Functional Core Strength Athletic Workout

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Core TrainingWho says you need to do hundreds of crunches to build a strong core?  In fact, with this workout, you won’t even have to do any kind of traditional core training to build a strong functional core. And it shouldn’t take you any more than 35 minutes, start to finish!

This workout has two main objectives: build overall functional strength with a focus on developing core stability through real-life movements.  Unilateral strength will also be developed to help prevent and reduce muscular imbalances.

I’ve even added in an optional fat burning finisher to help you show off that core you’ll build with this workout!

It is a fairly advanced workout, only because of the movements selected.  Beginners can give it a try, but I suggest using lighter weights than recommended, and as always, get a certified strength coach to instruct you on the exercises.

Workout Guidelines

  • If you do not have access to a barbell, use dumbbell exercise substitutes.
  • Complete the dynamic warm-up as a circuit twice, resting 30 second in between circuits.
  • Then perform the mobility section, and finish with the development section.
  • Finish with some static stretches for sore or tight areas.
  • Use a 1-0-1 tempo on all exercises except the power clean — lift the weight explosively and return the weight under control.


Dynamic Warm-Up

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Bodyweight Squats 2×10 0 BW
1b. Push Ups 2×10 0 BW
1c. Inverted Rows 2×10 0 BW
1d. Reverse Lunge w/ Twist 2×5 each leg 30 BW


Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Ankle Circles 1×30 sec 0 BW
1b. Overs 1×30 sec 0 BW
1c. Unders 1×30 sec 0 BW
1d. Wall Slides 1×30 sec 0 BW


Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1. Power Clean 3×6 90sec-2min 8RM
2a. Overhead Barbell Lunge 3×6 0 6RM
2b. 1-Arm Standing Cable Row 3×6 90sec-2min 6RM
3a. Suitcase Deadlift 3×6 each side 0 6RM
3b. 1-Arm DB Press 3×6 90sec-2min 6RM
4. (Optional Finisher) DB or KB Swing 4-8×20 sec max 10 sec 25RM


Training Phases And How They Fit Into Your Plan

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After the last post, some of you may be wondering what each of the training phases I talked about really mean.  Here’s a brief discussion of each, and why they’re beneficial to a complete training plan.

Typically, a performance-based program will follow a deliberate progression, and the program is broken into various phases, each with it’s own purpose. After an initial introductory phase to let the body become accustomed to training again (or maybe for the first time), the program will move into more focused phases. Every sport or activity has its own unique physical requirements, and not all programs are the same. A shot putter would certainly not follow the same program as a marathon runner. But most sports will use a model similar to the following. Keeping in mind this is a simplified example, after what I call the adaptation, or introductory phase, athletes will then move into hypertrophy phase. Following the hypertrophy phase will be a strength phase, then finally a power phase, before the season starts.

Next, I will elaborate slightly on the purposes of the hypertrophy, strength and power phases.

Hypertrophy – Lean Mass
The definition of hypertrophy is increased lean muscle mass. Hypertrophy is important to athletes because increased muscle mass helps protect joints and bones from injury, and in many sports having a higher body weight without fat is beneficial. Secondly, larger muscles are capable of producing more force. By training to increase muscle mass before moving into a strength phase will help you develop more strength as your training progresses. Lastly, more muscle mass leads to an increase in resting metabolic rate, resulting in the ability to burn more fat.

Strength and Power
Strength can be defined as the ability to exert force. You perform work when you apply force over a distance. Power is how quickly force, or more correctly, work can be applied.

Strength = Force – strength is equal to the absolute force produced

Work = Force x Distance – you perform work when you apply force over a distance

Power = Work/Time – power is a result of how quickly you can perform work

Power = Force x Distance/Time – power is how quickly you can apply force over a distance


So, the ability to move a given load over a further distance during a shorter period of time means greater power. That mass may be yourself during a sprint or a jump, it may be an opposing player during a pick, a block or a tackle, or even the golf club you’re swinging or the ball you’re throwing. Maybe it’s that grocery bag we were talking about earlier, or hitting a nail with a hammer. Obviously, the quicker you can perform these activities, the better your performance will be.

