Stay ahead of the holiday grind with Strength Complexes


Life simply gets busier once November rolls around.  Kids are out of school more, Thanksgiving is around the corner, holiday shopping sneaks up on us, and all of it getting compounded with the normal day to day grind.  With the madness the holiday season can bring, our fitness routine is usually the first thing that gets put on the back burner.  The primary reason being time or lack thereof. However, you don’t have to dedicate hours in the gym in order to make your workouts worth while.  In fact, you can get a lot of bang for your buck in as little as 20 minutes.  One of the best ways to do this is by using strength complexes.  Strength complexes allow for an effective total body workout similar to circuit training with the exception that we limit our workout to one piece of training equipment.  This can be in the form of dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, sandbags, TRX, anything really, as long as it’s simple and allows for a wide variety of exercises.  The first advantage of using one training tool is it minimizes set up time.  Second, it allows us to flow seamlessly from one exercise to the next without having to move to another station or even worse…waiting for the next piece of equipment to become available. Strength complexes come with many fitness advantages as well.  Not only are they great for building strength, but they are highly effective at improving cardiovascular endurance, and come with a high metabolic which taxes our bodies more in less time,  yielding a higher more calorie expenditure post workout, more fat loss, etc.  So before you decide to mail it in till next year give this workout format a try 2-3 times per week to get you through the holiday season and roll into next year without skipping a beat.

Okay, here’s how we set it up:

Choose your equipment: The only rule for this is choosing something that can be taken anywhere in the gym, preferably where you have ample space to maneuver.  My favorites are the TRX, dumbbells, barbells, resistance tubing, medicine balls, and kettlebells.  One isn’t necessarily better than the other, simply know that each has their own advantages and any of them will suffice.

Choose your movements: You will want to select exercises that focus on big muscle movement  that ideally include a pressing/pushing exercise (ex. Overhead Press, Pushups), a pulling exercise (ex. Dumbbell Row, TRX Pullups), and a compound leg exercise (ex. Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges).  These style of exercises cover all the movement patterns of the human body, giving you a complete total body workout.

Choose your weight: In general you will want to select a lighter weight since you will be working continuously with little rest.  Specifically, your weight selection should be based on exercises where you have to use lighter weight like overhead presses and rows.  Since you will be using the same weight throughout the sequence this will ensure that you can complete each movement successfully.  Naturally some exercises will be more challenging than others with this design, but we can adapt for the differences with our rep selection.

Pick a Rep Scheme: There are many options when it comes to choosing a rep scheme.  Here are four common ones that work really well

Ascending/Descending Pyramid: Start with 1 rep of each exercise. Each set add a rep until you reach a pre-determined number or simply once you can add no more. Then, descend the pyramid back until you finish with 1 rep again.

On the minute: Set a timer for 5-10 minutes.  Begin with your first exercise completing as many reps as possible. Go to the next exercise and continue to switch exercises at the start of every minute performing the maximum amount of reps each time until time until the clock reaches zero.

Sequence repeats: Do one rep of each movement continuously for either a designated time or until a total number of sequences is reached.

Accommodating Reps: You know your strength better than anyone else, so why not figure out how many reps is most suitable for you for each exercise?  For example, say you can do 10 dumbbell lunges per leg, but only 8 rows per arm, and 5 overhead presses? Then that is the perfect rep scheme for your dumbbell complex.

The workout: Once you have your exercises and reps selected, perform your selected strength complex until complete.  This will get your heart pumping and your muscles burning in no time!  Shorter complexes will usually take 5-10 minutes.  Rest for about 3 minutes and repeat performing a total of 2-3 blocks total.  If your complex takes longer (15-20 minutes) that’s okay.  Consider your workout complete.  Remember, the objective is to keep it short and sweet.

Outlined below is a sample dumbbell strength complex to get you started!

Dumbbell Strength Complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5-10 minute block.  Complete 2-3 training blocks total  

  1. Burpees
  2. Renegade Row
  3. Thrusters
  4. Alternating Reverse Lunges

Exercise Descriptions:

Burpees:  Start in a standing position with your feet hip width apart.  Lower into a squat and place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart.  Hop or walk your legs behind you until you are in a pushup position.  For more challenge, lower your body until your chest hits the floor.  Immediately hop or walk you legs back underneath you and jump into the air.  Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Renegade Row:  Start in a pushup position while holding a pair of dumbbells. Perform a dumbbell row with your right arm until your elbow is just past your body with the elbow bent at 90 degrees while keeping your torso as level to the ground as possible.  Return to the start position and repeat on the other side.  For more challenge add a pushup for every two rows (one on each side) performed.  Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Thrusters: Standing with a pair of dumbbells in each hand at shoulder level. Lower into a squat position then explosively return to the standing position, pressing the dumbbells over your head.  Return to the starting position and repeat the movement for the desired amount of reps.

Alternating Reverse Lunges:  Start in a standing position while holding a pair of dumbbells. Step backward and sink into a lunge keeping your weight on the front leg.  Remember to keep your knee behind your toes.  Return to the starting position then alternate sides until you complete the desired amount of reps.

Getting Fit with Sandbag Training

Even though sandbag training isn’t necessarily a new concept, it hasn’t been until recent years that it has become more consistently used with fitness professionals and athletes.

Sandbags can mimic most exercises performed with dumbbells, barbells and medicine balls, but the key difference is that they bring more challenge to stability during exercise due to the shifting of the weight. This helps improve core strength and endurance in our postural muscles. Plus, with more of a “dead weight” feel, there is more metabolic demand placed on the body, which creates a great cardiovascular challenge as well.

Lastly, sandbags effectively allow the exerciser to train for movement and in all planes of motion. We need to remember muscles are designed to work in synergy and in three-dimensional space, allowing the body to rotate, move forwards/backwards and side to side. This will help minimize muscle/movement imbalances, decrease risk of injury, improve athleticism and simply improve overall function.

Sandbags themselves come in a variety of sizes and allow for the user to adjust the weight depending on his/her strength or skill level. There are two approaches that can be utilized: a heavier, more stable sandbag or a lighter, less stable sandbag. Specifically, the more the sandbag weighs or is filled, the more strength is emphasized. In contrast, by removing one of the filler bags, the overall weight is less, but it also allows for more shifting of the weight inside of the sandbag, thus placing more emphasis on stability.

Brand-wise I personally recommend the Ultimate Sandbag. They are durable and don’t have any issues with leaking sand like some of the less expensive models I have tried. They offer four sizes based on fitness/strength levels. If you are just starting out I recommend the “core” or “power” bag. For more advanced users, the “strength” or “burly” bag may be the best fit.

Now that you’re ready to give sandbag training a go, here is sample circuit to get you going.

Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions each.

Cleans: Begin with the sandbag directly in front of you. From there, “hinge” at the hips by pushing them behind you, as you lower and grab the parallel handles of the sandbag while keeping your shoulders pulled down and back to lock in the upper body. Pushing through the heels, quickly accelerate by extending at the hips and simultaneously pulling in a straight line with the arms, keeping the bag as close to your body as possible. Allow the bag to roll as you catch it shoulder-level with your elbows up. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Shoulder Lunge: Begin with the flat side of the sandbag resting on your right shoulder. Step forward with your right leg and lower into a lunge position by bending your front leg until you reach a 90-degree bend in your front leg while maintaining an upright posture. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Continue for 10 reps total, and then position the bag on your left shoulder and repeat.

Shoveling: Begin with the sandbag in front of the body. Pivot one foot while rotating the bag to the opposite side by the knee. Absorb and decelerate the bag by bending the knee and hinging at the hip. Extend the knee and hip, pivot and swing the bag back to the other side. Continue to pivot and swing the bag back and forth to either side until the set is complete.

