My Five Absolute Favourite Exercises

As a personal trainer, I often get asked what my favourite exercises are. Truth be told, that is a bit like asking a doctor what his favourite medications would be. I will never get tired of saying that fitness is a very individual thing.

Without taking you through an individual assessment I’m unable to determine exactly what type of training programme is right for you. Some of the exercises I love might hurt you if you have certain issues or there could be better options for your particular needs.

The bottom line here is that you should work with a trainer to find what the best exercises for you are. But still, to answer the question, here is my personal top five. These are all moves that I use myself, performed correctly, I am sure they will benefit you a lot!

The Overhead Squat

Woman doing ovehead squat

This is a slightly intimidating version of the traditional squat but trust me, it truly is for everyone. More than a simple leg exercise, this one is perfect for mobility training. It’s a great exercise for your legs, but more importantly, the overhead squat trains stability and mobility in the core and shoulders.

It is one of my favourite exercises to use as an assesment tool. When a new client comes into my studios the overhead squat is one of the first things I have them do. Simply performing this movement will show me any tension or restrictions that exist in the hips, shoulders, and back.
Hunched back, rounded shoulders, rigid spine, and weak core are just some of the issues that you can notice. The overhead squat can also help you correct them.

Here is what I love to do. Start without any weight and simply extend your arms over your head. Watch yourself in the mirror while you perform the squat. Be mindful of any tension or pain you feel in your body. Do ten slow and controlled reps and notice what feels uncomfortable.
Is it difficult to keep your arms extended?
Does it create tension in your upper back? Are the fronts of your shoulders feeling really tight?
Or is your lower back taking too much stress?
How is your balance?
Are you able to perform a deep squat or does the tension in your hips, knees or ankles prevent this?
Is your right side tighter than your left in any of your joints?

Everyone will be different. Use this movement to find out more about your own body. Work on the overhead squat focusing on that weak link. Once this has been addressed you can gradually progress things by adding a small amount of weight each time. This way you can improve any issues you have with your posture, prevent back pain, and strengthen your core and lower body all at the same time.

The Deadlift

How do you build lean legs, a sculpted butt plus some solid core? Deadlift. It belongs in everyone´s list of favourite exercises. The deadlift builds upper and lower body strength like no other exercise. It is the quintessential compund exercise. One thing I particularly love about deadlifts is they build strength around ligaments and tendons. Over time this will really protect you from injury.

The flipside here is that technique is crucial. Here are a few tricks to perfecting your deadlift (a.k.a. not wrecking your back):

Keep your back strong and flat, learn to flex forwards from the hips don’t round your back. If you can’t help but round it then you need to lower the weight.

Push, don’t pull. Yes, your upper body will be engaged in the movement but don’t think about lifting with your arms, your glutes and hamstrings should be doing most of the work.
Your feet should always stay flat on the floor, find a position where they are as stable as possible.

Move in time. Make sure your shoulders and hamstrings ascend together. If either lags it means you are using your lower back.

Pull-Ups

Going fancy on equipment is not always the way to go. I believe bodyweight exercises are the true measure of strength. The pull-up in particular is a great benchmark for overall athletic ability.

Learning to use your body is truly empowering. The pull-up is challenging, yes, but it is also very rewarding. Most clients I work with hate it, I admit. At least they hate it at first because it seems impossible. But in fact anyone can progress to a pull-up. Here are the steps that have helped even complete beginners to achieve it:

Start with a row.
Move on to bodyweight row (in an upside down pushup position).
Go for band-assisted pull-ups.
Attempt the real deal.
Progress your training by working with a partner have them assist you to top of the movement and lower yourself down. This eccentric development will turbocharged your pull-up goals!

The Plank

Yet another bodyweight move. The plank belongs in my all-time favourite exerices as the king of abdominal work. Much like the deadlift, the plank is compound, it builds strength to protect you from injury, and it improves your posture big time.

There are studies that show planks to be the single best exercise for abs. They provide 100% activation of your abdominal muscles. Crunches only give you around 60% depending on your technique and the type of crunch.

