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7 MORE Habits of Highly Fit People…

I don’t need to tell you that exercise is a good thing and everybody should do it in some way, shape or form.  I also don’t need to tell you that if you exercise, you’ll probably start to look and feel better.  What isn’t so obvious though, (or at least to 90% of people who don’t get the results they want) are the habits and character traits of those who achieve their goals.

In Part 1, I only scratched the surface with the 7 habits of highly fit people.  I’m going to dig a little deeper and give you some more insight into what separates the really fit from those who just “want to be really fit.” I’m a firm believer that both your attitude and performance in the gym are highly correlated to how you conduct yourself in everyday life.  Are you always late? Do you do things to the best of your ability or simply to get it over with? Do you look for ways to be more efficient or do you just cut corners? It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about training, work, or any other part of your life, these are questions you should always be asking yourself.

It has been said that with the proper mindset, anything can be achieved.  The problem is, most people are too preoccupied with irrelevant bullshit, put unrealistic expectations on themselves, and make working out more dramatic than a reality TV show! Waiting for the “perfect” time,  trying to find the “perfect” program, or expecting huge results before you’ve put in any real work are just a few surefire ways to be back on the couch with a beer in one hand and a bag of Doritos in the other.  It’s time to wake up and smell the organic, black, freshly brewed, no cream, no whip coffee.  If you want to be successful, you need to model yourself after successful people who are already where you want to be.  Here are 7  MORE habits that will help you get your shit together and get some real results:

1. Willing to make sacrifices – It’s funny how hard it is for people to just buckle down and make a commitment to something.  I’m not sure if it’s fear, laziness or a deadly combination of the two, but people can find any excuse not to face reality.  We can talk ourselves into or out of pretty much anything.  The people that are in the best shape have no problem taking action and making the necessary sacrifices until they have achieved their goal.  Work, school, kids, TV and partying on the weekends are all secondary to getting the results they want.  Unless you win the lottery, you’re probably going to be working for a little while so you might as well throw that excuse out the window.  At the end of the day, when you can accept that the only thing standing in your way of success is you, then you’ll do what is necessary to become a powerhouse.

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“My PVR is way too full to get to the gym today.”

2. Don’t compare themselves to others – “Man, that guy is huge!” “Did you see how much he was squatting?!” “I’m never gonna be that strong.”  These are some of the things we all say to ourselves when we see someone who is just killin’ it at the gym.  Even worse, social media has made it extremely easy to see what every Tom, Dick, and Harry is doing which, at times, can be motivating but also make you question every aspect of your training.  There’s always going to be someone bigger, stronger, and faster than you but that shouldn’t deter you from putting your head down giving your best effort.  Even the fittest people, despite being extremely fit, are simply trying to be the “best version of themselves” as Elliott Hulse would put it.  Knowing and accepting that 100% is all you can give and all you should expect will make training not only more enjoyable but also more sustainable.  Turn your phone off and get to work!

MSDTWIN EC015

there will always be someone bigger, stronger, and faster than you!

3. Focus on the process rather than the outcome – It is a well known fact in sports psychology that the best athletes are more process oriented than outcome oriented.  What this basically means is that the best athletes focus on the task at hand and let the results take care of themselves.  They focus on each workout, each exercise, each set, and each rep until eventually they’ve created a masterpiece.  They’re not checking their abs in the mirror after every set of ab wheel rollouts, they’re not weighing themselves 3 times a day, and they’re not testing their max deadlift every week.  To be great at anything you have to understand and have faith in the steps/process it takes to achieve greatness.  Worrying too much about the end result only creates stress which hinders your training altogether.  We all know Rome wasn’t built in a day and deep down inside YOU know that it’s going to take more than just a few workouts before you become a true physical specimen. So stop acting like a 6 year old kid on a road trip to Disneyland asking “Are we there yet?” and just enjoy the ride.

