7 reasons to keep a training log

I know, I make it sound as if it were optional. But truth is, you absolutely must keep an updated training log. Be it in your computer, online, on a notepad (whatever floats your boat), this is a must have for any trainee, whatever your goals are. Why should you keep one?

Checking where you’re at

This is basic. It lets you know, objectively, where you’re at: what exercises you’re doing, what weights you’re moving (if any), what volume you’re doing, intensity, etc. Everything should be written down. Why? Because tomorrow you may forget what you did today, and you may need to make adjustments.

Checking what you’re doing

This is very important. This will let you know what it is that you’re regularly doing, what you’re paying extra attention to (probably your strong points). This will allow you to adjust and make sure everything you’re doing is balanced (unless you’re doing it on purpose).

It will show you what you’re not doing

As important, or even more so, than the former point. It will let you know what you’re regularly skipping. Ever heard someone make a question about their training and how it’s not giving them results? Here’s where the answer lies most of the time. Check what you’re missing, it will probably be the key to success.

Let’s you see what’s working, and what’s not

Try keeping a log regularly for 3 months and check on your goals. How much closer are you? What’s gotten closer? Then check your log, you’ll see exactly why. Keep what’s working, change what’s not. This is the main benefit of having a training log: it helps you.

Making adjustments

As stated before: you’re going to see what’s working and what’s not. Having a clear status on this will let you know what to change and how to change it.

Tailoring your routine

Eventually your training log will be a huge fountain of information about your training. Showing exactly what works, what doesn’t and for how long. You’ll be able to broscience the whys. How’s this important: you’ll be able to tailor your routine and program to yourself. Nobody will know you better than yourself after this. This is very important when you’re experimenting new things, adding exercises or adding extra days to your routine.

Experimentation

Keeping a track of your training program day in and day out will allow you to experiment and track the results (if there are any). Say you started bridging: you’ll know every change in your range of motion, hip strength, back strength, hypertrophy, endurance, flexibility,… (as long as you keep a very detailed track that is). If things changed according to your goals you’ll keep it, if, on the other hand, they haven’t, then you’ll either drop it or make the necessary changes until it starts working towards your goals.

How to keep a training log

Any good training log needs to have a couple of things:

  1. Your goals: keep them simple and specific (here’s an older post in which I cover goal-setting). Don’t forget to give them a time frame.
  2. Your stats: this will be your before picture if you want. All the stats regarding your goals should be here (weight, 1RM, max pull-up number, etc.)
  3. A blank page: This will be to have a side by side of your before and after. You’ll later fill it with your “new and improved” (lets hope) stats.
  4. The training log proper. In here you’ll put a date and what you’ve done for the day. Exercises, sets, reps, weights, rest periods, notes for your next workout (as in “add reps”, “add weight”). You want to keep it as detailed as you can.

Keep this for a couple of months and you should be able to objectively see your improvement. What are the benefits? Besides what I’ve written before, it’s a great source of self-feeding motivation. No one wants to quite while they are on a streak!!

Motus Virtute

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To Strength Train or Not to Strength Train: It’s not really a question

Last week a very close friend of mine came to ask for the same thing he usually does: I need a routine he said, I need to start doing something: what can you give me? After several questions I sat down to write in a napkin his new, shiny and of course, repeated routine that he would, again, never use. He claimed he needed only to run and jog to get to his all-around health and fat-loss goals (to which I asked: then why the f*** did you just ask me a new one if you already “know” what to do?! But that’s neither here or there). The answer I gave to him as to why I gave him something more strength centric will be exposed (and much better structured) in this post.

Why you need to strength train

Bear in mind, I’m not talking competitive lifting. Especially in regards to health.

It has a larger carryover to all other attributes

Endurance, power, speed and even flexibility should be built from a foundation of strength. You can’t endure if you don’t

Handbalancing, strength

Hand balancing moves: great feats of balance, only achievable by having enough strength to keep the position

have anything to endure on. If you can’t move something there’s no chance that you’ll move it fast, the same goes for running. And, if you can’t reach somewhere with strength, then there’s no really a point to it, is there? (but kidding aside, just get strong).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be breaking world records in marathon running if you solely train for strength. But, you will get more endurance from strength training than strength from working on your endurance. I don’t know if it’s because the relative intensity of other things will be lower, but it works.

Aesthetics

I don’t care if this rates high or low for you, but, relative to body-composition, barring people with health concerns, the goal is mainly for looks. Well, strength training will help build lean muscle mass (not bodybuilder sizes), which in turn will raise your basal metabolism, which will, In turn, burn more calories while you’re resting. This of course, will mean less fat under the same amount of calories consumed. This is especially true for beginners (which my friend most certainly is).