I recommend planking every day and you will see a serious boost in fitness level in no time.

My secret tip for holding a plank longer is to relax the upper body, draw your belly button in and really focus on the core. When you tighten your abs your entire body becomes more stable. Less shaking means you can stay in the plank for longer. Of course, you have got to start small. 30 seconds to a minute is a good bench mark for a first timer but try to increase that by 10 seconds every other day. You will be surprised at the difference this makes! The goal of a serious “planker” is to achieve a 3 minute hold.

The Kettle Bell Swing

You can`t have a full list of my favourite exercises without mentioning Kettlebells. There are so many options, infinite modifications, ways to target every single muscle on your body. In my opinion, though, nothing can beat the simple, well-executed Kettlebell swing. It is a full-body workout in a single exercise.

What makes the Kettlebell better than other weights? The design. With the handle on top and the weight concentrated in the bottom, the center of gravity is significantly lower. You are forced to use muscles which builds strength and mobility.

The swing is mostly a hip movement, not a shoulder exercise so my biggest advice for you is to loosen up your upper body. If you grip too tight you put unnecessary tension in the back and shoulders. Hold the Kettlebell as you hold the remote control. Strong enough not to drop it but no additional clenching. Focus on the rhythm and really activating your glutes with every swing.

Do you have any favourite exercises of your own? Which of these do you think everybody should include in their workout routine? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Cheers,

David

I’m still standing – health benefits of standing vs sitting

We all know sitting is bad for you and that the benefits of standing are many. But what does your typical day look like? 8 hours of work? At a desk? Then head to the sofa to relax in front of Netflix? Even if you’ve managed to squeeze in a gym session, that’s a lot of sitting in one day.

Yes, it is as detrimental to your health as it sounds. Our sedentary lifestyle could even be slowly killing us! Here are five benefits of standing up once in a while. Each comes with an easy strategy that will help you take action without having to assemble one of those weird adjustable standing desks in your office.

Woman looking in mirror
Standing instead of sitting promotes fat loss

Weight Loss

Most people interact with this blog would love to lose a few pounds. Here is the simplest recommendation – sit less. Your entire body works to maintain your posture when you are standing. The leg and hip muscles are engaged, the back muscles strengthen, your abs contract to keep you from hunching. The main thing to focus on is keeping your abs tense and your shoulders back.

Obviously, the “stand up” workout will not burn hundreds of calories. Over time, though, they will add up – everything counts. What’s more, your balance and range of motion will improve. So will your posture.

A simple way to stand more is to go out for a walk after dinner, instead of retiring to the sofa. A long stroll around your neighbourhood is a wonderful way to reflect on the day. A relaxing walk away from your TV or laptop is the perfect opportunity to get some much needed time to yourself, instead of the distractions of an LED screen. It’ll also help you sleep more soundly.

Improved Posture

Your body posture is one of the key non-verbal cues you give out to the world.

Fit and confident women stand tall and lengthen their stride. Their shoulders are straight and relaxed. They look up and project optimism and power.

Stressed and overwhelmed people hunch, they lift their shoulders, they collapse over their heels.

 If you have great posture you look much slimmer and definitely more attractive. Unfortunately, juggling the demands of work, life, and family does not leave a lot of time to think about posture. Spending hours on end in your chair is not much help either.

What does help, is taking short stand up breaks.

At work, every once in a while stand up, walk around, go to the bathroom, go and talk to your colleague instead of sending an email etc. When you spend some time standing up, your core and leg muscles will tighten. Even if you sit back down for another 30 minutes you will be more mindful of your posture.

Over time, this helps you build the muscle foundation for a confidence.

Your Internal Organs Work Better

Internal organs align
Standing aligns your intermal organs

Humans are not designed for prolonged periods of sitting. The 9-5 office job is a fairly new invention. Your body is an amazing machine but you are not using it correctly if you spend a long period of time sitting.

