My First Nutritional Cleanse

In the past, my attitude toward cleanses has typically been some combination of “and how exactly is high dosing cayenne pepper and lemon juice supposed to do anything but destroy your toilet?” and “what the hell is a spiritual cleanse?”  However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence (some real science as well, but it’s not a tremendously well-studied area) that various cleanses and detoxes, when performed correctly with adequate nutritional support, can have a positive impact on health and performance.

I was exposed to Dr. Robert Rakowski’s 7 Day Cleanse a few years ago at my first BioSignature course, when Charles Poliquin explained it as one of the protocols available to practitioners.  Unlike many popular cleanses, this one actually involves more than just a “eat fifty lemons a day for a week” level of simplicity, and has multiple components to support healing of the body.  Here’s a quote I found directly from Charles explaining the cleanse he advocates:

“Before I even get started, I want to be clear in how I define a cleanse. It is the process of improving or increasing the body’s ability to remove toxins from your internal environment. I’m not talking about colonic therapy and I’m not talking about joining Hollywood celebrities at a posh detox center. A cleanse involves reducing the amount of toxins coming into the body and increasing the amount of toxins leaving the body. Another component of a cleanse is to reduce the amount of toxins your body creates which requires adequate nutritional support.”

In essence, here is what is involved:

  • using various forms of medical food powders as the foundation for nutritional support over a 7-day period (best selected based on the individual’s BioSignature results)
  • supplementing with greens and reds “superfoods” and glutamine in between meals to alkalize the body and increase nutritional support of detoxification
  • adding in a limited amount of appropriately selected supplements based on the individual’s needs for the cleanse (examples from the Poliquin line – Yang R-ALA to help chelate heavy metals, P1P2 Balance to support phase II detox through the liver, Magnesium Glycinate and Topical Mag cream to lower cortisol from the stress of detoxing, DIM 2.0 to enhance detoxification of estrogens)
  • various forms of physical activity to increase circulation and help mobilize toxins through the body (strength training, massage, infrared sauna, foam rolling)

I began my first day the day after we returned home from the hospital with our newborn son (because hey, why NOT get it all out of the way at once?) and my daily outline looked something like this:

5am
2tbsp Primal Fiber 2
1tbsp Primal Greens or Reds
1tbsp glutamine
15 BCAA Excellence

7am
2-3 scoops Primal Clear 2.0
1tsp glycine
1 DIM 2.0
1 Calcium D-Glucarate
1 D3 Excellence
2 EPA/DHA 720 Blend
3 Yang R-ALA

10am
2-3 scoops Estrogenomics
1tsp glycine
3 Multi Intense Iron Free
1 Methylator Support
2 P1P2 Balance

12pm
1tbsp Primal Greens or Reds
1tbsp glutamine
1 DIM 2.0
1 Calcium D-Glucarate
1 D3 Excellence
2 EPA/DHA 720 Blend
3 Yang R-ALA
15 BCAA Excellence

2pm
2-3 scoops Primal Clear 2.0
1tsp glycine
3 Multi Intense Iron Free
2 P1P2 Balance

5pm
2-3 scoops Estrogenomics
1tsp glycine
1 DIM 2.0
1 Calcium D-Glucarate
1 D3 Excellence
2 EPA/DHA 720 Blend
4 Magnesium Glycinate

8pm
1tbsp Primal Greens or Reds
1tbsp glutamine
15 BCAA Excellence
4 Magnesium Glycinate

10pm (bedtime)
2tbsp Primal Fiber 3.1
2 ProFlora Excellence
1 pump Topical Mag (applied to the carotid artery)

Each day for 7 days, you also choose 1 green vegetable to eat an unlimited amount of. I shot for at least 3 cups of each veggie per day using the following – broccoli, celery, spinach, zucchini, cucumber, snow pea pods, and asparagus. After the 4th day, roughly 2 cups a day of brown, wild or purple rice are added back in.

For physical activity, you want to do something every day for about 20-30 minutes to work up a sweat and increase circulation, but you do NOT want to increase lactic acid in the bloodstream. I trained 4 days out of 7, picking 2 exercises and doing 10 sets of 3 with short rest intervals. For example,

A1) Heel elevated back squat, 10×3, 40X0, no rest
A2) Romanian deadlift, 10×3, 50X0, 30 seconds rest

I tried to pick weights that I could handily hit at least 6 reps with under normal training conditions. I also did some form of foam rolling every single day for about 10-15 minutes, and did one 30-minute treatment in an infrared sauna to pull out plastics and heavy metals.

