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.

Quick, Full-body Medicine Ball Workout

If you’ve never worked out with a medicine ball, here’s a quick full-body workout to try.

Medicine ball workouts are efficient. You only need one little piece of equipment and you can work most major muscle groups with it.

You can get medicine balls at sporting goods stores or online here (affiliate link) in a range of weights. They’re portable too! I took mine on vacation so I could maintain some semblance of fitness without getting crazy about it. I use this workout occasionally for variety or when traveling or when I’m simply short on time. I do 2-3 sets of each exercise.

Squat with front lift: Stand with feet shoulder width apart holding the medicine ball with arms straight down in front of you. Squat down until knees are at least 90 degrees or slightly lower. At the same time, lift the medicine ball straight up to shoulder level keeping arms straight. Return to start and repeat.

Squat with Front Lift

Lunge Press: Stand with feet hip width apart holding the medicine ball in front of your chest with elbows pointed down. Take a large step forward with your left foot and lower straight down so your left knee is at 90 degrees or slightly lower. At the same time, press the medicine ball up overhead. Return to start and repeat with right leg.

Lunge Press

Off-Set Pushups: Start in pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width and feet together with toes curled under. Your body should from a straight line from the back of your head to your heels. Place the medicine ball under your right hand so you are balancing your right arm on top of it. Lower your body as a solid unit until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees or slightly lower. You’ll feel lopsided because of the medicine ball but try to maintain your balance and don’t let the ball roll around. Complete 1 set and switch the ball to the left side for the next set.

Off-Set Pushups

Extended Crunches: Lay on the floor with knees bent and feet about hip width apart. Hold the medicine ball straight up over your chest. Tighten your abs and lift your shoulders off the ground to “crunch” up. Return to start and repeat.

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Extended Crunches

Tricep Extensions: Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and hold the medicine ball straight up over your head. Keeping elbows still and tight by the side of your head, bend your elbows and lower the medicine ball behind your head. Return to start and repeat.

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Tricep Extensions

Bicep Curls: Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and hold the medicine ball straight down in front of you. Keep elbows tight to your sides and bend to lift the medicine ball to your chest. Return to start and repeat.

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Bicep Curls

Happy Exercising!

P.S. My son took these photos for me and captured some amusing facial expressions so, enjoy!

 

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!