Are you being honest?!

Are you being honest?!

I find this question super intriguing, especially when talking about fitness.  If I ask most folks if they believe they are honest, I bet most will raise their hand.

But in truth, all of you would be lying to yourself.  We all lie!  There’s no way around it.  Even if you are the holiest of saints, or a kid with his hand in the cookie jar, we all do it.  And the most common lie is to ourselves!  Let me explain…

Let’s take a topic we are extremely familiar with.  RELATIONSHIPS.  We have so many people we care about.  Family, friends, co-workers, etc.  We lie to each of them everyday.  I hate to say this, because I strive to be as honest as I can.

How many times has someone asked you a question about how something looks and you haven’t told them your gut reaction?  Most of us.  We choose to save face and choose to say something that will make them feel good because most of us are genuinely good people.  There is a distinct difference between being a good person and being a honest one.

Let’s get back to the point I was trying to make earlier.  The biggest lie is to ourselves.  I find this happens a lot when someone is starting their fitness journey or trying to get back on the wagon.  They decide, “today is the day I am going to go to the gym! Hell I already got my membership right?!  I’ve made the first step!”  Then comes step two, putting that plan into action. Until BOOM, life happens!  What happens next?  They go to the gym or they do what’s comfortable and push it off another day?  9 times out of 10 it’s the latter.

And it happens day after day after day and what do you know…another year rolls by.  It’s July 2018 right now.  If you are reading this and haven’t committed to your fitness journey, stop making excuses and get your ass to the gym, park, or on a workout program that sets you up for success at home.  Most of us got to get away from “home and life distractions” to accomplish this, unless you know you are extremely motivated individual who doesn’t have those distractions at home.  I find that I need to be around other people who are getting their fitness on as this encourages and motivates me more towards my fitness goals.

So the next time you call yourself a honest person…I challenge you to evaluate yourself.  I fight this internal struggle just like you, EVERYDAY.  Choose to do what you know is right.  Right for you and your body, because you deserve it!  And be as honest as you can.  Tell someone how you really feel.  Go to the gym when you say you are.  These are just a few things you can do to take that step in the right direction with being honest with yourself.  Write it down!  Post it somewhere!  Make someone commit with you!  Sign up for a race or event!  Make yourself accountable!  Get that healthy body you know you deserve!

My latest lie to myself was thinking I would find passion working outside of the health and fitness industry.  You can read all about that experience HERE.  But here I am, back to my commitment to being honest with myself and holding myself accountable by sharing my journey with all of you.

Are you being honest?

P.S.  Please reach out to me at mattdbrown30@gmail.com.  I would love to help you anyway that I can.  We all have struggles, and it’s better if we don’t deal with them alone.  Accountability is crucial. 

 

 

 

 

Bent Arm Strength

Training Bent Arm Strength to Crush Spartan Obstacles

Let’s talk Spartan Race obstacles.  So many people are failing obstacles like: Multi-Rig, Olympus, Twister, Monkey-Bars, Rope Climb, and the list goes on.  You’ve been training your grip strength like a mofo so that you can crush them in the next race.  Let me tell you…you are only getting one major piece to this puzzle.  Grip strength will only take you so far on obstacle completion, though it’s definitely required.

You need to start incorporating Bent Arm work.  And I don’t just mean bicep curls or the shake weight!

Bent Arm Strength

I mean actually doing movements that force you to hold in a Bent Arm position (though bicep curls will help believe it or not!).  Everyone who is smashing these obstacles has great bent-arm strength.  Keeping your arms straight makes it very difficult to complete these obstacles as you lose your grip very quickly (especially if the obstacles are wet!).

Spartan Race is full of Pulling obstacles.  There is very little push type movements besides the Burpee. (TMX, Tough Mudder, seems to be adding some more thought into their variety with pushing and pulling which is awesome to see!  Really want to try one of their races when I’m healthy).

This requires building strength in the Lats, Biceps, Scapulas, Rhomboids, Flexors, you get the point!  It also requires a bit of mobility work so you can avoid tearing your rotator cuffs when swinging or “pulling” yourself through the obstacles.  I have seen so many strong athletes get hurt on these obstacles due to poor mobility in the shoulder girdle.  So, if you want to stay in the game and keep conquering these obstacles you need healthy shoulders.

Ok.  Now what.  Oh, you want me to tell you what movements to work on.  There are a ton!  But let’s just go with these 3 basics that will help you with dominating these obstacles and you can work on them in most gym settings:

1. Hinge Rows– learned this baby at the Gymnasticbodies seminar a few years back.  I love this movement!  Once you have mastered the Ring Hinge Rows, you can start working on the Bar Hinge Row (stay tuned I will talk about that one in the future).  Hinge Rows are a great movement for building great bent-arm strength.  They also give the added benefits of improving your shoulder and scapular mobility at the same time.

