4 Benefits of Turkish Get Ups

Recently, I participated in a kettlebell workshop for fitness professionals.

benefits of Turkish get ups

Perfect your form with light weights before progressing to heavier bells

In addition to learning proper cueing techniques for hip hinges, dead lifts and kettlebell swings, we were also introduced to an exercise with a strange sounding name; the Turkish get up.

Originating as an exercise for wrestlers in the Middle East, Turkish get ups (TGU’s) are now commonly incorporated in functional strength workouts the world over. Although TGU’s sound simple (lay down, press a weight over your head, come to standing then return to laying down, all the while keeping the arm extended and the weight over head), done properly, they provide a full body workout, building strength, endurance and improving overall mobility.

And they are harder than they sound or look. MUCH HARDER :)

Here’s a peek at where I am currently in my TGU training; note that I’m only using a 5 pound dumbbell and that I need to improve the fluidity of my movements before I switch to a heavier kettlebell.

Note that there are many accepted variations to the move (single vs double arm, getting up from a squat vs a lunge, using a hip bridge vs. swinging your back leg through). None are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and all confer similar strength and conditioning benefits. Find the variation that works for YOU and focus on perfecting form BEFORE adding or increasing load.

4 Benefits of Turkish Get Ups

  • improved shoulder strength and stability. TGU’s move your shoulder through it’s entire range of motion; all while keeping the arm extended under a static load. With little to no load, they’re both the perfect warmup to an upper body lifting routine and as part of a shoulder rehabilitation program. Trainer Tip: Concentrate on keeping your arm fully extended, with the weight held directly above the shoulder and eye focus on the weight during the ‘up’ and ‘down’ portions of the exercise.
  • increased core strength and endurance. While the TGU may not look like a typically ‘abdominal’ exercise, break down the movement sequence and you’ll find that it requires activation and stabilization of the entire core complex. The farther a heavy load is held from the centre of the body, the more it taxes the muscles of the core. The slower you perform the sequence, the longer those muscles will remain under tension. Trainer Tip: Concentrate on keeping glutes and abdominals engaged throughout; stability supports movement and helps prevent injury. 
  • correct left-right movement pattern asymmetries. Most of us have a ‘stronger’ side. As a consequence, movement patterns will be easier to perform on one side of the body than the other. Practice TGU’s on both sides of the body to improve the ease with which you can perform day-to-day movement patterns (e.g., getting in and out of a car), as well as those required during recreational sports (e.g., kicking a soccer ball). Trainer Tip: When performing unilateral exercises, always start with your weaker, less coordinated side; focus on reducing the left-right imbalance before progressing the exercise.
  • whole body, metabolic exercise. The more muscle groups required to perform an exercise, the more the exercise will elevate your heart rate and the more calories you’ll burn during (and perhaps after) the workout. Trainer Tip: Combine TGU’s with three or four other compound whole body exercises (for example, pushups, pull ups, dead lifts and push presses) for an efficient metabolic style workout.

Do you include Turkish Get Ups in your strength workouts?

If so, what variation do you prefer?

IMG_3876For more exercise tips and strength training suggestions, check out my new book, Ultimate Booty Workouts. Available now at Amazon.caAmazon.comBarnes and Noble and Chapters/Indigo

Use unilateral exercises to shake up your workouts

I love exercises that require the left and right sides of my body to perform different tasks. What can I say, I’m happiest when multi-tasking :)

My favourite unilateral exercise? The offset load squat.

unilateral exercises

Yes, I know that I’m using an 8 pound and a 15 pound weight…

Rather than holding two, equal weight dumbbells at shoulder height, try holding a heavy weight over one shoulder and a lighter weight over the other. Ignore anyone in the gym who’s giving you strange looks, assuming that you don’t realize you’re using two different dumbbells…happens to me all the time!

Feel how one side of the body is working harder than the other. Note the difference in the way the left and right sides of your core are working as you drop down into the squat. Pay attention to how your left and right legs and glute cheeks work as you press back up to standing.

Neat, huh? (Just make sure you switch the weights and perform an equal number of reps on the other side so as not to leave the gym lop-sided ;) ).

