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?
I love using yoga pose variations in my recovery workouts and even in some of my strength training routines to develop stability.
All too often we skip from basic balancing moves that develop stability to big heavy lifts that develop strength, forgetting that without stability we won’t truly be strong.
That is why, every few weeks or so I dial it back and work on building my stability (or depending on my routine, it may even be added in when I’m lifting heavy!).
To dial back my deadlift, I like to use the Warrior III yoga pose to develop stability and work on my balance. (It is actually one of many yoga poses I love to use.)
The Warrior III pose is a great way to work on balance, core strength and activate the glutes. It also can help improve your mobility and the flexibility of your hamstrings and hips.
However, I don’t just hold the Warrior III pose.
Here are the 3 Warrior III variations I love to use to develop stability and balance all while activating my glutes and improving my mobility.
Warrior III Variations:
So there are all sorts of “pain” related discussions that really get on my nerves.
One is when clients who are working hard for the first time in their life tell you that an exercise “hurts” when, upon further investigation, you find out that it is merely making their muscles fatigued and that they aren’t used to the burning sensation of a muscle working.
While I don’t like the phrase “no pain, no gain,” being sore and working hard isn’t always “comfortable.”
But at the same time having the attitude “no pain, no gain” and never recognizing when something hurts isn’t good either.
While I can get annoyed when someone can’t recognize the difference between “injury pain” and “discomfort from muscles working hard,” I get way more annoyed by the client who thinks they are cool because they push through the pain.
And honestly this “no pain, no gain” client WAY worse than the client that mistakes muscles working for pain.
You may be shaking your head and going, “Heck no! They aren’t near the same! You have to work through the pain sometimes! You are TOUGH if you just push through!”
Uhm no…I’m sorry….You don’t…and you aren’t.
You are stupid.
Yep that’s right…STUPID.
I can say this as someone who has been stupid one too many times in her past. I have the torn muscles and scar tissue to prove it.
And guess what I have now?
Improperly rehabbed injuries that years later I’m now having to deal with.
Trust me…injuries aren’t cool.
You aren’t “bad-ass” if you push through.
Honestly, unless you are a highly paid athlete, there is never a reason to push through true pain and injury. And even if you are a highly paid athlete, there is a very fine line between stupid and something you push through because it is your job.
When you work through the pain, generally all you do is make the injury worse. And then you are either eventually going to have to take time off, and probably MORE time than if you had rested and rehabbed it immediately, OR you are going to have something that restricts your movement and causes pain for the rest of your life.
Doesn’t sound like great options if you don’t just DEAL with the pain immediately.
But rehab and pre-hab aren’t “cool.”
It is way cooler to be like, “I can’t do push ups because of my shoulder.”…Right!?!
I can’t tell you how many people recently I’ve encountered coming from other gyms who say they “can’t do” something because of an injury they’ve never dealt with and just “worked through.”
And every time I say to them the same thing, “Well what have you been doing for rehab?”
And I always get the same answer…NOTHING.
Can someone please explain this to me?
Why is pain cool and rehab not cool?
Don’t we workout to feel BETTER!?! Don’t we go to look BETTER? Perform BETTER?
If we want exercise to make us BETTER, how do we expect to do that if we are restricted and in PAIN?!
If you have an ankle injury, even one from decades ago, and you never rehabbed it, it may be causing problems up your leg. It may be why you have low back and hip pain. It may be why you have balance issues. It may be why you can’t lift as much as you want to. It may be why your butt isn’t as strong and perky as you would like!
It may be causing a whole load of problems that aren’t even related to the initial injury!
But it is better to just push through…huh?
Ok here is your chance to stop being an idiot and stop accepting pain.
Take five minutes at the beginning of your workout and add in an exercise or two to rehab or better yet “pre-hab” any weak points or areas of past injury. (Just because at one point in your life you did some rehab for an injury doesn’t mean you are just now done with it now. That area may always need some extra TLC.)
Here are a couple quick things you can do for four common areas of injuries…
- ANKLE/FOOT PAIN/INJURY (Heck these are even good for some knee and hip problems) – Roll out the bottom of your foot, your shin and your calf with a roller or small ball. Then work on your balance. My favorite balancing drill is when you either stand on one foot on the ground or on a foam pad and then you swing the other leg. Do swings forwards and backwards, side to side and even rotational (like you are lifting your foot to step back over a fence and then bringing it back forward over the fence without touching down). Then do glute activation drills. Pick one or two from this list and do 1-2 rounds of 10-20 reps.
