Want a better booty and thighs? Try my favorite lower body builder.

squatfun

Sure, you squat. Or you should be squatting, because squats are crazy effective at defining muscle, making you strong, and will help you sculpt dat ass.  But hold the phone – because there’s one that you probably aren’t doing. But it’s my very favorite of all, and I want you to love it too. 

It’s a variation on a goblet squat. A squat that’s almost anyone can do. But I’m going to show you a “next level” squat that’s basically a souped up goblet squat. 

In case you don’t already know, to perform a goblet squat, you simply hold a dumbbell under your chin and skwat. Easy peasy. Just think about squatting between your legs, let your elbows brush your thighs, and chances are, you’re going to do a pretty bang up job. 

gobletsquat

Maybe you think you’re too strong/jacked/dope to goblet squat.

 Nope nope nope.

Changing up the kind of squat you do helps you build strength and stability in new ways, prevents boredom, and helps you work around injuries. That’s all good stuff. For me in particular, heavy barbell back squatting just didn’t play well with my hip, and at times my shoulders, very well. That’s where I began to use goblet squats way more frequently for lower body work. Not only for high rep fat burning workouts – but for sculpting more muscle too. 

So what’s the problem?

You see, I reached a point in my training where I wanted to use the squat to get stronger through my legs and glutes. Here’s where it sounds like I’m going to cry and complain about a “first world gym problem”.

crybabies

The heavy dumbbell. On the rack. It’s so big. So unwieldy. So annoying to get into position. Bleh.

Yeah yeah, maybe I’m being a big baby about it. But the act of dragging out a big dumbbell was off putting. Yet as some inventor-type person once said, “necessity is the mother of invention”. So it dawned on me that I could get around this issue and squat heavier weight more comfortably.

It’s the zercher squat.

Here’s the part of the article where anyone who’s ever done a zercher squat is going to silently say “Amy, are you high?”

No. I am not. I’m merely highly caffeinated. But I always get this look when I talk about zercher squats:

zercherface

That’s because they can be hellishly uncomfortable. But there’s a work around there too, so stick with me for a minute and I’ll show you.

“Zercher” is named after an old lifter named Ed, but the name now just refers to how you hold the bar. In the crook of your elbow. For the squat, most people set pins on a rack somewhere between waist and chest height, and scoop the bar into that sweet spot.

As you can imagine,  the big issue that people seem to have with this variation is that the thin bar, nestled into this tender spot, becomes terribly painful at higher loads, especially if you’re doing a lot of reps. So that’s why I get the look of dismay.

Photo credit wrestler power. This guy looks like he's feeling the pain.

Photo credit Wrestler Power. This guy looks like he’s feeling the pain.

Before you run for the hills, convinced I’m going to say “Suck it up, buttercup”, remember – I was just whining about being uncomfortable with the dumbbell. Instead, I want to focus on getting stronger without my work feeling needlessly awkward. You need only one thing.

This baby.

squat-sponge

Squat sponges get mocked regularly at gyms. I’ve heard them called “pussy pads”. Cue the snickering. It’s apparently the anti-badass gym accessory. 

And I don’t love them for barbell back squats: I feel more stable and better tension with the bar maintaining close contact with my back. But I wondered what would happen if I used the sponge as I had been doing for months already with hip thrusts. If now, instead of protecting my hips, I could create an elbow cushion. 

Then I gave it a whirl.

Magic, baby, magic. The Zercher squat remained stable and secure – even more so, I wager, than with just the bar. And I could load up more weight than I could with a dumbbell goblet squat.

Check mine out here:

The thing is, the two lifts have quite a bit in common:

  • They both encourage a more upright posture, which can be tricky for some who squat. 
  • Both variations are fairly friendly to the lower back.
  • Both zercher and goblet squats allow you to get down and dirty into a deep squat – good for building your butt.
  • Each lift require your body to maintain a metric ton of tension throughout your core. You don’t even have to try to engage your core. It’s going to happen if you like it or not. 
  • And both are safe to do without a spotter – at worst, you’ll dump the bar in front of you and feel a little embarrassed.

While I wouldn’t recommend the zercher variation to a brand spankin’ new squatter, I see it as a fine variation to use simply because you can load it more heavily, making it possibly appropriate for a “main lift” of the day.  And once the discomfort issue is out of the way, there’s no reason not to try.

Unless you’re like my friend Andy, who retorted “yeah but I could never Instagram that”. Get outta here. You’ll still be a badass even with a snuggly squat sponge. I promise.

So give Zerchers a try if you’ve avoided them. Just like dumbbell goblet squats, they’re a great tool in your leg day tool kit. 

 

Hate to run? You can still hit these high intensity interval workouts.

i dont run

Get more for less. I like that a whole lot. How about you? If that’s the case, try high intensity interval workouts, aka HIIT. They’ll give you a ton of bang for your buck. You’ll not only torch fat, you’ll make your heart and lungs stronger, improve your cardiovascular health, and even help yourself build and retain muscle. So read on with me if you want some workouts that’ll get you all that good stuff.

