Category: Exercise

Reverse Hyper Core Training

Reverse Hyper is the name often given for the opposite of the Back Hyperextension. In the latter you stand in the foot pads with your heels held firmly in place. Then leaning the quads or the upper part of the front of your legs on pads you lean forward hinging at the hip toward the floor. You go down to approximately 45 to 60 degrees and then rise up to parallel or more above the ground.

Reverse Hyper on the bench named for the exercise
Reverse Hyper on the bench named for the exercise

With the Reverse Hyper you can use the special bench shown. You place your chest and torso on the bench with your hips extended out over the edge. Then you grasp the handles and hold yourself steady while hinging at the hip joint to lift your legs to above parallel to the floor. You then lower your legs under control to perpendicular below you.

In the video demonstration I’m doing sets of 12 with no additional weight. I’m lifting my heels up fairly high with a good degree of flexibility and mobility in my lower back.

Disclaimer: Obviously this might differ between individuals and is best determined by your own self-awareness or the advice of a qualified professional familiar with this movement and the requirements to perform it safely. Be careful and don’t become injured.

Reverse Hyper Video Demonstration:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8xyR6i97ho

This type of reverse hyper bench has a swing arm that you can slip around your ankles to add weight. The lever arm itself adds in about 5 pounds or so of resistance but it takes a little getting used to. If you want to add weight perhaps just using the empty lever tubing would be a good way to start to see if you like it or not.

I think you could also add ankle weights when you do the reverse hyper. For an exercise like this that I consider an accessory movement I prefer 3-6 sets of 12 with no or little weight added. An accessory movement supports another more primary movement, such as the RDL. Otherwise known as the Romanian Dead Lift this is itself an accessory movement for Squats and Deadlifts.

I’ve seen demos of the reverse hyper holding a dumbbell in between the toes of the feet, but I think this would be too dangerous for most normal people and recommend against it.

The “Superman Plank”, a bodyweight, no bench version of this, is one of the main core exercises in my Mountaineering Fitness: Beginner Training Manual INFO HERE

Hanging Knee Raises

Hanging Knee Raises are among my favorite core training exercises. I like to use the arm straps that connect to a power rack, or pull-up bar (or some other way to connect them).

Slip your arms into the straps until your elbows poke out the end and if your shoulder and elbow mobility allow, reach up and gently hang onto the large snap rings (carabiners) that you use to connect them to the rod). From there lift yourself up with your lats and abs until you’re hanging straight down from the straps.

Starting position for hanging knee raises with your elbows just coming out of the straps and hanging onto the carabiners loosely.
Starting position for hanging knee raises with your elbows just coming out of the straps and hanging onto the carabiners loosely.

For strict hanging knee raises you’ll need to avoid using momentum to accomplish the movement. Use your core to pull your knees up as high as you can without hurting your back. If you can gently tap your elbows with your knees, all the better. Again, without momentum, finish each rep of your hanging knee raises by lowering your legs and straighten them as you go down. Try to not touch the floor with your feet and try not to let your feet swing behind you. This will add momentum as you go forward and reduces the strictness of your hanging knee raises. Use tension in your core to slow the motion of the hanging knee raises at the bottom so that your feet stop just under you.

Upper position of the hanging knee raises with your knees touching the tips of your elbows using tension to pause to prevent the assistance of momentum.
Upper position of the hanging knee raises with your knees touching the tips of your elbows using tension to pause to prevent the assistance of momentum.

When you do these correctly and with proper tension in your core, you should only be able to do a dozen, give or take. If you can do a lot of hanging knee raises, you’re using momentum to assist the motion. This isn’t necessarily bad, since momentum and dynamic motion are valid means of training hanging knee raises, but you should mix it up and use them without momentum on a regular basis for best benefit to your core.

I recommend doing 5 sets of 10 to 12 hanging knee raises without momentum with every other workout session.

Hanging Knee Raises Video on Youtube:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6-CXiwoYVs

Disclaimer: If you have shoulder, elbow, wrist, or lower back mobility issues (or any other type of issue) that could result in pain or damage, either stop doing hanging knee raises or find a variation that you can safely do. If you don’t have commercially available straps and a safe place to fasten them, please find training or information for another variation.

Be sure to look for my upcoming Mountaineering Fitness: Beginner Training ManualDETAILS

Deadlift at Breck Rec

I did a workout today at the Breckenridge Recreation Center CLICK HERE It’s just referred to as Breck Rec here. The main part of my workout was based around the deadlift today.

