Designer Superhero Workout Basics

Greetings true believers

Reckon you know the names of all these Marvel characters?

Reckon you know the names of all these Marvel characters?

This pre-post to the series of Super hero specific workouts, will outline the basics that need to be adhered to. These ‘rules’ aren’t steadfast and unbreakable, they are adaptable to individual needs and also sometimes ‘tweaked’ for each specific character’s physique requirements.

Unlike most of the workouts thus far on Level Up, you will need equipment for this training, and also isn’t advisable for a total beginner. If however, you have been working out, or following the Batman zero to hero fitness guide, then your body will be primed and ready.

OK Dc fans, can you name all these chracters?

OK DC comic fans, can you name all these characters?

The Plan

Each customized workout plan will be a 12 week intensive fast-tracked journey to bad-assery, separated into 4 week blocks, this is known as periodized training, (see the Hulk link above for more information),and covering, dependant on the hero in question, one or more of the components of fitness.

1. Cardiovascular Fitness: Cardiovascular fitness is the ability of the heart, lungs and vascular system to deliver oxygen-rich blood to working muscles during sustained physical activity.

2. Muscular Strength: Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle or muscle group can exert against resistance.

3. Muscular Endurance: Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to repeat a movement many times for an extended period of time.

4. Flexibility :Flexibility is the degree to which an individual muscle will lengthen, producing greater range of movement and thus, augmenting agility.

5. Body Composition: Body composition is the amount of fat in the body compared to the amount of lean mass, muscle, bones etc. this is the one we all want. Lean bodies with great attributes. Sweet.

Equipment

That is an impressive home multi-gym.  Dear Santa . . . . .

That is an impressive home multi-gym.
Dear Santa . . . . .

Unfortunately you will be needing either a gym membership or some comprehensive home training equipment for these workouts. Sorry, beloved reader, but some heroes are just so very mighty this will be essential.

The gym: Be warned , beloved reader, these overpopulated establishments are full of morons, degenerates and cretins. Then you once you’ve avoided the instructors and so-called personal trainers, you have to deal with the people who go there to work out, a  good percentage of which are meat-heads, roid-heads, jocks and gym-rats. They will attempt to impart their ‘wisdom’ upon you.

Heed not their ill-informed mewlings. The truth you require can be found right here at Level Up.

Hideeous freaks such as this are a fine example of roid-heads. Avoid, evade and don't feed them after midnight.

Hideous freaks such as this are a fine example of roid-heads. That is not the physique of a Super hero, that’s just to be avoided, evaded and never fed after midnight.

The home gym: Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor prefers the home gym set up. It means you can have a nice paced workout and don’t have to wait for an equipment hog to get of the bench / cable / barbell etc. you need.

It’s also an investment, rather than paying extortionate gym fees indefinitely, you already have all the gear you need and it ill pay for itself in about a year.

Diet

All the training in the world wont get you anywhere if your stuffing your cake hole with, well, cake.

Try to eat every 3 hours, to keep the metabolism boosted and a steady stream of nutrients coming in to help you recover from the workouts. I know this is tricky to do, and for those of us on a limited finances difficult to afford, but with a little imagination and efficient budgeting it can be done, as our hero of ‘Don’t make me Ingrey, you wouldn’t like me when I’m Ingrey’ has demonstrated.

Get plenty of protein from high quality sources: eggs, milk, fish, beef, chicken, and for those of us, like yours truly, with those horrifying afflictions known as employment, protein shakes and protein bars.

That's the kind of tasty business you wanna be munching to get results

That’s the kind of tasty business you wanna be munching to get results

If you go for the protein supplement options, be sure to get the ones with plenty of carbs in, you’ll need the energy, (If I catch any of you, no matter how beloved that reader may be, doing the vile Atkins diet, I will be forced to have stern words, all I have to say is “Shazam” and things get ghetto), they are extremely handy to sneakily get a quick protein fix if you work in a crappy job like mine where you don’t really get breaks. Thus your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor’s pockets are generally full of protein bars, and I have mastered the art of stealth eating. A skill to be reckoned with.

