Get Strong Enough To Lift Mjolnir

Exercise, Mobile Unit Workouts No Comments »

After I posted EAT LIKE THE MIGHTY THOR a few days ago, I received a few requests to see what Chris Hemsworth’s strength and conditioning program looked like.  Here it is…

The challenge was to take Chris from this:

To something more like this:

And to do it in only 3 months…

How did he do it?  Well, you’ve already seen how he ate to put on muscle, so here’s his 2 part workout plan:

Phase One: 8 Weeks Muscle Building

3 Sessions Per Week

Day 1: Chest and Back
Bench press
Bent-over row
Weighted Dip
Weighted Pull-up

Day 2: Legs
Hamstring Curl

Day 3: Arms
Close-grip Bench Press
Weighted Chin-up

The sets and reps went like this:

Week 1- 4 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Week 2- 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Week 3- 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Week 4- 4 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Weeks 5-8 the cycle was started over.

You can see there was nothing fancy about this workout, just basic compound movements and lots of intensity.

Most people who are looking to add muscle overly complicate things and do every exercise under the sun.  The “everything” approach actually breaks down muscle leading to no progress despite hours and hours in the gym.  Until you are very advanced it is better to pick a few big “bang-for-the-buck” exercises like the bench press and deadlift

What Muscle Does That Work?

Exercise, Rant No Comments »

Oh man, the question “What bodypart does that work?” drives me bananas.

First off, “bodypart” is a word made up by the bodybuilding industry.

Seriously.  Here’s what happens when you search for it in Mirriam-Webster or

Focusing on “bodyparts” is pointless.  You hear people talking about biceps day, triceps day, shoulders day.  But you’ll never hear someone say “It’s flexor hallucis longus day!”  (Except me, and that’s because I’m a dork)

Besides bodypart being a fake word, what cheeses me off about “What does that work?” is if you’re worrying about what muscle you’re working, you’re probably not focusing on the important things… Like working freaking hard!

Look at this gymnast:

Do you think he asks his coach what muscle the pommel horse works?  Hell no!  He gets up there and busts ass to be awesome.

The key to getting results from your training program is this: Train MOVEMENTS, not MUSCLES.

There are 7 fundamental human movements.  These movements are the squat, bend/hinge, lunge, push, pull, twist, and gait/locomotion.

Take the lunge as an example.  You can perform thousands of different lunge variations.  The ValSlide Lunge works ankle mobility, foot strength, knee stability, hip extension, knee extension, hip stability, core strength, balance, proprioception, posture, metabolic conditioning, and much more.  Yet when someone asks “What bodypart does that work?” I sigh and say “Butt and Hamstrings.”

The best exercises for transforming your body won’t be done on a machine designed to isolate one muscle group.  You’ll raise your metabolism and build a tight body by focusing on those 7 fundamental human movements.

On the youtube page for the rocking chair video below, someone actually asked what muscles it develops!

Not to sound supercilious, but WHO CARES?  “Bodypart” training is geography, not physiology.

That take home message for today is: Stop worrying about what muscles each exercise work.  Instead, focus on working hard on variations of the 7 fundamental human movements and you will totally rock your body.

Study Corner: Endurance Vs. Intervals, Effect On Anaerobic Capacity

Exercise, Interval Training, Study 1 Comment »

According to Wikipedia:

Anaerobic exercise is exercise intense enough to trigger anaerobic metabolism. It is used by athletes in non-endurance sports to promote strength, speed and power and by body builders to build muscle mass. Muscles energy systems trained using anaerobic exercise develop differently compared to aerobic exercise, leading to greater performance in short duration, high intensity activities, which last from mere seconds up to about 2 minutes. Any activity after about two minutes will have a large aerobic metabolic component.

A study from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Japan compared the effects of 6 weeks of traditional aerobics training to high intensity interval training.

