Mind Your Movement: The Plank

Mind Your Movement: The Plank
By: Ian Cutting

The plank is an incredibly effective full body exercise. Planks force you to contract every muscle you have, creating high levels of tension. This tension helps you build body awareness and stability.
They require total body engagement, and emphasize core and hip stability. This translates into improved performance in many other exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and kettlebell swings.
Learning how to plank correctly will improve your abilities both in and out of the gym, and they are far more than a contest to see how long you can stay propped up on your elbows.

Enter the “hard-style” plank.

So planks require engagement, create tension, build stability, and increase awareness, but what does all of that training jargon even mean? More importantly, how do you planks and how can all of that help you? Well, let’s keep it simple, practical, and break them down so they can help you build yourself up.
The Setup: Make your way to the floor, with your…


1) Forearms on the ground, with elbow directly below shoulders.
a. Elbows bent at 90°.
b. There is a straight line from your shoulders, through your elbows, to the floor.

2) Legs extend straight out behind you, and are close together.
a. Toes are down.
b. Knees raised up off the floor.

3) Back and hips are straight, level.
a. Hips are not arrow /\ shaped, pointed up towards the ceiling.
b. Back is not U shaped, sagging down towards the floor.


This is the setup. Now, let’s get to all of that fun engagement and muscles and stuff we talked about earlier.
A true, hard-style plank means that every muscle is tight, preventing anything that might knock into you from pushing you around. Your body is a true plank, locked into one solid, immovable position. Here’s how it goes.

The Exercise: You’re all setup. Let’s plank.

1) Squeeze your glutes and core, with everything you’ve got.
a. “Squeeze your cheeks”. Think of your butt eating your shorts.
b. “Rock-solid abs”. Tighten, brace yourself, as if someone was about to punch you in the gut (which, you know, someone might).


2) Squeeze your legs, with everything you’ve got.
a. Tighten you thighs (quads and hamstrings), and lower legs (calves)
b. Straighten, squeeze.


3) Squeeze your back, chest, shoulders, and arms, with everything you’ve got.
a. Keep your neck and face relaxed.
b. Everything from your fingertips to your toes is now tight and on fire.
c. Breathe normally.


Hold this position, with your arms, shoulders, back, core, hips, and legs all tight.
And last but not least, to finish bracing and locking yourself in.


4) Try to “pull the floor together”.
a. Pull your elbows towards your toes.
b. Pull your toes towards your elbows.
c. Picture yourself crinkling, folding up the floor beneath you.


The plank creates full body tension by forcing you to contract every muscle you’ve got.
Planks alone are an effective exercise and are important to have in your training toolbox.
The principles of a plank (core engaged, glutes tight…) will also help you perform other exercises.
So from now on when are planking focus, and force your body to work. Set up in the correct alignment, squeeze everything you’ve got, and don’t forget to breathe.

If done properly, you shouldn’t be able think about anything other than not passing out, much less be able to hold a conversation.

Women: Love your body!

By: Kyla Scherer

As a coach, the number one request from female clients is to lose weight and look better. The female population comes to me “hating” things about their bodies. A body that has potentially gotten them out of bed each day, climbed endless stairs, given birth, stood them in front of seminars and conferences and courtrooms, walked them down the aisle of their wedding, helped them to impact their local or national or international community, saved lives, taught, and inspired others.

How do you hate that?

They see the extra fat, or the flabby arms, or a number on the scale they think is too large. Why shouldn’t they see this? If you walk down the magazine aisle in stores and take a gander at the front cover of women’s magazines versus men’s magazines you see two very different pictures. In a totally unscientific study I did just that, and here’s what I saw.


Magazines geared towards women: fight fat, slim and happy, drop 2 sizes, sexy abs, lose more fat, flat abs, slim sexy body, toned.

Magazines geared towards men: Instant muscle, big arms fast, get big, ripped right now, build muscle, stronger quicker, the big muscle issue.

These are just magazine covers; we are bombarded each day by various types of media that pretty much send the same message. Be small, quiet, and look a very specific way.   We aren’t taught to be grateful about what our bodies can do, but to be ashamed of what they aren’t. We are taught to focus on aesthetics, and not what our bodies can do.   I, personally, chose not to subscribe to this thought process, but it can be difficult to get a female client to turn their backs on the overwhelming majority of messaging.

So how do we go about making women appreciate their bodies more?

As a coach, obviously, I want to know a client’s goals. Whether that goal is to lose 10lbs or have visible abs, or to drop 2 dress sizes. Once I know a client’s goals a program can easily be designed to help them reach their goals. The important part is finding out a client’s why. Why do they want to lose 10lbs, why not 5 or 15? Why 2 dress sizes? Usually in talking to clients the 10lbs and the change in clothing size turns into feeling better. Feeling better in their body and about their body and this is where I like to work.

