Random Friday Thoughts: Minimum Standards and Being a Useful Human Animal

Minimum Standards

Pr’s are cool and all, but what can you do now? Right now?

This, in my opinion is fitness.
It’s defined by what you can do any time of any day, not following a peaking cycle.
My first thoughts on this were back in my very early 20’s when I spent every minute that I wasn’t working/sleeping/getting drunk out on the Lake District fells.
My thought process went:

We are animals
Animals move daily
Animals need to be able to “go” at the drop of a hat
Why can’t humans?

Why do humans need a half hour of foam rolling, stretching, visualisation etc etc before they can tie their shoe laces?

That’s bullshit in my mind.

So, set minimal standards, train to be achieve way higher then those standards, but never lose the ability to carry said standard, at anytime or any day.

I’ll admit this post is a little inspired by yesterdays antics (which Seb only caught the end of on video) where without warming up I managed a turkich get up holding 2 x 24kg bells.
I don’t recommend anyone try this, but as I know I have a minimum standard of the 48kg Bell on my Get up, I figured what the hell……


A few good ones to consider:

  • Touching your toes
  • A resting squat held comfortably for time (2-10 mins)
  • Minimum of 1 pull up
  • A sub 60min 10k run time
  • Standing on one leg with eyes closed for 30 sec+

I could expand that list a lot more, but there’s a very non specific start point.
Maintaining these minimum standards gives your training some direction outside of the “lift heavier, get bigger” and takes being a well rounded Human Animal into account.
Some kind of daily maintenance routine will go a long way towards this.

 

Daily Maintenance

You know the way your dog gets up after a kip and stretches back, stretches forward, shakes a leg and then carries on about it’s business?
That Up Dog/Down Dog stretch is daily maintenance.

Doggy Yoga (as opposed to dodgy yoga…)

It stretches the muscles, moves the joints, and pumps the blood. It’s not exercise, it’s just natural, and no one taught them.

Now, what do humans do?
Sit all day at a desk and then put our backs out.

Add in some Routine  Daily Maintenance to your day.
Helen Hall in her book “Even With Your Shoes On” calls them “WUJWUMS” which stands for “Waking Up Joints and Waking Up Muscles”
She has instructions and video links in the book, I’ve still 4 copies left if you can drop in and collect:

[product id=31359]

Other resources would be something like Gary Wards Wake Up Your Body (both Helen and I study under Gary) which you can see on his Finding Centre site: https://www.findingcentre.co.uk/wakeyourbodyup/

Or simply copy your Dog and do something like Quick Yoga, here’s a few versions sped up slightly to fit into a minute:

 


 

Being a useful Human Animal isn’t hard.

Being an athlete is hard, but it’s easier if you’re already a useful Human Animal.

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.Wg-Fit.com

Conditioning Made Easy part 4 – It’s not always about being out of breath

Continuing on from the last post where we discussed cardiac output to get the blood pumping and stretch the heart ventricles, now what about when the blood gets to where it’s going?

In the cells themselves there are little “power stations” called mitochondria.

And like all things in the body, we can train to optimise their number and function.

The mitochondria are responsible for producing ATP which is the currency of muscle contraction.

No ATP, no muscle contraction.

It’s why after a heavy Deadlift or similar effort, after a few seconds you start sucking air.
The deadlift called for a stack of muscle contraction, this depleted the ATP which stimulates the aerobic system to ramp up to regenerate what’s been used and refuel the cells ready for the next effort.

The better our aerobic base, and the more mitochondria, the faster we refuel and can go again.
For endurance purposes, we’re constantly flowing from use and refuel in an ongoing process.

There’s a couple of ways to increase mitochondrial efficiency

One of the best is moving really slowly.

We commonly program 3 second push ups in our training.
This means we take 3 seconds to descend, 3 second to ascend, no break in motion, and not locking out to rest.

This keeps a constant tension in the muscle restricting blood flow and causing a build of metabolites.
In other words, it sucks.

