Open Minded Fitness

March 12, 2014

The One Arm Pushup

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve @ 9:12 am

Okay, first you need motivation.

There, now your ready to begin your one-arm pushup training.  The one-arm pushup actually require an unrealistic amount of strength, but people are certainly impressed by it.  Most adult males would be able to accomplish the one arm pushup with a little bit of focused training.  Here I’ll outline a brief progression that you can use.  You don’t have to do them in order, and it is certainly possible to train with multiple exercises at once, however, I am arranging them in order of my own perceived difficulty.

Two Arm Pushup

While its true that training for two arm pushups doesn’t directly translate into doing a one-armed pushup (stamina vs. 1 rep max), don’t you think is makes sense to have a good baseline level of strength?  I do.  If you can’t crank out 20-30 pushups, I’d focus here first.  Having the stamina, balance, and strength to do 30 pushups will help you perform the other exercises.

Two Arm Pushup with Feet Elevated

When you raise your feet up, more weight is focused over your chest, and each pushup of this variety requires greater strength.  Train this technique until you can get 15-20 in a set.

Diamond Pushups

Touch your index fingers and thumbs together to form a diamond, place your hands on the ground below your heart, and then do pushups.  With clean form, the “diamond” will touch your heart.  This exercise focuses on your triceps muscle, and will also get you used to the motion of a one-arm pushup.  Train this up to 15-20 reps as well.

One Arm – Chest Elevated

By raising the chest off the ground, we are placing more weight on our feet, making this variety of one armed pushups easier.  Taking this to the extreme, you could do it up against a wall with one hand.  Don’t get disheartened when you are working on this exercise, your almost there!  Performing it on a bench like I am doing below really isn’t that much easier than doing it on the flat ground — you still have to balance, and it still takes a solid amount of strength.  Be sure to spread your legs apart for balance.

One Arm – Knee Pushups

Personally, I skipped this step.  I found knee pushups to be uncomfortable, and I would much rather struggle through a one arm pushup with bad form than a pushup from my knees!  I list it here as an option though.

One Arm Pushup

Balance is the key.  Spread your legs apart, and experiment with different hand placements.  Yes, you need to have a certain level of strength, but if you have been training the other exercises, you probably have enough to at least get a partial rep (one where you don’t go down all the way).  Train partial reps until you get the strength and balance to go deeper.  Also, as you are trying this out, you may want to put a mat underneath you or at least keep your spare hand ready to help out in case you get stuck (or “crash” to the ground).  When you finally get here, let me be the first to say, “Congratulations, you made it!”.

I noticed that my progress came in bursts, so try not to get discouraged.  The biggest thing with the one-armed pushup is to keep trying, and stay motivated by the end result!

February 27, 2014

Doing what works for you

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve @ 2:03 pm

I’ve read countless books, magazines, and online articles about how to build bigger, stronger muscles.  They generally recommend heavy compound exercises with lots of rest in-between, eating a clean but high calorie diet, and limiting cardiovascular exercises to reduce the amount of calories you burn.

The compound exercises allow you to tax your muscles in an efficient manner, by targeting many muscles groups at once.  Football players, fighters, and Olympic lifters swear by the staples of squats, bench press, and dead lifts.  For someone trying to build muscle, you need to fuel your body with good clean energy, and enough extra so that you will add weight.  And finally, if you keep your calories down, you won’t have to eat quite as much to gain weight and add muscle and grow.

It all makes perfect and logical sense, except that each winter, I fall into a trap (I see the winter as the perfect time to gain weight as I tend not to be as active during the winter).  I try a routine performing compound exercises with plenty of rest in-between and consistently adding weight each week.  But during these times, eating the right amount of food is such a chore.  When I exercise this way, my body is strained by the heavy weight, but it seems like the activity isn’t enough to increase my appetite.

