Monday, 11 October 2010


What is Isometrics?

Muscle-building exercises (or a system of musclebuilding exercises) involving muscular contractions against resistance without movement (the muscles contracts but the length of the muscle does not change).

Isometrics shouldn't just be seen as an exercise, but a form of muscle control we use every day, as when we stand up, usually our posture is maintained by holding ourselves upright, employing muscles in the torso and the back. When we sit up straight as opposed to slouching, we tend to feel more effort is required because we use muscles, again from the torso and back. Isometric exercises can enhance the effects of gravity or resistance against an object so that our muscles have to fight to maintain our stationary pose, and these enhancements have been created and utilised by several athletes and enthusiasts, such as Bruce Lee, Paul J O'Brien, Charles Atlas and Eugene Sandow.

Bruce Lee

I'm sure you know who Bruce Lee is, but if you don't, let's say he's the most famous martial artist there has ever been, at least from a westerner's point of view. He taught Chinese martial arts and further researched and fused together many forms of combat, fitness techniques and philosophies, creating Jeet Kune Do as the ultimate martial art programme for himself and his students. I got to know of him through the film Enter the Dragon, but he done a tonne of other films and acted in television series.

 Bruce Lee had designed his training to enhance, not essentially his physique, but his strength, his power, his endurance, his speed. His physique represented his desire to be in the best physical form for combat purposes, not just for aesthetics, so his regime employed many exercise techniques as he wanted to develop different qualities of fitness. Isometrics were just one of these. In the article The Power of The Dragon by Justin Frost and Ted Wong, they displayed a series of exercises that Bruce Lee employed, including isometrics, such as the Power Punch training exercise, Board Isometrics, and the Bull Worker. The bull worker has become famous as a home gym equipment to gain muscularity, but Bruce used it to develop the speed of his punches, and strengthen his forearms of combat purposes as opposed to simply add inches to his chest or increasing his muscles.

Paul J O'Brien

Paul is the author and creator of “7 seconds to a perfect body”, and while that does sound like a purely aesthetic program, he provides examples through his website of lifting weights twice as heavy as himself, or doing very difficult bodyweight exercises that can only be held for a short period of time like the Two Thumb Body Suspension. Whether isometrics is the only training that he does is not revealed,  but he certainly promotes it as a way of increasing strength. I have yet to look at his ebook. Maybe one day I'll review it.

Charles Atlas

He was considered to be the worlds 'best built man,' after winning the 1921 and 1922 "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man™" competitions.  There are those who say that Charles Atlas employed isometric exercises in his workout regime.  There are others who say he used dynamic tension. However, there are images and records of him using both techniques and other more traditional bodyweight exercises. He did things like the one legged squat and the side bend, both of which can be transformed into isometric exercises depending on how long you hold the exercise positions for. He has a workout programme which can be found on his website

Let me know if you've used the programme and whether you like it or not. I'm wondering if the body building world appears to be a little old-fashion in comparison to sports and training that develop the slender athlete look.

Eugene Sandow

Eugene Sandow, born in Prussia in the mid-19th century was one of the world's strongmen (or what we would now call body builders). He toured towns and cities to display his Herculean-like physique, growing in fame to eventually become the personal fitness instructor to King George V of the United Kingdom. He used self-resistance to develop muscles such as flexing. On wikipedia, there's an interesting video of him flexing and posing ( These same muscle flexes are known to increase muscle and strength as you tighten or contract them, such as pulling your navel of the stomach in towards the spine, holding the tension for a time before relaxing.

Zen In the Arts of Self Resistance

Zen In the Arts of Self Resistance is a website dedicated to exercises using minimal equipment, just our own bodies and the everyday items we find around us like walls and chairs. The exercises are categorised as isotonic, isometric and isokinetic.

Isotonic exercises involve movement where the force exerted throughout the movement changes, usually increasing and decreasing before the movement is completed, such as with push ups. If you start at the top of the push up, as you lower yourself to the floor, the force or tension in the muscles of the chest, shoulders and arms tends to increase, and as you raise yourself back up, the tension tends decreases.

Isokinetic usually requires specialised equipment as the force needed through a movement is the same from the beginning of that movement until the end.

