Friday, September 11, 2009

Thanks for checking in!

My latest blog can be found on my site, here:

http://maxwellsc.com/blog.cfm

Best,
Steve

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tales from the Hotel "No-Tell"...

My blog has moved onto my site!

Come check out my latest post (and see what goes on behind closed fire doors) here.

http://www.maxwellsc.com/blog.cfm?blogID=1

Let me know what you think!

Best,
Steve

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

By the Sea, By the Sea--My Kettlebell & Me



All hype aside, the kettlebell is an extremely convenient training modality. Lately I've been doing a cycle of body weight training but with my up-and-coming kettlebell certifications it's time to dust off the ol' KBs and start working my kettlebell skills and work capacity. I break training down to two basic forms of resistance: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic exercise means using your own body for resistance while extrinsic involves moving an external weight. Since most athletes do both, it's important to develop both skills. As I said, I consider kettlebells the most convenient form of extrinsic strength training, offering such a complete workout there's little reason to do other types of (extrinsic) weight training. (The only proviso I'd add to the above statement is occasional heavy object lifting, which teaches the invaluable skill of round-back deadlifting, my preferred objects being large stones, rocks and sandbags.)


For most people--most of the time--kettlebells offer everything you'd ever want for a functionally fit and proportioned, lean physique, plus work capacity. The past two weekends I've spent at Oceanside Harbor Beach with my bikini-clad aide de camp--who happens to be my biggest fan. This last weekend included more barefoot beach running and kayaking in the sunshine and fresh air. There's a piece of playground equipment on the beach that's perfect for Pull-Ups and as a bonus, the sand provides an especially unstable and challenging terrain for kettlebell workouts--what more can an ol' coach ask for?

I offer you this: all you need is a single kettlebell to get a fantastic workout. Their versatility never ceases to amaze me. I'm a lucky guy who doesn't engage in a nine-to-five, so I've ample time to concoct cool variations with which to torture my online clientele and seminar attendees. This weekend I performed two terrific, single kettlebell workouts and I joyfully share one with you now.

This workout, Workout "A" is designed for core conditioning and strength.

Workout "A" involves working the front thighs with one of my favorite movements, the Hack Squat, a move in which even a light kettlebell is quite demanding. I'm pretty strong in the Hack Squat, but I recommend you start out with caution, especially if you're new to this move. Even body weight Hacks are an excellent start. The Hack differs from the Hindu Squat in that it lacks momentum or bounce. In fact, the secret to doing safe Hack Squats is maintaining high-tension in the feet, calves, hamstrings, glutes and thighs for the duration--do NOT relax at the bottom, but actually attempt to press the calves hard against the hamstrings. This high-tension effort will pay off richly with rock-solid stability at the bottom, plus great conditioning in the feet, ankles and calves.



Hack squats do a real number on the front thigh, particularly at the insertion point above the knee. I suspect this is one reason why in my 45-plus years of grappling, I've suffered relatively few knee injuries in a sport rife with them. But Hacks only hit half of the equation--those all-important hamstring, glutes and lower back making up the second half--and nothing hits those quite like the kettlebell Swing. I like the alternating hammer swing, done with the thumbs up (the same way an MMA fighter or grappler grips up with an opponent). Turning the thumbs up produces great conditioning of the forearm muscles nearest the elbow and giving the kettlebell a little toss then punching the hand out when grasping the handle, provides dynamic grip strength. This is a similar action to the grip fighting used in Judo. These two movements--the Hack Squat and kettlebell Swing--hit every aspect of the lower body, making a beautifully balanced workout.



The next three moves are core intensive, offering a complete workout for the musculature of the upper torso. The first is another favorite of mine, the Crush Push-Up. It's easy to fudge this by placing the heel of the hand atop the bell, but better to grasp the sides of the bell, pushing hard with the hands for tremendous crushing action in the upper body. Another bad habit in the Crush Push-Up is failing to straighten the arms in the top position--make sure to lock out the arms with pit of elbow forward and point of elbow toward the feet--this alignment takes pressure off the shoulders and increases tension in the pecs, lats and triceps.



Notice in the video how my butt is slightly elevated--keep the sternum directly above the kettlebell, which necessitates elevating the butt slightly higher than the regular push-up plank position and creates more tension in the core.

