How To Be Superhuman

How To Maximize the health of your Central Nervous System so you can move towards your fitness goals in a faster and safer way.

If you want to tap into new levels of physical performance, you’ll need to pay attention to your nervous system. The nervous system is often the most overlooked aspect of fitness. We all have various goals but rarely do we pay attention to the health of our nervous system. To maximize your performance in any fitness activity, your nervous system will have to be functioning well. In terms of physical performance, every elite athlete has a highly efficient nervous system. In general, your nervous system is responsible for things like your digestion, quality of sleep, and ability to process information as a few examples.

Spinal Hygiene

If you want a strong and healthy nervous system, your spinal health will have to be a priority. Your body functions based on the information your brain sends to your spinal column. If you’re spine is out of whack, you won’t be able to function or perform at your best in any activity. One of the biggest culprits of spinal deterioration is sitting. When you sit, you’re decompressing the spine.

The solution to this is doing spinal hygeine exercises. I recently learned about them through listening to a podcast by Chiropractor Dr. Tommy John. I’ve been using these exercises for months now and have reaped the benefits. Two things I notice from doing these exercises is that my spine feels a lot better and I can think more clearly as a result. I usually do each of the spinal hygiene movements repeatedly for 3-5 minutes. You can spread them out how you want or do each of them consecutively as part of a spinal hygiene workout. Below are some of the spinal hygiene exercises I do. I also shared a video at the bottom of the page of a spinal hygiene routine.

  • Head Nods- move your head up and down as far as possible.
  • Head Shakes- Turn your head side to side the way you’d do when shaking your head. Turn your head far enough that you’re looking over your shoulder.
  • Cross-Crawl Superman

Cross-Crawl Movement

Cross-Crawl movements can help your nervous system tremendously. This is due to the fact that they cause both of your brain hemispheres to work together simultaneously. My favorite cross-crawl movement is the leopard crawl. However, there’s many other movements to choose from. Below are the top 3 cross-crawl movements for nervous system health.

  • Leopard Crawl
  • Cross-Crawl Superman: Anything that fits in multiple categories is a must do!
  • Baby Crawl

Hands and Feet

If you want to maximize your nervous system health, you’ll have to address hand and foot health. There are so many nerves in your hands and feet that any disfunction in those areas of your body will have an impact on the rest of your body. Why do you think people often lift weights barefoot or use flat shoes? Or why squeezing a bar tightly boosts your lifting performance?

  • Dead Hang Stretch for time
  • Barefoot walking
  • Standing Straight Leg Raise- 5 minutes each leg

High Stress Exercises

The hardest way to optimize the health of your nervous system is through high stress exercises. High stress exercises force your nervous system to upgrade in order to be able to do them again. The key to doing high stress exercises is to give your nervous system time to recover from them. The other keys to a healthy nervous system will help speed up that recovery. Below are the top high stress exercises to boost your nervous system health.

  • Sprints
  • Heavy Farmer Walks
  • Heavy compound lifts
  • Extreme Isometric Lunges- 5 minutes on each leg

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are your nervous system’s best friend. Too much stress can inhibit your nervous system’s capabilities. One way to balance out the stress you face in training and in life is through breathing exercises. Breathing exercises will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the rest and digest function of your body.

  • Meditation
  • Alternative Nostril breathing
  • Wim Hof Breathing

Beliefs

Your beliefs will dictate your actions and your outcome. If your beliefs are not in line with your goals, you’re going to have a difficult time. The key to getting your beliefs to align with your goals is to work with your subconscious mind through repetitive positive thought. This can be done in a number of ways.

Complex Movement

Anytime you perform a complex movement, you’re developing new neuropathways in your brain. This means you’re using your brain in a way it’s never been used before and further develops it. When I talk about complex movements, I’m talking about the circus tricks you see people perform in the gym to get social media likes. I’m talking about movements that require high levels of coordination and brain usage. Below are some examples.

  • Dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Using opposite limb, something as simple as brushing your teeth with your opposite hand.
  • Cross-Crawl movements as previously mentioned
  • Any movement you’ve never tried before

Building a powerful nervous system will not only help you set new weight lifting records and excel at your sport, it’ll also make you better at every area of your life. It’ll also improve your overall health tremendously, since every function of your body is a result of the nervous system.

