A DIY 30-minute whole body workout

Despite what we personal trainers would like you to think ;) , workout design isn’t rocket science.

30-minute whole body workout

Sure, you need to know about muscles and joints and planes of motion. A bit of information about reps and sets and loads doesn’t hurt either. Throw in a cursory understanding of the types of movements our bodies were designed for and the patience to demand good form of yourself and creating a 30-minute whole-body workout is within almost anybody’s reach.

Note that I’m NOT talking about a PROGRAM designed to meet specific and individualized goals (that’s when having access to a personal trainer’s education, knowledge and experience comes in handy), but rather, a fill-in-the-gaps workout when you don’t have time to get to the gym, don’t know what to do once you get there or just need a change to your regular routine.

A DIY 30-minute whole body workout

Most of the programs I design are based on a finite number of basic movements; squats, lunges, hinges, pushes, pulls, rotations and static holds.

Each of these basic movements has a nearly endless number of variations; variations which differ in complexity, difficulty and the equipment required to perform them.

By simply choosing one of the exercise options from each of the basic movement categories listed below, you’ll have created your own 30-minute whole body workout. Make sure the choices you make challenge you and reflect your current fitness level. If something hurts, don’t do it.

Instructions:

  1. Spend 5-10 minutes warming up. (See this post for my favourite warmup exercises)
  2. Choose one exercise from each of the categories listed below.
  3. Perform 10-15 good form repetitions of each of your chosen exercises, one after the other, in the order listed.
  4. Make sure you choose a weight or variation that makes it difficult for you to complete the last few repetitions.
  5. Rest when necessary; both between exercises and at the end of the circuit.
  6. Repeat the entire circuit once.
  7. Spend 5-10 minutes stretching. (See this post for a video-guided stretch)

Note: Exercise options are listed in order of increasing difficulty, with the least challenging option first and the more challenging options last.

whole body workout

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Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Fitness routines of personal trainers | how your trainers stay fit

At least once a week a reader, client or group fitness participant asks me about my fitness routine.

IMG_2839Do I train myself the same way I train them? (not necessarily; I’m training for increased muscle mass, many of my clients are not).

Do I need to do anything in addition to the classes I teach to stay in shape? (Absolutely! The weights in the aerobics studio aren’t heavy enough for the type of training I do. I teach 2-3 Step and Bootcamp classes per week and hit the weight room for body-part splits 3 times weekly).

What type of nutrition plan do I follow? (Nothing formal, but I try to fill my plate with lean protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats before I add in grains, dairy or sweet treats).

And I’m sure my answers to the above questions are different from YOUR personal trainer’s or those of the blogger-trainers you follow online.

I thought it might be fun to poll some of my personal trainer friends and colleagues and ask THEM to divulge the details of their own personal fitness routines. To show you that there are as many ways to stay fit as there are fitness professionals. And that even personal trainers have an ‘Achilles heel’; areas where we need to improve to keep progressing and meeting our fitness goals.

Thanks to Pamela Hernandez, Tara Sabo, Heather Iacobacci-Miller, Morgan Shuker, Carly Pizzani and Taylor Ryan for taking the time to answer the following questions.

1. On average, how many days per week do you work out? How long are your workouts?

2. What types of workouts do you do?

3. If you strength train, what type of program are you following?

4. What does a typical workout week look like for you?

5. Do you follow any type of nutrition plan? If so, could you share a few details?

6. Imagine that you’re your own client. Give ‘a star’ and ‘make a wish’. Identify something that you’re doing well, with respect to your fitness goals and an area where you need a bit more work.

Grab a protein shake or green smoothie, sit back and enjoy getting to know these fit, fabulous and inspiring women!

Fitness routines of personal trainers

 

DailyBurn-19Pamela Hernandez, ACSM CPT and ACE Health Coach
Owner Thrive Personal Fitness.
 
Check out WIAW at Facebook.com/ThrivePersonalFitness and scenes from my day at instagram/thrivefit
 

1.  My strength workouts are usually 30-40 minutes and cardio can be 25 minutes to an hour. Yoga can be 30 – 60 minutes. My schedule just depends on how busy the day and week are.

2. I love weights which typically I do 3 days a week. I try to run 2- days a week as well but that depends on the week and the weather. I do yoga 1-2 times a week. I bike on Sundays during the summer with my husband during the summer if the weather is nice. We walk in the evenings too but I don’t really consider that a workout.

