Category Archives: Top 10

The Burpee And The 100 Day Challenge

The other day I was talking to Erin, one of my beautiful Boston lifting ladies, and she mentioned THE 100 DAY BURPEE CHALLENGE.

Generally I don’t participate in challenges like that because they require you to do the same move day after day after day and I feel like they can interrupt your other training. And they really don’t get you any specific results except that you are moving every single day.

However, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a fun challenge with friends especially since I will be seeing them shortly and we can do a few days of the challenge together.

While challenges like these won’t help you reach weight loss or strength goals, they can occasionally be fun. And shoot, if they get you moving well then by all means, do them! (Just don’t make them the basis of your training program…PLEASE!)

Anyway, when starting this challenge, I began to think about the other burpee variations out there that I use. While I could probably name about 100 variations (including the box jump burpee and the pull up burpee), I’ve chosen five to highlight below that I like to use.

5 Burpee Variations

1. The Modified Burpee – This is a beginning variation of the burpee. To do a modified burpee, stand up nice and tall to start. Then bend over and place your hands on the ground right in front of your feet, which are a few inches apart. Jump your legs back so that you are in a high plank (top of the push up) position. Jump your feet back into your hands, stand up and jump up in the air. The beginner burpee does not include a push up at the bottom. To regress this move further, you can step back into the high plank and then step back forward. You can also remove the jump up at the top and instead just stand up nice and tall and reach your hands overhead.

2. The Full Burpee – This is a full burpee with a push up. To do a full burpee, stand up nice and tall. Then bend over and place your hands on the ground about hip-width apart a slight bit in front and to the side of your feet. Jump your legs back and then perform a push up, dropping your chest to the ground. Push back up to the high plank and then jump your feet back in and come back to standing. Jump as high as you can at the top. If you are going to add in the push up, PERFORM A PERFECT PUSH UP! No worms or butts up in the air during the push up.

3. The Burpee Sit Thru – I like doing this variation without the push up since it allows you to move faster and do more sit thrus. Stand up nice and tall. Bend over and put your hands on the ground and just jump your feet back a little so that you are in a nice crawling position (hands about under shoulders and knees about under your hips). Then perform one sit thru to each side. To perform the sit thru, lift one hand and kick the opposite leg through so that you are basically sitting on the ground. Swing back to the crawl position and repeat on the other side. Then stand up and jump up at the top and repeat.

4. The Slider Burpee – This is your basic burpee just done on sliders. To do the slider burpee, place a slider under each foot. Bend down and put your hands on the ground. Slide your feet back to the high plank position. Perform a push up and then slide them back in and stand up. Do not jump at the top. Just stand up and raise your hands overhead. Repeat. To make the move easier, remove the push up. To make the move harder and a bit slower, perform a push up followed by bringing the knee in to the outside of the same elbow and then another push up followed by the opposite knee. Then slide the feet in and come back to standing.

5. The Beast Mode Burpee – I generally do lower reps with these than I do with the other burpee variations because you are using weights. To do the Beast Mode Burpee, hold a dumbbell in each hand up at your shoulders. Stand with your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart. Squat down and then press the weights overhead. After the squat to press, bend over and place the weights in your hands on the ground and jump your feet back into the high plank position. You can then either do a push up and then two plank rows or you can do a push up, row, push up row. Then jump your feet back in and come back to standing. Do not jump up at the end. Just stand up and go back into the squat to press. Please make sure you aren’t lifting the weights back up with your low back as you stand up.

At the top is a video with each of the variations. Thank you Ryan for the music.

Do you use burpees in any of your workouts? If so, what’s your favorite variation?

Have you ever taken on The 100 Day Burpee Challenge?

Squat Variations – Mixing it up without weight

The basic bodyweight squat is a great move and often overlooked because it seems so simple and well….easy.

Most people add weight to the squat to make it more challenging.

But what if you don’t have weights at home yet have progressed past the basic bodyweight squat for reps?

Here are some variations of the squat that can help you work your legs in different ways that may just be the challenge you need even without adding weights

1. Bodyweight Squat Hold – Holding a basic bodyweight squat at the bottom (aka when your thighs are parallel to the ground and your knees are bent to 90) isn’t by any means easy even if you can squat with quite a bit of weight. Try holding for 30 seconds to 1 minute…or maybe even 2 minutes. Do not let your chest fall forward (aka do not lean forward) and make sure your weight is in your heels. Do not sink below 90 as that makes the squat easier. Beginners may need to perform a shorter hold or hold up a bit higher.

2. Wall Sit – This is a variation of the Squat Hold and equally as torturous. If you have trouble holding at 90 during the Squat Hold or if you lean forward, a wall sit will be the best option for you. Sink down to 90 and drive through your back into the wall. Sit up nice and tall. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If this doesn’t feel incredibly challenging, you can do a single leg wall sit. Raise one leg off the ground and hold it straight out in front of you (the straighter out in front of you that you hold the leg off the ground, the more you will work that quad as well). Try a 30 second to 1 minute hold on each side.

wall sit

3. Squat Hold followed by reps – While bodyweight reps alone may not be challenging, bodyweight reps after a squat hold will be. Hold until your legs feel tired (30 seconds to 1 minute for most people). The longer you force yourself to hold before the reps, the harder the reps will be. Then do 10-20 reps after the hold and repeat. You can even advance this move further by doing a hold followed by reps of jump squats. (And to make this move extremely tiring, you can do a hold followed by basic reps followed by jump squats. OUCHIE!)

4. Slow Reps – Everyone always wants to go faster. No one ever wants to SLOW DOWN. And why is that? Because slow reps are AWFUL…aka REALLY HARD AND TORTUOUS! Try taking 5 seconds to lower down to the bottom of your squat before exploding back up to the top. Or try a 2-3 second lower, 5 second hold at the bottom and then a 2-3 second press back to the top. Mix it up. There are a ton of ways you can slow down the tempo. Just slow it down. Shoot you can even go quickly down, hold at the bottom for 5-10 seconds and then pop right back up!

5. Jump Squats – Just like slowing something down makes it harder, so does making something more powerful and explosive. With jump squats, it isn’t about performing a super deep rock bottom squat. You actually want just a little squat/hinge to load so that you can explode up. Squatting too deep can actually hinder your ability to be super explosive and jump high. So perform a more shallow squat and explode as high off the ground as possible. Beginners may need to rest between each rep. To make the move harder, jump up and sink right back into the squat to repeat. Really focus on a soft landing. You should never land with your legs completely locked out unless you want to hurt your knees. SOFT KNEES! Bend your knees to help you absorb the impact of landing.

squat jump

6. 90 Degree Hops – A variation of the squat jump where you not only explode up, but also rotate 90 degrees to each side. With this move you can either focus on getting high off the ground OR on staying low and moving quickly. Both can really make the legs burn. I love this move because it isn’t just a simple sagittal plane squat! Just like the basic jump squat, you need to remember to focus on a soft landing.

rotational hops

7. Staggered Stance Squats (and or Jumps) – A great way to work each leg individually without doing a single leg movement, is the staggered stance squat. Place one foot in front and the other foot about hip-width to shoulder-width apart and a bit behind the front foot (the back toe should be about even with the instep of your front foot). Squat down as low as possible, keeping your weight in your front heel. Do not worry if the back heel comes up. Do not lean forward or let your back round. Complete all reps on one leg and then switch to a staggered stance on the other side. To make this move harder, you can do one of two things – you can do a staggered stance squat jump or you can do a slow tempo staggered stance squat.

staggered squat

8. Single Leg Squats to Bench – This is a progression toward a pistol squat and a great way to correct any imbalances because the legs work individually. I did it with my IKEA table, but you can use a chair or bench or well…a step stool. Anything that is the proper height that you can sit down to. The lower the “box,” the harder the move. Start by sitting on the bench. Place one foot solidly on the ground with your heel right under your knee. Lift the other leg off the ground. I like to hold it out straight to make the quad work. Stand up straight. Try not to lean forward as you stand. Sit back down, controlling your decent as much as possible. As with all squat variations, you can slow down the tempo to make this move harder!

single leg squat

9. Single Leg Squats Using a Wall – This is more challenging than the squat to bench unless you have a super low box and have great control over your decent. Stand in a doorway with your hands on the each side. Straighten one leg out. Sit back into your heel and walk your hands down the wall as you squat as low as possible. Once you go as low as possible, walk your hands back up and drive through the heel back up to standing. Try to pull up with your hands as little as possible. Use the wall for support only as much as needed. Do not rock onto your toe. Drive off the heel as much as possible. Really keep your core engaged as you perform the move. Do not worry about your back being completely straight.

assisted single leg squat

10. Pistol Squats – Basically this is a single leg squat with no support! Go as low as possible, holding the other leg out straight. Drive up through the heel to come back to standing.