Incorporating unilateral exercises in your workout is a great way to

  1. increase strength on the weaker side of your body. Often our non-dominant arms and legs are lacking in strength not only because we use them less in every day life, but also because during traditional gym workouts we unconsciously let our stronger side take over. Forcing each side of the body to work differently and separately immediately highlights any muscular weaknesses and imbalances that may be affecting our progress in the gym as well as our day-to-day functionarily.
  2. improve balance and kinesthetic awareness. Unilateral exercises require a strong kinesthetic awareness; the knowledge of where, in space, your limbs are relative to your torso. Next time you trip and ‘catch’ yourself before falling, congratulate yourself on your well-developed kinesthetic sense. Asking the left and right sides of your body to simultaneously perform different tasks forces you to create and strengthen mind-to-muscle connections that you might not otherwise use.
  3. incorporate extra core training in your workout. Whenever we ask the right and left sides of our body to perform different movements we turn on our deep core stabilizers; the muscles that help support the spine and protect it from being injured by external forces. For example, lifting a single, heavy weight up and over your head requires the obliques on the opposite side of your body to contract and engage in order to keep your torso upright.
  4. push through training plateaus. Sometimes we get stuck at a particular weight or progression of an exercise. No matter how hard we try to progress it, we can’t seem to increase the difficulty or the load. Unilateral exercises can help you push through plateaus by forcing the weaker side of the body to become stronger (see 1. above) as well as providing a slightly different stimulus to the body (akin to changing the angle of your chest press or the stride length of your lunge). Doing things a little differently is often the key to moving forwards (but in a round-about way; kind of like life).

Here’s a quick, whole body workout that incorporates unilateral exercises. Aim for 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise on each side of the body. Beginners should complete the circuit once through, more advanced exercisers can shoot for 2-4 sets of each. As always, choose a weight (or progression) that allows you to complete all repetitions in good form; if you can’t get to the end of the set, you probably need a slightly lighter weight.

Offset load squats: Start by standing with feet under your hips (or slightly wider apart), toes pointed forward (or angled out a bit), one heavy dumbbell held over your right shoulder, one light dumbbell held over your left. Drop your bum down and back (as if you’re squatting over a port-a-potty). Push through your heels, keeping core tight and eye focus forward to return to standing. Switch sides with the weights and repeat.

Standing single arm shoulder press: Stand as described above for the offset load squat. Maintain a slight bend in your knees and tighten your belly and butt to protect your lower back. Hold two equal weight dumbbells at shoulder height. Extend both arms up and over your head, keeping weights slightly in front of your head. Keep non-working arm fully extended while you lower the working (weighted) arm towards your shoulder. Press back up to the starting position. Complete all repetitions on one side then switch to the other.

unilateral exercises

Single arm chest press on the ball

Single arm chest press on the ball: Start by sitting on a stability ball (or a weight bench if balance is challenging for you). Holding a pair of equal weight dumbbells in your hands, walk yourself down until your head and shoulders are supported by the ball. Your lower body should be lifted into a reverse bridge, with hips up and feet wide apart. Extend both arms up straight over your chest, with palms facing away. Keep non-working arm fully extended while you lower the working arm towards your chest. Press back up to the starting position. Complete all repetitions on one side then switch to the other.

Single leg dumbbell dead lift: Start by balancing on one foot. The other knee will be bent with foot help slightly above the ground. Hold a single, heavy weight in the hand of the non-working leg. Keeping eye focus forward and back flat, bend working knee, hip and ankle to lower yourself towards the ground, reaching across your body with the weight as you descend. Use your glutes, hamstrings and lower back to pull yourself back up to standing. Complete all repetitions on one side then switch sides.

unilateral exercises

Three-point plank

Three-point plank. Come into a low plank, with weight on your toes and forearms. Maintain a straight line from the back of your neck to the back of your heels, lift one foot up and off the ground (6 to 8 inches is far enough). Hold for as long as you can before switching sides. Try and keep your hips facing forward the entire time.

unilateral exercises

Which muscles, other than the target muscles, did you feel during each of the above exercises?

Were you surprised at how much more challenging unilateral exercises are than their more traditional counterparts?

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Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Get more from your plank-a-day; bridge for balance

I love all the plank-a-day Tweets filling up my Twitter stream.

plank a day on twitter

I’m amazed to see how long people are able to hold their planks and am excited to see their plans for progressively increasing those times.

plank a day on Twitter

Planks are a fabulous exercise for strengthening the muscles of the core, in particular the rectus abdominus (the ‘six pack’ muscles) and  transverse abdominus (the ‘lower abs’). In fact, many fitness professionals now prefer them over standard crunches or sit ups for increasing abdominal strength.

‘Spinal stabilization’ is the new sexy!

proper plank form

But bodies work best when opposing muscle groups are balanced in strength. Front body (anterior) muscles need to precisely balance back body (posterior) muscles for optimal function and long term lack of pain.

