06-27-2016

Glute Strengthening Exercises Pt. 2

Now that marathon training has started, I really need to make sure to work on my glutes, especially my glute medius. I wrote a previous post (that somehow blew up on Pinterest) on strengthening your glute medius (and why it’s important).

Today I wanted to talk about some of my favorite glute exercises. I haven’t been strength training much, mainly because I have been balancing running, cycling and yoga. But I need to get back into the gym this week.

Your glutes are your powerhouse. When you’re running, you need strong glutes to push off the ground and give you, well, power. It’s not uncommon at all for runners, and most people in general, to have weak glutes from sitting all day and not really activating them. So here are a few exercises you can start incorporating into your routine. Plus, you can do them anywhere, either bodyweight or with dumbbells. So add a few reps and sets in after your runs and you’ll be on your way to buns of steel.

Here are my top 5 exercises to strengthen and grow your glutes! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Step-Ups

These are so easy to do anywhere! If you’re out for a run, you can find a park bench or table to use. If you’re at home, you can use a chair or your stairs. You want to make sure your form is right with these, and that you’re not using your back leg to bounce you up onto the step. Your back leg should stay completely straight, and you should focus on using your front let (the one on the box) to push you up. Here’s an example of someone using that back leg to power them up (which means your front leg and glute are working less):

It might take a little practice, which is why it’s good to start off with your bodyweight only, and then progress to adding dumbells. Here’s an excellent tutorial video:

Walking Lunges

Another one that can be done anywhere, with or without weights. If you have knee issues or knee pain, you may want to stay away from walking lunges. You can do do split squats (stationary lunge) or reverse lunges instead. You can also switch those up by elevating your front foot. Lots of options here.

With walking lunges, take a step forward and really focus on keeping your chest up and shoulders back. Lower your knee as low as it can go, and then switch. Do not force yourself to go lower than what is comfortable. You also want to make sure that your heel on the foot that is stepping forward is planted on the ground. If you step forward and your heel is up or you’re on the balls of your feet, it means you’re not taking big enough steps.

Hip Raises

Hip raises are probably my favorite exercise, mainly because I can lie down while doing it :-P

Did you know hip raises are more effective at growing your glutes than squats are? Start off with just body weight hip raises. Lay on your back with bent knees. Plant your feet and lift your hips up as high as you can. Squeeze your glutes as you lift and really focus on utilizing those muscles. You may feel this in your hamstrings and calves too. Hold at the top for about 2-3 seconds, lower and repeat. In order to see if you’re using your glutes and not your hip flexors, try doing a single leg hip raise with one knee bent. What I mean is, take one knee to your chest and hold it there with your arms. THEN, do a hip raise. You should really feel that in your glute. Once you get the hang of it, you can add a weighted plate or barbell on top of your hips in order to make the move more challenging. 

Bulgarian Split Squats

This is a more advanced exercise, and a variation on lunges. You can work up to this by doing reverse lunges with your back foot elevated on a small box or step. Eventually, you’ll be able to do it with your back foot on a bench. Here’s what it looks like (including good cues and common mistakes):

Remember to always keep your chest up and shoulders back. You don’t need to lower yourself all the way down if you can’t. Go until you can, and then come back up. Work your way lower and lower over time.

Back extensions

You will need a back extension machine for this one, or you can get creative and use the end of your couch or bed. I’ll show an example after I explain.

Doing back extensions on an incline back extension machine will target your hamstrings and glutes, maybe your calves too if they’re a little weak. If your lower back is weak, you’ll feel it in those muscles as well. Lower down all the way, then squeeze your glutes to lift yourself up. Be careful not to hyper-extend. See how he is in a straight line?

Photo source

If you want to add weight, hold a weighted plate to your chest to make it more challenging.

Start incorporating these exercises into your routine and not only will you have stronger glutes, you’ll be helping your body stay injury free. Writing this just motivated me to get my butt to the gym this week. Another thing I need to work on ASAP is my core strength. Please leave me your favorite core workouts below because core is my least favorite thing to do haha.