Bear Hug Squats: Hold the sandbag vertically by wrapping your arms around the midpoint of the bag at chest level by squeezing the bag, keeping your shoulders down and back. Slowly lower into a squat, keeping your knees slightly outward, keeping weight in the heels and maintaining squeezing pressure with your shoulders back. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Strength Training is a Must at Any Age

Last month, we explored the importance and benefits of exercise for individuals who are 65 or older, with a specific emphasis on cardiovascular training. This month we shift our focus to resistance training, explaining why resistance training is just as important as aerobic activity, and highlight the current industry recommendations for seniors.

Remember, however, that the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association recommend working with your personal health professional to develop an individualized program based on your current health and goals.

Resistance Training Benefits

Once we get past the age of 25, the amount of loss in lean body mass can range between 2 and 4 percent per decade with discontinued use. The annual average is 10 ounces of lean body mass, which is mostly in the form of muscle tissue. That’s a total of 25 pounds of muscle over a 40-year period!

This gradual loss of muscle strength is the primary reason seniors have difficulty performing the tasks of daily living. However, it is not an inevitable result of aging, but rather due to a lack of use. In fact, the rate of muscle loss can be reduced to a mere five-tenths of a percent per decade through consistent training.

Evidence also suggests that exercise might decrease the rate of bone loss associated with osteoporosis and reduce the likelihood of falls that result in hip fractures. Unintentional injury, which often results from a fall, ranks as the sixth leading cause of death among people over 65 years of age. And muscle weakness is believed to be a big risk factor for falling.

Additional benefits to resistance training include:

  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Reduced body fat
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Improved blood lipid levels
  • Reductions in low back pain, arthritic pain, and depression.

This is even more reason for seniors to include resistance training as part of their workout regimen. Outlined below are the current industry guidelines for resistance training for seniors, as well as some exercises to get you started.

According to resistance exercise guidelines from the ACSM and from Dr. Wayne Wescott, PhD, a strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, including the American Senior Fitness Association:

  • Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.
  • Very light or light intensity is best for older people or previously sedentary adults starting exercise.
  • Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power. But beginners should start with one set and gradually add more (e.g. one set every four weeks)
  • For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older people starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
  • For those with limiting chronic conditions, it is advisable to begin with lighter weight loads that allow about 15 reps per set.
  • Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions of the same muscle group. Up to 72 to 96 hours of recovery may be needed for beginners or if high levels of soreness are experienced.
  • Perform one exercise for each of the main muscle groups.
  • Use controlled movement speeds when performing strength exercises, focusing on developing a pain-free full range of motion and focusing on maintaining posture and technique.
  • Whenever the repetition goal can be performed with proper form to achieve muscle fatigue, raise the weight by 5 percent for exercises that are applicable.


Squat with Dumbbell Curl to Press: Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding a pair of dumbbells. Slowly descend into a squat by hinging at your hips and bending your knees simultaneously, keeping your weight in your heels, like you’re sitting in a chair. Return to the standing position and perform a bicep curl, flexing at your elbows with your palms facing each other, then immediately press the dumbbells overhead. With control, bring the dumbbells back down to your sides by reversing the arm motion. That counts as one rep. Repeat the entire sequence for the desired number of reps.

Resistance Band Chest Press: Loop one or two bands around a secured anchor point. Begin in a staggered stance, facing away from the anchor point and holding a handle in each hand, elbows bent at 90 degrees and palms facing down. Slowly, extend your arms out in front of you at chest level until your arms are completely straight. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired amount of reps.

Resistance Band Rows: Loop one or two bands around a secured anchor point. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding both handles and facing the anchor point with your arms extended in front of you. Slowly pull the handles toward you, keeping your elbows in, pulling and squeezing your shoulder blades together until your hands reach to about either side of your waist. Make sure you are not shrugging at the shoulders throughout the movement. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Stationary Lunge: Begin in a split stance position, slightly longer than a normal stride, with your front foot flat and you resting on the ball of your back foot. In a straight line, slowly lower your body toward the ground by flexing your knees until your front thigh is parallel (or close to) the floor. You should remain light on your back leg, keeping most of your weight distribution on the front leg, and your front shin should be straight up and down (knee stays behind the toes). Slowly raise back up to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps before switching sides.

Modifications: Shorten your range of motion if you experience any knee pain. Have your arms out to the side or use a stick, chair or wall if you need assistance with balance.

Dumbbell Scaption: Hold a light pair of dumbbells with your palms facing forward, and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly begin to raise the dumbbells directly at your sides (at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock), keep your palms facing forward until your arms are parallel to the floor. Make sure you’re not shrugging at the shoulders during the movement. Return the weights down to your side and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Sources: American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Guidelines for Seniors, “Specialized Strength Training: Winning Workouts for Specific Populations” by Wayne Westcott, PhD, and Susan Ramsden


Get explosive results with the landmine

When it comes to exercise, I’m always trying to find things that are outside the traditional realm. I don’t switch things up for the sake of switching up, but rather look to find ways I can add another component to the arsenal while adding variety and still producing fitness gains.

Let’s face it: Staying motivated with the same exercise routine can get boring — fast. The human body and mind only have a certain threshold when it comes to doing the same thing over and over again. And exercise is no exception. So I feel it’s my obligation to share with you all that I discover and use both personally and with clients. Besides, we’re all here to get results, right?

This month’s “outside of the box” training tool is the “landmine.” Essentially, it’s a sleeve designed for one end of an Olympic bar to go in, while the opposite site can be loaded for a variety of total body movements that include pressing, pulling, squatting, lunging. A rotational component helps hit your core musculature as well. From a fitness standpoint this is great because it allows us variety and versatility, helping improve our cardiovascular endurance, strength and power while burning fat in the process.

Here are five of my favorites to use with the landmine. As always, start lighter with your weight when first introducing new exercises into the mix, focusing on form and adapting to the new movement for the first few weeks. From there feel free to add more load as you become used to the exercises.

Alternating Chest Press

Begin by picking up the bar to chest level, fully extending your arm with your body slightly angled, facing the landmine, holding the top of the bar. Descend into a 1/4 squat position while simultaneously lowering the bar toward your shoulder. Drive back to the starting position by extending both your legs and arm while passing the bar to the opposite arm then repeating the same movement. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps per side.

Alternating Torso Rotations

Using both arms, begin by picking up the bar, fully extending your arms with your body slightly angled, facing the landmine, holding the top of the bar with one hand right above the other at chest level. Simultaneously rotate the bar toward your right side using your arm and hips while pivoting your feet. Once the bar reaches hip level, drive and rotate the bar all the way to the left side of your body in the same manner. Repeat for 10-15 reps per side.

Reverse Lunge with Press

Using both arms, begin by picking up the bar, fully extending your arms with your body slightly angled, facing the landmine, holding the bar with one hand right above the other at chest level. Step back with your right leg and descend into a reverse lunge by bending your left leg to a 90-degree angle while simultaneously lowering the bar toward your chest. Extend both your left leg and arms back to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg. Perform 10 reps per leg.

Single Leg Deadlift

Begin by picking up the bar with your right arm using an underhand grip, keeping the bar below waist level with your arm hanging naturally. Balance on your right leg and slowly hinge at the hips as if you are trying to lower the bar toward the ground, keeping your back straight, hips square and left leg straight and extended behind you until your upper body is about parallel to the floor. Unhinge to return to the starting position while trying to maintain balance on your right leg. Repeat for 10 repetitions, then switch sides.

Single Arm Row

Begin with your back facing the landmine in a split-stance position with the leg closest to the bar behind you. Pick up the bar with an underhand grip with the arm closest to the bar, gripping just below the weights. Bend your front leg slightly and angle your upper body to about 45 degrees. Pull the bar just toward the outside of your body until your elbow is past your torso. Slowly return the bar to the starting position and repeat for 10 repetitions, then switch sides.


