Category Archives: Fitness

Leaner, stronger, faster – stop majoring in the minors to start making big progress.

photo credit: Central Bike Thai

photo credit: Central Bike Thai

Do you ever major in the minors? Spending too much energy on small details while neglecting the “big rocks” may not only waste your time and energy – it can prevent you from reaching your goals effectively. I also must admit that I’ve done this more times than I’d care to remember. I suppose it’s partly because I’m someone who wants to go all in once I commit to a new goal. I’ve often read every detail, absorbed way too much information, and basically got in my own way.

I did exactly that last year, when I decided to sign up for my powerlifting meet. By nature, I’m not a dabbler: once I decide I’m in, I’m all in, baby. I took mental notes at my powerlifting-focused gym, where veteran, record-winning lifters worked out. I read every damn article I could find on the intarwebz. I hired Jordan Syatt, a top notch powerlifting coach.

He gave me my program, and I followed it. I improved my strength and technique. But still, I spent an inordinate amount of time on things like researching the pros and cons of grip widths, knee sleeves, water cutting strategies for meets, and training schemes. I was, of course, excited about my sexy new sport. But when I asked Jordan if I needed squat shoes for my upcoming meet, he just said this:

“Stop worrying about that stuff and just get strong.”

ermagerd, sherz

He was right. That sucked a little, because I love any form of new footwear. There is a time to consider squat shoes, if we need them. If you dedicate yourself to a new sport or really any health pursuit for long enough, you may reach a point where delving in deeper and refining your approach will benefit you. But like I did, you may be spinning your wheels fixated on minor nuances of your training or nutrition that will make almost no difference in your outcomes if you haven’t first built a firm foundation.

I can recall some instances where friends and clients have got caught in a similar trap with training and nutrition:

  • Buying a $5000 bicycle and aerodynamic wheels that set back their retirement savings yet haven’t dedicated themselves to a consistent, well planned training program for gaining speed. I’d like to thank these guys, however, because I like to make a game out of passing dudes on fancy bikes with aerobars while riding my old steel Bianchi with big, non-aero accessories hanging from it. Am I immature? Probably.
  • Obsessing over losing a few percentage points of body fat to become faster in endurance sports yet haven’t spent any time building muscle to help power their bodies.
  • Worrying about complicated periodization schemes when you learned how to deadlift last month.
  • Investing heavily in a new superfood juice, vitamin supplement, or special powder harvested with the same technique used by ancient Mayans yet haven’t nailed down the basics of eating mostly whole foods in your day.
  • Toying with advanced nutrition strategies like intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, and rapid fat loss protocols when you haven’t yet figured out how to consistently eat in a way to create a calorie deficit.
  • Researching the ins and outs of nutrient timing but you’re currently not on top of your calories, macronutrient targets, or eating nourishing foods on a regular basis.

These are just a few examples of times when we over complicate things and fixate on the trees instead of the forest. Sometimes it’s because we are excited and want to belong to the tribe. Plus, squat shoes look kind of bad-ass. We read headlines that tout the benefits of a new supplement or training strategy.

But most of the time, getting faster, stronger, and leaner is a lot simpler than we think. What we typically need more of at first is patience, time, consistency, planning, as well as willingness to dig in and do some hard work.

bigrock

So here’s to keeping things simple. Peek at these lists of the major players before you plunge into the fine details.

If you’re a strength athlete:

  • Have you followed a well-constructed training plan for a solid block of time? I’m not talking weeks – I’m talking months of consistent hard work with a plan to see the fruits of your labor.

If you’re an endurance athlete: 

  • Do you include a progressive strength and power training scheme in your yearly sport planning?
  • Are you eating nutrient dense foods for overall performance and health?
  • Do you appropriately fuel your workouts and understand the roles of protein, carbs, and fats in health and your sport?
  • Do you include workouts for endurance, tempo, and power?
  • Have you spent time building your base, and do you know how and when to plan these workouts in the scope of a training year? If not, the aerobars will not help you enough. Hire a performance coach or get mentoring from more experienced athletes in your sport.  

If you’re losing fat:

  • Have you tracked your calories if you notice that you can’t lose weight?
  • Do you weigh your food to see exactly what you’re taking in?
  • How well honed is your understanding of appropriate portions for your body’s needs, and what kinds of foods will keep you full, fueled, and in a calorie deficit?
  • Do you know how to incorporate more whole foods into your diet?
  • Are you getting adequate protein into your days?

If you want to begin lead a generally healthier life: 

  • Are you exercising regularly most days of the week?
  • Do you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains? If so, high five. If not, start working on these habits instead of worrying about minor supplementation or optimal workout designs.

There is a place for using high-level tactics in your training and nutrition. If you’ve put in the time in your sport and want to squeeze out even more improvement, small tweaks to your training, nutrition, and gear can absolutely help you. If you’re already very lean and want to achieve advanced aesthetic goals, you probably need to investigate some advanced strategies for accomplishing your goals.

Just make sure you haven’t skipped over the steps that make the biggest difference for improving your efforts. Work hard, be smart, and keep things as simple as possible.

10 Ways to Find Time for Fitness

timeFinding it hard to squeeze in time for working out? You’re not alone. Lack of time is the biggest barrier to working out that I hear. Everyone is busy. But I have a few solutions for you if you’re game for reading on for just a couple of minutes: a few are tricks. A few are “hacks”. And a few require a bit of a shift in thinking.

Sometimes we legitimately don’t have the time for getting in our workouts. But often, the underlying reasons are more about issues like motivation, excitement, and confidence. What are your real barriers? Start cracking them and you may find that more time appears. Here are a few tips that help you break through your own fitness obstacles.

hitsnooze1. Find the time of day that fits you best. If you commit to early morning sessions and find that you constantly skip your workout, it may be worth considering a new time of day for your sweat session. When I tried to join the “5 a.m. crew” I ended up being less consistent with my workouts. I eventually realized that I do better later in the day, but also have the option to choose a later time.

The early bird really does catch the worm: if you’re a person who thrives on early morning exercise, chances are that you’re less likely to skip workouts. That’s because you get your workout in before anything else unexpected can happen in the day to throw you off schedule. However, if you’re just not a morning person, trying to force this will sometimes backfire.

Tip for trying an early workout: if you’re unsure if the early bird workout is for you, give it 2 weeks to commit to forcing yourself out of bed every day. Getting to bed early the night before helps too. Many clients who now love an early session report that it takes a few weeks of resetting their internal clocks in order to feel ready to spring out of bed to hit the gym.
appointments2. Make it an appointment. Then keep it. Write your workouts on your calendar. Yes, really. Workouts are a firm part of my routine now, but if I don’t have the specific time and dates on my calendar I’m more likely to keep shoving my workout later and later until I either end up skipping it or find myself alone in the weight room at 9:30 pm. Both options are less than ideal.

