Dynamic Mobility 2.0

By now many of you have incorporated soft tissue and dynamic stretching work (see foam rolling and dynamic stretching) into your warm up routines.  You know that static stretching is an ineffective and outdated mode of warm up, because it decreases strength and performance, develops little if any range of motion (ROM) prior to getting warm, and has been disproven in preventing injury. You also know that 5 min or so in the cardio section prior to training does not prepare your joints and soft tissues for the rigors and full ROM of a resistance workout. So per you highly qualified fitness coach, and or the eloquent well-researched fitness blog you follow, you’ve established a thorough dynamic warm up routine prior to your training.  So thorough in fact, that it may be cutting into your limited training time. 5-10 minutes foam rolling, 5-10 minutes dynamic stretching, and 5-10 minutes activation work leaves little time for training. While you may be covering all your bases, perhaps you could be spending more time on certain deficiencies and less on others. And maybe the order and sequencing of these exercises could elicit greater short-term mobility for your workout, and long-term gains in tissue quality day to day. Below are a few suggestions for developing even greater specificity in your warm up.

Order ABCs – Sequencing your warm up routine is no different that choosing the appropriate order of exercises for your workout. You wouldn’t do (I hope) a single joint movement before a compound movement.  So don’t start your warm up stretching muscles with adhesions (knots). You’re essentially pulling those knots tighter, and limiting the length and quality of the muscle. Following the order and sequencing below, with enough frequency, may help counteract the adaptive stresses and postural changes of day-to-day work and activity. (see The Sitting Disease)

A - Release – choose 1 soft tissue exercise for the targeted muscle of the day to improve the quality of that tissue, improving movement and strength – SMR, ART, ETC

B - Mobilize – follow an active release exercise with a specific dynamic stretch or mobility movement to improve the length and range of motion of that muscle

C - Activation – Once you’ve released and mobilized the selected muscle, hammer it home with an activation exercise of that muscle’s antagonist (opposing muscle group). By law of reciprocal inhibition, activating (contracting) an opposing muscle group, will allow for a greater stretch (release) and length in the targeted muscle.


Ankle Mobility


Hip Mobility - Flexors


Hip Mobility - Adductors


Hip Mobility - Gluteals


Pec Mobility


Thoracic Mobility




What's a dumbbell??

Whats a dumbbell and why do we call it that? Theories vary slightly, but historians agree dumbbells evolved from the practice of Change Ringing. Bell ringing in the 16th century was a common church practice requiring a fair amount of strength and fitness. Its believed that these practitioners developed a silent, or dumb, bell to practice technique without sound, and develop strength for Change Ringing. Bells specifically without hammers (dumbbells) were used by strongmen to demonstrate feats of strength for fitness and entertainment purposes. The term dumbbell originated in Tudor, England, and was kept, when what we know as a dumbbell today, was manufactured strictly for fitness. 1920s slang, devolved the name to a reference for a stupid person. Several years from now, a search result may point to a former 7-time Mr. Olympia, turned movie star, turned governor of california, turned disgraced adulterous procreator. Until then, we can continue to get strong, and eliminate asymmetries, with bi-lateral dumbbell training. Just in case you ever wondered...."Now you're on the trolley."

Cannonball Ab Series

In todays addition of my Cannonball Abs series, I have included video and commentary on my favorite core stability progressions. Try these out for an added challenge to your current ab routine, and reap the benefits of a stronger, more stable core. Click here for more exercise demonstration on core stability.