The long duration and constant tension stimulates the slow twitch or endurance fibres to develop.
They’ll never be T-Shirt poppingly huge like their type 2 brethren, but if you want efficient, powerful movements, they are key.

You can use almost any compound exercise in this manner. Just avoid locking out, and keep tension on the target muscles for a minimum of 4 seconds per rep for 8-12 reps.
If you’re a cyclist, put the bike in a high gear and crank it out, the constant tension will give a similar effect.
Runners, find a hill and cruise up it.

The burn is real.

Three to four sets with long breaks between and you will start to develop real, ongoing old man strength.

Cycle this in for a few weeks, you should find an significant improvement in endurance.

Regards

Dave Hedges

How to Run Efficiently, the EWYSO Way

Running.

If you believe the interweb, it’ll make you fat, slow, weak and injured.

Actually, there’s a lot of evidence to support all of that.

But does it have to be this way?

Is it really true that Humans aren’t meant to run?

I call bullshit.

Genus Homo Sapiens excels at running, our bodies are adapted with some really cool features that make us one of the most efficient ambulators on planet Earth.

Take for example our disproportionately large Gluteus muscles, the monster Achilles tendon and massively powerful Illiotibial band.
Take the three arch structure of our foot with the 33 articulations that allow it bend and flexe on every step like leaf springs

Oh, hang on…..

I’ve just listed out all your injuries haven’t I?
Your feet are rigid and immobile, you don’t have arches, you have plantar fasciitis.
Your Achilles can’t load like a bungee cord because you have stupid tight calves.
Your Glutes are “asleep” and your IT Band is pulled too tight…

And THAT is why you can’t run!

All the kit and technology that we have evolved over the various stages of development culminating in the all dominating Homo Sapiens is out of whack and not doing it’s job.

But what can you do to change that?

Over the weekend I met a little dynamo of a lady who has it figured out.

Helen Hall

Helen Hall came over to teach her Perpetual Forward Motion School of Efficient Running as laid out in her excellent book “Even With Your Shoes On”

We had assembled a mixed group of 15 folk, some keen and accomplished runners, some coaches, some therapists and some who struggle with running due to old injuries.
15 very different bodies with 15 different stories.

Over the day Helen watched every body stand, walk and run as she made notes.
She went through some simple concepts, jogging along with us offering individual cueing as we went.
She showed simple personalised drills to help regain movement in the feet.
She took us through several of her “WUJWUM’s” which stands for “Wake Up Joints, Wake Up Muscles” which are adapted from the Anatomy in Motion method that I also use in WG-Fit.

And over the day 15 bodies became observably springier, seemingly lighter and absolutely smoother as they ran.
A few in the group reported old aches and pains had eased, some completely vanished over the day, which while not the point of the day, shows that running well can actually assist a body overcome injury, it isn’t necessarily injurious in itself.

In Helen’s words:

MY HOPE AND INTENTION
IS FOR YOU ALL TO SMILE AGAIN AS YOU RUN.
I INVITE YOU TO EXPLORE – AND POSSIBLY RECLAIM –
BOTH YOUR RUNNING BODY AND YOUR RUNNING MIND.
‘YOU’ IS ALL YOU NEED…
AND MAYBE SOME SHOES
IF YOUR FEET LIKE THEM …

And in the mind of 15 people, plus myself, I’d say she is succeeding in this mission.

She doesn’t teach you how to run, she teaches you to find your own way of running, your effecient way of running.

And I can’t recommend her work highly enough.

Drop her a line:

Helen Hall
Author: Even With Your Shoes On
Perpetual Forward Motion Ltd
Ten-Point, 36 Bois Lane, AMERSHAM, BUCKS HP6 6BP
w: http://www.helen-hall.co.uk
fb: https://www.facebook.com/PerpetualForwardMotion

Helen left a few copies of her book behind which I’m selling on for her, get yours here:

[product id=31359]

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.WG-Fit.com

Make Mistakes and Grow

“We can only learn from mistakes, by identifying them, determining their source, and correcting them… people learn more from their own mistakes than from the successes of others.” – Russell L. Ackoff

I’ve looked up Mr Ackoff since reading the above quote, but I couldn’t due the life of me explain what he does succinctly.

