Spinal Flow Yoga FORCE-5 (F5)

  • First time?
  • Day-1
  • Day-2
  • Day-3
First time?

F5 is designed to increase total body strength, endurance, build muscle, burn fat, increase resting metabolic rate, improve mood, and make you look as good as you feel, all at the same time. And since it’s Spinal Flow, it helps stabilize your spine, minimally stressing vertebral discs and ligaments while maximally stressing and strengthening surrounding supporting musculature. It’s also my personal workout, because with it I get, phenomenal results in five or less minutes per day. Literally, in the time it takes most to get dressed to go to the gym, I’m done. It’s because F5 is so good I’m committed to doing it, and because I’m committed to doing it, I’m continuing to ensure it’s the best workout possible. It perfectly fits my modus operandi of continual improvement and mutually aligning interests.

For the complete answer as to why F5 is the way it is, what thoughts, experience, and serendipity went into its development, and what to expect click here. However, if are sure you are ready to start F5, here’s the condensed version of what you need to know, and even still it will take longer to read than to do.

Caveat one: F5, is not my spine rehab exercise program per se. It’s my fitness program intended for after you have rehabilitated your spine with SFOne. That’s not to say F5 won’t work for Spine Rehab, it’s a partial answer accomplishing most of what SFMetcon does, but ideally you will want to have first mastered all of the SFOne/SFSkill exercises first, which explicitly teach good spine posture and coordination before beginning F5. F5 being more to keep all that going after you have learned it, while at the same time building exceptional fitness.

Caveat two: Besides spine pain there’s another safety concern. If you start any new exercise “as hard as you can” and you aren’t otherwise very fit, you are likely to get very injured. Not only does it take time for muscles to get stronger, but also time for the bones, ligaments and tendons to withstand the rigours of intense exercise, the latter of which tend to give less warning when they are at their limit. The workaround for this apparent contradiction is that even though I say you want to give F5 your all, unless you are already very fit, you don’t want to give your all, all at first. Rather you want to work up to it over a number of weeks (perhaps 4-8 weeks). So start easy, maybe 60-70% of what you think is your best, leaving yourself easy room to improve. If you feel you are advancing too quickly or slowly, use your best judgement slow down or speed up. Knowing the user rules, combined with listening to your body should help in making wise decisions on when to back off or push forward.

Unlike my other flows F5 is what’s known in bodybuilding as a three-day-split routine, in which you train roughly a third of the body each day, training the entire body over three days, and training each body part approximately twice per week. This allows for extremely short sessions that, though physically tough, are mentally easier. It also avoids overtraining by allowing long breaks before repeating the same exercise. However because it’s daily it quickly establishes the real habit of exercise. Once you build that momentum, it’s like brushing your teeth, not exactly fun but you won’t want to miss. Because you’re regularly repeating the same exercises, you’ll always know what to expect your rate of progress. To maintain the habit, and to ensure progress on such a brief routine, there are no rest days. You’ll be working through Days-1, 2 and 3, and after completing Day-3, start the following day with Day-1, this time trying to do a little more and/or better. The rows below are divided into days and exercises per day, while the columns represent difficulty levels. The three difficulty levels are as follows:

  • Level 1 (L1) = beginner
  • Level 2 (L2) = intermediate 
  • Level 3 (L3) = advanced

Choose ONE difficulty level per exercise and do just ONE SET of each day’s 2-3 exercises and that’s it. That’s not asking a lot. What I do ask is that for the first 10 weeks, that you commit to not missing any workouts. Why 10 weeks? Read more. If in doubt start on an easier level as you can always move up the next time. Ideally you’ll want a difficulty level that lets you get within the range of suggested repetitions in the allotted time (generally 2-4 minutes). The low number of reps given is the minimum you want to be able to do (usually 25) for that level. If you can’t get at least 25 reps, it’s probable that moving down a level will be safer and in the long run more effective. If 25 reps on L1 is too difficult, then you are probably better off with the other Spinal Flows, which allow more rest, several sets but as 5 repetitions. The high number of reps given is the maximum recommended reps before moving up to the next higher level. If you can max out L3 you are good, perhaps work on making your reps cleaner, resting less between exercises or just maintain and enjoy the fact that life is that much easier. If that’s not enough it’s probably time to join a gym, just remember all your neutral spine lessons if you do so. I made L3 something people would really have to reach for to max and so far nobody his maxed out all of L3, to include myself.

Again, start easier than you think and especially DON’T start L3 Lunges without being able to consistently do 70 L2 lunges in 2 minutes first. If you attempt L3 Lunges (or any of the other L3 exercises) too early and you get hurt, it’s your fault because I warned you.