Deadlift Video

Here’s a video I managed to take of two sets in my deadlift workout today. I did them with my phone and you can see when I knocked my phone over after that first set. If you keep your eyes open you can see it happen.

That aside, I had a really good workout and I went on to do squats, shoulder presses, and chin-up and pull-up exercises. For the deadlift I did a brief warmup set of 25 @ 45 lb RDL. That’s Romanian Deadlift, otherwise called Reverse Deadlift. I’ll do another article on that soon, but it’s a deadlift in which you don’t break at the knees at the lower portion of the lift. You use your glutes and hamstrings with relatively straight legs. It looks a lot like the ending position in the video, just before I stand up. Again, look for an article with video soon.

Bar Loaded for Deadlift sets of 1 at 244 lb
Bar Loaded for Deadlift sets of 1 at 244 lb

I then did a warmup set of 10 @ 111 lb. These are metric Olympic Bumper Plates so they might not add up like you’re used to. Bumper plates work with a flexible resilient floor, or deck, to absorb the impact of dropped loaded bars. Then I did 8 x 3 @ 199 lb.That’s 8 sets of 3 reps at 199 pounds. Those were intended to be my working sets and then I was planning on being done. I had some fuel in the tank still, so to speak, so I loaded up some more weight and did some singles. That’s sets of 1 rep. I did 5 x 1 @ 244 lb. There’s a lot of reasons to do this. We discussed this at the Steve House seminar I attended. Powerlifters train like this in cycles. It’s recently been recommended that runners train like this. I’m experimenting right now to see how effective it can be for me in my activities.

Deadlift Technique

You’ll see in the video that I set up with my feet a little over shoulder width apart and toes pointed outward. That works for me. I have very long legs relative to my height. I can straddle a yardstick. Yep. It makes some leg training annoying, like squats, but I’ve become accustomed to it. So what I’m saying is that if you deadlift, don’t emulate my technique exactly. Find your own foot and let alignment.

Then I set my hands outside my knees with about a thumb length between my first finger wrapping the bar and the edge of the knurling. Again, this is to clear my knees on the way up. Your position might be different. That being said, powerlifters like to pull the bar up as short a distance as possible, which means a narrower grip. I’m not training for powerlifting, I’m training for uphill travel, so I’m just getting a good workout in. I’m not going to stress over little details. If I ever work my way up to a 1000 lb pull it might make more sense to worry about it though.

I rock back and forth subtly, maybe you don’t even notice, to take up the slack in my hamstrings and glutes. I straighten my arms and lock my shoulder sockets, and pull. This is a lot of weight and I’m a bit tired now, having done my working sets already. I’m going a bit slower than I like, but near the top as I gain leverage over the bar I snap my glutes to pull my back straight and hold the bar for a second.

I resist the bar as I lower it, so that I lower it slowly. I’m training the negative or eccentric motion here. The concentric motion is the effort of pulling the bar off the floor. The eccentric motion is resisting gravity as you lower the bar. The eccentric motion is what you use hiking downhill. It’s hard to train for many people, and too much heavy eccentric training in the deadlift or any other exercise can lead to DOMS. That’s Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or the pain you feel the day after your workout. For that reason many coaches have their athletes drop the bar as they step away and let the special flooring take the blow. I lower mine to about an inch off the floor before I drop it. That’s the “clang” you hear at the end of each of the two sets in the video.

Sitting in front of the window taking a break between each set of my deadlift workout
Sitting in front of the window taking a break between each set of my deadlift workout

You might notice that I have a tendency to pull my knees out of the path of the bar a bit early. That’s because I have those long legs and when they’re bent it interrupts the path of the bar. Also since I do RDL training with weights in this range of heavy I have a pretty strong glute and lower back area to pull that bar up. Again, your technique might look completely different.

If you’re not sure how to do this, get some local coaching. Most fitness facilities will have someone who is qualified to teach this to you, or help you get good technique or form that works for you safely. Be sure to subscribe to this blog for more updates, or to get a FREE DOWNLOAD of my “Planning Your Home Cardio” ebook, CLICK HERE.

Trap Bar Deadlift Video

I’m a fan of the Trap Bar Deadlift. The Trap Bar is a hexagonal bar that surrounds your legs as you stand, with the handles on the side and set front-to-back. This allows for a different position for your arms and hands. If you have any kind of shoulder, elbow or wrist issues this might be the answer.

