Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Because 11 is Louder than 10

If you haven't guessed by the title of this post my latest article on the Men's Health UK site is inspired by the greatest music documentary ever made.

The one and only Spinal Tap.

MH asked me to write an article around 3 challenging movements for 2011, and I thought these three fit the bill. In fact, 3 sets of 5-8 reps of these might make for a nice little workout on it's own.

Because 11 is louder than 10

We all like a challenge. Too much, sometimes. As we hit February, the impatience of the resolution-toting masses means the gym soundscape of treadmill-pounding feet and whirring weights will be more frequently punctuated with yelps of pain than usual. Taking on dangerously taxing exercises is a temptation many can’t resist, and injury is the inevitable result. Truth is, though, you absolutely should be aspiring to nail some hardcore moves this year. But you need to prepare for them the right way. PT Chris Bathke introduces some challenging exercises to integrate into your workout.

Hard: Kettlebell Turkish get-ups
Graduation Side planks and overhead reverse lunges.

If you can side plank for two sets of 30 seconds each side and perform two sets of eight overhead reverse lunges with each arm you’re ready to attempt some Turkish get-ups. (Perform the overhead lunges with a dumb-bell in one hand rather than a bar-bell in both.)

Execution Start lying on the floor. Bring the kettlebell to a locked-out position straight up with your right hand. Your right shoulder should be pulled back into the floor to stabilise the joint. Your right leg will be cocked, with your right foot alongside your left knee. Pushing off your right foot, roll onto your left hip and up onto your left elbow. Push up onto your left hand. Holding yourself up on your left hand and right foot, raise your hips up off the ground, and thread your left leg back to a kneeling position. You should now be in a lunge position, right foot on the floor, and kettlebell locked out overhead. “Make sure that your elbow is not flexed,” says Bathke. “From the lunge position brace your core and shoulder and drive through your front heel to rise up to a standing position.” To complete the movement, simply reverse the process until you are lying flat on the ground again. Here’s a step-by-step run through.

When you are comfortable with the movement, start off with two sets of three reps on each side. “Gradually increase the reps until you can do five each side, then increase weight,” advises Bathke. “Kudos if you eventually can do one rep with half your bodyweight overhead.”
Harder: Feet-suspended pike press-ups

Graduation Press-ups and feet-suspended pike ups (same movement as detailed below without the press-up).
Don’t attempt the following move until you can execute 20 perfect press-ups and 10 feet suspended pike ups.

Begin by putting your toes into the straps of a TRX or another suspension tool, then flip over and get into a press-up position. Pull your hips towards the ceiling while keeping your torso straight and avoid bending your back. “It should look like you are coming up into a handstand, so have someone check your form,” says Bathke. Bring your hips back down into the pushup position and complete a press-up, chest to floor. You should find the press-up harder than normal; your feet hanging in the air means your core must work harder to stabilise your lower body.

Mastered the form? Start off with three sets of five and see how vertical you can get your body while maintaining a straight spine. “To challenge yourself further increase your reps, change your hand position on the floor, or wear a weight vest,” says Bathke.

Hardest: Pole vaulter pull-ups
Graduation Pull-ups and hanging straight-leg raises.
Before attempting pole vaulter pull-ups ensure you can perform 10 pull-ups and 10 hanging straight-leg raises.

A favourite of competitive pole-vaulters, this advanced pull-up variation simultaneously taxes your pulling muscles and core strength. Raise your body upwards as in a standard pull-up. When your collar bone reaches the bar, raise your legs in front of you and continue until you are effectively upside down with your legs over the bar. “Your finishing position should ideally resemble a pole vaulter just as they are about ton go over the bar,” says Bathke. From here, lower your body and legs under control back to the start position. This is not an explosive movement. Aim to raise over two seconds and descend over two seconds. And obviously, make sure there’s enough clearance above the bar before you start.

At first if all you can manage is one rep then that’s still an impressive feat. Do two or three sets of one rep and the following week attempt two good reps. “Aim to work your way up to doing 10 consecutive reps,” says Bathke. Your newly stacked back, biceps and core should make up for all the wry glances your acrobatic grunting attracts.

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