I like to superset Crush Push-Ups with kettlebell Plank Rows. The video shows me with two kettlebells of the same size, but they are actually different weights (26kg & 17kg.) These are hollow competition kettlebells I fill with spare change and use as piggy banks. For those doing the KB Plank Row with only a single bell, post the supporting hand on a rock, curb, mound of sand, or your girlfriend's sweet butt. Ideally, the support hand is at the same height as the opposite hand on the kettlebell handle. Perform all reps with one arm first (on your non-dominant side) then switch yourself around and perform equal reps with the other arm. Minimize any twisting in the torso and keep the feet perpendicular to the ground, never turned out.


The fifth exercise is the KB Hot Potato drill. The Hot Potato is unparalleled for working the obliques and intercostal muscles. The key is to marry the elbow to the side ribs--so that the elbow and structure of the body become one, as it were. (And to you young guys, this is the only marriage I'd recommend in this world!) Like most marriages, it's a deceptive exercise, thus tougher than it might appear. I repeat: you'll feel tremendous action in the intercostals and obliques. Also, watch the mouth and teeth in this exercise--you can smash the teeth, but good, with an airborne kettlebell--so keep the mouth closed while breathing through the nose.


Perform the Crush Push-Up, KB Plank Row and Hot Potato in a circuit fashion (i.e., going from one to another without rest) for rounds. Do as many rounds as you can in 15 minutes. You'll be pleased with the results!

When I finished this workout I was bathed in sweat. My muscles were pumped and swollen with veins showing everywhere. A few kids, who were watching the whole time--and obviously entertained--inquired my age and when I told them I had 56 years, they outright disbelieved and challenged me. This is what the Maxwell training system can do for you, too: keep yourself forever young and keep 'em always guessing!

Yours in Strength & Health,

Steve

Of interest:
  • I was recently interviewed by Caleb Queern for the FightWorks Podcast and you can listen here.
  • You asked for it, New England, and now you've got it! I'll be at the Dynamic Strength & Conditioning Gym in Nashua NH presenting a kettlebell workshop and MaxBells Body Weight Trainer certification 12 & 13 September. Come join us! Our host, Kevin Buckley, is a great guy and between him, me and the awesome facility, you're sure to be inspired!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Celebrate Your Independence!


Reading the popular fitness rags, I've noticed a trend of both "training on a budget" features as well as a push toward home exercise equipment. Interesting that with the so-called downturn in the economy, The Wall Street Journal reports the home exercise equipment business sales are increased, as well as fitness DVDs. People no longer wish to pay big money to join gyms not maintain memberships yet still they grasp the value in keeping up their fitness regimens. In an article I read in Scientific American, money isn't even the prime indicator of happiness; those who'd created a high level of physical health and fitness for themselves were 30% happier than the mean.


Well, the best gyms are plentiful and free, and what I propose is going sans equipment, using the all-access gym already conveniently located in your neighborhood. You've probably walked by this gym countless times without giving a second thought. It's always open--never closes--and no contracts required. What is this place? It's the friendly neighborhood playground of Anytown, USA. But not confined to the USA! I've seen beautiful outdoor playgrounds in Germany, Austria and I'll never forget the idyllic Akuyeryi, Iceland where, working out at 11 PM it was still daylight.

In a playground there's almost always some type of pipe or pole enabling various pulls and with a little imagination you can get yourself a whole-body workout. Here are a few examples of things I've done:

  • Incline Push-Ups with my feet on top of a slide
  • Neutral Grip Chin-Ups on a monkey bar
  • Handstand Push-Ups with feet balanced on the swing set support
  • Alternating Pistols using the swing set support
  • Hand Walking a horizontal pipe on the swing set cross pole
  • Glute-Ham Raise with feet beneath the slide
  • Pike-Up with the feet on a swing seat
  • Parallel Bar Dip atop a horizontal ladder
  • Hanging Leg Raise using the top support of a baby swing
  • Incline Sit-Up on a see-saw
...to name a few.

The limit, as ever, is your imagination. Next year, I'll be presenting a seminar on outdoor, natural training with my friend Dominik Fleischl, who (like myself) specializes in these things.

To give an example of what can be done with very little, this past 4th of July weekend, the ol' Coach (and his teen protege) went on a vacation (from their quasi-vacation lifestyle) to beautiful Oceanside Harbor Beach, Oceanside CA.