Partner Training for Better Results

When it comes to recreational activity, traditional strength and cardio programs are effective in a general sense, but can lack in preparing us for the specific demands that these activities bring. Factors like quickness, balance, reaction time, and specific strength are skills that are needed in the majority of all recreational sports. One of my favorite ways to improve these areas during training is by incorporating partner exercises. Partner exercises are a great way to add variety to your fitness program and can easily add the specificity that is needed for your favorite activities. Plus it brings a more unstructured and “play-like” feel into the mix by adding an element of fun without compromising the fitness. Half the time you get so lost in the activity itself you don’t even realize how physically demanding they are until the drill is over. With a little bit of creativity and a challenging workout partner the sky is the limit.

Here are five of my favorite partner drills that I like to use. Either mix a few of them into the workout or use all five for a complete training session.

Stabilization with Partner push: Begin in an athletic stance, holding a stability ball directly in front of you with arms fully extended. Your partner will then apply pressure to the stability ball at various angles while you try to maintain the athletic stance and ball position. You will feel this in both your arm and core muscles. Continue for 30-60 seconds and then switch.

Plank/Lateral Hop Combo: Have your partner begin in a low or high (push up) plank position. Pick a point on your partner that you feel confident enough and laterally hop over your partner once in each direction. Quickly drop into a plank position while your partner simultaneously stands up and now hops over you once each way. Continue alternating in this fashion for a full minute.

Partner Row: Using a TRX, you and your partner will each take one handle. Both will begin by using their right arm in a staggered stance with their left foot forward while facing each other. Keep the TRX taught between the two of you, with your arm fully extended and your partners arm bent at 90 degrees with their elbow past the midline of their body. Begin to pull (row) as your partner applies maximum resistance, but still allowing their arm to fully extend until yours reaches a 90 degree bend. Continue rowing back and forth against each other for a total of 10 repetitions each.

Single Leg Balance w/Medicine Ball Chest Pass: Both will begin by balancing on one leg with about a 45 degree bend in the knee. Using a medicine, quickly pass the ball back and forth to one another at chest level for 30 seconds. Stand up, shake it out, and repeat on the opposite leg.

Blocking Sled: Begin with a stability ball directly between you and your partner at chest level. Provide maximum resistance against your partner while still allowing them to move as they push forward against you as you continue to move backwards similar to a blocking sled, keeping pressure on the ball between you. Continue for about 5-10 yards, and then switch pushing/resisting roles. Repeat for 2-3 reps each.

Snow Day Workout

Now grant it…I’m from Utah and today’s snow conditions are pretty elementary from my experience. So with that being said, this workout will still require some equipment and actually making it to the gym for most of you.

The theme of the workout is more for getting out some aggression that comes with cabin fever and is a better alternative to the “All work and no play” approach as we’ve all seen with our “dull boy” in the clip above.

So without further ado…here’s what I felt inspired to do on today’s snow day.

Dynamic Warm Up – 10 Minutes

Anaerobic Circuits: 3 rounds total. Complete the first circuit for the designated reps. Alternating between the two exercises as many times as you can for the full two minutes. At a minimum you should complete each exercise at least one time through.

Rest 1 minute. Then use the same approach for circuit #2. After completing both circuits recover for two minutes, then repeat two more times with the same rest schedule. Note that the reps descend each set as indicated below.

Anaerobic Circuit #1 – 2 minutes
1. Straight Punches (Heavy Bag) x 100-90-80
2. Burpees x 15-12-10

Anaerobic Circuit #2 – 2 minutes
1. MB Power Getup to Wall Ball 20# x 10-8-6
2. Jumping Jacks with Battle Rope x 50-40-30

Rest 3-5 minutes after completing 3 rounds of the anaerobic Circuit.

Strength Circuit (Push/Pull): Pretty straight forward.  Complete both exercises for the outlined reps below (Descending Rep Scheme).  Complete both exercises without stopping, then rest 1 minute between each compound set.  Strict form on the chin ups.  Use a superband or minimal kip if needed.  But try to stay as strict as possible.  For you stronger ladies and gentlemen…you can put your feet on a plyo box if it’s too easy 😉

1. Ring Pushups x 10-10-8-8-6-6-4-4-2-2

2. Chin ups x 10-10-8-8-6-6-4-4-2-2

Rest 2-3 minutes after strength circuit

Core Circuit:  Complete each exercise for the designated reps.  Minimal rest between exercises.  1 minute recovery between rounds.  Use a 8-12# Med Ball for the first two exercises.

1. Long lever crunch with vertical leg raise x 20-15-10

2. V-Sit with rotation x 20-15-10 (per side)

3. Plank with spiderman kick x 20-15-10 (per side)

4. Cobra (McKenzie Press Ups) x 20-15-10

That’s it!  Go home, kick your feet up by the fire and relax…you earned it!


Got Dumbbells?

Renegade Row

Bodybuilding is typically what comes to people’s minds when they think of dumbbell training. Exercises like chest presses, bicep curls and lateral raises using dumbbells are very effective for strength and adding muscle.

But in addition, dumbbells can be very effective for functional exercises. In other words, movement that uses the entire body as opposed to training muscles in isolation.

“Why should we train for movement?” you may be wondering. The answer is more apparent when we examine what the human body is designed for. The human body not only functions by pushing, pulling and lowering/raising the body’s center of mass, but also rotating and maintaining balance, stability and posture. With this in mind, there are three things that should be used in our approach to using dumbbells for function.

The first is training for movement. Muscles work in synergy. The term “synergy” comes from the Latin word meaning “work together.” The nervous system innervates the musculoskeletal system to work as a complete unit. A baseball player throwing a ball with maximum velocity or simply the act of running best illustrate this point. The muscles work in harmony. Performing more compound exercises that involve multiple joints and allow the body to work as a whole unit has a higher carryover into day-to-day life. Also, training for movement will yield greater strength gains, improve coordination and increase stability.

Second is training in multiple planes. The human body works in three planes of movement (sagittal, frontal and transverse), or movement that involves rotation, moving forwards and backwards and side to side. Being three-dimensional with our exercises helps minimize muscle/movement imbalances, decrease risk of injury and improve overall function.

Third is training balance and stability.

University of Sydney exercise physiologist Dr. Rhonda Orr defines functional training this way: “Strength is transferable from an unstable environment to a stable environment but not the other way around.” In other words, training muscles strictly from an isolated setting will yield little or no improvement for your balance or stability. In order to improve balance and stability, you must train for it. And it will improve not only balance and stability, but strength as well.

Now that we know the benefits of adding functional movement to our dumbbell workouts, here are four of my favorites that I use in conjunction with more traditional dumbbell exercises.


Begin in a pushup position with your feet wider than hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Engage your core and pull the dumbbell in your left hand just past the outside of your body with a rowing motion, while slightly rotating your torso. Using control, lower the weight back to the floor then repeat the same motion on the right side.

Continue for 10 repetitions per arm. For modification, perform the exercise from the knees. For an advanced option, add a push-up after each row.


Begin in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand. Starting with your left leg, lunge forward bending at the knees and lowering the hips while simultaneously raising the right dumbbell to about eye level with a 90-degree bend in your elbow. At the same time your left arm should be swinging back until the dumbbell is lined up with your hip while also keeping about a 90-degree bend in your arm.

Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Perform 10 repetitions per side.


Begin by balancing on your left leg, holding a pair of dumbbells. Engage your core and hinging at the hip until your upper body is about parallel to the floor. Maintain this position and pull your arms away from each other and retracting your shoulder blades until your arms are in a “t-position” in line with your upper body. Slowly release your arms, unhinge at the hips, returning back into an upright position while maintaining balance. Repeat for 5-6 reps then switch sides.


Begin in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your weight in your heels, squat and lower your body by hinging at the hips and bending at the knees until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. As you return to the standing position, simultaneously raise your dumbbells away from your body while bending your arms to a 90-degree angle until your arms are parallel to the floor.

Repeat the motion for a total of 15 repetitions.

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Cool Fitness Tools to Keep Workouts Fun

Let’s face it. Staying motivated with the same exercise routine can get boring – fast. The human body and mind have a certain threshold when it comes to doing the same thing over and over again. And exercise is no exception.

The good news is you don’t have to limit yourself to the usual go-to of free weights or strength and cardio machines. The fitness industry is always creating training devices that are different and challenging and produce great training results.

I’m not talking about fad infomercial products like the shake weight or the ab belt. These are the same training tools used by fitness enthusiasts and even professional athletes. Specifically, a few that are “outside of the box” include SandRopes, SandBells and the TRX Rip Trainer. From a training standpoint they are great because of their versatility, and each one will help improve cardiovascular endurance, strength and power – and burn fat.


SandRopes, as the name implies, are neoprene battling ropes filled with sand.

Made by Hyperwear, SandRopes come in either a 15- or 30-pound option. SandRopes give you a few advantages over regular battling ropes.

First, they take up less space. Regular battling ropes range from 30 to 50 feet in length, while sandropes are only 10 feet. Second, they don’t require an anchor point like battling ropes do (though they can be anchored if preferred).

And last, because they are filled with sand, they will challenge grip strength much more.

SandRopes are used traditionally by implementing a whipping or circle motion with your arms, creating a “wave” in the rope. And with the shifting of the sand and dead-weight feel, it’s even more challenging to keep the wave going.

As a bonus, SandRopes are also great for resisted running drills as well. Overall, they are a great total-body training device that will tax your muscles and cardiovascular system.


• Basic wave

• Ultimate Warrior (Side-Facing Wave)

• Rope Drags

• Ax Chops


Also made by Hyperwear, SandBells are sand-filled neoprene disks that range from 2 to 50 pounds. SandBells create great workout diversity because they can simulate exercises used with dumbbells, medicine balls and kettlebells. And, of course, there is the increased challenge to grip strength, which you don’t experience with traditional free weights.

Also, because they are compact, SandBells can easily be used for workouts when traveling or if you have limited space.


• Rotational Slams

• Squat Toss

• Walking Plank/Row

• Swings


This is a resistance-cord system that creates an unbalanced load to help develop core strength, power and endurance. The cord can attach to one end of the resistance bar for high-variety asymmetrical and rotational exercises to challenge core strength. But you can also attach the cord to each end of the bar for more traditional strength exercises, giving you countless options. The Rip Trainer is very portable. All you need is a stable anchor point for the opposite end and you’re ready to press, pull, squat and rotate your way into a killer total-body workout.


• Squat to Overhead Press

• Slap Shot

• Rotational Punches

• Squat Row

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Body Weight Strength Training



As the name implies, body weight strength training is a form of strength conditioning focused on building strength solely with the use of body weight exercises.  In terms of strength training we generally think along the lines of building absolute strength, which is the maximum force that an individual’s muscle can produce against an external resistance (i.e. dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc.).  While this is an important component to building strength, it is only one piece of the puzzle.  Most sports and functional activities require higher levels of relative strength more than anything.  Specifically, relative strength is the maximum force that an individual can generate per unit of body weight.  This style of strength requires the exerciser to control their body weight against gravity as opposed to “lifting” an object. Think of sports like wrestling, rock climbing, hiking, running, biking, martial arts, and gymnastics.  All of these activities require high levels of relative strength. Being able to lift massive amounts of weight doesn’t carry over into the activity as effectively as the use of body weight exercises.   

Some examples of body weight exercises include:

·         Pushups

·         Pullups

·         Single Leg Squats

·         Pistol Squats

·         Floor Bridges

·         Back Extension

·         Rope Climb

·         Lunges

·         Planks

·         Pikes

·         Box Jumps

·         Split Jumps

Of course, experienced exercises will get to the point to where their muscles are no longer overloaded enough for continued results.  That’s where the use of fitness devices like weight vests, gymnastics rings, TRX suspension trainers, and balance boards come in.  Any of them are very effective increasing the “relative” load in a progressive manner as strength and endurance levels increase.  Other effective ways to add challenge is by simply slowing the tempo.  Performing pushups with a 3 second descend and 2 second pause at the bottom is an entirely different animal than simply banging out reps.  Don’t believe me?  Try it…I dare you!   The same approach can be used with other exercises like single leg squats, lunges, etc.  

So next time you’re ready to hit it hard with a strength workout, I challenge you to stay away from the weights and try a 5-6 exercise circuit with the sample exercises listed above.  Or even better…here is sample of one of my favorite Body Weight Strength Circuits.


3 Sets

Reps: 20-16-12 reps (Descending each set)

Rest: 30-60 sec between exercises/1-2 minutes between sets

1. Chinups

2. BOSU Up and Overs

3. Ring Flys

4. TRX Hamstring Curl to Hip Press

5. Single Arm Rope Pull

6. Stability Ball Prone Overhead Press

Strength Complexes Get Fast Results

It seems every summer is the same. Life simply gets … busy. Kids are out of school, there are vacations, you’re working more hours and still trying to maintain anything remotely close to a social life.

With the mad shuffle, it’s our fitness routine that usually gets put on the back burner first. Why? “I don’t have time to spend an hour at the gym.” Well, you may not actually need an hour. In fact, you might get more out of your routine now in as little as 20 minutes using strength complexes.

Strength complexes are similar to circuit training with one exception: We limit our workout to one piece of training equipment. This can be in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, TRX, barbells – anything, really – as long as it’s simple and allows for a wide variety of exercises.

The advantages of using one training tool are: First, it minimizes setup time; and second, it allows us to move seamlessly from one exercise to the next without moving to another station.

Strength complexes come with many fitness advantages as well. Not only are they great for building strength, but they are highly effective at improving cardiovascular endurance. Also, strength complexes come with a high metabolic, which taxes our bodies more in less time, yielding a higher-calorie expenditure post workout, higher fat loss, etc. And lastly, strength complexes utilize total body movement, which is what our bodies were designed for. If you watch an athlete or people move in general, you see that movement involves multiple regions of the body.

Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball, picking up your kids or putting away groceries, these actions require multiple muscles to fire and work synergistically. So, by using full-body strength complexes, we experience a better carryover effect for our recreational activities and day-to-day living.

OK, here’s how we set it up:

Choose your equipment: The only rule for this is choosing something that can be taken anywhere in the gym, preferably where you have ample space to maneuver. My favorites are the TRX, dumbbells, barbells, resistance tubing, medicine balls and kettlebells. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; simply know that each has its own advantages, and any of them will suffice.

Pick a rep scheme: There are countless options when it comes to choosing reps. Typically, strength complexes are more endurance-based.

I recommend working with lighter loads and training at higher reps due to the high demand of the workout. Anywhere between 10-15 reps per exercise/combo works great. Another option is performing each exercise for a specific time, typically between 30-90 seconds per exercise.

Exercise sequence: Again the sky is the limit. Pick two or three combination exercises (e.g. barbell deadlift/row) or four exercises that focus on a total-body movement (e.g. lunge with lateral raise), a pressing exercise (e.g. overhead press), a pulling exercise (e.g. dumbbell row), and a squat and/or lunge. The goal of the sequence is to use all the movement patterns of the human body.

The workout: Once you have your exercises and reps selected, perform your strength complex for a 5- to 10-minute block of time, resting only when needed. This will get your heart pumping and your muscles burning in no time. Rest between 1 and 3 minutes and repeat, performing a total of 2-3 blocks.

There you have it. A killer workout in 20-30 minutes. Outlined below are three strength complexes to get you started.

To see a video of these complexes click here

Barbell strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.

1. Alternating lunge

2. Push press

3. Deadlift to barbell row

Dumbbell strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.

