Want to get a stronger core? Want a toned midsection? Or maybe a shredded 6-pack for summer? Then keep reading.
One of the most popular questions we get from our clients is “how do I train abs?” or “I want to do more abs in my workouts.”
So, why don’t we do 30 minutes of abs with every workout?
Because it’s a waste of time.
Here’s the thing, you’re not going to see any of your abs until you get to a low body fat percentage. As a general rule of thumb, a “toned” midsection isn’t going to appear for women until they’re around 20% bodyfat and for men around 15% bodyfat.
So if your bodyfat is over that level (you can get it tested at local gyms in your area. Click here to find a local InBody Scan) or you have some excess skin from weight loss or kids, then it’s going to be really tough to actually see your abs.
Notice how I haven’t mentioned ab training yet?
You can do as many sit ups and crunches as you want, if you haven’t gotten to low body fat levels yet, you won’t see your abs.
And doing more core work won’t speed up burning body fat from your midsection, that’s called spot reducing and it’s a myth. Abs are made in the kitchen AKA your diet is important.
Okay, so what about getting stronger abs? How much ab training do I really need?
If you use free weights, like we do with most of our workouts at Protect & Provide, then every single exercise actually works your abs. Doing something like a push up is actually a moving plank, doing a goblet squat also works your abs similar to a plank.
What happens when you do both those exercises together? Now you’re working your core without 1) wasting time doing it separate and 2) your working more muscles than a regular plank so you’re going to build more muscle and burn fat faster!
Now, let’s break down core training so you can understand it a little bit better. Without getting too much into the science, you can break down core training into 3 types:
Anti- Lateral Flexion
Anti-flexion movements are things like planks, deadbugs, and ab wheels. But also push ups, goblet carries, goblet squats and lunges.
Anti-rotation movements are things like band belly presses/Pallof presses and birddogs. But also single arm floor or bench press, landmine press, single arm rows, and single leg RDLs.
And the last one, anti-lateral flexion, includes side planks, but also farmer carries, suitcase carries, suitcase deadlifts, single arm overhead presses.
If you’re a Protect & Provide client and you recognize a lot of those exercises in your program, that’s not by mistake.
Before I get the hate email, there can be benefits to adding some (key word is some) traditional core work in your program.
So, if you enjoy doing sit ups, leg raises, and other core work, 5-10 minutes once or twice a week will be fine, but you don’t need more than that. Your abs are muscles just like in your legs or arms, and need time to recover.
To wrap this up, no amount of extra core workouts will get you abs any faster. You need a solid diet and workout routine to get a toned or ripped midsection. Free weights are the way to go if you want to get a stronger core with 1-2 other core-specific exercises mixed in.
Studies show that 9/10 people will fail on their diet. While weight loss does happen on the diet, everyone knows that you end up losing 10lbs but you gain back 11lbs.
We don’t like using diets for most people at Protect & Provide, why?
Diets don’t change your habits
If you want to lose weight, and keep it off for good, doing a 30-day diet and going back to your old ways of eating won’t work.
What got you into a place where you need to lose weight is poor food choices and bad habits. If you don’t fix those things, you won’t see lasting changes to your waistline.
A diet is a set of rules, but they’re temporary and you have the “light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” syndrom for the entire 30-days. At the end of the diet, you hit all your favorite restaurants and go back to eating how you did before the diet.
And the weight creeps on.
Diets are not sustainable
Most diets are very low-calorie and designed to be done for 2-12 weeks, depending on the diet. Generally, you feel tired, hungry, and overall just pretty miserable during the diet, but you’re able to push through.
At least, for a while.
At some point, your willpower will give out, and that’s when you “fall-off-the-wagon.” Except most people fall off and roll down the embankment and stay there until someone finds them.
This is what we call yo-yo dieting.
You don’t have unlimited willpower. Think of will power as a the battery on your phone. The more you use your phone, the faster the battery dies. Willpower is the same thing, the more you use it, the less you’ll have at the end of the day.
Brownies in the breakroom, stressful interactions at work, kid gets sick, all these things drain your willpower so you can’t resist the pantry at 8pm every night.
Diets don’t teach you how to eat in the real world
If you turn into Patrick Star and live under a rock, some of these diets will work. But most of us live in the real world, and there are social obligations where food choices won’t be the best: birthday parties, nights out with friends, weddings, company holiday parties, etc.
