Tag Archives: Weight training

Priorities: Putting Your Health First

Sometimes it feels as though we live in a sad world. A world where money and material wealth comes first. A world where personal relations get shoved aside. A world where should-be-top-priorities such as health gets ignored in the dust. Working as a personal trainer, this last one can bother me the most. Here’s why:

People whine and complain about prices of the gym, personal training, or exercise equipment. They complain that the money could be elsewhere spent and that the time working out could be used doing something else more important. I’m certainly not saying that you need a gym or personal training to be healthy (although it does help), but instead towards the overall sentiment about the importance of getting into shape and maintaining your fitness.

My trainer shirt ... and Sajah

My trainer shirt … and Sajah

So let’s say you suggest you could be doing something else with your time rather than exercising. Alrighty, let’s look at the building blocks of life. Health…hmmm…if you take away health, it is seeming to my eyes that everything falls apart with it. Take away health, and what do you have? Seriously. Sit on that question. Don’t just brush it off, I want you to think about it. Think about all the other bills or activities you pay for and balance it with the necessity of life: being healthy. If you aren’t healthy, you aren’t going to live the quality life you could.

And then we meddle over to the topic of money. It’s often the biggest excuse I hear. Not enough money for a gym membership? Hmmm, okay, let’s examine that. I want you to take a look at all your entertainment bills–television, cable, internet, etc. I am confounded to think that television (which is equal or more to gym membership cost per month) could weasel its way to be more important than the building block of life–HEALTH. Re-examine what you spend your money on. It could be that you know (deep down), the only way you will get into a continual exercise routine is if you subscribe to a gym. Step up, cancel unneeded entertainment services, put your health first, and sign up.

Health

Health (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

Now, say you’re borderline obese or diabetic, and have a strong dislike for working out. In fact, the only way you workout is if you are held accountable by someone else. Or, say you’re a person open to working out and exercising, but unsure about how to start. In both situations, a personal trainer would be dandy. I have one client who will not exercise unless she knows she’s coming to see me. She knows I’m waiting for her and despite how tough the workouts may be, she shows up each day. And she has gone from borderline obese down to overweight.

Often you find, “Personal training? There’s no way I could afford that.” Don’t be so quick to write it off. Many gyms have discount deals and some even have scholarship forms you can fill out to get a discount. They want you to sign up, so give them the chance to make it easier for you. Let’s take a look at the other side of the situation. Why do you think you can’t afford that? Perhaps because you spend your money on other things. I find so often, it is–ironically–that people go out to eat too much, causing them to be more unhealthy, racking up the restaurant bills and stopping them from hiring a personal trainer to change their life. Because that is what normally happens.

Personal Training Overlooking Melbourne Catego...

Personal Training Overlooking Melbourne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may sound like a lecture, but it is a plea. A plea for you and/or your loved ones to realize the importance of health and make it a priority over other things like entertainment or dining. So look at your account book and balance the budget to fit getting healthy and active in this year.

How to Get Thor-Like (or Wonder Woman-like) Legs without Machines

Sometimes in life, you don’t have all of the resources you would like. When it comes to fitness and gyms, you may not have all the equipment you would like (or think you may need). This is actually something we’ve stumbled upon as the Boulder Rock Gym doesn’t have many (or any) machines, not counting cables. It is very tough to do a leg workout without machines because it’s difficult to isolate and work each muscle of the leg. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and honey, we’ve got it!

All you really need is 30 minutes to 1 hour. Not bad! As you might have read in our last postwe’re not in the shape we’re used to, so this was a relatively light workout for our standards, but nonetheless, a good leg workout (without machines). Let’s get started.

1. Start with a warm up. Since this is a workout “without machines,” ignore what we did (biked), and go for a run or use a real bike. Try for 15-20 minutes of moderate intensity cardio.

2. Strength time. Get some weights, a barbell, whatever you have. You can always be flexible and substitute for what you don’t have. It’d be great to pull out a jump rope too.

Start with squats. This can be with dumbbells, barbell, or just with your body. I wanna see 10-15 reps, 3 sets. 