Protopure Recovery are generally the best value for money, and taste fairly good. Go for the chocolate cookie or chocolate, caramel and peanut flavours. Yum.

Protopure Recovery are generally the best value for money, and taste fairly good. Go for the chocolate cookie or chocolate, caramel and peanut flavours. Yum.

You’ll also want good quality sources of carbs, wholemeal versions of baked products, oatmeal, pasta, (make sure it’s cooked Al dente), and nothing with processed sugar. But you knew that already. Right?

Get healthy fats in your diet too, from fish, nuts and seeds. Bingo. You already know the foods to avoid, so I hope I wont have to bore you with all that skullduggery.

The First Instalments

The first two workouts in the series will be Spider man, followed by Thor, this is due to the very different attributes they have, giving you, beloved reader, an insight into how unique each plan will be.

You don't want to get involve in that.

You don’t want to get involved in that.

For a little extra advice and inspiration before you begin your sojourn to a customized Super look, (just in time for the nice weather), check out ‘‘The Legend of You’.

Not many of my beloved readers bother hitting the handy links I work so hard to provide you with valuable information, however I implore you to check each one on this post as they have great relevance to the subject matter.

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

The Dark Geek Returns

That’s right, beloved reader, we continue our zero to hero Bat-guide to a more powerful you. Following on from the Dark Geek Rises, we will elaborate upon the solid foundation of easy to follow, do-anywhere exercises, that allow the avid bat-fan to come one step closer to heroic emulation of the dark knight himself.

If you haven’t yet been doing the core exercises from the first post, then your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor would suggest hitting the basics first.

Unless of course you’re already a more advanced athlete then read on, or if this still isn’t enough to break a sweat; then rest assured this bat-themed series of articles will continue into the future, becoming more advanced with each post and bringing you, beloved reader, closer to the attributes of the Bat.

Bat-fan: The Long Workout Plan

Keep up the workouts and you too could be decking kryptonians well into your sixties.

Keep up the training and you too could be decking kryptonians well into your sixties.

Okay, it’s not really that long, just three new exercises. Last time we covered the core movements of squats, press-ups, dumbbell rows and crunches. Continuing with bodyweight and / or improvised weight training equipment, we introduce a selection of new exercises that require no gym membership. Best to avoid those terrifying places for now; they are full of meat-heads, jocks and gym-rats; all of which will attempt to bamboozle and beguile you with their so-called knowledge.

Alas, Level Up has still yet to finance its own studio in order for your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor to bring you the infallible versions of the exercise techniques. Until then follow the handy links to know what’s going on.

Dumbbell curls: Unlike the first post where we allowed some muscles to ‘get off lightly’ by being worked only as synergists, this post we’re going to make sure that everything gets a fairly targeted. This new round of techniques we begin adding more detailed strength training, and ensure that we have at least one exercise per body-part. The dumbbell curls will specifically work the biceps brachii.

Dumbbell shoulder press: Now we target the deltoids. As stated in the first Bat-themed workout post, if you don’t own any dumbbells then ignore the dumbbell part. Use any resistance you can find, a couple of jugs of milk for example, can add all the resistance you need at this stage. Remember it is the movement itself that elicit the attribute building effect we desire, the weights / improvised weights are just there to offer resistance.

All good examples fo homemade weights. But don't limit yourself to these items, (and don't drink the vile seed of sabotage in the middle), use your imagination, everyone's home is a potential gym.

All good examples of homemade weights. But don’t limit yourself to these items, (and don’t drink the vile seed of sabotage in the middle), use your imagination, everyone’s home is a potential gym.

Bench dip: These will work the triceps, which were only synergistic in the press ups before. Just improvise some chairs instead of a bench for now, and if you can’t do these yet don’t worry; work your way up to them gradually by doing these until you’re strong enough. Or if you want to go totally bad-ass advanced, then do them like this.

That’s it. That’s all the new exercises you will need for now. Every muscle has been directly targeted as a result, leading to even more strength gains. Yay.

Sorry beloved reader. Even with all the training in the world I can't guarantee an awesome background to your antics.