3. My training plan varies depending on what I have coming up or what my focus is. My last “phase” was focused on whole body workouts 3 days per week and knowing I was going to be in a bikini. I’m thinking of doing a body part split workout (post vacation before IDEA World/Blogfest) to try to “shape” a bit. That would mean weights 4 days a week. Other times of the year I might do an upper/lower split. Most of it is very functional, using free weights and very few machine exercises. I love kettle bell workouts too. [Me too, says Fitknitchick; so many ways to keep your workouts fresh]

4. Monday – strength/HIIT cardio I at my gym all day with an afternoon break. This is how I refresh myself
Tuesday – run or yoga depending on what else I have to do.
Wednesday – strength plus after dinner walk
Thursday – run/cardio or yoga or rest depending on what I have to do that day.
Friday – strength plus a walk after dinner
Saturday – active rest (maybe a walk after dinner or short yoga)
Sunday – longer run or bike ride (maybe an hour)

5. I’m a vegetarian who tries to avoid dairy. I eat as clean as possible but I’m not perfect. I might grab a bowl of cereal or a packaged protein bar. I eat out sometimes when networking or meeting a girlfriend for lunch. I still keep a food log. As a type 1 diabetic I have to count carbs to do dose my insulin. A food log is as much about balancing my calories as it is about dosing my medicine. I believe in balance, not perfection. [Balance is way more interesting than perfection, in my opinion]

6. Doing well – I am a food log all star! I have kept my log consistently for years!
Needs work – logging my workouts. I make a note of the kind of workout in my calendar but I lack a training log with reps/sets/weight/etc. It makes it hard to gauge progress.

 

Tara SaboTara Sabo, 33
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Spinning Instructor
 
www.adailydoseoffit.com
Tara would love more followers on twitter.com/ADailyDoseOfFit and instagram.com/ADailyDoseOfFit
 

1. I shoot for five to six days a week, but that can change if my personal and/or group fit schedule changes. If I’m teaching, workout length can be 30, 45 or 60 minutes (depending on the day). If I’m running, it can be anywhere from 30-90 minutes or more depending on the milage. I try to keep personal strength workouts to 45 minutes.

2. I love to run. Personal strength workouts are generally quite traditional with a little HIIT mixed in. I also teach a Spinning class. (It’s hard NOT to get a workout while I’m teaching that class!)

3. Because of my group fit schedule, personal strength workouts typically focus on my entire body…I don’t have time for split workouts. I like to mix it up, so I might use traditional (weight based) strength exercises with some high intensity work as well. Traditional strength moves are typically done with medium to heavy weights, depending on the exercise. I usually do 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions, pushing the weight within those repetitions. I get a decent workout when I teach, but that’s not the goal…so I like to take it up a notch when I’m on my own. [People are always surprised when I say that I don't count my classes as my own personal workout]

4. Right now, it’s a blank slate as I get back into it post-baby.[Congratulations!] Before I started modifying, it looked a little bit like this:

Monday: Strength Class
Tuesday: Spinning Class/Kettlebell Class
Wednesday: Personal Short Run
Thursday: Personal Short Run
Friday: Personal Strength Workout
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Personal Long Run

5. I don’t, actually. I find that I get obsessive when I follow a diet or count calories, so I generally just do my best to eat a clean, well-balanced diet that gives me wiggle room for treats.

6. Right now, I’m really focused on getting back to where I was before I had my son. I just got clearance from the doctor to resume normal activity. So generally speaking, I get a star for staying focused. For planning out and committing to a workout schedule. If I skip a workout, it’s because an outside force has changed my schedule in some way (like the need for a sub in a class that isn’t mine or a sick kid, for example). Where do I need some work? Flexibility. I never forget to stretch, but I could definitely be doing better, deeper stretching. Especially since I’m logging miles as a runner. I used to be able to do the splits. Now, ha! But I can run a half marathon… [Stretching is my weakness too; even when I'm teaching, I tend not to join in the entire stretch portion of the class as I'm fiddling with the music or helping my participants]

 

Heather_HeadshotHeather Iacobacci-Miller, 39
ISSA Personal Trainer Certification, RRCA Running Coach Certification
 
Follow Heather on Twitter: @wtbfitness and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WherestheBeachBlog
 

1. It varies. Running 50-90 mins, lifting 30 mins, cycling 90 mins. Sometimes I do a 2-a-day so 50 mins morning run then 25-30 mins weight later.

2. Running, cycling, weight training, HIIT

3. Body part splits, usually supersets or trisets, often incorporate dropsets, lifting heavy with lower reps. [A woman after my own heart :) ]

4. My week varies sometimes depending on what days I run vs ride. Typically ride Mon, Tues 6-8 mile run, biceps/triceps/abs at noon; Wed run 6-7 miles, legs, shoulders at noon; Thurs ride or run; back/chest short HIIT + abs at noon, Fri rest, Sat long run, Sun recovery run 6-8 miles.

5. I try to eat whole foods as much as possible incorporating protein, carbs, fats & fiber with each meal or snack. I try to avoid refined foods, sugars but also believe in balance and not feeling deprived or that something is off-limits. So I do happily enjoy pizza or even chips and cheese dip on occasion.

6.  Oh wow. I’m almost stumped with this one. Even if I don’t want to necessarily work out, I tend to dig deep and get it done. I don’t make excuses. I guess that’s a plus (considering some of the excuses I hear from people all the time). But at the same time, sometimes that can be a downfall for me. I push push push and sometimes don’t cut myself some slack. I forget to assess my accomplishments and be proud of them and instead notice the things I’m doing wrong or if I’m not building muscle here or there, not getting in my speed work …

 

morganpersonaltrainerMorgan Shuker, 29 and owner of Wildly Fit. I’m Can Fit Pro certified as a trainer and working through my Precision Nutrition certification. I’m a new trainer and currently dabbling in one on one personal training and run coaching. Check out my website and follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Wildly Fit online coaching to come in the future!
 