In most performance tasks, power is a more valuable asset than pure strength. However, as the equations tell us, an athlete must have good strength in order to be more powerful. In a performance-based strength program, we increase your lean muscle mass, then we make you strong, and finally, we make you powerful.

You will find you are able to perform everyday tasks more easily following a performance-based program. Imagine being able to keep up with your kids, not having to struggle carrying your groceries, or huffing and puffing just climbing a flight of stairs.

The simplicity of it is what makes performance training so efficient and effective. No fads, no hype, no gadgets, no fluff.  Many average athletes have become great by training with these principles in mind. What will you be capable of?

The Best Types of Foods to Fuel Your Goals

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This is by no means a definitive guide, it simply helps you identify which types of food are best suited for your goals, so you can make better choices when selecting foods to meet your specific requirements.  This information doesn’t take into account any kind of macronutrient ratio, or amount of calories needed specific to your needs.

Fat Loss

For fat loss, you will need to make sure you take in less calories than you burn (but make sure you are strength training so you lose fat, not muscle when in a caloric deficit). To do this, you want to select foods that are nutrient dense, but filling and low in calories. This way, you’re getting all of the necessary nutrients, you feel satisfied after a meal, and are keeping your caloric intake below your energy expenditure. Here are some types of foods that will help with this:

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Low-Fat Dairy and Egg Products
  • Fish and Poultry

Weight Gain

Opposite to fat loss, to gain weight, you’ll need to take in more calories than you expend (the trick is to make sure the surplus isn’t so high that the weight gain is fat mass). The key to selecting foods for weight gain are that they are nutrient dense, high in calories, and not very filling. This allows you to eat more food, more often to get your caloric intake up, but ensures you are making healthy food choices.

  • Cereals
  • Grains and Pasta (save the higher GI foods for breakfast and workouts)
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Poultry and Fish

Optimum Health

Food is meant to be fuel for our bodies (but I do believe it is more than that – consider social occasions, and so on). As long as you treat it as fuel 90% of the time, you will be eating optimally. To eat healthy, you simply want to make sure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs, while meeting your caloric requirements to maintain a healthy body composition. Foods that promote optimal health have a high nutrient to calorie rating. Meaning that per calorie, these foods contain more essential nutrients than other foods.

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Poultry and Fish

Remember, this is not meant to be a definitive guide. The amounts you eat and in which proportions are dependent on many factors. These foods are simply the kinds you should select most often given your particular goals.

The Best Workout Ever?

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To me, the best workout ever is very simple — it’s the one that you actually do, consistently.

Of course, there’s much more to a quality workout than actually doing it, but I think with so many people out there that don’t train, finding one that you will actually do is much of the battle.

But with that out of the way, there are just so many bad workouts and training programs that people follow, thinking they are getting benefit.  Personally, I think this can be even more of an issue than doing nothing at all.

For a lot of people, it can be so discouraging to put in so much effort for no results, or worse get injured.  I worry that some of these people will never find the passion to train again they’ve become so discouraged.

So what does make a good workout plan? Well, I go back to my first statement — a great start is one that you will actually stick to.  It doesn’t matter how good the workout is, if you don’t do it, you obviously will not get any results or benefit.

As far as what else to look for in a workout — stick around.  Next time, I’ll talk about the essential components of any quality workout plan.  See you then.

Core Training – The Essentials

Posted by & filed under Featured, Training.

Core TrainingAsk 100 guys if they want “six-pack” abs and 90 will say yes – the other 10 are lying to you. This may or may not be true, but when you talk about core training, six-pack abs and cover models are usually what most people are thinking about.

But the core is not really about aesthetics. Your core has some extremely important functions. Including stabilization (for posture and protection of the spine), rotation and the transfer transfer of forces from lower to upper body and upper to lower body.

