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Try something new this January

Try something new

That’s it, the holidays are over, it’s time to get fit! Now the whole fitness industry is tired of the whole new year new you talk. However, here at Human Kinetics, we are here to inspire you, challenge you and teach you new things. So starting from the 2nd January (we will give you New Years Day off) we are going to give you a different challenge or a different sport to try.

Let us know how you get on, comment in the box below.

2nd January

As we reported in ‘The very best of 2017 for Human Kinetics Europe‘ our best-selling book of 2017 was Aurélien Broussal-Derval’s The Modern Art of High Intensity Training. Therefore it is only right the first exercise should come from this book.

Table for 12

No, don’t worry your family aren’t coming round for Christmas dinner again, this is even more tiring than that! It is a bodyweight conditioning killer, but it will sure help you burn off some of those extra calories.

Equipment – A bar for pull-ups.

12 rounds

12 push-ups (for the scaled version push-ups may be done on your knees)

12 complete burpees

12 pull-ups (for the scaled version a band may be used to assist if needed)

So in total, you will have done 144 push-ups, 144 burpees and 144 pull-ups

Record your total time and tell us how you got on.

If you are unsure about any of the techniques or correct form you can buy The Modern Art of High Intensity Training now.

3rd January

Working out is a great way to get fit but you must, of course, think about nutrition. Eaten too many mince pies and sugar lased treats over the holiday season? We have the smoothie for you. Taken from Heather Mangieri’s Fueling Young AthletesBut of course, this recipe is great for people of all ages.

Green Smoothie

Grab yourself:

  • 1/2 cup fresh green grapes
  • 1/3 cup Greek nonfat yoghurt
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 apple
  • 1/3 cup of fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1 tbsp (15 g) hemp seeds.

Put all the ingredients in a blender, throw a bit of ice and/or water in too if you like to make it a little thinner.

Check out the video of how to make this delicious smoothie. Buy Fueling Young Athletes now for many more recipes and learn more about the nutritional needs of young athletes and active children.

4th January

Get in the pool and try the Mermaid Dolphin Kick. It’s a great full body workout and you’ll have lots of fun learning this. It is basically a regression for the butterfly stroke but it will help you feel the complete body action of the butterfly. Nail this then try bringing the arms into play. This is taken from our new book titled The Swimming Drill Book 2nd Edition.

Mermaid Dolphin Kick


  • Put on fins (if your local pool allows). Imagine yourself as a mermaid or merman in the sea.
  • Take a deep breath. Push off the wall on your front under the water. Keep your hands down by your side and look down at the bottom of the pool.
  • Push downward with your forehead to start the whiplike up and down action of the kick (a). Keep the head angle changing but primarily look down (b, c).
try something new


try something new


try something new


Focus Points

  • Do the surface dive slowly. feel your body slide into the deeper water.
  • Keep your head moving
  • Look down at the black line on the bottom of the pool. If you look forward your hips will not create enough power for a strong kick.


  • Have someone watch you under the water to verify you are not looking forward
  • Use a monofin to help you get the body action of the kick.

5th January

Assess your functional upper body strength. Michael Boyle states in his book New Functional Training for Sports that he has found three simple tests to be the most accurate and effective in the assessment of functional upper body strength. These are; the maximum number of chin-ups, the maximum number of suspension inverted rows and the maximum number of push-ups.




Correct chin-up (palms toward the face) and pull-up (palms away from face) technique is essential for accurate assessment. Elbows must be extended after each rep is completed and the shoulder blades must abduct to produce visible movement (as shown in the image to the right). Don’t count any reps not done to full extension or any reps in which the chin does not get above the bar.

Kipping (using momentum to move the body) is not allowed. Most athletes who claim they can do large numbers of pull-ups or chin-ups actually perform half or three-quarter reps.

Athletes who cannot do a chin-up are not functionally strong and may be more likely to be injured, particularly in the shoulder. Most athletes will take up to one year to achieve even the high school level if they have not regularly performed chin-ups.

In order to improve at chin-ups, an athlete cannot follow a programme of pull-down exercises. Instead, exercises such as assisted chin-ups and or chin-ups with an eccentric emphasis (10- to 20-second lowerings from the bar) must be done.