On day one, we rose with the seagulls and took a morning constitutional about the grounds. The walk took us to a jetty made up of boulders of all shapes and angles. Taking great advantage of a barefoot-training opportunity, we hop-scotched from rock to rock out the the end. Later in the day was a barefoot run down the wide, sandy shoreline, all the while playing dodge-the-munchkins. The beach was extremely crowded, effectively a dynamic obstacle course between kids, dogs, old ladies, fast moving waves and intermittent stony footing. Interesting that despite the debris continually washing up, we never once experienced any insult to the feet. It's amazing how,
when relied upon, the foot will find the correct placement. It was all dodging, darting and jumping--both forward and laterally--and occasionally sprinting with the waves, not to mention the resistance offered the ankles, calves and thigh muscles by the soft sand. The run was followed with a pleasant recovery walk, ocean bathing and a post-workout shake, followed an hour later by a sumptuous sit-down meal in the van dining hall. (All right, it was a day-old a rotisserie chicken of which I consumed meat, skin and bones!)

Later, as the sun descended in the sky, the moon taking his place, we took off again, this time on the Brompton folding bikes, for a light, post-prandial ride. Light movement like this is extremely settling to the digestion without overworking the system. It's also simply a fun way to tour the harbor area without a motor vehicle.

So, here we got more than enough cardio without ever stepping on a treadmill, elliptical nor stationary bike. We got ample fresh air and sunshine while developing our athleticism, coordination and grace, all the while getting a great workout--something you can't do on gym machines.

Day two has the coach arising once more at the dawn's early light in order to beat the hot dog-eating hordes. Since my thighs were trashed from running in the surf-n-sand yesterday,
I'm due for an upper-body pulling workout and there's a nifty outdoor beach playground just nearby. As the sun approaches its zenith (so the munchkins will be driven off the equipment), so I approach the overhead bar. Since I've been working on ladders and the A-B-C program, I haven't done straight sets of Pull-Ups in some time, thus I decided to test my pulling prowess...

The bar I selected,
being ~2-1/2" thick, was altogether less-than-ideal. It also had some strangely shaped handles welded to it. The painted surface was old and rusted--not slick--which afforded me some good grip purchase. I'm proud to say I performed 20 dead-hang/no kipping/throat-over-the-bar Pull-Up reps.

I am proud of this effort. At 56, this puts me in the 99.9 percentile for upper body pulling power.

Even though my arms were trashed, for the next 20 minutes I performed alternating sets of a variety of Push-Ups and Pulls.

I finished the workout with Elephant Walks, Hanging Leg Raise, and Horizontal Hand-Walking on the overhead pole.






(I'm compelled to mention that I'm unsatisfied with my technique in the hand walk--I can see a hesitation in the movement--but I injured my shoulders some months ago playing jiu-jitsu and they are still in the last stages of recovery.)


These were further finished with three static-contraction exercises:

Side Elbow Plank (2 min each side)
Isometric Crocodile (2 min)

By the end, my whole body was shaking and my muscles were pumped up to the max, thrilling the gallery of MILF onlookers...

Here's the workout breakdown:

  1. Strict, Military-Style Dead-Hang Pull-Up on a thick bar (all-out max set)
  2. Dive-Bomber Push-Up
  3. Parallel-Grip Chin-Up on the horizontal ladder
  4. Iranian Twisting Push-Up
  5. Chin-Up
  6. Scorpion Push-Up
  7. Feet-Elevated Body Weight Row
  8. Elephant Walk-Out w/ push-up
  9. Hand Walk on horizontal pole
  10. Close Grip Hanging Leg Raise
  11. Side Elbow Plank (L/R)
  12. Crocodile Pose (low push-up position)

This is an excellent upper-body workout which served to balance yesterday's sand run. The rest of the day will be spent with a low-intensity walk on the beach and a swim in the sheltered harbor. None of these things cost me a dime, other than the parking fees, and I enjoyed a workout
superior to anything I could get in a gym.

If I were to add a lower-body component to the above, I'd have done alternating sets of Single-Leg Calf-Raise and Pistols (with or without support), finishing with Back Extension and/or Glute-Ham Raise.

Here's to independence!

In Strength & Health,
Steve



Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nessie Spotted!!







