Category Archives: Benefits of doing “man” exercises
So there are all sorts of “pain” related discussions that really get on my nerves.
One is when clients who are working hard for the first time in their life tell you that an exercise “hurts” when, upon further investigation, you find out that it is merely making their muscles fatigued and that they aren’t used to the burning sensation of a muscle working.
While I don’t like the phrase “no pain, no gain,” being sore and working hard isn’t always “comfortable.”
But at the same time having the attitude “no pain, no gain” and never recognizing when something hurts isn’t good either.
While I can get annoyed when someone can’t recognize the difference between “injury pain” and “discomfort from muscles working hard,” I get way more annoyed by the client who thinks they are cool because they push through the pain.
And honestly this “no pain, no gain” client WAY worse than the client that mistakes muscles working for pain.
You may be shaking your head and going, “Heck no! They aren’t near the same! You have to work through the pain sometimes! You are TOUGH if you just push through!”
Uhm no…I’m sorry….You don’t…and you aren’t.
You are stupid.
Yep that’s right…STUPID.
I can say this as someone who has been stupid one too many times in her past. I have the torn muscles and scar tissue to prove it.
And guess what I have now?
Improperly rehabbed injuries that years later I’m now having to deal with.
Trust me…injuries aren’t cool.
You aren’t “bad-ass” if you push through.
Honestly, unless you are a highly paid athlete, there is never a reason to push through true pain and injury. And even if you are a highly paid athlete, there is a very fine line between stupid and something you push through because it is your job.
When you work through the pain, generally all you do is make the injury worse. And then you are either eventually going to have to take time off, and probably MORE time than if you had rested and rehabbed it immediately, OR you are going to have something that restricts your movement and causes pain for the rest of your life.
Doesn’t sound like great options if you don’t just DEAL with the pain immediately.
But rehab and pre-hab aren’t “cool.”
It is way cooler to be like, “I can’t do push ups because of my shoulder.”…Right!?!
I can’t tell you how many people recently I’ve encountered coming from other gyms who say they “can’t do” something because of an injury they’ve never dealt with and just “worked through.”
And every time I say to them the same thing, “Well what have you been doing for rehab?”
And I always get the same answer…NOTHING.
Can someone please explain this to me?
Why is pain cool and rehab not cool?
Don’t we workout to feel BETTER!?! Don’t we go to look BETTER? Perform BETTER?
If we want exercise to make us BETTER, how do we expect to do that if we are restricted and in PAIN?!
If you have an ankle injury, even one from decades ago, and you never rehabbed it, it may be causing problems up your leg. It may be why you have low back and hip pain. It may be why you have balance issues. It may be why you can’t lift as much as you want to. It may be why your butt isn’t as strong and perky as you would like!
It may be causing a whole load of problems that aren’t even related to the initial injury!
But it is better to just push through…huh?
Ok here is your chance to stop being an idiot and stop accepting pain.
Take five minutes at the beginning of your workout and add in an exercise or two to rehab or better yet “pre-hab” any weak points or areas of past injury. (Just because at one point in your life you did some rehab for an injury doesn’t mean you are just now done with it now. That area may always need some extra TLC.)
Here are a couple quick things you can do for four common areas of injuries…
- ANKLE/FOOT PAIN/INJURY (Heck these are even good for some knee and hip problems) – Roll out the bottom of your foot, your shin and your calf with a roller or small ball. Then work on your balance. My favorite balancing drill is when you either stand on one foot on the ground or on a foam pad and then you swing the other leg. Do swings forwards and backwards, side to side and even rotational (like you are lifting your foot to step back over a fence and then bringing it back forward over the fence without touching down). Then do glute activation drills. Pick one or two from this list and do 1-2 rounds of 10-20 reps.
- LOW BACK/HIP PAIN/INJURY – Low back pain is a super common problem. While rolling out the whole leg is ideal to find all trigger points, you can start with your hips, glutes and low back. A great way to roll out your hips, can be to take a bigger, foam ball and lay over it. The ball will actually be pressing into your abs right above your hip and beside your belly button. Relax over the ball as much as you can. You will also want to stretch your glutes and hips. Here are some more great trigger point release tips for your hip area. You will also probably want to do some stretches and trigger point release for your thoracic spine and lats. We can sometimes compensate and use our low back because our thoracic mobility is bad. A great thoracic stretch is one you do when kneeling. Kneel on the ground with one hand planted on the ground under the shoulder. Then reach your other hand back over your head with your finger tips pointing down your spine. Then rotate your elbow of the hand down your spine, under your arm that is down. Then rotate open, reaching the elbow up toward the ceiling. Again, glute activation exercises are key. If our glutes aren’t firing, we are going to use our low back and hamstrings more than we should!
