One of the best ways to increase the challenge, and therefore results of your training is by increasing your training density.
Training density is defined by the amount of work you complete in a given time.
You can increase your training density by doing more work, or you can increase your training density by doing the same amount of work in less time.
My philosophy on training has evolved over time, and I’m much more biased towards what is called the “minimal effective dose” for the amount of work you need to complete in order to reap the majority of the results.
What this means is that there is a minimum amount of work that you need to perform in order to experience the results you are looking for from training. Anything over that minimum amount of work will slow down the recovery process, while not adding much (if any) to the results from training.
For this reason, completing the minimal effective dose, and then finishing up the session is my advice, and how I think about programming for myself and my athletes.
So looking at increasing training density, I wouldn’t increase the amount of work completed much past the minimal effective dose, but rather, I’d try to complete the work in a shorter period of time.
Now, why would you actually want to increase training density anyway?
Here are a few of the benefits!
The Benefits of Increasing Training Density
- You achieve a greater conditioning effect.
When you complete the same amount of work in less time, you increase your average heart rate and demand your cardiovascular system to respond by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the musculature (and to take metabolic waste away).
By doing this over time, your body wants to become more efficient with supplying the oxygen needed to support this intensity, and therefore your conditioning improves.
Enhancing conditioning while strength training is “killing two birds with one stone” and is one of the greatest benefits of increasing training density!
2. You expend more calories in less time increasing EPOC.
If a goal of yours includes leaning out (decreasing fat mass), you will want to take advantage of EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.
When EPOC is elevated, your body utilizes more calories over the hours following training to recover from the session. More calories means that you will more easily achieve a caloric deficit, and fat stores will be tapped into for recovery.
To increase EPOC you need to increase the challenge or intensity of the session, and by increasing training density you do so.
3. You develop a greater ability to perform under fatigue.
When you increase training density, you will be training with more constant fatigue. During sport, and life, you will likely have to perform when you are fatigued…a lot!
Completing your session in less time creates this “perform under fatigue” scenario, and by doing so over and over again, you will become accustomed to performing when you are tired, and will enhance your ability to do so.
4. You develop greater mental “grit”.
Piggy backing the last point, when you train or perform under fatigue you are challenging your “mental grit” and improving this key factor when it comes to overall success.
Training under fatigue is tough, uncomfortable and something that is against our nature (well most of us anyway).
By constantly and consistently doing so, you are increasing your mental toughness, and grit though increasing training density.
5. You save precious time.
I know for myself, and most of my athletes, time is precious.
While may only be a few things that I’d rather do than train, I know not everyone shares this passion.
When you complete your session in less time, even if that is just 10 minutes less, over the course of a week you will likely save between 30-60 minutes depending on how many times you train.
How to Increase Training Density
Now that we talked about why you should work to increase training density, let’s quickly cover the how.
- Condense and be deliberate with your warm up.
Probably the biggest “mistake” you can make is taking too long with your warm up.
You spend 10 minutes on the foam roller, hit every stretch and mobility known to man, and sort of meander your way through the movement prep.
If this sounds like you, you can increase your training density by attacking this one component of training differently.
Target specific muscle groups with the foam rolling (hip flexors/quads, IT band, lats) and then mobilize the problem areas (hip flexors/quads, adductors, lats).
Then quickly move between the movement prep exercises which typically consist of squat, lunge and lateral lunge variations. You want to try and “flow” from one exercise to the next.
Not only will this save time, but it will also help you increase heart rate and body temperature more effectively, which one of the biggest points of the warm up.
So condense, and move more quickly through the warm up, taking no more than 10 minutes total to complete foam rolling or other soft tissue work, mobility/stretch work, movement prep and power/skill work.
2. Move with urgency between exercises.
Along with moving quickly through the warm up, you will want to move quickly between exercises of your training blocks.
Let’s say you have a plank variation paired with a squat variation.
Once you complete your plank, do not slowly get to your feet, mosey on over to the squat rack (or dumbbell / landmine) and just stare at the weight for 45s before getting “under the bar.”
Instead, “pop” up, walk to the squat with intention and urgency, and get yourself amped to get after the lift!
Just like a smile automatically makes you a bit more happy, moving with urgency to the next exercise excites the system to complete some high quality reps.
Instead of being moving more “sloth-like” as you lack urgency, put some “pep in your step” and make it look like you are there to get some work done…because you are!
3. Plan your block.
Before you start your first set of the block (again let’s say a plank and squat block), plan out what you will need for both exercises.
I will notice athletes who hit a plank, and then have to grab a dumbbell if they are doing a goblet squat. It takes them 30s to make it to the rack, another 30s to figure out which weight they need, and yet another 30s to pick it up and get the dumbbell in position.
Instead, grab the dumbbell before you start your plank, and have it right next to you ready to go when you finish the plank.
A little planning goes a LONG way when it comes to increasing density.
4. Minimize rest.
This is basically the idea of the first 3 points, to minimize the time between exercises, or your rest.
If you consistently wait or allow for the body to completely recover between sets, or almost completely recover, you are limiting the density effect of the session.
Make it a point to rest only as long as you need in order to complete quality reps of the next exercise.
More than that and you are losing out some of the benefits of density training.
5. Set timers.
If you can’t stick to shorter rest periods, simply set a timer, or use your watch in between sets.
Say you only give yourself 30-45s between exercises.
As soon as you are done with your exercise, check your watch and hit the next exercise when the 30-45s is over.
Another way you can do this is to use timed blocks, or intervals.
Set a timer for 8-10 minutes and complete as many sets as possible in those 8-10 minutes.
Or set a clock for an interval of 20s on and 20s off for example, and continue to cycle through the exercises.
These are just some examples of how you can use a timer to help increase the density of the session.
With the benefits of increasing density on your training results, it is apparent that you should work to do so.
For most athletes that I work with, this is a great way to attack the session, and boost the progress towards their goals.
Some athletes who are in a max strength, or power phase of training will not want to worry too much about density as it will limit that effect a bit. These are typically competitive athletes who have a definitive competition date such as the olympics, or big competition without too many games/competitions before then, such as a major track event.
For everyone else, increasing density by reducing the time spent training while still completing the same amount of work, is an absolute game changer.
Give it a try, and let me know what you think.
For TAW athletes this will continue to be a focus of training, and we will be honing in on this even more!
HOLY HELL I’m excited!
Because this coming Monday (4/20) we are kicking off the first ever TAW Challenge!
From all of the great feedback I’ve been receiving, this is what I came up with to address what everyone needs right now.
Here are the details…
Kick Covid in the Cheddar Cheeseballs 28 Day Challenge!
What You Will Receive
1) A 4 week at home program designed to attack metabolic conditioning– There will be 3 main training days all designed to get the heart rate up and calories burnin’.
There will also be three 10 minute supplemental sessions you can perform on your off days included in the program.
***If you already have a TAW at home program you can still use that in place of this program. You can use the program you will receive from the Challenge as a supplemental program, or mix and match…either way works as the most important part is that you are getting after it!
2) A warm up that will be used during the sessions, as well as extra soft tissue, mobility and activation work.
3) A simple nutritional guide that will discuss the big rocks that you will need to focus on, as well as the weekly challenges to help you make the most progress possible.
4) Accountability and community– you will be addd to The Athletic Way Community Facebook group. Here I will share weekly videos about the challenge and any new ways to get points. We can interact with each other, share our progress, as well as send Kyle (that’s me) the point total for the day.
And just what are these points for??
5) Prizes– There will be some sweet prizes such as a free massage from TAW massage therapist Jamie Arsenault (ya, my boo), a gift card to a local restaurant of your choice, some TAW swag, and more.
Points will be awarded for completed training sessions, extra 20 minute walks, extra foam rolling, mobility and activation sessions, nutritional habits and more.
Basically every day you will have the opportunity to accrue a set amount of points, and you will share that total in the group. I will record it in a “Leaderboard Document” that will be updated daily.
Lastly, there will be bonus points awarded to the participant who loses the most body weight percentage (weight lost divided by starting weight), and to the participant who refers the most people to the challenge. The participant who refers the most participants will receive a bonus 10 points right off the bat…so starting forwarding this to your friends and family!
6) The ability to be part of a greater cause– For every participant I will be donating a part of the challenge fee to a charity that we will vote on as a group.
And the more participants the more money that goes to charity. It will go like this.
0-25 participants = $10 from each participant’s fee will go to charity
26-50 participants = $15 from each participant’s fee will go to charity
51+ participants = $20 from each participant’s fee will go to charity
So you can see the more we have participate in this challenge the more money we generate for a charity.
With that, there is no physical barrier to participating, so everyone we know can take part in the challenge! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE let everyone you know about this challenge…it is going to be a blast!
So what will all of this cost?
I want to help as many people as possible (you, your friends, family, co-workers, teammates, etc.) so it is only $49 for the entire 4 week challenge…that’s $12.25 per week!
Simply email me at email@example.com to register and I will send along a payment link!
Can’t wait to get this kicked off, and to help as many people as possible!
Before you read this article, make sure to check out my wife’s recipe book over at toughmommytips.com. The recipes in this article are great start, but Jamie has put together even more with her free recipe book that also include many of my favorites not within this article. You can find that here…Tough Mommy Recipe Book
And if you want even more, check out her meal plan which you can find here…7 Day Challenge and Meal Plan
Ok, now lets get to it!
