Is Your Butt Doing It’s Job?

Seriously…is your butt doing it’s job?

And, no, I don’t mean making a dent in your couch cushions. Your gluteus muscles help with just about every movement you make. Walking, running, climbing stairs, lifting everything from a bag of groceries to a 35 pound weight plate..all of these movements go through your hips and glutes in one way or another. Your glutes are part of your core and need to be active and strong just like your abs and low back.

Many people only use their glutes for one thing…sitting on them. You might think “But I exercise every day.” But if you exercise for 30-60 minutes and then sit at a desk the rest of the day, you probably still have lazy glutes. And if your glutes are inactive, they are less able to handle strenuous exercise and unable to properly distribute motion throughout your core.

Lazy glutes can lead to low back and hip pain and I don’t think I need to explain why that’s bad!

Glute activation exercises along with strength building exercises and some foam rolling will get those sleepy muscles firing.

Donkey kicks and clamshells will ‘wake up’ the glute muscles before a strength workout. Do these as part of your warm-up.

Start on all fours with your core tight. Lift one leg keeping your knee bent. Squeeze your glutes to lift your heel towards the ceiling. Focus on using your glutes for the movement and not your lower back.

Lie on your side with knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other. Squeeze your glutes and lift your top leg, keeping your heels touching. Your knees should open and close like a clamshell!

The two best exercises for building glute strength are sumo squats and hip thrusts.

Sumo squats will isolate and engage the glutes more than regular squats.

 

Begin in a wide stance with toes pointed out at a 45 degree angle, core tight and arms in front of you for balance. Squat down with your knees following the same angle as your toes. Press back up through your heels, squeezing your glutes on the way up. You can hold dumbbells for added weight.

Hip thrusts target the glutes to build strength and power by maximizing hip extension.

 

Begin by leaning on an exercise ball or bench with feet planted about hip width apart. Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips to parallel, pause and return to start. You can hold a dumbbell or barbell across your hips for added weight.

Get off that derrière and start working it!

Happy Exercising!

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

Vacation Workout

I’m on vacation and yes, I have a workout plan. I know what you’re thinking, only crazy people workout on their vacation.

I’m not diligent about getting my workout in on vacation but if I’m away from exercise too long I start to not feel good and I get cranky. It’s better for everyone around me if I get some physical activity!

That being said, I fit it in when I can and don’t worry when I can’t. I don’t take away from family time and I don’t skip other activities that I want to do just to workout. My vacation is two weeks long and I maybe work out 4-5 times  at most.

If you choose to exercise on vacation don’t expect to make gains or lose weight. You may even lose a little strength and endurance but that’s ok…It’s a vacation after all, enjoy it!

A run, a long walk or even a stretching session can be good exercise and still keep you relaxed. Especially if you can do it early in the day before everyone else is up.

The following are 3 different workout plan options you can do anywhere. A hotel room, condo balcony, poolside or even on the beach. Do one of them, two of them or all 3 if you’re feeling really ambitious. Sorry if the pictures are a bit blurry or goofy… teenage photographer!!

Workout 1 – do each exercise for 1 minute with 30 seconds rest between and do the whole circuit twice.

Skaters – jump sideways from foot to foot

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Standing side crunches

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Pike shoulder presses – in a downward dog position, bend elbows to lower and then push back up


Sumo squats

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V-sit leg flutters

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Workout 2 – Do the whole circuit twice

Walking lunges x 20 reps

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Push-ups 10-20 reps

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Plank 30 seconds

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Squat with kickback x 20 reps – squat down and upon returning to start, press your leg back at your hip. Alternate legs.


Tricep dips 10-20 reps – these can be done on the ground if necessary but a bench or a chair makes them a little more productive.

Workout 3 – do each exercise for 1 minute with 30 seconds rest between and do the whole circuit three times.

Jumping jacks

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Side leg lifts

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Jog in place

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Heel touch crunches – in a crunch position, squeeze from side to side touching your heels with the tips of your fingers.

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Mountain climbers

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Happy Exercising!

Strong to the Core

Strengthening your core is important for just about everything you do. Most movements, whether they’re fitness activities or just every day life, originate from your core. Your core muscles work to stabilize your body and help produce power for movements of your limbs.

Your core involves all the muscles of your trunk not just your abs and low back like most people think. Doing a few sets of sit ups and bird – dogs is not going to cut it if you truly want to strengthen your core.

Your core is basically everything but your arms and legs. It includes your glutes, hips, abs, low back, upper back and chest. Your upper back and chest are less involved in certain core movements but are still connected to the whole core chain.

Here are some great core exercises that can be done with minimal or no equipment. And not one sit up in the bunch!

Planks (the exercise you love to hate!)

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Planks

 

Side planks (a slightly more challenging variation)

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Side Planks

Plank with leg lift (alternate leg lifts for up to 10 reps each)

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Plank with leg lift

Seated leg lifts (I’m horribly inflexible so this is a tough one for me because my hamstrings are so tight!)

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Seated Leg Lifts

Bridge

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Bridge

Back extensions (these can be done on a machine in a gym as well)

Is High Intensity Always the Way to Go?

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High Intensity Workouts are a Good Addition to an Overall Fitness Plan

There’s no denying the popularity of high intensity interval or boot camp style workouts that promise to torch fat, kick your butt and get you in great shape. You can find local classes, gyms or even online videos everywhere. These workouts can be as quick as 7-10 minutes or as long as a 1-hour class and if done right, will leave you feeling like you want to sprawl on the floor and not move the rest of the day. The idea that you can get in killer shape quickly is appealing to so many people. How could it not be, right?! The intensity of the workouts makes for great Instagram and Facebook posts too! But is working at such a high intensity all the time, even for 10 minutes, a good idea?

Steady state cardio seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. After all, why do something that takes longer and isn’t as effective as a HIIT workout? But high intensity training is tough on your body and often recovery takes longer than most people allow for themselves. My 44-year-old body does not recovery from that kind of workout in just a day! And a number of my clients have the same recovery challenges.

If you’re trying to lose fat, often you’re restricting your calories in general and sometimes your carbs. This could make it difficult to get through a very intense workout. You need those carbs! If you’re trying to improve speed or sports performance then high intensity workouts are important. If your primary goal is fat loss then strength training and diet should be your new best friends. High intensity workouts are fine as part of an overall fitness plan but not ALL THE TIME!

As with so many other things, the old saying “Everything in moderation” applies here too. Definitely include high intensity workouts in your fitness plan but don’t make them the whole plan.

Here’s a 9-minute interval workout you can do at home… But only once or twice a week!

Do each exercise for 30 seconds moving immediately from one to the next.

  1. Plank
  2. Star jacks
  3. Push-ups
  4. Curtsy lunges
  5. Crunches
  6. Side-to-side pushups
  7. Mountain climbers
  8. Sumo squats
  9. Jog in place
  10. Plank
  11. Jumping jacks
  12. Burpees
  13. Butt kicks
  14. Standing side crunches
  15. Skater jumps
  16. Glute bridge
  17. High knees
  18. Stretch

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Visit my website TheHomeFitnessClub.com for more workout ideas.

To Track or Not to Track…

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How many shoulder press reps did I do yesterday?…I have no idea and I’m good with that.
Do you track the details of your strength training workouts? You know, things like…

* reps
* sets
* weight
* specific exercises
* rest time between sets

or any number of other factors that are important to you.

There’s certainly value in keeping detailed notes on these items. It’s smart to note the exercises you do so you know you’ve hit the muscle groups you intended to. You totally planned to skip triceps, right?! The number of reps you do and the amount of weight you lift can show you concrete, measurable progress (or lack of it!) right there in black and white.

These carefully documented details of your fitness life can also help you backtrack to pinpoint gaffs that led to injuries (that crazy new move you saw in a magazine probably wasn’t executed properly!) Or, on the flip side, show you what workouts helped you make big gains.

If you’re training for something specific, a race, a competition, a special occasion, capturing these details could be critical to your success.

I used to keep all these details. I religiously recorded every rep, every set. I wrote down every little variation of an exercise, every change in exercise order, every time I took a longer rest break than usual. My orderly columns of numbers and shorthand notes were important.

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Not my actual journal!

Until one day I thought, important for what?

My strength training routine has always been for general fitness. I’m not a figure competitor. I’m not an Olympic lifter. I train to be fit and healthy and because I love it. I have several small notebooks full of penciled-in workouts. I even tried a few iPad apps that collected all my data and gave it back to me in beautiful colored graphs or charts.

But when I really stopped and thought about it…I wasn’t DOING anything with all that information. I never looked back through it to check for anything. I can feel and see changes in my body without checking my training log. I know, during my workouts, if I’m working hard enough or not. I know when I’m slacking and I don’t need to record the pitiful numbers to prove it!

My strength routine can vary from week to week or even day to day because of things like the time of day I workout, how much energy I have or whether my kids kept me up the night before and comparing today’s chest press numbers to last weeks chest press numbers just isn’t realistic or beneficial for me.

I still keep a workout journal. It’s just very general in nature. It’s a simple spiral notebook and I write notes like ‘upper body workout-felt great but need some new back exercises’.

Sometimes I write more details, sometimes less. Since I’ve ‘let go’ of a lot of workout details, I’ve relaxed about my workouts. I’m more likely to change them up in the middle if something’s not working instead of trying to stick to the “prescribed” plan. I don’t freak out if I’m not lifting as much weight as last time, mostly because I can’t remember what I lifted last time! I actually recover during my recovery time instead of frantically scribbling my numbers before I start the next set.

Keeping detailed workout notes wasn’t a huge stress in my life but now that I’m NOT doing it, my workouts are easier. Not physically, of course, but mentally easier. I know that sounds silly, after all, how hard is it to write some numbers down but, for me, it felt easier.

I know this is not for everyone. For many people, a journal provides valuable information that is useful to them. If you’re one of those people then keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working for you. But if, like me, you aren’t using all that data for anything other than filling pages, take a good look at why you’re doing it. Don’t make more work for yourself!

Happy exercising!!

Quick Full Body Strength Plan

I had to take some time off from training and exercise due to medical reasons for the last few months. I did exercise when I could and when I felt up to it but it was nothing like my usual training level and nothing on a regular schedule. Instead of worrying about it,  I used  the opportunity to revise my fitness plan. I made it more streamlined and simpler so when I was ready, it would be easy to get back into it.

I didn’t start over from scratch but I certainly lost some strength and fitness so I went back to basics with a 3 days per week full body strength plan. I have 6 exercises that all use multiple muscle groups so its efficient. I do 2-3 sets of each exercise with 1 minute rest between sets. On the days I lift, I also do 20 minutes of cardio intervals and the days I don’t lift, I do longer cardio (trying to get back to a regular running routine!) and stretching.

Strength Program

  • Squats
  • Straight leg deadlifts with calve raises
  • Overhead dumbbell presses
  • Lat pull downs
  • Dumbbell chest press
  • Medicine ball Russian twists

My cardio intervals rotate between an elliptical machine, a treadmill and outside. After a quick warmup, I do 1 minute fast, 1 minute slow for 15-20 minutes and that’s it!

Happy Exercising!