Tag Archives: strength training

Old school lifting techniques to build maximum muscle (with maximum fun).

titanicfunnybodybuildingBeing strong is empowering: exhilarating, even, much like Rose must have felt out there on the bow of the Titanic. Before it met its demise of course.

Getting strong makes you feel more confident and capable – for everything that life tosses your way, including sinking ships (probably). 

But I also like to look like I lift. Maybe I’m becoming a vain old lady. But I don’t care. Seeing my muscles get bigger and stronger is a reminder of all my hard work. Plus people don’t always realize an important truth: you can’t train only in that low rep, heavy range all year long.

First of all, it can be really hard on your body to train hard and heavy 100% of the time.
Second, it becomes really boring to do the same training regimen all the time. 

And finally… at a certain point, you need to grow your muscle. That means less of the big heavy stuff and more of the higher rep, lighter movements. You want hypertrophy – that’s muscle growth – to happen.

That’s how I’ve been working during the last few months. My own coach, Jordan Syatt, has been introducing me to all sorts of hypertrophy work. And I’ve shocked myself with just how much fun I’m having in the gym. My joints feel great. I’m building muscle and getting stronger. 

Like so many others who do hypertrophy training, I’ve been using several “old school” gym classics. The ones that bodybuilders have been using since back in the day, when Arnold and Lou Ferrigno went head to head to compete in Mr. Olympia. You can watch that play out in the movie Pumping Iron. It’s fantastic. It’ll get you pumped too.

pumpingiron

Which brings me to these muscle pumping tricks you should try. There are scores of techniques that bodybuilders use to maximize things that will help you sculpt lean and mean muscle.

Why do they work? Because they play on some of the big mechanisms that allow muscle growth to happen: mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage. Those three ideas are big enough that they deserve their own article.

But in short:

1. You need to be doing movements that maximize your time under tension. You’ll still include heavy enough lifting to exert large amounts of force.

2. You’ll do work that gets “the pump” – blood flowing into your muscle cells, will help your muscles grow.

3. Fatiguing your muscle fibers is a must. You wear them down – break them down, actually. And in repairing that damage you’ll grow them.

These techniques were used by lifters long before we even understood many of those principles that explain why lifters used them with success.

Serious lifters have tinkered and toiled with all sorts of  training variables. It’s key to remember that not everyone will respond the same way to them. But there are many tried and true ways of building muscle that may help you get over humps, maximize your effort, and invigorate your time at the gym.

Give these a try as you move through your training year: 

Pre-fatigue sets
I’ve been doing them before my main lift of the day. This seemed crazy to me at first. Why would I want to wear myself out on purpose?

When you’re building muscle, your goal isn’t to PR your bench press total. It’s to build your muscles that help you bench press. Pre fatigue sets help you break down muscle tissue more effectively when you work on that big lift. They also help me connect my mind to my muscle as I prepare to do the big work. This allows you to work your muscles even better during your lift.

How to do them:
Before one of your heavy “big” lifts: like a bench press or a squat, use an isolation movement at a fairly light weight first. Before I bench press heavy sets of 6 reps, I might do 2-3 sets of something to target my pecs: like the squeeze press or a pec fly. It lets me both fatigue my pecs and also get a good feel for those muscles, which helps me hammer them better during my main work. Try 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.

 
Rest-pause sets
If you want to maximize intensity and fatigue, a rest pause set can do the job. It also lets you squeeze in some more reps, giving you the opportunity to spend more time stimulating your muscles over the span of a set.  These work especially well in slightly lower rep ranges. And they work great for not only building muscle but building strength. Particularly with moves that you feel limited to doing for only a few reps because they’re really difficult.

I used rest-pause training to get more quality reps done in my chin ups when I could only do a few at a time.

How to do them
:
Complete your reps for your set. Let’s take lat pulldowns for 8 reps.

After you perform your set, wait 10-15 seconds.

Do your lat pulldowns again for as many reps as you can do.

Wait another 10-15 seconds. Then do it again.

You can add another mini set to your one big rest-pause set. Wait a few minutes, and then do 1-2 more rounds.

Drop sets are not comfortable. But you'll love them anyway.

Drop sets are not comfortable. But you’ll love them anyway.

Drop sets
The Arnold called these “strip sets”. And no, you’re not stripping, though that would be quite something at the gym. But this technique allows you to fatigue your muscles like crazy, which is key to growth.

How to do them:
Use these as an accessory lift during your session. Start with a weight you can lift for 6-10 reps. Do as many reps as you can, then lower your weight. Either take plates off your barbell, grab lighter dumbbells, lower the weight on the cable stack… you get the idea.