When it comes to supporting your training, reaching your physique goals and performing at a high level, what you put in your body is critical.
Your body needs the macronutrients (fats, carbs, protein) to build lean mass, and the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to keep all of the systems in balance for optimal health and performance.
Having quality options to support your goals is essential, and for that reason I have put together some of my favorite high performing meals that are not only delicious, but relatively easy to make.
Before we get there, check out the equation below to more specifically understand how many calories you will be looking to consume daily, based on your current weight and goals.
There are numerous, detailed equations that you can use to figure this number out, or you can go with a simple equation that has been shown time and again to be fairly accurate…I say we go with the latter!
–For weight loss, take your IDEAL bodyweight in pounds and multiply by 10 and 13.
–For weight maintenance, multiply your bodyweight by 14 and 17.
-And for weight gain, multiply your IDEAL bodyweight by 17 and 20.
The last piece to take into consideration is what I refer to as “carbohydrate cycling”. Here is an article I wrote on the subject if you’d like a more in depth understanding…Carb Cycling
In short, carbohydrate cycling refers to the idea of manipulating how many carbs you take in depending on your physical demands. During days where physical demands are higher, such as intense training days, or when you have more intense practice or competitions, it is helpful to have a few more carbohydrates. This is especially true if your goal is to build muscle or add body weight in general.
The meals surrounding your high intensity outputs are the best meals to consume more carbs. The meals further away from your physical demands can be regular meals, that can have some high quality carbs, but don’t need to have a large amount.
On the days when your physical demands are of lower intensity, most meals should be lower in carbohydrates. This helps to ensure that your body stays more sensitive to insulin (a good thing for fat loss and overall health) and this also allows you to take in a bit fewer calories if your goals include fat loss.
What I am going to do is let you know how you can make each of the meals more of a “training day” meal or an “off day” meal by manipulating carbohydrates.
Now again, if your goal is weight gain, carb cycling is still a good approach to nutrition, but you can be a little more lenient with the meals throughout the day…meaning you can (and should) be including a bit more carbohydrate to support your weight gain goals.
Ok, here are my top 5 high performing meals for breakfast, and in subsequent articles I will be providing you with 5 options for lunch, dinner and snacks.
Personally, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.
But, the hard thing about breakfast, at least for most of us, is the “lack of time” to prepare and eat breakfast in the morning.
If you tell me that you get up between 6 and 7am but don’t have time to eat breakfast, I call bulls**t.
You should be getting to bed between 10 and 11 at the latest, and if you sleep for 7-8 hours you have plenty of time to get up and eat breakfast.
To ensure that this happens, try constructing your breakfasts the night before. Or at least most of it!
Chop any fruit or veggies you need and store them in the fridge, and take out the ingredients, cookware and utensils you need and leave them on the counter. If you can make the entire breakfast the night before, that is even better, and some of the options below all you to do so.
Easy Egg Scramble
Chop a quarter of an onion, quarter of a pepper, and a quarter cup of mushrooms. Toss them in a pan with some olive/coconut oil and let them cook for a few minutes until desired tenderness.
Depending on your caloric needs, scramble 2-4 eggs in a bowl (you can add a splash of milk). Add the eggs into the pan and let the eggs cook for 20-30s before starting to scrape the eggs away from the pan. Do this until the eggs are done.
Add some shredded cheese, chopped avocado and salsa if desired.
If you are looking to gain weight or make this more of a “training day” meal, add a slice of toasted ezekiel bread with peanut / almond / other nut butter or other spread, a banana or other piece of fruit, or baked potatoes (home fries) on the side.
**To make this the most time efficient, chop your veggies the night before, cover them and put them in the fridge so all you have to do is toss them in the pan. Put the pan on the oven with oil next to it ready to go. If you are having a side of potatoes, make those the night before as well and simply reheat them in the morning.
Easy Egg Muffins
This one is basically the same as above, but you are going to be making egg muffins instead.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Chop your veggies, and while your veggies are cooking line a muffin pan with 6 muffin cups.
Scramble 6 eggs and then add the cooked veggies to the egg mixture. Divide the egg mixture into the cups until the cups are about 4/5 off the way full.
Add some cheese on top if desired, and cook for 15-18 minutes.
Place in the fridge to have the next day. You can either pop them in the microwave for 30s or eat them cold.
To make this more of a “training day” meal, or if you are looking for some extra calories, place 1 or 2 of the egg muffins between a couple pieces of toast or english muffin (Ezekiel again is a great choice) and eat them as an egg sandwich.
**Again here, if you are going to make them in the morning, chop and cook your veggies and line your muffin pan the night before…but I suggest making them the night before and putting them in the fridge.
Peanut Butter Oatmeal
For the peanut butter lovers out there, this one’s got your back!
In a sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water and a tsp of salt to a boil. Add 1 cup of old fashion oats and let the oats cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times.
Add 1-2 Tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter of preference) and stir until it has melted in. Add in 1/2 – 1 tsp of cinnamon depending on preference, 1-2 Tbsp of honey and 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder. Stir until everything is combined.
If you don’t have vanilla protein powder, add in 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt and 1 tsp of vanilla. You may need to adjust the vanilla depending on how strong you want the vanilla flavor to be. Or if you enjoy chocolate peanut butter, use chocolate protein powder.
I like to then add in chopped apple (1/4 to 1/2 of a medium apple), a few raisins and some chopped walnuts. You can vary the chopped fruit here if you’d like.
This amount will typically be two servings, but if you are looking to add weight try to consume to whole serving!
This is more of a “training day” meal option as the carbohydrate load here is pretty significant. But even if your goal is weight loss, it is your total caloric load that is most important. If this meal works into your total calories for the day it is good to go for those of us looking for fat loss.
**Do all of this the night before to save time in the morning. Put the oatmeal in the fridge and in the morning you can either eat it cold (it is still awesome) or you can heat it up in the microwave.
Overnight Red, White and Blue Oatmeal
It doesn’t get much better than your meal “cooking” itself overnight.
In a bowl that can be covered (either a pyrex that has a lid, or a bowl you can put some tin foil or plastic wrap over) add 1 cup of oats.
Add unsweetened vanilla almond milk until the oats are almost covered, then stir in 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt.
Stir in 1 – 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup and 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon. Once everything is well combined add 1/2 small banana sliced, 1/4 cup blueberries and 1/4 cup sliced strawberries. Lastly, you can add in a small amount of chopped walnuts.
Stir everything together, cover and place it in the fridge where it will be ready for you in the morning.
This again is more of a “training day” or weight gain option, but can be consumed for fat loss as well as long as the caloric load works into your daily calorie needs.
Carrot Cake Protein Smoothie
Protein shakes or smoothies are a classic staple in a “healthy” nutrition regimen, because they work!
Not only can they be chalk full of powerful ingredients, but they are quick, tasty and can be consumed on the go. Here is my favorite protein smoothie.
Freeze 1 cup of carrots either in a bag, or in your personal blender cup (we use the Ninja blender and I put my carrots right in my blender cup and in the freezer to save even more time in the morning).
In your blender, add your frozen carrots, 1-2 handfuls of spinach (I promise you can’t taste it), 1 scoop protein powder (vanilla or chocolate works), 1/2 -1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 – 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp vanilla and a small handful walnuts. If you don’t have protein powder add 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt and 1-2 Tbsp of honey or pure maple syrup.
Add 8-12 oz of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and blend to desired consistency. If the smoothie is too thick you can add more almond milk, and if it is too thin you can add some ice cubes and blend again.
To make this more of a “training day” option, add in 1/4 cup of oats before you blend it all together. You can also top it with raisins and/or shredded coconut, or you can blend them in to make it even easier.
Next up, lunch!
So there you have 5 high performing meal options for breakfast. Most of the recipes can be individualized to your specific taste preference (use different veggies, add some meat to the eggs, use different fruit for the oatmeal, etc.).
And all of the recipes can be manipulated depending on your goals. Add in some more carbs to the lower carb options (eggs and smoothie) or simply eat a smaller portion of the higher carb options (oatmeals) if you are looking for fat loss.
Keep your eyes open for the lunch and dinner options!
Do you hate warming up?
Ya, me too!
Do you hate “wasting time” on low intensity exercises when you need to get in and out of the gym?
Ya, me too!
Do you hate being injured and your performance and results suffering from those injuries?
Ya, ME TOO!!!!
And that is why I use GAP exercises in my program and the programs of all of my athletes.
What Are GAP Exercises?
GAP exercises have classically been referred to as “filler” exercises in many performance training and fitness programs.
They are lower intensity exercises that are implemented to help you gain more mobility at specific joints, activate certain muscles and clean up faulty movement patterns.
I like to refer to them as GAP exercises rather than filler exercises because they help us gap our movement quality and performance. They don’t simply “fill” rest time, and should not be looked at that way. If they are, they will be executed poorly, and then they are a waste of time. Even worse, they will be feeding the problems.
When performed properly and with intent, GAP exercises help you achieve the necessary range of motion, greater stability and activation of muscles, proper movement patterns linked to long term health, more resiliency and higher performance.
Why You Need GAP Exercises
As just touched upon, GAP exercises will help you gain and maintain the necessary range of motion at joints, fire up the right muscles and correct faulty movement patterns. This is important if you are planning on being in the training game for the long run without injury.
Another huge benefit of GAP exercises is that they do indeed “fill” time where you can and should be resting. But again, they don’t simply fill time, they GAP the realms of lower intensity movements with higher intensity outputs.
Using them between higher intensity outputs while you are “resting” allows you to spend less time on the warm up, and also allows you more repetitions with these important exercises…without dedicating an extra specific block of time to them.
Typically programs will have you complete only one set of these movements in the warm up a couple times per week. It is hard to get the result desired with a couple sets per week. Or on the other hand, they will put aside another 10 minutes after the warm up to “activate and correct” muscles and patterns (I used to only incorporate both of these approaches). With this layout you will likely be spending 20-30+ minutes on the warm up and pre training block. This isn’t good if you are a busy individual (who isn’t busy?!).
So basically they help you become a higher performing, more resilient individual all while reducing your time in the gym.
Where Do GAP Exercises Fit In Your Program?
There are a few key times to incorporate GAP exercises.
While I just spoke about how programs only incorporate 1 set of a GAP exercise into a warm up, it is not that it isn’t good, its just that it is not enough to achieve the desired effect.
But, I do like to incorporate 1 set into the warm up as well in order to get things going. After you are finished with any soft tissue work that you do, it is time to get the body greater ranges of motion, to activate certain muscles and to start correcting movement patterns.
So the warm up is the first place you will use GAP exercises for a set (or two if you want).
The second, and most beneficial place to program your GAP exercises is in between your higher intensity compound movements.
When you are squatting, deadlifting, lunging, pushing, pulling or carrying something heavy and/or moving at high speeds, you will need to take a break in order to keep the quality of training high. Instead of just sitting or walking around, completing low intensity GAP exercises allows you to continue to work on the “little things” that make a huge difference in your training outcomes.
If you have a range of motion deficit for example, this is a great time to work on it. Or if you have trouble firing a certain muscle, or completing a certain movement pattern, this is an opportunity to work on it.
I like to pair my high intensity lower body movements with upper body GAP exercises, and my high intensity upper body movements with lower body GAP exercises. This prevents any sort of fatigue to be accumulated on the main muscle groups or patterns during your rest period.
For example, I like to pair trap bar deadlifts with wall slide variations. Not only will the wall slide keep from negatively impacting the deadlift, but the upward rotation of the shoulder blades you are achieving is counterbalancing the downward pull from the deadlift…at least slightly.
Or you can take a challenging set of pull ups and pair it with a half kneeling hip flexor mobility…more examples to come.
The last section of your program to incorporate GAP exercises is during rest periods of conditioning work, or at the completion of your main training program.
If you are performing higher intensity conditioning (intervals, circuits, sprints, etc.) you will be taking a rest period in between rounds. This is just like the higher intensity compound exercises, and a great time to complete more GAP exercises.
You should also be cooling down a little after training, and by completing some lower level mobility and activation work with GAP exercises you are achieving more crucial receptions while you are bringing your body through a “warm down”.
You don’t have to go crazy here as you don’t want to spend another 15 minutes in the gym, but a couple minutes will do wonders.
The Best GAP Exercises
Just like any exercises within your training program, GAP exercises should be tailored to you. With that being said, there are some very common “issues” that most of us will need to address.
Here are some of the best GAP exercises to help improve on those issues…in no particular order of importance.
Core Activation GAP Exercises
Many of us need to better activate the core musculature to keep the spine in a solid position, and to keep the hips from tipping forward or rotating. This is where these GAP exercises can come in and help you enhance your ability to do so.
Wall Press Leg Lowering
Plank work (and variations of)
Glute Activation GAP Exercises
Like the core, many of us have a hard time activating (turning on) our glutes. The glutes are major players in almost every lower body action, from stabilizing the hip joint to producing massive amounts of force…so we need to turn them on.
Side Lying Clam and Side Bridge Clam
Rotator Cuff and Para Scapular (around the shoulder blade) Activation GAP Exercises
Another area where many of us need more work turning muscles on is at the shoulder joint and shoulder girdle.
The rotator cuff and the muscles around the shoulder blade help to maintain the integrity of the shoulder complex, so we need to get them to activate and do their job.
Shoulder External Rotations
Band Pull Aparts
Lower Body Mobility GAP Exercises
When the hips don’t move well because of muscular stiffness it makes it difficult for you to complete lower body exercises (squat, deadlift, lunge, etc.) efficiently, and without working through compensatory movements (like low back extension instead which leads to low back pain all too often!).
The hips need to be able to move in 360 degrees in order to keep overall movement solid.
Hip Flexor Mobility
Upper Body Mobility GAP Exercises
Like the hips, the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle require sufficient range of motion in order to complete upper body movements efficiently.
Quadruped Extension Rotation
Wallslide to Liftoff
What Does GAP Pairing Look Like
Ok, now that we know what GAP exercises are, why they are important and some examples of which exercises you can use, lets put it together for you. Here are some GAP exercise pairs that you can use during your high intensity outputs.
Deadlift or Lunge Variations and Wallslides / Lat Stretch
During the deadlift or lunge variations you are holding heavy resistances in your hands. The heavy resistance places a downward pull on your shoulder joint and girdle. They also place a heavy emphasis on your lat activation, which is a good thing, but when the lats are too stiff or short they can cause problems.
By pairing it with a wall slide variation or lat stretch, you can help combat the excessive forces being placed on your shoulder and lat, helping you to prevent unwanted injury and compensations from those forces.
2) Squat variations with Shoulder External Rotations
During most squat variations (goblet squat, landmine front squat, front squat, back squat, etc.) the shoulder is working to some degree, but shouldn’t be overtaxed. The exception here is the Kb racked squat which requires a greater degrees of shoulder stability.
Because the shoulder isn’t overly taxed, this is a good place to add in some extra rotator cuff work for the shoulder.
3) Heavy Upper Body Strength Work with Lower Body Mobility / Activation Work
This is a little more of a broad recommendation, as their are multiple options. When you are getting after heavy pressing (bench press, db press, landmine press, etc.) and pulling exercises (db rows, pull ups, chin ups, etc.) the lower body is not being used to a great degree.
Because of this, this is a good opportunity to implement more lower body mobility and/or activation work which won’t negatively impact the performance of the upper body.
4) Conditioning Work with Your Greatest GAP Need
During high intensity conditioning work such as battle ropes, sled pushes, assault sprints, sprints, dynamax work, etc. you will have periods of time that you are resting. During these periods of time is another great opportunity to add in some of the most valuable GAP exercises to help address your greatest needs.
If you need extra hip mobility work? Throw it in.
Need more scapular stability? Here is a great place to work on it.
Have glute activation issues? Spend some of your rest turning on your glutes.
Fill The Gap
There is one other great time to complete some quality GAP exercise sets: on your off days from training.
This doesn’t have to take long, especially if you pair them systematically in a circuit fashion.
For the best info on how to do this, check out my previous article “Daily Movement Medication”.
Taking this information and putting it to use is one of the best things you can do to help enhance your training results, reduce pain and build a better performing and more resilient body.
Use GAP exercises, and make sure to execute them with intent!
If there was one thing that you could do that would help reduce your risk for low back pain, hip pain, and injuries such as strained hamstrings, groin pulls and ACL tears… would you want to know what that was?
What if I told you that by working on this you will also enhance your ability to jump, sprint, cut and run…interested?
And you will also be able to throw around bigger numbers in the weight room, especially with your deadlifts, squats and lunges…sound even better?
Well, what if I also told you that by working on this you will undoubtedly look better in any pair of jeans, sweatpants, shorts or leggings you throw on?
Now I’ve got your attention 😉
So what is this “magical” thing I speak of?
The one thing you need to do in order to make yourself more resilient to a host of injuries, perform at a higher level and look better is to get your glutes working well, and strong.
Why are the glutes so powerful??
Not only are your glutes massive muscles with the ability to produce great force, but they are also the primary stabilizers of the hip joint.
When you are running, sprinting, jumping or cutting, or when you are pushing weight with your squat, deadlift or lunge, your glutes need to work in order to put significant force into the ground and to keep the hip, knee and ankle in a proper position.
If the glutes do don’t do their job, you will see a decrease in power output, as well as faulty movement that often times leads to overuse injuries and joint degeneration. If you are not willing to be a weak and injured individual, it is time to get your glutes going.
Here are 5 things you need to do to how to make it happen!
1. Get your core working to keep your pelvis in position.
If the pelvis is not in a proper, neutral alignment, it is extremely difficult to get the glutes to work well.
Most of the athletes here at TAW come in with an anterior pelvic tilt. This is when the pelvis is oriented (tipped) forward. You can think of this as your zipper or belt buckle being pulled towards the floor, or as a “booty pop”.
When this happens your glutes are not in an optimal (or even good) position to contract. It places your hamstrings on tension which gives them a better chance to kick in and dominate over the glutes…more on this below.
Along with the hamstrings, this places your low back into a position of extension. Not only can this create a compressive force on the back, but it also puts the extensors of the back on tension, again resulting in your back extensors kicking in over your glutes.
So what you need to do is get your pelvis neutral via your core.
You can see how the core attaches to your pelvis. When your core engages (namely the obliques) and shortens, it pulls your pelvis into posterior rotation, which helps to get the hip back to neutral. And once you are in neutral, your core must hold your pelvis in that position when you are moving (training/lifting, sprinting, cutting, etc.).
Once this happens your glutes are then in a better position to have success at turning on, doing their job and strengthening.
Here are a few videos of exercises with cues to help you get your core engaged and strong which will help you keep your pelvis in an neutral position when training, competing and just living.
Deadbug (KB Pullover Variation)
2. Decrease hip flexor stiffness / tightness to achieve true hip extension.
The next thing you need to do to ensure that you can get your glutes working is to achieve the prerequisite range of motion.
When the hip is fully extended, your glutes are in the best position to achieve a sufficient contraction. They will be in a shortened position, and this is where you can more easily feel the muscle working. You can think of full hip extension as when you are standing tall and the femur (leg bone) is straight “underneath” the the hip.
If you can not achieve this position, then you are preventing the glutes from fully working. And the biggest reason most of us can’t achieve full hip extension is because we have a stiff or tight hip flexor(s).
In order to decrease stiffness and lengthen your hip flexor, follow these steps.
1) Foam roll your hip flexor / quad to decrease neural input to the tissue, effectively helping to “de-tone” the excited tissue.
2) Mobilize and stretch the hip flexor and quad to re-establish proper length and elasticity.
The best way to take maximize a mobility exercise is to follow it up immediately with a static stretch.
While I’ve been using mobilities and static stretching in conjunction with each other for quite some time, it was only recently that I came across the term bi-phasic, which I heard first from Dr. John Rusin.
Bi-phasic, or two phases, basically means going from a mobility directly into a static stretch. Here is a video of how to complete this with the Hip Flexor Bi-Phasic mobility.
With the hip flexor de-toned (via soft tissue) and the range of motion at the hip improved (with the hip flexor bi-phasic mobility), the glutes can then have a greater chance to activate and contract to full potential.
3. Know the functions of the glutes and use them to increase activation.
A while back I wrote an article for T-Nation entitled 3 Ways to Power Up Your Glutes.
In it I discuss the 3 primary actions of the glutes, those being hip extension, hip abduction and hip external rotation. I’d suggest reading the article as it gives you a more in depth explanation, but basically this is what you need to know.
Hip Extension: When the femur (thigh bone) moves “backwards” and gets closer to 180 degrees. Think about when you go from seated to standing, your hip is extending.
Hip Abduction: When the femur moves away from the midline of the body. If you are to walk sideways (such as in a lateral band walk) your hip is abducting as you step out.
Hip External Rotation: When the femur rotates away from the midline of the body. If you are to turn your toes outward (like a duck) your hip will need to externally rotate.
Mess around with these actions, and once you understand them it is time to use them when you are squatting, deadlifting, lunging, etc.
Again, check out the article referenced above for some more cues, but here is how you can apply this with your squat.
When squatting think about driving your heels through the floor (hip extension), ripping the floor apart (hip abduction) and screwing your feet into the ground (hip external rotation). At the very top squeeze the hell out of your glutes (as if you were to pinch a quarter between your cheeks) and you will have tapped into all three of the main actions of the glutes, making it more likely to preferentiate the glutes and strengthen them.
4. Decrease hamstring dominance to prioritize your glutes.
As you just read, hip extension is one of the main actions of the glutes.
The reason your glutes sometimes don’t perform as they should with hip extension is because other powerful muscles are doing more of the work for you. In the case of hip extension, your hamstrings are likely to take over and dominate weak/inactive glutes.
While this could be a “chicken or the egg” scenario (are your glutes not working because your hamstrings are dominate, or are your hamstrings dominate because your glutes weren’t working), the goal is to decrease the tone or excitement of the hamstrings so the glutes can do more of the work.
To do this, just like with the hip flexors, you will want to attack the hamstrings first with some soft tissue work (foam rolling, tiger tail, massage if you are lucky or married to a massage therapist :), etc.).
Once the hamstrings have been de-toned you can bring them through some easy mobility and lengthening work.
My two favorites are the supine hamstring pumps, and the 3 way hamstring stretch. You could also throw in the quadruped adductor mobility as this will also get the hamstrings to some extent.
Now that the hamstrings have been addressed the glutes can have an easier time doing their job(s).
5. Always ask yourself where you feel the movement working.
You can take all of the points above but still not get your glutes working and strong the way you want to.
Even if you are doing the right exercises, thinking about the right cues and making sure that every thing is in proper alignment and position to give the glutes the best opportunity to do their thing, if you are not feeling the glutes working, well, they probably aren’t.
This is why with every exercise you must ask yourself, “Where am I feeling it?”.
If the goal is to get the glutes working for you, you better feel your ass doing the work.
If not, you are likely reinforcing one of the faulty patterns (hamstring dominance for example), and making it that much harder for yourself to ever get the glutes going.
“Where do you feel that?” is something you will hear me ask at least a dozen times throughout sessions each day at TAW.
It doesn’t matter how good something looks if you are feeling the work take place in the wrong musculature.
So remember to ask yourself with each set, “Where am I feeling the work take place?”
Get Those Glutes
Lets take all of the info above and put it into action. Here is how you can best attack your training sessions to maximize glute activity, strength and overall performance.
- Soft tissue (foam roll, lax ball, etc.) your hip flexors and hamstrings
- Perform a couple of sets of the bi-phasic hip flexor mobility, supine hamstring pumps and 3 way hamstring stretch…throw in the quadruped adductor here if you want as well.
- Do a few sets of core work to ensure your is working and is setting your pelvis in an optimal position.
- Perform your squats, deadlifts, lunges, step ups, etc. with the intention to use as many actions of the glutes (hip extension, abduction and external rotation) as possible.
- Continue to ask yourself where you are feeling the work take place, and if you are not feeling your glutes, refocus and try again.
- Enjoy the strength, stability, resiliency and looks from your new set of glutes!
In it Chris outlines 4 rules that if you follow even just one of them, you can see major improvements in your physique, health and performance. While I’m not one for nutritional extremes, as I think that most of us work best by establishing habits that allow for moderation, when “rules” are followed with no exception you will see results.
Chris’ article inspired me to bring to you this article where I will outline 10 nutritional “laws,” like rules, but I think “laws” sounds better than rules.
And if you are like my wife and her family, rules don’t mean much. In fact, when they hear the word “rule” they have a little voice in their head which tells them to do exactly the opposite of what the rule says. But they abide by the law, for the most part, so laws is what we will go with 🙂
So here are 10 laws, that when you follow (even a couple of them to start) you will experience great progress with your health, performance and physique.
Law #1 Build your meals around your protein.
We’ve all heard that protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to our health, performance and aesthetic goals. And looking at the science, I’d say that’s a fair statement.
Now, maybe we don’t all need to be guzzling three protein shakes daily and lugging around a cooler full of chicken breast, ground beef and venison (deer meat…for all of you city folk), but making sure you consume a sufficient amount of protein daily is key for progress, muscle gain and fat loss.
In fact, studies show that simply by consuming more quality protein, you can experience muscle gain, and fat loss, without changing your training or other daily habits… sounds pretty good, right?
So the easiest way to make sure you get enough protein is to build your meals around your protein source.
This means first choosing what your protein will be for a given meal. Some of the best options are:
This by no means is an exhaustive list of available protein sources, but it is a good start. Some other, less “optimal” protein sources include:
While these sources do contain protein, the amount of protein per calorie is not that great. That doesn’t mean that you can’t add them to your meals, just that they are not the best sources to build your meals around.
Once you have your protein source you can then begin to add in the rest of your meal…your veggies, healthy fats and carbs. But the main point here is to ensure that you have a quality protein source as the nucleus of each and every meal.
Law #2 Eat your protein first, then your healthy fats, then veggies and lastly, your carbs.
It has been shown that you can experience positive results by tweaking the order in which you eat the components of your meal.
By consuming your protein, healthy fats and veggies before your first bite of carbs can help decrease post meal blood glucose levels, increase satiation and take advantage of the thermic effect of food.
Basically, by consuming your carbs last you will create a better insulin response, which is great for body composition shifts (less fat storage) and overall health.
You will also increase your feeling of fullness as protein and fats are more satiating macronutrients when compared to carbs. And when you eat your veggies they create a bigger volume response in the stomach, again signaling to your brain that your are full. Both of these result in a lower likeliness of you overeating…good when you are going for fat loss.
Lastly, protein in particular has a higher thermic effect than the other macronutrients. In other words, it takes more energy (calories) to break down protein and use/store it than both fat and carbs.
So by consuming your meals in this order you will not only be less likely to overeat (especially on the carbs which are typically the hardest to eat moderately), but you are also taking advantage of some positive physiological responses.
Law #3 Drink only zero calorie drinks.
This one is pretty straight forward.
You should be drinking liquids all day long. Staying hydrated is a key component of a healthy, high performing and good looking body. But if those liquids you are drinking contain a significant amount of calories (most likely from added sugar), it will be very tough for you to stay within a conducive caloric range for your fat loss goals.
Even if fat loss is not a goal, and lets say you are going for mass gain, consuming beverages that contain calories is typically not the best approach. Again, this is because most of the calories come from added sugar. Added sugar in excess, which can easily be achieved on regular soda, juice or sports drink, is no good for your health and performance.