Health

I’m talking about muscle and joint health. As long as you are being consistent and making slow improvements, the low rep approach keeps the joints from being overworked in any range of motion.

By this I am most certainly not saying that other types of exercises are not healthy. All exercise is healthy, if done as it should be, I simply believe that strength training is healthier for the joints and muscles. Cardiovascular health is better addressed with other types of training.

Motivation

This is more personal based than any other thing. But truth be told, there’s little things more invigorating than moving constantly heavier weights or do more complex moves. It was, during a whole year, one of the things that compelled me to keep coming back to the weight room (I was doing PTTP, and the constant adding of weight does wonders for the self-image). Besides, it’s also very cool to still have energy to celebrate the accomplishment and not just smiling while picking up your lungs from the ground.

How to strength train

How often should you do it

This Is one of the most asked questions “how often should/can I work out”. As I’ve said several times before, I’m biased to higher frequency types of training, but you’ll do fine with just 3 times a week (or even two). As long as your overall volume and intensity are balanced you can even practice up to 7 times a week, although this may be too much for most. Try to keep it between 3 and 5 weekly sessions.

Exercises that must be there

This will be no rocket science, only multi-joint exercises apply to these categories.

  • Upper body push
  • Upper body pull
  • A knee bend (SQUAT)
  • A hip hinge
  • Core
  • A carry

You can even divide the upper body into vertical and horizontal pushes and pulls. I don’t care, have at least one of the main categories and you’ll be balanced enough. Any other exercise you may want to do that’s not included in your list before will be tagged as assistance exercise, and their function is either to help build strength for those exercises or to strengthen one of your weaknesses.

Understand that if you’re doing bodyweight only exercises the carry should be done either with an external implement or, switch it with sprints or crawls. If you’re KB exclusive, your hip-hinges will be more ballistic based, and your core exercises should be either windmills or TGUs.

How to incorporate strength training to other types of training

There’s not really a best way to go about this, but will depend more on your context and how you’re working out, just remember that resting is a serious matter and should not be overlooked.

The easiest way would be to add at least 2 exclusive strength training sessions to your week. Make it low volume and go

Carry, whatever, just carry heavy stuff. Photo by Carol Browne

Carry, whatever, just carry heavy stuff. Photo by Carol Browne

through all the movements, doing at least 3 sets for each. Repeat the workout or add weight in the next session.

If by chance you can’t add any more session a week, add 2 completely unrelated movements to your workouts. Push+hinge/pull+squat/Core+carry has worked pretty well for me before.

And that’s about it. I’d love to hear your take on things, so drop a line at the comment section below!

Motus Virtute

(At least) 10 things I learned in 10 years of training

Everything works

That’s right. Everything. Going for a jog, it works. Swinging a kettlebell, it works (damn right it does). Heavy deadlifting, light deadlifting, even an aerobics class. It all works. At least for a while. You’ll need to change things (going longer, faster, heavier,…) to keep it working. Of course, not everything you do will work for everything.

Dieting is central

I admit I didn’t pay real attention to it until the beginning of this year. Never seemed to need it. I’ve always been kind of lean-ish, and at other times I worked out so much I didn’t really need it, I simply burned everything I put in. Of course, I didn’t really build any muscle nor got the gains I should’ve (hindsight truly is 20-20). Now that I’m paing attention I’ve built more muscle and strength at a pace I didn’t before. I’ve also been recovering better.

There’s no need to get married with a style or tool

I used to be very… let’s call it religious (nothing against religion). At first, it was all about the bodybuilding, then it was all

Training zealot, enjoy your workout

There’s no need to be a training zealot. Enjoy yourself and learn from everything! – Photo by Joachim S. Muller

about sports, the it was all about heavy lifting, followed by kettlebells. In reality, this is a waste of time. You should do what’s best for you and your goals and needs. Right now I’m focusing on bodyweight skills and strength, with some light cardio put in the mix. In about 3 months I’m going to merge kettlebell endurance with bodyweight strength and skills. There will be compromise, but I’ll be better for it.

A little every day goes a long way

I’m a big fan of high frequency training. Actually, I believe it to be, if you can manage it, better. But I do mean a little. Going balls out every day takes a lot of recovery and it will probably be too much. I mean, a little every day. Don’t go anywhere near failure.

Your body has the ability to adapt to everything

The human body is, by far, the most sophisticated machine in existence. And it has the ability to adapt to most things. Just take it step by step, in small increments, and you’ll be fine.

