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3 Yoga Lengthening Poses You Might Be Doing Wrong and How to Fix Them

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Walk into class with a newfound confidence.

Many of us love the thought of using yoga to sculpt long, lean muscles, but if you can’t seem to get your lengthening poses down, it can be tough to feel like you’re making progress toward that goal. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who struggles with this type of pose. In fact, in the video above, yoga instructor Kirby Koo is going to show you some easy fixes to lengthening poses students commonly have trouble with.

Tadasana

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and let your arms hang at your sides. Press your shoulders down and back, and draw your chin back to lengthen your spine. Make sure the palms of your hands are facing forward, not in toward your body.

RELATED: This Yoga Flow Will Instantly Boost Your Mood

Three-legged dog

With two hands on the ground and one leg in the air, square your hips to the floor to maintain balance. Then, push your hands into the ground, using that force to elongate the leg that’s elevated behind you.

RELATED: This 10-Minute Yoga Flow Will Help You Cultivate Self-Love

Extended side angle

While in a side lunge, bring your bent knee over your ankle, and try to keep your back thigh parallel to the ground. Also, instead of reaching your arm up, lengthen it forward, but still keep it plugged into its socket.

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Leave Your Ego at the Door

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Leave Your Ego at the Door - Fitness, bench press, strength and conditioning, injury, Kettlebell, muscle gain, rolling, daily exercise, training plan

Photography by Bev Childress of Fort Worth, Texas

 

Consider what it would look like to scale up a mountain, reach the peak, then descend. Now consider what it would look like if you were to treat every workout in this same way. If you can embrace this concept and be willing to go against traditional training dogma, you’ll learn to better conquer your strength and body composition goals.

 

 

Imagine you’re at the beginning of your next workout and you start by priming your body with a handful of exercises and addressing potential weaknesses while preparing your body to perform at its prime. Your focus is on developing stability, mobility, and potentiating the nervous system.

 

You can see this part of the workout as ascending up a mountain, as the level progressively rises. At the peak, you’d be hitting your biggest lift. Goal ticked, you would then begin a descent down, into your secondary and assistance exercises, finishing with lower level exercises.

 

To give you an idea it might look something like this for an upper body pressing workout:

 

  • Low-level band exercises, band pull-aparts, internal and external rotations
  • Cable face pulls – 2-4 sets of 12-15 reps working short of failure
  • 1-arm kettlebell press – 2-4 sets of 12-15 reps working short of failure
  • Flat bench press variation
  • Incline bench press variation
  • Shoulder press variation
  • Push up variation
  • Isolation exercise working on a specific area of weakness

 

Do you see how in the example above the main lift is somewhere in the middle of your workout? Take note of that and compare it to how things are traditionally done instead. You go into the gym, and after a lousy few minutes of low-intensity cardio, possibly a few arms swings or bodyweight squats, you then proceed to stack the weight up with your main lift.

 

It might look something like this:

 

  • 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio
  • Arm circles and arm swings
  • Bench press variation
  • Rest of the workout, involving various press variations and flyes

 

But more often it looks like this:

 

  • Arrive at the gym having not moved for a good few hours.
  • A few sets of bench press with just the bar.
  • Follow with more sets of the bench press, gradually stacking the weight up.
  • The rest of the workout, presses, flyes, and so-on.

 

 

In strength and conditioning we call the priority exercise an “indicator lift,” and for most, it’s usually a bench press, deadlift, or squat. It’s a good idea to have one indicator lift in each workout since you can track its progress and manipulate such things as volume and load.

 

Whether these exercises are right for you is another conversation in its self, but let’s assume they’re a valuable part of your program. That’s why you want to do them right at the start when you’re fresh. It’s normal that you want to lift the most, and you want to lift more than you did last week.

 

The Proper Way to Scale the Mountain

We all know that progressive overload is key, but it’s how you manage that progressive overload and how you choose to overload your body that really matters. The timing is key, and doing your key indicator lift prior to anything else is bad timing.

 

Now what you’re probably thinking right now is you want to lift the most, but by doing other exercises first you won’t be able to do this. But ask yourself why—is doing it first down to ego, is it just what you believe works, or is it simply down to traditional strength and conditioning or bodybuilding dogma?

 

Challenge your beliefs and consider that what most “know” to be the correct way to train, might not actually be. If you’re not always questioning your methods, then it is a sure sign that you’re stuck in your beliefs.

 

“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”

Socrates

 

Approaching each workout like the above-mentioned is one such example that goes against tradition but deserves considerable thought.

 

Here is what you would see by scaling the mountain properly, instead of landing right on the peak without the necessary preparation. The first time you try this you may not be able to lift as much in your key indicator lifts.

 

You’d have accumulated a little more fatigue prior, and this could have an effect. But who really cares, leave your ego at the door for a few weeks because promise it will be worth it. Your body will be functioning better, stronger foundations will be set, and your lifts will be efficient.

 

This super-compensation in strength is particularly true for those that have neglected their foundations in the past. You can’t build a great building without a solid foundation.

