Taking Calisthenics to a whole new level

We have all done calisthenics at some point in our lives, for most it would be during our childhood gym sessions in school whilst others would have done some form of it in training for sporting activities or even general keep fit routines. Other than the usual pull ups/push ups/dips, I have never really included it in my routines. But the video below might have just made me in to a Calisthenic convert, literally mindblowing.

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Solid Back workout

Solid Back workout

When was the last time you checked your back out, well most people would not remember. Since you can’t see your back you tend to forget about it during workouts. But a strong back shapes your physique and also helps to prevent injury.

If you concentrate purely on the front muscles like your chest and front shoulders, you are at a risk of causing a muscle imbalance and end up looking grotesquely hunched as your shoulders are pulled forward.

Below is a list of Back workouts that I do once a week. I tend to do 4 sets of each exercise with the first set being a warm-up set of around 15-20 reps with a light. The other 3 sets consists of 10 reps each with a 2 minute break between each set.

Chin Ups / Pull Ups

Not only does this workout your back, it also works out your triceps, shoulders, chest, and abs (depending on how you do them). This is a very difficult workout because you have to pick up your own body weight.The difference between a chin up and a pull up is the way your palms face you. In a chin up, the palms of your hand face towards you and you work your biceps out at the same time, in a pull up your palms face away from you.

  • Start by grabbing a pull up bar with your hands a little more then shoulder width apart.
  • Hang on there while letting your lats stretch. Now pull yourself up while arching your back just a little bit.
  • Hold yourself up there for a few seconds with your chin over the bar. Now go back down to starting position. Repeat.


Deadlifts

Dead lifting is probably the best back workout you can do. Thats because it works out the spinal erectors, lats, trapezius, quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, hips, and forearms.

  • Start by standing in front of a barbell with your legs close to the barbell.
  • Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Now grab the bar with your hands a little bit more then your shoulder width.
  • Now keeping your arms straight, bend your legs at the same time as flattening your back. Position yourself some what like doing a squat.
  • Now pick the barbell off the floor by straightening your legs and torso. Pull your shoulders back and then lower the bar back to the floor.


Wide Grip Pulldowns to the Front

This exercise works the upper back muscles to widen the upper lats.

  • Grip bar on the wide bend.
  • Arch your back.
  • Pulldown to mid chest, sqeeze shoulder blades together.


Pulldowns Behind The Neck

This exercise works the upper back muscles for width as well as thickness.

  • Grip bar on the wide bend.
  • Tilt your head forward and pulldown to top of the trap muscles.
  • Sqeeze shoulder blades together and full stretch at top.


Reverse Grip Pulldowns

This exercise works the lower lats for both shape and thickness.

  • Grip bar with elbows tucked in .
  • Close to body arch back pulldown to bottom of chest.
  • Squeeze shoulders together full stretch at top.


Seated Cable Rows

This exercise works the upper and lower lats as well as inner muscles lower trap / lumbar.

  • Grip the bar with elbows tucked in.
  • Row back to lower abs
  • Be sure to arch but dont lean back too far then full stretch all the forward.

Bentover Barbell Rows

This execise works entire back, upper, lower and middle.

  • With a barbell, chose desired weight.
  • Begin with shoulder width grip.
  • Bend over, arch back, bend knees slightly, row bar into lower abdomal area.
  • Squeeze shoulders together, full stretch at bottom.

T-Bar Rows

This exercise works entire lats width and thickness.

  • On the T-bar machine, exercise is performed the same as bent over rows.
  • Use a wide or narrow grip,row bottom of pecs.
  • Squeeze at top with full stretch at bottom.


Machine Pullovers

This exercise works the entire lat area, top to bottom,front to back.

  • Begin by adjusting seat to where shoulders are even with pivot points on machine.
  • Place hands on bar over head.
  • Pull bar all the way down to abdominals and sqeeze.
  • Release all the way up for a full stretch.


Shrugs

  • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and grab a dumbbell in each hand. Your back should remain straight throughout the movement.
  • Hold each dumbbell at your side with your palms facing inward.
  • Raise dumbbells as high as possible using only your trapezius muscles. Your arms and legs should not assist in the lift. Envision trying to touch the bottom of your ears with your trapezius muscles. Squeeze for a count of one.
  • Lower the dumbbells toward the starting position in a slow and controlled manner. This is considered one repetition.
Warming Up

Warming Up before a workout

In my blogpost yesterday, on My 10 Weighlifting tips and Techniques, I emphasized the importance of incorporating a proper warmup before any workout session. A warmup not only helps to prepare your body physically for working out but also prepares it mentally.