Now immediately complete as many reps as you can at this lighter weight – which is usually 25%-30% lighter than what you chose the first time. It will be hellishly hard.

But wait, there’s more: lower the weight again. And maybe even one more time, for funsies. Do that. Now rest a few minutes, and do it all again.

Try 3 sets of drop sets the next time you frolic at the gym. I’m doing them this month with hammer curls and triceps press downs.

Eccentric sets
Create more time under tension to build more muscle. Eccentric sets slow down your movement during the eccentric, or lengthening muscle contraction. They also force you to maintain better control, which translates to better technique and bigger gainz.

How to do them:
Pick any move that you want to improve or focus on for more muscle building. I’ve used them on the lowering phase of a lying hamstring curl; the lowering portion of a pushup; the second phase of a lat-pulldown as I control the rise of the bar to its starting position. And an eccentric squat is a particularly brutal way to build strength and control by taking a full 4 to 5 seconds to lower yourself into the bottom position.

Keep the reps on the lower side for these, as you’ll already be spending more time on each rep. Anywhere from 5-10 reps is a sweet spot.

firegirl

AMRAP
Training coach Bridget Schmitt of Guns and Poses Fitness is also a figure pro and powerlifter who loves (and loves to hate) AMRAP sets. AMRAP means “as many reps as possible” and it’s a tool for not only building strength and muscle: it allows her to test her limits. 

“I like to be competitive with myself every time I lift. Mentally I have to push everything else aside when I AMRAP”.

How to do it:
Schmitt doesn’t always use AMRAP in her training, but when she does, she uses them after completing a few working sets. On her final two sets she pushes herself to take them to their limits – AMRAP. 

Finishers – the final burn. 
Want to make sure you REALLY fatigue and burn out a muscle group? Try a sweeping, final flourish using light weight and a ton of reps.

Jenny Leonard, aka “JennyB”, a nutrition/wellness coach with Guns and Poses, also competes as a bikini competitor in bodybuilding. She finds that many popular hypertrophy techniques like drop sets don’t work as well for building her physique. But she loves high rep finishers for building her glutes. Jenny uses banded hip thrusts, glute bridges, monster and lateral band walks, and body weight frog pumps to set her glutes on fire – and help them grow.

How to do it:
Pick a move to tack on to the end of your main strength work. I’ve been doing 1 set of 50 bent rear delt raises at the end of my upper body workouts. For glute work, I often do 2-3 sets of banded hip thrusts in an AMRAP, or create a mini finisher circuit of several moves that all target one muscle group. 

If using additional weight, choose a load that is light enough to make these hard but completable. You may have to pause for a few seconds during the work, but try to keep it going with little to no rest.

Century sets
Fit pro Tanner Baze shared one of his favorite variations for a final flourish: century sets. Perform them alone, or better yet, with a partner.

How to do them:
You complete 100 reps with light weight, and then your partner does the same. I imagined that you’d do this only one time, but gym crazies may actually do a few of these. The partner will definitely help keep you going because you may want to quit the gym about halfway in.

weight-rack

Run the Rack
Tanner also reminded me of another of Arnold’s favorite moves: running the rack. This is another workout finisher that turns that brutal, fatiguing work you do into a game of sorts.

How to do it:
Choose a dumbbell exercise for your last move of the day. Pick up some dumbbells that are heavy enough that you will only be able to do around 6 reps. Complete those reps, then put them back and immediately grab a pair that are 5 pounds lighter. Complete another 5-6 reps. Keep “running the rack” down until you hit a weight that is so light that you can easily do more than 6 reps.

All of these moves have the ability to boost your muscle building mojo. Many of them will feel hellishly hard. But your mind will stay engaged and I’m willing to bet you’ll have fun.

For the long haul, enjoying what you do and staying present during your workouts is going to help you make just as much progress as following a solid program. Stay present, work hard, and enjoy the process. Then go flex.

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Four things you can do to build your bod today.

Photo credit: Crossfit Constancy. How great is this tank?

What do you do when you hit a new personal fitness record? I usually have the urge to yell across the gym. GUYS. GUYS! DID YOU SEE THAT? HUH? Instead, I just wander around with a dorky grin. But inside my head I’m shouting.

Sometimes progress feels nonexistent because it creeps along so slowly. That’s gym life. It’s part of the process that you learn to embrace.

But when you are on a roll, run with it. It’s been that way for me lately. And it’s not dumb luck. My body is revealing more muscular definition. I know I’m building muscle because I’m consistently lifting heavier stuff from week to week. Woot woot.