Bonus:

5 minutes of bodyweight squats – A great way to get in some cardio and work the legs using the BASIC BODYWEIGHT SQUAT is to set a timer and do as many reps as possible in the time allotted. I like five minutes. It is just long enough to be awful, but not so long that you need to take long rests. Work your way up to five minutes if you are a beginner!

What is your favorite squat variation without weight?

Diet Essentials – 15 Staple Foods

I get asked a lot about what my grocery list includes – about what I have in my fridge and kitchen cabinets.

If you were to look in our fridge and cabinets, you would see basically the same thing every time.

As I mentioned before, I am a creature of habit. And part of habit is having the same basic foods around every week.

Here are the 15 groceries I make sure I have around the house every single week. (Note some are seasonal…Berries I have around the house during the summer but not once they go out of season.)

1. Grass-fed Beef – We always have grass-fed ground beef around the house. Occasionally we will have some sort of steak as well, but we ALWAYS have ground beef. Bunless burgers, chili, meatballs, meatza pie (meat pizza), stir fry….you can make a ton of different things EASILY. So if we ever need a last-minute meal, ground beef is the go-to. It can easily be cooked in a skillet OR thrown in a crockpot and just left to simmer and cook (this is where the tomatoes come in handy for a quick and easy chili). Plus grass-fed, naturally raised beef is leaner than conventionally raised beef (unless you get the like 90/10) and has a much better omega ratio. HEALTHY FAT! And it freaking just tastes SO GOOD! (Sorry vegetarians and vegans reading this…BUT IT DOES!)

jalapeno bacon burgers with avocado cream

2. Cage-free Eggs – Eggs have been considered healthy than unhealthy than healthy again all because of the cholesterol they contain, but EGGS ARE GOOD FOR YOU! Especially eggs from free-range, naturally raised chickens which have way more good fats than conventional raised chicken eggs (the proof is in the color of the yolk!). Eggs are such a versatile protein. They can be eaten for any meal of the day and can easily be made ahead for the week and then transported anywhere for a snack anytime. Hardboiled eggs, egg muffins, omelets, protein pancakes, healthy deviled eggs…and that is only just a bit of what you can use them for! You could even put them in your coffee….Hmm….

3. Free-Range Chicken – On high carb days we use the lean white meat to stay under 50 grams of fat for the day while on low carb days we eat all that delicious dark meat and skin. Sometimes we buy pieces of chicken, legs and thighs and then breasts separately OR sometimes we get the whole chicken, slather it in pasture-raised butter and bake it in the oven and then have our protein source already cooked for numerous days. (You can even throw it in the crock pot and just let it simmer away no matter what pieces of chicken you buy) While chicken doesn’t have as good an omega ratio as the grass-fed beef by itself, it can easily be made even better by cooking it in a healthy fat like coconut oil or pasture butter. Plus it is really perfect for those carb days – my favorite use of it is in my homemade chicken fried rice! (Eggs can also be a great way to thicken sauces so that you don’t have to use any fake or processed crap to hold things together.)

4. Avocados – A great source of healthy fat to improve your omega ratio AND SUPER YUMMY AND DELICIOUS. I could seriously just eat avocados by the spoonful….oh wait…I actually do that…So creamy and delicious. Often people think that eating healthy means eating bland food with no sauce or toppings. But slice a few strips onto your burger or mash into a guacamole to put on your chili or salad…YUM! I never miss dressing when I top salads with avocados or guacamole. Avocados can also be added to other condiments to make sauces and dressings creamier without having to use bad processed things…like miracle whip…..While we can easily get avocados all year around here, this will be one of those seasonal things in many places (and we do tend to eat more during the summer when we can get really great ones at the farmer’s market). The more you can eat locally and/or seasonally, the better off you are going to be.

5. Berries – Another seasonal food, but super delicious. When I want fruit, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries…even cherries) are my go-to. They are lower in carbs and antioxidant filled. Plus…THEY ARE JUST SO GOOD! You can eat them plain for a low-calorie snack or you can blend them into a smoothie, which is super refreshing after a workout on a super hot day. They are also delicious frozen. A nice little cold treat to satisfy those frozen yogurt cravings. You can even take it a step further and mash the slightly frozen berries up with a bit of coconut milk (or cream) and some dark chocolate chunks if you really want frozen yogurt…Delicious and addicting!

local and fresh produce

6. Coconut Oil – Good for sauces, cooking, dressings, skin care….Why wouldn’t you have it around? While we don’t need to buy it every week (since one jar can last awhile) it is most definitely a staple. It can easily be added to smoothies and even protein pancakes for a source of healthy fats (and to keep you feeling fuller for longer since that is what fats do).

7. Raw, Pasture, Grass-fed Dairy Raw Milk, pasture-raised cream, pasture-raised butter, even some raw milk cheese can be found in our fridge. While we don’t tend to keep a ton of cheese around, we do have a bit to occasionally sprinkle on top of things. A little blue cheese on a burger or a little cheese melting in your chili just makes everything taste that much better. However, don’t go overboard with the cheese. And your cheese should never come in a bag or be shredded.  It should also be as minimally processed as possible. Just as all of your dairy should be. The pasture-raised butter we get, we use daily to cook in. It holds up well in the heat and helps create a great omega 3-6 ratio in any meal that we cook. Just make sure your butter is truly healthy. Just found out the Kerrygold has some processed crap in it! The cream, Ryan uses in his coffee each day…yuck…coffee…While I more often eat it in dressings and sauces. The raw milk, we drink straight or add to protein shakes. So rich and creamy with a ton of health benefits NOT found in pasteurized milk. (Most people also don’t realize there really isn’t that much more fat in whole milk than in skim. Don’t get me wrong, there is more fat. Just not as much as you would think. Especially not enough in my opinion to consume something MORE processed.) I have no problems with dairy and really enjoy it. But it should still be used in moderation. While we have it around every week, it isn’t something we go overboard with. It is more used as a sprinkling to make every meal taste delicious.

8. Leafy Green Vegetables (Spinach, Broccoli, Spring Mix, Romaine, Arugula) – We most often have some sort of organic lettuce mix around so that we can make side salads to go with our meals because if I’m not eating a side salad, I’m probably forcing Ryan to eat cauliflower since I LOVE IT! Leafy greens are a necessity though in any form that you choose. Really meat and vegetables make up the base of almost every meal for us especially on low carb days. Leafy green vegetables are a great source of nutrients AND they make you feel full and satisfied after eating. And if you are like me and need a certain amount of “content” on the plate to feel like you’ve eaten enough, getting to cover your plate in vegetables is very satisfying.

9. Cauliflower – Did I mention before that I LOVE cauliflower? And now I’m pretty sure Ryan does too! Since we’ve found a great place to get cauliflower at the farmer’s market, we’ve been getting a couple of heads every single week. You can eat it raw or steamed or baked or as “rice” or “mash!” We’ve riced it and put it in chilis. We’ve also been super into making it into a mash and eating it along with our protein. Seriously LOVE the cauliflower mash. You can add cream or butter or a little cheese even. The other day, Ryan threw in garlic chives we found at the farmer’s market, a couple of farm-fresh eggs and CHICKEN LIVER! We got a whole chicken straight from the farm and it had the innards in it still so Ryan decided to throw the liver into the mash since liver is so good for you (and I really really don’t like the taste). In the mash you couldn’t even taste it yet it added some great nutritional benefit to the meal! You of course don’t have to get that crazy with your mashes, but you can get a ton of nutrients into your meal by mixing them in. Cauliflower is also super low-calorie, which I love because that means I can eat like a whole head of it myself…Just kidding…sort of…

10. Tomato Sauce – Tomatoes are great for you in any form as long as a ton of crap hasn’t been added to them. We generally get an organic sauce with no additives in a BPA free can, which is great to pull out when we want to make a last-minute chili or sauce. And the best part about using tomatoes in a sauce is that more lycopene is actually released as the tomatoes are cooked! As I said though, we always have this around just so we can make that quick healthy meal. I do also love fresh little cherry tomatoes though with a little bit of green onion, garlic and olive oil as a nice little summer salad (Sometimes I add in cauliflower too!).