I start of my warmup with some dynamic stretching followed by around 3-4 minutes on the treadmill to raise my core body temperature and then last but not least workout specific warmups. My warmup takes about 10 minutes in total. So what is dynamic stretching you ask, well simply put it is taking static stretching that you normally do at the end of a workout while cooling down and adding some motion to it.

Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort to bring about a stretch . Unlike static stretching the end position is not held. Dynamic stretching is similar to ballistic stretching except that it avoids bouncing motions and tends to incorporate more sport-specific movements.

Below are a few good videos demonstrating dynamic stretching that you can incorporate in your warm ups.

Dynamic stretches before a workout

Dynamic Stretching for Runners

My 10 Weightlifting tips and techniques

My 10 Weightlifting tips and techniques

I have now been working out for just under 8 years and in this time I have learnt quite a lot about training techniques and nutrition, and I am still learning something new everyday, so some of my daily blog posts will focus on keeping fit. With this post, I would like to share some lifting tips and techniques that have aided me in my training:

  1. Warming Up
    The importance of warming up cannot be understated. Just doing 10 reps of a light weight before you do your sets is not really a warmup. A proper warm-up should increase your heart rate, blood circulation, range of motion, and neural drive to the working muscles.
  2. Avoid excessive cardio before performing lifts
    I have found that doing a long cardio session (anything more than 5 – 10 minutes) as a warmup before I perform lifts is counter-productive as my body no longer has the energy to perform efficient lifts. Cardio only warms up the core body temperature it doesn’t prime your nervous system which is essential for having a safe and effective workout. Cardio should be done at the end of your workout to assist in fat-loss.
  3. Glove it
    Wearing gloves or using grips ensure that the weights are secure in your hands. Weights are often slippery with oils from other people’s hands and losing grip of the weight is the last thing you want. You should also ensure that you have a weight belt handy when performing heavy lifts as it will help to avoid back injuries and hernias.
  4. Get in to the “Zone”
    Bodybuilders and Powerlifters tend to go into a zone, where everything around them in the gym becomes blurry. Their focus and concentration is purely on the next lift and nothing else.
  5. Start light
    Your first set should always be with a weight you can easily handle at least 10-12 repetitions. Get your body ready to do the exercise, before moving up to higher weights. If you start off heavy, you could end up with mucle tears.
  6. Visualising the lift
    Just like you train your body, you need to train your mind. Before you perform a lift, close your eyes and go through the motions of the lift in your mind. Practise your breathing at the same time. If you intend to do 10 reps, visualise those 10 reps. Now both your physical and mental self are primed to perform the lift.
  7. Breathing technique
    Your breathing technique can either make or break the lift. Incorrect breathing technique inhibits you from getting the best out of your sets.” Always exhale on exertion”. For example, when you are pushing a bench press off your chest, you exhale on the push and inhale as you bring it slowly to your chest. When you are doing a pullup, you exhale on the pulling up motion and inhale on the way down. Breathing correctly also helps to prevent internal injury such as hernia, blood vessel strain, and high blood pressure.
  8. Use correct technique
    Proper exercise technique is crucial to ensure that you are getting the best out of your workouts and helps prevent unnecessary injuries. I have seen plenty of experienced bodybuilders trying to lift weights that are heavier than what they should be lifting with extremely bad form as an ego boost or to show off to the pretty girl on the cardio machine. The best way to learn the right technique is to invest in a personal trainer and use light weights. Once you have mastered the technique, stick to it religiously, trust me it will pay dividends!
  9. Get a spot
    Spotting, is when someone supports you while you perform a particular exercise, this will allow you to lift or push more than what you would normally do safely. A good spotter knows when to intervene and assist with a lift, and will encourage you to push beyond your comfort zone.
  10. Cool down and stretch
    After your last exercise,  you need to do cool down. You could cool down by doing cardio for a few minutes. This helps in bringing your heart rate down at a slow and steady pace, which will help you avoid feeling sick after a workout.
    Once you have cooled down, you should stretch. After a workout, muscles naturally contract. Stretching helps to prevent them from shrinking. This will aid in your muscles rebuilding, growing bigger and stronger.

Happy lifting!