The aerobic group exercised at 70% of their maximal aerobic uptake for 60 minutes 5 days a week during the study. At the end of 6 weeks the endurance group did not increase their anaerobic capacity and only increased their aerobic capacity slightly (from 53 to 58 ml/kg/min).

The interval training group also exercised 5 days a week during the 6 week trial. Their workouts consisted of 7-8 sets of 20 second sprints, followed by a 10 second recovery. After the 6 weeks, this group increased their aerobic capacity slightly MORE than the aerobics group (7ml/kg/min increase for the sprint group compared to 6ml/kg/min for the aerobics group). The interval training crew also increased their anaerobic capacity by 28%!

Let’s compare total exercise time for the two groups over the six week study:

6 weeks x 5days/week x 60 minutes = 1800 minutes

6 weeks x 5 days/week x 4 minutes = 120 minutes

So… in less than one tenth the time, the interval group beat the aerobic group in both aerobic and anaerobic improvement!

Hooray science!

If you’re interested in checking out this study, here’s the citation:

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30.
Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.
Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K.

And here’s a link to the abstract: Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max

Fitness Inspiration From The Pizza Tiger

Exercise, Health, Nutrition No Comments »

Tom Monaghan is the man who started and built Domino’s Pizza.  His story is a timeline of constant struggles to grow from one location into the worldwide franchise it is today.  Pretty cool stuff.

But what you might not know about Tom Monaghan is that despite selling pizzas, he is super-dedicated to his health and fitness.  Check out this excerpt from his book Pizza Tiger:

“It may sound corny, but I subscribe to the idea that the body is the temple of the soul.  As a living edifice, it needs proper fuel and good maintenance.  If I lost my health, I’d give every penny I had to get it back, and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t.

I know how tough it is to lose weight because I’m naturally a big eater.  If I let myself, I could polish off a large pizza and any dessert put in front of me and ask for seconds.  But I’m religious about counting calories.  Every Friday and Monday, or on any day that my weight has moved up over 163 pounds when I get on the scale in the morning, I limit myself to 500 Calories.  I eat dessert only eleven times a year: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, just before Lent, St. Patrick’s Day, and six family birthdays.  I call these my ‘pig-out’ days.  But despite my calorie counting, I couldn’t keep my weight under control without exercise.

Six days a week, I do forty-five minutes of floor exercises, including 150 consecutive pushups, followed by a six-and-a-third-mile run.  Twice a week, I end my run in the fitness center at our new headquarters, Domino’s Farms, and work out for an hour.  I do repetitions on the progressive-resistance weight machines as fast as possible and have a trainer help me work each muscle group to exhaustion.

People magazine has called me a ‘fitness freak.’  But I don’t think I’m fanatical about fitness; I’ve made my routine a habit now and I don’t want to break it.”

Some pretty good tips here…

  • He has a daily fitness routine with bodyweight exercises and conditioning
  • One rest day a week
  • Twice a week progressive resistance strength training
  • Works out with a trainer
  • Knows his cheat days FOR THE YEAR
  • Restricts Calories 2 days a week, every week
  • Also restricts Calories whenever he rises above his maintenance weight
  • Protects his health as his best investment

Monaghan is a former Marine, you can see some of the influences in his program :)

Check out Pizza Tiger if you want to see how he grew Domino’s Pizza and how he lives his life according to a strong set of core values


10 Cool Push Up Variations

Bootcamp, Exercise 2 Comments »

Push ups are a classic bootcamp exercise that strengthen and tone your upper body muscles.  But it can get BOOOOORRRRRIIINNNNGGGG doing the same old up-down pushup in your workouts.

By adding variety to your pushup training you will not only keep your bootcamp-style workouts more fun and interesting, you will help prevent injuries by working through different movements and ranges of motion.

Here are 10 Cool Push Up Variations for you to add to your workouts:

1.  Cool Pushup #1: Tiger Push Up

The Tiger Push Up is a combination plank and arm extension, great for your triceps and tummy muscles

2. Cool Pushup #2: Tripod Switch

The tripod switch is a very advanced arm training exercise (I mostly use these with mixed martial arts fighters who need to train explosive position changes)

3. Cool Pushup #3: Dive Bomber Pushup

This will really smoke your shoulder muscles

4. Cool Pushup #4: Reverse Push Up

Also called a bridging pushup, this is a motion almost never trained in traditional work out programs

5. Cool Pushup #5: Hand Lift Push Up

Keep a tight body on this one! By going all the way down and then lifting your hands, you are sure to have the same range of motion on every rep. I like to use this one for testing athletes, as it eliminates head-bobbing and half-bending reps and keeps assessment quality high

6. Cool Pushup #6: Reach Out Push Up

Want a core strength and shoulder stability challenge? Give these a shot

7. Cool Pushup #7: Forward Ellipse Pushup

One of my very favorites

8. Cool Pushup #8: Ring Triceps Extension

Not really a “push up”, but a great variation to add in for strengthening the back of your arms

9. Cool Pushup #9: Plank Walk Up

Most people only think of this as a core exercise, but it is a great workout for your pushup muscles as well

10. Cool Pushup #10: Threading Push Up

Another push up variation that takes you out of the traditional “up/down” of regular pushups

BONUS!  Pushup “Finisher” Exercise

In this finisher – use at the end of your workout! – you do as many pushups in a low position as you can, then move up to make it a little easier, push up to failure, move up a little, and repeat until you can’t move your arms. I only do a few pushups in each position in the video, as a full set of these can take over 3 minutes. (If you don’t have rings or a TRX, you can use your gym’s Smith Machine, just slide the bar up 2 inches for every set)

And of course, I like to finish every push up workout with some stretching:

10 Tips For Parents To Get The Most Out Of Gymnastics Class

Exercise, Rant, Strategies 1 Comment »

If you want your child to get the most benefit possible from their gymnastics class, you need to optimize your day to support them.

What does this mean? A tired, cranky, hungry, distracted, or dehydrated gymnast is a gymnast who isn’t going to improve during that day’s practice.

As parents, it is our duty to prepare our children as much as possible for the day’s challenges.

Here are 10 simple changes that will help your child get the most possible out of each and every gymnastics class:

1. Drink plenty of water during the day and in the evening after practice.

This might mean supervised drinking time until it becomes an automatic habit for your child.


Being dehydrated leads to poor ability to focus, weakened muscles, and reduced endurance – a recipe for injury.

And here in Carson City we are both high and dry, increasing our athlete’s need for water.

Don’t count juices, sports drinks, milk, or – god forbid – pop as hydration. Just water. Add ice if you want to get fancy :)

2. Eat something during the day!

I used to coach school sports, and I’d have my athletes keep food journals the first week of practice. Girls were coming to a 3 o’clock practice having had nothing more than a diet soda! Guys were coming in that had had a bag of Doritos and a Mountain Dew. How the heck are athletes supposed to improve if this is the fuel they are using at practice?!? (Short answer: they don’t improve)

eat it and like it

Breakfast. Lunch. And maybe a quick small snack on the way to gymnastics class. That will ensure that our Carson City Gymnastics athletes are fueled at practice.

And afterwards RECOVERY is extremely important. During practice muscles are broken down and they need nutrients to repair themselves. A healthy dinner right after an evening class is essential, even if your athlete isn’t hungry, they need to eat something to bring them out of the breakdown state brought on by exercise.

3. Get plenty of sleep.

All of our gymnastics athletes could use more sleep. Not only does missing sleep lead to wandering attention during practice, it also limits energy and recovery.

8 hours should be the minimum for a hard-working gymnast, and 9 is even better. But.. this is important: they must be quality hours.

sleep and complain

That means a quiet dark room. No music or TV playing.

Setting a sleep schedule will help even more, routine bed and wake-up times will train the body to go ahead and get deeper sleep, without the stress of unpredictability.