- WRIST/ELBOW PAIN/INJURY – Yup…you can even roll out your forearms. If you have wrist or elbow pain, rolling our your forearms, triceps and biceps can help, especially if you target the areas of insertion. Wrist/forearms stretches are also important. We sit at computers all day with our wrists flexed and never really think to do anything to extend and release the muscles. One of my favorite wrist stretches is, when I kneel down and place my hands on the ground under my shoulders. I then turn my finger tips to face my knees with my palms flat on the ground. I then rock back and sit on my heels, keeping my palms flat on the ground, and then return back to kneeling and release. To also help activate the extensors of my wrist and forearm, I use a trick I was taught by Corey…The rubber band extension. Take a rubber band and place it around the outside of your fingers when they are all together. Then spread your fingers out as wide apart as you can before bringing them back together. This really helps with a lot of elbow pain!
- SHOULDER/UPPER BACK/NECK PAIN/INJURY – Roll out your traps, chest and lats. You will also want to stretch your chest and neck. You can easily stretch your chest using a wall or doorway. Place your hand and even your forearm on the wall or door frame and then step forward till you feel a stretch. To stretch your neck, lean your head to one side and gentle pull your head down toward your shoulder, making sure you keep your shoulders relaxed. To change exactly which muscles you hit, look up, down and straight ahead. Then you will want to do a scapular wall hold. If you do it correctly, you will activate your lower traps which will help you relax your upper traps and usually helps with neck pain. YTWLs are great too to activate the muscles in your upper back and strengthen your rotator cuff. Check out this video by Nick Tumminello on how to do them.
Here is another article with some essential mobility drills that can help you move better!
You don’t have to do these every day, but you do want to make sure that spots that need improvement get attention! So stop accepting pain and start doing something about it. It really doesn’t take that much time.
Be smart…It’s way more “bad-ass!”
NOTE: If you are suffering from an injury, it is best to get checked out by a doctor. Most of these drills are meant for already diagnosed injuries or minor recurring injuries/pains. Also, this list is by no means comprehensive. It is just to give you an idea that there are some quick things you can do before your workouts, to correct problems!
So I love the current basic fitness recommendation – lift heavy things, sprint occasionally and move often.
But is it really that simple?
Let me state my favorite answer ever…”Yes…But….No….” (You could substitute this with my other favorite answers “It depends” or “Maybe.”)
The reason it isn’t that simple is because many people’s bodies are so de-conditioned from years and years of doing NOTHING.
So while yes…everyone should lift heavy things and sprint, many people need to start out a lot slower than they do.
I’ve said this before, but just because you CAN lift a weight or run really fast doesn’t mean your body is really ready to handle the strain!
Doing too much to quickly will result in injury. Remember…Everything is relative. If your body is de-conditioned, heavy and sprint are very RELATIVE terms.
At the beginning, especially if you haven’t been doing much of anything, MOVE OFTEN is your main priority.
But not only moving often…MOVING WELL.
I know it’s probably getting boring and I’ve been harping on it a lot, but every good program needs to start with MOBILITY and STABILIZATION.
And from there, you must EARN tougher exercises.
You don’t just get to do harder variations and more weight…You have to EARN IT.
There is no better way to motivate yourself than to make yourself want to EARN something more.
So today I want to talk about earning SPRINTING.
More recently I’ve talked more about sprinting because it is one of the few cardiovascular activities that I actually enjoy. And while I think sprinting is great, just like lifting heavy, it isn’t something you just go out and do super intensely your first time.
For one, like lifting, there is actually proper form for running…And let me tell you…there are a lot of people who actually run incorrectly.
Many people don’t run correctly because they stopped doing it when they stopped having gym class in like middle or high school and then didn’t start up again till their mid-twenties.
Many people also don’t run correctly because their body is more used to sitting in a chair hunched over a desk than it is to running or moving around.
When you sit at a desk, your hips are flexed. Your hip flexors can become shortened and tight. Tight hip flexors don’t allow for proper running mechanics. They also don’t allow for proper power generation. If your hip flexors are tight, most likely your glutes won’t be firing on all cylinders.
If you glutes are firing properly, then guess what?
Another muscle will have to compensate to help you run quickly…And that other muscle won’t really be able to handle the load, which means….INJURY!
(Random factoid: Guess what one of the most common running injuries is? HAMSTRING STRAIN! Guess what is tight because you sit all day? YOUR HAMSTRING! Guess what muscle often helps the hip flexors when the glutes don’t fire? YOUR HAMSTRING. Guess what muscle being tight, and even overused because it is compensating, can also lead to knee pain? YOUR HAMSTRING!)
I could go on about the other ways in which your everyday posture hinder you from potentially running properly, but you get the point.
Sitting to sprinting with no preparation means injury.
So the first step if you want to sprint is foam rolling, mobility exercises and activation exercises. Open up those hips and loosen up those adductors. Start activating and strengthening the core. Work on ankle mobility. And get those glutes firing!
Then you need to work on building your aerobic base. Your heart is a muscle too and it also needs to be ready for sprinting! Start with walking. Don’t go 50 miles on the first day. WORK YOUR WAY UP and SLOWLY increase your mileage.
Then if you have done the proper mobility and activation work, start jogging.
JOGGING will be your first step toward sprinting. You can use jogging at a comfortable pace to increase your aerobic capacity and your first “sprints” will be done at a pace that is more like jogging than 100% effort. You must slowly increase your pace as your body adapts!