Trap Bar Deadlift from the top showing the bar
Trap Bar Deadlift from the top showing the bar

I’ve included a video to help show you how I do it. Note that my arms and legs are very long in proportion to my torso. That changes my alignment a bit, so that I’m starting with a more forward position with less bend in the legs. I’m also using the upper handle on the Trap Bar Deadlift so it might be viewed as a type of “pulling from pins” exercise. I train hard with the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) so my lower back can tolerate it better.

One thing to pay attention to is that I duck down a bit to relax and stretch my tendons and joints, then put tension back on them as I rise up and prepare for the lift. I’m doing sets of two singles. I do a heavy pull from the floor and set it down. Then I rest up for about 3-5 seconds and do another pull from the floor. Be careful in doing any type of lift, but especially the Trap Bar Deadlift, to keep that arch in your lower back. If you hunch it into a reverse arch you could risk some damage to your spine or pelvis.

A Trap Bar Deadlift is fine if you’re not training to compete as a Power Lifter. In my opinion it’s valid as a way to lift heavy weight and improve strength and fitness. I’m also doing the negative, or eccentric motion. That’s setting the bar down under control for most of the way down. Many Power Lifting training articles will recommend against it, since it can increase muscle soreness for some people as well as fatigue that might result in a shorter duration workout.

Since I’m not training for maximum load or, again, as a Power Lifter, I’m not sure if it’s so relevant. I also like to train for the purpose of fat loss, and heavy Trap Bar Deadlift training to fatigue, in my opinion, can help with that goal.

Trap Bar Deadlift Video Demonstration:

Speaking of fat loss, be sure to catch my new book “The 100 Calorie Diet Plan” available on Kindle, Nook, Google Play and a print edition on Amazon. I cover the basics of journaling and measuring improvements using simple basic math and SMART Goal Setting Principles. Check it out HERE for more information.

Ice Climbing Training: Ice Tool Chinups

Ice Climbing Training can involve many aspects of fitness. One that is often overlooked is Ice Tool Chinups. For me this is a power and strength exercise, not an endurance exercise. Any normal ice climber on any normal route shouldn’t have to do too many full chinups on their tools. I don’t see a lot of reason to work these as an endurance exercise. For Ice Climbing Training Endurance I’d prefer to do these assisted. That more accurately reflects the type of climbing you’d be doing.

Ice Climbing Training Tools: Hangboard and Ice Tools (sideways view)
Ice Climbing Training Tools: Hangboard and Ice Tools (sideways view)

For this exercise I’ve used protocol for power improvement. I’m doing 5 to 8 sets of 3 reps from a full hang to an upper position with the tools by my neck. If you have any previous injuries to your wrists, elbows, or shoulders you might have to adjust your ice climbing training accordingly. I’ve found this position with the tools just inside the width of my shoulders to work best for my joints.

If you want to work toward strength training, stay with 5 sets of 3 reps and work toward 5 sets of 5 reps by adding in a rep here and there as your own strength improves. You’ll know when you’re ready because you won’t feel so beat up on your last few sets.

Ice Climbing Training: Results

Ice Climbing Training Upper Body Results
Ice Climbing Training Upper Body Results

If you’re already pretty strong, or want to adjust your ice climbing training more toward endurance you can change up some things. I’ve started with my feet on the floor. The hangboard is over the doorway so that starts me about halfway up to full chinup. I just use my toes lightly to launch into an ice tool chinup then drop down under control onto the balls of my feet. Then I pop back up. You could do this for sets of 25 reps, then with a few minutes of rest do another 1 to 3 sets.

An option for even more power would be to add in a weighted belt or vest and do singles. Normally in a protocol for singles you’d do one rep as strongly and quickly as possible. Then you’d do a full complete rest for one to three minutes and do another rep. If you’re wearing a heart rate monitor you could do as many single reps as possible until your resting heart rate spikes and won’t go down within the three minutes rest period. Then your ice climbing training is done for the day.

Ice Climbing Training Video: Ice Tool Chinups

If you need a warmup for your ice climbing training, consider this quick Shoulder Mobility Circuit before you train.

Back Hyperextension to Superman Plank

I do Back Hyperextensions regularly in my training. I usually do them as a warmup for my other training especially on leg days. Getting the lower back prepared for squats and deadlifts is essential. In the video below I demonstrate a decent lower back position when doing Back Hayperextension exercises. Be sure to keep that back straight and don’t let the curve in your lower back collapse, like the classic angry cat image.