Limit “screen time” before bed as well. The blue light from computer monitors, smart phones, and TVs tricks the brain into thinking that it is daytime, and slowing the release of sleep chemicals that bring forth restful sleep.

4. Stay active outside of the gym.

This doesn’t mean high-risk activities like trampolining and ice-skating. Walks, swimming, and bike rides will all raise something called work capacity that will support greater efforts during gymnastics class.

These are also a great way to do something as a family, unless you feel like strapping on a leotard and sprinting at a vault platform with your athlete.

cat crash helmet

The keys here are that the extra activities should be easy and safe. You don’t want to hike up a mountain 2 hours before gymnastics class, that isn’t easy.

And you don’t want your gymnast to get hurt either, so keep it safe.

5. Keep away from poisonous things.

Fake foods are chemical storms that degrade health and erode energy, sapping the gymnast from the inside.

As convenient as it is to pick up fast food, realize that the ingredients in that food will hurt your gymnast’s performance and can even lead to health problems.

fast food kills

Without recommending a specific eating plan, follow the simple 3 step rule: Food shouldn’t need more than 3 steps to get to your table. If it takes more than 3 steps, it probably doesn’t belong in your mouth.

Baked Chicken:

Farm -> Butcher -> Grocery Store (3 steps)

Fast Food Chicken:

Farm -> Butcher -> Processing Plant -> Fast Food Joint (4 steps, avoid!)

Healthy, natural foods will build a healthy, natural gymnast.

6. Stretch at home (to get more practice at the gym)

Most stretching improvement comes from time spent stretching. And stretching is one of the few vital areas that can be trained at home.

If Coach Dave wants the girls stretching for 30 minutes a day, the gymnasts can either do that at home, or spend 30 minutes of supervised practice time stretching instead of improving routines.

grandma splits on road sign

Flexibility is an area that the gymnast can have complete control over. You can’t control what other gymnasts will do, but when it comes to flexibility, you can improve as much as you are willing to.

7. Don’t ride the Drama Llama.

It’s natural that parents form a social group, we spend a lot of time together at practices, meets, and fundraisers. But (and this is a lesson from coaching lots of sports teams) don’t ever say anything negative about other parents (or coaches!) in front of the gymnasts.


This is incredibly distracting to young athletes who are trying to make sense of their world, and any drama involving other girls, parents, or coaches will keep them from doing their best.

You don’t have to be Miss Merry Sunshine all of the time, but realize that your attitude towards the other adults in this club will rub off on your athlete and it WILL affect their performance. When in doubt, just remember that during the next carpool the driver will hear everything you said when it was your turn :)

8. Fork over the dues on time.

Let the coaches be coaches, not bill collectors. If you’re distracting the coach with issues unrelated to coaching, they won’t be as effective during class.

So fork over the cash, moneygrip.


I’ve never heard about any rich gymnastics coaches, your dues are going to silly things like insurance, rent, heat, and lights – all things needed to train your gymnast.

Just because the coaches are cool, you shouldn’t treat the relationship casually. If you have a legitimate issue, talk to the front desk, but stay in communication. Please.

9. Be consistent.

Some gymnasts take the summer off because there are no competitions. Others miss practice all of the time. And then they and their parents are pissed that they aren’t improving as quickly as some other athlete.

Continuity is defined as an uninterrupted connection. It can also be described as persistence towards a goal over time.


When a gymnast is consistent over time, small gains will eventually equal large ones. When there are interruptions, progress will halt and your gymnast might even move backward.

By staying consistent with training, your gymnast will continually improve and be less susceptible to injury.

Consistent training also leads to lower stress as competition season approaches, as there will be less doubt.

Many gymnastics injuries occur from trying to do too much too soon for the body to adapt (especially if there is poor nutrition and lack of sleep as well). As an example, think of all the runner you know who develop shin splints because they had to rush to catch up their training.