Show me a body builder with well-developed pecs and forward sloping shoulders and I’ll show you someone with an under-developed back! (Hint: you should be able to pull as much as you can push)

Want to get more from your plank-a-day? Add a bridge-a-day to your routine!

Bridges are essentially reverse planks.

Rather than contracting your anterior core muscles to hold your body in a straight line, bridging requires you to activate the deep muscles of your mid and lower back; your quadratus lumborum, multifidus and erector spinae. Bridging also requires the use of your glutes and hamstrings; both important muscle groups for stabilization of the lower back and pelvis.

To perform a bridge, begin by laying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, approximately hip distance apart.

Beginners will extend their arms out to their sides, in ‘T’ formation. Intermediate exercisers may lay arms alongside their torsos.

  1. Taking a deep breath in, pull your belly button towards your spine
  2. Squeeze glute cheeks together
  3. Push through the heels of your feet
  4. Exhale as you raise your hips off the ground until
  5. Your body forms a straight line from chest to knees
  6. Hold for up to 30 s (please continue to breathe!)
  7. Gently lower to starting position, rest and repeat

core strength training

Ideally, you should be able to hold your bridge (or reverse plank) as long as you can hold a regular plank!

plank-a-day + bridge-a-day = unsurpassed core strength and spinal stability

Need more challenge? Try one of the following;

  • Extend arms straight up over your chest (less contact with the floor)
  • Place feet on a stability ball (unstable surface)
  • Lift one foot off the floor, extending leg straight up (reduced base of support)
  • Place a weight plate or sand bell across your hips (increased resistance)
  • Perform a hamstring curl on the ball (dynamic instability)
core training exercises

 

I’d love to see you Tweet your #BridgeADay #PROOF as well! Let’s see if we can get the #BridgeADay hashtag trending!

Watch for mine tomorrow!

New to weight training? Use your own body weight to get strong and lean

For many reasons, people (women in particular) are intimidated by dumbbells (that aren’t pink…), barbells and squat racks. Rather than cross over to the free-weight section of their gym (where the ‘gym rats’ hang out), they head for the machines (hamstring curl, leg extensions, seated shoulder press, chest press and row, to name a few).

Source

While machines have their place in some people’s fitness programs (correcting muscular imbalances, rehabilitating injuries, improving range of motion and breaking through plateaus are how I typically use them with my clients, when I use them at all…), they’re not so great for metabolism raising, fat burning or improving day-to-day functional movements. The three primary reasons people choose to exercise.

Why? Because you sit at machines, rather than standing on your own two feet. Sitting does not require you to activate your glutes or engage your core to any great extent, both of which will dramatically improve your posture, fitness level and caloric burn.

For those of you who are still not convinced that you need to learn to love free weights (or get to the gym in the first place), I’ve put together a list of my favorite body weight exercises. Exercises that can be done at home with minimal equipment, or at the gym in the corner or in the ‘stretching’ section of the weight room.

These are all ‘bang for your buck’ exercises, in that they use multiple muscle groups and require you to stabilize your shoulder girdle and core throughout. When done correctly and at a good tempo, they’ll also elevate your heart rate, blurring the lines between ‘cardio’ and ‘strength training’.

A word of warning; some of these exercises are not for beginners. Just because you’re not lifting dumbbells or barbells doesn’t mean the exercise is easy; pushups and pull ups require you to push and pull 75-100% of your body weight (dumbbells are starting to sound like a good idea after all, aren’t they!).

Source

That being said, there are modifications that you can do as you progress towards full pushups and pull ups. I’ve written previously about learning to do chin ups; you can apply the same rules in your quest for the pull up, just widen and reverse your grip (palms face forward). Check back tomorrow for ways to progress your ‘knee’ pushups to full on ‘toe’ pushups. Click on the links below for exercise descriptions and images.

Fitknitchick’s best body weight exercises

  • Source

    Pushups

  • Pull ups or chin ups
  • Planks (of all type)
  • Squats (there are tons of great variations)
  • Lunges (again, variations aplenty)
  • Bird dog (looks easy, but isn’t and is extremely beneficial to all)
  • Back extensions (on the ball, floor or the back extension apparatus)
  • Burpees (half or full-on)
  • Skipping rope
Are you already doing some of these exercises in your daily workouts?

Anything I missed?

As always, I love to hear from you!

Chair lifts and zip lines and high wires, oh my! The last play-out of the summer

Summer holidays are essentially over. ‘Boo!’ say the children. ‘Hooray!’ says the mom. (Picture that Staples commercial; you know the one. Dad and kids shopping for back to school supplies. Kids looking downcast. Dad looking gleeful. The song ‘The most wonderful time of the world’ playing in the background).