Dinnae feel bad, Nessie.... Coach has bin wrestlin' monsters since ya wer sucklin' at yer mothers teat!--
Stefan "Angus Beef" Milne


I recently enjoyed a wonderful stay in Austria with my friend Dominik Feischl. It was such a great time, my assistant and I didn't want to ever leave! Aside from the fantastic workouts I shared with Dominik and Karl Humer, we also hiked some of the local mountains and swam in picturesque lakes. In my mind, there was simply no way to top it.


Well, I've been wrong before (and I might even be wrong again!) Scotland turned out to be absolutely beautiful! I've been told I lead a charmed life, and apparently some of that charm rubbed off on the Scottish weather because it was sunny, clear and balmy my entire stay. After a body weight and kettlebell seminar at a Dundee fitness club, (enjoy the slideshow on the right) my host (and UK distributor)
Stefan Milne of TOPP1 of took us off on a road trip up to the highlands. First stop: Loch Ness, which I've always wished to see. After a lengthy drive, we were feeling antsy and decided to visit the Loch Ness gym, brought to you by...Mother Nature.

After working up a good sweat hefting and hoisting the shoreline real estate, I indulged in my other favorite pastime, cold water dousing. I've long advocated cold water tempering, especially after hard workouts. Cold water facilitates recovery, skin health and tightness, via improved circulation plus improved muscle tonus and nervous system conditioning. It's also said to improve immunity and, in general, inure you to the elements.

Loch Ness is one of the world's deepest lakes and is incredibly cold. Its temperature varying only a few degrees from winter to summer, incredibly--indeed, it felt colder than the waters off Iceland. Breathtaking. Living in Southern California has softened me up!

Further, wading in the loch is treacherous footing, due to the slippery stones down under. Enjoy the video...be warned I use some strong language on a couple occasions...





Here's a fantastic routine to try next time you're on an outdoor holiday and chance upon a supply of large, smooth stones.

Pick three stones: one as large and heavy as you can lift; one medium-sized; and one smaller stone that you can overhead press.


After a gentle warm-up, start with your largest rock:

1) Perform a series of single-rep Deadlifts. Do 10-20 single reps.
This should be a big, heavy rock that you must struggle with to break free from gravity's grasp.

Rest 10-sec between each rep. Each rep should feel like a near-maximal effort.
You'll notice immediately that deadlifting a heavy rock is waaaaaay different from a heavy barbell!
In fact, a stone only half the load of your best BB deadlift may defy your initial attempts at wresting it from the earth.
You must also crouch down much further in order to get your hands beneath it and have to utilize a round-back deadlift style in order to succeed.

Another surprise is how much bicep is involved in heavy stone-lifting, and even though they're only being used indirectly, you'll get a massive pump in the arms and forearms from grabbing onto a stone. Competitive strongmen find heavy barbell curls are a good auxiliary lift to prepare the arms for the rigors of stone lifting.


2) The second exercise, with the medium stone, involves lifting it from the ground, similar to the deadlift, but now you'll roll the stone up the waist and continue to the shoulder. This movement is called shouldering the stone. You want a heavy enough stone that you'll struggle with in lifting it from waist to shoulder. Make sure to do equal reps left and right and don't be surprised if one side is more difficult than the other. I like to do 5-10 lifts per side, depending on my energy.


3) Next on the list, Clean & Press the stone--without letting it touch the body--using only the power of the arms and shoulders. You might do a series of presses by themselves, then add second set of Continuous Clean & Press, one of my favorite exercises. This can be quite taxing cardio-wise, bringing every muscle of the body
into play.






Other options for a great stone lifting workout:

  • Heft a heavy stone, bear-hugging it to the chest, then take it for a walk.
  • Clean, then hurl the stone as far as you can, using both arms and legs in a giant Push-Press. Jog to the rock, rinse and repeat, going for either time or distance.

These last two exercises add a distance factor, as opposed to simply weight and reps.

I have "pet" rocks all over the world that I hope to re-encounter in my travels. There are great slabs of broken concrete on one of Philadelphia's running trails; a granite boulder on a beach in Rio; a rock along a Baja California beach at kilometer 58 and countless others, steadfastly awaiting my return.

After our workout and the ensuing dousing, the three of us proceeded to Fort William, a picture-book town in the shadow of Ben Nevis.

Next came the William Wallace monument and then Arbroath, on the North Sea.

In Austria, I enjoyed raw milk mixed with raw honey. In Scotland, post-workout fuel takes a slightly different bent, and I fell in love with a new Gaelic mistress: blood pudding (basically blood mixed with oatmeal.)

