04-15-2014

Squat Variations

We all know squats are a great lower body exercise, but did you know there are a ton of variations you can do? You can switch it up so you don’t get bored, but also so you target different muscle groups. Knowing variations also helps if you are lacking certain equipment.

Types Of SquatsPhoto Credit: Malingering via Compfight cc

Barbell Back Squat

barbell-squat

This is the most known. I love barbell back squats. It does take some practice though, so make sure if it’s your first time trying it you ask a personal trainer at your gym for help. You also don’t need to squat all the way down. Go as low as you can while keeping good form. If you can’t get down to 90 degrees, work on mobility and flexibility (usually in the hips). You can also place weight plates underneath your heels to help you squat down a bit lower.

Dumbbell Squat

Dumbbell Squats

This is a great alternative to the barbell squat if you don’t have a barbell or if you don’t feel comfortable trying it yet. Where you want to place the dumbbells depends on you. You can have them like this photo does, or you can rest them on your shoulders. I actually prefer the latter.

Sumo Squat

sumoYou can do this with a dumbbell or with a barbell. This type of squat will target a few different muscles as well, such as the adductors (inner thighs), and place a bit more emphasis on your glutes.

Barbell Front Squat

Front-Squats

You may have seen another variation of this, where elbows are out in front and the bar is in your hands, but I think this one is a bit easier for most people. With the other pose, you need a good amount of wrist flexibility. For this one, just make sure to place the bar on the meaty part of your front shoulders. The first few times you may get a bruise there – I have before!

Also, if you have a tough time getting low with back squats, try front squats! The way the bar is placed in the front allows you to have a bit more hip/lower back mobility, and have the ability to squat a bit lower. Again, if it’s your first time doing this, have a trainer assist you.

Overhead Squat

overhead-squat

I would only suggest this variation if you have good shoulder mobility. This exercise will challenge your whole body, as a lot of core strength is involved to balance the barbell over your head! This lift is a bit trickier, so please have a trainer with you the first time to give you the proper cues! One thing to remember always is to keep your core tight.

Goblet Squat

goblet-squat

You can do this with either a dumbbell or a kettlebell. Make sure to keep the dumbbell or kettlebell tucked right into your chest. As always, don’t lower yourself past where you’re able to. Your back should never be rounded with any of these squats. I like doing these when I’m going to do some higher reps of squats, and I love doing low reps of barbell back squats to work on my strength.

Bulgarian Split Squats

Split-Squat

These don’t look traditional squats, but they are still an amazing lower body workout. These will really target your glutes and quads. If these are too challenging for you, do traditional split squats (both feet on the floor). Don’t worry about adding weight at first. Try them bodyweight and go from there (since it can be tricky to balance at first).

General Tips

  • Keep your core tight during the whole exercise.
  • Think chest up, shoulders back. This will help you have good form and not round your back.
  • Grip the bar or dumbbells hard, and as one of my favorite trainers, Tony Gentilcore says, “melt the bar in your hands.”
  • Don’t force it. Don’t go lower than you’re comfortable.
  • Sit back into your heels when squatting. Go down slow, then drive it up with power.

Which of these squat variations do you do on a regular basis? Which ones haven’t you tried?

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03-18-2014

The Stair Workout

Here’s a new workout video for you! All you need is a set of stairs – so this one is really convenient to do right at home, or even at work if you wanted to.

The video is only 8 minutes long, but it’s tough! I was so out of breath by the end. Feel free to repeat the video 2-3 times through for a longer workout. You will definitely feel this one in your quads and glutes!

Here are the exercises this video includes:

  • Step-ups with oblique crunch
  • Tricep dips
  • Soccer drill
  • Squat-to-step
  • Push-ups
  • Box jumps with a burpee (!!)

Check it out:

Let me know if you decide to try it out & what you think! I’d love to hear your feedback.

Have you ever used your stairs for a workout?

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03-05-2014

Glute Strengthening Exercises

We all know what kinds of exercises strengthen your glutes…but what about the smaller glute medius? This muscle is very important for hip stability and strength. If you’re a runner, then pay extra attention to this post ;)

I got the idea for this post when “The Strength Guys” wrote about foam rolling and strengthening weak muscles. I asked them about how I foam roll the outside of my hip/IT band area because it is really tight, and they suggested also strengthening my glute medius and hip external rotators.

glute strengthening exericsesBackground Image via Scott & White Healthcare

This concept isn’t new to me – I have gone to physical therapy a couple of times during marathon training and was told my hips are weak. As a personal trainer, I used to have clients warm up with a few of these exercises, and also incorporate them into their programs in order to strengthen the overall hip area. Now I just need to be better with doing it myself!