Egged on by the good weather, we decided to take one last spur-of-the-moment, end-of-summer-vacation vacation. We had already taken one very long road trip early in the summer, so it had to be someplace close by. Given that my children aren’t happy relaxing by the pool for more than an hour at a time, there needed to be lots of exciting activities within an easy walk or car ride from the hotel. The opportunity for exercise out of doors is a must. Family-friendly restaurants and ice cream shops are important. A great yarn shop would be wonderful too!

Everyone we asked for suggestions said the same thing; Whistler!

Given that Whistler is primarily a winter sports destination, there were lots of summer time hotel deals to be found on-line. We managed to find a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom condo with kitchen, hot tub and heated swimming pool right at the base of the mountain for next to nothing. It had a gym, but I didn’t set foot inside it; too many fun ways to exercise out of doors!

We were only a 5-minute walk (or scooter ride, if you prefer) from the Kid Zone, the upper village and the chair lift to the top.

We luged,

We gyroscoped,

We bungeed,

We dared to scooter at the skateboard park (the most awesome skate park I’ve ever seen!),

When we got tired of the Kid Zone, we visited Monkido, an outdoor, treetops adventure course with ropes, aerial swings and ziplines. Talk about a workout! Two and a half hours on the course made a Bosu class seem like a piece of cake.

Yep, that’s me coming down the final zipline…

Our last day was spent taking the chair lift to the top of Blackcomb Mountain, connecting to the Peak to Peak Gondola over to Whistler Mountain then up the last, open t-bar chair lift to the peak. Awesome rocks, great hike and amazing views!

Alas, no yarn shop to be found (I checked the Yellow pages under ‘yarn’, ‘wool’ and ‘craft supplies’ but got nothing), but I brought a relaxing, mindless knit to keep me busy on the drive and poolside.

I’m feeling refreshed and ready for the challenges September will bring. How about you?

The knee bone’s connected to the…

Well, my knee is still a bit wonky. I taught Step classes Sunday and Monday morning. Both were pretty high energy but didn’t seem to bother it. I laid off the lunges and limited my range of motion during squats. So far so good.

Monday’s lunch time spin class, however was another story.

Low tension was fine. Sprinting was fine. Standing climbs were okay… until I hit about 75% of maximum tension. Ouch. Not a sharp, piercing ouch, just a dull, back off kind of ouch. So I did. More ice and ibuprofen last night helped.

This morning I was determined to get back to my training. Phase 2, Workout A of NROL for Abs. Lunges, 2-point bent over rows, dead lifts and chest presses. Lunges felt okay (although I admit to being extremely cautious with the positioning of my knee). Surprisingly, it was the bent over rows that got me!

No, not my knee, my lower back. Specifically, the same lower back pain that sidelined me about 20 months ago. Why the back now?

That’s how the human body works. It’s one long kinetic chain. Everything is connected. When something isn’t working, another body part will happily help out, sometimes to it’s detriment.

In my case, being protective of a sore knee resulted in me lifting with my back rather than with my legs. Bending over to pick up 30 pound dumbbells incorrectly led directly to strain on my lower back.

I’m thinking that the remainder of this week will be about rest and recovery, which means, of course, that my nutrition must be bang on; and with Easter just around the corner.

A tough week to have to hold back on training. I’m down 3 pounds in a week due to dialing in my nutrition and meeting my exercise goals and I don’t want to lose steam.

How’s your week shaping up?

How do you deal with setbacks?

Two great days of spot-on nutrition and great workouts! Feeling like I can soooo do this! Then, whammo, the unexpected; injury.

I was working through my third set of dumbbell step ups (25 lbs per hand), concentrating really hard on not cheating, feeling that lovely, near exhaustion burn in my left quad when, boing, my knee turned ever so slightly in. You just tweaked it, I told myself. Try one more. Ouch!

Okay, more than a tweak. Probably a twist or a mild sprain. I attempted to work through the rest of my push presses, but even that little half squat was causing pain. I finished early, iced and ibuprofened and hoped it would feel better in the morning.

It’s morning now, and although it does feel less swollen, I’m walking down stairs gingerly and thinking that it’s a good thing I don’t have to spin this morning!

Today was to have been another NROL day, and since I’m out with girlfriends tonight and planning on cashing in a splurge or two :), I really need to get some sort of a workout in today.