And while I never did roust Nessie, I did pick up the little monster pictured above and she's proven quite a handful.

So that's the wrap-up. Enjoy the workouts and let me know how it goes!

In Strength & Health,
Steve

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coach's Great Teutonic Adventure!






It's been my great pleasure to meet and work with Bjorn Friedrich, MMA coach and practitioner, as well as kettlebell afficionado extraordinaire. Bjorn chanced upon me over the Internet and imported me (and my body weight training system) to add value for himself and his fighters. Thus was borne my first German body weight instructors certification. The room was at capacity and among the attendees were two noted sports doctors, Dr. Till Sukopp and osteopath Jurek Gobel, both of whom utilize exercise and movement in their therapies. Till is a masterful kettlebell instructor (who's just been ejected from the RKC!) and who's busy launching his own teaching cert out of Cologne. I was very happy to have him, he has much to offer. Bjorn himself was just featured in the European edition of Men's Health and is a poster-boy for MMA, fitness in general, and pretty much everything I stand for.

Participants came to the seminar from as far as Norway and Ireland. Frankfurt isn't known as Airport City for nothing! One of the more gregarious activities of the day was the competition Pull-Up ladder. After meticulously reviewing the details of safety, technique and form of dozens of Pull-Up variations, we tested prowess with some friendly competition. In case you're unfamiliar with it, a competition Pull-Up ladder starts off with one, single rep and adds one rep each round. You go round-robin until you can't hit the required number of reps for the round--then you're out. Everyone is very supportive. When the smoke had cleared, there were two who had lasted through to level 10: yours truly, and one Austrian fellow by the name of Dominik Fleischl. It was the first time in my seminar career that anyone else had survived to level 10, most drop out earlier from the cumulative fatigue of the preceding sets. In truth, it appeared young Dominik could have gone at least two more rounds, up to levels 11 & 12. Your coach knocked out his own last round with a bit of a struggle, yet Dominik worked as smooth...as a gravy sandwich--as you can see below--in fact, as smoothly as he did the first couple of rounds. As it turns out, he's a genuine lord of the pull...but more on that later.

After a full nine hours of experiential goodness, the body weight cert participants left tired but happy. Each was awarded a genuine Maxwell push-up board and attractive and meaningful Level 1 MaxBells certificate.

Next up, Dominik took us home with him to the foot of the Austrian pre-alps! After we disembarked from the train and into his car, we drove through some of the most lovely country I've ever seen. When I rolled down the window, I fully expected to hear Julie Andrews singing from the Sound of Music! Visiting with Dominik was like a summertime Summit of the Masters! Dominik is a former competitive rope climber. Speed rope climbing was a one-time Olympic event, then for some reason fell out of favor and is currently more or less confined to a few die-hards in the Czech Republic.
Dominik and his mentor, Karl (a wild former farm boy from down the road a ways) showed me some unique pulling exercises and their "ABC World Cup" pulling program for increased pulling power. (Clients, be warned...) Karl and Dominik both easily perform One-Arm Pull-Ups and various and sundry other pulling feats. Your coach contributed to the local pool of fitness knowledge with his own know-how of Bulgarian training bag work and guided Dominik in constructing a pair of home-made leverage clubs, sourced from the Austrian version of Home Depot. He was extremely pleased with his home-built clubs and even more so with the routines I demonstrated for him.

It's interesting: strength is a skill and specific to the task(s) at hand. Even though my pulling power isn't quite up to that of Dominik and Karl--who specialize--I easily handled the pair of 15# clubs, with which they struggled. Because I've spent a lifetime in the grappling arts, including working with these types of tools, my circular strength in the wrists, elbows and shoulders is well-developed, as would be expected. You're only good at what you practice and this is just another reminder that you must decide what it is, exactly, that you wish to be good at.

One day, Dominik took us on a strenuous hike up a local mountain, a winding and steep trail which ended overlooking a beautiful lake in the pre-alps. After, we went to another fresh, deep-water lake, seemingly a paradise-like resort for upscale Russians and Germans.

The food in Austria is fresh and plentiful. There is an amazing 24-hour Milch Automat which dispenses fresh, raw milk from grass-fed cows. After each training, we'd drink down an elixir of raw milk and raw honey, possibly the greatest recovery formula ever. Copious and frequent dosing of raw milk is certainly part of Dominik's Nature Training manifesto and it serves him (and me) very well.