Eat healthy

Eating healthy is the best way shake the extra calories. These are whole foods that will satisfy you a lot more than regular crap. This way, less food, fewer calories will go a longer way. You’ll also get most of your nutrients that way. Just hit your macros and you’ll be fine. Also, don’t be afraid of eating some crap now and then (but not often).

The best program is the one you enjoy doing

This one’s basic. Working out should be something you enjoy, even look forward to (you would be, after all, improving your health). As I said, everything works. Find something that’s a right fit with you!

There’s no such things as an overnight success

We’ve all seen amazing transformations online. We all like getting inspired. But this doesn’t happen over night. The one thing all of these cases have in common is that they worked day in and day out, powered by motivation or simply punching the clock. They ate right, they trained right, they had the right mindset. Even cases fueled by pharmaceutical substances had to work at it. There’s no such thing as a magic program that will put you 20 kg of muscles while lowering your bf to single digits and making you nimble as spider-man. It simply won’t happen.

What to get that success? Read the next item then!

Small milestones

You should have a long-term goal: getting healthier, looking better, etc. But the best way I found to stay motivated is through small milestones. Shorter term, definite goals to be achieved between a month and three. My magic number is 6 weeks. Take small steps to your long-term goal. How to do it? Define what your goal means (what’s getting healthier? Is it being leaner? Reducing your resting heart rate? Probably a combination of things) and think about the milestones you should hit for it. One or two things with every 6 week challenge will work well.

Check out Nerd Fitness’ 6 weeks challenges. It’s where I learned about this, and I’ve been better for it.

Motivation is not what’s cracked to be

Sure, motivation pics will send a surge of energy and get you off your ass once or twice. But truth be told, it’s not motivated people who get it done. It’s the people who are focused on their goals and know that they’ll have to work smart and hard to get them, even when they don’t want or feel like it. Sometimes you have to tough it out. Believe me, if they haven’t come yet, they will.

Fitness motivation

Here’s a jolt anyways!
Image from motivationalquotesideas.com

Of course, this is not all I’ve learnt (I hope) but I think these may be the most important I have. What about you? What have you learnt in your training years?

Motus Virtute

The same but different: Variation with a purpose

Variation is a fickle lady. Woo her correctly and she will bless you with great progress and advancements in strength, technique, endurance, conditioning, etc. etc. etc. Get on her bad side and you’ll be stuck in the same spot, forever being a newbie, without enjoying the fabled newbie gains. So, let’s do it correctly.

The many ways to change things

There’s many changes you can do to your regular workouts, from subtle changes to more drastic measures. You can change

  • Exercises
  • Rest periods
  • Frequency
  • Volume
  • Intensity

Why you should vary your training

There are several reasons why you should change things up in your training. Basically, you’ve adapted to what you’re doing, you’ve plateaued or you’ve become bored.

You’ve adapted

You’re not getting the stimulus you need from what you’re doing. You should change it. Not drastically, but enough to provoke new growth.

You’ve plateaued

Time to change. If things are not moving forward then they’re moving backwards. Go for a variant of the exercise, or change one of the variables. Maybe even take a longer rest from this type of work. There are many ways to bust a plateau.

You’ve become bored

This one’s tough. This one calls for drastic changes. If you’re bored with your training you should revise your goals first. If you’re still aiming for the same things then maybe change the way you’re doing it drastically. Remember to have fun!

Goblet Squat, Squat, Beginner squat

Goblet squat, one of the best beginner squats in existence. Photo by US Army Central

Why you shouldn’t change your training

There’s also many reasons why not to change what you’re doing.

Too much variation will lead you no-where

Remember to change things up smartly: changing too much too often will lead you no-where. You won’t adapt to the stimulus enough to become (insert goal here).

Muscle confusion is not really a thing

I like to say that if you confuse your muscles too much then they won’t know what they should do! Of course I exaggerate, but I do believe that they won’t know what to adapt to, hence, they’ll give up and simply not adapt at all. All that you should be focused on is the goal at hand. (BTW, of course you’ll never plateu if you’re constantly confusing your muscles, basically because you’ll never get strong enough to plateau in the first place!).

Yep, go ahead shocking the muscles you shocker you!

Yep, go ahead shocking the muscles you shocker you!

How to vary the correct way

As the title conveys, doing the same but different has great results, you’ll keep getting better at what you’re doing for one. Always remember to keep your goals in mind when you’re doing this.