Let’s just say, he’s a smart dude.

And while most of his work was based around the corporate world, I hope you can see how this quote cuts right to the heart of the human animal.

Perfectionism is a curse.

Being afraid to fail is a curse.

A very common line I utter on the gym floor when people ask me if they’re doing a new movement right is “it’s good enough”

In other words, it may need work, is not perfect, but it’s safe and is getting the desired result. It is good enough.

Next session, it’ll be better.
Session after that, better again.
Ten years from now, better still.

My history is growing up practicing Karate.
I learned a front kick (Maegeri) within the first month as a white belt.
The kick became good enough fairly quickly to pass my yellow belt test, but it wasn’t good enough for Black belt standard.
And it only got better by practicing, and by having my mistakes pointed out with corrections suggested.

It got better by accepting that it wasn’t perfect.

This is training.
Performing specific activities to develop specific skills and/or attributes.

But it only works if you start
It only works if you continue.

Perfection is something we can aim for, but all we can realistically achieve is 1% better each day.

And that means being ok with just being good enough.

Regards

Dave Hedges

Monday Mobility: Upgrading the Squatting Thoracic Extension Exercise

Today’s mobility post is all about attention to detail.

The Squat and Reach exercise has become more and more popular over the last while, which is great to see.

It is a combination exercise helping to solidify a resting / deep squat position and develop so extension and rotation through the upper back.

Done well it ticks a lot of boxes.

Mostly though, as explained in this one minute video, many boxes are left unticked by most:

 

The video cuts of at the end there, what I was about to explain was the value of propping up the heels.

If you can’t get into the deep squat, grab something to elevate your heels enough so that you can.
Then perform the exercise.
You might use weight plates if you’re in the gym, maybe a couple of books if you’re at home.
Many of the more old school type gyms have a 2 x 4 knocking around the squat rack area specifically for this reason, as seen in this iconic picture of Dave Draper:

 

While Mr Draper is lifting his heels so he can emphasise his quads better, you may need it simply to get that deep into the squat.
How to get into the squat without the heel lift is another story and one I’ll cover soon.

Until then, lets get that shoulder externally rotating in the Squat and Reach exercise and really get the spine to move like butter.

Any questions, let me know in the comments below.

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.WG-Fit.com

Random Friday Thoughts: Uncertainty

It’s an odd day today.

This is the day Britain was meant to leave Europe, except they didn’t and know one knows what the hell is happening next.

I’m not sure why that is relevant to a fitness blog, other than uncertainty.

Uncertainty is, in my opinion, something we should relish.

There are few things we are genuinely in control of. In fact, I think the only thing we are in control of is how we think about things, our attitude.

I’ve said for years, “Attitude is everything”

If you read adventure stories, or watch adventure movies, it’s attitude that gets the hero through.
Looking for opportunity, capitalising on it when it appears, not dwelling on it when it goes wrong.

It’s not positive thinking, because that’s simply delusional, it is positive attitude.

It’s making the best of any given scenario.

Here’s the thing, since we live in a world that offers us the illusion of plenty and the illusion that we should buy more shit to be  a better person, how do we know if we have enough or need more?

Unless you have been tested, you don’t.

How do you know you can cope in X scenario or without Y product?

Unless you have tried, even by simulation, you don’t.

There’s an old saying I’m exceptionally fond of:

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”

It means that you should seek out discomfort, unfamiliar and testing scenarios.
It is these things that show you your limits, your edges.