I have had a few clients do this before, as well as my wife, and the first few days are typically the hardest (one of my clients once told me she felt like she had been possessed by a demon she was so irritable the first 3 days), but honestly, the entire 7 days was an absolute cakewalk for me. No headaches, no irritability, no cravings, no sprinting for the bathroom to “free the demons,” nothing. When I finished I felt like I could have handled another week of it with no problems. Not everybody tends to be that lucky though, typically 7 days is more than enough time to make changes and see results.

So what results did I see?  During the week my bodyfat dropped from 11.3% to 10.2%, my scale weight dropped from 166 to 158, and promptly rebounded back to 164 within 2 days of eating regular meals, and my training didn’t suffer.  My digestion has also improved and I’ve been able to reduce caffeine intake by about 25% by resting my adrenals for the week.

If you suffer from IBS, extreme fatigue, estrogen management issues, or are likely to have a buildup of toxins circulating in your body (for example, living in a very metropolitan area such as Chicago, Los Angeles or New York), a 7-day cleanse done once or twice a year may be what your body needs to keep progressing.

Get Leaner While Eating Out Part 2: Chain Restaurants

For Part 1 of this series, click here.

We looked at quicker meal options in the first part of this series for those situations where you just need to get a quick lunch or when you’re traveling by yourself and might just want to kick back with something easy to take to your hotel room.  Now, let’s take a look at situations where you may have to go out to a sit-down dinner with co-workers or clients.

One of the things I hear from a lot of nutritional consults that I’ve done is that many people feel pressured into eating a certain way when they go out to business dinners, that somebody may not want to be the odd one out at a table full of their peers.  While understandable to a point, the reality is that you cannot use somebody else as an excuse.  While issues of peer pressure might be difficult to work through when you’re 7 years old and your friends want you to go steal candy from a 7-11 with them, it should not be an issue for a 35 year old adult with a full-time career.  People will always find a reason to give you grief about something you are doing.  It is a fact of life.  However, unless they have agreed to pay for your medical bills when you are diagnosed with an ulcer and Type II diabetes, their opinions mean NOTHING in the long run.

Anyway, back to business.  Let’s take a look at your typical restaurants to see how you can entertain and still stay with your fitness goals.  And remember this key phrase when you find yourself at a restaurant of just about any type: they will make just about anything you ask them to.  Just because a steak, broccoli and sweet potatoes might not be a meal on the menu, if they have dishes that use those ingredients,they will make a special order for you.  JUST. ASK.

But There’s So Much to Eat…

I know, I know.  There’s ten other people with me at this table, and I don’t want to stick out as the party pooper.  So I’m going to do what they do, which looks a little something like this.  First, start with the appetizer 0′ death…

bloomin-onion

…then crush a giant steak with tons of potatoes or french fries…

…and don’t forget to polish it off with some artery-violating dessert…

…then go back to your hotel and do this…

But it doesn’t have to be this way, does it?

How to Survive and Thrive at a Restaurant

I was originally going to go down a list of chain restaurants that are popular for corporate entertainment, but figured it would make more sense instead to give some more fluid guidelines to follow, as there is such a broad spectrum of options that I would never be able to cover it all in one article.  And on the bright side, I am writing this operating under the assumption that you are not the one picking the restaurant and do not have advanced access to the menu.

 Step 1: Ditch the bread.

Sorry, folks, get over it.  If you have control over it, request immediately upon being seated that the server does not bring out the bread basket.  If you’re with half a dozen other people who want it, well… sucks to be you.  But the reality is, you need to have some willpower here.  “I’ll just have one piece” is not going to cut it.

Step 2:  Watch the appetizers.

This is another tough one, but it’s rare to find a safe appetizer when eating out.  Unless you find things like chicken skewers or non-breaded/fried versions of something like calamari, you’ll have to pass.  Instead, scan the menu and decide what it is you want to eat.  Ask that your food be brought out with the appetizer; if that makes you uncomfortable, order your meal and ask that your side salad (with an oil and vinegar dressing, not French or Thousand Island, or God forbid, bleu cheese) come out with the appetizer.  If possible, get a half-portion of grilled chicken on your salad so you have something more substantial until the entree comes.