3. Be flexible. There will be days when the “shit hits the fan”. You get called into work early. A snowstorm hits. You get stuck at work far later than you anticipated.

My kid barfed in my bed at 4 a.m. Monday morning. Yeah, that was awesome. I couldn’t get to the gym, so I had to work out at home. I didn’t get heavy leg work done that day, but I pushed that workout until the next morning and instead did a home-based conditioning workout.
That way, I still squeezed in exercise and felt better. If you commit to moving in some way every day, you may find yourself moving more than if you had a rigid expectations of 4 perfectly-scheduled days of sessions.

A few quick, “do anywhere” workouts are handy to have in your back pocket for days like these. 5-10 minutes can be squeezed into anyone’s day.

4. Value yourself. I have a client who discovered that she regularly missed her workouts because she didn’t see her health as being just as important as the kids, the housework, or the job. She said that it was important to her, but her actions spoke otherwise. Sometimes it takes a shift in mindset to place more importance on ourselves.

5. Be realistic about how much time you have. Ask yourself how much time you actually have before you decide what kind of workout program you do. Serious strength and fat loss progress can be made on a minimalistic routine (like those workouts in my new Strength Challenge for Women. Read on for more info on that). You can train for a 5k without a huge time commitment. But a marathon or a bodybuilding show? That may be a big undertaking.

Moreover, I’ve found that when people set an unrealistic goal for the time spent working out and then fail to meet it, they’re less likely to stick with their activity than people who start with smaller goals and are able to meet them.
6. If you have young kids, make your workout routine family friendly. For many of us, the advice that we have “plenty of time” for TV and Facebook is smug and not very helpful. Yes, we all waste time on stuff. But there are hours in the day where we may have time but are otherwise chained to the house – moms and dads of young kids in particular. The YMCA saved me here with free childcare. Home based workouts are also life savers if you’re routinely stuck at home without much gym availability.

henry handstand
7. But consider letting your kids in on your routine. On days with decent weather, my cardio is often nothing more than playing with my kids in the yard. And that’s okay.  I even made a workout around it last summer. This month, my 10 year old and I have been doing lunges, pushups, and squats every night before he goes to bed. He asked me to do this and it’s become a sort of sweet, if odd, bonding ritual.
8. Take a hard look at your current commitments. Do you say yes to things because it’s hard to say no? Being able to find “balance” is sort of a b.s. idea. Something always has to give. The perfectly clean house. The time you said you’d chair a committee yet now feel overwhelmed by its time involvement. It’s tough to say no. But by saying no to more things, you can say yes to what matters most.
9. Divvy it up – if you’re in the weeds with commitments, you might not be able to instantly disentangle yourself. But finding 2 minutes here and there to do things like dance while doing dishes, squats while holding a baby, or walking from the back of the parking lot to the grocery store adds up to you feeling the physical effects of more movement. This not only helps your health, it motivates you to find even more minutes – even if you need to split them up.

Businesswoman with suitcase in airport
10. Choose activities that fit the available lifestyle you currently lead. Do you travel all the time? If a hotel gym and a treadmill are your most commonly available tools, then spending some time designing a program that fits with these will set you up for more success than trying to constantly retool a program that doesn’t mesh well with your life demands.

There’s no way around some sacrifices having to be made, and a consistent routine requires finding your own drive for wanting to engage in activity regularly. Find things you don’t dread, make your own health a priority, be creative with scheduling, and you’ll have a leg up on making fitness a regular part of your life.

Want to try that challenge I was talking about earlier plus get more tips, workouts and nutrition advice delivered to your inbox? Sign up here and I’ll send you everything you need to get started. It’s FREE!

Help Prevent Shoulder Injuries With This Simple Move

prettyshoulder

There are exercises we do because they make us stronger overall or because they help us move better. We might choose one because we want to build particular muscles for aesthetic reasons. Those are all perfectly legit.

But there are a few movements I include in my clients’ training and my own because they not only help us get stronger – they help our bodies keep from breaking down.

The older I get, the crankier my body seems to become if I don’t give it some TLC on a regular basis. I’ve had shoulder injuries before and they feel terrible. The best advice I can give you is to prevent one from happening in the first place.

Here’s an exercise I keep in my arsenal for shoulder health as well as upper back development: the face pull.

The face pull is a funny name for an excellent movement that helps keep your shoulders functioning well and less likely to become injured. The shoulder joint is something rather miraculous. It’s a ball-and-socket joint and allows us to move in all sorts of directions.
scoi-shoulder
 
However, with all of that movement we can run into trouble if we don’t work on strengthening the muscles that stabilize the joint. And if you’re a gym rat like I am, it also helps balance out all that pressing work we do each week.  
 
The big players in shoulder health are you scapulae – your shoulder blades. They attach at your shoulders and in your rib cage, and you might say they’re kind of a big deal. Many muscles move those big plates on your back, including your rotator cuff muscles, your traps, serratus anterior, and rhomboids. 
 
What you need to know is that it’s not so much just that you’re making those muscles strong to stabilize your shoulder joint: your shoulder blades need to be able to move appropriately in many directions. 
 
Some people talk about just doing more pulling exercises like rows to balance out pressing work. But first of all, I’ve found that my lats tend to do much of the work when I do rows and smaller, stabilizing muscles like my traps, rhomboids, and serratus anterior don’t have to work as hard as they should in order to keep my shoulder blades moving well. 
Additionally, many pulling exercises still call on our scapulae to rotate downward, just like those pushing movements do.  That’s why it’s important to also find exercises that encourage upward rotation as well. 
 
So we do things like the face pull. Want to learn how to do it? Read on.
 

You can do face pulls seated or standing. Seated might be even better, and I’ve seen my own coach, Jordan Syatt, do them this way. But everyone in my gym stole the benches so I had to stand. Jerks

You’ll need a cable machine with a rope attachment for these. Here’s what they look like:​

 

The Beginning of the Pull:

facepull 1

The End of the Pull 
facepull2

Top Tips:

1. Grab the rope with your thumbs up and avoid twisting you arms inward. Your palms will be facing each other. This feels comfier to me and it allows for a greater range of motion. 

2. Set your starting point of the cable at around the height of your head. 

3. Aim to keep your elbows at around shoulder height as you pull back. 

4. I think about letting my shoulder blades pull back here to make the movement happen – not my head moving forward. Watch for the rep in the video where I catch myself doing it. Ooops

 
5. To get this movement to happen more naturally, imagine that you’re pulling the rope apart. 
 
6. Allow yourself time to feel the “squeeze” as you pull back before controlling the movement back to your starting position. 
 
7. While you do this exercise, imagine that you’re keeping your shoulders away from your ears so that you don’t get into a “shruggy” position. 
 

How Much and When to Do Them

This isn’t a “1 rep max” kind of exercise. It makes a good drill or a nice exercise to finish out a workout using relatively light weight for higher reps. 

