Baby Got Back Bridge

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I usually find any excuse to bust a bridge. Like for example, in this random contraption I found on a playground in L.A!

Back bridging is a skill I’ve been able to do since I was a kid. Gradually, as I got older the skill became harder and harder to maintain. Thankfully I found yoga and Convict Conditioning and both highly recommend bringing this exercise back to the forefront of your training. Coach Paul Wade, author of CC1 & 2 says, “No other exercise or method comes close to bridging for strengthening the muscles and tendons of the entire body. Bridging also increases lung power and flexibility!” Now that is a powerful statement! Why wouldn’t YOU want to include an exercise in your regimen that can help improve your posture and your breathing?

The back bridge is an exercise I recommend for all my clients. It can compliment your deadlift practice and any bodyweight strength routine. If you’ve had any kind of back surgery or injury in the past, or are new to bridging in the first place, it’s always good to ease into the easier variations. With practice, you might even be able to lessen your back pain! I’ll show you a few variations that can help you take your power back! 😉

Easy Bridge
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The Easy Bridge is a great place to start for beginners. In yoga, this is the first step towards the full expression of the pose and can also be used as a restorative pose. I could “chill” in this pose forever!

Start by lying flat on your back with your arms at your side, and palms facing down. Walk your feet in towards your butt with your heels flat on the floor. You want your feet to be about hips-width apart with your knees pointing straight towards the sky.

Now press your hands and your feet simultaneously into the ground while lifting your hips up and squeezing your butt. Avoid letting your knees flare out, by imagining you are squeezing an invisible block between your knees. This will help create tension in the pose so you can stay in it longer.

Tuck your chin in towards your chest and roll each shoulder underneath the body while you attempt to interlace your fingers. Squeeze the palms together and hold the pose anywhere from 10-30 seconds.

Table Bridge
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The Table bridge requires a bit more “juice” than the first variation because you need more upper body strength!

Start by sitting up with your heels on the ground, feet hips-width apart and knees pointed up towards the sky. You should have about 1 foot of space between your heels and your butt this time. Place your hands a few inches behind you, with your elbows locked. You can turn your fingers completely away from you or off to the sides.  Press into the soles of your feet and your hands as you lift your hips off the ground. Squeeze your butt to maintain a straight back in the position, and allow your head to drop back as your neck relaxes. You can practice these for reps or long holds.

Neck Bridge 
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This pose is sometimes known as the “Wrestlers Bridge,” because a lot of wrestlers practice this move to make their necks strong for grappling with an opponent.

For this move you want to start in the Easy Bridge position, lying flat on the ground with heels in towards the butt. You can place your hands by your ears to assist in lifting your head into position. Lift your hips towards the sky and press into your hands as you slide onto the top of your head.

Keep squeezing your glutes and pressing into your feet to take some pressure off your head. Eventually when you feel confident with this move you can remove the hands from the equation. Don’t rush to get to that final step as you want to avoid any kind of strain in the neck.

Full Bridge/Wheel Pose
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Once you’ve conquered the above steps and can hold each pose confidently for 30 seconds or more, you can attempt the full expression of the back bridge.

Start by lying on your back, with the same form as the wrestler’s bridge. Place your hands by your ears, and press away the ground by squeezing your butt and holding the position.

Ideally for beginners you can ease into the bridge by lifting your heels off the ground in order to allow you to push your chest forward more. Gradually as you continue to practice this move, aim for heels on the ground.

At first you may only be able to hold for a few seconds and that’s quite the feat of strength. Give yourself some time to rest before attempting again. The first few bridges are always a bit brutal but the more reps you do, the easier they become. Be patient with the process as this is a very intense pose. I promise you the more your practice, the better you will feel! I’ve noticed improved posture, better breathing in my lifts, and even eliminated my low back pain!

I’ve also included an extra video below for folks who are having trouble with wrist flexibility in the full bridge! Ch-ch-check it out:

Eventually as your back flexibility and strength improves, you can work on adding a stability challenge to your bridge by extending one of your limbs in the air, like an arm or even a leg. It takes some time to progress, but your back will thank you for your effort! Stay the course! 😉

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If there are any ninjas in the New York area interested in deepening their knowledge of Progressive Calisthenics, be sure to check out my Bodyweight Bootcamp class every Sunday at 10am at Momentum Fitness! Spots are limited, so sign up at info@momentumfitnessnyc.com! Hope to see you there! Peace, <3, and Ninja Kicks!!

