The Lying Banded Dislocation

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while (and thank you if you have been!) then you already know that I’m a big proponent of using resistance band exercises such as Pull Aparts and Dislocations not “just” because using bands is a convenient way to keep the shoulders loose during your training days, but it’s also a great way to help you develop better posture. That’s especially crucial if you sit at a desk all day, the worse thing you can do to your body.

However, once I started to train clients over a year ago I began to notice something happening with them that I didn’t notice when performing Banded Dislocations on myself. When their arms reached the halfway point, which would be up in the air, their lower backs would arch. The arch itself was not that extreme, but it did raise a red flag for me, as the spine should always be in a neutral position as much as possible.

The Lying Banded Dislocation

In order to still be able to use this exercise effectively, without causing any unneeded spinal problems, the following variation will help you to prevent a unnecessary back pain as well as still loosen up your shoulders. All you’ll need is a mini resistance band, and either a towel or a pillow.

  1. Take your mini resistance band (you can also use a dowel rod or broom stick if you wish) and make sure to hold it at shoulder width or even slightly over shoulder width.
  2. Lie prone on the floor, your arms out in front of you and elbows locked, your face down on your pillow or towel.
  3. Using either a slow or moderate pace, begin to raise your arms up and over your head until the band or rod touches your lower back, just like a standard shoulder location. Then bring your arms back in front of you. This is one rep.
  • Always make sure to retract your scapula when performing this variation.
  • You notice that the range of motion is clearly limited. Don’t let that deter you; even with your arms starting out in front of you this is equally as effective. The difference is that since you’re now lying on the floor, your stomach now has something to press against, preventing that unwanted lower back arch.

Hardgainer: A Death Sentence?

I think I know you. You were that skinny kid who couldn’t fill out like the other kids around you. Your siblings, while having not even the slightest clue about how the body works, shame you for not looking like everyone else. Your arms are long, you’re pencil necked, you’re chest is nothing more than a shell caging an anxious heart. But worst of all? You’re weak.

So you hit the gym for no other reason except you no longer are willing to be a pushover. But it isn’t as easy as it looks, is it? Everyone around you is making progress, while you’re toiling away on every machine, every station, relying on every 8 to 12 week cookie cutter program you can find and even wasting your money of supplements that do nothing for you. At some point, you’ve probably heard the term Hardgainer and wondered if that’s what you are, and perhaps what you’re destined to always be. There have been articles written on the topic; and with the release of one book, one man even made a career based on helping hardgainers.

By definition, a Hardgainer is someone who simply finds it hard to put on any kind of muscle. But is that all there is to it? What really determines whether or not a person is a Hardgainer? And can this be worked around? The short answer is: of course it can be worked around! First off let’s tackle the decades old, somatotype that’s oft used to characterize the hardgainer, the Ectomorph.

The Ectomorph

Here are a few physcial traits of an ectomorph

  • Thin frame
  • Narrow hips, face, shoulders and shallow chest
  • Long arms and legs
  • Long muscle bellies

And that alone, thanks to stereotyping, goes hand in hand with the alleged emotional aspects of an Ectomorph:

  • Social awkwardness
  • Self-consciousness
  • Artistic tendencies
William Herbert Sheldon - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia
William Sheldon PhD. I wouldn’t trust him to determine my physical potential. Neither should you!

All of these seem to make sense, even as I look at myself and my own personality. But therein lies one major red flag. The creator of somatotypes, William Sheldon, PhD, wasn’t a doctor who specialized in orthopedics, as most doctors who work with athletes are. He was a psychologist and you better believe that’s a problem. Psychologists of Sheldon’s era were the same people who used propaganda under the guise of Public Relations to feed us the belief that smoking cigarettes would make women thin, and that our wardrobe choices are what define our outer most personalities (ex: the music we listen to). Feel like a sheep yet?