When you sit, your blood moves more slowly. It brings less oxygen to the brain and cognition becomes sub-optimal. In extreme cases, the lack of movement puts you at a higher risk of developing a blood clot. Women who are sedentary have double the risk of developing a deadly pulmonary embolism over time.

One of the greatest benefits of standing more is your organs become aligned properly once again.

They can function best and you will feel your best. At home, consider a standing desk. While this might not be an option at your job, your home office should be suited to your needs. Think about getting one for your children as well as it not only prevents health issues further down the line. It can also help them concentrate better and for much longer.

Your Muscles Get In Top Shape

Fit woman sitting
Sitting less keeps your muscles in top shape

Over time, a sedentary lifestyle causes your muscles to seize up. If you are not using them regularly (during workouts and in your daily life) they lose range of motion, power, and functionality. This puts you at risk for injury and it makes training less effective. Even a great fitness program can be negated by sitting too much.

Besides obviously limiting time spent sitting, you can also look up exercises that reverse the detrimental effect. A couple of simple stretches after work might do the trick. I always encourage my clients to establish that habit. I have found that the ones who do have significantly better results.

And so the bottom line is – sit less if you want to be slimmer and happier! By taking steps to overcome your sitting habit you will improve virtually all aspects of your health and fitness. You don’t have to give up your lifestyle, either. Aim to make small lasting changes. Ultimately, they will make the difference and help you reap the benefits of standing.

Do you have any questions for me on this? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Cheers,

David

Writing things down

The upcoming beach season brings almost as many people to the gym as New Year’s resolutions do in January. Many of my new clients come with very specific goals in mind. I only wish they’d get into the habit of writing them down.

My favourite ‘hack’ I ask my clients to try it to write down what they want to achieve to give them a powerful vision of the future that they can continually work towards. It’s highly effective and even though it sounds simple, most people don’t do it!

Writing goals down moves you closer to your goals

Write it down.

Does it sound a bit too good to be true that you can write something down at it will actually come true?

There’s been a lot of research on this. A lot of studies have shown that those who write their goals down are much more likely to achieve them. One specific study do in the University of California found that those who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them!

The simple act of writing down your goals almost doubles your chances of actually making it a reality!

In my work with clients and on my gym floor, I have seen *incredible* transformations.

What all of those people that actually succeeded had in common is they had commitment. What they also had in common is that they wrote their goals down. 

Over the years, I came up with a very specific strategy to help each and every person I work with achieve that level of dedication.  Here is the exact technique I would like you to follow and why it will work for you:

Is it corny? Yes. Is it effective? Yes.

Start With a Specific Goal

Example goal 1: By 1 August 2017, reduce my body fat percentage by 3%.

Example goal 2: In two weeks’ time I will fit into those jeans I used to love.

Great goals are detailed, measurable, and they have a time limit. You have to be very honest about what exactly it is that you want. Vague goals will not cut it.

The reason behind this is vague goals are uncertain and leave a lot of room for manoeuvre. Your brain would rather keep you inside your comfort zone. When you don’t have a clear goal, you will be constantly overwhelmed. In fact the brain is at its happiest when you have a goal and you are regularly making positive progress towards it.

Unfortunately, procrastination is the most common way your mind deals with overwhelming situations. When a specific goal exists, the uncertainty is out of the equation and so is the anxiety. You can focus all of your mental energy on achieving that goal.

Don’t be too ambitious with time frame or size of goal

Avoid being rash or trying to achieve things too quickly.

Don’t crash diet to try to reach your goal on an accelerated time frame, you’ll end up worse off than when you started because you’ll miss your target and feel like you’ve failed.

Don’t break off more than you can chew either. A big part of my philosophy is doing one small thing first to feed a positive feedback loop. 

If your goal is to ‘tidy your bedroom today’ and you do it – you’ll be amazed how this small action can create an amazing positive feedback loop.

Word It Right – be positive

It’s all possible if you’re positive!

Only use positive sentences in your goal.

