Last week as my brother and I drove to his gym in San Diego, I noted that I would do bicep curls while on the treadmill, to which my brother asked “are you mocking me?”

Usually I go to the “functional” area for my warm-up and he goes right into the weight area for a chest and arms, or legs and back, or shoulders and ears workout. But this time, as I went to warm-up he said he would come stretch too. I tried really hard not to stop in my tracks from the shock. Great! We Vainos are not what you’d call a flexible bunch, which in my opinion means it is really important for us to do a proper warm-up.

I made sure to shorten my warm-up a bit. I had an opportunity here, and I did not want to mess it up with too long of a warm-up. So we kept it simple:

– 3D hamstring stretch (10 ea side)
– half-kneeling hip flexor stretch (hold for 8 deep breaths per side)
– toe on wall calf stretch (3 reps of 4 breath holds per side)
– sidelying rotation (same)
– lateral squat (5 ea)
– Reverse lunge with reach (5 ea)
– single leg Romanian deadlift (5 ea)

I really wished I had brought my cell phone for the photo potential. My bro has a fantastic expression on his face when he stretches, like he’s thinking “I hate this but its funny”. Now consider that he has been told by several people, including me, that he looks a bit like Sam the Eagle. Its the big scottish eyebrows. Maybe “grumpy stretcher” could be the next big internet sensation?

Photo credit: Peter E. Lee

By the time we finished warming up, I already felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
“So what are you working on today?” I asked.
“I thought I would do whatever you’re doing.” He said.
“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. Is this really happening? Ok, don’t blow it, just play it cool.” I said with my inside voice.
“Great. Let’s do some Romanian deadlifts (RDL) and rows, and maybe some split squats.” I said.
That wasn’t actually my plan. I was going to do accessory lifts for my deadlift program, but I was so thrilled at the opportunity to take my brother through a balanced movement-based workout that I was happy to change.

We started with RDLs. We went light because I wanted to see his form, and he hadn’t done any in a long time. I suggested we could superset it with something, but he pointed out we might lose the rack if we did. Fair enough. As we deadlifted, I mentally paired the rest of the exercises so that we could super or tri set them with the same or close equipment. Here’s what we did:
– RDL 4×6
– Split squat 3×8 (heavier DB on one side)
– One arm DB row 3×8
– Half-kneeling cable anti-rotation press 3x10ea
– Stir the pot 3x10ea
– Single arm cable press 3x8ea

When we did the split squats, I made a point to mention that these were especially good for him given how long he spends at a desk and on a bike, which he really seemed to buy into without hesitation.

Then we rolled. Foam rolling that is, not developmental patterns. Ordinarily I roll with my clients at the start of the workout, but I felt that for someone who doesn’t ever do a warm-up, that shorter was better. By the end of the workout, I was happy to see that he was ready to roll. Yes!

When we got back to his place, he told his wife that he had a great workout, and that he was all functional now. I told my bro that I would write the workout out for him if he wanted to do it again, and he said he really did. And as a note – if he didn’t, he would have said so, so yay!

To make this even better, I had shown my awesome sister-in-law a workout the previous day.

Yep, that was a great workout.


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  1. Dear Elsbeth: I loved reading this story; you’re a natural at drawing readers in with your anecdotes, and once they are there, they learn tons.

    I did have to look up ‘Superset’ and ‘Triset’ but that was half the fun.


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