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Gym routine

I’ve recently started going to the gym every lunch break. It makes working full time a lot more bearable. So I got Zaki to put together a short gym routine for me. My goal was (and still is) to work on my upper body strength as that is what I need most for my straps training. Zaki gave me five exercises working mostly my delts, lats and pecs. At this stage I’m only using the machines for the following exercises:
Shoulder press
Lateral raises
Chest press
Pull down (wide grip)
Seated row

To that I’ve added the arm extension, which works the triceps. Just for fun. As I’m working for strength I’m only doing 5 reps for 3 sets but I’m trying to go really heavy. My starting weights were:

Shoulder press 35
Lateral raises 17.5
Chest press 40
Pull down 50
Seated row 55
Arm extension 25

After a month on this routine, doing it most days apart from Christmas and New Years and not on weekends, I’ve made quite decent progress. Generally, it’s not recommended to train the same exercises every day but I ignored that. I did some other training namely handstands and straps training as well, sometimes on the same days and sometimes at the weekends. Today is the end of the first month and my weights were as follows:

Shoulder press 45
Lateral raises 27.5
Chest press 40
Pull down 80
Seated row 85
Arm extension 50

I find it most useful to look at the percentage increase from the starting weights to determine my progress. These are as follows:

Shoulder press 28%
Lateral raises 57%
Chest press 25%
Pull down 60%
Seated row 54%
Arm extension 100%

I’m really happy with most of those but the shoulder press and the chest press is lagging behind. The exercise might need tweaking a little to improve those areas.



Army training

Yesterday I went to an army training class with a company called forces fit. It’s not an easy class, everybody gets grouped according to ability. They have three levels blue for beginners, green for intermediate and red for advanced. I was in the green as my friend, who I went with, volunteered me for the same group that she was in but she has been going for a while. They have regular fitness assessments which will give you an indication which group is the right one for you and to see any improvements you gained through your training. In short it’s pretty much cardio circuit training, great for improving cardio fitness and losing weight.
It starts off with warm up, in the class I did it was first running, then a game of tag with lots of pushups and sit-ups thrown in followed by warm up stretches, which was done by all levels together. then the levels split up into two groups beginner/intermediate and intermediate/advanced. The intermediate people got to decide which group they wanted to join. Busier classes might split into three groups. As it was my first class and because my friend did the same, we stayed in the beginner/intermediate group. Both beginners and intermediates did the same exercises but the intermediates did more repetitions.
In this post I will focus on the beginner/intermediate workout as that’s the one I’ve done. The group was split into two groups to compete in a sprinting game. The group who lost, my group unfortunately, had to do push ups, situps and burpees. Then we did a circuit with three stations, the first round they were lunges on the left leg, push ups, lunges on the right leg. The second round was plank from elbows to plank on hands starting with the left, squat thrusts, plank from elbows to plank on hands starting with the right. The third round was side plank twisting to the front on the left side, plank with knee-elbow touches, side plank twisting to the front on the left side. Each round had to be repeated three times. After each round was completed three times we had to do one set of dips on a bench after the first, incline pull ups with an overhand grip after the second and incline pull ups with an underhand grip after the third. In between stations we had to run and to round it all off another st of dips.
Then we moved on to another part of the field, where we had to pair up. The next exercises had a set up of two stations. At the first station one partner would do one exercise until the other partner had run to the second station done a set of the exercise at that station and run back to the first station, then the partners switched, each round had to be completed twice before the exercises changed. The exercises were: pushups, burpees, situps, lunges, plank with knee-elbow touches, squat thrusts in no particular order.
In the end we did cool down stretches, which I had to modify for myself to get anything out of it.

My verdict: It was a tough class and halfway through I felt a bit sick from all the running but if you can stick with it it will definitely improve your fitness heaps and it’s great if you want to loose weight. The intensity of the class really gets your heart rate up and you only get short periods of rest, which makes it similar in effectiveness to HIIT I imagine.

