Well, today I'll get to an oft discussed issue when it comes to dips (one of my favorite exercises, as those who have been following this blog will know) - that being "Are dips bad for the shoulders"?
I'm sure you've seen a lot of discussion on this one, be it in the gym or the internet - and a lot of popular opinion seems to gravitate towards the "yes, they hurt the shoulders" category, while those who do them regularly seem to swear by them.
And as you can tell, I fall into the latter category, so my answer probably won't come as a surprise, but before you dismiss what I'm saying outright, take a minute to read through what I have to say, and then make your decision.
First off, as with any other tough exercise, dips are meant to be done in GOOD form - and good form is often what we do NOT see when we see folks performing dips. And as with any other exercise, you run the very real risk of hurting yourself on any exercise done with poor form, and dips are no different. That however doesn't mean they are bad for the shoulders - quite the contrary - in fact dips are one of the BEST chest/shoulder exercises you can do, period.
Second, like I said, dips are TOUGH - and TOUGH exercises seem to get a bad rap for no reason. Ever heard folks complaining about the bench press being too tough, or the pec-deck being bad for the body? I bet not - but funnily enough both of those activities are not normal for the body, and are nowhere near as beneficial to your overall strength and conditioning as dips are. Think about it - pressing a bar up while laying down as opposed to pushing your ENTIRE bodyweight through space for reps - which one is tougher?
Third, and most importantly, you progress in the dip as you would any other exercise. You do NOT try and bang out 20 reps per set the first time you do these and then get a severe case of shoulder pain and stop doing altogether. It's amazing, but there's still a plethora of folks out there who think bodyweight exercises are somehow "easy" because they are plain bodyweight exercises, and they over-do things accordingly. Big, big mistake.
So, long answer short - no, dips are not bad for you, per se - in fact, they are one of the best upper body strength builders out there. I've personally had great gains in my shoulder/upper body strength while doing this exercise, and I bet you will too. And no, this exercise is NOT "just for skinny people" - much like other exercises involving your entire bodyweight (handstands, pull-ups etc), this one can be performed just as well by a bigger individual as a small one.
Now, does this mean everyone should do dips, period - and not worry about hurting themselves? Well, no, not really - if you've had prior shoulder issues, or if you don't do too well in the dipping position due to a dodgy joint, well, then you probably shouldn't be doing a lot of these. But, the exercise is FINE to do for the vast majority of folks out there - and the comments I've recieved on the book vouch for that.
As for form, see Fast and Furious Fitness - I give you detailed instructions along with pictures on how to perform this challenging bodyweight movement. Get started TODAY - and let me know how you do!
And that's that for today. If you work today - make sure you make it a GREAT one!!
A great variation to your regular pull-up workout (for those of you that do them) is the close grip pull-up. The movement is similar to the regular pull-up/chin-up, but the only difference is that your hands are close together while performing the movement - close, as in less than shoulder width - and touching one other if your really good at the exercise.
I did these for 5 sets of 5 reps today in addition to some other things - and I'm FEELING it in my forearms right now!! That's right; this type of pull-up is great for the forearms, and is a super tough variant as far as gripping power goes. Believe me, these are hard enough to do even if your good at the regular pull-up - and they're almost impossible to do with a weak grip.
I don't recommend doing this style of pull-up all the time; the standard pull-up is still king in my opinion, but it pays to change things up every so often, and this is one great variation you can use, especially if your looking for extra forearm/bicep work.
So, during this 5 x 5 workout (along with other 5 x 5 exercises - for "sample" workouts you can follow, see Fast and Furious Fitness), I added in yet another style of pull-up, a couple of hard sets across the monkey bars, and then timed holds. And that was pretty much all I needed to get the forearm workout of the week. No fancy gadgets, no routines that took all day. No pumping, no preening, nothing - just basic work on thick bars - and that's ALL.
So, moral(s) of the story?
- Keep things simple - the simpler the better - and usually tougher.
- Variations are great; just make sure you do them RIGHT!
And that, my friend, is that for now. Back later with more!