4. Work through and around injuries – I’ve talked about injuries before and how they can be an inevitable part of training – training hard that is.  It’s been said that the highest performing athletes train at such high volume and intensity that they are always on the cusp of injury.  Pushing the envelope day in and day out has its’ risks as well as its’ rewards.  Although inconvenient and frustrating, injuries don’t stop the highly fit from getting what they want.  Injuries are simply a bump in the road, not an excuse to give up altogether.  The highly fit take injuries as an opportunity to learn more about their bodies, address weaknesses and imbalances and recuperate stronger than they were before.  Learning new exercises, deloading, and soft tissue treatment are a few ways to stay in the game.  Click here to learn more about how to deal with injuries.

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the best athletes are always on the verge of injury

5. Understand that failure is a part of the process – Much like being injured, from time to time you won’t always have the greatest workout.  Every now and then, for whatever reason, your energy might not be the best and you won’t be able to push yourself as hard.  You might only squeeze out 8 reps on the bench when you would normally do 10 or you have to run at a slower pace on the treadmill to get through your intervals.  It happens.  World records and PRs can’t be set everyday.  The fittest people know that training isn’t an exact linear progression where every workout will be better than the last.  If it was, I would have an 800lb squat and be able to run a 4 minute mile but that simply is not the case.  There will be ups and downs but as long as you keep moving forward and not dwell on missed lifts or some random cheat meal your chances of success will be much greater.

6. Work through plateaus – “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, then you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.”   If you’ve been training long enough, there always comes a point where it becomes harder and harder to make gains.  You feel like you’ve been lifting the same weight for the same number of reps for an eternity.  You’ve hit your ceiling.  This is as good as it’s going to get so you might as well hang your jersey in the rafters and retire, right?  Wrong.  Plateaus are an opportunity to reassess your training and mix things up a bit.  The fittest people know that sometimes the smallest little tweaks to their programming can make a world of difference.  If you’ve been doing the same routine for more than 6 weeks, then it’s probably time to switch things up a little.  Anything from changing your training split, the order of exercises or how many sets/reps you do can be enough to shock your body and break through.

7. Open-minded – We all have our favorite exercises that we like do on a regular basis, myself included.  That doesn’t mean that they are in our best interest or are moving us any closer to our goals.  The fittest people understand that to get the best results you have to be open to new methods and new ways of thinking.  Crossfit, as controversial as it is, incorporates some of the most effective training methods from powerlifting, olympic weightlifting, and track and field to get the best results possible.  If you asked to see the training programs of the top 10 Crossfit Games athletes, the top 10 bodybuilders, and the top 10 sprinters in the world, you would get 10 different Crossfit programs, 10 different bodybuilding programs, and 10 different sprinting programs.  Taking your blinders off and accepting that there is more than one way to do things will go a long way in your training.  Whether you want to build muscle, get stronger, or even run a marathon, there is something that can be learned from various training methods.  Don’t be a fitness Nazi.  Listen. Learn. Evolve. Apply. Repeat.

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nobody likes a Nazi.

To summarize, make the necessary sacrifices to make training a part of your life, focus on yourself, have faith in the training process, don’t let injuries get you down, don’t be afraid to fail, find a way to work through plateaus, and remember there’s more than one way to get great results.

If you liked this article, don’t forget to subscribe below to get more great articles sent to you! You’ll also receive a copy of the Pure Payne Method – a FREE 6 week training program and a Special Nutrition Report!

 

 

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How to Perform the Perfect Push-up..

It doesn’t matter what type of exercise program you’re doing, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to have to do a push-up or some variation of it.  This exercise is a staple in most law enforcement and military training programs and is one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do.