If the only thing you can eat on your diet is chicken and broccoli, and neither of those are at the event, then you have two choices. 1) bring a bag of chicken and broccoli and get weird looks from everyone or 2) have the knowledge to know how much you should eat of the lobster mac and cheese and feel satisfied.
Unfortunately, diets don’t teach you that so most people end up blowing their diet and getting discouraged.
All diets result in fat loss, in fact, studies show that when calories and protein are equated for, all diets work about the same. But lifestyle changes and finding a “diet” that works for you will be the only thing that takes the weight off and keeps it off for good.
Next time you see an ad for the next fad keto, low-carb, zone, or any other diet, ask yourself if the diet is going to be how you’d like to live forever. If it’s not, don’t do it.
As a hunter, we pride ourselves with putting food on our tables that we worked for. However, when it comes to losing weight, building muscle, or improving performance, you need to know what is in your food. Diet calculators have all the info for farm raised animals, but not wild game. Which means we kinda guess if we use the calculators.
Most people compare venison to beef or lamb, but it’s too lean to be compared to those foods, and it’s not really like chicken.
So, what’s in venison? Is it really healthy for us?
Short answer, yes! It’s a high-quality meat with many health benefits.
Now, here is the hard part about venison. Below will be generalizations, because these animals are wild and their diets vary depending on time of year and their location in our country, their nutrition is going to vary. The same thing goes for any animal (or plant) food, but farmed animals can have their diets regulated more, meaning we have a better idea of what is in that piece of steak versus that elk backstrap.
Venison is notorious for being super lean and if you overcook it, it gets dry and gamey. Because venison is naturally lean, it’s low in calories with only 128 calories per 3 ounce serving and 25 grams of protein. It only has about 2 grams of fat, which is why you need to be careful cooking it.
Compared to boneless skinless chicken breasts, they have 142 calories per 3 ounce serving, 26 grams protein, and 3 grams of fat. So venison is very close to chicken.
If you look at beef, a ribeye steak has 222 calories in a 3 ounce steak, 22 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fat. Now let’s be real, who actually eats 3 ounces of a ribeye?
It would appear that venison is about the same as chicken in this first part, but let’s move on to the other areas.
Many of you may know by now, that eating pasture-raised grass-finished beef is healthier than it’s grain-finished counterpart. The reason for this is that when the animals eat their natural diet, the fat in them, that you end up eating, is actually healthy for you.
True wild game is as pasture-raised as it gets. While they might sneak some corn and soybeans into their diet, the majority of their diet is still wild plants.
What does this mean when you throw your backstrap on the grill?
Higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Slightly higher fat soluble vitamins A, D, K
Higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Animals live fairly stress-free
It’s well documented that most Americans get too many omega-6 fatty acids in their diet. This can lead to a whole bunch of health problems, but the main one is systemic inflammation. We should have a omega-3 to omega-6 ratio around 1:2-1:3, but many Americans have a ration of 1:20. Swapping high omega-6 fats, like conventional chicken or pork fat, for something higher in omega-3s, like venison or wild caught salmon, may improve your overall health.
Fat soluble vitamins are low in a lot of Americans, especially vitamin D. Eating venison isn’t going to get you to 100% of your RDA, but it may help when done with a healthy diet.
The research is still going back-and-forth on the benefits of CLA. It seems to have some anti-cancer benefits, helps you burn fat, and raises your metabolic rate. There isn’t enough evidence to say that it for sure does all these things, so I wouldn’t recommend supplementing with it, but getting it from food is fine. Egg yolks and dairy from pasture-raised cows are also good sources.
The last part is both animal welfare and a way to increase nutrition for you. Long term stress in animals is bad, and can negatively affect the meat. Animals that are stress-free may be healthier than their stressed counterparts. An example you can see is eating a buck at the start of the rut versus eating one at the end of the rut. Generally, the one at the end isn’t going to taste as good. In terms of welfare, deer live happy lives until a hunter harvest them quickly. Animals in food lots (generally) live their entire lives stressed before going to the slaughter house.
Venison is High in Vitamins and Minerals
Venison is rich in vitamins and minerals, which means it has a high nutrient density.
Nutrient density might be a new term for you, basically it means a food is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.
So how does it compare to chicken or beef?
3 oz Serving Size
Data from Nutritiondata.self.com. Data is for cooked meat
As you can see from the table, venison is comparable or higher than chicken and beef in most categories, with selenium being the only nutrient that is low compared to beef or chicken.
Venison is significantly higher in thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), iron, and copper than beef or chicken.