Soft Body Pilates

Pilates is great for creating mind/body awareness, skilled movement, and physical introspection that we do not always spend time with on the gym floor. It is sometime defined as controlled movements through a strong core. Id like to think all training could be described this way. The "long, lean look" they preach is more of a selling point. Long lean muscles are created in the kitchen with your diet, and your genetics. Though I know what everyone means, when they say they want to get "toned," its actually a reflection of the tension or strength your muscles can create. Strength and tension is created using resistances of progressive intensity. Being defined, is a reflection of your body composition, which is 80% diet, some training, and genetics. Using "smaller muscles" is not entirely true either. Muscles used for movement can be categorized as agonists, antagonists, stabilizers, and neutralizers. They are all involved in any body movement, from getting out of a chair, to walking, movements on a Pilates reformer, or bench pressing in the gym. Agonists and antagonists are your main movers, the pushers and pullers, flexors and extensors. They re the muscles you see and become developed, hence their focus in exercise. You also have muscles that aid these movements called stabilizers and neutralizers. Theses muscles stabilize joints throughout your agonist movements and neutralize any unwanted movement elsewhere in the body when performing an exercise. These muscles are often under your superficial muscles, making them harder to visualize. They are also not as voluntary, making it harder for you to recruit and engage, sometimes even involuntary, and do not need to be engaged, i.e. the transverse abdominus. This lack of awareness or ability to engage or recruit has made Pilates and mind/body training popular. However, in Pilates, like any other mode of exercise, all four types of muscle actions are taking place, and no single mode of exercise truly isolates any of these. So to say Pilates works small muscles is not entirely true. In fact, I would argue that the resistance generated during a barbell squat or dead lift recruits more of your smaller stabilizing/neutralizing muscles, than a resistance created on the reformer with resistant springs attached, much like a bench press or pull up, trains the smaller muscles more than pulls on the cadillac, or equivalent pushing movement in Pilates. It does have application for corrective exercise and injury prevention/rehabilitation in addition to traditional resistance training. However, it lacks progressions, scientific periodization, and objective measures of its training protocols. If you continued to use the same resistance for a given exercise, you would plateau and eventually regress, as that stimulus would no longer elicit a response. There s a diminishing return for the same intensity, which is why strength and conditioning applies systematic progressions.

Often yogis, dancers, and individuals that are already genetically lean, long, and flexible, are drawn to Pilates, which allowed for a subcultural attractive look to develop. You don't see overweight Pilates clients, because they are doing something more efficient for fat loss, and an overweight Pilates instructor can not stay in business long. It would be fair to say that many personal trainers are former athletes or fitness enthusiasts that always had good genetics and results too, but there are many trainers with life transforming stories. Because Pilates is fairly new and does not have mass appeal yet, there is little science or research to support any of its benefits. The entire philosophy of Pilates was developed by one German man looking for an alternative way to be healthy through physical activity. It is now passed on from instructor to instructor and has evolved over time. Many fitness professionals, on the other hand, have degrees in exercise science and internationally recognized certifications. Their training and expertise is routed in science, supported by facts and centuries of historical application. I recently had a conversation with a Pilates instructor who mentioned their instruction specifically avoids anatomical terminology, in terms of their branding and imaging. And while some instructors are educated in anatomy and physiology, the focus of Pilates is more about feeling and less about applying real theory. In some ways it made me think of a placebo....

Moving Some Kilos in Budapest!

Boldog uj evet kivanok! I decided to start my new year off on the right foot (and the left) with a workout, on my vacation to Budapest. Once or twice a year I visit Hungary to spend time with my fiancee's family. Year's past this has been a "deloading" period for me, aka deconditioning period. While the city provides lots of physical activity, walking, stair climbing, etc, holiday eating offsets any ancillary calorie burning. Disappointed with my conditioning when I return from these visits, I decided to make training arrangements before leaving, and take the same advice I give all my clients.

Formal fitness in Hungary is growing, but is not as popular as it is in the states. In addition to the hotels, which cater to international clientele, Budapest also has a few chain gyms, like Gold's Gym, among others. However, many people participate in traditional sporting activities, like soccer, handball, and aquatics, to stay fit. In addition to some pickup soccer and water polo games, I also lined up access for training in a small gym in the bowels of a post-soviet era apartment building gym, about 300 square feet,  pictured above. While this gym is far removed from the luxury of new york city fitness chic, it is more than adequate. It reminds me some of the equipment that sparked my interest in weight training and fitness as a teenager, and forced me to be creative balancing out a full body training program.

Accompanied by my future brother in law, and a national pentathlete, we ventured down into the basement for a full body resistance workout for about an hour. While balancing our pushing and pulling, I tailored the exercises towards his Pentathlete events, introducing him to some sport-specific movements that may give him an edge in his sport. The Pentathlon is a five event sport consisting of running, swimming, fencing, horse back riding, and shooting, a challenging blend of both skill and physically intensive events, requiring many hours of conditioning and skill development.

After a dynamic warm up, we began two, three exercise circuits, three sets of 15 repetitions, consisting of: barbell bench press, pull ups, stability roll outs - Rear foot elevated split squats, bent over rows, and straight arm pull downs. Short and sweet after an evening of mild indulgence and less than adequate sleep. Perfect start to a healthy new year. This holiday season, don't let your travel plans get in the way of your fitness. Whether you start your training today or Monday, make it a priority this year. Cheers!