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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06-10-2015

How To Create a Full Body Workout In 6 Steps

My sister is always asking me what exercise she can do for this or that everytime she goes to the gym. Same with my parents actually, now that I think of it. I don’t mind it at all, but it made me think that perhaps there are many who head to the gym without a clue as to what workout they will do that day. 

So I created 6 steps for you to create a full body workout routine next time you need to strength train. My suggestion is to start the workout with your weakest link (of the major muscle groups). So if you’re deadlift is weak, start with that exercise.

You can follow this template to create 2-3 different workouts for the week, then change it up after 3-4 weeks in order to avoid a plateau.

How To Create a Full Body Workout in 6 Easy Steps

Step 1. Choose a glute/quad dominant exercise

We know that glute strength is key for a strong core (which can help alleviate lower back pain), and is really important for runners. I always start my workouts with a glute exercise. If you’re not sure what you can do besides squats, here are some ideas:

  • Walking lunges
  • Split squats
  • Reverse lunges
  • Front foot elevated split squats
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Sumo squats
  • Kettlebell squats
  • 1.5 squats (Lower down, come up half way, lower down again, stand up to complete the squat. Oh, you’ll feel the burn.)
  • Step-ups
  • Box squats
  • Rear foot elevated split squats (rear foot elevated less than the Bulgarians – that’s the difference between the two.)
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Single leg squats/TRX single leg squats

If you’re just starting out, I would recommend not starting with walking lunges. It can be hard on the knees until you build up that quad strength. This would be my progression with lunges: split squats > weight split squats > front foot elevated split squat > reverse lunges (step back, lower, step forward) > walking lunges > bulgarian split squats.

Step 2. Choose a back exercise

Who doesn’t want a strong back, especially in the summer when you’re tank tops, strapless dresses, etc.? After you complete your first exercise, move quickly into a back exercise.

Once you complete the back exercise, take a 1-2 minute break, then repeat the glute and back exercises again for your chosen amount of sets, before moving on to step 3 and 4.

Here are a few back exercises you can do:

  • Seated row
  • Lat pull down
  • Pull-ups/chin-ups
  • TRX rows
  • TRX assisted pull-ups
  • Dumbell row on a bench (one knee, one arm on a bench)
  • Barbell row
  • Inverted row
  • Cable row
  • T-bar row (Barbell is between your legs. Barbell usually has a piece at the end where it is attached, or you can put it in a corner.
  • Chest supported dumbell row (put your chest on an incline bench, so you’re facing down, and then row with both arms)

I think back exercises are my favorite to do. It’s one of my stronger points and it translates into stronger running (stronger back = stronger arms for that finish line kick).

Step 3. Choose a hamstring dominant exercise

Hamstrings are just as important as glutes! Having strong hamstrings and glutes means better posture, stronger core, and more strength in general. If you’re a runner and can only focus on one thing, make it your glutes and hamstrings! So many runners have weak glutes which can lead to injuries and other issues.

Here are some exercises to choose from:

  • Barbell Romanian deadlift
  • Barbell traditional deadlift
  • Trap bar deadlift
  • Dumbbell deadlifts
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Hip raises
  • Swiss ball leg curl
  • Single leg hip raises
  • T-bar row
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Walking lunges with large steps
  • Step-ups with a higher box

Step 4. Choose a chest exercise

While I personally focus less on chest exercises (for this reason), it is still important to include them in your routines. I prefer to do overhead presses and other shoulder press exercises as opposed to traditional bench presses.

My posture needs serious work, and tightening up the muscles in my pecs will only exacerbate the problem (pulling shoulders forward), which is why I like to do more back exercises (which help pull the shoulers back). Doing shoulder presses still works some of your chest muscles and also helps build strong and stable shoulder joints. Here’s a great list of exercises for improving your posture. I’ll list shoulder exercises in the next step when I get there.

Here are chest exercises:

  • Barbell bench press
  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Decline bench press
  • 1.5 dumbbell press (lower all the way down, lift halfway, lower, lift to the top)
  • Pushups
  • Feet elevated pushups
  • TRX pushups
  • Single arm dumbbell bench press (or incline press)

Step 5. Choose a bicep, tricep and shoulder exercise

If you’re cramped for time, I would say you can skip this step. If you chose challenging enough weights in the previous steps, you will already have worked these muscles anyway. For example, if you did pull-ups you worked your biceps. If you did bench presses you worked your triceps and shoulders. If you did inverted rows, you worked your shoulders.