Try 3 sets of 15-20 reps for stronger back and shoulder muscles that keep your shoulders happy and healthy. 

 
If you’d like to see this move in action, here’s a video demo. Enjoy! 

If you liked this article, I post tons of extra tutorials, articles, and other good bits of info in my  insider newsletter.  Sign up below and I’ll send you my free e-book, Fat Loss on a Budget

What People Really Mean When They Want To Detox

detoxing

It’s almost New Year’s Day, and in the fitness business, marketing is everywhere, catering to the desire for a fresh start (hey, you can’t blame us, you’re looking for us right now and we’d be silly to ignore you.)

And on that note, I’ve been seeing two things for the last few days in my feed:

1. Totally bullshit offers for products that will cleanse/detox your body to shed fat/pounds/toxins/bad juju.

2. Fit pros screaming about how we don’t need detoxes because we have a liver and kidneys for that.

On this matter, the fit pros are correct, by the way. Detoxes are bogus. In fact, I have growled about this a number of times, including in this article.

But I was thinking about how often that I have been guilty of what I call the “hand slapping” mode of communication with friends, family, and readers who don’t spend all day knee deep in fitness literature.

To be fair, I think fitness professionals do this because we get so tired of debunking myths that can actually be harmful to those whom we care about.

But I am beginning to think that we are going about it all wrong.

We talk all the time about meeting clients where they’re at in terms of workouts or habit formation. But what about common terms and ideas that are often misunderstood?

Take these examples. I have been guilty of using the “hand slap” rebuttal for all of them at some point, so don’t think I’m all high and mighty here:

Client: I just want to tone up.
Fit Pro: OMG toning isn’t even a thing. You want muscle and less body fat, stop saying toned, for the love of Christ.

Client: I don’t want to get bulky.
Fit Pro: OMG lifting won’t make you bulky, too many cupcakes make you bulky. Do you even science?

Client: I feel fat.
Fit Pro: We can’t talk about being fat. Stop shaming yourself right now.

Client: I need to quit sugar.
Fit Pro: Why? Let me quote all of this stuff debunking sugar being toxic and tell you how stupid this is.  (The over simplification of sugar’s impact on the body drives me especially nuts, I can’t lie. But still. I need to keep it together a bit better.)

As fit pros, we’re often technically correct. We have valuable experience and wisdom to impart. But when we respond with smack downs to debunk misunderstanding, we first of all come off like assholes; we also fail to even attempt to comprehend  the place from which people are coming.

For all of these ideas, perhaps we have to actually meet people where they are at in terms of their current framework for understanding. Then we can peek at what they’re really trying to say.

Yes, detox products are worthless, unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous. People who sell them are usually either misguided or shady. I’m looking at you, Dr. Oz.

We can communicate this. But in a kinder, more productive way. And instead of just blasting that message off hand, maybe it would be more useful to try to figure out why this concept is so popular in the first place.

I don’t know for sure, of course. This is just wild speculation. But all the New Year’s chatter made me wonder if perhaps the overarching theme of renewal correlates to the ever popular idea of detoxing.

cookiecat

When we’ve been eating like an alcoholic on a bender over the holidays, sometimes it feels good to rein it in and feel a modicum of control. Is a radical diet a wise answer? No, no it is not. But I get that urge to want to stuff some spinach in my mouth after days of eating lots of sweets. I actually crave it. Have you ever experienced that?

The idea of a detox appeals to many, I wager, because it plays into a powerful desire to renew our relationship with our nutrition and our health.

I think the more interesting question would be to ask people why their relationship with food is an all or nothing proposition: are we completely on the wagon or off it? Is that something that we could avoid in the future?

Do we maintain a relationship with food and exercise that causes us to not be able to sustain what we’re doing, thus bingeing and then feeling like we have to take drastic measures?

Or maybe we just ate all the cookies on Christmas and want to feel like we have a fresh start.

Instead of a lecture, let’s start with a few questions first. I think in the end, that will get everyone down a positive path.

So no. I promise you don’t need a product to detox your body. You do indeed possess organs in your body that do that. But if by “detox” you mean commit to putting more things into your body that sustain good health and taking actions that help you feel like you’re gaining some momentum, then go for it. Let’s just look a little deeper for ideas that could help you gain some ground – ideas that are safe, effective, yet don’t come in an overpriced bottle.

Here are a few ideas for a fresh start that my online coaching clients have enjoyed:

  • Eat a new vegetable every day for a week to feel more excitement and curiosity and see how it impacts your overall well being each day.
  • Try a consistency challenge, committing to just one small new behavior for a period of time.
  • Drink more water every day for a week.
  • Move every day for 20 minutes.

Peeking behind the curtain of bullshit  reveals pretty outstanding insights into what people are actually seeking. If we listen, we’ll learn.

Happy New Year!

Amy

P.S. Did you dig my article? If so, make sure you sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get my free e-book, Fat Loss on a Budget, delivered to your inbox right away. 

Is Cardio Good or Bad For You?

sweatybettyIf you follow fitness media, you’ll see that when it comes to recommendations for exercise and nutrition, there rarely seems to be middle ground. This is particularly true with mainstream popular media: after all, bold, urgent-sounding declarations often get us to click the link, open the magazine, or stay tuned after the commercial break.

I mean, what would you be more inclined to click?

Running on the treadmill is making you fat!

OR

In this 2008 study, researchers found that with 10 untrained collegiate women, strength training alone vs. cardiovascular exercise alone induced a statistically significant percentage of body fat dropped over a 6 week period. However, another study, published in 2009, found that in fact, outcomes were similar in the two groups given an additional intervention of…

By the way I just made that last one up. But you probably barely made it through reading it. Maybe you even glanced away from the screen or opened up Instagram to look at some cats. I don’t blame you.

instagramcat

Simple, direct answers appeal to us. But if you can come away with anything today, please understand that in fitness, a truthful explanation is very often “it depends”.

To make matters worse, fitness professionals often cling to the latest piece of research that emerges. They fail to fully evaluate studies or weigh new research within the greater scope of existing evidence. This is partly because reading all of that research is a huge pain in the ass. What unfortunately results is a pendulum that swings wildly from one extreme to the next.

Cardio is a perfect example:

Cardio burns the most fat!
Cardio makes you fat!

I know, that’s aggravating. But it’s what happens. Fear not, however, because I can untangle some of the mystique around cardio and give you advice. So buckle up and read on. I’ll try to make this almost as pleasurable as a Ryan Gosling meme. Hey girl, hey.

ryangosling

What Cardio Is
Cardio, i.e. cardiovascular exercise, is simply exercise that is rhythmic in nature, is continually maintained (instead of short, intense work/rest intervals),  works large groups of muscles, and elevates your heart rate to a degree that it improves increased use of oxygen in order to improve the body’s capacity of the cardiovascular system.