10. Use the language of a winner.

Not the language of a loser.

a winner is you

1. A winner says, “let’s find out”; a loser says, “nobody knows”

2. When a winner makes a mistake, she says, “I was wrong”; when a loser makes a mistake, she says, “it wasn’t my fault”

3. A winner goes through a problem, a loser goes around it and never gets past it

4. A winner makes commitments and a loser makes promises

5. A winner says, “I’m good, but not as good as I ought to be”; a loser says, “I’m not as bad as a lot of other people”

6. A winner tries to learn from those that are superior to her, a loser tries to tear down those who are superior to her.

7. A winner says, “There ought to be a better way to do it”; a loser says, “That is the way I have always done it”

If a parent or gymnast speaks like a loser, progress will be slow at gymnastics class. Make corrections to language and actions, then character growth and skill improvement are sure to occur.

Gymnastics Coaching: RICE For Injuries

Exercise, Health No Comments »

When small strains and sprains happen at gymnastics practice, there is a simple formula every gymnastics parent and coach should memorize and use: RICE.

It stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compress
  • Elevate

A twisted ankle or jammed up wrist will heal much more quickly when you follow these simple steps.

RICE rest

REST – If a joint is swollen, take it easy on activities until the swelling goes away. The big problem with using a sore joint isn’t slowed healing (although that IS an issue), but instead that in trying to protect the joint, your gymnast will injure herself somewhere else, usually worse.

Example: A twisted ankle is painful, and an athlete will unconsciously try to keep weight off of it. When sticking a landing she might throw all of her mass onto the opposite leg and tear up her knee. A sprained ankle heals much faster than a torn knee.


ICE – A bag of ice held to the injury, ice massage, or an ice bucket are all icing options for an injury. You can use a big of ice for everything, use ice massage on sore muscles (it gets in deep), and an ice bucket is best for ankles and feet.

When you’re icing, use 20 minutes of ice every two hours. And keep icing for a day after the pain is gone.

Note: If you’re confused about using ice or heat, always go with ice. Heat may make an injury worse.

RICE ankle wrap

COMPRESS – Pressure will help reduce swelling an increase healing speed. Every Carson City Gymnastics parent should have an ACE bandage handy.

RICE ace bandage

When compressing an injury, start wrapping from the far end of the injury and wrap in towards the body.

Example: For a twisted ankle, start wrapping in the middle of the foot and wrap in towards and over the ankle. Compressing this way helps get the swelling out of the joint.

RICE elevate injury

ELEVATE – This means to keep the injury above heart level to speed healing by “draining” the swelling into the body.

Example: For a sprained ankle, raise the foot up on a few pillows to keep the lower leg above torso level while lying down.

So the next time one of your young gymnasts gets a little twisted up, remember the RICE formula and they will be back on the mats in no time flat!

Exercise Study: Skipping Workouts Can Mess With Your Mood

Exercise, Health, Study No Comments »

Skipping your workouts can mess with your mood.

British researchers found that people who skip their workouts for just 2 weeks had significantly negative moods compared to people who continue with their program.

Skip workouts => Be cranky

It might be because stopping your workouts can cause inflammation and other biochemical changes that lead to mood changes.

What’s cool is you can boost your mood again by exercising.  Another study (from the University of Georgia) found that 12 total sets will increase mood-lifting chemicals in your brain.

Here’s the reference to the British study:

Stress. 2011 Jul;14(4):439-47. Epub 2011 Mar 27.
The effects of exercise withdrawal on mood and inflammatory cytokine responses in humans.
Poole L, Hamer M, Wawrzyniak AJ, Steptoe A.
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK.

Carson City Bootcamp: Simple 20 Minute Workout

Bootcamp, Exercise, Mobile Unit Workouts No Comments »

Don’t have time to make it to bootcamp?

No worries, this 20 minute workout will rock your metabolism and all you need is a set of dumbbells.