But when you have enough time, definitely add in these exercises to help build an overall strong body. Remember runners, strong arms = stronger pump = stronger finish at the end of a race!

Here are some ideas:

Biceps

  • Dumbbell bicep curls
  • Barbell bicep curls
  • Zottman curls (instead of palms facing up as you curl, palms are facing down)
  • Single arm dumbbell curls
  • Single arm half-way curls (While one arm is curling, the other arm is holding the dumbbell halfway up, as opposed to holding it up by your shoulder in a resting position)
  • Decline bench bicep curls (sit in a slightly decline bench and do bicep curls)

Triceps

  • Standing tricep extension
  • Flat bench tricep extension (lowering dumbbells by your ears then bringing up). This is my absolute favorite tricep exercise.
  • Tricep rope pull-down
  • Dips
  • Cable overhead tricep extension

Shoulders

Step 6. Choose 2-4 core exercises

Do I even need to talk about how important core exercises are? Here are my go-to exercises:

  • Any plank variation
  • Plank with knee drops
  • Side planks with reach under (with or without dumbbell)
  • Reverse crunches
  • Standing pallof presses
  • Medicine ball twists
  • Leg lifts (same time and/or alternating)
  • Deadbugs

Obviously there are many more exercises for each bodypart, but these are what came to mind of exercises I include in my routine regularly. I’d say my top picks are barbell squats, trap bar deadlift, pull-ups, incline presses, and pallof presses.

In terms of sets, I usually do my workouts as Step 1, Step 2, break, repeat 1 & 2 3-4 times, Step 3, Step 4, break, repeat 4&5 3-4 times, etc.

Let me know if you try creating your own full body routine with this guide! I’d love feedback :)

Do you create your own workouts or follow a routine (either from a personal trainer or website like bodybuilding.com?)

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10-22-2014

Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

You know what I just realized? The NYC Marathon is next weekend!! I’m seriously so pumped for all of you running it and I can’t wait to go be a spectator. And to see Kara Goucher run!

Let me know if you’re running so I can try to find you in the crowd! I plan on having this sign :)

boston-marathon
Anyway, here are your links for today!

Featured: 4 Yoga Poses For Tight Hips (Keeping It Simpelle)

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I love this pose though I can’t lean forward like that. And I’ve never tried the shoelace one. Think I will do these tonight!

  • Spooktacular Smoothies (Run To The Finish) – Cute idea and the smoothie recipes look delicious. If you have a smoothie recipe, head on over to Amanda’s page to link up to this post!
  • Yoga Must Haves (Tina Reale) – Those shorts/underwear by C9 look really comfy! I need to get more tops specifically for yoga. I like my running shirts baggy but this doesnt’ go well when you’re in downward dog :-P
  • Taco Pizza (A Mindfull Mom) – This just made me really hungry. Combining tacos and pizza? Sounds awesome.
  • Last Minute Healthy Meals (SuzLyfe) – I’m all about quick, healthy meals – especially for dinner. I usually get home from the gym and just want to eat. There are some good ideas here.
  • 30 Best Kettlebell Exercises (Lifting Revolution) – I need to get a kettlebell to just have in my apartment for when I don’t go to the gym. Bookmarking this!

Do you wear different types of fitness apparel for different activities? What do you prefer? I need loose fitting shirts and spandex shorts!

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09-04-2014

5 Low-Impact Exercise Ideas

You may be injured. Or just may just want a change in your routine. These low-impact exercises are great when you have some sort of lower body issue (like my shin splints) or just want to switch up your cross-training. Really, who wants to be on the elliptical for an hour?? You can try doing one (or a mix) of these instead. I’d say my favorite are the battle ropes.

low-impact-exercisePhoto Credit: Tooley via Compfight cc

Battle Ropes – I recently took a ropes type class which I’ll be reviewing next week. Let me tell you, I am sore. We did all sorts of stuff with battle ropes. My heart rate was jacked up and I could feel my core workout. Any exercise where I’m doing cardio and abs…I’m in. The great thing about using ropes is that it can be as low-impact as you need. I told the instructor I had shin splints, so she modified certain exercises for me. Regardless, I still had to take breaks because I was so winded. Talk about a great way to exercise when you’re injured and can’t run!

