Tag Archives: workout

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

squatfun

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

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

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

gobletsquat

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

 Nope nope nope.

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

So what’s the problem?

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

crybabies

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

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

It’s the zercher squat.

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

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

zercherface

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

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

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

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

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

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

This baby.

squat-sponge

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

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

Then I gave it a whirl.

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

Check mine out here:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Want to talk workouts, healthy eats, and how to build a body that feels and looks fiiiiiine? Sign up below to get my emails delivered right into your inbox. I’ll send you Fat Loss on a Budget plus other fit goodness on the regular. 

 

 

$0 Fitness: The At Home Strength Workout That Doesn’t Cost a Thing.

$ Workout collage

Hey guys!

I’m celebrating the launch of my new book, Fat Loss on a Budget,this week and I’ve got saving money on the brain. When we start working out, it can be a little discouraging to get ideas only to find that we have to go out and buy 5 expensive pieces of equipment to get going.

Over time, if you decide to work out at home, investing in basic equipment can be money well spent. However, it takes time and bargain hunting to do it on the cheap.  I love scanning local Buy and Sell boards on Facebook as well as Craigslist to get crazy good deals.

But you can do plenty with nothing more than your own bodyweight. If you have gallons of water, heavy toddlers, or anything else to add load once bodyweight exercises become easy, use your imagination and keep challenging yourself.

Today’s strength workout  works well at home or for travel. All you need is your fine self. Ready to do this? Ok let’s go:

0workout

Exercises are paired as alternating sets. This way you can get a little more done in less time. If it feels too hard to complete all of your sets, start small: 1-2 sets of each exercise is cool too. Work up to getting through the entire workout as written.

Watch the Video First. Details Follow.

 

Alternating Set A – 3 Sets
1) Bodyweight Bulgarian Split Squat – 8-12 reps per leg, or as many as it takes to challenge you.
If this is too hard, lower your back to the floor and perform a reverse lunge or a static lunge for as many reps as you can on each leg.

2) Pushup – 6- 10 reps. Pick the variation that suits you best. Either do them from the floor or at an incline. Pushup superstars can play with more difficult variations too like spider pushups or decline pushups. 

Alternating Set B – 3 Sets 
1) Single Leg Hip Thrust – 6-12 reps per leg. New hip thrusters may find that these are really hard! You need to be able to lock out at the top and really feel your butt squeeze. Do them 2 legs at a time, or try doing one leg at a time from a bridge position on the floor. 

2) Towel rows – 8-15 reps. These are wild but they work! Back exercises are the one thing that seem really tough to do without a chin-up bar at home (though creativity fixes many woes!)
I’ve also done inverted rows under my kitchen table, but try this at your own risk. I didn’t smash my face pulling the table onto myself, but it could happen. Oops.

Alternating Set C – 3 Sets 
1) Slow Step Ups onto a chair or bench – 8-15 reps per side, whatever challenges you most appropriately. Keep these slow and controlled. You’ll be surprised at how much harder they become when we don’t cheat our way up with momentum!

2) Pike Pushups – 6-10 reps. A slightly easier variation, in my opinion, is the Hindu pushup, where you can glide back into starting position instead of having to push yourself back to starting.

Bonus Burn: The 8 x 4
Still have a little spring in your step and are itching to do a bit more? Perform this quick finisher for some breathless, sweaty fun:

Do As Many Rounds As Possible for 8 minutes. 8 too much? Start with 5. Work your way up as you get fit.

8 jump squats (regular squats if your knees aren’t feeling jumpy)
8 straight leg situps
8 lateral lunges per leg
8 mountain climbers per leg

Video with my 7-year-old workout partner. He’s a boss.

Give this one a whirl and let me know how it went!

If you want more workouts, nutrition help, and my favorite ways to save money while getting fit, sign up for my insider list and you’ll get it for free! Check it out below:

 

Gym Class – A Quickie Workout for the Kid in You

gymclassscooter

Hey guys!

Yesterday I was NOT FEELING the happy feels about working out, but I was already at the gym after training some clients. So I scrapped my plans and looked around. We have scooters sitting on a shelf. You know, the kind kids use in P.E. class.