Step 3: Meat and veggies for an entree.

Doesn’t matter where you’re eating, this should be an option.  Olive Garden?  Get the Mixed Grill with no potatoes.  Red Robin?  Gourmet cheeseburger with a lettuce wrap bun and side salad instead of fries, or the Ensenada Chicken Platter with no ranch sauce.  Don’t see it on the menu?  ASK.  No excuses here, just do it.

Step 4: No booze.

Water with lemon, unsweetened tea, or coffee.  Can’t handle going to dinner and not getting alcohol?  That makes you an alcoholic.  If you’re not an alcoholic, you can make it through a meal without booze.  I don’t care who else is there, alcohol is not an obligation at dinner, or any meal.  If you’re not dieting and just trying to live healthy, 4-6oz of red wine won’t kill you.  But if you want fat loss?  Nope.

Step 5: Dessert?

Fresh berries & whipped cream.  You may have to deviate off the given menu here, but there aren’t many places who don’t use these components in their desserts, so they should be able to accommodate.

Stay the Course

I hear a lot from people who have to eat out sometimes 10, 15, or even 20 meals a week when they’re traveling or because their job requires a lot of corporate entertaining.  If 25-50% or more of your meals are eaten away from your own home, you CANNOT make a lack of willpower your excuse for overdoing it when you eat out, or you will not succeed in changing body composition.  There is no magic trick here.  It would be great if I could give you better answers, but this is how it goes.

Have questions?  Ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer thoroughly.

3 Warmup Templates for Optimizing Performance

As the temperatures (at least here in Chicago) are dipping consistently below freezing every night, it’s time to start putting a little more thought into your warmups than during the hot and sweaty summer months. No longer can you get away with 30 seconds of jumping rope, a couple of high knees, and be off to the races – not unless you would like to help contribute to your chiropractor or orthopedist’s next BMW purchase.

However, as usual, we understand that time is at a premium, and that some of the more drawn-out warmups out there may not be feasible, or even necessary.

What follows are three different warmup templates based on the most common training goals that we work with – fat loss, muscle gain, and strength.

Fat Loss

There are a few things we know about most effective fat loss programs – rest periods tend to be limited, the movements tend to be big, compound lifts that work a lot of muscles at once, and setting personal records on weight lifted is not a primary aim (or at least, it shouldn’t be).

With that in mind, a good warmup should prepare you for an elevated heart rate and warm up all of the major muscle groups and joints, since many fat loss programs use full body workouts each day (or at the very least, varying combinations of upper and lower body exercises).  We’re going to want to include the following three components:

  • two dynamic stretching movements to raise the heart rate (one for the shoulder girdle and one for the hips)
  • some soft tissue work on chronically tight or stiff muscle groups
  • one or two bodyweight strength exercises to prepare the joints and muscles for training

Here’s an example:

Dynamic Stretching

A1.  Shoulder dislocates with PVC pipe or a band – 10-12 reps

A2. Leg swings, forward/back and side-to-side – 10-12 reps each way

Soft Tissue

B1. Piriformis with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

B2. IT band with foam roller – 30 seconds each side

B3. Upper pecs with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

 

Strength Warmup

C1. Bodyweight squat – 20 reps, 2010 tempo (2 seconds down, no pause, one second up, no pause)

C2. Medicine ball slam – 10 reps, X0X0 tempo (fast movements)

Estimated completion time – 8 minutes

Muscle Gain

Training for muscle gain, also called hypertrophy training, typically requires more of a focus on training individual muscle groups with more sets per workout, usually resulting in splitting the body up over multiple workouts.  Therefore, the warmups put more emphasis on preparing individual muscles for a higher workload.

