You make the workout hard
So this month we’ve changed up our training a bit at the gym and have been on a new progression.
A “back to basics” progression.
And apparently a few people complained that it was “too easy.” Which honestly made my jaw drop.
I’ve done basically all of the workouts in the progression and I’m sore as all get out. There have even been a few that have made my legs want to give out or my food to come up.
The workouts in our progression…Easy?!?!?
But as I began to really watch people around me do the workouts with me, I realized one big thing….They weren’t pushing THEMSELVES.
They were used to a more complex workout that forced them to become fatigued and when we simplified it, they just didn’t know how to push themselves through simple moves.
They didn’t know how to challenge themselves with weight….or rest…or reps…or ANYTHING!
And the worst part is that being able to push yourself is the KEY to success!
Any success for that matter.
I can write someone up a workout and diet plan, but if they don’t do it when I’m not there to push them….well they won’t make near the progress they could.
They need to be able to PUSH THEMSELVES.
Anyway, so I was watching people cruise through the same workout that was literally destroying me….And it started to piss me off.
Why are they wasting their time using weights that are way too light? Or why are they doing only 10 reps when they could do 12? How can they complain that crawling is easy when their butts are way up in the air!?!
And then I realized another key thing…Most people don’t really know what it means to push themselves. Their workouts have to be an hour long or they have to do some crazy moves to be satisfied that they got a great workout because they can’t challenge themselves enough with a simple squat.
Well let me just clarify something right here…YOU DON’T NEED FANCY MOVES OR HOURS OF WORKING OUT TO GET IN A KILLER WORKOUT!
You just need to make sure that you are challenging yourself with weights and reps and even rest times. You just need to make sure that you are doing moves correctly and getting the most out of them.
Not to ramble or side track, but let’s just pause a moment to think of a move that most people do incorrectly – THE PUSH UP.
Most people don’t do the push up….They do the worm.
Their core is flopping around and the have scapular winging and their heads are jutting forward and their arms are out at some odd angle.
So of course they aren’t getting the most out of the move.
BUT neither are those guys who do keep a decent push up line but only move up and down an inch when they do their push ups.
THOSE DON’T COUNT! Think push ups are easy…THEN DO A FULL ONE! Lock your arms out at the top and hit your chest to the ground!!!
And then if that is too easy, PROGRESS THE MOVE. Move your feet up to a chair. Add a weight to your back.
Don’t just whine that it is easy and think you need to be doing some other fancy move.
MAKE THE MOST OUT OF SIMPLE MOVES!
Anyway, I’ve ranted enough. I’m just sick of hearing about how a workout is too easy because if you give a workout 100% effort, trust me….It won’t be easy!
So try this workout and REALLY REALLY give it everything you’ve got.
SAQ x5 rounds with a little rest in between each
Ladder ICKY Shuffle
Zigzag cone shuffle
Lateral step and throws x6 reps
STRENGTH x5 rounds with little rest in between each round
Sandbag pull throughs x 8 each side
Sandbag Zercher lateral lunges x 8 each side
Circle crawls x 10
CONDITIONING x 5 at least double the rest to work
Sidewinders 25 seconds on as fast as you can
(The last can be subbed for any full body “sprint” activity for 25 seconds if you don’t have ropes)
This workout left me fatigued and sore. And I only did 8 reps on two of the strength things when many people did more. It is all about choosing a weight that you want to give up on before you’ve completed all your reps. Like with the lunges…I wanted to give up around 6 reps….Like literally just wanted to drop the bag and NEVER pick it up again! BUT choosing a challenging weight DOESN’T mean choosing a weight that you can’t use correct form with.
Anyway…CHALLENGE YOURSELF! Take a seemingly “easy/simple” workout and really focus on doing everything perfectly. Really choose a weight that makes your muscles scream. Push yourself to rest less or do more reps. PUSH YOURSELF!
The easiest thing ever is to kill someone with a workout and make them have to barf.
Yep it’s easy.
Make them do hard exercises as fast as they can. BINGO!
But seriously what does that accomplish!?! So you FEEL like you got a great workout…But what does it really improve!?!
Is it really making you lose weight? Or are you just getting worn out?
