April 9 – Full Body

Still playing catch up with the work outs. Thanks for hanging with me while I sort things out.

This work out has 3 groups instead of the usual 2.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Ab Wheel: 15 reps – note: remember to keep the abs contracted both while rolling out and rolling back in, to avoid your back dipping on the way out. Focus on using the abs as your sole or main source of rolling back in. Gradually, work on rolling a little further each time, keeping the hips low. I like to picture it as a plank position as my full extension goal.
Push Ups: 15 reps – note: be sure to contract your abs the whole time to avoid curving the lower back and to draw strength from your core. Remember you want to aim more for lowering your face/chest to the ground, not dipping your hips.
Box Push: 80 lbs for 2 full passes – note: contrary to the video, I like a lower surface. Keeping the hips/butt low (think of a squat in terms of angles) and using the legs to push hard. Distance can vary but I usually count a pass as 1-way for the full length of the gym.

Group 2 – Repeat 3 times
Pull Ups: 15 reps – note: try to control coming down, keeping the abs tight and not curving the lower back. You want to feel it in the shoulders/shoulder blades, so focus on the contraction there.
Jumping Lunges: 30 reps (15 each side) – note: as with regular lunges, try to keep your stance small enough that you can have a 90 degree angle in the back leg (not wider), keeping your abs tight and back in line with the thing of the back knee. You don’t want to be leaning forward and a pelvic tilt will help you balance. You do want to go all the way down into a full lunch position.
Dragonflies: 15 reps – note: you want to have control the whole time, keeping your back straight as you reach the lower parts of the movement. Go as low as you can before your back arches, using your contracted abs to keep everything stable. Do not swing or bend your legs to get up and don’t go past the chest. You want a straight motion.

Group 3 – Repeat 3 times
Scissors: 20 reps (10 each side) – note: unlike in the video, I do a 2 second pause between switching legs. Like in the dragonflies above, focus on the core and keeping the lower back flat. You can rest your head on the ground if neck discomfort is an issue.
Plank: 1 minute hold – note: contract through the abs, supporting the lower back. As mentioned in the video, you want to be straight, so don’t keep your butt up too high (that’s cheating!) and also don’t bring it down so low that your back is curving. I find most people tend toward the former (too high) and thus reduce the effect of this exercise.
Ins & Outs (wide arms): 20 reps – note: the version here is in the second part of the video (with arms extended). Normally I do this in more of a V-sit position, balancing on the butt, as opposed to the video where she is lying on her back. You will feel this in your legs but you should also

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April 5 – Back

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. My computer died so access for posting was limited. I will be trying to catch up on the workouts that got missed, so here is the first of likely a few updates.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Dumbell Push Press: 20 lbs (each hand) for 12 reps – note: focus on straight form,using the legs to provide some of the power, and keeping the core strong.
Jumping Pull-Up with Burpee: 12 reps – note: avoid swinging to get yourself up. The jump should be straight, and as minimal as you need to complete the pull up (if possible). Try to control coming down so you’re not just dropping down. You don’t have to go slow coming down, but you want to be controlling it. I try to aim for a steady 3-5 count when lowering myself down.
Rope Whip: 30 seconds – note: if for any reason you can’t do both ropes, grasp one rope length with both hands. You want to be sure to focus on contracting the abs, supporting the lower back (no hunching) and keep your breathing steady. Adjust the speed to your level, but the goal should be to get the waves to reach the end of the rope.

Group 2 – Repeat 3 times
Side Plank Twist (#12 in the video is the closest I could find for what I want): 8 lbs for 20 reps (10 each side) – note: the form from the shoulders down in the video is good, but the differences from the video are: you are on your palms and starting in a normal plank position with 1 dumbell between your hands, you alternate twists (reference #12 in the video for body form) while lifting the dumbell with a straight arm all the way to 180 degrees. Controlling it while you lower it to the ground, once you’re back in starting plank position, you take the weight with your other hand and repeat on that side. Key points to focus on: keeping the abs contracted, arms straight, and hips down. There is usually a tendency to shift or lift your hips when you rotate or switch arms. Try to keep control of your body to prevent this.
Lateral Raise: 8 lbs for 12 reps – note: keep the shoulders down and back as well as the abs contracted. Avoid swinging the arms and try to start from the sides along your thigh, not in front. Starting in front allows you more momentum which decreases the amount of work your shoulders are doing.
External Rotation: 2 lbs for 12 reps – note: you should feel this in the back around your shoulder blade. Start really light since even if you don’t feel it in the first couple, you will feel it by the end if you’re doing it correctly. The whole body should remain still with only the forearm turning. You want to keep the wrist straight and the elbow stationary.

