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 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

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.

March 28 – Lower

A lower body work out. As before, repeat each group of exercises 3 times.

Group 1
Squat Jumps: 30 reps
Calf Raises: 30 reps
Lunge Jumps: 30 reps
Box Jumps: 30 reps – note: try to land without making noise and with the whole foot on the surface.

Group 2
Step-Up – Glute Extension – Lunge: 15 reps each side. Start facing the middle of the bench and place one foot all the way on it. Step up, keeping the weight over the heel and using the glute to pull yourself up. Straighten without placing the other foot on the bench and contract the glute straight back (not to the side or turned out and avoid allowing the pelvis or torso to tip forward). Slowly lower yourself down, in a controlled manner, and continue back (with the foot you used to step up onto the bench) into a backwards lunge. Contract with your glutes to rise up out of the lunge and move right back into the next step up. At no point should both feet be stationary next to each other. The movement should be smooth from one exercise to the next.
Plank Leg Lifts: 10 reps each side
Hamstring Curls: 30 lbs with 12 reps – note: be sire to not lift your butt or lower body off the machine and avoid arching your back.