All of this is just a psychological ploy. The skinny kid walks the halls in his school, gets laughed at and shamed by the other, far more developed looking kids, and becomes self conscious. See the pattern yet? And how do I know this? Because I, too, fell for this. And to think, all it took for me was to learn how to work around my not so great genetics, and to realize I had asthma; and before I knew it I was pulling off physical feats I once thought to be impossible thanks to a lifetime of psychological and emotional conditioning! So there are without question two components of utmost importance that must be understood in order for you to not just defy genetics, but meaningless, yet potentially harmful, psychological stereotypes:

Training

Maybe you’ve heard this before, I know I stress this point alot; but here are a few pointers that’ll help you realize your own physcial potential:

  • You must utilize full body workouts two to three days a week (less if your schedule doesn’t allow for optimal recovery time).
  • Each training day must include the basic compound movements and/or their variations.
  • Understand that Range Of Motion will not always be your friend depending on your goals and you will possibly have to make tweaks in your own training.

Nutrition

  • You should be in a caloric surplus while sticking to healthy options as much as possible. All. The. Time.
  • Increased macronutrient intake. The daily recommended protein intake for a sedentary person, for example, is 0.8g per kilogram (2.2lbs) of bodyweight. Yours should be anywhere from a gram to 1.5g per pound of bodyweight. Likewise, your carbohydrate intake should be anywhere between 2 to 4g per pound of bodyweight, which is crucial for glycogen storage both before and especially after your training is complete.
  • Sodium. Of its many benefits for training, the most important, as it relates to this article, is that it boosts intracellular water retention, just like Creatine, but minus the extra benefits I don’t have the time mention here.

I myself have stuck with these over the years, going from being told before a show I played with my band that my drumsticks where essentially an extension of my arms, to using those arms to deadlift more than double my bodyweight as well as pack on size like I only imagined in my wildest dreams!

August 2002, age 18, just before I started college. I was at most probably 140lbs if I was lucky, no meat on me. Hell, I was gross! Outside the venue before this gig my friend told me my drumsticks were basically an extention of my arms.
March 2020, age 35, just days before gyms were to shut down thanks to the current pandemic, and also with a 45lb increase in muscle mass.

There’s a 45lb weight difference between the two pictures presented here. All I did was pay close attention to how and how often I ate, as well as training consistency and intelligence. If I can add muscle to my thin frame and offer a handshake that makes most people weary of ever extending their hands to me ever again, you can as well. So is being a Hardgainer a death sentence? I’d call it a societal state of mind, and one that can be and must be reversed.

Pulse By Legion Athletics

Disclaimer: The following are my views alone. I am not sponsored by Legion Athletics, nor am I being paid by Legion Athletics for this review.

To say that Mike Matthews has come a long way in the Health And Fitness industry would be a gross understatement. In the eight years since the release of his best selling men’s fitness book, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, he’s parlayed it’s success into his own Fitness empire including his inaugural book’s women’s spinoff, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger, a blog featuring informative, science based articles, an online coaching service utilizing personal trainers hand picked by Mike Matthews himself, and of course his quality supplement line, all under the umbrella of Legion Athletics.

Pulse

Much like Mike Matthews himself, his products are the real deal. Each product’s ingredients and dosages are determined based on scientific, peer written reviews and journals. You will never find a Legion Athletics supplement containing any filler, artificial sweeteners or secondary bi products to help drive down costs. So don’t be too surprised if Pulse alone might be a tad pricey, but it’s worth it.