Changing intensity

Going heavier or lighter will change the type of adaptations your body will go through. Going lighter will get you better rested, and building back-up will get you stronger. Sometimes screwing volume to get some real heavy work done will get CNS jacked and yourself stronger in the short run.

Changing Volume

Adding reps, reducing reps, adding sets, reducing sets, or sometimes both. This may be the ticket to bridging between where you are and where you want to be.

Changing Frequency

As I said in another post, doing a little every day can get a long way. I like HFT. It helps me improve by greasing the groove. Getting better at the movement allows me to get stronger in the movement, and to get more efficient at lifting certain ways. (Also, the fabled farm-boy strength comes from daily manual labor, and usually not to the max).

Changing the exercises

This is what we do when we go through exercise progressions (and it’s not exclusive to bodyweight). Going for similar, harder exercises is a great way to keep improving strength. Likewise, going for easier variations helps you focus on the weaknesses of your forms, put more volume and get a good rest. You can look at variations for bodyweight exercises here, here and here. But, for an illustrative case, you could first master the goblet squat – Front squat – Box squat – Back squat (See, there are ways to make this variations with weights :D).

All of this will depend on your goals of course. I cannot stress this enough.

How I vary my workouts

My routine is mainly consistent. I have my goals and change things accordingly. Right now I’m quite focused on getting down the freestanding handstand, front lever, back lever and V-sit. I’m going through exercise progressions and regressions (changing the exercises accordingly).

So, for handbalancing I’m doing as Coach Sommers dictates in Handstand One, for all other exercises I’m following Steven Low’s Overcoming Gravity (Amazon affiliate link – It’s a great source of information if you’re into bodyweight training anyway). This means I’m changing exercises to adjust intensity.

For every other exercise I change volume, until I become strong enough to change the exercise to one that will provide more intensity. I am, after all, training mainly in bodyweight exercises.

One small defense for variation for variation’s sake.

Fat loss. To achieve fat loss one must be inefficient in the work they’re doing. That’s how P90X works and, to some degree, Crossfit (and all their before and after pictures). Being inefficient means the energy expenditure for the movements will be larger. Hence, more calories are burned and more fat may be blasted. This is it. Period.

And even in this case I’d rather recommend a good combo of sprints and a diet. But that’s just me.

So, how do you go about variation? Share this if you have a routin/program hopper friend that might need a nudge in the right direction!

Motus Virtute

PS: Remember, following this blog is the Nº1 way to be awesome. Or so I hear.

How to workout for busy people Part 4 – Muscle mass focus

On this 4th part of the how to workout for busy people (part 1, part 2, part 3) I’ll focus on building muscle mass. It’s not easy, and don’t expect to Arnold-out in a couple of months.

What makes gaining mass hard

Barring pharmaceutical help, gaining mass is a complex science/art. There’s several types of hypertrophy which take in

Photo by Brian Auer

Photo by Brian Auer

account different volumes, rep ranges and intensities. More over, building lean muscle mass takes a lot more than just training. The simple formula would be

Eating at a surplus + plenty of rest + working out = more lean muscle mass

And that’s without factoring in hormonal profiles, etc. Of course, this is as simple as I can make it. Focusing on the working out part, the main variable here will be volume (meaning, how much you put up in total). Of course, given that we have little time, we’ll focus on density. Density will be takin in acount as volume/time. (BTW, I was introduced to density as a variable through Pavel’s Enter the Kettlebell, so I’m going to pretty much use that definition).

Building muscle on a time budget

This whole idea was introduced by Charles Staley (although it’s probably much much older, as most things in the physical training department… Even bro culture), so, full props to him for being a genius.

For this type of workouts you’ll need, at least, a stopwatch, a piece of paper and something to write.

  1. You’ll pair two antagonist exercises (like Deadlifts and Bench Presses or Squats and Pull-ups).
  2. You’ll set the timer for 15-20 minutes for compound exercises.
  3. Set a weight with which you can do 7-10 solid, correct reps and start doing sets of 5.
  4. Go back and forth between both exercises resting as little as needed. As you fatigue start reducing the reps per set and resting more.
  5. Take note of how many reps in total you’ve done for each exercise. Strive for at least +1 rep every workout.
  6. Once you’ve done 30% more reps than the first session with a given weight, add more weight (2,5-5kg/5-10lbs. no more).
  7. If you still have time after your first 20 minutes (and energy), and insist on adding more exercises. For isolation moves do no more than 10 minutes (pairing curls with tricep extensions, calf raises with wrist exercises… take your pick).
  8. Curse at me. But curse at Charles Staley more, he made EDT (Escalating Density Training… as it’s called) famous. It really is his fault, not mine.