Website: http://www.wildlyfit.ca
Instagram: http://instagram.com/wildly_fit
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Wildly_Fit
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wildlyfitinc
 

 1. I workout 4 days a week. My goal is usually 6 days but that rarely happens because life just gets so busy, am I right? My workouts range from 20 minutes to one hour in length.

2. It varies at different times of the year. In the summer it’s mostly running and biking. Canadian winter running just isn’t for me! I love training for races and am coaching a running group this summer too. Biking too just because I want any excuse for an outdoor workout. Oh and don’t forget weekly yoga, flexibility training is so important. [You get a big fat star for this one!]

3. I definitely strength train, most often in the fall and winter because that’s when I spend the most amount of time on the gym floor. Love lifting heavy! I do body part splits and low reps. But I also do body weight and light weight on a regular basis for injury treatment.

4. Changes each season, this is my current training schedule.

Monday – yoga
Tuesday – run (including hill sprints)
Wednesday – upper body strength
Thursday – lower body strength plus run
Friday – rest & chiropractor appointment for soft tissue work to treat my chronic pain and any current injuries

Saturday / Sunday = rest or race

5. I have a few rules that I use for my nutrition planning. First of all I prep most of my food on Sundays. I eat 5-6 meals a day. Those meals are the same every day for one week. Why? Because I like things to be easy. Do I get bored? Nope, because I choose meals I love and change it up every week. I try to keep my dairy and starchy carbs to the first 3 meals of the day and focus more on protein and veggies for the end of the day. I’m also a Truestar Ambassador and take daily vitamins to power my workouts and for general wellness.

6. I’m going to gold star myself for sticking on track when I’m training for a race. You can’t shake my schedule, I’m full of discipline! Where I need work is tracking my strength training. I can be a bit willy nilly with strength training but I love it so much. I’d definitely benefit from tracking exercises, reps, and weight.

 

Carly weights runningCarly Pizzani, 36 years old
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
Diploma, American Academy of Personal Training
 
Blog: Fine Fit Day http://finefitday.com
Twitter: @carlypizzani http://twitter.com/carlypizzani
Instagram: @carlypizzani http://instagram.com/carlypizzani
Pinterest: @carlypizzani http:pinterest.com/carlypizzani
 
Carly would love more followers on Instagram and Pinterest!
 

1. I usually work out 5 days a week. My running workouts range from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the day. My strength training workouts are usually between 20 and 45 minutes.

2.  I run, I lift weights and I walk. In a perfect world I would add yoga, but sadly my yoga practice has been lacking recently (read: nonexistent). [I definitely need to get back to yoga too; always feels so great when I'm practicing regularly...]

3.I do whole body strength training using compound exercises. I base my strength training on my racing goals. When my running training is light (the beginning of a training program), my strength training is heavy weights at low reps, to build up strength. As my running gets more intense, getting closer to a race, I switch to endurance training, with lighter weights for more reps in circuits.

4. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I run and strength train. On an easy run day, I’ll do 45 minutes of weights, then the other two days when I have harder running workouts I’ll do 20 minute strength training sessions. Saturday and Sunday I run – one of the weekend days is my long run and the other is usually a recovery run. Since I train clients locally, I commute by walking, so over the course of a week I usually walk about 15 miles as well. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my rest days, although as a mama of a rambunctious toddler, ‘rest’ might be a bit of a stretch!

5. I don’t follow a set nutrition plan, or really have any hard and fast rules when it comes to eating. I’m lucky in that I really enjoy a lot of healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables. I don’t think there’s a vegetable I don’t enjoy. (I am also not averse to chocolate and red wine). [We would get along well ;) ] I cook a lot and have mastered the art of healthy cooking techniques and seasoning. Since I run a lot, I don’t shy away from carbohydrates, so I often cook with brown rice, barley, or whole wheat pasta and I eat either whole wheat or sprouted grain breads. I do try to steer clear of packaged foods as much as I can.

6. What I’m doing well is being smart about my training. I work with a running coach to ensure my training plan is quality, so I can avoid injury. I also balance my strength training to aid my running goals. Where I need more work is with my sleep habits! I am not in a routine and I often stay up late to read or write, rather than getting the sleep I should. It’s a constant struggle for me. I would also love to find the time and motivation to do yoga more regularly.

 

 

IMG_5229Taylor Ryan, 30 years old – Charleston SC
NASM C-PT and C-WLC
Venice Nutrition Coach
Please follow Taylor on Twitter: @femininemuscle
And check out her blog: LiftingRevolution.com

 

1. I workout on average 5-6 days/week. Each workout ranges in length from as short as 15 minutes to as long as 2 hours (long cardio day).

2. I run 3-4 times per week… track work 1 day, tempo runs and shorter runs 1-2 times (3-5 miles) and a long run on the weekend.

Mixed in with the running, I also do kettlebell workouts (1-2x), and high intensity strength training 2x per week. If I am not able to get my personal strength training in, I’ll jump into one of my boot camp classes!

