A word that gets thrown around a lot at the moment when it comes to working out is ‘functional’. What is ‘functional’? Well essentially, this term refers to the idea that some types of exercises provide real-world and usable strength, whereas others do not.
One of the exercises often called functional is the deadlift because it involves squatting down to pick something heavy up off of the ground using all the muscles in the leg in unison as well as muscles in the back. We pick things up off the floor all the time in real life and every moment is compound in this sense – meaning that we use all the muscles together rather than in an isolated fashion.
An exercise that isn’t functional is the bicep curl. Or at least that’s how the story goes.
Except that’s not quite true in reality. Because in the wild, how often would you actually be required to pick up a perfectly cylindrical bar with perfect technique from standing? Never.
The only times we’d have lifted things in the wild it would have been the carcass of our prey or a boulder we intended to use. The rest of the time our muscles were used for running and climbing and fighting.
And guess what? We never used correct technique. We’d have grabbed things off the ground at an angle and landed awkwardly. And we’d always have gotten back up.
What’s more is that we’d never have done the precise same movement more than once. Every time we picked up something, we’d have been at a different angle and the item would have been differently shaped.
And this is why training outdoors with bodyweight is the perfect solution.
How to Keep Challenging Your Body
As soon as you move a press up from indoors to outdoors it becomes more difficult. Suddenly you’re training on uneven terrain and one hand will be slightly higher than the other. At the same time, you’ll be training in the cold and your lungs will be working harder to supply oxygen.
The same goes double for doing a pull up from a tree branch. Every branch is a different width, meaning you have to use different amounts of grip strength and one hand will always be higher than the other.
You can make this tougher too by lifting logs and doing other non-bodyweight exercises.
But to start with, your usual bodyweight routine moved outdoors is more than enough. And this alone will be enough to start building up a lot more toughness and resilience in your muscles, as well as much more useable strength and power.
And once you start doing this enough, you’ll find that you quickly become much hardier and everyday tasks stat to feel a lot easier and less challenging.
Sure, it won’t feel very nice at first and you’ll get muddy and cold. But that’s the point! It’s time to stop being domesticated and to get a little wild!
Bodyweight training has a great number of advantages. This is a way to work out that will allow you to increase your ‘strength to weight ratio’ thereby becoming more agile, more acrobatic and more powerful. You’ll be fast like a coiled spring and strong in a functional way that equates to real-world usefulness.
But there’s no such thing as a perfect training modality. And one of the biggest complaints you’ll often hear from people who use bodyweight training is that they don’t like it because it’s ‘boring’. Doing press ups can get old fast and unfortunately just isn’t quite so challenging or exciting as lifting 100K over your head. It doesn’t turn heads in quite the same way and the progress can often feel a lot less rewarding.
But that’s why it’s such a good thing that you can use bodyweight training as part of a more fun or interesting activity or even sport. Let’s take a look at some of the great ways you can incorporate bodyweight training into your routine without it feeling like a dull workout. Here are some great examples…
Rock Climbing (Bouldering)
Rock climbing is one of the most fantastic bodyweight workouts there is and it’s incredibly fun and rewarding whether you’re going to do it seriously or just as a fun hobby. Rock climbing involves using your forearms and grip strength in order to cling to the tiny cracks in the rocks and this can quickly build you Popeye-like proportions. From there, you’ll then be using your lats and your biceps to pull yourself up the wall and scale it like Spider-Man. Better yet, you’ll also be holding yourself in position for long periods of time using your legs alone. This quickly builds a lot more quadriceps and hamstring strength so that you’ll be getting a truly full body workout.
Bouldering is a great way to get started with this. Bouldering effectively means that you’re climbing smaller rocks that present a challenge for how to get to the top. There’s no rope and you use a crash mat – so you can turn up at a climbing center and just get started!