1. Squat to lateral raise

2. Single leg squats

3. Renegade row

TRX strength complex: Perform 10 reps each for a 5- to 10-minute block. Complete 2-3 training blocks total.

1. Pistol squats

2. Wide row

3. Pushups

4. Hip press

Full-Body Strength Exercises for a Quick and Effective Workout!

Full-body exercises place an emphasis on multiple areas of the body during one exercise. They are being used more by fitness enthusiasts and are popular for a variety of reasons. First, they are efficient.  Combining upper and lower body moves into a strength routine cuts down on workout time and the frequency to the gym.  It’s more feasible for most people to commit to a strength routine using two total-body workouts per week opposed to four to five using a traditional split-routine approach (i.e. Chest & Triceps on Monday, Legs, Shoulders & Abs on Tuesday, Back & Biceps on Wednesday, etc.).   Second, full-body exercises increase the metabolic demand on the body. Typically, the higher the metabolic demand, the higher the calorie expenditure per workout. Plus, you get more challenge to your cardiovascular system as well.  In other words, you’re getting more bang for your buck.  And lastly, our bodies were designed for total-body movement.  If you watch an athlete or people move in general, most movement involves multiple regions of the body.  Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball in, picking up your kids, or putting the groceries away, these actions require multiple muscles to fire and work synergistically.  So by using full-body exercises, we experience a better carry over effect for our day to day living.

So if you’re looking to mix up your routine or are short on time, try this four exercise circuit for a quick full-body blast!

Isometric Lunge w/Cable Chest Press

Muscle Focus: Chest & Legs

Begin by grabbing both cable handles and positioning your body into a split stance with your left leg forward.  Lower your center of gravity just like you would for a stationary lunge and position your arms in line with your body with your elbows bent at 90 degrees.  Straighten your arms by pressing out in front of you while maintaining your leg position.  Return your arms back to the 90 degree position and repeat the chest press for 10-15 repetitions before switching legs.

Squat w/Lateral Dumbbell Raise

Muscle Focus: Legs & Shoulders

Standing with a dumbbell in your right hand, lower into a squat position while positioning your arm across your body with your elbow bent at 90 degrees and slightly rotating your torso.  Perform a backhand like motion by returning to an upright position and performing a lateral raise with your right arm simultaneously.  Remember to keep your elbow bent at 90 degrees.  Repeat for 10-15 repetitions before switching arms. 

If you want more challenge, try this exercise with a single leg squat!     

Barbell Deadlift w/Bent Over Row

Muscle Focus: Legs & Back

Stand with your feet hip width apart while holding a barbell.  Use an underhand grip and position your hands on the bar just outside of your stance.  Keeping your chest out and back flat, contract your abs and slowly lower your upper body by hinging with your hips while slightly bending your knees.  Continue lowering until your upper body is almost parallel to the ground.  Keeping your abdominals contracted and a back flat, pull the barbell towards your mid-section and roll your shoulders back, then slowly lower the barbell away from you.  Once your arms are fully straight, contract your glutes and unhinge back to the upright position.  Repeat this sequence for 10-15 reps. 

This one is a little difficult to master, so remember start with lighter weight and master your technique before going heavier.   

Stability Ball Tricep Extensions

Muscle Focus: Hamstrings, Glutes, Triceps

Begin by lying on a stability ball while holding a pair of dumbbells.  Keep your head, neck, and shoulders in alignment with the rest of your body with your hips fully elevated and legs bent at 90 degrees.    Now, position your arms above your chest with your palms facing in.  Keeping your hips elevated and upper arms straight and slowly lower the dumbbells by bending your elbows to a 90 degree angle.  Return your arms to the straight position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. 


For modification, use a wider stance to make balance easier or use a BOSU if you are uncomfortable using a stability ball.

Exercise is Key for Treating Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a pain-fatigue syndrome that affects up to 4% of the population aged 20-60 and 80% of those diagnosed with the syndrome are women (Smith & Barkin 2010).  People affected by it are typically dealing with both physical and psychological pain.  Feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration, and guilt (why me?) are coupled with chronic pain, fatigue, headaches, and nerve dysfunction.  Other Symptoms may include restless leg syndrome, morning stiffness, temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJ), impaired concentration, and sensitivity in various “tender points.”

As you would expect, these symptoms can take a severe toll in many ways.  Those who are affected often find it difficult just carrying out their daily routines.  Among, FMS patients who were surveyed:

  • 35% reported having difficulty performing normal daily activities of daily living
  • 55% had difficulty walking two blocks
  • 62% had trouble climbing stairs
  • Two-thirds or more had difficulty with the minor tasks of shopping (66%), light household chores (68%) and carrying 10 pounds (70%) (Bennett et al. 2007).

The underlying cause of fibromyalgia is still being figured out.  Exploring the details of the history or current research regarding its cause is beyond the scope of this article.  However, it is noteworthy that research not only has shown that exercise is beneficial to treating those with FMS, but should be a central component to treating it.

According to Rossy et al. (1999), 49 studies show that drug-free treatments are more effective that drug treatments for the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and assert that exercise is central to the treatment of fibromyalgia.  And even more recently, “Research has repeatedly shown that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia” (NIAMS 2011)

Then the question is, what modes of exercise are the best?

Research has shown significant benefits with the following activities*:

  • Walking Daily at a moderate pace.
  • Deep water running or water aerobic regimen 3-5 days/week for 45 minutes
  • Cycling at 70-75% of age predicted maximum
  • Resistance Training 2-3 days per week at intensities corresponding to 8-12 repetitions to fatigue.
  • Mind-Body Approaches such as: yoga, pilates, breathing exercises, whole body vibration training

Now studies have shown that it is important to start slow and participate in mild workouts when first starting out. From there gradual progressions can be made.  You will want to avoid intense, fatiguing exercises because it will enhance the build up and overproduction of metabolic byproducts like lactic acid which can actually make symptoms much worse.  In fact, a 70% of surveyed patients have reported that strenuous physical activity is a prime aggravator for their symptoms (Bennett et al. 2007)

So when first starting out it is recommended to:

  • Begin with one mode of exercise, walking is the most common.
  • Exercise intensity should be self-determined
  • Incorporate 1-2 days of rest in between workouts when needed
  • Develop Good Sleep Habits and Eating Patterns
  • As symptoms and endurance improves, slowly begin to introduce an additional activity.
  • Try a variety of each of the activities listed to help you decide which ones are the most effective.

 Every FMS case is different and should be treated on an individual basis.  Work under the supervision of your health care professional to determine the best modes of activities to include and reap the medicinal benefits of exercise.

*Additional Sources

Assis et al. 2006

Cuesta-Vargas& Adams 2011

Hooten et al. 2012

Hurley, Hanson & Sheaff 2011

Busch et al. 2011

Feel Like a Kid Again with these Fitness Games

What image do you think of when the subject of fitness is brought up?  Do you envision going to the gym, hopping onto a cardio machine, and zoning out for the next hour.  Or perhaps you’re more of a Monday is Chest/Shoulders Tuesday is Back/Biceps kind of person.  While either approach is effective and may be satisfactory for some, others will count every painful minute until it’s over or worse, quit due to boredom or lack of results.

Now I’m not saying having a structured gym routine is wrong, it should be part of the process…just not the entire process! What I am suggesting is adding some unstructured, “play-like” workouts into the mix.  Remember when you were young and played pickup games of basketball, rode your bike, played tag or participated in other fun games that had you running, jumping, and actually enjoying yourself?  Play was great, and it also kept us in shape without realizing it.  These same games were great for improving agility, increasing speed and reaction time and were mentally engaging.  We can use this approach for our fitness routine as well.  A great way of doing it is by incorporating a workout each week that centers around fitness games/drills.  Not only are they fun, but they are very challenging fitness wise as well.  And the best part?  They give you something to look forward to, keep you consistent, and have you feeling like a kid again. So grab a workout partner and enjoy a blast from the past with these games and drills!

