So often training is about repetitions. Pick up a weight, do some repetitions. Jumping jacks for 60 seconds, as many repetitions as you can manage. Reps, reps, reps. But you can train without repetitions. Its called isometric training, its a great strength builder, and it adds a bit of variety to your usual training regime. Its really very simple, all you do is hold yourself in position.
When maintaining a static hold, your muscles accumulate “time under tension.” You can feel your muscles working, and draining of energy. I also like the mental focus, it creates a muscle to mind connection as you struggle to keep yourself in place. Also, because you’re not moving, you’re not putting movement pressure through your joints. With repetitions, you can sometimes cheat the movement by letting the momentum carry you through, you’ll have no such help with a static hold.
Isometric training, a good to addition to any workout routine. Below are a few examples.
I’m often asked what exercises I do. I take it as a compliment. For someone in their 30’s with a 9 to 5 desk job I’m in reasonably good shape. But the answer is never straight forward, I do lots of things, and when my answer gets more complicated than, “this is leg day, this is chest day”, I think people stop listening. So I decided to capture a typical two weeks of my training in the below 3 mins and 30 second video. I try to keep my workouts varied and interesting. Across the 2 weeks I did 18 separate workouts, and missed 4. When planning the week ahead I always plan a perfect week. A prefect week is very rare, life gets in the way. During the two week period that I captured in the video below my wife went away for a few days, my son got sick, and I had important lunch time meetings. Some workouts had to be dropped, and others had to swap places. Don’t stress over missed workouts, and keep the timetable flexible. The perfect week is there to be aspired to, making it a reality is less important. 18 workouts might seem like a lot, but some are only 20mins long. Not every session has to be an hour long with full intensity. A good workout is more about the quality of the movement than its length or intensity. I’m not telling you how you should workout, I’m just showing you what I do and hopefully you’ll find it useful for creating your own goals.
Having a new born in your life makes it harder to fit in exercise. Along with the usual demands in your life, a 9 to 5 job, cleaning, cooking, shopping, eating, you now have the all-hours demands of a baby taking up all your energy. Time is definitely more scarce, but you might also have a new-found desire to stay healthy and active to set a good example for your child, and to keep up with them. Here are some tips:
Find a place to train
When I gave up free-weights I also cancelled my gym membership and moved all my training to the home. I thought this would mean that baby would cause minimum disruption. That was not the case. If I’m at home I’m either with baby or catching up on house chores. I’ve joined a gym near my office to fit in training before work or during lunch. Find somewhere to train thats within walking distance of work, or your home, you can’t waste time commuting.
Have a flexible workout schedule
Bad weather or a traffic incident and the morning bus will crawl into town at a snails pace, add to that a busy day in the office and a fussy baby when you get home and suddenly the pre-work workout you had planned has drifted from 8am to 1pm to 9pm. You’ve got to go along with this and seize your training opportunities whatever the time.
Late nights and broken sleep can mean the you only get a few hours sleep and the next days workout will suffer as a result. Its okay to just go through the motions sometimes, not every workout has to be 100%.
Be prepared to miss some days
I used to say, “don’t let one bad day become two bad days”, now its “don’t let two bad days days become three”. Some workout days will be missed and you won’t catch up, just make sure to get back to it asap.
Bodyweight training is a major advantage with a new born. Operating a flexible schedule won’t be as easy if you need big pieces of equipment like bench presses and squat racks that are only at the gym. Having some equipment-less (or close to it) exercises like wall-walks or parallettes will be beneficial for that 11pm session.
Its all great
Baby changes so quickly that if you hit on a routine that works one week, it can easily become obsolete the next. These challenges are real and baby will get in the way of your training goals. Baby will have a negative impact on your training, but rest assured its absolutely, completely, without a doubt worth it. Being a Dad is the best.
The parallettes have stayed a consistent part of my weekly workout since I first bought and reviewed them. At the time I was looking for ways to bring my training into the home and Mens Health magazine conveniently published an article about the parallettes with some basic exercises you could perform on them. My initial routine consisted of those Mens Health recommended exercises: dips, press-ups, the L-Sit, planche negative press, and handstand press up.
I was enjoying the parallettes but quickly decided I needed more guidance and knowledge than what was contained in that one article I had read. I signed up to GMB’s Parallettes One programme. Parallettes One is a 12-week course divided up into four phases of training that gradually builds up your skills. The ideal candidate for a programme like Parallettes One is someone who is willing to drop what they are doing and focus purely on the programme. I’m not the ideal candidate as I tried to shoehorn the programme into my existing routine and as result, I didn’t give it the attention it maybe deserved.