Other Forms of Climbing
Don’t have a climbing center near you? Not sure you fancy the idea of climbing up the nearby cliffs? A great alternative is something called ‘traversing’ which is essentially sideways rock climbing. Here you never get that high up and as a result you don’t need a rope. As long as you have some kind of natural cliff or wall you can try it yourself!
Or how about climbing a tree?
Hand balancing is a lost art that is highly rewarding and challenging. Being able to go from a pike position to a handstand requires a ton of muscle power and control, as well as balance. When you pull it off though, you’ll have a party trick that’s far more impressive than lifting 100KG and that you can actually do at a party!
When it comes to building muscle, losing fat and getting into shape, the biggest problem for most people is simply sticking to their training goals. This is called ‘adherence’ in the industry and simply means your ability to stick at a training program long enough to see the results that you need.
Even a poorly designed workout can help you to build muscle and get results if you stick at it. And it is much better to perform a bad workout for a long period of time than it is to perform the best workout possible for a day and then give up.
But this is something a lot of people don’t really consider when they plan to get into shape. Too often they will come up with routines that involve training for an hour each session, five times a week. If you’re already feeling too tired to be particularly active, if you’re already stressed with work… trying to fit in five hours of exercise a week is a huge ask. This is particularly true when you consider that you’re probably going to have to travel to the gym as well, get washed, change clothes… etc.
This is where a bodyweight workout can come in so handy. And this is especially true if you use a workout that hits the entire body in a single session, only takes 10 minutes and can be done anywhere. Use this workout first thing in the morning before work and before you go in the shower. Train in your boxers so as to not create more washing. Now you have a routine that really is just ten minutes and that no one should have any problem sticking with.
What does that workout look like? Here it is:
Three Exercises to Rule Them All
This workout is made up of three exercises that together will train the entire body while also providing some cardio benefit.
Those three exercises are:
Perform each exercise to failure and then move straight onto the next exercise when you finish without break. You can rest after the jumping squats for one minute before starting the routine again and going for 3 sets. It should take around 10-15 minutes.
This routine hits all the major muscles in the body because it mimics a more involved split that bodybuilders use called PPL (Push, Pull, Leg). Pull ups hit the lats, the biceps and the abs. Push ups train the pecs, the triceps and the shoulders. And jumping squats hit the entire lower body and provide the cardio.
Now this workout isn’t going to be enough to help you build massive muscles overnight. It can burn fat and it can tone your muscles and harden them. But in order for you to really train you need to use heavier weights performed more slowly and for longer.
So use this as a tool to start your new training regime and to get into the habit. Likewise, use it whenever you can’t fit a full routine in.
If you’re trying to exercise and burn fat, it can get very boring – very quickly – especially if you’re just staring at a wall walking on a treadmill. Luckily, there are many fun alternatives to basic walking and running that can make cardio enjoyable.
First, depending on where you live, you can go on a hike. Most places in the U.S. are a short to medium drive away from a nature trail. This is a much better alternative to walking on a treadmill, because you can actually see different things.
This experience is also nice and quiet, and should be relaxing. There are also different difficulties of trails you can go on. There are very easy ones that are just a flat walk through a field and maybe some woods.
There are also ones that are hard, which may involve some steep angles and light rock climbing, or even actual mountain climbing. This makes it a great thing to get involved in because you’ll never really get bored of it.
You could also choose some kind of transportation. Rollerblading and biking can be great ways to get in shape while also getting around. Rollerblades are a relatively inexpensive means of transportation, generally going for just under $100.
This is a pretty good price, especially when compared to something like a bike, which usually goes for $200-$300 minimum. If you can find a skating rink near you, you can practice with them, and these rinks usually have open (all skate) nights.
You can also try water sports. If you live near a lake, river, or the ocean, you can get into kayaking, canoeing, and even surfing. Kayaks generally cost about as much as a bike, and then you have to get a paddle, which is about $20.