Instead of saying ‘I want to get rid of cellulite‘, say ‘I want toned upper legs and smooth skin.’ These are not the same for your subconscious mind. The first one tells you that there is something wrong. It creates negative emotions and negative self-talk. The underlying message is that you are not good enough.

The second option does quite the opposite. It empowers you. It creates a positive vision to work towards, rather than a negative image that you are trying to run away from.

To make this goal even better, use a verb for action rather than desire.

I am working toward toned upper legs and smooth skin.

or

I am in the process of achieving toned upper legs and smooth skin‘.

Not only does this further empower you it makes the goal a reality. Once your subconscious mind accepts that the goal will come true it is much easier to keep pushing to achieve it.

Every goal you have (in your fitness journey or in your life in general) will cause you discomfort. To protect you from the discomfort, the brain builds resistance against the goal. That resistance is what makes the first step the most difficult.

By wording the goal to sound like you are already on your way to achieving it, you effectively trick your mind into thinking that the first step has already been made. This supercharges your motivation and your commitment to the goal.

Put It Where You Will See It

Putting goals by your bathroom mirror increases the chances you’ll follow them!

You want to have a constant reminder of that vision you have for yourself. If you enjoy keeping a diary or a physical planner, put your goal on the front page.

If not, another great option would be the bathroom mirror. It might sound weird but it is much more efficient than the traditional ‘sticky note on the fridge’ method.

Think about it. Every morning and every evening you will spend at least 3 minutes actively thinking about your goal. The power of this daily reminder is intense. It creates a sense of urgency. This is at the core of building lasting motivation.

Break It Down Into Mini Goals

Now that you have your large-scale goal set and visible, it is time to create an actionable plan. Your plan will consist of smaller goals. You want to constantly challenge yourself a little more than you had yesterday. This is what effective workout plans are based on. They are nothing else but a step-by-step instruction to reaching your fitness goal.

I enjoy helping clients put together goal plans in a checklist format. This way every workout feels like a milestone, which it truly is. You are much less likely to skip workouts if you feel the rush of achieving a bit more than you had yesterday.

Remember to write your goals down and if you have any questions or ideas, leave them in the comments below!

Cheers,

D

The Top 7 Ways People Waste Time At The Gym

I get it: you’re really busy juggling work life, home life, having your own life and trying to squeeze a regular gym routine into this busy schedule!

But, simply turning up at the gym isn’t enough, if you’ve only got a few hours each week to dedicate to your training, then make it count. There are plenty of ways to waste your time and I see so many of them virtually every day.

I don’t want you to make those mistakes!

Here are my 7 top ways (not) to waste your time at the gym…

 

Long Slow Cardio

When I ask a new client what they usually do at the gym, I virtually always hear, “the treadmill or cross-trainer for 20-30 minutes and then some weights…” Who made this programme up that everyone seems to follow? I’d love to find them and slap them!

This is honestly such a bad idea and for a number of reasons…

It is a common misconception that you should spend a certain amount of time doing long, slow cardio during every training session. The truth is that you need to do exercise that is of a high enough intensity to make a positive change. Whether that would be strength training or ‘cardio’ does not matter. Both will make your heart stronger.

Long, slow cardio does not help your muscles grow. In fact, it can even slow down the results. The optimum time to train is around 45 minutes (I’ll go into more detail on this in later articles). So, when you do 30+ minutes of cardio before a workout, fatigue will set in. You will not perform as well during the strength portion. This means you will not hit your muscles as efficiently, you won’t see as much improvement in strength, and you will not build muscle. Since increasing your lean muscle mass is what ultimately keeps you looking slim and toned, you really don’t want to miss out on it.

Pink Dumbbells

Pink dumbbells do literally nothing – give them up

I get it, you don’t want to get bulky. Yes, those pretty pink dumbbells are less intimidating, but you have no reason to fear heavier weights. Think about how much a baby weighs and you girls sling one of them on your hip while you get on with that thing called multi-tasking that us guys have no concept of!