Aside from his rope climbing and pulling abilities, Dominik is inordinately fond of stone-lifting a la Steve Jeck, and introduced me to several of his pet rocks. Dominik has constructed his own rustic gym in a cabin abutting an open field. Inside are many cool and amazing implements, including a far-out climbing course for traversing in ape-like fashion, various rings and ladders hung from above. I'd like to share with you Karl and Dominik's ABC program, applicable to many body weight movements. The ABC program was adapted from a practice used by rope climbers and gymnasts in this part of the world.

From a dead hang on the chin-up bar, perform 2 smooth and slow reps.
then
A) pull yourself up 1/4 of the range and perform a 10-second static hold
then
lower down and perform 2 more full reps
then
B) lower to the half-way point (90-degrees) and perform a
10-second static hold
then
lower yourself; perform 2 more complete reps
then
C) hold the top position of the chin-up for a 10-second static hold
then
perform 2 more reps. That's one round.
Rinse and repeat.
Dominik completes two complete cycles of this monstrosity!

In a future blog, I'll discuss how you can apply this ABC preparation work to Dips, Push-Ups and Pistols.

I'd also like to mention that Teresa (who I trained for over a year before she could perform a single chin-up) astounded the boys by knocking off six dead-hang chin-ups; six full ROM/below-parallel Dips; six Pistols per leg and climbed Dominik's rope 3 times in succession without touching the ground...so--no matter who or where you are--there's hope for you, too!

Though the guys of Austria are real studs, apparently the local women are somewhat duds! Neither Karl nor Dominik had ever witnessed a woman performing multiple Chin-Ups nor rope climbing before. They both immediately inquired whether Teresa has any sisters.

My next adventure takes me to the hills and dales of Scotland, where I challenge the the Loch Ness monster to a grappling match!

Yours in Strength & Health,
Steve


video

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stalking the Wild Picnic Table





My inbox is flooded with emails from people asking what to do when they're traveling or otherwise away from the gym. Bringing a kettlebell along is usually not an option and folks using barbells and dumbbells can be stymied when faced with a week or two away from the gym. Further, while many people these days are discontinuing their pricey gym memberships neither they wish to purchase expensive workout equipment.

Well, the good news is that none of the above is necessary--or even desirable--for optimal fitness. The greatest, most efficient piece of workout equipment yet devised is absolutely free--it's your own body. There's only one problem: most people have no idea how to use it! Conventionaly assumed a humble beginners' activity--who then progress to more complicated machinery--I propose the reverse to be true: most people who consider themselves at an advanced level of fitness are unable to perform the most basic of body weight movements (and if they can do them, they exhibit such grievous form and technique as to be painful to even watch, much less empathize with the traumas their joints are undergong!)

In the more enlightened fitness circles, there is a trend afoot, which is to pull your own body weight, but it's been my observation that these well-intentioned Pied Pipers are generally doing more harm than good since they aren't knowledgeable in the ways of protecting the joints, primarily knees, elbows and shoulders.

If the unanticipated demand for my body weight training certifications is any kind of indicator, apparently others out there are seeing the same thing. People are not only eager to learn how to perform these classic exercises themselves but, more importantly, they want to learn how to properly instruct others. Best of all, once you learn and understand my body weight training system, every playground, tree and picnic table becomes your gymnasium. When you master the basic principles I teach, your fitness freedom is bounded only by the imagination.

I love body weight training and the freedom it provides. I've been figuring out this shit since sixth grade! I've learned from yoga masters, Special Ops soldiers, my own military experience, my years as a wrestler and martial artist, plus reading and studying all I can get my hands on. Many of the techniques I practice go back thousands of years, beyond even the golden age of Greece.

On a recent trip to Hawaii, my comely teen protege and I visited the beautiful Waipio Valley. After the strenuous descent, and even more strenuous ascent (in flip flops!) we encountered a large picnic pavilion overlooking this breathtaking valley. Now, you've seen similar pavilions within every city and state park and highway rest stop, well, everywhere. Most people use them as a flimsy excuse to sit down again and eat but the old coach recognizes exercise-rich potential when he sees it! These tables are ideal for impromptu roadside workouts. In fact, some of my most productive, memorable workouts have gone down in far-flung picnic pavilions out in who-knows-where obscurity. I'm not standing in line waiting for the bench press, Dog! I'll not fret about that pool of sweat someone left on the leg curl machine! I needn't even wipe up any of my own sweat I might be leaving! ( In fact, the humble gym towel is a great workout tool in itself and I'll show you a dozen ways to put it to use for a great upper body routine!)