Move up levels on each exercise independently. You might be L1 on some exercises, L2 on others, L3 on still others. I’m L3 on all but SideOuts, which because of a prior shoulder injury I stay at L1. If you are doing the same reps on the same levels of each exercise it’s either an extraordinary coincidence, or you are not optimally working F5.

You’ll want a clock, stopwatch or timer that lets you know when the time’s up. You are allowed to rest and restart within the time period, but not to exceed the time period. For example, if you did 20 reps of Lunges in 1 minute, you could rest 30 seconds and still have another 30 seconds left to try and complete a few more repetitions before your 2 minutes are up, thus all reps would count. On the contrary if you did 50 Lunges without rest in 2 minutes and you want to keep going and get 70, none of the reps after 2 minutes count. Rather, stop at 2 minutes and try and beat that number by going a little faster the next time. I want you to keep F5 short. By keeping it short, you are more likely to keep doing it, trust me. Remember, or preferably write down, your number, your personal record (PR) and if everything feels healthy try and beat it the next time three days later.

By the tenth week you should have gradually worked to where you are training as hard as you can, trying for new PRs on every exercise, everyday. Two habits should be well ingrained, exercising every day, and giving it your all. Your goal now should be to keep your habit up, and continue to set new PRs, increasing exercise levels when you have maxed out your current one. By setting new PRs you’ll know you are getting better, and that’s awesome for continued motivation. Of course nobody sets records everyday forever. After some time the rubber will hit the road and the rate you set records will slow. Don’t let that discourage you, know that bad days are normal and that your future bad days are almost certain to be day and night better than you best days used to be. Know that if you keep trying your hardest and you keep up the habit, you’ll keep getting better for a long long time, literally years. I expect my own peak will be sometime when I’m in my 5th decade, at which point my plan will be to use the same program to maintain for as long as possible, keeping my body a healthy vessel for my spirit for decades to come.

With the time you save on physical exercise I suggest meditation, focusing on the breath, in savasana. Done properly this will strengthen your mind while it helps with spine posture. Focused attention meditation is truer to Patanjali’s yoga sutras than any exercise, and certainly more so than any stretch.

As with any yoga sequence it’s your practice, use your instincts, push but push appropriately, not too hard or too fast, but not too slow either. Any exercise though perhaps good for most people in general might not be good for you right now in particular. If you get hurt, you did it. Know the user rules and use your judgement, which in time, should improve along with your strength, endurance, coordination, and willpower.

Day-1

Lunges

Level-1

Goal: 25-70 reps in 2 min

Level-2

Goal: 25-70 reps in 2 min

Level-3

Goal 25-180 reps in 2 min

Calves

Level-1

Goal: 25-50 reps in 1 min total



Level-2

Goal: 25-50 reps ea in 2 min total

Level-3

Goal: 25-60 reps ea in 2 min total



Bonus (Optional) Exercise: Curls OR Pullups

Dumbbell Curls (Level 1)

15-50 reps in 1 min

The way that worked best for me was to pick a weight I could do at least 15 times, then over time work up the reps until I could get as many as 45 or 50 reps inside a minute. At which point I would increase the weight and again work up the reps, wash, rinse, repeat.

Partial Pullups (Level 2)

Goal: 30 reps in 1 min

I thought these were good, when I did them, but reviewing the video, not so much. Having watched many others doing Pullups, who hadn't videoed themselves I see most of us shorten our range of motion more than we think. Still it's a good exercise , but being substantially easier, anything less than full straightening of the elbows has been demoted to L2.

Full Pullups (Level 3)

Goal: 30 reps in 1 min

I think I get 22 reps here, down from 30 reps of "almost" full range.


Being pickier now, my next vids will be to 0 degrees elbow extension, not the 5-10 degrees I describe in the video.


Curls and Pullups are optional because they violate my rule of making Spinal Flow Yoga in such a way that it does not require any exercise equipment beyond a yoga mat. Arguably you can do Pullups from a tree branch which isn't exactly "equipment" so interpret that as you will.

F5 being the sequence I do myself, the only muscle I felt that I could not work as hard as I wanted on a yoga mat was biceps. Biceps being a small but admittedly showy muscle that have little to do with overall fitness, and not much at all to do with spine pain, so I consider them optional, unless you want really strong arms. Pullups work the biceps almost as well as the curls and bring in lats and shoulders as well, so are a better all around exercise if you can do them.