Photo by Evelyn Chong from Pexels

Video of Dr. Tommy John Spinal Hygeine routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iryqejKOUXU&t=101s

Leopard Crawl Exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY-PDU_LhUI

Straight Leg Raise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJvrDA6f2U0

Nose Breathing Exercises For Better Workouts and Recovery

(Short read) Yogic breathing exercises to help you get better results

What if I told you there’s something you can use to give you energy before a workout and calm you down after? This tool doesn’t cost a dime. It also won’t put a bunch of caffeine and strange chemicals in your body. This may sound crazy but the tool I’m talking about is your nose. I’ve previously talked about the importance of nose breathing for stress management. I’ve recently starting using some Yogic nose breathing exercises to help me prepare for my workouts and recover after. The exercises are so simple, I’ll share them below.

Pre-Workout

Save your money and ditch the pre-workout supplements. You’re your own source of energy. All you need to do is breathe in and out of your right nose. Doing this puts you in a more alert state of mind. In yogic traditions, the right nostril is related to the masculine energy, the type of energy that makes you want to take action. This is the place you need to be when getting ready to crush some weights or do any intense workout. I do 3 rounds of 6 breaths before my lifting sessions and I always feel energized as a result. This is very useful if you didn’t sleep well the night before.

Post-Workout

For post workout recovery you’ll do the breathing exercise through your left nose. In yogic traditions, the left nostril is related to feminine energy. This is the type of energy you should tap into post-workout to help you cool down. I speak from experience when I say this works. Just like with the right nostril, I usually do 3 rounds of 6 breaths but you can do more or less as you see necessary.

Nervous System Health

Everything you do is possible because of the nervous system. If you want to be more efficient in any activity you do, you’ll need to strengthen your nervous system. This next breathing exercise does that by getting the two hemispheres of your brain working together. It’s called alternative nostril breathing.

The way to do this breathing exercise is to breathe in through one nose and out the other and vice versa. Do three rounds of six and you’ll feel your head feel a lot more clear. In terms of timing, I like to do this at night or after a yoga session.

There you have it. You can tap into different levels of energy as you see necessary just by using your nose. These are useful for fitness purposes but can be used in other areas of your life. If you’ve been on your fitness journey long enough, you’ll know that fitness is an analogy to life.

Right and Left Nostril Breathing- http://total-yoga.org/right-vs-left-nostril-breathing/

Alternative Nostril Breathing Benefits- https://chopra.com/articles/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing

Photo by Kelvin Valerio from Pexels

The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

Throughout my fitness journey I’ve tried many exercises and exercise variations but there’s one move that really stands out. I’d go as far as saying that learning this exercise was one of the biggest turning points in my fitness journey. The move is called the Leopard Crawl and I learned about it through Tim Anderson’s original strength website.

I say this is the best exercise you’re not doing because I’ve never seen someone in person do this exercise. Maybe it’s because many people haven’t heard of it, it won’t be a social media hit, or crawling like an animal feels weird. Regardless of how you feel about the exercise, it provides many benefits.

Benefits

Core Strength: The Leopard crawl is great for core strength. It teaches you how to use all your core muscles simultaneously. Your core muscles have to stabilize in order to control your movement.

Nervous System Health: The interesting thing about Leopard Crawls is that they’re physically demanding but they’re great for revitalizing your nervous system. The reason why it’s so beneficial to the nervous system is the contralateral aspect of the movement. When you Leopard Crawl, you’re using opposite limbs simultaneously. You use your right hand at the same time as your left leg and vice versa. This forces both hemispheres of your brain to work at the same time.

Back Health: One thing I noticed is that my lower back feels better after doing rounds of leopard crawls. I think this is because of the way the movement is set up, particularly when crawling backwards. Another reason for better back health is the development of core strength cause by Leopard Crawls. A strong, stable core is your back’s best friend.

Fat Loss: Leopard Crawls are great for fat loss due to the metabolic demands it places on your body. It forces you to engage many muscles. The longer you do the crawls, the more cardiovascular energy you have to use. Every time Ive finished a round of Leopard Crawls, my heart rate skyrockets.

Muscle Building: As I mentioned before, Leopard Crawls require you to use multiple muscles at once. You already know about the core muscle engagement but did you know that Leopard Crawls will help you build bulletproof shoulders? They’ll also fire up your chests and triceps. If you don’t have access to a gym and you want to build an impressive upper body, Leopard Crawls will help you tremendously.