Unfortunately, this type of training works best with a barbell. There’s no way around it. You can use other implements, but truth be told, they won’t be as effective as.

Squat, heavy lifting, strong, strength, heavy squat, strong squat

Any variety of this beautiful exercise should always be in your program. No matter what your goal is.
Photo by US Naval Force Central Command

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PS: Share this with people! Not everybody knows they can get a solid conducive workout in a short time, or maybe with life changes their fitness got very much in the backburner!

 

How to workout for busy people – Conditioning Focus

This is part 3 of the How to workout for busy people series (click here for Part 1 and Part 2), in which we’ll focus on conditioning.

Different types of Conditioning

Yes, there are different types. But, for practical purposes let’s focus on long sessions and short sessions. To build an all

Long distance running, conditioning, endurance

Steady state for long sessions will get you the desired results. Be them bodycomposition, endurance or recuperating ability

around conditioned body, you’ll have to do BOTH. Since time is an issue in this series, we’ll try to be as efficient as possible.

Training in long sessions will be focused on steady state cardio. I know, I must be from a different day and age if I believe this to be necessary. But if you think that it’s ineffective as conditioning (we’re not talking fatloss) then you have a different thing coming. Doing over 90 minutes in a row will not only improve your conditioning and endurance, but will also vastly improve your mental toughness and body composition (there, I said it).

Short duration training is where HIIT will work best. There are literally thousands of routines scattered all over the web. It’s effective, efficient and to the point, which is what this series is all about. It will be simple, not easy.

Frequency

This one you should be playing by ear, I’d love to say you’ll have to do X amount a week, but truth be told, this workouts should leave you gassed. But I still advocate for higher frequency. So, if you plan on doing 15 minutes per session, think about going 5 times a week with short duration workouts, and once a week for long sessions. I recommend doing 30 minutes of HIIT and 90 minutes of steady state workouts.

The recommended prescription is 3 HIITs + 1 steady state workouts per week.

The Workouts

I’ll put 3 protocols for you to follow. Even though most modalities can be adapted to them, I’ll put what I found to be the best to apply it.

On the top of every minute

Choose 1 or 2 exercises (that complement each other), and set a timer to announce the start of every minute. You’ll be doing a fixed set and rest what remains of the minute.

Progress: Every time you hit the amount of reps, add 1 to every set. Once you start getting only 20 seconds of rest, choose a harder variation or add weight.

Recommended: Kettlebell swings, snatches, bodyweight squats.

As Many Rounds As Possible

This popularized by Crossfit method is as effective and brutal as they come.

Pick a sequence of exercises that will cover your bases (a push, a pull, a hip hinge, a squat, a core). Set a timer for the allotted time and do between 3 and 5 reps per exercise. You’ll keep going through the circuit until the time finishes.

Progress: Take note of how many circuits you finished. Next time you’ll have to do more.

Recommended: Bodyweight exercises and Kettlebells will probably go a longer way. Pick variations/weights you can do 10 reps with and do 5 per set.

Sprint ladders

Effective as hell but they will beat you. Choose 3 different distances (30m, 60m, 100m (that’s meters)). You’ll sprint the first distance, return jogging to the start line; run the second distance, jog back to the beginning; sprint the third, walk back to the beginning and start over. Do this 5 times. You’ll feel amazing after it (well, maybe not directly after it, it may take some recovery).

Progress: just add ladders, or go by rungs. Ideally you’ll always go balls out and progress will be slow.

You may switch this for kb snatches or swings.

Kettlebell swing, conditioning, full body

Probably one of the best conditioning exercises out there.

Long sessions.

Feel free to keep this as optional, and if needed do it on the weekend. Do 90 minutes of whatever you enjoy the most. Keep it light and keep it constant. Don’t stop before the 90 minutes are up.

What? No tabatas?

No. Hell no. What most people know as Tabatas are a watered down, bullshit ridden imitation of the protocol. There’s four reasons why I don’t put them here:

  1. The tabata protocol calls for 20 seconds of intense, balls to the wall, execution, and 10 seconds of active rest with lighter movement (like jogging is to sprints). Please tell me how you’re managing that with squats. I thought so.
  2. Chances are that, with the exception of sprinting, kettlebells (and I doubt most people can manage it) and a fixed bicycle, you won’t be able to go all out for twenty seconds.
  3. If you seriously can go more than one full out tabata workout, congratulations, you’re better off than probably 90% of the planet. But, doing “tabata pushups”, “tabata pull-ups”, “tabata squats” and “tabata crunches”(I did puke  little bit there), you should be an all star athlete. Seriously.
  4. Most people can’t really handle it. If you can do the tabata protocol (realistic ones, sprint or bikes) then go for it. Chances are you can’t.