Contrast this with the workouts I tend to do during the spring and summer, which involve less weight, significantly less rest, and much higher volume (sets x reps).  And during this time of year, I tend to add regular cardio.  Conventional wisdom states that I would lose weight by making this switch, however, just the opposite happens!  My appetite swells, and I end up eating more than enough to make up for the difference  in the amount of calories I burn.  (Keep in mind, that if I was trying to lose weight, I would probably be able to resist an extra sandwich here and there :) ).

The best shape I was ever in came following a three month session of the workout program p90x.  This is a very intense, varied, and high volume workout program, that also contains a lot of cardio work in addition to weights and yoga.  It is intended to help people lose a lot of weight and get into the best shape of their lives.  However, I substituted the complimentary diet program with my own version, that took the amount of calories I expected to need, and added 500-1000 per day.  Surprisingly, on this workout, I was easily able to eat the extra food, and in fact, by the end of the 90 days, I had gained 15 pounds and was much more toned and in shape than I had ever been!

The lesson I take away from this is not that the lower volume, high weight workouts don’t work — because some people see fantastic results from this type of program.  It’s that each person’s body responds a little differently, so it is important to try a lot of different workout methods until you find something that works for you to achieve the results you want.

February 20, 2014

Book Review: Talent is Overrated

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jason @ 10:58 am

The subtitle for this book is “What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else”.  Throughout the book, it challenges the popular “wisdom” that the super-talented are born that way.  While the book was initially geared towards business, it has many applications.

The book, written by Geoff Colvin, uses examples in sports, chess, music, and business to explain that the primary influence on world class performance is not innate talent or merely time spent doing the activity that makes you great — it is a simple strategy that few are strong enough implement at a world-class level: dedicated practice.  The book uses the example of Jerry Rice’s legendary six-day-per-week off-season workouts that people would ask for the details of but that trainers would never release “out of fear that people would hurt themselves trying to duplicate it”.  It also uses examples of Mozart and Tiger Woods, who under the instruction of their well-qualified fathers, rose to the highest levels of their field at an extra-ordinarily young age due to an amazing amount of dedicated practice.

The super-talented are not actually super-human, but through dedicated and difficult practice, their bodies and minds are able to perform at a level that seems unattainable to the rest of us.  What this book shows us is that these skills are not unattainable, but they come at an exceptionally high price.  The book calls out specifically one characteristic of dedicated practice; it’s not fun.

For you, in your current workout plan, you may not want to be world class but you probably want to improve at something.  This book shows us that to improve rapidly at something, we will need to sacrifice and we will need to be dedicated.  To train you body, you need to tax your body, and it will be uncomfortable.

The book is an interesting and motivating read, and it expands quite a bit on what I have briefly explained here.  (Don’t worry, I have NOT spoiled the book.)  I have always found world class performance interesting, and the curtains our rarely pulled back for us to see how it is achieved.  This book is a good addition to the library of any achiever.

January 29, 2014

Delicious Strawberry Chocolate Protein Shake

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jason @ 11:12 pm

I’ve always had a lot of trouble gaining weight.  I’ve tried a lot of different protein shake and weight gainer variations, but my favorite is a strawberry chocolate shake made out of (mostly) ordinary ingredients.  There are two ingredients in this shake that you might not ordinarily find at the grocery store: whey protein powder and carbo gain (a complex carbohydrate powder).  The rest of the ingredients can be ordinarily found at the grocery stores.

Light Shake – For the person not trying to gain weight, but in need of a quick, healthy snack.

  1. 1 cup 1% milk – 110 calories, 8g protein.
  2. 1 scoop whey protein – 110 calories, 23g protein
  3. 1 tbsp Hershey’s chocolate syrup – 50 calories, 0g protein
  4. handful of strawberries ~30 calories, 0g protien

total: 300 calories, 31g protein

Medium Shake – In-between meals, for someone trying to gain weight.

  1. 1 cup 1% milk – 110 calories, 8g protein
  2. 1 cup yogurt – 150 calories, 7g protein
  3. 1 scoop whey protein powder – 110 calories, 23g protein
  4. 1/4 cup of carbo gain – 100 calories, 0g protein
  5. 2 tbsp of Hershey’s chocolate syrup – 100 calories, 0g protein
  6. handful of strawberries – 30 calories, 0g protein

total: 600 calories, 38g protein

Heavy Shake - for someone trying to gain weight and the medium shake just isn’t enough.