Clear as mud?

Your body uses different energy pathways to get stuff done. Certain kinds of exercise utilize particular pathways. Cardio uses the aerobic energy pathway.

That’s not very freaking useful either, is it? Instead, let’s talk about what’s important:

What cardio does:
it makes your heart work better, strengthens your bones (if you choose weight bearing exercises like walking), and burns calories. There are other benefits too, but that’s the basic gist.

Stuff that we do that is typically “cardio”: activities like running, walking, swimming, or dance cleaning for starters. (Don’t mock me, it’s my favorite cardio option).

Workout

What Often Gets Played Out
Two opposite types often show up at the gym:

The cardio bunny:
this term is kind of sexist. Ok, it’s really sexist, because I see plenty of dudes toiling away on the elliptical for hours too. But these people believe that they must do tons of cardio to unlock their next achievement. They also often equate a good workout only with total calories burned: sounds like a drag to me. But the term is also used by smug gym rats who post too much on Instagram. So that alone makes me want to go for a jog sometimes.

The powerlifter: I had an old school powerlifting vet come up to me once and caution me to not do any cardio. He warned that I might lose my muscle. Yeah, not so much. It takes a lot of time spent doing cardio to negatively impact muscle growth and strength performance. There is some truth to this idea, but my few walks I do each week are only helping my overall performance, not harming it.

As evidence emerges, we’ve found that cardio doesn’t actually reign supreme when it comes to fat loss. 1 Can you lose fat doing only cardio? It’s possible. Fat loss happens when you burn more calories than you take in. But unless you’re also controlling your food intake, you’re going to have to do a hell of a lot of cardio to create a significant calorie deficit.

Moving Beyond Cardio
Cardio burns calories. Yet it doesn’t build muscle the way that some other forms of exercise can offer, especially strength training.

But why care about building muscle, you ask? We care because having more muscle makes fat loss easier. I’ll avoid a long, sciencey explanation and boil it down to this: more lean muscle improves your metabolism. Strength training reigns supreme for building muscle. Metabolic conditioning relies on large muscle groups doing intense work as well, offering some strength benefit as well as torching calories by working at intense pace. The loads are typically less than what we use for strength training, total training time is relatively short, and rest intervals are often incorporated so that work can be harder in effort than what we do with aerobic exercise. 2

The fitness bandwagon has also veered heavily toward favoring strength and high intensity exercise for fat loss because of a mechanism called “EPOC”, or exercise post-oxygen consumption. It just refers to calories you burn AFTER you stop exercising. Strength training and metabolic conditioning have a higher rate of EPOC than cardio. However, the benefit has been somewhat overblown. But that doesn’t stop people from screaming that cardio is now useless for fat loss.

Side note: if you’re doing “HIIT” for 45 minutes, you’re actually doing cardio. The intensity of metabolic conditioning or high intensity intervals can’t be sustained for a long time. Also please, for the love of God, stop calling things Tabatas. You’re not doing a Tabata. I promise. 

Michelle Obama Arms and the Fat Loss Plan

michelleobamaarms

Most clients who come to me with a fat loss goal say they want to lose fat but they also mention that want to change how their body looks. I call this the “Michelle Obama Wish”, because I’ve had several clients mention her arms as something they want. I can’t blame them. The First Lady has some sweet looking guns. She is strong!

If we just lose fat by burning calories and reducing calories, we’ll typically look like a smaller version of ourselves. This is neither good nor bad. But if it’s muscular definition you’re after, get thee to a weight room on a regular basis.

Can You Lose Fat With No Cardio?
Yes. But I don’t recommend eliminating it entirely. Read on to learn why. 

So Why Bother With Cardio?
Because it’s good for you, that’s why. Like eating your vegetables. It also helps you move better, be able to get through tasks like climbing a flight of stairs more easily, and it feels awesome. It’s a huge mood booster! It floods us with endorphins that feel pretty fantasic. It also burns extra calories. If you’re trying to lose body fat, you can use it to boost your calorie deficit.

Also note: going hard with intense strength training and metabolic conditioning cannot be a daily thing for most people. You need rest to recover and build muscle. Light to moderate intensity cardio is a wonderful way to get in some extra activity without burning out.
It’s also restorative: when your muscles are sore and tight, go for a walk. You’ll feel better.
TL;DR: Cardio isn’t the end all be all. It’s also not going to get in the way of your progress, whether it’s fat loss or making gainz in the weight room. Just use it appropriately.

My Recommendations
Evaluate your current use of cardio this way:
-Am I using it mostly as a calorie burning tool? If so, am I using it excessively to attempt to overcome a diet with excess calories, or am I using it to give myself a boost?

-Do I actually like my activity? If not, then why am I doing it?
-Does it move me toward a particular goal? If so, why and how?

The amount we do, the number of days we do it, and the mode we choose is variable: we just have to figure out why we’re using it in the first place and the other pieces will fall into place.

Want an approachable yet scientifically sound approach to fat loss? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll give you my free book Fat Loss on a Budget. Look for it in your inbox! 

 

Notes:

  1. Bryner RW, Ullrich IH, Sauers J, Donley D, Hornsby G, Kolar M, Yeater R. Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21.
  2. Talanian, Galloway et al. Two weeks of High-Intensity Aerobic Interval Training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applied Physiology (December 14, 2006).

Want to Learn to A Move That Summons Strength, Torches Calories, and Builds Your Booty? Start Here.

 

yeahshesquats

Yeah, she squats. 

This saying makes me roll my eyes waaaay back in my head. Mostly because the accompanying pictures of greased up, gratuitous booty pics with heaps of hashtags annoy the hell out of me. #toomanybelfies. (A belfie is a selfie of your butt. My mom reads this blog, and I know she’ll ask. You’re welcome, mom.) 

Don’t get me wrong, hearing about women wanting to strength train gets me excited, and occasionally a little teary eyed. And I can appreciate some junk in the trunk, know what I’m sayin’? In fact, after losing quite a bit of body fat I’ve noticed that I have also lost some mass in the a… well, you know where I’m going. Squats will continue to be part of my plan for getting some more booty muscle to power up my lifting program (and look great in jeans, natch). 

Yeah, squats will help you build “dat ass”, along with an arsenal of other exercises. But more importantly, I want to talk to you about the other reasons that I have nearly all of my clients squat and why you may want to incorporate them too.

Then I’ll show you how you to squat. Let’s do this:

improving my squat

improving my squat

Why We Squat
Here is what happens when you squat: your entire lower half of your body comes to the party. Your hips, butt, and legs all work like crazy. Your core has to get fired up in order to provide you with the stability you need in order to perform the movement. Even your back and shoulders will be engaged and helping you out.

Squatting is what we call a “compound movement”, which just means that many things are working together at once. And the bonus of doing a movement like the squat is that you’ll not only be building some serious muscle, you’ll also crank up your heart rate and get your body burning some serious fat.