If you skip both then Day-3 is just a four minute day. Likewise with ChinUps skipped on Day-2. There's definite overlap in what Pullups and ChinUps work, so (owing to increased recovery), one might choose just alternate between ChinUps and Pullups on one rather than both days 2 and 3. However, when I tested this, my arms shrank 1/8" so I'm back to doing them both days. My thoughts currently are that each of these being a 1 minute set, as opposed to 2 minutes for Lunges or Pushups, allows them to benefit from the additional day's work.


Interestingly, because I have a history of three shoulder surgeries, resulting from a dirt bike crash in 1998, I hadn't (for 20 years) been able to do either ChinUps or Pullups. However, with the combination of FloRos and Curls, I stabilized my shoulder to the point I can do both now with zero pain during or afterwards. My theory is that Spinal Flow exercises, being both higher reps while at the same time limited to one set of one or two minutes every third day, maximizes muscle gains but at the same time minimizes joint trauma. Which in my case has allowed me to add back exercises I knew were good, but that my personal injury history hitherto wasn't allowing me to do. Pretty cool!

Day-2

LoBrids

Level-1

Goal: 25-50 reps ea in 2 min total

Level-2

Goal: 25-50 reps ea in 2 min total

Level-3

Goal: 25-50 reps ea in 2 min total

NeBrids

Level-1

Goal: 20 reps x 5 sec hold

Level-2

Goal: 25-50 reps in 1 min

Level-3

Goal: 25-50 reps in 1 min

SideOuts

Level-1

Goal: 10-50 reps ea x in 2 min total

Level-2

Goal: 25-50 reps ea in 2 min total

Level-3

Goal: 25-50 reps ea in 2 min total

Day-3

Pushups

Level-1

Goal: 25-50 reps in 2 min

Level-2

Goal: 25-50 reps in 2 min

Level-3

Goal 25-75 reps in 2 min

FloRos

Level-1

Goal: 20 reps x 5 sec hold

Level-2

Goal: 25-100 reps ea in 2 min total

Level-3

Goal: 25-120 reps ea in 2 min total

Bonus (Optional) Exercise: Curls Or ChinUps

Dumbbell Curls (Level 1)

15-50 reps in 1 min

The way that worked best for me was to pick a weight I could do at least 15 times, then over time work up the reps until I could get as many as 45 or 50 reps inside a minute. At which point I would increase the weight and again work up the reps, wash, rinse, repeat.

ChinUps (Level 2-3)

Goal: 30 reps in 1 min

Chinups are hard, so unless you know you can do them, getting bodyweight close to ideal, while you build up strength with FloRos and DB Curls first helps tremendously.


I'm liking the Chinups better than the curls now that I know my shoulder (mentioned below) can handle them. Chinups are more of a compound movement, developing lats and shoulders as well as biceps. Also as an advocate for Spinal Flow Yoga, it's now a lot simpler to say, "I don't lift weights at all" instead of saying, "I hardly lift weights at all."


As mentioned with Pullups most people cheat their range of motion (and self video reveals I cheat my range of motion) such that only full extension of the elbows is considered L3, anything part way down is L2. L2 is still a good exercise, just not as good as L3.


Neither Curls nor Chinups are "officially" part of Spinal Flow only because they violate my rule of making Spinal Flow Yoga in such a way that it does not require any exercise equipment beyond a yoga mat. Arguably you can do Chinups from a tree branch which isn't exactly "equipment" so interpret that as you will.

F5 being the sequence I do myself, the only muscle I felt that I could not work as hard as I wanted on a yoga mat was biceps. Biceps being a small but showy muscle that have little to do with overall fitness, and not much at all to do with spine pain, so I consider them optional, unless you want really strong arms. Chinups work the biceps at least as well as the curls and bring in lats and shoulders as well, so are a better all around exercise if you can do them.

If you skip both then Day-2 is just a four minute day. Likewise with Pullups skipped on Day-1. There's definite overlap in what Pullups and Chinups work, so it would likely be just as effective, and maybe more so (owing to increased recovery), to just alternate between Chinups and Pullups on one rather than both days. However, when I tested this my arm circumference decreased 1/8", so I do them both days, with the theory being that one set for one minute on two consecutive days does not lead to overtraining.

Interestingly, because I have a history of three shoulder surgeries on the same side I hadn't (for 20 years) been able to do either Chinups or Pullups. However, with the combination of FloRos and Curls, I stabilized my shoulder to the point I can do both now with zero pain during or afterwards. My complementary theory is that Spinal Flow exercises all being higher reps but limited to one set of one or two minutes every third day, maximizes muscle gains but at the same time minimizes joint trauma. Which in my case has allowed me to add back exercises I knew were good, but that my personal injury history hitherto wasn't allowing me to do. Pretty cool!