No go beat yourself up!

Next one I’ll be discussing on how to get both strong and conditioned on a time budget. But chances are you already know how!

Motus Virtute

How to workout for busy people – Strength focus

On this second post of the How to workout for busy people series I want to focus on developing strength on a “time-budget”. Part one here

Strength = skill = practice

Why is strength so effective to develop when tight in time? Because strength is a skill. It’s the skil of building tension in the muscles, and every skill gets better the more we practice (of course, practice correct form, cues, etc.). If we tone it down, if you want to press more you’ll have to press more. If you practice more while well rested you’ll get a lot better a lot quicker.

Minimal approach works best

If you’re short on time you don’t want (or can’t) be in the gym, or your garage for long periods of time. So pick 2 or 4 exercises total. And practice them, really nail them down. Take this forced focus to get the most out of these exercises.

So, what’s the recepie anyway?

You’ll go to a HFT type of work. High frequency and intensity, with low volume (remember, a little every day goes a long way). Pick 2-4 exercises and practice them 3-5 times a week, and do 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps. The more you practice them, the better the results we’ll be at the end.

So, here are a couple of suggestions:

Barbell

Over head press (strict): 2 x 5 with a load you can manage 7 reps solidly. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets. Add weight after every second session that you nail the 2×5.

Deadlift: Same. 2×5 with a load you can manage 7 reps solidly. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets, adding weight after every second session that you nail the 2×5.

Squats: Follow the same protocol. Squats should be alternated with deadlifts (one session each) if you’re going to do them.

Best exercise for strength the deadlift

You can never go wrong working on the deadlift. Probably THE most complete excercise in existence. Photo by Amber Karnes

Kettlebells

A1) TGU: 2 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 reps. Start with 2 x 1, 2, 3 and add one rung to the ladder every second session you manage the alloted number of rungs.

A2) Goblet Squat: 2 x 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 reps. Start with 2 x 1, 2, 3 and add one rung to the ladder every second session you manage the alloted nmber of reps.

Go back and forth between this two resting as needed.

B1) Kettlebel Swings: 50-100 reps total. Keep it easy and don’t exhaust yourself with this. It’s just to finish up!

Bodyweight

Push up variant or Dip: 2 x 5

Pull-up or Row: 2 x 5

Squat: 2 x 10

Leg Raises: 1 x 10

Do this in a circuit fashion. Rest 2 minutes between circuits. And do these exercises like you mean it. Once you feel they’re two easy try a new, hard variant.

Now, enjoy getting minimalisticly strong!

Motus Virtute

How to workout for busy people

One thing I regret not doing in the last couple of years is not recording the excuses friends and family have been giving me to not workout. Of course “I don’t have time” is the most common excuse (and “I don’t want to” often the rarest). Most of us know this isn’t true. But what happens when our schedule isn’t going in our favor?

What happens when time derails?

Usually (and I’m sure you can relate), I’ve got time to work, workout, write this blog, meet with friends, … and even read a

No time to workout

Some aspects of life will get in the way! Photo by Giuseppe Savo

book before bed, getting around 7-8 hours of sleep and feeling happy. But, as I’m sure it has happened to you, sometimes things just won’t fall in place, social life demands more time, work demands more time, and of course, we sacrifice those things that aren’t really a priority. In most cases (most certainly mine), fitness goes out the window. And this has happened to me during finals, heavier working periods, etc.

Of course, during those moments I didn’t know what I now know. And, being mindful of these things I do have a couple of back-up plans that respond to my goals for such times. I’ve decided I would always have time to practice, so, I’ll practice even in the event of having little time.

In this post, I wanted to share with you these “principles” I keep in mind to build short time effective workouts.

5 Rules for time compressed workouts!

Keep your goals in mind!

This is very important, since you’ll have to make decisions based on this.

Cut the fat

Pareto’s principle states that 20% of the efforts deliver 80% of the results. Lean your routine, simplify. What doesn’t directly lead to success needs to go (this will be temporal after all).

A little every day goes a long way

There’s no reason why you can’t divide your workouts to “a little every day”. Grab your training journal and estimate

Pistol Squats are a great bodyweight strength and conidtioning excercise!

Working out in your place saves time to and from work!

your total weekly volume of those key exercises that lead to achieving your goals. Divide this by 5 or 6, you’ll have a daily goal of sets that you can probably manage better, and in shorter time!