What is your favorite glute exercise? How often do you train your legs/glutes?

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10-28-2015

5 Glute Exercises To Add To Your Workout

My glute strengthening workout post is one of my most popular posts on my blog and Pinterest, so I figured I would do a follow up and talk more about my favorite glute exercises.

While squats DO target your glute muscles, there are many other exercises that work them as much, if not more. Also, doing a proper barbell squat is challenging, and if you do not have correct form you are risking injury. I’ve seen many people load up the bar with a ton of weight, yet do not have the right form for it. Here are some of my tips for working on your squat form.

Anyway, let’s go through 5 exercises where you will definitely feel the burn!

Add these glute exercises into your workout routine to work that booty!

Hip Raises

There are so many ways to do these, that I guess this list actually won’t be 5 exercises ;)

If you’re just starting out, I suggest doing bodyweight hip raises. Lay on your back, lift your butt and hips up, squeeze your glutes and pause for a second, then lower. To make it more challenging, put your feeet on a bosu ball. To make it even MORE challenging, place your feet on a Swiss ball. I’ll show you that variation here:

swiss-ball-leg-curl

When doing the exercise, really focus on squeezing your glutes and raising your hips as high as you can. You should feel this in your hamstrings and glutes.

Once you feel like you’re ready to add weight, you can do weighted hip raises with a barbell across your lap. I do these laying on the floor, but you can also do them with your shoulders on a bench (shown below):

barbell_hip_thrust-the-30-best-legs-exercises-of-all-timeSource

I’m telling you, you will feel this in your hammies and glutes!

TRX Single Leg Squat

I am not yet able to do a single leg squat/pistol squat on my own, so I use a TRX. Trust me, you will still feel it the next day. The TRX stabilizes you until you’re able to do a single leg squat on your own. By using it, you’ll also get the added bonus of a little arm workout ;) Here’s how to do it:

TRX_SingleLegSquat_734x1000Source

As always, make sure to keep your chest up and shoulders back throughout the exericse. If you need one cue that is good for any exercise, it’s that one. Chest up, shoulders back.

Banded Walks

I talked about this in my previous glute strength post, but banded walks are a great way to target your sometimes neglected Glute Medius. It looks easy but it is not. I remember my personal training clients hating this exercise. I should actually do it more often because it is really important for runners to have a strong, stable Glute Medius, which helps with hip strength.

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

This exercise will target more of your quad than glute, but you’ll still activate glutes as well. It’s a great way to make the normal split squat more challenging, and works on your stabilizer muscles as well.

Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, you’ll lower yourself down as low as you can, then come up. Your front foot wil be up on a step or small box.

Dumbbell_Box_Split_SquatSource

Bulgarian Split Squats

These are my nemesis. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are so challenging and I get so sore the next day…yet you know that means you’re getting stronger.

This exercise is the opposite of the front foot elevated. In this one, your back foot is elevated on a bench. If you don’t think you’re ready for this yet, you can do a rear foot elevated split squat first, where your rear foot is elevated on a small step or box (like the image above).

With Bulgarians, you have to make sure your knees are tracking in the right direction, and that your knee doesn’t go over your toes. You should be lowering yourself straigth down. It might take a few tries and adjustments to figure out the right position for you. Once you do figure it out, place a towel or water bottle where your foot was so you can easily get back into position after your rest.

I recommend starting off with just bodyweight, and working up to adding weights. This one really targets those glutes and is also another great exericse for runners!

Split-SquatSource

The photo source for the image above is actually a link for “7 benefits of the Bulgarian split squat,” so you should check it out! Here’s one of their 7 reasons:

If you want to end up having a booty like the famous J.Lo, you better stop neglecting the Bulgarian split squat right away. It’s the best exercise to lift your butt.

