Inspiration, Warriors’ Style

Advertisements

The Power Of A Pushup, My Story.

Last week, I posted an excerpt of a blog post by Martin Rooney, one of my favourite coaches in the world. I was contemplating whether I should write my very own story about the humble push up and decided to go ahead with it because I figured it will definitely inspire people who have been/are still in my predicament.

Image

The proper pushup. Chest to the floor, Elbows tucked in.

For some people, this bodyweight exercise is too easy (mainly because they don’t know the 10,832 variations of this exercise), thus they would rather do other exercises that work the ‘Push’ muscles. (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps) Fortunately, life wasn’t so easy for me. I was short, weak and fat through out my primary and lower secondary school days. I did not care much about my physical fitness because there was no need for it until I joined a CCA in secondary school called National Cadet Corps (NCC). The most apt way to describe it is that it’s a tease of what’s about to come for all Males in Singapore, called National Service (NS).

Not many people will believe what I am about to confess. I could not do a single push up until I was 17 years old. My Sergeants in NCC picked on me until I cried. (Yes, I was a crybaby) They were relentless. It was so bad until I decided that I needed to do something. At that point of time, I just wanted to prove to them that I can do pushups and I was not weak. More importantly, I wanted to prove to myself that I am able to change myself and be able to do something I put my mind into.

Image

It’s never too late.

I decided to head to a nearby neighbourhood gym with an iron-will, not with fancy supplements. I did not know what I was doing in the gym to be honest. I just utilised every machine in sight. I was awed at how strong some people were in the gym. They were able to do pullups and pushups with consummate ease. I decided to do some research to maximise my efforts in the gym and I remember vividly the first website I visited was bodybuilding.com. That website had tons of great articles for starters and before I knew it, I was informally inducted into The Irongame. There was another influential website that vastly shaped my perspective on exercises and it was none other than stronglifts.com. It was the only website I visited for a good few months to learn the basics of the irongame.

Fast forward a few months of training and I felt that I was literally a different person. I had new-found confidence and belief in myself. I could do 10 to 15 pushups and kept on practicing this exercise as much as possible. As the famous saying goes, practice makes perfect.

“Through physical training I have been afforded opportunities that would not have been possible without the strength and confidence I have developed. With physical strength comes ability.  And with ability comes confidence.  And with confidence comes the courage to take on challenges.  I am so passionate about fitness because I know that being fit means far more than having a low body fat or strong muscles.  Being fit will help you lead a more productive life.” – Martin Rooney

This is my story. I hope it inspires you to pursue your goals in life.

The (Almost) Complete Qur’an of Stretching, Part 1

Many people know that stretching is good for them. What they don’t know is, there are roughly 3,246 ways of stretching your body.You can do a stretch for your ankle or you can do a stretch for your ankles, calves, hamstrings (with one stretch!).

Let me give you a brief history of my flexiblity and mobility.

None.

Yeah told you it was brief. I was pretty much sedentary growing up, plus the invention of Internet and Neopets certainly did not entice me to go out and play, like any other young kid. If you take a close look at kids, especially when they pick up stuff from the floor, what do they do? Do they bend their knees a wee bit and bend their backs? ( Like almost ALL adults) Or do they somehow have the perfect flexibility and mobility in their muscles and joints to do a FULL squat?

I’ll let you answer that yourself and for those people who still think half-squatting and ‘knees not beyond toes’ squats are the way to go, I can only say, enjoy yourselves. A squat should be a natural movement and there is no foundation for the ‘knees not beyond toes’ squat. Take a closer look at the picture below to look at how a perfect squat is achieved.

Effortless when young, Almost impossible for some when older. What went wrong you ask?

Below is a Single Leg Squat. This is obviously a more advanced version of a squat. The only reason I put this picture was to illustrate how it looks like. I swear.

Please do not try this anywhere, unless you want to show off or look like a complete fool.

Image

Firstly, let me give you my definition of flexibility and mobility. Flexibility generally refers to muscle length while Mobility refers to joint range of motion. This is probably a very simplified version of those terms but then again, so is my knowledge on this subject. Generally, most people have tight (shortened muscle length) hip flexors, hamstrings and calves. They also have very limited range of motion in their ankles. If you know how an ankle mobility drill looks like, you will then realise why the notion of ‘knees not beyond toes’ is total bullshit.

Image

Once a person has good flexibility (Thighs,groin,calves) and mobility in their legs (Hip, Knees, Ankles), they would be able to do a full squat with proper coaching. This can be a long and tedious process for some (me) while it may take just a few weeks to sort these issues out, depending on your flexibility and mobility.

The reason why stretching does not work immediately is because 30 seconds of stretching is not going to lengthen your hip flexors! The name of the game is consistency. You can stretch the heck out of your muscles for one day and feel better but for your muscles to ‘permanently change’ their length, you NEED to be consistent. Take it from me, I am still not able to do a full squat comfortably.