There are a few reasons why. And best of all, these tactics can work for you too. If you’d like to work on your physique or improve your performance, read on. 

amazing

amazing

Eat enough food to support building muscle. But not too much. 

Back in the days of old school bodybuilding, lifters did things a little differently. They wore Zubaz, which is a tragedy. To put on muscle, they knew they had to eat more than while trying to lose fat. Plus plenty of protein.

Getting adequate calories and optimal nutrition does make a big impact on transforming your body. But those lifters ate way more than they needed to. As a result, they gained unnecessary fat. You can eat in a very slight surplus to help fuel those “gainz” while still looking lean. Win/win. 

Lift in a variety of rep ranges.
Some people split workout types into “strength” or “hypertrophy”. That last word roughly means “growing muscle”.

You can build a ton of strength and power if you lift very heavy weight for a small number of reps – around 5 or less. And doing moderate to high rep ranges are key for growing your muscles.

But incorporating all kinds of rep ranges into lifting workouts will build strength and sculpt muscle effectively at the same time. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive kinds of sessions or training phases. Those two goals feed each other. Here’s why: 

Building Muscle
Women often worry about packing on more muscle. No, you won’t get bulky. Not that there’s anything wrong with bulk. If it’s not your thing, that’s cool too. But building muscle is what “toning” and “sculpting” really mean.

That added muscle won’t turn you into the Arnold. But it will allow you to lift heavier stuff over time and keep getting stronger.

Heavy Heavy
And doing some work in a very low rep range will help you get better at recruiting your muscle fibers to do really intense work. 

That means you can more effectively do those higher rep sets. And build dat ass. Or biceps or whatever. 

There are plenty of ways to go about mixing stuff up. Using a combo platter in a single workout is one fun and effective way to get the benefits of those ranges.

uncomfortable

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
If you want to become stronger and more athletic, you have to learn a new skill. You’ll need practice. Many of us know what it feels like to feel tired or have become accustomed to the sweaty rush of a tough cardio class. If you’re new to lifting, the feel of a really heavy dumbbell row may seem not quite right. 

It might feel like it’s so heavy you shouldn’t be lifting it. But if you can do it with good technique for the appropriate number of reps, keep that up. You’re awesome. Don’t let the rep number tell you to stop. 

Stop when you feel like you might only have one more rep in you. And for lighter exercises done for higher reps, you’re usually fine taking your sets completely to failure. Meaning “I can’t do even one more”. 

deadlifty

 

Effort feels different for a super heavy deadlift than it should for high rep accessory work.
I trained to improve my big lifts for powerlifting for the better part of last year. I could grind out a few really hard, heavy reps. But I’ve shifted my focus to a little bit of heavy strength work and more higher rep work to build muscle.

And so I had to learn a new kind of effort. Part of that is getting in tune with how the reps feel as you’re doing them. Ever hear of “the pump”?

When you do isolation movements like biceps curls you may notice a swollen, tight feeling if you really zero in on maintaining a constant tension as you lift. That’s da pump. Your blood rushes into your muscles and in the end, helps them repair and become bigger. 

Want to try out these ideas? Take this lower body session for a spin: 

1. Barbell hip thrust 4 x 5. (These should feel heavy.) 

2a. Barbell front squat or 2 DB/KB front rack squat 4 x 8
2b. Stiff leg dumbbell deadlift 4 x 12 (slow down enough to feel those hammies stretch)

3a. Forward lunge 3 x 10/leg 
3b. Cable rope pull through 3 x 15 
3c. Plank with weight transfer :20 to :30 

Work hard. Smash the heavy stuff. Feel some pumping, burning goodness on the light stuff. And then shout about your victories, either loud and proud or to yourself. 

Want more? There will be plenty in my upcoming holiday muscle building program. One for brand spankin’ new beginners. One three day plan with full body workouts. And my favorite, a four day routine with lower and upper body splits. I’ll have the details soon in my newsletter. Not signed up yet? Check out the form below. 

Want to get stronger? Try these 3 brutally effective variations on lifting classics.

longleverplankThe interesting thing about strength training is that when it’s all said and done, there really aren’t that many movements you need to learn to reach your goals, whether that’s getting stronger, leaner, gaining more muscle, or all of the above. If you can check off the following boxes, you’re in good shape to get cracking with some good work at the gym:

-Squatting movements (like a goblet squat)
-Hinging movements (deadlifts, exercises that emphasize movement from your hips)
-Pushing movements (pushups, bench pressing, overhead pressing, etc.)
-Pulling movements (chin-ups and rows come to mind).
-Core stabilization and rotational power development (planks, chops, crunches, twists, etc.)
-Power movements – to build explosiveness and improve overall strength (think oly lifts, jump squats, plyometrics)

If we focused on improving just one move from each category, we could make quite a bit of progress for quite some time. But that’d get pretty boring, wouldn’t it? Not to mention that variations on exercises require our bodies to move, build strength and stability, and function better in slightly different ways. That’s where we spice things up with twists on the basics that we’ve come to know and love.

