The Human Flag, Kip ups and more!

flagOverall fitness means more to me than just being able to bench press a lot of weight or run really fast. Although those are both very noble pursuits (sprinting and weight training have been part of my routine in the past and probably will be again!), my main focus is currently on mastering my own body weight. Even though I use the word “mastering,” I understand that there is no such thing as true mastery. There is always a new challenge out there for those who will seek it out.

The human flag is one of the all time greatest body weight challenges; It’s been around a lot longer than something like an elliptical trainer! The human flag requires full body strength and tremendous focus. It also looks really cool!

Kip ups are another great body-weight-only physical challenge that I have been practicing for a while now. Performing a kip up requires agility, balance, coordination and explosive power. It is challenging on many fronts!

And when talking about body weight challenges, let’s not forget my personal favorite–the handstand!!!

Watch the video below for demonstrations of these three feats of fitness!
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZe4O43AMbs

Pistol Squat with 40 lb. Kettlebell

pistol w kettleI love to challenge myself by attempting various feats of strength. I also love the pistol squat–it’s one of my favorite exercises and I’m always looking for different ways to make it challenging.

In this video segement, I attempt a pistol squat with a 40 lb. kettlebell–and manage to get off two reps! I guess next time I gotta go heavier!!!

Click the link for more info on one-legged squats. You might want to start practicing without the kettlebell first.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iy0J5Z4LWgE

Client Spotlight: Dan Budiac

BudiacDan Budiac started training with me in August of 2008. Before I started working with Dan, he had been training with my brother Danny; I was lucky that Dan had a really good trainer before me so he already had a good foundation.

In the time I have known Dan, he has finished several races of varying distances, including setting a personal best 5K time of 25:48. Dan has qualified to enter the 2010 NYC marathon and is currently working on building strength and adding a little muscle this winter, while still maintaining some cardio base.

Dan’s current plan involves 2-3 days a week of strength training and 2-3 days a week of running. In the spring, it will be time to focus on getting back to running more and building up towards longer milage.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cL2bc9RDfM
Check out this quick video clip from one of Dan’s recent training sessions with me!

Kettlebell Training

kettlebellI first saw a kettlebell back in 2002, when a friend of mine introduced me to the one arm snatch. (No I’m not trying to make any inuendo here, that’s the name of an exercise that’s commonly done with a kettlebell!)

I thought the kettlebells were pretty neat but I was very focused on bodybuilding at the time. Kettlebells didn’t seem to have any place in a bodybuilding routine so I had no use for them. After all, I was pretty damn sure that anyone whose workouts didn’t revolve around squatting heavy, doing deadlifts, and going all out for 8 reps on bench press was surely wasting their time!

Obviously I had a very narrow view of things but I’ve learned a lot (and been humbled a lot!) over the years. I experimented with kettlebell workouts occasionally after that first encounter and eventually wound up becoming a certified kettlebell instructor through NYHRC in 2008. This past summer I met Shir Konas, one of the top kettlebell intsructors in NYC. Shir has helped me take my kettlebell technique to the next level.

There are a lot of subtleties to performing kettlebell lifts safely and effectively. Having experience in conventional weight training is a great foundation to start from, but I still advise anyone interested in working out with kettlebells (even an experienced lifter) to solicit a qualified instructor.

Check out this video clip of me doing a pistol squat with a 40 lb. kettlebell!
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iy0J5Z4LWgE

Practicing the One Arm Pull-Up (Oct. 09)

One Arm Pull-UpThe first time that I ever saw someone do a one arm pull-up was in Tompkins Square Park in 2007. I was absolutely in awe and I knew I had a new challenge ahead of me. It was a very exciting time!

The one arm pull-up is a fickle mistress. It’s an elusive enigma that reminds me to stay humble and keep taking my vitamins. Some days it comes a bit harder than others. The one arm pull-up attempt in the video below is decent but still leaves room for improvement. With practice, I hope to eventually get my chin several inches above the bar. I’m also working towards starting from a dead hang. Gotta keep practicing!!!

Check out my article on how to train for a one arm pull-up!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR-CeZyjHQ8

Oh Dip!

Dips with feet on the ground (Phase One)

Dips with feet on the ground (Phase One)

Dips are a great exercise that you can do with just your body weight and minimal equipment. Doing dips will work your triceps, shoulders, chest, and just like most body weight exercises, your core. Unless you have a serious shoulder problem, dips ought to be part of your regimen.

Phase One

If you’ve never done a dip before, the best way to start is with your feet on the ground and your hands on a ledge or bench. Try not to bend your knees or lose your posture as you lower yourself downward. When your elbows get to a 90 degree angle, push yourself back up and repeat.


Phase Two

If phase one is easy for you, try performing dips with your hands on a bench and then put your feet onto another bench. The two benches should be of roughly equal height. Putting your feet up gives you less leverage, which means more work for your muscles.

Parallel bars (Phase Three)

Parallel bars (Phase Three)

Phase Three
If you are able to perform more than 20 reps of phase two dips with relative ease then you are ready to try dipping with your legs in the air. Typically this is done by holding onto a pair of parallel bars. A dip station is a pretty standard piece that any gym ought to have. (If your current gym doesn’t have a dip station, you might want to start shopping around for a new gym!)

Most men will be able to progress to phase three relatively quickly. It is generally a much longer process for women, due to the fact that women are born with less natural upper body strength than men. This is not me being sexist, ladies–it’s just biology!

Having fun with one arm dips!

Having fun with one arm dips!

Trainer Tips
If you are having a hard time with parallel bar dips, one way to practice towards doing them is to have a trainer (or other qualified spotter) give you assistance by holding onto your ankles in order to help you stabilize. Just make sure that your trainer isn’t doing too much of the work for you!

When you start to get really good at these, you can add an additional challenge by wearing a weighted vest or wearing a special belt that you can hang weights from. Dips can also be done with one arm!

Editor’s note: Check out this more recent post for more tricep dip variations.

Australian Pull-ups

Note: This is an old post. Make sure to check out my updated post on Australian pull-ups.

Australian Pull-up

The pull-up is one of the all time greatest exercises that mankind has discovered. Just like the other classics, the pull-up can be modified in an infinite amount of ways.

One of my favorite variations is what’s often referred to as an Australian pull-up. This variation involves hanging below a bar that is set just above waist height while keeping your heels in contact with the ground. You’ll wind up at an angle that’s closer to horizontal than vertical. The Australian pull-up is a great way to work up to doing a regular pull-up if you aren’t strong enough to do one yet.

Even if you are strong enough to do lots of pull-ups, the Australian pull-up is still worth putting into your routine. It puts a little more emphasis on the rear delts and the muscles of your middle-back; muscles that may not be getting completely and thoroughly worked with regular pull-ups alone. For those of you who are more advanced, try doing them as a superset right after a set of regular pull-ups. This is a great way to work towards adding more reps to your pull-up total!

The Australian pull-up can be done on a Smith machine (as pictured) or any bar that is about waist height as long as it is securely in place. The Smith machine is great for this exercise because it is adjustable (the higher the bar the easier it will be–so start high if you’re first learning) and secure. You can get creative with finding cool places to practice these and all types of pull-ups, just stay mindful of your safety.

Click the link to read about the ONE ARM Australian Pull-up!

Rainy Day Running

It’s been raining a lot lately here in NYC. With the marathon looming two weeks away it’s got me thinking about what it would be like to have to run it on a day like today. This past spring I ran in the NYRR Scotland Run. It was a miserable rainy day like today but I gave it my all–and at least I got this great souvenir photo out of it!

Scotland run 09