Now this movement can be very tough for many individuals.  I have beginners start by sitting on the ground with their hips under the rings.  I set the ring height to when the athlete finishes the movement at the top that their arms/elbows are at 90 degrees.  Now, this movement can feel like nothing if you are sitting on the ground and pulling yourself into the hinged position…but if you go to a count of 5 on the way up and a count of 5 on the way down for 5-10 reps, even advanced athletes will get fatigued and really feel how to move towards progressing to the hinge row with their legs and hips off the ground.

2. Gunner Carries (flexed-arm carry)– this is an absolute bicep and grip strength killer.  If you really want to get nasty with this one, do a Gunner hold while doing a Wall Sit.  Work the legs and work that bent-arm strength all at once.  I would start really light here!  5-25 lbs if using dumbbells or if using a plate, you can double those numbers depending on how much gunshow power you have!

Bent Arm Strength

If you’re walking…choose a weight that you can hold in the Gunner position (elbows pulled in tight with the angle of the arms just over 90 degrees) for at least 30 seconds.  Same goes for the Wall Sit.  Something you can hold in that position for at least 30 seconds.  Once you get comfortable and stronger you should be shooting for a minute with the same weight!  Don’t go up in weight until you can hold the position for a minute.  Then start over again with heavier weight and build that tolerance up to a minute again.

This video shows a lot of different variations, but the one you are looking for is the second one he demonstrates…looks like Rambo going to town with his machine guns!  Ignore the others.

Bent Arm Strength

3. Pull Ups– Were you hoping for something fancier?  Lo siento…Nothing beats the traditional pull-up for bent-arm strength for dominating obstacles.  There are so many variations of the pull-up…but the one you should be focusing on is hands just outside the shoulders.  This is ideal for engaging the lats, scaps, and biceps and for generating a lot of torque.  If you don’t have a pull-up yet, you got a lot of work to do to get through those obstacles.  Most gyms have a pull-up machine that can assist you if you don’t have pull-ups yet.  Don’t have one of those?  You can do banded assisted pull ups (there is a variety of band strengths you can use to help you through the movement).  If are doing banded pull ups…do not bounce at the bottom position!  You will not build the proper strength out of the bottom phase of the pull by doing this (this phase is super essential for getting your ass over walls, getting into bent arm positions for Olympus, Twister, Multi-Rig, etc.).

This is my favorite walk-through on the pull-up and how to do it correctly (You’ll notice that myself and Mr. Grayson Strange crush the competition when it comes to instructional videos here).

Ok.  Those are 3 movements that will maximize your bent-arm strength game and help you get through many of those demanding upper body obstacles.  Let’s talk volume now.

Volume is super key because you don’t want to over or under train these movements.  You need a good balance.  I like higher volume of these movements as Spartan tends to throw multiple grip/bent-arm strength obstacles one after the other.  This means you are going to need to build up that bent-arm muscular endurance.  But…this also depends on the level of athlete we are talking here.  A lot of coaches and trainers will argue about what the proper volume and weights should be for each person, but I am going to break it down that will work well for most individuals.

I would do these movements twice a week!  1 session focused on high volume and lower intensity (endurance) and the other on less volume but higher intensity (strength).  Give yourself 2-3+ days between sessions to let those muscles recovery properly.

Session 1 (Endurance):

  1. 3×10-15 Hinge Rows (1 minute of rest between sets)
  2. 3×1 minute Gunner Carry (pick a weight you can carry for the full minute without resting, 2 minutes of rest between rounds)
  3. 3xMax Pull Ups (If using band or pull assisted machine no more than 10-15 reps, 1 minute of rest between sets)
  4. Mobilize those lats, rhomboids, shoulders, biceps, scapulas by stretching or using some massage therapy!

Session 2 (Strength):

  1. 3×5 Weighted Pull Ups, 5 Chest to Bar Pull Ups, or 10 Pull Ups (if you can do 10 pull ups switch to Chest to Bar.  if you can do 5 chest to bar switch to weighted pull ups, 2 minutes of rest between rounds)
  2. 3×30 seconds Gunner Hold in Wall Sit Position (go heavier than your endurance session ideally being able to hold the weight correctly for 30 seconds, rest for 1 minute)
  3. 3×8-10 Hinge Rows (Work on accelerating quickly to the bent-arm position with a controlled lower back to the bottom, 1 minute of rest between sets)
  4. Mobilize those lats, rhomboids, shoulders, biceps, scapulas by stretching or using some massage therapy!

Now go try them out and let me know how they go for you.  Looking forward to hearing about how you crush those obstacles in future races!

Donald Trump Loves Burpees

Workout of the Week: Burpees!

Burpees!  You either hate them or love them!  I would have to say it depends on how often I have been doing them.  In this instance I haven’t done a burpee since Jan/Feb of this year!  Well…I have been avoiding them far too long and wanted to take a stab at a workout I wrote up awhile back when I was still coaching at NorCalSC.