And if you learn where your edges lie, then you can be very certain of the territory within those edges. You become confident, not arrogant.
You become independent, not isolated.
You become capable

You realise that you are not limited by things or people, you are not a God of Hammers

And you also gain insight as to where your personal development and training may need to focus on to push which edge further out.

Uncertainty is a good thing. It allows you to discover your edges. Which brings with it certainty, and a lack of fear.

Now, go explore.

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.wg-fit.com

Mobility Monday: Upgrading Your Ankle Mobility

There’s a very common ankle mobility drill where you stand facing a wall and attempt to touch your knee to it.

It’s a common rehab protocol for ankle injuries that has become popular as a mobility exercise.

In itself, as a specific rehab drill, there’s little wrong with it.
But for an otherwise uninjured person, it’s lacking as a mobility drill.

Here’s why…..

The ankle joint, or in geek terms, the Talocrural joint, bends forwards and backwards, but it never acts alone.
Really what we need to work on is Foot AND Ankle mobility.

Rarely is there much of an issue with the talocrural itself, that’s the two shin bones (Tibia and Fibula) sitting astride the Talus bone.
Much of the mobility issues we see in this region is actually in the sub-talar joint, or the foot itself.

Image courtesy of Primal Pictures

I’ve written many posts on the foot, some before I began studying Anatomy in Motion (AiM), and some after.
Before studying AiM, I like many didn’t fully appreciate the intricacies of the foot and the value of having all 33 joints per foot moving freely.

Getting these bad boys to play nice doesn’t take as much work as you might think, and our knee to wall drill goes a long way towards giving us that ability, with a slight tweak.

The tweak is to work at various angles, from outside the pinky toe, inside the big toe and along each individual toe in turn.

5 toes, plus outside either extreme gives us 7 different angles, but feel free to play with more.
Look for the line that feels right, spend most time there and run over the rest just to fill in the gaps.

Hopefully you will notice how as you come to the big toe side, you push the arches of the foot flat (prontation) and as you go to the pinky side the arches are lifted (supination)

[NOTE: I’m demoing with a stick because I couldn’t get a good camera angle at the wall, you use a wall!]

It is vitally important to our overall movement ability that our foot can freely experience both pronation and supination, these two states of the foot (opposite ends of a continuum) are part of the unique make up of the Homo Sapiens anatomy and is a huge contributor to our unrivaled ability to ambulate effectively on two legs.

Have a play with the drill and see how it feels.

Once you have a good sensation of the foot and ankle complex moving, I then invite you to try out the “Banana-Pancake” which removes the guiding wall and increases the loading of those joints.

Banana Pancakes for foot, ankle and lower body mobility from Dave Hedges on Vimeo.

And if you’re struggling to make any headway at all with these exercises, it might be time to book in for an assessment to figure out why.

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.WG-Fit.com

The Devil is in the details

You’ve heard the saying “The Devil is in the details”

This is what I’m trying to point out during my instagram one minute tutorials I’ve been putting out of late.

Here’s the latest one:

 

With time being such a valuable commodity, we really should be trying to get the absolute maximum return from our efforts.

Unless are a pro / semi-pro athlete, you most likely don’t have the time (or energy) to be wasting on half measures. Even if you do have the time, why would you?

And if you’re a pro/semi-pro, you’re only in the gym for assistance work anyway, your primary focus should be your sport.

So with this in mind, it makes absolute sense to look into the body and how it works, or better yet, hire a coach who has done that already and can pass that along.
Once we have an idea of how the joints act, the muscles align and an appreciation f the constant dance of tension and relaxation within the body, we can then choose the exercises that best suit, and the best way to perform those exercises to suit even better.

The Squatting T-Spine drill above is a perfect example.
If you need to free up the upper back, get some length into the pec minor, fire up the rhomboids, allow the hip flexors relax and get some ankle dorsi-flexion, then this is for you.

Look how many boxes we’ve just ticked with one drill.

The way we commonly see the drill performed with the arm internally rotating misses out at least half those boxes simply because of missing out on a small detail.

