When I interviewed for my personal training job at the YMCA, one of the questions I was asked was “What are your 3 favorite exercises for clients and why?” The first 3 exercises to pop out of my mouth – Squats, Push ups, and Planks. So why were these three the first to pop into my head? They all use multiple muscle groups giving a great full body workout without much equipment needed, there are a million different variations to switch things up to avoid boredom and add a little muscle confusion into the mix, and most importantly, they can be modified so that almost everyone can do them. My answer must have been a good one since I walked out of the interview with a job offer. So what makes each of these exercises so special? (more…)
Always looking for new ways to torture myself, today I did a little playing around before my morning client at the gym. So I might have actually been trying to find new ways to torture my client and was using myself as a guinea pig. With only about 20 minutes to get in a decent workout, I went with one of my go to quick butt kicking workouts: a 50/10 HIIT workout. If you’re not familiar with HIIT, it stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Basically, you go all out on an exercise for the designated work phase and then take a short rest break before going back at it. With a 50/10, you work your ass off for 50 seconds, then rest for 10 and repeat. Today’s workout was just 20 minutes, but I felt like I was going to puke by the end.
Equipment: jump rope, bench, smith machine, kettle bell (I went with 25 lb.), stopwatch or interval timer
Time: Set your interval timer to 20 rounds of 50 seconds work and 10 seconds rest for a total of 20 minutes
The Break Down: Complete this circuit all the way through and repeat for 20 rounds total
Round 1 – jump rope
Round 2 – Incline push ups
Round 3 – jump rope
Round 4 – Modified pull ups on the Smith Machine
Round 5 – jump rope
Round 6 – jump lunges
Round 7 – jump rope
Round 8 – suicide (or walk up) planks
Round 9 – jump rope
Round 10 – Kettlebell swings
The other morning, I woke up to a text from one of my regular training clients letting me know she was stuck at home, sick as a dog thanks to her kids, and would not be making it in to our training session that morning. As I lay in bed trying to get the motivation to get moving for the day, I asked myself “What would Jillian Michaels do?” Jillian would probably call the Y, ask for her home address, and show up there with a bullhorn, telling my client and all her neighbors that a little head cold was no excuse and to get her ass out of bed, dressed and out the door for an impromptu outdoor workout. I thought about just how nice it would be to go back to bed after dropping my daughter off at school. Jillian Michaels, I am not.
Mother Nature (that bitch) had other plans. She knows I can’t resist those beautiful clear crisp fall mornings. Temps were right around 50, sun was out. Perfect weather for a run… after a quick workout at the gym. There might have been a little swearing to myself as I packed up my gym bag. As I warmed up on the bike, so did my attitude. I’d done legs and glutes the day before, so it was going to be a back day, with a little chest thrown in for fun. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I’d been trying to master the pull up all summer, so I hopped right into my trusty back and shoulder routine. 4 times through this series. Boom, boom, boom on the exercises, with a chance to rest after completing each round. Lat pull-downs, bent over rows with the bar, one arm rows, and finish it off with rear delt raises. 6 reps each exercise (going for strength, so low rep high weight) with as much weight as I can handle. Break down looked a little something like this:
- Lat pull down – Round 1 @ 100 lbs, rounds 2-4 @ 90 lbs (so weak today)
- Bent over row – Rounds 1-4 @ 75 lbs
- 1 arm row – Rounds 1-4 @ 45 lbs
- Rear delt raise – Rounds 1-4 @ 25 lbs (d0n’t laugh)
Threw in some chest press with dumbbells and ab work to round out the workout before heading home to get and stretch the legs on a little run. Timed it perfectly so that I got in about 4.5 miles before having to pick up my daughter from school. I was jogging up to the building right as she was walking out the door. While I may have let me client off easy, part of me wants to think that Jillian would have been proud of me for getting my butt up out of bed and using my down time to rock out a killer back workout and a few decent miles.
Mark this day down on your calendars folks as a day that will live in infamy. It only took 30 years, but I did my first unassisted pull up today at the gym!!! 2 in fact!!! The pull up has been my sworn nemesis for years (along with the rope climb). Back in elementary and middle school I remember dreading pull up day when we did the Presidential Fitness testing. I was that strange kid that actually looked forward to being tortured on a daily basis for few weeks by my gym teachers. Mostly that was because it came after the dancing unit and anything was better than being subjected to boy cooties. I would do push ups and run shuttles all day just so I didn’t have to worry about getting paired with someone who had eaten a tuna fish sandwich wrapped around a garlic clove for lunch. But pull up day, I would have gladly faked monkey pox just to get out of class. Sadly, I was also worried about ending my chances for a perfect attendance award at the end of the school year, so I sucked it up. And failed miserably. I could do the flexed arm hang for hours, but could not squeeze out one measly pull up. Each year, I earned the highest marks in all the challenges except one. Instead of getting the glory of the Presidential Medal, each year I had to settle for honorable mention. From that day forward, I vowed to make the pull up my bitch.
This summer, I finally started to realize that I could do it. I’m the strongest I’ve been in years. But I kept stalling at 30# on the assisted pull up machine at the gym. I revved up my back and shoulder lifting routine with lots of lat pull downs, bent over rows, single arm rows, and rear delt raises. Instead of settling for lots of reps at an embarrassingly light weight, I started banging out high weight, low rep sets. I instilled the help of some of my friends in the military to rag on me mercilessly until I finally did one. Feeling rather cocky today, ready to show no mercy. With a sports montage set to an 80s jock jam playing in my head, I hopped up on the bar. Slowly lowered myself down, and then back up. To make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I went for one more. Inside, I was jumping up and down like mad. Trying to play it cool, I made my way to my manager’s office where I treated her and a co-worker to my happy dance.