Yeah, I wrote the date 10/1/20 and only corrected myself once I’d gotten half way through the post. You’d think I’d be glad to see the back of 2020.
Do hard things.
It’s easy when things get a little more challenging, whether that’s a crappy day of work, family issues or being locked down during a global pandemic, to always pick the easy option. Grab a takeaway, binge on Netflix and skip your workouts. But does that really help you?
There is definitely a place for a bit of relaxation and self care, particularly now, with everything going on, but there is a difference between taking care of yourself and giving yourself a bit of a break, and completely giving up on the things you know make you feel better.
We all know how it feels to have had a week of slothing around, eating crap and not moving much. We know what that does for our mental and physical health, and while we might tell ourselves that it’s self care, we know deep down that it’s not.
Conversely, we know that having more foods that provide the fuel and nourishment we need, and moving regularly provide the boosts in physical and mental health we need to handle whatever the world throws at us right now. So even when it feels hard, make yourself a good meal. Do a workout or get out for a walk.
And here are 2 other benefits of choosing what feels like the harder option when things are tough:
- With each little win, whether that’s a home cooked meal, a 15 min walk when you can’t be arsed or a short workout, you gain a little more momentum and motivation to do it again.
- When life gets easier, and it will, these things will be locked in and automatic, because you’ve done them when it was hard and that frees you up to focus on other things.
Principles over tactics
Which do you focus on? Following principles will ensure that you move closer to whatever goal you have set for yourself, while tactics are just how you get there.
For fat loss, the overarching principle that must be adhered to is creating a calorie deficit, without that, no matter how “good” your diet is, you’ll not make much in the way of progress.
Tactics for doing this include, calorie tracking, intermittent fasting, calorie cycling, keto, etc. Doing any of these will give you results if you are consistent and in an actual calorie deficit.
For getting stronger, progressive overload is an essential part of the process. You can’t get stronger if you don’t lift more weight over time.
Tactics would be the program or method you choose to get there. For some 5,3,1 might be the best option. For others, it might be Westside or 5×5. It doesn’t matter much, if at all, which you choose. What matters is sticking to your plan and adding weight to whatever exercise you can, when you can.
The problem is that the tactics are often wrapped up in good marketing and claim to be the only way to make progress, when actually, they are just one method out of many that will give you results when followed correctly.
Don’t get wrapped up in the method too much, find one you enjoy (or bits of a few assembled to suit your needs, and then be consistent.
2 upgrades for your side plank
Side planks are a neglected part of many programs, probably because they can be super boring.
But a couple of upgrades can transform the boring old side plank into a far superior beast.
Option 1: 90-90 side plank
A common issue I see with side planks is overarching the low back. The hips roll back, putting a ton of stress into the low back and hips. Not ideal. Another is the tendency to sag into the shoulder blade of the supporting arm, rather than driving the floor away.
So a good fix I’ve found for these issues is the 90-90 side plank.
The 90º angles at the hips and knees help tuck the pelvis under and stop you from arching your low back. You’d have to get into a pretty funky position to arch now and you’d know all about it. This is flexion of the low back, partly achieved by the actions of the obliques, thereby adding to the work done in the target area.
The second benefit is the reach I’m doing with the uppermost arm. This pulls the shoulder blades apart and stops any sagging into the supporting arm, forcing you to engage the serratus more and keep the ground pushed away. This might be a limiting point for some of you, but well worth working on as a strong serratus helps with good shoulder health.
Option 2: Copenhagen side plank
One of the limitations of a side plank is the potential imbalance between the abductor and adductor muscles. These are the muscles that pull the legs apart and back together. This, in turn, plays into stability issues at the hip, which we want to avoid.
By setting up for Copenhagens, you get the obliques on the bottom side holding you up in concert with the adductors of the top leg. You can hold these if you want, or you can add in the open/close movement of the bottom leg as in the video thereby targeting the adductors on that leg too. If setting up with your foot on the chair/bench is too difficult to start with, move in closer so that more of your lower leg is supported and shortening the lever length.