11. White Rice – Our carb day staple. Replenish your glycogen stores quickly and efficiently. Plus white rice is just so tasty! No it isn’t nutrient dense, but that is what the veggies, fruits and meats are for! And while it isn’t nutrient dense, it doesn’t have the phytic acid that brown rice does. This article basically sums up why I choose white rice over brown rice aside from the fact that I enjoy it more and that the whole purpose of the carb refeed is to get your muscles glycogen FAST. So while this isn’t a daily indulgence, it is consumed 2-3 times per week on refeed days. Remember, if you are looking to cut that last little bit of fat, you may need to ADD IN carbs on some days not cut out more stuff. Cutting out foods isn’t always the answer!

mustard chicken

Mustard chicken breast and white rice. YUM!

12. Balsamic and Olive Oil – We don’t often cook with olive oil, but both olive oil and balsamic vinegar are condiments you always need to have around. They are the quickest and easiest way to make simple and healthy sauces and dressings. Get good ones too. Get a nice thick balsamic and a California Olive Oil.

13. Salsa – You must be careful when picking out salsas. You don’t want to get one with a ton of extra crap in it (you can also make your own salsas if you feel so inclined!). But all-natural salsas can be a great way to add flavor to any meal without adding a ton of calories (most salsas are very low-calorie). I also love to use them on salads since I don’t like dry lettuce. Plus, if the salsa really is all natural, it will add more than just flavor to your meal since many have vegetables, or even fruits, in them!

14. Whey – I’ve wavered on whether or not this one is a staple food, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it is in our busy and sometimes hectic lives. While it shouldn’t be used every day as a meal replacement, it can be a quick and easy protein source to keep you on track if you don’t have time to make a meal or prepare a snack. It is much better than eating cookies or any other crap we give ourselves permission to eat when we get super hungry and there isn’t a super easy and quick healthy option around. Whey at least has nutritional benefit AND can be combined with other ingredients in protein pancakes or smoothies to make it even better for us. A good thing to have around especially if you are always on the go and not the best about cooking. It can be a quick replacement. Just make sure you get one that has as little extra stuff in it as possible.

banana protein pancakes

15. Wild Caught Seafood – We have some form of seafood basically every week. While we are better about this in the “warmer” months when we go to the farmer’s market every week, we do try to eat seafood at least once a week. We shy away from larger fish and anything farm-raised. We eat shrimp and salmon most often. Fish is a great source of healthy fats. And depending on the fish you get, it can be a super low-calorie protein source. Plus when fish is fresh, it just tastes so good! And it can be super quick to cook so is great for a last-minute meal. It can also be cooked the night before and then thrown on a salad or into an omelet the next day!

BONUS: On occasion foods….These are foods we will have around and use maybe once a week at most. They are also foods we can go awhile without replacing.

Nut butters – I love nuts. But they have phytic acid and I have problems consuming them in moderation. We don’t usually keep whole nuts around unless they are macadamia nuts but we do generally have a nut butter or two around. I will put them in protein pancakes or occasionally on fruit. They are a nice little treat, but should be eaten in moderation!

almond coconut butter

Bacon – I love bacon. LOVE IT! But we’ve gotten away from eating it often just because it is hard to find truly good bacon. We do have it around though on occasion and then use a piece or two to top burgers. We also use the grease to cook in. So if we’ve made bacon for burgers, we usually cook the burgers in the bacon grease right after. Waste not!

We also have a TON of spices. Spices are really key to making great tasting meals. Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland. You just need to learn how to spice it! Here are the grinders and spices we always have around – Garlic Salt grinder, Pepper combination grinder, Paprika, Chili Powder, Cumin, Oregano, Dill, Cayenne Pepper, Basil, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Cinnamon, Nutmeg. Just make sure you get ones that don’t have additives!

So that is what we have in the kitchen. What are your Diet Staples?

Can I also just ask a question…Why does everyone love almond milk and think it is so healthy? For one, almonds have phytic acid, which prevents your body from absorbing minerals especially if you eat a ton of them. And two, almonds don’t have milk so processing has to go on for you to have almond MILK.

Sandbag Workout

So Sarah over at Shh…Fit Happens wrote a post about working out with sandbags the other day and it got me to thinking about all the exercises that I use sandbags for.

Sandbags are a great way to add weight to any move because the weight is AWKWARD. They aren’t like barbells and dumbbells. They aren’t easy to grip and the weight can shift from side to side as you lift it. They are super functional and force your core to really engage to stabilize.

They are a great way to add variety to the same basic moves that you are already doing. Like I mentioned in my post Sunday…Mix up your resistance to make moves more challenging.

So below is a great Sandbag Workout:

WARM UP

Dynamic stretches and locomotion to get the entire body warm. Don’t forget to foam roll any tight areas!

STRENGTH:
3-5 rounds of each superset. Complete all rounds of each superset before moving on to the next one.
Reps: 5 for maximal strength (advanced lifters), 8-12 for hypertrophy (advanced and intermediate), 15-20 strength endurance (beginners, recovery week or just working on strength endurance)

1.
Squat (Do not round forward with the front loaded weight!)

sandbag squat
Overhead Press (Do not arch your low back)

sandbag press

2.
Lunge with Rotation (Do not let the sandbag go back too far on each side or it will catch and do not ROUND forward. Start on one side step the back foot forward and swing the bag to the other side as you lunge back.)
sandbag lunge
Row (Nice flat back. Knees soft.)

sandbag row

3.
Sandbag Get Up (Will want to do 1-5 reps per side for everyone. The Get Up is doing all the steps to stand up and then following all the same steps to go back down.)
sandbag get up
Plank with Pull Thrus (Keep hips from rotating or going up or down)

sandbag plank

COOL DOWN

Stretch and foam roll all tight areas!

Bonus Moves:

Single Leg Deadlift (Keep the standing leg soft and your back flat)
sandbag deadlift

Goodmorning (Keep a flat back)

sandbag goodmorning

Crawling with Sandbag Pull (Sit back into your heels and perform a hip hinge to drive the sandbag forward. Don’t just pull with your arm.)
sandbag crawl

I also want to note that I’ve only demonstrated one variation of these moves. Squats can be done with the sandbag held the long ways up and down (Bear Hug) or even on one shoulder. Loading on one shoulder forces the core to engage even more (which as I mentioned on Sunday, asymmetrical loading is a great way to keep your workouts challenging!).

Deadlifts can also be done in a “suitcase” style where you hold it on one side. This is a great way to progress the single leg move (again ASYMMETRICAL LOADING!).

Note: Sorry for the pictures. I do not “glow” or “glitter” when I workout….I SWEAT!

BONUS WORKOUT:

sandbag workout

It’s Easier For You – 10 Ways to Break Bad Habits

It’s funny, whenever someone has success in terms of changing their lifestyle around to be healthier, people who haven’t made the change will tell them…

“Well it is easier for you.”

Can I just say right now…”HOW COULD IT BE EASIER!?!?!”

Any time you break a habit, any time you make a lifestyle change it isn’t going to be easier.

I mean think about all the changes you’ve had to make to your habits over the years. Where any of them really EASY?

I can tell you your parents didn’t think potty training you was easy. Or getting you to stop carrying around the blanket EVERYWHERE you went was easy.

I can tell you my Mom didn’t have an easy time of breaking me of my thumb-sucking habit. She had to coax and reward and take it step by step. And sometimes I had good days and sometimes I had bad days. But slowly the good days won out and I stopped (My desire for the present at the end became greater than my desire to suck my thumb!).

But even something as simple as breaking the habit of sucking my thumb wasn’t easy.

No lifestyle changes are ever easy for anyone.

Habits are hard to break.

There is no magic pill – no key to instant success.

No one is really more gifted when it comes to making a change.

It is all hard work and determination. It is determination that supersedes any other immediate desires.