It may also be wise to pay about $25 for a life vest, in the event that your kayak flips, which may happen if you’re new or off balance. Canoes are very similar, but generally much more expensive.
If you’re just looking to get into paddling, it’s wise to start with just a kayak out on a lake. Eventually you can move up to more dangerous waters, such as rivers and the ocean. Surfing and diving are also good options.
Surfing can only really be done at the ocean, so if you live near a coast, this is a good option. Surfing helps build abdominal strength, and can be pretty tiring. Diving can be done just about anywhere, including a pool. Swimming in general is a really good cardio exercise if you do it vigorously and is great for keeping your joints from feeling too much pressure.
When you first get into weightlifting, it’s not really expected of you to know proper form and everything. That’s why if you’re new to weightlifting, you should take things slow and learn how to lift properly.
Otherwise, you could injure yourself. Some exercises are very simple when it comes to form, but a bit more complicated when picking weights. This usually applies to machines, because they only really move one way and have an arbitrary weight number.
However, one of the most common free weight exercises also falls into this category – the barbell bench press. Bench pressing is a simple motion. Just make sure you take it easy and don’t slam the bar on your chest.
But picking out how much weight you should put on it can be a hassle if you’ve never done it before. Start with the bar alone, which weights 45 lbs. If that was easy, try 20 lbs on each side.
Then slowly increase until you find it hard to do. If you found it difficult, either stick with the bar until it gets easier or try a 5 lb plate on each side. Most exercises for a beginner are not only difficult in form, but also in weight selection.
A good example of this is the squat. Squats are great leg exercises, but rely heavily on form. A good squat means you have both feet pointed straight forward and at shoulder width apart, go low, and come back up.
Your legs should bend slightly outward, and you should almost look like you’re trying to move your butt back into an invisible chair. This isn’t one of the most dangerous exercises for beginners, though.
The most dangerous exercise for beginners it seems is the deadlift. A deadlift means you have a barbell with weights on it on the ground, and you go down and pick it up before placing it down again.
This exercise requires you to have a straight back, knees bent, and for you to lift with your legs and not your back. Failure to do this will result in serious back problems, and you may even injure yourself with the actual bar.
Many people try to lift heavy weights just so they look good in the gym and ignore form. These people are most commonly referred to as Ego Lifters. Not only does “egolifting” do you no good, it’s also dangerous for you and possibly the other people in the gym.
If you feel embarrassed because you’re not lifting as much weight as the guy who has been at it for three years, don’t worry. Nobody’s actually looking at you or making fun of you – especially because they were once in that position. Make sure your lifting is clean and at a respectable weight, or you may never lift again.
One of the key parts of gaining muscle is protein. If you don’t know where to start, it can be a bit confusing when trying to figure out what protein to buy. Fortunately for you, here’s a quick list of the best proteins on the market.
First, you should know that there are two different main types of protein: whey and casein. These are the two main proteins that are extracted from milk. Whey is generally taken right after a workout to promote quicker muscle healing.
Casein is generally taken before bed in order to keep your muscles well fed. The first brand that you should try is Optimum Nutrition, or ON as their label says. They sell really good whey protein at about $15/lb, and casein at about $16.45/lb.
These are pretty good prices from Amazon – especially for such a great product. Like most proteins, their most popular flavor is chocolate, because the other flavors are generally not as good.
Next you should check out BSN SYNTHA-6. They have a similar product to ON, at a better price – about $8-9/lb on Amazon. The only real complaint about this one is that it has many more carbs than the ON brand.
A serving of this brand has a carb-protein ratio of about 3:4 while the ON brand has about 1:8. This makes ON a better brand for post workout shakes, but BSN is still a good meal replacement.
Another brand to consider is Body Fortress. At a similar price per pound to BSN, they give you a pretty good deal for some quality protein. The carb to protein ratio on this brand is 3:10, which is better than BSN, but still not quite as good as ON.