6th January


Try something newDo a parkrun. There are now 491 parkruns available in the UK and many throughout Europe (in Ireland, Germany, Poland, France, Italy, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Russia and Sweden). In fact, parkrun is now truly global with events in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. You’ll get all the motivation you need from the excellent volunteers. If you are new to parkrun have a read of What is Parkrun?

7th January

Do some yoga. Many athletes swear by yoga, Ryan Giggs was a huge advocate of it. The All Blacks (New Zealand Rugby) have a yoga instructor on their books that help these big units relax and become more flexible. Talking of big units, the 7’1, 150kg basketball centre Shaquille O’Neal even took up yoga towards the end of his career to try and prolong his stay at the top, maybe yoga is the secret as to why he could still play regularly for the Boston Celtics when he was 39 years old.

Yoga exercises

Here are some yoga exercises for you to try. Taken from the yoga book, Yoga for Athletes author Ryanne Cunningham has worked with many athletes from a variety of sports. Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb is a huge fan of Ryanne and states that Ryanne has helped with his recovery after games.

Try something new Yoga

Revolved bound forward fold. Excellent for swimmers, stretching the hamstrings and back.

Try something new Yoga

High lunge pose

8th January

Start Monday right with some heavy lifts.


Work your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps with a deep back squat.

Starting Position

  • Position the rack so that the bar is approximately at shoulder height.
  • Step under the bar to place it on the upper portion of the back and shoulders. The bar should not rest on your vertebrae.
  • Grip the bar at a comfortable position, about a thumb’s length from the knurling (the rough part of the bar) or slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Lift the bar off the rack by extending the hips and knees, then step back, placing the feet about shoulder-width apart and the toes pointed slightly outward. Keep the bar parallel to the floor and the head in a forward facing, neutral position.


  • Keeping the feet flat on the floor and weight distributed toward the heels, initiate a backward movement with the hips. Squat
  • Allow the body to descend by bending at the hips and knees, keeping the knees in a path that aligns with the toes.
  • As the body descends, maintain an upright torso and a neutral spine.
  • Descend until the tops of the thighs are parallel to the floor or until thigh−calf contact (if performing a deep squat).
  • Return to the starting position using the same path used for the downward movement.


  • Squat only as deep as you can maintain proper form.
  • Avoid excessive forward lean of the torso.
  • Call for a spotter, if you require assistance.


Test yourself, squat your bodyweight and see how many reps you can do. So if you are 80kg, add 60kg to a 20kg Olympic bar and see how many reps you can do.

9th January

Test your upper body power.

The majority of tests and training protocols emphasise lower extremity muscular power. However, upper extremity power production and performance are also exceedingly important for most sports and activities.

Taken from NSCA’s Guide to Tests and Assessments we are going to take you through the ‘Medicine Ball Put’.

Medicine Ball Put

The widespread popularity of this test is due not only to the ease of administration, but also to the direct specificity of this movement to a functional task such as the chest pass in basketball, or even the rapid punching of combat athletes. Moreover, because this exercise is commonly used in training, test data may easily be extrapolated to training prescription. It is also quick and easy!


  • 45° incline bench
  • High-durability medicine ball: 6 kilograms (13.2 lb) for females, 9 kilograms (19.8 lb) for males.
  • Chalk (i.e., Gymnastics chalk carbonate of magnesium).
  • Measuring tape.
  • Room or gymnasium with at least 8 metres (26 feet) of clearance.


1. The measuring tape is placed on the floor with the end positioned under the front frame of the bench, to anchor it.

2. The tip of the tape should be positioned so it is aligned with the outside of the medicine ball while it rests on the subject’s chest (i.e., in the ready position, prior to putting the ball) (Clemons, Campbell, and Jeansonne 2010; see figure 9.6).

3. The tape should be extended outward from the bench for at least 8 metres (26 feet) and secured to the floor.

4. Warm-up: After initial familiarisation with the bench orientation and ‘putting’ procedure, you should perform five minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, followed by several dynamic range of motion exercises for the shoulder and elbow joint (e.g., modified or regular push-ups or hand walk-outs). Have a few practice goes with the appropriate medicine ball.

5. For the test, get seated comfortably on the incline bench with feet flat on the floor and the medicine ball against the chest.

6. Grasp the medicine ball with both hands, one on each side.

7. Without any additional bodily movement (e.g., trunk or neck flexion, arm countermovement), propel (put) the medicine ball at an optimal trajectory of 45°, for maximal horizontal distance.