Also, “sprinting” uphill to start is a great way to prevent common injuries as you work on becoming more mobile. Sprinting uphill prevents you from overstriding, which is a common cause of hamstring strains. Ground reaction forces are also much lower, which means less risk of injury!
As you gain strength, mobility and speed sprinting uphill (and shoot sprinting uphill is freaking super tough!), you may then want to bring your sprints down to a flat surface. Although I must say while sprinting uphill can be a good starting spot, it is freaking super tough even when you don’t sprint all out and should be included even after you have “progressed” to a flat surface.
Make sure that, no matter what you sprint on (flat or hill), you increase your speed slowly and make sure you are warm when you do finally go all out on sprints.
At the beginning, make sure to give yourself adequate rest. You don’t want to push too hard through fatigue at the beginning. Pushing fatigued muscles too hard can result in injury – actually fatigue drives injury rates way way way up in the athletic world.
As you PROGRESS, you can start decreasing rest and upping the volume. While you don’t need to do a million sprints to get the benefit (actually if you are doing a million sprints or feel the need to do that many you are doing something wrong and hindering your progress), you should be able to add on more sprints as you progress.
And last but not least when it comes to sprinting, don’t do it too often. Just like with lifting, you need to give muscles ample time to recover!
Remember even once you’ve EARNED IT, the rule says “sprint occasionally.”
As much as it pains me to say this, “There is such a thing as too much of a good thing!”
Do you sprint? Have you EARNED it?
So this post should actually have been post number one because what you need to start with is inhibiting and lengthening the tight, overactive muscles!
If you want to work your butt, the first thing you have to do is relax the tight muscles.
You aren’t going to feel butt exercises in the correct places if the right muscles aren’t activated!!! And you won’t activate the right muscles if other muscles are overactive and tight!
SO what do you do?
The first thing I do before I workout is roll out.
And if I really want my butt to work, I’ve got to make sure that everything around my hips is loose.
While I’m fortunate enough to not be confined to a desk all day, I sit enough that my hips are flexed for a good portion of the day.
That means they are tight. And tight hips can lead to low back pain. They can also restrict your glutes from really activating during exercise.
If your glutes don’t activate during leg movements, you are going to use your low back, have inefficient movement patterns, not lift as much AND risk injury. You are also going to miss out on working one of the biggest muscles in your body!
SO roll our your hips before you begin!
While a foam roller is great, I find any sort of ball to be WAY better at getting into those trigger points around your hips.
I prefer a tennis ball, trigger point ball or lacrosse ball. I find the golf ball to be too small.
If you are just starting out, you may want to invest in one of the foam blue balls that are a little bigger and a little softer. The smaller and harder the ball you use, the more you are really going to dig in.
Ok so to roll out your “hips,” and I use this term a bit loosely, my three favorite moves are:
- The Hip U – So in this move you start by digging out the fleshy part of your butt. Literally sit on the ball with it under one butt cheek. Roll it around until you find a sore spot. Hold it on that sore spot and remember to breathe. You can also lift and lower the leg to help get deeper into the muscle. As you roll out your butt cheek, move the ball up to your low back. Find any trigger points there and hold for a bit. Then make an arc over the hip bone once you dig out your butt and low back. Hit your side butt, or glute medius. This is usually very tight on people. Again hold as you find trigger points. Then roll the ball to the front of your hip. Dig out the TFL and all the muscles right around that hip bone. Remember to HOLD if you find a sore spot…also remember to breathe! So that is the U over the hip
- Ab release – So most of the time we go for the exact spot where we “feel” pain. So we roll out our low backs if we feel pain when the cause of the pain may actually be somewhere else…like our tight hip flexors! BUT that being said that doesn’t mean we need to target the muscles that insert right below our hips. A hip flexor muscles actually connects up at a point in our spine! Which can mean that by placing a ball in your abs by your belly button and relaxing over it, you can actually help release your hip flexors! So try it…get a ball (and if you have a small ball you may need to put it on a trigger point block to really get it to dig in, but lay over the ball and relax. The ball should be to the side of your belly button and above the hip.
- The peanut – So one of my absolute favorite foam rolling tools is what I call the peanut. It is two tennis balls tapped together. They are perfect to use on the area around your spine. I like to hit my lower (and upper back for that matter) with these two balls. You can really get in and around your SI joint and then up into your low and mid-back. You can even target the spot where you psoas connect up in your spine.
So while these aren’t the only moves to use and you may also want to hit your adductors, calves and chest (other common tight muscle groups) these three moves are a great place to start!
After foam rolling, you will then want to do some dynamic stretches for these muscles before you begin your workout.
Notice I said DYNAMIC. Save the static stretching till afterwards!
A dynamic stretch is a stretch that you don’t hold for a long period of time, but actually move through (not bouncing though). A static stretch is one you hold for about 30 seconds or so. A static stretch is great for flexibility BUT has been show to reduce power during the workout.
So in an effort to increase mobility without any strength or power lost, we will use only dynamic stretches BEFORE exercise.
Here are some great moves I use to open up my hip area:
- Leg swings – You can do these swinging your legs forward or back or side to side. Both ways open up your hips. Try to increase the range of your swing without leaning your upper body forward and back. It is best to hold a wall when doing these.
- Hurdles – These are a variation of the leg swing. You can do these going forward or backwards (or BOTH!). What you do is bend your knee and swing your hip as if stepping over a hurdle. Alternate sides. Do about 10 per side.
- Simple kneeling hip stretch – So the basic stretch for your hip and even your quad is the kneeling hip stretch. Kneel on your right knee with your left leg bent to 90 degrees in front. You can make this dynamic by stretch by pushing the hip forward and then relaxing back. You can also add in a reach overhead and across. So if your left knee is forward, your right arm is going to lift up overhead and across. Then you will relax back down. You can also do a rotational stretch, so rotating over the front knee. To increase this stretch down your quad, you can also pull in the foot of the knee that is down and then release. By pulling the foot of the knee that is down up toward your butt, you will bring the stretch lower in your quad.
- Lying glute stretch – Lay on your back with your right knee bent and foot flat on the ground. Cross the left ankle over the right knee. Then grab behind either your right hamstring or in front of your right shin. Pull the right leg with the left foot across it unto your chest and then release. You should feel that in your glute. This stretch will make sure you are loose all around the hip joint! (I love doing the pigeon pose after my workouts as my static stretch!)
- Spider stretch – So this stretch is great to open up the hips. It can get your groin and your hamstrings and even calves too! So to do this stretch step one leg forward in a lunge. If this is too much you can put your knee on the ground. So if you lunge your right leg forward, you will then drop your right elbow right into your instep. Then rock back and sit on your other heal and straighten that forward leg to stretch the hamstring. Then rock back forward and drop your elbow again. Do about 10 each side moving smoothly through the movement.
- 360 Lunges – One of my favorite dynamic moves to warm up the hips is the lunge. BUT I don’t just use the forward lunge…I lunge in a few different angles. One lunge out front. Maybe one front at an angle. One out to the side. One opening up back. I do those four lunges on each side to create a 360 circle!
These stretches and even the foam rolling moves aren’t the only ones you can do. I didn’t even really get into static stretching…BUT the point is these are good ones to start with and are very efficient ways to target all the muscles in and around the hips.
So between the foam rolling and stretches, your hips should be loose and ready to let your butt be activated!
Check back for Part 3 when we discuss glute activation exercises to use in your warm up!
P.S. I will add more photos! Sorry for these few that I managed to quickly take a few weeks ago after a workout!
So recently I’ve gotten a ton of questions about how many reps and sets people should be doing.
Which actually is a really great question – and is completely dependent upon your level of fitness and fitness goals.
So then…how many reps and sets should you be doing!?!
Let’s say you are a beginner…or doing a recovery week…or simply working on muscular strength endurance.
Then you are probably going to go for higher reps, and by higher reps I mean 15-20 reps, and 1-3 sets.
When you work in the higher rep ranges, you aren’t using the heaviest weight possible. You are using a weight that starts to fatigue you toward the end of your rep range.
So basically doing 15-20 reps is going to get you the same results whether you do 15, 18 or 20 as long as you use a weight that means you are fatigued before the final rep.
Higher reps can be a great way for beginners to focus on form and really get the move ingrained WHILE still building up their basic strength.
How many sets you do in that higher rep range is based on how experienced you are, your training intensity for the day and even the volume of your workout.
If this is your first workout ever, you are probably only going to do one set. If you’ve been working out and building, you may be pushing through three sets.
If you are going super heavy and can barely make it through those 20 reps (like breathing squats), you may only do one set because any more would simply be overtraining (and if you went as heavy as possible for those 20 reps, you shouldn’t have anything left in the tank to push through a second round!).
If you are doing a leg workout for the day, you may only end up doing one set of the exercise because you are doing a ton of volume for your legs. You don’t want to overdo it by doing three hundred thousand reps of everything!
Ok, so 15-20 reps, 1-3 sets.
This rep range is where you find many women. They fear bulk so stay within this range.
But then they are missing out on the huge amount of benefits that lower rep ranges have to offer them!
So let’s say you do actually want to really get toned, buff and build some muscle while lifting some heavier weight. Let’s say you’ve become more advanced and your tendons and joints are ready to handle more load. What rep range do you enter next?
This is when you enter the supposed hypertrophy range of 8-12 reps. In this rep range, you supposedly have the great chance of actually increasing muscle size. I rarely ever mention this since most women then get scared and flee toward the higher rep ranges.
But let me tell you…you won’t get freaking bulky just cause you lift a heavy weight only 8 times!!! You may burn more fat. You may look more toned. You may get stronger and perform better…
BUT YOU WON’T FREAKING GET BULKY!
I love the 8-12 rep range. You can use heavier weights than the higher rep ranges. More rest is generally required between moves because you are moving heavier loads, but you really do get a big bang for your buck in terms of strength gains. You also are lifting heavy enough loads for just enough reps to get your heart rate up a little, which isn’t bad either.
If you are doing 8-12 reps, you should have good form. If this is really your first time out of the 15-20 rep range, don’t just start lifting 30 more pounds and go straight to 8 reps!
Start out by adding a little weight and doing 12 reps with good form. If that is easy, add a bit more weight and shoot for 12 more. If you say only get 10 with the new weight, stick there until you can lift the weight for 12 reps with good form and then add a bit more.
Add weight slowly so your body can adjust to the new loads.
When working in the 8-12 rep range, you don’t want to just randomly select 10 reps and perform them. You want to only do 10 reps because at 8 or 9 you want to drop the weight and quit right then and there.
In this heavier range, you want to make sure that you aren’t just stopping at 8 reps because that is what you said you were going to do. You want to have the weights make you stop at 8.
Using the heavier weights with 8-12 reps, you should be doing between 3-5 sets. You will need more rest between rounds with this rep range than you probably needed with the higher rep range unless of course you are doing something like breathing squats.
The number of sets you do for any rep range is based on the intensity of your lifts (how much weight are you using, how much rest are you getting) AND the training volume.
To simplify things, generally speaking, more reps means fewer sets…fewer reps means more sets.
So say you really want to work on gaining maximal strength. How many reps/sets do you do?
Well 1-5 reps and generally 4-6 sets.
If you are doing basically the heaviest weight you can handle, and nearing your one rep max, you probably aren’t going to be able to do very many reps of that weight over the workout.
I mean 25-30 reps in total at a heavy heavy weight (so a weight you can handle for 5 reps at a time for 5-6 sets) is going to be pretty killer. You probably AREN’T going to be doing that many supplemental lifts after it and if you do most of them are going to be with pretty darn light weight. (Remember training volume is key….too much volume equals overtraining which means your results won’t be as good as they could be if you just did less!)
Anyway, to sum all this up….
When considering how many reps and sets to do:
- Think about your level (Are you new to lifting? Do you have a solid base?)
- Think about your goals (Maximal strength? Building some great muscle tone? Building up strength endurance?)
- Think about the intensity of your workout (Do you need a lighter day? Have you done 3 heavy days already this week? How much rest between sets? Is it a circuit? Are you lifting super heavy?)
- Think about how many exercises you are doing for that body part during the workout (A workout with 5 leg exercises vs. 10 leg exercises means very different set ranges per exercise)
- Think about the weight you are using (You shouldn’t just say you are doing 20 reps or 12 reps and stick with an easy weight that you could do for 30 reps! Your weight needs to match the rep range. You should want to stop and have muscle shake-age, but good form!, 1-3 reps before you stop. Muscle shake-age is a very technical term meaning your muscles are shaking from working very hard.)
So if you have considered all of the things above, you will then want to use these three very basic rep/set ranges. I do want to note, however, that there are times when doing more than 20 reps is really beneficial AND that there are times when doing as many reps in a certain amount of time is an even better workout for strength endurance than 15-20 reps. (Sorry nothing is ever black and white!)
Anyway, to boil things down…
Strength endurance/beginner/recovery-variety for the advanced lifter – 15-20 reps, 1-3 sets
Hypertrophy aka sexy muscle range/Strength for performance – 8-12 reps, 3-5 sets
Maximum strength/sexy muscle-building – 1-5 reps, 4-6 sets
You should then choose weights and rest periods appropriate to the range that you select. You aren’t simply doing 8 reps to do 8 reps or 20 reps to do 20 reps!
Know why you are doing certain things! Don’t just do 10 sets of 10 reps because you think 100 reps of something seems gnarly!
Consider your variables and know what your goals for the workout are…THEN you can pick a rep and set range that will help you accomplish your goals!
SIDE NOTE: Remember these ranges are GUIDELINES. AND you shouldn’t just only do one rep range for the rest of your life. I cycle through all 3 rep ranges since all three work on different things, but at the same time really do overlap. The point is to consider how intense you are training and the volume of your overall workout so that you don’t overtrain OR undertrain, but instead get the most out of your workout!
So over the next week or so I’m going to write a series of posts focusing on the butt.
It is one of the biggest, most powerful muscles and also one of the most underactive.
Over the next few posts, I will discuss how to activate this amazing muscle and make it perky and perfect!
Of course while it would be logical to start with warm up/activation movements, I’m going to instead start with my favorite posterior move – the deadlift.
So the deadlift is hands down my favorite exercise. If I could only do one move the rest of my life, it would be the deadlift.
Why do I like the deadlift?
For one, it is super empowering. It feels so great to be able to lift a huge weight successfully off the ground.
Two, it is a full body move that really works the entire posterior of your body (back, butt, hamstrings….).
And three, there are a bazillion different variations that are just so beneficial and really get your butt activated, and honestly all too often people’s glutes really aren’t firing!
It is the perfect move to really build glute strength and power!
And when I got the honor of designing the workout progression for our gym for the next three weeks, I made sure to use it. My progression is very leg intensive and very very focused on improving people’s posture and getting the right muscles activated.
I was proud today to find out that everyone has most definitely been feeling the workouts working. While I never want to push people too far, I do like to hear that their butt cheeks are sore because it is very very hard usually to get people to really activate their glutes and use their butt (many people are quad dominate, which can lead to issues).
So if people’s butts are sore then they must be activated!
How did we get people’s glutes firing and start building some butt strength!?!
Through variations of the deadlift! DUH!!!
And not every variation even needs to be weighted down!
Of course you have the traditional deadlift, which is a great posterior exercise since it hits everything from behind your shoulder blades down to your heels.
However, this move isn’t always the best place to start since many people have limited range of motion in their hips and bad posture. If you can’t get your butt low and keep your shoulder blades down (chest pressed out), then you are at risk for a hurt low back.
So one of my favorite deadlift variations, especially to start with, is the single-leg deadlift. It works on balance, posture AND your glutes and hamstrings.
You don’t need weight to make this move challenging AND it is perfect for the beginner or the advanced lifter!
For the beginner it will really work on balance and posture while starting to get the glutes activated. Make sure they keep their back flat as they hinge over. Make sure their hips don’t rotate open. This will teach them good posture when they move to using weights.
For the advanced lifter, you can weight down this move, which will build more strength in the glutes. This version of the deadlift really forces them to really engage their core AND it forces them to use each leg independently. When we isolate each leg, we make each leg work independently, which can prevent the dominate leg from always taking over and perpetuating imbalances.
So then another great deadlift move to use is the straight leg deadlift.
I usually use this move before I move to full deadlifts since it doesn’t require as much hip mobility BUT starts to teach people to keep the correct upper body posture while adding more weight. (It is also just a great way to add variation to your glute workouts!)
So with this move, knees are only slightly bent. It is a hinge from the hips with the back staying nice and flat as you hinge over toward the ground pushing your butt backwards toward the wall behind you.
Watch when people do this move. The key here is to make sure they are pushing their butt BACKWARDS.
Seriously a great way to work the glutes and hamstrings while starting to add weight! Since balance isn’t an issue it can be an easier way to start adding heavier weight!
Probably my FAVORITE deadlift variation because you can use heavy weight is the sumo deadlift. It is a great way to start really building glute strength and start pulling heavy weight.
So in this variation of the deadlift, your feet are wide apart and your toes are turned slightly outward (by turning your toes out a bit you engage your glutes a bit more). This variation of the deadlift is MORE leg intensive than the traditional deadlift so is ideal for butt building!
Using this move you can really start to develop maximal strength since it is easy to use heavy weights. However, before the person can add heavy weights, they must maintain good posture – aka their chest must stay up and their back can’t round.
The sumo deadlift can be harder on the hips though so don’t over do it! Rotate it with the regular deadlift to make sure you blast the butt from a couple of different angles and to give your hips a bit of a break.
So…if you want to get the butt firing and build some serious glute strength, use a variation of the deadlift.
Looking to work on balance, core strength and posture while targeting the glutes? Use the single leg!
Looking to add more weight while really focusing on the glutes and hamstrings? Use the straight leg!
Looking to build maximum strength in the butt cheeks? Try the sumo deadlift!
Mix it up and target those glutes!
Which variation is your favorite?
Coming soon to the Bootilicious series….glute warm up exercises, glute bridges and multiplanar lunges!
So for the last few weeks I’ve been training the Vanguard Women’s Volleyball Team.
Before I developed a program for them, I did my research. I looked up common injuries. I studied how volleyball players move. I attended their games to watch their SPECIFIC movement patterns. And I looked at many traditional volleyball training programs.
What I found was a lot of jump training. Olympic lifts. Box jumps. Sprinting. All the usual suspects were being used.
And don’t get me wrong…I love Olympic lifts. I love box jumps. I even love sprinting (actually it is really the only form of cardio I do enjoy).
But the more research I did, the more things just didn’t add up.
If many volleyball players suffer from shoulder injuries, why do snatches and jerks which would only serve to put more strain on their shoulders? And on top of the fact that many suffer from shoulder injuries, being college students, most of them are hunched over computers and books for a good portion of the day. This constant daily forward flexion and rounding of their shoulders increases their risk for injury when moving heavy loads overhead because they don’t have the range of motion to really get their shoulders up overhead without compensating.
And then on top of that even, Olympic lifts are really freaking complicated to get right. First off, they take a great amount of flexibility to really do correctly. Second, they take great stability. Third, they are complex motions with lots of moving parts which can easily be messed up! And fourth, to get people to move the loads that will actually benefit them takes a long time to build up to…Time that frankly I just didn’t want to waste at this point.
Ok so Olympic lifts were out…at least to start with. So…what about box jumps?
Eh…I would use them but they wouldn’t be the basis of my program. Box jumps could be great, but aren’t the BEST explosive power move. I would use them to work on landing mechanics but they wouldn’t be part of the daily routine.
Plus I wanted something that would get them stronger without being too redundant. They do a lot of jumping already.
Anyway, as I started analyzing programs, I started to realize that we needed to work on upper body strength and upper body flexibility more than I saw in many other programs. Elbow and wrist injuries were also common yet none of the programs really included any grip and forearm/hand strengthening.
Also, while watching the girls play, I was amazed at how much diving, rolling and mulitplanar movements there were. Rarely were they lunging forward or backward. Rarely were the squatting straight down. So…I figured we really need to work on stability in ALL planes of motion.
I had my work cut out for me. I wanted to build up their strength, but I had to do it slowly since their tendons needed time to catch up to their muscles AND they were also doing outside conditioning and practicing with their coach. I needed to work on the basics.
So I included the traditional squat and a traditional hip hinge, which I knew they would have already mastered or be able to master quickly so we could increase load. These would help them gain strength so that they could be explosive and powerful on the court. Strength always precedes power!
I then included speed, agility and quickness drills to improve their coordination and reaction time. If they wanted to react quickly on the court, they needed to work on their mind-body connection!
AND finally I addressed their areas of injury and their need to move in all planes of motion. I didn’t load them down with weight for these exercises. Actually all of them were simply body weight variations. I did lunges in different planes of motion. I used the sliders when necessary to make things more difficult. I did handstand holds and other isometric holds to work on scapular retraction to help their shoulder stability and strength. I did a ton of pulling motions, such as rows and pull up holds to work on their upper back and help improve their posture to improve their range of motion.
I even made sure to include plenty of grip work, which was definitely harder than most of them expected!
Of course there was also a lot of core work to help them stabilize when diving and rolling and a conditioning piece at the end to help them outlast and out-perform their opponents (none of which by the way was sprinting but will most definitely help them…and even improve their sprinting!).
So to sum up this long rambling post, the point is that you can’t just look up a workout program and figure it will work. I understand why so many athletic trainers use Olympic lifts because they are great and do really have many power and strength benefits for sports. But you can’t just look and train for one aspect of the sport. You need to consider injuries. Movement patterns. What athletes are doing when they aren’t playing or training. And even all of the new and INNOVATIVE training methods that are now out there. You want to help a player move better on the court, but that doesn’t mean that you should do the exact movements they do on the playing field! That also doesn’t mean you can’t use those movements.
The point is there is a lot to consider.
And that doesn’t just go for college volleyball players. It holds true for everyone!
When you design a program for yourself, you have to consider many of these same variables. What are you looking to improve? What repetitive movements or odd positions do you find yourself in during the day that may create bad postural alignment and compensations that lead to injuries? How do you want to be able to move during the day? Are you looking to get better at running or chasing after a kid because chasing after a kid is a lot more than simply having energy and running straight ahead. It means quick cuts and potentially lots of random twisting and turning!
Anyway, just think about some of these things the next time you write up a workout. Consider your specific “sport’s” variables!
P.S. Probably even the most important part of all of this is the mental aspect I’ve included in their training. Right from the warm up everyone is together and motivated, which is huge if you really want a team to be strong and work well together!
So this month we’ve changed up our training a bit at the gym and have been on a new progression.
A “back to basics” progression.
And apparently a few people complained that it was “too easy.” Which honestly made my jaw drop.
I’ve done basically all of the workouts in the progression and I’m sore as all get out. There have even been a few that have made my legs want to give out or my food to come up.
The workouts in our progression…Easy?!?!?
But as I began to really watch people around me do the workouts with me, I realized one big thing….They weren’t pushing THEMSELVES.
They were used to a more complex workout that forced them to become fatigued and when we simplified it, they just didn’t know how to push themselves through simple moves.
They didn’t know how to challenge themselves with weight….or rest…or reps…or ANYTHING!
And the worst part is that being able to push yourself is the KEY to success!
Any success for that matter.
I can write someone up a workout and diet plan, but if they don’t do it when I’m not there to push them….well they won’t make near the progress they could.
They need to be able to PUSH THEMSELVES.
Anyway, so I was watching people cruise through the same workout that was literally destroying me….And it started to piss me off.
Why are they wasting their time using weights that are way too light? Or why are they doing only 10 reps when they could do 12? How can they complain that crawling is easy when their butts are way up in the air!?!
And then I realized another key thing…Most people don’t really know what it means to push themselves. Their workouts have to be an hour long or they have to do some crazy moves to be satisfied that they got a great workout because they can’t challenge themselves enough with a simple squat.
Well let me just clarify something right here…YOU DON’T NEED FANCY MOVES OR HOURS OF WORKING OUT TO GET IN A KILLER WORKOUT!
You just need to make sure that you are challenging yourself with weights and reps and even rest times. You just need to make sure that you are doing moves correctly and getting the most out of them.
Not to ramble or side track, but let’s just pause a moment to think of a move that most people do incorrectly – THE PUSH UP.
Most people don’t do the push up….They do the worm.
Their core is flopping around and the have scapular winging and their heads are jutting forward and their arms are out at some odd angle.
So of course they aren’t getting the most out of the move.
BUT neither are those guys who do keep a decent push up line but only move up and down an inch when they do their push ups.
THOSE DON’T COUNT! Think push ups are easy…THEN DO A FULL ONE! Lock your arms out at the top and hit your chest to the ground!!!
And then if that is too easy, PROGRESS THE MOVE. Move your feet up to a chair. Add a weight to your back.
Don’t just whine that it is easy and think you need to be doing some other fancy move.
MAKE THE MOST OUT OF SIMPLE MOVES!
Anyway, I’ve ranted enough. I’m just sick of hearing about how a workout is too easy because if you give a workout 100% effort, trust me….It won’t be easy!
So try this workout and REALLY REALLY give it everything you’ve got.
SAQ x5 rounds with a little rest in between each
Ladder ICKY Shuffle
Zigzag cone shuffle
Lateral step and throws x6 reps
STRENGTH x5 rounds with little rest in between each round
Sandbag pull throughs x 8 each side
Sandbag Zercher lateral lunges x 8 each side
Circle crawls x 10
CONDITIONING x 5 at least double the rest to work
Sidewinders 25 seconds on as fast as you can
(The last can be subbed for any full body “sprint” activity for 25 seconds if you don’t have ropes)
This workout left me fatigued and sore. And I only did 8 reps on two of the strength things when many people did more. It is all about choosing a weight that you want to give up on before you’ve completed all your reps. Like with the lunges…I wanted to give up around 6 reps….Like literally just wanted to drop the bag and NEVER pick it up again! BUT choosing a challenging weight DOESN’T mean choosing a weight that you can’t use correct form with.
Anyway…CHALLENGE YOURSELF! Take a seemingly “easy/simple” workout and really focus on doing everything perfectly. Really choose a weight that makes your muscles scream. Push yourself to rest less or do more reps. PUSH YOURSELF!
Not only have I gotten stronger and fitter physically with a lot of my recent training, but I’ve also become mentally tougher.
And that mental toughness is honestly a HUGE part of why I’m stronger and fitter.
For one, that mental toughness means that I’m able to really explore how strong I am because my mind doesn’t tell me “I can’t” too soon.
Two, that mental toughness has made me feel even more capable and accomplished so that I feel driven to continue to push and work hard.
But more important than the fact that my new mental toughness has helped me become physically stronger is just the fact that I’m mentally tougher.
Which is why I’ve begun to realize that while the physical health benefits of working out are AMAZING, the mental health benefits are even better.
So how do you reap all the mental health benefits?
Do you go push yourself until you can’t move? Do you have to run a marathon or try to lift 100 more pounds than you’ve ever lifted before?
While pushing your physical limits can build mental toughness, you don’t need to push yourself to the point of complete failure (aka barfing, falling over, not being able to sit down to the toilet for weeks on end).
Mental toughness is built with small victories day in and day out. And the effects…well they go beyond the gym.
It can be as simple as you make it through the workout. Maybe you had to stop for a rest when others didn’t. Or maybe you couldn’t use as heavy a weight as your friend.
BUT YOU DID IT.
You didn’t give up.
And that small victory means everything.
Which got me again to thinking (and mind you this post was developed in my head at 4 in the morning so I apologize for all the changes in direction BUT….), is it more important to have absolutely perfect form or to prove to yourself that you CAN in fact do it?
This thought came up after a Saturday morning training session with another trainer at my gym. I HUGELY respect this trainer and he knows a ton about form, movement and imbalances so I usually am in complete agreement with what he says and even turn to him for some advice. (Just letting you know that I totally respect what he did in the situation I’m about to describe).
Anyway, we were doing box jumps. Form is very important to protect the knees but also to insure that someone doesn’t get injured jumping onto the box.
One of my clients was nervous about jumping onto one of the boxes even though she had done it the week before. Her form had been good aside from the fact that she occasionally got nervous about making it so landed a bit hard.
The other trainer made her use a very low box, which she easily did. She even easily did the box above it.
But then she faced the red box and she got nervous. She easily cleared it, but she landed a bit hard.
She could easily do it and with good form, but mentally she just didn’t have total faith that she would make it.
So he took her down to the lower box because she did land harder than she had on the lower box.
I, on the other hand, would have pushed her to keep trying the higher box.
Because she COULD do it. And I firmly believed that if she had the CONFIDENCE to do it, her landing would instantly have gotten softer.
While his reaction to her attempt at the red box were correct did that benefit her as much as it would have to DO the red box?
Her form wasn’t at all dangerous…just not perfect. So he had her do the low box to really ingrain the form. Which is great…
But lacked the added benefit of building mental toughness through accomplishment.
So what should you do?
In this case, I would have had her do the red box. Because it would have built her confidence and helped her continue to push hard day in and day out. Because she COULD do it…She just needed to believe a bit more in herself!
In this case, I would have had her do the high, intimidating box because she is FEMALE.
Yep…that’s right…I’m discriminating based on her gender!
There is a strength and sense of accomplishment that you get from pushing yourself in the gym – from doing something new or better than you did the day before.
This is definitely sexist, but I honestly feel that more often than not, women don’t push themselves in the gym. (And because society really doesn’t expect them to).
But the strength and empowerment that women can get out of working out….well I think that is irreplaceable.
So above all in the gym, I work to help women feel a sense of accomplishment because the strength they gain from that spills over into other aspect of their life.
It makes them more empowered individuals.
Anyway, after all of these ramblings, what do you think? Have you found that working out has made you mentally tougher and given you the strength to attempt things in day-to-day life that you haven’t before!?!