Have you been paying attention to your Abs?…

I’ve been looking around for some new abdominal workouts and I’ve found one that I really enjoy doing and it kicks my butt at the same time.  It’s a fairly long ab workout, which I was trying to avoid, but it incorporates a good variety of moves targeting all areas of the abdominal muscles.  So far I have been doing this workout twice a week and because it is a longer circuit, I have decided to perform the circuit on days where my lift workout is not quite as long in duration as others. One day of which is strictly my cardio day, so I focus on just this routine before hitting the pavement.  The other day is strictly a lift day without cardio, so I will perform this ab circuit after completing my lift routine for the day.

It does require some equipment, although there are definite ways to modify.  An olympic bar, stability ball, weight stack, and abdominal bench are needed.  If you do not have access to these pieces of equipment, still read on and watch the video.  You can modify the olympic bar with any heavy piece of equipment that you can hold in both hands.  A stability ball is no more than $20 at Target.  The weight stack you can replace with either heavy ankle weights or placing a dumbbell between both ankles while performing a laying leg raise.  And you don’t absolutely have to have a bench.  You can perform that particular exercise on the floor, or on the stability ball which will allow your body to decline almost as much as the abdominal bench…you may need something to secure your feet under if holding a heavy weight.

Here is the video for HD Abs and I will also post this on My Workout page under Abdominal Exercises.

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What’s the deal with 3 sets/10 reps?…

Everyone has their own way of studying for a test.  You might go hard for hours with no rest in between.  You may take many breaks and focus on a lot of different info during the study session.  Or, you just pace slow and take breaks when needed.  So, when it comes to exercise why does everyone hear about and follow the same “3 sets of 10 reps” rule?

What this means is that every time you workout, you are focusing on performing the exercise 3 times.  Every time you perform the exercise it is performed for 10 repetitions.  When you have completed 3 sets of 10 reps you just performed 30 repetitions.

When you do your own research on this topic you are going to find an array of people agreeing, disagreeing, and people getting outright enraged with everyone and their theories.

First off, if you have specific goals in mind (strength gains, bodybuilding, toning, etc.) this will change the amount of repetitions you are to perform during sets.  If your goal is to gain strength, the general rule of thumb is to perform around 6 reps.  If you are looking to tone you are going to end up in the higher rep range which is around 13-20 reps.  If you want to focus on muscle hypertrophy, then your rep range is usually between 8-12 reps.  So, the amount of reps you perform is pretty much based on your fitness goals.  Since we are all individuals and our bodies are all unique, adapting to stimulus differently, even these numbers will need some adjusting during your training.

But, what about the rule of 3 sets?  Man, oh man!  There is just not a set answer out there!  The 3 sets 10 reps rule began in the 1940’s and 1950’s when an Army surgeon general concluded that three sets were better than one.  But, there are training programs that do use the 1 set rule as a training regimen.  People that use this training method of 1 set say that mental focus, intensity, and speed of the rep are detrimental to this type of training.  I have to say, aren’t ALL of those factors detrimental to any training regimen, regardless of sets?

First off, if you feel the 1 set rule is working for you I truly think it is important to at least get a warm-up set before you perform the high intensity 1 set workout. In my opinion without having a warm-up set, it is difficult to perform a heavy weight, high intensity 1 set workout.  A warm-up set can even be necessary when abiding by the 3 set rule.  Remember, it’s really all personal preference, but you don’t want your muscles to be tight and not loosened up before a workout.

Second, studies are showing that when compared to 1 set, the 3 set rule is allowing for greater strength gains…up to 46% in one study!  Some people even exceed the 3 sets rule and aim for 4-6 sets, but usually with less reps and heavier weights.  Most studies only focus on the 3 set rule, so there isn’t much data out there on strength gains exceeding 3 sets.