3. Strength training is my passion and I love to mix it up. All of my workouts are total body.

1-2 times per week I do kettlebell based workouts, and the other workouts are a mix of heavy lifting paired with body weight moves to deliver the most bang for my buck. i.e. I might do 4 sets of weighted squats and finish it off with as many squat jumps as possible. For a while I was focusing on high rep, circuit training, but for the past 2 weeks I’ve created a new program for myself that is lower reps, more sets to focus on strength over endurance. Which I’ll continue with for the next 3-4 weeks.

4. Monday: Quick Run (3-4 miles) & Kettlebell workout
Tuesday: Track Speed Work
Wednesday: Strength & light cardio & filming workout for FitWomensWeekly
Thursday: Kettlebells – Fast 20 minute workout
Friday: OFF
Saturday: Long Run
Sunday: Rest or filming workouts

5. Until earlier this year I was a vegan. But due to health concerns, I made the decision to reintroduce animal products back into my diet.

Now, nutrition is looked at as fuel for my body. What makes me feel the best, regardless of what’s “trending” in the health world or blogs? What works for me and my husband is a {mostly} plant based diet that is rich in all-natural foods/ingredients. We try to make everything ourselves… as that’s the only way to really know what’s in your food. The only thing I don’t include in my diet is dairy.

6. Haha…

Let’s see… when it comes to my workouts I do a really good job at focusing on form and listening to my body. If my form starts to suffer, I’m not afraid to slow down, rest and shake everything out before continuing on. I think too many people/programs that think workouts should be go-go-go and they end up injuring themselves or not getting the most out of the exercises. If it’s a timed workout, that might lead to an extra 30-seconds however knowing that my push-ups or squats were perfect is worth the time.

What I can work on…

Working harder when I am by myself. I have a hard time lifting heavier or pushing to a new level when I’m by myself. I love the external motivation I get from having a training partner or my husband coaching me. Since we’ve opened our gym, I have had to workout a lot more by myself and it’s been tough! [I hear you. And it's so hard to find another trainer to work with when our exercise schedules are so variable to accommodate our clients' schedule...]

Now, it’s your turn. Take a moment and give a ‘star’ and ‘make a wish’ for yourself. Share them below.

Then spend some time getting to know my guests a bit better by visiting their sites and following them on social media!

Game, set, match; gotta love EleVenbyVenus

The summer I turned 12 I won Wimbledon.

contributing blogger for EleVen by Venus

I also won the science fair that year. Apparently this event was more ‘photo-worthy’ than me with a tennis racket…

Let me explain.

My mother had recently discovered tennis. In her enthusiasm she signed me up for a week’s worth of tennis lessons.

Thankfully, a male friend from school had also been enlisted in the program and we fell in love with the game together. (Years later, I also found out that this friend had a wicked pre-puberty crush on me as a consequence of all the time we spent together, but I digress. That is another post for another time and perhaps, another blog entirely ;) ).

Once the week was over, my friend and I decided that we’d meet daily and train for our own version of Wimbledon. Being prone to angry outbursts, he adopted the court name “John McEnroe”. Naturally, I became “Bjorn Borg”. :)

We met nearly every day that summer for a serious hour or two of singles. We got better at serving. Our volleys increased in length.  Our friendship grew stronger. And the holidays culminated with ‘Borg’ beating ‘McEnroe’ in two straight sets. At least that’s how I remember it; my friend may disagree.

The summer came to an end and we moved on to different schools. I stopped playing tennis and took up rowing instead.

But I’ve never forgotten my love of the sport. I still watch it on television. (Hooray for Eugenie! Canada’s first player to make it to a Grand Slam final!). And even venture down to the local court with my children for an occasional game of ‘whack the ball’. (The game we play is more like ‘dodgeball’ than tennis, but it’s fun and it gets us moving as a family, so I’m okay with that for now).

This story is just a long-winded way of sharing some exciting news with all of you.

As of last month, I’m the newest contributing ‘Performance and Training’ blogger on Venus William’s website! Her blog, EleVenbyVenus is all about empowering women athletes (both professional and ‘everyday’) to be the best they can be. To be an ‘eleven’ rather than settling for being a ‘ten’.

EleVen by Venus blog

Alas, Venus doesn’t have her arm around me, but you can see my head shot along the edge!

I’m thrilled and grateful for the opportunity. (And not a little bit intimidated by my co-contributors who’ve been doing this for many more years than I have.)

I’d love it if you’d take a minute to check out my first two contributions to the site (and see my bio pic alongside those of Tony Horton and Brendan Brazier ;) ).

Planks + Bridges = Core Stability

5 Tips for Successful Partner Fitness Training

Watch for new contributions the second week of every month!

Pre-strength training warm-up | favourite warm-up exercises

We all know how important it is to start each and every workout with a proper warm up.

Yet many of us, myself included, often rush through, excited to get to the fun part before we’ve really prepared our bodies for the work to come.

favourite warm-up exercises

Me, before a workout!