Chris performing proper exhalation. VERY IMPORTANT

3. We did a superset (meaning performing a squat and then, with no rest, another exercise), matching squats with jumping rope for however long the other did squats.

4. After that, we did (explosive) step-ups with weights. Get something you can step up onto, at least a foot high. You could use a bench, a chair, whatever. I used our couch the other day (oops). So basically, step onto the platform, weight in hand, and raise your other knee as you do so. Let’s go for 8-15 reps, 3 sets, reps depending on what amount of weights you use.

5. And, for a superset, we did box jumps. You can see the “box” in the left part of the picture above. Basically, do as many jumps over that as you can while the other person finishes their step ups.

6. By this point, we’re feeling pretty tired because most of our exercises have been high-intensity cardio. We move onto plie squats, which I covered here. Turn your feet out with wide horse stance, squat, turn left lunge, then turn right lunge. That’s one rep. Again, look at the other post for more details. Try to get 8-10 reps, 3 sets. 

7. Finally, we end with deadlifts. This is basically a squat, but you start at the bottom position. Keep your back straight and form pristine. 8-12 reps, 3 sets. 

And there you have it. Afterwards, we were pretty exhausted, but we did bouldering for 25 minutes anyways, making our forearms scream. You just need to push yourself to your potential, you can make something great out of any workout. And you didn’t need any machines for this great leg workout! Remember, this workout does not take long. Again, let us know if you have ANY questions, we would really love to help out.

Cheers!

How We Are Going to Get Back in Shape (and you can too)!

So after figuring out our job situation, for the most part, we finally decided that it was financially reasonable and responsible to sign up for a gym membership. Ideally, as a personal trainer and a swim instructor, it’s a common perk of the job to (depending on where you work) get a free membership. As I work at a small scuba diving and swimming school, there is no fitness facility other than the pool, unlike the YMCA that I worked at before moving. Alana has a free membership to the YMCA that she works at but as it is over fifteen miles from home, it’s not worth me getting a membership, so she has that. As I look for another job for some extra hours on the extended weekends, it would be great to find a place with a lap pool where I can start some swim workouts, but until then it’s going to have to wait.

Looking around Boulder of all places, and trying to maintain a budget, we passed up on what seemed the logical choice in 24 Hour Fitness and joined the Boulder Rock Club. 24 Hour Fitness is not the kind of gym that I like to work out at because I am against that chain-feeling in general. At this location, I really got that feeling and, unless I am travelling and need a week pass to a place with everything, I don’t feel any sense of attachment to a place like that where it seems members are more so a person that is counted as they walk through the door. Again, since we’re in Boulder, we wanted to start climbing, but we also wanted a location with a general gym feeling… a locker room, a fitness center, weights, machines, etc. At a reasonable monthly rate for all these services, we took a chance with the BRC. Obviously I sacrificed a pool for the time being seeing as I am still very much so in a second job hunt.

So, having signed up two days ago we made our first trip yesterday. Time to try to get back into shape. Now, to go a little bit more in depth, there were some other factors that made us decide on the BRC. This location was a bit of a premature impulse decision but, in theory, we have no regrets because one of the best ways for individuals like us who are out of shape, but were once in shape not too too long ago, is easing back into things. We were athletes and we have ton of injuries that have healed and some that haven’t healed.

Joining a climbing club, and this location particularly, motivates us to do more body weight exercises and start to re-develop what really matters: joint strength and the like. You can have the biggest strongest muscles with amazing muscular endurance, but that doesn’t matter if your joints, ligaments, tendons, bones, and everything else supporting and interacting with your muscle systems are not prepared to handle the routines that you put yourself through. I know from experience. So we took yesterday at a snail’s pace as an opportunity to ease back in and make sure nothing was acting up before we start to kick it into higher gears.

Here’s our workout, then we’ll talk some more.

At 8:40 a.m. with an empty stomach I applied some Tiger Balm Muscle Rub to my shoulders, upper back, lower back, and neck.

Then we went through about a 30 minute bouldering session at a relatively light pace, doing novice level routes, and earning massive forearm and hand pumps in the process.