Lastly, just remember what your fitness goals are and find ways to adjust your workout to fit your desired outcome.  I generally do not lift to tone.  I lift to put on some muscle and am hoping in the near future I can train to put on more.  I do live by the 3 sets rule (sometimes adding in a 4th set if I’m feeling freaking awesome!)  and I lift until I cannot lift anymore, which is between 8-10 reps.  I want to lift heavy to put on muscle, therefore I do not perform a lot of reps.  If I can lift a weight more than 12 reps, I am now into the toning stage of training and my weight is not heavy enough for my training desires.  I also lift with intensity, focus, and I lift slowly-not lifting fast compromising my form.  But, I have had days where I was sick and all I performed was 2 sets of each exercise.  2 sets are better than none!

You can always change up your sets by using drop sets, pyramid workouts, circuits, 21’s, super sets (click and see super-sets for bi’s/tri’s and shoulders), negatives, partials (21’s again), etc.  Just find ways to tailor sets to your workouts.  Everyone is different and we all succeed differently.  That’s what makes us unique and allows for so much debate on the 3 sets 10 reps topic!

Check out this article for information regarding working out for beginners.  It’s great and sets forth some clear strategies and key points in exercise.

Another In-Your-House-Cardio-Circuit…

Here is another In-Your-House-Workout.  No equipment is needed.  It’s a great cardio circuit created by fitness celebrity Lindsay Messina.

HIIT Glute Circuit…

I have uploaded the workout I described in my post “Bring it up a notch with a different approach to HIIT…” to My Workouts page titled: LOWER BODY HIIT w/ HEAVY WEIGHTS & CARDIO.

Like I’ve said before, when doing the side jumps on the plyo box, you should really push off your foot and spring up into the air, but because my plyo box is in my basement (dang winter keeping it indoors) I don’t push off as high as I should or I’d crack my head on the ceiling.

And pardon my lip syncing at the end. Thank goodness for mute!

5 minute warm-up

10 reps squat, deadlift, walking lunge, squat jumps, side plyo jumps, 1-2 minutes fast cardio…rest and repeat total of 3 times.

 

The Endorphin Rush is saving the day…

I’ve been completely exhausted lately.  Going on a month of complete and utter fatigue.  It’s exhausting being this exhausted.  To add to this complete fatigue, other issues requiring plenty of thought and life changing decisions have added to the stress of being this flat-out tired, sluggish, and lifeless.

My workouts have suffered this past month.  If I’m not getting out of bed to workout, there is a definite problem.  Then that adds to my stress, because the feeling of completing a workout always makes me feel amazing, and now I’m not getting that.

Saturday morning it took hours for me to finally get downstairs and workout…I mean hours!  I finally dragged myself off the couch, with plenty of help from my husband.  I decided to go with something a little different for me and did an Insanity dvd.  It took about 4 minutes and I was already feeling better and when I finally completed the workout I felt amazing.  And the feeling lasted for hours.  It’s that feeling of the endorphin rush that always saves me.

I live for this feeling!  Exercise, mainly cardio or very high intensity workouts, create this endorphin rush or feeling of euphoria.  If you hear people who run (and actually enjoy it) talk about “runners’ high”, this is what they are talking about.  It feels as if you can go on forever.  Your mood becomes enhanced, you are invincible, and you become ready to take on the day and anything that is thrown at you.  You feel less stressful and your sleep becomes better.  All of this can be attributed to that endorphin rush.

Endorphins are hormones made and produced in the brain. They are a natural painkiller or feel-good hormone made by the body and released during exercise.  These hormones have actually been proven to help people with depression and anxiety.  Why do you think doctors encourage exercise to their patients?  It helps us on so many different levels. Marathon runners have continued to run on some serious injuries, but the release of endorphins during their run actually masked their pain.  Endorphins also act as that second-wind you feel during a workout.  It may take as quickly as 10 minutes for some to feel this, and sometimes up to 30 minutes for others.

The hard part for me the past month is getting my workout started.  But, missing my workout does even more damage.  I know how amazing and fearless I feel after a great workout and what that release of endorphins does for my body, brain, and overall mood.  The endorphin rush is helping me make it through the day.

 

Here are a few bodyweight endorphin rush workouts you can do in your home, no equipment.

Just found this one…remember to be creative if you don’t have equipment…jumprope, jog in place, run stairs.

Crazy 8 Body Weight– yep, still love this one

Or, try something like this….

Do a 5 minute warm-up of cardio, your choice.  Follow this by 30 seconds of the following, no break in between exercises.

Jog in place

High Knees

Fast-paced Jumping jacks

Burpees

Split-Squat jumps

Squat jumps

rest a minute and repeat 2 to 3 times

 

Bring it up a notch with a different approach to HIIT…

I’m preachin’ it again!  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the absolute way to go if you are looking to shape your body and see results quicker than traditional approaches.  HIIT has the ability to help you see results quicker than traditional methods of training by releasing growth hormones, increasing your VO2 max, and pushing your body to its limits working at max or near maximum abilities.  It is also a great training technique to help get your heart to recover quickly.  Getting your heart rate to recover means bringing it down to levels that are lower than they were while working out at a higher intensity.  For example, when performing an interval workout, you may get your heart rate up to 176 beats per minute (bpm).  Within a minute you are able to bring it back down to 116.  Your heart rate does not have to work as hard to pump blood because it is getting stronger with each training session.

Why is recovery heart rate so important? Well, imagine if your heart rate never, ever recovered after a workout.  It would probably explode!  Being able to get your heart rate to recover quickly means YOU being able to recover quickly.  The faster it slows down, the less exhausted you are.  Your breathing slows down.  You are no longer huffing and puffing.

Most people think of cardio as the only form of HIIT.  Even endurance athletes throw in some HIIT in the form of sprints.  This allows them to have a faster recovery heart rate and a heart that is able to pump blood more efficiently without causing too much exertion on the athletes’ part.  But, don’t think of HIIT as purely cardio.  You can perform HIIT with weights as well. One of the ways you can do this is by lifting heavy weights maxing out between 8-12 reps.  Maxing out at this weight at 8-12 reps means you can’t lift a single rep more if your life depended on it.  Follow this with little rest between sets, no more than 30 seconds tops.

Combining this type of HIIT with weights, along with HIIT with cardio, you have a pretty solid workout program.  OnFitness magazine just put out an article that states combining these two types of exercises will have “the heart muscle itself begin to increase its contractility and its ability to pump more blood per beat”.  Contractility is the “intrinsic ability of heart muscle to generate force and to shorten, independently of changes in the preload or afterload with fixed heart rates”.

Here is a workout that I do that combines both heavy weight and cardio HIIT for the lower body.  I’ll also throw this on my workout page for quick reference.

I take 4 of the exercises that I do for my glutes (which you can find on my workout page).  I perform them 10 reps and I’m lifting heavy.  I run through each exercise one time, 10 reps each.  After each set, I jump on the elliptical and go hard for 2 minutes.  Remember, if you don’t have cardio equipment get a jumprope, do jumping jacks, run the stairs in your house, run in place…whatever you need to do!  After this I take a minute break and run through it again a total of 3 times.  Here’s the program:

5 minute warm up on elliptical (cardio of your choice)

10 reps of each: squat, deadlift, walking lunge, side box jumps

2 minute of elliptical going hard

1 minute water break

Repeat 2 more times

5 minute cool down on elliptical at end

I will use this in place of my traditional glute workout since I am utilizing the same muscle groups.

Listen to your body.  If you are feeling pain or something doesn’t seem quite right, then slow down.

 

Add a little Negativity to your workout…

I can’t get my biceps to feel sore anymore!  And I hate it!  I used to love the feeling of heavy arms after a workout, like blocks of cement were just filling up in there.  But, I just can’t seem to leave an arm workout without a feeling of complete exhaustion in my biceps anymore.  I also don’t feel like I can lift weight that is much heavier than I do now.  So, something else needs to change.  I understand that the feeling of soreness is not necessarily a good indicator of an amazing workout (I did glutes on Tuesday and still can’t sit on the toilet!), but I do enjoy that heavy feeling in the muscles after a good workout.  I have supersetted them, changed rest time between sets, and switched up my routine some.  I think what I am going to do next is focus on the negatives.

When lifting weights, your muscle actually goes through two contractions.  Most people think of the actual lift of the weight as the only part of the lift.  But, there is a second part.  Let’s use the Bicep curl as an example to explain both parts of the lift.  The concentric contraction is when you take the weight and lift it up towards the body.  The muscle fibers are actually shortening during this phase to pull the load up towards the body.  As you bring the weight back down to its starting position, this phase is called the eccentric contraction.  The muscle fibers are lengthening to help lower and control bringing the load back down.  Most people starting off don’t realize that an eccentric contraction is even happening or the importance of this phase of the lift.  If you didn’t have eccentric muscle contractions, you wouldn’t be able to sit down in a chair.

For my Bicep workout I’m going to focus more on the eccentric contraction, which is also called the negative contraction.  I’m going to spend more time lowering the weight down to its starting position, and not so much on the lift itself.  From everything I have read, this is a good change in your routine, but not something you want to do every workout.  It can really exhaust your muscles and you want to give yourself adequate rest.  It also takes a little more time because you are spending more time each rep on lowering the weight back down.  I’m going to do this next Thursday when I do bi’s and tri’s and I will let you know how it goes.  Here’s an informative article from Bodybuilding.com explaining negative training.

Kick your own butt and Lose weight doing it…

Ok!  You want to kick your own butt, increase your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, and burn calories well after your workout is over…all within 4 minutes?  Who doesn’t want this?  There is a form of training that can provide all of this for you, but it definitely takes some dedication, lots of towels to wipe the sweat that is pouring off your body, and maybe even a garbage can for some well deserved vomit.
Tabata Training.  Tabata training is taking an exercise, or a series of exercises, and performing them 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for 4 minutes, non-stop, at 100% capability.  You can perform Tabata Training with pretty much any type of exercise: running, swimming, jumprope, biking, weight training, combination of exercises (mountain climbers, squates, burpees, plyo (jump) drills,….).

I have done Tabata training with sprints.  I sprint full effort for 20 seconds and walk for 10 seconds.  I do this continous for 4 full minutes.  You end up performing 8 total sets in this 4 minutes.  And let me tell you, 10 seconds of rest is nothing!  When my 20 second sprint ends, I’m into my 10 second rest still trying to slow down, and then 10 seconds is up and back into my sprints.  It’s a very rough workout, but you feel like you have taken over the world when you finish it!

Some advice that I have read says that trying to get through 6 sets the first couple of times is where you should set your mark.  This means start off following the 20 seconds on 10 seconds off, but if you feel like you truly can’t make it another 20 seconds on, extend your rest set a little longer.  This means you will accomplish less sets in the 4 minutes, but you still are performing each set to exertion.  It’s also extremely important to warm up before Tabata training.  If you jump right into this without warming up and stretching your muscles, you can really injure yourself.  Get in a 5-10 minute warm-up. Do some dynamic stretching.  And, do a few sets of the exercises you are performing at around 60%  your maximum effort.  This will help to loosen up a little more and see where your pace and endurance is at.  End with a 5 minute cool down and some more stretching (static).

I’ve provided some links with more info on Tabata training below, if you don’t believe anything I’ve said.  The last link has a lot of good info and some great Tabato workouts and videos.

T-Nation-Tabata Training info

Good background info on Tabata Training

T-Nation-some good workouts here

Oxygen Women’s Fitness | Training | Stronger, Leaner, Slimmer

I have not tried this, but a workout you can do in your home, even if you have no equipment.  If you need more intensity without equipment, extend your time performing each set and run through the workout a couple of times.

Oxygen Women’s Fitness | Training | Stronger, Leaner, Slimmer.

Log your Training…

This one’s for you, Sheila (hopefully)!  Here is an old log that I used to use to chart my workouts.  You can track one month of progress on one page, one week at a time.  It has room for 6 exercises per muscle group, 3 sets per muscle (with reps and weight used for each set), and a total of 4 weeks progress.  I will show you one with some info filled in and also a blank sheet. Let me know if you have problems viewing.  You can always change things up and personalize it for your own workout needs.

workout log blank                       workout log

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