How To Do Leopard Crawls

Starting Position: Get down on your hands and knees.

Step 2: Raise your slightly above the ground. Raise your shoulders to a height that it’s above your hips. Tilt your head slightly so you’re looking up at an angle.

Step 3: The Leopard Crawl is a Contralateral movement so you’ll be using opposite limbs simultaneously. As you start crawling, you’ll move your left arm while moving your right leg and vice versa. You can do this forward and backwards. To make this even more difficult, maintain proper tongue posture the way I mentioned in this article.

Regardless of your fitness goal, you can benefit from the leopard crawl. It’s one of the rare exercises that will require a lot of energy but revitalize you after. If you’re not physically ready for the leopard crawl, you prepare yourself with the baby crawl. Give these movements a try!

Original Strength Website: https://originalstrength.net

Do This Instead of Foam Rolling!

Movement training will unlock new levels of your fitness.

Movement seems like a forgotten art. When it comes to training our bodies, we’re often focused on sets and reps or body fat percentage. Sitting most of the day has also made us forget what it’s like to be a good mover. Ever since we were babies we’ve been moving. Over the last couple of years I’ve gained interest in movement training through seeing famous people like Ido Portal and Conor McGregor utilizing it. I’ve even heard about movement training from fitness coaches like Tim Anderson and Steve Maxwell.

Movement goes beyond mobility drills. Mobility drills are usually done to prepare for a specific workout. Movement training is done so you can move well all the time. I still do mobility drills but doing movement training reduces the need for mobility drills.

Movement might be the most important aspect of fitness. As a student of strength, I hold strength training in high regard. Strength is a critical part of any fitness program but if you can’t move, that strength will be limited. Imagine trying to squat with tight hips and tight ankles. Imagine trying to overhead press with a stiff upper back. Movement quality is what will help you reach your full strength potential. Even if you’re training for looks, being a good mover will help you in that area as well. People who move well typically have good posture. Good posture is very attractive.

This pandemic has allowed me the extra time to focus on areas of fitness I normally ignored, specifically mobility/movement. Being able to move even goes beyond fitness. When you move well in your daily life, you feel good. I’ll share some of the movements that have helped me the most.

Movements

Cross- Crawls: Cross Crawl movements are a key part of my current training routine. The main benefits I’ve seen from them are improved coordination, core strength, and nervous system efficiency. Below is a short list of the different cross=crawl movements you can add to your workout routine and life overall.

  1. Cross Crawl Superman: In this move, you’ll start off lying on your stomach. You’ll raise your hands over the shoulder so that your thumb is pointing to the roof. Your toes will be pointed to the the floor.
  2. Leopard Crawl
  3. Bird Dog
  4. Deadbug
  5. Baby Crawl: The name of this move is appropriate because you start off on your hands and knees like a baby. You’ll also tilt your hand up and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. As you start crawling forward, you’ll move one arm forward while moving the opposite leg simultaneously. You’re basically crawling on your hands and knees. Choose a soft surface so the movement is knee friendly.

Rolls: Doing any type of roll will help you with your ability to move. There are many variations of rolls like forward rolls, lateral rolls, frog rolls. If you can move well on the ground, you can move well while standing.

Balance Work: Being able to stay balanced is a key part of moving well. There’s a simple exercise that I learned from Dr. Tommy John. You’ll stand up on one leg and lift the other leg forward. Keep the non balancing leg straight while it’s raised in the air. Hold this for 5 minutes and switch legs.

Yoga: Doing yoga will greatly help your ability to move. A full yoga practice will integrate some cross-crawl movement and balance work. Yoga also loosens up your muscles which makes it easier to move. If you’re looking for more info on yoga, check out this post I wrote last year.

Resource for different crawling and rolling exercises: https://www.youtube.com/user/OriginalStrengthSys

Demo of cross-crawl Superman : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llT817YDrII

Photo Courtesy of : https://www.pexels.com/@pixabay

What Happened When I Took 2 Weeks off of Lifting?

This article is about me recent two week break from the gym and what I learned from it.