Zen in the Arts of Self Resistance has a wide array of exercises, and the isometric exercises are quite interesting to do. They don't look like they do anything, like the praying exercise, where you put two hands together as if praying, and then press them against each other. You feel the tension build in the forearms and biceps. I have yet to try all the exercises presented, but this is certainly a good place to start if you want to use isometric exercises without equipment.

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Friday, 16 July 2010


I think I mentioned something about my isometrics series in the last post. Well, here's the content which will keep me busy for a couple of months. You'll see why I love isometrics as I go through it. There are a tonne of exercises, and still, I haven't mentioned them all. If anyone can help with any of these topics, providing pictures or tutorials, I'd be eternally grateful. Contact me on



Paul J O'Brien, Bruce Lee, Charles Atlas, Eugen Sandow and Zen in the Arts (Website).


3.1Straight arm plank
3.2Frog Stand
3.3Wall Handstand
3.4Chin Up Hold
3.5Backwards Bridge
X1 Review of Upper Body Isometrics


4.1Front Splits
4.2Side splits
4.3Raised calf hold
4.4Raised Hip Hold
4.5Wall Sit
4.6Leg Lift Hold
4.7Squat Hold
4.8One Legged Squat
4.9Butt Clench
X2 Review of Lower Body Isometrics


5.2Reverse Hyperextension
5.3Stomach Hold
5.5Sit Up Hold
5.6Sit Back Hold
5.7Side Plank
5.8Roman Hold
5.9One Arm Plank
5.10Reverse Plank
5.11Star Plank
5.12Bruce Lee's Lateral Weight Hold
X3 Review of Core Body Exercises


6.1The flag
6.2One Arm Wall Lean
6.3One Legged Superman
6.4Proprioceptive Single Leg Balance
6.5Yoga Plank
6.6Dip Hold
6.7Single Handed Handstand
6.8One Hand Straight Arm Plank
6.9Climber's Hang Hold
6.10Grip Hold
6.11Free Hand stand
X4 review of Full Body and Miscellaneous Isometrics


7.1Yoga Contemporaries
7.2Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
7.3Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
7.4Crescent Moon Pose
7.5Pinca Mayurasana
7.7Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose)
7.8Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 – Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1
7.9Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 - Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2
7.10Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 3 - Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 3
7.11Parivrtta Hasta Padaghusthasana – Revolved Hand to Big Toe
7.12Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)
7.13Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)
7.14Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose)
7.15Utkatasana 1 – Chair Pose 1
7.16Utkatasana 1 – Chair Pose 1
7.17Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend
7.18Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Dog
7.19Parivrtta Parsvakonasana – Revolved Side Anfle Pose
7.20Padahastasana – Hands to Feet
7.21Upavista Konasana (Spread Leg Forward Fold)
7.22paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Bend
7.23paripurna navasana – Full Boat Pose
7.24Bakasana – Crane Pose (Frog Stand)
7.25Sirshasana (Head Stand)
7.26Sulashasana – Locust Pose
7.27bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
X5 – Review of Isometrics in Yoga


8.1The 100
8.2The Knee Pillow Squeeze
8.3The Lying Side Flex
8.4Single Leg Stretch
8.5Abdominal Curl
8.6Oblique Curl
8.7Bridge with Pillow
8.8Double Leg Press
8.9Foot Arch Hold
8.10One Legged Stance
8.11Runner's Squat
8.12Seated Knee raise
8.13Seated Leg Raise
X6 Review of Isometrics in Pilates


9.3The Elbow Lever
9.4One Arm Elbow Lever
9.5Front Lever
9.6One Arm Front Lever
9.7Back Lever
9.9Straddle Planche
X7 Review of Isometrics in Gymnastics


10.1Horse stance
10.2Bow stance
10.3Drop Stance
10.4Cat Stance
10.5Empty Stance
10.6Du Li
10.7Ding By
10.8Gui Bu
10.9Ban ma Bu
10.10Tang Lang Bu
10.11San Qi Bu
X8 Review of Wushu Stances

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Update: July 2010

I can't believe I've been offline for so long, or at least off of urbantricks. Let us call it one of those unplanned hiatuses. I've also been slacking with my exercise plan. Okay, there were no proper exercise plans, but I had goals. My goal in Feb 2010 was to do 10 full push ups. I got to 5 then stopped my push ups training. I've kept up footie though (aka soccer). In fact, I'm in a Monday 5-a-side women's league and we came 3rd last season out of 8 teams (I think there are 8 teams). The company I worked for also put on a 5-a-side football team and the main rule was 2 women on the field per side. Well, that kind of mucked it up for some teams as they couldn't find any women to play for them and had to drop out. In the end, 13 teams participated and my team got the finals and WON! Shocking!