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PCC Encinitas & Bodybuilding.com

Greetings ninjas! So much has happened over the last 2 weeks: been to Cali and back to NYC! It was great getting a reprieve from the cold but it’s sweet being back home! My first ever bodybuilding.com article came out!  The article was aimed towards the ladies who are training to get their first pull-up! The article was so well-received that I have been invited to be a regular contributor to the site! Be sure to stay tuned for my next piece! Feel free to click the link below to read it: Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 11.55.30 AM In other news, Al and I flew to L.A. the week prior to PCC for a mini vacay which was sweet! We went to a friend’s wedding in Koreatown the first night and then hung out with my girlfriend Auxy, who took us on a hike through Griffith Park up to the Observatory! The view was breathtaking! IMG_9002

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After we parted ways, we drove out to Santa Monica, where Al and I trained at Muscle beach and hung out for a few days! I love training at that park because you end up witnessing such a high level of Calisthenics talent! It seems like everyone on that beach can do one-arm handstands and muscle-ups all day! I also did a photoshoot for my next article that will be published in TRAIN for HER magazine! DSCN0099 We got in a few workouts and training sessions in before finally heading over to Encinitas for PCC! I had been looking forward to this event for sometime since we had the opportunity to go back to Cali, my ol’ stomping grounds. I also knew a few of the folks that were attending from Facebook and I was excited to officially meet them and cheer them on all weekend!  The event was held at Master RKC, Max Shank’s gym, Ambition Athletics. I had also been here previously for my HKC about a year ago! It was a group of about 25 people, 3 were women, and even a few latinos in the bunch! I got to assist Al and Danny Kavadlo and Senior PCC Adrienne Harvey along with David Colon, this badass Puerto Rican Calisthenics coach! The attendees were a mix of backgrounds from soldiers to scientists all bound by their love for Calisthenics! There was even this amazing attendee named David Rodriguez who was an amputee and was such a light the whole weekend. He attempted every move in every module and passed the Century test at the end of the weekend! It was moving and beautiful and I felt blessed to have been there to witness that feat of passion and strength! Amputee davidshot Overall the weekend was a blast, and at the end of PCC, I always say the same thing, “I wish it could last forever!” You meet these people and become like brothers and sisters almost instantly! When I think back to my childhood and how difficult I always found it to fit in with the cool crowd, I just laugh. Who knew that as an adult I wouldn’t need to “fit in” anywhere, that I would be fortunate enough to find a group of fitness weirdos just like me! Congratulations to all my new PCC brothers and sisters!! As Danny says, “The posse just keeps getting bigger!” I’m looking forward to hopefully assisting again in the future and meeting more ninjas! In the meantime I’ll just keep blogging, training, and spreading the word about PCC!!! Thanks for reading! Peace, ❤ and Ninja Kicks!!! Group photo

Started from the bottom, now we here!

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What’s cracking ninjas?!? Today I wanted to discuss push-ups! Why you ask? Because I see folks at the gym on a daily basis banging em out with some ugly form! This happens to be one of my strongest moves, but I didn’t get here by pumping out endless reps of ugliness!

I started from the bottom now I’m here! 😉

I had a client recently who I regressed from a knees down push-up to an incline push-up because her form was not ideal. She put up a bit of a fight because she felt embarrassed that she had been reduced to this exercise. Placing her hands on an inclined surface definitely cleaned up her form exponentially and made the reps more manageable for her level!

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The point of this story is there is nothing wrong with working easier moves. I can already do a 1-arm push-up; however, this doesn’t mean that I jump right into that progression every time I train. Some days I enjoy warming up with incline and knees-down push-ups to ease into my session. Just how in weightlifting you gradually increase the weight; you don’t just start a beginner with a double-bodyweight deadlift. The same is true of Calisthenics, but since there are no actual “weights,” we just manipulate the “leverage” of our bodyweight.