Changing to a healthy lifestyle isn’t ever easy, especially when you are making the actual CHANGE.

In fact most people will tell you about all the sacrifices they had to make and all the times they wanted to give up BEFORE the change became habit.

So let’s face it. Change is never easy. There is no secret out there or gifted person that didn’t struggle when breaking bad habits.

Honestly, I think that people say “It was easier for you” to let themselves off the hook and to try to make you feel a little less proud of your accomplishment.

It isn’t really that they thought it was easier for you….They are just excusing their own failures.

Sorry, but really, if you think about it, you know this is true.

Because we all know change isn’t easy.

The key is just setting your mind to the change and  deciding that nothing is going to derail you.

I write a lot about having a powerful WHY when it comes to creating change.

That powerful reason WHY is what makes your change seem so seamless, so “easy,” to other people.

When you want something bad enough, you are going to make it happen.

Every day won’t be perfect. There will be “slip ups” and missed workouts and cheat meals, but perfection isn’t necessary.

Small forward progress over the days, weeks, months is what will add up. Staying focused on your end goal is what will matter.

Having a powerful WHY, knowing a really motivational, emotional reason why you want to accomplish something, is what will keep you motivated, but it is only a small part of success.

Here is what I tell my clients that helps them succeed even when the going gets tough.

1. Write down your WHY – Write down a powerful, emotional reason why you want something. Just saying “I want to lose 10lbs” or “I want to look good in my bikini this summer” probably isn’t going to be enough. Tap into your emotions. Dig for something important that will not only motivate you to get started, but will keep you motivated when things get hard (which they probably will).

Living seems like decent motivation….

2. Write down a WHEN – Set a deadline. Set multiple deadlines in fact. Set short-term goals with dates when they have to be completed. Deadlines are motivating. And when they are written down they are more solid and we are way more likely to want to achieve them because we can’t weasel out of them. Make the deadline important. Don’t just choose an arbitrary date. Yes, if you are making a lifestyle change, you want it to be FOREVER, but you have to have specific dates when certain things will be accomplished. Because trust me….people do better with END DATES.

3. PLAN, PLAN and oh yea….PLAN – You don’t have to write out exactly what you are going to eat and when you are going to eat it. You don’t have to map out your workouts and the weights you are going to use for the next year, but PLAN AHEAD. We each have triggers that set off old bad habits. Know those triggers and lay out a plan with how you are going to deal with them. For instance, ladies…many of us crave crap around our periods. Plan out how you are going to deal with that. Do you have “cleaner” treats available? Do you plan in a couple cheats then? What is your plan of action? Know what sets you off and plan for it. (Sorry dudes reading this). Developing new habits is about breaking the old ones and a big part of that is PLANNING AHEAD so when the moment arises we know how we are going to change our old patterns. Because trust me, trying to fight against old desires in the moment when you have no plan of attack isn’t easy.

4. Know yourself – Take a look at your current habits. Take a look at what has made you fail in the past. Now take a look at what you’ve enjoyed and haven’t enjoyed with other failed experiments, other times you’ve tried to make a lifestyle change. If you don’t like running, don’t force yourself to run every day. If you don’t like lifting weights, don’t force yourself to lift every day. Find things you enjoy to be active and then on occasion add in those things you “know you should be doing.” If you know that you just can’t go to bed without dessert, figure out a healthy treat that satisfies you. If you know that having that “all or nothing” attitude will lead to you failing, DON’T DO IT! Make small changes over time. You know yourself. You know what you like and what you don’t like. Account for those things and then do number 3 and PLAN FOR THEM!

5. Celebrate small success – Lose half a pound? Avoid eating that brownie at work even though you really really wanted it but you knew it would just throw off the rest of your week? CELEBRATE IT! Give yourself recognition for changing. Give yourself credit for breaking a bad habit or moving even just the teensiest bit closer to your goal. Too often people get so focused on their long-term goal that they don’t recognize all the great things that they are doing day in and day out. And that focus on the long-term goal, and them not being there yet, can lead to them getting discouraged and feeling like they are failing. When they aren’t! Because those small things that they are doing day in and day out will add up to one very large success. They just have to be patient! You have to get rid of that NOW NOW NOW attitude and celebrate your small victories!

motivational quotes about success

6. Don’t seek perfection – Sorry none of us are perfect. And life and achieving our goals, isn’t about perfection. It is about small forward progress over the weeks, months and even years. It is about NOT being hard on yourself when you slip up. It is about NOT expecting yourself to be perfect. Because when we expect perfection, when we come down on ourselves for one little mistake, that is when we derail all the progress we have made. If you have a cookie or miss a workout, don’t tell yourself your day is ruined. Don’t just give up. Accept that you may just have needed that little deviation and then get right back on track. It isn’t the slip ups that matter, it is how we handle them that has lasting results. One slip up won’t add up but letting that turn into a downward spiral will. Give yourself some room to make mistake and to have “life get in the way.” Because guess what? IT WILL! I even recommend that clients account for plateaus and backslides in their goals. Set a deadline that allows you to not be perfect day in and day out because it just won’t happen. That doesn’t mean you give yourself double the time to accomplish something, but it does mean that you don’t expect yourself to never deviate from the plan.

7. Include others – Many people are embarrassed about being on a diet or a specific workout program. They are afraid to admit their goals to others for fear of being judged. They are also afraid to admit their goals because what if they fail? Stop being afraid of failure AND stop worry about being judged. Find some supportive friends and family and tell them what you want to accomplish. Having other people know your goals makes you a bazillion times less likely to fail especially if you choose people who are supportive. They will hold you accountable and that fear of embarrassment if you fail will be a strong motivator (sorry but its true…may as well use it to our advantage!). Plus if you get others involved, they may just end up working out with you, which could be fun! Or they may help you find new ways to commit to your goals that you didn’t even think of. We all bring something different to the table and being able to talk to other people can really help. They may have experienced some of the same problems and have great ways to get through!

8. Don’t  isolate yourself – Many people on a “diet” feel like they can’t go hang out with friends and be social. But that just isn’t true. You can plan in days to go out and have those be cheat days. Or you can PLAN AHEAD (#3!) and take a look at the restaurant you are going to and know the healthy options. You can even suggest places to go that won’t tempt you to break your diet. AND not every social gathering has to revolve around food! I love going bowling with friends. Or what about hiking or a movie or a dance class? There are lots of fun active things you can do to be social. You don’t have to be a hermit when you are making a lifestyle change. And actually if you force yourself to be one when you aren’t one, you are most likely going to fail. It’s as simple as that.

9. Don’t worry about what others are doing or thinking – Too often we get caught up in what other people are doing or thinking. And honestly, you just can’t worry about that. We can’t compare our progress to our friend’s. Just because their diet is working for them doesn’t mean it will work for you. You can’t get down on yourself just because your progress is slower. Progress is progress PERIOD. And on top of that you can’t care about the people who will put you down because you are making progress when they aren’t. Who cares if someone thinks you are psycho because you have to go to your workout class every day and you love bragging about how hard the workout was? Seriously who cares what they think if you are happy with your new habits? Ever occur to you that most of the negative crap that comes out of people’s mouths is because they are JEALOUS? Don’t worry about your friend’s diet or what they think of yours. If you feel good, if you are moving forward, focus on YOURSELF.

10. Track your progress – This links back to celebrating the small success and having deadlines. Actually this one really ties everything together. There is nothing more motivating than progress. There is nothing like progress to keep us on track. So figure out ways to track how you are doing. Goals don’t only have to revolve around weight loss or even how much you lifted. Weeks where you just stuck to your program should be measured and tracked and treated as progress. Set up a few different goals to measure and track them weekly, monthly and yearly. And then celebrate those successes. And while tracking our progress can help us see how far we’ve come, it can also tell us when we need a change. If you track your workouts, you will be able to clearly see if you’ve hit a plateau and need a change. If we aren’t moving forward, we may need to change something. If we haven’t tracked what we are doing, how will we know if we need a change! Tracking can help keep us moving forward!

Now thinking about all this, I still stand firm in the fact that change isn’t really “easier” for any one person.

But you know what….let people go ahead and think that! Be proud of your success and don’t let anyone take away from it! Know that all of your hard work paid off!