8. Every attempt should be made to propel the ball in a straight line.

9. Three to five attempts are permitted, with a minimum of two minutes of rest between attempts.

Outcome Measures

Each test attempt should be measured by the closest chalk mark (i.e., in the direction of the bench) and recorded to the nearest centimetre or inch.


This test has been used extensively with various loading parameters and across populations. Further, many studies have reported the use of upright benches (i.e., seated upright at 90°) instead of 45° incline benches. To maintain test quality, use the same protocol each time.

10th January

Have a rest day, but on your rest day why not take a look at your intake of fruits and vegetables. Despite the catchy rhyme it takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away. Adults in Great Britain average less than four servings of fruit and vegetables a day, the recommended level is 5 a day in the UK. In some countries, the expectation is even higher. The Danes must aim for six, the French 10, and the Japanese government recommends up to 13 portions of vegetables plus four of fruit daily, an incredible 17 portions a day in total.

Check your fruit and vegetables

Take this test below, taken from Healthy Eating Every Day 2nd Edition. Find out if you are getting enough fruit and vegetables it might change the way you think about fruit and vegetables going forward.

How often do you…

Eat at least 1 medium to large piece of citrus (orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime) fruit per day?

0 points                        1 point                        3 points                        5 points
Rarely or never             1-3 times                    4-5 times                      6-7 times
per week                     per week                      per week                       per week

Eat at least 1 portion (approx 170 g) of dark green, deep orange, yellow or red fruits or vegetables per day?

0 points                        1 point                        3 points                        5 points
Rarely or never             1-3 times                    4-5 times                      6-7 times
per week                     per week                      per week                       per week

Choose fruits or vegetables as a snack instead of choosing a typical snack food such as sweets, cookies, chocolate, crisps etc?

0 points                        1 point                        3 points                        5 points
Rarely or never             1-3 times                    4-5 times                      6-7 times
per week                     per week                      per week                       per week

Eat fruit or vegetable at each meal?

0 points                        1 point                        3 points                        5 points
Rarely or never             1-3 times                    4-5 times                      6-7 times
per week                     per week                      per week                       per week

Try a new way to prepare, eat or order fruits and vegetables?

0 points                        1 point                        3 points                        5 points
Rarely or never             1-3 times                    4-5 times                      6-7 times
per week                     per week                      per week                       per week

Select fruits or vegetables as a side when eating out?

0 points                        1 point                        3 points                        5 points
Rarely or never             1-3 times                    4-5 times                      6-7 times
per week                     per week                      per week                       per week

Total score –

What your score means

30-26 – Excellent! You’re making healthy choices. Don’t stop, keep going, can you manage 17 portions a day like the Japanese?

25-18 – You’re on the right track, but could do better. Turn those 3’s into 5’s and those 1’s into 3’s.

17-9 – Congratulate yourself for making some healthy food choices. But to get the full benefit of healthy eating you may need to eat a few more portions of fruit and veg.

Under 9 – You need to eat more fruit and vegetables! Get creative and start to enjoy a better diet.

11th January

Jump higher, sprint faster and improve reactive speed with shock plyometrics.

Shock Plyometics

Plyometrics is defined as a form of exercise that involves rapid and repeated stretching and contracting of the muscles, designed to increase strength.

Shock plyometrics such as depth jumps and drop jumps are physically very demanding.

Try the depth jump, this is performed when an athlete drops from a height, usually off a box, lands briefly absorbing the shock and then immediately jumps as high as possible. The landing period (or amortisation phase) is short, usually less than 0.2 seconds.

If performed correctly shock plyometrics can be a very functional exercise, benefitting athletes in track and field, basketball, football, volleyball, tennis and any other sport that requires sprinting or jumping.

For shock progressions and much more information on plyometrics and depth jumps and drop jumps check out Athletic Movement Skills or Plyometric Anatomy.

12th January

Over the years Suspension Training® has grown in popularity. Spawned from traditional gymnastic training, suspension training takes advantage of the physical laws of nature to improve physical fitness.

TRX® Workout – Iso Squat

Get to grips with the TRX with the iso squat, this is a beginner exercise, which anybody can benefit from. Try it out, find out more here.