The irony is that despite how common this exercise is, it gets absolutely butchered most of the time.  Some of the most common mistakes include:

  • wrong elbow position – elbows flaring out to the side
  • wrong hand position – hands internally rotated
  • inability to maintain plank position – lower back and hips sinking
  • improper head position – looking up
  • improper range of motion – not able to touch chest to the floor

Despite being a convenient exercise (i.e. no equipment and little space required) it isn’t a simple exercise.  Having the ability to press a large percentage of your body weight for multiple reps requires a fair amount of relative strength.  Therein lies the struggle.  To become a master of the pushup, use these quick fixes.

Keep your elbows below your shoulders – The elbows should be at approximately a 45 degree angle to you rib cage when performing a push-up.  This takes stress off the shoulders and places it on the chest and triceps which is what you want.

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improper elbow position

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proper elbow position

Externally rotate your hands – Keep your hands slightly turned out at an “11” and “1” position.  This will prevent the elbows from flaring out and activate your lats to stabilize your shoulders throughout the movement.

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improper hand position

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proper hand position

Keep your core tight – The push-up can be thought of as a moving plank.  This makes it extremely important to maintain a solid core throughout the full range of motion.

Flex your glutes – To also help maintain proper plank position, be conscious of flexing your glutes to stabilize your hips.

Keep your head in a neutral position – There should be a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.  Looking up puts excess strain on your neck and will cause you to arch your back excessively.

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improper head/hip position

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proper head/hip position

Lose weight – You might be strong as on ox under the bar, but if you struggle to move your own body weight, it might simply be due to the fact that you’re too heavy to move your weight efficiently.  You skinny bastards have the upper hand for once!

Check out the video below to see what a perfect pushup looks like.

[youtube id=”Eh00_rniF8E”]

If you struggle to perform a proper push-up with full range of motion, then there are many progressions you can use to work up to a full push-up.

Keep in mind, all of the above rules still apply even though you are doing progressions.

  • Push-ups from the knees – This is the one of the simplest progressions as it requires you lift lower percentage of your body weight.
  • Hands elevated push-ups – The next step would be to try push-ups with your hands elevated.  This will challenge your core strength a bit more while still lifting a lower percentage of your body weight than a full push-up.  The angle you perform these will depend on your strength and ability to get full range of motion.
  • Isometric pushups – To break through sticking points, you can try isometric holds at various points in the movement.  Start at the top position and lower yourself down to a point that is challenging and then hold that position for 5 seconds.  Try 2-3 sets of 5 repetitions.
  • Negative push-ups – Performing negatives is a great way to build strength and stability.  Start at the top position and lower yourself down slowly.  Aim for a 3-5 second tempo. Try 2-3 sets of 5 repetitions.

Check out the video below to see how to perform a negative pushup.

[youtube id=”WC2q2miXqoo”]

Aside from modifying the range of motion, you can also build chest and tricep strength using these exercises:

  • Bench press – Arguably the best exercise to develop chest and tricep strength.
  • Dumbell chest press – A great alternative to the barbell bench press as it will challenge your stability and strength.
  • Strict shoulder press (barbell or dumbbell) – Although a vertical press, the shoulder press will help to build strength and stability in the shoulders and strengthen the triceps which are all required to be proficient in the push-up.

If you’re pretty comfortable with the push-up and can do at least 30 reps unbroken, then give these advanced exercises and variations a try.

  • Feet elevated push-ups
  • Spiderman push-ups
  • Close grip push-ups
  • Ring push-ups

ringpushupsringpushup2ring pushups are great way to challenge your core strength and upper body stability

  • Clap Push-ups
  • Dips (ring or straight bar)

ringdips

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ring dips will really test your upper body strength and stability

Becoming a master of the basics is secret to success in fitness. Work on your push-up game and don’t be another victim of sloppy form.

 

 

 

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How to Build Strong Shoulders and Prevent Nagging Injuries

I’ve always referred to training as a journey and I always say “the journey is the reward.”  What I forgot to mention is that along this journey there may be a few bumps in the road.  Depending on your training age, genetics, and lifestyle, you may have an injury or two along the way.  If you’ve been training for a long time and never had any setbacks consider yourself lucky – maybe you should even write a book!