Now, I will say, the only time that may warrant taking in some liquid calorie is during an intense training, practice or competition.
If you are an athlete and you are exerting at a high level for greater than 30-60 minutes you may want to add some quality carbs to your liquid intake. This will help replenish glycogen stores and allow you to continue to perform at a higher level as the session/practice/event continues.
Other than this exception zero calorie drinks such as water (gasp), tea and coffee are the best options…no exceptions!
Law #4 Only eat starchy carbs post training (after you complete your training).
Carbs, especially starchy carbs such as rice and potatoes, are great sources of energy and calories for intense and/or long duration physical output (training, practice, games/competitions).
They provide the sugar (glucose) that can be quickly and easily broken down for fuel, and to replace muscle glycogen (muscle sugar) that is being depleted during activity.
They do this by stimulating your insulin response to a greater degree, telling the body to soak up sugar in the blood and use it for energy or store it for later. This is great post training/competition. But if you do this throughout the day, especially on days you don’t have an intense/long bout of physical output, the glucose will not be stored as muscle glycogen, but more likely as adipose tissue (fat).
Also, we have seen a host of health issues that arise when your insulin levels are constantly elevated, which results in our systems becoming less sensitive to insulin.
All of this means that we need to monitor when we consume starchy carbs, and limit them to our post training feeding. They will be stored as useful nutrients and help us recover and restore the energy expended during training, etc., instead of being stored as excess fat tissue.
An easy way to think about it is to “earn your starchy carbs,” meaning you shouldn’t have any unless you have “worked” for them. Now I don’t want you to think they are bad, but if your goal is to limit fat storage and achieve a leaner physique, than keeping them for post training is a good idea.
Law #5 Make your breakfast the night before.
When the alarm blares, it is -10 degrees F and it is pitch black outside, it is hard to get motivated to construct a solid breakfast…unless you are like me and enjoy waking up because you know you get to eat 🙂
But even then, there is no way that I am going to get up at 4:30am every morning, chop veggies, cut fruit and put together an omelet with a side of fruit. That is way to much effort, and way to early to do so.
But, I will have an omelet with a side of fruit (or potatoes depending on if it is a training day). How??
I chop my veggies and cut my fruit the night before. Then all I have to do is throw the veggies in a pan, scramble some eggs and let them cook. Toss the cut fruit on the side once the omelet is done and boom! What would have taken me 15-20 minutes takes me 7-10.
Or I will make a bowl of over night oats, a cottage cheese bowl with fruit and nuts or get everything out and on the counter for a shake.
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Oats are soaking, protein and nuts are mixed and the fruit is cut and in the fridge. 5-10 minutes and I’ll have a solid bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Planning and prepping is the key to consistency! #nutrition #nutrients #goals #fitness #fitnesslifestyle #athlete #athletes #oatmeal #protein #ilovefood #theathleticway
So maybe you don’t always have to make your breakfast completely the night before, but if you can get the main / most time consuming parts done first you can have quality breakfasts every single day.
Breakfast is likely the most common meal when we grab something quick and the options are not usually the best…think cereal, processed breakfast bars, muffins, sugary yogurts, etc.
Instead, follow the law of making your breakfast the night before and you will notice a huge improvement in your health, performance and body composition.
Law #6 Drink 16 oz of water when ever you are feeling hunger pains, and wait 10 minutes.
When you are feeling the hunger pangs and feels like your stomach is going to collapse in on itself unless you get some food in it, what do you do? Well, most of us eat!
And that isn’t and unreasonable action.
But, many times hunger pangs can actually be a product of being dehydrated. When you are dehydrated you may receive mixed signals on hunger…your body is telling you are thirsty but you have the sensation of hunger.
So the next time you feel hungry, try drinking 16oz of water, and wait 10 minutes. If you still feel ravenous, go ahead and have a little something to eat…just make sure you opt for protein/healthy fats rather than processed carbohydrates!
By staying hydrated you can fight off the pangs of hunger and keep yourself from over consuming calories when you simply need water.
Law #7 Always have salad, chicken and eggs in the fridge.
As the saying goes, if it is there you will eat it!
So if you have healthy AND easy options readily available you will be more likely to go for those instead of the unhealthy convenient options.
For this reason, you should ALWAYS have eggs, baked/grilled chicken breast and salad in the fridge. You can even hard boil the eggs and have them ready to grab that way.
When you don’t feel like cooking lunch or dinner, you can now throw a couple of handfuls of salad on a plate and then cut up a piece or two of chicken or a couple/few eggs and throw them on top.
Add some dressing and there you go! Simple, quick and nutritious.
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A meal loaded with protein, healthy fats and veggies and little carb is the perfect meal for an off day or conditioning day. • This is a spinach salad with hard boiled eggs, avocado, tomatoes, walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese…I used a pear Gorgonzola dressing. • #healthyfood #healthylunch #salad #protein #eggs #avacado #lowcarb #fatloss #leangains #fitness #nutrition #theathleticway
Now if you wanted to do a little more work you could make chicken salad, or you could scramble the eggs and throw in some veggies. Either way you have some easy options to throw together when you don’t feel like investing a lot of time or energy into lunch or dinner.
Law #8 When you are in a pinch, turn to protein powder first.
Above we touched upon how protein is your best nutritional friend when it comes to enhancing health, performance and body composition.
Luckily for us, way back in the day some guys decided that it would be a good idea to make protein super easy to consume. They made it a powder that could be mixed in your preferred liquid, and then guzzled down.
Now while I’m all for eating whole foods, sometimes you are in a pinch for time and can’t sit down to eat. This definitely isn’t ideal (see law #10), but life happens. It is your job to make an less than ideal situation just that, and not a piss poor situation.
The best way to do this is to grab a scoop of protein powder and throw it in a shaker bottle with either water, milk or almond milk, shake it up and slug it down…or sip slowly 🙂
It is super easy, won’t cause you to crash if you are consuming it while driving (unlike a hot bowl of soup for example), and it provides the key nutrient for your health and performance goals.
If you need more, grab a handful of mixed nuts and a piece of fruit or carrots. Drink your shake first and then nibble on the other components of your on the go meal.
I use MyProtein Impact Whey Protein Isolate. We typically go with the Mocha flavor, but they have tons of great flavors and the quality is outstanding.
It doesn’t get much easier, and this will keep you from grabbing some other quick “grab and go” option that is the opposite of a health and performance food…you know, pop tarts, chips, corndog, etc.
Law #9 Check out the menu before you go to a restaurant.
The best thing you can do before going out to eat is check the menu.
Almost every restaurant has their menu available online, and this allows you to check it out at home where you will not be influenced by the smells of the restaurant, or what other people have on their tables…if you are like me, you like to “go to the bathroom” when you get there so you can check out other’s meals.
Instead of doing what I have been known to do, pull up the menu online and make a choice. Of course we are speaking of a choice that will be conducive to your goals.
When you get to your table let your waiter/waitress know that you are ready to order and place your order right away. Again, this prevents you from changing your mind when you see the “Heart Attack Burger” with a side of cheesy fries pass by.
The 5-10 minutes it takes before you arrive at the restaurant to pick out your meal can save you big time with your choice!
Law #10 Eat only when you are sitting at the table.
Shout out to TAW athlete Nicole M. for this one!
Nicole mentioned to me that she wanted to cut down on the grazing throughout the day, so she came up with this law, and I stole it…kind of ironic stealing a law 🙂
Just like checking the menu before going to a restaurant will help you from making a not so great decision with your meal choice, abiding by the law that you can only eat while seated at the table helps you from mindlessly snacking.
How often do you simply grab a quick snack without even thinking about it?
Maybe you are bored, or maybe something just sounds good. And if it is there, it is so easy to grab it and get on with your day.
But if you know you have to sit down at the table to eat it, then it makes that snack much less appealing.
Now I know I mentioned grabbing protein powder when you are running out the door, but in all other circumstances if you follow this law you will notice that you start to cut down on the grazing…if that is something you need to work on.
Plus, in todays world it is not uncommon to hear of families that never sit down for a meal together. But if you abide by this law, you will start to have many more family meals. Or you will all just starve to death 🙂
Thanks again for this one Nicole!
Don’t Break the Law
I promise you if you follow these laws you will experience great health, performance and aesthetic benefits.
Even if you are not the model citizen and only follow a few of these laws (if you currently are not), you will see some great things happen. And then you can jump on the whole law abiding citizen thing and implement some more.
If you found this useful, please help your friends and family members by passing this along to them!
If you go to the doctor and find out you have (or are at risk for) conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, or any other medical condition, what is typically the first thing they offer you?
Well, for those of us that are unlucky, a full rectal exam, but for most of us, the first thing that most docs offer is some sort of daily medication.
And while I’m not a big believer in pushing pills, especially if the issue can be addressed in other ways (diet and exercise anyone?!), the daily medication is given to try and help mitigate the progression of the condition, or potentially reverse it all together.
And if it works (hopefully without ridiculous side effects) then the docs are saviors and have done their job.
But what happens when you are suffering from a movement condition, or should I say, pain with movement?
These are the kind of conditions I see at TAW on a daily basis.
Well, like the docs, I prescribe daily medication, except the medication I am prescribing is not in the form of a pill…that is a bit outside my scope of practice.
