4 Things You Can Do Today to Be More Awesome

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Note from TG:  Today’s blog is the epitome of not having an agenda.  I just opened my laptop and wrote.  I hope it doesn’t suck.

1.  Whenever I write a program and I really (REALLY) want to make someone hate life, I usually throw in some clusters.  What are clusters you ask?

Essentially, clusters are an easy way to get more ‘work’ done with heavier loads.  Taking it step further, clusters can also be thought of as more of a rest-pause variation where you perform a heavy single – or heavy double – with shortened rest periods in between each rep.  In a way, it’s a form of interval training, except done with weights. And it’s infinitely more badass.

There are a million and one ways to perform clusters, but using a simple example lets say your best 5RM back squat is 225 lbs.  With clusters, you would use the same weight or maybe even up it a smidge (5-10 lbs) and then perform FIVE singles with 10-20s rest in between.

Perform 1 rep
Rest 10-20s
Perform 1 rep
Rest 10-20s
Perform 1 rep
Rest 10-20s
Perform 1 rep
Rest 10-20s
Perform 1 rep

That’s ONE cluster.  Rest 3-5 minutes, and do that 3-4 more times.  By the end you’ll either want to puke or stab someone in the face. Either way, like I said, you’ll hate life.

2.  Stretch.  Seriously.  Just stretch.  I know it’s about as exciting as watching an episode of Golden Girls, but suck it up and do it.

For the record: those cute little arm circles and hamstring stretches you do don’t count.  In fact, I’m willing to bet your hamstrings are fine, and the only reason you’re stretching them in the first place is because it’s the only part of your body that doesn’t need a crowbar to do so.

For most (actually everyone), stretching the hip flexors is the name of the game. As a society, we essentially live in flexion, with some people spending a good 15 hours of their day sitting at home, sitting during their commute to and from work, sitting at work, and for some, sitting even more while they “workout.”

And while it can be argued that all stretching really does is increase our tolerance to stretching (and doesn’t really do anything in terms of increasing the number of sarcomeres in the muscle), I don’t care, stretch those hip flexors anyway.

The video above is more of a mobilization, but it stands to reason you can use it to “stretch” your hip flexors throughout the day.

Oh, and since we’re on the topic, you see that foam roller over there in the corner that you bought last year? Use it.  Times infinity.

3. Cut yourself some slack and perform an unconventional workout. In other words, do something different.  Chances are, if you’re like me, you generally train the same way day in and day out, month by month, and year by year.  More or less.

At the end of the day if you’re a powerlifter, you powerlift, and your training revolves around the squat, bench press, and deadlift.  Similarly, if you’re an Olympic lifter, you Olympic lift; if you’re a bodybuilder, you body build; and if you’re a CrossFitter, well, you do whatever……….deadlifts, cleans, kipping pull-ups, push a car, juggle a few chainsaw.  It’s all good.  You’re doing something, it’s getting you to move, and who am I to judge?

That said, people get set in their ways and oftentimes pigeonhole themselves into training a certain way 100% of the time. They perform the same exercises (in the same order), for the same sets and reps, using the same rest periods or tempo over and over and over again.

I get it. Something works, you get results, you then get comfortable.  That’s commendable, but sometimes that can be dangerous.

We get complacent with our training, and before we know it, we’ve spent the last six months not making ANY progress because we’re always doing the same………thing………all………the……….time.

Speaking personally, for the past few months, I can say this describes me to a “T.”  Training has been more of a chore – like being told to take out the garbage – rather than something I look forward to doing on a daily basis.

With that in mind, in writing this past month’s staff program, I decided to change it up a bit and make training fun again.  Sure, the staples are still there.  We’re still squatting, deadlifting, and otherwise focusing on the compound movements, but I also threw in some exercises that I haven’t done in years.  Yesterday, for instance, this was our B1-B2 superset:

B1.  Dips 5×10
B2.  TRX Inverted Rows 5×10

And take a look at the C1-C2 supeset:

C1. Barbell Shrugs 3×6/12/24 (strip sets)
C2. DB Scaption 3×10

I haven’t done dips or shrugs in probably three or four years. I also haven’t had a pump like that, or had as much fun training in a loooooooong time.  And you know what?  It was worth it.

Was it the type of workout I’d normally chastise and roll my eyes at?  Yep. But at the end of the day, sometimes you just need to say F-it and have some fun.

With that in mind, do yourself a favor and change it up a bit. If you’re the type of person who benches three times week, throw yourself a curve ball and squat today.  You know, for shits and gigs.  Conversely, if you’re like me, and seem to be stuck in your own ways, don’t be scared to

4.  Stop slouching.  Now, drop down and give me ten.

Seriously, why not? Stand up in your office/cubicle/living room/dorm room/or where ever you happen to be reading this, drop down to the floor, and bang out ten push-ups right now.

Go a head , I’ll wait……………….

See.  That wasn’t so hard was it?

Do that again in an hour or two.  Set an alarm or email notice, and do that several times per day.  It’s an excellent way to increase your caloric expenditure throughout the day and increase your NEBIRIEPA (Non-Exercise But It Really Is Exercise Physical Activity).

You can use any body weight exercise you want for all I care.  Perform some squats, or even lunges.  Throw a TRX in your office and perform some inverted rows. Better yet, purchase an Iron Gym and bust out some chin-ups in your dining room hallway.  Shirt optional.