This is not an anatomical definition, but I look at the core as any muscle that is involved in moving or stabilizing the trunk. In many cases, this will include muscles the join the trunk or pelvis to the lower body.

But remember, my philosophy is to NOT train muscles, but to train movements. When we look at the movements of the body, they occur in three different planes:

  • Frontal Plane – Lateral (or side-to-side) movements
  • Sagittal Plane – Linear (or front-to-back and back-to-front) movements
  • Transverse Plane – Rotational (or twisting) movements

So when we train our core, this is what we need to be thinking about. Training movements that occur in these planes of motion, or combinations of them (because we would be working in more than one plane at a time with most sport movements or daily tasks). We also need to train the stabilization, or resistance, of these movements.

Lastly, we should be eliminating, or at least minimizing, the number of ab crunches we do. I’ve eliminated any ab crunches from my programs. The reason being is the motion of a crunch puts the spine into an unnatural state of flexion, leading to back and spinal problems and poor posture. While there isn’t a lot of research on this, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

Check back on Thursday for a sample core training program, and tips on when you should be training your core.

Image courtesy of stockimages /

Soccer Conditioning Plan

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Soccer Conditioning Plan

Let’s face it, most people workout to get a better body. But with this plan, you can not only build the body of a soccer player, but get the conditioning of a soccer player to go along with it.

And for ectomorphs (hardgainer types) like me, the athletic body of a soccer player is more realistic than building the body of a linebacker. And hey, soccer players get some pretty good recognition for their bodies, too.

OK, back to some theory, before we get into the program.

Before you can even begin to decide how to train for a sport, you need to know what the physical (metabolic) requirements are. This is called the principle of specificity. Here are some numbers for you:

A soccer player, in any given 90 minute game will approximately:

Walk for 26% of the game, or about 2600 meters
Jog 49%, or 4900 meters
Cruise 17%, 1700 meters
Sprint 8%, 800 meters
and have the ball for less than 2%, 180 meters.

In other words, a soccer player travels about 10k in one game!

This gives you an idea how much you should be focusing on each component. You should be training for aerobic endurance about 75% of the time, and anaerobically only about 25%. This also gives you an idea on how to structure your training with respect to interval times and distance.

That doesn’t mean that 75% of your workouts need to be aerobically based, but 75% of the volume of the workouts should be.

Based on the analysis, here is the breakdown of training. Keep in mind this may or may not be for you depending on your age, training history, injury history, level of play, and many other variables.

Aerobic Training:
80-90% HR Max, 6-30min per rep, 1-8 reps with no more than 1 min rest. (rest should be a walk — you would never stand still in a game)

Lactate Threshold Training (Anaerobic Lactic):
>85% HR Max, 3-6 minutes per rep, 4-8 Reps with a 1:0.5 to 1:1 work to rest ratio. In other words if you were to perform a rep that lasted 3 minutes, your rest would be anywhere from 1.5 min to 3 minutes.

Anaerobic Training:
>90% HR Max, 20sec – 3 min per rep, 2-4 sets of 4-8 reps with a 1:4 work to rest ratio.

If you want to do the math on the volume for each, it closely resembles the portion of aerobic to anaerobic needs.

I would prescribe each type of workout on its own day, along with two strength training sessions per week. I would also have my athletes perform speed, agility and quickness work on strength days, or before the anaerobic training day.

So early in the off-season a training week might look something like this:

Monday – Anaerobic Focus

  1. Sprint 30 sec, Rest (walk) 90 sec, 4 times
  2. Rest 3 minutes
  3. Sprint 30 sec, Rest (walk) 90 sec, 4 times

Tuesday – Strength Workout

Wednesday – Aerobic Focus

  1. Jog 8-10 min, walk 1 min, 3-4 times

Thursday – Strength Workout

Friday – Anaerobic Lactic Focus

This workout is done on Fridays, because it’s the most taxing.  This will give you 2 days rest before getting back to it.