Sorry beloved reader. Even with all the training in the world I can’t guarantee an awesome background to your antics.
It will, however, guarantee an awesome pose.

The exercise order

Kinesiology is a wonderful mistress, but a strict one. Your workout / exercise order should look something like this:

Squats

Press ups

Dumbbell rows

Dumbbell curls

Shoulder press

Bench dips

Crunches

Of course it may vary a little depending on how advanced the version of the exercise is, but the general exercise order will be the same. The exercises are ordered in this manner to ensure that any muscles that are synergistic in a movement are not exhausted before they play their supporting role, guaranteeing proper form and therefore the least chance of injury and the greatest strength gains.

Continue as you were before, adding more reps / resistance / circuits when you feel comfortable to do so. Depending on how bad-ass you feel, increase the frequency of the workout plan, from 2 to 3 times a week to every other day, but be sure to have at least one rest day between workouts.

Remember to keep a training log; it’s satisfying to look back on past workouts and see how powerful you’ve become. The hard work pays off.

Equestrian skills are optional.

Equestrian skills are optional. But definitely cool.

If you’ve already gone ahead and got yourself equipped with iron to pump, then mayhaps you’ll want to do multiple sets, with one minute ‘rest’ in between each set, rather than circuits. If you have gotten real serious and purchased might fine pump-ables, start out with a nice basic 3 sets of 8 repetitions at the heaviest you can manage without compromising proper exercise technique.

Most importantly. You’re never too old to workout

Last post we destroyed the excuse of “I don’t have enough time.” This post we eradicate the “I’m too old”, bail-out.

With aging you experience declines in muscle and joint strength, and coordination. You lose muscle mass and gain fat. Chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, become more prevalent.

Exercise reduces these problems. Much of the decline in physical health and ability attributed to aging is accelerated by inactivity. While nothing can turn back the clock or make you live forever, a well-rounded exercise program can slow and even reverse many factors associated with the aging process.

Muscle and joint strength: You can’t teach an old bat new tricks. Wrong y’all. The skeletal muscles are no different, no matter their age, they will still respond positively to resistance training. As muscles and joints become stronger, daily activities become easier and balance improves. resistance training also improves bone density, making breakages less likely.

From training strength,  one can derive all other attributes; such as balance.

From training strength, one can derive all other attributes; such as balance.

Exercise as physical therapy: Exercise is often prescribed for orthopedic problems, such as rotator cuff injury, back aches and so forth. Many of the health problems that become more common with age, such as arthritis, insomnia and diabetes, respond favorably to exercise.

Mental well-being: Much research supports the connection between regular physical activity and psychological well-being. Exercise helps prevent and treat depression. People who exercise regularly report feeling stronger, more energetic and more capable.

You’re never too old.:  So it’s not so much, “I’m too old”,  now it’s more like “I’m too old not too”. Unless you have a health problem that could be made worse by exercise (check with your doctor before starting an exercise program), you are never too old to start exercising. Begin slowly and build gradually.

Stay tuned for more. 

Until next time. Stay informed.

My Common Sense is Tingling.

It’s already tricky enough to schedule even a general fitness routine into our daily lives, but it is worth making time to add flexibility training? It will increase your range of movement, which will allow you to do groovy things, like our friendly neighbourhood Spiderman.

That’s right beloved reader; the unspoken promise suggested by the geeky title of this blog will be fulfilled. We will be covering the nerdy and the cool, in very constructive ways.

Flexibility

Spidey's first appearance.

Spidey’s first appearance.

So why would we ever want to bother stretching?

For our aforementioned geeky purposes, flexibility training is justified thus: increased range of movement via stretching = agility, or in hardcore adventurer terminology; DEX. Having a high dexterity score gives us a better armour class, improves our balance and even helps with nefarious talents such as lock picking.

However, in that place with awesome graphics and crappy gameplay; the real world:

It decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion, which will also slow the degeneration of joints.

A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured from an extensive movement. So you won’t pull anything whilst busting web slinging maneuvers, or awesome kung-fu kicks.

It helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains. After a hard workout, stretching the muscles will keep them loose and lessen a shortening and tightening effect that can lead to DOMS. reducing muscular tension and enhancing muscular relaxation. Habitually tense muscles tend to cut off their own circulation resulting in a lack of oxygen and essential nutrients. So for the bodybuilders reading, stretching will actually assist in increasing muscle mass.

It’s just common sense that a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements. Therefore improving speed. Yay.

Now that everyone’s common sense is tingling, let’s cover the different ways to produce this hyperbolic effect

I rest my well-informed case.

Deadpool puts to rest my well-informed case.

Static stretching

Static stretching is the most commonly practiced. The muscle groups are stretched without moving the limb itself and the end position is held for 20 to 30 seconds. It’s this kind of stretching that I would recommend for the reader who wants the fitness benefits with the least hassle getting them. Keep it simple. Incorporating these into your fitness routine is easy, just perform one stretching exercise per muscle after the muscle’s been worked, it’ll fit nicely into the rest period between exercises / sets.

stretch-lunge-side1

Spidey stretches his adductor, (inside thigh), muscles.

This category also includes static active stretching which is an effective way to increase active flexibility. It requires the strength of the opposing muscle groups to hold the limb in position for the stretch. Yoga is a good example of static active stretching. However, static active stretching is not recommended before a sporting event, it’s most effectively applied after training.

A fine example of static active stretching. Spidey's wrist extensors are flexing so that his forearm flexors stretch. Either that or he's doing a double 'hail satan'.

A fine example of static active stretching. Spidey’s wrist extensors are flexing so that his forearm flexors stretch. Also a double Hail Satan.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching uses speed of movement, momentum and active muscular effort. Unlike static stretching the end position is not held. It is similar to ballistic stretching except that it avoids bouncing motions and tends to incorporate more activity-specific movements. Arms circles, exaggerating a kicking action and walking lunges, are examples of dynamic stretches. A walking lunge dynamically stretches the hip flexors by emphasizing hip extension and can reduce muscle tightness around the hip-joint necessary for competition, a good warm-up for martial arts competitors.
Dynamic stretching is useful before competition and has been shown to reduce muscle tightness which is one factor associated with an increase occurrence of musculotendinous tears and strains. If you don’t mind looking ridiculous, you may want to try this out.

Ballistic stretching

Ballistic stretching involves active muscular effort similar to dynamic stretching. However, ballistic stretching uses a bouncing or jerking movement to increase the stretch.

Ballistic Stretching isn’t recommended, it is a prescription for injury – muscle  pulls, muscle strains, and muscle tears can all result from ballistic  stretching. You can also end up with tendon, ligament, and joint trauma from  such aggressive stretching.

Isometric stretching

An advanced form of flexibility training that must be prescribed with caution, it is useful for developing extreme range of motion associated with martial arts, ballet and gymnastics.

Spidey demonstrates an Isometric calf stretch. Thanks Spidey. Thidey.

Spidey demonstrates an Isometric calf stretch. Thanks Spidey.

An isometric, or static contraction occurs when tension is created in the muscle group without a change in its length. A chair, wall, the floor or a partner can act as the resistance to bring about a static contraction and isometric stretch.
Aside from increasing range of motion, a second purpose of isometric stretching is to develop strength in stretched positions.

How Isometric Stretching Works

When a muscle is stretched, some muscle fibres are elongated while others will remain at rest. This is similar to the “all or none” principle of muscle contraction. The greater the stretch, the more individual fibres are stretched fully (rather than all fibres being stretched to a greater extent). When a muscle, that is already in a stretched position, is subjected to an isometric contraction, additional fibres are stretched that would have otherwise remained at rest. Those resting fibres are pulled on from both ends by the muscle groups that are contracting. Fibres already in a stretched position (before the onset of the isometric contraction) are prevented from contracting by the inverse myotatic reflex and stretch to greater extent.