Crab Race: Set up two cones approximately 10 yards apart.  Begin in the crab position (See Photo).  For one minute using your hands and legs, crab crawl down and back between the cones as many times as you can within the time limit. Switch partners and repeat.  The person who accumulates the most distance wins the round.  Or as a second option, make it a race and go simultaneously with your workout partner.  Perform 1-3 rounds total.

Shadow Drill: Set up two cones approximately 5 yards apart with your partner standing at the mid-point between the cones facing each other.  One will start off as leader while the other follows.  Using a lateral shuffle, the leader’s goal is to outmaneuver (i.e. juke) the follower for 15-20 seconds.  The follower tries to shadow and match the leaders every move.  Rest for 20-60 seconds, switch rolls and repeat.  Perform 1-3 sets total.

Pulling Drill: This drill requires either a rope or a rolled up towel.  Set up two cones approximately 10 yards apart and begin the drill at one end. Both partners will hold the ends of the rope with both hands.  The person whose back is facing the cone at the opposite end begins by pulling and dragging their partner towards the other end.  The person facing the cone at the opposite end is providing strong resistance, but allowing their partner to move.  Switch rolls once you reach the other end and repeat to complete the first set.  Perform 1-3 sets total.

Farmer Walk Race: Set up two cones approximately 10 yards apart.  Each participant will need a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells. Weight selection depends on your level of strength/fitness.  Generally 15-35 lbs. for females and 35-55 lbs. for males.  More or less can be used, adjust accordingly.  The drill begins with each participant holding their

For a video demonstration please click here.

The Iron – by Henry Rollins

Few stories have resonated more with me than “The Iron” by Henry Rollins.

Henry Rollins is an American spoken word artist, writer, journalist, comedian, publisher, actor, radio DJ, activist and musician.

Not only is the story motivating, but Mr. Rollins perfectly shows the parallels between lifting and the life’s lessons.

Want to develop true character, patience, self-respect, and find out what you’re truly capable of?

Then develop the Iron Mind!


By Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.


When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why. I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time. As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say shit to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr. Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

TRX Plank to Handstand

This is one of my favorite TRX exercises.  Primarily for it’s challenges to the core and upper body.  Before attempting this exercise there are obviously some things that you need to consider…

First is core stability.  As a prerequisite you should be able to hold a plank with your feet suspended in the TRX at an absolute minimum of one minute.  AND perform at least 10 suspended pushups with good form as well.

Second is safety.  Should seem pretty obvious…but gym guys like me can get bogged down in the guts n glory of it all.  Luckily I’ve wised up (a little) in my 30’s.  I recommend using a spotter for your legs.  If your lower body starts to drift off course even a little, you will immediately be switching to the TRX Helicopter spin…with a tuck exercise.  So use a spotter to keep your legs on track until you are comfortable flying solo.

Next…begin small with the exercise.  Start with 1- 2 paces in each direction for 5 reps.  Next week…shoot for 2-3 at 4 reps, then 3-4 at 3 reps the following week, etc.  Before you know it you’ll have no problem getting fully inverted and may even feel inclined (no pun intended) to add a push up in between steps.

That’s it.  Watch the video to hear the key points of the exercise and happy training!

Strength Endurance Training

One of my favorite strength training workouts that I use personally and with clients is Strength Endurance Training.  Specifically from NASM, this strength endurance training method is a hybrid form of superset training that promotes increased stabilization endurance, hypertrophy, and strength.  This method of training entails the use of superset techniques where a more stable exercise (ex. bench press) is immediately followed with a stabilization exercise with similar biomechanical motions (ex. TRX push-up).  Thus, for every set of an exercise/body part performed, there are actually two exercises/sets being performed.  High amounts of volume can be generated with this method which can result in body fat loss and/or hypertrophy. Training variables should be manipulated depending on which is a higher priority. If body fat loss is desired, utilize more complex/total body strength moves while keeping the repetitions around 10-12 per execise. If hypertrophy is desired, segmenting per body part with each superset is more effective, keeping the repetitions at 8-10 per exercise (see acute variables below).

All in all, these workouts are very taxing but well worth the rewards!  Below are five of my personal favorites.  Countless combinations can be used with this training method…play around with them and you’ll be hooked too…

Strength Endurance Workout:

  • Perform a 10-15 minute dynamic warm-up
  • 3-4 sets/pair of exercises
  • 8-12 reps/exercise @ 70% of 1RM
  • Rest 1 minute between pairs/2-3 minutes between sets


  1. Barbell Clean to Overhead Press/Single Leg Squat with Dumbbell PNF
  2. Barbell Deadlift to Bent over row/Single Leg Deadlift to Dumbbell row
  3. Rockstars/TRX Atomic Pushups
  4. Barbell Squats/TRX Pistol Squat
  5. Pullups/TRX Rotational Pullup

Training Tools for Fitness Fast

Many think they don’t have time to exercise…well I’m here to say THINK AGAIN! With minimal resources there is always a way.  Recently I did a “Fitness Fast” workshop featuring resistance tubing, TRX, and dumbbells.  I love all three of these fitness tools for a few reason.  One, they are convenient.  Two, they are easy to use.  And three, they are great for functional training.

Here is a brief overview of all three with a sample circuit with each.  Perform any of the circuits for a quick 10-15 minute workout or perform all three for a longer, more challenging workout.


Resistance Tubing: is a simple and effective way to get a complete workout and comes with many benefits.  It’s portable and can be taken anywhere, whether you’re traveling, looking for an alternative to the gym or just want to add another element to your training.  In addition to the convenience, resistance tubing can also create some unique training challenges as well.  Tubing adds a progressive increase in resistance, it can be used at different speeds, and provides a horizontal load similar to the cable cross over machines you see at the gym. Simply hook one to a solid anchor point and now you can perform rowing, pressing, rotations and leg movements.  Great for training variety and preparing for recreational activities year round!

Sample Resistance Tubing Circuit:  1-3 sets x 1 minute each

  • Squat Row
  • Rotational Chest Press
  • Resisted Lunge
  • Torso Rotations

TRX Suspension Trainer: is a body weight training tool made from suspension straps. Attach the TRX to an overhead anchor point or door attachment and adjust the angle of your body to make exercises easier or more challenging. This training tool also creates more demand on the core muscles and helps increase joint stability because the straps need to be controlled by the body. You can easily perform hundreds of exercises using the TRX!

Sample TRX Circuit: 1-3 sets x 1 minute each

  • Pushup
  • Single Leg Lunge
  • Pull ups
  • Ice Skaters

Dumbbell Training: is one of the oldest yet most effective training tools around.  Dumbbells allow for every movement essential for human function and can be used virtually anywhere.  With a single pair of dumbbells, you can easily perform a total body circuit that will get your heart pumping and muscles burning.  Dumbbells are a great accessory to add to your home gym.

Sample Dumbbell Circuit: 1-3 sets x 1 minute each

  • Lunge to Bicep Curl & Press
  • Plank/Dumbbell Row Combo
  • Squat to Dumbbell Upper Cut
  • Standing Dumbbell Paddle

Training Ropes

Using training ropes in your fitness routine provides a fun and unique type of training stimulus. The exerciser must train with a continuing velocity by using their arms to maintain a wave-like motion throughout the entire length of the rope leaving no lull in action!  Of course this is easier said then done…even highly fit exercisers are shocked at the difficulty of maintaining the wave for as little as 20 seconds their first time using it!

Training ropes come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 30-50′ in length, 1-2″ in diameter, and 12-40 lbs in weight. Basically, the larger the rope, the more challenging it is to keep it moving.  More advanced exercisers will find the medium to larger rope as the most ideal (40-50’/20+ lbs).  And if you are just beginning a fitness program the shorter/lighter rope (30-40’/up to 20 lbs) will provide plenty of challenge.