Finger Hanging & The Bodyweight Culture

I skipped push ups to do finger hangs in my doorway. It started because I wanted tips on doing the L-seat. So I wrote an email to bodyweight guru, Jim Barthurst of beast skills. Amazingly, he did get back to me and offered advice that I should try hanging leg raises. That sounded great until I realised I had nowhere to do the exercise. That wasn't entirely true. Between my doorway at the top is a small wooden pane big enough to fit half the length of my fingers. I could barely hang there for 10 seconds, let alone do hanging leg raises. At this point, I conducted a little google based research which pointed me towards rock climbing, bouldering, indoor climbing, grip exercises and forearm strength training. I also probed the BWC guys ( about grip training at and they were more than helpful. Check it out if you want to know about improving grip training. I also decided to put 2 chairs together and work on the L-seat that way.My core is definitely getting stronger.

I'm a 200m a minute woman

In the 5K race that is. Hey. Okay. I know that's slow. But that's 5km in 25 minutes if my calculations are correct, and it's faster than my previous time of 40 minutes. I hope you didn't think it took me 1 minute to run 200m flat out. Maybe it does, but I've never actually tested it. I should add, that 200m a minute is my goal pace. I will start training soon. I'll let you know how I get along with that too and what info I find on effective training methods in for new runners.

There's a Little Less of Me

Well, I weigh a little less at least. As of Feb 2010, I was 9kg. Strong boned as someone so kindly pointed out. “You'd be great in my judo team,” he added. He was serious though. He then asked me my age and displayed a short moment of disappointment as I was 21 at the time and he hoped I'd be younger. He said, “we can still prepare you for the Olympics.” I should be flattered. He thought I'd be good at Olympic level judo just by looking at me. I wonder why I had no problems going through school lol.

The Future of Urbantricks Blogspot

Isometrics will be the theme for the next couple of months. I still want to make urbantricks a one-stop-shop for all these bodyweight exercises. Once I do that, I don't know. Also, I'll be adding regular posts about urbantrickers aka advocates of bodyweight sports and exercises as well sharing resources that I discover. I'd like urbantricks blogspot to house those too.

x, AnonymousJ

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

27 Lower Body Exercises

Sorry in advanced as I rushed to post this topic today, but I hope you'll find these lower body exercises useful to use in your workouts.

Developing leg strength and power are important in many sports, from kung fu kicks and jumps to nordic walking. However, even more important is endurance for our daily activities. As long as we are able to stand, we all have to carry ourselves on our legs (which doesn't mean only our leg muscles are helping to keep us up, but they play a major role).

27 Lower Body Exercises

  1. Bodyweight Squats
  2. Half Bodyweight Squats
  3. Hindu Squats
  4. Half Hindu Squats
  5. Bent Squats
  6. BootStrapper
  7. Bounding Squats
  8. Jump Squats
  9. Jump & Tuck Squat
  10. Lateral Squats
  11. Squat Thrusts
  12. Rear Leg Elevated Squat
  13. Scorpian Thrusts
  14. The Pistol (One Legged Squat)
  15. Elevated One Legged Squats
  16. Lunges
  17. Reverse Lunge
  18. Jumping Lunges
  19. Knee Jumps (complements of FitDaily)
  20. Knee Drops
  21. Prison Shower Defence
  22. Calf Raises
  23. Sprinting
  24. Rebounding
  25. Depth Jumps
  26. Hopping
  27. Box Jumping


I purposefully haven't included isometrics, but will dedicate a post or a few to them soon. All the lower body exercises are cyclic and so can be done repetitiously.


5 Types of Squats to Master
Bodyweight & Hindu Squats
Bodyweight Squats: The Key To Massive Leg Size And Strength

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or contact me through


Gemma aka AnonymousJ

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Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Empty Stance

Finally, may I present the last stance in the series, at least for now. Just to recap, there are 5 basic stances in wushu (aka kung fu).