Goals of a warm-up include:

  • gradually increasing your breathing rate. Lungs provide oxygen to your muscles. During exercise, muscles increase their demand for oxygen. Gradually increasing your respiration will allow you to continue meeting your body’s oxygen demand without the premature accumulation of lactic acid. ‘Feeling the burn’ is great, but not at the beginning of your workout.
  • increasing blood flow to your muscles. Blood carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. In order to meet their increased demand for oxygen, blood flow must increase as well. Rhythmic, low intensity movements stimulate the increased flow of blood to muscles and extremities.
  • elevating your heart rate. Your heart serves to pump oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. An elevated heart rate is often the most obvious sign that your body is starting to work a bit harder. Aim to increase your heart rate to 60-65% of your heart rate maximum by the end of your warmup.
  • increasing the temperature of your muscles. Warm muscles are more efficient at contracting than cold muscles. They’re also less likely to be injured. I’ll do just about anything to prevent repeating past injuries.
  • lubrication of your joints. As you begin to move, your brain signals the release of synovial fluid within your joints. This fluid acts like a lubricant, allowing the joints to move more smoothly and through an increasingly larger range of motion.
  • enhancing proprioception and kinesthetic awareness. Proprioception is the body’s awareness of where it is in space. It’s a fundamental requirement of strength training, particularly when you’re performing single-sided and balance exercises.
  • rehearsing the movements that you’ll be performing during the workout itself. Performing body weight versions of the exercises you’ll be doing during your workout proper is a great way to prepare your body for the work to come. Not only does it help to create a mind-to-muscle connection, it also gently stretches the muscles and ligaments around the joint, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury.

My favourite warm-up exercises:

I always begin my warm-up with 4 or 5 minutes of light, whole body movement.

Typically, I hop on the ARC trainer or the rowing machine because they require both my upper and lower body to move in synchrony. I keep the tension low and remember that the level of intensity I work at shouldn’t leave me sweating or out of breath.

Depending on whether I’m planning a upper body, lower body or whole body strength workout, I perform a series of body weight only exercises, working on form, keeping speed low, and increasing my range of motion with every repetition.

Currently, I’m loving the following five warm-up exercises.

Try performing 8 to 10 of each (on each arm or leg, where appropriate), in the order indicated:

1. Toe-touch-bum-drop-hands-up-squat-to-stand. Start by standing with feet hip distance apart. Bending at the waist (and slightly at the knees, if necessary), reach down to touch your toes. Lower your bum toward the floor. From this position, extend both arms straight up overhead. Push through your heels to return to standing. I don’t have a better name for this movement. Suggestions?

favourite warm-up exercises

squat to stand

 

2. Body weight squats. Start with feet slightly wider than hip distance, toes turned out just a bit. Bend at the knees and hips to drop your bum down and back. As you do so, extend your arms straight out in front of your, keeping your eye focus across the room and your chest ‘proud’. Push through your heels to return to standing, lowering your arms to your sides as you do so.

3. Arm windmills. Kinda like they sound. Stand tall, with feet under hips, a slight bend in the knee and core held tight. Windmill your straight arms forwards (one arm will be at the top when the other is at the bottom). Change directions and repeat.

4. 1/4-of-the-hour clock lunges.Start by standing with feet together and hands at your sides. Step forward with your right foot, into a high lunge position. This is 12:00. Step back to the starting position before stepping your right leg out to the side, dropping your bum into a lateral lunge. You’re now at 3:00. Step back to the starting position before stepping your right leg (still) backwards into a back lunge. 6:00 and counting. Step back to the starting position before crossing your right leg over your left and dropping into a x-over lunge. You’ve reach 9:00. Repeat several times with the right leg before switching to the left. (Note that the order of movements on the left will be 12:00, 9:00, 6:00 and 3:00 for the x-over lunge).

favourite warm-up exercises

1/4 of the hour clock lunges

 

5. Walk-out planks.Start by standing with feet together, hands at your sides. Bend at the knees, hips and ankles to place your hands on the ground, as close to your feet as possible. Walk your hands forward until they’re directly under your shoulders. You’re now in high plank position. Walk hands back in towards your feet, bending at the knees, hips and ankles to return to standing.

favourite warm-up exercises

I finish my warm-up by performing a warm-up set of my first lift or two (today, that means I’ll be starting with dumbbell chest presses and bent over rows). Try 10-15 repetitions at 50% of your working load before your start your set proper (and note, the warm-up set doesn’t count as part of your workout ;) ).

The whole routine takes me 10 minutes or so. Then I’m warm enough to move on to the ‘fun’ part of my workout!

What does your typical warm-up look like?

Do you include any of my favourite warm-up exercises in your workout?

Tips to break through strength training plateaus

We’ve all been there before.

strength training plateaus

Despite training regularly, giving yourself adequate rest and recovery and following a sensible nutrition plan, we stop making gains in the gym.

Identical weight on our shoulder press for weeks at a time. Can’t manage a single more pushup than we were doing a month ago. Leg day still leaves us limping and sore. Measurements not budging an inch (or even a quarter or an inch).

The good news is, sometimes all we need is a little change to our routine to start making progress, once again.

Below, you’ll find a list of suggestions for ‘tweaking’ your strength training program to push past plateaus.