NOTE: Thank you Shannon. This post was inspired by your emails. You are an amazing, strong woman and an inspiration to us all!

Partner Exercises – Great workout to do as a couple (or with friends!)

Working out with friends and family can be super fun. Having a group of people, or a partner, to workout with can keep you motivated, having fun and constantly pushing harder.

Because I think that working out with others can be a great way to have fun WHILE getting in a killer workout, I wanted to share with you all a few of my favorite partner moves.

I generally use these moves on metabolic days as they can really get your heart pumping when you do them quickly for 20-30 seconds. You can also combine just a couple for a warm up and team-building exercise!

Partner Workout Moves!

1. Partner Get Ups – The goal of this move is to try to stand of from lying down as much by yourself as possible. Your partner is just there for a little support. It is a great move to warm up the legs and core. To do this move, stand facing your partner with your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart. Your feet can be slightly staggered if you want. Grab hands so that you are holding right to right or left to left. One partner will then sit down on the ground and roll back onto their back. Without using their other hand, they will roll up and drive through their feet to come to a standing position. The other parter will have move forward with them as they rolled back so that they can help “pull” them back up to standing. Once the partner is standing, the other partner will roll back and then plant their feet and come back to standing. Keep alternating partners for the allotted amount of time and then switch to the other hand and repeat.

partner get ups

2. Partner Pulls – Grab your partner’s hand and step the opposite forward into a strong stance facing your partner. This move is a great upper body move that forces you to each act as the other’s resistance. Your goal is to  keep tension the entire time you are doing this move and create a little arm “shake-age” (as I like to call it). You want to make each other really work for every inch of movement. HOWEVER, you do not want to resist so hard that the other person can’t move. There should be slow and steady movement back and forth. To do this move, set up and then one person should pull toward their armpit while the other slowly allows their arm to extend, resisting the pull. As soon as the partner is fully extended, they should start pulling back toward their armpit while the other person resists. A slight rotation as you pull is fine, but you shouldn’t rotate a lot. Also do not round the shoulders or really lean back. Keep a nice tall posture and a slight leg bend.

Partner pulls

3. Partner Pushes – Partner pushes are just a push variation of the move above. Instead of actually holding hands though, you and your partner will put palm to palm with finger tips pointing up. This will force both of you to really PUSH and not pull at all back and forth.

4. Partner Crawls and Jumps – A great core move. Have one person set up in sort of a pike/downward dog position. They want to have their butt up in the air to give their partner plenty of room to crawl under. The other partner will crawl under. To make the crawl easier, have your knees on the ground. To make it harder, try not to allow your knees to touch the ground while still managing to crawl under your partner. Once you crawl under, your partner will drop to the ground (like at the bottom of a push up) so that you can jump over. To make the drop harder, hold at the bottom of a push up. To make it a bit easier, just rest on the ground. Hop laterally over your partner. Try to hop with both feet together, however, you can jump forward or hop one foot at a time if you are just beginning (Please just don’t land on your partner….they probably wouldn’t like that too much….). Once you’ve jumped over, drop to the ground and set up so they can crawl under you and then jump over. Keep repeating until the time is up.Partner crawl under jump over

5. Partner Hamstring Curls – One of the toughest hamstring moves out there and one of my favorite from training in college. (Sorry I forgot to take a picture of this last night but will try to get one today.) One partner should kneel on a mat or slightly cushioned flooring and flex their feet. The other partner will kneel behind them. The partner behind will grab the ankles of the front partner and really hold them into the ground. The back partner is the anchor that helps the other partner curl back up. The harder the back partner presses into the ground, the more assistance they give the front partner. The front partner will then slowly fall forward toward the ground with their hands outside their chest to catch them once they hit the ground. Go as slowly toward the ground as you can to really work your hamstrings. Basically all that should be happening is that the front partner is straightening at the knees as they go over. Their body should stay in a nice straight line. Once the front partner hits the ground, they will then press themselves back with their hands only as much as needed and PULL themselves back up with their hamstrings. They should keep their body in a straight line. If their butt starts to go back first, they didn’t push up enough with their arms. This move (especially the curling back up part) is very advanced. Beginners may want to start with a wall in front of them. Control your decent toward the wall. Truly go as slowly as possible. Once you hit the wall, press yourself away, trying to curl yourself back up as much as possible with your hamstrings. Repeat all reps and then the other partner goes.

6. Partner Drags or Pulls – So this move can be done two different ways. My favorite is with the valslides/sliders/furniture movers just because both partners are working hard the entire time; however, if you are outside/at home/don’t have sliders, the other move is still challenging and fun! To do partner pulls, one partner stands with each foot on a valslide. They will sink into a squat (90 degrees) and extend their arms out in front, crossing one arm over the other. The other partner will grab their hands and then drag them, walking backward as quickly as they can. This kills the legs of both people and really works the core of the person on the sliders. Do not allow yourself to fall forward or round when on the sliders. Also do not let your knees cave in. Maintain proper squat form. (It may take a round to get used to the balance). If you are pulling, try to be steady and smooth in your steps. If you jerk your partner, they will have to work doubly hard to balance. Then switch and the other person pulls while the other is dragged. To do partner drags, one partner will stand with their back to the other partner. They will cross their hands over their chest. The back partner will then reach up under their armpits from behind them and the front partner will then lean back into the back partner. The back partner will then be holding the weight of the front partner. The front partner will not be supporting themself. Their feet will just be relaxed on the ground as the back partner is holding them. The back partner will then “drag” the front partner. After completing the round, the partner that was dragged will then be the “dragger.”partner drags

partner carry

Poor Carla…having to be carried by the sweat monster! (Luckily I wasn’t even sweating that much for me!)

7. Partner Carries – This is an advanced move and a very full body one. Please be careful when attempting this as you must keep your core tight or risk back injury. To do this move, one partner will be carried. To pick up your partner, have them face you while you are sideways. You are going to reach through their legs and hook your arm around and up. As you reach through though, you should have their other hand over your back and in your other hand. Get the partner over your back right up by your shoulders. Brace your core and have your partner put their bottom, free hand, on your low back to help brace. Get them situated up high on your back and then walk. When done, switch and have them carry you.

8. Partner Medball Sit Ups and Throw – Take a light medicine ball. One partner will be standing while the  other is on the ground performing a sit up. The partner on the ground should bend their knees and lay back on the ground with the ball extended overhead. As they sit up, they are going to throw the ball to the partner that is standing. The partner standing will then pass the ball back to the partner that is seated and then will lie back down and repeat. Switch once the time or reps are completed.

sit up and pass

9. Partner Medball Russian Twists – Sit side-by-side with a foot or two of space between you. The farther apart you sit the more difficult the move will be since you have to pass it that distance. Both of you should lean back slightly and raise your feet off the ground to balance on your bums (if you are a beginner, you can keep your feet on the ground, but still remember to lean back to engage your abs). The partner with the ball will rotate the ball to the outside of the hip that is away from their partner. They will then toss the ball across their body to their partner. The partner will catch it and rotate the ball out to their side farthest from their partner and then throw it back. Repeat all reps and then face the other direction so that you can throw the other direction.

partner russian twists

10. Partner Medball Chest Passes and Shuffle – Stand facing your partner. The farther apart you stand the harder the move will be because you will pass further. You can also use a heavier ball to make the move harder. We demonstrated this move as just a chest pass, however, I like it as the chest pass and shuffle. Beginners may want to start with just the pass though. To perform this move, you are going to pass the ball back and forth in a chest pass. As you pass the ball back and forth, you are also going to shuffle sideways down and back. The faster you shuffle and pass, the harder the move. Make sure to not get ahead of your partner. You want to work together not smash the ball at each other’s faces.

chest pass

Bonus move: Partner sled complex….Because sometimes it is just fun to sit on a sled and go for a ride! (Do Tsunamis off the sled. Pull the sled toward you, push it back and then crawl backward back!)partner sled

Note: A big THANK YOU to Carla and Jaydee of the Vanguard Volleyball Team for helping me snap some photos! These moves are best done with a partner at your similar fitness level and/or size (if you are short and working with a tall person the crawls will not be easy for that taller person).

10 Isometric Exercises – Why You Need To Include Them

At least once a week, as part of the warm up, I would do isometrics with my volleyball girls. (I also use them with my clients.)

But they are an especially important tool to use with young athletes because they work not only on physical strength but also on MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

Isometric exercises are any exercise you HOLD under tension.

And holding a move when your muscles are shaking and your brain starts to say, “QUIT!”…well there is nothing mentally more challenging. There is no movement to make it better. No place to escape the pain.

You’ve just got to sit, stand or lie there and hold it through the pain. (They sound really great right now…huh?!?)

You can use isometrics as part of a warm up, to get muscles activated and working together. You can also use them as a workout by themselves by doing only holds or by pairing the isometric exercises with strength or power repetitions.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite Isometric Exercises.

1. Toes (Single or Double) – This move works on your balance and warms up your feet, ankles, knees, hips and core. It is also a great calf and core strengthener. To do this move, stand on both feet and go up as high on your toes as you can. Hold that position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. To make this move harder, do single leg balancing on your toe.

2. Squat Hold (Wall Sit) – The squat hold can be done as a wall sit or as a free-standing squat and hold. Place your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart. Sink down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. To make it easier, do not sink as low. Keep your core engaged and your chest up. Do not lean forward too much. Make sure to sit back on your heels when you squat. You should not be on your toes at all. Do not sink below 90 degrees with this move as that actually makes it easier. And do not let your knees collapse inward. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If you want to make this move harder, you could hold a weight at chest height or even on your lap while doing a wall sit. Or you can even do a single leg wall sit!

isometric squat

3. Warrior Pose – Many yoga classes use isometric moves. Any time you hold one of the warrior poses, you are performing an isometric exercise. I call this move the “warrior pose” (although I know there are a few different warrior poses in yoga). To do this move, set up in a wide stance for a lunge. Turn your back foot so that the toe is pointing away from you. Your back foot will be perpendicular to your front foot, which will be pointing straight ahead. Do not let your front knee collapse in as you sink down in the lunge. Keeping the back leg straight, sink down as low as you can. Shoot for the front knee to be at 90 degrees. Make sure your front foot is firmly planted on the ground at that your knee stays about over your ankle. If you want to add a bit of shoulder work in, bring your arms up to shoulder height. Reach one forward and one backward toward opposite walls. If you want to make this move easier, don’t sink as low. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Split Squat – Set up in a wide stance with one foot forward and one foot back. Both toes are pointing straight ahead. Sink down until your back knee is almost touching the ground. Make sure you are not leaning forward. Your front knee should be over your ankle. If you want to make this move easier, don’t go as low. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Lunge hold

5. Scapular Wall Hold (Could also be a row up and hold) – THE BEST MOVE FOR POSTURE AND PULL UPS! Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Lean back into a wall with only your elbows touching. Press your chest out and your shoulder blades down and back. Walk your feet away from the wall only as much as needed to feel the muscles behind your shoulder blades working. Do not let your shoulders shrug up by your ears. The bigger the incline from the wall, the harder the move will be. Make sure to keep your body in a nice straight line. Keep your core tight and squeeze your quads and glutes. You could also sub out the scapular wall hold for an inverted row to hold. You could row up on either a TRX or barbell and hold at the top of the row. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

6. Dead Hang (Pull up and Hold) – You can hold at the bottom, middle or top of the pull up and each will have its benefits. My two favorite are the dead hang (holding at the bottom and just pinching your shoulder blades down and back) and the pull up to hold (holding at the top). With the dead hang, grab the pull up bar and pinch your shoulder blades down and back. You want to press your chest out and tighten your core as if you are going to pull up. To make this move easier, hold for a shorter time OR add some assistance by either keeping your feet on the ground so you are pulling less weight or by using a band around your knee. To do the pull up and hold, hold at the top of the pull up. Your shoulder blades should be down and back and your legs should be straight. Do not tuck your knees. To make this move easier, use a band or place one foot on the ground for assistance. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Below are the dead hang and the assisted hold at the top.)

pull up holdassisted pull ups

7. Push Up Hold (Hold top, bottom or middle) – I most often hold this move from the top of the push up. So set up on your hands and toes. Feet are together and hands are underneath your shoulders. Draw your belly button into your spine and squeeze your quads, glutes and adductors. Your shoulder blades should be down and back and your shoulders shouldn’t be up by your ears. Keep your head in line with your spine. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. When I do isometric holds at either the middle or bottom of the push up, it is usually for only 3-5 seconds. When I do those holds, I’ll hold at the top for 5 seconds, middle 5 seconds and then bottom for 5 seconds before pushing back up to the top. I’ll usually do anywhere from 5-15 reps like that. (Below are holds at the top, middle and bottom.)

high plank middle of push up push up hold

8. Side Planks – You can do these from your hands and toes or knees and forearms. Going down to your knees or forearms will make the move easier. Place your hand underneath your shoulder. Rest on the side of your feet. Stack one foot on top of the other or place one foot in front of the other. Raise up on your hand and the side of your foot. Do not let your hip sag toward the ground. Keep your chest open. Do not let it rotate toward the ground. Hold in a nice straight line, squeezing your core, quads and glutes. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute each side.

decline plank

Can make the side plank harder by putting your feet up or raising the top leg.

9. Glute Bridge – Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. You should be able to graze your heels with your finger tips. Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the ground. Keep your core tight and drive up as high as you can. Your weight should be in your heels. Do not go up on your toes. To make this move harder, do a single leg hold. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute.

glute bridge

You can make the bridge harder by holding on a power wheel.

10. Bull Dog – Start on your hands and knees. Knees should be under hips and hands underneath shoulders. Tuck your toes under and raise up onto your toes and hands. Hold with your knees just an inch or so off the ground. Do not let your low back arch. Keep your core tight. You will feel this a lot in your quads too. If you don’t, make sure your knees are under your hips. Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. To make this easier, raise up a bit higher or walk your feet back a bit. You can also perform a shorter hold.

isometric exercise

While it is hard to tell, my knees are hovering about an inch off the ground.

And in case you aren’t completely sure how to combine the moves above, below are two workouts you can start with!

Isometric Holds (can be shortened to a warm up)

3-5 rounds of 30 second to 1 minute holds:

Toes
Squat Hold
Scapular Wall Hold
Bull Dog
Side Planks

Isometric Holds and Repetitions

3-5 rounds of the following:

Toes 30 seconds to 1 minute
Jump Rope 25 reps
Split Squat Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute
Split Squat Jumps 10 each side
Scapular Wall Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute
Inverted Row 10 reps
Push Up Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute
Push Ups 10 reps
Glute Bridge Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute
Single Leg Glute Bridge 10 reps each side

Rest 1 minute between rounds.

For more isometric moves, check out these Isometric Moves To Alleviate Desk Job Aches and Pains!

And if you are a runner, here is a Runner’s Recovery Workout using isometric moves.

NOTE: Handstand holds are also a great isometric move that I didn’t include but wanted to make note of because I love them!

10 Core Moves That AREN’T Crunches

In my workouts I rarely ever include crunches.

If I put them in, they are generally meant as sort of an active rest station. And I only use ones that are full body like the super crunches.

Here by the way are the super crunches from Saturday’s Bikini Workouts Post.

super crunch

Crunch up and reach outside your legs. Go back down and crunch up reaching one hand inside. Perform a third crunch reaching the other hand inside. That is one super crunch.

In general though, crunches are worthless and I don’t include them. But that doesn’t mean I think core work isn’t important.

Because it is! Heck I’ve even done another post about core exercises even though I did one pretty recently called 10 Core Moves.

If you want to work your core, do it in a way that has either some functional benefit OR that works a ton of different muscle groups at once so you get a big bang for your buck.

Below are a variety of great moves that work more than just your abs and are functional.

I’ve included both rotational moves that will help you be strong when lifting something and twisting and anti-rotational moves that will help you prevent injury when trying to resist a rotational force.

Some of these moves are very core specific and some actually are “focused” on working another muscle group but do A LOT to strengthen your core.

1. XT Strap Anti-Rotational Row – A great single limb movement that allows you to work each side of your back individually while also working your core. You can do this on the XT straps or even off a barbell in a rack. To do this move, place one hand across your chest and grab the strap in the other hand. Set up in a nice straight line, squeezing your quads, glutes and core. DO NOT let your body rotate. You want to move in a straight line as you row up and down. You are fighting your body’s desire rotate. You should move as if both arms are pulling instead of letting the side not rowing rotate open toward the ground. To advance (or regress this move), change the incline of your body. The closer you get to parallel to the ground, the harder the move gets.

anti-rotational row

2. XT Strap Rotational Row – In the other single arm row, we are fighting rotation. In this one we are working with rotation to row up. During this move, grab one strap in one hand. Reach the other hand up the strap as high as you can. Then rotate that hand toward the ground almost as if you are doing a hanging side plank. Keep your body in a straight line and don’t let the hips sag toward the ground. Keeping the core tight, rotate back to the start. To advance (or regress this move), change the incline of your body. The closer you get to parallel to the ground, the harder the move gets.

rotational pull

3. Mountain Climbers – I’ve shown these before on the towels. They can also be done simply on the ground to make them easier. Today, I did them in the XT straps, which creates a bit more instability. Put your feet into the straps and set up in a high plank. Run your knees into your chest without losing control so that your feet shoot out everywhere. You can also bring your knees across your body or to the outside of your elbow to hit slightly different areas of your core!

trx mountain climbers

4. Rotational Knee Tucks – These knee tucks can also be done as straight leg pikes, but for today I just showed the tucks. Like mountain climbers, they can also be done where you just bring your knees straight into your chest. However, they are a great rotational move so that is the one I showed today. Set up in a high plank with your feet in the straps. Alternate bringing your knees to each elbow. Try to really get the knees to the elbow or outside to really work the rotation. If you are a beginner, you may want to do this move on the ground by jumping your feet in and back. You can also do this move on the towels!

rotational knee tucks

5. Side plank – I showed a couple of variations of the side plank in my vacation workout a week ago, but you can also do one in the XT Straps. Using the straps creates a lot more instability so that you have to fight more to keep from rotating or collapsing. A great way to progress the side plank.

xt strap side plank

6. XT Strap “Ab roller” – Moves with this are great because they teach us to engage our core to support our back even when we are reaching for something. You can do this move on an ab roller. The bodysaw and the band pull below are two other moves that work the body in a similar way. To do this move, put each hand in a strap. Lean into the straps and straighten your arms fully. Bring them above your head and then back down to your shoulders. The closer to parallel to the ground you are, the harder the move will become. You should not feel this move in your low back. You should feel this move in your abs, arms and quads.

core reach

7. Band Stability Press – One of my favorite anti-rotational moves. You feel this all down the side closest to the anchor point of the band. You can also do this on a cable pulley machine. Step away from the anchor point as far as you can without allowing your body to rotate towards the anchor. Start with the handle at your chest. Push the band straight out from the center of your chest until your arms are straight. Do not let your arms go back toward the anchor. Then slowly bring your arms back in. This move looks easy, but when you try it, you realize how much your entire body fights rotating back toward the band hook!

band anti-rotational press

8. Band Rotations (Shoulder to Shoulder and High to Low) – These were some of my favorite moves in college. We used to do them a lot with medicine balls, which I loved. But since I can’t slam a medicine ball into the wall of my house….I do these with bands. Keeping your core tight and your shoulders down and back, rotate the band from side to side keeping your arms fairly straight. You can either rotate side to side at shoulder height or you can rotate the band down outside your hip. With both, make sure to rotate the back foot so that you are twisting your knee in a funny direction. With pulling the band down outside your hip, you will want to get more of a squat/lunge in than you will with the shoulder height rotation. Both are great, just different variations that target slightly different muscles.

band rotationsstraight arm rotations

9. Band Reach – So this is the move that works the body in a similar way to the ab roller. It reminds me of that extension at the top of an overhead medball slam. It helps strengthen that extension so that your core is strong at that range of motion and so that your lats are even working to help stabilize and generate power. Kneeling, allow the band to pull you back. Then using your lats and core, press the band back forward. It isn’t a huge range of motion, but you will feel your abs working to stabilize especially as you allow yourself to be pulled back!

kneeling ab reach

10. Front Squat – Potentially my favorite move on the list. The front squat works your legs AND your core. Any time you front load, be it a kettlebell, barbell or sandbag, you cause your core to engage to hold you upright. Seriously feel my core working so hard every time I do these. LOVE IT! Works a major muscle group, is incredibly functional and forces your core to really brace and stabilize during a functional movement!

kettlebell front squat

Bonus: Handstands, push ups, crawling, bodysaw on towels, climbers, Plank with Reaches (Out and Back or Underneath and Through), Sit Thrus

hip hinge plankplank on slider

sit through, planks, handstands

On top is the sit thru, on the bottom left is the plank with one-handed waves and on the bottom right is an amazing mom and her daughter doing handstands!

I didn’t take pictures of these moves because I just recently featured them in my towel workout or hotel room workout posts. But I did want to make note that these are also great CORE moves so that you could see just how many different great moves really worked your core.

And honestly, all these moves are only the tip of the iceberg. You can do farmers walks (especially unilateral farmers walks). You can hold at the top of a dip. You can do pull ups or use the battling ropes. Heck you can even do one of my favorites, Superman/Banana from P90x where you are rolling around on the ground! (One of the most fun ones by far!)

There are so many great core moves that have so much more benefit than crunches! So are you still going to waste time on upper or lower isolated crunch moves!?!

I DON’T THINK SO!

Push Up Variations

A bit ago I posted about how to do a perfect push up.

Today, I want to talk about all the fun and different challenging variations of push ups you can do.

For some of you, these will be easily doable now. For others, this is something to motivate you to EARN these harder exercises.

Do not attempt these if you haven’t mastered at least a perfect push up from your knees. Many of these can be done from your knees.

HOWEVER, many of these are more difficult than even a perfect push up from your toes.

Anyway, maybe these will be a fun challenge for some of you to try out tomorrow during you 4th of July BBQ! See what other push up variations you can come up with!

1. The Push Up Climb – So this one is difficult because it includes a ton of push ups and because you are doing a variety of push ups as you climb your way back and forth across the weights. You can honestly set up as many different “hills” as you want. I did three. Two smaller ones and a taller one in the middle. Perform a push up besides the first tower. Then climb one hand up on the weights and do another push up. Then place both hands on top of the weights and do a close grip push up. Then climb one hand down and do another push up. Then both hands should be down on the ground for a narrower push up. Repeat up and down the next few towers. A great way to really hit your chest, shoulders and triceps from a few different angles. This can be done from knees or toes. You can even turn it into a competition and see who can get back and forth across the most times before failing! (I have a sick sense of fun…I know…)

shuffle push ups

2. Push Up to Dip – Seriously one of my favorite moves. Set up two kettlebells or two push up stands. The stands should be narrow enough that you really can only slide your feet through. Perform two push ups on the stands and then swing your legs through and perform two dips. The more you “swing” through and the less you walk back and forth through the kettlebells, the more challenging the move will become. Make sure that when you do the dip, your butt is back by the kettlebell. This move can be regressed in a couple of different ways. It can be done from the knees or even on an incline. You can use a bench and do two push ups followed by two dips off the bench. Do about 5 rounds of this….Sounds easy to only do 10 push ups but with the dip in between your triceps get a bit shot.

push up and dips

3. Handstand Push Up – A great shoulder move and really works your core. Set up in a handstand and then drop your head toward the ground before pushing back up. This move can be made a bit easier if done as a pike push up off a bench or box…Like in the IKEA table workout! Or it can be made more difficult by doing it free-standing!

handstand push up

4. Spiderman Push Up – With this move you get in some oblique work as well. Perform a push up. Holding at the bottom of the push up, bring one knee outside your body toward the same elbow. Then put the foot back and do another push up bringing the foot in on the other side. You can also do both feet in every push up! Could be done on an incline to make it easier although you won’t get as much benefit out of bringing the knee in.

spiderman push up

5. The Belly Button Push Up – I’ve debated about whether or not this is the hardest one on the list. Still not sure but it is definitely up at the top. Lie facedown on the ground with the heel of your hands down beside your belly button. Push up and then return back down.

belly button push up

6. Decline Push Up – One of my favorites and a great way to hit a different portion of your chest. Put your feet up on something and perform a push up. Your hands will not be directly outside your chest when you do this one.