Most of my clients will start feeling better and more empowered when they start performing better. If during a session I can get them to focus on doing one more rep then last time, trying to move more weight than they did a month ago, or moving faster through a workout suddenly it becomes about what they are capable of and not the 10lbs they were worried about. “I did that one push-up, now I want more.”, “I picked up 100lbs, now I want more.”. If they focus on what they can do in the gym, the aesthetics will come.

Most likely a woman who can bang out 3 pull-ups has a pretty good body composition already. A woman who can pick up over 300lbs probably has a fantastic looking posterior. If you are working hard in the gym for those quad muscles, then you want to show them off in that smaller sized dress. A woman who focuses on getting stronger quickly realizes that she isn’t “getting bulky” as a result, and she’s most likely eating more than she ever has before.

Ultimately, I would like women to stop trying to fix their bodies and start trying to make them stronger. Train because you love your body, not because you hate it. Because our bodies are amazing, and can do so much more then we think. Chances are you are going to see much more positive change if you start from a place of gratitude then one of despair.


“You can still love your body while wanting it to look or perform differently than it does right now. There’s no hypocrisy there.” – Molly Galbraith

Bullshit Fitness: What it is, and what you can do about it

Bullshit Fitness:
What it is, and what you can do about it
By: Ian Cutting
How Can You Tell if it’s Bullshit?

Generally, if…

It sounds too good to be true.
It came out yesterday.
It asks for a few easy payments.
It’s on an infomercial.
It’s based on the latest study.
It promises to remove pounds of toxic sludge from your body.
It promises amazing results with zero effort.
It guarantees amazing changes in a conveniently small amount of time.

It’s new and been improved, since the old version’s completion or expiration date.
It has more ingredients and syllables on the label that you haven’t read anywhere else.
It has more colors on the packaging than there are colors on the rainbow.
Straight to the Point

Stop chasing bullshit fitness. Stop chasing fake health. Stop chasing magic pills and pipe dreams. Stop chasing shortcuts and quick fixes. Stop chasing the latest fad or gimmick.

Stop feeding promoters pushing one size fits all, short-term programs. Stop buying into products guaranteed to help you, pushed by companies who don’t care about you.
The Truth

Change is hard. Real, significant, changes are the result of hard work and consistency.

Real changes come from keeping things simple.

They come from building healthier habits. They come from operating out of your comfort zone. They come from training.
The Process

You don’t always have to “embrace the grind”, but you have to do the work. You won’t always be able to smile, but you will grin when you get it done. You can’t always have fun, but there will be fun along the way.

You don’t have to leave the gym battered and broken every time, but breaking down mental and physical barriers is part of the process. You can’t possibly like all of it, but you will grow to appreciate at least some parts of that process.
Look in the Mirror

Look at what’s being pushed on you, decide you’re better than that.
Look at what you’ve tried, realize you need better than that.

Think about what a better you can be. Think about what it will take to get there.
What Will it Take?

It will depend on what your goals are. What you are trying to get out of life. Why do you want to make these changes and what is the best path to take.

Whichever paths you’re thinking about, don’t take the ones promising overnight transformations. You won’t change, at least not in the way you were hoping for. You won’t learn what it takes. You won’t have any new skills to build off of. You will be left feeling even more discouraged and confused. Your wallet and motivation will be left even emptier, with nothing to show for it.

If you do take that path, you will then seek out the next too good to be true miracle cure, product, or program, and the cycle of disappointment and desperation continues.
The First Step

The first step is to stop buying into the cycle of fitness marketing.
Where to Go From There?

If you don’t know where to start, look for those who have. If you don’t know how to start, find those can help.
How Do You Know What to Look For?

Are you being told you’re too old, young, fat, skinny, tired, ugly, unworthy or unable in some way, or are you empowered to get started, learn, and grow?
Are they professionals, or promoters?

Is it your concerns they care about, or their commission?
It is your progress they care about, or their brand?
Is their way the only way and others are terrible and unhelpful, or is it one that’s practical, been shown to work, and lasting?

Do they listen to you, or talk over you?
Do they ask questions, or answer their own.
Do they have a plan for you, or something to push on you?

You can’t undo anything you’ve already done. Just move on having learned from it.

You can move forward and break out of the cycle. You can start making actual progress in your health and fitness. You can keep making positive changes in your life.
Worth It

It is never too late to make changes. Do not give up on progress, on improvement, on yourself, ever.

It will be hard, especially in the beginning.

It will be worth it, for now, and for the rest of your life.