Here’s a great and simple move to do with ropes:

photo-3Source: powercakes.net

Stairs - For some reason, I get more winded with stairs than running. No joke, I go up like 10 steps and I’m out of breath (can anyone tell me why??). Stairs are a great way to get in some lower-impact cardio and feel the burn in your quads. If you don’t care about low-impact, add in some jumps (similar to box jumps) to really get in a good lower body workout.

Hiking – About a month or so ago I went for a 1.5 mile hike with Dan. 1.5 miles is nothing right? Well it was straight up a rocky hill, so by the end I was pretty sweaty. If you’re injured, this is a great way to cross train and be outdoors at the same time.

Suspension Training – I’m sure you’ve heard of TRX training. You can do suspension training with anything similar to a TRX. At the class I took we simply used ropes that were hanging from a pull-up bar. There are so many things you can do with suspension trainers: lunges, mountain climbers, planks, rows, single arm rows…the list goes on.

Rock Climbing – During grad school, I worked with the college Recreation department. As a team, we took a trip to the rock wall at our school. I was really scared because I had never done this before. Turns out it was actually a lot of fun AND a great workout. My arms were pretty sore the next day! Rock climbing not only works your arms, but your lower body too since you use your legs to boost yourself up each time you go for a rock. The best part is belaying all the way back down at the top!

Have you tried any of these (or do them regularly?)

I really want to do more muscle ropes at my gym but also am a little self conscious because you have to do them on the main floor where everyone is working out…hmm…

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06-25-2014

Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day (Travel Edition)

One more day and I’m outta here! I’m excited to be traveling to South America…though I’ll admit I will miss my cats ;) But at least my uncle will be home to take care of them. We were nervous we wouldn’t be able to find someone to watch over them. Yes, I have multiple cats…I swear I’m not a crazy cat lady! :)

Today’s links will be travel related for all of you who will be going on a vacation this summer. Found a lot of helpful information! A new thing I want to add to these health & fitness posts is a featured post:

Featured Post

15 Minute Hotel Workout

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Definitely doing this workout by Healthy Happier Bear while I’m away. I love timed workouts because it’s easy enough to do and all you need is a timer. Plus, 15 minutes? Perfect for when you don’t have time to dedicate to a longer workout – whether you’re on vacation or not!

Healthy Eating While Traveling

Fitness

What are some of your tips on how to stay healthy while on vacation? I’d love to hear them!

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06-23-2014

Benefits Of Not Training For A Big Race

I’ve been loving not having any races to train for. It has given me the freedom to run when I want, and skip a run when I want. The days I’m not feeling a run, I’m okay with doing something else. In fact, I’ve been wanting to do other workouts since when I AM training for something, it’s hard to get other types of workouts in.

So what have I been doing?

Well, last week I went to play tennis with my sister and I remembered how much I really like it. My parents used to send me to tennis lessons as a kid and I hated it. Now, I wish I had kept up with it…who knows maybe I actually would have been good at tennis :)

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Side note: I always wonder, what if there is something I’m really good at but will never know. Like what if I could go to the Olympics for snowboarding or swimming or something? The world will never know…

Anyway, I’ve also gotten back into spinning. I have taken a few classes with a friend, but also make up my own workouts at the gym.

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The above picture was from a combo spin + yoga class at Ride + Reflect in Bernardsville, NJ. 45 minutes of spin, 45 minutes of yoga. Loved it!

Here’s my spin playlist I used for my own spin workout that I did yesterday, if you’re interested:

I used to hate spin but actually really like it now. I am on the hunt for an inexpensive bike so I can start riding outside. I’ve written about how I want to do a sprint triathlon later this summer (possibly), so I need a bike for that! I have a mountain bike, but not sure if I can use that?

I’ve also enjoyed going to the gym and getting back into lifting. I’m not following any set plan right now, but have liked doing more interval type workouts using weights. My sister and I did a tough one yesterday, which I will actually share on my YouTube channel later this week – so stay tuned!

Here we are after the workout:

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 But I can’t forget about running. I do miss it sometimes, and the other day I just felt the urge to go for a run, even after an hour of lifting. I decided not to wear a watch or anything, and just go with the flow. I ran 2.6 miles and felt amazing despite the heat.

