Get Chunky

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

Every weekend I complete a few tasks that allow me to have a much smoother week. These tasks include writing individualized programs for athletes, writing a blog, prepping my food for the week, cleaning my apartment and hopefully relaxing a little bit (as that is what weekends are supposed to be for after all!).

In order to get all of the necessary stuff done and still get some me time, I follow a system where I break up tasks into chunks. I used to try and get all of the work related stuff done early (which I still sometimes get a larger chunk done early), but I often times found that my ability to get things done quickly slowed to a snails pace after an hour or so. So instead of getting to relax later on, I would end up working all day.

So I figured since I ended up working all day anyway, why not incorporate some me time within the working hours…and this is where things started to changed.

 

Breaking tasks into chunks gives you an extra boost!

 

I decided to work in 30 minute blocks and then get up and take 20-30 minutes to either get some stuff done in my apartment, go for a walk, do a short bout of training, call my friends or family, watch a game (if there is a good one on I will have in in the background while working)…basically just do something that wasn’t work related.

I thought it would take me twice as long to accomplish tasks, but come to find out I was getting more done in less time! With the mental and physical breaks (being hunched over a computer is a physical killer and energy drainer after a while) I was able to come back to the work and pound out another big chunk much more efficiently.

Now I follow this system every weekend, and you can too! Not only does this system work wonders when it comes to getting work and chores done, but it will also help to further enhance fitness and training goals as you will find yourself more active during the weekend, and some of that activity will come in the form of training.

 

 

The steps and guidelines below may fly in the face of some others you have heard (i.e pick one task, get it done, then move to the next), but this has worked well for me so why not share. Try them out in order to have a more productive and goal oriented weekend (or day for that matter as it can work well at work also).

1)      Pick 2 to 3 work/chore oriented tasks and 1 personal activity…For example I usually write training programs, vacuum my apartment and do some form of exercise (or training, which is more specific exercise!).

2)      Assign either a time interval or landmark for each task/activity to complete and rotate between them…I will write programs for 30 minutes, vacuum my apartment (this usually takes 10 minutes) and train for 20 minutes.

3)      Pick another task to replace one you have completed or continue to rotate through the uncompleted tasks…I usually have quite a few programs to write (which happens when you have over 100 awesome athletes) so I will continue to write programs, dust my apartment/prep food (as I have already vacuumed) and either do another round of training, go for a walk, call a friend/family member, watch a game if one is on or read something, etc.

 

 

4)      Continue to replace tasks/activities that you have completed with other tasks/activities. You will soon realize that you were able to get more of the work/chore related tasks done quicker with a higher degree of quality and you broke it up into chunks that were interspersed with activities you enjoy a bit more.

5)      Once you have completed all of your tasks/chores enjoy the rest of your weekend.

***This approach also works well with training programs. Many times what athletes need may not be want they want to do, but in order to achieve goals, stay healthy and enhance performance it has to be done. As I do with my athletes, try pairing necessary/corrective exercises (those exercises that will help to correct asymmetries, movement dysfunction, weak links, etc. but may be less “sexy”) with exercises you/your athletes enjoy and are also proficient in but can get stronger with.

For example you could pair a glute bridge, with a squat and a plank variation. The glute bridge is a “lower level activation / corrective” that will allow the athlete to better perform the more traditional squat and plank.

 

The scale should be tipped towards needs, but you can at least balance it out!

 

If you are fortunate enough to spend your weekends without having to complete any work related tasks (I enjoy writing programs, blogs, etc. but it does take time), you still should be prepping food and moving/training which you may consider tasks/chores. Chunk them down and complete them with some enjoyable activities and set yourself up for a more productive, healthier and more active weekend (or weekday)!

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2 Cues to a Better Squat

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

The squat is one of the basic patterns that both competitive athletes and general population alike should be proficient at in order to move well, enhance performance and stay injury free. Unfortunately a high percentage of individuals have a terrible squat.

Issues that take a potentially pretty looking squat and quickly turn it into a “hot mess” could include insufficient ankle mobility, relatively stiff hips, a core that is weak and/or inactive core and poor thoracic spine mobility just to name a few (you may also have structural blocks at the hip so if descending into the squat causes pain make sure you seek professional help to clear/modify your squat).

This dude definitely needs some help!

Although there are many factors that play a major part in the squat that must be addressed in a training program, many times this pattern can be fixed, or at the very least drastically improved, with good coaching and cuing.

The classic cues for the squat are “knees out, butt back and chest up.” These cues have worked well for many athletes, but they have also failed to produce a clean squat for many.

Watch the video below to discover why the classic cues may not be enough, and then learn two cues that have helped a vast majority of my athletes go from a downright atrocious squat to a relatively pretty pattern.

5 Ways to Enhance Your Training Session

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

The goal of every training session should be to maximize the results of that training session. After all, who wants to spend 20-75 minutes of the day putting effort into something that is not going to yield top results? Not me!

First, let me share with you my definition of training as without this definition the following tips will not hold as much value.

 

Training is more than exercise.

Training is exercise that is strategically organized in order to promote a desired physiological adaptation (and for many, psychological). Each exercise and the manner/intent in which it is implemented will determine what kind of adaptation (result) the body will experience.

Whether the goal is movement efficiency, power development, strength or endurance enhancement, etc. there are a few things you can do to help increase the effectiveness of each training session and enhance overall PERFORMANCE.

1)      Train with a purpose: Whether your goal is to become the top athlete on your team or to simply obtain and live a healthier life based on fitness, each training session needs to have specific purpose. Is your goal to increase power output or your endurance capacity? Or maybe it is to add on a few pounds of lean mass and remove a little body fat. No matter the goal, make sure the session is designed and conducted with that purpose in mind (or have a professional do this for you!).

 

The whistle isn’t necessary, but if it works…

2)      Coach yourself: Closely related to the previous point, if you make sure to “coach” yourself throughout your session you will maintain the focus necessary to maximize results. What exactly do I mean? Know the purpose of every exercise and how it should be performed. If you simply go through the motions instead of focusing on which muscle groups are supposed to be working, you will likely develop compensatory movement patterns that will result in less than optimal outcomes (neural and muscular adaptations, caloric expenditure, etc.). Not only will performance outcomes suffer, but you will also place yourself at a greater risk for overuse injury, never a good thing! Stay focused, COACH yourself.

3)      Group / pair exercises: This is not something that is new, but it still amazes me how many programs do not take advantage of grouping or pairing exercises. What I am referring to is simply completing non-competing exercises is succession, rather than simply taking a break between sets of the same exercise. By pairing (or tripling, quadrupling) non-competing exercises you are allowed to perform more work within a given time frame (increase training density), which will inevitably enhance the imposed demand on the body and maximize results. Some typical pairings would be an upper body exercise with a lower body, a push with a pull, a corrective with a compound movement (i.e. hip flexor mobility with a deadlift) or one of my favorites, an activation/core with a compound movement (i.e wallslide/overhead MB taps with a TRX Row). The options are pretty much endless as long as the exercises being paired do not compromise the intensity or efficiency of the other.

 

4)      Make your rest periods work for you: Once you determine the goal of your training, and design the program with a purpose, a variable you can manipulate to better achieve the desired effect of training is specific rest periods. If you are going for power or strength longer rest periods (2-5 minutes)between sets and exercises are warranted. If you are looking to maximize muscle growth shorter rest periods work better (30s-3 minutes). If muscular endurance and/or fat loss is your primary goal, keeping rest periods between 30-60s is highly effective. But don’t forget the previous point…in many cases, during your “rest period” you can still complete non-competing exercise and maximize training density and time (unless you are a HIGHLY trained individual working power, max strength or sport skills).

5)      Take care of your peri-training nutrition: Your nutritional consumption surrounding training will either help or hinder your training performance and results (at least in most cases). Try to consume a meal you know you can handle about an hour before training (I can eat a full blown meal, others can barely handle a  shake so know yourself!). This pre-training meal should contain quality carbohydrates and protein, and can also contain a small amount of healthy fats. A grilled chicken breast with quinoa and some olive oil dressing is a decent option. Post-training nutrition is similar but instead of the fats you can add in a bit more carbohydrate. This is the window where if you have a “go to” carbohydrate source that is not the healthiest (Maple and Brown Sugar Frosted Shredded Wheat anyone?…or just me!), you can throw it in as your body is primed to use the extra sugar…just don’t overdue it.

 

 A favorite cheat or post training meal/snack…try warming the milk first, especially in the winter!

 

So there you have it, a few considerations you can take into account in order to further enhance the effectiveness of your training session and results.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. What do you think and any other tips…leave a comment below!

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