In the HIT workout that follows you will see Sean performing exercises from his A Routine, the workout is performed on the HITGYM AIO by David Health Solutions.
And so Sean begins starting the routine with a Lower Back movement.
The primary targeted muscles are those of the lumbar and thoracic spine.
Note Sean takes his time in starting the movement, this is important as we are aiming to take 4 seconds or more for the weight to come off the stack. It is especially important with regards to the lower back (but also with all other exercises) to keep the upload and first few inches of the initial positive stroke as slow and as controlled as possible.
On the negative portion of the first repetition note HIT Trainer Simon Shawcross places his hand on Sean’s solar plexus, this is so Sean has a physical marker that he will aim to curl over, which will aid in creating the correct curving of the spine. At the beginning of the negative portion of the rep Sean leads with his neck, then the upper back, mid back and finally the lower back.
At the lower turnaround/stack touch notice that Sean does not pause, he smoothly and immediately begins the next repetition. This is exactly what we are going for: the goal is to have the targeted musculature under constant tension throughout every inch of the entire set (on every exercise) until momentary muscular failure (MMF) prevents anymore positive movement.
With regards to this exercise in particular during the initial upload there is a common thought that goes through the head of the trainee and that is ‘Can I actually lift this?’ Yes they can is the answer, in fact after the first 2second hold (where Sean’s torso is vertical) the exercise seems to become easier throughout and you may be thinking ‘Oh I can do this all day’, muscular fatigue soon catches up and changes that thought process.
Suddenly you will find that you can no longer move in a positive motion, the ultra important part of the exercise now is to continue as you have done with every rep before. As you can see Sean demonstrate perfectly after he can no longer achieve positive movement he slowly transitions into the negative and controls the movement until the stack touches.
At 2.08 into the set you will see that Simon places a hand on the movement arm, he is carefully and gradually applying force in the opposite direction to Sean, to enable Sean to achieve MMF in the midrange of the movement.
I would also like to highlight Sean’s breathing, throughout the whole set he is breathing constantly and consistently from the initial movement of the exercise to the final rep before de-loading (great work), this is paramount! The holding of ones breath must be avoided whenever possible. Breathing is crucial as the holding of ones breath (Valsalva manoeuvre) raises blood pressure and can also provide a mechanical assist within the movement. Sean avoids this masterfully! Sean also avoids unnecessary muscular bracing and physically distractive tactics, as it is the aim to not take any focus away from the muscles the exercise is designed to work e.g. Sean’s arms are very relaxed throughout and you can see that he is doing no tap dancing with his feet- which many individuals will do (the desire is to distract the brain from the sensation of muscular work performed to fatigue).
The second exercise in the routine is the Leg Press.
Targeted musculature the Gluteus Maximus, the Quadriceps, Hamstrings and the Calf muscles.
Our aim is to have total control over every inch of every exercise, with the leg press that of course doesn’t change whatsoever. With the leg press we place an emphasis on driving through the heels, this is so we activate all of the targeted muscles from the waist down, if we were to drive primarily through the balls of the feet we would shift emphasis to the quadriceps. In placing all his focus in driving through his heels Sean will engage all the desired muscles and working them more effectively.
We place a high degree of importance on a gradual increase in force at the beginning of each rep, it doesn’t matter if the weight takes a few seconds to come off the stack, as long as the intention is to move it and as long as these few seconds are not used to give your muscles the chance to rest. Sean’s gradual application of force slowly engages the weight stack and there is a slight increase in speed through the belly of the positive rep.
The first upper turnaround was a little rushed and more control is needed, as well the first two stack touches (lower turnarounds) are a little too ‘aggressive’ however as the exercise ramps up in intensity and more control both mental and physical is required Sean adapts perfectly.
The tendency is to excessively rush the reps the further into the exercise (the mind can revert to just wanting it over and done with) Sean however, keeps composure here and his form improves as he proceeds into the more challenging parts of set. Sean doesn’t stop when he thinks he might be done he immediately attempts another positive repetition, this is a must for every exercise, it isn’t over until your muscles reach failure.
Also it is very noticeable that his rate of breathing has ramped up another notch, again excellent work Sean. Almost forgot you can see that Sean does not go to lock out, this is very important as if lock out occurs the weight is coming off the musculature of the legs and onto the knee joints, we avoid this to protect the knees and another benefit is to never allow the muscles a chance to recover throughout the entirety of the set.
Up Third the Pull down.
Targeted musculature: Latisimus Dorsi, Teres, (Biceps and Forearms).
By now we start to see a pattern emerging that being- start slowly, milking the first few inches then a gradual increase in force through the middle and then slowing and controlled for the turnaround. Sean demonstrates this perfectly in this exercise along with continuous breathing. It is worthy of note that Sean’s stack touches in this exercise are fantastic and that comes from the slowing down and really grinding out those last few inches before the stack touches, and again Sean perfectly bleeds the negative portion into the positive with no de-loading of his muscles.
There will come a point within the set where you may hear Simon say “get it down aggressively, go at it” or “go faster”, this may seem counter productive to our aims however it is the timing of the vocal cues. At the point in the set where that motivation is given the trainees intention must be to go faster but due to muscular fatigue the movement will not increase to an inappropriate speed. Sean’s muscles reach positive muscular fatigue at 1 minute 40 seconds, he can no longer complete a full rep, now the tendency is to ease off and lose form however the exercise is not over until the stack has touched down with as much control as you can muster on the final (often partial) negative, awesomely demonstrated here by Sean.
Next, Sean moves onto the Chest Press.
Targeted musculature: the Pectorals, Anterior Deltoids and the Triceps.
With the chest press one sign of fatigue is that the shoulders will start to rise up. The body is asking for the pectorals to be relieved from the muscular stress via bringing more shoulder musculature into play, this is counterproductive to our goal of fatiguing the pectorals. In order to avoid doing this we or in this case Sean must remember to keep his shoulders depressed should they attempt to steal any of the pectorals ‘limelight’.
You can see that Sean does go to elbow lockout, however it is a very smooth transition in and out of lock so as to keep the load on his muscles at all times. On the last complete positive rep (getting grimy now) as Sean loops in and out of lock out the load gathers momentum and the muscles are given a slight break, this is due to muscular fatigue, nonetheless Sean does a fantastic job of regaining control and his form on the rest of the negative is good. He then controls the stack touch and attempts another rep, however good the intentions were Sean had reached MMF and that stack was going nowhere. Great set!
Now, Sean performs an isolated exercise for the Abdominals.
This one’s tricky but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the targeted muscles here are the Abdominals.
This is a tough exercise in terms of form and the 2second contraction before the negative portion differs somewhat in position for everyone. With the abdominals we don’t want to go too far down that the hip flexors come in to play and the load comes off the abdominals. So where you feel the abdominals contracted the most, pause and squeeze in that position.
Sean has got good control over this exercise e.g. his stack touches are clean and there is no sudden lurching or jolting at the beginning of the positive. One thing in this video that he could have done better is more of a curl in the spine, visualising crunching and curling over the pad, which will move with you. In Sean’s defence, he was new to the machine and has since honed the curling of the spine.