Mental Toughness

When it comes to lifting a heavy weight, your mind will often give out before your body does. Mental fortitude is the single most important component of strength training. Because truth be told, there's something seriously so taunting about lifting heavy that requires a great deal of mental preparation. I've seen it so often: people have the physical skills and have put in the work to make a lift, but cannot get out of their head to pull it off.

Don't let the voices in your head be your weakest link. Use them as fuel and allow the fire of your inner dialogue to be a catalyst for growth and strength. Allow it to inspire you to push yourself beyond the things you ever thought possible.

The mentally weak will refuse to extend themselves like that, they operate from a place of fear, and they will not shift outside the circles of their comfort zones. BUT - that is where the magic happens.

When adversity hits, in whatever form that may be, some people will just see that as an acceptable excuse to fail or stop; however, the mentally tough view it as a challenge that will make the accomplishment even more enjoyable.

A mentally tough person will recognize that failure is a part of the journey. They remain unaffected by that adversity and committed to their performance and the focus it takes to master their craft, regardless of external forces.

Not every lesson is easy, not every choice leads you where you expect to go, but remember that you are much stronger than you think you are, and much more resilient than you might allow yourself to be.

I, personally, repeat mantras to myself before every heavy pull: ""I am enough. I am strong. I am capable. I am a badass force to be reckoned with."" I allow myself to recognize my capacity for strength and deeply appreciate the power of my body. I show up for myself and keep building this stronger frame, one that leaves room for more.

Today, let this be a reminder to you to let go of any limiting messages you might be telling yourself. Reclaim your power, so you can live fully and authentically in this world, without limiting yourself, or your immense capacities. Quiet that loud self-critic with even louder self-compassion. And, never stop showing up for yourself.

Big love,
Jennifer Knutson

Slow Down: Appreciate the Pause

Tempo training is one of the best strategies for your exercise regimen. Increasing your time under tension will help to elevate your abilities, make you stronger, and teach you how to better control the weight on the bar. The basic premise of tempo training is moving with intention, slowly and under control. Repetition tempo refers to the speed with which each rep is performed. You are essentially breaking down the movement into its fundamentals: the eccentric (muscle lengthening), concentric (muscle shortening), and isometric portions, which is the top and bottom portion of your lift and any pauses you might add to help overcome sticking points in that particular move. Manipulating the tempo variable can help you to achieve specific training objectives, such as increased endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and/or power.

You introduce tempo training into your movements by assigning each portion of your lift a number, which relates to the number of seconds that portion of your lift will take. For example, the ratio 3:0:1:1, would translate as 3 seconds eccentric contraction (muscle lengthening phase), 0 seconds rest at the bottom, 1 second concentric contraction (muscle shortening phase), and 1 second isometric hold at the top. To improve muscular endurance, you would increase the tempo to 5 seconds eccentric, 2 seconds concentric, 1 second isometric, or a 5:2:1 ratio.

Tempo training can not only help you to become stronger and improve your muscular endurance, but will also help build a stronger mind-muscle connection. Anyone can mindlessly move through a lift, but when you break down the movement, as you will with tempo training, you are more aware of maintaining proper movement mechanics, like knee tracking, stability, and hinging at your hips. It will help you to identify weaknesses within the lift and strengthen your way out of plateaus. Date your lift: slow down, spend more quality time within it, and get to know one another.

Happy Lifting,
Jennifer Knutson

#strength #strength training

Hip Mobility with Jennifer

Let's fix your stiff hips! Here's another series of moves to help strengthen your hip flexors and improve your range of motion. Remember mobility is strength!

By Jennifer Knutson

#mobility #hips

Hip Mobility & Strength

Tight hips? Try out these moves! Here's a series of flows to help unlock and strengthen your hips. Strong hip flexors and hip mobility will help you to maintain better posture and core stability. It will help you to reverse the effects of sitting, decrease your likelihood of pain and injury, and help to increase your overall athletic performance.

You can adapt these to fit your own range of motion limits and push into your own level of stiffness. When applied slowly and gradually over time, you should feel the hips open up and become stronger.

By Jennifer Knutson

I am enough.

There’s been a trend on TikTok lately: “What is the sentence that broke you?” It has struck so many things within me; all those words brought forth and remembered. Words are just words, but the hooks in their underbellies – who can bypass those and/or the things they connect to? Moments caught like fish on their ends. It’s in reflecting that we end up looking back and remembering the moments. The looks. The words. But not just the words we hear, the words we speak to ourselves.

Read the rest of this beautiful piece by Jennifer Knutson.

Ultra-Independence: A Trauma Response

Most everyone looks at independence as a strength. And, while it is important on some level, when it becomes a part of your survival mechanism, it may actually be a problem.