Of course implementing training ropes into your fitness routine has many physical benefits. Cardiovascular endurance increases,  noticeable improvements in strength and power are found, and a rope workout is a great calorie burner for individuals trying to improve body fat.  A variety of exercises and movements can be used at different angles and positions, giving you a complete and well-rounded workout.  So whether you are an MMA fighter, weekend warrior, or just looking for training variety…the ropes are an absolute must!


Circuit 1 – 3 sets @ 30 s/exercise. Rest 30-60 s between pairs

1. Alternating Waves x 30 seconds/Burpees x 30 seconds

2. Double Waves x 30 seconds/Split Jumps x 30 seconds

3. Circle Waves x 30 seconds/Iceskaters x 30 seconds

4. Flips x 30 seconds/Side shuffles x 30 seconds

Rest 2-3 minutes before moving to circuit 2

Circuit 2 – 3 sets @ 30 s/exercise.  Rest 30-60 s between pairs

1.  Alternating Circles x 30 seconds/Wall Acceleration Drill x 30 seconds

2.  In Outs x 30 seconds/Quick Feet x 30 seconds

3.  Big Waves x 30 seconds/Squat Jumps x 30 seconds

4.  Jumping Jacks x 30 seconds/Mountain Climbers x 30 seconds


Kettlebell Towel Swings

The Kettlebell Towel Swing has quickly become one of my favorite  exercises.  Not only is it different from most strength movements, but it really is a fun exercise.  It’s a great total body and core exercise that will help increase upper body strength, shoulder mobility, stability, and  rotational strength and power.  Give this one a try and you will feel muscles you never knew you had the next day.

Here’s the what you’ll need:

one kettlebell between 18-35# depending on your strength.

one long durable towel.

clear space

The Exercise

1.  Thread the towel through the kettlebell handle

2.  In one continuous movement, bring your arms up and swing the kettlebell up to your side, turning your shoulders and torso with the kettlebell.

3.  Keeping your abdominals tight, extend your arms up overhead swinging the kettlebell behind your back.

4.  Bring your arms to the opposite side of your body, continuing to follow with your shoulders and torso.

5.  Continue to follow through with your arms in front of you and repeat in the same direction.

6.  Repeat the movement for 10-15 reps before bringing the kettlebell to a controlled stop.

7.  Repeat steps 1-6 going the opposite direction.


Fitness Fast with the TRX

When I want to bang out a fast workout, more times than not I go to the TRX Suspension Trainer.   In a nutshell, the TRX is a set of suspension straps that you hang from a stable overhead anchor point and perform exercises by leveraging your body at various angles relative to your strength/skill level.

It’s popularity surged mostly because of it’s versatility, economic appeal, and convenience.   The TRX can be used both indoors and outdoors with the capacity to perform over a hundred exercises!  You can easily knock out a 10-15 minute workout, anywhere…anytime.

Don’t believe me?  Try to the workout in the clip above for 10 minutes…you always have time!

TRX Circuit – Workout Time 10 minutes

Set a timer for 10 minutes.  Perform 10 reps of each exercise completing as many rounds as possible within 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

1. Atomic Pushups x 10
2. Ice Skaters x 10/leg
3. Wide Row x 10

To learn more about the TRX, please checkout their website.

Fitness Fast – Burpee Combination

This is the first of many posts to come with a “Fitness Fast” theme. Many think they don’t have time to exercise…well I’m here to say THINK AGAIN! With minimal resources there is always a way and it will be my pleasure to serve as your guide.

And now we are going to start this series off with one of my favorites, the burpee combination. There are many ways you can approach this sequence for a fast and challenging workout. All you need is a pair of dumbbells and a pull up bar (optional). Weight selection is the same weight you would use for an overhead press for a 10-15 rep set (60-70% or your 1 rep max). Essentially when you break the sequence down there are five primary movements:

1. Burpee
2. Prone Dumbbell Row to Pushup
3. Dumbbell Bicep Curl to Overhead Press
4. Reverse Lunge
5. Pullup.

I love this sequence because it involves the four pillars of movement: a push, pull, raising/lower the center of mass, and rotation. Also, a the burpee combo comes with a high metabolic demand. Not only will it challenge your strength and endurance, it will tax your cardiovascular system tremendously as well.

There are two approaches I recommend for the burpee combination, flow or repetitions. By flow, I simply mean moving through the sequence exactly as its drawn up, 1 repetition for each movement. You can either do the sequence for time, in other words “flow” for one minute followed by a one minute recovery. Or you can flow through the sequence five consecutive times followed by a one minute recovery. The workout looks like this:

Burpee Combination – Flow
5 sets @ 1 minute each
1 minute rest between sets
Circuit Time: 10 minutes

This is a great circuit if you need to get in a workout fast. But, if you have more time you can easily add a second circuit of your choosing. However, I highly recommend a full 3-5 minute recovery before starting the second circuit.

Your second option is the repetition approach. Rather than flowing from one movement to the next, you perform 5-10 reps of each individual movement before moving to the next. In other words, a clusterf#$!:

Burpee Combination – Repetitions
2-3 Sets
5-10 reps/movement
Rest 2-3 minutes between sets

1. Burpees x 5-10 reps
2. Prone Dumbbell Row to Pushup x 5-10 reps
3. Dumbbell Curl to Press x 5-10 reps
4. Reverse Lunges x 5-10 reps/leg
5. Pullups x 5-10 reps

Because this approach had a high volume for each movement, I recommend only 2-3 sets. Plus you’ll need a little more recovery between sets, 2-3 minutes ideally since this option will take a little longer per set and will tax the muscles a more due to the compartmentalized approach. This option still will only take around 15-20 minutes. Still a pretty quick hit.

There you have it! The first of many “Fitness Fast” segments to come. You always have time now get after it!

Have Fun. Get Fit.

No Gym? No Problem!

Let’s face it.  Getting to the gym this time of year is hard.  Kids are out of school, family vacations, business travel, etc.  Besides, when it’s 80 and sunny, the gym may not seem as appealing as it did a few short months ago.  For whatever reason many of us face the same challenge getting a regular workout in whether it’s a lack of time, limited resources, or simple gym boredom. Rather than viewing it as a challenge think of it as a good reason to get creative and try something new. Not only is it good for us physically to mix things up, but it’s mentally refreshing as well. Plus there are still plenty of ways to get in a solid workout that is fast, convenient, and only requires one piece of equipment…you!  Training with minimal or no equipment is often referred to bodyweight training.  Bodyweight training comes with many physical benefits, including increases in strength, range of motion, cardiovascular endurance.  And best of all, many bodyweight exercises can be performed free of pain for most exercisers.

Outlined below are five exercises that can be either implemented into your current workout routine or as a workout you can take with you anywhere!

Inverted Row

















Inverted Row: Use a solid, stable bar like a guard rail or a monkey bar.  The bar should be anywhere between waist to chest height. Grab the bar with your palms facing down and with your arms fully extended at chest level. Your body should be angled at approximately 0° to 60° depending on your level of strength. Maintaining alignment and control, contract your abs and pull your chest towards the bar keeping your body straight throughout the movement. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

Jack Squat
















Jack Squats: Begin in a squat position with your hands at your sides.  Hop into a standing position with your feet out wide while simultaneously singing your arms overhead.  Hop back into the squat position and repeat the movement for 10-15 repetitions.

Floor Bridge

















Floor BridgeLie on your back and position your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent at 90°. Contract your abs and slowly lift your hips off of the ground until you are fully extended. Pause for 2 seconds and slowly lower yourself back to the ground. Repeat this move for 10 to 15 repetitions.  Continue the movement for 30 seconds.

Stationary Spiderman: Begin in a pushup position with a narrow grip.  Bring your left leg forward placing your foot flat and to the outside of your hands.  Extend your left leg back into the starting position.  Repeat the same movement with your right leg and continue the movement by alternating legs.  Perform 10-15 reps per side.