Is it really making you perform better? Or do you just feel rundown?
I mean stringing a buttload of tough exercises together and making someone do them super quick may be difficult but the workout is totally bogus and TOTALLY LACKS DIRECTION!
But trainers continue to do it and clients continue to want it. I’ve even had friends who will go do cardio after a weight training workout just because they felt like they hadn’t sweated enough and weren’t totally exhausted.
While I understand WHY people like killer workouts that doesn’t mean they are always right.
Or good for you.
Honestly, I prefer to work below the barf line. Heck I even like not necessarily being sore the next day.
Honestly. I just want a well thought out workout which doesn’t necessarily mean a killer workout each and every time!
A killer workout each and every time leads to overtraining, which leads to injury which means forced time off.
I don’t have time for that!
I don’t feel like being sidelined with an injury!
So I plan and progress my workouts. I do stabilization days, which include lots of isometric holds. I do strength days, which can mean slow, heavy lifts that don’t even make me break a sweat.
And yes…occasionally this progression does mean workouts that absolutely destroy me.
BUT THEY ARE WELL THOUGHT OUT…Not just freaking hard exercises done as quickly as possible without rest.
Actually most of the “killer workouts” I do aren’t at all like most people do to create killer workouts.
But I was very very very close to barfing. Only of course because I worked as hard as I could.
So what are the killer workouts that I accept?
300 ft in one minute on the VersaClimber.
Or like today…
VersaClimber 30 seconds on 1 min 30 seconds off for 5 rounds
Tsunamis 25 on about 2 minutes off for 5 rounds
5 rounds with over 2 minutes rest in between each round:
Sled pushes 100 ft
5 Squat Thrusts
Doesn’t seem like much right? It isn’t the hardest exercises EVER with no rest. But guess what!?! It made me feel more destroyed than almost any other workout I’ve done.
And I didn’t have to do it super quickly to feel destroyed.
It was a well thought out program with movements to help me progress toward competing well at the Kettlebell Competition.
And I probably won’t be doing another workout like it for a little while.
Because…For one, I don’t need to. There is no point. It wouldn’t get me closer to my goals. And two, it would only make me risk injury!
And when I say that workouts like this put you at risk for injury, I mean that workouts like this put a ton of strain on the body and usually only serve to perpetuate bad movement patterns.
If you want the most out of your workouts, even the killer ones, you need to do some non-killer workouts to improve your movements so you actually get the most out of everything that you do.
Stop wasting your time on killer workouts and really start working toward your goal.
So mix things up and try this stabilization workout!
5 rounds of 1 minute holds on each exercise. Try not to rest between exercises, but take a short rest between rounds.
Toes (literally just balance up on your toes as high as you can. Don’t rock to the outside toes either, really use the big toe!)
Squat hold (squat at lowest to 90 degrees or to right above where compensation occurs. Keep the chest up!)
Bat Wings (AKA scapular hold. Pinch your shoulder blades back and lean against a wall only your elbows touching.)
Push up Hold (So set up at the top of a push up and try to hold from your hands and toes. Keep everything in one straight line without sagging!)
Glute Bridge Hold (Lay on your back and push up, driving through your heels and upper back. Once a minute becomes easy, do a single leg bridge)
Pull up hold (Do a chin up and hold at the top with legs straight for as long as possible. If you need to, straighten your arms and hang at the bottom until the minute is up)
Not a long workout. A great stability/recovery day so you can get everything working properly! TRY IT!
P.S. Going back to my whole New Year’s Resolution theme of the last couple of days….Not doing killer workouts, especially at the beginning is super important. For one, your body isn’t ready to handle workouts like that and you risk injury. And two, you risk making yourself so sore that you can’t workout for days, which won’t help you get into the habit of working out consistently, which in turn will only make it harder for you to get on track to reach your goal!
Progressing toward the elusive perfect push up and pull up
I have many women and even some men tell me that they want to be able to do perfect full push ups and push ups.
And I say “OK!”
Because there is a way to get there! Consistent hard work and a well thought out progression based on what you need to work on will get you there!
