Spinal Flow Five (SF5)
SF5 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 SF5 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 SF5 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 SF5, 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: SF5, is not my spine rehab exercise program per se. It’s my fitness program intended for after you have rehabilitated your spine with SFOne, or a combination of SFSkill and SFMetcon. That’s not to say SF6 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 SF5. SF5 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 SF5 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 SF5 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 65-70 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 SF5.
- 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 SF5 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 rules and use your judgement, which in time, should improve along with your strength, endurance, coordination, and willpower.