And for the ladies reading, if you can’t perform ten body weight push-ups.  First off:  stop saying you can’t do it.  All the negative self talk isn’t going to help.  Secondly:  Try to do 1-2 eccentric only push-ups (lowering yourself as slow as you can to the floor), several times per day.  By the end of the month, I can almost guarantee you’ll be crushing push-ups.

Likewise with chin-ups, if you can’t perform one dead-hang chin-up, try to “groove” technique with one eccentric rep every 1-2 hours. By the end of the day you’ll have performed close to 6-10 chin-ups you otherwise wouldn’t have.  By the end of the week:  42-70.  By the end of the month:  I don’t know, use your calculator and figure it out.

I could probably think of four more equally awesome things (make an omelet, drive a tank, go for a walk, cuddle with a kitten), but these should suffice for now. Now, go perform some clusters!

 

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  • Emily

    As always, great post Tony. 😉 And for those ladies out there, eccentric push ups do work. I have my women do these in class if they cannot do a push up. Those who are consistent and train regularly have worked up to doing full blown push ups. It is an awesome sight to see. I worked my chin ups the same way. Worked like a charm. Thanks for the post! Stay awesome!

  • R Smith

    Tony,

    I’m thinking you should go with the “no-agenda” style more often. Perfect, sir.

    Been wanting to try clusters; you just helped tremendously.

    I’m good on the stretching/mobilization, but I’ve been “unconventional” for the last few months and love it (e.g., Barbell walking lunges and Zercher Hold farmers walks on metabolic days).

    AND I do need to get an Iron Gym.

    RS

  • Rees

    Mos def didn’t suck dude

  • PJ Striet

    Tony:

    When I’m feeling bored or unmotivated to train, I go to my “good ole good one”: 10 sets of 12-15 in the parallel bar dip paired with 10 sets of 6-8 in a chin or pull up variation. One minute between sets. Trashes your upper body, it’s simple, and fun. I don’t do it more than 2x/month, because it beats up my elbows, AC, and SC joints (LOL :), but I always look forward to it.

  • Tony, do you all do any AIS at Cressey?

  • i’ve been using that hip flexor mobilization drill as part of my dynamic warm up for a few months and have noticed a HUGE difference – thanks for putting that in here, along with the eccentric push ups – they alwaaaays work!

    as for the post – shoot from the hip more often, it was awesome as always!

    -Kristen

  • Like Number 3 Tony, reminds me of an article i wrote a few months back, called Do Something Difficult Sessions, check it out; http://www.rhysingram.com/dsds.html

    Cheers, Rhys

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the link Rhys!

  • Tony, those ARE 4 awesome things. I feel like the mobility and tissue quality gods (Thomas Meyers?) have reminding me to step it up. I listened to Zach Even-Esh on Mike Robertson’s podcast, and spent my lunch break foam rolling today. Now I’m stretching before bed. Thanks for the reminders!

    • Anonymous

      Trust me my man….we could ALL do ourselves a favor and stretch more. As it happens, I’m going to start taking a yoga class with my girlfriend starting this Sunday. Pigs REALLY are flying.

  • Ali

    I thought you were going to say you finally wanted the number for CrossFit Southie? 😉

    • Ali

      Oops that’s not really a questions. Not sure what happen there.

      • Ali

        Wow nor was it supposed to be more than one non question. I’m done.

        • Anonymous

          Oh snap…….I DO still need to go check it out. Are you ever coming back to Boston? If so, I’d love to check it out then. But if you’re not, I can muster up a little courage and go on my own, too…..;o)

          • Ali

            Haha, I’m sorry I will not be returning to Boston anytime in the foreseeable future. ALTHOUGH I would love to workout with you. But I may need to send Mike with you instead.

            Option #2 is take a trip to Colorado and hit up my gym here!

  • what stretches though?

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  • Great points Tony…I set a timer when I’m on the computer that reminds me to drink water, foam roll and stretch…good stuff!

  • Jessi

    I love this post Tony! I’m all about doing sh*t that makes you feel awesome, and #4 is so badass! Getting my female clients (who “can’t”) to bang out pushups is about as awesome as it gets! 🙂
    Jessi, Peak Performance, NYC
    http://jessikneeland.wordpress.com/

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  • Paul Bruce

    Tony, where would static stretching fit into a week of working out? Do you recommend it on recovery days, or a specialized flexibility training day? Post-workout? Before bed?
    Would you do a full-body flexibility routine (I’m thinking something like the P90X X-Stretch), or just stretch problems areas (hip flexors, lats, pecs, biceps, etc.)?

    • TonyGentilcore

      As with anything: it depends. Stretching for the sake of stretching isn’t necessarily a good thing. For example, someone stretches their hip flexors while in anterior pelvic tilt (stretching in MISalignment), and they run the risk of developing femoral glide syndrome. They continue to stretch because it ALWAYS feels tight, which then just feeds into the issue.

      I’m all for people tossing in dedicated stretches before training, or after training, or on their off days. Whatever scenario allows them to squeeze it in, I’m game. BUT – they just have to make sure that they’re actually stretching things that NEED to be stretched and that they’re doing them correctly.