The point is, although injuries do happen from time to time, you can overcome them and become even more resistant to them in the process.  Being disciplined and taking a systematic approach is the key.

It’s safe to say that I’ve had my fair share of sprains and strains over the years – 3 achilles tendon ruptures and multiple hamstring strains to name a few.  As a result, I’ve had to learn how to work through and around various aches and pains.  Over the last few months, I’ve been suffering from some bicep tendonitis in my left shoulder.  I have good days and bad days.  Do I ever get frustrated? Absolutely.  Have I stopped taking my body for granted and become more strategic with my training? Absolutely.  Have I become wiser and more savvy as a result of dealing with this injury? ABSOLUTELY!

Coincidentally, this brings me to our main topic of discussion – building strong shoulders and preventing nagging injuries.  There are a number of factors that contribute to shoulder injuries that include but are not limited to:

  • Bad postureKelly Starrett said it best “sitting is the new smoking.”  If you sit at a desk all day then you aren’t doing yourself any favors.  Excessive sitting leads to rounded shoulders, tight traps and pecs and destroys your shoulder mobility.
  • Over development of the pecs – If you’re a meathead that lives and dies by the bench press, then you will most likely run into shoulder problems at some point in your training career.  Too much pec work pulls the shoulder joint forward making it vulnerable to impingement and other chronic injuries.

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too much heavy pec work can lead to shoulder problems

  • Poor thoracic mobility – Also known as the “T” spine, thoracic mobility plays a huge role in your ability to perform overhead lifts without putting stress on your lower back.
  • Poor external rotation – Having trouble holding a proper “rack” position in a front squat or thruster?  Your external shoulder rotation is most likely limited.
  • Hyper active upper traps – Unfortunately, when we are stressed we tend to carry it in our neck and shoulders which makes these muscles hyperactive (they compensate for other muscles that should be doing the work).
  • Weak back muscles – A strong upper back is necessary to stabilize the scapula and keep the shoulder joint in a neutral position.  Muscular balance is critical to healthy joints.
  • Over use – You CAN have too much of a good thing.  Because the shoulder joint is involved in so many exercises it can easily become overused and develop chronic injuries.  Knowing how to moderate training volume can save your shoulders a lot of stress in the long run.
  • “Behind the neck” exercises – Loading the shoulder from behind the neck puts it in a very vulnerable position and can lead to dislocations and ligament tears.  Play safe and keep the weight in front of you.
  • Not “packing” the shoulder – During certain exercises like a chin-up or a push-up, the shoulder acts as a stabilizer and can only do so if it is in a “packed” position.  This is done by engaging your lats and rhomboids to pull your shoulders blades down and together. This protects the shoulders and makes the movement more efficient.

bad-posture1

“sitting is the new smoking”

The shoulder joint is a complex structure comprised of a number of muscles, ligaments and bones allowing it to move through multiple planes of motion.  The recommendations outlined will help to build strong healthy shoulders, prevent various chronic and acute injuries, as well as help to actively rehabilitate common shoulder dysfunctions.

If you want to have what Eric Cressey refers to as “bulletproof shoulders,” there are 3 main areas you need to address in your training:

  1.  Strength – The ability to load the shoulder joint and move those loads efficiently.
  2. Stability – The ability to load the shoulder joint and HOLD those loads efficiently.
  3. Mobility/Flexibility – The ability to move the shoulder joint through various ranges of motion without any pain or restriction.

To develop these areas,  there are many approaches you can take but at the same time it’s important to have a solid foundation which is built on basic fundamental exercises.

