Chisel Balance

In Coaching, Fitness Programs, Reviews by Dale HillLeave a Comment

A total-body workout creating stabilization, muscular endurance, and core strength. 

Building a strong, sculpted body doesn’t require hours spent working out—just an expert approach. And with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, seasoned trainers Sagi Kalev and Autumn Calabrese have compiled their best, most efficient techniques into 30- to 40-minute resistance-training workouts to help you craft a powerful, perfectly defined physique in just 60 days.

Throughout the entire 60 days, you’ll focus on Stabilization, Strength, and Power to rapidly build, sculpt, and refine your physique. Combine this training with proven portion-control nutrition-the way Sagi and Autumn do in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel-and you’ll build a body that’s strong, chiseled, and defined.

As I  embark on my own 60-Day Journey with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, I will be reviewing each workout as they present themselves in the program calendar. I will add my own insights and observations about the workouts; the comments I make are my own as an Independent Certified Personal Trainer and do not necessarily represent the Celebrity Trainers or Beachbody. Full disclosure, I am also an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and a distributor of this program and all other Beachbody products. I hope the information I provide is beneficial in your personal fitness journey.

Chisel Balance732x1102When I say “balance” what do you think of?

If you’re like most people, you think about NOT falling over.

Balance when you’re standing still, both feet on the floor, is pretty easy to maintain (for most of us!) Balance while moving, dealing with outside forces or environmental factors can be a little more challenging.

By definition balance is simply when your body is stationary and you’re in a state of equilibrium (not moving in any direction). Dynamic balance is when you can move and change directions under a variety of circumstances … without falling over.

There are many things that can affect your ability to balance. Your muscles, joints and the signals sent by your central nervous system regarding your physical surroundings all work together to keep you upright. Balance training that teaches you to maintain control over your center of gravity is important to reduce your chance for injury and to build a stable platform for increasing your strength and power.

Balance-Stabilization exercises train you to find and maintain your balance. Balance-Strength exercises include full range of motion and are often performed in multiple planes of motion; this requires much control throughout the complete movement. Finally in Balance-Power movements you learn how to apply greater power while controlling both your acceleration and deceleration. Power movements are generally reactive or what is commonly called plyometric (they involve jumping of some sort).

This workout presumes that you have a basic level of Balance-Stabilization ability, for example maintaining a single-leg balance (Tree Pose in yoga), or single-leg balance with reach (Balance on one leg, move your lifted leg in front of you or behind you). The exercises listed below will help you develop strength and power.

The Single-Leg Squat Sit is a good start for round 1 and it consists of two sets, each set consists of 15 repetitions (reps) performed on the left leg followed by 15 reps on the right leg. Of the eight rounds in this workout, six of them follow this format. The movement is performed while balanced on one leg, holding a dumbbell close to your chest, lowering yourself to a seated position on your bench then returning to a standing position. I prefer to use kettlebells for this move instead of dumbbells, but you could realistically use anything that you can comfortably and securely hold in front of you. If you don’t have a bench, the modification is essentially a pistol squat and is more challenging that the seated version.

The Single-Leg Bridge Pullover is one of two exercises that only have one set comprised of 15 reps on one side followed by 15 reps on the other. In this movement you complete 15 reps with the right foot anchored as you bridge and perform the lat pullover, then switch legs and anchor with the left foot. While in the bridge position, the leg that is not anchored is outstretched and forms a straight line from heel through the hips to the shoulders. Focus on raising and lowering the weights using the lats as opposed to your triceps, keeping your arms straight will help keep the focus on the lats. Pay attention to the forces placed on your neck, your body weight should be distributed across your shoulders. Adding the single-leg bridge to this pullover forces you to engage your core. This one is a little more challenging than it appears.

The Single-Leg Squat Deadlift is another Balance-Strength exercise, a good progression from the single-leg squat sit because you’re increasing your range of motion (ROM).  With increased ROM you are also increasing the amount of control needed to maintain stability front-to-back (moving in the Sagittal plane) as well as maintaining lateral balance. Additionally, If you hold the move at the end points, both in the deadlift and in the squat, you get an isometric benefit as well.