PS: - The forum had a few problems, but they seem to be all sorted out now - stop by and post your thoughts and ideas: http://rahulmookerjee.com/phpbb2/
PS#2: If you don't already do pull-ups, you really SHOULD be. Fast and Furious Fitness is the place to start for a primer on how to incorporate this wonderful exercise into your regimen: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/83-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book
I've been receiving a lot of emails lately - mostly questions related to training, the site, or just general questions. As in, "how do I perform this exercise", or "I'm simply NOT improving at my chin-ups; how do I get there?". And so forth - the questions keep coming in - and thats great!
I make an attempt to answer most of the emails - but I do miss some - and for that, I apologize. Only so many hours in the day, and all that fun jazz. . .
But, to cut a very long story short, I've decided to set up a basic discussion forum on the web site - a place where YOU guys can log in and discuss your training questions, routine, diet, and just about anything you'd like to. I actually did not consider this before, but given that comments are disabled on the blog (sorry - haven't figured out how to outwit the spam bots just as yet!), I thought this should be a good idea.
It's pretty basic - but basic is how I train, and after a lot of playing around with code, fonts etc, I figured the basic setup is the way to go - and it's LIVE now! All you have to do is click "Forum" on the site homepage, and you'll get there. You do need to register with a login name and password,but that's pretty much all you need to do in order to start posting.
The forum is completely free as of now - and hopefully I can keep it that way. As for rules, what to post and what not to - well - we're all adults, and I leave it to YOU to decide. My only rule is - do as you would in "real life" i.e. be civil, respect others, etc etc - and thats pretty much it. Not much of a forum Gestapo as you can tell. . .
So, this should be fun - let's give it a try, and see how it goes!!
PS: The actual link to the site is http://rahulmookerjee.com/phpbb2/index.php ; bookmark this if you want to jump straight to the forum instead of the site!
PS #2: Here's to many productive discussions!!
Well, the summer rolls on here in this part of the globe - and let me tell ya, it's gotten HOT and REAL humid here as of late. As in, so humid that one sweats simply sitting on a chair doing nothing (without A/C). As in, so HOT that you feel like you stepped into a furnace the moment you step out of the house. As in, I'm soaking wet after my workouts these days - I can literally wring sweat out of my clothing after my routine. And so forth. I could go on and on, but you get the idea here.
Boy am I glad I left the Middle East when I did - I don't EVEN want to think about what the weather is like this now in this part of the year. YIKES!
Anyway, getting back on topic - there's literally no respite from the heat and humidity these days - and that in turn means one has to figure out a way to work out effectively despite the oppressive weather conditions. And while it's important not to fall prey to the "Oh, it's too hot to train" syndrome, it's equally, if not more important to know how to train SAFELY during extreme weather conditions. And so, I thought I'd throw a few tips out there in this regard - mostly basic things, nothing fancy, but you'd be amazed as to how often these basic things are ignored. . .
1. Keep yourself well hydrated! This goes without saying, and is applicable to all weather conditions really, but it becomes more important in hot (and especially humid) conditions. Err on the side of caution or even a bit of excess here - there's nothing more frustrating than feeling weak in the middle of the workout due to extreme dehydration (and I've been there myself, so I know how it feels).
As for how to keep oneself hydrated, I prefer WATER to be the best drink when it comes to keeping yourself well hydrated. This is a personal choice really -nothing wrong with sports drinks and such, but at the end of the day, I've found nothing recharges my batteries during and after a tough workout as a drink of cold WATER.
2. Pick the best time of the day to train - preferably the evenings or mornings, when the sun is either going down or about to rise, as you'll do better than if you were training outside in the sun. And while the more extreme of you might enjoy the feeling of "breathing in fire" while climbing a steep hill or doing roadwork in the sun, it's not always the best thing to do for your body. Again, I've been there and done that - for more on this, see Fast and Furious Fitness.
3. Less is MORE when it comes to training in this type of weather. Now, this doesnt mean that you drastically reduce your workload or don't train progressively - what it means is that you do enough - but you don't over do it. And this is especially applicable to those of you that train with high rep bodyweight movements (like I do). So, I might shoot for a goal of 50 dips and 40 pull-ups every time I workout - but I tailor this number according to how I feel, how hard I've worked, and what kind of weather I'm training in. As a general rule, you'll probably do slightly less in real humid weather than you would in better weather - and rest assured, this is fine.