Want to make these into a workout? I recommend splitting it up into separate days. Also, make sure you pair glute/hamstring dominant exericses with quad dominant exercises. For example, here’s a workout with some of the above exercises:

  • A1: Hip raises on Swiss Ball
  • A2: Front foot elevated split squat
  • B1: Banded walks
  • B2: TRX singl leg squat
  • Continue with other exercises (arms, abs, etc.)

Which of these do you regularly include into your routine?

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08-12-2015

Why I Love 400 Repeats + Backyard Workout Video

On Monday I had a track workout that might have been the most challenging track workout I’ve ever done. It wasn’t so much that I felt like I was pushing myself to the max (like some workouts where you “go to the well”) but it was just a non-stop workout with minimal break…Thanks Coach Marc!

My mom and I did a 1.5 mile warmup, then 12x400s at 2:05 average per lap with only 25 seconds break in between, THEN 2 more 400s at 1:50ish but with a longer break, then 1 mile cooldown. We were supposed to do 4 total of the 1:50 laps but we only did 2 because I was so beat I couldn’t hold the pace any longer.

Running those 400s at 2:05 was hard I knew I wasn’t running 100% effort. The hard part was that as soon as you finished, you only had 25 seconds before you had to go off again. My sister went to be our official timer :)

I started the first few closer to 2:10, just to get a feel. I have never done 12 400s in a row…let alone with such little break…so I was kind of nervous.

This was the exact workout I needed though after a few iffy weeks of training where I just felt slow and off. I wanted this as a confidence booster. I love 400 repeats and they always make me feel fast and strong. Here are a few reasons you should incorporate them into your training too:

  • Even if you’re marathon training, 400s (or any track workout) will benefit you greatly. It will help improve your speed, strength and leg turnover. With shorter breaks like I did, you’ll challenge yourself to hold a faster than marathon pace pace (did that make sense?) so that your usual marathon pace will then feel “easier” come race day.
  • There are all sorts of variations of 400s you can do based on what you’re training for. Coach Marc is the perfect person to ask about this. You can do faster 400s with more breaks in between, slower 400s with minimal break, or a combination of both. Even many elites do combinations of paces. For example, I’ve seen videos of Brenda Martinez‘s workouts where she’ll do sets of 400s or 800s, then finish with a “tag” aka a 400 at 100% effort. Like I said, it all comes down to what you’re training for.

I slept like a baby Monday night AND last night because this workout really tired me out. No joke, I could have gone to sleep at 8 pm last night if I didn’t have stuff to do.

Anyway, I also put out a new workout video on my YouTube channel today! It’s a workout you can do right in your backyard, and it targets your lower body (with some cardio thrown in). Check it out:

Make sure to make it higher quality on YouTube by clicking 780 or 1080P :)

Let me know if you try it out!

Do you love or hate track workouts? What’s your favorite distance?

If you’re on YouTube, please subscribe to my channel! Will be adding many new videos :)

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03-24-2015

Quick Hamstring and Glute Workout

After a run, I really don’t feel like lifting. I know it’s a problem, and I should probably start splitting up my workouts (lift in the AM, run in the PM), but for now, I have been doing quick strength workouts post-run.

I did this one yesterday and really liked it. I wanted to focus on legs, especially hamstrings and glutes, which is why I named this a posterior chain workout.

We know that runners, and people who sit a lot throughout the day in general, are prone to weak glutes and hamstrings. That’s why working on your core is so important…and these two muscle groups are part of your core!

While doing lunges, squats, step-ups etc. does hit your hamstrings a bit, those mainly target quads and glutes. By not doing hamstring specific work, you’re setting yourself up for an imbalance. 

Here are a few facts about your hamstrings that I found here:

The role the hamstring plays in running is twofold:

1. when a runner’s leg is in the air advancing forward, the hamstrings control how quickly the knee extends and the hip flexes;

2. when the runner’s foot hits the ground, the hamstrings will do the reverse and flex the knee and extend the hip. This is a key distinction because the hamstring muscles must quickly transition from one role to another once the foot strikes the ground. It is during this transitional period that injuries frequently occur.