An example for a chest & back workout:

Dynamic Stretching

A1.  Shoulder dislocates with PVC pipe or a band – 10-12 reps

A2. Medicine ball slam – 15-20 reps

Soft Tissue

B1. Lats/upper back with foam roller – 30 seconds each side

B2. Rotator cuff with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

B3. Upper pecs with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

Strength Warmup

C1. Shoulder width pushup or flat dumbbell press – 2 sets of 10 with 50% of max weight, 4010 tempo

C2. Dumbbell pullover – 20 sets of 10 with 50% of max weight, 3210 tempo

Estimated completion time – 12 minutes

Strength

Strength workouts typically involve fewer reps per set, with longer rest intervals and a higher percentage of intensity than other types of training.  The dynamic components and soft tissue work are similar to the other two templates, but the strength warmup works a little differently.  Also, rather than being split into bodyparts, workouts are usually grouped based on movements, with some variation of either the three power lifts (bench press, squat, or deadlift) or a variation of an Olympic lift (clean & jerk, snatch) as the primary focus for the session.

Along with dynamic and soft tissue movements, the strength warmup typically involves multiple low-rep sets of the first one or two movements being trained that session.  For example, on a day devoted to the bench press, the warmup might look like this:

Dynamic Stretching

A1.  Shoulder dislocates with PVC pipe or a band – 10-12 reps

A2. Medicine ball slam – 15-20 reps

Soft Tissue

B1. Lats/upper back with foam roller – 30 seconds each side

B2. Rotator cuff with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

B3. Upper pecs with lacrosse ball – 30 seconds each side

Strength Warmup

C1. Close-grip barbell bench press (lifter’s current max is 250lbs) – 95×5, 115×3, 135×3, 155×1, 4010 tempo

C2. Close-grip weighted chinup (lifter’s current max is 100lbs) – bodyweight x5, 25×3, 40×3, 50×1, 4010 tempo

Estimated completion time – 15 minutes

5 Ways to Sleep Better… Tonight!

Often overlooked in this era of long hours, never-ending workdays and smartphones with constant attachment to our work lives, getting sufficient amounts of QUALITY sleep is a critical part of lowering stress and losing bodyfat.  There is a significant link between those who sleep well and those who look and feel younger, healthier, and fitter.  How do you sleep better, faster?

#1. Sleep in a Batcave.

The environment you sleep in should be as dark as possible.  Removing all sources of potentially disruptive light is a great first step to a better night’s sleep.  Install blackout curtains over your windows, close your bedroom door and shut off all other lights in your house, and use an alarm clock that allows you to dim the LED screen.

#2. Remove Electronic Interference.

Have you ever walked by a television that you could swear was still on, but when you looked at the screen, it was black?  Most electronics in our homes give off a low-frequency “white noise,” as most modern electronic devices such as TV’s, stereos, etc., never actually turn “off”, but simply go into standby mode, meaning they still draw a small amount of electricity so that they will turn on faster.  Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Unplug any electronics in your bedroom from the wall at night (televisions, stereos, computers, etc.) or use a power strip that you can switch off
  • Turn off your wi-fi at night
  • Keep your cell phone charging out of your bedroom

#3. Eat the Right Things Before Bed.

One common cause of waking in the middle of the night is something called reactive hypoglycemia – essentially, when somebody eats something that spikes insulin heavily before bed (usually simple starches and sugars), blood sugar drops in the middle of the night, and you wake up, ready to eat.  To avoid this, focus on proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables before bed, and if necessary, use a small amount of slower-digesting carb sources such as sweet potato, brown rice, or even oatmeal with your last meal (some people do sleep better with a little bit of carbs later at night).

#4. Avoid Overstimulation.

Avoid working on stressful work projects right up until bed, read a book instead of watching TV, watching a comedy instead of a pulse-pounding thriller – try to avoid anything that might jack up adrenaline and simulate the “fight or flight” feeling.  Try to begin winding down about an hour or more before you want to hit the sack for the night.

#5. Use Natural Sleep Aids.

While most pharmaceuticals tend to leave the user feeling groggy the following morning, there are several natural, effective products that you can use to help wind you down at the end of the day.  Try using them within a few hours of bedtime, although some people get the greatest benefit by using multiple doses beginning as early as 4 or 5pm:

  • Different chelated forms of magnesium (1-1.5g in divided doses for women, 1.5-2g for men)
  • Taurine (2-3g)
  • Inositol (between 1-10g about 45 min before bed on an empty stomach)
  • And many more

If you want to know more about how you can fix your sleep quickly and safely, feel free to contact us for a consultation to design an evening routine that works for you!

