Stop “Exercising.” Find What You Like. Do that…a LOT.

The term “exercise” does not quite work for everyone.  Some automatically think of some ultra hard regimen that will open them up to injury, while others think of some boring activity that takes up too much time.

No sweat; if you do not like “exercise,” check this out:

noExercise

It really is that easy.  Let me show you.

What do I like to do?

  1. I like playing basketball.
  2. I like to take walks to clear my mind, and I like to take walks with my family.
  3. I like to train for (and to run) 5K races (and perhaps a Spartan Race in 2015 if one of my trainees convinces me).
  4. I like to work out with people I train.
  5. I like to do bodyweight exercise challenges (like this).

This is how I stay in shape.  I do all of these things, and I try to do them a LOT.

How do you stay in shape?  How did you stay in shape?  What did you like to do in the past?  Do that!  Eliminate the excuses!

Stretch Now, OR Tear Later

I told myself that I had one more chin-up in me.  I was doing reps with a 25 lb weight around my waist, and I had to finish this last set.  My sore muscles said,”no,” but my mind said “yes!”

I went for it, and felt a sensation in one of my muscles similar to when you pull apart a sliced cheesy sandwich and the cheese stretches between the slices.  I made another attempt only to experience terrible pain.  #FAIL.

Why did I pull the muscle?  Well, because I did not listen to what my body was saying through the extreme soreness, and I was not consistent with stretching.

Stretching is one of those things that we guys especially ignore.  We just want to get on with the heavy grunt work…the cool stuff.  We think we do not need stretching, or that stretching is for wimps or something.

You better throw away that pride before you really hurt yourself, though…like I did.  If you want to continue to lift weights regularly, and healthily, YOU NEED TO STRETCH!

Think about it.  When you engage in strength training of any kind, you are constantly contracting your muscles.  Contractions squeeze and shorten the muscle.  If you do that for a while, your muscle starts to get used to being a bit shorter.  Therefore, you have to stretch it back out.

Regular stretching ensures that the muscles retain their full range of motion.  It also helps you to potentially reduce soreness and decrease recovery time.

Going back to my case, I pulled a muscle called the Teres Major, referred to sometimes as the “little lat.”  I do a LOT of chin-ups…most days of the week, and this particular muscle had begun to become increasingly sore.  I thought that I might be able to work through it, and unfortunately I had been skimping on my stretching because I thought that I lacked the time for it.  Yet another #FAIL.

It took me at least two months for rehabilitation of that 3-4 inch long muscle.  Recovery involved a couple of massage therapy visits, low weight/high reps on an assisted chin-up machine, and LOTS of stretching.  Specifically, the stretches I used were:

  • Hanging Arm Stretch – Hold on to a pull-up bar with a forward grip, and slowly allow your self to hang down, controlling your descent with your legs on the ground.  Descend until you feel a comfortable stretch along the sides of your shoulders and your back.  This is an excellent stretch for the Teres Major and the Lats.

    Hanging Arm Stretch - Great for stretching the arms, lats and "little lats"

    Hanging Arm Stretch – Great for stretching the arms, lats and “little lats”

  • “Pat on the Back” – Lift both arms above your head.  Then, grab the elbow of your right arm with your left hand, pull it to your left side, and bring that right hand down until you begin to touch your upper back.  Your hand should touch between your shoulder blades.  This is also a great stretch for the Lats and other minor muscles.

Another thing to note is, before you work out, focus on warming up versus stretching, and save the stretching for after you work out.  Stretching before a workout can supposedly impair the ability of your muscles to contract.

Oh, yet another bit of food for thought is, stretching might even help you with your blood pressure!  Yep, I read at some point that stretching might help tense muscles around the blood vessels to relax, reducing the pressure on them and therefore reducing your blood pressure.  This might be in a future article :).

The sad thing is that shortly after I recovered from pulling the Teres Major on one side, I pulled it on the other side as well.    I was too “eager beaver” to get back into things, and neglected yet again to listen to my body and pace myself.

Don’t be too cool to stretch, please!  It is not worth it, unless you desire to rip a muscle like I did.

On Your Way to 20 Chin-ups

I really like chin-ups…and calisthenics in general, for that matter.

About 4-5 years ago, the most chin-ups I could do in one set was 3.  In other words, I was pretty weak, man.

Now, last time I checked, I could bust out about 25 in a set.  BIG DIFFERENCE.  I think I can say now that I am no longer a weakling.  No bragging intended, though…only motivation.

You can do it too, if you are not already.  Want to know how I got beyond 20 chin-ups?  Glad you asked; I’ll tell you.

  1. Since I could only do 3 or so at a time, I started doing 5-6 sets of 2 repetitions as part of a circuit.  I did not do my max amount, because I wanted to be able to do 2 reps each time.
  2. I allowed myself enough time to fully recover between sets.  That was probably 1-2 minutes.
  3. I did that workout 3 days a week.
  4. Each week, I pushed myself to add one more rep for each set.  In other words, instead of two reps per set, I did 3 reps per set.  This added up over time.

That’s it.

Now, I am not going to tell you that you will get 20 chin-ups in 20 days or any falsehood like that.  It is going to take time.  It took me several months to get to 15, then 19, then 23, and beyond.  It is worth it, though.  Chin-ups are excellent for strengthening and adding muscle to your back and arms, with emphasis on the ‘wings’ (lats) and the biceps.  Don’t worry about becoming bulky though, ladies ;).

Try it.  Why not?