Mountain Climbers: Begin in a pushup position keeping your body straight.  Step your left leg in towards your hands keeping the hip, knee, and foot in a straight line.  Simultaneously, extend your left leg back to the starting position while stepping your right leg towards your hands and continue to alternate the movement with your legs similar to a running motion.  Keep your body straight throughout the entire set, performing the exercise as quickly as possible while maintaining form.

Click here for a video demo

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 17 years experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at or

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Keep the body guessing with training variety

Slow tempo pushup

In order to achieve continued results from a strength program, muscles need to be challenged beyond their comfort zone. Many exercisers know this already. However, often times we limit the challenge by simply increasing weight or repetitions.

While this is an important method for improving fitness, it’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Eventually our bodies will adapt and hit a plateau with this approach alone. Bottom line: The body needs training variety as well. In fact, just changing the exercise variables alone can have a tremendous impact on improving our strength and endurance.

In short, we’re simply trying to keep the body guessing. There are many simple ways to switch up specific exercises, let’s look at a few examples.


Most exercisers perform strength exercises at a 1 to 1 ratio. In other words, 1 second to lower the weight (eccentric phase) and 1 second to lift the weight (concentric phase) with no pause in between.

Next time you do a strength workout, try changing speeds by slowing down the tempo. This will challenge the muscles more because they are kept under tension longer.

Take a push-up, for example: Instead of banging out reps as quick as you can, try slowing the pace to a 3/2/1 tempo. Specifically, 3 seconds to lower your body, pause for 2 seconds then complete the push up in 1 second on the push. You will be amazed how challenging this is!


Many traditional exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, or squats/lunges involve a vertical load, meaning that the resistance runs up and down in line with gravity.

However, the human body needs to be able to adapt to horizontal forces, as well. Examples where this happens may include a lineman blocking a defender or a hiker navigating a hill with a side slope.

In the gym setting, a horizontal load can be easily utilized with a cable machine or resistance bands. Begin by selecting your weight. Between 10 and 30 percent of your body weight is usually enough. Hold the cable in front of you and perform a set of lunges.

Feel the difference in your quads? They have to work much harder to decelerate because of the horizontal load.

You can also increase the challenge by having the cable pull from the side of your body. This will require even more balance. As an alternative, you can attach the cable to an exercise belt.

This will free up your hands and allow the use of dumbbells for any arm movement as well. Try adding in curls, overhead press — the options are endless!


Specifically, change the direction of movement. Most exercises like chest press, rows, and lunges are performed in the sagittal plane. In other words, primarily forward and backward motion.

In addition to moving back and forth, the human body needs to be efficient at overcoming side and rotational forces as well. Exercise options may include performing a single-arm dumbbell chest press, which will put more emphasis on frontal plane (side to side) stability. For a row, simply adding some torso rotation is a great way to add another dimension to this exercise.

And for lunges, rather than lunging forward, throw in some side lunges instead.


This can be as simple as switching from barbells to dumbbells, free weights to body-weight exercises, or vice versa.

Let’s use a back exercise, for example. After four weeks of doing bent-over barbell rows, switch to a dumbbell row, after that, switch to pull-ups, and so on. This principle can also be applied to the chest, shoulders, arm, legs, etc.

Please check out the video link for demonstrations of these key points and exercise examples.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 16 years experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at or

Read more here:

Training for Function

Functional training is a training method that has created a lot of buzz over the last decade.  Perhaps you have heard the term at the local gym or read about in a fitness magazine.   While there is no universal definition, functional training is generally viewed as exercises that carry a high movement value.  In other words, movement that uses the entire body opposed to training muscles in isolation. An example would be performing a lunge to develop leg strength instead of simply using a leg extension machine.  So why does this benefit us…or why should we train for movement?  The answer is more apparent when we examine what the human body is designed for.

“Muscles are responsible for producing movement, maintaining posture, stabilizing joints, and generating heat” (Marieb 2007).  More specifically, the human body functions by pushing, pulling, lowering/raising the body’s center of mass, and rotating, all while maintaining balance and stability.  It is even more critical to train for improved function when you consider posture.  Most Americans work in a sedentary environment which involves sitting for prolonged periods, resulting in a slouched posture.  Poor posture has been linked to physical ailments such as low back pain and frozen shoulder to name a few.  Going to the gym after eight hours in front of computer to exercise for another hour primarily in a seated position only compounds the problem.  Plus, most fitness machines create “artificial” stabilization.  In other words, the machine is responsible for providing stability, not the body.  The only way to improve balance and stability is to perform exercises that challenge both on some level.

Now that we know the benefits of functional training, let’s look at the components of what makes an exercise “functional.”

Train for movement:  Muscles work in synergy.  The term “synergy” comes from the latin word meaning to “work together.”  The nervous system innervates the musculoskeletal system to work as a complete unit.  A baseball player throwing a ball with maximum velocity or simply the act of running best illustrates this point.  The muscles work in harmony.  Performing more compound exercises that involve multiple joints and allow the body to work as a whole unit has a higher carry over into day to day life.  Also, training for movement will yield greater strength gains, improve coordination, and increase stability.










Exercise Example: Squat Row

Train all planes:  The human body works in three different planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, and transverse).  Basically, the body is made to rotate, move forwards/backwards and side to side.  Thus, it’s important to train for movement in all directions.  This will help minimize muscle/movement imbalances, decrease risk of injury, and improve overall function.










Exercise Example: Rotational Cable Chest Press

Train Balance & Stability:  Strength is transferable from an unstable environment to a stable environment but not the other way around” (Orr 2009).  In other words, training muscles strictly in a machine based settling will yield little or no improvement for your balance or stability.  In order to improve balance & stability, you must train for it!  Try performing traditional exercises on a BOSU, stability ball or in a single leg position.  Not only with it improve balance and stability, but strength as well.










Exercise Examples: Single Leg Squat

Train Standing:  In can’t be emphasized enough!  We sit enough throughout the day between work and our daily commute.  Try to perform the majority of your exercises in a standing/upright position for better overall functional strength and improved posture.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 16 years experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at or




Three training principles for fitness success

There are many benefits to resistance training, and many of us make it a consistent part of our fitness routine. Individual motivation can range anywhere from improving athletic performance to increasing muscle tone and definition.

No matter what you are trying to achieve, there are certain training principles that should be followed to ensure long-term success.

First is the principle of overload. A greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to occur.

The body will always adapt to exercise over time, and once this happens a different stimulus is required for additional strength gains. The process should be gradual and is usually accomplished by altering training intensity or increasing the amount of weight lifted.

As a rule, when you can perform two or more repetitions over your repetition goal in the last set of two consecutive workouts, intensity should be increased. Weight increases should range between 2.5 to 5 percent for isolated exercises (such as tricep pressdowns) and 5 to 10 percent for exercises that utilize larger muscle groups (such as the bench press).

Second is the principle of variation, or a combination of training variables. Specifically, speed of movement, rest periods, training frequency, exercise order, or style of exercises.

We could vary a dumbbell lunge, for example, by switching to split jumps which would alter two variables — the speed of movement and the style of exercise.

Last is the principle of specificity. This one is critical for the athlete or weekend warrior. This principle implies that for optimal training carry-over, exercises should mimic the demands of the sport as closely as possible. For example, a baseball pitcher in a pitching motion involves lunging, pushing and twisting. A pitcher’s program then would include exercises such as cable chops and rotational lunges to closer mimic the demands of the sport.

While it may be helpful to have a good base of fitness and to do general conditioning routines, it is key to train specifically for your sport for optimal performance.

Bottom line: It is necessary to alter your training program every four to six weeks using one or a combination of these principles. By doing so, it will ensure that you remain physically challenged, mentally refreshed and closer to reaching peak performance.

Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at or