- LOW BACK/HIP PAIN/INJURY – Low back pain is a super common problem. While rolling out the whole leg is ideal to find all trigger points, you can start with your hips, glutes and low back. A great way to roll out your hips, can be to take a bigger, foam ball and lay over it. The ball will actually be pressing into your abs right above your hip and beside your belly button. Relax over the ball as much as you can. You will also want to stretch your glutes and hips. Here are some more great trigger point release tips for your hip area. You will also probably want to do some stretches and trigger point release for your thoracic spine and lats. We can sometimes compensate and use our low back because our thoracic mobility is bad. A great thoracic stretch is one you do when kneeling. Kneel on the ground with one hand planted on the ground under the shoulder. Then reach your other hand back over your head with your finger tips pointing down your spine. Then rotate your elbow of the hand down your spine, under your arm that is down. Then rotate open, reaching the elbow up toward the ceiling. Again, glute activation exercises are key. If our glutes aren’t firing, we are going to use our low back and hamstrings more than we should!
- WRIST/ELBOW PAIN/INJURY – Yup…you can even roll out your forearms. If you have wrist or elbow pain, rolling our your forearms, triceps and biceps can help, especially if you target the areas of insertion. Wrist/forearms stretches are also important. We sit at computers all day with our wrists flexed and never really think to do anything to extend and release the muscles. One of my favorite wrist stretches is, when I kneel down and place my hands on the ground under my shoulders. I then turn my finger tips to face my knees with my palms flat on the ground. I then rock back and sit on my heels, keeping my palms flat on the ground, and then return back to kneeling and release. To also help activate the extensors of my wrist and forearm, I use a trick I was taught by Corey…The rubber band extension. Take a rubber band and place it around the outside of your fingers when they are all together. Then spread your fingers out as wide apart as you can before bringing them back together. This really helps with a lot of elbow pain!
- SHOULDER/UPPER BACK/NECK PAIN/INJURY – Roll out your traps, chest and lats. You will also want to stretch your chest and neck. You can easily stretch your chest using a wall or doorway. Place your hand and even your forearm on the wall or door frame and then step forward till you feel a stretch. To stretch your neck, lean your head to one side and gentle pull your head down toward your shoulder, making sure you keep your shoulders relaxed. To change exactly which muscles you hit, look up, down and straight ahead. Then you will want to do a scapular wall hold. If you do it correctly, you will activate your lower traps which will help you relax your upper traps and usually helps with neck pain. YTWLs are great too to activate the muscles in your upper back and strengthen your rotator cuff. Check out this video by Nick Tumminello on how to do them.
Here is another article with some essential mobility drills that can help you move better!
You don’t have to do these every day, but you do want to make sure that spots that need improvement get attention! So stop accepting pain and start doing something about it. It really doesn’t take that much time.
Be smart…It’s way more “bad-ass!”
NOTE: If you are suffering from an injury, it is best to get checked out by a doctor. Most of these drills are meant for already diagnosed injuries or minor recurring injuries/pains. Also, this list is by no means comprehensive. It is just to give you an idea that there are some quick things you can do before your workouts, to correct problems!
So over the next week or so I’m going to write a series of posts focusing on the butt.
It is one of the biggest, most powerful muscles and also one of the most underactive.
Over the next few posts, I will discuss how to activate this amazing muscle and make it perky and perfect!
Of course while it would be logical to start with warm up/activation movements, I’m going to instead start with my favorite posterior move – the deadlift.
So the deadlift is hands down my favorite exercise. If I could only do one move the rest of my life, it would be the deadlift.
Why do I like the deadlift?
For one, it is super empowering. It feels so great to be able to lift a huge weight successfully off the ground.
Two, it is a full body move that really works the entire posterior of your body (back, butt, hamstrings….).
And three, there are a bazillion different variations that are just so beneficial and really get your butt activated, and honestly all too often people’s glutes really aren’t firing!
It is the perfect move to really build glute strength and power!
And when I got the honor of designing the workout progression for our gym for the next three weeks, I made sure to use it. My progression is very leg intensive and very very focused on improving people’s posture and getting the right muscles activated.
I was proud today to find out that everyone has most definitely been feeling the workouts working. While I never want to push people too far, I do like to hear that their butt cheeks are sore because it is very very hard usually to get people to really activate their glutes and use their butt (many people are quad dominate, which can lead to issues).
So if people’s butts are sore then they must be activated!
How did we get people’s glutes firing and start building some butt strength!?!