And why no running?

Because you don’t need it. If you like to run, rock on with that. But I don’t very often these days. Not because I hate it. I actually miss the zen-like vibe I got while doing long runs. But I hate how my hip feels every time I get sucked back into trying.

Yet even if you aren’t able to pound the pavement or jogging just isn’t your jam, you’re in luck: because there are about eleventy billion ways to get HIIT into your life, so choose what lets you work hard and have fun. But I’ve got some workouts to get you started.

What to know first.
HIIT is nothing complicated – you’ll just alternate periods of insanely hard work and easier work, or sometimes even complete rest. Take those easy intervals seriously– they refuel your energy stores so you can pour every bit of energy you have in you into your work. And then reap those delicious perks of HIIT conditioning.

So let’s do dis.
3-2-1
superman321

3-2-1 intervals work well on just about any piece of machinery. And the idea is easy to remember. I love that on days when I workout at 5 am and am still too sleepy to come up with a crazy, creative workout.

It just looks like this: do 30 seconds of “easy” work, 20 seconds of “moderately hard” work, and then 10 seconds of all out effort. You’ll do 5 rounds. Then rest a few minutes, and repeat. That’s it.

Try this on a bike, stair master, or rower. Just use resistance, speed, or a combination of both to get the job done.

Row Your Boat

ergpic

photo credit: Richard Greenspan

 

Have an ergometer? Then try this workout. Of course you could use the same idea for miles on a bike or treadmill, but chasing meters on the erg is fast, fun, and a full body blast. Try this descending ladder set:

tableforrow

Repeat once more if you’re up for it, or use it as a fast finisher after a strength workout.

Ride Like an Egyptian
Back in the day, I banked a ton of miles on my bike. When doing interval work, it helped my mental focus to play around with my intervals, especially during the winter when I was stuck on a trainer or spin bike. This set uses equal amounts of work and rest. If you’re a cyclist needing more saddle time, you can also sandwich this with some easy warm up and cool down miles.

This ride is a pyramid set: meaning you’ll work up in your timed intervals and then back down.

pyramid

The Hills Are Alive
funnysom

Use a treadmill to crank up your heart rate without jogging. Just do a steep mountain hike and take advantage of the incline setting. Here’s a leg killer to take to the gym. Feel free to change speeds or incline levels. They’re just a starting place. The steep climbs will be your high intensity segments – so choose an incline that makes your heart rate skyrocket. And then crank it down for an easy walk as you catch your breath.  

hillsalive

Mighty Metcons

photo credit: Tom Britt

photo credit: Tom Britt

Metabolic conditioning workouts use full body, “big” movements that crank up your heart rate quickly and use large muscle groups to build your work capacity, torch fat, and groove the same patterns you’ll use in your strength workouts. What’s not to love? They don’t always use timed intervals, but they can. Here are two to try. One uses active recovery moves peppered with high intensity metabolic moves. The other uses timed intervals.

Black Widow
Try this badass set. It uses only 2 exercises and takes only 10 minutes.

Instructions:  set an interval timer for 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest. Cycle between the following moves 4 times. Rest 2 minutes, then repeat once more.

The circuit:

Goblet squat to reverse lunge (alternate legs for time)
Spider pushups (alternating legs)

Bonus – Baller
Have a med ball? You’re set. Don’t go too heavy in your weight. You want to be explosive during your work.

Instructions: each med ball move requires focused, intense work. Complete your reps as quickly as you can. Your “recovery” isn’t total rest – it just lets your heart rate come back down so you’ll be ready to work hard again.

Complete 2-4 rounds, taking rest only when absolutely necessary and preferably at the bottom of a round. Rest 2 minutes between each round.

The circuit:
Med ball pushups x 12 (6 per side)
20 med ball glute bridges
Med ball rotational slams x 12/side
20 med ball glute bridges
Med ball squat thrusters x 12
20 med ball glute bridges
Med ball SHELCs x 12

There you have it. 5+ ways to fuel your fitness, fat loss, and fun at the gym. Have your own favorite HIIT workout? Head over to my Facebook community page and share that up, yo. We’d love to hear about it!

You don’t need a detox. But I know why you want one, so do this instead.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

I didn’t set out to write about pooping today. But apparently the time has come to do just that. So I’ll talk a little about pooping – and other things that make our bodies feel good. 

Why am I talking about poop, aside from the word being fun to say? Because yesterday as I chatted with a friend about the growing popularity of detox drinks, diets, and pills, two thoughts popped into my mind.

Marketers are selling you a whole bunch of “detox” products that you don’t need. That’s a shady ploy, as my coach just recently pointed out in an excellent video. You’re being told on a daily basis that your body is full of toxins. And that if you just follow their plan, take their pill, or drink their shake, you’ll get rid of them. And then feel like a million bucks.

You don’t need this stuff. Your liver is fully capable of getting rid of toxic substances in your body.  And sometimes these products may make your health even worse.

What’s more important: there’s a reason that marketers are selling detoxes, cleanses, and other nonsense. They make you believe that you need something special. They know that the idea appeals to us. They’re just giving us what we want.But what do we want? And why?