Working all those muscles can help you run faster, feel stronger, and move better for everything you do each day. Squatting is a fundamental movement pattern that we use all the time. 

Also, squatting builds that badonkadonk that we were discussing earlier. Strong butts aren’t just nice to look at – they are responsible for keeping you moving well for life


Making squats feel better:

Some clients come to me convinced that they won’t be able to get into a deep squat. Sure, there are some people with pre-existing injuries that may need to alter their movement a bit. And unless you’re competing in a powerlifting meet, you don’t have to worry about your depth hitting below parallel (that’s where your hip crease falls just below your knee at the bottom of the squat).

But most of us can get low.

You know, to the window, to the wall…
 
We just have to fine tune the movement and make it work for us! Everyone’s hip anatomy is unique. We can play with our foot angles and the distance between our legs. We can make adjustments to how we hold the bar on our back. Before we even get there, we can just practice doing a bodyweight squat. 

Squat 101: 5 Tips for Learning to Squat 

  1. Use the rope trick. Imagine that there’s a rope around your waist pulling you back as you sit down.
  2. Your chest stays up:  I should be able to read your t-shirt if it said something on it.
  3. Look down at your feet for a moment – you’ll likely want to have your toes turned out a wee bit. Playing around with your foot position and width of your legs can take a bit of time but it’s worth it to try different positions: chances are, you’ll find one particular stance that makes squatting feel easiest.tripod fot
  4. Use a tripod foot: we definitely want to stay off our toes as we squat, but overdoing it by leaning waaaay back on our heels can backfire. Instead, think about three points of contact on your foot: the balls of your feet near your big toe and “pinkie” toe as well as your heel. If all three of those points stay in contact with the ground, you’ll have optimal grounding of your feet.
  5. Your knees should track in line with your toes.  They shouldn’t be caving inward, nor do you want them to push way outside of the path that your knee takes.Additionally, despite what you may have heard in the past, it’s okay if your knees travel in front of your toes a bit.  It’s the excessive movement of knees in front of toes that can be problematic: this typically happens when people are resting too much of their weight in the front of their foot.


That’s pretty much it for basics– it’s in the details where we can make some big progress. But all in all, the squat isn’t terrible to learn. A good first place to start is with a box:

Squatting to a Box
I start nearly all of my clients squatting to a box.  Using a box set to the lowest position that you feel like you can safely and effectively complete the movement will help you feel a little more at ease getting down into a low position.  It also encourages you to sit BACK as you squat.  This improves positioning, recruits the butt and hamstrings more, and makes our knees feel better.

Also, if you completely sit down on the box and come to a stop, you’ll gain another benefit of building your power in the bottom portion of the movement too.

Here’s a pic of me squatting to a box:

boxsquat784DUSK

From there, the sky’s the limit: goblet squats, front squats, back squats, barbell squats… did you know that many variations of the squat actually exist?

Check a few other flavors:

Goblet Squats

Goblet Squats

Dumbbell front squat

Dumbbell front squat

bottomsquat

Barbell back squat

To put it simply, squatting regularly and with tip-top form will do wonders for your own fitness goals, whether it’s to burn fat, get strong, or just move better for life. Want to see these tips in action? Check out my tutorial here:

Fitting Squats into Your Workouts
If you are looking for a beginner to intermediate program to make your squats more powerful, check out the Unapologetically Powerful from talented strength coaches Jennifer Blake and Jen Sinkler. 

UP_bundle_white

Jennifer and Jen are wonderful teachers who put the fun into lifting.  They developed this comprehensive workout program to show you everything you know to get a strong, rocking body that looks and feels powerful. Get the program with in-depth coaching tutorials here. 

Have more questions about the squat? Leave a comment below. I lovvvve talking about this move! 

The Strength Move That Transforms You Inside and Out – Learn to Deadlift Today

deadlift favorite

Gather round for story time today, friends – the book is Deadlifting: The Fairytale. Or something equally dreamy and dazzling.

Are you ready to learn the most fun strength move – one that will also make you feel mighty? If you’re already doing the deadlift, then follow along anyway, because I have some help for you too. But if you have never tried a deadlift, I’m going to help you get ready to run to the gym and have a blast. So let’s go.

I just like to deadlift. Deadlifting is my favorite.

I turn into Buddy the Elf when it’s deadlift day. Why? Because this movement is like nothing else. There’s something about pulling heavy stuff off the floor that makes us feel powerful. It makes us stand tall and strong and somehow begin to feel an inner reserve of fortitude that we didn’t even realize we possessed.

You might say deadlifting is the heavy metal of strength training. And I want you to try it.

If you’ve been following my newsletter this week, you’ll know that I’ve been outlining the “big three” lifts of powerlifting. Not because I’m trying to get you to drink the Kool-Aid and become a powerlifter. Although it is delicious.

In actuality, these three lifts are cornerstones of an effective strength program, whether you want to build muscle, gain athleticism, or work on your body composition. Today is the BEST day because it’s deadlift day.

Pulling sumo deadlift makes you feel majestic. Like a lioness or something.

Pulling a deadlift can make you feel majestic even while making a dorky face. Like a lioness or  the queen of the gym or something else magnificent.

What Deadlifts Will Do For You
Aside from the rock star feeling you get, you’ll get rock solid fitness benefits. Among them:

-A movement that works nearly every muscle in your body.

-Huge metabolic demand with extra fat burning and conditioning.

-Focus on our back side, which usually needs more help anyway. It’s a very functional lift for life.

-It translates to real world demands. Every summer, clients joke with me about using their deadlift technique to safely pick up heavy things in the garden. Ever want to get better at holding onto things? The deadlift will improve your grip.

-It makes you more powerful and explosive. If you’re after athletic benefits for other sports, deadlifts will help you out.

What a Deadlift Is
If you’ve never deadlifted before, don’t be shy. It’s really not all that complicated to learn. It’s a lift that requires you to pick up something heavy. Sometimes we do them off the floor, as in the variations called conventional or sumo style deadlifts, and sometimes starting at the top of the movement out of a rack with moves like the Romanian deadlift. Every variation is based on the basic human movement of hinging your hips.

When I teach beginners to deadlift, I first make sure that they can hinge their hips properly. A hinge is simple in concept – imagine trying to touch your butt to the wall behind you. We do drills to reinforce a good hip hinge:

butt to wall collageYup, we try to touch our butts to the wall. The better we get, the farther away from the wall we go.

PVC Pipe Drill
You can also see if you’re hinging well or not by holding a PVC pipe against your butt, upper back, and head. You want the pipe to maintain contact with those parts at all times during the hinge.
good hinge
A Good Hinge

bad hinge collage
A Not-So-Good Hinge

See the difference in how the back looks and where the hips go?

Once you’ve mastered a basic hinge, you can go on to more exotic things to practice your hinge with some load. I like starting with things like:

-Banded Good Mornings
-Sumo Kettlebell Deadlift
-Romanian Deadlifts
-Hex Bar Deadlifts
-Hip Bridges

Some people do just fine getting behind a bar and starting from the floor if they are hinging well and are eager to get going. We just keep the weights light enough to work on technique.

The Basics of a Conventional Deadlift from the Floor

My friend Jen Sinkler doing a conventional deadlift. Rawr.

My friend Jen Sinkler doing a conventional deadlift. Rawr.

So you want to do a deadlift from the floor? Either in the sumo position (where your feet are in a wide stance and your hands pull from inside your legs, as I do in my picture) or in a conventional stance, where you stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, you will have a barbell loaded with plates.

If you aren’t ready to use 45 lb plates yet, you’ll need to use either light bumper plates or elevate the bar with something like steps to get the bar to the appropriate height – roughly at the middle of your shin or so.

1. Step up to the bar and line it up with about where your shoelaces are tied.

2. Shift your hips BACK as you reach down to grab the bar on either side of your legs. You can start with a double overhand grip. If you plan to powerlift eventually, you might consider learning a mixed grip (one overhand, one underhand) right from the start.

3. Imagine you have oranges in your armpits. Squeeze some juice for me. (Yeah, really!) That gets your lats tight. Show me the logo on your t-shirt so that I know your chest is high enough.

4. Take a deep breath. Brace your abs like someone is going to punch you. Then push your feet into the floor, drive your hips forward as you pull the bar off the ground.

5. Finish the move by squeezing your tuckus at the top, then set the bar back down.

That’s a deadlift. The most fun move in the gym.

Movin’ On Up
If you’re ready to improve your basic deadlift, I would like to point to powerlifting as a prime resource for making your deadlift more… powerful! As your form improves, so will your ability to lift some seriously heavy weight.

As a powerlifter, I make micro adjustments with things like my foot angle, the width of my stance, and the height of my hip. Sometimes I pull with a sumo stance deadlift – that’s where my feet are outside my hands. Other times I pull with a conventional stance, as Jen Sinkler is doing in the picture below.

Deadlift_FB_Preview_1

Remember the “Unapologetically Powerful” e-course I’ve been so excited about all week? Well, one of the reasons that I keep talking about Jennifer Blake and Jen Sinkler’s production of the video series is because Jennifer’s input got me through a tough spot in my own deadlifting. Her advice helped me learn to respond to what my body is telling me as I lift. When my hip started bugging me a few weeks before my first meet, I drew upon her wisdom and ended up changing my variation based on what she taught me. I hit a huge PR when the meet arrived.

Jennifer really knows her stuff, and if you’re aiming to improve your own deadlift, definitely sign up to watch her free video on the deadlift. You will get a video link you can watch as often as you want, as well as an accompanying guide to download.

Here’s what I like most about Jennifer and Jen’s series:
-They help you improve your form, which will make you feel better as you lift and keep you lifting safely.

-You will feel much less fearful of deadlifting, and instead can have fun being a powerful badass.

-You’ll get hella strong if you take their advice – you are going to still have to work really hard, don’t be mistaken. But their tweaks will make a big difference in your results.

So are you ready for deadlift day? Go get ’em!

Leave a comment below and tell me if you’re like me and have a deep, abiding love of the deadlift. Or leave a comment and tell me about what drill or variation you’d like to try!

Want more articles like this plus my free book, Fat Loss on a Budget? Sign up below and I’ll send it to you in a flash.

99% Of Women Skip This Exercise – Are You Missing Out On Its Big Benefits?

the bench press

“So how much do you bench?

If you’re a guy who’s into fitness, this is the entry-level question for the bro club; a dude handshake, if you will. But if you’re a woman, you’ve probably never been asked that: mostly because not very many women do the barbell bench press.

However, the dynamic seems to be shifting as more and more women fall in love with how classic strength training moves make them look and feel: powerful, toned, and badass.

Still, the bench press might not be high on your list of priorities: many female clients come to me wanting to shed belly fat, get a juicier looking butt, or even shape up their arms. Yet not a single one has approached me asking for “a firm chest”. But here’s the thing – getting a stronger chest and shoulders via exercises like the bench press will help you accomplish a few different things that I think you’ll appreciate.

Benefits like these:

    • You will be able to more easily lift heavy objects. That’s pretty useful for life.

 

    • It will help you build a more balanced, strong, lean-looking physique.

 

    • By incorporating chest exercises into your overall training, you’ll ensure that you have a balanced routine that prevents injury.

 

    • You’ll burn a ton of calories – the bench press is more of a full body lift than you’d think. Your back, abs, and legs also activate – and that gives you a lot of “bang for your buck” if fat loss is a goal.

 

    • Better posture. You’ll look great just standin’ around and your body will feel good too.

 

  • You’ll feel powerful. The bench press is way more fun than pushups. It just is. Because science.

Here is what getting a strong chest via the bench press will NOT do:

  • Take away your boobs (losing some boobage usually comes from weight loss, not strength training.) You may notice a bit more cleavage though as you develop muscles.
  • Make you look masculine. Nope, not happening. Women just don’t produce the amount of testosterone that men do, and that minimizes the “bulking” effect. It takes a ridiculous amount of effort to become a very muscle-bound looking woman. So if that’s not your jam, you can rest easy.

So you want to bench now, right?

Well, the bench press is easy… and not easy. Yeah, you read that right. It’s easy in that to actually do the movement as you typically seen it done in the gym, it’s pretty straightforward. Let’s tackle the basics first:

Barbell Bench Press – The Easy Part
BENCH PRESS HOW TO

  1. Get a bar set up on the bench press rack. Once you’re strong enough to handle plates, you will add those too.
  2. Lay down on the bench with your eyes lining up under the bar. Put your feet on the ground, or if you’re a shorty, slide some plates beneath your feet.
  3. Grasp the bar at a comfortable width – this takes some time and experimentation to find a good grip width. If you go too narrow, you’ll turn the move into a triceps exercise. If you go too wide, you might wreck your shoulders and actually make the lift harder than it needs to be.
  4. Unrack the bar. Control it as you aim it down to just below your bra line, letting it barely tap your chest. Then push the bar back up. Your elbows shouldn’t be tucked in, nor should they flare way out as you push back up.

Oh, one more thing – keep your butt on the bench the entire time please. Thank you very much.

And you just did one rep. Not so hard, right? It just takes a little practice.

 

The Not-So-Easy Part
Performing an optimal bench press for the sport of powerlifting takes the movement to a new level. If you never plan to compete you don’t have to get too wound up about mastering the finer points of the bench press. Yet, you might want to consider borrowing some of their “secrets” for your own workouts. Here’s why:

A powerlifting-focused bench press technique takes time and patience to improve. There’s no way around that. But even if you don’t plan to become a powerlifter, I find that many of the strategies that powerlifters use in their bench press will help give you a safer, more stable base to work from. You’ll be able to leverage some more weight this way and you’ll also engage more muscles while you work by borrowing some of those powerlifting tricks.