Sometimes we progress a movement because one becomes too easy. I’m going to show you one today. We often also use a variation of a staple to work our muscles differently, to get past a “sticking point” or even to work around an injury. Or sometimes just because it’s fun to change stuff up. Fun is important too, yeah? Read on for ideas:

Progress Your Plank
Once you can hold a plank pretty easily, you’re ready to move up in the world-o-planks. Congrats, it’s time to make them hard again. There are many ways to do this, but I’ve been messing around with long lever planks and even 1 legged long lever planks. They’re tough!

Here’s a demo:

How to do it:
Start by getting into the plank position and walking your feet back so that your elbows are in front of your shoulders instead of in a traditional plank, where you have them stacked under them. Brace those abs like you’re going to get sucker punched and hold there. Try starting with 3 sets of 10-20 seconds and tell me how much you love them.

A Squat You’ll Love-Hate
I think that every beginner would do well to begin with a simple body weight box squat to groove that sitting down and back movement that’s critical for the squat. From there, the sky’s the limit: goblet squats are a good next step, but another overlooked squat that works well not only for beginners but squat pros is the underrated Zercher Squat.

A Zercher squat may feel easier on the lower back than a barbell back squat; it also lets you get low (to the window, to the wall). It requires you to stay pretty upright, a good reminder for those who are new to squatting.

I put them to use for a client who is rehabbing her shoulder and can’t comfortably get into a back squat position. Zerchers feel great to her. Sometimes an injury allows us to discover a brand new way to get strong. Cue the silver lining, eh? 

silverlining

And for those of us who have been squatting for a long while, it’s a great variation to play with to get some extra fun and glute gains on leg day. Oh, and they’re harder to load up than they look. Good grief.

Demo here:

How to do it:
You’re going to cradle that bar in the crook of your elbows. I really like a squat sponge for these, because they’re way more comfortable with the pad. If you don’t have one, try crossing your arms a bit around the bar to feel more secure. Some people deadlift them up from the floor but it seems a heck of a lot easier to me to just start with the bar in a rack at an appropriate height. Get under it a bit, lift it into your arms and walk it out a few steps.

Make Your Barbell Bench Press More Badass
It’s a smart idea to spend training cycles using slight variations of the “big players”: you know, the squat, deadlift, and bench press for starters. The bench press is a staple of the gym (and favorite bro lift of all time). Using variations like pausing at the chest, 1.5 reps, and using dumbbells instead of a barbell will make your bench press stronger over time.

I’m working on the eccentric bench press again this month after a short hiatus from barbell bench press. Holy hell it felt hard this week. Eccentrics will do a lot of muscle damage, which is actually a good thing. They’ll make you muy strong and force you to learn to control the bar better.

Check it:

How to do an eccentric bench press:

I sort of forgot I was doing an eccentric on the first rep. Heh. Progress, not perfection, right?

You’re going to try to lower the bar very, very slowly – take a full 4 seconds. You’ll notice that it’s toughest down near the bottom of the movement. That’s where you’re going to need to control it even more. Lower the weight on these: they’re brutal.

So you want to try these out in a workout?

Of course. So let’s do one today. On Instagram I shared a bonus: a lower body conditioning circuit you can use to give the Zercher squat and long lever plank a whirl. Check that out for butt feels and sweat-inducing fun. You can also put them into a classic full-body strength workout, like the one below.

1. Zercher Squat 4 x 6

2a. Eccentric barbell (or dumbbell) bench press 3 x 6
2b.Band pull aparts 3 x 12

3a. Barbell RDL with 4 second eccentric 3 x 8 (yup, another eccentric variation!)
3b. Chest supported row with a pause at the top 3 x 8

4a. Incline dumbbell bench press 3 x 10
4b. Long lever plank 3 x :15 seconds

Now go flex, and remember to never stop experimenting with movement, both within the gym and outside it. 

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Single leg Romanian deadlifts to make you awesome sauce.

single leg RDLIt happens every so often, and it may happen even more often if my coach reads this: I get single leg Romanian deadlifts put into my program. I used to cringe when I saw Bulgarian split squats, but I have made my peace with the Bulgarians and their exercises. I actually enjoy them now.

heartbulgaria

But the Romanians… oh, you Eastern bloc countries, with your strength prowess. You make me work harder. And you make me better, which is why I continue to do the Romanian deadlift as well as a variation, the single leg Romanian deadlift. But they’re still tough.