Isometric Stretching Guidelines

Here are the general guidelines that must be followed if isometric stretching is to be beneficial…

1. Leave 48 hours between isometric stretching routines.

2. Perform only one exercise per muscle group in a session.

3. For each muscle group complete 2-5 sets of the chosen exercise.

4. Each set should consist of one stretch held for 10-15 seconds.

Last but not least we have PNF stretching

PNF stretching, (or proprioceptive muscular facilitation) is one of the most effective forms of flexibility training for increasing range of motion. PNF techniques can be both passive (no associated muscular contraction) or active (voluntary muscle contraction). While there are several variations of PNF stretching, they all have one thing in common – they facilitate muscular inhibition. It is believed that this is why PNF is superior to other forms of flexibility training. Both isometric and concentric muscle actions completed immediately before the passive stretch help to achieve autogenic inhibition – a reflex relaxation that occurs in the same muscle where the golgi tendon organ is stimulated. Often the isometric contraction is referred to as ‘hold’ and the concentric muscle contraction is referred to as ‘contract’.

Amazing Spider-Man 003_21

Now I will science your face off

When a muscle is suddenly stretched, the nervous system sends out a flag called the stretch reflex, also known as myotatic reflex. This reflex causes the muscle to contract, thus, putting a block on any further increase in amplitude to protect itself from harm. However, through training, the critical point at which this reflex is fired can be reset to a higher level. Also, with increased stretching over time, the number of muscle sarcomeres is thought to increase in series. These new sarcomeres are added onto the end of the existing myofibrils.

With increased stretching over time the fascial sheaths encasing your muscles – the epimysium, endomysium, and perimysium may undergo semi-permanent change in length. Other tissues adapting to the stretch include tendons, ligaments, fascia, and scar tissue.

muscle_anatomy

Another theory suggests that muscle cells may control and modulate stiffness and elastic limit co-ordinately by selective expression of specific titan isoforms.  Meaning, some muscular tissue in the body is better suited for flexibility increase than others.

Stretching is thought to stimulate the production and retention of gel-like substances called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These GAGs, along with water and hyaluronic acid, lubricate connective tissue fibers, maintaining a critical distance between them. This prevents the fibres from touching one another and sticking together. As a result, excessive cross-linkages are not formed.

Now that you are all suitably scienced up, proceed on your way to agility

As we like to keep our training efficient at Level Up, perform static stretches, with a few isometric stretches for good measure at the end of a resistance workout. Not only does it save on time, but also yields the greatest flexibility results, various studies and my own personal knowledge and experience support this. When performing this routine, work up gradually. Move into the stretch slowly until you only just feel the stretch then hold it for 20 to 30 seconds. If you force the stretch too far or over train to get results faster, you may end up damaging ligaments and tendons. EEK.

Each new stretching session push the stretch a little further, build gradually and avoid injury. Train hard but train conscientiously. This is the very same regime the your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor followed to achieve box-splits. It works.

Adductor stretch: These aren’t like dynamic lunges for hypertrophy, lower your body slowly, being sure to keep your back straight as possible throughout. Keep the leg to be stretched bolt straight and locked in position. As with all stretches hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Hamstring stretch: This will be the toughest, hamstrings are tightened on a daily basis; when we are seated and walking are enough to reduce their flexibility. Persevere beloved reader.

Calf Stretch: only hold the wall for balance and keep both feet completely flat on the floor. The leg of the rear calf being stretched must be kept bolt straight and locked in position.

Quadriceps stretch: Unlike with the other stretching exercises, you can make an exception with the tough and durable quadriceps, and really pull the stretch with all your might.

Abdominal stretch, Lying oblique stretch, Lumbar stretch,  Gonna need a flexible waist for all those web-slinging maneuvers. Nuff said

The splits: That’s right, beloved reader, the ultimate flexibility attainment. Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue advisor searched high and low to find a decent and safely instructed video to demonstrate how to achieve this. Diagrams will not suffice. But worry not! yours truly discovered this exceptional Australian Martial artist, Mr Rick Spain.


spiderman reading

For more on stretching and flexibility, check out: Stretching Scientifically by Tom Kurz, The Anatomy of Stretching by Brad Walker and for the Martial artists among you, Ultimate Flexibility: A Complete Guide to Stretching for Martial Arts by Sang H. Kim

Until next time. Stay informed.