  1. 3 min cruise (almost a sprint, and you should not be able to go for much longer than the 3 min), rest (walk) 90 sec, 4 times

The overall plan would of course include mobility work, flexibility, speed drills, plyometrics, agility and quickness drills, as well as warm ups, cool downs and so on.

The great thing about this plan is that it develops all three energy systems, without the focus on just “cardio” or “HIIT”. It’s a much more rounded way to develop performance, fitness, and a lean body.

Image courtesy of bplanet /

The Power Clean – Benefits, Limitations, Progression and Alternatives

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Power CleanThe power clean is, without question, the most difficult lift in the AW Training Program. The lift is in the program because of the significant benefits the power clean will give an athlete. But many athletes don’t know how to correctly power clean and many guys are even intimidated by the lift. So today, I’ll talk about some of the benefits of the power clean and some concerns with the lift. We’ll also talk about a proper power clean progression and some power clean substitutes. That way, if you still don’t feel comfortable doing the lift, or don’t have access to a qualified professional to teach you the lift, you can at least get some of the same benefits.

Power Clean Benefits

Probably the biggest benefit of the power clean is that it is truly a full-body exercise. It involves the “triple-extension” of the hips, knees, and ankles, that simulates many sport and real-life movements. It develops full-body explosive power and force production. The power clean is ground-based, multi-joint, and multi-planar, which increases efficiency with many movement patterns. It works on the complete “posterior-chain”, and includes both upper-body and lower-body movements.

Limitations of The Power Clean

The biggest reason people shy away from the power clean is that it is so technique dependant. Because it’s so technical, it can take a while to master the lift, and incorrect technique can lead to injury, more so than many other lifts. It’s also best to do power cleans on a proper lifting platform, with Olympic bumper plates, and most gyms don’t have these.

Some strength coaches feel that teaching the lift is a waste of time, because it usually takes so long for athletes to master. While I agree the progression can take a period of time, once an athlete “gets it” it’s well worth their while, as the benefits are so great.

Basic Progression and Alternatives for the Power Clean

In order to learn the power clean, athletes move through a basic progression of exercises, before performing a full power clean. You’ll need to be able to hold the bar on your chest with a clean grip – this will require decent wrist mobility. Then, master each of these lifts in order to progress to the power clean:

  • Deadlift
  • Front Squat (with the clean grip)
  • Hang Jump Shrug
  • Power Jump Shrug
  • Hang High Pull
  • Power High Pull
  • Hang Clean
  • Power Clean

So you can see, it can take a while to move through each of these lifts. Because with the AW Training Program, you already do front squats and deadlifts, as you learn the lift, when the program calls for power cleans, begin with hang jump shrugs, and progress from there.

As far as alternatives, you could use plyometric exercises, but plyos do not give anywhere near the benefit of power cleans. So I suggest using any of the progression lifts in place of power cleans, but realize they won’t give you the same benefits.


Lastly, here are some key points to watch for and are the most common problems I see with power cleans.

  • In the ready position, athletes can stand with their feet too wide, and have too loose a grip on the bar. As they get ready to lift, they can keep their shoulder behind the bar, rather than over it, and they keep their elbows turned in instead of out.
  • You’ll see athletes not perform a proper triple extension and “lift with the back” and pull with the arms letting the bar get too far away from the body rather than shrug the bar.
  • Finally, they have difficulty catching the bar because their elbows are too low, and they don’t get low enough into the front squat position to catch the bar as well.

So keep practising. It’s a great lift, fun as hell to do, and will give you many benefits.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Interval Training Workouts

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Interval Training Workouts

Interval training workouts have been proven to be a fast, effective way to lose fat. And if you have fat to lose, you need to be incorporating some kind of interval training into your program. High-intensity interval training can provide numerous health benefits, too.

If you have signed up to get the AW Training Manual, you’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve only included strength workouts. So today, I’m going to talk about what interval training is, the benefits of interval training, and finally I’ll recommend to you one of the most innovative and unique interval training workouts I’ve ever come across, and how you can integrate it with the AW Training Manual.