Knee Pain Part 1: You’re Doing It Wrong

Knee pain seems to be far and away the most prevalent nagging, reoccurring injury in recreational athletes and trainees that I have worked with, probably more than lower back and shoulder issues combined.  There are a few reasons for this.

First, there is a trend of promoting “knee-friendly” training routines in fitness magazines and blogs, including exercises such as partial squats, Smith machine squats, leg presses (partial range), and leg extensions.  The problem with this is that in reality, most of those exercises do more harm than good, for a variety of reasons.  Let’s break it down.

Partial Squats

Partial squats – a barbell squat to no more than 90 degrees.  Two problems here – the first is that you are shortening the range of motion, which essentially puts more demand on the thigh muscles to decelerate the weight faster because of the shortened movement.  Here’s a good analogy – would you rather have 1000 feet to brake from 75 miles an hour, or 500 feet?  Your brakes are working a lot harder to slow down a ton of weight (it doesn’t help that most people can squat up to 2 or 3 times as much weight in a partial squat vs. a full range squat).

The second downside is that the vastus medius oblique, or VMO, which is your knee’s major stabilizer, is most active during both the first 15 degrees and last 15 degrees of a squat.  It is least active at or just above parallel.  So you’re using more weight, requiring more work from your joints, without the help of the muscle designed to keep the knee safe.

The answer here is just to squat through a full range of motion.  Ideally, a squat should be below parallel, with the hamstrings making contact with the upper part of the gastrocnemius (upper calf).  In conjunction, the lowering stage of the squat should be performed under control, taking three or four seconds to lower the weight, and the overall load should be reduced to ensure correct technique.

Smith Machine Squats

Smith machine squats are usually the quickest substitute for conventional barbell squats that you’ll see recommended in training articles.  “Oh, your knees hurt?  Okay, squat on this”.  If you’re not familiar with a Smith machine, it is essentially a barbell set on two guided supports that allows the bar to move in a single plane of motion – straight up and straight down.

A major problem here is that when you squat, you don’t only go straight up and down, there is horizontal movement of both the hips and the barbell, so having the “safety supports” inhibits the natural mechanics of the movement and actually places significantly more shearing stress on the patella (kneecap) than a conventional squat performed correctly.  And again, as with partial squats, the leverage you gain from the machine usually encourages more load on the bar, making things even worse.

Leg Press

Truth be told, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the leg press.  In fact, for bodybuilders and those only interested in looks, it’s a solid leg exercise, when done right.  However, most of the time you’ll see people going through an incredibly shallow range of motion with far too much weight.  The problems and resolutions are essentially the same as for the barbell squat.

Leg Extension

The leg extension is a bit of a different beast than the others.  Its primary function is indeed to strengthen the VMO, which, as mentioned earlier, is one of the main ways to stabilize the knee.  So what’s wrong with the leg extension?

First, the leg extension is what’s known as an open kinetic chain exercise, meaning the foot isn’t stabilized and the stress isn’t applied the same as a squat or leg press.  The issue with that is that the angle of pressure from the shin pad can create undue stress at the knee joint, so while it’s sometimes a useful exercise for developing the VMO, the trade-off is that it can inherently damage the joint.

The other problem is that I have had problems fixing poor motor patterns with people who have done a lot of leg extensions in their training lifetime.  What does that mean?  It means that the leg extension conditions the muscle to fire exclusive of any other thigh muscles, so the body gets strong operating in isolation.  But when an individual begins squatting or lunging, they can’t apply that leg extension strength to the new movement, putting them at a disadvantage again.

So What Do I Do?

In the next part of this article, I will go over what changes to make to your leg training to spare your knees, as well as why all the training in the world may not save you from knee pain if you neglect these other variables.

Get Leaner While Eating Out Part 1: Fast(ish) Food

If you travel or work long hours, one of the biggest challenges you may encounter is being able to go out to restaurants with co-workers or clients and still find meals that meet your nutritional needs for your goal.  To that end, I have put together some of my favorite options for “quick fix” restaurants – none of these places have a drive-through window, but you can still get in and out relatively quickly if you’re strapped for time on a lunch break, and most if not all of them will also deliver.

