The Best Exercise You're (Probably) Not Doing

Well, we survived.

No, I'm not talking about the wonderful honeymoon Lindsay and I took last week to Paradise Island.  Instead, I'm talking about the first snow showers we had here in Boston this past weekend.  

Yup, it was November 2nd and there was snow falling from the sky. If you were dreaming of an unseasonably warm winter in the Northeast, those dreams are probably dashed.

All kidding aside, if you're curious (and I know you are...), we had a wonderful time in paradise.  Laying in sunny, 82 degree weather was exactly what the doctor ordered for Lindsay, after she planned more than 80% of the wedding.

And me?  I was busy reading my copy of Strength Coach, while watching people's posture and scapular positioning.  It's true....I don't have an off switch.

I'd like to introduce my new nickname: Shark Attack

I'd like to introduce my new nickname: Shark Attack

Anyway, when I wasn't boring Lindsay by explaining the difference between truly "winging" scapulas and merely flat t-spines, we made our way through Atlantis which was absolutely awesome.  Speak what you will of having animals in captivity (see the movie, Blackfish), but we spent a fair amount of time gawking at their aquariums.

Our favorite moment, however, was when we were crushing the park's water slides.  Water slides?  Yes, water slides.  

In fact, the most exercise I did all week was (repeatedly) climbing up the stairs to slide back down....and as I wrote here, I don't feel guilty about that fact in the slightest.

To give you a glimpse into my past week, here's a video I found of one of the slides at Atlantis.  I'll give you two guesses who yelped like a little dog while going down this slide...... (hint: it wasn't Lindsay)

Sidenote: I don't completely understand the fascination with GoPros, but about 40% of people were carrying them through the water slides/rivers.  I guess I'd rather enjoy my time on the rides, rather than worry about getting a good video to post on YouTube.  To each their own.  But, as Lindsay quipped early on, "It's all fun and games until someone gets impaled by a GoPro."

Anywhooooo, with the wedding and honeymoon now in the rear view mirror, I wanted to highlight one of my favorite exercises.  As you'll see below, it's very low on the "sexy" scale, yet very high on the "will help you avoid being a giant ball of fail" scale.  I'd like to present to all of you the Towel Bug:

What's that?  You don't listen to Phil an empty gym...........on Saturday afternoons, too?  Well, you're missing out.

So what exactly does this exercise DO?  First, it's a variation of a dead bug, which is pretty much where the rubber meets the road in core training.  You can try and do all the sit-ups and crunches you want, but if you can't/don't know how to get tight, your core is pretty weak.

If you were wondering, this would be your view if you were performing dead bugs in the Bahamas.

If you were wondering, this would be your view if you were performing dead bugs in the Bahamas.

If this exercise doesn't look foreign to you, then you'll know it's pretty similar to an old-fashioned dead bug.  However, I love the towel variation for a variety of reasons: 1) it reduces someone's ability to compensate, 2) forces people to control their pelvis more and get into a posterior tilt, 3) it teaches someone to move while bracing (critical for things like deadlifts, wink wink), 4) the towel gives instant feedback.  If someone starts to lose their tightness or pelvic tilt, they'll know instantly as the towel starts being pulled out.  

As for the mechanics, you'll notice I put the towel in the handle of the cable machine and placed it under my lower back (just above the belt line).  You can manually adjust the weight, and as it gets easier, simply put more weight on the cable.  From there, we can have a few variations:

1) For those that are advanced - and want to make their abs hate them - you'll note that I made a full exhale prior to moving my legs and arms, and only inhaled when I was back in the starting position.  When you add breathing to this exercise it ratchets up the intensity, as we lose air which gives us stability. Suddenly, our abs have a lot more work to do in order to keep our pelvis tilted and the towel under our back....or we're going to to have a loud crash of weights.  

Note: The most common mistake with this variation is not getting a full exhale prior to moving your legs/arms.  In everyday life, we rarely ever fully exhale all of our breath out of our bodies, but here we're looking for a full 6-8 second exhale.  As I always say, if you're shaking you're doing it right!



2) If you're not as advanced, you can scrap the breathing aspect and focus on not letting the towel move.  But, if the towel starts to be pulled out from under you, simply nix moving your arms and concentrate on alternating your legs.  Once the towel isn't moving when you have a fair amount of weight on the cable, then you can feel free to add in the breathing above.

As with any exercise, keep thinking of quality not quantity.  I'll rarely do more than a few sets of 3-4 on each arm/leg, because we want to make sure each rep is as crisp and as tight as it can be.  When done properly, this exercise is probably just as "functional" as a squat or a deadlift.  And, I'll even go so far to say that this one exercise has probably helped my clients the most in their everyday life.  

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!