Remember, the numbers above are for a 3 ounce serving and venison is lower in calories than both beef or chicken, meaning you could eat more to get the same number of calories and get more vitamins and minerals!
Venison is low in calories and high in protein making it the perfect food while dieting.
High protein foods, like venison, help you retain lean muscle while dieting and help you feel full longer.
In addition to that, the high protein content will help you recover from your workouts!
At the time of this writing, we’re still dealing with a global pandemic (not going to say the C word). But even without that going on, keeping your immune system healthy is important for everyone.
Zinc is an important nutrient in maintaining a healthy immune system. When dieting, many people avoid eating beef because of the higher calories, but beef is also a good source of zinc.
Chicken, on the other hand, is low in zinc and is what most people substitute beef with, meaning they just lost a major source of zinc in their diets.
Venison is the perfect substitution for both chicken and beef since a 3 ounce portion has 21% of the RDA of zinc.
Iron to Fight Anemia
One of the main reasons I started hunting was that my wife is prone to anemia, but also developed a weird sensitivity to beef. She also has some stomach issues with taking iron supplements, and we couldn’t afford to buy bison all the time.
Venison has almost double the iron of beef (19% vs 9% in a 3 ounce portion) making it a perfect food to get your iron levels up.
I’ve also found that women also tend to avoid red meat because they’re worried about the calorie content. With venison having just over half the calories of beef (127 vs 222), it is a win-win for everyone.
Human Health Concerns
Venison is generally considered safe to eat.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a disease that affects our deer populations here in the United States and is similar to ‘Mad Cow Disease’. While there is no evidence of the disease crossing to humans, you should avoid eating certain parts like the brain, spinal cord, etc, especially in high CWD areas.
Hunters should get their deer tested if they’re in a CWD area.
Another concern is that men eating too much venison may get dangerously high iron levels. Someone, like myself, who eats 8-10 ounces of meat at lunch and dinner can get too much iron if you eat venison everyday at both meals. A few days a week is okay, but try to limit venison, and other red meat, to one meal per day.
Is venison healthy?
I would 100% say YES!
Venison is an amazing health food that, if you hunt or have hunters in your family, you should incorporate as part of your diet. If you’re worried about gamey flavor, the best solution is to marinate the meat in vinegar, citrus juice, or buttermilk to remove that gamey flavor.
Not sure how to incorporate venison into your diet or meal plan? email me at: email@example.com click the button below to sign up for coaching.
You’re not alone, most people have trouble sticking to a new habit no matter if it’s diet, exercise, education, or anything else you can think of. Habit’s take mental energy and they’re usually something you don’t really want to do.
So, let’s fix that problem and make habits easier to handle.
You’re going to follow the 100% rule. This means you’re going to do whatever you set as a goal 100% of the time. There are no exceptions.
Long day at work? You’re doing it
Weekend? You’re doing it
Vacation? Guess what, you’re doing it
The easiest example for this is nutrition. I often tell clients to follow a 80/20 rule or 90/10 rule. What that means is that you follow your diet 80-90% of the time, and then relax a little bit 10-20% of the time.
The problem for some people is that the 10% slowly turns into 12%, then 14%, and it just slowly increases until you are basically back to where you started, but you just have a salad at lunch now.
Now, I kinda hate saying this because I’m a big proponent of saying “it depends,” but sometimes you need to make things black-and-white to keep you on the path moving forward.
The 100% rule doesn’t allow for deviations.
Some of you can make a big change and it does not really affect you, but most people should start with something small.
A good example would be to eat 100 grams of protein everyday. You 100% have to make that every single day. Another good example would be to eat vegetables at every meal (yes, that includes breakfast).
If you need to bump it up a notch, a great rule starting out would be “I don’t eat bread”
Can you make bread work in a diet? YES! But sometimes cutting out bread and bread products (pasta, cake, tortillas, sweets using flour, etc) helps cut out those foods that are easy to overeat.
Other examples of the 100% rule include: carnivore diet (no plants), paleo (no grains), Cutting out alcohol, etc. These diets work for some people because they make black-and-white rules.
Examples with exercise? Make it something so easy that even on your busiest day you can do it
10 minute walk everyday
5-10 minutes of yoga/ foam rolling everyday
10 push ups upon waking or before bed
Wake up and run 1 mile everyday
10 minute workout everyday
Or change it to a skill you want to improve
Dry fire for 10 minutes everyday
Practice reloads for 10 minutes everyday
Shoot 25 arrows everyday
Or, in my case right now, publish content on Instagram everyday
Now, before someone says that the 100% rule will create a bad mentality around food, this method should be temporary for someone who is struggling and/or new to nutrition and exercise.
It might take someone 3, 6, or 12 months using this method to get a handle on things, but after that, then the 80/20 or 90/10 rule can be used. So don’t feel like “I don’t eat bread” will last forever, that’s until you can get to a point of “I only eat a normal portion of bread as my starch of a meal.”
So, pick something simple and do it seven days a week until it becomes a habit for 3, 6, or 12+ months.
Number one excuse for not working out is lack of time.
But that’s a lie.
Don’t believe me? A study done showed that the average American has roughly 4.5 hours of free time everyday.
That’s WAY more time that I thought I had everyday! How is it possible?
That’s right, time being spent in front of a screen takes up the majority of our free time. Before you say “I don’t watch TV” this also includes computers, tablets, and phones.
Don’t believe me?
The study excluded essential activities from “free time” which wasn’t taken into account in other studies. So grocery shopping, showering, child care, commuting, and getting ready for work were not counted as “free time.”
Cooking was counted as part of free time.
It’s pretty easy to see how fast time flies when in front of a screen. I’m as guilty as anyone for mindlessly scrolling through Instagram for “5 minutes” when in reality it turns into 20, 30, or even 40 minutes. Or “just one more episode” is another easy to quickly burn through 2-3 of those hours.
Let’s not even get started on video games.
So, if you don’t believe you have time for exercise, take a look at how much time you spend watching TV, on your computer, and on your phone. Nowadays, you can get a report that tells you how much time you spend on each device or even your app. You can go into an app, like Instagram, and set a reminder to tell you how much time you’ve spent on it. I have mine set for an hour per day.
Excess screen time has been shown to have really negative effects on mental health, while exercise has been shown to improve mental and physical health and wellbeing.
So here is your action plan.
Set limits on all of your social media apps and get reminders for screen time on your electronics. An hour a day for social media is a good start, especially if you have to use if for work. Then set weekly reminders and try to lower it a little bit each week.
Limit TV to an hour per day. You don’t need to watch more than that.
An hour of social media, and hour of TV, and that leaves 2.5 hours to exercise and cook healthy meals. That is more than enough time for both of those activities because even on a rushed day, you can get a good workout in 20 minutes and cook a decent meal for a family in 30 minutes.
Here on the east coast, we’re about to enter spring.
For some, that means gearing up for turkey season. For others, that means getting food plots ready and getting plans ready for the upcoming fall.
There are so many things that can go into planning your hunt that it’s easy to forget about actually getting in shape for it.
While a lot of east coast hunting is from tree stands or blinds, it’s still important to get in shape for the hunt. There can be many reasons that you need to go to the gym for archery.
You’re trying to maintain your draw weight
You’re trying to be more stable while holding your bow
You’re like my wife and trying to increase your draw weight
Shooting a 70, 80, or even 90lbs bow isn’t a requirement for taking game, but it does give you more power, distance, and a flatter shot.
So, other than shooting your bow, what can you do to get better?
Here are the 7 best exercises to get better at archery
Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
This exercise is the one that most resembles an arrow draw. It primarily strengthens the lats, traps, and rhomboids along with the muscles of the upper arm. If you want to get a heavier pull or be able to shoot more arrows without fatigue, this is your number one exercise.
The exercise is performed by leaning over a bench or other stable surface, keeping your body parallel to the ground, and pulling a dumbbell or kettlebell up towards your ribs.
This exercise should be done for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps and 60-120 seconds rest in between sets.
To make this exercise harder, do an isometric hold at the top of the lift for 3-5 seconds. So, pull the weight up towards the ribs and hold it there for 3-5 seconds before lowering it.
The plank teaches you to maintain tension throughout your body without moving, much like when holding your draw. The forearm plank or push up position plank are both good ways to start. You should build up to being able to hold the plank for 120 seconds (2 minutes).
If the plank is too easy, there are tons of different variations like shoulder tap planks and BOSU ball planks.
Biggest mistake I see when people do planks is not creating tension in their abs and glutes, which leads to hyperextension of the low back, this can lead to lower back pain or, worse, injury. To fix this issue, get into the plank position and squeeze your glutes, that usually also causes the abs to engage and fix the posture issue.
If it’s still an issue, or you’re looking for a challenge, squeeze a ball, yoga block, or foam roller between your legs as you do your plank.
Do 2-3 sets of as long as you can safely do them until you build up to 120 seconds. I usually start my clients with 20-30 seconds.
In addition to strengthening your upper body, push ups are essentially a moving plank, meaning you have to keep your hold body tense while also moving at the same time.
Push ups primarily strengthen the pecs, triceps, and shoulders. But your abs are also getting a workout every time you do push ups.
To set up properly, get into a push up position with your fingers pointing forward.
As you start to bend your arms, keep your elbows either tight to your body or slightly out at a 45 degree angle. Elbows should never come parallel to your shoulders, that can lead to injury.
If you find that you can’t keep ab tension, see the fixes for the plank above and use those.
Push ups too hard? Do them on your knees or, even better because it uses your abs more, do them on a side of a bench or set up a barbell on a squat rack fairly low and do them there.
Push ups too easy? Add weight, do stretch push ups, use a TRX or rings, etc. There are hundreds of different push up variations you can do.
If you’re just starting out and need to do the easier variations, do 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps with 90-120 seconds rest. Everytime you can do all your sets with 10 reps, make it a little harder until you’re on the floor.
If you’re already pretty good at push ups, do 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps with 60-90 seconds rest. When you can do all your sets with 20 reps, move to a harder variation like a weighted push up.
RDL is short for Romanian Deadlift. If you’re outside of the fitness community, the reason we abbreviate it is because saying “romanian deadlift” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
For archers and bowhunters, this exercise helps strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and erector muscles of the lower back, but also teaches you to maintain tension in your upper back, which is important when needing to take a little longer to shoot. Last season, I had to hold a full draw for about a minute, and to be able to do that and shoot accurately, you need to have the ability to keep tension throughout your body.
To set up for the RDL, you can use one kettlebell, two dumbbells, or a barbell. Hold the weight so it’s in line with your hips.
Have a slight bend in your knees and keep your shoulders pulled back, push your hips backwards until you feel a stretch or tension in your hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your legs). Some of you might be flexible and be able to touch the floor, most of you will not be able to touch the floor without hurting your low back.
As you stand up, think about pushing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes.
To keep this safe on the low back, keep the weight close to you. If you use a barbell, think about “shaving your legs” with the bar as you do the movement.
Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 with 90-120 seconds rest between sets.
Squats primarily strengthen the muscles of the leg, however, a kettlebell or dumbbell goblet squat forces you to create upper body tension throughout the entire movement, increasing strength in the abs, arms, and upper back.
To perform a squat, hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at chest height. Bend your knees and sit slightly back on your heels as you go down.
Make sure to have your legs at least parallel to the ground, or go slightly below parallel.
If you are worried about your knees, doing squats properly will not destroy your knees, it’ll actually make them stronger. But if you’re struggling, do a box squat where you sit back onto a stable box, bench, or other surface.
For box squats, I find that most people need to start with a height of 14-16 inches off the ground. The goal for most people should be to squat to 12-14” off the ground. Exceptions are if you’re very short or very tall.
Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 with 90-120 seconds rest between sets.
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
While the upper back and lats are the primary movers in archery, we can’t forget about the shoulders.
Dumbbell lateral raises can help build the strength and endurance to hold your draw for extended periods and still shoot accurately.
To perform, stand with two dumbbells at your sides, and lift them until your arms are parallel to the ground.
Avoid swinging the weights and shrugging your shoulders as you perform these.
Do 3-4 sets for 8-15 reps with 45-90 seconds of rest.
We can’t forget cardio. While archery and bowhunting might not seem like an endurance event, shooting 50, 75, 100+ shots in a single day and walking back and forth can fatigue you. You can easily walk a mile or two without realizing it in addition to shooting.
Rowing (either on an erg or actual rowing) or kayaking carry over the most to archery as you build endurance in the muscles involved with shooting. Another good option is a ski erg, which works similar muscles, but in a different fashion.
But any cardio works, just look at Cameron Hanes, so running, biking, hiking, or any other form of cardio can help improve your archery game.
Start slow, maybe 10-15 minutes, or 1 minute on and 2 minutes really slow (like a run-walk). Slowly build up until you reach a desired time or distance depending on where you hunt and what you might encounter. For me living in Pennsylvania, I try to build up to running about 3 miles in hilly terrain.
To get better at archery and bowhunting, you have to put the reps in with your bow, there is no substitution for that. But to get stronger, maintain your strength, and/or reduce risk of injury then you need to incorporate strength training at least two times per week.
These exercises are a great start to your first routine or adding to your current routine. If you want a custom program built for you, click here to get coaching.
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