Category Archives: Functional

True core training….It may not be what you think.

True Core training….It may not be what you think.

The topic of today’s post may be somewhat controversial, however we must always challenge the norm and be open to changing the things that we “know” to be true. So with that in mind, the best way to train your core isn’t crunches, it isn’t V-Ups, it isn’t hanging leg raises and believe it or not, it’s not even the mighty plank. Ok first some terminology. What is your core? Well, cut off your head, legs and arms and you’re on the right track. Abs, Core, Trunk, and Pillar all refer to the same thing, the muscles that make up your torso, from your glutes to your pecs and from your hip flexors to your traps and everything in between. So I will from here on out use all of these interchangeably with each other.

Conventional knowledge says that we need to isolate our core training as a separate body part just like the rest of the body and we should do it at the end of our training session. Well, conventional knowledge has missed the mark so badly here that, if we were to replace “core training” with “Driver training”, there would be so many accidents that we would be left with no choice but to walk everywhere. Let me explain. First, the concept of isolated muscle training is a relatively new concept when we talk about physical fitness, and really wasn’t popularized until Arnold Schwarzenegger came on the scene and body building took a mainstream spotlight. Now this is not a can of worms that I want to open right now but let me just say, if you haven’t yet read some of Grey Cooks work, do it. One of my fav quotes of his is, “Train movements, not muscles. Train patterns not parts”. More on that in a minute, but let’s get back to Pillar talk. The idea of doing a bunch of crunches to get a strong and “ripped” core might make sense to you now, but it’s time to unlearn what you have learned. Think about what your core is responsible for doing: It keeps you up-right while walking around, it helps transfer energy from the top of your body to the bottom and vice versa. It controls Spinal flexion, extension, rotation and movement side to side, among many other things. So spending hours doing crunches (spinal flexion) only trains the core in one plain of motion. But the biggest job of the trunk is one that very few people know about because it’s something we don’t have to think about. The core is reflexive. It responds to movement, to keep our bodies under control. If you slip while walking, your core helps to keep your feet under you. When you swing your baseball bat and you have to adjust to a curve ball at the last second, your core is there to help this happen or when you sit up from your lawn chair and the back support slips, your core keeps you from totally falling out of the chair (provided it’s not impaired by the margarita you are trying not to drop ;). There are so many muscles that impact your core function it is impossible to train each one individually.

So how do you train the core you ask? Well by mimicking

The Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish Get-Up

movements that you do in your day to day life, with precision and perhaps additional resistance. Remember, “train movements, not muscles. Train patterns not parts”. What does this mean then? Instead of holding a plank for 4 mins, hold or carry weight beside you, in the rack position or maybe overhead for 4 mins. Instead of doing 12 different variations of the crunch, try the Turkish Get-Up. I have been asked so many times “what’s the best core exercise?” and my response gets so many eye rolls is almost funny, but for the foreseeable future it will always be the Deadlift. The trick to core training is that every exercise that you do, is a core exercise. I personally haven’t done a specific “ab training session” in my own training in years! Instead, I suit case carry something heavy for 1 – 10 mins, I crawl, I roll, I do Turkish Get-Ups, I swing a kettlebell, I deadlift, I do pushups, I do pull-ups, I do overhead presses. Everything that I do, I focus a tremendous amount of attention and effort on control and “owning” every position. And let me tell you, I have never had a better “ab workout” then carrying a 60 Lbs kettlebell for 10 mins! Now to qualify the effectiveness of my training I’ll say this; As part of my job I have to do a fitness test every year and part of this test is max number of full sit-ups in 60seconds, and having not trained a full sit up, I can do over 40 in 60 seconds. I can hold the plank position for over 3 mins. I have a “strong core” by actively avoiding all of the things that we have been told to do. My time is valuable and I would rather not have to spend an extra 10-20 min at the end of my workout doing crunches and side bends to get a “complete workout”. As a disclaimer, isolating your pillar with specific exercise does have a place, but it’s more in the realm of rehab from injury or working to correct movement dysfunction.

So how do you get a sexy and ripped 6 pack? I really hate to break it to you, but it has everything to do with what you do in the kitchen and so very little to do with how many crunches you can do or how long you can hold the plank.

So when you are thinking core training, remember, walk tall and carry something heavy.

Thanks for reading

Matt Kingstone

Remember this feeling!

FullSizeRenderCongratulations! You made it through the first week. Now remember this feeling

Maybe you’re a bit sore, maybe a little tired but you feel great! You might not be able to explain why you feel so good, other than to say “I feel alive”. Now remember this feeling. Think of five or six words that describe how you feel and put them in places that you will see them. If things get tough or you run into some challenges, you need to be able to remind yourself why you MUST continue or get back to what you’ve been doing. We can easily forget how things make us feel, especially if it makes us feel good, its human nature. It is also human nature to take the path of least resistance, which for a lot of us, is not exercising or being active. But if you are easily reminded of how much better you feel moving, sweating and enjoying it, the more likely you are to keep it up through the whole year.

The human body was made to be used. Aches and pains are more likely a result of disuse than an effect of use. An 18th century physician Tissot said “Movement as such may take the place of many remedies, but all the remedies together can never take the place of the effect of movement.”

Keep moving, keep it simple and keep it at the top of your priority list. Your body will thank you.

Thanks for reading

Matt Kingstone

The three C’s of movement (and cool isn’t one of them)

“The three C’s of movement” (and cool isn’t one of them)

Everyone wants to do the “cool” exercises. The Power cleans, snatchs, clean and jerks etc. It’s pretty awesome to do something in the gym and have everyone watch you in, well….awe. However, if you are in such a hurry to do the “cool” movements, and forget about the foundational movements that allow you to do the “cool” movements safely and effectively, you leave yourself at risk for injury and wasted time in the gym. The three C’s of movement are IMG_1645Control, Competency and Confidence. If you cannot perform a Turkish Get Up or a single leg deadlift or a crawl with Control, Competency and Confidence, what makes you think that you are ready to ballistically put weight over your head? The answer is you aren’t.

Control is of the utmost importance. If you can’t control your body you will never truly be able to control added resistance to an exercise. Controlling your knees, hips and spine during an Active Straight Leg Raise or Leg Lower, translates to standing on one leg in a hip hinging straight single leg hold position (I call it an L-Hold) which translates into anything you can think of that involves hip hinging ie deadlifts, cleans, snatches, bent over rows, picking up a bag of dog food….you get the idea. I’ll be the first to admit that these aren’t the most exciting exercises to do, and many of my clients may tell you the same, but they serve a greater purpose than being entertaining. Without the ability to control your body or light weight in various positions that require an attention detail, like a bottoms up kettlebell position, you have no hope of performing more complex movements with an acceptable level of Competency. What a segue into my next point, all those essays paid off haha.

Competency can be defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. However, when we speak about movement competency, just doing something isn’t enough, that ‘something’ must be done right. Just because you can lift 400 Lbs off the ground, doesn’t necessarily mean you successfully deadlifted it, If you had to lift it at the expense of form and safety. If you are competent with a movement then you do not have to succumb to any compensations in order to perform it. Movement competency also takes into account pain with movement. If a basic movement like putting your arms over head causes pain, it is no longer a “basic” movement for you, and it is now a movement that you are not competent with. Remedial or therapeutic measures may have to be taken in order to “clean” this movement up. We put up with pain far too well for our own good. I am a perfect example of this, for a long time I have had shoulder pain with many “basic” movements, including things like putting on my jacket. I have recently given my head a shake and have been putting a lot of work into making movements such as putting on my jacket or reaching into the back seat of the car competent, pain free movements. It can be a slow and at times boring road but what is the alternative? Pain for the foreseeable future? Surgery (which still includes rehab)? No thank you. I’ll keep working through my corrective exercises and earn pain free range of motion. The presents of movement compensation whether through a lack of control or pain avoidance does not show movement competency, and compensation does not lend itself to confidence.

As a Certified Personal Trainer, when a client demonstrates confidence with a movement is when I am comfortable with them doing that movement without supervision. I realize that this statement may seem a bit excessive to some, but when we are talking about movements like deadlifts, squats or overhead pressing it is a must. Confidence is empowering,  and only when confidence with a movement is present should additional weight be added. There is too much emphasis on moving heavy weight these days. As Grey Cook says, you have to “earn the right” to move forward. If you skip a step in the process of gaining confidence, chances are you haven’t earned the right to lift that weight off the ground or worse yet put that weight overhead. This is when injury becomes a real threat. Confidence isn’t given, it’s earned through perfect practice and time. Don’t rush it.

Watching someone who is truly comfortable with a movement is a great thing as a trainer. And knowing that client realizes that they have earned that confidence through exercising control of the parts involved, and demonstrating competency in all of the movements leading up to it is an extremely rewarding experience. Life is about movement. Being able to move through your life with Control, Competency and Confidence is living. The stronger your three C’s are with basic, foundational movements the greater your enjoyment of the little, and big things in life will be.

Thanks for reading. Until next time

Matt Kingstone

King Cobra Fit

Throwdowns and swings….Just awesome

I’m all about balance; I put a lot of effort into ensuring that my workouts involve all kinds of balance. Single sided movements, single leg movements, instability and having a balance between pushing and pulling movements all have made a permanent home in my exercise bag. Now I realize that this isn’t a ground breaking concept and may seem overly simplistic to some, but I’m in love with it. The exercises you choose don’t have to be complicated or complex but there must be a balance. My new favorite movements to pair together are kettlebell swings and medicine ball throw downs. They’re perfect complementary movements to each other.

The Kettle bell swing is a great full body conditioning movement, it closely mimics the flexion and extension of the hips during activities like running; it engages the whole core; challenges coordination and balance. There aren’t very many compact, dynamic movements that are better than a Kettle bell swing for overall conditioning. They can be done by nearly every healthy participant, with the alternative movement being a dead lift with a high pull, similar movement pattern just less ballistic.

Pair that with a medicine ball throw down and you have a great workout. The throw down again takes an everyday movement pattern, picking something up and putting it down, and makes it dynamic and ballistic, think chopping wood and you’ve got the right idea.  Like the KB swing, it challenges you to focus on maintaining a tight core; it requires coordination and balance, and works cardiovascular endurance. Throw downs are best done with large, soft med. balls. Dynamax makes a great one that comes in many different weights. One contraindication would be limited shoulder ROM, adjusting the movement to stay in pain free ROM is an option.

The powerful concentric action of the glutes during hip extension while KB swinging combined with the explosive flexion of the hips and torso when throwing down is what makes these two movements so fantastic. They play off each other so well and flow together just like the sweat dripping off your nose while doing them. Whether you build them in as superset within a workout; put them in a larger circuit; or just use them paired together on their own you really can’t go wrong. Next time you want something dynamic, ballistic, low impact/low risk, fun, not to mention satisfying (I tell people that if they can break my Med Ball, I’ll give them $10, talk about stress relief), try adding in these two awesome movements.

Start being a big baby, Part 1(breathing)

Babies are perfect. Many of the qualities or behaviors that babies display are uncorrupted, unadulterated, and natural. Their ability to perfectly squat, roll over, digest, breath, crawl, as well as make the most grumpy person smile is noting short of spectacular. There is a growing movement toward the inclusion of “primal movements” in personal training and group fitness classes (to those who take my classes, that’s what you call “foreshadowing”). Primal movements are just what they sound; movements that humans have not only been doing since the beginning of time but movements or behaviors that are the first things that we learn as babies. Those movements and behaviors are what I want to talk about in this series. The first, is also the most important “primal movement” you do and it technically isn’t a movement at all; per se.

How do you breath? I mean physically breath. Are you a chest breather or a belly breather? Stop reading and take three normal breaths. I’ll wait. The majority of you are chest breathers. I’m a chest breather, I can admit it but I pledge to change that, and I’ll tell you why. The diaphragm is your “prime” mover when it comes to breathing; your prime movers are the muscles that do the most work during a movement or action and your assister muscles, the ones that help out, when breathing are your external intercostal muscles and internal intercostal muscles (the muscles in between your ribs). If you are a chest breather you use mostly intercostal muscles and less diaphragm, if you are a belly breather you use your diaphragm more. It makes sense to use the prime mover more than the others, does it not? What does this have to do with a baby you ask? Ever watched a baby breath while sleeping or laying on his/her back? Is it their chest or belly that raises up and down? Most of the time it will be very distinctly their stomach. Your diaphragm is located just below your lunges. It pulls your lunges down and sucks air into your lunges. That action of the diaphragm pulling down pushes you lower visceral organs (intestines, stomach, liver ect) out; making your belly stick out. This accentuation of the “gut” may be a huge reason why we move away from being belly breathers. Take another three normal breaths and pay attention to how much air you can take in (don’t cheat and belly breath if you didn’t before), now take three breaths and in-vision that your are breathing air into your stomach. Which method allowed you to take the deeper breath? If it wasn’t the belly breathing you did something wrong. Haha just kidding, but really I think you might have, try sitting up tall. The ability to breath is essential to life. No breath means no life. So being able to maximize your breath should be something that takes precedence over appearance. I know, I hate how my belly sticks out when I belly breath too. But if it means being able to take in more air (oxygen) to allow me to work, train or be active longer in duration (both in a workout and life) I’ll give it a try. Hey, I’ll try anything once, twice if it tastes good. I know it seems like a pretty small inconsequential thing to change but we need to start with our foundation. Breathing allows life.

Whats that; your trainer always harps on “keep a tight core”? And belly breathing feels like your core is loose. Having a tight or engaged core is important but there is more to a strong core than just abdominal and postural muscles. What is interesting is that having full or partially lungs, like you should at the bottom of a squat, actually provides intera-abdominal pressure which causes core stability. Breath is the glue that holds it all together.

So breathing is the foundation, where do we go from here? Well if the first thing that you do when you are born is breath, the next movement you do is as primal as it gets (get your mind out of the gutter!). You roll over. Rolling is an amazingly simple concept but is also shockingly difficult to do as we get older and start letting our limbs do all of the work. I’ll tell you what I’m talking about next time.

Again, Thanks for reading


(King Cobra Fit)

Put the pride on the shelf; A lesson in the use of cliches and proper weight

You’ve heard the cliché, The love of money is the root of all evil, and I’m sure you’ve heard, The calm before the storm, but have you heard, Pride is injury’s best friend? I think that needs to be a new fitness cliché. I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember; someone using too much weight or too many reps to keep up with someone else, or to show off to that girl or worse yet, prove to yourself you can still do it (even if it has been a little over a year). What do you think is the result most of the time? Probably, a really ugly last few reps and the wrong lesson is learned. Don’t get me wrong, I never want to see anyone injured, that’s the whole reason I didn’t go into therapy, I want to see someone on the best day of their lives, not their worst; but the longer that person goes on letting pride get in the way of using proper form/weight/ROM, the bigger the potential for a worse injury; the longer they will be out of training; and the more likely it is that they will have to see some kind of manual therapist.

Anyone who takes my fitness classes has no doubt heard me say things like, “own the movement”, “make it look good” or “its not enough to just do it, you have to do it right”. When I say that, I’m not just saying it to hear myself talk; it’s a verbal reminder to keep in mind why you’re there. you’re there to get stronger, fitter and healthier, and not beat the guy beside you. Every class I hope that I provide each participant with individual coaching and correction suggestions or general, blanket instruction that gives them the tools to do the movements and workout the best they can. But you’re not off the hook that easily, I will continue to give corrections and bring you slightly lower weights, despite the eye rolls. But if you can hear me, even when I’m not there, hounding on control and form then I’ve done my job and I’m happy.

Now, in saying that, my favorite fitness principle is Progressive Overload, which states, you have to push your body to do a little more than last time to continue to progress. But never forget, there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to exercises. No one, I’ll say it again, NO ONE does any exercise perfectly every time, especially at the end of the workout. The last few reps are just as important, if not more important, than the first. There is no shame in identifying that the weight you started with at the beginning is now slightly too heavy to complete the number of reps, keep form or maintain a full range of motion (ROM) and use a lower weight! Live to fight another day as it were. I think Grey Cook said it best in his podcast “Coddled Conditioning” – “Lifts with kettlebells and free weights were designed with technique in mind so that under fatigue, your unconscious default mode should be impeccable technique (instead of “muscling” it out)” (

It makes me so happy to see someone stop, decrease the weight they are using, adjust the angle they are at or at least take a few extra breaths to rest before continuing when they are fatigued. Always remember, every time you are in the gym, be it on your own or in a fitness class, that is your workout, no one elses. The only person you compare yourself to is the you that walked in the door that day. Hey, you can love your money, you can be the calm or the storm, but shelve the pride and live to fight another day!

Thanks again for reading.

Matt Kingstone

Bahh Bahh Black sheep, why are you so injured?

As a professional Certified Personal Trainer and a Fitness Instructor my goal is to help people become their best. I know that people come to my classes or sessions expecting a fun, challenging and safe workout. I don’t get asked “why am I doing this exercise” very often, but when I do, I always have an answer. There is a reason behind all of the exercises that I choose. The problem with the fitness industry is not enough people ask “why am I doing this exercise ”. Many people take what their trainer is telling them to do and do it blindly. Now to be clear, I’m not telling you to question everything your trainer is telling you to do. If they are experienced, educated and passionate 9 times out of 10 you will be fine. But if an exercise makes you stop and think “whoa, this seems unsafe”, ask the question.

This has to be one of my biggest concerns with the fitness industry today. Too many people are more interested in “looking hard as fuck” doing an exercise, than being interested in understanding where in their daily lives this movement will help them. The handstand pushup is a prime example of this. To perform a handstand pushup you get in to the handstand position, most likely against a wall, and then you bend your arms, lowering your head toward the floor and press back up to straight arms. Impressive to watch, yes, but why the hell are people doing high repetition of this ridiculous movement? What happened to the risk/benefits analysis? When you are choosing an exercise you have to ask yourself two questions. 1) Is there a better way to train this movement pattern or muscle group and 2) Is there a safer way to train this movement pattern or muscle group. If you answer yes to either one of those questions, you need to rethink your exercise choice. To the handstand pushup the answer to both of those questions is yes. How about a standing, seated, half kneel or high kneeling shoulder press; don’t have any weights but have a partner? Try a partner shoulder press. I chose to pick on the handstand pushup because I feel that it is a perfect example of the need for the “why am I doing this exercise” question in fitness. The ability to do a handstand is very impressive; I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from practising and becoming proficient at doing a handstand. However, not everyone has the shoulder stability, balance and strength to do a handstand pushup, therefore not everyone should do them, I would argue that there are very few people who should be doing them.

The point of training and exercising is to enhance your quality of life, be more efficient doing your ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) and have a little fun in the process; it is not to look like a “Boss” doing a movement or spend months rehabbing an injury that was totally avoidable by stepping out of the herd of sheep and asking WHY!

Thanks for reading

Matt Kingstone

King Cobra Fit