You see, as a dog sees the whole world as a potential chew toy, I see the whole world as a potential workout implement...but back to Hawaii and our impending workout.

After dabbing my brow of the residual sweat from the rigors of the hike, and then a deep drink from the men's room faucet, I swiftly scanned the pavilion roof for a ledge or pipe where I could suspend myself for Pull-Ups--one of my favorite exercises. Hot dang, there was indeed a large, exposed beam running alongside the roof. Some pavilion roofs are hulking steel structures lacking a purchase for the fingers, but this one was perfect: a sizable, rough beam provided a good grip. Because of the grip, ledge (or tactical) Pull-Ups are especially challenging, very closely simulating the type of pulling needed to scale a wall or pull yourself through an open window...as I've done many times when locked out of the house during my thrice-married career. When you've been in as many impassioned relationships as I have, you develop mad cat-burglar skills out of necessity!

After Pull-Ups, next up on the list is the Dive-Bomber Push-Up, which is smilar to the Hindu push-up but for the reversal of the torso trajectory. The Dive Bomber, also known as the "Roller-Coaster" provides a strong shoulder component to nicely balance the Pull-Up's vertical pulling. I followed the Push-Ups with one of a favorite lower body exercise, the Pistol. While I'm fairly flexible and can easily hold my non-working leg up for Pistols, for many people that's a limiting factor. No problem-o, Pistolero, standing on the edge of a picnic table (or ledge) allows you to hang the leg down, so you can get a good squat workout even if you've with stiff hips and hamstrings. Indeed, I consider the picnic table the ideal pistol platform.

A picnic table will also support a superb lower back and hamstring exercise I include whenever possible, which is the bent-leg version of the Glute-Ham Raise. To perform, kneel on the picnic table bench, facing away from--and hooking the heels on the bottom ledge of--the table-top. Your legs will be bent 90-degrees (or more, depending upon the height of the table). As you lean forward from the waist, do not allow the hips to move backward. You will feel a tremendous contraction in the hamstrings as they work to stabilize the hips; the more the leg bends, the more difficult the movement. The hamstrings are work isometrically as stabilizers and the whole experience is fairly brutal. As such, this is one of my preferred body weight hamstring exercises. In the video below, the picnic table offered extremely unfavorable leverage and my hamstrings were literally in their most contracted position, where their strength is weakest, and received a hellacious workout. Carefully pad the knees with this one (I used my flip flops) as considerable pressure is placed on the patellas.

Finish up your workout by enlisting a belt, rope (or partner) to anchor the feet for Back Extensions. I usually tie an old jiu-jitsu belt around the bench, pad my hips with a towel, and perform either static holds or go for reps.

Another picnic table opportunity is the Dragon Flag (pictured above), a deservedly favored abdominal exercise of Bruce Lee. While the abs are working very hard as stabilizers, the Dragon Flag builds strength in the entire body.

Once again, with a picnic table, your imagination is the only limit. I have, upon occasion even turned a picnic table on end and held onto various bits to do my Pull-Ups, a la Sarah Connor exploiting her jail cell bunk as a Pull-Up device in The Terminator.

Besides picnic tables and the overhead kiosk itself, you might look around and see adjacent logs, boulders or large stones for the pickins. One of my most beloved strength exercises with stones is the Continuous-Underhand-Clean-and-Overhead-Press. This is a genuine whole-body builder and, when done in high reps, becomes quite cardio. One of the rules of the ancient Polynesian practice of stone lifting was not letting the stone touch the body during the process, which adds a whole new level of difficulty.

As you can see, no matter where circumstances may find you, there really is no reason to miss a workout.

Attend my body weight trainer certification and you'll learn how to safely and properly perform all of these exercises and more. If you're not yet capable of these movements, you'll learn the progressions to get you there. My next Body Weight Trainers certification is in Germany 14 June (conveniently located near Frankfurt) and while there is a good group already signed up, we're very accommodating here at MaxwellSC and would love to make space for a few more friends.

Let me know about your next roadside workout!

In Stength & Health,
Steve


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