This also works for conditioning

Remember to enjoy it!

Most excuses come in the form of “I don’t have time for that”, when they really mean “I couldn’t give two tugs of a (for the rest, read Metropolitan (awesome comic))”. You’re workout won’t always be fun and you won’t always be motivated. But, if it’s a chore it will be a lot harder to pull off.

Keep it temporal

This is a great strategy to employ in moments of little time. But they can get boring. So, unless you fall in love with this type of training (as I have, and miss it), keep it only for moments that you have to rush it (like finals, life with kids, etc.).

What are the weirdest excuses you’ve heard? Post them in the comment section so we can all have a laugh!

Next post will be featuring a couple of workouts with this in mind, so if you have any particular time restriction, be sure to let me know so I can feature something factoring it!

Motus Virtute!

Why use Kettlebells and 2 workouts

Far from still being the underground turned culty fitness tool that it was half a decade ago, KBs have come into the mainstream. There’s a lot said about how and when to use this tool, and their apparant benefits. All this aside, what I’m happiest about is, I no longer have to describe a cannonball with a handle, most everyone knows what it is.

Why use Kettlebells

The kettlebell is, in my opinion, one of the best tools out there for overall fitness for the everyday Joe and Jane. Kettlebells can and will help you develop

  • Strength: this are the grinding movements

    Kettlebell clean, kettlebell military press, strength training with kettlebells

    Clean the kettlebell strongly, else you’ll bang up your forearm! – Photo by Ken Liu

  • Conditioning: through repetitive ballistics
  • Flexibility: if used wisely
  • Power: Through heavy ballistic excercises
  • Mobility: think windmills and TGUs.

Are they the best tools for each job. Hell no. But they’re good for the development of an all around athlete/enthusiast. And, they’re very easily integrated with other tools.

(I could get into more detail about the advantages of practicing the hip drive or how all these attributes can be trained. But that’s a subject for a book, and not a blog post)

Disadvantages of kettlebells

They’re not a specialist’s tool. If you want to be the strongest or the most powerful, you can’t beat a barbell. You want to be the most flexible, yoga is your tool. You want to be the best at anything, there are appropiate tools that will let you specialize in each: endurance, flexibility, mobility, strength, hyperthorphy… All can be improved with a KB, but no to the same level as.

So, Why KBs then?

Kettlebells will give you a blend of strength, endurance and power that can’t really be described as “strength-endurance” or “power-endurance” but more as an: ease of being. Having practiced on and off with kettlebells (sometimes my goals are more specialized) I can attest to the fact that any regular task gets easier (like playing football(or soccer) for about two hours with legs that just won’t quit), that joint health increases, and that the grass gets even greener (ok, maybe not that much).

In other words, unless you’re focused on a particular sport, kettlebells are probably the right tool for you.

The Workouts

1) KB solo

This an beginner to intermidiate plan and should be done 3 or 4 times a week. Please keep your recovery in mind. It has an all around focus (if you want to go more frequent, change the number of sets to 3). Don’t ever go to failure!

A1) TGU 3×3

Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. Go heavy, but never to failure.

B1) Clean + Military Press 5×5

B2) KB one arm row 5×5

Rest one minute between each excercise

Kettlebell swing

Expect a healthy sweat! Photo by John Calnan

C1) Goblet Squat 5×5-10

C2) Heavy KB 1H Swings or Snatches 5×5

Rest one minute between each excercise.

D1) Kettlebell 2H swings 5x 15-20

Rest 30″ to 1 minute between sets. Jog in place or jump an imaginary rope.

After this have a cool down with stretches and some mobility work for recovery.

2) KB + Bodyweight

This is an all arounder that will hit each and every movement pattern in the most effective way I know of. Do this 4 times a week.

Day 1

A) TGU 3×3 (can’t beat this baby)

Go heavy. But never to failure. Rest one or two minutes between sets.

B1) KB Clean + Press 5×5

B2) Pullup progression 5×5 (pick one you can do up to 8 reps barely). If this is your pull-up, weight them!

Rest 1 minute between excercises

C1) Goblet Squat 5×5

C2) 1H heavy swings 5×5

Rest one minute between excercises.

D1) Burpees 5x as much as you can with perfect form (I don’t care about speed here, just go as fast as you can while remaining as controlled as you can).

Day 2

A) Handstand holds 3x 50% of your max holding time.

Keep your body straight (or better yet, face the wall and touch it with your chest). Rest one or two minutes between each set.