Note that none of these tweaks will help you, if your primary reason for stalling out is lack of consistency. (Read more about the importance of consistency and progression here.).

Get consistency working for you first, then try one (or more) of the following (the easiest tweaks are listed first, with progressively larger  programming changes listed later).

Tips to break through strength training plateaus:

  1. Swap out an exercise or two. Stalling out on pushups? Try subbing in bench presses instead. Pull-ups still a pipe-dream? Lat pull downs may be just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes, all our bodies need to break through a plateau is a slight variation on the exercise theme.
  2. Change the order of your exercises. Always finish chest before shoulders? Try reversing the order. Oftentimes, it’s the smaller, stabilizer muscles that limit our ability to progress with a lift. You may be fatiguing the muscles that stabilize and assist the lift with an exercise performed earlier in your program.
  3. Switch up the tempo of your lifts. Many people naturally perform strength exercises using a 2-0-2-0 tempo; 2 seconds to lift the weight, 2 seconds to lower the weight, with no pause at either the top or the bottom of the movement. Try slowing down the working (concentric) phase of your lifts or pausing for a second at the top. Both will change the amount of time that your muscles remain under tension; a critical factor in increasing muscle strength and size.
  4. Try using a different grip. When you change the grip you use to perform an exercise, you recruit new muscle fibres (and sometimes entirely new muscles); fibres (and muscles) that, when strengthened, may improve your ability to lift a heavier load. Here’s a more detailed description of grips and angles (with examples of exercises where this approach can be extremely beneficial).
  5. Switch your bench from flat to incline (or decline). Just like changing grips, modifying the angle of your weight bench will also lead to the activation of additional muscle and muscles fibres. Make sure to move the weights  perpendicular to the floor to get the greatest benefit from this approach (and to protect your shoulders during presses, flys and rows).
  6. Vary your reps, sets and load. If you always perform 3 sets of 10 reps using the same weight, your body will get used to the routine and stop being stimulated to change by it. Try periodizing your workout, changing reps, sets and load in a linear and progressive fashion. Or alternate high rep/low load and low rep/high load workouts. You can even combine low and high rep exercises within a workout. When it comes to varying reps, set and load, you’re only limited by your imagination.
  7. Change your training style. If you’ve stalled out on body part splits, change the way your pair them. Alternatively, try a whole body program for a month or two and see if that makes a difference. Vice versa works too.
  8. Overhaul your program. If you’ve been doing the same program consistently (there’s that word again) for a month or more, a new program may be just what your body needs to kick start progress. Not sure where to start? Hire a fitness professional to create a program that addresses your individual goals, abilities and training schedule.

I’ve had success with each of the above ‘tweaks’; both in my own training and when training clients in the gym.

I’d love to hear your success stories.

Which of the above ‘tweaks’ have you employed to successfully work through a strength training plateau?

Have you used a technique that’s not on my list? Please share it with me and my readers!

Let’s stay in touch! Sign up here for email updates and advance notification of my online training programs.

 

 

 

My summer fitness reading list

When I was a child, one of the things I most loved about summer holidays was having time to catch up on my reading. Every June, as the school year came to a close, I made a list of books that I planned on reading over the summer.

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My 11-year old daughter’s summer reading pile; looks a lot like mine at that age…

My public library limited the number of books that children could check out to seven at a time. Most weeks, I biked to the library multiple times to take back the books I’d finished and pick out new titles from my summer reading list.

While my preferred genres have changed since then, I’m still an avid reader. And I still love creating a summer reading list. Books to take with me on vacation or just to enjoy reading in the garden during the months I cut back on work (and formal work outs).

Many of the books I read over the summer are directly related to my job as a fitness professional.

Books about nutrition, exercise, motivation and personal growth. Books that I can learn from. Books that help me improve my abilities as a trainer and coach. Books that give me ideas for solving the problems that my clients commonly struggle with.

Here’s what I came up with.

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My summer fitness reading list

  1. Fitness After 40 by Vonda Wright. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m particularly passionate about helping women in their 40′s and 50′s become the strongest, fittest and healthiest possible versions of themselves. Wright is an orthopaedic surgeon whose interest in injury prevention and experience working with elite ‘masters’ level athletes looks like an interesting and informative read.
  2. Lose It Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind by James Fell. Fell is one of my favourite, no-holds-barred fitness bloggers. He’s smart, witty, irreverent and a fantastic writer to boot. He’s also Canadian ;)
  3. Unsinkable by Silken Laumann. Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? In 1992, just ten weeks before she was scheduled to row in the Olympic Games, Silken Laumann suffered a terrible accident that nearly severed her leg. Despite the odds, she not only recovered in time to compete in the Games, she rowed to a bronze place finish for Canada.
  4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michale Pollan. Although this book’s been around since 2007, I’ve somehow not yet managed to read it. Given all of our collective concerns about where, exactly, our food is coming from, I thought it might be a good time to take a look. I’ve been warned that I may not want to eat meat for awhile after finishing it.
  5. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. I love a good conspiracy theory. Especially when there’s evolutionary science to support the ideas.

