From knees to toes | tips for progressing your pushups

Pushup_ProgressionsMany newcomers to strength training find it difficult to progress their pushups.

After weeks of performing longer and longer sets of knee pushups, they’re often disappointed when they finally attempt and are unable to perform even a single pushup on their toes. (Of course, sometimes progress takes longer than we think it should; make sure your expectations are reasonable… ).

This isn’t surprising, given that a standard toe pushup requires you to be able to press approximately 65% of your body weight; more than double the 30% required by a knee pushup.

When we progress our squats and shoulder presses, we rarely increase the load by more than 10% at a time. How then does one get from knee pushups to toe pushups? Below, I share my tips for progressing your pushups.

Tips for progressing your pushups

  • work on depth (or range of motion) before increasing the difficulty. I’d rather my clients be able to perform 5, chest to the floor toe pushups than 15 shallow, elbow bends.
  • add one or two reps of a more challenging version to the beginning of each and every set. If you can perform 10 or 12 deep, chest-to-the-floor knee pushups, try beginning each set with one or two toe pushups, then dropping back to your knees to complete the remainder of your reps. Increase the number of toe pushups gradually over time, until your entire set can be performed on your toes.
  • use ‘negatives’ to increase strength and endurance. Starting on hands and toes, bend your elbows to slowly lower your body to the floor. As you do so, you’ll reach a ‘sticking’ point; the point at which your muscles are no longer strong enough to support your weight. Let yourself collapse to the ground from this point, rest and try again. With negatives, the slower you go, the more challenging the exercise. Try adding one or two ‘negative’ pushups to the beginning of your regular set.
  • vary the position of your hands to challenge different aspects of the muscle. A wider hand placement will emphasize the medial chest (as well as the front of your shoulders). A narrowed hand placement will emphasize the triceps. Staggering your hands (one slightly forward of the other) will force the top-most portion of the chest muscles to work a little harder on one side than the other.
  • elevate your toes to increase the load you’re pressing and encourage greater participation of the upper pectorals. Toes can be placed on a phone book, low step, or even a weight bench. The higher they’re elevated, the more challenging the pushup.
  • add some extra core involvement by performing your pushups on an unstable surface. For example, place your feet on a Bosu or stability ball. Or in the handles of a TRX suspension trainer. Ensure that you keep your core and gluteals muscles contracted throughout to protect the lower back.
  • rest adequately between pushups workouts. Practicing your pushups daily is counterproductive. Like any other muscle, the pectorals need time to repair and recover before they’re challenged again. Try waiting 48 to 72 hours between pushups workouts; use those days to train the opposing back muscles for improved posture, muscular balance and functionality!

Watch the video below for an explanation of three techniques that I use with my clients to get them from knees to toes!

Did you find this #trainertip helpful? Then PLEASE

SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube
GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter

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.



Progressing your at-home beginner strength workout

Congrats! You’ve spent the last month working through the at-home beginner strength workout I created for you way back in February, right?

You’re probably feeling stronger. A little less post-workout fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness. Maybe you’ve even increased the weight on your rows and shoulder presses.

It’s time to up the ante and progress your beginner program.

Why? Your body has likely become adapted to the exercises you’ve been doing. They’re just not challenging you the way they used to and if you want to keep seeing the benefits of strength training, you need to make your body work a little harder. You need to keep progressing your at-home beginner strength workouts.

Each of the six exercises in the workout below builds on the foundation you’ve created over the past month. Rather than teach you all new exercises, I’ve increased the level of difficulty of the original workout. I’ve removed the ball from the ball squats. Challenged you to advance your knee pushups and planks to the toe variation. Added movement to the lunges. Etc.

Don’t worry if you’re not quite ready to progress each and every exercise; toe pushups and planks are much harder than the knee variations. And of course, feel free to use heavier dumbbells than you did last month; increasing the load is a tried-and-true way to progress any workout.

at home beginner strength workout

1. Start with a light, 5 minute warmup. Include movements like walking, marching, arm swings, stair climbing, low impact jumping jacks and cross-country skis.

2. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise (except the plank; just hold it as long as you can), one after the other, with a short break between exercises. Move slowly and through as big a range of motion as is comfortable.

3. Take a quick break and repeat the entire circuit. If you’re ‘done’, skip to step 5.

4. If you have a bit more energy, repeat the circuit a third time, then stop and stretch.

5. Finish your workout by stretching the muscles of your thighs, chest, back, glutes and shoulders. Not sure what to stretch (or why you’re stretching at all)? Read this post and watch the imbedded video.

6. Perform this workout two to three times per week for a minimum of three weeks before trying to make the exercises harder.

Did you like this workout? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • PIN the above WORKOUT PHOTO
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter


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.

Grips and angles | two simple ways to progress your workouts

One of the keys to making progress in the gym is, surprise, progression. Continuously challenging your body to do a little bit more than it did last year, last month and even last week.

progress your workouts - pushups

The most obvious way to progress your workouts is to add more resistance to your exercises; take knee pushups to your toes, add dumbbells to your lunges, move the weights from the side of your body to shoulder height during your squats. [Incidentally, if you've been doing the At Home Beginner Strength Workout I shared a couple of weeks ago, it's time to start making at least a few of the exercises a bit more challenging ;) ].

But progression doesn’t always mean upping the load.

When we focus on increasing the weight that we can move while performing a particular exercise, we’re still stimulating the same group of muscle fibres through the same range of motion. While this approach will initially reward you with strength gains, at some point you may plateau due to weakness in the adjacent muscle fibres and the smaller muscles that assist and stabilize the lift.

Two simple ways to jumpstart progress (or just keep it interesting if you’re easily bored by your workouts ;) )? Vary your grips and angles.

Get a (new) grip

‘Grip’ refers to how you hold the weight. Do your palms face up (below on the left) or down (on the right)? Forwards or back? The same way or in different directions (a ‘mixed’ grip)? Switching your grip is the easiest way to work your target muscle from a different direction; both engaging more muscle fibres and recruiting stabilizing muscles to assist.

progress your workouts - vary your grip

Take, for example, the dumbbell bicep curl. The basic movement requires that you start with dumbbells at your sides, palms facing forwards. As you curl the weights up towards your shoulders, palms will be facing the ceiling (and eventually, you). This exercise is great for building the largest muscle in your upper arm, the Biceps brachii, but not so great for building the smaller, Biceps brachialis and Brachiradialis. Change the grip to ‘neutral’, or palms facing your sides (aka a ‘hammer’ curl) and presto, the Brachiradialis get a chance to shine, as do your forearm flexors (which, for most women, are quite weak and often limit the loads we can press and pull). Combine both into a ‘supinating’ bicep curl (start with palms facing in at the bottom, rotating to palms facing up at the top) and you’ll hit all three. Win-win-win!

progress your workouts - biceps in progress

A bicep in progress :)

Other examples of exercises that can benefit from a change in grip?

  • shoulder presses (palms facing forward vs. palms facing your ears)
  • barbell bent over rows (palms facing up vs. palms facing down vs. mixed grip)
  • lat pulldowns (palms forward vs. palms facing one another; you’ll need the triangle attachment to make this one work)
  • barbell dead lifts (palms up vs. palms down vs. mixed grip)

I like to vary my grip from workout to workout and often find that the weight I’m able to lift varies with the grip I’ve chosen. Try it yourself and feel the difference!

What’s your angle?

Many traditional strength training exercises are performed on a flat bench, either face up (chest press, lat pullovers, tricep skull crushers) or face down (reverse flys, YTWL’s).

Increasing your load on flat bench exercises will certainly increase the size and strength of the target muscle, but because the ‘line of pull’ remains the same (the force of gravity always pulls the weight directly downward), your muscles will only get stronger at this particular angle (fitness peeps call this the ‘principle of specificity’).

By simply changing the angle of your weight bench, you can target your muscles from a different angle, recruit adjacent muscle fibres and stabilizer muscles and promote a more balanced, symmetrical physique (which, in addition to looking great, also functions better during the activities of daily life).

progress your workouts - change your bench angle

Incline bench at approximately 60 degrees

Most benches offer a variety of inclines, ranging from 30 to 60 or 70 degrees. Make sure you choose an angle appropriate for the particular exercise you’re doing to get the most out of the exercise while preventing injury. Always ensure that your feet are placed firmly on the ground and your back remains in contact with the bench throughout the entire exercise. If you find your back arching away from the bench or your feet lifting up off the floor, try perfecting the move with a lighter weight.

 Other exercises that can be performed on an incline?

  • chest press and chest fly (a moderate incline, 30 to 40 degrees, shifts the emphasis to the upper chest)
  • reverse fly (a 45 to 60 degree incline can reduce the lower back pain some people experience while performing this exercise in the fully bent over position)
  • bicep curls (try a 45 degree incline to shift the focus to the long head of the Biceps brachii; you’ll also be able to extend the range of motion of your curls in this position)

I alternate between flat bench and incline bench with my own upper body workouts. The incline sessions, although performed with slightly lighter loads, are helping me to progress my workouts and improve my upper body strength through a bigger range of motion. 

When was the last time you changed your ‘grips’ or your ‘angles’?

Do you have a favourite incline bench exercise?

Why I prefer free weights over weight machines

Last week, I was approached by a new gym member who wanted to know how to use the ‘glute machine’.

He appeared surprised when I told him that despite having walked by the machine in question almost daily for the past six years, I had no idea how it worked. Do you?

[Now that's not entirely true; I've seen people using it and there are instructions printed on the front of the machine that I'm entirely capable of reading and interpreting, but I've never actually climbed into it myself, nor instructed any of my clients in its use.]

I suggested that he either wait for the weight room attendant to return from lunch and ask her (in my gym, weight room attendants are required to know how all of the equipment works; personal trainers are not ;) ) or follow me over to the free weights section of the gym where I’d teach him to how to become his own, personal ‘glute machine’ (i.e., to squat, lunge and dead lift).

why I prefer free weights over weight machines

Alas, he declined my offer, preferring to remain near the weight machines he was so obviously comfortable with. Our conversation, however, got me thinking about why so many gym goers are hesitant to step away from the weight machine circuit and pick up a barbell or a set of dumbbells.

Perhaps it’s because they’re new to strength training and believe that machines are easier to use (although I’ve seen enough people using them incorrectly to no longer believe this myself…)

Or they’re self-conscious when they exercise and don’t want anyone to watch them work out (it’s much harder to ‘blend in’ on the weight training floor…)

It may be that they think the machine circuit is the best way to get a whole body workout (it can be, if you don’t miss a machine and are happy to work one muscle group at a time…)

In my opinion, though, the most likely explanation is simply lack of information.

Sure, there are times when a weight machine should be used; rehabbing an injury, breaking through a plateau, addressing left-right muscle imbalances, or bringing up a ‘lagging’ body part when training for a figure, physique or body building competition, for example.

However, the majority of the people I see regularly using the weight machine circuit aren’t using them for any of those reasons. They’re using them because nobody’s ever told them that they’d move towards their weight loss and muscle gain goals faster if they’d just get off their butt ;)

3 reasons why I prefer free weights over weight machines
  1. Increased muscular involvement with each exercise. Most weight machine exercises are performed seated. When you sit you relax the muscles of your core, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. My preference is always to move as many muscles as possible during an exercise. By trading the seated shoulder press machine for a standing overhead press, I’m challenging my core, legs and back at the same time.
  2. More natural movement patterns. Weight machines move joints through a fixed plane of motion. If the machine’s plane of motion isn’t the same as your body’s natural plane of motion, injury is a very real possibility. While free weights require more attention to form, they also allow for smaller stabilizer muscles to participate in the exercise, leading to increased strength and improved function over time.
  3. Improved workout efficiency. Free weights are portable. You can easily move them to a corner of the gym and complete your entire workout without being interrupted by another patron who wants to ‘work in’ with you on a machine. Less waiting time between exercises means a shorter, more intense workout.

Does this mean that I never use weight machines?

Not at all. There are a few that I quite like and regularly include in my own training and when training clients. But always interspersed with lots of body weight and free weight exercises. 

Still wanna know how the ‘glute machine’ works? ;)

Do you use weight machines?

Which one is your favourite? Which one do you just not ‘get’?

Ultimate Booty Workouts by Tamara GrandIf you’re really serious about building your glutes, make sure you pick up a copy of my new release Ultimate Booty Workouts. A full 12-week progressive resistance training program for sculpting and defining your legs, core and derriere, without the use of a single weight machine!

New to strength training? An at-home beginner workout just for you

A couple of weeks ago, one of my Twitter followers asked me if any of my free at-home workouts were appropriate for beginners.

Although I regularly work with strength training ‘newbies’, I’ve somehow neglected this group when creating workouts for readers of Fitknitchick. (Thanks Brittany @AHealthySlice for the heads up!)

Below, you’ll find a short, whole-body, at-home beginner workout. (If you’ve trained with me in-person, you’ll recognize this circuit; I almost always use it during our first ‘assessment’ session because it includes all of the functional movements that need to be mastered before you can progress to more challenging, and FUN, exercises).

The only equipment you’ll require is a stability ball and a pair of dumbbells (3, 5, 8 or 10 pounds, depending on your upper body strength). Focus on form before attempting to increase the difficulty of the move or the amount of weight you’re lifting. Watch the video at the bottom of the post for a demonstration of each of the 6 exercises in the circuit.

At-home beginner workout

1. Start with a light, 5 minute warmup. Include movements like walking, marching, arm swings, stair climbing, low impact jumping jacks and cross-country skis.

2. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise (except the plank; just hold it as long as you can), one after the other, with a short break between exercises. Move slowly and through as big a range of motion as is comfortable.

3. If one circuit completely poops you out, stop and stretch (see 5. below).

4. If you have a bit more energy, repeat the circuit a second time, then stop and stretch (see 5. below).

5. Finish your workout by stretching the muscles of your thighs, chest, back, glutes and shoulders. Not sure what to stretch (or why you’re stretching at all)? Read this post and watch the imbedded video.

6. Perform this workout two to three times per week for a minimum of three weeks before trying to make the exercises harder. Consistency trumps progression when you’re new to strength training!

Did you like this workout? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • PIN the above WORKOUT PHOTO
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter


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.

4 Benefits of Turkish Get Ups

Recently, I participated in a kettlebell workshop for fitness professionals.

benefits of Turkish get ups

Perfect your form with light weights before progressing to heavier bells

In addition to learning proper cueing techniques for hip hinges, dead lifts and kettlebell swings, we were also introduced to an exercise with a strange sounding name; the Turkish get up.

Originating as an exercise for wrestlers in the Middle East, Turkish get ups (TGU’s) are now commonly incorporated in functional strength workouts the world over. Although TGU’s sound simple (lay down, press a weight over your head, come to standing then return to laying down, all the while keeping the arm extended and the weight over head), done properly, they provide a full body workout, building strength, endurance and improving overall mobility.

And they are harder than they sound or look. MUCH HARDER :)

Here’s a peek at where I am currently in my TGU training; note that I’m only using a 5 pound dumbbell and that I need to improve the fluidity of my movements before I switch to a heavier kettlebell.

Note that there are many accepted variations to the move (single vs double arm, getting up from a squat vs a lunge, using a hip bridge vs. swinging your back leg through). None are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and all confer similar strength and conditioning benefits. Find the variation that works for YOU and focus on perfecting form BEFORE adding or increasing load.

4 Benefits of Turkish Get Ups

  • improved shoulder strength and stability. TGU’s move your shoulder through it’s entire range of motion; all while keeping the arm extended under a static load. With little to no load, they’re both the perfect warmup to an upper body lifting routine and as part of a shoulder rehabilitation program. Trainer Tip: Concentrate on keeping your arm fully extended, with the weight held directly above the shoulder and eye focus on the weight during the ‘up’ and ‘down’ portions of the exercise.
  • increased core strength and endurance. While the TGU may not look like a typically ‘abdominal’ exercise, break down the movement sequence and you’ll find that it requires activation and stabilization of the entire core complex. The farther a heavy load is held from the centre of the body, the more it taxes the muscles of the core. The slower you perform the sequence, the longer those muscles will remain under tension. Trainer Tip: Concentrate on keeping glutes and abdominals engaged throughout; stability supports movement and helps prevent injury. 
  • correct left-right movement pattern asymmetries. Most of us have a ‘stronger’ side. As a consequence, movement patterns will be easier to perform on one side of the body than the other. Practice TGU’s on both sides of the body to improve the ease with which you can perform day-to-day movement patterns (e.g., getting in and out of a car), as well as those required during recreational sports (e.g., kicking a soccer ball). Trainer Tip: When performing unilateral exercises, always start with your weaker, less coordinated side; focus on reducing the left-right imbalance before progressing the exercise.
  • whole body, metabolic exercise. The more muscle groups required to perform an exercise, the more the exercise will elevate your heart rate and the more calories you’ll burn during (and perhaps after) the workout. Trainer Tip: Combine TGU’s with three or four other compound whole body exercises (for example, pushups, pull ups, dead lifts and push presses) for an efficient metabolic style workout.

Do you include Turkish Get Ups in your strength workouts?

If so, what variation do you prefer?

IMG_3876For more exercise tips and strength training suggestions, check out my new book, Ultimate Booty Workouts. Available now at Amazon.caAmazon.comBarnes and Noble and Chapters/Indigo

Do you need to do cardio if you’re lifting heavy? | question from a reader

Lisa, although relatively new to strength training, has been bitten hard by the weight lifting bug. She lifts heavy, takes appropriate rest days, pays attention to nutrition and has completely re-shaped her body over the past year or so. Yay Lisa! 


Recently, she asked me a question via my Facebook group (not a member? It’s as easy as clicking on this link and ‘liking’ the page);

Do I really, really need to do cardio on off-lifting days?

By the tone of the question, I’m assuming that Lisa doesn’t really like cardio. That she’d prefer to be lifting weights and would be happy if I told her it that cardio was unnecessary ;)

While I’d love it if that were the truth (not a huge cardio fan myself…), there are several compelling reasons to incorporate cardiovascular training into your weekly strength training schedule. Note that by ‘cardio’, I don’t necessarily mean long, slow distance training on a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike. Different types of cardio can help you achieve different health and fitness goals.

5 reasons you may need to do cardio even if you’re lifting heavy

  • accelerated fat loss. Although there are certainly many body builders and fitness models who maintain their athletic physiques with little to cardio, for those of us still seeking fat loss, strength training and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio are a winning combo. For best results, HIIT should be performed either at the end of your strength training session (so as not to tire out the muscles you’re trying to build) or on alternate days (especially on days where you’re training primarily lower body). The best thing about HIIT? It takes very little time, getting you out of the gym much more quickly than long, slow distance cardio.
  • active recovery. Did you know that low to moderate-intensity cardio is great for active recovery?  While it’s true that your body needs time to recover and regenerate after a heavy lifting session, movement can reduce the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as well as help to maintain joint range of motion. Examples of great active recovery activities? Walking, jogging, swimming, cycling and dancing. Think of your ‘off-lifting’ day as an opportunity to be active outside the gym.
  • stress release. Many people enjoy the therapeutic effects of a trail run or a leisurely outdoor cycle. The repetitive nature of the movements can help reduce tension, release stress and quiet that pesky little voice in your head. Don’t think of it as cardio, but rather, really cheap therapy :)
  • increased movement. North Americans don’t move enough. Even those of us who get to the gym to the gym daily, often spend our remaining waking hours seated. Wearing a pedometer has made me acutely aware of how sedentary I am on non-workout days. A 45-minute walk around the block rewards me with approximately 4000 steps; almost half-way to my daily goal of 10 000.
  • habit creation. For many people, the easiest way to create a new habit is to make it a part of their daily schedule. Going to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while the perfect frequency of exercise for beginners, may not be enough to create the new routine that’s crucial to longterm success. Use those ‘rest’ days to solidify your new routine, opting for low intensity cardio options including walking (either on the treadmill or out of doors), swimming or a cardio dance class.

Which do you prefer? Cardio or strength training?

If you answered ‘strength training’, tell me ‘what’ you do for cardio and ‘why’? 

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 2.10.18 PMUltimate Booty Workouts, while primarily a strength training book, does include cardiovascular training in it’s 12-week program. Want to strengthen and define your derriere? Make sure you’re lifting heavy and including muscle-revealing cardio intervals!

Order your copy today at Amazon.caAmazon.comBarnes and Noble and Chapters/Indigo

Ultimate Booty Workouts |How my approach to fitness helped me write a book

Last week marked the much-anticipated (by me at least ;) ) launch of my new book, Ultimate Booty Workouts. (Confession, for days I’ve been stalking the online sites where it’s selling, waiting for ‘available for pre-order’ to switch to ‘purchase now’, ‘in stock’ and ‘add to cart’)

Ultimate Booty Workouts

It’s out! It’s really out!


Funnily enough, the most common question people have been asking me, (after “what’s the best exercise for building a better butt?” (there IS NO SINGLE exercise that’ll do it for you; variety is key) and “is that you on the cover?” (nope; but I did model for the photos inside)) is “how did you find time to write a book?”

How indeed? I have three, busy children. I teach group fitness classes and train clients. I blog, write freelance pieces, shoot and edit YouTube videos and keep up (sort of ;) ) on social media. I knit, read, watch television and spend time with my husband. I even manage to fit in exercise four or five days a week.

I know this sounds familiar because your plate is just as full (if not more so) as mine ;)

The more I pondered this question, the more I realized that my approach to book writing is essentially the same as my approach to fitness. Make time, break it down, schedule it in and get it done.

Ultimate Booty Workouts: how my approach to fitness helped me write a book

  • choose a time frame with a fixed end date. Last spring, I signed a contract with my publisher promising to produce a 35 000 word text by August 1st. Just knowing that their was a ‘due date’ was an incredibly strong motivator. If weight loss is your goal, determine how long it will realistically take you to lose the weight (aim for 1 to 1.5 pounds per week) and circle the end date on your calendar. For those of you following the program in my book, your end date will be 12 weeks from the day you start.
  • break it down into manageable chunks. Instead of focusing on the end product (which scared the heck out of me), I broke the assignment down into smaller chunks and set mini-deadlines for each.  I focused on tackling one small task at a time, knowing that as long as I stuck to my production schedule I’d meet my goal. The same approach works with diet and exercise. Focus on one day’s meals and workouts at a time. Repeat tomorrow and the day after and the day after… Little by little, you’ll creep towards your goal.
  • eliminate distractions. Ironically, the biggest distraction I faced while writing was social media. E-mails, text messages, Tweets and Facebook notifications were constantly drawing my attention away from the task at hand. I quickly learned that in order to meet my writing goals for the day I needed to work offline and with the ringer on my phone set to silent. Determine what (and perhaps, who) distracts you from eating healthily and sticking to your workout schedule. This might mean cleaning out your pantry and eliminating your trigger foods. Or moving your workout to earlier in the day before others’ needs distract you from your own.
  • enlist support. If you’ve read the Acknowledgments, you’ll know that I depended on the support of many friends and colleagues during the writing process. Some were cheerleaders (thanks Carla and Jody), some were sounding boards (thanks Suzanne, Kymberly and Alexandra) and others stepped up to assume my home (thanks honey) and work responsibilities when I feared I was falling behind. Studies have shown that having a solid support system in place is an important predictor of weight loss success and exercise adherence. Join a weight loss group (either virtually on in real life), find a workout buddy, register for a group fitness program or hire a personal trainer to increase your chances of successfully reaching your goal.
  • prepare for roadblocks and setbacks. Despite having created a detailed writing schedule, I didn’t always meet my mini-deadlines. Children got sick. My husband had to travel for work. Other projects, with more immediate deadlines cropped up. On more than one occasion, I succumbed to Facebook. Rather than stress about what I didn’t accomplish, I focused on what I did manage to get done and recommitted the very next morning to getting back on track. Diet slip ups will happen. You’ll miss a workout now or then. Don’t let feelings of guilt and remorse sabotage you. Tomorrow is another day.
  • celebrate small victories. There were many a day when the promise of “knitting once you have a thousand words written” was a powerful motivator. Celebrate reaching your mini-deadlines with meaningful experiences or gifts. Met your weight loss goal for the month? Enjoy an evening at the theatre with friends. Finished the first phase of Ultimate Booty Workouts? Treat yourself to a new pair of workout shorts.
  • enjoy the process. As wonderful as it is to hold a copy of the finished book in my hand, that feeling of accomplishment and pride lasts only a few moments when compared to the amount of time spent in the process of creating it. Enjoying the process is key to reaching any goal, be it weight loss, improved fitness or your first book.

I’d love to know what strategies YOU use to help you reach a big, long term goal (be it health and fitness or otherwise)

Ultimate Booty Workouts can be purchased online through,, Chapters/Indigo and Barnes & Noble.


New to strength training? Terms you need to know

Like most sports and creative pursuits, strength training has a language of its own. Learning the lingo is sometimes as difficult as learning the exercises themselves (except for dead lifts; they’re definitely more challenging than simple vocabulary…).


What the what?

Becoming comfortable in the gym requires not only learning how to operate the equipment, but becoming familiar with the terms that you’ll hear your trainer and fellow gym-goers bandy about. Reps, sets, load (knit, purl, SSK ;) )…

The following is a list of terms that I always spend time explaining to new clients and new-comers to my group fitness classes. How many are you already familiar with?

  • Reps. The number of repetitions of an exercise to be performed before resting or moving on to another exercise. Most strength training programs will provide a ‘rep range’; the minimum and maximum number of repetitions that should be performed. If you can do more than the maximum with the weight you’ve chosen, pick up a heavier weight. If you can’t quite complete the minimum number of reps required, go lighter. Different rep ranges are prescribed for different strength goals. 
  • Sets. The number of times you’ll perform the required number of reps. Sets can be performed ‘straight’ (complete all reps, rest for the amount of time indicated, complete all reps again etc.) or as ‘super sets’ by alternating one set of exercise A with one set of exercise B. Rest time is usually minimized when super sets are used.
  • Load. The amount of weight lifted for a particular exercise. Sometimes varying the load requires performing a different version of the exercise. For example, to increase the load on a pushup one can place a sandbell across the upper back or  elevate the feet on a step or stability ball.
  • Rest. The length of the break taken between sets. Usually, the fewer the repetitions in a set, the heavier the load lifted and the longer the rest between sets. Rest breaks typically range from 15-30 s for a high repetition/low load set to 2-3 mins for a low repetition/high load set.
  • Circuit. A circuit is a series of exercises, performed one after the other, with little or no rest in between. Some circuit programs specify the number of repetitions of each exercise to be performed. Timed circuits require you to perform as many good form repetitions as you can in the specified period of time (for example 45 s or 1 min).
  • Range of motion. The angle through which a joint allows its segments to move. As a consequence of taking your time with each repetition, you’ll be more likely to work your muscles through their entire range of motion, thereby maximizing the number of muscle fibres recruited.
  • Tempo. How rapidly one performs the working (concentric) and non-working (eccentric) phase of an exercise AND how much of a pause one takes between the two. Beginners will typically use a 2-0-2-0 tempo for most exercises. For example, when performing a bicep curl, both the curling and the straightening phase of the exercise will take about 2 counts, with no pause at either the top or the bottom of the move. More advanced exercisers may shorten the working phase and lengthen the non-working phase to increase their time under tension (and facilitate faster strength gains).

Think you’ve got it figured out? Why not test yourself by performing the following workout?


Are there other terms you’ve heard mentioned in the gym that you’d like me to clarify?

Need a lower body program to complement the above workout? Check out my new book, Ultimate Booty Workouts; a 12-week, progress-resistance training program for legs, glutes and core.