Here’s Pulse’s bare bones nutritional profile based on their recently revised formula:

  1. L-Citrulline Malate 2:1 (8g)
  2. CarnoSyn Beta Alanine (3.6g)
  3. Betaine Anhydrous (2.5g)
  4. Caffeine Anhydrous (350mg)
  5. L-Theanine (350mg)
  6. AlphaSize Alpha Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline(Alpha GPC for short) (300mg)

Just six ingridients make up this profile. But I’d like to turn my attention to Alpha GPC, the latest addition to Pulse’s profile. Replacing L-Ornothine completely and even reducing the amount of Beta-Alanine in Pulse in order to provide balance to this new formula, Alpha GPC, as explained even on Legion’s own website, increases the activity of a chemical in the brain known as acetylcholine, which is used by nerves to communicate with each other, and provides the brain with glycerophosphate, which can improve its health and function. This therefore carries over into:

  • Increase in Growth Hormone Levels
  • Increased Power Output
  • Decrease in age related cognitive decline

Caffeine Dosage

If you’re reading this then you certainly don’t need me or even Mike Matthews to inform you that Caffeine can increase alertness as well as increase the amount of energy your body burns throughout the day. But did you know that the 350mgs found in one scoop of Pulse is actually 20mgs over what’s found in a Starbucks grande? That part I learned from Legion’s website!

That’s personally the most caffeine I’ve ever ingested in any preworkout I’ve ever tried. So is it really necessary? I’d personally say it depends on individual preferences and needs such as your performance goals, the time of day you’re training and whether or not you suffer from anxiety. While some preworkout labels recommend you don’t take anything past a scoop, Pulse recommends that you take two scoops if you know your training is to last more than an hour. That’s 700mgs of Caffeine.

However, the generous dosage of L-Theanine evens out the playing field smoothly, reducing the mental stress that would result from the fight or flight response caffeine usually agitates. Having said that here are a few of the noticeable aspects of Pulse I’ve personally experienced since I began using it in the fall of 2018:

  • Increased Mood – after a long, stressful day of working with kids, followed by a long commute home, avoiding people and hitting the bed are all that matter. But within minutes of taking Pulse, and especially thanks to the 350mg of L-Theanine, I’ve felt nothing short of ready to do just about anything anywhere. I might or might not have become quite the chatterbox.
  • Increased Strength and Endurance – With feeling tired comes that feeling of weakness. It’s hard to progress in the weight room if you’re not feeling strong, or awake for that matter, especially if you train at night as I’d normally do. In fact I dare say I’d never be able to hit my first 400lb deadlift in spite of snowy weather last year without Pulse!
  • No Crash – In fact, I still feel nothing short of energetic even hours after I leave the gym. Although this could be a problem if you take more than a scoop and are training at least four hours before your bedtime.

Final Thoughts

Pulse is without question a preworkout I’d recommend to anyone. It’s the real deal, as I mentioned earlier. Its bare bones profile is the very thing that makes it so effective. It’s equal parts energy without the jitters and focus without the stress. If I had to make a recommendation or two, however, I’d suggest trying their stimulant free alternative if you happen to suffer from anxiety or if you cannot avoid training at night and struggle to sleep afterwards.

The Banded Good Morning

Are you experiencing lower back pain from sitting for most of your day? Does your lower back tighten up when you perform certain compound movements, especially in the case of the Bench Press? Based on your situation, are certain exercises or stations such as the Back Extension simply not available or you just want to save time? Then the Banded Good Morning is the exercise you don’t even realize you’ve been looking for!

The Banded Good Morning is essentially the resistance band alternative to the barbell exercise. But here are a few of it’s benefits:

  • It trains and strengthens your entire posterior chain the same way the Barbell Good Morning does.
  • It can develop motor patterns as it pertains to the barbell version of the exercise, which will go along way in guaranteeing your safety if you choose to try the barbell exercise.
  • You can use this as a quick way to warm up your posterior chain before beginning your routine to strengthen your lower back and prevent an injury, or even as an accessory exercise after your main work is finished
  • You can perform these anywhere

Much like Pull Aparts for your shoulders, the Banded Good Morning can be performed in the gym or even in your own home. All you need is a mini resistance band or light resistance band:

  1. Place a single layer of a mini or a light resistance band directly underneath the middle of your feet.
  2. With your knees slightly bent, bend over in order to bring the remaining layer around and behind your neck.
  3. There should be two layers, one on each side of you. Make sure to retract your scapula and hold on to the band in as low a position on the band as possible, or wherever you feel comfortable.
  4. With your knees slightly bent, slowly bring your hips back.
  5. Maintain a neutral spine while bringing your spine as close to perpendicular to the floor as possible until you begin to feel tension in your hamstrings.
  6. Squeeze your glutes and bring yourself back to the starting position.