Back Hyperextension: close up of lower back and glute area

From the Youtube Page: I keep my lower back static while feeling the emphasis in my hamstrings and glutes. It’s not really a workout, but it’s a great way to warm up and cool down from your other posterior chain training.

In that back hyperextension video you probably notice that I don’t go for a large range of motion. About 45-60 degrees of movement is plenty. If you see someone doing this in a dynamic swinging movement with their shoulder pushed down and pulled back at the bottom and top, don’t imitate them. You can get hurt very badly. I think you should do back hyperextensions slowly and under control. It’s not strength training. You probably won’t be doing this with 200lbs on your shoulders. Ever.

Back Hyperextension to Superman Plank

I was talking to one of the people I train about fast uphill motion and they noticed some definite nagging pain in their Quadratus Lumborum area. I recommended back hyperextensions and Superman planks.

Back Hyperextension target muscle Quadratus Lumborum c/o Wiki
Back Hyperextension target muscle Quadratus Lumborum c/o Wiki

While training the other day it suddenly struck me to combine the two exercises into one set. It’s a lot easier since you are already set up to do the back hyperextension, and just lift your arms out for the plank. Here’s the Facebook Video I posted for this combination exercise.

The usual disclaimers apply. If you are hurt, injured, have some disability or pain or other issues that prevent you from doing this, please, check with a qualified professional before attempting it.

High Rep Calf Raises

I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago. He was doing off-season training for ice climbing and mentioned how his calves would get tired while leading. In leading ice you normally stand on your front points and lower your heels to lock in your knees and keep your weight on your bones, or skeleton. This saves wear and tear on your muscles. Be that as it may though, it still takes quite a bit of flexibility and strength to do most efficiently. This made me think about my own training with high rep calf raises.

Without going into too much detail about muscles, the calf is built with two different ways of moving. Basically, the calf lifts your heel, or pushes with the toes. It’s the same thing really. One set of calf muscles does this while the knee is straight. Another set does it while the knee is bent. In the High Rep Calf Raises we’re going to see here, your knees are straight. The calf muscles are pretty small overall, and for many of us don’t respond well to hypertrophy. That means they won’t get very big. You use your calf muscles all day long. Every step you take. So they’re pretty well tuned to high volume work. Lots of repetitions. I like 25 for the weights I use for my high rep calf raises.

High Rep Calf Raises Progression

One thing about any type of training, including maybe especially high rep calf raises, is that when you first begin, you might not be very strong. Many people will start with only their own bodyweight, possibly even supported. Let’s begin with a stretch. In the photo below I’m stretching one leg at a time, and I’m fairly flexible there. At first you can use two legs. I’m standing on a 6″ stepping box, but anything sturdy will work like stairs or a deck. Use your hands for balance. Let your heel drop below your toes as far as you can with just a mild burn in your calf. Hold that position for about 20 seconds. That’s it. You’re done. Do it before and after your calf exercise.

Stretch your calf muscles before high rep calf raises
Stretch your calf muscles before high rep calf raises

If you’ve never done high rep calf raises before, use that same step to lift your body up, keeping your knees straight, with both legs. Just your body weight is good for now.

Bodyweight 2-leg high rep calf raises
Bodyweight 2-leg high rep calf raises

When you can do 4 sets of 25 at bodyweight with two legs, then you can begin to add weight. Barbells can be tough to balance on your shoulders while doing calf raises, so I like to use the Safety Squat Bar. But you can just use anything that has weight. In the photo below I’m using a 25 lb olympic size weight plate.

Weighted high rep calf raises
Weighted high rep calf raises

If you’re feeling pretty strong and want to give it a go, you can do your weighted high rep calf raises on only one leg. Keep in mind though that for many people balance can really be an issue. Don’t hurt yourself.

Weighted Single Leg High Rep Calf Raises
Weighted Single Leg High Rep Calf Raises

High Rep Calf Raises Video

In this video I’m doing a set of high rep calf raises. 25 reps at 245 lb. (4 x 45) + 65 (for the bar) = 245 lb. This is a Safety Squat Bar and I’m glad it is. Notice how it swings when I step up onto the riser at the beginning and how it leans when I set it into the hooks at the end? If it were a straight bar I wouldn’t be able to use my hands to help with balance. But that’s just me. You might not have any issues at all. I love how my calf muscles shake the last few sets in the inset lower right. I did this after my squat training session for the day. I did that after my elliptical warmup. My legs were pretty warm by then. I recommend you warm up too. Calf muscles are pretty small and can be pretty tight, so make sure you properly warm up before you train them hard.