Instead, I prescribe daily movement medication (DMM).
While I’m all about lifting enormous amounts of weight off of the ground, crushing chin ups and sprinting up mountains, this is not the type of movements I’m talking about. In fact, for many of athletes if you solely focus on these types of movements without the “daily medication” movements I’m about to talk about, you will likely end up making frequent visits to your local ortho. This isn’t a terrible thing as I know some pretty cool orthos, but you don’t want to be needing their services every few months.
So lets get to the daily movement medication.
Below I give you DMM for common injuries/pain that I see. Those are knee pain, low back pain and shoulder pain.
While the movements below may not be exactly what you need to help you work through your movement conditions (you can’t tell for sure without an evaluation), for 90% of athletes I’ve worked with these movements are the foundation for helping them get back from an injury, or out of pain. Complete them in the order they are written for the best results.
Here we go…
1) Knee Pain
When it comes to 99% of the knee pain that I see with athletes, the first thing we need to address is the soft tissue and extensibility of the quad and hip flexor.
When the quad and hip flexor is stiff and/or short, it pulls on the patella (knee cap) and creates a tension through the patellar tendon that results in pain. This is likely responsible for the pain you feel during squats, lunges, walking up or down stairs, etc.
Put on top of that poorly functioning and/or weak glutes and you have the perfect recipe for knee pain.
Here is the DMM to address knee pain.
Soft Tissue / Foam Roll the Quad and Hip Flexor (Rectus Femoris)
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Here is a quick video on two tips to help maximize your soft tissue work. You are likely making the mistake, and you may never have tried out the method mentioned. #foamroller #foamrolling #selfmyofascialrelease #warmups #pain #quads #kneepain #strengthcoach #strengthtraining #fitnesscoach #fitnesslifestyle #fitnessmotivation #massage #athlete #athletes #legday #muscle #flexibility #mobility #theathleticway
Stretch the Quad and Hip Flexor (Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch)
**You can elevate your downside foot on a 6-12 inch surface behind you to enhance the stretch
Activate your Glutes (Bridge, Side Lying Clam, Band Walk Variation)
**For the bridge, side lying clam and band walk work, it is imperative that you feel the work taking place in the glutes (your butt). If you feel any of the work taking place in the hamstrings, low back or front of the hip you are not executing the movement correctly and are reinforcing faulty movement.
Bonus: Stabilize the knee during an “open” activity (kb swap)
2) Low Back Pain
Low back pain may be the most common injury / pain seen at The Athletic Way.
Most of the time, low back pain is not caused by a weakness in the back as many individuals believe. In fact, it is typically the exact opposite.
When you have muscles that are overworked, they tend to be super stiff which creates a feeling of “tightness” and achy pain. This is what happens with the muscles of the low back. You are using them more than other muscles that help stabilize the region, mainly your abs.
With that, the other issue is if the abs aren’t working as much, or as well as they should, you experience lack of stability at the pelvis/lower back. This lack of stability causes excess movement at that segment and results in pain or injury.
Lastly, if you have stiff hips, the hip stiffness makes it harder to work through an appropriate range of motion at the hips, and instead causes you to move more at the low back.
All that together means that the following sequence of movement medication can help address low back pain.
Soft Tissue the Quad and Hip Flexor (Rectus Femoris)…same as above
Stretch the Quad and Hip Flexor…same as above
Quadruped Adductor Mobility
Glute Bridge…same as above
Bonus: Plank Variations
3) Shoulder Pain
When it comes to shoulder pain, most of the athletes we see at TAW have an issue with lat extensibility, or stiffness. And when the lat is stiff, it doesn’t allow the shoulder blade to rotate upward or elevate effectively, thus causing impingement when you try to reach overhead.
Along with the lats, we typically see that the pec muscles are also stiff. This is because we are anteriorly dominated beings, who like to bench press and do push ups. When our pecs are stiff, they tip our shoulder blades forward, again creating impingement especially when going overhead.
After we address the soft tissue of the lats and pecs, it is time to get the shoulder blades moving well, and then strengthen the muscles of the upper back and around the shoulder blades.
Lastly, it is critical that we keep the muscles of the rotator cuff active and strong.
All of this will help to reduce shoulder pain, and prevent future problems. Here is your daily movement medication sequence for shoulder pain.
Soft Tissue the Lats
**6:10 of this video
Soft Tissue the Pecs
**Here is my intern leader and 0ld friend Chris with the demo
Band Pull Aparts
Shoulder External Rotations
**Once you get this solidified, you can go to the standing 90/90 version with the band
Bonus: Suspension Rows and Push Ups (full push through)
If you are currently experiencing any pain of the knees, low back or shoulders, you now have some daily movement medication to help you mitigate and hopefully eliminate the pain.
Even if you are not currently in pain, these daily movement medication series will help ensure that you don’t become “ill” and ensure that you continue to maximize performance.
Just remember, all of the movements above should be completed without pain, especially the bonus movements if you get to them.
While these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optimally correcting or preventing pain and injury, they have worked magic with the athletes I’ve prescribed them to. And when they are in conjunction with a solid strength and conditioning program, you’ve got a winning recipe.
Take the few minutes per day to go through the series that is best for you (or cycle through them) and you will decrease your potential of needing to head to the doctors office because of pain or injury…and best of all, these daily medications don’t require a prescription or cost you a dime!
They really are some of the best times of the year…unless you are a Scrooge!
I mean, how can you not be happy when there is a 25 pound turkey or ham, two and half barrels of mashed potatoes and a double decker carrot cake to be consumed??
Or how about when Uncle Frank “The Tank” tries to relive the glory days and funnel a 12 pack…oh, not your family?
Well, even if the holidays are amazing, when it comes to your health, fitness and performance, they can be tough.
I’m not here to tell you to focus on protein during your meals, stay away from the extra helping of stuffing, or swap a glass of water for eggnog (loaded or unloaded depending on your age of course). All of these are great tips, but are well known.
Instead, I wanted to help play a little hazard relief after the day that inevitably goes a little off track…I mean honestly, I do this for a living and still had way more calories than I needed and sat on my ass more in a 24 hour period of time than I typically do in a month.
So instead of continuing to allow the holidays to snowball (pun very much intended), I’m going to show you what you should do (and need to do) the day after a big holiday to stop the bleeding.
Fast until at least noon the next day, and train before you eat.
Fasting has been, and will continue to be one of the most talked about nutritional strategies in the health and performance game.
Fasting pretty much forces you to consume less calories as it shortens the period of time that you can consume food (as long as you are consuming quality calories). It also has positive impacts on insulin sensitivity and other hormonal profiles that are conducive for getting and staying lean.
The caveat however, as a recent article by Christian Thibaudeau on T-Nation explained; the fasting hours when you are awake are much more “valuable” than when you are sleeping. Add a training session in there and you rev up the benefit even more.
Personally I’m not crazy about doing a high intensity resistance training session when fasted, but I’m ok with conditioning…keep reading for more on this.
The point is, try to hold off for a bit before consuming more calories after a day with an overload of calories.
Open up your hip flexors and t-spine, and get your glutes and upper back on.
For the holidays, many of us will travel by car or plane. In either case, we will be sitting for extended periods of time…this past Thanksgiving we were on the road for 10 hours in a 24 hour period!
Then we sit for the feast, and if you are a family that enjoys football, holiday movies or playing games, you will likely be sitting for most of the day.
With that, your hip flexors become stiff, t-spine closes down (rounds forward), glutes turn off and upper back musculature become lengthened and weakened. So what to do? The exact opposite.
The first thing to do is work some soft tissue of the hip flexors and quads, and attacking the chest would be good as well. Then it is time to lengthen the hip flexors (hip flexor stretch) and work through some t-spine extension (extensions over the foam roller).
Activating the glutes (glute bridge) and turning on the upper back (band pull aparts) is next to help solidify the range of motion you opened up.
Here is a post I put up on the gram explaining this process, as well as the following steps. It is the 3rd slide that I am referencing here.
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😊 The holidays are amazing, especially when you get to eat delicious food and sit around with your little man while watching some football. 🙁The only problem is, with all of the excess calorie and more sitting in 24 hours than you usually do in a month, the body can fight back a bit. To combat this you can decrease you overall caloric intake the day following, and address… • 1️⃣ Soft tissue work is the quads, hips and chest 2️⃣ Mobilize the hip flexors and t spine 3️⃣ Activate your glutes and upper back 4️⃣ Go through large ranges of motion that open you up in your warm up 5️⃣ Attack some full body conditioning (sleds and ropes are great for this) • 👏🏻 Do this the day after a bit holiday and you will be right back on track for optimal health and performance. • #holidays #holidayseason #mobility #warmup #conditioning #cardio #fitness #health #performance #athlete #athletes #theathleticway
Get a solid warm up in with movements that go through full ranges of motion.
After opening up the hip flexors and t-spine, and turning on the glutes and upper back, it is time to go through some “catch all” movement prep.
My favorite movements for this are the spiderman with t-spine and hamstring, as well as the squat to stand with overhead reach.
Both of these movements allow the hips to go through a full range of motion, as well as getting the t-spine to extend and rotate. Both of these are crucial after a long day of sitting.
This is demonstrated in the 4th slide of the post above.
Get your heart rate up with full body conditioning.