With powerlifting techniques, you’ll work on skills like driving with your legs, engaging your back muscles, keeping your chest as high as possible, and you will even learn to breathe more effectively.

That’s a lot going on, I know.

Bench_FB_Preview_1

If you read my email newsletter about the squat this week, you’ll remember that Jennifer Blake and Jen Sinkler have a free video e-course happening right now. The series is a helpful resource for getting you better at performing the big lifts of powerlifting. Today, they have a bench video to share with you. There’s no way that I can go into all the finer points of making your bench press rock in one post, but they do it for you in their video, “6 Ways to Healthier Shoulders And a Stronger Bench Press”. You can learn more by getting it here.

FYI – again, you definitely DON’T have to be a powerlifter to get something out of these videos.

Jennifer also shares tips for keeping your shoulders healthy while bench pressing – something I can’t emphasize heavily enough. I wrecked my own shoulder by benching without good advice years ago. I wish I’d had this instruction back then. Thankfully, you can learn and develop good habits right off the bat.

Also you’ll get chances to win prizes- some seriously good stuff to be won just from signing up for the free course. Yay for prizes!

Giveaway_652

If you watch it, leave a comment and let me know your favorite take away from their lesson. I love talking about bench pressing. (As if you couldn’t tell!)

Happy Lifting!

Amy

Have you grabbed your FREE copy of Fat Loss on a Budget? Plug in your info below and I’ll send it to you immediately.

 

 

Do You Need to Feel Sore to Get a Great Workout?

soresuccess

Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken a little bit of pleasure from feeling that burning in your thighs the day after your workout.

It’s okay. I do it too. My buns are feeling a bit spicy at the moment from my lower body strength session yesterday.

And I kinda like it.

It doesn’t mean we’re into some kind of oddball pain kink if we enjoy the residual effects of working our muscles. Those sensations are a palpable reminder that we’re changing something in our bodies. And most of us are in the gym to change: attempting to become faster, stronger, more muscular, or leaner. Whatever. All of those things require moving our bodies.

But what happens if you don’t feel it? Was it just not intense enough?

I’ll share a story with you that will help you understand why I’m talking about this today.

Earlier this year someone added me to a private Facebook group for “fitness motivation”. It was all local people and I quickly discovered that they were all part of another gym program in my town. I have no idea how I got added to the group, but I’m a snoopy curious person, so I lurked.

Over and over again, I read comments that went like this:

“Oh my God I can barely walk today! That workout was amazing.”

“I’m toast! I can’t believe how many rounds we did. I’m going to be so sore tomorrow LOL”. 

“My triceps! YEEEOWCH! Amazing workout yesterday, thank you guys!”

The reaction, invariably, was a congratulatory bonanza of high fives and encouragement.

You may be seeing where I’m going with this – these folks made a connection between two things that sometimes go hand in hand.

However, they are actually NOT inextricably linked: effectiveness and soreness.

As it turns out, while a little soreness might feel mentally or even physically appealing, we need to let it go when evaluating the effectiveness of our workouts.
ouchie

How Muscle Soreness Works
What’s happening to your body when you feel sore the day (or two days) after a workout is something that exercise physiologists refer to as ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (DOMS).

When you exercise, your muscles go through stress, and that often includes teeny tiny tears in your muscles and connective tissues. That’s a normal part of muscular stress, and when you rest, your body repairs those tears and you get stronger and more awesome.

You feel the soreness typically 24-48 hours after your workout, and then it usually subsides.

A few more facts about DOMS may put things into perspective:

 

  • Eccentric (lengthening) contractions tend to cause more DOMS than other kinds of muscular contractions.

 

  • Movements that are new to you will usually cause more soreness. Even if you’ve been working out consistently, if you begin squatting when you weren’t before, you’re going to feel it.

 

  • People who are new to an exercise program will likely feel the most DOMS as they  are just beginning, but that level of soreness will diminish.

 

  • Individuals vary on how sore they get – some people seem to be constantly feeling a lot of DOMS. Others, not so much. This is just anecdotal observation from working with my clients.

 

Does Soreness Mean That You Gained Muscle? 
Hang tight for a short science lesson here. Nerd out with me for just a moment: 

Researchers Brad Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras examined this question in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. 1

They found inconclusive results regarding the actual mechanisms that make us feel delayed onset of muscle soreness. In short, those tiny tears in our connective tissues sensitize our pain receptors. We then get pain messages that cause us to feel sore. It’s a lot more complex than that, but you get the drift.

There’s the other question of if DOMS is necessary to build muscle, since muscle damage contributes to muscle hypertrophy (this is sciencey talk for building muscle). In short, muscle damage does contribute to hypertrophy, but as Schoenfeld demonstrated in another study, hypertrophy can occur without it. 2

So there. You don’t have to be sore to build muscle. But soreness, to varying degrees, can accompany that muscle damage that often happens when we exercise. The problem isn’t with having DOMS, it’s when we try to wreck ourselves looking for it.

 

waterfalls

Don’t Go Chasing Pain (Or Waterfalls)
TOO much DOMS is counterproductive. Beginners often feel relieved to know that their soreness is normal. However, those people who crave an intense workout can see their progress backfire when they chase the pain.

If you’re constantly beating yourself up so much that you are always sore going into your workouts, a few things will happen: you won’t perform optimally, which in turn will diminish your results. You’ll also be more likely to wreck yourself by going in with a #HAM attitude.

When my online coaching clients give me their feedback, those new to training often feel sore the first few weeks. Most everyone will feel sore from time to time, but we don’t put any value on it other than being concerned if they feel excessively sore on a regular basis.

Instead, they chase better: they celebrate indicators of gym progress like adding pounds to their squat total, getting a faster 5k, or noticing that their pushups feel easier. My client, Joan, just transitioned from kettlebell squats to barbell squats. She’s a grandmother. She keeps breaking her own records, and we celebrate that. Not her quad soreness.

While the process of getting fit often comes along with a bit of achiness, it isn’t the measuring stick of effectiveness. Work hard, but more importantly, work smart(er). Chase improvement, not pain.

Have you grabbed your FREE copy of Fat Loss on a Budget? Plug in your info below and I’ll send it to you immediately.

 

Notes:

  1. Brad J. Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras, “Is Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptations?” Strength and Conditioning Journal, vol. 35 No. 5 pp. 16-21 (2013)
  2. Brad J. Schoenfeld “The Mechanisms for Muscle Hypertrophy, and Their Application to Resistance Training” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 24(10) (2010)

Gym Jargon 101

what

Sets. Reps. Load. AMRAP. HIIT. If those words confuse you a little, then sit down and join me for a short lesson in understanding fitness jargon.