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My suggestion is when you can bang out a solid 30 reps of each move: the incline push-up and the knees-down push-up then you’re ready to take on the standard push-up! If you are a beginner and 30 sounds insane, break it down into 3 sets of 10 reps! When should you start? As soon as you are through reading this blog! I sprinkle in reps anytime I feel the urge to train! This is a great way of “greasing the groove,” and progressing faster in this or other moves.

As far as form goes, a push-up is a moving plank. This means “zip up” the midline by squeezing your glutes to avoid a sagging waist. Press down through the palm of the hands and all ten fingers in order to create a strong base and help you avoid “energy leakages.” If your fingers and hands aren’t actively pressing down, then it will become increasingly difficult to achieve more repetitions. “Breathing to the beat” definitely helps me max out! I like to inhale on the descent and exhale as I push up!

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The reason why I enjoy teaching progressive Calisthenics is because there are so many ways to break down each exercise so no one is excluded! I’m talkin men, women, abuelos, y abuelas…there’s a starting point for all levels! You should never feel embarrassed or ashamed to start with Step 1! There are a ton of moves on the fringe even for me! If you feel a tad frustrated with your progress, translate that to passion, ninja! You want to get better and there is nothing wrong with that! Just because you are at the level your at, doesn’t mean your not getting stronger along the way! That should be a comforting side-effect! 😀 Keep practicing and stay true to the path! If ninja training was easy, everyone would be doing it!

If you are interested in deepening your knowledge of Calisthenics, check out Pushing The Limits, by Al Kavadlo or Convict Conditioning by Coach Paul Wade. If you ❤ it, then definitely consider signing up for the Progressive Calisthenics certification taught by Al and Danny Kavadlo based on the Convict Conditioning curriculum!

Peace, Love, and Ninja Kicks!

-G to the Izzle

Zen Mind Strong Body

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HIIIIII-yaaa! Comin at ya with more amazing news! Acclaimed bodyweight expert, YouTube superstar, Master PCC Instructor, and my baby, Al Kavadlo just recently released his latest book, Zen Mind, Strong BodyThis book covers everything from Al’s personal favorite blog posts, philosophy on fitness, diet, cardio, calisthenics and cultivating the spirit of the “Beginner’s Mind” into everything you do! I am honored to be included in some of the photos as a fitness model demoing some Calisthenics exercises! Here’s a sneak-peek of one of the photos in the book:

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It’s been a big year for me, moving to NYC from Cali, being featured in books like Coach Paul Wade’s C-Mass, Danny Kavadlo’s Diamond-Cut Abs, Zen Mind…, and the soon to be published Convict Conditioning 3: Explosive Calisthenics! I have nothing but gratitude for all these amazing opportunities and confidence that I am on the right path doing what I LOVE training and inspiring myself and others to be healthy, confident, ninjas!

Al and I have also been working on some partner Calisthenics! We actually made our first video in our living room today! This was a fun way to spice up our regular separate training regimens. If you’re interested in learning more about some moves you can work on with your friends and loved ones, you should definitely check out our friends, Rosalia Chann and Angelo Grinceri’s site, Couples Calisthenics! They’ve got all types of cool moves to make any workout mad romantic, B! 😉

Hope you have a badass Wednesday, Diesel Dolls and Dudes! Stay tuned for more videos and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE!

P-Bar Calisthenics & Resolutions

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Happy New Year Ninjas & Ninjettes! I hope 2015 is off to a strong start! I know a lot of people make resolutions around this time to lose weight, get stronger, healthier, etc! Sometimes I can’t get down with the resolution talk because by the end of January the fire dies out and it’s back to whatever bad habits we were doing the previous year!

I’ll admit though, I’ve got a great feeling about the year 2015! It even has a nice ring to it! 😉 So I’ve made my own resolution to stay true to my blog and keep updating it with dope fitness info for all of ya’ll! I’m learning how to edit my own vids, and will  keep making new tutorials for all those resolution-makers out there who want to get strong and improve their calisthenics practice!