For your training session, I prefer to attack a full body conditioning session. Not that a true resistance training session is bad, but if you’ve been fasting (like you should), you likely won’t be able to put in the effort necessary to stimulate a true adaptation as you will fatigue a bit quicker.
For this reason, getting after a lighter resistance conditioning session that elevates the heart rate as well as attacks all of the major muscle groups is best.
This could be a body weight circuit, or my favorite, some sled pushes/pulls and battle ropes.
The sled push and battle ropes will fulfill the full body attack as the sled push challenges mainly the lower body and the battle ropes challenge mainly the upper body. I say mainly because both of these will challenge the core to a great extent, as well as upper body and lower body respectively to a lesser extent.
So if you want a quick and efficient full body conditioning session, try pairing together the sled and battle ropes…and you can do different variations of each if the standard push (sled) and waves (ropes) won’t do it for you in a given day.
This is shown in slide 5 of the post…and if you have a furry friend that can add an additional challenge go for it!
Get the extra crap out of the house.
While this one is simple and nothing new, I can’t reiterate it enough!
If you have plates of cookies on the counter, tupperware of sweet potato casserole in the fridge, and/or stuffing with mashed potatoes layered in bowls just waiting to be broken in to, it is going to be that much harder to get back to your “clean” routine.
Even if you have incredible will power, the double chocolate chip cookies staring you right in the face every time you go to get a glass of water, will likely make you trade that glass of water in for some milk and crush a few cookies…so get rid of them!
If you don’t want to throw them out, try pawning them off on some of your neighbors, co-workers, etc. as a gift :)…just give them each a few at a time.
Plan your meals for the next couple of days.
Again, here is another point that is talked about a TON, and for good reason!
If you plan out your meals and snag the groceries necessary to construct them, you will be able to put together some solid meals instead of relying on some quick grab and go options…like leftovers!
So the day after a holiday, make it a point to get up and go to the grocery store immediately. Not only will this take some of your fasting time and keep your mind busy, but it will guarantee that you will be able to get back on the nutritional wagon right away.
Fill your cart with lean proteins and veggies and throw together some delicious meals conducive to achieving your health and performance goals…and torching a little body fat!
This is the last point, but may be the most important!
Holidays usually end up being early mornings and late nights. Because of this we tend to be lacking in the sleep department.
When we are a little (or a lot) sleep deprived our cognitive abilities are negatively impacted (rationale), and our energy/will power are compromised.
This is not a good combination if you are trying to mitigate the damage from the holidays.
So make it a priority to get at least 8 hours of sleep for the days following the holidays. You will be able to recover better, as well as replenish energy stores in order to make better decisions and get after it with your training.
The Wrap Up
The actions you take during the holidays will definitely impact your health and performance outcomes. But it is the actions you take during the days following the holidays that will make or break your progress and results.
One day will never completely destroy your efforts (so enjoy the holidays), but if you let that one day transpire into 2, 3 or more days, you will be sliding down a slippery slope to “sonuvabitchville”.
Put the above steps into action immediately following the holidays and you will be right back on track to your optimal body.
If you need more specific help don’t hesitate to reach out…firstname.lastname@example.org!
It sucks, like a lot. Like more than having to pee really bad in the middle of the night, but your tired and its freezing, and you don’t want to get out of bed. It even sucks more than Post Malone’s outfit for the 2018 American Music Awards…like WTF??!!
It is also one of the most common ailments effecting athletes, lifters, and really just about anyone who does anything remotely active.
And the most likely scenario when pain shows its ugly face is during overhead pressing or reaching actions.
Well, without getting too technical, when we move our arms overhead the space between the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) and the scapula (shoulder blade) tends to decrease. This is an issue because between those two bones we have our soft tissue structures that can be impinged and damaged such as the rotator cuff, labrum, etc.
The key when we move our arms overhead is to mitigate or eliminate shutting down the space between the humerus and scapula. If we don’t, then we risk the potential for the soft tissues to be damaged, resulting in pain and injury.
So what must we do?
We must first understand what it means to keep the space between the humerus and the scapula open.
The Shoulder Joint
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. When the ball (head of the humerus) moves upward (when we reach overhead) the socket (scapula) must also move in a fashion that allows the ball to stay in the center of the joint.
The movement that the scapula must go through is a combination of upward rotation and elevation…this simply means that the scapula must rotate up and rise towards the head slightly.
This movement creates a pocket for the head of the humerus to stay within, and prevents it from bumping up into the scapula.
Here is a quick video describing what we are talking about.
So now that we know what the issue is, here is what we need to do to address it.
1. Decrease Lat Dominance
Your lats are a huge muscle that has a powerful play on the scapula. You can see this by looking at its attachment point to the inferior angle of the scapula.
When the lat is super strong, stiff and possibly short (which is in many athletes and strong individuals), it prevents the scapula from moving upward as the arm goes overhead.
For this reason we want to shut down the lat a bit during overhead pressing/reaching.
The best way to do so is to perform soft tissue work on the lats such as foam rolling.
The lats start at 6:10 in this video…
After rolling the lats we will want to stretch the lats out and try to inhibit the activation of the lats. Try this stretch and breathing drill out.
Once the lat is able to chill out a bit, it is time to attack and strengthen the movement and muscles responsible for moving the scapula upward.
Upward Rotation and the Serratus Anterior
When we are looking at upward rotation of the scapula, we must address the serratus anterior, which is the muscle primarily responsible for upward rotation (and protraction) of the scapula.
The serratus anterior is the fan shaped muscle that is beneath the scapula, looks like fingers on the ribcage (of lean individuals), and is also known as the boxers muscle.
To attack the serratus anterior we need to go into overhead / reaching actions with the intent of feeling the scapula wrap up and around the ribcage. Here are some great exercises to do so.
I would suggest attacking the exercises in this order as they are layered in a way so that the previous exercise is a foundation for the next.
Then you can move into overhead pressing variations, again with the intent of feeling the scapula wrap up and around the ribcage with each rep.
With overhead pressing, sometimes it is a bit tough to get the serratus to kick on without also pushing against something as you would in the wallslide.. This again likely results in a bit of pain, which is never a good thing.
To address this, try utilizing a band around the the forearm of the pressing side and face away from the anchor point so that the band is trying to pull your arm backwards…but don’t let the band win. By pressing against the band (protracting) while also upwardly rotating, the serratus has a greater potential to kick in and strengthen.
Putting it all together
When it comes to shoulder pain with pressing/reaching overhead, we must address the movement flaw that is exacerbating the inability for the scapula to get out of the way of the humeral head.
One of the primary muscles that is weak / not performing well is likely the serratus anterior, and when you neglect the serratus anterior, optimal should health is nearly impossible.
Don’t let shoulder pain, especially with overhead pressing/reaching, limit your ability to be active and athletic. Understand what needs to happen when we go overhead, and follow the advice above to get and stay pain free.
If you want more specific help with your training, reach out to me at email@example.com to get started in person or online.
This past week the family and I wrapped up a vacation out in California and got back home to amazing New Hampshire (and I say that with all seriousness) with one day to get ready for the upcoming week.
On the plane ride home (a red eye, which is good in theory but terrible in practice if you can’t sleep on a plane!) my mind began to go immediately to what I had to do in order to make the upcoming week easy, especially when it comes to having the right food on hand for breakfast, lunch and dinner…and a few snacks 🙂
While I could bring you all the way from making a food list, going to the grocery store and fighting with Caden over which cut if steak to get, I won’t bore you with those details…he likes a good sirloin by the way, nothing fancy.
Rather, I want to give you a few food prep strategies that I employ every week to ensure I have the right quality and quantity of food to support my training goals…those goals being to gain muscle, stay lean and be athletic.
Strategy 1: Prep your breakfast the night before.
Im a pretty simple guy, and when it comes to nutrition I don’t waiver from simplicity.
I typically rotate through two breakfasts: oatmeal, and omelet with sweet potatoes. For each I prep them the night before.
The night before soak 1 cup of steel cut oats in 2 cups of water and let sit overnight (I put them right in the pan I’m using to cook them).
Put 1 scoop of protein powder (whichever flavor you prefer), a few mixed nuts and about 1 tsp cinnamon into a Tupperware and place on the counter next to the stove.
Cut your fruit and put it in the bowl you will eat your oatmeal out of (I usually do half a banana, 3-4 strawberries and a few blueberries). Cover the bowl with tin foil and put it in the fridge.
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My current favorite oatmeal…chocolate kiwi banana nut ; boil two cups water and I one cup old fashion oats, cook for 5 mins, add one scoop chocolate protein powder, 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and cocoa powder and stir in, add a small handful mixed nuts, 1/2 banana sliced and one kiwi sliced….this is usually one serving for me but many will be able to get two servings from this. Enjoy!
Now all you have to do in the morning is turn the stove top on to start cooking the soaked oats. After about five minutes, or until the oats are done to your preferred consistency, stir in the protein powder mixture. Lastly, mix in your fruit and then put your oatmeal in your bowl that had the fruit.
You know what to do next!
2) Omelet with sweet potatoes
For your omelet, the night before, cut the veggies you prefer…I usually go with mushrooms, onions and avocado.
Place the cut veggies on a plate, cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Cook up your sweet potatoes and place them in a pyrex and put them in the fridge. Place your omelet pan on the stove top.