Believe me, you will NOT become too bulky as a woman because your biochemical makeup does not allow it and if you only use the pink dumbells you won’t challenge your body enough to change.

When I create a workout program for a client, the main goal is to keep challenging them. If your body is not under enough pressure to perform better, it will not change. The pink dumbells are simply too light to produce the body’s response. You have to really hit your muscle deep or else it will not make a difference.

Time under tension is a must for your weights workout.

The Recumbent Bike

Chilling out in the gym is a chronic waster of time

I do not know why they even put these at gyms. The only case where I would recommend the recumbent bike is if you are recovering from some serious neck or back issues. Otherwise, it is a complete waste of time.

First off, steady state cardio is virtually pointless. More importantly, people prefer the recumbent bike because they are more comfortable. You can scroll through Instagram while you are “exercising”! This is not efficient exercise and it won’t even get your slightly out of breath! So please, move on to another machine.

Hip Adductor /Adductor Machine

More time wasting

I get it, the image on the side of the machine shows you that this is the best machine to tone your butt and develop that elusive thigh gap! But don’t believe the hype. The hip abduction/adduction machines are not only inefficient, they are also dangerous. The muscles that they work don’t typically engage in an isolated exercise. Their job is to keep you stable while doing a complex movement. Just in general, isolation exercises are not a great way to go. Ditch this now and learn to squat properly!

Checking Your Phone

Don’t be tempted to check your phone in the gym!

One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing people simply sitting on the machine and scrolling through their emails. Seriously, can people not bear to be away from their mobiles for even half an hour? The gym should be time for you, away from distractions, away from work and away from whatever other people are up to on social media!

Just looking at it during rest periods doesn’t count either! Use that time effectively. Drink water, slow your breathing down, log your workout, stretch and then prepare to go again.

Not Recording Your Workouts

If you have a personal trainer they will do that for you. Even so, I still encourage my clients to keep a workout journal.

The basic premise, if you are working out by yourself, is to:
1. Before the workout, write down exactly what you are going to do.
2. Record your weights and the number of reps and sets you perform
3. After the workout, review how you feel.

It is as simple as that. You do not want to spend too much time on it but workout tracking is an amazing way to ensure that one way or another, you achieve progress in every session.

Going In Without a Plan

It usually happens in January. People would rush into their local gyms determined not to break their resolution this year. By February hardly any of them is a regular.

The harsh truth about exercise is that you will not see results when you want them to appear. It will take persistence. The trouble is if you don’t have a plan, you will struggle to keep up the good work. Not only that but once you do start to see results, you will often hit a plateau (as you have gotten used to a routine that no longer challenges you).

If you want your time at the gym to count long-term, make a long-term plan. Set monthly goals, or even bi-weekly goals. You can take inspiration from workout plans online. Keep in mind, however, that these are geared to the general public and might not fit your specific needs. Research and ask a lot of questions. This blog, for one, is a space where I would love to help you out with any doubts you might have. Just leave them in comments!

Stop wasting your time and make each workout count!

Good luck.

David

The Power of the workout partner – Accountability = Results!

The Power of Having a Workout Partner

In my opinion, most people don’t hire a personal trainer for his or her knowledge and experience, at least not at first.

They have often tried numerous times to get fit on their own, had multiple gym memberships (that have rarely been used!) and obsessed over online diet plans, training programmes and social media “gurus” but little has changed. They just can’t stay focused on their goals and sadly, never achieve their dream body.

It’s not that they don’t have the resources to succeed, it’s all too often, the persistence that they tend to lack.

Those that have personal trainers know that they serve the key role of increasing PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY – which I believe is the key ingredient in the success of your health and fitness goals.

If you don’t have access to a Personal Trainer at present, there is a very simple thing that you can do right now to increase the likelihood that you will not fall back into your bad habits and quit after two workouts… Find yourself a workout partner!

You Become The Person You Spend The Most Time With

It’s catching

Harvard University researchers found that obesity can be contagious. If you spend time with people who don’t treat their bodies right, you are more likely to overlook your own diet and fitness. The reverse is also true. By surrounding yourself with happy, healthy people you will see your own habits start to change.