Tips

  • Make sure to keep your head up, your eyes looking in front of you as you descend towards the floor. This will ensure your spine stays neutral during this portion of the movement.
  • If you’re lanky like I am or are simply tall, be sure to point your toes out either 30 degrees or enough that you feel your glutes tightening. Us long legged lifters have to much slack in the form of our hamstrings; and that one small tweak makes all the difference in making sure your glutes and hamstrings are activated and can feel the movement. I therefore also recommend positioning your feet outward when you deadlift for the same reason. Don’t forget that exercise is equal parts technique and feel.

20 Rep Squats For Big Legs!

As mentioned in my last article, gyms may or may not be opening again depending on where you live. In fact, I might’ve even offered a very basic routine for those of you who are preparing to head back to the weight room with the goal of rebuilding your very strength foundation. But there’s always more than one way to skin a cat, and just maybe that previous routine might not be the most exciting way to help you grow. Maybe you don’t need or want to do deadlifts based on your goals. So this old school routine is for the bodybuilders out there!

Brawn, 3rd Edition: McRobert, Stuart: 9789963916313: Amazon.com: Books

The 20 Rep Squat Routine

I first heard about the 20 Rep Squat Routine in Stuart McRobert’s classic Hardgainer bible, Brawn. The Squat alone is stressed to the max in McRobert’s book. Here are a few reasons why this routine is so revered:

  • It’s basic: Most variations of this routine are full body routines. And for the most part, they consist of solely compound exercises. And as I’ve said numerous times, there’s no better way to get more bang for your buck than full body routines consisting of compound movements.
  • Real Cardio: it’s no secret that the Squat is the exercise that burns the most calories. But it also increases your heart rate more than any other exercise, which inevitably leads to an increase in your metabolism. Imagine performing a top set of 20 breathing squats – and you’re absolutely taking your time between every single rep. If you don’t feel your heart pounding near the middle of that set you’re doing it wrong.
  • Massive Growth: high reps for legs are far more effective for your quads thanks to the extra growth stimulus it provides. If you stand and walk all day then your legs need extra stimulation to grow. This will without question provide systemic growth for the entire body.
The Complete Gym Encyclopedia!! : TOM PLATZ "The Quadfather" LEG ...
Squatting for high reps gave Tom Platz the single best set of wheels in all of Bodybuilding.

The routine was first addressed in the classic book Super Squats: How To Gain 30 Pounds Of Muscle In Six Weeks, by Randall J. Strossen Ph.D, and was innovated by John McCallum; but according to Stuart McRobert, Iron Man Magazine founder Peary Rader used the 20 Rep Squat Routine in the 1930’s to gain 80 pounds within a year and eventually become a weightlifting champion. Some golden era bodybuilders such as Tom Platz turned his own legs into practical weapons of destruction because he used this approach…or sometimes double!

The Routine

Before I start I must stress that, from my own experience using this routine, this is far more of a mental game than it is a routine. If you’re not focused, you won’t be able to last past the fifteenth rep, especially if you’re new to this.

I’m intentionally providing you an abbreviated version of this routine which can be found in Brawn because I want you to focus on maximum growth stimulus, especially if you’re just starting over or if you identify as a Hardgainer. You will only perform one top set of squats after a few warm up sets. Make sure that your top set is not too hard, but is still challenging, it’s the only way this will work.