Last Tuesday was the first day in two weeks that I was in the gym. I originally planned on taking a week off to let my body recover from several weeks of intense training. It ended up lasting longer than I thought. My nervous system needed that time to recover or else I’d be at risk of a possible injury. That time off just fueled my hunger to work out. I wanted to lift weight as bad as a dog wants a piece of steak. During my break from lifting, I didn’t just sit on the couch and watch Netflix. I did things that I believe would help me achieve my fitness goals.

What Did I do?

During my two weeks away, I made sure to be active in other ways. I did a lot of yoga and meditation to help me counteract the stress caused by heavy lifting and overall intense training. My yoga and meditation sessions typically lasted for 45 minutes per session. The yoga also helped me work on my mobility. I also did a lot of leopard crawls to keep my core engaged. Leopard crawls and other contralateral movements are also good for refreshing your nervous system because they engage both sides of your brain at the same time. I really got into these movements when I stumbled upon Tim Anderson’s blog Original Strength.  https://originalstrength.net/

I was also fortunate that the temperatures in my city rose so I could go for walks. I love walking because they promote blood flow though out my body to speed up muscle recovery. Walking also has fat burning benefits, especially when doing them in a fasted state Walk This Way To Burn Fat!. I had one intense training day. I did resisted hill sprints to keep my nervous system awake. The workout involved me doing short hill sprints while wearing a weighted vest. In addition to the weighted vest, I also attached a speed harness to make the workout more intense. It’s a good workout for athletes who want to boost their speed.By having time to regain my energy, I also found other hobbies that I enjoy, such as drawing. The image below is a drawing I made to symbolize strength. Looking at it daily gives me a confidence boost in my physical abilities.

 

img_1856

How was My First Day Back in The Gym?

On my first day back, my body felt great. Those two weeks made a world of difference for my recovery. I regret trying to lift heavy on my first day back. I felt great but my nervous system wasn’t prepared to do heavy back squats after two weeks of being so relaxed. I failed on some reps that I normally wouldn’t.  I wish I eased myself in more. When I take only one week off, my body feels recovered and I’m still feel comfortable with the movements. The next couple of workouts went a lot smoother. I  learned my lesson and I’ll never try to go heavy on my first day after a long layoff.

What I Wish I Did During The Two Weeks

Lift: When I say lift, I mean do a workout that’s different than what I do in my typical routine. If I don’t do a sprint session during my “week off “, I like to do a lifting session that’s out of my routine and focuses on stimulating my body rather than going all out. The key is to only do one session during the week or else there’s no purpose of having a recovery week. This is my personal preference but everyone’s body responds differently to different stimuli.

Visualize: If I ever take a long break from lifting again, I’ll utilize visualization. Basically, visualization is when you imagine yourself doing something. The reason it works is because your mind can’t tell the difference between what’s real and imagined. Visualization can be used for anything from fitness to career goals. High level athletes like Conor Mcgregor and Lindsey Vonn have used visualization to help them achieve success. By seeing yourself succeed at a task, you’ll have more confidence when it’s time to perform the task. There’s also been studies showing people being able to increase their strength just through visualization. This makes a lot of sense since the brain is the center of the nervous system.

In general, I don’t regret taking that time off. That time off made me appreciate my workout more. The time off also gave me time to figure out a way to make my workouts more efficient and avoid burning out. I feel like I have a fresh start in my training, while still carrying over the gains I’ve earned. I’m currently experimenting with Isometrics and Contrast training methods for the first time in my life. I plan on sharing how those training methods affect me.

Here’s a link to a study by the Strength Journal which shows the relationship between visualization and strength performance.

https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/Abstract/2012/10000/Maximizing_Strength_Training_Performance_Using.10.aspx

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/author/226aea”>simmons.kevin4208</a&gt; on <a href=”https://bestrunningshoes.com/”>Best Running</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”&gt; CC BY</a>

Meditate For Faster Results!!

This article is about how meditation has a positive impact on fitness results.

The mind and the body are connected. When the mind is healthy, the body can function at it’s best. Meditating has improved many areas of my life including my fitness. Once I got into the habit of meditating, my sleep improved tremendously. Meditating puts in me in a relaxed state, making it easier to fall asleep. I noticed I go into deeper sleep when I meditate at night.

Meditation and Hormones:

Meditation also reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol has an inverse relationship with testosterone. This means the less cortisol you have the more testosterone you can produce in your body. Testosterone is one of the key hormones needed when trying to build strength and muscle.