April 3 – Shoulders/Upper Back and Abs

I split my workout routine to cover my upper back/shoulder blade area and some abdominal/core work.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Seated Row: 45 lbs for 12 reps – note: be sure to start the movement with your shoulder blades. You want a strong contraction as you near the end of the pull. Try to avoid leaning forward or back, keeping a straight back (but with a neutral curve in the lower back), with no rocking motion.
Face Pulls: 30 lbs for 12-15 reps – note: like above, you want the contraction in the shoulder blade area while making sure the arms and elbows don’t drop down.
Bicep Curls (bar): 20 lbs for 12 reps – note: remember you want a straight back (abs contracted), shoulders down, wrists straight, elbows in and not swinging with the motion.
Bent Row: 20 lbs for 15 reps on each side – note: keep the abs contracted to keep the back neutral and keep the focus on contracting the shoulder blade.
Reverse Flies: 8 lbs for 15 reps – note: the more forward you bend at the hips, the harder the movement becomes. The contraction, as you probably guess, should be focussed mainly in the shoulder blades.

Group 2 – Repeat 3 times
Heel Touch: 20 reps on each side – note: try to raise your chest high enough so your shoulder blades are off the ground. If you have neck/throat/chest discomfort doing this, you can rest the head back down on the ground.
Ab Wheel: 20 reps – note: I LOVE this exercise. It’s brutal on an arm day, though, so if you’re doing heavy arms, it may be best to postpone it. Remember to keep the abs contracted both while rolling out and rolling back in, to avoid your back dipping on the way out. Focus on using the abs as your sole or main source of rolling back in. Gradually, work on rolling a little further each time, keeping the hips low. I like to picture it as a plank position as my full extension goal.
Medicine Ball Twists: 16 lbs for 20 reps on each side – note: it can be hard to keep yourself supported, with abs contracted, and continue breathing but try to push throug it. You want to be getting a full turn in the upper body, shoulders should be square to the walls on either side of you, and you want to bring the ball (or your hands if you’re doing it without weights/medicine ball) all the way to the ground, which if you’re fully turned, should be next to but slightly behind your hip.

April 2 – Lower

This routine had less exercises (one group instead of two) but the exercises were more challenging in terms of form and control so it still took up as much time as a high rep, speedy work out like March 28’s.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Sandbag Toss – 2 Squat Jump combo: 20 lb sandbag with 16 reps – note: try to keep the throw more horizontal than in the video (you don’t need that much height for this). Ideally, you should be having enough room to do two squat jumps before reaching the bag. If you have a lot of extra space, bump it up to three. Remember to focus on contracting the abs, especially in the pick up and throw movements. You’ll also want to remember to keep your chest up and butt down for the squats, you don’t want to have your chest parallel to the group.
Resistance Band Lunges: black band with 25 reps per leg – note: this is the exact same as a normal reverse lunge, so remember to keep pelvis tucked under, hip over your back knee (no leaning forward). The middle of the resistance band should be under the middle/arch of your foot, not your toe or heel. Take the handles with palms facing your thighs. When you’re ready, pull them up to the chest so your palms face away then rotate them to face your chest. The band should be on the inside of your arm (not around the outside). Starting with feet together, step back into the reverse lunge, lower, rise (through the front heel) and step back so feet are together. The band makes you want to lean forward, so be sure to focus on avoiding that. You want to move through these quickly. Even if you’re focussing on form, the goal is to get your heart rate up as well.
1-Leg Sit Squat: 12 per leg – note: like with the squate jumps, keep the chest up, no leaning forward, avoid rocking when you are coming up from the bench, and when you’re coming down, control it; don’t just plop down on the bench. There should be almost no sound as you sit. You can do this with a chair or anything else you sit on, if you want, as well. Just focus on pushing up through the heel, and keeping the knee facing forward (it may have a tendency to turn in as you push up). This is easier to track if you have a mirrored surface facing you. You also want to be sure that you’re keeping the raised leg in front of the working leg. Don’t allow it to drop behind or to the side. I usually feel it in that hip flexor area near the end, but you’re not getting as much of a challenge if you drop it down. As you get better at these, you can look for lower surfaces to try this with, but starting out, nothing lower than knee-height at most (so you’re at a 90 degree angle when sitting). Keeping your core/abs tight and using the but to push yourself up for this, is essential!