So this workout is one you’ll definitely feel throughout your back side…and I threw in the windmills for a little oblique action as well, though even those I felt in my hamstrings too! 

If you don’t have access to do cable kickbacks, you can do kneeling kickbacks (get on all fours, kick your straight leg up into the air, focus on a slow, controlled motion). 

Here’s the workout, and keep reading for video instructions if you need them!

Hamstring & Glute Workout
Cable kickbacks:

Kettlebell windmills:

Kettlebell swings *good form is important for this, so watch this whole video!*

Read more tips and cues from personal trainer Annie Brees in regards to the kettlebell swing…it’s a great exercise and if you can only do one thing after a run, I’d definitely suggest this!

I did this workout yesterday after an 800s repeat treadmill workout, and then finished up with a good stretch and sauna session. Stay tuned for another workout I’ll post on Thursday that focuses on your quads…remember, it’s all about balance!

Do you lift after a run? Or split up your workouts?

Do you prefer working on your quads or hamstrings? I love doing heavy deadlifts!

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01-21-2015

Do-Anywhere Leg Workout For Runners

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been doing more circuit based workouts recently, which include single leg movements and plyometric movements. As I was working out, I thought, these exercises are perfect for runners. 

As runners, we spend most of our time on one leg…so it makes sense to do single leg training. I love step-ups, lunges, single leg hip raises, etc. and include those in my own training plans I make for my cross country team.

Before I get into the workout, here is one of my favorite exercises: reverse lunge into single leg deadlift. It’s working on your hip stabilizing muscles, core, hamstrings, glutes and quads…what more can you ask for?? It’s okay if you’re wobbly (like I am in this video). Start with no weights then add in dumbbells.

 

A video posted by pattyrivas13 (@pattyrivas13) on


Cues:

  • Keep your chest up and shoulders back throughout the movement.
  • When you go into the deadlift, hinge at your hips and bring your back leg up as high as you can as you squeeze your glutes.
  • When you’re not using weights, reach out in front of you a bit with your hands. Place a low box in front of you and touch that with your fingers, then come back up and into reverse lunge. When you start using dumbbells, lower dumbbells straight down (not out in front) so you’re not placing pressure on your lower back.

It’s a bit challenging, especially for someone with lack of balance like me, but it really is a great exercise for runners to work on!

And here is my do-anywhere leg workout for runners:

Leg Workout For Runners
So you do the first group of exercises for 5 minutes straight, take a break, then repeat. Then move onto the next set. Or you could do the first group, break, second group, break, and go back to the first group.

With reverse lunge with knee raise I mean step back into a lunge, and when you step back forward left your knee up so it’s at a 90 degree angle, balance for a second, then go back into reverse lunge. Let’s work on our balance people! :)

What are your favorite leg exercises you can do anywhere? Or balance exercises…because I need those!

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12-03-2014

Cardio Acceleration Workout

Yesterday I was going to run on the treadmill then do a strength workout. Well, as I’m driving to the gym I realize I forgot a sports bra. The worst! There’s no way I can run without one, so while my mom ran 2 miles as her warm-up I just foam rolled and did some stretching. I decided to add cardio into my strength workout, and came up with this workout below:

cardio-strength-workout
I wanted to mainly focus on legs, but did some upper body as well with the presses focusing on shoulders and the rows on my back. I’ve never added in cardio while lifting – I typically just like to lift and do cardio separately…boy, was this killer! I was dripping in sweat. 

Doing intervals of cardio in between lifts is called “cardio accelerations.” According to Men’s Fit Club:

A study done at UCLA (University of California) showed that cardio acceleration delivers better blood flow and gives you a much better pump and also has shown to increase the rate of recovery because of the addition nutrients and oxygen pumped into the muscles. 

Cardio acceleration intervals also create that afterburn everyone always talks about. If you’re not keen on doing treadmill intervals or hill sprints as “HIIT,” then this type of workout is perfect for you!

