Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hit the Deck

First of all if you're just starting with strength work, you would not start with the deck. Not including the jokers, an entire deck is 105 repetitions each of four different strength exercises. Do not start with 105 repetitions. Start with twenty. If twenty is too much, start with ten. If you stay patient and consistent with ten, you will see results sooner than you think.

If you have been doing fifteen or twenty reps of various bodyweight exercises for some time, the deck is pretty good for kicking it up a notch. Which is to say, up to 105. You can do it, though. Aces are the highest, and those are just fourteen reps. Of course, you could deal yourself an ace and king of diamonds. But that's what makes the deck fun, the danger!

Still, you can start easy with the exercises. It's better to start easy with good form than to go hard with bad form, obviously, right?

♦ tiny tricep pushups

Remember that pushups are as much about core strength as arm strength. Every pushup starts and ends with a straight, solid plank from hands to toes. Your butt isn't sticking up, and your belly isn't sagging down. You make sure of this by pulling your navel to your spine and squeezing your butt. The most important thing in a pushup is to maintain this plank throughout.

Here's the small part, well, the big part is that I want everybody to do tricep pushups, which are harder than wide arm pushups. But all we're going to do for now is, first, your hands are directly beneath your shoulders and your arms are rotated so the insides of your elbows are facing forward. Now lower yourself down just a tiny bit, sending your elbows straight back. And raise yourself back up. That is one rep.

♥ reverse crunches

Sit nice and tall on your butt, with your legs bent in front of you and your feet on the floor. Now let your spine sag and lower yourself a little bit, pulling your navel to your spine and squeezing your butt. And raise yourself back up. And that is one rep.

♠ two foot squats

Squeezing your butt is the horizontal version of tailbone down, by the way. You must get that tailbone down to make these squats work for you the way they're supposed to. Stand with your feet hip distance apart, navel to spine, tailbone down, and now bend your knees lowering your butt straight down. Your weight should be well back, in your heels. In fact if you fall on your butt, that's how far back. Except don't fall down, fight to hold that squat. Raise yourself back up for one rep.

♣ two foot bridges

Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms to the side. Raise your hips up, squeezing your butt. Lower them back down for one rep.

Here's deal with bridges: the closer your feet are to your butt, the more you work your glutes. The farther your feet from your butt, the more you work your hamstrings and that's what we want to work. So set your feet out to the point where your hamstrings feel just about to cramp, but short of getting a debilitating charley horse.