4. If your training outdoors, and doing movements that require a strong grip, you'll likely have trouble with your hands "slipping" off the bar while you exercise. This can be real frustrating (not to mention dangerous) - especially when sweat on your hands is the limiting factor as opposed to grip strength. Chalking the hands up helps with this, but you'll likely require a towel as well to wipe your forearms after each set. Wrist bands are good too - I personally don't use them, but I've heard they do a good job of absorbing the sweat on the forearms.
5. Dress for the weather - this one is obvious. Again, less is more when it comes to hot and humid conditions - I can't help but shake my head when I see folks out in thick sweatpants in the local park in this weather. . .
And that's really all there is to it - all simple and easy things that you likely already knew, but you'd be amazed at how many people neglect one or more of these points.
And with that endeth today's note. Back again soon with more!
PS: For more motivation on getting outside and training in oppressive weather conditions, read Fast and Furious Fitness - I guarantee it won't disappoint!
I've been laid up over the last week or so with a NASTY, NASTY ankle injury. Not quite sure how I managed to strain it, but long story short - I woke up last Tuesday morning with a throbbing pain in my left ankle (not quite unmanageable, but pretty painful in certain spots), and a right ankle that hurt somewhat if I put pressure on it.
Big deal, huh. I've been doing a lot of boxing style roadwork these days, so it's probably just tiredness, sore ankles, right? Best to just get on with things and "tough it out"?
WRONG - let's just say I went for my workout Wednesday, and returned home with a right ankle that was almost impossible to walk upon - and which later got so painful I'd literally howl in agony if someone even lightly TOUCHED the area. That's right - just a gentle TOUCH was that painful.
And being the genius that I can be sometimes, I ended up trying to tough that out as well - and went for a gentle walk the next day. Long story short, BOTH my ankles were shot after that - I spent most of last week in severe pain and hobbling about, mostly in bed. I've had sprained ankles and injuries before - but nothing quite compared to THIS pain. YOW!
Anyhow, there's a lesson for you that I keep talking about, and sometimes don't follow myself - that being, the body is giving us signals all the time, and sometimes we pay no heed to them - and thus reap what we sow. I did get back to my usual workout today after a week's lay off, but boy was that a painful reminder of what I should have done, which was to lay off both feet immediately the moment I felt serious pain.
The other thing I'd like to mention is that we hear a lot about the R.I.C.E method of treating a sprained/injured ankle, which is basically rest, ice, compression and elevation. The rest, compression and elevation worked great for me, but for some reason soaking my foot in a hot water solution of epsom salt/water worked better for me than the ice treatment. Not knocking the ice at all, but for those of you that don't seem to respond well to ice treatment, there's another alternative there.
And now, on to the other point - that being, what NOT to do while doing the hanging leg raise.
First, eliminate ANY and ALL momentum during the movement. I cannot stress the importance of this enough - an extremely tough bodyweight exercise for the entire core is reduced to a mere "swinging" exercise on the bar if you allow momentum to do the work. "Kipping" reps may be great to show off, but the slow, steady and controlled reps are what get the job done, and the hurting going in the abdominal region - which is a GOOD thing!
Second, know that there are many ways of skinning a cat, especially if your starting out in this advanced movement. While touching your toes to the bar is great, you may not be at a point where you can do that. Heck, even getting to a 90 degree hold might be tough for you - so do what you can, and progress from there. What you don't want to do though is "swing" your way up to a position you couldn't get up to normally - you'll only end up injuring yourself.
Third, and last - this movement can be tough on the shoulders, so warm up thoroughly and make sure your shoulders/grip can take the load before you jump into it.
And thats about it for that one - it's a great exercise - and produces great results, but only if trained ever so correctly.
And so it goes at Fast and Furious HQ, feeling GOOD after my workout today. Here's to many more!!
PS: For more on the hanging leg raise, and other core blasters, check out Fast and Furious Fitness.
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