This was me at the end of class:



Straps Conditioning part 1

Straps are great for conditioning your upper body and core. I’ve made a video of a few of my favorite conditioning exercises on straps. After a ground based warm up I usually start with skinning the cat as a warm up for my training on straps. I do about 5 repetitions, when I’m only doing a conditioning session I aim for 3 sets, when I’m doing other training as well I might only do one. The first part of skinning the cat is just a leg lift, then you take your legs over your head and lower on the other side as low as you can and then reverse the whole motion.

The next exercise I show on the video is what I call middle to middle. From your legs on either side of one arm, lower your bum and lift back up so that your legs are on either side of the other arm. This exercise really work your core. I usually do 10 repetitions (5 on each side) for a conditioning sessions I aim for 3 sets otherwise I might just do one.

The next one is lowering from middle. Another great exercise for the core as you have to keep your body balanced while you’re lowering your legs. Eventually you can work up to lifting back up.

The last exercise in the video is sideplanche to sideplanche. This exercise takes some getting used to as you lower to the side with your arm behind your back. This really works the back muscles as well as the obliques on the way back up.
 

Straps Conditioning

 

 



Bikram Yoga

I’ve found an offer 30 days for £35 pounds on bikram yoga classes, so I’ve set myself the challenge to go every day for 30 days. I’ve managed to go for the last five days and I’m already noticing the benefits. The first thing I noticed is that my skin has become clearer. The other ones are that I don’t get pins and needles in my hands when I sleep with my arms over my head. And finally, my skinning the cat has got much better, I can go deeper and I don’t feel any pain in my shoulders and going backwards from the position feels a little bit easier.

The poses you do are not that hard but the heat makes everything feels so much harder. It contains some balancing postures which gives me cramps in my feet, if done properly they look very graceful. This is me doing it:

It also includes my favourite: cobra pose! There is also another pose which is very good for the back muscles, called locust pose.

locust pose
For this pose you start lying on your front with your arms underneath you, palms facing down. Then you lift both your legs up together as high as you can. Use your upper body strength to push up even higher by pushing in your hands. Be careful with you neck in this position.
This is what it’s supposed to look like:



Yoga

The other day I went to yoga class, after not having gone for a good few month. Probably not the class you would do if you are after a serious workout, it’s more of a relaxing session. Still, a fair few push ups, leg lifts and balancing postures can be taken away as good exercises to do at home even if you aren’t into yoga. One pose in particular stuck with me, as it addresses one of my problem areas. It works the muscles that hold the shoulder blades flat. It’s called cobra pose:

 

You start by lying on your front with your hands directly under your shoulder. Look up and start lifting your chest off the floor while keeping your shoulders down. For this pose you want to use the muscles in your back not your arms. You should be able to lift your hands off the ground and still be able to hold the pose.



More core exercises

I have a few exercises to add to the core section:

Dish:

There are variations to make this exercise harder. For example you can write out numbers with your feet, but keep your legs straight. Or you can rock in that position, it’s very important to keep your body as rigid as possible.

From this position you can also do leg lifts, lift your legs all the way until they touch your hands without using momentum.

Hip raises:

Lie on your back with your legs straight at a 90 degree angle and then without using momentum lift your hips of the ground, you can have your arms next to your body or to make it harder extend them over your head.

Seated leg lifts:

Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your hands on the floor about mid-thigh, lean slightly forward with your back straight. From this start position lift your legs a few inches off the floor. To make this harder move your hands closer to your feet. Some people might struggle with this due to poor hamstring flexibility, so if you can’t lean forward with a straight back you might not be targeting the right muscle group.

Plank:

In addition to the pose that zaki has posted about you can add a few variations to make it harder, like lifting one arm and opposite leg, or you can keep your hands and feet on one line as if your balancing on a beam (this makes your base smaller and you’ll have to work harder to stabilize your body)

Jackknife on a gymball:

Start in a plank position with your shins on a gymball, then bring the ball towards you (keeping your legs straight) until you’re in a pike handstand position, as in this picture

then roll back until your in an arched position and repeat.

Other exercises including handstand positions:

Stand in front of a wall with your arms extended over your head, push tall, take a few steps back and lean your hands against the wall while maintaining a straight body line and hold. The further away from the wall you step the harder it gets.