Free Intro Workout

At 8:30 this morning, I had a 1-on-1 session with Kwaku, an Exercise Physiologist at our Plymouth, MN location. Here is what we did (exercise by exercise) and more importantly, why we did it. 

Neck Flexion – Aiming for 12 reps. I used a two-second lifting speed, one-second pause, and four-second lowering speed. 
Why? This exercise focuses on the sternocleidomastoid muscle (by far my favorite name for any muscle)! I performed this exercise for two reasons. Firstly, there is a growing body of research that suggests a stronger neck may play a protective role not only in neck injuries but also in concussion mitigation. Secondly, my grandmother told me when I was in 8th grade that I have a thick, muscular neck, just like my grandfather when he came out of the Marines around World War 2. She said that she was very attracted to his muscular neck. It’s amazing how certain things stick with us! 

Chin-up – 30-10-30 protocol. This protocol starts by lowering yourself for 30 seconds, then trying to perform as many “normal” reps as possible, then at the point of muscle failure, climbing to the top position of the chin-up and lowering for another 30 seconds. 
Why? Chin-ups target the upper back muscles as well as the biceps and the forearms. Because it involves so much muscle tissue and has a profound impact on your resting metabolic rate (your calorie burn after the workout) and your myokine production, if you were limited on time and could only do one exercise, chin-up might be your best option. Book-ending the “normal” reps with the 30-second eccentric (lowering) reps is valuable because a preponderance of research suggests that eccentric contractions are likely more valuable than concentric (lifting) contractions. 

Dip – 30-10-30 protocol. Same as above, but with dips.
Why? Dips target the chest, triceps, and the front of the shoulder. Again, this protocol focused on a lot of eccentric work.

Chin-Up – Negative Only. For this, I had 52.5 pounds hanging from my waist as extra resistance. I climbed to the top of the chin-up position and then lowered myself to a ten-second count. I quickly climbed back to the top and repeated this for eight reps. Honestly, I think Kwaku was counting a little too slowly.  
Why? I had already completed a challenging set of chin-ups with my body weight. For this set, I used a relatively heavy weight to make sure I reached the point of eccentric failure. This is not necessary for every exercise and in every workout, but this workout only included four upper body exercises (four sets total), so this intense protocol really fit well with the brevity of the workout.  I think negative-only chin-ups might be the most productive upper-body exercise on earth. This exercise also is one of the best abdominal exercises because of the isometric tension placed on the abdominal wall throughout the set. 

Dip – Negative Only. For this, I had 100 pounds hanging from my waist as extra resistance. I performed these just like the chin-ups above. I was able to complete seven reps with good form and on the eighth rep I was able to complete about five seconds of the eccentric (not ten) and that’s where Kwaku terminated the set. 
Why? Again, this was focused on the chest and triceps and got me to the point of eccentric muscle failure. 

MedX Lumbar Extension – We did 12 reps using a two-second lifting, one-second pause, and four-second lowering phase. I stopped at 12 reps. 
Why? This is the most sophisticated way of targeting the musculature of the lower back. This machine is great for preventing and treating chronic low back pain and maybe just as important, it acutely makes your lower back feel great as soon as you are done with it. Research very clearly demonstrates that strength training your lower back on this machine makes you feel better almost immediately (due to increase blood flow and disc lubrication). I did not take this set to the point of muscle failure (I was close) because research suggests that this exercise is valuable even if you are a bit shy of true muscle failure. 

I didn’t do any leg exercises. 
Why? I’m 11 days away from running the Boston Marathon and in taper mode, which means I won’t be training legs for 14 days leading up to the marathon. 

This workout with Kwaku was a total of six exercises and it was brutally hard (I did not want to do a seventh exercise).

My brief summary of what made the workout great:
-Expert supervision from Kwaku (and my desire to appease him with my performance!).
-Slow movement speed.
-Eccentric work.
-Muscle failure and, sometimes, eccentric muscle failure.
-The workouts were recorded and I had the desire to improve from what I did the last time I did the workout. The desire to improve often increases intensity and effort. 
-I covered almost all of the major muscle structures (everything but the legs).
-It was short. I knew it was going to be short and every time I was struggling and uncomfortable, I reminded myself that I was only doing six exercises and I could be mentally engaged and give my best effort for six exercises. 

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