Extreme independence could be a trauma response. Were you the caretaker of your household growing up? Or grow up in a home with distant, abusive, or narcissistic family members? Were you abused in an intimate relationship? Friendship? Bullied? Grieving the death of someone?

For so many reasons, we can become so used to doing everything ourselves, that asking for help becomes terrifying. We become so hard on ourselves. We expect to be superheroes at all times. We beat ourselves up when we cannot fix a situation or do everything ourselves.

The inability to trust is one of the cornerstones of trauma. And, that extends to other people, but also ourselves. We create walls to protect ourselves. We don't let people in because we fear being hurt and disappointed and, for some, like myself, we don't feel worthy of help. So, we set boundaries to limit how close others get to us. To protect ourselves from heartbreak and pain. To keep ourselves safe.

But learning to accept help from others is not something to be ashamed of. You're not keeping yourself safe - you're hiding. You're afraid. It's not about being independent or proving to ourselves that we have everything under control. It's about living knowing heartbreak will happen, but living anyway. It's about having the courage to face your wounds and caring for them until they're just scars.

Be you bravely,
Jennifer Knutson

Accommodating Resistance: Muscles Under Tension

Accommodating resistance (AR) is utilized by adding bands or chains to your main barbell movement, which increases the resistance of the load throughout the range of motion. By incorporating AR, you can actually increase the amount of time the bar acceleration occurs, as the bands or chains increase in tension as lifted. This means that as you accelerate the bar to lockout, the tension will prolong the acceleration phase. As that tension grows, it will allow for greater average velocities to be achieved and therefore greater average power output. During a normal barbell movement, you would accelerate the bar from the bottom to the top. As you reach the top, the barbell will naturally decelerate, but AR requires that you continue accelerating to finish and lock out the move, thus helping you to develop and build more power.

As it teaches you to tap into your maximal force production, it helps you to address any sticking points you might have during your barbell movement and even break through plateaus. It is a great tool for power development, especially speed-strength and strength-speed as it calls for more muscle activation. Accommodating resistance also benefits technique development as it requires more control. This will help to ingrain proper form and teach you to stay tight throughout the entire movement.

Additionally, AR can be used for your supplemental movements or added to various dumbbell or bodyweight movements as it adds extra resistance and calls for increased muscle recruitment/activation. Our muscles experience the greatest amount of tension where the resistance curve is at its peak in the concentric point of a movement. Given that tension is the catalyst for muscle growth, the added tension of AR will place our muscles under more tension, which will provide stimulus for them to adapt and grow.

Big love,
Jennifer Knutson

#strength #strength training

Chest Press Mechanics

Want to improve your chest pressing mechanics and learn how to generate more power in your lift? Add a mini band looped at your wrist during dumbbell presses to utilize an eccentric induced co-contraction. This will help you to achieve maximal reciprocal inhibition during the concentric or lifting phase of presses. 

Reciprocal inhibition is the process by which, when one muscle contracts, the opposing muscle relaxes to accommodate its movement. During a chest press, while the chest muscles contract to move the weight, the back muscles relax for greater mobility. In doing this variation, however, you will be activating your upper back and lats to produce a maximal co-contraction of agonist (prime movers) and antagonist (muscles that perform the opposite action of the prime mover) muscle groups during the eccentric or lowering phase. 

This pulling the weight or rowing it into position via the upper back and lats helps elongate the pectoral fibers and opens the chest. It promotes optimal reciprocal inhibition during the concentric or lifting phase when those antagonists (upper back and lats) release and allow the agonists (chest, shoulders, and triceps) to contract. 

This slingshot type effect will teach you the mechanics necessary to produce the highest levels of power output, force, and torque during the press. This variation also helps to teach the optimal elbow positioning. Once you have a handle on the sensations of back muscle engagement during pressing, you will see a carryover into your bench press as well. 

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

Jackfruit Carnitas

1 tbsp olive oil or other oil of choice
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers or to taste, seeded and thinly sliced 
2-20 oz. cans green jackfruit in brine, rinsed, drained, and chopped; (Remove seeds and core pieces)
Carnitas spice blend (see recipe below)
juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp coconut aminos or tamari 
1 tsp liquid smoke
Juice half a lime 
For the carnitas spice blend:
1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tbsp paprika 
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno peppers and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Use a towel to pat excess liquid from the jackfruit, then add it to the pan and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or until the jackfruit has dried out somewhat.
Add about 2/3 of the spice blend to the pan. Stir and cook for 60 seconds or until fragrant. (Reserve remaining spice blend to season to taste at the end of cooking).
Add the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, coconut aminos, and liquid smoke. Stir to combine.
Simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is cooked off. Season to taste with additional salt, spice mix, and top with fresh lime juice. Serve hot.

Chaos Push-up Progression