13th January

It’s Saturday again! Why not grab some buddies and head down to your local sports centre or leisure centre and challenge them to a game of badminton.

Get a head start over your mates by reading Badminton Steps to Success 2nd Edition.

The book has 11 steps to help you become the complete player, these are:

  • Racquet Handling and Footwork
  • Serve
  • Forehand and Backhand Overhead
  • Clear
  • Drop Shot
  • Smash
  • Drive
  • Advanced Techniques
  • Tactics and Strategies
  • Doubles
  • Conditioning

Those shock plyometrics you did on the 11th should help you with your jumping power.

14th January

Many people start working out in January with good intentions. But how many people drop off before spring has even sprung?

Train like a Spartan

While you are motivated, sign up for an obstacle race such as Tough Mudder or Spartan and this will help you stay motivated. Most of these events take place between April and September, sign up now and start training. Here are a few workout plans to prepare you for it, taken from The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training.

Steep Hill Repeats

Steep hill sprints are about building power and explosiveness, particularly strength in your posterior chain (hamstrings, calves and glutes), as well as your quads. So for this workout, find a truly challenging hill. It doesn’t need to be long; 40 to 100 metres should suffice. Your goal is to run literally as fast as you possibly can to the top of the hill. Walk down for a recovery. Recovery should last about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. If completing the workout on a treadmill, you can pause and dismount, or just walk for recovery. Because these sprints are about exclusively raw strength speed and explosiveness, look for a hill that ranges from 10 to 20+ percent incline. This high-intensity exercise will help your speed and acceleration and make you more explosive.

Short: 6 to 8 repeats

Intermediate: 10 to 15 repeats

Long: 16 to 20+ repeats

Foundation Pull-Up and Burpee Workout

Work on your strength and conditioning with this workout. It is an incredibly challenging routine that will test your lungs in addition to your upper-body and grip strength. You will follow a sequence of descending rep counts of pull-ups paired with ascending rep counts of burpees. There is no rest and the goal is to complete the routine as quickly as possible. Mark your time and aim to beat it the next time you attempt the workout. Chapter 6 in The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training contains instructions on performing the following exercises. The workout is as follows:

10 pull-ups and 1 burpee

9 pull-ups and 2 burpees

8 pull-ups and 3 burpees

The sequence ends when you complete 1 pull-up and 10 burpees.

Note: If you can’t do pull-ups, suspension device rows are an appropriate substitute.

Heavy carry repeats

This workout is exclusively power, strength and endurance. Again, you can choose the item and weight you carry. You can opt for going up and down hills repeatedly or just around a loop, but the hills will develop true power. This workout does have a massive element of endurance to it, so bear that in mind. If you want to focus more on power, opt for steep hills and heavier weight. Try some complex terrain (sand, mud, holes, gravel, etc.) once you’ve mastered your carries to really challenge your stability, strength, and coordination. Try for carries of 1 to 4 minutes at a time with recoveries of 1 to 2 minutes.

Short: 4 rounds

Intermediate: 6 or 7 rounds

Long: 8 to 10 rounds

SpiderMan climbers and Push-Up tabatta

There are a few tabatta workouts recommended in The Essentials of Obstacle Race Training. The goal of this exercise is to engage the hips and obliques to improve your crawling abilities while also boosting strength and building endurance. Start with Spiderman climbers and build to Spiderman push-ups as your strength improves. This will help you on the long crawling obstacles.

Short: 1 Tabata

Intermediate: 2 or 3 full Tabatas

Long: 4 to 6 full Tabatas

Note: You can substitute additional exercises for the Tabatas, such as squat jumps, suspension device exercises and kettlebell swings but the Spiderman climbers and Spiderman push-ups are ideal for preparing for the crawling obstacles you will encounter in your race.


That’s the first two weeks of January complete, now let’s see how you get on for the rest of the year. We wish you luck and hope to provide you with all the motivation and education you require throughout 2018.

This entry was posted in: Fitness & Health


Hi, I'm Ryan, the Marketing Manager and chief blogger here at Human Kinetics Europe Ltd. As somewhat of a washed-up athlete I've always had a passion for health, fitness and sport science. I now find myself working at the world’s biggest independent publisher of sport, health, dance and fitness resources. This means I get unrestricted access to all the best, most interesting, scientifically-proven writing on sports science. Of course I'm going to share this with you!

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