What Are Interval Training Workouts?

Simply put, interval training workouts alternate high-intensity work periods and low-intensity active rest periods that are then repeated to complete the workout.

You can use any mode of traditional “cardio” exercise to complete your interval workouts such as running, biking, swimming, and the elliptical.  But to get even more benefit, as you’ll discover, you should incorporate some kind of resistance to your intervals like kettlebells, and bodyweight exercises.

Research On Interval Training Workouts

There are plenty of studies on the benefits of interval training.  Here’s just a few:

  • Just 2 and a half hours worth of high-intensity interval training provides similar aerobic endurance benefits as 10 and a half hours of traditional aerobic training. (Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, et al. (1996). “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max”. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28 (10): 1327–30.)
  • High-intensity interval training may improve VO2 Max (maximal oxygen consumption) more effectively than traditional, long slow cardio. (Helgerud J, Høydal K, Wang E, et al. (2007). “Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training”. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39 (4): 665–71.)
  • High-intensity interval training burns fat more effectively than longer, moderate intensity training. (Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C (1994). “Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism”. Metab. Clin. Exp. 43 (7): 814–8. )
  • HIIT has also been shown to lower insulin resistance (Boutcher SH (2011). “High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss”. J Obes 2011: 868305. )

Along with the above study, others suggest that HIIT can help with the prevention of Type II diabetes

With all of these health, fitness and performance benefits, you need to include some form of interval training into your program.

Interval Training Myths

Despite all of the positive benefits HIIT can provide, there is some misinformation out there about high-intensity interval training.

Most people are led to believe that traditional interval training (on the bike, treadmill, running outside, etc.) causes a significant increase in resting metabolic rate after exercise due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), a phenomenon known commonly as the “Afterburn” effect.  But I’ve only come across one study (a thesis at that), that claims this (if anyone can prove otherwise, please let me know).

Only high-intensity resistance training provides the much-hyped afterburn. This is why you get all the  MRT (Metabolic Resistance Training) workouts have become so popular as of late.  MRT workouts have you work at a high intesity with resistance and include controlled rest periods to keep you from recovering completely.

MRT really is just intervals with resistance.

So how do we get all of the benefits of high-intensity interval training, AND get the added results of the “Afterburn”?

31 Interval Workouts

One of the most creative sets of interval workouts I’ve come across is Craig Ballantyne’s 31 Interval Workouts. And that’s exactly what you get – 31 unique, effective, challenging yet fun interval training workouts that not only provide the benefits of interval training, but also give you the afterburn to keep you burning fat all day.

No more boring run fast, run slow workouts (that I’ve certainly been known to prescribe to my athletes, probably the biggest reason I’m recommending this program to you).

Click Here To Get 31 Interval Training Workouts Now

And these workouts are easy to integrate with the free AW Training manual.  Simply pick the interval workout you want to do, and complete it after a strength session or on an off day, up to 3 days per week (just make sure you take one complete day off of training each week).

Craig’s dedicated the last decade to helping people lose fat, and he’s an interval training expert, so I always trust his stuff when it comes to workouts to help you shed extra flab.

When most people think of interval workouts, they think you need a treadmill or bike, but that can’t be further from the truth. I really like 31 Interval Workouts because there’s no need to buy any of that expensive equipment or sign up for a gym membership (and the outrageous cost that goes along with it).

In the 31 Interval Training Workouts manual, you’ll discover how to do intervals with kettlebells, hill sprints, and even bodyweight exercises (including a NEW bodyweight cardio 5×5 circuit). This gives you all you need to get more results in less time and give you enough resistance to get the afterburn that takes your fat loss to the next level.

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Don’t wait, complete your free AW Training Program with the 31 Interval Workouts manual today and get your free copy of AW Component Training for acting now.