There are a few ways to perform this routine. You can perform the following three days a week:

Squat – 1×20 (top set only) immediatley followed by breathing dumbbell pullovers

Bench Press

Bent Over Rows

I’m letting you decide the rep schemes for everything to following the squat. I could easily prescribe 3 set of up to twelve reps; but I feel like this part of the routine should be determined by instinct, especially after a brutal squat set of 20. Also, if you feel like the squat is draining your ability to progress on the bench press, you may precede the squat with the bench press if you need. Also if three days a week proves to be too much, simply perform this twice a week instead

Here’s another version based on a variation I developed in 2011 based on my schedule and recovery time.

Day 1

Squat – 1×20 (top set only) followed by breathing pullovers

Day 2

Bench Press

Chin Ups

Dips

Crunches

This is essentially an upper body/lower body split. But since I’m trying to stress abbreviation for the sake of growth stimulus and recovery, if you can’t get in three days a week due to commitments of any kind, this might be an optimal option.

The first routine in particular should just be performed for six weeks. Any attempt to continue past that could potentially lead to physical and mental burnout.

This is a fantastic routine for beginners all the way to advanced lifters. A recommendation I’ll make right now is to try to squat your bodyweight for a top set of 20. I pulled that one off a year ago and saw great results in not just the size and shape of my quads, but the carryover it provided as an accessory move to my heavy sets during my main squat day as well as my deadlift strength.

Make no mistake, it’s an absolutely brutal routine, but put in the work and you’ll love it!

My References:

McRobert, Stuart. Brawn. Nicosia, CS Publishing, 1991.

Click Here To Take Advantage Of My Quarantine Speacial!

Returning To The Gym? Try This Routine!

Good news for some of us: gyms have already reopened (albeit with a capacity limit) or will be opening soon (my neck of the woods doesn’t have a set date yet)! Let’s face it, though: sure, you may have been doing your best to keep in shape from home, and I’ve even provided a few home training ideas of my own. None of that matters though, once you’ve returned to the iron. The ability to perform multiple bodyweight squats or pushups may help you keep your pump, and may even help you get a little stronger. But unless you were fortunate enough to afford some kind of home gym, your body is deconditioned.

When your body is deconditioned you may have developed anything from muscular imbalances to lack of joint flexibility and especially since we’ve all been working from home, a lack of core stability. So don’t think for one second that you’re going to be able to walk through those doors in dramatic, movie-like fashion and start right where you left off. This is even more important if you’re naturally thin, lanky or tall. Some of you might even have to start over again. There’s a reason why I chose to use that old picture of me from a few years ago as this article’s main picture – I’m one of those people!

Compound Movements

Sick of me talking about this yet? Well this bears more importance now than ever. Because regardless of your interests, and strength levels, full body training with strictly compound movements and a laser sharp focus on large muscle groups will be the way to go for a while. Full body training three times a week will:

  1. Increase Testosterone Production
  2. Boost Fat Loss
  3. Increase Training Frequency
  4. Offer Shorter Training Periods

That last one is the more important than even fat loss. I don’t want you fraternizing with your friends who’re bound to act like they haven’t been in a gym in years. If you were smart enough to keep yourself active during this time away and they only waited for their precious gym to reopen you’re already ahead of them – keep it that way! With that in mind here’s a sample two phase, nine week routine I came up with to help you rebuild your strength base.

Phase 1 (Weeks 1 – 3)

Back Extensions – 3×10 (add weight and/or mini resistance bands when comfortable)

Squat – *5×5

Bench Press – 5×5

Deadlift – 1×5

Phase 2 (Weeks 4 – 9)

Back Extensions – 3×10

Squat – 5×5

Bench Press – 5×5

*The first two sets will be warm ups sets at 60 and 90% of your desired weight.

Chinups/Deadlifts – 5×3/1×5

I believe in taking inspiration from things I’ve tried and believe work, and making them into my own. Therefore, this routine borrows from elements of Reg Park’s legendary 5×5 routine and the Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Routine. For example, a prior wrist injury makes it diffucult for me to perform Powers Cleans, as Starting Strength prescribes in Phase 2 of their routine. On the other hand, I do not believe in performing three fixed Deadlift sets via Reg Park’s routine, because my back was getting very tired near the end and I was very close to hurting myself. So one main set it is!