  • Horse Stance
  • Bow Stance
  • Resting Stance
  • Drop Stance (Flat Stance)
  • Empty Stance (Cat Stance)

The Most Difficult of the 5 Basic Wushu Stances

The empty stance, otherwise known as the cat stance can be found throughout many Chinese martial art styles, and therefore comes in several styles. Because the bending leg is carrying all the weight upon it, and the thigh is parallel to the ground, the calf and thigh muscles work extremely hard to keep you static. Tye “Nuke” Botting of's TFK Martial Arts Forum commented that 'it should be the hardest [stance] to hold for any length of time, or indeed even to get to at first.' This is especially true if you do the stance the way it's executed by wushu competitors as I will describe below.

Method to Achieving the Empty Stance

  • Start with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Turn your right foot out at about 45º.
  • Bend the right leg so that the right thigh is horizontal/parallel to the ground (or at least as close as you can get it to be parallel).
  • Place the front your left foot forward lightly on the ground so that it is in line with your right heel. The left foot should not be flat on the floor.
  • If you do the stance correctly, you'll be able to lift you the right leg off the floor without falling over.

Additional Notes About the Empty Stance and Stance Training in General

There are two schools of thought when it comes to training, and it's not just with stances. You can first try to build endurance, then add speed or strength. Alternatively, you can build strength and then work on endurance. I favour the second school as does Tye “Nuke” Botting who made a valuable note:

'That is, do the stance as exactly correct as possible, then try to do it longer and longer....At first, like with the cat stance, this may only be for even a fraction of a second....Doing it right and then longer is much better than doing it longer and then working to be more right.'


Correcting Problems with the Empty Stance
Practice and Application of Wushu Stances
Choy lay fut and Stance Training - Flexibility & Applications
The Empty Stance Deep Form

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or contact me through


Gemma aka AnonymousJ

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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Drop Stance

Here's another isometric stance for strengthening our legs! Plus, this really stretches the muscles of the inner thighs.

The Drop Stance: Method

  • Start with your feet 2 shoulder widths apart.
  • The feet can be slightly outwards.
  • Squat a little, as you would do for the horse stance.
  • Now drop, not suddenly mind, but drop your torso to one side by bending your knee of one leg and keep the other leg straight.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor and lean forward towards the straight leg.
  • The more flexibility you have, the more the stance looks flat (hence the name).


Check out a good page on Major Wushu Stances for more info.

As usual, leave a comment or contact me with any questions through Thanks.

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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Basic Kung Fu Stances

Update to the Martial Arts Page
I've just finished an update of  the urbantricks' martial arts page.

Short videos to the 5 basic kung fu stances have been added:

  1. Resting Stance
  2. Horse Stance
  3. Bow Stance
  4. Flat Stance aka Drop Stance
  5. Empty Stance

As usual, leave a comment or contact me through with any questions and I'll contact you as soon as I can.

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Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Bow Stance

The Bow Stance (gong bu), is useful for attack and defence. It's also great for developing muscle strength and endurance as 70% of your weight falls on your front leg. Your quadriceps definitely will feel it if you've never done it before.

In Combat

Personally, I do it just for strengthening my legs, but you can practice punching with it as it was designed, or use it for other attacks.

Sifu Wong Kiew Kit provides a series of videos and lessons on how to oppose a boxer's stance with the bow stance at He looks so in control of what's going on over the boxer too.

Sifu again uses several stances including the horse stance to counter a boxer's jab in

Method to doing the Bow Stance

  • Start with feet together.
  • Step out on one foot to create a distance between the front and back foot. The longer the gap between feet, the lower the bow stance will be, and it's up to you how low or high you want your stance.
  • Turn the back foot outwards at about 45 degrees.
  • Make sure your back leg isn't locked. It should be slightly bent otherwise I find it may cause discomfort later on.
  • Now bend your right leg so that the knee is aligned over the heel of the front foot, not beyond it.
  • Make sure your torso is facing forwards but your neither leaning over or backwards.
  • It may feel like you need to twist the torso a little bit to face forward. 

Low Vs High Bow Stances

Artistically speaking, the lower stances tend to look more aesthetically pleasing, but they are also great for developing strength in the legs. That is not to say, that Tai Chi type bow stances which are high aren't also good for developing leg muscles. The tai chi bow stance is a lot gentler on the muscles but very effective nonetheless.