The Strength Guys recommended a few exercises to me, which I wanted to share with you. If you are experiencing any IT band pain, or your outer hips are really tight (try foam rolling, if they’re tight it will hurt), then try adding these into your training routine, or at least into your warm-up.

Exercises

Clam With A Band

 You can do these without a band too, but the band adds great resistance.

Fire Hydrant

I do these as a warm-up before leg days, but I like the added band resistance.

Lateral Step With Band

I had my clients do this as a warm-up before every session. Trust me, you will feel this one and instantly know if your glute medius is weak! Start with 5-7 steps on each side and work your way up.

Crouched Band Monster Walk & Sumo Walk

A variation of the lateral step.

Side Lying Leg Raise

Add a band for more resistance.

I highly suggest incorporating some of these into your routine, as a warm-up and as strength work. According to The Strength Guys, strengthening areas that have trigger points can help you rely less on a foam roller, and instead strengthen those areas so they become looser. But in my opinion, if a foam roller helps you feel better than incorporate that too!

I like to foam roll before lifting as a way to increase mobility temporarily, and I foam roll after to get out some kinks. But I do also try to work on weak areas…I just need to be better about focusing on my hips!

Here are some items discussed in this post that can help you with your strength training:

  • Mini resistance bands
  • Dumbbells – I recommend getting a light set and heavy set if you mainly work out at home. Or if you only work out at home, consider investing in an adjustable dumbbell set.
  • Small plyo box – one of my favorite glute exercises are step-ups…also great for plyo moves like box jumps!

Do you do any of these exercises regularly?

Are you guilty of ignoring your smaller glute muscles?

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02-17-2014

Top Glute Exercises

Ever look at a word for too long and then it just looks weird? That’s how I feel about “Glute” right now :-P

I posted a new video to my YouTube channel today! How To: Weighted Hip Raises.

Hip raises/hip thrusts are a great way to target your glutes and hamstrings. You can do them bodyweight or with weights. I usually do bodyweight hip raises as a warm-up before lifting. I do 10 hip raises, then 5 single leg hip raises on each side.

If you want more of a challenge, that’s where this video comes in. Adding weight will help you feel the burn, and tone your butt and hamstrings ;)

Here are a few of my other favorite butt toning exercises – you will definitely feel it the day after doing these!

Dumbbell Deadlift

Walking Lunges

Kettlebell Squats

Leg Press

If I were to combine these into a workout, I’d suggest the following:

3-4 sets, 12-15 reps of each exercise

Kettlebell squat

Dumbbell deadlift

Leg press

Weighted hip-raise

Walking lunges

Let me know if you try out the hip raises or this lower body workout!

Which of these do you regularly incorporate into your routine?

Which do you want to try?

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01-10-2014

Sculpt That Butt!

Want to feel the burn to start the weekend off? Try out this leg workout I made for ya!

You will definitely feel the burn in your quads and glutes. I suggest 3-5 sets through with a 1 min break in between, but do more or less depending on how you feel/how long you want your workout to be, or add in some abs at the end to make it longer.

You can do this with no equipment, or add weight to make it even more challenging.

butt workout

Let me know if you try it out!

What are your favorite lower body exercises? Recently, I’ve been loving the leg press :)

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03-28-2013

Thursday Workout Challenge!

Need a workout for today? Want to feel a little burn? Try my lower body workout and really focus on those legs! Let me know if you try it and what you think…enjoy!

thursworkout

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03-12-2013

Shin Splint Exercise

As many of you know, I have shin splint issues. I have written about it twice here and here (<–This one is actually a guest post by my running coach).

Shin splints are a pain and if you can avoid them you should. How do you do that? By not increasing mileage too quickly, getting proper shoes, and doing preventative strengthening exercises. Below is a video I made showing a great exercise I do with an elastic band. I usually have a partner pull the band to each side (you will know what I mean when you watch) in order to have more resistance, or you can tie it to a sturdy surface.

This exercise strengthens your anterior tibialis, which is on the front part of your leg by your shin. A weak muscle here can cause shin splints as well. Doing this exercise has helped me to relieve the pain and for some may actually reverse their shin splints!

Here you go…enjoy!