That’s all folks. Part 2 and possibly 3 will be coming in a few weeks time. Keep a look out for it. If I wrote something that is wrong/ hard to understand, please let me know.

Resources

http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=55368

The Power Of A Pushup

I have looked up to Martin Rooney for a few years now because of his style of training and never say die attitude to training and more importantly, to life itself. Plus he has replied a few of my tweets! His blog is full of information, ranging from fitness to life itself. The following is an excerpt of his blog post.

“As we stood outside of a restaurant nestled against the Volga river, a small boy no older than 8 came up to our group.  He wasn’t wearing any shoes and was quite dirty.  I was stunned because I realized that this boy had approached to beg us for money.  Although I had many experiences like this, never was it the child was doing the begging.  Before I could search for loose change, my host told the child he had a deal for him.  He said that if the boy could do 20 pushups, he would give him 100 dollars!  The boy looked at the man in disbelief, but the other distinguished gentlemen assured the boy this was a legitimate deal.

My host got down on the ground in his fancy clothes, and demonstrated a perfect pushup the way it had to be performed for the boy to get the money.  The boy got down on the ground and started. The first few looked good, but at 7 reps, my experience told me he wasn’t getting 20.  He struggled and fought with everything he had, but at 13 his tiny arms gave out under his weight.

The little boy rose to his tiny, dirty feet with his head and eyes down looking absolutely dejected and defeated.  Just as I started to resent my host for putting the boy through this hopeless challenge, the man took a knee, looked the boy in the eye and delivered the lesson.  He stated, “If you continue to beg the rest of your life, you will always remain weak.  If you do this exercise each day and get strong, some day you will build the strength so you no longer have to beg. Do you understand?”  The boy nodded yes, and then, in what shocked both me and the boy, my host gave him the 100 dollars.

Perfect Pushup

This experience made me appreciate not only what I had, but also what I have become.  You see, I can remember being like that boy.  Although I may not have been begging in the streets, I did not have many of the things I desired in my life.  Through physical training I have been afforded opportunities that would not have been possible without the strength and confidence I have developed.  The lesson my Russian host provided was true:  With physical strength comes ability.  And with ability comes confidence.  And with confidence comes the courage to take on challenges.  I am so passionate about fitness because I know that being fit means far more than having a low body fat or strong muscles.  Being fit will help you lead a more productive life.

On the banks of the Volga, I began my training love-affair with the humble pushup.  Since then I have traveled the globe finding over 100 variations of this powerful tool that builds both the body and mind.

The story should remind you that as 2011 comes to a close, you should not just reflect on what you have done, but also what you could have done better.  Your hindsight should influence your foresight and, therefore, your actions for 2012.  Every thing left unsaid and deed left undone is your guide for future behavior to achieve your dreams.  If you choose to accept them, you will come to see that mishaps and missed opportunities will be the greatest gifts you receive.  This story should also remind you that your purpose after receiving these gifts is to give them away so others can benefit from your mistakes.  By sharing your experiences, you help others to move more quickly and safely toward their dreams.  What my mom always told me is actually true.  It is far better to give than receive.  Happy Holidays.”

Resources

http://www.trainingforwarriors.com/2011/12/the-power-of-a-pushup/

Kettlebell Swing

Hmm Looks very similar to the picture I posted in my last article eh? I wonder why….

Since my last post was about biomechanics my friend challenged me to apply it to kettlebells and I am accepting that challenge. Please let me know if I write anything wrong/hard to understand so I can improve myself 😉

Let me put a disclaimer here. I am NOT saying that kettlebells are the ‘be all end all’ of strength training, fat-loss, weightlifting or whatever you want to call it. It is one of the MANY tools that can be used and for best results; use different tools from your arsenal so that your body does not get the chance to adapt and it will never know what hit it.

Another disclaimer, I am currently pursuing a diploma and have very little real world experience so what I say may or may not be true, furthermore what I am about to write on are just general observations.

Okay let’s get the ball rolling. The basic movement of kettlebell is the kettlebell swing. There are two parts to this. The concentric and eccentric portion. Concentric is when the bell is behind you and you are about to explode with your hips till the bell reaches about chest/abdominal region.(NOTE: It should not go up too high because that means you are using your shoulders to bring it up more than it should be). The eccentric is all momentum. There is no tempo like typical free weight exercises. This movement might look very simple but a lot of people get deceived by its simplicity that they let their ego take over. This movement is the basis for the rest of the other movements and should be properly drilled before moving on to more complex movements.

Let me give my personal experience from observation. I feel that people who don’t understand why others are so into kettlebells are the same people who ‘ego-lift’. What I mean by this is that they want to use the heaviest kettlebells they are able to barely lift and yet want to swing and up being the biggest jerks (pun intended) ever known to man.

The kettlebell swing can be used as a great tool to show the average joe how to lift with proper posture (neck, upper and lower back alignment) and activate the posterior chain (lower back,hamstrings,glutes,calves) instead of ‘muscling’ the swing. You have to grasp the concept of making love vs having rough meaningless sex. Kettlebell lifting is like making love while Ego-lifting is something like rough sex. It’s kinda like different strokes (literally) for different folks. You get the picture?