  1. 2 cups 1% milk – 220 calories, 16g protein
  2. 1 cup yogurt – 150 calories, 7g protein
  3. 1/2 cup carbo gain – 190 calories, 0g protein
  4. 1 scoop whey protein powder – 110 calories, 23g protein
  5. 1 tbsp safflower oil – 120 calories, 0g protein
  6. 2 tbsp Hershey’s chocolate syrup – 100 calories, 0g protein
  7. big handful of strawberries – 50 calries, 0g protein

total: 940 calories, 46g protein

December 16, 2013

Sticking with it

Filed under: motivation — Tags: , , — Jason @ 7:00 am

Earlier this year, Steve made a post about consistency. It’s an important thing if you want to really want to see results from your workout. I find that it’s particularly important this time of year… with the new year coming up, everyone’s making resolutions for how to improve themselves, everything from shedding a few pounds to waking up earlier in the morning. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t end up sticking with these resolutions – most gym members are well aware of the surge of people that start going in January and are gone by March. We’ve all given up on some of our goals at one point or another, so how to we stop it from happening this year?

One idea I’ve seen recently is one suggested by Jerry Seinfeld to a young comic – here’s his advice:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”


As explained in the linked article, the key to this is the positive motivation you get from having the large chain. It helps make up for the fact that we’ve lost the rush from the beginning when the year was fresh. When March comes around and you’ve realized that you’ve kept this chain up for 60 days, it’ll give you the pressure you need to keep going. That’s why I’m asking for a new calendar for Christmas – I love my Google calendar for everything else, but it can’t take the place of waking up each morning and seeing a string of red X’s egging you on to hit the gym.

Now find a calendar, and set your goals. The new year gives you a great excuse to try something new, and the calendar will give you a great excuse to stick with it. So what’s your resolution?

October 31, 2013

The Turkish Get Up: An exercise that will make a man out of you

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jason @ 10:17 pm

Here’s an exercise that will make a man out of you: The Turkish Get Up.  Don’t be deceived by this seemingly simple exercise.  The Rules?  Hold the weight above you and stand up.  Hold it above you and lay down.

It’s simplicity is part of what makes it a great exercise.  Lay down on the ground, and take a dumbbell in one hand.  Hold it above your chest.  Now, stand up any way that you can, so that you end up holding the weight extended above your shoulder.  Repeat this four or five times, and then switch sides.  Sweat will start to bead up on your foredhead, your arm may start do shake, and you will feel your heart pounding in your ears.

This type of exercise builds the type of strength that can’t be faked.  No amount of machine shoulder presses or leg extensions will substitute for this strongman kind of exercise.

Start out with something light so you can get comfortable, but as you add weight and see the results, you’ll be glad you added this to your repertoire!

October 24, 2013

Balanced Three Day Workout Routine

Filed under: gym,workout — Jason @ 9:45 pm

I’ve currently been doing a maintenance workout and it just hasn’t been cutting it.  Going to the gym thinking you’re going to make up something good as you go along is usually a recipe for losing your previous gains, and that’s what has been happening.  I’ve created a new workout for myself to get things going again, so I figured I would share.  This one assumes you have access to a gym.

I’ve been balancing my workout lately with a Taekwondo class twice a week, so I am looking for something that I can fit into a three day schedule, with a balance in focus on functional strength and endurance.

Start off with a stretch for about five minutes.  I won’t go into much detail on the stretch, but I’d recommend some ballistic streching followed by your standard static stretches.  Focus on the muscle groups that you will be working later on.

After the stretching, we will perform one of the following routines.  Switch between these circuits each time you do the workout, and repeat each circuit twice, with a two minute rest in between.

