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  • Al Painter, BA, NASM-CPT, CES, PES


Oh January, you are the bane of my existence. Each time you show up on the calendar, it means a couple of things.

  1. Christmas is done and that means there is only a few months until Wonder Woman. Have you seen the trailer????

  2. People make a vow to undo all of the bad habits they've developed over the course of (insert time frame here) in a fool hardy attempt to get into better shape to the tune of:

  • Exercising 8 days a week

  • Eating 3 calories a day

  • Getting 10,000 in steps by 6am

  • Being able to fit into your favorite pair of jeans from the 3rd grade

  • Program hopping almost weekly because "this new workout is the one!"

  1. It also means my kids still won't let me play with the new trains they got for Christmas.


So, my kids have these wooden train tracks, right? You know the ones. You connect them to create your personal manifest destiny railway in your house. They are a blast to play with, unless you have kids.

See, in my house, I'm tasked with the civil engineering portion of this program but the actual playing with said creations gets outsourced to my kids. Every time I want to play with the awesome I just built, my kids take my trains.

Every. Time.

I even went as far as to buy my own set of three cars to play with. Fat lot of good that did because as soon as wheels hit track, BAM! They were confiscated by my RRoommies (See what I did there? RR means railroad, and I used that to describe the wee roomies in a train story. Anyone?).

Then there's this. Parents, you'll get the sanity sapping nature of this one.

You make an AMAZING track set up, your miniature QA committee is appeased and you end up with two pieces having the same end in need of being connected. At this point, its either start taking the tracks apart to get the right set up, or hear your kids say (with full loss of fatherly faith look on their faces) "this never happens when mommy builds tracks."

Or you overcome your foe with adapters. Which, thanks to my wife, I now have. I may have even have said "suck it tracks, I win" when I opened them Christmas morning.

At any rate, its a veritable train wreck every time I want to play. I have no idea what that story had to do with working out, but it feels good to get it off my chest none the less.


Ok, back to the lecture at hand: New year new you workouts that don't work. See the biggest problem it is pretty common for people try to combine 879 different workouts to reach a single goal.

Not too mention their goal is usually an extrinsically motivated that is all but guaranteed to fail. Sean Achor does a great job explaining this in his book "The Happiness Advantage."

The long and the short of it is, goals of losing fat and the like are rooted in being unhappy about something and muck up the landscape a bit more. On the other hand, setting goals that have utility (feeling better on a run, reduction of aches and pains, better stress management, etc) have a greater chance of success. He does a great job of explaining this in his book, so check it out.

Then, after you do that, read Dan John's "A Lifelong Approach To Fitness: A Collection of Dan John Lectures." In it he perfectly encapsulates why most workout programs fail: They are too broad in their focus and don't accomplish a single thing. It can easily lead to being "over conditioned and undertrained" as he puts it.

New Year's Fitness Fail

If you knew you had a 92% chance of failure at something would you try it? My guess is somewhere between no and "whatta you, nuts?"

Well get set for that because if you are one of the millions of Americans who make the December 31st 11:59pm pledge to sleep more, eat better, lose weight, spend less time on your phone or any other "THIS YEAR IT WILL FINALLY BE 'YAY ME!! #WINNING!'" this is your fate if you don't set the right goals and requisite strategy to get there.

Taking us back to why 879 workouts in one program is a big old ball of fitness FAIL. Here's what a typical New Year's resolution program looks like:

  • Monday: HIIT workout to beat yourself to a pulp that worked for celebrity X

  • Tuesday: Cardio HIIT workout to beat yourself to a pulp, but its cardio so its ok and athlete Y reps it

  • Wednesday: 10 minutes of recovery then back to the gym for a "CARDIOGAPLYOLATES" HIIT Class because the magazine at the checkout counter at the store says that's the key to a hard body.

  • Thursday: HIIT CARDIO because, well, why not?

  • FRIDAY: Another HIIT extreme workout because it was in your social media feeds

  • Saturday: HIIT Cardio because rest days aren't fitspo worthy

  • Sunday: Double marathon on the treadmill because that's what worked for your friend's uncle's cousin's aunt's kids' babysitter's best friend in 1937.

The science of fat loss says that to lose it, you must burn 3500 calories and have an intake deficit of some kind to lean out. So most people think the above plan combined with drinking about 200 gallons of water and only eating 14 calories a day (no carbs of course, and you better not even drive by a bakery let alone think about one) is the way to get in better shape.

Driving 1500 miles on 50 miles worth of gas doesn't work as a traveling strategy, and it sure's hell doesn't work when it comes to increasing your fitness level. Here's what does: a methodical approach rooted in logic that lays down a proper movement foundation to set goals, then exceed them.

See, if you aren't strong, don't have proper joint stability and have movement dysfunction the only thing doing more does is put you on the road to potentially doing less. Meaning, moving poorly + moving explosively, means you get better at performing worse.

There is a way around this, it ain't sexy but I've seen it work time and time again. Here you go. The resolution revelation for the ages. Are you ready, here it is:

Basics. Work. Best.

That's it. Mastery of basics means you can squat jump, do kettlebell swings, run sprints, push/pull/flip tractor tires or pretty much anything you want to your heart's content. BUT only once you've dialed in the basics of the following. Its a strategy Dan John recommends, and he's 100% spot on.

To do it, you're going to need a set of kettlebells or dumbbells and a suspension trainer. You'll work in movement combination supersets to not only get your basics dialed in, but maybe even get your heart rate up along the way.

Now, remember before trying anything new, ALWAYS get a movement screen from your physician, a trusted physical therapist or chiropractor or a trainer that you trust. If you've got aches and pains, get them checked to find out why to make sure there isn't anything else that needs to be addressed first. Essentially, stack the odds in your favor to give yourself the best chance of success.

Then once you've done, gotten a thumbs up, get ready to move. This sequence is full of foundation movements with a 2:1 pull to press ratio because most people need this.

Loaded Carries + High Suspension Trainer Rows

Consider this a walking plank plus direct work to the postural muscles in the back. You'll also involve the core and glutes as well. Supersetting these gives you a huge bang for the buck. Plus, there's also a little benefit in putting weights down then having to pick them back up to carry them. Another Dan John PE point that most people don't think of.

DB/KB Single Arm Floor Press + Low Suspension Trainer Rows

This combination will teach your body how to connect your diagonal loading patterns pressing as well as your core and hips to provide a foundation to row. Both exercises are essentially planks with the arms moving. Done correctly, the pressing involves the glutes and core as you work on your chest shoulders and triceps. The rowing will hit grip strength in addition to the back and biceps muscles.

Hip Hinge + Goblet Squats

Want to build a bullet proof backside? Learn the hinge. Here we're using the Stick Mobility modality, but you can easily transfer this over to bands, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells or plain people weight after you've mastered the movement.

Want to create the foundation for jumping? Dial in your squat. Lucky for you, this combination will help with both. Mastery of these two movements opens the flood gates of fitness fun like you wouldn't believe. IF you take the time to learn them correctly, you will surely be rewarded.

This six exercise workout that is built on pretty basic movements with the goal of giving you a better movement foundation. That base is what you need to move your best and enjoy your activities outside of the gym (park, etc) that much more.

As always a HUGE thank you to Alison from Goldilocks Training in San Francisco. Thanks for reading, much appreciated.

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