Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Kettlebell Movement posts free weekly kettlebell workout videos. You can also find Peter on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram.
One of the biggest obstacles people encounter with their own fitness is that they simply don’t know what exercises to do to see the best results. Out of ideas and confused by information overload, many well intentioned people give up on planning their own workouts and take up running, cycling or something of the sort. The downside with these activities is that they are not a way of staying balanced in your physical fitness, and while they do have health benefits and can be very enjoyable they aren’t well rounded.
If I am going to be of any help with workout strategies, we need to establish our dream, so let’s decide on a common goal. The following strategies are great for anyone that is interested in exercising for every day functionality and/or performance and looking good.
During this process, you can expect to burn some calories that might assist in weight loss, however, the kitchen is where we expect to see real weight loss or weight gain happen and it’s very important we don’t have false expectations.
If your goal is highly specialized, for example, if you wish to compete in bodybuilding, you will need a specialized approach, which this is not. This is a workout strategy that should work for the goals of most people that just want to stay in shape, look good and avoid injury.
Instead of focusing on muscle groups, focus on movement.
I actually did this for many years, chest and triceps today, back and biceps tomorrow, there was leg day and I did abs and cardio every day. This would be a great way to train if my only goal was to gain muscle mass at the expense of overall well being, but if I wish to train my body and mind to their true potential this isn’t the way. I think of this method as reverse engineering strength, a muscular body should be the bi-product of your physical endeavor, not the sole purpose. The benefit of training movement instead of muscle is that you will strengthen your mind/body connection much more, a highly valuable benefit of exercise that many people don’t get. You will also create more unity in your kinetic chain, making you equally strong from head to toe and from one side to the other and can combine strength training with cardiovascular exercise and save loads of time.
Base your workouts on the seven primal movements:
Bend, squat, lunge, twist, push, pull and gait
For short, high intensity workouts, do all seven movements in a circuit using whichever variation of each movement that suits you.
By moving through the movements one at a time, you are less likely to experience muscle fatigue in any one area and will be able to keep the heart rate up more consistently throughout your workout. You can put the movements into any order that suits you or that you feel is best for the tempo of the workout.
If you wish to build strength, focus on just one or two movements in a single workout with slower pace and more challenging exercises.
This will allow you to focus on the movement rather than the intensity, you may be able to use a heavier weight or do a more challenging variation. Strength building workouts will usually have a lower rep count, but an increase in total number of sets of each movement/exercise.
Progress your training over time
There are countless ways to perform each of the seven primal movements and all of them have variations that require little to no equipment. As you build strength, you can progress each movement to more challenging variations or you can make them harder by adding more weight or maybe just getting through the same workout faster but without compromising form. You can make a movement more challenging by turning a strength phase lift such as a deadlift into a power phase lift such as a kettlebell swing, these are both variations of a bend movement. The deadlift, in this case is the precursor to the swing and must be perfected before the swing is even attempted. You can also add challenge by combining movements together, squats work well with overhead pressing movements, as the legs doing the squat can assist the shoulders and arms in the press, this is commonly called a thruster, or squat to press. Bending works well with pulling, the glutes and hamstrings that extend your hips can assist pulling exercise done with your upper body, for example, a bend to row.
Consider the risk to reward
With any exercise you select, ask yourself how beneficial it is and what is the risk? In some cases, exercises we believe to be beneficial actually are not, this can be for a number of reasons. If your hips flexors are tight and causing a postural deviation, running and cycling should be avoided. However, for someone else these activities could be just fine. Crunches aren’t great for anyone because they can lead to bad posture unless you do specific spine extension exercises to counter them.
Can the exercise deliver what you expect it to?
You can’t spot train fat away, which means that crunches won’t burn stomach fat any more than anything else will, and endless hours of cardio won’t be a long term weight loss solution either. This is because you adapt to all of the various pieces of cardio machinery in very little time, rendering them useless for fat loss. This should be welcome news because it means you can actually see the results you want faster (no cardio) and in less pain (crunches).
It’s also very important that you enjoy whatever it is you are doing, and if a specific activity or goal is motivational to you, then go for it. In this case, ask yourself what are the possible negative side effects on your body from this endeavor and how can you best counter them so you don’t end up getting hurt. If you love to run, hip stretching and basic weightlifting such as deadlifts, squats and lunges are vital. If you love to train for body building then staying flexible is key, as the machines and isolation drills will make you very tight over time. Either way, I recommend adding in movement based training so that you can expect to be able to continue to move around the world with ease and grace for years to come.