decline push up

7. Close to Wide Grip Push Up – If you want to hit EVERYTHING, do these push ups. Start with a diamond push up. Then slowly walk your hands out one at a time until you perform a wide push up.

close push up to wide push up

8. Staggered Push Up – Honestly I think this one looks cooler than it is difficult. Just a great way to add some variety and keep your push up workouts interesting. Place one hand up by your head with finger tips pointing in and the other hand as normal outside your chest. Perform some push ups and then switch which hand is staggered forward. You could even add in a little plyo move and switch your hands every time!

staggered push up

9. “No Feet” Push Up – This is called the “no feet” push up because your feet are up on the wall and you are performing a push up. A great way to work your core and make sure everything is engaged. A bit easier if your shoes have traction! Walk your feet up the wall until in a good push up position. Then do a regular push up without letting your feet slide.

no feet push up

10. T Push Up – This push ups gives you a little extra shoulder and core work and can be done from the toes, the knees and even on an incline. Set up in a regular push up position. Do a push up and then rotate open balancing on one hand as if you are doing a side plank. Hold and then rotate back to a push up position. Do another push up and rotate to the other side.

side plank push up

BONUS: Back and chest move – Push up to plank row!

push up to row

What’s your favorite push up move? Clapping? One handed? With chains hanging off of you?

Want some great workouts so you can do MORE push ups?

Check these out:

The Death By Push Ups Workout

The Towel Chest, Shoulders and Triceps Workout

The Kettlebell Chest, Shoulders and Triceps Workout

Hotel Room Workout

Generally when I travel I don’t worry about workouts since I usually just plan out my progression so that my vacation is my recovery week.

I make sure I’m always active during vacation, taking casual walks or just goofing around, but I generally only workout if I really feel like it.

HOWEVER, I do have a number of clients who travel often and therefore like to do workouts on the road so that they stay in a routine.

And since hotel gyms are so hit or miss, I think it is best to always provide workout options that can be done with only the little space you have in your hotel room.

Here are 10 moves to use in your Hotel Room Workout! (I recommend putting down a towel instead of cuddling with the ground…just saying….) I used all of these in a great full body workout while staying in Palm Springs last week.

1 and 2. Split Squats (Stability, Strength and Power) – There are three great ways to use the split squat in your hotel room workout. You can do a split squat hold, a split squat with reps on each side or a split squat jump. Sometimes I even combine two into one, like I’ll do a 20 second hold followed by 10 reps on the same side. To do a split squat, step one foot forward into a wide lunge stance. Bend your knees as if you are kneeling onto the ground. Hold with your back knee just barely off the ground or perform reps, moving up and down. Do not step your feet back together. Keep the wide stance until all reps are completed. To do the split squat jumps, start in a lunge position and then jump up and switch to a lunge on the other side. Beginners may want to start with alternating step back lunges instead of split squat jumps to lower the intensity and take out some of the impact.

Lunge hold

For the hold, you would hold at the bottom. For reps, go down and up.

mary katherines

3. Wall Sit – A very traditional bodyweight move, but also a super tough one. A great way to work your legs! You could even add some variety to this move by lifting one leg off the ground. Or if you wanted to add some weight, you could always hold your suitcase or something on your lap….I love to do this move followed by either bodyweight squats or even squat jumps. To do a wall sit, sink down so that your knees are bent to 90 degrees and your back is pressed solidly into the wall. Beginners may not want to sink as low or hold as long.

isometric squat

4. Squat Jumps – Another traditional cardio/leg move, but I love to pair it with a wall sit or even a bodyweight squat. The best way to turn your legs to jello without using any weight. While this move is a “squat” jump, you don’t want to squat too low when you prep for the jump. It really should be more of a combination hinge and squat then full on squat. If you squat to low, you will actually reduce the amount of power you can generate. Make sure that you are also driving up off your heels when you jump and not just staying on your toes. Also, focus on SOFT landings. Landing softly from toe to heel with knees bent is important to protect the knees. You shouldn’t ever land with your legs straight.

plyometric squat

5. Planks (Side and Front) – I love using isometric moves in workouts especially when I don’t have a lot of space. Holding a plank is one of the best ways to work everything from your shoulders to your knees, especially if you really focus on keeping everything super tight. I like doing planks from my hands. You can do this move from your forearms and/or knees to make it easier. Feet should be together and you should squeeze your legs together. Your butt, quads and core should also be tight. Don’t let your shoulders get up by your ears. Retract your shoulder blades down and back. If you are contracting as hard as possible, you should be able to make yourself shake! Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can also do a side plank from your hands (an easier version would be from your knees or your forearms or both). To make the side plank harder, raise the top leg. Do not let your chest rotate toward the ground with the side plank. Also make sure to really keep the bottom hip up off the ground. A great way to isolate each side and work the obliques. Plus the leg raise really helps you work your glutes! (Sometimes I even like to hold the plank position and then do push ups….)

side plank

6. Plank with reach thru – A great core and shoulder stabilization move. Set up at the top of a push up from either your knees or toes. Reach one hand under the other armpit as if you are reaching toward something on the opposite wall. Then rotate open toward the ceiling in a side plank. Make sure to keep your hip down and really reach underneath and through. You aren’t simply patting yourself on the back…You are REACHING.

twisting plank

7. Plank with reach back and out – A great hip hinge and core move (Also deceptively tough). This move can be modified in a couple of different ways. Beginners will do this from their knees and reach back between their legs and then out. Intermediate exercisers may do this from their toes with no reach out. And advanced lifters will do the reach back and out from their hands and toes. To do this move, set up on your hands and toes. Reach one hand back toward the opposite ankle. Your butt should go up in the air. Then reach back forward, tightening your core as you drop your hips a bit and extend out. From your knees and hands, you will sit back as if doing child’s pose and reach between your knees. Then moving into a modified push up position, reach out with the hand that just reached back.

hip hinge plank

8. YTWLs – I show this move on a little foot stool, but it can be done on a bed or even from the ground if your room doesn’t have a foot stool. YTWLs are a great way to work your upper back and even strengthen your rotator cuff muscles. There are four different arm positions with this move. I complete all reps of one motion before moving on to the next. Lay on the ground or over a stool. Keep your low back relaxed. You want to feel this in your upper back behind your shoulders and in between your shoulder blades. None of these are really big movements. To do a Y, your thumbs should be pointing toward the ceiling and your arms should be above your head in the shape of a Y with your body. Lift up, using the muscles in your upper back. To do a T, have your thumbs pointing up toward the ceiling. Your arms should make a T with your body. If you are doing this on the ground, you are really only going to lift an inch or two off the ground. Over a bench or stool, you may be able to relax further down. To do a W, bend your elbows to create a W with your body. Your thumbs should be pointing in toward you. Lift and lower. The final move, the L, will be done two different ways depending on where you do it. If you are lying on the ground, you will set up with your elbows bent to 90 degrees and your elbows in line with your shoulders. Palms facing the ground, try to rotate the backs of your hands toward your toes. Then relax. If you are doing this from a stool or bench, you will actually start with your arms handing toward the ground. You will then lift your arms, bending your elbows to 90 degrees. Finally, keeping the elbows bent, you will rotate the backs of your palms toward the ceiling. None of these moves involve a big range of motion. Do not rush through the movements. (Unfortunately because of the angle, which I didn’t notice at the time, you can’t fully see the angle of my elbows especially during the Ls. Sorry!)

YTWL

9. Rocking Chair Abs – A great core sequencing move and kind of fun. Start kneeling on one knee, squeezing your glute to press your hips forward. Then roll onto your back and switch the leg crossed underneath so that when you roll back up you can come to a kneeling position on the other side. This is a great move to weight down as you become stronger. Also, use your arms for momentum only if needed. Less arm swing makes the move tougher.

ab roll

10. Cobra – A great total back move. Place your arms down by your sides and lie face down on the ground. Lift your chest up off the ground and pinch your shoulder blades back and down. You should feel this move in your low and upper back. Then lower back down and repeat. Make sure to hold for a second or two at the top.

lower back

Do you like to workout when you travel? What is your favorite workout? Do you love isometrics too!?!

P.S. Bonus move! Pull ups off the balcony…Just kidding…although tempting!

The question is...did I do it?

The question is…did I do it?

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