I think the key to staying true to your resolutions is to speak of them as if you already achieved them. Here’s a quote from The Secret that may help you keep your resolutions this year:

“Every good thought, every good word, every good emotion, and every act of kindness, is lifting the vibration of your being to new heights. And as you begin to raise your vibration, a new life and a new world will reveal itself to you.”

This means that what you think of constantly you ultimately become. If you KNOW yourself well, and have not kept to your resolutions in the past, this thought is swirling around in your current subconscious stunting your goals. For example, don’t just say “I am going to lose 30lbs this year!” EMBODY that feeling that you THINK you would feel like if you had already lost the weight. Be specific and make measurable goals! Think like the YOU that has already lost the weight. Would YOU have hired a personal trainer by now? What kind of foods would a healthy YOU be eating? This will help you not just think in terms of lack and want, but think FROM the present moment. NOW is really the only time you have to make those resolutions MANIFEST!

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The more you think about how good it feels NOW to have what you eventually want, the more you will subconsciously start to make choices that will lead you to your goal! If you wake up one morning and the first thing that comes out of your mouth is, “I feel fat!” Then you will “vibrate” at that lower, negative frequency, preventing any headway in your goals. You’ll eat like someone who doesn’t care about themselves, probably not exercise, etc. Just how we train our muscles to get stronger, we need to train our minds to think progressively and optimistically! Remedy any negative thoughts like that to it’s exact opposite, “I feel strong!” Even if you don’t mean it at that moment, the more you practice this mindfulness, the easier it will be to reach and even SURPASS your goals! This will ensure that you will continually be writing checks yo a$$ can cash!!

Speaking of goals, I’ve made a new video for my YouTube channel! If you have access to parallel bars and are bored of just doin dips, try some of these moves instead! Calisthenics is all about being creative with what you have in your environment! Check it out:

Also if you are in the NYC area, I teach a bodyweight bootcamp every Sunday at Momentum Fitness NYC, 10am sharp! This is a mixed-levels class based on the teachings of Coach Paul Wade’s world-famous bodyweight bible, Convict Conditioning 1&2 and Bodyweight expert, and Master PCC, Al Kavadlo‘s books!

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Thank you for tuning in friends and have an epic new year!!!

Girls Gone Strong

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What’s poppin friends? I just wanted to give a big THANK YOU to GirlsGoneStrong for granting me the opportunity to contribute a bodyweight training piece to their site!

I had the inspiration to write the piece since I officially live in NYC where the brutal winter makes anyone want to skip the gym and stay at home! I designed a workout including 3 foundational Calisthenics moves that everyone should practice with progressions from Beginner to Badass! No excuses not to continue your training even while hibernating!

I’d love to hear your feedback or comments if you got the opportunity to try it out! If you have any suggestions for tutorials or other quick bodyweight workouts, give me a shout-out, ninjas!

Thanks again for all your support!

Peace, <3, and Ninja Kicks!

Interview with Janelle Pica RKC II, SFG I, Primal Move Instructor

DSCN9567Good morning friends! Today I would love for you to meet an inspirational friend of mine, Janelle Pica! We were originally introduced via Facebook when I was looking for guidance to pass the RKC! Janelle was awesome enough to offer her online coaching assistance and designed a program to help me prepare!

This weekend, we finally had the opportunity to officially meet, train, and chat together!

Grace: Welcome to NYC, Janelle! I’m stoked that we finally get to meet in person! We definitely wasted no time, and went straight to training at good ol’ Tomkins Square Park! Tell me about it!

Janelle: Well, I was mostly working on bar lever and pull up variations for myself, and helped you with increasing mobility for your pistol squat!