 

Remember:

 

 

Ask yourself how you would define fitness success. If you crushed your workouts for a few months and got in great shape because of it, yet it was at the expense of your overall health and longevity would you define that as a success? If you had to stop at a certain point in your life due to pain or injury would you consider that to be a health and fitness success?

 

It’s usually when pain or dysfunction happens you begin to spend half your workouts foam rolling, and the other half balancing on a ball because you think it’s good for your core. You then fall into this style of training, or you jack the gym in altogether.

 

Whether you want to achieve optimal strength, body composition, or athletic performance you must be willing to put the ego and traditional beliefs aside and do what others around you might not be. If you stop having an emotional relationship with your style of training, then you’ll achieve more success.

 

Take the Emotion Out of the Scenario

If you stop having an emotional relationship with your own style of training, you’ll get even closer to achieving your bodies’ potential. No one style of training is best, and many components can be taken from each discipline and manipulated towards your goals. It’s you versus you, whether you’re competing against your last workout, or competing against your own beliefs.

 

One simple thing you can change right now, no matter what style of training you believe in, is treating each workout as though it were like a mountain. You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe.

 

Now go out and conquer.



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The Best Kettlebell Workout to Get Bigger and Stronger

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Building muscle and strength is no easy task. Everyone knows it takes hard work and commitment inside and outside of the gym. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you want to get stronger and get bigger, pick up a kettlebell and follow this total-body kettlebell workout routine. It only requires four moves, a total of five rounds, and a kettlebell weight of 45 to 60 pounds.

  • KETTLEBELL WEIGHT: 20 to 28 kg (45 to 60 lbs)
  • NUMBER OF ROUNDS: 3 to 5
  • REST BETWEEN ROUNDS: 1 to 2 minutes. You’re going heavy on this one. But there are fewer rounds and more rest. No matter how heavy you go, make sure to preserve form.

 

 

1. Kettlebell Hike Swing to Deadlift

Stand with feet hip-width apart, kettlebell a foot in front of feet to start. Grab kettlebell, hike it back be- tween your legs (A), swing it up until it’s parallel with face (B), then return it to the ground. Hop feet forward, then do a deadlift. Return kettlebell to ground and hop back for one rep. Do 5 reps.

Kettlebell Hike Swing to Deadlifft
Kettlebell Hike Swing to Deadlifft Ian Maddox

 

2. Dead-Stop Row

Start in a hip hinge, kettlebell outside right foot. With back straight, lift kettlebell with right hand, then pull right elbow back until fist is next to rib cage. Hold for a second, then reverse to start for 1 rep. Do 5 reps on right side, then switch sides.

Dead-Stop Row
Dead-Stop Row Ian Maddox

 

3. Suitcase Split Squat

Start at the top of a split squat position, left foot in front, holding kettlebell in right hand. Keeping core strong and shoulders back, engage quads and slowly lower back knee to ground, then explode up for 1 rep. Do 10 reps on left side, then switch sides.

Suitcase Split Squat
Suitcase Split Squat Ian Maddox

 

4. Strict Press

Clean the kettlebell in your right arm to the rack position, wrist flexed, fist under chin, thumb against sternum, kettlebell resting on your outer arm to start (A). Press the kettlebell straight overhead, wrist facing out at the top of the movement (B). Return the kettlebell to the rack position for 1 rep. Do 5 reps on right side, then switch sides.

Strict Press
Strict Press Ian Maddox



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Gordon Haller on Fueling With Coke and Mid-race Leg Massages

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When Gordon Haller toes the line on Oct. 13 for the start of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, much will be different in comparison to his first Ironman: the location (the Big Island vs. Oahu), the number of competitors (15 vs. 2,000+), his prospects of winning (nil vs. being a favorite), and most importantly, the toll on his body from the 40 years that’ve past since the inaugural event in 1978.

About the only thing that’ll be the same is the daunting challenge that’s made the king of endurance sports so legendary: the 2.4-mile swim, the 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run on gassed legs. Haller won’t come close to replicating his 1978 victory, most likely finishing about 6-7 hours behind the leaders. The victory for him will be in finishing—at the age of 68.

 

 

The Birth of the Ironman

In 1977, after running a PR of 2:27:34 in the Marine Corps Marathon earlier that year, Haller came to Hawaii to run the Honolulu Marathon. He had to drop out at the six-mile mark, but fate was at play. There was a friend at that very point who talked about a race in the works that fit Haller’s multi-sport experience perfectly: a combination of the Waikiki Roughrider swim, the Around-Oahu Bicycle Race, and the Honolulu Marathon.

Two weeks later he was in the home of race organizer and fellow Navy man, John Collins, talking with 15-20 other athletes about the challenge ahead—debating whether swimmers, bicyclists, or runners were the most fit. Truth be told most were just hoping to finish.

“We weren’t that serious about it,” says Haller, the only person who’d completed the bike race leg, which was a two-day stage race. “Technically, it wasn’t a race, except for a couple of us who decided to make it one.”