Next we moved to the weight room, which is modest, and went through a short and VERY modest shoulder routine. (I have a superior lesion from anterior to posterior in my left labrum so this is always a cautious day, especially first day back.)

1. Standing Resistance Band Rear Deltoid Flies: 3 sets with a fitting band, 15-20 reps a set

2. Standing Lateral Dumbbell Flies: 3 sets with 15 lb weights, 10-12 reps per set

3. Seated Shoulder Press: 3 sets, ascending weight from 35-45 lbs, 8-12 reps

4. Olympic Bar Shrugs: 3 sets, ascending weight from 95-115 lbs, 16-18 reps

5. Roman Chair Dips: 3 sets, body weight, 6 reps

6. Back Extension Apparatus, 3 sets, body weight, 10 reps

Now obviously, this was more or less our workout. We had to keep it short because we had to get to work and because we wanted to ease back into a fitness routine, and this was very much so easing. We hit most of our major and minor muscle groups in our shoulders, namely neglecting our front delts, scaptions, and rotator cuffs, which I rarely miss. It was not a tough workout because our warm up was not complete so I did not want to risk anything. I always warm up my shoulders before an upper body workout, especially shoulders, in order to prevent injury.

Also, we always try to incorporate some core-specific exercise into every workout, even on isolation days. Here is was the back extensions, because my lower back is very weak right now. The Tiger Balm also acts as a sort of warm up although it’s not meant to be a replacement. Why didn’t we isolate back, chest, arms, or legs first? Because I need to make sure my shoulder can withstand a workout before moving to another body part. It is extremely difficult to properly workout any body part when something is not working properly. Your muscles work tandem with one another. If something is out of whack, your whole body will be screwed up.  When I further ripped the tear in my labrum, my squat numbers plummeted because I was no longer able to balance the bar with one shoulder. So that is why we started with shoulders.

A complete weight training workout can be perf...

Weight training, brah

Now that it more or less passed the test we are prepared to hit the other body parts, and once they are all conditioned well enough we will begin complex circuit training routines. So my path I am hoping to follow, if all resources are in place, and always injury pending:

1. Mix isolated muscle group workouts with light bouldering and climbing

2. Increase weight and rep range within isolated muscle workouts

3. Increase duration of isolated muscle workouts

4. Begin to build cardio vascular capacity through cardio based workouts (run and bike)

5. Add cardio to muscle workouts through super sets

6. Begin full body circuit training 

The ideal workout week: ( I never allow for enough rest)

  • Isolated muscle workouts every/every other day, i.e. chest and triceps/back and biceps/lower body/shoulders and forearms
  • Full body circuit training, i.e. Spartacus workout version 1, three times a week
  • Bouldering and climbing every day in the gym, with these workouts
  • Cardio-based workouts (bike and run) three times a week

So that might look like: (in no particular order for each day)

Monday: Chest and triceps in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Tuesday: Back and biceps in the gym, 20 mile stationary bike ride, top-rope

Wednesday: Lower body in the gym, circuit training session, bouldering

Thursday: Shoulder and forearms in the gym, 3 mile treadmill run (probably not), top-rope

Friday: Core in the gym, basketball in the park

Saturday: back to the start…

I am never good at following those and I kind of ran through that but more or less we will want to start incorporating everything, easing back into our routines while adapting to our new lifestyle and workout resources. In terms of sleep, I try to get seven a night, and I take my vitamins and minerals and try to eat healthy, lots of fish… and dairy. I try to load carbs in the morning and taper off throughout the day, having a protein filled meal at night. I won’t include the scientific explanation for that process unless it’s requested.

But seriously, feel free to ask any questions about our workout or nutritional plan, and PLEASE feel free to ask for some help finding a way for you to get back into shape. Give us your background, resources, and goals and we can make it work. I love helping people achieve fitness goals.

Email us at alana.ppowell@gmail.com

Core vs. Abs: the Smackdown

Many people are obsessed with doing abs. What they don’t know is that they should be obsessed with doing core instead. So what’s the difference?!