You’ll combine strength training moves to put together a high intensity cardio circuit workout.

First, you need a stopwatch, clock, or iPhone workout timer app.  You’ll do each exercise at a moderate pace at the top of every minute.

Try for 1 second down, 1 second pause, and 1 second up on each rep.  That way 10 reps should take you 30 seconds.

Start exercise number one at the top of the minute.  After your 10 reps, rest for the remainder of the minute.  At the next minute, do ten reps of exercise number two.  Repeat with each exercise until you’ve done all 5.  That’s one round.

Do a total of four rounds.

Bootcamp Circuit Exercise 1: Overhead Y Squat

Stand tall and raise your arms straight above you so they form a Y with your body (Do the YMCA!). Pull your shoulder blades together and down, and lower your body as deep as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Push through your heels to raise yourself back to the starting position and repeat.

Bootcamp Circuit Exercise 2: Hand Lift Push Up

Assume a pushup position with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart and your arms straight. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels (long and strong). Lower your body until your chest touches the floor. Lightly lift your hands an inch off the ground, then push yourself back to the starting position and repeat

This exercise can also be done kneeling for beginners:

Bootcamp Circuit Exercise 3: Right Leg Step Back Lunge

Stand tall with your feet slightly closer than shoulder width apart. Step back with your left leg and lower your body until your right leg is bent at least 90 degrees and your left knee almost touches the floor. Push back to the starting position.

Bootcamp Circuit Exercise 4: Renegade Row

Assume a pushup position with your arms straight, with your hands grasping a pair of dumbbells. Without allowing your torso to rotate, row the dumbbell in your right hand to the side of your chest. Lower without twisting. That’s 1 rep.

This exercise can also be done with kettlebells for a greater stability challenge:

Bootcamp Circuit Exercise 5: Left Leg Step Back Lunge

Stand tall with your feet closer than shoulder width apart. Step back with your right leg and lower your body until your left leg is bent at least 90 degrees and your right knee almost touches the floor. Push back to the starting position.

That’s it! A simple and effective workout to do on the days that you can’t make it to your Carson City Boot Camp!

One Exercise To End “Lower Belly Pooch”

Exercise, Strategies 11 Comments »

Even very lean women can have a little “pooch” on their lower bellies.

Check out these bikini models that have what my daughter calls a “pooch”:

These models are lean, heck – you can see their ribs!

So what causes that little bulge in the lower belly?

Is it something they ate hanging around in their digestive system?  Maybe.  Grains, even whole grains, can bind up in your intestines and cause bloating.  (More on that here:  Beat The Belly Bulge)

But if your diet is on point, you’re lean, you’re working hard… What can cause the pooch?

Simple: tight hip flexors.

The muscles that cross the front of your hips can get really tight and pull you into what we exercise science types call an “anterior pelvic tilt.”

This forward tilt pulls your low back out of alignment.  Look at the diagram below on the left, it shows what happens when your low back is pulled forward:

Whoa!  In the lordosis (“swayback”) picture the lower belly is pooched out!

Even on someone very lean having a swayback can give you a lower belly pooch.  Here is a skinny kid that manages to look like he has a belly:

In the title of this blog post I promised one exercise that would end lower belly pooch.  And here it is: The humble hip flexor stretch

This stretch will bring your hips back to where they should be, ease forward pressure on your lower back, and dial back the lower belly bulge.

Here is an example of someone with forward tilted hips (from tight hip flexors).  Notice the slight bulge:

And here is the same girl without the forward hip lean.  Notice that she isn’t sucking in her stomach or flexing her abs, just fixing her hips and low back:

Pretty cool, huh!

So if your diet is straight-on and you’re looking for that last little edge on getting rid of lower belly bulge, try the 3 way hip flexor stretch twice a day, for 30 seconds in each position.

And say bye-bye to the lower belly bulge!

(If you want a few exercises to tighten things up even more, check out this program:Turbulence Training For A Flat Belly)