applied to achievement of ANY goal.

 

A Quick Guide to Building a Better Bench

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If you have spent any amount of time at the gym for an extended period you have probably encountered the question, “So, what’s your bench?”, or any version similar to this question, that seeks the same answer.  Today’s post is to pay homage to that question, and in the process help you build a better bench.

I have never been a “natural” bench presser.  I have had to experiment, train, and really work on getting my bench press to a place where I feel confident in the lift.  Below I would like to share, with you, some of the tips I have learned during that process, in a way that I might coach someone through the lift.

Chin Under the Bar

When you lie down to bench I usually ask people to start with their chin under the bar.  The reason being that you will be “shortening” your torso, to some extent, when you try to achieve tension.  The act of “shortening” your torso is done by walking your shoulders into place that is going to be most beneficial to begin your press (this idea is demonstrated in the video below).  When you are successful and “shortening” your torso you will eventually end up with your eyes under the bar and it’s from this position you will begin your bench.

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender (1)

Tuck Your Shoulders

This refers to a movement known as scapular retraction and depression.  Essentially you are squeezing your shoulder blades together and trying to tuck them in your back pockets.  This is usually a cue that helps people understand but it may take some time to sink in.  When setting up for you bench you can achieve scapular retraction and depression be “walking” you shoulders into place, as I have mentioned above and is demonstrated in the video below.  You will see how your body get’s “shorter” as you walk your shoulders into position.  The end position will be shorten torso, with tucked or packed shoulders and your eyes underneath the bar.

Pinkys on the Rings

If you have every examined a barbell you will find that there are two smooth rings on both sides of the bar.  These are typically used to make sure your grip is symmetrical when performing a lift.  When it comes to benching I usually recommend that your pinky fingers, at the very least, should touch the smooth rings.  Once you get more familiar with benching you can start to experiment with hand width, but for now have your pinkys reach the rings

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Foot Placement

This will largely depend on what positions your feel the strongest and most stable.  In the videos where you see me bench, you see that I create an arch with my feet placed underneath me.  This is a position that took me a long time to figure out, and I imagine that if a bigger bench is what you are after you may have to dedicate some time to figure a position that best supports your leverages.  But there is one thing that MUST happen you are deciding where to place your feet, and that is your knees MUST be below your hips.  Having your knees below your hips will allow you to optimally utilize your leg drive without having your butt come off the bench, which can place your in a precarious position and do more harm than good.

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Knees below the hips

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Squeeze the bar tight and break it in Half

There is a reflexive response that occurs with your rotator cuff when you squeeze something tight.  Those little SITS (rotator cuff) muscles fire in an effort to stabilize your shoulder, and a stable shoulder is critical for a better bench.  When we cue “break the bar in half” what we are trying to accomplish is getting your lats to engage.  Your lats provide a kind of “global” stability that will help you create a firm base, and help you transfer force. 

Touch Low

I usually recommend that you touch low, somewhere around your sternum, below your nipple line.  For some they may feel more comfortable touching right around the nipple line, but again that is going to take some experimentation.  In my experience touching low is easier on my shoulders and allows me to get a better position through my wrist and elbow which I will touch on below

Bar Stacking 1

Unracking the Bar

When you unrack the bar it is important that you do not sacrifice the position you have worked so hard to attain by “unpacking” shoulders to unrack the bar.  In any case, having someone give you lift off is usually your best option, but if you do not a regular training partner I know this can be difficult.  So when you unrack the bar act as if you are doing a straight arm lat pull down while lying on your back.  In essence you are trying pull the bar away from the rack rather than pressing it up and allowing it to “drift”into place.  In the video below you will notice that once I get my shoulders into place they do not move from the position.

Stacking the Bar, Wrist and Elbow

When you begin the lowering of the bar it is important that bar, wrist, and elbow stack one on top of the other.  The placement of the bar in your hand needs to be as close to the heel of your palm that you can get it.  This will place it as close to being “on top” of your wrist as possible.

correct open

Bar as close to the heel of the palm as possible

Correct Closed

What it should look like once you grip the bar with the bar as close to the heel of the palm as possible

This is what it SHOULD NOT look like

incorrect open

Bar is too far from the heel of the palm

Incorrect Closed

Incorrect Closed Position

When Lowering the bar you are trying to create a “pillar” which consists of bar stacked over wrist, wrist stacked over elbow.  This creates the most optimal position to press from.

Bar stacking 2

Bar over wrist; wrist over elbow

Bar Stacking 1

Bar stacking

Leg Drive

This is a very nebulous concept, much like the idea of “tension”. Leg drive is something you have to feel, but when you get it right you can literally feel weights, you once thought to be somewhat challenging, fly off your chest.  I like to tell people to imagine that the bar is on your waist and you are trying to thrust the bar off of your waist toward your face.   For some this cue makes sense, for others more creative cues and tactics may have to be employed.  The best thing I could do is demonstrate it in the video below.  Pay close attention to my hips and the heels of my feet.  You will see a very slight movement when I initiate the press and you will see my heels try to drive to the ground.  This allows me to engage my glutes and transfer the force I generate from the ground.

Conclusion

These tips will most definitely help you build a better bench press, especially if you found that you are not already employing some of them.  Now there are other versions of bench pressing, but I believe that these tips provide a solid foundation to build from.  After you have mastered these basic techniques you can move into more advanced variations of bench pressing.

Above all, have fun and be a student of the craft!