Abs” refer to a part on your torso. The rectus abdominus and the obliques are what are targeted when people say “abs.” Sometimes, it doesn’t even include the obliques.

Ignore the body shape on the bottom, I know he’s scary. 

So…then, what is core?

I’ll leave it to Chris to rant now.

So basically, we can look at this conceptually, as what we’ll refer to as our “abs” and then our “core.” For abs, I am referring strictly to the upper abs, lower abs, and we’ll say side abs, or–more fittingly–obliques. Then we have our core, which is much more important, and we’re going to include everything in our “mid-section” that acts as important stabilizers for strength and balance in either strength-training sessions or fully-interactive sporting sessions. So let’s break down the abs first.

Basically, as we already mentioned, we will look at and focus our workouts to our upper and lower abs and our obliques. Now, there are two major ways to workout abs when we focus a workout on them. First, is what I would think as the more common method, doing as many repetitions of as many abs exercises as we can find in magazines and online. Let’s do 3000 reps, 30 reps of 10 different exercises ten times over in an hour. I hear that one a lot, and I’ve done it a lot. 9000 reps on serious days. Will this work and will you feel it the next day? Sure, you probably will. But you could also feel some serious pain in your lower back or have a bruised tailbone if you don’t make sure that you are spot on with form and focus for thousands of reps, which is not an easy task. While you don’t need weight to train and break down those muscle fibers, it does help in its own ways. And while this is a great endurance workout that can really get your heart rate jumping, there is another way of working out those abs.

The alternative I speak of is strength training your abs. Abs are a muscle group, just like biceps, quads, lats, etc… so of course you can train them with a little extra resistance. I am not offering workouts here, just stating how I feel on this matter, but I would still keep rep ranges relatively high, over that 15-18 rep mark, going still towards 25-30 reps per set. So please, don’t take this as a suggestion to max out on an ab exercises. If I had to choose one exercise for each of our three ab groups, to do 25-30 reps while increasing my weight each set for three total sets, it would be: a kneeling cable crunch for upper abs, a weighted reverse crunch with our legs in a declined position for our lower abs, and an inverted weighted twist for our obliques.

Don’t yell at me if you do these wrong and they don’t work because I’m not putting my actual workout up for another few weeks when I’m a little more back in shape. (FYI, your obliques are a muscle group that tapers from the side of your body towards your hip area, and if you were to “bulk” these up through strength training there is a great chance that your waist size would increase, making you look thicker, just a side note) But I wouldn’t leave it as this, because I personally don’t ever do abs… EVER… I always do core, and this is why:

As a former athlete that works out not to feel good, or for appearance, but for performance, I know the importance of maintaining a strong core. I consider my core anywhere under my chest down through the upper leg. So to be in more detail, muscle groups that I hit when I do a core workout include: upper abs, lower abs, obliques, lower back, hip adductors, hip abductors, and even upper glutes. While I will isolate these muscle groups with free weights, and unfortunately on some machines (mainly for hips) , I always try to incorporate them on some heavier and more complex exercises.

For instance, when I do firemen carries with friends, it is a leg workout picking them up waking with their weight, and it is a shoulder workout holding them in place, but it is also a GREAT core workout trying to keep all those muscles in your abs and lower back tight to stabilize your body throughout the workout and prevent any injuries and accidents. Deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, and squats really require you keep that core tight and that form precise in order to target your muscles properly. Most hanging core exercises require that you do not swing so that your core finds that stable position, making you constantly work harder.

Stronger core means stronger everything else.

Someone could have a massive set of legs, but when they put that loaded bar on their back and try to squat 600 lbs, their lower back might want to snap causing them to lean to far forward and not only fail to complete a rep, but also potentially and likely hurt themselves. Watch the crossfit fails video on YouTube and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Crossfit will be a serious rant post, and total immersion swimming, but back on track.

