September 15 – Metabolic Legs

I had a couple of exercise goals this weekend to get back into my workout routine as well as trying to break through my plateau. Plateaus are just depressing and they can really kill any motivation if you let them.

In the hopes of bringing something new and challenging to the table, I opted to try a metabolic workout this weekend. I’m new to metabolic training as a whole, only having done a couple of metabolic workouts before, but the general goal is to do short but strong whole body cardio movements (burpees, weight squats, rowing, sprinting, box/sled pushes, etc.) so that the whole body is engaged. With metabolic workouts, you’re trying to keep a high intensity in your routine, so you should be sweaty with a high heart rate well before the end of a set. If you aren’t, you’re not pushing hard enough.

That’s part of the reason I tend to balk at metabolic workouts. I don’t mind getting sweaty, but when my heart rate increases rapidly or through movements where my arms are engaged (holding weights up during cardio, burpees, etc.), I have a very difficult time breathing. I suffer from a case of exercise-induced asthma which pretty much stops me in my tracks after not too long. I’ll save that discussion for another time, but suffice to say, metabolic workouts are the bane of my asthma where weight or resistance training is not. It took a lot more mentally to push through this workout than it does most just in light of my fear of suffocation or passing out. Yes, you do push yourself as hard as you can, but no one really benefits from passing out, do they? I decided I wouldn’t let my fear of collapsing stop me from trying my hardest.

For breaks, I took 5-10 minutes (usually around 5-8 minutes) between sets for recovery. That’s a long time, but the reality is, recovery is key so that you’re able to complete the next set. With resistance training, 1-2 minutes at most is what you’re looking for between sets, but with a metabolic workout, you would not be in good shape to complete the following set if you did that short a break.

Also, I always made two slow-paced laps around the workout room before stopping for water or sitting down to stretch. It helped to bring my heart rate down, allowing me to breathe consistently again, as well as kept the blood flowing in my legs. If I had sat or laid down right away for a period of time, my legs would have seized up (more than they were already doing) and that would have made any further sets even harder. As much as it feels like you just want to lay down for 5-10 minutes, you have to try to walk it off for the first bit. It really does make a difference.

Metabolic Workout – 4 sets (timed) with 5-10 minute walking breaks between each

Bench Jumps: 20 reps – you want to land as softly as possible on the bench, avoiding a loud ‘slam!’ sound on landing. I often have mental challenges with these due to a fear of tripping or falling off the bench. Putting them at the start really helps to prevent it from psyching me out through the rest of the work out. As always, remember to contract the core (abs) when jumping.
Jumping Lunges: 20 reps – even though you’re doing these in fast succession, remember to get into a full lunge position and land on both feet at the same time. I’m prone to landing one and then the other which can not only put too much weight on one leg and knee, it can throw off your balance. Be sure to avoid leaning forward by keeping a pelvic tilt and a straight back in your lunge position.
Burpees: 20 reps – you have to contract the abs while doing these and that is something with which I still struggle. Unlike the video, I add a jump when coming up each time, for extra leg engagement and cardio. I find the key for getting through these is to pace myself. While I am doing this routine for time, by not going as fast as possible in the start, I have enough energy to get through the full 20 reps. If I went all out at the start, I would maybe get 5 done before I had to stop and catch my breath.
Squats: 20 reps – form is key with squats. Avoid leaning forward or shifting your weight to the front part of your foot. You want your chest to be up and facing forward with your butt back (as if you’re about to sit on a chair). If you’ve done deadlifts before, it’s similar to the form in terms of keeping your butt out behind you with your back up. The goal is to get to at least 90 degrees on your squats every time.
Jumping Squats: 10 reps – form is just as important but you will be coming onto the fore-foot a bit in order to push-off for the jumps. You want to get as close to 90 degrees as possible, still, and don’t let your upper body tilt forward (facing towards the ground).
Box Push: 2 passes @ 45 pounds – a pass is along one whole side of the gym, for me, so the distance can vary if you have a smaller space. When pushing the box or sled, you want to remember to keep the hips down (you don’t want your but high in the air or your back to be curved inward). Remember to push from the glutes and to sprint as hard as you can for both pushes.

When I did these for time, I had negative splits which really encouraged me but I found I almost became too focussed on the time as each set passed. If you have someone who can time you, it may be best to have them record it without telling you so you don’t feel pressured to keep up or beat your previous time. Some might like that pressure, but I found it distracting in the last few sets.

My splits:
Set 1: 5:32.74
Set 2: 5:28.79
Set 3: 5:26.30
Set 4: 5:22.54

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.

March 26 – Full Body

Today’s workout consisted of both upper and lower exercises. I usually group my exercises in groups of 3-5 at a time, doing 2-3 groups a workout and repeating each group 3-4 times.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Chest Press: 55 pounds for 15 reps
Up & Over (fast): 30 reps (one way is one rep) – note: fast here means no pausing and only one foot at a time on the bench, kind of like a hopping action.
Bosu lift – Burpee – Push-up: 12 reps – Lift the bosu, with the ball part facing the groun, up with straight arms over you head (avoid arching the back) and lower to the ground, keeping your grip on the bosu. Push your feet out like a normal burpee, and lower your chest down to do a push up over the bosu. Rise, hop your feet back in, and repeat. Be sure to contract your abs the whole time to avoid curving the lower back and to draw strength from your core.
Dips: 18 reps – Note: you should go to a 90 degree angle if you can and avoid letting your elbows point outwards (ideally you want them straight back but not to the point you lean forward with your chest).
Up & Over Squats (Bosu): 30 reps – note: same speed as above, but instead of on a bench, lay the bosu ball side up on the ground and squat at the end of each pass over the bosu.

Group 2 – Repeat 3 times (no pauses between repeats in this group)
V-up Roll-ups: 12 reps – note: be sure to contract your abs down into the ground when lifting up and avoid swinging your arms to momentum (harder than it sounds).
Sit-ups: 30 reps – note: as above, focus on lifting using the abs and avoid any swinging arm motions.
Leg Lowers: 10 reps – note: lower the legs as close to the ground as you can without allowing your lower back to lift off the ground (contracting your abs in will help with this).