Sometimes it’s difficult to cut out friends and family who lead an unhealthy lifestyle but you can always add new ones that will encourage you to make a positive change.

Your chosen workout partner should be somebody that is actively working toward the same goals as you are. Seeing their dedication is often enough to make you more persistent. This sort of positive peer pressure comes in incredibly handy when you are first starting out and you need all of the momentum you can get.

Working out with friends is a great way to increase accountability

Accountability and Motivation

I often tell my clients to treat their gym session as they would an important work appointment. While this change of mindset can be incredibly beneficial, you are still more likely to cancel a workout session than a business meeting. It is much easier to cancel when nobody else is involved.

When you have a workout partner, your plans immediately become more difficult to cancel. Not only do you let yourself down, you let them down too.

Whats more, even if you choose to have a remote workout partner or a remote PT,  psychologically knowing that you have an agreement and you would be letting them down if you don’t put in the time doing the work (nutrition or exercise) is a powerful motivator.

In terms of accountability, I have never seen a tool quite as effective as having another human to “answer to”. There are so many progress tracking systems — mobile or desktop apps, keeping a journal, ticking off days where you work out and trying to keep a streak etc. These are all much easier to lie to than a  person.

Simply having a living breathing person to check in on you makes you much more responsible in doing what you said you would do.

Finding a workout partner 

Friends

In an ideal world, we would all have a loyal friend willing to embark on a body transformation journey with us. Friends work well if your ambitions are aligned and you are roughly on a similar level in terms of fitness and motivation. Avoid a big mismatch in ability or fitness levels because it will just leave one of you demoralised and the other under-challenged. The great thing about working out with friends is you are less likely to ditch them or somehow escape when the going gets tough!

The gym class hero

Gym-organised workout or yoga classes can be a great way of meeting potential workout partners

We all have different routines and chances are that your current goals are different than those of your friends and family. Maybe you want to try proper weight lifting but all of your friends are stuck on doing hours of low intensity cardio.

Well, an simple way to get a fitness buddy is to simply start a conversation with someone at your gym. This tends to feel less awkward if you are taking a class together.

So perhaps at your next yoga or spinning class you might want to suggest buddying up with someone to spot you for the *really* effective stuff of weight training.

Training with a trainer

Personal trainers provide an excellent source of motivation, accountability and friendship

As I alluded to above, training with a personal trainer can be beneficial for a great number of reasons. They can help you define a proper training and nutrition  programme and increase your personal sense of accountability.

And if you are already working with a personal trainer, you could ask them to recommend a workout partner. Considering they know your personal fitness goals and interests better than anyone else, personal trainers are the perfect workout buddy matchmakers!

If you’re a personal trainer yourself (or want to know what to expect from an excellent personal trainer) check out my book.

Trusted online programmes

Most of what is online and on YouTube is wishful thinking and designed by its very nature to get clicks. It’s really tough to know exactly who you can trust online.

With that being said, home coaching products with accountability built in to the system itself can be highly effective. That’s why my own online training programme is for those who want to get a head start but also seek credible advice from someone with realistic claims that is not just trying to make a quick buck online!

Free copy of the Can DO Plan

With all of the above in mind, I am looking for women to get an advanced free trial of my online video trainer, the Can DO Plan. There are currently four spots left so please do get in touch. This will feature not only hours of video content that comes in the Can DO Plan but a free hour phone consultation with me at the outset of the programme to make sure you get the most out of it and regular ‘accountability calls’ with me to see how things are going – just email me on david@davidosgsthorp.com with a short note on your fitness goals and we’ll be in touch with the winners of the free places.

Cheers,

David

The overlooked benefits of stretching – You will be amazed when you try it.

Let’s face it – stretching is the least glamorous and the most overlooked part of your workout. You probably hear mixed messages around stretching and whether it’s all a bit outdated now. Some professionals prioritise so called mobility techniques and using foam rollers, but I’m still a big fan of stretching and in this article I’m going to discuss the amazing health benefits of stretching!