Having said that, I highly recommend both the parallettes and the GMB programme which provided some much needed structure and guidance to learning, and getting comfortable on the parallettes. Its been great for building upper body strength and control while also introducing new movements. They are a fast and effective workout and don’t require much space, you can even watch TV while you do it. Below is a video of me doing the GMB Parallettes One routine in full – I’m still a long way from doing it with ease, but practice makes perfect.
January is a good time to reflect on my training, and the journey its taken over the years. My initial entrance into the world of exercise was in the free weights section of the gym when I was about 16 years old. I enjoyed lifting weights. I was in the gym 3 to 4 times a week. It helped that I found a kindred spirit that trained with me, we learned together and motivated each other. The Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding was our guide. I got big, but never huge, and in hindsight, I had bigger pecs than a 5ft 9″ human needs, I overdeveloped some areas and underdeveloped others. For years weight lifting was all I did.
I trained in BJJ/MMA for a few years in various places. With John Kavanagh and Chris Bowe in Dublin, and Cesar Lima in London. For a long time this was the only cardio I did and I enjoyed it a lot. But its an expensive and time consuming hobby and required too much of a commitment at the expense of other types of training.
In 2012 I started running. Initially it was because, as a Disney fan, I wanted to run the Walt Disney World half-marathon. It was the novelty of a race through Disneyland that started me running, but I enjoyed the training so much I’ve been running ever since. I followed the Jeff Galloway training programme then, and I’m still using Jeff’s running schedule today.
It was running coaches Rene Borg and Jason Keogh who introduced me to the concept of barefoot / minimalist running specifically, and bodyweight and natural movement training in general. I now only wear minimalist shoes, for running and otherwise.
Following on from the minimalist running, I explored and educated myself in the world of bodyweight training and natural movement. After training with movement expert Ido Portal I no longer saw the need for free-weight training at all. I replaced dumbbells and bench presses with Olympic Rings, Parallettes, pull-up bars, calisthenics, boxing classes, barre classes and exited the gym in favour of my home, studios, and the outdoors.
It’s funny to look back over my training journey. At the beginning I trained exclusively in the gym, lifting weights. Today I don’t lift weights at all or have a gym membership. Its important to keep learning, to not get trapped in a particular training dogma. Stay curious, keep learning, and be willing to drop old routines and embrace new ones.
I’m not a morning person, I think few people are. When my alarm clock rings every muscle in my body is telling me that its okay to sleep in a little longer because I need the rest, and my brain is telling me that a missed workout this morning can easily be compensated for later in the week.
But getting up early is a good habit to get into. The early hours of the morning are a good time to get things done without distraction. The time between when you wake up and when you get to work is ideal for accomplishing personal goals that are not related to your job. I also enjoy starting my day with something other than work because it means that work is something that comes in the middle of my day, but the beginning and end of the day is my time. Preparation and routine are key to being an early starter.
You won’t win every morning, but its worth trying.
Here are some tips to help get started in the morning:
Prepare in advance. This means your alarm is set, clothes ready by the bed, workout equipment set up, and coffee capsule in the Nespresso machine.
Use a motivating Alarm Clock. The standard “beep beep beep” would drive anyone mad. For a long time my alarm clock was set up to play this video. Lately, I’ve been using the Rock Clock. The Rock Clock has no snooze feature, to turn it off you have to hit two buttons, one saying “Get Up”, and then the other “Get After it”. The Rock Clock has a weird psychological effect on me, its seems disingenuous to sleep in after having already confirmed with The Rock that I’m “getting up, and getting after it.”
Have more time than you need. Don’t set you alarm so that you can get up, achieve a personal goal, and make it into work with seconds to spare, this is more stress than its worth. Time should be your friend, no rushing.
Arnold Schwarzenegger once asked and answered the question:
Q: Whats the hardest workout in the world?
A: Someone else’s
The body grows used to the same exercises over time. Getting used to an exercise is a good thing, it shows progress and that your work capacity has increased, but it also means that the same exercises are now less effective. “Less effective” doesn’t mean you should stop certain exercises, as your old routine is still useful for maintenance, even if the gains in fitness are less.
February hasn’t brought a change in the weather and with that in mind I went looking for a new exercise I could do indoors. I found the parallettes. The parallettes are an excellent all round upper body workout, and there is a huge variety of exercises you can do with this simple piece of equipment. I bought mine from Gravity Fitness.
While I’d like to show a video of me being awesome on the parallettes, I thought it would be more fun to show my first attempt as using them. Like Arnold said, someones else’s workout is the hardest workout there is. I tried dips (went well), press-ups (successful), the L-Sit (also good), planche negative press (fail), handstand press up (disaster, I got stuck), and even though I failed at the handstand press, I tried a L-Sit sit through into a handstand (I came crashing to the ground). On the plus side, I really felt the stain and had to exert maximum effort with movements by body just isn’t used to. Looking forward to lots of fun and progress with the parallettes over the coming months.