Two months after that meeting, on Feb. 18, 15 men stood on the beach at the start, each with a boy on a board accompanying them to make sure they didn’t drown.

IRONMAN World Championship swim
IRONMAN World Championship swim Tom Pennington / Staff / Getty Images

Haller, a competitive swimmer and runner at Pacific University as an undergrad, came out of the water in eighth place, 20 minutes behind the leaders. He climbed onto his steel-framed bike, made up eight minutes, and finished 12 minutes behind the man in front, his friend John Dunbar.

“Once I survived the swim, I thought I could win it. I knew I was the fastest cyclist and runner,” Haller says.

Haller came within sight of Dunbar at 15 miles, caught him at 18 miles, and the two leapfrogged for a couple miles, as Haller had to stop to get leg massages from his support team leader—something that would now be illegal, of course.

“He looked so bad when I caught him at 21, I figured I had it,” Haller says. “I ran the last 5.2 miles pretty fast, in about 30 minutes. I had two guys running with me. One guy was carrying a Coke and another with a bottle of water. Back then we didn’t have rules about aid during the race.”

Dunbar’s team ran out of water, resorting to supplying beer, and Dunbar finished second of the 12 finishers, about 30 minutes behind Haller, who won with a time of 11:46:58.

Cyclist competing in IRONMAN World Championship
Cyclist competing in IRONMAN World Championship Sean M. Haffey / Staff / Getty Images

Haller’s History With the Sport

The 1978 victory may have been Haller’s last championship win, but it certainly wasn’t his last Ironman-distance competition. The Kona World Championships this October will be his 25th 140.6-mile race, including two only a week apart in 1998. Not all of the competitions were Ironman-branded races, though.

Haller and the other original racers were involved in a trademark dispute with Ironman and consequently banned from Kona after 1989, but were invited back for the 20th anniversary in 1998. His last Ironman came in 2013, at the 35th anniversary, when he finished in 15:37.

While he’s added five years in age since then, his goal is to actually finish faster. In fact, Haller hopes to beat his 1978 time of 1:20 in the swim (“I’d like to think I could do it as fast as the first time, because I wasn’t very fast”) and the 1978 6:56 mark on the bike (“Instead of a steel-framed bike, I’ll have my Cervelo P2 carbon fiber bike”). He’ll be much slower on the run, given 40 years, arthroscopic knee surgery this spring, and a 2009 hip resurfacing surgery.

“I’m now a cobalt-chromimum man, in addition to being an Ironman,” he joked.

His goal for the run is about 5:30.

The Growth of Ironman

While the distances have stayed the same since that inaugural race 40 years ago, the popularity has grown tremendously. This year there are 41 Ironman-branded 140.6 races that are expected to have just shy of 100,000 participants.

Did Haller expect the sport to grow that much?

“Not after my first one,” Haller says. “The notoriety we got was about one paragraph near the back of Runner’s World. But the 1980 Sports Illustrated article brought a lot of people in, and then ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered it. In February of 1982, when Julie Moss [who will also be returning to race this year] had her famous meltdown, she became the picture of the agony of defeat, and it really took off.”

The Future of the Kona

Whatever changes Ironman may continue to undergo, Haller will probably be there to experience it. Despite his age, he expects to do at least one more after the 40th anniversary in Kona.

“It could be my last, but I don’t want it to be,” Haller says. “I’m thinking I’ll do at least one more when I turn 70, and when I get to 70, why not just do the 50th anniversary? And then it will only be two more years until I’m 80….”



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Dede Lagree’s 5 Resistance Arm Band Moves

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If you’re a resistance band rookie, you’re in luck. Trainer Dede Lagree (who helped Rihanna score her incredible body) is breaking down five arm moves you can easily incorporate into your routine. We get it, these oversize rubber bands don’t look like much. But they really can help you build some serious strength. Plus, they’re easy to store at home and can make for a killer living room workout. Here, five exercises to get you started.

Row with tricep kickback

Stand on top of the band with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pick up either end, bend your knees, and tilt your torso slightly forward. Start with your hands down at your sides, then lift them up under your armpits. From here, extend your arms out behind you, and repeat.

RELATED: 11 Best Exercises to Get Strong, Toned Arms

Standing ab rotation

Put one foot on top of the band, standing with your feet wide. Hold the ends of the band with both of your hands clasped together. Start by facing forward, and twist your torso to one side. As you twist, lift your hands out and up, stopping at shoulder height. Repeat, and try the other side.

Overhead tricep extension

With both feet on the band, stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Hold each end behind your head, and start with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Extend your arms up, and bring them back down. Repeat.

RELATED: 10-Minute Workout for Defined Arms

Side lunge with side raise

Stand with one foot on top of the band, and hold either end with your arms hanging at your sides. Lower yourself down and extend one leg out to the side while also lifting your arms up and out. Repeat, and switch sides.

Standing chest press

With your feet shoulder-width apart, wrap the band around your back, and hold it out in front of you. Start with your elbows bent, then extend your arms straight out. Repeat.



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