So this really applies to any exercise that you want to be able to do, but honestly two of the exercises that most people can’t do, but should be able to do are the push up and pull up (also, most people recently have been telling me they want to be able to do these two moves so I figured I would focus on them).
First, consider all of the muscles used in the move.
For push ups, you use your pecs, shoulders, triceps, core and even your quads and legs. Most often though, people need to focus on core strength and either shoulder or tricep strength.
For pull ups, core and back strength are essential. The grip you use will also determine how much bicep is involved.
Once you identify the muscles used, you can work on those muscles. That doesn’t mean you have to start doing tricep extensions and bicep curls.
You can still do compound movements.
So to work on improving your push up, first assess where you are. Can you do a push up with your hands on an incline? Can you do a push up from your knees? And when I say “Do a push up.” I mean a PERFECT form push up from that position.
Same goes for pull ups. Can you do jumping pull ups? Can you do pull ups where you jump up and slowly lower yourself down? Can you do a pull up and hold? Or can you do a chin up but not a full pull up yet?
Get a clear picture of where you are starting from. If you know exactly where you are at, you can design a program that will get you to where you want to be.
If you don’t have a clear starting point, how the heck are you going to outline a clear progression!?! You won’t know how long it will take you to get somewhere if you don’t even know where you are starting from!!
So once you know what muscles are involved and where you are starting from, you must create workouts that strengthen your weak areas and progress you toward you end goal.
While you will want to do lots of push ups and pull ups during your progression they shouldn’t be the only thing that you are doing.
For push ups, do some core strengthening exercises. Do some crawling that targets your shoulders, core and quads. Do some form of dips, be they full dips or dips off a bench. I mean even get creative with it. Try some chest flies on the slider. Do some ab roller to work your arms and core. Battling ropes can be good. Medball chest passes are a good explosive way to work your upper body.
There are lots of ways to work. Pick exercises that target your weak points!
For pull ups, battling ropes again can be good. Working on different variations of pull ups can help. Try some medball slams into the ground. You can do ones straight ahead or rainbow slams where you slam it down on each side. Do some inverted rows. Some pivot prone pulldowns. Work on your grip strength. Heck even just playing on the monkey bars will definitely help!
And the good part about some of the things that you can do to work on both of these moves is that they will improve your overall posture and strength not JUST progress you toward a perfect pull up or push up.
There are even moves that can benefit both exercises in some way such as the parallel bar press. Just hold your body straight up off of parallel bars or a dip machine. Don’t be a “turtle” aka keep your shoulder blades pull back and down and your spine long. Your neck should be long and not tucked back into your shoulders like a turtle pulling its head into its shell. Just hold. Keep your abs engaged and your shoulder blades retracted. You will feel this in your back and your arms and even your core.
Anyway, there are a bazillion ways to strengthen your body to progress toward a pull up or push up. Don’t just flounder blindly and HOPE you will get there. SET UP A PROGRESSION!
If you need help or want some exercises to help you strengthen your weak points, let me know! 🙂
Get off the floor and stop doing crunches
99% of the people you see in the gym at some point do crunches, planks…any sort of ab exercise during their workout.
But only about half of those people ever do some of the BEST exercises for their abs and for that matter their entire bodies (and these exercises AREN’T crunches!)
They are four awesome exercises called the pull up, push up, back squat and deadlift. And to be honest, they are really all you need to have great arms, chest, back, abs, butt, quads, hamstrings and even calves!
So why are you wasting time on crunches? Actually, why are wasting time on a lot of those silly single muscle group movements!?! I mean seriously…those exercises only help the top 1% not the average Jane/Joe.
If you think you don’t have enough time to workout, you should stop wasting it by doing crunches and single muscle group movements and start doing these four exercises!!!
Let’s face it…we know these are a great exercise because no one ever wants to do them! When no one wants to do an exercise, it generally means it is hard.
Just look at all the muscles used:
- Lower sternal fibers of the pec major
- Posterior deltoid
- Teres major muscles
- Lower traps
- Pec minor
- Levator scapulae
- Serratus anterior
- Rectus abdominis
- Erector spinae
- Transverse abdominis
All of these muscles are used some more or less depending on which pull up variation you perform. (And if you need to make all of those muscles work harder just hang some weight around your waist or perform repetitions till failure!)