B1) Push-up progression (or dips) 5×5

B2) KB Row 5×5

Rest 1 minute between each set

C1) Pistol Squat progression 5×5 (use a progression you can do about 8 perfect reps, but not 9)

C2) KB Snatch or 1H heavy swing 5×5

Rest 1 minute between each set

D1) Kettlebell 2H swing 5x as many as you can with perfect form and a solid hip drive.

After you finish each workout, cool down with some stretches and mobility work for recovery.

Conclusion

If you can use them, Kettlebells are a great addition to any fitness program, just be mindful of what your goals are and what you’re looking for. If you want to be a specialist, then the KB is probably not your cuppa. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for all around development to above average, but not elite levels, then by all means, go buy the damned thing!

Shameless advertising bit – where I learned most of kettlebells from

To finish this post off I’d like to share with you where I learned most kettlebell skills and probably the most important book to have in a kettlebell library. The Russian Kettlebell Challenge (affiliate link). by Pavel Tsatsouline is a golden oldie. Even though there have been several other great books by the same author (Enter the Kettlebell and Simple & Sinister to say the least) this one I believe is the most complete of the three, the only lacking part I found is: there’s no information on the TGU (which later became a staple in both his certifications, and an exercise that one must simply do).

*Note: all the above links are from affiliate programs and will lead you either to Dragondoor or Amazon product pages. Just FYI.

Motus Virtute

Frequency + Volume + Intensity: a love triangle

One of the main questions I see in forums, twitter, and facebook when talking about programming is always the same: how often can I train? The answer to this is always the same: it depends. To effectively answer how frequently you may do it, we should first know how hard, and how much we’ll be doing it.

It all boils down to our love triangle

Intenisty, Volume, Frequency, Training, workout, fitness

Now pick two

Now pick two

Yes, pick two. Barring enhancers, there’s no human way and amateur will be able to sustain a high volume, high intensity, high frequency training regime without burning out sooner rather than later. So you get to pick only two.

Intensity + Volume = High Intensity Training

This is the most common choice we see in most routines. Go tough one time a week. Obliterate the muscles with as much as they can take (think lifting heavy) for as long as they can take it (mid-high sets with low-mid reps). This is what most bodybuilding splits come from: leg day is around 12 sets for the legs in every which way (squats, machines, etc.) till you need a wheelchair to get out of the gym. You’ll be doing this again in around 5-7 days. Next time you go to the gym you’ll obliterate your chest or your arms or your back. You can even go every day to the gym without really upping your frequency.

Think of things you can only do once or twice a week: bodybuilding split, sprints, HIIT, etc.

Intensity + frequency = High frequency Training

This is my absolute favorite. You get to go heavy and often. Think programs likeGTG,PTTP or among the lines. You do a

Deadlift, strength, intensity, volume, frequency, workout, fitness, training

Nothing builds strength and power as a good and heavy Deadlift. Nothing builds injuries as a good and heavy Deadlift done for reps too often. Photo by Tom Woodward

small amount of heavy work with a lot of rest every day (or 5 days a week). Your CNS gets fried, you get no pump but plates in the barbell just keep adding up like crazy. Remember, there’s no going to failure in this scheme.

Think along the lines of strength practice: GTG, PTTP, Pavel’s 40 day workout, most things written by Dan John

Volume + frequency = Endurance work

You won’t be going heavy (remember, heavy depends a lot on the persons capacities, some may think a 300 lb DL is an easy feat, others may feel it’s impossible), so you can take your reps to the higher numbers. Of course, being a high frequency type of training, there’s no way you can go to failure either without really compromising your performance for your next session. Think about someone who goes for a run every day, or someone who walks everywhere or uses his bike to go to work. You’re putting a heck of a workload every day, but it’s a light workload, so you should be able to recover well from practice to practice.

Thin along endurance training, or recovery. I don’t really know much here to give you many details.

How to pick

Think about your goals first.

Are you going for strength? size? endurance? power? Then you pick what best suits you and your way of life. There’s no reason to lie to yourself saying you’ll be doing this every day if your life will get in the way by day 3. You can get strong, big, lean and conditioned with any of the three picks.

 What works best for what:

  • Intensity + Volume: Conditioning + Hypertrophy + Strength
  • Intensity + Frequency: Strength + skill development
  • Volume + Frequency: Conditioning + endurance + flexibility (yep, yogis were right)
  • Diet: Fatloss (sorry, there’s no other way around it)

So take your pick!

Motus Virtute

PS: Studies show that the Nº1 way to be awesome is following this blog (just sayin’).