3 Exercises you should be doing now
I love guests posts, but this one is even more special than normal as it comes from a local Brooklyn friend in the fitness industry, Jeb Stuart Johnston, whom I first met a few years ago on set while doing a Men’s Fitness shoot.
Jeb is an awesome dude who can talk your ear off about anything in the fitness world with his encyclopedic knowledge. Really awesome dude who loves seeing people prosper from a stronger and fitter life almost much as me 😄💪. Thanks for the GREAT article Jeb!
Jeb Stuart Johnston
Jeb is a NYC-based personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach dedicated to changing the lives of busy professionals through fitness. He has worked with everyone from supermodels and single moms in the suburbs to artists and Green Berets.
If you follow Chris Ryan’s social media you will know that he’s not just a set of sculpted abs and pretty face. Dude is a serious athlete. I am sure that many of you have aesthetic goals without much concern for athleticism but I would argue that training like an athlete will both give you a better physique and keep you healthier.
For me, running is tough. I get bored, it’s really hard, and I’m not very good at it. Sprints are better but I always feel like I am going to be on one of those gym fail videos when I try to sprint on a treadmill. And I know that if I program running in I am just not gonna do it.
I am a weights guy. I love lifting, and I love lifting heavy. I also would like to not have a heart attack at 40 or end up really strong and fat so I know cardio is a necessary evil. Oh, and abs are cool.
Strongman inspired movements can be the best option for adding cardio into a training session while also working towards building functional muscle. You have all seen Strongman competitions, right? I’m guessing a World’s Strongest Man from the 80s where guys are pulling 747 jet planes.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to up your frequent flier miles. Yet. The beauty of Strongman training is that it can be scaled in weight so that anyone can do it. Here are my top 3 Strongman movements for weekend warriors and seasoned athletes alike.
#1- Farmers Carry
This is the bread and butter Strongman movement. Quite simply, It develops midline stability and core strength like nothing else. As an added bonus it will give you the grip strength of a gorilla.
You won’t need any specialized equipment here, just some heavy dumbbells or kettlebells. Pick a weight between 50 and 75% of your bodyweight per hand and walk for either distance or time. I like a distance of 100ft because it will temper the weight you can use. Remember, we are doing this for fitness not sport.
Another great variation of the farmers carry is the suitcase carry. Set-up and equipment are the same but we only need one dumbbell or kettlebell. The advantages here is that it really forces you to use your opposite oblique in order to stabilize the load. Great for stability and to protect from injury. Just grab a KB or DB in one hand, walk for 50’ then switch hands and walk back.
#2- Sandbag Carry
Sandbags offer what I consider to be the best functional strength and conditioning movements. The reason is simple: they are extremely pliable and awkward. Have you ever struggled with a bag of dog food? As light as 30lbs they can be a royal pain in the butt (and back) to lift. Once you have spent some time handling heavy sandbags in training you will laugh in the face of even 60lb bags of dog food.
Sandbags are also cheap and easy to make. I prefer to use Rogue or Cerberus branded sandbags because they are extra durable and can be loaded heavy with no fear of splitting. However, it’s just as effective to buy a military duffel bag from your local surplus store and fill some contracter bags with sand and tape it up.
The easiest way to get started with sandbag training is to load it up and take it for a walk. Pick a distance and try to make it there. The key is to bear hug the bag and hold it high on your chest, bracing your abs hard. It will feel hard to breathe with the bag sitting on your chest, don’t worry, that is part of the benefit!. Think about swiveling your hips instead of rocking back and forth. Congratulations! You just did a sandbag carry!
Once you get used to the lighter weight (50-60lbs is a good start) add sand or add distance or add time. There are a bunch of ways to progress this movement. Just
#3- Sled Push
My favorite movement for burning fat and building muscle. My clients, on the other hand, have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the sled. Sled pushes are an extremely functional, low impact movement. Your legs (and lungs) get a workout while your joints actually get some active recovery.
I know your first objection: “But Jeb, I don’t have a sled.” Do you have a car? (If you are a New Yorker like me and Chris are, a sled is actually a more realistic option) If you do have a car, put that puppy in neutral (just make sure to have a friend steering and braking) and get to pushing.
I like two different ways to push the sled. First, with my shoulders up against the uprights and sprinting off of my toes. This will be a bit more quad recruitment and transfer over well to sports. The second (and much harder) technique is to lock the arms out in an overhead position (remember to keep that bracing). From here, drive through your heels and take long measured steps. You will feel this light up your glutes right away.
Like with sandbag, I like to do these for distance. I like to go heavy and hit 50 or 100 feet. Some days, however, I will pick a light weight and push slowly for 10 or 20 mins straight to get in some long and low cardio.
Add some fun into your training. I promise it will make you want to do it more and it will make you more athletic in the process. Hey, you might even end up with that six pack that’s been eluding you for so long!