My plan? Combine the upper body portions of yesterday’s and today’s workouts (minus the squat on the push press) and add in some no-impact cardio on the Arc trainer. Then, rest, ice and ibuprofen again so I can teach step on Sunday morning.

Have you had a minor set back in your training? How did you deal with it?

The Last 10 Pounds

So, I have a confession to make. I’ve been cheating. I have strayed from my nutrition plan and have payed the price.

Hanging my head in shame.

Over the last 8 months, I’ve gained about 10 pounds on the scale. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I was lifting fairly heavy weights 3 or 4 times a week. I was teaching my usual 3-4 cardio classes as well. My clothes still fit. Nobody was telling me I looked fat (not that my husband would ever dream of making a comment like that; although my 8-year old daughter would, she still has the brutal honesty of the young…).

I had almost convinced myself that I was putting on muscle (but really, 10 pounds of muscle on my frame, come on), when I decided to do a little reality check. I got out the tape measure and camera. Gulp.

Weight; 147 lbs
Height; 5’7″
Chest; 36″
High waist; 28.5″
Abdomen; 30″
Hips/butt; 39″

Using my standard method of estimating per cent body fat (not BMI; BMI only considers height and weight, not body composition or the relative proportion of your total body weight that is fat), I was carrying around 31.3 pounds of fat (21.3% body fat)! That’s a lot for me, personally. I feel best at 18-19% body fat, which corresponds to approximately 136-138 lbs (of course that depends on how much muscle mass I’m carrying).

When I put on my favorite bathing suit and took some quick pics in the mirror (pardon the splatter marks that I forgot to clean off first!), it became immediately obvious to me just where that extra 10 pounds had accumulated. A little bit too much junk hanging out of the bottom of the bathing suit. A small spare tire around the middle. (Note that these photos are not meant to be gratuitous bikini shots, but rather, a tool to motivate myself to do better. Skip them if you’d prefer not to look!).

By my calculation, I’ve got about 10 weeks until summer holidays start. I want to look and feel great at the beach. Taking little bits and pieces from all my favorite fit females (Rachel Cosgrove, Tosca Reno, Jillian Michaels and MizFit, to name a few), I’ve put together a plan. I’m going to share it with you as a means to stay accountable and perhaps, to help any of you who are also on a mission to shed those last 10 pounds. Note that this plan is based on my goals, my body, my schedule and most importantly, my ability to stay focused and on course. If you join me, your results may differ from mine.

My three-pronged approach:

1. Exercise; I’ve been following the NROL for Abs and have been pleased with the results I’m getting. My core strength has improved immensely. I’m lifting heavier and doing more of the metabolic intervals each week. I’m currently half-way through Phase 2 and plan to continue with this program as it’s written. In addition to 3 days of weight training, I also do cardio intervals on the spin bike two times a week.

2. Water; While I’m usually fairly well hydrated, increasing water consumption will help elevate my metabolism and burn more fat. It will also make me feel fuller between meals. I’m aiming for 75-80 ounces a day (1/2 ounce per pound of body weight). I always drink an 8 ounce glass immediately after my morning coffee to help counter-act the diuretic effects of the caffeine and to get my insides moving!

3. Nutrition; This is where I really need to re-tool. I’ve been having way too many splurges (cookies, wine, chips, cake) to look and feel my best. My first week’s goal is to eliminate these from my diet, along with all pre-packaged, processed foods (including bread, pasta and cereals other than oats and low-fat granola). The fewer ingredients on the package, the better. Getting rid of processed foods will also help eliminate sugar.

I’ll be eating 3-4 ounces of lean protein at each meal (5 small meals per day), along with a fruit (no more than 3 per day) or vegetable (as many as I want) and a healthy fat (olive oil, coconut oil, flax or chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews). In addition to choosing the right fats, the key to losing fat while eating fat is to limit serving size (1 tablespoon of oil or seeds, 1/4 cup of nuts).

I’ll be timing my starchy carbohydrates; one serving at breakfast (oats, clean cereal, quinoa, ezekial bread) and one at my post-workout meal (sweet potato, brown rice, barley, quinoa, whole grain couscous). Again, I’ll be watching serving sizes here, even clean carbs have calories that add up quickly.

Limiting my splurges to 3-4 per week. A glass of wine is a splurge. A cookie for dessert is a splurge. A half of a bagel or a muffin is a splurge. I will be planning these so they are not wasted on things that are not an absolute party in my mouth.

So, are you in?

Love to hear how it’s going; comments below, please!

Wordless Wednesday (or ‘Today, at a glance’)

Inspiration for this morning’s Bootcamp class…

Play room needs a touch-up