As usual, leave a comment or contact me through with any questions.

Thanks for reading.

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Other Websites to Help With Stance Training

Stances in Tai Chi- comprehensive list of stances
Physical Principles of Ch'uan-shu - as to not injure yourself doing the bow stance

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Resting Stance

Taking A Rest With The Resting Stance

If you've gotten to grips with kung fu stances before, you will have heard of the physically challenging resting stance. I wouldn't myself consider it as a form of rest, but hey. What ya gonna do? It's seen many times in wushu competitions and is considered a basic stance just like the horse stance. You may also know it as the Cross Legged Stance.

Method To Doing The Resting Stance

  • Start with feet shoulder width apart.
  • We want to cross our left leg behind our right so that we have crossed legs, also shoulder with apart.
  • The left foot should also be behind your right, not in line with it.
  • Turn your right feet outwards at about a 45 degree angle.
  • Squat down whilst keeping your right foot flat and the left foot on its toes.
  • The left leg should fold neatly underneath your right leg.

PS. Rising out of the resting stance is a lot of fun! Ahem.
And also, if I get something wrong, as I'm only an avid student, please tell me at Thanks.

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References - Resting Stance
Wushu Sanshou Association – Resting Stance
American Wu Shu Society – Resting Stance
8 Stances – American Chinese Martial Arts Federation

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Horse Stance

Here's another bodyweight exercise. So simple looking. So painful!

Definition: Horse stance

“The horse stance is an important posture in Asian martial arts and takes its name from the position assumed when riding a horse. It is called mǎbù (馬步) in Chinese, kiba-dachi (騎馬立ち?) in Japanese, kuda-kuda in Malay, and juchum nogi or annun nogi (lit. sitting stance) in Korean.” -

horse stance Pictures, Images and Photos
complements of shas12 photobucket

How Can The Horse Stance Make You Stronger?

The horse stance is a fundamental stance in Chinese martial arts, but if you don't do kung fu, and if you have no intentions of doing a Chinese martial art, why bother with the horse stance at all? Here's why:

  • The horse stance makes your legs stronger: Isometric exercises produce faster gains in strength than traditional moving exercises like squats or lunges (14-40% strength gains in fact) (3). However, they aren't functional for movements in sports, and should be used purely to build strength, as you still have to convert strength into power or endurance etc.
  • Prevents injuries for runners: Muscles involved are the adductors (inner thighs), abductors, sartorious, vastus lasteralis, rectus femoris (quadriceps). Unlike in weight lifting moves like squats which focus on over developing quadriceps, you will develop the inner thighs which will help prevent injuries usually gained through running, walking, tennis, golf and dancing (5).
  • Increases endurance noticeably: We may be able to do 100 squats or more, but may struggle initially to do even 30 seconds of a wide and deep horse stance. You produce lactic acid quicker through isometric exercises, and therefore increase the threshold of lactic acid build up, so you can endure longer and tolerate pain more easily after isometric training (apparently, this is great for cyclists trying to increase their endurance) (8).
  • Doing the side splits: Starting with the horse stance, by eventually widening the stance, we can do the side splits.

What is the horse stance not used for?

Depending on who you talk to, or what martial art you follow, the style and use of the horse stance differs. While many experts agree that it is the most fundamental stance, it isn't the only stance, and the deep variations are not considered beneficial in combat. The more shallow versions, like those of Tai Chi are more natural to use in fighting. However, whether we're 'lovers or fighter,' the horse stance is great for building leg strength without the use of equipment or weights.

How to do the horse stance?

Literally, the idea is to appear as if you're upon a horse. Place your feet parallel to one another, twice your shoulder length apart, then squat down whilst keeping your torso upright. If you want to be more precise with the distance between your feet, try the 5 step horse stance. You can do more steps if you wish, like 7 step horse stance ( After 7 steps, you're pretty much working towards the side splits.


Sumo stance vs Horse stance

In the sumo stance, your feet point outwards at about 45 degrees. This changes the muscles worked.

Building Strength, Without Moving a Muscle by Scott Nesbitt

Horse stance Training, Inside Kung Fu January 2004 by Grandmaster Doc Fai Wong

Isometrics By Kelly Baggett

E Honda (answering) Horse stance or wall sits?

Strengthening Your Hip Adductors

ISSUE # 30 NOVEMBER 27, 2004, Owen Anderson

Muscle Endurance Via Isometrics

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

5k Fun Run

The Beginning of an Era - The Running Bug

Run, Forrest! Run!

Have you watched the movie, Forrest Gump? Remember when he couldn't walk without the leg braces? Then one day the braces flew off as he ran, and ran. Quoting the fictional Forrest Gump, "I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours."

Have you ever felt the desire to just run? Well, for me, that desire didn't come until I just started, and now, I just want to get up and run, run for the bus, run to catch the train, run for the sake of it. So I did the 5k Fun Run.


Training was sporadic, even half hearted, yet, stood at the starting gates on a wet Saturday morning, I naively stared at the little I could see of Richmond Park. I was surrounded by proper runners; kitted out in sleeveless breathable shirts and running shorts, those typically ugly-looking but feet saving running shoes, some with gadgets on their wrists and others with headbands on. A sharp contrast was me, in a pair of full length jogging bottoms, inappropriate trainers that I play football in and a t-shirt with 'Jamaica No.23' on it brought back by my family from their holiday. Everyone seemed at the lower end of the BMI (body mass index) scale, apart from a few, like myself, trying to lose weight. The 10k runners were looming in the background waiting for us to get started so they could get going.

Nothing Fun About It

So off we all went, together, though the huddle never lasted long for me as I was already straddling behind by 500m. At 1km, a long hill approached, and I knew I was in for a hard slog. I spent the rest of the 4km intermittently jogging and walking as my legs were tripping over themselves. I may have started too fast, but the truth was, my training was poor. Two weeks prior, my training dropped off completely. Months prior I focused on building strength and three weeks prior, I turned to losing weight (to increase relative strength), but ignored T Bompa's advice to convert strength gains into appropriate endurance. I had enough endurance to run 1km. That was no problem, but 5km and at speed was almost an impossibility.

Bitten by the Running Bug

I completed it! Just don't ask how. Moreover, I wanted to do that again. Not immediately of course.

I want to get the training right. I have to beat my incredibly lousy time of 44 minutes and 19 seconds. My grandpa walks faster than that. So I have to appeal to those who haven't done it to try it and get bitten by the running bug. It's the beginning of an era for me. I never could jog for even a minute without either getting bored or tired.

5Km is short enough that it won't kill you if you haven't trained properly, but long enough for you to feel like you have actually achieved something when you do complete it. You don't need anything more than trainers, preferably running shoes and clothes. You can run on your street, around the block or through the park. It's a great way to get fit and doing a Fun Run at the end is a good test of how far you have come since the beginning of training.

Personal Lessons Learned

  • Train well in advance, indoors and outdoors (squats and jumping jacks indoors)
  • Good running shoes, regardless of their unsightliness (bad shoes are painful)
  • Prepare for all weather. Really, do that.
  • You don't have to fund-raise to be part of some fun-runs. You can pay to participate instead. Just find out which fun-runs allow you to do that.
  • Experienced and non-experienced Fun-Runners are supportive, so don't feel like they'll laugh if you're slow. We all start from somewhere. In fact, they're very encouraging.

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Friday, 26 March 2010

Let's horse stance our way into the side splits

If you can't do the side splits, join the club. It's an enviable sign of flexibility and like so many things we cannot do, we may have been blaming our 'unlucky' genes for not bothering to try. Yes, it's a painful concept for us lacking the ability to even watch someone do the graceful movement. Nevertheless, unlike conventional wisdom, it can be done with months or even weeks of training, as Kurtz explains that if you can do the half split, you have enough hip flexibility, just not enough strength ( He says that the side splits maybe in reach of us all.

His method starts with the horse stance. For those who don't know what a horse stance is, it's a stance used in karate and other martial arts as a foundation to other moves and stances. In particular to achieving the side splits, you place your feet about twice your shoulder width apart before lowering yourself between your legs so that your thighs are just above parallel to the ground. May I add this is a deep horse stance in comparison to others that more resemble a standing-up position, such as in Tai Chi. There are many variations to the horse stance, but as you will be trying to achieve the splits, it will eventually stop looking like a horse stance as you move your feet further and further apart.

Bboy Ryouku (, Paul Zaichik ( and Thomas Kurtz ( have all pointed out the irrefutable relationship between strength and flexibility. Progressive stretching may help do the splits, but Bboy Ryouku explains that lack of strength causes muscle tension instead of the relaxation needed to reach the side splits. Kurz explains why the tilting of the pelvis is essential for those last few inches into splits and Paul Zaichik has already demonstrated in a few youtube videos how important strength is to hold static high kicks. The idea is that we develop strength to be able to hold the horse stance from a relatively easy width, increasing the distance between our feet until eventually ending up with a very wide horse stance with our groin inches from the floor. From there, we should be very close to achieving the side splits.

Bboy Ryouko explains the method perfectly here, amongst many other things in an old post:

Thomas Kurtz explains his method here:

And below is Kurtz' method for maintaining the side splits. You will see how he develops the splits from the horse stance.

This is definitely a future challenge for me. I'll let you know if Thomas Kurtz' method works.

Email with any queries.
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Other References:

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

It took 25 Days to do just One Proper Push Up

The push up was started in the prone position (with the torso on the floor) and then the arms pushed upwards whilst the body was kept straight before lowering the body and torso back to just above the floor. At that point, I pushed upwards again, and then lowered back into the prone position. Maybe that counts as two, but hey! Still psyched over doing one!

My challenge is however, incomplete, as the aim is to do 10 consecutive push ups.

If you've struggled with doing push ups, feel free to email me about it at or get my little push up guide here

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Core Isn't There Just To Look Pretty

Imagine if we tried to get out of bed, sit up or stand up straight without using our core muscles. What about if we tried kicking, spinning or even doing a push up? We still engage the core muscles, and yet, it seems people only want to work their core muscles to gain a certain aesthetic look; the six pack, the V-line. Bruce Lee questioned that without a strong core, what would support the arms for punches, or the legs for kicking let alone jumping.

The core has variable definitions, but everyone seems to agree it's the body minus the legs and arms (the trunk/torso) or the muscles that connect the upper body to the lower body (2). These muscles include the abdominals, the obliques, the back muscles, the hip flexors and rotators and shoulders (3, 4). These muscles provide strength and flexibility even if you can't see them.

Good core strength helps posture, alleviates aches and pains commonly associated with back problems and helps stabilise the body through nearly every movement that is made (2). Dancers, yoga practitioners and gymnasts possess amazing core strength as their disciplines call for it, and you don't necessarily see female gymnasts with six packs that men have, but they still can do incredible feats of strengths without the core muscles being seen (5).

There are so many different exercises to work the core muscles that you choose a series of your favourites targeting particular areas of your core. Some harder ones include V Ups and Headstand Leg Raises.

Here is a list of 19 core bodyweight muscle exercises;

2.Side Crunch
3.Double Side Crunch
4.Sit Ups
5.Reverse Crunch
6.Reverse Crunch Twists
7.Single Leg Circles
8.Russian Twists
9.Hip Twists
10.Double Crunch
11.Flutter Kicks
12.V Ups
13.Straight Leg Raises
14.Plank Ups
15.Side Plank Raises
16.Hanging Knee Raises
17.Headstand Leg Raises
18.Side Plank Twists (with Rotation)
19.Hanging Leg Raises

View the Core Bodyweight Exercise Guide here.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

And On The Seventh Day, We Rested

Well, I didn't rest until the eighth day of my push up training and I wasn't really intending to take a day of rest at all. Time flew by, and I hadn't done a single push up, but the next day, I found doing negative push ups a lot easier. It was if I was stronger after I rested for a day.

According to Tudor Bompa and Michael Carrera, energy stores in the form of glycogen (formed by glucose) are partially depleted during strength training sessions, and it has been reported to take 5 hours of rest to restore glycogen levels by 55%. Taking 24 hours of rest is advised as glycogen stores are restored to almost 100% of pre-exercise levels. When we don't allow our bodies to replenish their glycogen stores we're left with fatigue and the next strength training session will produce suboptimal results (Leslie Bonci).

T Bompa and M Carrera further explain that protein metabolism or breakdown occurs as long as 48 hours after strength training. They also state that protein synthesis occurs during the resting phase and is greater than protein breakdown, but they make a strong case, stating that without enough rest, increases in muscle strength and size will be diminished.

It may seem counterproductive, but taking a day's rest will help to increase your strength. So if you get to a stage where you find yourself struggling with the same strength load and know you can do better, take a day or two off, and go back to it. You may be surprised at how much better you can handle the same strength training exercise.

Tudor O Bompa and Michael C Carrera Periodization Training For Sports 2nd Edition 2005
Leslie Bonci 2001

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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Push Ups: A Full Body Workout


If you've already had experience of doing push ups, you may well know how it's great for your abdominals. Your arms may be doing the actual movement and bearing part or all of your weight, but it takes some doing to keep your body in a plank-like state as you go through even one push up movement. Just hold yourself at any stage of the push up, and you feel pressure on your core, even if it's just a little bit. How much pressure though? Yet again, it depends on the type of push up, and it appears that the more advanced and suspended push up variations intensify the level of challenge on the abdominal muscles.

According to results published by Beach et al 2008, a standard push up resulted in an average of 13.9% of the maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) in the rectus abdominis, 15.6% of the MVIC in the external obliques and 18.2% of the MVIC in the external obliques. In the suspended push up type, the contractions on each of these muscles increased significantly with a noted 184% increase in the average rectus abdominis isometric muscle contractility. In short, that means push up variations like the thumb push ups, the one arm push ups and the planche push ups will rely more on just your arm strength, but your core strength. I'm guessing you already know this, so it wouldn't be too surprising that I personal rate the push up as the best full bodyweight exercise.

Click here to get the Full 21 PUSH UP Types list.

T.A.C. Beach et al. / Human Movement Science 27 (2008) 457–472

Sunday, 21 February 2010

So, you can do the push up? Which one though?

“Get down, and give me 20” says the instructor. You know what he wants you to do. Push ups are definitely in order, however, what he doesn't tell you is which push up to do. He assumes you know that you're going to do the classic form. Right? Do you know the difference between the classic push up, the wide arm push up, the pike and straddle planche forms? That's just for starters. You may or may not be surprised that there are at least twenty-one different forms and those are the ones that I've counted so far. You won't just be working the chest area either. Some rely heavily on the core, whilst others rely more on the arms, back and shoulders. Which ones from the list can you do already? If you read my last post, you'll realise I'm only at entry level (if you can even call it that). So feel free to let me know what level push ups you can do and how long it took you to be able to them.

Here they are in general order from easiest to hardest:

Wall Push Ups
Knee Push Ups
Inclined Push Ups
Classic Push Ups
Declined Push Ups
Wide Arm Push Ups
Diamond Push Ups
Hindu Push Ups
Medicine Ball Push Ups
Divebomber Push Ups
One legged push up
Push Up Claps
One Arm Push Ups
Thumb Push Ups
Spiderman push ups
Sliding spiderman push ups
Superman push ups (for your back muscles)
Pike Push Ups
One legged, one armed push ups
Straddle Planche to Push Up
Planche Push Ups
Handstand push ups

Click here to get PART ONE of the PUSH UP GUIDE with descriptions and video links.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

If you can't do a single push up

If you can't do a single full push up, you're like me. Well, hopefully that will all change by doing negative push ups. Follow my day-to-day diary to achieve a full push up as I update it here.

If you can already do the push up, why not try a challenge:
One hundred push ups  (
One thousand push ups


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

An introduction to Urbantri

It's striking how much people prefer to clamour into a gym when all one needs is a bit of floor space for bodyweight exercises, or a quiet block to run round, not to mention that exercising within the home is the cheaper alternative to the gym.

I am sure that I'm not the only one who enjoys watching those who do things like the L-kick, the planche, the elbow lever, the dash vault, the splits, the spinning inside crescent kick, headstand and so on. However, the moves I just mentioned are found throughout several sports. Tricking is one of the few athletic endeavours that seems to be comprised of other sports as well as standing as a sport within itself. Therefore, Urbantri (or urban tricks) is my way of labelling all these moves into one category, as I love them ALL.

Sports include (but aren't limited to)
  • Parkour
  • Free running
  • Wushu
  • Capoeira
  • Martial Arts
  • Tricking
  • Contortionism
  • Bodyweight calisthenics
  • Dancing (eg. breakdancing)
  • Gymnastics
  • Running (yes, that requires nothing except maybe good running shoes, and clothes, obviously)
I will research and post each sport and as many of their moves/exercises as I can as well as my attempts at some of the beginner level ones.