The single leg Romanian deadlift in particular gives me a run for my money every time I work on it. My old hip injury might shed light on that: this exercise demands (and builds) hip stability like crazy. It also builds strength and stability through the entire posterior chain. That’s your backside, FYI. You know, your butt, hamstrings, and to a lesser extent, your back. It also requires your abs to help you maintain core control. Those are all good things to improve: so every time I begin doing single leg RDLs again, I remember that I should probably be doing more of them.

Here’s the lowdown on the single leg deadlift: what it is, how to do it, and when to use it in your workouts. Read on:

Basics first: what’s a single leg deadlift?  
A single leg deadlift is a basic hinging movement that requires mastering strength, balance, flexibility, and overall control of your body. That’s a lot, isn’t it? For this reason, I like to have beginners start by just using their own bodyweight to practice.

Deadlifts in nature: I’m mostly thinking “omg it’s so hot. Why am I wearing pants?”

Why to use them:
Single leg Romanian deadlifts build strength in the butt and hamstrings, though I don’t use them as a main strength move in workouts. For building brute strength and muscle mass, I still rely on the “big” players like squats, conventional and sumo deadlifts, as well as hip thrusts and 2-legged Romanian deadlifts. The lack of stability one on leg makes it tough to add a huge amount of weight to the single leg variation – but that’s exactly why you should do these as an accessory exercise.

They do a bang up job of building single leg stability, core control, flexibility, and still give you extra volume to work your muscles. I also use them in metabolic conditioning.

When to do them:
I put them near the end of strength workouts, typically with 3 sets of 8-12 per leg.  I also like doing the movement slowly with just my bodyweight as a glute activator.

How to do one:
You’ll start by thinking about your hips shifting back as you elevate one leg while your torso shifts forward.

Tips for getting off to a great start:

  • If you think about bending forward instead of reaching your leg back, you’re more likely to round your back and you’ll never get that beautiful hip hinge you’re aiming for. Instead, think of your body as a teeter totter and your working leg as the axis. If you focus mostly on making that elevated leg really long, you’ll have an easier time getting the movement down.
  • People move farther down than they need to: work on getting that lifting leg elevated toward the sky instead of worrying about your working arm reaching the floor. You want a big stretch on the back of your planted leg.
  • Locking the knee: it’s no bueno. Instead, think about keeping your knee just a little “soft”.
  • Try to keep your hips as square with the ground as you can. While doing this movement, it’s easy for the hip on your lifting leg to open up too much.
  • Gaze at the floor about 10 feet in front of you – if you crane your neck up to see yourself in the mirror, it tends to throw off your back alignment and makes it tougher to get down into the position.

Balance bonus – if you have a tough time holding your footing, a few things may help you out:
1. Don’t be afraid to lightly drag your foot for a few moments as you extend it behind you. This gives you a little extra contact time with the ground that goes a long way in helping you learn to balance.

2. When you begin the movement, lightly brace your abs and try to maintain stiffness through your torso. A more active core makes it easier to stabilize your body.

3. If you have squishy shoes, consider taking them off and doing this exercise barefooted – or put on a very flat, stiff-soled shoe like some Chucks.

4. One balancing trick that really helps me is digging my big toe of my working leg into the floor. It also seems to help me avoid opening up at my hip too much.

Once you’ve mastered the basic move, load ‘er up. Give one of these variations a try:

  1. Hold one or two kettlebells:

    I like the challenge of holding only one kettlebell, as it makes for feeling a bit more of an unbalanced load and makes me think about my core stability more. Grip it hard. I picked up this trick from Tony Gentilcore, who explains that a tight grip gets your rotator cuff firing and puts your shoulder into a better position as you move. Your shoulder will be less likely to creep forward.

  1. Barbell single leg deadlift:

    Sometimes I don’t have access to heavy enough kettlebells or dumbbells to do my deadlifts. So a barbell variation does the job.

    3. Landmine single leg deadlift:

    I had this crazy fantasy that the landmine variation would rock my world because  the bar would be less annoying to hold onto than a heavy dumbbell. While a big dumbbell or kettlebell is less stable than a barbell, try holding onto the end of an Olympic bar with a small hand: it’s a huge grip challenge! My grip strength is only slightly above grandma level, so I’ll be doing more of these.

If you don’t have a slick landmine holder set up in your gym, just do what people have been doing for eons: shove it into a corner of the room or into the corner of a rack like I did. Some people like to use the center hole of a 45 pound plate too.