Now, this drill is merely one such example.

But also consider the Kettlebell Snatch.
By adding a small detail to a lifters Kettlebell Snatch we have in the past added efficiency that resulted in 25% more reps.
From one simple detail.

The trick though is in paying attention while performing the exercises.

You can’t just go through the motions of lifting or moving.

You have to be checking yourself to ensure you are applying the details.

And to do this you can’t overload.

You must start with the basic shape of an exercise, then gradually fill in the details, get one, then get the next, then the next.
We call this deliberate practice and it is the only true route to mastery.

Master the exercises and you will begin to figure out how they are vehicles to help you master yourself.

Regards

Dave Hedges
www.WG-Fit.com

Build Bulletproof Shoulders With The Turkish Get Up

The Turkish Get Up is possibly one of the most fun things you can do with your clothes on.

And if done well the benefits are far reaching.

I use it with my guys mostly for the shoulder health aspects, not necessarily the core strength that most people talk about.

While we are supporting the bell in an outstretched arm, we move our body around underneath it, we take our arm from straight out in front of us, to out to the side and eventually overhead.
All under significant load (you do use load on your get ups don’t you…..?)

If we keep our neck long and our thumb angled so it points slightly rearwards, the loading through our scapula (shoulder blade) is a very real thing, which means the muscles that control that scapula are working very hard as we go from lying down to either sitting or standing.

Now there’s a lot of words there, and I could write a lot more, but instead I invite you to watch this tutorial video instead.
It’s about 10 minutes long, but should answer most of the questions we get on the Get Up:

Turkish Get Up tutorial from Dave Hedges on Vimeo.

In my old Kettlebell Workshop series, the Get Up featured in Level 2.
I’ve had several requests over the last couple of months for more details on the Turkish Get up and on Kettlebells in general.

I think it’s time to dust off the old workshops this year.

In the next few weeks I’ll announce a Level 1 & 2 Kettlebell Workshop, which will give you everything you need to know about:
Level 1 – Swing, Goblet Squat, Press
Level 2 – Turkish Get Up, Clean

These workshops are open to everyone from absolute novices to experienced coaches.

Be sure you’re on the mailing list to get the announcement.
Until then, here’s the manuals I mentioned:

[products tag=”kettlebell”]

Regards

Dave Hedges

Monday Mobility: The Pump aka Up & Down Dog

The pump exercise is a must for just about every human animal on the planet.

It’s essentially Yoga’s Up and Down Dog positions.

With this being such a global movement it’s easy to play around within it to explore your movements, find tension and stimulate various lines of pull.

We can emphasise:
Calves
Hamstrings
Spinal Extension
Hip extension
Shoulder Flexion and Extension
Chest opening
Scapula movement
Serratus Anterior strength
Core Strength

The list goes on.

In my gym, I use it as a screen as it is such a catch all it can show up several issues to watch for.
I also use it with many people who need to develop better scapula control, particularly those involved in the combat sports.

For yourself, it’s a great fit for your warm up, usually the early part.
But it’s also perfect following any period of inactivity, just as your dog or cat would take a moment to stretch in an almost identical fashion to this.

I’ve shot two videos on this, a quick and dirty One Mimute Tutorial for the instagram (search the othe one minute tutorials I’ve done with the hashtag #OMT ) and a more detailed, less rushed YouTube clip.

Here’s the #OMT

And this is the more detailed YouTube version:

And finally, here is a demo of me running through some variations on our “Quick Yoga” that you can hopefully see is based on this Pump movement

As you can see this is a very versatile exercise that you can keep very simple and dial in to achieve a specific outcome.
Or it’s a great drill to add complexity to for a spot of exploration or development of your movement vocabulary.

Be careful with this if you have a current shoulder injury, the Down Dog position may well be too extreme for you at the moment.
If that’s the case case, get yourself assessed to see what movements you should be doing.

Regards

Dave Hedges

….it's an Attitude