If you’re like me, you stick to a routine once you’ve got it down. But to progress, we need some variability to challenge ourselves, otherwise our bodies stop adapting to stimuli and we’re just cruising. Here are 3 exercises to shake up your next gym session.
There’s several reasons that gymnasts and CrossFitters regularly perform the hollow hold and its dynamic cousin, the hollow rock. First, it reinforces foundational positioning for a myriad of other exercises, including dips, pull-ups and muscle-ups. Second, it challenges your ability to breathe through the diaphragm while under load. And third, it teaches you how to be stable in the abdominals and musculature of the lower back, without the need for all those silly crunch variations.
— Lie flat on your back with your legs together
—Lift your legs a few inches off the floor. Point your toes to encourage the powerful glutes (see: butt muscles) to fire
—Extend your arms over your head and lift up your upper back, so that your shoulder blades come slightly off the ground
—Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Aim for a total of 3 minutes under tension. Make a conscious effort to take controlled diaphragm breaths – many beginners stop breathing or stress breath from the chest/neck.
—Once you’re able to get your 3 minutes total and increase the length of each rep (work up to going as long as you can hold proper positioning while breathing), you can tip yourself forward once in the start position to rock forward. Then, staying under control and preserving positioning, rock backward onto your upper back. Go for 20 to 30 seconds, rest and repeat.
Check yourself on the hollow hold here.
And the hollow rock, here.
Ever watch the behemoths of the World’s Strongest Man contest do their thing? Then you’ll likely have seen them pick up a heavy object in each hand and walk with it. The farmer’s walk is a strongman staple because it not only builds head to toe strength, but also develops your grip and improves shoulder stability. Also, as it’s low speed and you can drop the weights at any time, it is remarkably safe. Plus, for all the moms and dads out there, next time you’re late for a flight and carrying a bag in one hand and a baby car seat in the other, your mad dash won’t be quite so taxing.
—Choose two kettlebells or dumbbells that are a challenging but not impossible weight, and place them a little more than shoulder width apart
—Squat down and pick up the weights with a neutral grip (i.e. your thumbs facing forwards), keeping your back flat as you come up
—Fixing your gaze straight ahead, keeping your arms straight and pinning your shoulder blades back and down, walk in a straight line, taking small steps
—Keep going until your forearms cry “Uncle.” Rest for 90 seconds to two minutes and then repeat for two more sets
—To mix things up, you can just carry the weight in one hand, switching it to the other side when you fatigue. This challenges your midline stabilization more.
Here’s an example of solid farmer’s walk technique.
One Arm Kettlebell Swing
Kettlebell training is nothing new, we get it. But many people favor the two-hand swing variation and neglect the benefits of its single arm variation. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the ol’ two-hander – it’s more efficient from a time perspective and enables you to develop power with heavier loads. But when you just use one hand, your body has to counter the off-center path of the bell. The man who popularized kettlebells in the US, Pavel Tsastouline, also found that when his force production was tested, the one hand swing led to 100percent voluntary isometric contraction (MVC) in his glutes – 20 percent more than the two-hand variation. And engagement in his lats (the large muscles on the outside of your back that provide that V-shape) jumped by 50 percent. Translation: it’s good to swing.
—Place the kettlebell on the floor slightly in front of you and stand with your feet in a neutral position (i.e. not ducked out or pigeoned in)
—Hinging at the hips (don’t round that lower back!), pick it up with your left hand with an overhand grip (knuckles forward)
—Hike the bell between your legs, and then squeeze your abs and glutes as hard as you can to return to an upright position. Your arm should stay straight and you should end its upward arc at chest height
—Hinge at the hips again to hike the bell back between your legs. Repeat 10 to 15 times, then repeat with the other arm. You should retract your shoulder blades to prevent rounding of the spine. The shoulder on the inactive side should be externally rotated (turn your hand until the palm faces forward) and the hand then clenched in a fist. The swing should be explosive – think of a vertical jump.
At 1:22 of this vid, you’ll find a kettle bell swing demo.