Total Body Circuit

  1. Decline push ups
  2. Pull ups
  3. Walking Lunges
  4. Dumbbell Clean and Press
  5. Hammer Curls
  6. Triceps Cable Pushdown

That circuit should get your entire body warmed up.  As always, feel free to be creative with the exercises listed.  For instance, you could substitute any of the push up varieties for the first exercise, or try performing the lunges from a Bosu Ball.

Ab Circuit

  1. Incline Crunches
  2. Bicycles
  3. Mason Twist w. Medicine Ball
  4. Leg Raises
  5. Reverse Crunch
  6. Front Plank
  7. Side Planks

After performing one of the circuits, move on to perform one of the following routines once a week.

Monday – Chest, Back, and Arms

In these routine, we have already warmed our body up, and we will continue to work our upper body further.  Perform each of the exercises in a superset, and then rest 90 seconds between each superset.

First Superset

Dumbbell Bench Press – 3×8

Cable Rows – 3×8

Second Superset

Dips – 2×8

Pull ups – 2×8

Third Superset

EZ Bar Curls – 3×8

EZ Bar Skull Crushers – 3×8

Fourth Superset

Reverse Dumbbell Curls – 2×8

Triceps Cable Pull down – 2×8

You may find your heart rate creeping up during this workout.  Bonus!  That is because we keep moving with the supersets.  Pick a weight that challenges you for the given amount of reps.  You can use a weight belt for the pull ups and dips if you need to.  Also, if you would like leaner muscle, you can change the rep count to 12 instead.

Wednesday – Endurance

While you may feel your heart rate rise on the other two days, that will be the main focus of this workout.

Farmer’s Walk – 2 minutes

Run – 10 minutes

Bike – 10 minutes

Run – 5 minutes

Farmer’s Walk – 2 minutes

Varied.  Balanced.  Simple.

Friday – Legs, Shoulders

This is another strength focused workout.  We will be focusing on the rest of the body in this workout.  Don’t skip the deadlifts, they are one of the most important exercises in this whole plan.

First Superset

Deadlifts – 3×8

Leg extensions – 3×8

Second Superset

Weighted Lunges – 2×8

Turkish Get Up – 2×8

Third Superset

Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press – 3×8

One Legged Calf Raises – 3×12

Fourth Superset

Lateral Raises – 2×8

Seated Calf Raises – 2×8

Be sure to close with a stretch.  Take a shower, and grab a (healthy) snack.  You worked hard!

October 17, 2013

Twelve Pushup Varieties to Keep Things Interesting

Filed under: Exercises,Variety,pushups — Jason @ 5:47 pm

When you’re working out, you know you need to do enough sets and reps in order to get stronger.  A common approach in many workout plans is to select a small set of exercises and repeat them over and over.  Many people have used this approach successfully, but I have found that if I do this for a long time, I tend to get bored with my workout and start looking for something new.  One way to combat this is to add variety to your workout!

Today I’d like to share twelve varieties of the classic pushup.  Some of these are easier than traditional pushups, many are harder, and you can combine them together to tailor a workout to your level of strength.  In addition to making your workouts more interesting, many of these will work additional muscle groups and increase your functional strength.

Note: If you find any of the exercise descriptions are unclear, post a comment and I will post a longer description or video to help you.

These are listed in order of increasing difficulty.

One: Knee Pushups

These can be used to make any pushup easier.  If you have difficulty doing pushups, of any variety, you can learn it first with your knees on the ground.  This is great for beginners, but it is also great for people beginning to learn the one-handed pushup.

Two: Inclined Pushups

If you can do a pushup well from your knees, the next step is to try it on an incline.  If you go to a gym, place your hands on a bench to perform your pushup.  Work out at home?  No problem!  Use a stair, or a chair (place is against a wall to prevent it from moving).

Three: Wide Leg Pushups

Perform your pushups with your legs spread wide.  I find this more difficult than doing a pushup on my knees or on an incline, but it is still slightly easier than performing it with your legs together.

Four: Lowering the Hands

This one is a small variation, but it can changes the emphasis different muscles get from the pushup.  Doing pushups with your hands up by your shoulders emphasises the shoulders, having your hands at chest level emphasises your chest.  For a challenge, trying moving the position of you hands down towards your hips.  It’s not easy.  Try it!

Five: Moving your hands around

Start with your right hand high (around your shoulder) and your left hand low (just below your chest).  Perform a couple pushups, and then swap your hands.

Six: Diamond Pushups

Hold your hands out in front of you, and touch your index fingers and thumbs together so that the shape between your hands forms a diamond.  Now place you hands on the floor, and do pushups like this.  When you are at the bottom of the pushup, your hands should be near your heart.  This is a very good tricep exercise.

Seven: Decline Pushups

Just the opposite of the incline pushups.  This shifts the weight over your chest, and increases the resistance.  Raise your feet on a weight bench, stair, or chair (place against the wall to prevent it from moving), or if you really like a challenge, raise your feet by placing them on a ball.

Eight: Weighted Pushups

Its just what it sounds like!  Have a buddy place weights on your back, or have them push down on your back giving you additional resistance.

Nine: Pushups with a Side Crunch

Yes, now we are performing two exercises at once.  Perform a normal pushup, and then as you hold it at the top, bring one of your knees up and to the side, so that you feel your oblique tighten.  On the next pushup, crunch the other side by moving the other leg.  To make this harder, perform the leg movement at the bottom of the pushup.  These are interesting, challenging, and efficient!

Ten: Medicine Ball Pushups

Grab a medicine ball.  Place one of your hands on the medicine ball and the other on the ground.  Perform a few pushups, and then roll the medicine ball to the other hand.  More pushups.  And repeat!

Eleven: Fingertip Pushups

Want a stronger grip?  Looking for a new way to work your forearms?  Add in some fingertip pushups.  Not only can you strengthen your grip, but you also get better depth on your pushups because you are raise up.

Twelve: One Arm Pushups

Ah, yes.  Everyone’s favorite!  This is definitely one to work up to.  You can look forward to an entire post that I am going to write about this one.  In short, do a pushup, but keep one of your hands behind your back.  Easy!  Right?  ;-) .

You don’t need to have variety in your workout, but it can certainly give you a motivational boost.  And that can be HUGE.  If you are sick of the same old, mix it up with some of these suggestions!

October 14, 2013

My Take on Supplements

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jason @ 3:21 pm

The bikini clad women running around, and the guys with muscles busting out of their shirts.  You’ve seen these ads before, trying to convince you that you can be like the guy in the picture, if you just drink the shake, take the pill, or eat the bar.  Who wouldn’t want to be like the people in the picture?

You’ve probably tried a few supplements.  I have.  Some seem to help a little, some don’t.  Buying a new supplement gives me a little extra motivation for the next few workouts, but its an expensive way to get a little bit of motivation.  Now let me give a little disclaimer here when I say that I haven’t gotten great results from any of the supplements I’ve tried: I’ve only tried the tamer supplements.  For fear of causing myself harm, I haven’t tried the “hardcore” supplements.

Let’s not get confused here about the people that we see in the pictures.  They may or may not be taking that supplement, but there’s a good chance they’re taking a drug to look that way.  The supplement business makes some people a lot of money.  A lot of the companies that make supplements also publish workout magazines, and roided up body builders are more than happy to pick up some money by appearing in a magazine ad.

Everything about the supplement industry is just a claim: there is no proof that any of it will work.  The Food and Drug Administration checks to make sure that the medicine we take does not cause us harm, and that the food we eat contains the nutrients listed on the label.  But supplements fall through the cracks here, and as neither a food nor a drug, they are unregulated.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try any supplements, but do be cautious of what you take.  It could just be a rip-off, or worse yet, it could cause you harm.  That being said, there are a few things that I have found that could be useful for you.


There’s nothing here to get too excited about — I’ve never looked in the mirror and thought, wow, that multivitamin is really doing the trick, however, if you feel that there are some gaps in your diet, a good multivitamin may be better than nothing at all.


Most pre-workout drinks are loaded with caffeine, but if its biggest effect is due to the caffeine, you’re probably paying too much.  Caffeine is one of the few legal substances that has consistently shown in lab studies that it does improve athletic performance.  It can be helpful for strength exercises, but surprisingly, it’s very helpful for endurance exercise.

Weight Gain Shakes

These are helpful if you don’t have much time to cook all the food you need, however, they often take shortcuts nutritionally and are lacking in the taste department.  I have used these before, and they do have there place, however, I would recommend making your own (I’ll show you next week a recipe for a tasty and nutritional weight gain shake).

As a side note here: I don’t want use this to bash a particular brand, but recently I went to Vitamin Shoppe, and was duped by the salesman into buying their brand of weight gain powder.  He claimed it was just as good as one of the more expensive brands.  Well this couldn’t be further from the truth!  I just lugged two 7.5 lbs containers out to dumpster, hardly touched.  They tasted terrible and made me feel like I was on a sugar high after I drank it.  Remember: It’s an unregulated industry, so your putting your trust in the company that made it.  Brand name is much more important here than with medicine: a generic drug has to have what it claims to have.

Protein Powder

It’s not the magic bullet that the ads claim to be, but if you are working out hard, a protein shake, or a homemade weight gain shake with added protein powder, can help you meet your nutritional needs.  As always, be careful with what you buy.  Also, I wouldn’t recommend taking the dosage that will be on the label.  Many bodybuilding magazines (put out by the supplement industry) will recommend that you need at least a gram of protein per lb of bodyweight, per day. This is overkill.  If your not a vegetarian, eating your normal diet in addition to a scoop of protein powder per day should be plently.

So there’s my take on supplements.  They have their place, but they are often overrated due to the amount of money that the company selling them stands to make off of you.  And please, be cautious with supplements, because they aren’t well tested and they aren’t necessarily what they say they are.

May 18, 2013

Coming Back from a Break

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jason @ 10:58 pm

It happens to everyone that works out, and it just recently happened to me.  I became sick and my schedule was busy, and I didn’t work out for a few weeks.  Be it a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years, everyone is faced with getting back into the workout routine after taking some time off.

The amount of time off affects how you should approach your return.  Naturally, the longer you have been without exercising, the more adjustments your body will have to make.

There are a few things that I like to do when I come back from a break:

  1. Lay out a workout plan.
  2. Identify sources of motivation.  Why workout?
  3. Set specific, measurable, and achievable goals.
  4. Set a plan to get started.

The proper workout plan should be something that gets you excited, will challenge you, and should be something that you can commit to completing.  Strike a balance by making it difficult enough that you will be motivated by your expected results, but not so difficult that you are likely to be overwhelmed.

Motivation is an important factor in the success of any exercise plan, and I find that it often helps if you begin a new plan with a high level of motivation.  Picture yourself with your new levels of strength and athleticism, or a well sculpted body.  You could take pictures on a regular basis to help track the progress of your physical appearance, or you could keep a notebook to keep track of your progression in strength.  I also find reading the transformation stories of others to be inspiring when beginning a new workout.

Goals can be another helpful source of motivation, and they are also a nice way to see if you are meeting your expectations.  A good goal should be challenging but achievable so that you feel accomplished after you have achieved it and so that the goal is still well within your reach.  It should also be something that is measurable and specific, so that you know exactly when you have reached it.  Finally, a goal should often be associated with a timeframe.  Example: “I want to be able to deadlift 250lbs for a set of 10 by the end of June”.  Challenging, achievable, measurable, and bound by time.

The last step is to have the plan for getting started.  If you have not been working out for a long time, this may include a few weeks of a break in workout, where you gradually ramp up to the full load.  Also important here are the logistical considerations for your workout.  Where will you workout?  When will this fit into your schedule?

Everyone starts working out at some point.  It can often be tiring, but after a few weeks, it can be a source of energy and stress relief.  Good luck!

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