Transitioning from legs to Core/Shoulders, the Up-Down move is a variation of a high-to-low plank; you will notice the cast member who doesn’t have a bench is doing the tradition high-to-low plank. This is a good break for your legs and your primary focus should be on maintaining the best plank form you can. The images below show the starting position on the bench and the full “down” position. The movement is right hand down, left hand down, right hand up, left hand up…rinse and repeat. Hands should remain under shoulders when on the ground; for body alignment, imagine a drawing a straight line from your ankles through your hips, shoulders and to your ears.

The Bulgarian Split Squat Jump is the only Balance-Power move you’ll be doing and is probably the most difficult exercise on this DVD; it also carries the biggest safety warning. Regular weighted Bulgarian Split Squats were always one of my least favorite moves in the Body Beast Build:Legs program because they are awkward and always pushed me to my anaerobic (lactate) threshold quickly – yeah, they had me “feeling the burn” so to speak. Naturally I was a little cautious when I saw this plyometric version.

It wasn’t as daunting as I had anticipated, but I did learn after trying a couple on my bench that it wasn’t nearly stable enough to be safe. I switched to using my Plyo Boxes as a more stable base. Unless your bench has a wide, stable base at both ends, exercise extreme caution using it for this move. Autumn cues the preparation for the move telling you to place the ball of your foot on the bench (not the top of your foot – notice her foot placement in the images below) this is critical, if you can’t comfortably set your foot properly, try a lower platform. I did my first round using a 12″ plyo box and will move to my 18″ plyo box for successive rounds.

If you have a history of knee problems (past or present) use good judgement when performing this move, your landing is just as important as loading the jump and the maximal height that you get. If possible, do not perform this move on a concrete floor. When you see the cast members performing this, they are working out on a cushioned gym floor. Personally I have 3/4″ Rubber Mats in my garage that serve as the flooring for my home gym.

Round 6 returns to the upper body and specifically your back as you perform a combination that includes a Plank, Leg Lift and Row all in one. The Renegade Row Leg Lift engages the upper body by pulling the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats or “bat wings” as some like to call them) the Rhomboids, Trapezius (Traps) and Posterior Deltoids into play. Performing this move as depicted below also engages the core via the supported plank position. The alternate Leg Lift (opposing the arm you’re performing the row with) forces you to maintain balance through the full range of motion. The leg lift has the additional benefit of working the Gluteus Maximus.

I really like this move because it dials things back to the Balance-Strength mode after the Bulgarian Split Squat Jump. Generally speaking, because you’re lifting with the larger muscles of the back, you may feel comfortable using heavier weight.

The One-Arm Press Bridge is another Balance-Strength combination that engages the upper body, specifically the Pectoralis Major (Pecs or your primary chest muscle), the Triceps and Anterior Deltoid (front of your shoulder) with the Press portion of the move while engaging the core for stabilization during the bridge. Raising the opposing leg while in the bridge also targets the glutes and the hamstrings. Again, since you are using the larger muscles of the chest, you may feel comfortable with a heavier weight. The important notes for this exercise are to 1) select a weight that you can safely control through the full range of motion and 2) ensure your shoulders are squarely on the bench to avoid stress on your neck.

This final round is going to test your balance, the Balance Row Pistol Squat is a Balance-Strength combination move that requires concentration and is best performed slowly. Coming at the end of the workout, this move may seem as challenging from a balance perspective as the Bulgarian Split Squat Jump was. The primary modification is to adjust the range of motion in the pistol squat, in addition to recording the weights you used and the reps you completed, be sure to note the depth of your squat – as you become more proficient (stronger) you will be able to lower deeper into the squat.

Once you’ve completed this round, be sure to hang out and complete the cool-down routine. Just as warm-ups are beneficial in preparing your body for exercise, the cool-downs provide the needed transition from heavy exertion back to a rested stated. Noted benefits include reducing your heart and breathing rates as well as cooling your body temperature.

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