Chipotle

This has to be my absolute favorite place to go grab something when time is limited or I find myself without an adequate amount of food at work for the day.  It’s very, very easy to get what you need and none of what you don’t, since they put everything together step-by-step based on what you tell them.

Recommended: Fajita Salad

Get a salad bowl with no dressing (their vinaigrette has more sugar than I would like; pretty typical for most commercial dressings) and ask them to add fajita vegetables instead of rice and beans.  Add whatever meat you prefer; if you’re male, you should be getting a double-serving of meat (my preference is half carnitas, half barbacoa).  Top with pico de gallo and stay away from the corn salsa, sour cream, and cheese.  Some guacamole on top is also acceptable.  Skip the chips (sorry) and the Corona (obviously).

Jimmy John’s

Fast, cheap, and they deliver – what more could you want?  They also use all nitrate-free meat and offer every sandwich in “Unwich” form – no bread, instead using romaine lettuce as a wrap for everything.  Skip the potato chips and cookie and go for the unsweetened iced tea for a drink (if available).

Recommended: #14 Bootlegger Club

Turn it into an “Unwich” to save a ton of unnecessary carbs.  Ditch the mayo and add cucumbers, avocado, oil & vinegar, oregano (if you like oregano), and onions.  Peppers are optional but fine to add.  $1.99 gets you double the meat.  Add a pickle on the side and you’re good to go.

Panda Express

How in the world can you eat healthy at a Chinese restaurant?  Admittedly, there are fewer options here, but it can still be done.  Look for the meat options that aren’t breaded or slathered in lots of sauce.

Recommended: Mandarin Chicken & Broccoli Beef

Use the mixed veggies for a base – white rice, chow mein, fried rice, it’s all bad.  Go for the 2-entree plate and get mandarin chicken without the sauce – it’s by far the highest protein chicken option on the menu (string bean chicken is okay but half the protein and some carbs).  Add broccoli beef for some extra protein and more veggies.  Skip the fortune cookies and get either no-cal iced tea, or just water.  Drink up because you’ll need the extra fluids from all the added sodium in Chinese dishes.

Boston Market

The biggest issue for a lot of people here is skipping out on the “comfort foods” that Boston Market is popular for – when you’re starving, it can be difficult to say no to cornbread and chicken pot pie.  Not impossible, though, so just go in knowing what you want before you get there.

Recommended: Quarter White Chicken

While any of the chicken options are frankly fine, the entire half chicken will be too much for most people, so go for either the quarter white chicken or the three piece dark – there’s not so much extra fat in the dark meat (about 8 grams) as to be relevant but if you don’t have a personal preference, go for the white.  Get steamed vegetables or green beans on the side and try to bypass all of the other sides.

Next time, we’ll look at sit-down restaurants to show you how to entertain clients or business associates and not come out of it with an insulin hangover and an expanding waistline.  In the meantime feel free to comment below if there’s anything else you’d like to see!

Poliquin Classic: The Meat and Nut Breakfast

When people ask me for the best single dietary tip for optimal leanness, energy and sustained mental focus, I invariably tell them to try the rotating meat and nuts breakfast. Clients ranging from NHL & NFL stars to corporate executives rave about the increased mental acuity and focused energy they derive from this food combination. The meat allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar. The nuts provide a great source of healthy smart fats that allows the blood sugar to remain stable for an extended period of time.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. My seminar hosts are well made aware of it. It is a non-negotiable item. I am very grateful to have hosts all over the World that cater to my breakfast needs. My Dominican host Juan Carlos Simo always comes by the hotel with a kick ass breakfast. The best salmon I have ever had. Mats and Helen in Sweden bring me elk for breakfast.

What you eat for breakfast sets up your entire neurotransmitter production for the day.

To read the rest of this article, please click this link: The Meat and Nut Breakfast

Post-Halloween “Back from the Dead” Workout

If you’re like many people, you bought a little bit more Halloween candy than you ended up giving away to trick-or-treaters, and hey, who wants to let a perfectly good bag of fun size Milky Way bars go to waste?

But now you woke up with the world’s worst insulin crash, and you’ve been dragging all day. What to do? The idea of an hour-long training session sounds entirely unappealing, and lifting heavy won’t go so well with all of that newfound fluid in your joints from your sugar binge. You’d rather get in, get out, and forget that this day ever happened.