Other ideas for your single leg deadlifting pleasure:
1. 1.5 rep single leg Romanian deadlifts –
move to the bottom of your pattern, come up partway, back to the bottom, then all the way back up. That’s one rep. 
2. Eccentric single leg Romanian deadlifts –
take a full 4 seconds to lower yourself down into the bottom of your position. 
3. Combo moves for metcon –
try doing a rep of a single leg deadlift and then following it with a lunge. Do all your reps on one side, and then switch. Your legs and heart will be talking to you. 

What’s your favorite way to do single leg RDLs? Leave a comment below and share! 

Psst – if you want workouts to use the moves I talked about, I share them on the regular with my insider newsletter subscribers. Sign up for free below – I’ll hook you up with a copy of Fat Loss on a Budget too. 

 

Stop Burning Calories.

Photo credit: Sara via Flickr

Photo credit: Sara via Flickr

Stop burning calories.

Ok, so maybe I’m being dramatic.  I want you to burn calories, because that means you’re moving your body and doing physical work. But when we look at our workouts primarily as opportunities to burn calories, it’s usually for a few reasons that may actually get in the way of your progress toward worthwhile goals. 

1. You think about burning calories so that you can “earn back your food”. First of all, you can easily eat back the calories you burned in less than a minute depending on what you choose to eat. Especially when we use tracking tools like Myfitnesspal or treadmill computers, we often overestimate how many calories we’re actually burning and then end up overeating. 

photo credit: dogs.about.com

photo credit: dogs.about.com

2. It sets you up to have a bad relationship with exercise, if you’re just working out to get to eat more. Someone once remarked “you’re not a dog dancing for treats.” That really stuck with me. We may exercise to change our bodies – it might be the shape of them, or how they function, or how exercise makes us feel emotionally. Those are all great reasons to hit the gym. And yes, calorie expenditure is a bonus effect because we really can eat more food and maintain or lose weight more easily when we’re active. Yet if we begin to feel guilty about eating unless we’ve done a killer workout, it can become less pleasurable to work out. 

3. Some of the activities that will improve your body composition goals the most aren’t actually the ones that burn the most calories during your workout. Yeah, running moderately for an hour will burn a bunch of calories while you’re running. But after you stop, your body doesn’t take long to get back to its starting point. By contrast, when you lift weights, you will burn relatively few calories while you’re actually lifting, but because you’re using so many big muscle groups and doing really intense work, your body has to work harder afterwards to pay back the oxygen debt you created.

 

This effect is called EPOC, or exercise post oxygen consumption. What it means for you is that your metabolism will be revved up more for several hours after you do a strength workout or do an intense metabolic session. And yes, your body will burn some extra calories from that.

You may miss out on other benefits of exercise.

 
I’d also say that while easy walks may not burn a lot of calories, they do tremendous things for your overall health and stress level. Walking is an extremely underrated recovery tool for those who often do intense exercise. Yet I used to ignore walking because I thought it was a waste of time. Go walk it out. 
 

4. Still thinking about burning calories? Packing on more muscle means your body is burning more calories all the time to fuel that muscle. That’s another win for lifting if you’re trying to change your physique while getting to eat a bit more food.

So all in all, what I’m saying is this: lift weights because it’s great for your metabolism, your bones, your overall health, and will make you feel and look like a badass. Do cardio-based activities because they’re good for your body too. But don’t work out only because you burn calories to earn your supper. Does anyone say supper anymore? Let’s bring that back.

And finally, if you’re trying to lose body fat, start with your nutrition. If that’s not on point, no amount of exercise is going to overcome it.

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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

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.

The Beginner’s Guide to Fat Loss: Nuts and Bolts

Lego-WorkoutOut of curiosity, I typed “what exercises to do for fat loss” into Google today. I came up with a  mish-mash of Pinterest and Instagram workouts (resplendent with hashtags),  a fair amount of nonsense like “fat burning zones” along with a mix of supplement pages and some quality training advice to boot. If I were just starting to think about putting together a plan, I’d probably get a headache. The internet is a wonderful thing, but all that information can be overwhelming. When it comes down to it, losing fat isn’t all that complicated.So why does it seem so difficult?

First of all, there isn’t only one way to go about fat loss. That complicates the stream of information hurled at us. A large percentage of it is likely garbage as well. 

photo credit: Mark Smickilas

photo credit: Mark Smickilas

Most importantly, despite knowing all of these tips, many people still get stuck. My advice is not your key to the kingdom, it just gives you more tools for your kit. The real work to be done to create change starts within your heart and your head. Successful behavior change requires learning the skill of fitness as well as gaining insight on why you want to change in the first place. 