The two most effective coaching cues for this move is to ‘stick your ass out’ (to spare the lower back from excessive torque) and to ‘lift your toes up/put your bodyweight on your heels’ because this will AUTOMATICALLY activate your posterior chain. I have personally tried to do the opposite of this and suffice to say, it was a mess. Losing balance constantly and using the wrong muscles to do the same movement is not efficient exercising.

Another cue that I learnt from my good friend Andyn is to ‘keep the bell close to your groin’ because of several reasons which makes perfect sense if you think about it. You want to make the distance travelled by the bell as short and efficient as possible and for a person like me with long limbs, it might be ‘natural’ to have a longer range of motion but I have to consciously bring the bell close to my crotch area every time I do a repetition so that I don’t waste my energy and I will be also be able to generate much more explosiveness into the next repetition because it is much more closer to my body.

One possible debate is how much to bend the knees or whether it should be bent at all? As always, the answer is a gray area because there MUST be a slightest degree of bent knees (think stiff legged Deadlift) to spare the knees. For me personally, I don’t take note of how much I bend my knees because as long as my form (posture) is good, then it’s all good as there are no compensations (mobility and flexibility wise).

In conclusion, I feel that in life and weightlifting, EGO is mankind’s greatest enemy and if we learn how to defeat it, we can learn so much more and be a better human and lifter. I am just sharing what I know so please feel free to correct me.

Introduction to Biomechanics

A picture to illustrate what I've been blabbering about

This is something I submitted for my schoolwork. If I wrote something that is wrong/hard to understand please let me know. Enjoy the revival of my blog 🙂

How do you apply Biomechanics to your daily life?

First, let me define what biomechanics is. It is the study of movement of the human body. Biomechanics might seem like a technical jargon but it actually is not because if you observe closely, we humans have very similar yet different bio mechanism. What I mean by this is even though we walk the same (to the naked eye), There are several aspects that needs to be analyzed such as gait and degree of range of motion (ROM) for joints.

It is this analysis that is the epitome of sports and exercise sciences. It is said that no two people have the same thumbprint but I feel that it extends even further than that. I would go further to say that no two people have the same bio mechanism due to factors such as limb length, Upper and Lower Torso length difference and Motor Control.

The most important reason why people even bother studying about biomechanics is twofold. Firstly it is to improve performance efficiency. Many Olympic World Records have been smashed due to advancement in technology (external equipment, technique refinement) and bio mechanists are trying their best to push the envelope. Secondly it is to predict and prevent overuse injury due to a whole host of factors from daily postural habits to mobility and flexibility (or lack thereof).

This is why people should have a basic idea of bio mechanism for their own health and longevity so that their quality of life is not compromised even as they age. Bio mechanics can totally be applied to daily life. There are countless examples of how we get injured that can be traced to our bio mechanics. There are two types of injuries. Contact and Non contact injury. All non contact injuries can be prevented. The reason why non contact injuries happen is due to bad postural habits (Excessive kyposis, lordosis, Chronic shortening of the hip flexors and hamstrings) and lack of mobility in joints and lastly flexibility in muscles.

In conclusion, I feel that learning and applying bio mechanics should not be limited to athletes but to the average Joe too. It is true that athletes need everything they can get to improve their performance but what we are looking for in the long term is healthy joints and muscles.

Discuss how physical activity helps in the prevention of obesity-related illnesses.

Physical activity is one of the main factors with regards to the prevention of obesity-related illnesses such as Diabetes type 2,High Blood Pressure and some forms of cancer and more. I personally feel that ANY physical activity is better than none. I always hate the excuse people give when they say they got no time yet they are able to watch their favourite TV shows and surf the net, refreshing every minute to see their Facebook Status Updates.

Physical activity can be very as simple as taking the stairs down instead of using the lift. That is a good start although it might not have the desired effect of PREVENTING obesity-related illnesses, especially if you keep eating the way you eat that made you obese in the first place. If you want to see a drastic improvement in your health and wellbeing, you should get your butt down to the gym and try to learn as much as possible to make sure you don’t waste time and be efficient in the gym.

The reason why exercising is blatantly effective at preventing obesity and its related illnesses is that it promotes insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance which basically means that you are fat(To varying degrees I might add. The more insulin resistant you are, the more fatter you are and the more closer you are to metabolic syndrome.)Exercise makes your muscles more insulin sensitive and slowly over time, you become more and more insulin sensitive(lean mean fighting machine) and less insulin resistant(walking tub of lard).

Why would someone want to prevent obesity-related illnesses when one can prevent obesity itself? If one takes the necessary steps as outlined in the previous problems, I am sure one can slowly but surely fight off obesity for good and live life to the fullest.

*This is just one of my many essay questions that I have written for school work. More coming soon! If there is anything wrong or if there is a need for constructive criticism/feedback just let me know!