Once you get to Phase Two of this routine, you’ll alternated between Chinups and Deadlifts. So if you perform Chinups on Monday, Deadlifts on Wednesday and Chinups again on Friday, you’ll begin the next week with Deadlifts and so on. This provides your lower back a chance to recover as this is a linear program. How you increase the weight per session/per week is up to you. So if you think you can make 20lb jumps on the Deadlift for a while, then by all means go ahead! But just be mindful that muscle memory will not help you so much after such a long layaway, no need to rush just to get back to where you were before March. You can do so without getting hurt!

Use rest days to foam roll, stretching or even do some sort of conditioning, whether it be hill sprints, burpees, or whatever may work for you. Have you been taking walks everyday since the lockdown began? Keep walking. Keep your heartrate up!

The Defranco Agile 8

Think back to your days taking that lame old gym class in school.  Remember that gym teacher with the polo shirt, track pants and a clipboard who looked either way too skinny to even appear to be remotely in shape, or like he was never in shape at all?  You might or might not recall that all you wanted to do was play dodge ball; yet he might’ve made you work a bit first.  He’d have you jog in place for a good minute give or take, followed by jumping jacks.   He’d probably follow that up with having you run around for a minute.  Then, he make you perform static stretches, such as reaching down to your toes.  Well, turns out they were actually on to something.

Dynamic Stretching is crucial for a few reasons:

  • It increases your heart rate, pumping blood throughout your body faster.  This will bring your body temperature up, and in turn stretch your muscles more efficiently.
  • It also improves your mobility, which doesn’t just improve your training progress, but it will also prevent injuries better than static stretching.  Static stretching with cold muscles will cause an injury.

Are you currently working at home like most of the workforce in the country?  Would you normally be sitting down if you were at your job right now as I’d be?  Do you ever feel hip flexor pain when you’re squatting or even when your setting up to do any kind of Bench Press variation?  Does your lower back tighten up when you perform either of the two moves I just mentioned?  If you answered yes to just one of these questions, then you have a tight lower back or hips.

Your Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex, made up of your glutes, hips and lower back are crucial to everything regarding your posture, spinal stability and therefore optimal exercise performance.  If your hips aren’t loosened up before you begin any kind of training you will get hurt.

Enter the DeFranco Agile 8.  The brainchild of World Renowned, New Jersey based strength coach Joe DeFranco, the Agile 8 is a fantastic way to increase your heart rate, warm your body up for your training and of course, loosen your entire Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex in order to help you come out of your training injury free.  I first read about this in Jim Wendler’s book 5/3/1 For Powerlifting and ever since I started performing it just this past October, it’s done wonders for my hip mobility.  It’s a fantastic, well organized combination of Self Myfascial Release, Dynamic Stretching, and Static Stretching.  All it takes is eight moves, a foam roller, a lacrosse ball and at most ten minutes of your time.

The DeFranco Agile 8

  1. Foam Roll IT Bands – 10 – 15 rolls each side
  2. Foam Roll Adductors – 10 – 15 rolls each side
  3. Glute Piriformis Myofascial Release with Lacrosse Ball – 30 seconds each glute
  4. Rollovers Into V Sits – 10 reps
  5. Fire Hydrant Circles – Forward and backward circles 10 times each legs
  6. Mountain Climbers – 20 reps
  7. Groiners – 10 reps followed by ten second hold
  8. Static Hip Flexor Stretch – 3 sets of ten seconds each leg

Recommendations

As mentioned earlier, this is a combination of Self Myofascial Release, Dynamic and Static Stretching.  Since it also increases your heart rate I highly recommend you perform this combination before any and all training sessions.  And since a good portion of us are stuck at home and are mostly likely sitting, I’d perform this everyday at least once or twice a day, before you even begin your work day and somewhere in the middle of the day to break to monotony of sitting all day, and to reinforce loose and pain free hips and lower backAlso, that elementary school gym teacher of yours would be proud!