Grip can effect which muscles are used more during the movement. Chin ups and narrow grip pull ups are usually the easiest and engage the most bicep while wider grip pull ups isolate the lats more. For example, with a chin up the biceps brachii are used the most but with a prone or pull up grip the brachialis and brachioradialis (muscles that are part of the bicep) are used more than the biceps brachii.
Even the positioning of your lower half can alter which core muscles are doing more work. Ideally you want a straight position though so you are fully engaging every muscle in your core!
And there are no excuses for not doing pull ups. There is always a pull up assist machine around OR a band you can use to help pull you up. Heck even start with jumping pull ups! There is no excuse to skip these! There is a variation for all fitness levels!
Again, rarely are women doing push ups in the gym and neither are men actually…Men usually prefer the more illustrious bench press…But push ups are AMAZING! AND there are a bazillion variations of push ups so they will never ever be too easy!
If you need proof of how amazing, here is a list of all the muscles worked:
- Deltoids (anterior, posterior and medial)
- Pecs (both major and minor)
- Erector spinae
- Rotator cuff
- Serratus anterior
- Rectus abdominus (ABS!!!)
- Transverse abdominus (Oh and abs again!?!)
- Gluteus maximus
You may be thinking, “What?! Push ups work your legs too!?!” YES THEY DO!!!
Your glutes and quads aren’t primary muscle groups in the movement, but they do assist if you do push ups from your toes. They keep your body in a nice straight line!
And like the pull up there are variations that work the muscle groups listed in different ways. There is the narrow push up, which engages more tricep and shoulder (also known as the chaturanga or even the diamond push up) and there is the wide grip push up, which isolates the chest more. There is also the decline push up where you elevate your feet, which not only makes the push up harder but also works your pec major more. AND if you put your hands on unbalanced or uneven surfaces you can work your core more!
I mean there are just a bazillion push up varieties so you will never get bored. AND beginners can’t claim push ups are too advanced! Push ups from the knees are a great modification as well as incline push ups. You can even start by doing push ups by leaning against a wall! There is no excuse why anyone can’t do an incline push up against the wall! 😉
Ok I love legs so I really love this move. And not only does this move work the biggest muscle group in your body but it also really works your core! (And if you want a great butt….SQUAT!)
A quote from “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training” stating just my point!
Squats are considered a vital exercise for increasing the strength and sizeof the legs and buttocks, as well as developing core strength. Isometrically, the lower back, the upper back, the abdominals, the trunk muscles, the costal muscles, and the shoulders and arms are all essential to the exercise and thus are trained when squatting with proper form.
So the muscles worked:
- Transverse Abdominus (abs!!!)
- Erector Spinae
- Soleus (calves)
- Gastrocnemius (calves)
So one thing I haven’t mentioned with the two previous exercises (which is also true for them), but all of these strengthen your lower back, which so many people neglect while doing all of their crunches! And trust me, your back is as much a part of your core as your abs are even if it isn’t something you notice while wearing a bikini.
And there are also a bazillion variations of the squat. I personally have picked the back squat here to highlight because it is the most basic and you can add a ton of weight to it to make it challenging (I like heavy weights!).
MY FAVORITE EXERCISE EVER!!!
Maybe I love it because it works like everything!! It works everything from your fingers (grip strength!!) to your toes!
It works (and I copied this list because well…the deadlift works everything).
- Rectus abdominis (under aponeurosis)
- Abdominal external oblique muscle
- Abdominal internal oblique muscle
- Intertransversarii laterales lumborum
- Latissimus dorsi
- Levator scapulae
- Quadratus lumborum
- Rhomboideus major
- Serratus posterior superior
- Serratus posterior inferior
- Splenius cervicis
- Teres Major
- Trapezius muscle
- Rectus femoris
- Vastus lateralis
- Vastus intermedius
- Vastus medialis
- Biceps femoris muscle
- long head
- short head
- Biceps femoris muscle
- Gluteal muscles
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus minimus
- Superior gemellus
- Gluteal muscles
- Flexor digitorum profundus
Enough said? haha