Remember how freaking awesome scooter day was? HELL YES, SCOOTER DAY. I built a short conditioning workout around a few basic scooter moves and had a blast. Sometimes we forget that screwing around is healthy movement too. Scooter work as a grown up is a hell of a lot harder than it was when I was 8 though. Holy leg burn! If you want to put a little fun into your workouts this week, think about what feels like play to you and go for it. Need some inspiration? Check out my workout here:

 

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!

Quick and Dirty Workout: Jump Around

photo credit: Alison Burke

photo credit: Alison Burke

Hi all! I’m beginning to build a library of workouts that I love (or love to hate) that are quick and dirty but get the job done. My main focus right now is on powerlifting but getting more movement into my day has really given me more energy. So onward!

My favorite conditioning workouts are those that have a set amount of work instead of timed intervals. Timed intervals are great for getting work done too, but mentally, plowing my way through my “assignment” feels easier. I love ladder workouts because even though I’m still working hard, as I work my way down to fewer reps it feels more doable.

Here’s the Jump Around workout. Who’s in? Read on below for a tutorial and modification ideas.

Jump Around

Jump around workout

How to Werk It

The pic describes the ladder workout. Just make your way down!

Jump Rope:

If jumping rope hurts your knees or makes you pee your pants too much, just find an alternative movement that is a little less bouncy. Try a modified jumping jack and kick just one leg out at a time. If these are too hard, it's fine to swap out another lunge variation that fits your body. We're aiming for conditioning here, not annihilation. For a jump lunge, just sink down into a lunge pattern, spring up and land with your opposite foot in front. Back and forth, whee!

If jumping rope hurts your knees or makes you pee your pants too much, just find an alternative movement that is a little less bouncy. Try a modified jumping jack and kick just one leg out at a time.
If these are too hard, it’s fine to swap out another lunge variation that fits your body. We’re aiming for conditioning here, not annihilation. For a jump lunge, just sink down into a lunge pattern, spring up and land with your opposite foot in front. Back and forth, whee!

Dumbbell Front Squats

No dumbbells? No problem. Just squat, baby. Sit down and back and keep your elbows up if you're using dumbbells.

No dumbbells? No problem. Just squat, baby. Sit down and back and keep your elbows up if you’re using dumbbells.

Pushups

Use whatever elevation that will you allow to get your chest really close to your surface. This may be the floor, a bench, a table or a countertop. Find what variation appropriately challenges you. Here's an example of using a step. 

Use whatever elevation that will you allow to get your chest really close to your surface. This may be the floor, a bench, a table or a countertop. Find what variation appropriately challenges you. Here’s an example of using a step.

Single Leg Hip Thrust

Find a bench and settle back against it with the middle of your back. Tuck your chin very slightly, drive through your heel as you press your hips up, and aim to get a big squeeze out of your butt cheek at the top of the movement. Lower down almost to the floor, and repeat. Complete all your reps on one side, and then switch legs. If this is too difficult, try doing it as a bridge, laying on the ground and driving your heel into the floor as you bridge up.

Find a bench and settle back against it with the middle of your back. Tuck your chin very slightly, drive through your heel as you press your hips up, and aim to get a big squeeze out of your butt cheek at the top of the movement. Lower down almost to the floor, and repeat. Complete all your reps on one side, and then switch legs. If this is too difficult, try doing it as a bridge, laying on the ground and driving your heel into the floor as you bridge up.

Reverse Crunch

Use something heavy, like a dumbbell, to anchor yourself a bit. Lay down on the floor with the weight just above your head and hold onto it. Use your abs to help get your legs over your head and then VERY SLOWLY lower to the ground. Repeat! Remember, the slower you do these, the harder they are!

Use something heavy, like a dumbbell, to anchor yourself a bit. Lay down on the floor with the weight just above your head and hold onto it. Use your abs to help get your legs over your head and then VERY SLOWLY lower to the ground. Repeat! Remember, the slower you do these, the harder they are!

Go get some work done! Record your time and try to beat it next time. Give it a go and let me know how long it took!

 

School’s Out For Summer: A Playground Workout For When The Kids Are Home

Photo by SmartSign.com

Photo by SmartSign.com

We’re in week 1 of summer vacation and already my schedule has been blown to smithereens. With school-aged kids, I have  found my groove during the school year. I go to work, find time to get chores done in the early mornings or evenings, and pick up my crazy train of boys at 3:45 every afternoon. Until this week: enter summer vacation.

We decided to juggle schedules so that either my husband, me, or my mom could be home with the kids all summer. I love seeing my little guys more frequently. We’re playing board games, going to the pool, the zoo, and also digging out long forgotten toys. But some of our regular tasks have become trickier to accomplish. For many parents, that includes getting exercise.

I miss the days when my boys were all small enough to be pushed around in the stroller. They’re roughly 17 months apart, so we had only a brief window of time when all three kids would happily ride along. Soon enough they began to squawk at their rolling prison and demand to be allowed to walk, only to either run off or roll around on the ground. Bye bye, stroller walking.

You had one job, kid. Ride. Just ride. Photo credit: Bari Bookout

You had one job, kid. Ride. Just ride. Photo credit: Bari Bookout

Enter the playground workout – parents of young kids can all appreciate the beauty of taking the kids to the park. Kids can run and climb all their crazy out. Sometimes my friends and I sit and chat while they play. But if you’re pressed to find time to get moving, the playground is a pretty damn good gym in the summer time. Especially if you’re up for a little play too. Read on:

Fitness + Funness (is that a word?)
I got creative and designed a strength workout in my back yard while my kids played.  What I forgot, however, was that kids rarely give you 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to exercise. Duh! As if!

Pay attention to meeeee.

Pay attention to meeeee.

So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Play is important for adults too – it helps us beat stress, connect to others, and stay sharp.  Annie Brees and I even created a program here in Des Moines called Recess for adult playground games.

I created this workout as a “meet in the middle”solution for getting some strength and conditioning work in while having fun in the yard or playground. Play is a fantastic way to bond with our kids, even if sometimes you wish they’d give you 10 minutes to get stuff done, or just go to the bathroom in peace.  Take short bursts of time to run around and move with them, and they’ll likely let you sneak in some sets of strength moves too. If they’re old enough, they can join in too.

The Work Hard Play Hard Workout:
3-4 rounds of the following, or as many as you can do with you kids cooperating:

1. As many reps of pullups/negative pullups (start at the top and slowly lower) as you can do from monkey bars…

pulluppicmonkey

OR

10-12 suspension rows with a swing

susrowpic

2. 1 round of freeze tag.

3. 8-10 Bulgarian Split squats per leg, using a step or bench for rear leg.

Put your front foot around 3 feet in front of your bench, and your back foot elevated  on the bench. Slowly lower your rear knee toward the floor. It's okay to lean forward a bit on these to focus on your booty.

Put your front foot around 3 feet in front of your bench, and your back foot elevated on the bench. Slowly lower your rear knee toward the floor. It’s okay to lean forward a bit on these to focus on your booty.

4. Handstand/cartwheel/somersault showdown. Warning: somersaults are a lot more uncomfortable when you’re 40 years old. Good God.

henry handstand

5. As many pushups as you can do with good form. Use a bench or stair if it’s too hard to go from the ground.

pushup

6. 5 minutes of kickball, soccer, or playing catch.

kickball

7. 10 Leg curls using the swing.

Put your heels on the seat of the swing. Lift your hips and bring your heels toward your butt.

Put your heels on the seat of the swing. Lift your hips and bring your heels toward your butt. Try to keep your hips up high for the whole set.

8. Red Light Green Light – sprint, crawl, or shuffle your way to victory.

Finally, after the workout, play a round of hide and go seek. Find a really good hiding spot. Bring a good book, and maybe you’ll get a few minutes of quiet. Seriously though, when I take a little time to play with my kids for even a little while, they burn off their crazy, fight less, and then chill out so I can get some work done. Plus we have a good time together. Go play!

Have you signed up for my email list yet? Join up and you’ll be the first to receive freebies, special workouts, and other goodies!