But still, when it comes down to the process of losing fat, there are things to know that will help you succeed:

1. Do something. If you’re just starting out, you’ll notice a positive impact on your energy, health, and waistline by just moving. Read more on that here. It’s easy to take on weight loss with an all-or-nothing attitude. This will invariably backfire. The plan will fall into place. If you’ve been inactive for a really long time,  ease yourself into exercise.

2. Your nutrition is the leading lady when it comes to losing fat. It has the most important role in your body composition by a big margin. No workout is magically effective. If you’re consuming more calories than you expend, your weight loss will stall. Period.

This is unfortunately where people get tripped up the most. Conflicting advice obfuscates a clear path even further. There isn’t one nutritional approach that is better than another. As I’ve mentioned previously, the best plan is the one you can stick to. Ultimately, using methods that help you develop habits that will carry you through life work best. 

3. Lift the things and put them down. Yeah, set off that lunkhead alarm because strength training not only helps your bones and overall health, it also helps you retain precious muscle that in turn improves your overall metabolism. Aim for between 2 and 4 workouts per week, depending on your level of experience and available time.

liftthethings

4. You don’t need a specialized strength training plan for fat loss. 
How you structure your weight lifting isn’t nearly as important as just getting it done. Some advocate doing a circuit in order to keep your heart rate up and give you some extra calorie burn. Nick Tumminello’s Strength Training for Fat Loss does an excellent job of this and his workouts are fun.

Others use alternating sets of two exercises for a similar effect. Some people still just complete their sets with plenty of rest in between. I’ve had success using all of these approaches with clients. If you’re a seasoned lifter, you might need a more nuanced program, but most of the time, the biggest difference between weight lifting simply for strength and lifting for fat loss is in the diet.

5. Running will not make you fat. Every so often, the fitness pendulum swings with a published study, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon in hysterics. Doing endless cardio isn’t the most efficient means to fat loss. If you hate cardio, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to go suffer on a treadmill for an hour.  Most people attempting an exercise program aimed at losing fat probably overdo the running around and getting sweaty and under-do (is that a word?) the strength training.

jogging

However, if you enjoy running, by all means, go run. It won’t kill your progress, and will give you some extra calorie burn to enhance your program.

6. Respect rest and move your body in ways that you enjoy. If you go balls to the wall every day, your efforts will backfire. You’ll lose enthusiasm, encounter injuries, and you’ll prevent recovery that enables you to get the most out of your training. Short, high-intensity workouts can be appropriate a few days a week if you’re already fairly fit. Lighter conditioning workouts are also a good choice. Check out one of my own here.

Regardless of what kind of movement you choose, you’re aiming to get some kind of activity, both for extra caloric burn and because it’s good for your health. These bouts of extra movement are just right for improving your fitness game without getting in the way of your recovery. Or go for a walk!

So in short, here’s what your game plan might look like:

1. Eat in a way that supports your goals. Calculating a modest rather than extreme caloric deficit is important. Tracking at first is helpful, but not the only way to create habits that foster weight loss. 
2. Lift the things 2-4 days a week.
3. On your off days from lifting, move your body in a way that feels good but doesn’t leave you too exhausted to approach your weight training with gusto.
4. Rinse and repeat.
5. Keep your head screwed on straight. Fat loss can really mess with your head. It takes time and tinkering.
6. Remember that fat loss can bring you health, or aesthetic changes you might welcome. It does not, however, define your worth as a person. Keep your efforts in line with the overall task of having a life. ♥

This outline is just that; an outline, an example of what often works. The path to weight loss is different for everyone, but these truths might help you create your own winning strategy. Look for more articles soon on some of the strategies mentioned here.

Have more questions or strategies of your own that work well for you? Leave a comment below!

The nuts and bolts are the easy part. Motivation and support can be another. Looking for a coach to design a program and help you on the journey?  Apply here!

6 Tips for Conquering Your Fear of the Weight Room

DSC03043

Are you a weight room avoider? Does the area of your gym with the dumbbells, squat rack, and mysterious pieces of equipment scare the hell out of you?

As it turns out, a lot of women (and men) are pretty bored hanging out on the elliptical or the treadmill (the dreadmill, if you ask me).  If going to the gym meant having to do those things, I’d still be sitting on my sofa.  Having options for staying fit is important. More people than ever are getting the message that lifting weights is great for  losing weight, developing stronger bones, gaining more muscle,  and feeling like a badass.