Remember when we had no idea what lol, lmao, and brb meant? My kids speak “intarwebz” now. It’s crazy. They actually say “lull” for LOL and “Gee Gee” for GG, a gamer’s phrase that means “good game”. I’m probably already out of the loop with the newest crop of internet acronyms.  Just like understanding  slang thrown around online, it takes time to learn the lingo of any community we join.

Fitness should feel inclusive.  While good gyms and trainers do their best to make newbies feel welcome and successful, we sometimes forget that we were also once new to the gym. Yesterday I started training a client who is fairly new to strength training, and began asking him about his current routine.

“So I’ve been doing 12 sets of everything” he shared. What? Damn, that’s a lot. It made me tired just thinking about it.  But it quickly became apparent that he had swapped the definition of two terms, and it reminded me that those of us who have been gym rats for awhile forget that along with learning how to pick stuff up and put it down, we had to learn the lingo too.

So here we go – here are some basic definitions that will help you know what the heck everyone is talking about.

journal

Reading a Workout
If you’re following a training plan, the instructions for your workout will include important terms to understand as well as knowledge of how to decipher how you complete your exercises.

Reps: This is shorthand for repetitions. Repetition counts refer to the number of times you complete the movement before resting. So if I do 8 squats, I will perform a squatting movement 8 times.

Sets: Remember those 8 reps I just did? That was one set. I may rest, go do something else, or be done if my plan said to do one set. If I have 2 sets, I’ll come back and do my reps again.

Rest: This seems like a no brainer, but rest is often dictated by a plan. “Rest 30 seconds between sets. Rest 2-3 minute between sets”. The amount of rest you take will vary depending on how heavy you’re lifting and what kind of training you’re doing.

For strength training, heavy sets of low reps typically require more rest than lighter sets of many reps. Conditioning workouts like HIIT (more on that later) may program specific working to rest ratios in order to challenge your body in completely different ways.

Rest is important for successful strength training, so if your plan advises you to take it, get a drink and chill out until it’s time to work again.

Tempo: Usually you won’t see these on beginner-focused plans, but it refers to the speed at which you lift and lower the weight.

X: Usually “times”, as in 3 x 5. The confusing part is that one number refers to the reps you do, and the other refers to the set.

The standard way of interpreting these is SETS X REPS. So for 3 x 5, you’d do 3 sets of 5 reps.

Load: How much weight you are lifting. Sometimes also ‘WT‘ used for weight.

AMRAP: Sometimes this term is included in a strength workout but also in conditioning workouts and finishers. (Those terms I’ll explain soon too!) AMRAP is an acronym for AS MANY REPS (OR ROUNDS) as possible. Trainer Jen Sinkler sometimes defines it “as many reps are pretty”, which I adore for the reminder that we want our reps to be tough but stop before our technique breaks down.

fitnessforfatloss

Workout Words
These can be confusing. A lot of trainers don’t even know what metabolic conditioning actually is. Let’s make this less fancy and explain these ideas simply.

Circuit: A group of exercises performed sequentially. Usually you’ll see multiple rounds of circuits indicated. Doing exercises in a circuit is done sometimes to give us more rest between movements without sitting around: we can get more done in less time, though we’ll continue to be working so overall we may be more taxed than if we’re resting between each set. A circuit may have 3 exercises or 8. It’s just a method of pairing exercises for a workout.

HIIT: High intensity interval training. HIIT is a training method that alternates short intense bouts of work with rest or less intense work that helps you recover and get ready to do another interval.  HIIT produces anaerobic conditioning benefits. Your anaerobic system is one of your body’s energy systems and training it helps train qualities like speed and power. It also torches calories. But it’s not necessary for everyone and not always a great fit for beginners.

Metabolic Conditioning: also often called “metcon”. Loosely speaking, this refers to exercise done with multiple muscle groups (often referred to as compound movements) with little rest between exercises in order to maximize calorie burn during and after a workout. It’s often confused with HIIT. There is no set structure of metabolic conditioning other than completing work that creates the effect.

Cardio: Everyone has a different image in their head. Maybe it’s step class. Maybe it’s running. Maybe it’s the thing that some trainer told you you’re not supposed to do because it makes you fat. (It doesn’t). Cardio just refers to work done with the aerobic (oxygen) energy pathway. It’s typically rhythmic in nature and done over a longer period of time than more intense work. “Steady state cardio” often refers to things we do with a steady heart rate over a period of time, like a half hour walk.

Finisher: a short, intense exercise or group of exercises used at the end of a workout. Sometimes this is used for a metabolic effect or just for happy endorphins and because it feels good to sweat.

latz

Body Talk
If you hear a trainer ask you to palpate your gluteus medius, please punch them in the face for me. Or in their gluteus maximus (the butt). Over time, you’ll learn the proper terms for your muscles, but hopefully your training guides explain things in plain English at first. This isn’t an anatomy lesson, but here are some common terms to learn:

Quads:  your quadriceps, a large muscle group that includes 4 big muscles that run along the front of your thigh.

Hamstrings or Hammies: a group of 4 muscles that run along the back of your thigh.

Lats: latissimus dorsi, fancy talk for giant back muscles that run from your shoulder way down to your hip.

Core: a much bandied-about term for the muscles of your torso: in other words, not just your abs, but several muscles play a role, including those lats and your lower back.

Glutes: there are 3 gluteus muscles in your butt, including the largest, the gluteus maximus. Substitute “butt” for glutes and you’ll know what’s up.

Other Mumbo Jumbo

Mobility: Your ability to effectively move or be moved freely and easily.

Dynamic Stretching: a form of stretching where instead of holding a stretch for a longer period, you continue to move, often with a movement that mimics the movements you’ll do during a workout. It’s usually incorporated into a warmup, while static stretching is best done at the end of a training session.

Conditioning: exercise done to increase your energy and performance at a particular task.

brolift

For Fun: Bro Speak

Because I love the bros:

Gym Bro: a dude who lives the gym life. Also called Bruh.

Gunz: Your guns are your biceps. You flex them, especially on Fridays.

Gainz: Gains are what you get as a benefit from training. Otherwise known as improvement.

Swole: Swollen, meaning extremely muscular or buff.

Aesthetics: your physical appearance.

Bulking: gaining weight with the goal of building muscle.

Cutting: losing fat, often with the hope of showing those hard-earned muscles.

‘Mirin: admiring, usually in the form of praising someone’s gainz.

Even Lifting: You regularly lift weight at the gym. If you don’t even lift, you might be in trouble with the bros.

Have a little more understanding now? If there’s a fitness term that still baffles you, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to explain.

If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly guide to training and nutrition, be sure to sign up below to get my free book, “Fat Loss on a Budget”. You’ll be off to a great start!