The next morning, turn the stove top on and throw your cut veggies in the pan (except avocado if you are using it).
Throw some potatoes on a cooking sheet and put them in the over at 350 degrees to let them warm up (Again, I cook a lot of potatoes the night before or in the beginning of the week and just reheat them).
After the veggies are cooked (about 3-5 minutes), scramble up some eggs and throw them in the pan (I got with 3-5 eggs depending on if I’m training or not). Now you can either make an omelet, or simply scramble the eggs and have a veggie egg scramble.
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This is it, day 7 of exactly what I eat. Swipe right to see it all. 1️⃣ Breakfast was an omelet with sweet potatoes (I also had a banana and but forgot to take a pic!). 2️⃣ A beer, yes, a beer. Just one, and it was after yard work and a light recovery jog. 3️⃣ A protein shake, apple and nuts. 4️⃣ My typical night snacks of fish oil and sauerkraut, veggies, cereal and almond milk and then pumpkin and protein with some peanut butter. ➡️ That wraps up the 7 days! Questions?…just shoot! #nutrition #nutrients #ilovefood #deliciousfood #healthyfood #athlete #theathleticway
By the time your eggs are done your potatoes should be heated…again you know what to do next.
For these two breakfast you can make various flavors of oatmeal and different omelets. So although it is only two rotating options, the varieties are endless.
**If you are trying to add size (muscle of course) add a scoop of peanut butter to your oatmeal, or simply eat it off the spoon. With the omelet add some cheese, and add a scoop of peanut butter and a banana.
Strategy 2: Cook up your main ingredients for lunch during the weekend or free day
I’m lucky as I have the ability to be home for lunch. But just because I am home doesn’t mean I want to, or always have the time to, cook up a meal.
So what I do instead is make sure that I have the main ingredients of my lunches already cooked and ready to go. I do this on the weekend, or another free day (a day with more time anyway).
What does this look like?
Every Tuesday my wife and I go down to our local grocery store and purchase 5 lbs of chicken breast and 2 lbs of beef.
I cook the chicken breast in the oven at 400 degrees for 43 minutes (yes not 40, not 45…43!). I usually sprinkle some seasoning on the chicken breast, and occasionally Jamie will ask me to put aside a couple of breasts for her to cook up.
If we are using the beef right away I will cook that up as well…we will usually just make some Mexican flavored beef to have on hand.
I cook up 3 lbs of oriental vegetables with a McCormick spice packet in a pan (a dutch oven I was told…which to me is just a big ass pan). This gives me a ton of veggies to use throughout the week.
If I am having rice or potatoes with my chicken I will cook those up as well.
With these main ingredients I can rotate through my typical lunches which include:
Spinach Salad with Veggies and Diced Chicken or Beef
-Simply put a large pile of spinach on your plate and top with your cooked veggies and chicken breast ( I usually shred my chicken breast, but you can cut it).
-Toss in some sunflower seed kernels, raisins or cranberries and some shredded cheese if you’d like.
-Use some dressing conservatively…I use Bolt House dressing which is yogurt based and very low calorie.
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Today was some off day conditioning, so it was all about the protein and veggies. A strategy that I have followed for a long time is carb cycling (basically eating more carbs on your intense training days and limiting them on off or conditioning days). And this isn’t because carbs are bad, but because your body doesn’t need as many without high intensity efforts. This allows you to sustain insulin sensitivity as well as reduce overall caloric load a couple times per week, which results in favorable adaptations such as fat loss and overall markets of health. #nutrition #nutrients #protein #veggies #meat #fatloss #salad #stirfry #theathleticway
Buffalo Chicken Salad
-Place a couple large tablespoons of low fat plain Greek yogurt in a bowl. Pour in your buffalo sauce (I use Frank’s buffalo sauce) and stir into the yogurt…test of taste and add more if desired.
-Shred 1 chicken breast (more or less if you want) into the bowl and stir it into the Greek yogurt mixture until evenly covered.
-Chop up a little onion and celery if you’d like and toss it with some sunflower seed kernels and raisins…mix well and voila.
Chicken or Beef, Veggies and Rice
-Shred or dice up a cooked chicken breast (or beef) and throw it in a pan on low to medium heat with some of your cooked rice and veggies.
-Add some seasoning or sauce if you’d like (I like to go with a little bit of orange juice, soy sauce and garlic). Let the mixture heat through and enjoy.
Those are my big 3 lunches that I rotate through, but I will also have other lunches that were leftovers from a weekend meal….which brings me to my next tip.
Strategy 3: Cook large amounts of delicious meals on the weekend or in the beginning of the week.
Probably the best way to make sure that your dinners are solid (and you can use this for your lunches as well) is to make large meals on the weekend and have plenty of leftovers.
You can even take this a step further and divide the leftovers into meals sized portions and store them in containers that you can grab and go with, or simply grab out of the fridge and have at home.
These meals can really be anything, but my favorites to do this with include stews, soups, casseroles, stir fry, etc…pretty much any dish that is all mixed together and can be easily divided and stored.
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One of my all time favorite go-to lunches or dinner is stir fry! It is quick and easy and provides the kind of nutrition you need to build an athletic body and enhance overall health and performance. ••Simply chop and cook some meat (in this case steak), chop some of your favorite veggies and sauté them (or buy them pre chopped 😉 ), throw in some soy sauce and orange juice and mix it all together. ••And if you are looking to get some carbs in (maybe you have a game, practice or an intense training day) throw in some rice. ••Simple, effective and delicious… therefore it is a great option!
But again, you can do the same thing with a piece of grilled chicken/steak, a sweet potato and green beans / broccoli for example. Most of the time we like to keep these separate so just make sure you have the right container!
4) Make your snacks ahead of time as well
While everyone talks about the 3 main meals and how to better prep for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not too many talk about prepping snacks…and we all know that snacks can make or break you.
Of course you can have “better” snacks on hand such as healthy nuts, jerky, apples, bananas, etc. but I am talking more about snacks that are like a “mini-meal”. These snacks are something you can have during the time of day when you feel your hungriest between meals, and they will not cost you too many calories…or if you are looking to put on some weight you can manipulate the ingredients of them to provide you with even a little more calorie (see below).
Here are my three go to snacks / mini-meals…
Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Bowl
-In a bowl (I use the 2 cup pyrex container as it has a lid) add 2 tbsp flaxseed, 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I use NOW Naturals Whey Protein Isolate), 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking cocoa
-Add 1/2 can pumpkin puree and stir until all ingredients are combined
-Stir in 1/2 chopped banana and 1/3 cup berries (I use Wyman’s Triple Berry Mix)
-Optional, but recommended: sprinkle coconut flakes on top
Chocolate Banana and Berry Greek Yogurt
-In a bowl add 2 tbsp flaxseed, 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking cocoa
-Add 3/4 to 1 cup plain non fat Greek yogurt and stir until all ingredients are combined
-Stir in 1/2 chopped banana and 1/3 cup berries
-Optional, but recommended: sprinkle raisins on top
Banana and Berry Cottage Cheese
-In a bowl add 2 tbsp flaxseed and 1 tsp cinnamon
-Add 1 cup of low fat cottage cheese and stir until all ingredients are combined
-Stir in 1/2 chopped banana and 1/3 cup berries
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One of my new favorite terms, via Dr. Mike Roussell, is food logistics. ➡️ Basically it means that if you have solid nutrition available, easily accessible and ready to be consumed, you will consume it. If not, there is no telling what you might shove in your mouth, crush with your molars and send down your esophagus to your stomach to be broken down before being absorbed by your small intestine (a little digestive tract knowledge for you). 🎯 This is why I take time on Sunday to put at least a few days worth of food together, or at least get the constituent parts ready to go. 👍This is a picture of my nighttime snacks for the next few night…2 pumpkin pie bowls, a Greek yogurt bowl and a cottage cheese bowl. We all know nighttime is dangerous if your don’t have a plan! 🤗 Try preparing a few days worth of food, or at the very least, having the ingredients ready to go…food logistics! #nutrition #nutrients #healthyfood #healthysnack #healthysnacks #foodlogistics #planning #preparation #foodprep #deliciousfood #protein #athlete #fitnesssuccess #fitness #fitnesslifestyle #theathleticway
I use the 2 cup pyrex as it is pretty much the perfect size for these snacks, and I make 4 of them at a time (2 pumpkin, 1 yogurt and 1 cottage cheese) on Sunday and have 1 every night…the pumpkin for non training days / conditioning days and the yogurt/cottage cheese on training days.
If you are looking to conserve calories use non fat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, and do not add the coconut flakes to the pumpkin or raisins to the Greek yogurt.
On the other hand, if you are looking to add size (and are training for it of course!) you can use low fat or full fat Greek yogurt/cottage cheese and add in the optional ingredients.
Now instead of grabbing a bag of chips, ice cream sandwich or housing a bowl of Cap’n Crunch (oh ya, Cap’n Crunch), you have 3 solid snack options to satisfy your cravings…especially because all of these have a sweet taste to them.
So there you go, a few food prep strategies that will allow you to make staying true to your solid nutritional regimen MUCHHHH easier.
It does take a little thought and time, but once you get into these habits they just become part of your day…whichever day you choose.
Start today by trying at least one of these strategies and you will soon see the enormous benefits a little food prepping can do for you.