For myself that weight and volume works for me. You can experiment with other sets and reps to see what works for you.

Bodyweight Exercise One Legged Band Sissy Squat

I like to do some type of bodyweight exercise for warming up. It’s also great for working the smaller stabilizing muscles that I think shouldn’t be trained under heavy load. Unilateral bodyweight exercise is particularly good for the stabilizers and core.

bodyweight exercise is one tool in quad development
Quad definition is a combination of nutrition and training

In this example, the one legged band sissy squat, it takes a lot of effort to stay level. It’s definitely not for beginners. You should get in a few hundred reps on the two leg version of this bodyweight exercise before trying the single leg version. Try it with your feet and knees together to work your way into it. This simulates the balance of doing it with one leg.

If you’ve done the band version of the sissy squat all you need to do to convert it to the single leg bodyweight exercise is to lift one leg and place the ankle over your knee. Lower slowly the first time or two and don’t try the full range of motion until you get a feel for it. It’s quite different.

Bodyweight Exercise Video for One Legged Band Sissy Squat

The blue band I am using is the Jumpstretch Strong Band #6 but similar products from EliteFTS will work as well.

Setting up the bodyweight exercise for legs

I’m looping mine over the pullup bar on my power rack. You can use just about anything that will hold your body weight and is a little over head high. Like the top of a door. Think simple. You could loop a piece of webbing with a knot in it and slam it in a solid door. Be careful though to make it strong enough. This is a bodyweight exercise. Test your system with full body weight before you drop backward into the squat.

If you feel any level of pain or major instability stop immediately. You might have to work your way into this gently with something like one legged chair sitting or partial squats with one leg. I’m including the video for this easier bodyweight exercise below:

Core Week – Standing Side Abs with Barbell

You need to work your obliques, including the abs on the side. Bending side to side is a pretty good way to train your core and improve strength that applies to mountaineering, like picking up your really heavy pack, lifting a sled over a crevasse lip, digging out a tent platform.

The instructions for this one are pretty simple. In my case I like to use a barbell for the instability, but you could use something more compact and stable, like a kettlebell, dumbbell or weight plate. I grab the middle from a mid-thigh position off a rack, straighten my back and shoulders for good posture, then dip the bar up and down, lower and lift, pulling with my side muscles.

I avoid tilting my hip, bending my elbow and wrist, so that the force is applied better to the side ab muscles.

As for the other exercises, guard your back and joints, be careful, and really, you don’t need a lot of weight for this one. I usually use an empty bar (45 lb) for about 25 reps, but anything from 10 to 25 reps is good. These are tiny muscles overall, and don’t worry about bulking them up grotesquely – it would be really tough to do with a movement like this.

Core Week – Standing Band Ab Curls

The Standing Band Ab Curl is a pretty cool exercise for your core that works a lot harder than you would think. Gravity really doesn’t give you a boost, since you’d be pulling against the resistance from above and/or to the rear. Typically you’d use a little over-the-shoulder yoke hooked to a cable and a pulley to a weight stack, like in a lat tower. I prefer to use bands crossed over my chest. Pretty cheap and simple, and you can adjust the resistance by stepping forward or back as needed.

Lean into the bands and use your core to curl forward into a “C” shape, pulling your chest toward your knees. This can be as hard or easy as you like, but be careful not to go too heavy with bands that are thicker than you can handle. If you can’t make the curl correctly, you won’t get the best benefit from it. I also arch backward a bit at the top, but let your own flexibility and condition of your lower back be your guide to your range of motion.

I have my bands girth hitched to my power rack, but you can hang them from your door frame, or stair railing or something else convenient. If you do things like this a lot, you might consider a pullup bar that fits over a door or in the frame for the best multi-tasking opportunities.

Go easy on your back, be safe and in control. Steady and slow is the right way to progress for these. I’d say anything between 20 and 50 reps would be good. If you can’t do 20, then step back or use longer or thinner bands. If you are comfortable with the power to do sets of only 10, then I’d say 3 sets with about a minute of rest between. FWIW I normally do 2 sets of 25.