A note about resistance bands: They come in varying degrees of resistance based on their colours. Yellow is usually considered the lighter of the resistances, so I’d start with that and adjust until you find one with the right level for you.

Breaks

There’s a whole variety of breaks, but the ones I’m thinking about right now are the unanticipated days where no matter of good intentions will either get you to the gym or give you the strength to get a work out done.

Fatigue/Lack of Energy
Sometimes it’s fatigue or lack of energy. Those days I feel the worst about since it’s usually my fault some how. Maybe I stayed up too late when I knew I shouldn’t have. Maybe I ate a lot of grain carbs and blew out my energy and sugar levels causing them to sag later on. These are the types of break days I try to minimize.

Usually, the lack of energy sensation passes once I force myself into the actual building. Even planning my work out gives me a little boost to overcome this. I do find, if I don’t get myself into the gym, even the parking lot, I know I won’t overcome this challenge.

Illness/Unwell
Then there’s the sick days. I was told once, if it’s above the neck, work through it, and if it’s below, rest it. I don’t know that I would fully agree with this. There are times when the issue below the neck can be worked around and the issue above the neck could easily hinder my ability to perform an exercise safely.

A good example of the above neck rule not working for me is migraines. I become light sensitive and often very disoriented. Doing a chest press would cause me to be staring into bright lights or, when raising my heartrate through cardio or resistance training, the pressure might build to increase the pain. Neither of these scenarios is a good one.

Will I take a painkiller and re-assess later? Yes, I will and do, but in terms of what pains to work through, the above rule is not tried and true for me all the time.

The same goes for below the neck. Sure, if I have a strained or pulled muscle, I won’t necessarily work that one. But if there’s other things Ican work out in the mean time without adding to it, then heck yeah I’ll do it. Often, after a particularly joint-stressing uppeer body work out (usually involving chin ups, bicep curls, and push ups), my elbows get a mild form of joint pain (similar to tennis elbow, minus the tennis playing).

I will ice my elbows the night of and maybe the following night as well, but I still work out. I never work a group of muscles two days in a row anyway so the next couple of days might be leg strength resistance and then a day of running. When I do return to arms, it’s when my elbow no longer has discomfort or with a routine that doesn’t put as much strain specifically on the elbow (seated rows, for example).

Mental
Yes, I go mental sometimes. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I define mental break days as the days where you aren’t in a good headspace to be pushing yourself. It takes time, in my experience, to know when is a “Mental Break” Day and when is a “Need an Outlet” Day. The difference between these two for me is usually the nature of the issue.

If I’m angry, frustrated, mad, boiling over, etc., those days I go to the gym and work through my frustration. These days often include medicine ball slams. I can’t tell you how GREAT that feels on those days. I can’t recommend enough doing that exercise on these days. By the third set, if you have any energy left for frustration, you’re either not doing enough reps (and need another set) or you’re the Hulk and you’re going to be smashing everything anyway.

The way I tell if it’s a “Mental Break” day is when the nature of my ‘mentalness’ is being down, in an extreme way. I take medication sometimes to treat an internal physical problem, but the medication is based on hormones and as such, sometimes in the course of this medication, my moods will fluctuate. Other times it might be I get some really bad news.

Whatever the reasoning, I’ve tried to work through those days before. Everyone is different, but for me, those days are the days where I would be best to be at home, processing whatever is going through my head. I’ll be processing it where ever I am, and if that’s the gym, that means my mind will wander, and most likely when it shouldn’t. I can tell you I have had it wander at the worst times (at the peak of a chess press, when the dumb bells are right above my face, for an example, that was scary). I also find I don’t push as hard and even a moderate work out that I normally would have no trouble with, I trod through at best.

So what does this all mean? In the end, it means that break days are sometimes necessary and the reasons can vary. Everyone needs to mess around to find out what works for them, but don’t feel discouraged if you have to take an unanticipated break day, because it happens. It doesn’t mean you ‘fell off the wagon’ or ruined your work out routine. It means that you recognized that either your body or your mind was not going to be in a place to give its all and most likely whatever you would have done, would have been risky/dangerous or wouldn’t have been up to par (possibly also adding to your mental state of mind). We all need them sometimes, so don’t be afraid to use them when you do. You’ll be rewarded the next day with more motivation and energy for having allowed yourself to rest.