And remember, my favorite way to work out core is integrate it into something FUN, like sports. Rock climbing, swimming, soccer, frisbee, football, baseball… really any sport at any competitive (meaning people are actually trying) level is an amazing core workout, and you don’t even have to count reps, because it’s so integrated in what you’re doing. One of the recommended doctors that contributes to Men’s Health in some issue over the past few years said his favorite lower back workout was pickup soccer (we’re in the US :/). Strengthen that core!!! Abs will come naturally if you do.

And finally, since this is all over the place, and I think I hit most the points I wanted to… if you’re trying to go from not having any visual abs in a pack to a certain goal like a six-pack you need to consider everything. In no particular order…

  • Build the muscles through strength training so that they are there and defined, wanting to be seen. 
  • Cut the fat covering those nicely defined muscles through PROPER NUTRITION (SO IMPORTANT!) and fat burning exercises (CARDIO TO THE NEXT LEVEL) so that you can see those nicely defined muscles that you built through strength training.
  1.                   a. Proper nutrition means stop eating garbage. I’m not asking you do some silly diet like cut carbs completely. Just eat  healthy, and if you don’t know what that means, then ask.
  2.                   b. Fat burning exercises doesn’t just mean putting on three sweaters and hitting the elliptical. Sweat all you want, a lot will just be water weight. Seriously, get a trainer or join a class where someone can observe you if you have any health concerns and go to a point where you want to throw up. But do not be reckless, always stay in control. It’s all about confidence.

Do what you need to do in order to strengthen that core and look and feel how you want.

15-Minute Triceps Workout

Finding it hard to squeeze a workout in? 

In this life of ridiculous busy-ness, it’s hard to get a chance to stop, put on your workout clothes (which for some reason feel tight, perhaps because they haven’t been used in a week and a half), and get into the mode. Let alone actually drive/walk/bike/bus to a gym! Big breath, you don’t need to do huge workouts every day to stay in fit. Remember that it’s exercise AND nutrition. They’ve got to walk side by side if you want results.

And another thing before I show you some exercises, is to remember how important strength and resistance training is. This means working out your muscles. No, it’s not just for boys. It’s for us big girls too. And it’s really important for your health! Think cardio is the only way to burn calories? Think again. When you rip up those muscle fibers while pushing yourself during any muscle workout (let’s take leg press), your body has to work hard after the workout as well in order to repair those fibers. Which means your body is burning calories after the workout to try and repair those fibers as quick as possible. Quads burn after that leg press the next day? Fibers are torn so it makes it sore to walk around. So muscle workouts = more calories burned afterwards. 

Onto the 15-min workout. It could be even less. It depends on the number of reps, sets, and exercises you do. I chose to do three. I actually did them watching “The Help,” figuring it was a movie I should watch and always looked good (it was). Here’s the three I did:

1. One-Arm Triceps Extension

Pretty simple. Get a weight you’re comfortable with (I started with 12 lbs and moved up to 18 lbs for my last set) and either sit or stand. Extend the weight with one arm over your head and then lower it down (with control) towards your back. Keep everything slow and controlled until your form is good. Now do the other arm. 

Reps: 12, Sets: 4

2. Two-Arm Triceps Extension

So it’s basically the same thing (read above) but with two arms holding the weight. This allows you to use a heavier weight than the single-arm. I started with 15 lbs and ended my last set with 21 lbs. 

Sets: 4, Reps: 12

3. Skull Crushers 

English: an exercise of triceps

English: an exercise of triceps

You can either do this with a bar or weights. I chose to do it with weights (dumbbells) simply because I don’t have a bar here at the apartment. Start lying down with your weights or bar extended in front of your chest and then slowly lower until your hands are right at your forehead. Then push out again. That’s one rep. Get why it’s called a skull crusher? I went around 15 lbs for this one.

Reps: 10, Sets: 4

So there you have it. A three-exercise workout that left my triceps feeling tired. You will too if you do them properly with the right number of reps and sets. Your core will also be worked if you keep it tight and do the exercises correctly. Do what feels good for you. Never push it to the point of injury, but push yourself to get that last rep. Comment below if you have any questions. Enjoy!

PS– If you are interested in getting a free training plan and/or consultation or just have some questions, please email us at alana.ppowell@gmail.com