This is the best post-workout protein for anyone who wants to get their protein at a good price. Most proteins that you find at places like Academy or Walmart will probably be fine – just chose the one with the best carb-protein ratio and try that one.
If you don’t really have loyalties to any one brand in particular, you should just try each one and see which one you like more. One shake may have a weird consistency, one may not mix very well, one may have a weird taste – but you just have to find the one that fits you.
The brands listed above are the recommended starter choices, but if you find a brand that suits you best, stick to that one. You can’t go wrong finding protein to add to your diet to weed out unwanted carbs.
Many men today are unfortunately affected by the dreaded Dad Bod. As with all aspects of fitness, there is a very easy way to go about toning your body to look more like a Greek God and less like an average Joe.
The most important thing is a diet. You don’t have to adhere to a fad diet that people like to do such as paleo, liquid only, raw only, and others. You can choose a good diet like one that consists of healthy meals that are balanced, and that’s it.
If you’re trying to burn fat and lose your Dad Bod, you should eat more protein than carbs. Excess carbs give you that body type, and can be found in pasta, bread, chips, pizza, and beer.
This doesn’t mean you should go on a no-carb diet, because carbs are what you need to give you energy. Just make sure you’re not eating more carbs than anything else. You should also eat no more than about three meals per day (or six smaller ones), with a fruit or other healthy snack between each meal.
Men plagued with a dad bod frame need to ramp up their exercise. You have to put those carbs to work in order to burn fat. There are plenty of ways to go about this, including running, walking, biking, lifting weights, and any other form of cardio.
You can clock a fair amount of miles each day by finding some time to put on some music and go on a long walk around your neighborhood. Running is also applicable, and both of these can be done on a treadmill if you don’t want to go out and about at various times of the day.
Biking is a very fun way of getting in shape, and you can use it as transportation if your destination is somewhere within about 10 miles of you. Weightlifting should be done in combination with your other cardio exercises, so that while you burn fat you also put on more muscle, allowing your muscles to show through your fat quicker.
A gym membership is a great investment, and if you go to a smaller one, you can get 3 months for about $90. This will allow you to have access to all kinds of weights and machines, as well as treadmills and stair climber machines.
Don’t forget – you should drink more water than anything else. This important for you as a human regardless of whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, but it will certainly help you drop the weight quicker, because it flushes out all of the toxins.
A good tip for those who drink beer is that vodka is a great replacement for your alcohol choice because it’s a very low carb and low calorie option for those who still want to go out to bars and socialize with their friends.
Whether you are a brand new runner or training for your next marathon, the food you eat can contribute to your success and overall fitness.
We are what we eat, and our food is not just fun, it is fuel to keep us going throughout our busy day and during each workout. Therefore, choosing the right fuel can make all the difference between a full tank and running on empty, and between high performance and a clogged engine.
Here are a few nutrition hack and tips for runners to keep you well-fed and fueled for optimal performance.
Cut the sugar
It may give you sugar highs but can’t sustain you during a race and has little nutritional value.
Choose ‘slow carb’
Some argue that carbohydrates or carbs keep you fueled with the energy you need, but as with sugary food, not all carbs are created equal. Choose slow carbs that take a while for the body to digest, such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole-grain bread and breakfast cereal in small amounts. Add oats to your diet and try quinoa as well, actually a little seed which is packed full of nutrition.
Go for fiber
Fiber help you feel full longer. The carbs discussed above are all good choices. So are fruits and vegetables, also good sources of hydration.
Watch your protein
Protein is essential for healing and repairing the body after a strenuous workout. Lean sources of protein include salmon, beans like kidney beans, and legumes like brown lentils. You can also get it in tofu, soy protein, which can be eaten in solid form or drunk as soy milk.
Add nuts to your diet
A lot of people steer clear of nuts because they are high in fat. However, they are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats that can reduce cholesterol. They also have protein and are quite filling. Almonds are one of the best nuts for lowering cholesterol and can be eaten as is or ground up for almond flour, low in carbs, and almond milk, a refreshing alternative to soy milk or cow milk.