Shall I assign myself an end-of-summer book report? ;)

Of course, if you haven’t read it yet (really?), you may want to pick up a copy of my book, Ultimate Booty Workouts. In addition to a 12-week strength training program you can do at home, it’s packed full of tips about getting started with exercise, injury prevention, workout nutrition and stretching.

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Do you have a summer reading list?

Any fitness, health or nutrition books on your list that need to be on mine?

Disclosure: All of the titles above were either purchased by me, or borrowed from my local library. I am, however, an Amazon Affiliate. That means that if you click on one of the links and end up purchasing the book as a result, Amazon pays me a very, very small commission. It doesn’t affect your purchase price at all…

 

 

Peaceful coexistence at the gym: when older and younger work out together

It’s that time of the year again.

School is out, the summer gym rush is on and the demographic at the gym where I work and train changes dramatically. As in the median age of the daytime gym-goer drops by at least fifteen years.

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While I’m thrilled to see young people choosing exercise over hanging out at the 7-11, it does make for some interesting encounters in the weight room…

Many of my 40+ female clients are less than excited to be suddenly sharing the free weights section with a bunch of teenage boys.

Fair enough. They tend to hang around in bunches, one exercising, the others watching while answering their phones or swigging on brightly coloured workout drinks.

They also tend to be a little less mindful of personal space and the effect their cologne might be having on the people around.

As I have no clients in this age group, I can’t speak to the challenges we ‘older women’ present to them, although I’m sure there are many ;)

With the goal of encouraging peaceful coexistence at the gym during the months ahead, I’d like to offer suggestions to both groups of gym-goers; the younger, summer-time crowd and the older, rest-of-the-year bunch.

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings. Just like in the boat yard, larger, moving ‘ships’ go first. If somebody nearby is moving with a heavy weight, stand back and let them pass or finish their set before you continue on. When setting up your bench, make sure it’s far enough away from your neighbour’s so as not to impede their range of motion (or scare them to death when your dumbbell suddenly moves over their body).
  2. Remember why you’re at the gym. Sure, exercising with friends can be more fun than exercising solo. But if you’re standing around chatting with your buddies/girlfriends/cronies rather than lifting or actively resting, you’re taking up space that another gym-goer could be using. Workout first then take the coffee talk to the coffee shop.
  3. Shift your workout time. In my gym, the 14 to 19-year olds don’t tend to make an appearance until 10:30 or  11:00 am. And when the sun’s out, they tend to head for the beach by about 2 (pump up first, beach second…). If you’re looking for a quieter time to exercise, avoid the peak daytime hours.
  4. Keep your volume down and your language respectable. Nobody wants to hear your music, no matter how awesome the playlist. Lower the volume to protect everybody’s ears. Remember that you’re in a public place and keep the F-bombs to yourself. You never know who’s on the bench beside you; it just may be the woman that’ll be interviewing you tomorrow for the summer job you’ve got your heart set on…
  5. Treat others with respect. Regardless of age, everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. That means asking before you commandeer equipment. ‘Working in’ when two or more people need to use the same machine. Wiping off your bench and cardio machines when you’re done. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’. Giving someone an ‘atta boy John’ or ‘good job’ when you’re impressed with their effort or performance.

Above all, remember that ultimately, we all go to the gym for the same reasons;  to improve our fitness, health and over-all sense of well-being.

Does the demographic in your gym change over the summer?

If so, how does it affect your workouts?

5 tips for reducing summertime fitness stress

While I’m thrilled that the good weather is here and summer holidays are right around the corner (closer than expected if our teachers do indeed go to a full scale walkout…), I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to some anxiety over the upcoming change in my routine.

summertime fitness

See that child to the left of me? He’s now taller than I am…

For me (and many of my clients and class participants), next to Christmas holidays, summer is the most challenging time of the year to stay focused on exercise and clean eating.

Despite the longer days (more time to exercise out of doors), the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables (farmer’s markets are a great place to sample local produce) and the shedding of cold weather clothing (nothing like wearing shorts and a tank top to highlight those muscles you’ve built over the winter and help you stay focused on keeping them), for those of us with school age children, summertime fitness can become a scheduling nightmare.

With kids’ camps, family holidays, visiting relatives, swimming lessons, barbecues, beach parties, sleepovers, play dates and all the extra meal prep and house cleaning (admittedly, my children are getting better at helping with this), many parents find it difficult to maintain their regular workout schedule. Some quit altogether, only to return to the gym in September, feeling like they’re starting all over again.

5 tips for reducing summertime fitness stress

1. Re-think your goals. If you don’t have an event you’re training for, reduce your expectations; it’s the easiest way to set yourself up for success. Admitting that summertime may not be the best time to put on more muscle, lean out or PR on your dead lift gives you the freedom to follow a ‘maintenance’ schedule. For me, summer is all about maintaining my fitness status quo.

After years of paying attention to how my body responds to exercise, I know that I’m capable of maintaining my muscle mass and body weight with a mere three, full-body strength training sessions per week. Any less and I regress. Anything more is just icing on the (low-fat, sugar-free) cake!

If you’re looking for free, short but intense, minimal equipment workouts, check out my YouTube channel.

2. Make yourself a priority. Remember that summertime parenting is an endurance event. Taking care of yourself makes it easier to take care of others. Rather than thinking of exercise as a chore, remind yourself of how good it makes you feel and in turn, how much easier it is to remain patient, kind and loving to your children (even when they’ve uttered the phrase “I’m bored” for the hundredth time today…).

3. Exercise outside the ‘box’ (or the studio or the gym). Not getting to the gym as frequently as usual? Not to worry. Expand your definition of exercise to include backyard and playground activities with your children.

summertime fitness

Move the car into the driveway and the carport becomes an instant gym!

Monkey bars are just as good an exercise for your back as lat pulldowns. Spend thirty minutes on the swing and tell me you don’t feel the muscles of your core? Hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, scootering and hula-hooping are all great substitutes for more traditional, whole-body metabolic strength workouts.

summertime fitness

Kayaking is a great core workout!

4. Focus on nutrition. If you’re cutting back on exercise, use this time to focus on nutrition. Not only is it easier to eat healthy in the summer (berries, tomatoes, greens, apricots, cherries, cucumbers; all are readily available and both fresher and cheaper than any other time of the year), many people find that their appetite for sweet and starchy carbs is less intense when the weather heats up. Think of this extra time with your children as an opportunity to plan and prepare healthy meals WITH them (rather than FOR them).

5. Take a daily ‘constitutional’. Recent studies show that significant health benefits can be gained by simply adding a walk to your daily routine. An after-dinner stroll around the neighbourhood is a great way to get kids away from the computer. We incorporate berry-picking, geo-caching, wildlife photography and chatting with the neighbours into our evening ‘constitutionals’. With the children running ahead, some days this is the only time my husband and I can hold a conversation without interruption.

summertime fitness

Photography stops making hiking more enjoyable

Do you find it harder to fit in fitness over the summer?

Share your tricks and tips for maintaining summertime fitness below.

 

 

Gifts fitness has given me | a birthday gratitude post

Tomorrow is my birthday. You can bet I’ll be having cake!

Happy Birthday Fitnitchick!

Forty-seven years of age. Where did the time go?

I haven’t asked any fitness friends to gift me a birthday workout. I felt those burpees for a week, Dai!

I don’t want any presents. Trying to declutter and reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ in my house.

And will be taking my entire family to a cultural event with the money they’d have spent buying gifts for me. Experiences make me happier than things.

I’m content, grateful and happy to have had a wonderful 47th year and only hope that the year leading to 48 will be just as rich and exciting.

Can I share my secret with you? It’s all because of fitness.

Gifts fitness has given me

  •  A stronger and healthier body. I’m lifting more (and better) than ever before in my life. It makes me feel powerful and bold and comfortable in my own skin. My doctor tells me that I’m the perfect patient for his over-busy practice ;)
  • The ability to recover more quickly from injuries. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of injuries; last summer’s bout with Achilles tendonitis was not fun. But having a strong fitness foundation has certainly helped me to recover more quickly and without noticeable loss of strength or endurance.

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  • Positive energy and enhanced self-confidence. If you’ve ever attended one of my fitness classes you’d be surprised to find out that for most of my life I was quite uncomfortable being at the front of the classroom. My graduate advisor used to joke about the red splotches that would appear and disappear randomly on my face whenever I stood up to give a presentation. Teaching group fitness has given me the confidence to regularly don a cordless mic, cheer and encourage large groups and basically say whatever comes into my head while doing so.

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  • Opportunities to share my message of health and wellness with a larger audience. When I first started writing this blog (November, 2010) I never imagined the doors that it would open for me. Regular requests to write for other websites, invitations to speak at conferences and workshops, new clients (both in person and on-line) and most recently, the opportunity to publish my first fitness book.

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  • A reason to return to reading scientific papers. I spent the first 12 years of my adult life at university. While I loved being a research scientist, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t how I wanted to live the rest of my life. Being a fitness professional allows me to indulge my life-long love of learning. I actually get paid to read the most recent scientific literature in the health and fitness fields and share my interpretations with clients and readers. All without ever having to write a research grant proposal or worry about tenure ;)
  • A supportive network of friends and colleagues who encourage, support and inspire me daily. All too often we read about the dangers of the internet. The feelings of isolation and depression it causes in some. The belief that people hide their true selves behind their keyboards. The worry that some anonymous stranger is out to harm you or your children. Thankfully, my experiences with social media have been quite the opposite. I’m grateful for the encouragement, support and inspiration my online friends give me each and every day I log on.

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  • Cherished friendships with women I would never have crossed paths with outside of fitness. Friends who make me think and laugh and push me to be the best version of myself possible. I only hope that I return the favour :)
  • Body acceptance. I recently shed my final body image insecurity and have been proudly sporting shorts in the aerobics studio and weight room. Go me!
  • The energy and endurance required to keep up with a busy, active family of five. Hiking and kayaking and swimming and tennis. Geocaching and bocce and lawn darts and croquet. All require sustained energy (both physical and mental…); stamina I wouldn’t have if I didn’t exercise regularly!

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What’s the best gift fitness has given to you?

If you could have any kind of cake in the world for your birthday, what would it be?