G: It was super effective! I was pistol squatting into my less strong left side in no time! Where did you learn that mobility drill?
J: I learned that stretch from Keira Newton while we were at an RKC Level II certification. She noticed and pointed out that I had tight hip flexors.
G: What is the stretch called?
J: You can refer to them as L-pulses or L-Stretches.
G: Well they worked! Thank you for teaching me that! I definitely plan on keeping that stretch in my routine til my pistols are as smooth on the left as they are on the right!
Tell me more about your facility, Primal Fitness Pittsburgh! I see you have a Calisthenics class on the schedule!
J: Yes! Ryan Williams who is PCC certified currently instructs these classes! Originally he found me on the internet because he was looking for an alternative for a functional fitness class in Pittsburgh. No one in the area was teaching bodyweight and he found me through a Primal Move post. He wasn’t sure if he was gonna take the PCC or Primal Move. I suggested since he was into the strength aspect he should take the PCC and I helped train him for over 3 months before he got certified. He had issues with pull-ups and wanted to be able to do a Muscle-up.
He passed and then I hired him as an instructor, so it was an ideal scenario for the both of us! His programming is perfect, he’s a great dude! We worked through some wrist issues that prevented him from doing proper push-ups. We had to teach him wrist mobility to improve his form, practicing tea-cups and dragon walks.
Progressive Calisthenics as conditioning and strength training definitely helps improve lifts and is a good complimentary for a minimalistic fitness  business!
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G: What do you mean by minimalistic?
J: Kettlebell training and body weight conditioning focus on 4 specific movement patterns: Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat for a well-rounded training program.
These are basic movements everyone needs to move well. Minimalistic means focusing on basic human movement. We use bare to no equipment to hone in movement patterns and mastering weight. By using less gadgets, it helps the client enhance their current level of fitness and go beyond just strength dominated to a more functional modality.
G: Tell me more about your clients and their programming.
J: Most of my clients are people who are rehabbing injuries or have done other high volume, intense programs that burned them out. We definitely do a lot of mobility, usually include two days of kettle bell lifts and one day of bodyweight. Our method is unique because we train strength and conditioning through sustainable means.
G: Awesome! And you also have quite a few certifications, as well!
J: Yes, some of my certifications include NASM CPT, Level 1 Strongfirst, Level 2 RKC, and Primal Move!
G: Wow girl, you are not messing around! You’ve got some serious credentials! Are you having any upcoming workshops at Primal Fitness Pittsburgh?
J: Yes, in April we are having a Kettlebell User course through Strongfirst. It’s open to anyone who is a novice kettlebell trainer, and personal trainers who want more understanding of the lifts. The lifts include the Goblet Squat, Turkish Get-Ups, Deadlifts, and spinal alignment in double kettlebell training.
We are also offering the Primal Plan program which involves consultations with people who wanted to train but are highly active in their normal life.We wanted to design a program for a highly functional athlete who needed mobility and light lifting. The program is based on Mark Sisson‘s concept of lifting heavy twice a week and doing lower level activity outside.
G: That sounds exciting! Are there any  future plans for PFP?
J: Well I’m only 27, and a publishing company called Whirl Magazine, which is a magazine for highly active people in Pittsburgh contacted me recently! They knew about my backstory and I was submitted for the Top 13 under 30 which gives more press and recognition for young entrepreneurs! Top 13 comes out towards the end of 2015.
G: Right on! You’re moving on to some big things! Tell me more about what your current program is like?
J: Training for Iron Maiden was tough on my body, so to be able to back off and just focus on mostly primal move and mobility instead of heavy lifts feels great! Mostly doing bodyweight plus light lifts.  My goal is to give my body a break, lean out a bit. I put on a ton of muscle training for the Iron Maiden, and even at the Strongfirst cert people kept commenting how “freaky strong” I was getting! I missed the pull-up only by a few centimeters! I was bummed but now I’m having fun with implementing other fitness modalities into my training. Now I can military press the 28kg and 26kg pistol squat on both legs! When you’re that close, it’s a matter of taking time off, leaning out, and going back into it at 100%, ready to go! I have a coach who is helping me with my composition changes and goals! Although I don’t want to hammer myself with too much weight right now, since I did do Iron Maiden twice in on weekend! RKC training is no joke!
G: Word! Are you offering any current promotions for the holidays for your clients?
J: Yes, in fact we are! Holidays are hard for people, even fitness pros, when it comes to controlling excessive food intake and overindulging! We are offering a 21-day sugar detox by Diane San Filippo, author of Practical Paleo. It is a nutritional program cutting sugar and excessive carb intake from the diet. If you buy a premium membership, you get a discounted rate on personal training with me and Ryan. The group detox starts post holidays on Monday, January 5th. It is a comprehensive nutritional protocol that includes healthy recipes and coupons!
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G: I’m super excited to get to hang out with you while you’re in NYC! Thank you so much for chatting with me!
If you want to know more about Janelle Pica and her gym, be sure to visit http://www.primalfitnesspittsburgh.com for more information and to sign up for training!

TRAIN Magazine feature

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Hey friends, I must admit I’m over the moon to share this wonderful news with you! My wonderful boyfriend, Al Kavadlo, whom many of you know from his popular YouTube channel, also has a column in TRAIN magazine all about Calisthenics! He was sweet enough to feature us together in a partner workout that he wrote for this month’s issue! We show you guys some FUN calisthenics moves that YOU can practice with your friends or loved ones!  I know for some people all it takes to motivate them to go to the gym is bringing along a workout buddy! This is a no-fuss workout, that requires NO equipment, just your commitment to having a blast training with a friend!

Be sure to look for this issue at your local bookstore or newsstand, and remember don’t just read it….USE IT! 😉

Hope you all have a fabulous Thursday!

Peace and Love!

Calisthenics Remix on YouTube!

Greetings Ninjas!

Hope your Wednesday is off to a great start! I just made a new video for my YouTube channel that I’d love to share with you! It’s a compilation of some Calisthenics moves I’ve been practicing lately!

Be sure to click the link above to watch the video and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE!

If you have any ideas for future videos or tutorials you would like to see, be sure to leave a comment/suggestion below!

Peace, Love, and Ninja Kicks!

Calisthenics for Shoulder Mobility

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Have you ever had to ask someone to assist in scratching a part of your back that you couldn’t reach?

Imagine if you could do it yourself! That would be quite a victory!

Well friends, I’m proud to say I can scratch my own back. Here’s how I made it happen!

When I originally began strength training with kettlebells and bodyweight, there came a point when my lats were getting jacked! Even though they looked glorious, I began to lose a lot of the mobility I had gained from all my prior years of Yoga training. It was impossible to get my hands to touch behind my back!

Thankfully, adding back regular Yoga stretches and remixing them with some calisthenics moves, I was able to regain and even improve my shoulder mobility.

Here are some easy exercises you can add to your practice that may help you improve your reach!

Assisted Standing Backbend

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Grab a bar around chest height and begin to slowly walk away from it til you feel a deep stretch in the back and chest. Squeeze the glutes as you lift your sternum towards the sky. Relax your head and neck and let it fall back between the arms. Hold for 15-20 seconds. You can also practice this move pressing away from a wall. As you warm-up, you can gradually progress to a lower bar.

Bridge Pose 

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Lie on your back and place your hands by your sides. Walk your feet in so your heels are close to your butt and your knees point towards the sky. Press through the soles of the feet and hands as you raise your hips up. Tuck each shoulder under the body, and try to interlace the fingers as you squeeze the palms together. Press down through the forearms and let your neck soften as the chin comes towards the chest. Hold for 30 secs to 1 minute.

Plow Pose 

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Lie on your back and extend both legs towards the sky with arms at your sides. Press down through the palms as you attempt to lift the hips and roll the legs overhead. The movement should resemble a reverse sit-up. Your hips should be aligned over your shoulders, chin tucked in towards the chest. Breathe and relax into the stretch.

Skin The Cat

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Grab a bar about shoulder-width apart and come to a dead hang. Squeeze the bar as you tuck your knees to your chest. Attempt to slide your feet and hips through your arms and then lower your legs down as low as you can. Try to reverse the motion in the opposite direction until you return to the starting position. If you are new to this movement, it may help to practice with dip bars so you have an easier time clearing the legs and hips through the arms. You can also practice with a spotter or from standing so you can use momentum to kick your legs through. Your form should eventually resemble the plow pose above, only hanging from a bar instead.

Take the Power Back

Practicing these moves regularly has made a world of difference in my mobility as well as making me a better athlete overall. I’m a strong believer in balancing the body by practicing backbends in order to counter too much frontal flexion from sitting. Adding these moves to your training arsenal will help keep that balance of strength and flexibility in your upper body so you will continually progress in your practice!

Good luck ninjas! Peace, Love, and Ninja Kicks!