Peanut butter is a cheap and easy snack you can take anywhere with crackers, veggie sticks or apple slices.
Nuts and dried fruits like raisins, cherries and diced prunes, are perfect for your own homemade trail mix. Add a sprinkle of high-quality dark chocolate chips for the perfect post-workout snack.
Pay attention to your diet and see how much better you start to run.
Running on a treadmill can be a great way to keep running no matter what the weather, or working out from the comfort of your own home. However, there are a number of common mistakes even experienced runners make when they are running on a treadmill. Here are a few of the main ones to watch out for.
Skipping warm ups and cool down
If you are going to work your muscles, you need to do these if you wish to avoid injury. Stopping suddenly on the treadmill can also lead to dizziness and injury from falling off.
Poor running form
People nervous about falling off treadmills tend to change their form. You need to run the same way both indoors and outdoors in order to avoid injury. Your legs should swing back easily and not go ahead of you. Also watch out for heel strikes and overstriding, which can cause injury because the treadmill belt is moving. Your foot landing in front on the moving belt is like slamming on the brakes as you run, leading to wear and tear on knees and hips.
Holding onto the rails
This causes tension in the arms and upper body, and the arms being in this fixed position means they are not swinging forward to help you with your momentum as you run. It also makes you bend or hunch forward, which can cause problems with knee, lower back and shoulder pain. Use the same form as you would running outdoors. If you are worried about falling, reduce your pace or incline.
Not working out fully
Holding onto the handrails actually makes your workout easier. If you also read a book or magazine while you are on a treadmill, you’re not working hard enough to get the full benefit of the exercise. Not every run has to be a long or hard one, but they don’t all have to be easy ones either.
Stepping Off While Moving
This is one of the main causes of injury. Be sure you have everything you need, water, towel and so on, before getting on.
Running at the Same Pace and Incline for Your Entire Run
Change speed and incline every so often to keep you on your toes and give you a more realistic workout such as you would do outside. Too steep an incline for too long can also cause injuries. Aim for 5 minutes maximum and keep it from 4 to 6% to protect your joints.
One of the best ways to stay safe when working out is to wear the right kind of shoe for the activity you are engaging in. Running is a cheap way to get fit, that burns a lot of calories, but it is high-impact, which means the right running shoes are a must.
Investing in a supportive running shoe suited to your feet can help you to prevent foot and ankle damage and other injuries, and make your workout an enjoyable one instead of a torture session.
The essentials in a running shoe
Not all sports shoes are created equal. There are ones for almost every purpose you can think of, such as walking, cross-training and running. Proper running shoes need to have good cushioned and shock-absorption where the foot strikes the ground. If you’ve ever tried to run in dress shoes, you know how painful it can be, and how quickly.
There are many different brands of running shoes, at a range of price points. Most expensive doesn’t mean best.
First, put on clean socks of the type you usually wear for working out. Avoid thick tube socks, however, as the cotton does not wick away moisture, gets soggy, and can cause blisters.
Shop for your shoes at the end of the day when your feet will be most swollen. Go into a store that specializes in running shoes if you have one near you, and get both feet measured. Also look at the arch in your foot. Some people have non arch, that is, flat feet, and others have high arches that need to be supported.
The salesperson should be able to make recommendations based on what they see. Try on both shoes. Don’t be afraid to walk around in them, and test them for flexibility. You should be able to bend them, otherwise they are too stiff and could cause injury, but they should not be too flexible, or else they will not be supportive enough.
Check the fit in the toe area. You should have at least half an inch at the front to wiggle your big toe, or else you could get black toenails from bruising as your toes slide up and down in the shoe.
Choosing a proper shoe can help to protect you against common injuries associated with running, so be sure to try them on in person, or shop at an online store with free shipping in both directions.