Try This Resistance Band Training Circuit!

Welcome to another quarantine edition of the blog here!  I hope you’re all staying safe and inside.  Remember, the sooner the curve flattens, the sooner those gyms open back up.  In the meantime, here’s a brand new workout designed by yours truly, consisting entirely of resistance bands.  But before I show you this routine, here’s a brief synopsis on why resistance bands are such a great tool when it comes to any style of training:

  • Constant Tension –   Not only do resistance bands create external tension in the same manner that barbells, dumbbells and cables do, but the tension remains throughout any exercise you perform.  That alone makes resistance bands equally as beneficial in building muscle and strength!
  • Convenience – even the thickest, heaviest band on the market is still small enough to put in your travel bag and perform a brief on-the-go workout if you’re away from home or your gym.  And of course, you can easily take them with you to your gym and use to perform some prehab exercises before your workout officially begins.
  • Cost Effective – compared to dumbbells, resistance bands are very affordable, especially if you’re either on a budget or simply don’t have the space in your home for a gym of your own.

And now for the workout itself.  This’ll be a full body routine, of which I’m a huge fan.  And much like my beginner bodyweight/resistance hybrid program, this will be comprised of mostly compound movements in order to stimulate all major muscle groups.  This is a circuit in which you’ll perform each exercise one after another, without any breaks.  You’ll hit as many reps as you can within a minute before jumping straight to the next exercise.  This is a great way to build up your endurance and your work capacity, both of which are crucial to your ability to recover from more brutal workouts.

The Routine 

  • Good Mornings
  • Pull Aparts
  • Rows
  • Thrusters
  • Pushups
  • Curls
  • Planks *

* Bands not required for Planks.

This circuit can be performed any time throughout the day, especially if you want to break the monotony of sitting at your laptop all day.  If you want a challenge, however, try to repeat this circuit two times after a few minutes rest.  I recommend mini bands strictly for the sake of keeping the flow of the circuit consistent throughout, although you’re more than welcome to use a light band for greater tension if you wish.

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Six Ways To Work Through Isolation

So in the last 24 hours, Social Distancing protocols are officially extended until April 30th.  That’s certain to put a damper on a lot of things for many of you who might be reading this.  Whatever plans you might’ve made in advance that involve a social gathering of sorts will most likely be postponed.  Were you furloughed from your job due to lost revenue?  Is your business considered non-essential?  Do you rely on daily social interaction to feel personally satisfied?

The loss of any of these could lead to a number of emotions, especially anxiety over your future.  If you’re working from home, like I am, those fears will most likely won’t pertain to you.  But staying home from too long could also make you too comfortable, creating a lazy demeanor the likes of which you never knew you had in you!  As nerve wracking as this pandemic has become, it’s also provided for many of us, myself included, a unique opportunity for you to accomplish all those things you’d never do because you had no time, or so you say.  I’ll be using this article to discuss ways to counteract those two emotions during this difficult, making you as productive at home, as you are in the office.

