exercise

Single-leg Deadlifts For a Stronger Backside

I’ve heard single-leg deads touted as the best “non-surgical butt lift.” My friend John Romaniello has said that the road to beautifully sculpted legs is “paved with single-leg exercises.” I completely agree. Training more single-leg, backside-focused exercises will most definitely lift your booty.

AND, apart from the obvious aesthetic value to the exercise, training single-leg deadlifts will also help you get stronger in your more typical two-legged deadlift and faster in your running stride.

HOWEVER, a single leg-deadlift is quite the advanced progression. You’ll want to master your regular kettlebell or barbell deadlift form, and exhibit exceptional single-leg balance before you start adding further complication and resistance to the pattern.

Because...

  • Maintaining balance across the foot is key for ensuring your glutes work properly

  • Hinging, as opposed to squatting is important for targeting that spot where your glutes separate from your hamstring to get that butt lift (OH YEAH, I see you girl)

  • And keeping your hips square is necessary to stabilize your pelvis and avoid stress that can lead to injury

So, as your #peachyqueen, I recommend you build competency in these three exercises, to ensure that you get the most booty gainz from your single-leg deadlifts. Spending 3-4 weeks a piece on each of these regressions can be a glute game-changer. 3x10-12 reps is a good place to start. You can always go heavier with less reps as you master the moves.

Suitcase Deadlift

Split-Stance Deadlift

Valslide Single-Leg Deadlift

BONUS, if you spend some time polishing up these exercises instead of going straight to that single-leg deadlift right away, you’ll be well on your way to building a better booty. #sophisticatedstrength

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Four Exercises That Are Better Than The Ones You Are Doing Now

Trade Up

The universe always trades up. I PROMISE. I have no choice but to believe this truth after my last failed dating escapade. I mean, you really couldn’t get any worse than your beloved pretending not to know you on the street. Except of course, if he was with his “ex-wife.”

OK, ok. Before this piece gets too dark to recover, let me just say, I learned some very valuable life lessons from said relationship — even though he was a complete bonehead. 

See, you must understand, even the unworthy people who will inevitably move in and out of your life always show up for a reason. They appear, to help you uncover some deeper karmic lesson about yourself. 

As this relates to fitness, I believe there are a lot of just ok or even not so great exercises that may show up on your template and still teach you some very valuable lessons you may not have received otherwise.

They fulfill a purpose. But they don’t deserve to stay very long.

I’m talking about the exercises that aren’t serving you very well. Maybe they don’t offer you the results you are seeking or they cause you pain. Maybe you just kind of dread them even before you set foot on the gym floor. 

Maybe you’ve even been working on them forever, going around in circles and you seem to make no progress.

Time to move on to something better, better. No more tryna make it work. Deuces.

Of course, we should always look back. We must evaluate the good and the bad of our programs and practices. We need to meditate on what we’ve learned about our bodies.

But we must not stare too long before it is time to get started on the next layer, the next challenge -- Something that gets us closer to our bigger goal without all the negative drama.

You know, you can’t keep messing with the same lifts (assholes?) forever and expect a different outcome. 

And really, it’s not you. It’s them. Some typical strength exercises are just a little more party trick than they are real world applicable. They make for a really cool Facebook status that garners a lot of likes, but they leave you unfulfilled.

And that’s when it’s time to trade up.

The Full Get-Up

Being raised in the kettlebell world (it was my first and favorite strength certification post basic CPT way back in 2009), I have a special place in my heart for full get-ups. It is an exercise that demands and deserves all of the respect for it’s sophistication in execution and purpose.

A full get-up is an elegant dance. The seven steps are even a beautiful metaphor for human life. No matter what, you always need to be strong enough to get up off the floor with little difficulty.

But to be honest, I really only program the half get-up for class or clients on a regular basis. And that’s for a few reasons.

Regardless of most dysfunction, almost all humans can perform the first two steps without any serious compensation. Whereas, if hip stability is questionable and shoulder mobility is lacking (maybe you cannot reach your arm to true vertical over head), the full get-up could actually worsen these issues.

The half get-up is also much easier to program in a traditional sense. I can throw it in the middle of a workout as an accessory on any vertical pressing or upper body day with sets and reps. Whereas the full get-up typically needs to be programmed alone in the beginning of the session with low volume as it requires a high level of skill and so many complicated steps

You can however, practice the half get-up with much more ease. Get to the half-sit position, and return back to the ground.

Try it for 3x6 as your vertical push for the day!

Better Option: The Half Get-Up

 

The Pistol Squat

I believe that the fraction of the population that really deserves to do a pistol squat is something like less than 5%. And I’m not exaggerating. That’s a very low projection from someone who only sees the fittest demographic of the population from day to day (I work at a high end luxury gym in Soho, so I actually have more hope than I probably should). 

The requisite foundation of mobility, stability, and motor control required for this exercise are all huge! Even the expert fit pros who show their skills on social media rarely meet the criteria for a confidently controlled repetition.

Much like the get-up, the pistol also presents some programming problems. One perfectly executed pistol squat is often the equivalent of a max effort lift. Meaning, it has no business in any program with sets and reps. Past 2 repetitions, and you’re likely just jamming joints together to get it done.

Think of this way: If your top deadlift is 300lbs, you wouldn't be hitting that over and over again every day. That's as silly as repeating this eating mistakes over and over again.

And don’t get me started how trainers include the pistol in “quickie” or “metabolic” workouts. Face palm.

That bottom one is just not good enough to train. Even if you're only in that position for a split second.

That bottom one is just not good enough to train. Even if you're only in that position for a split second.

As you can surmise, I’m a little bit passionate about this one. And that is because, the risk in programming pistols outweighs the benefit. The cost is just too high. Even for me. And my dears, I once did a perfect pistol with a 32kg bell. That's a half bodyweight pistol.

Even the kettlebell people quietly stopped testing it at workshops as a requirement to pass. Because it was that ugly.

You and your body would be much better served with a more traditional single leg squat. Add in a box and you’ve got ample freedom to focus on that working leg. Just don’t forget about the other one. Tense it up and reach through the heel of the “non-working” side to maintain balance. Add in a counterbalance if you need it!

Better Option: The Single Leg Squat Off Box

 

The KB Push-Press

For a hardtyle push-press, you are required to keep your heals glued down to the floor. After years of debate with elite trainers and my own experience with clients, I don't teach like that anymore. 

It’s just awkward and I hate it. Ok, but seriously, it’s difficult to generate a lot of force for a number of reasons.

The cue in a push-press is to slide your back down the wall as you dip, rather than sit back like a squat or deadlift. This can help to prevent any leakage from the core. In other words, it can help you to keep your trunk together, without moving through your lower back, as you press.

However, you need a significant amount of ankle dorsiflexion to initiate the push when the feet are trapped on the floor -- to allow the knees to come forward.

And even if you do have real nice ankles, the lift still doesn’t feel one bit powerful.

As the goal of this exercise is to generate explosive force, I believe the feet need to be free to leave the ground during a push-press.

Easy fix: Just jump.

Complete your KB push-press while jumping up and stomping your feet into the ground. 

And if we’re talking about power, we want to create a more challenging situation in which you’d have to generate it.

So I love love love a log press. It’s also awkward. But, in a more appropriate manner to the goal of the exercise. So you will have no choice but to literally throw it up overhead. 

And that is exactly what you want to do.

Better Option: The Log Press

I have zero access to my own log press vids so let www.startingstrongman.com whow you how it's done. 

Remember, you can simply complete your usual KB push-press... Just jump!

 

Bent Over Rows

If I hardly ever program full get-ups, then you could say a bent over row is more rare in my programming than meeting a good one on Tinder. Like almost never happens.

And that’s because, it’s a little too complicated for most. You’ve got to be able to hang back in a perfect hinge position, stabilize the shoulders really well, and then also move some heavy weight.

Accordingly, they usually look damn ugly. Necks jutting forward with each rep. Backs rounding out to a nice curl by the end of the set. And not to mention the unhappiness your body may feel the next morning as you go to roll out of bed.

And so instead, I like to set up a sumo deadlift alternating row. That’s a mouthful, I know. However, it’s worth remembering and repeating to all of your friends who experience any kind of back pain.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in order for an object to stay in place. Normally, you’d have zero external feedback to stay stable in your hinge. In this row variation, you’ll get to push into the unmoving arm as you pull from the other. The added punching action will actually assist you.

Try them! You'll still build a beautiful back but without all the stress on your front side body and lower back.

Better Option: Sumo Alternating Row

Got any other exercises that aren't suiting you?

Leave them in the comments and I'll offer you more options!

#tradeup #deuces #sophisticatedstrength

How Do I Train My Core?

And What Does That Really Mean, Anyway?

I always make it a point to sit down with new clients and talk about their goals. And in the past, the most frequent request of my lovely ladies was, as you can easily imagine, weight loss. They’d look down at their already beautiful bodies and point to this or that stubborn spot and anxiously ask, ”How do I get rid of this?

But the tides, they are a'turning. A shift has been made. The mainstream fitness industry is beginning to push the importance of moving better and getting strong. Now my potential prospects are pointing to the exact same areas and proclaiming, with even more uncertainty, I think I need to work on my core?

Not unlike fat loss, core training is somewhat confusing. There’s tons of available information and all of it seems to be quite conflicting.

The only difference being, we don’t seem to come across a decent definition of what core stability actually is as we scroll through our feeds.

There are however, endless random lists of exercises that appear to challenge our midsections….or something like that?

Core stability... That’s like working on my abs, right?

And that assumption is not untrue. Go ahead, girl. You’re on to something with that statement. It’s just not the complete story. There’s a little bit more to the definition.

 

What Is Core Stability?

Core stability refers to your ability to tie yourself together, to connect the different segments of your body and maintain your posture through a given position or movement.

It’s your ability to hold that position, to stand your ground against resistance. 

So it involves your abs and your midsection yes, as much of your success is dependent on your ability to breathe through the positions and harness that power. 

But it’s oh so much more than that. 

Mainly because, not unlike fat loss, the reason for the mystery surrounding core stability is that it’s situation specific. Or position specific to be exact. 

Meaning, your ability to maintain core stability in a squat, is quite independent of your ability to maintain core stability in a row, or even say something as similar as a squat on one leg. You might look really poised and pretty on two legs, and then not so much on one.

And everyone has different core strengths and weaknesses. Things we are inherently good at and things we may need a little more confidence with.

There’s plenty of reasons why that could be. Maybe you’ve had more practice with squats, so your posture looks lovely. You’ve had more experience and training to refine the movement.

But maybe you sit at a desk for long hours during the day and now your rowing posture is not quite as pretty. 

Not to worry, my dear! You just have some practicing to do.

 

Regress to Progress

Just as you attack any other skill, you’ll need to start with the basics. All exercises have regressions and progressions. There are unlimited ways to make them easier or harder. A deadlift can turn into a swing. A split squat can turn into a lunge.

You will, however, need to start at the very beginning of the path to learn the requisite skills you’ll need later. So that as the challenges get more complicated, you can move through the next progressions successfully. You can progress to that lunge without pain or compensation. Which is really a nicer way of saying you’re doing it wrong. Let’s get it right. 

The very first step for most exercises is to bring them to the floor and turn them into isometrics, or static holds, rather than dynamic movements.

And that my friend, is why you think of core work as that ab stuff on the mat. You learn to use your breath to connect to your body and it certainly does feel like a lot of abs. Mostly abs. All of the abs.

We said that core strength is specific to the movement in question. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that in the gym, your movements are generally broken up into six or seven different categories. You push and pull. You squat and bend. You rotate. And you stand on a single leg. I say seven because I believe the split stance is it's own thing. Respect the lunge. Anyways...

The Best Basic Core Routine

So, I’m going to give you five different foundational exercises(the single leg consideration is built in) and a breathing exercise, that will serve as your core warm-up for any workout you may have planned. Or they can also be used as the workout if you are just getting back into the gym. 

Breathing From Child's Pose

Finding neutral spine can be difficult when you are stuck in lumbar extension. Stress, sitting at a desk, indigestion, periods, and wearing heels can all cause your back to stiffen up. What we're referring to here is that excessive curvature in your lower back that feels painful and makes ab stuff impossible. Not everyone deals with it, but a lot of us do. In this video, I instruct you to complete one round of five breaths. But you may need more rounds on tough days to experience relief.

Even if your back is perfectly painless, it's a great idea to still start with some breathing first. You're going to need to create large amounts of tension for these exercises while still managing to control your breath. Practice without the tension, first.

 

Prone Cobra

What we're preparing for: pulling motions - Deadlifts, rows, carries 

***For all exercises, be sure to read the cues and troubleshooting tips below the videos! You'll find them in the description section if you click the little YouTube icon to the bottom right.

 

Prone Plank

What we're preparing for: pushing motions - Squats, Bench Press, Sleds

 

Hurdle Hold

What we're preparing for: squatting motions/single leg motions - Squats, Step-Ups

 

Leg Lock Bridge

What we're preparing for: bending motions, lunging motions - Deadlifts, Split Squats, Step-Ups

 

Side Plank

What we're preparing for: rotating motions - Get-Ups, RoTational and Anti-Rotational Exercises

The Routine

1. Breathing From Child's Pose 1 - 3 rounds of 5 breaths

2. Prone Cobra x 30sec

3. Prone Plank x 30sec

4. Hurdle Hold x 30sec

5. Leg Lock Bridge x 30sec

6. Side Plank x 30sec

And don't forget about the carry-over! When you advance to more difficult movements or move to the strength portion of your day, look to apply the same principles to the progressions. Breathe through your loaded movements while creating tension and focusing on maintaining stability. 

Stand your ground, girl!