Improve your flexibility, optimise your health

Flexibility

This might seem obvious but a well-designed stretching routine is the best way to improve flexibility. Because most of my clients work desk jobs, they tend to have problems with muscle stiffness, back pain, and headaches that can all be tracked down to poor flexibility. Having a sedentary lifestyle means that over the years you will see your flexibility decrease much more than it naturally would for an active person.

Low flexibility means a smaller range of motion, less effective workouts, and a higher risk of injury. The stiffness in your neck muscles can lead to a poor circulation to your brain which then translates into excruciating headaches. Finally, as you get older, you are more likely to experience postural problems which is why I always encourage my clients to do plenty of stretches to free up their lower back and hips as they can effectively prevent lower back pain with the correct approach.

Improved Blood Flow

When you perform dynamic stretches before a workout, you increase the blood flow to your muscles. This improves performance significantly and it also reduces the soreness afterwards. The benefits of improved circulation go even beyond that. It also promotes cell growth, function, and recovery in your muscles even post-workout. Not to mention that an increased blood flow is great for your brain and it will boost mood and productivity throughout your day.

Decreased Stress

Stretching can be a powerful way to decompress. I usually tell my clients to always stretch after a long day, even if they don’t do any other workout. Stretching helps you tune back into what your body is telling you. When you are busy, you can often get too worked up about all the things you need to achieve. A nice stretch once you are back from work allows you to unwind and notice those tight spots in your body that have developed throughout the day and to work on releasing that tension.

Stretching helps you stand taller and straighter, and makes you look leaner!

Better Posture

Stretching lengthens your muscles and soothes the tension buildup. When your muscles are more flexible, they are less likely to pull you into unnatural positions. An example I like to give for this are the muscles in your shoulder region. The ones responsible for rolling the shoulder inward are much stronger than those that roll it back. In some athletes, the muscle imbalance causes a visible change in posture.

Even if you are far from that point, chances are you still have your shoulders more hunched than they should be. This can be helped quite easily with a few stretching and lengthening exercises. An improved posture can prevent so many health issues and it will even make you feel more confident and productive.

How to Build a Stretching Routine?

Not all stretching exercises were created equal. There are numerous different stretches you can incorporate into your routine. When I work with clients, I always customise their stretching routines to their particular needs and goals. However, even if you are not working with a professional trainer, you can build a basic set of stretches that works for you. Here are the main types of stretches to include:

Static Stretching

Static stretching is your most basic sort of a stretch. You extend the muscles as much as you can and maintain the position for at least 30 seconds. If you are using an outside force to help with the stretch, then this is passive static stretching. This outside force could be anything from gravity, to an elastic strap, or even a partner. Active static stretching is when you are contracting the muscles that do the opposite movement to the ones you want to stretch. For instance, if you contract your triceps, your bicep will stretch.

Static stretching is perfect as a cool-down exercise. After a workout, your muscles are warm and very elastic. If you continuously challenge yourself with stretches after a workout, over time you will see a very impressive increase in your flexibility as well as overall performance.

Incorporate dynamic movement into your stretching routine

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is geared around sports specific training and all about controlled movement through an exercise that mimics what you will do during the rest of your workout. I tell my clients to focus on control rather than speed when they are doing these stretches. The point here is to condition your muscles to maintain proper form as well as to improve range of motion, circulation, and mobility.

Some of my favourite dynamic stretches before a workout are twisted lunges, inchworms, and variations on the sun salutation. On rest days, I recommend doing relaxing yoga flows as they provide great full-body dynamic stretching.

When Should You Stretch?

Whenever you feel that you need it. Stretching comes naturally to animals and humans alike. Stretch right after waking up, when you start to feel stiff at your desk, and definitely before and after your training sessions. Stretching in some way will always make you feel better and if anything makes you happy do more of it!

If you have any questions about stretching please leave them in the comments below.

Thanks,

David