When clients, friends, and family come to me asking about detoxes,  what they’re really sharing is something deeper. Here are the big issues. And along with that, my thoughts on how to tackle them. Without an overpriced product.

siplay

“I just came back from vacation, so I’m detoxing.”
My client Becky told me this last month. She is an excellent example of someone who exercises reasonably and regularly. And she normally eats well. After a long weekend of being whisked around to restaurant dinners, she came home feeling bloated and yuck. I asked her what her detox entailed.

“Oh, I’m eating some salads.”

That put a big smile on my face. She wasn’t doing anything bonkers.

When we get out of our routine and eat more calories, junkier food, and maybe throw back a lot more adult beverages than on average, you know what feels really, really good?

Eating a damn salad.

It feels good physically, because we get more nutrients and water. It also feels good psychologically: probably because in our heads, it’s a clear line in the sand that we’re getting back to normal. And this is a perfectly good thing.

So sometimes what we think of as a detox isn’t actually silly. It’s just a word that people use to say “stop behaving like I’m still on that beach vacation where the waiter brought me food and drink every time I gave him a sideways glance.”

bloats

“I feel bloated and gross.”
A party weekend may do this. Drinking dairy does this to me, because I’m lactose intolerant. There are a lot of reasons that we may feel bloated.

Overdo the food and drink? You most likely don’t need to do anything other than let your body get back to normal after a few days.

Certain foods may lead to extra gassiness, even if you don’t have a food intolerance. We all know about beans, but veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other foods that contain particular starches and sugars can make your stomach feel bloated.  If bloating is a regular issue, see a doctor. There are all sorts of conditions that cause chronic symptoms. 

Fizzy drinks may temporarily make you feel full and uncomfortable. That’s an easy one to replace with water or another drink like hot tea on a day when you feel blah.

And after a day of eating foods high in sodium, you may retain water that makes you look and feel puffier than normal. If you don’t normally eat a ton of processed food, most likely your daily sodium intake is just fine. But by eating mostly whole foods for a few days may help you feel less like an inflated balloon. 

Finally, some experts recommend chewing more slowly so that you don’t draw so much air into your body as you eat. Eating more slowly is a good practice for developing mindfulness around hunger. So hey, why not give that a go too? 

yay!

Yay!

“I just want to poop, okay?”
Sweet. We’re in the pooping portion of the program today.  So you know that most likely, you’ll never need a colonic cleanse to poop better. Thank God, because that sounds terrifying.

First of all, if you get plenty of water and fiber in your diet on a daily basis, things should be moving along well.

If you’re not currently eating plenty of fruits, veggies, and other sources of fiber like whole grains, but you want to begin, don’t do it by diving in hard with a detox diet you saw on Pinterest. Ease into eating more fiber. That’s because fiber just helps forms better stool. And if you suddenly go from eating no fiber to eating tons of fiber, you may feel worse. So gradually increase your intake.

Instead, begin by increasing your water intake. Fiber absorbs water, so drinking extra will help the process move along more smoothly. Avoid harsh laxatives and if you’re really backed up, try a gentler stool softener. My doctor recommends Miralax, but ask your own M.D. here.

If despite eating plenty of healthy fiber from fruits and veggies you find that you’re still having wonky issues with your digestion, see a doc. Soluble and insoluble fiber both play a role in helping food get broken down and pass through our bodies. Foods with soluble fiber attract water and firm up stool, while foods with insoluble fiber can make it easier to relieve constipation. People who have gastrointestional issues such as IBS may be particularly sensitive to what kinds of fiber they ingest. So get that checked out if you suspect you have an issue. 

Finally – try the squatty potty. Aside from having an adorable name, those stools help your stool. See what I just did there? Hahaha. Okay. Moving on.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

“I need a detox to lose this belly fat.”
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. No. You don’t need that. But sometimes going out and buying the special foods and drinks sends a message that we’re doing something. That we’re kick starting a change. Unfortunately, after the excitement wears off, people are left with some crappy drink and a burning desire to inhale an entire pizza. Screw that diet.

It’s fine to gain momentum with a more aggressive fat loss plan, but it should be one that is safe, not absolute misery, and can transition into a more moderate nutrition approach.  

I’m not opposed to a “rapid fat loss” diet. When you give yourself more structure and see big results initially, it may help you believe that you are capable of change.

But when I use these with my online coaching clients, I carefully monitor them to take note of how their bodies are functioning as they lose fat. Don’t go in blind when it comes to nutrition – partner with someone who will help you create a safe, sane plan. And remember, the more radical the approach, the more likely it will fail you. Especially if there’s nothing about it that you can take with you for long term healthy eating. 
So the bottom line – you don’t need anything special. But it’s completely normal to want to reset, recharge, and make your insides feel better.  Make sleep a priority for a few days. Drink water, put veggies (but not all the veggies) into your body, and go get a workout. You’ll be glowier than the chicks hawking detoxes on the Internet and keep more money in your bank account.