If that sounds like you, try this tonight:

Pairing #1: Kettlebell Swings with Push Presses

For big-money movements, the standing press is a no-brainer, as is the deadlift. However, if you’re not in the mood to move some weight, swap out deadlifts for some kettlebell swings – the movement pattern is similar and it’ll crank up your heart rate faster. Use a weight that’s reasonably heavy for the swings and explode up. Do the same for the push press, but control the lowering portion for about 2 seconds.

Pairing #2: Walking Lunges with Dumbbell Snatches

These two exercises fill in the gaps that weren’t hit in pairing #1 – a quad-dominant leg exercise, and a big upper body pull.

Pick a weight you can lunge with about 20 yards, set it down, take a quick breather, and then perform 6-8 dumbbell snatches with the same weight. Do your snatches from a hang position – that is, don’t let the dumbbell touch the floor between reps; keep it above your knees instead.

All four exercises are very dynamic movements, with all but one using an X0X0 tempo – that is, as fast as possible on the way up, no rest, and lowering quickly back to the bottom position before beginning the next rep.

The Workout

A1) Kettlebell Swing – 20-25 reps, X0X0, rest 15 seconds
A2) Barbell Push Press – 8-10 reps, 20X0, rest 60 seconds, repeat for 5 rounds
B1) Walking Dumbbell Lunge – 20 yards, X0X0, rest 15 seconds
B2) Dumbbell Snatch from hang – 6-8 reps, X0X0, rest 60 seconds, repeat for 5 rounds

Viola! You’re done!

Get Stronger with Advanced Pushup Variations

For those who are limited on equipment, one of the biggest problems with an exercise like the pushup is that it’s very easy to outgrow its usefulness – you’ll see lots of growth and muscle development by going from being unable to perform one full pushup to doing 15, or maybe even 20, but beyond that, it becomes more of a test of endurance, and in the long run excessively high pushup reps could even reduce your strength on exercises such as barbell or dumbbell presses (short explanation: muscle fibers turn more slow-twitch and are less efficient at producing lots of power).  If all I have is a floor, what should I do then?

Getting Creative with Progressions

The pushup, like any exercise, can be made harder or easier by changing angles and leverages.  Keep your knees on the ground, and the exercise becomes easier.  Move your hands in closer and keep the elbows a little tighter, and the range of motion gets longer and it becomes harder.  With that premise in mind, here are four of my favorite twists on the pushup (plus one bonus exercise that’s just a little bit different but is quite an impressive feat when done properly.

#1. Suspended Pushups

The premise behind the suspended pushup is twofold – 1) the range of motion becomes longer because your chest can now drop below your hands (similar to using pushup handles), and the dynamic movement of the handles creates instability in the shoulder girdle and the core.  These can be done with gymnastics rings, Blast Straps, TRX bands, chains suspended from a pullup bar, whatever you have access to.  Setup is pretty easy – just set the straps so you’re as close to the floor as your strength permits.

#2. Pushup Plus

These are great for somebody with bum shoulders or pain during conventional pressing exercises such as the bench press. The extra movement in the scapulae creates more stability throughout the shoulder girdle and strengthens a lot of the smaller muscles that serve to keep you injury-free.

#3. Pseudo Planche Pushup

Now we’re starting to get into more advanced pushups that have roots in gymnastics training. The planche is more or less one of the best examples of how to get a lot of strength and power development out of a bodyweight exercise – ultimately it’s intended to be done with the feet in the air using only your hands as a base of support. This is a more stripped-down version that I was introduced to through my coach Luke Leaman. While it looks a lot like a regular pushup, in the bottom position the hands should be as close to the hips as possible, keeping the lats and upper back contracted and the elbows held close to the sides.

#4. Pseudo Maltese Pushup

Even harder than the pseudo planche pushup is the pseudo Maltese pushup. The hands are rotated so that the fingertips point down toward the feet, and the hands are placed at about 45 degrees out from the hips.

#5. BONUS EXERCISE: Russian Dips

While technically not a pushup variation, it is extremely badass to perform and is a step up from regular dips, which are also typically used as a major bodyweight movement in a limited-equipment program. As a warning, you definitely need to have healthy shoulders to do this one.