But for people who are new to lifting heavy things, the weight room can be really intimidating. So many people have told me that they want to start lifting weights but that they’re too uncomfortable to venture into new territory.  However, if you go in armed with a little knowledge and reassurance, it’ll be easier to take the plunge. You might even find that it wasn’t so scary after all.  Let’s tackle the biggest obstacles people encounter:

  1. The Equipment.
    Even after I started using the weight room, there were machines that I had no idea how to use. That’s okay! You don’t need to know how to use every single thing in there. When you begin strength training, you really only need to do a few key movements each session. Many gyms offer equipment orientation. If you see staff wandering around, nab them and ask them how to use something if you’d like to know what it does. It’s okay to ask another gym member too. Over time, I got to know the regulars and could feel out who was friendly and open to being a helper.

weights-646497_1280

2. The Workout.

“I just wander around, having no idea what to do next.” This is the biggest complaint I hear. Having a plan is really helpful, but knowing how to create a strength plan is overwhelming to most beginners. Here are a few good options:

  • Follow a plan from a book or online guide that’s aimed at beginners. The structure of the routine takes one more stressor out of the equation and you’ll be more likely to find some success. Stick with it for at least 6 weeks to give yourself time to see progress. Some of my favorite sources are the plans by Nia Shanks or books like the New Rules of Lifting series, Strong Lifts 5×5, and Strength Training for Fat Loss. You can look them over and decide what plan best fits your goals. Bring your plan or book with you to the gym to record your progress and have a guide to help you remember your exercises.
  • Hire a trainer to show you how to perform basic movements, create a program for you, and follow up. Some people want to work out with a personal trainer for reasons like accountability or motivation. They can also help you create a plan designed for your specific needs and then check back in periodically to fine tune your exercises.
  • Take a small group training class. Many gyms now offer small group strength training. You’ll get some individual attention, learn to safely lift weights, and depending on how the class is structured, learn to use the equipment commonly used in the weight room.

3.  The Bros.
For women especially, a weight room full of jacked dudes can be off putting. Thankfully, I see this shifting. At the YMCA in my town, I noticed a huge shift over time in the demographics of the weight room. At times, the space was filled with more  women than men. Certain times of day are less crowded than others, so starting at a time where there’s little commotion might feel good.

Bros gettin' swole.

Bros gettin’ swole.

Remember that the space belongs to you as much as anyone else. I also found that some of those guys we call “bros” are the most helpful people in the gym. They’re passionate about strength training and happy to answer questions. They love to talk about lifting. The best gyms have a strong sense of community, and you should be made to feel welcome. If you get bad vibes after settling in,  consider finding a more welcoming place to join. Gyms have their own particular cultures, and it’s okay to shop around for one that embraces all kinds of people.

4. The Fear of Doing it Wrong 
Newsflash: at some point, we all do something wrong, even those of us who have been in the weight room awhile.  Even weight training veterans are improving their technique. Everyone started where you’re starting, and unless they’re an asshole, they will offer encouragement and some assistance if you’re really off base and doing something that’s potentially dangerous.

There are really only a few key rules of the weight room. Remember these and you’ll be golden:

  • Be courteous. Put your weights away after you use them.
  • Let people “work in”: i.e. if there are a few of you needing to use a piece of equipment, take turns with your sets if possible.
  • If you sweat all over the equipment, spray it down. Because yuck.
  • If you’re going to do a circuit and it’s busy, keep in mind that the equipment you want to use might be in use by others too, so be patient.

5. Everyone is looking at me! 
No, really, they’re not, unless you do what I did a few years ago and thwack yourself hard in the face with a band. (I’ve got a gift for doing dumb stuff like this!) Even then, a few people came over to make sure I was ok and went back to business as usual. Most people are focused on their own workouts and are tuned out with their headphones.

6. I’m not in good enough shape to be in the weight room.
Many feel that their current body isn’t worthy of being in the gym and that they’ll be judged. It’s possible that a few jerks may judge you, but it’s an exception not the rule. Hold your chin up high and own your space and right to use whatever you need to achieve your goals. The vast majority of gym goers are decent human beings. They’ll be mentally high-fiving everyone else who made it to the gym that day to get some work done.

The weight room is for every kind of body. The last three gyms I visited this year were filled with all the sizes and shapes. If the image you have in your head of a weight room is filled only with jacked and tan gods and goddesses that you find on Instagram, think again. Most weight rooms are filled with the same mix of peeps you see everywhere else.

If you’ve been on the fence about using the weight room, I hope these tips prepared you to dive in. You can do it! Did I miss something that’s still holding you back?  If you got over your own fear of the weight room, what helped you?  Let’s chat about it – leave a comment below.