The step-ups were done on a bench with no added weight – just do them as fast as you can. Harder than it sounds! For the last round, where I wrote cardio of your choice, I did stair sprints. 

I think I am going to start doing this type of workout more often, since I think it will have a benefit for me as a runner as well. Not only will I be burning extra calories, I’ll be doing plyometric/explosive type movements as cardio, which will make me a stronger runner.

Have you added in cardio intervals to your strength workouts? What’s your favorite way? I hate mountain climbers!!

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11-18-2014

How To Perfect Your Squat and Deadlift

Squats and deadlifts are two big exercises and are almost always featured in any good training plan. They work big muscle groups and recruit smaller muscle groups (like your core) as well. Today I wanted to talk about training cues for both of these exercises.

Training cues are what I used as a personal trainer to get my clients to do an exercise correctly. Sometimes you just need to hear someone say “chest up” to straighten out a bit. I use my own cues in my head while I’m lifting weights, just as a reminder to maintain correct form.

Correct form is so important with these two exercises. Which is why I’m going to give you a few cues for each one that you will hopefully repeat to yourself the next time you’re are the gym!

How To Squat And Deadlift With Correct Form

SQUATS

So we’re mainly going to discuss barbell squats here but some of these are applicable to any sort of squat (I’ll use an * for those that are). 

Here are the steps and cues from the moment you step up to the squat rack:

  1. Step under the barbell. Make sure it’s not too high or too low. You shouldn’t be getting onto your toes to unrack the bar.
  2. Get strong as soon as you step under the bar. Flex your core and legs, and really grip the bar hard. A cue I like from trainer Tony Gentilcore is “melt the bar with your hands.”
  3. Unrack, step back and get set. Stay flexed.
  4. Pop your hips back as if you’re sitting back into a chair*, this is the first move. You do not want to just squat down. First, move your hips back and hinge forward a bit.
  5. As you squat down, keep your shoulder blades tucked (think down and back).
  6. Also, think chest up, shoulders back*. This will help you maintain good posture and not have a rounded lower back. Really focus on keeping your lower back straight. If you feel it rounding, you have gone too low.
  7. From the bottom, think of exploding up. Chest up, shoulders back! Come up and focus on keeping your knees out*. Do not let them sag inwards. If they do, you need to decrease the weight.
  8. Pop your hips forward at the top*. Just a little bit. Almost like a hip thrust. 
  9. Repeat.

Another key thing to keep in mind is to try to keep a neutral spine throughout. You already know to keep a flat back, but don’t look up when you’re coming up from a squat. This puts a lot of strain on your neck. Try to keep your gaze forwards at all time.

If you feel like you can’t get your legs parallel to the floor, try putting small plates under your heels to elevate them. You should be able to get lower this way, and work your way up to removing the plates.

DEADLIFTS

If you’ve never done deadlifts, I highly suggest you ask a trainer at your gym to go over proper form. They’ll gladly help.

Let’s go over some cues for deadlifts. I’m going to be talking about Romanian deadlifts, but most of these work for other variations as well.

  1. Set the bar up right in front of your feet. Your feet should actually be under the bar, with the bar grazing your shins.
  2. Same as the squat, as you grab the bar, get strong! Before you even lift the bar, flex your back and squeeze your shoulder blades.
  3. Keep a neutral spine. Do not look up as you pull the bar up. Look down and keep your neck neutral throughout.
  4. Pull up with force. Remember to keep a flat back the entire time. Sometimes I’d tell clients to imagine almost arching their back (like a U shape), which would get them to flatten it. Obviously you don’t want a U shape, but thinking of that arch helps some people get their back to be flat as opposed to rounded. You should not have a rounded back.
  5. Once you get to the top, pop your hips forward and squeeze your glutes. Then slowly lower the bar, grazing your shins, and keeping your shoulders and back tight the whole time. The bar should be very close to your shins because if you have it out in front of you, that’s a lot of stress on your lower back.
  6. Lower the bar fully and repeat.

This is as much a back exercise as it is a hamstring and glute exercise. The pulling motion engages your lats, which is why it’s important to squeeze your shoulder blades and keep your back muscles tight throughout, as opposed to just letting your arms hang. This same cue actually goes for dumbbell or barbell rows too. Next time you do them, flex your back/shoulder blades first and keep them flexed throughout, as opposed to just letting your arms hang and then rowing. You’ll notice a difference.

And as always, as with any exercise, use your core! Both of these will work your core. I’ve had sore abs before from squats and deadlifts. Make sure to brace your core as you go through each exercise.

I feel like I’m forgetting some stuff but hopefully this is a good starting point. If you only remember one cue make it this one: chest up shoulders back! This pretty much goes for any exercise and will help you use your core, keep a straight back, and flex your shoulders.

Do you like doing squats and deadlifts? Do you prefer barbells or dumbbells?

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09-12-2014

The 10 Minute Leg Workout

My mom and I try to do strength training two times per week. We are training for a half marathon but also want to make sure we make time to lift as well. Some days we run beforehand and go to the gym after…so let’s face it, we really don’t want to be there for hours. We want to get in and get out.

So that’s why this past week we started incorporating this leg workout into our workout. It only takes 10 minutes when you do it for 3 sets. And trust me it’s not easy. Once you’re done, you now have more time to work on other body parts like back, arms, and especially core.

10-min-leg-workout

So you go through and do each exercise for 30 seconds, then take a 30 second rest. You do this for three sets. You need to make sure the weight is heavy enough. You should be getting 8-10 reps in those 30 seconds. If you’re doing more, then the weight is too light. I am always dripping in sweat after this workout!

Here’s a picture I posted on my Instagram showing the exercises (ignore my running splits, that was from my tempo run that day which was awesome!!) :

This workout targets all the major muscles in your legs, like glutes, quads and hamstrings. It’s great when you’re short on time or want to do something quick after a run.

Let me know if you try it out! What types of lifting do you do while you’re training for a race?

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07-24-2014

Booty Burner Workout

I haven’t posted a workout in a while, and I thought why not focus on legs? I’m going to start half marathon training in the next week or two, so it’s time to make my legs stronger.

This leg workout includes some cardio in the form of burpees! Everyone’s favorite exercise ;) Check it out, and read on for instructions.

Booty Burner Workout

I love bulgarian split squats…they are killer, and you will feel it in your glutes and quads! This is an especially great exercise for athletes, since it’s a single leg exercise. You’ll be working on balance and core throughout the movement as well.

If you’re not familiar with them, take a look at this video:

The key thing to remember is to keep your chest up and shoulders back. Start with a lighter weight so you get the hang of it, and then increase.

Let me know if you try out the workout! I love hearing feedback

Have you used bulgarian split squats in your routine?

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05-08-2014

Strong & Lean Legs Workout

Summer is almost here…which means shorts and skirts!

Recently, I’ve liked making quick (but certainly not easy) workouts, like my 4 minute HIIT workout and my 3 minute abs workout. They are quick in the sense that doing just 1 round will take you 3-4 minutes…and this leg workout is no different – it’s a total of 4 minutes!

Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be just 4 minutes. You can do these workouts anywhere from 3-6 rounds depending on how long and challenging you want the workout to be. You can also use them as finishers after your own workout.

Strong & Lean Legs WorkoutPhoto Credit: k-girl via Compfight cc

This is also a great workout to do after a run if you want something quick to get in some leg strengthening! Hits all the major muscle groups like the glutes and hamstrings, with a little plyo action thrown in.

If you don’t have a box or step to use, no worries, just do squat jumps or burpees instead. I actually did this workout after my run yesterday for 3 sets :)

Let me know if you try it out and what you think!

Would you rather do burpees or walking lunges? ;)

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