  1. Set Up A Routine – the sudden change in your life might prompt you to sleep in, sit on the couch, followed by going to bed much later than you normally would.  I’d think twice about doing that.  If you’re anxious, not having a plan of attack for the day might lead you to get lost in your thoughts, something that’s not healthy for you at all right now (or ever!).  Make a list (written or mental) of things to do every day including a time to wake up everyday (I don’t mean the crack of noon either!) as well as things you might want to accomplish but would never get the chance to do under normal circumstances.  Also, unless you’re in education like I am, you’ll eventually have to go back to work and, depending on how soon that is, you’ll want to be physically and emotionally ready.  I wake up everyday at 6am, stretch, exercise briefly, take a brisk walk around the block and even make a smoothie before starting my work day at 8:30.
  2. Exercise Daily – now if you read my articles often then this one is a no-brainer.  But for everyone else, this could open up a whole new world for you.  Are you that person that claims that you won’t go to the gym because you  “don’t have time”?  Here’s your chance!  I’m not saying you have to do much.  You can just take a brisk, ten minute walk around your neighborhood first thing in the morning, and the increase in your heart rate will cause greater blood circulation throughout your body, thus providing you more energy throughout the day.
  3. Focus On Stretching and Mobility – Are you working from home?  Unless your posture is fantastic and you understand your anatomy a few things will happen.  You will have hip flexor pain, especially if you’re sitting in front of a computer all day.  When you sit down, you’re hip flexors, also known as you’re Psoas Major, are in a flexed position.  Sitting for long periods of time also weakens your gluteus maximus, which will cause lower back pain.  And if you’re in a situation where you are sitting for several hours at a time this will cause tightness in those areas as well as potentially pain.  This obviously is a detriment to us in terms of any physical activity.  Also, most people tend to hunch over when they’re sitting in front of a computer all day.  That means your shoulders will most likely roll forward, tightening your chest and weakening your upper back.  Nothing says shoulder pain like an overactive pectoral region and an underactive upper back.   That’s why is so important that you take at least ten minutes every so often to perform routines like the Defranco Agile 8, which works to loosen your Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex (LPVC).  You should also foam roll your upper back and especially your pectoral region, as well as using resistance bands if you have them available to you to strengthen your posterior deltoids in order to prevent shoulder pain and bad posture.
  4. Eat Better – many of you probably choose not to cook for the same reason you say you choose not to go to the gym.  Well, you now have plenty of time.  I understand that grocery shopping right now might be nightmarish, but if you have $100 and a supermarket with somewhat stocked shelves, find yourselves some skinless chicken breasts, some fresh veggies (or even frozen), brown rice (now’s not the time to eat fast digesting carbs like white rice!) and you can have yourself a few decent, easy to cook meals that require very little prep time and almost the same amount of time to cook (brown rice does take longer to boil than white rice, unfortunately).  You’ll be tempted to buy TGIF potato skins, and pizza rolls.  But remember, if you’re overweight, this is the best time to experiment with changing your diet and training yourself to stick to it!  Oh, and don’t forget to stick with only water – room temperature at that!
  5. Virtual Interaction – as I mentioned before, some of you are feeling the emotional pain of isolation from the rest of society.  And while I’m not the biggest fan of talking to people on social media, as I feel it personally makes me feel lonely to begin with, there are multiple platforms were your friends are getting together right now to hold interactive chats, movie nights, dinners where people are ordering take out in a creative attempt to emulate those nights were you’d normally have your friends over your house and scarf down a pie from the pizzeria down the street.  You can use apps like Skype or Zoom (which I’m only learning about now!) to keep in touch with your loved ones or your friends right now.  Are you as big of a music fan as I am?  Bands even are using these platforms to hold concerts!
  6. Sleep – this could’ve easily been used as part of Set Up A Routine, but I chose to make this a separate piece for one reason: I know you probably are either sleeping in too late or not sleeping enough.  And that’s why I wanted to reiterate this point to reign it all in.  If you’re going to work on your physical and emotional well being sleep rules everything around you (see what I did there?)!  Getting seven or eight hours of sleep each night will help to relieve stress, anxiety, inflammation, will improve your memory and even help you lose weight.  And when you do go to bed do you play on your phone, texting your buds before you go to sleep.  That will stop here as the harsh light from your phone will alter your circadian rhythm, tricking your mind to stay awake regardless of how tired your body is.  Instead, do whatever it takes for you personally to get nice and comfortable under the sheets for an easy rest.  I personally take cold showers every night, as the body requires a cooler temperature in order to relax, although that’s a story for another article.

Feel free to comment below, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you agree with these points?  Disagree?  Would you add anything to this list?  In the spirit of people getting together in this tough time let’s talk.  This along with all my articles is an open forum.

My Sources:

https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx