Category Archives: program development
I consider myself very lucky to get to work with people with all different fitness levels, experiences and goals. Because of the online training I do, I also get to work with people in many different locations with access to different equipment than I may have in my gym.
Therefore I constantly have to think of new ways to work the body and challenge people.
And that is AMAZING. Because all too often we get stuck doing things ONE WAY.
Same exercises. Same way of making them harder. Same rep ranges. Same set ranges. Same rest. Same tempos. Same same same same same!
And that isn’t a bad thing. You don’t have to go crazy or try every newfangled thing that comes out.
But as trainers, we constantly have to be thinking and adjusting to make things work for all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. (Or if you travel a lot and work out in different places or with limited equipment this may just help you too.)
Which is why I was excited when I got into a discussion with one of the trainers I mentor about making glute bridges more challenging when she only has very light weights.
So I asked her…How can you make the glute bridge more challenging if the weight you have is no longer difficult for the client?
She looked at me and said, “Add more reps?”
And I agreed that was potentially an option. Increasing or reducing the volume is a valid way to mix up workouts.
But I said, “What else?”
I knew she knew more options, but so often we get stuck thinking about the problem in the same way….Which is exactly what happened to this bright and wonderful trainer.
She was so used to having a full gym with plenty of weights to make her weighted glute bridges more challenging that she didn’t really think about how else to progress the movement.
So I told her to think about different variations of the bridge to make the light weight or the basic bridge more challenging for her client…
Here is the list we then came up with to make a Weighted Glute Bridge (with too light a weight or even no weight) more challenging:
- Single leg without weight from the ground.
- Single leg with the weight.
- Single leg without the weight off the box.
- Thruster with your back on the box.
- Thruster with weight.
- Thruster, single leg without weight.
- Thruster, single leg with weight
- Thruster with feet raised.
- Thruster, single leg with feet raised.
- Thruster with feet raised with weight
- Thruster, single leg with feet raised with weight (although being very careful)
- Change up tempo.
- Slow down the bridge up.
- Slow down the hold at the top.
- Slow down the lower back down.
- Slow down all three pieces. Or just one or two. Or use different tempos on each. Maybe do explosive up, hold at the top and slow down.
- Pulse at the top or bridge up, lower halfway down, then back up then all the way down.
- Try shorter rest between sets so she can’t fully recover and the weight is more challenging.
- Place her feet on an unstable surface.
- Add in other equipment…If you have towels or sliders, try using those for a bridge and curl with or without the weight…
And we could have gone on. (For instance, we could have even added in all the other bridge variations out there….)
And while some of those had weight, they were meant to use the weight she had on hand. They were variations she could do with the client based on what she had access to.
She didn’t need to skip the exercise, especially since glute bridges are ESSENTIAL. She just had to find another way to make it challenging without our normal go to of “add more weight.”
Same goes for so many of the basic moves we do. All too often we think “add weight” or “do more.” But those aren’t the only ways to add variety to our workouts or challenge ourselves…Especially when we don’t have more time or access to weights.
Don’t have heavy weights but love deadlifts? Try a single leg deadlift! You will need lighter weights than with a bilateral movement.
Weights still too light? Or maybe you don’t have any weights at all. SLOW DOWN THE TEMPO. Try hinging over toward the ground for a five count and then quickly coming back to the top. OR try a slow lower over and then an explosive movement back up with even a jump off the ground as you come back up (aka a single deadlift hop).
OR try only loading down one side to make the movement more unstable.
Or try doing as many reps as possible in a set amount of time and then rest very briefly before repeating. Shorting the rest period gives muscles less time to recover meaning they are already fatigued when we begin again….Which can be good if we aren’t going for a one rep max or even trying to increase weight each round.
Sometimes even how you pair exercises together can make an easier exercise more challenging because you can then use that movement as a way to “burn out” the muscle after it is already fatigued.
Also, traditional weights aren’t the only pieces of equipment that make exercises more challenging. A homemade slosh pipe or even a milk jug filled with water can be great unstable weights.
Or if you are traveling and need a way to make exercises more challenging (with something you can fit in your suitcase), suspension trainers, resistance bands, mini bands, sliders/towels/valslides are all easy transportable pieces of equipment to make exercises more challenging.
Anyway, the point is, you don’t need a barbell or dumbbells to make exercises more challenging. Heck, you don’t even need equipment truly (although it can make things more fun).
All you need to do is BE CREATIVE! Explore other options. Change up other exercise variables…that is besides just reps or weights!
One of my clients said to me today, “You don’t believe in doing any easy exercises do you?”
Which made me ask, “What do you mean?”
She said, “You know…like curls or any non-complex moves…”
And I had to smile, because, no, I don’t really believe in doing isolation movements very often.
I want to get the most out of the time I have – and to get the most out of a shorter amount of time, you need to do COMPOUND MOVEMENTS.
Honestly I don’t believe you ever need to do isolation exercises unless you are a body builder, fitness model or someone rehabbing an injury.
They simply aren’t that functional. They don’t work numerous muscles at once. They don’t burn as many calories. And generally they are focused on smaller muscles that just simply don’t give you that much bang for your buck or even need to be worked that often or intensely.
That being said, I do believe in isolating your glutes more, but that gives you A LOT of bang for your buck and even when “isolating” your glutes often other muscles in your legs do assist.
I mean think about it….When you work your chest most of the moves also work your triceps and shoulders. So why do tricep extensions when you can work a big muscle group like your chest while ALSO hitting your triceps AND your shoulders?
Or take for instance the push up…You can work your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, quads and even your glutes WITH ONE MOVE. Would you really rather do a tricep extension and just work your tricep?
Same goes for bicep curls.
Why do bicep curls when you work your biceps with basically every back exercise? And compound back movements like the Inverted Row hit the BIG muscles of your back to also improve your posture and prevent/alleviate neck, shoulder and upper back pain?!?
Hmm just work your biceps or work numerous muscles at once to make lots of muscles stronger while burning more fat and helping to alleviate aches and pains….
Tough decision right?!?
Also…too many people complain they don’t have time to workout.
But it isn’t that they don’t have time to workout, they just don’t have time to do some of the bodybuilding routines shown in some fitness magazines.
When working out you have to consider your goals AND the time you have.
And probably 90% of the time COMPOUND EXERCISES are the answer.
But wait…What if I want to tone this one specific trouble zone?
Uhm…well you can’t spot reduce for one so you would be better off doing a compound exercise that burns more fat and still works the muscle.
Yup…Compound movements are STILL the answer.
Are you using your workout time wisely and doing exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck?
(Another good question to consider when picking compound exercise variations and weights (and a post for another day) is, “Are you getting the most out of your workouts by actually CHALLENGING yourself?”
Just wanted to share 5 posts I’ve written over the last month that I feel are super helpful. Enjoy!
1. PULL UPS – Want to do one learn how to do a Pull Up? Try these pull up variations and supplemental exercises!
2. Travel Workouts – When we travel it can be hard to workout. The RipFit Trainer may be a tool you want to get if you are a frequent traveler. Here are 20 great exercises you can do when you travel for a full body workout. You can do them in your hotel room…or even at home!
3. To be healthier, you need to move more during the day. A great way to move more each day is with stretches and exercises you can do at your desk. Try these 10 Desk Exercises.
4. If you are a runner, cycler or simply sit at a desk all day, you may want to try these 10 Lower Body Foam Rolling Moves.
5. The Pelvic Tilt – If you have LOW BACK PAIN, or WANT STRONGER ABS, you need to do the PELVIC TILT! No if, ands or buts about it!
The moment you think you know everything, you are in trouble.
Because you can never know everything and the second you stop learning, you will be left behind.
That is why I’m constantly looking for things to enhance my training and workout routines. I always want to be learning and growing to make my workouts better and more efficient.
I mean…Why wouldn’t you want to be better?
Why wouldn’t you want to be more efficient or find something that works and makes your life even easier?
Here are some great exercises and tips to help you continue learning and growing this week!
1. Here are 10 Suspension Trainer Exercises to work your entire body. These exercises are all core focused and many of them will strengthen your backside. So if you are having neck, shoulder, back or hip problems, you need to try these suspension trainer moves.
2.I think one of the hardest areas of our body to work when we don’t really have any equipment is our back. Here are 5 Equipment-Free Bodyweight Back Exercises. All of these are must-do moves if you sit at a desk all day and want to remain injury free!
3. The Deadlift is one of my favorite moves because it works your entire posterior chain, which, let’s face it, we all need to work because we sit way too much during the day. And the thing I love about deadlifts is there are a ton of variations to work your back and legs in different ways! Check out these deadlift variations.
4. Often when people want to work their core, they turn to crunches. And crunches can be “fun” but really, in general, they are pretty useless. This 30-Minute Core Workout, works the big muscles of your core and gets your heart beating to really burn some calories and create a strong core. It includes some of our favorite moves like the Turkish Get Up, Crawl with Pull Through and Sidewinders.
5. If you’ve upped your mileage this summer or are training for a race, you need to make sure to take care of your body so you don’t get injured. These dynamic stretches for runners will help improve your mobility so that you stay injury free. These are quick and easy to do right before your run!
6. Can you tell I’ve been very focused on upper back, shoulder and neck pain recently!?! Maybe because it is such a common problem since too many people sit hunched over a computer all day and then try to go workout without doing anything to first improve their posture (aka stretch and activate). Here are 5 great foam rolling moves you should be doing if you have a desk job.
7. And finally here are 25 Core Training Exercises. They are broken down by equipment so that you have bodyweight, slider, sandbag, and resistance band exercises.
What have you researched and learned recently to make you better? How are you constantly changing and growing?
Start your week off right with some new workouts, exercises and tips. Check out these posts:
– Three Fun and Challenging Partner Exercises – Sometimes you need a good laugh as much as you need a workout. Try these partner exercises and have some fun as you get your sweat on!
– Build Up Your Endurance Workout – Building endurance doesn’t have to mean running on a treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes or more. If you get bored with steady-state cardio, but need to improve your endurance, try this circuit workout!
– The Superman Exercise – Often we get very focused on working the front of our core, our abs, because we want a six pack and we ignore our posterior chain. But the Superman exercise is a great way to work our backside and help us prevent and alleviate low back pain! Here’s how to do the move and other variations!
– Circuit Training Workouts – Circuits are workouts where you perform one exercise after another back-to-back. They can help you build strength and burn fat. Check out these great circuit training workouts!
– Best Glute Exercises – I LOVE LOVE LOVE butt workouts. I love when my legs are sore and I especially love when my glutes are sore. Here are some of the best glute exercises…And you may be surprised to find that deadlift isn’t one of them. While I LOVE the deadlift, it doesn’t actually activate as many gluteal fibers as the hip thruster does!
– The Towel Taz – I love cardio exercises you can do anywhere with only very basic equipment. And the Towel Taz is just such a move. It works your entire core and elevates your heart rate. Check out these three basic Towel Taz variations. Grab a big blanket or towel and get moving!
– 20 Isometric Exercises – Isometrics are a great recovery tool to help you improve your mobility and stability and prevent injury. Check out these 20 great isometric exercises and stretches to help you move and feel better!
Have a great week and have some fun!
I’ve harped on this before, but it is worth discussing again.
If you don’t measure, you will never know if you are progressing.
Because often we are too close to see results.
You see yourself every day and may overlook the subtle changes that are occurring.
You see the bad workouts where you don’t have any energy and don’t make any progress and therefore you forget the 6 days before where you did lift more or run faster.
You feel yourself still getting so exhausted by that same workout, but you don’t realize that you are actually pushing harder and doing more.
You DON’T see all the good things, all the progress, because you are so caught in the day to day.
That is why you have to take measurements…Not every day or even week, but every few weeks or months.
Those measurements will help show you all the small forward progress you are making each day. Even on days when you don’t feel like things are going right.
And when you take measurements, don’t measure in only one way.
Choose a few different things to measure to show your success. Because even though your scale weight doesn’t budge that doesn’t mean you haven’t lost fat!
For instance, if you want to lose weight, don’t just weigh on the scale and use that as your only measurement. Take circumference measurements as well.
And I even like to set a few performance as well as “habit” goals as well. These goals let you celebrate other successes that LEAD to you achieving your ultimate goal of weight loss.
For instance, if you set a goal to do more pull ups, you will be working out hard to achieve it. And those workouts to help you do more pull ups will also help you lose weight.
So even if you don’t see huge weight loss one measurement period, if you see yourself getting stronger, you know you are doing all the right things.
Same goes for “habit” goals. Habit goals are goals that you set based on simply DOING the right things. If you do the meal prep you set out to do or workout the number of times you plan to, you record it and even celebrate your success.
Because DOING the right things WILL ADD UP.
Plus it lets you know that you are truly following through with your program. (Often we “think” we are doing the right things when actually we aren’t truly sticking to our program. And then we wonder why we aren’t achieving results. These habit goals make sure we are ACTUALLY doing the right things!)
So if you want to succeed and SEE that success, make sure to start measuring!
I’ve written a number of articles about injury prevention and the importance of following these four steps:
1. Foam Rolling (Self-Myofascial Release or SMR)
4. Strengthening (The “workout”)
These four steps help prevent imbalances and make sure you have good movement patterns.
However, most people skip the first three steps and go right to the fourth step because the fourth step is fun and they see the most direct results from it (aka weight loss, strength, endurance).
What they don’t realize though is that without the first three steps, without a well-balanced program, they risk having all that work they put in at the gym to lose weight and get stronger, backfire on them.
Because jumping right into your work out after you’ve been sitting all day doesn’t make for good movement patterns.
Why doesn’t it make for good movement patterns?
Because you are sitting at a computer all day typing, which isn’t a natural position for us!
And sitting in that unnatural position for 9 hours a day means that you are going to have created imbalances – imbalances that won’t truly allow you to do all of your exercise movements correctly.
So if you always just jump right into your workouts and do nothing to reverse the effects of sitting at your desk all day, you are probably going to get injured.
You can’t skip your “warm up!” Because your warm up is when you begin to reverse all those negative effects from sitting all day!
You need to WARM UP your body and ready it for the more intense movements it’s going to do. You need to loosen up tight muscles, return them to their proper length-tension relationships and then you need to get those underactive muscles active and ready to do the work they should be doing.
Here are some great guidelines to follow for a proper warm up.
Also, when it comes to warming up, I often find that people do know a variety of stretches to do. They even more often know what activation moves to do than they do foam rolling techniques to use.
Foam rolling is still one of those things that isn’t as widely known or as widely used.
That is why I put together a Foam Rolling Course to Alleviate Aches and Pains…Because all too often people don’t know how to target specific areas of pain.
This course has 33 videos showing you how to roll out common areas of tightness throughout your body. It also does have stretching, activation and strengthening moves included for common aches, pains and injuries.
So don’t skip your warm up and jump right to step four. If you want to prevent injury, you need to warm up properly and foam rolling, stretch and activate!
P.S. Here is also a great basic full body warm up I use!
It’s super hard to remain motivated and confident when you aren’t getting results as quickly as you would like AND you haven’t yet come close to your final goal. It’s hard to remain motivated when life is stressful.
Yet we rarely, if ever, PLAN how we will keep ourselves going when times get tough.
For instance, if you know May is a busy and stressful month at work, while not plan you diet and exercise program around that?
Why not realize that it will be impossible, or at least add way more stress, if you maintain the same program you’ve been on during that month?
Why not cut yourself some slack so that you don’t end up suffering a setback during that month EVEN if it means potentially slower progress?
Why not MODIFY your program so that it is EASIER during that month instead of trying to force a program that you won’t be able to maintain and will lead to binges?
Honestly there is no reason WHY NOT!
We can’t always force the same dedication to our goals. Sometimes we need to ease up a bit and give ourselves a break.
And if we PLAN to give ourselves breaks, we are way more likely to stick to our program overall and keep moving forward even if at a slower pace.
When you know life is going to get busy, plan your diet and exercise program around that.
Make meal prep easier. Or find some healthy dining out options. Your diet may not be as perfect as you usually like but it will be way better than flying by the seat of your pants when you are totally stressed out and hungry!
When you know you’ll be working long hours and all you’ll want to do afterwards is go home and skip your workout, why not plan in some shorter workouts?
Draft up a few quick workouts that will at least keep you active. Heck even make them home workouts so that you don’t have to make an extra trip to the gym when all you want to do is go home.
No these workouts may not keep you moving forward as quickly as you would like. And the modified program may not even be as perfectly tailored to help you reach your goals.
But it is still movement. It is still SOMETHING.
And SOMETHING is always better than NOTHING.
And even if you design workouts that have nothing to do with reaching your goal of a 300lbs squat, they will at least still keep you healthy and active and in the habit of working out.
They will keep your body moving and help you MAINTAIN most of the progress you’ve made.
Whereas if you just end up skipping workouts altogether because you are busy, stressed out and didn’t plan ahead, you will probably lose some of your progress and may end up getting injured because you try to jump right back in after not being consistent.
Sometimes you need to focus, not on moving forward, but MAINTAINING what you currently have as you take care of other areas of your life. And then once things are settled, you can get back to moving forward.
Life is about balance. Sometimes you can be focused on your health and fitness goals and other times they may have to take a backseat. But they NEVER have to be forgotten.
When you know things are going to get stressful, do you figure out a way to balance life with your health and fitness goals?
Do you PLAN AHEAD for stressful times?
Do you ADJUST your program to fit your life?
There are lots of different rep ranges you can use in your workouts. Traditional rep ranges are 1-6 (max. strength), 8-12 (hypertrophy), 15-20 (endurance/stability).
However, you shouldn’t get stuck on using only those rep ranges or even just a single one of those ranges.
There are lots of other ways to work on strength, hypertrophy and/or endurance and stability.
One great workout set up that I like to use is Pyramid Sets…and in this case, simple Descending/Reverse Pyramid Sets.
Pyramid Sets allow you to work through numerous different rep ranges all in one workout.
The workout below is a variation of the Descending/Reverse Pyramid Set Workout – This means you will start with lower reps and higher weight and go up in reps as you go down in weight over the sets.
You want to push to fatigue each set. You shouldn’t be able to do the same weight at the end that you used at the beginning!
The Reverse Pyramid Full Body Strength Workout
Stretch and Roll Out:
Rest as needed between rounds. Use as heavy a weight or perform as advanced a variation as you can at each rep range. Push to fatigue!
Start with one rep of each. Each round add one rep until you hit 10 reps on the final (10th) set.
Stretch and Roll Out:
KB Deadlift – Kettlebell deadlift. You can do a sumo deadlift, straight leg deadlift or conventional deadlift using a kettlebell (or two). Choose the one that best meets your needs. One of my favorite is the Sumo Deadlift…Set your feet up at least shoulder-width apart. Point your toes slightly out. Set one or two kettlebells down between your legs, centered between your heels. Sit your butt back and hinge forward slightly, keeping your back flat. Grab the handles and keep your arms straight as you sink into a wide squat. Pull the kettlebells off the ground and stand up nice and tall. You almost want to pull up and back so that you don’t lean or fall forward. Squeeze your glutes at the top. Then sit your butt back and hinge over to bring the kettlebell(s) back to the ground. Touch them down and then stand back up. Make sure you are driving up off your heels and not rounding your back. Do not lean too far forward. And make sure you sink your butt. This is not a straight leg pull. TO ADVANCE OR REGRESS THROUGHOUT THE REVERSE PYRAMID, CHANGE THE WEIGHT.
Pull Up – Hang from the bar with your palms facing away (you may also sub in chin ups or a neutral grip pull up). Press your chest out and draw your shoulder blades down and back. Then pull your chin up above the bar. Once your chin reaches above the bar, lower back down. Stay in control. Do not kip or swing. As you fatigue, you may swing a little on the last rep or two, but it shouldn’t be used to do reps quickly. Beginners may want to use a pull up assistance machine or their feet or a band to help them perform their pull ups. TO ADVANCE OR REGRESS THROUGHOUT THE REVERSE PYRAMID, CHOOSE A MORE CHALLENGING OR LESS CHALLENGING VARIATION. Maybe do a plyometric pull up to start and regress to a chin up or even assisted variation as you go.
Airborne Lunge – To do this move, you will bend one knee and you are going to squat/lunge down, dropping that back knee toward the ground. Do not touch the foot down when you drop the knee to the ground. Lean forward as needed to counterbalance but do not round forward. You can add a box or pad under your knee if you can’t hit the ground. Make sure to sink back into the front heel and drive off that heel to come back up to standing. If you need assistance, you can also hold a weight or a suspension trainer in your hands. TO ADVANCE OR REGRESS THROUGHOUT THE REVERSE PYRAMID, HOLD WEIGHT AT YOUR CHEST TO MAKE THE MOVE HARDER OR USE AN ASSISTED VARIATION/SMALLER RANGE OF MOTION TO MAKE IT EASIER.
Dip – Beginners may do an assisted variation off of dip bars or parallel bars. They may also do these off of kettlebells or a bench. Advanced exercisers will do full dips and may even add weight to challenge them. To do a full dip, place one hand on each bar. Press up to the top so that your arms are fully extended. Then slowly bend your elbows and lower your body down. You want to lower yourself down until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Then drive back up through your hands until you are fully extended at the top. Keep your core tight so you don’t arch your low back. Do not lean too far forward. To do this move from the bench, place both hands on the bench behind you. Your finger tips should hang over the bench and face you. Stretch your legs out then in front of you. The straighter your legs are and the further your heels are from your butt, the harder the move will be. Bend your elbows and drop your butt toward the ground. Drop so your upper arms are parallel to the ground then press back up. Keep your butt and back right up against the bench. Do not let your body drift forward. TO ADVANCE OR REGRESS THROUGHOUT THE REVERSE PYRAMID, CHOOSE A MORE CHALLENGING OR LESS CHALLENGING VARIATION.
Yesterday I sent out an email about going into your workouts with a plan.
When we are prepared and go in with a plan, we are a bazillion times more likely to accomplish our goal.
Think about the times you’ve gone into the gym without knowing what workout you are going to do.
How many times do you slack off because you don’t have a clear direction and feel tired from a long day at work? How often do you half-ass your workout just so you can go home sooner and eat dinner? How often do you string together random things just because that equipment is available even though the exercises really have nothing to do with your goals?
Probably all too often.
Because when you don’t go in with a plan, you aren’t going to be as motivated to push yourselves to work hard toward your goals.
Going into your workout with a clear idea of what you need to do motivates you to push hard even when you are tired. You have something you are SUPPOSED to accomplish. So even if you are tired at the end of the day and you only want to do 3 rounds, you are going to push through and do the 5 you have written down to complete.
When you don’t have something written down, you can easily adjust, but when you have something concrete written, you will push through because, most of us, don’t like knowing there is something that we didn’t do.
Also, when you don’t have a program written down you often just do whatever is easiest with no regard to whether or not those exercises or weights will move you forward toward your goals.
You will sub in other exercises that may not even work the same body parts just because that equipment is available. Or you may even turn to a cardio workout because the weights area is busy.
You tend to go the path of least resistance unless you have a guide….almost all of us do.
Having a pre-written workout is a great way to guide ourselves forward even if it isn’t the easiest or most convenient thing to do.
It keeps us on track and motivated. It guides us and even allows us to track our progress because we can make nots on what we actually did.
If we don’t write things down to begin with, it isn’t likely we are going to go home and record every detail about our workouts right after.
And if you can’t track your progress, how will you know what is working and what isn’t? How will you know what changes need to be made?
Plus if you aren’t going off pre-written workouts, you probably aren’t going to be consistent enough in the first place to truly get results!
So start going in with a plan.
Not sure how to write-up a workout? Then check out my Workout Library with 50 free ones! And if you have questions about them, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Plus I even have some great ones under the workouts tab on this site!)