Here are some simple definitions to understand before I go into the workout:

EMOM– Every minute on the minute.  This is a workout where you perform a fixed number of repetitions in a minute and rest the remainder of that minute.  I love these workouts because they can be used to work on specific movements at a fixed rest period (i.e. barbell cleans, snatches, etc.) or used as a HIIT workout (its all dependent on the movement).  For example:  5 Push Ups might be the movement and volume for each minute.  So…you have 1 minute to complete 5 push ups.  If you finish it in 10 seconds, you have 50 seconds to rest till you start the next minute.  And you do this for a fixed amount of time.  It could be 5 minutes (5 rounds) , 8 minutes (8 rounds) , 10 minutes (10 rounds), etc.

Burpee– Maybe you are new to this movement, but anyone who has been doing Crossfit, Spartan Racing, Bootcamp or working out in a Strength and Conditioning setting are very familiar.

  • You start standing tall with your feet close together and then bend over to place both hands on the ground in front of you.
  • Then you can either jump your feet or step your feet back behind you till you are at the top of a straight arm plank.
  • From here you control your body downwards by bending your elbows till your chest and thighs touch the ground.

  • Now from here you have a few options:  You can start by pushing your torso upwards, all while keeping your glutes and core engaged, and jumping your feet towards your hands (if you catch with your feet super wide or in the bottom of the squat…you got some mobility work to do.  No worries.  Your tight, which also means you’re cool.  I will be posting some mobility hacks weekly as well to work on these issues).  Or you can step your feet up towards your hands.  This is all dependent on skill level and strength. (I traditionally don’t recommend flopping on the ground like a fish or snaking, I like to avoid high risk of injury and I hope you do too)

  • Now that your feet are back to your hands you stand tall and end with a small jump (feet must leave the ground) and clap your hands over your head.
  • That’s 1 Burpee!

Don’t like text explanations?!  Boo hoo…Here is a video of me back in my hayday demonstrating a safe textbook Burpee:

Now…Like I said.  If you don’t have the skill and strength to execute the burpee in this fashion opt for stepping into a plank position and doing a controlled lower to the ground.  From here push your torso upwards (it’s ok to do a knee push up but make sure your glutes and core are activated, don’t snake!  That is bad for your body especially if you are doing high volume repetitions) and step your feet towards your hands.  This accommodates many levels of fitness and skill sets.

If you are still here…this is the workout:

10 min EMOM (10 Rounds):

  1. 10 Burpees or as many as you can get up to 10 in 30 seconds.  The goal here is to get your 10 done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  2. Take 30 seconds of rest whether you hit 10, 9, 8, etc. (if you got 0 chances are the workout was over before it started…)
  3. Once the first minute is complete, you start the second minute…and so forth until you have completed 10 minutes (10 Rounds)
  4. If you got 10 each minute and don’t know how to do math, you completed 100 Burpees.  Your welcome.

Burpees

What’s next?  Do the workout and let me know how you do!  Post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and see if you can get others to do it with you.  We are all on this fitness journey together, so…the more the merrier!  Make sure to tag @norcal__spartan and use #norcalspartan when you post your results.  I will be posting a workout each week and would love for you all to join in with me as I am trying to avoid the #dadbod before #babydean arrives!

 

P.S.  If you have any questions, post them in the comment section or send me a DM on my Instagram page.

Workout of the Week

#4: Exercise Tip of the Week

Hello NorCalSpartan.  This is the fourth installment of “Exercise Tip of the Week.”  Pulling power is a huge requirement for being successful in Spartan and OCR racing.  The ability to pull yourself over a wall, object, or even climb a rope is a necessity to your success out there in the race.  One great way to train your pulling strength and grip strength is to do Prowler Sled Pulls or Sled Pulls.  Watch the video below:

  1. Attach a long rope (We suggest a minimum of 25 ft.) to a Sled or Prowler Sled.
  2. Set the heels firmly into the ground and begin pulling the sled back towards you
  3. Rotate the torso slightly as you pull hand over hand to gain momentum
  4. Knees should be slightly bent and body upright in a 1/4 Squat position for stability
  5. Continue pulling hand over hand till the sled has covered the full length of the rope
  6. For an Extra bonus push the sled back to the start position to start the process over again

Head on over to our Products page to see what we recommend for obstacle course training and racing.

Rope Climb Substitution

#3: Exercise Tip of the Week

Hello NorCalSpartan.  This is the third installment of “Exercise Tip of the Week.”  A lot of you training for the Spartan Race out there don’t have access to a rope to climb (mostly because of a place to attach it).  One of the best ways to train the rope climb without a rope is attaching a rope or strap to a heavy object, our favorite being a tire (super easy to get a used tire and rope somewhere for peanuts).

Our friends over at the Obstacle Order filmed a great way to simulate rope climbing using a tire without attaching a rope to a high ceiling or post.  Watch the video below and read the Key notes at the bottom to perfect your technique:

Key notes

1. Start in a push up position with feet outside the hips

2. Have one hand on the rope and the other underneath your shoulder for support

3. Abs and glutes should be engaged to keep the body stable and the midline tight

4. Begin with the hand holding the rope pulling the elbow towards your midline all while maintaining your stable push up position (keep hips square, they shouldn’t move)

5. Switch hands on the rope and repeat the process till your object is pulled the full distance

Head on over to our Products page to see what we recommend for obstacle course training and racing.