Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Take The Stairs, Get Leaner

I won't bother starting this post with the obligatory rant about why most modern cardio machines are no substitute for old fashioned hard work like skipping, dragging and sprinting. If you read this blog I'll take it as read that you're already aware of the benefits of this more "old-school" approach to improving body composition. For the purposes of burning fat and getting stronger and fitter, we know that hard work will always trump clever gimmicks and fancy equipment. So with this in mind, to the subject of today's post;

Stairs Training for fitness and fat loss.
A flight of stairs might just be the best piece of cardio equipment you could ever ask for (luckily at Aegis Training we have two). Stairs sprints impose a large metabolic demand while building strength and endurance in the lower body. There are many drills which can be performed (check out the video below for some ideas) but the most basic is the sprint. Here's what to do to get started.
Find a stairs! Chances are you have access to one either at home, in a local park or near work. Ideally you want at least 15 steps, enough so that it takes about 10 seconds to sprint to the top and come back down (we don't advise sprinting back down, but coming back down briskly with your hands on the rails).
Warm up for about 5 minutes or so jogging to the top and back down or performing some light mobility drills (see our previous post on lower body warm-ups for ideas).
Now you're ready to go. Sprint as fast as possible from the bottom of the stairs to the top, then come back down keeping your hands on the rails for safety. Rest about as long as it took you to get to perform your sprint, then go again. Repeat for 5-10 reps.

Obviously sets and rest intervals can be adjusted to suit your needs, if you find this impossible simply double or triple you rest periods, then shorten them gradually over a few weeks. On the other hand, if you want more of a challenge, try the Stair Ladder.
Perform one sprint, then rest as long as that sprint took ( for the sake of simplicity we'll say it takes ten seconds). Then perform two sprints and rest 20 seconds, and continue in this fashion;
3 sprints, 30 seconds rest
4 sprints, 40 seconds rest
5 sprints, 40 seconds rest,
4 sprints, 30 seconds rest
3 sprints, 20 seconds rest
2 sprints, 10 seconds rest
1 sprint, collapse, hyperventilate, vow never to attempt this again.

Give it a try.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Most Horrible Leg Exercise Ever?

Too often in training we tend to gravitate towards the things we are already good at. Unfortunately, if we always stick to well mastered, familiar exercises that we enjoy, it inevitably results in less challenging workouts and less reason for your body to change. I feel that any program should always have at least one exercise that you're not fond of. The reason being; if you hate something it's a pretty sure sign you need to do more of it!
The Bulgarian Split Squat fits the bill perfectly as pretty much everybody hates it. Particularly the second variation shown on this video with the extra quarter rep in the bottom position. This is one we throw into a program when we're feeling particularly sadistic. Aside from replacing your quads with red hot coals, the exercise has the following the benefits;
Single leg exercises help balance strength between the limbs.
Promotes stability and strengthens the muscles of the foot and ankle.
Increases flexibility in the hips as the exercise involves a deep, loaded stretch of the hip flexor.
Hits the adductors and stabilising muscles of the hip in a way that double leg exercises do not.
So if your feeling brave, try dropping squats for a few weeks and give the Bulgarian Split Squat an honest try. 4 sets of 6-8 reps is good place to start. When you return to squatting you should be both stronger and more flexible.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Get To Grips With Kettlebells

Question - What is the limiting factor on practically all effective strength exercises ?
Answer - Your grip. Your hands are what attach you to the dumbbell, barbell or kettlebell. Your grip strength is what transfers the force generated by the rest of your body to your implement of choice. Therefore if your grip is weak and is giving up before your legs or upper body, then you are not getting all you can from your training.
Unfortunately most people have pretty poor grip strength, in fact most new clients complain about pain in their forearms when performing pulling exercises rather than in their lats. This is a pretty good sign that the targeted muscles are being shortchanged. So how do we fix this weak point? By training it until it's a strong point. Thickening the grip on a barbell or dumbbell will always challenge the grip further. However thick grip barbells are pretty thin on the ground in most gyms, so we came up with a cheap and effective alternative - rope training.
The rope provides a thick, uneven handle which effectively targets the gripping muscles of the forearms and is extremely versatile. You can adapt most exercises for use with the rope and are limited only by your imagination. In the video below we show some variations using a kettlebell.
Stick to one or two exercises per workout using the rope and perform them at the end of your workout, otherwise you will fatigue your grip before your other exercises.
Here are some ideas to get you started, more to come soon!