Through variations of the deadlift! DUH!!!
And not every variation even needs to be weighted down!
Of course you have the traditional deadlift, which is a great posterior exercise since it hits everything from behind your shoulder blades down to your heels.
However, this move isn’t always the best place to start since many people have limited range of motion in their hips and bad posture. If you can’t get your butt low and keep your shoulder blades down (chest pressed out), then you are at risk for a hurt low back.
So one of my favorite deadlift variations, especially to start with, is the single-leg deadlift. It works on balance, posture AND your glutes and hamstrings.
You don’t need weight to make this move challenging AND it is perfect for the beginner or the advanced lifter!
For the beginner it will really work on balance and posture while starting to get the glutes activated. Make sure they keep their back flat as they hinge over. Make sure their hips don’t rotate open. This will teach them good posture when they move to using weights.
For the advanced lifter, you can weight down this move, which will build more strength in the glutes. This version of the deadlift really forces them to really engage their core AND it forces them to use each leg independently. When we isolate each leg, we make each leg work independently, which can prevent the dominate leg from always taking over and perpetuating imbalances.
So then another great deadlift move to use is the straight leg deadlift.
I usually use this move before I move to full deadlifts since it doesn’t require as much hip mobility BUT starts to teach people to keep the correct upper body posture while adding more weight. (It is also just a great way to add variation to your glute workouts!)
So with this move, knees are only slightly bent. It is a hinge from the hips with the back staying nice and flat as you hinge over toward the ground pushing your butt backwards toward the wall behind you.
Watch when people do this move. The key here is to make sure they are pushing their butt BACKWARDS.
Seriously a great way to work the glutes and hamstrings while starting to add weight! Since balance isn’t an issue it can be an easier way to start adding heavier weight!
Probably my FAVORITE deadlift variation because you can use heavy weight is the sumo deadlift. It is a great way to start really building glute strength and start pulling heavy weight.
So in this variation of the deadlift, your feet are wide apart and your toes are turned slightly outward (by turning your toes out a bit you engage your glutes a bit more). This variation of the deadlift is MORE leg intensive than the traditional deadlift so is ideal for butt building!
Using this move you can really start to develop maximal strength since it is easy to use heavy weights. However, before the person can add heavy weights, they must maintain good posture – aka their chest must stay up and their back can’t round.
The sumo deadlift can be harder on the hips though so don’t over do it! Rotate it with the regular deadlift to make sure you blast the butt from a couple of different angles and to give your hips a bit of a break.
So…if you want to get the butt firing and build some serious glute strength, use a variation of the deadlift.
Looking to work on balance, core strength and posture while targeting the glutes? Use the single leg!
Looking to add more weight while really focusing on the glutes and hamstrings? Use the straight leg!
Looking to build maximum strength in the butt cheeks? Try the sumo deadlift!
Mix it up and target those glutes!
Which variation is your favorite?
Coming soon to the Bootilicious series….glute warm up exercises, glute bridges and multiplanar lunges!
So the other night I was talking to one of my male clients who I was making do some clams (the exercise where you have a band around your knees and lay on your side and externally rotate at your hips and knees).
It was a stabilization workout and he really needs work on activating his glutes. And although clams may be a Jane Fonda move, they are a great way to get those butt cheeks firing!
Of course he was slightly embarrassed by doing them even though it was just his wife, me and his 19 month old daughter there.
He says to me, “You know this is one of those moves that guys AVOID doing at the gym.”
I said, “Yea I know….Ever notice how many guys have SMALL INACTIVE butts?”
He laughed and repeated what I said and continued to do the clams.
Out of the corner of my eye though I saw his wife shaking her head in agreement.
What I said is completely and utterly true. Most people, especially men, don’t focus on getting glutes that activate.
They are much more interested in working on their beach muscles. Although they do pride themselves on being able to lift heavy weights.
But if they took the time to do some of those “embarrassing” glute activation exercises like band walks, glute bridges, clams and straight leg deadlifts they would be able to LIFT MORE.
AND they would look better. (Sorry but pants that sag because you have no butt is not attractive).
Plus they would also probably suffer few injuries. Active glutes me proper movement patterns!
So to anyone out there who skips those “embarrassing” butt exercises, but wants to lift heavy…Don’t.
That includes you ladies. While lifting heavy is essential that doesn’t mean totally leaving out the Jane Fonda moves…It just means not ONLY doing them!
For more on glute activation, check out this article on T Nation! LOVE IT!