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880087/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23724462

Reducing Cortisol will also help you with fat loss. Cortisol and belly fat have a positive correlation. This means that the more cortisol you have, the increased chance of you gaining belly fat. This is especially prevalent for women.Maybe that’s why it’s called stress eating.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11020091

Meditation and Workout Performance:

Meditation will also benefit you while you’re working out. Meditating teaches you to be present in the moment. When you’re present in you’re work out, you’re more engaged rather than going through the motions. Being present allow for higher quality workouts.

Meditation is also a tool when it comes to build strength. Meditating is a way to refresh your nervous system due to the benefits it provides your brain. Your brain is the center of your nervous system so a healthy brain means a healthy central nervous system. Strength is a function of the nervous system.

How To Meditate:

I usually meditate twice a day, first thing in the morning and right before going to sleep. Meditating is as simple as sitting in complete silence in doing deep belly breaths.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. The deeper your breaths are the better. I like to breath so deeply that oxygen goes down to my pelvic area.It’s recommended to sit in a similar pose as shown in the image. You can also meditate while sitting on a chair. It’s important to keep an upright posture the entire time.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist or associated with any group to meditate. Anyone can do it. Try meditating for five minutes a day and once you get comfortable you can increase the duration and frequency of your meditation sessions. Simply focus on each breath.

 

CNS Primers To Lift Big Weights!

Strength is a function of the nervous system. The better your nervous system is firing, the better you’ll perform in big lifts. In between my warm-ups and main lifts I enjoy doing plyometrics to get my nervous system firing. I have various plyometric moves depending on which lift I do.

Sometimes you’re feeling sluggish and unmotivated before heading into a workout. Performing some plyometric movements will quickly ignite the inner fire necessary to dominate those weights and feel like an animal.

In case you don’t know what they are, plyometrics are exercises in which your body exerts force with the goal of increasing power. Another reason I like plyometrics before doing my big lifts is due to the muscular power activation. The faster you can move the weight in safe manner, the less likely you’ll get stuck mid lift. Power is a combination of strength and speed. Plyometrics are often associated with jump training but they can be used various ways. Sprints are an example of plyometric exercises. Most commercial gyms don’t have enough space for you to perform sprints, especially during the busy hours. I’m not a big fan of treadmill sprints but I do have selective movements for various compound lifts.

Deadlifts and Bounding: Bounding is my favorite way to prime myself for deadlifts. As a plyometric movement bounding awakens your nervous system to prepare for big lifts. Bounding and deadlifts complement each other since they both involve horizontal movement of your hips. When bounding, begin in an athletic stance. Then jump forward as far you can. Once you get good at this movement, you can increase the plyometric element of the bounds by immediately jumping forward after landing from a bound. I typically do two sets of bounds for 30 yards per set.

Squats and Squat Jumps: The squat jump is as simple as it sounds. Begin at the bottom position of a squat and jump as high as you can. Once you land, jump immediately. This teaches your body to exert vertical force with your legs like you would do when squatting. I do three sets of five jumps.

Bench press and Plyo Push-ups: Plyo push-ups help with your pushing power. I like to place my hands on a gym mat and begin in push-up position. As you lower your body like you’d do with doing push-ups, push your body up forcefully and get your hands off the ground. This is like a clap push-up without the clapping. I usually do this on a gym mat to reduce the force on my wrists.

Bonus for Squats and Deadlifts: The ultimate nervous system primer is the depth jump. Depth jumps are perfect for squats and deadlifts because they utilize all your lower body muscles. They also awaken your nervous system like nothing else. First stand on a box or a bench. Step off the bench and the moment you land, jump as high as you can. As you become more proficient with the movement, you can increase  The move looks simple but it’s very strenuous on your body. To prevent injury, make sure you’re able to squat at least 1.5 times your body weight. Also, practice proper landing by doing depth drops. Depth drops are when you step off a box and just land. You should also do them on soft floors like those of a studio room.Like all plyometric movements, keep volume low. I usually do three sets of three or four. Before doing depth jumps, I usually do one set of squat jumps or broad jumps, depending if I’m doing squats or deadlifts that day.

Bonus: Adding Plyometrics to your workout routine will make you a better athlete.

Photo via VisualHunt.com

%d bloggers like this: