Weights Then Cardio Gym Workout – And Why it’s Beneficial

This is a great workout I got in the other day and wanted to share. I completed 2 supersets, followed by a short HIIT circuit. Both types of circuits keep your heart rate elevated, increasing your calorie burn and muscle utilization. This workout got me thinking about how so many people do cardio before weight training. Unless it’s just a 10 minute warm-up to get your heart rate up, consider doing a cardio session after a weight training session.

The first part of my workout was 2 supersets. In each superset, I complete the exercises back to back and rested briefly between rounds. I made sure that my weights and machines are near each other, so that my rest time between exercises was limited.

The second part of the workout was a high intensity interval training circuit. I just threw this in because I wanted a little extra burn…but there’s a reason I got in my cardio post resistance training.

So…why weights before cardio?

Many people assume to do cardio before weight training, but that actually can be counterintuitive. If you knock out an intense cardio workout, you won’t have the glycogen stores to get an effective weight training circuit in.  If glycogen levels are low, it affects our energy levels. If you use up that energy, it won’t be available when you need to lift heavy weights, making a goal of building muscle, increasing strength, or maximizing calorie burn through weight lifting compromised. Increased fatigue during weight training can also lead to injury.

Lengthy cardio also lowers the blood’s pH, because exercise causes increased levels of lactic acid. This acidic environment causes muscular fatigue and, in turn, performance drops. So besides using the energy you need for heavy resistance training, doing cardio first also makes it harder for you to contract the muscles…which is counter-productive.

So if you’re looking to build muscle and burn fat, consider hopping on that treadmill after resistance training, if you do decide to do cardio and weight training sessions both in one day. However, at the end of the day, the most effective workout is the one you will stick with.

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So…here’s my workout

Complete each move in a superset back to back without rest. Rest 1-2 minutes between each round. Take a 2 minute rest and get your bosu ball and mat set for the HIIT circuit.

SUPERSET 1: 4 rounds

Lying Leg Curl Machine (10 reps) – Be sure to position the pad so that it is at the bottom part of your calf. *if you don’t have access to this machine use the sitting leg curl machine

Stiff Leg Deadlift  (12 reps) – Use a moderately heavy weight. Increase your weight if you aren’t maxing out near the end of your reps..

Leg Press (10 reps) – I used 160lbs (80lbs on each side), but start at a manageable weight and work up with each round.  Be sure to push through your heels, but not to lock your knees out. If you are more comfortable, or are a beginner, use the seated leg press machine with adjustable weights attached instead of a free-weight leg press.

SUPERSET 2: 4 rounds

Weighted Back Hyperextension (10 reps) – Hold a weight plate at your chest as you lower and raise, being sure not to over-extend at the top of the movement. When you bend forward, the pad should be at your hips, so that your lower body is stabilized. As you bring your body up, keep a straight back and stop when your body is at neutral. Use a weight that is comfortable and does not cause you to strain your back, and allows for a fluid movement.

Weighted Side Bend (12 reps/side) – Grab a moderate weight in one hand and hold it straight down at your side. (I used the same 25lb weight plate I used for the previous exercise). Place other hand on your hip and bend to the side so that you’re lowering the weight toward the ground. Come back up just past neutral and repeat. Complete reps then switch sides.

Standing T Bar Row (10 reps) – Adjust the leg height so that your upper chest is at the top of the pad. Lean against the pad and grab the handles. You can use a palms down, palms up or palms in position depending on what part of your back you want to work more. Extend your arms completely to start. Slowly pull the weight up and squeeze your back at the top of the movement. Do not lift your body off of the pad. Lower and repeat. If you don’t have access to this machine, you can straddle a barbell and grasp the end of it. With back straight and arms outreached, pull the end of the barbell up toward your chest.

HIIT Circuit: 2 rounds – 45 seconds work, 15 seconds rest (ALL OUT!!)

Bosu Ball Mountain Climbers – Balance on a bosu ball with hands placed on the sides of the flat end. Quickly alternate bringing knee to chest.

Reverse Curl and Extend – Lay on your back with legs straight and arms at your sides. Bring knees to chest and then extend your legs straight up and slightly back, lifting your hips. Reverse the movement, bringing legs straight out in front but lifted slightly off the ground. Do these as quickly as you can.

Bosu Ball Low Side Steps – Place a bosu ball flat side down, and stand to the side with one foot in the the middle of the ball. Squat slightly, and remain low as you hop and bring the other foot to meet the foot on the ball, and stepping the other foot on the ground on the other side of the bosu ball. Repeat alternating sides, and keeping your body low.

Bicycles – Perform traditional bicycle crunches, keeping a steady but controlled pace.

Bosu Rope Climbers – Place a bosu ball flat side down, and sit in the middle of the ball, legs in front and knees slightly bent. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Hold this positions and you alternate extending each arm up and down in front of you, as if you were climbing a rope. Keep feet elevated throughout.

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My Workout Playlist

Jay Z – Moment of Clarity

Eminem (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Love Game

Lil Wayne (feat. Rick Ross) – John

Eminem – W.T.P

The Neighbourhood – Sweater Weather

Jay Z – BBC

Chris Brown (feat. Usher) – New Flame

BANKS – Waiting Game

Ed Sheeran – Don’t

Drake – 0 to 100

Maroon 5 – Animals

Kanye West – Clique

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Battle Ropes Workout

Why Battle Ropes?

Battle ropes can look a little intimidating. They’re a set of these giant heavy ropes anchored down that you see people tossing and waving around. Well, you need to pick them up and give them a try! There are many benefits to tossing these beasts around. They have a huge metabolic impact that increase work capacity and help create some great muscle.

Benefits of battle ropes:

  • It’s a full-body workout
  • You burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time by quickly elevating your heart rate.
  • It’s low impact on your joints
  • Works the core muscles in ways that few other training tools can by both utilizing your shoulders, hips, and abs and also forcing you to brace your core and stabilize your spine during explosive movement.
  • It will increase your strength, power and endurance.
  • They’re something different…and kind of fun

Tips:

  • Relax your shoulders and grip on the ropes. Tensing up can lead to quick exhaustion.
  • Breathe! This goes along with relaxing. Try to match your movement with your breathing. These are all output exercises, so do not hold your breath.
  • Utilize your entire body. Keep your core tight, and use your shoulders and legs together to move the rope. Keep a good solid stance with a bend in the knees, and avoid standing stiffly.

Battle Rope HIIT Workout

For the workout, we will be splitting up HIIT moves with battle rope workouts. This is great for beginners, allowing for a break between battle rope exercises. Because, I promise you, the battle ropes will wear you out!

Complete entire workout with 30 seconds work – 10 seconds rest

Battle Ropes – Double Waves

Deadlift + Row (Right)

Battle Ropes – Alternating Waves

Deadlift + Row (Left)

Battle Ropes – Burpee Rope Slam

Squat + Side Leg Lift (Right)

Battle Ropes – Reverse Grip Double Wave

Squat + Side Leg Lift (Left)

Battle Ropes – Reverse Grip Punch Wave

Oblique V Roll

Battle Ropes – Hip Toss

Flutter Kicks

Battle Ropes – Lateral Waves

Reverse Crunch w/ Hip Raise

Exercise Descriptions

Double Waves: Gripping each end of the rope firmly with both hands, start swinging your arms up and down at the same time to create a parallel wavelike motion with the rope. Maintain the velocity and flow of the waves. Keep your feet planted and knees slightly bent.

Alternating Waves: Use the same technique as double waves, only alternate the up and down movement of each arm. Remember to keep your shoulders down and to use power from your core and legs.

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Burpee Rope Slam: Grip ropes firmly in each hand and in a large motion bring your arms up and down forcefully, like you were throwing a ball down as hard as you can. Drop down with your hands on the ground and hop your feet back and lower into a push-up. Jump feet forward as you grab the ropes. Come back to standing and repeat with another slam.

Reverse Grip Double Wave: Reverse your grip on the ropes so that you grab them from the outside and palms face up. You will use more force than in the the double wave. It will be a happy medium between a slam and a wave. Swing both arms up and down simultaneously, using your legs to move the rope.

Reverse Grip Punch Wave: Using the same reverse grip, alternate punching each arm up and across your body, using a slight pivot in your legs.

Hip Toss: Keep feet grounded and pivot torso from side to side as you toss the ropes over your hip as if you were throwing them to the floor on each side of you. This movement should also create a wavelike motion with the ropes.

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Lateral Waves: Using a normal stance and grip on the ropes, move your arms from outside to inside, similar to a pec fly, crossing the hands over one another in front of your body and back. This is a great finishing exercise because it really torches those shoulders.

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Deadlift + Row: Holding a barbell or set of weights in front of you, balance on one leg and hinge forward at the waist into a single leg deadlift with the weight outreached below you. Pause and perform a row (still on one leg) by pulling your elbows back and bringing the weight toward your chest. Lower, then come back to start and repeat, trying to remained balance on one leg. Complete time for each leg.

Squat + Side Leg Lift: Hold a barbell or dumbbells on your shoulders and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and as you come up lift one leg straight up and out to the side. Lower to start and repeat. Continue lifting the same leg after each squat. Complete time for each leg.

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Oblique V Roll: Lay on the ground balanced on your tailbone. Roll to the right onto your right hip and leaning on your right arm, as you bring your left hand behind your head and crunch your knees up toward your elbow. Straighten legs, keeping them lifted, as you roll onto your left hip and arm, crunching your knees to your right elbow. Be sure to keep your legs lifted and your core engaged throughout.

Flutter Kicks: Lay on the ground with your arms at your sides and legs straight out in front of you. Lift legs of the ground slightly, and keep them up and straight as you quickly lower and lift your legs, in a short scissor-like movement.

Reverse Crunch with Hip Raise: Lay on the ground with your arms at your sides and legs straight out in front of you. Bring your knees to chest and then straighten your legs straight up to the ceiling, lifting your hips off the ground. Lower hips and bend knees, reversing the movement back to start. When you straighten your legs out in front of you, keep them elevated off the ground, and repeat.

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Supersets Workouts: Tips….and a Workout of Course

Doing supersets circuits is a good way to get a quick but extremely effective gym workout in. You are performing more work in less time, which is great for building muscle. I’ve found my arms respond really well to superset workouts. They  burn-out and get great definition, especially when combined with my pre-and post-workout shakes consisting of high-quality whey protein. Supersets are a set of 2 exercises done with a heavier weight back to back without rest, for a certain amount of reps and sets. You generally rest 1 minute to 90 seconds between sets. You want to limit rest in order to maximize your muscle utilization.

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There’s a variety of supersets you can do. And you can do multiple types in one workout.

Antagonist Supersets: This is when you pair opposite muscle groups into a superset. For example: biceps and triceps, chest and back, quads and hamstrings. These are great because you stretch and loosen one muscle group as the antagonist/opposite contracts. (i.e. when the biceps are contracting, the triceps are relaxed.)

Compound/Agonist Supersets: This is the opposite of antagonist, and you are pairing 2 exercises of the same muscle group together. For example: chest exercises of bench press and dumbbell flyes, or quad exercises of leg extensions and squats. These are great for maxing out/burning out a muscle. These can also be intense for amateur weight lifters since heavier weight is generally used for supersets.

Unconventional Supersets: These are using 2 exercises that work completely different muscle groups. For example: triceps and back, quads and calves, biceps and chest. This is ideal if you’re new to supersets or weight training. It will still save you time and allow for more variety in your workout.

Now, if you really want to get technical with your supersets you can also try the following methods of supersets:

Pre-Exhaustions Sets: This is where you do an isolated movement of a muscle group followed by a more compound exercise. You exhaust the muscle with an isolated movement (i.e. leg extensions) and then work it hard with a compound movement (i.e. squats). Expect to feel like a sally with this one, because your muscle will already be pretty tired by the time you get to the compound movement. But this method is very effective for shaping muscle.

Post-Exhaustion Sets: This is the opposite of pre-exhaustion sets, and you start with a compound movement (i.e. squats, bench press) followed by an isolation movement. This is a tough method because your muscle fibers are completely worked to the max when you finish with an isolated movement.

Compound Sets: This is when you perform 2 compound movements of the same muscle group (i.e. bench press and incline bench press). This is recommended only for those who have experience with lifting a lot of weight. Remember, you’re dealing with a heavier weight, and doing 2 big movements back to back on the same muscle group is very challenging.

Isolated Sets: This is when you perform 2 isolation movements of the same muscle group (i.e. barbell bicep curls and hammer curls). These are effective because you’re doing double the work on one muscle group in a short amount of time.

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Superset Workout

Here’s a sample superset workout. These will be antagonist supersets, working different muscle groups with each different superset. Remember to use a challenging weight that will bring your muscle close to failure. If you are unsure about a movement, look it up prior to completing the workout. Form is very important for these types of workouts.

Complete 4 sets of each superset before moving onto the next. Rest 1 minute between sets/supersets.

Superset 1:

Dumbbell Flyes – 10 reps (on incline bench)

Bent-Over Row – 10 reps (barbell overhand grip)

Superset 2:

Full Squats – 10 reps

Stiff-Leg Deadlift – 10 reps

Superset 3:

Weighted Tricep Dips – 10 reps (use bench and place weight on your quads)

Barbell Bicep Curls – 10 reps

Superset 4:

Russian Twists – 15 reps (each side = 1 rep)

Leg Raises – 10 reps (decline bench or flat)

Bicycle Crunch – 30 reps (each side = 1 rep)

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Barbell Complex Workouts

Barbell complex workouts are a great way to burn calories and fat, and to build strength. They are a great alternative to cardio – they get your heart rate up by consecutive movement with a heavy amount of weight.

The idea here is to do 5 barbell exercises back to back without putting the bar down. You want to use a weight that you can lift for 5 reps for each exercises. You will get a total body workout, focusing on multiple muscle groups.

Complete 3-6 sets (start with 3 and work your way up to 6). After completing the set of 5 exercises take a 2 minute break. It’s very important that you rest between sets to give your muscles a break from the heavy weight – otherwise you may cause too much strain on them. If you aren’t familiar with the exercises I listed a description of each below. Choose from one of the workouts below, or create your own combination of 5 exercises.

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WORKOUT 1 (3-6 sets)

Romanian Deadlift – 5 reps

Bent Over Row  – 5 reps

Hang Clean – 5 reps

Front Squat – 5 reps

Push Press – 5 reps

WORKOUT2 (3-6 sets)

Power Clean – 5 reps

Front Squat – 5 reps

Push Press – 5 reps

Back Squat – 5 reps

Push Press – 5 reps

WORKOUT 3  (3-6 sets)

Hang Clean – 5 reps

Front Squat – 5 reps

Push Press – 5 reps

Back Squat – 5 reps

Romanian Deadlift – 5 reps

Exercise Descriptions: For all exercises stand with feet about shoulder-width apart

Romanian Deadlift – Hold barbell in front of you. Bend knees slightly as you hinge forward at your hips and lower the bar toward the ground. Lift up to standing forcefully, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. (*Sandbag used in photos, used only to show proper form)

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Bent Over Row – Hinge forward at the hips slightly with a slight bend in the knees, bar hanging straight down (overhand grip). Pull the bar to your chest in a row forcefully, bending the elbows straight back behind you. Your arms should be close to your ribs. Lower slowly and repeat, keeping a hinged position.

barbell_bent_over_row

Hang Clean – Hinge forward at the hips slightly, with a slight bend in the knee with the barbell hanging in front of your knees (overhand grip). In a forceful motion, lift the bar up to in front of your shoulders as you flip your wrists and straighten your legs, so that your palms are now facing up. Reverse motion back to start. (due to the heavy weight, shrugging your shoulders will help pull the weight up)

hangclean

Power Clean – This will be the same motion as the hang clean, but you will start squatted down with the barbell touching the ground in front of you. From here you will forcefully pull the weight up to your shoulders and flip your wrists up. Reverse back to start.

power-clean

Push Press – Start with the bar in front of your shoulders, wrists turned up and elbows bent. Forcefully push the bar straight up overhead, pause, and return to start. Bend the knees slightly to help press the weight up.

barbell-push-press

Front Squat – Start with the bar in front of your shoulders, wrists turned up and elbows bent. Keeping the bar steady lower into a squat until knees are bent 90 degrees and forcefully lift back up to start.

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Back Squat – Place the barbell on your shoulders behind you neck and lower into a squat, until knees are bent 90 degrees. Forcefully lift back up to start.

barbell-squat

Eccentric Exercises – An Overlooked Training Method

Eccentric Exercise is also known as negative training. It’s the opposite of concentric, or positive training, which is what you typically do when weight training. In concentric training, the muscle is working against weight as it shortens (i.e. curling up during a bicep curl). The opposite is performed with eccentric training, and the and the concept is to have the weight put tension on the muscle as it lengthens (i.e. lowering the weight during a bicep curl)

So what are the benefits of Eccentric Exercise? Well there are a LOT! When you perform negative training, your muscle can withstand a heavier weight load – which means a more effective exercise with more results! Also, negative training has been shown to decrease tendon pain. And increasing your strength with eccentric exercises can decrease your risk of injury.

Here are some reasons to add negative training to your workouts:

  • You can reach failure quicker, because the larger load causes muscle fatigue faster – which means faster results!
  • Increase in muscle strength.
  • Increase in muscle size – a lot of bodybuilders use negative training to “bulk up”
  • Strength gains obtained through eccentric work will carry over to concentric work, but not vice versa!
  • Strength gains from eccentric training will be maintained longer while de-training, and muscle built using eccentric training (as opposed to concentric training) is better able to withstand the breakdown process that starts when muscles rest.
  • Eccentric training requires less oxygen – so less stress on the ol’ lungs and heart!
  • Eccentric training works the entire joint – leading to increased stability and decreased risk of injury.
  • It’s a good way to switch up your workouts, avoid plateau, and challenge your muscles in a new way – I love switching up my workouts!

The one warning I will give you, however, is that there tends to be more delayed muscle soreness with eccentric exercise. This is only meant to be done a couple times per week. Your muscles need adequate rest, since there is more weight put on them. And if you are new to weight training, I wouldn’t recommend this type of training until you get a good muscle base down. Generally speaking, most people can use weight that’s about 40% heavier with eccentric movements than with concentric.  With that being said, do not start out with that much weight. Start at a low weight and work your way up.

Negative Training Workout

Here’s a workout for you to try with some standard eccentric exercises. You can do all or just try some of them. During the eccentric move, lengthen the muscle in about 5 counts. This is meant to be a slow, controlled and resistance-based movement. The concentric movement should be only 1 count.

Complete 3 sets – and base your number of reps on your muscle strength.

Bent Over Row (10-15 reps) – Stand holding a barbell or sandbag, hinged forward at the hips. Bring weight up to your chest with elbows bent back behind you and slowly lower the weight, straightening your arms (eccentric movement). Bring the weight back to start, pause and repeat.

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Reverse Curl (8 reps) – Use an overhand grip on a barbell or dumbbells curled up at your chest to start. Lower the bar slowly all the way down and keep your elbows at your sides (eccentric movement).  If you prefer, perform a regular bicep curl with an underhand grip.

reversecurl

 

Bench Press (8-10 reps) – Lie on a bench, holding a barbell at your chest. Press the bar straight up, pause, then lower slowly under control (eccentric movement). Press the weight back up and repeat.

benchpress

Squats (10-15 reps) – I’m going to give you 2 great options for the squat. The first is a traditional squat, holding a barbell/sandbag on your shoulders. Slowly lower down into a squat, pushing your hips back (eccentric movement). Come up in one count, pause and repeat.

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 Another option is to place a medicine ball between your thighs and squeeze as you slowly lower into a squat. Return to standing still squeezing the ball to hold it between your legs, pause and repeat. These will work your inner thighs too!

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Seated Shoulder Press (8-10 reps) – Sit on a flat bench, holding dumbbells at your shoulders with palms facing out. Press the weights overhead, then slowly lower the weights down (eccentric movement). Press back up when they reach your shoulders and repeat.

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Dumbbell Pull Over Crunch (8-10 reps) – Your abs can even benefit from eccentric exercises! Lie on the ground with legs extended, holding a dumbbell in each hand overhead. Crunch up as you bring your knees to chest, pulling the dumbbells up and to your shins. Pause at the top and lower slowly back to start (eccentric movement). Crunch back up and repeat. If you can, try to straighten your legs without them touching the ground.

pullover crunch

 

 

Hanging Knee Lifts (8-10 reps) – Do these from a pull-up bar or from a roman chair.  Hang legs straight and crunch knees to chest. Slowly lower your legs until straight (eccentric movement), pause and then lift them back to chest.

abSlam2

Benefits of Weight Training

Growing up as an athlete, I thrived on my athletic ability and my high level of endurance. It shaped me into achieving the fitness level I have today…with the help of  some other factors. After sustaining serious leg injuries my senior year of high school, I had to adapt to my new limitations and physical restrictions. Not only did I have to take a break from sports and working out, but I literally had to learn how to walk again. Physical therapy involved rebuilding the muscle mass and strength that I had lost, while allowing my injuries to fully heal. Although it was a long and challenging process, I learned how to use weight training in my workout regimen, and the benefits were great for me. Over the years following, I relied heavily on weight training, as running/jogging were no longer an option. And I fell in love with it and the way it has changed my body, and provided me with greater strength and stability.

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Now, it’s a common misconception (in females especially) that “lifting” will cause you to “bulk  up” – which isn’t really the look women are usually looking for. Personally, I’ve found it to do the opposite. While I have noticeable muscle definition, I am more lean and toned. The lack of testosterone in women (comparable to men) prevents our muscles from developing too largely. Men generally have a higher caloric intake as well, which is needed to develop larger muscles (on top of having all that testosterone!) Unless you’re a body-building fitness competitor, a normal diet and workout routine will not cause you to become a beast. But….if you want to be a beast you may need to read a different blog. I don’t have the same dedication those people have!

So what are the benefits of weight training/lifting?

Tones you up – Like I said earlier, I’ve noticed my body to be more toned as a result from lifting weights. Lifting heavier weight reshapes your muscle and fires more muscle fibers – which gives you a more toned look (which is better than skinny-fat, by the way).  So the more toned and shapely you want your muscles to become, the heavier you should lift. If you stick to strict cardio, you may be burning fat – but you’re also burning muscle and not building it.

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Increases metabolic rate – The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Not only do you burn calories more effectively during your workout, but you continue to burn calories post-workout — for up to 24 hours! This is because your muscle fibers are still firing and recovering after weight lifting, which also burns calories. Bottom line –  the higher your metabolic rate the more calories you will burn (and can intake).

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Improve stability and strength – Increasing your strength from weight training is a no-brainer, but I’ve found to have more stability and functionality also. Having a strong muscle base helps with everyday activities, which can in turn prevent injury and fatigue. Stronger muscles help support the joints and help in preventing arthritis as we age. Having osteoarthritis and scar tissue in my legs, I’ve found that strengthening my leg muscles with weight training significantly helps reduces discomfort and swelling, and improves my stability.

Here’s a nice diagram that explains the benefits to weight lifting compared to running. (hopefully you can read it)

runninglift

 

 

Exercise Upgrades

If you’re like me, the you probably like to change up your workouts – or better yet, improve them! This workout consists of exercises that are upgrades of traditional ones. Do this as a full-body workout circuit, or use some of the moves in a workout of your own. The slightest change in movements can makes a big difference, and you can work muscles you may not normally use – or realize you were missing out on!

Complete 2-3 sets of these exercises. Some of the equipment you may need are a bench/step, bosu ball, ugi ball, medicine ball, stability ball, 8-15 lb dumbbells, pull-up bars, TRX/suspension straps.

Ski Jumps (instead of Side Lunges) – 25 reps/side: This is a great warm-up. Quickly jump side to side with both feet over some sort of a divider (real or imaginary), taking care to land each time with your feet hip-width apart. Keep a slight bend in the knees and land on the balls of your feet. Try to jump back in the opposite directions as soon as you land. The hopping motion will allow you to use more muscle groups in the legs, and it will get your heart rate up.

Weighted Step-Ups (instead of Lunges) – 15 reps/side: Holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, place your right foot on a step or bench. Push off with the left leg to raise your body onto the step, placing the left foot lightly next to the right foot. Or, to make it more challenging, don’t place your left foot on the bench – so all of the weight remains on the right leg. Slowly shift your weight to your right foot and lower your left foot back to the floor and completely step off the platform by following with your right foot. Alternate legs. The step up puts more work on your leg muscles, especially the glutes. This also tests your balance, and will help you become more stable.

Bosu Ball Push-ups (instead of Push-ups) – 12 reps: Flip the Bosu over onto its dome, flat side up. Grip the sides of the platform or place your hands on top of it and perform a push-up. Keep your body in a straight line and keep your core engaged the entire time. You can also use an ugi ball. Adding the element of balance with the push-up will engage your core more than a traditional push-up.

plank

Medicine Ball Planks (instead of Planks) – 30-60 seconds: Perform a traditional plank but place your feet and/or hands on a sturdy medicine ball; and keep your body aligned without allowing your hips to hike up or sag. Try to hold for 60 seconds. Using a medicine ball requires more balance, which will in turn allow you to engage and work your core more. If you REALLY want to challenge yourself, place both feet and each hand on a medicine ball. If you don’t have a medicine ball you can balance in plank on a stability ball or bosu ball. The smaller and more unstable the surface, the more challenging the move becomes.

Inverted Rows (instead of Lat Pulldown) – 12 reps: Lie on your back under a fixed horizontal bar and grasp the bar with a wide grip. Keep your body straight as you pull yourself up towards the bar; then slowly lower yourself to starting position and repeat. If you don’t have horizontal or equalizer bars, you can also use TRX or suspension training straps. (see pic). This is a great alternative because it requires more control in order to lift your entire body weight while keeping a straight back.

invertrow

Chair Squats (instead of Squats) – 12 reps: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and position yourself in front of a bench or chair. Keeping feet shoulder width apart, abs engaged, head up and eyes looking forward – slowly lower yourself by bending at the knees and hips, until you sit on the bench. Pause for only a second (do not bounce) and then slowly return to starting position without locking knees. Using the chair/bench allows you to sit back further and lower than you may when doing a normal squat, so your glutes and hamstrings are working along with the quads.

chair-squats

One-Arm Chest Presses on Stability Ball (instead of Dumbbell Chest Press) – 12 reps/arm: Sit on a stability ball and walk your feet out until you’re in a stable, table-top position, hips and thighs parallel to the floor, knees at a 90-degree angle and head and neck supported by the ball. Holding on to the dumbbell, and with your other arm across your midsection for balance, bring the dumbbell out to the side with your elbow at a 90-degree angle, wrist stacked directly above your elbow. Push up and slightly towards the center by extending your arm. Slowly return to starting position. Complete all reps then switch arms. This upgrade has a couple benefits – first you’re only working one arm at a time, so you’re focused on that one arm only. Also, balancing on the stability ball not only engages your core for balance, but also your glutes are working hard to stay up in the tabletop position. With that said, make sure that your hips stay lifted and that your butt doesn’t drop down. The slightly different press also will work your smaller pectoralis muscle and your anterior deltoid a little more, by pressing up on a slight angle instead of straight up.

Balancing on a stability ball (or ugi ball) instead of a bench is great for any exercise performed while laying on a bench – flys, skull crushers, lat pull-overs, etc.

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