To develop strength, the following exercises should serve as the foundation of your training:

Overhead Exercises

Depending on the current state of your shoulders, overhead exercises may or may not be in your best interest.  If you have strong, healthy shoulders with good mobility, then going overhead will only reinforce those movement patterns.  If you suffer from an impingement and lack the thoracic mobility to lift overhead efficiently, then you might have to address these issues first.  If you’re pain free, these exercises should be a part of your shoulder training:

  • Strict Shoulder Press
  • Push Press
  • Strict Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • 1 Arm Dumbbell Push Press

The strict presses and push presses are the best for overall strength and muscular development.  Single arm variations are also a great option to address any muscular imbalances.

tspine

your thoracic mobility will determine your ability to go overhead

Pulling Exercises

Too often, injuries like tendonitis and impingement are a result of bad posture, and over development of the pecs and anterior deltoids.  This pulls the shoulder joint forward making it more difficult for it to move freely overhead or in any direction for that matter.  To offset this anterior rotation, it’s important to develop strong back muscles such as the lower traps, rhomboids, rear deltoids and lats.  The law of gravity states the “what goes up must come down.”  The law of healthy shoulders states “for every push there must be a pull.”  Here are some pulling exercises that your shoulders will thank you for later:

  • Pull-up/Chin-ups
  • 1 Arm Dumbbell Rows
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Inverted Rows
  • Incline Dumbbell Rows
  • Face Pulls
  • Band Pull Aparts (front and overhead)
  • “Y”s, “T”s and “W”s

inclinerow

inclinerow2

incline dumbbell rows are great for the lower traps and rhomboids

Pull-ups and chin-ups are vertical pulls that strengthen the lats while the rowing exercises and pull aparts are horizontal pulls that will target the lower traps and rhomboids.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

I mentioned earlier that the shoulder is made up of a number of different muscles.  There are two main muscle groups that make up the shoulder – the deltoid and the rotator cuff.  The deltoid has 3 heads (front, lateral, and rear) and the rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor).  The rotator cuff sits under the deltoid and holds the shoulder joint together.  These muscles, if weak and neglected, can lead to a host of shoulder problems.  It’s important to take the time to strengthen these muscles  in isolation to protect them from strains and tears.  Here are some rotator cuff exercises:

  • Internal/External rotation with shoulder abducted/adducted

The external rotators generally pose the most problems and more time should be spent strengthening them.

Stability Exercises

Strength and stability go hand in hand which leads us to the best exercises for building shoulder stability:

  • Kettlebell Windmill – Builds shoulder stability while develops hip and lower back mobility.

windmill

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windmills are great for shoulder stability and lower back/hip mobility

  • Turkish Get-up – Builds shoulder stability while develops core strength and balance.
  • Overhead farmer’s walk – Builds shoulder stability while develops core strength and balance.

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the overhead walk will BULLETPROOF your shoulders

  • Overhead lunge – Builds shoulder mobility while develops core and leg strength.
  • Overhead squat – Builds shoulder mobility while develops core and leg strength.

The limiting factor in these exercises is the ability to hold and stabilize weight overhead. This is arguably the best way to build shoulder stability.

Mobility/Flexibility Exercises

Keeping your shoulders healthy also requires adequate mobility/flexibility through all the major planes of motion – flexion/extension, internal/external rotation, and abduction/adduction.

Here are some great mobility/flexibility exercises to get the shoulders moving freely:

  • External rotation with stick
  • Handcuff stretch with band
  • T-spine stretch on foam roller
  • Shoulder dislocates with stick
  • Towel stretch

Towel-stretch-IR

towel stretch

handcuffstretch

handcuff stretch

It’s important to note that too much mobility/flexibility (aka laxity) in a joint can be just as bad as not having enough.  If you have lax shoulders, then your primary focus should be on building strength and stability to prevent injury.

The shoulder plays either a primary or secondary role in a wide range of upper body exercises which makes it so critical to keep them healthy if you want to train hard and continue to make gains.  Don’t wait until shit hits the fan to start taking care of yourself.  Use these exercises as a PREVENTATIVE measure to a long lasting, pain free training regime.  Check out the video below for a great shoulder warm-up routine!

[youtube id=”j0U-09otG04″]

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