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NOTE: Image courtesy of hin225 /

How To Gain Strength Faster and Stay Motivated

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Most training programs will keep the variables set for a period of 4 weeks. This means the sets, reps and exercise selection will stay the same for a month. There is nothing wrong with this and this style of training is backed by a lot of research. In fact, most of my programs are designed this way. It follows a more traditional linear periodization.

But for a lot of people, following the same workouts for 4 weeks creates some boredom, and they need changes in their workouts more frequently – it keeps the motivation level high. Some trainers will continually changes exercises, or create crazy looking exercises just to be different, or worse, not have any plan at all.

Other well-known strength coaches will use a non-linear or undulated style of periodization where the training variables change each workout so they hit a hypertrophy (increase in lean mass), strength and power style workout every week.

I’m a pretty conservative guy, and my philosophy is to stick with very basic, compound exercises that work a lot of muscle fibers, and get very good at the technique in those lifts. Better technique allows you to lift more weight, leading to more strength, power, and muscle. I kind of look at it as “exercise specialization”. Any professional that is well-known and makes a lot of money is a specialist, not a generalist. They pick one thing and become very good at it. So my repertoire of exercises is relatively small compared to many other coaches and trainers. (Not that I’m against it, or that I won’t add exercises when necessary, just my view).

As far as a typical undulated periodization, I like to keep my workouts short and split movement patterns up between two or three alternating workouts. In order to make sure all movements were hit each workout, would make the workouts longer than I would want. It’s not impossible to do, but that’s for another post.

So my solution is to change the variables every week, or every two weeks. An example program that follows this is my Ultimate Strength Training Manual. With typical monthly cycles, a sample plan and it’s phases might look like this (with sample sets and reps in brackets):

Month 1: Adaptation (2-3×12)

Month 2: Hypertrophy (3×8)

Month 3: Strength (3×6)

Month 4: Power (3×4)


By changing the variable each week, it becomes this:

Week 1: Adaptation (2-3×12)

Week 2: Hypertrophy (3×8)

Week 3: Strength (3×6)

Week 4: Power (3×4)


Having an Adaptation week every month acts somewhat as an unloading week, keeping you fresh and recharged, ready to hit new goals.

Further, following a plan like this allows you to look forward to a new phase every week, and you can set personal bests in each phase every month, rather than every four months. (You should always compare PBs to a similar phase, set and rep scheme). This way, boredom is less likely to set in, and setting PBs more often helps keep you motivated. Nothing is more motivating than seeing success and results.

Dynamic Warm Up

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When it comes to warming up, many people still rely on the outdated 5-10 minute warm up on the treadmill and then go straight into their workout.

While this was generally accepted as the best way to warm up for a very long time, it’s been discovered that a more specific, dynamic style warm up serves the purpose much better.

That said, I still like my athletes to do a quick general warm up on the treadmill, bike, skipping, jogging, etc., but only for about 3 minutes.  The biggest reason is for most people, it’s a psychological thing.  Once they’re doing they’re general warm up, they know they’re in workout mode.  Also, I think it’s a good way to slowly transition your body from rest to exercise.  It raises your core temperature, lubes up the joints, and increases heart rate.

Once the general warm up is complete, we’ll move into a more specific warm up, depending on whether it’s a conditioning session or strength training session.

So here’s what I usually prescribe to my athletes before their conditioning:

  1. High Knees, or High Knee Skips (for the glutes and hamstrings)
  2. Butt Kickers (for the quads)
  3. Lateral Step Unders and Overs (mobility)
  4. Reverse Lunges with a Twist (hips and core)
  5. Inchworms (posterior chain and shoulder stabilization)

Do these exercises circuit style 2 to 3 times, then you’re ready to go.

For a resistance workout I use a few bodyweight exercises more specific to the movements of lifting:

  1. Bodyweight Squats (lower body)
  2. Lateral Step Unders and Overs (mobility)
  3. Push Ups (push muscles)
  4. Inverted Rows (pull muscles)

Again, do this circuit style 2 to 3 times, about 10 reps for each exercise.

OK, you’re warmed up now — so go do it!