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I love those runs where you just feel like you can run forever. I could have kept going but dinner was waiting and it was already 8 pm and I was hungry :)

I think my mom and I will be doing a half marathon in September or October, and we’d also like to do the Philly Half. We are considering doing a spring full marathon but I don’t know how I feel about training in the winter time! I have only done it once for a May half marathon, and it wasn’t bad…but I do prefer training in the summer. We’ll see!

What types of workouts do you do when you’re not running?

Have you done a spring full marathon? Which one? How’d you adjust to running in the winter?

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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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05-07-2014

What Workout Should I Try Next?

So on Monday I decided to try out a new workout: “Cardio Barre.” It was described as a mix between Barre and willPower & Grace. Hmmm…

A co-worker had suggested a while ago that I try willPower & Grace because she thought it’d help with my shin splint issues. It’s a barefoot class which focuses on balance and leg strengthening.

It was tough in a totally different way! A looottttt of squat variations, my legs were on fire. The hardest part for me was the balancing part. We did a lot of one-legged exercises and I felt like I was the only one falling all over the place. I’m way more wobbly on my left side, which may be part of the reason my left shin is always the one to give me more issues? 

During all those balancing exercises my ankles and calves were also burning. It was weird because the day after my shins felt sore? I obviously didn’t do anything with major impact to make them sore, so I’m thinking that working all those muscles in that area is what made my shins hurt a bit. I definitely want to do this class again to help with my balance which is obviously very important for runners.

Which leads me to my next point…I want to experiment with more classes and types of workouts! I’d like your suggestions as well, especially if you use classes or other workouts as cross training. Here’s what I’d like to try out, or do more of in, in the next few months:

workout-checklist

 

What workouts do you want to try OR do more of? Leave a comment and let me know so I can add it to my list too!

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04-14-2014

Spring Back Into Fitness!

It’s finally spring! This winter has been tough (at least here in NJ), so I’m really excited that it’s warm out again.

If you’re anything like me, cold, dreary, dark winter days means that you’re less motivated to work out. It’s hard to get outside and run in the cold (unless you’re training for something and NEED to be out there). It’s also hard to be motivated to go to the gym when you get out of work and it’s already dark out.

But those days are over! Warm days doesn’t just had to mean running or walking outside though. There are plenty of ways to exercise outdoors. Here are a couple of my ideas:

Ways To Be Active Outdoors

  • Go for a hike. Explore some new trails in your area or use it as an excuse for a little day trip. You can choose whether you want a flat trail or something more challenging. Great way to get in some exercise and be out in the great outdoors.
  • Go biking. I just found this park in my area (where I ran my most recent 5K) that has bike rentals on their premises. I definitely want to go and bike around the estate. If you don’t have a bike, this is perfect for you! If you do have a bike, grab a friend and go for a ride in your town or in a park. Find a local bike race and try something competitive (if that’s your thing). Or just go to the beach and go for a peaceful ride.
  • Go kayaking. I actually have never done this but want to hit up the Delaware Water Gap this summer and try it out. Talk about an upper body workout! If you want something more relaxing, try tubing or rafting with some friends. Someone on Twitter recommended to me to try out rafting with a few cold ones and lounging with friends…okay, this isn’t really going to burn many calories or anything but sometimes that’s okay! ;)
  • Try a trapeze class. This is another thing that’s on my bucket list. I am kind of afraid of class but think this would be really fun. Not sure if I have the upper body strength for it but we’ll see!
  • Go for a swim. If you love lounging by the pool in the summer, take advantage of the water and go for a swim. Swimming is a full body exercise and burns mega-calories. Whether you’re at the pool or by the beach, get in the water! Or you can do other water activities, like playing pool basketball, or throwing around a ball in the ocean with a friend. That’s always a workout for me because I never can catch the ball!
  • Play tennis. Or soccer. Or lacrosse. Try a new sport! I love going to play tennis with my mom, even if I can only last for 15 minutes. Somehow I can run 26. miles but a few minutes of sprinting around a tennis court kills me. If you don’t have tennis rackets, go out and play soccer or basketball with friends.

These are only a few ways to get active outside. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and get out there! Also, if you are planning on ramping up your running now that it’s warmer, here’s my one tip for you: Start slow. Don’t get over-enthusiastic and end up with an injury because you did too much too soon!

What are your favorite things to do outside?

What would you add to this list?

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04-09-2014

Health & Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

It’s only Wednesday…I seriously feel like it should be the end of the week already!

Here are your health links for today:

Do you strive for “perfect” eating or are do you treat yourself when you have a craving?

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