4 Traits of a Great Workout

Photo By Jason Jaskot

Photo By Jason Jaskot

I have been weightlifting for about 4 years now, but I have been active my entire life. I have been to numerous types of exercise classes, I’ve tried different workout regimes, and I’ve even made up my own. Through trial and error and seeing which plans make me feel the best and also show results, I have put together the 4 attributes that I think every workout should have. I like to call these traits the 4 S’s.

The 4 S’s are Stretch, Stamina, Stability, and Strength.
1. Stretch – It is important to start and end with a good stretch during your workout. Yes, stretching can sometimes feel tedious and annoying, but there are so many benefits to stretching that should not be over looked. Stretching not only improves your flexibility and mobility, but it can greatly reduce your risk of injury, and also even support faster and stronger muscle growth. When stretching you are getting more oxygen and blood flow to your muscles, therefore providing your muscles with more nutrients to repair and grow.
2. Stamina – It’s time to get your heart rate up. Cardio has endless amount of benefits no matter what your fitness level may be. Cardio burns calories for weight loss, strengthens your heart, helps reduce the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, it helps you reduce stress, promotes sleep better, etc….
3. Stability – This is the one that I think many people forget to add into their workouts. Unless you are taking a Yoga or Pilates class, many workouts don’t incorporate stability into the regimen. Practicing your balance and stability will lead to fewer injuries, better posture, and improvement in your coordination and athletic skills.
4. Strength – This one is pretty self explanatory, but still can be forgotten, especially by people who are mostly just focusing on weight loss. It is very common to see people on the treadmill for an hour and then just leave the gym. Although they may be loosing weight, its usually is not in the areas they want to loose it in. I frequently get approached by people asking me how they get rid of their “belly fat” or “arm flab.” What I tell people who want to loose weight is that cardio and diet is obviously important, but strength training is your way of focusing on the exact body parts you want to improve on.

Examples of exercises for each aspect of the 4 S’s
Stretch – Arm Circles, Elbow Circles, Touch Your Toes, Lunges, Straddle, Splits
Stamina – Walking on an Incline, Running, Swimming, Stair Master, HIIT Workout
Stability – Planks, Holds, Handstands, Balance Drills, Yoga, Pilates
Strength – Weightlifting such as Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, Chest Press, Deadlifts, and Squats.

Try adding these aspects to your workout routines and let me know what you think. Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for new topics.

Back And Core Workout – April 2015

This is a workout I did the other day. I was pleased with how well it worked and how efficient it was. It did not take too much time, but I definitely felt a great pump and was sore all over the next day. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia KTGnyc.com

Model: Alec Varcas
Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio.

Working Sets:

  • 1. Superset 1: 4 rounds
    • 3 Drop sets of seated rows. 10 reps each. (10 reps at heavy, medium, then light weight)
    • 10 raised shoulder push-ups
    • 45 second hollow hold
    • 1 minute rest
  • 2. 50 reps of Lsit pull-ups
    (10 sets of 5 with a 30 second rest)
    • 3. Superset 2: 3 rounds
      • 15 reps of rear delt flyes
      • 1 minute side plank on each side
    • 4. 5 sets of farmer carries
      • 5. 10 handstands until failure
        • 6. Stretch
          • TIPS:
            1. For my moderate intensity cardio, I decided to walk at 4.0 speed on a 7.5% incline on the treadmill for 30 minutes. This burned a little over 300 calories.
            2. When I say “3 Drop sets of seated rows. 10 reps each,” start with a heavier weight and do 10 reps of seated rows. Immediately after, lower the weight and do another 10 reps, and then lower it one more time and do another 10 reps. You will do 30 reps total during this drop set, and eventually end up doing 120 total after you do the 4 rounds of that super set. I ended with doing 120lbs, then 80 lbs, then 40 lbs.
            3. During the “50 reps of Lsit pull-ups,” you can break them up however you want. I did 10 sets of 5 reps with a 30 second rest in between each set. Also, during this exercise, you can use a wide grip, or a close grip.
            4. When I did the “10 handstands until failure,” I did mine off the wall and just tried to hold my position. If you are not comfortable with handstands, try holding the handstand against the wall for as long as you can.

            Hope you enjoy this workout as much as I did. Let me know what you think or if you ended up modifying any of the exercises. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas for new topics, contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com

            WOD: CINDY


            For any of my Crossfit readers, you know exactly who Cindy is. “Cindy” is a WOD (Workout of the Day) done in Crossfit gyms around the world. Cindy is a full body workout that consists of only body weight exercises. What is great about Cindy is that people of all different fitness levels can do this workout because every exercise can be easily modified.

            CINDY – 20 minute AMRAP(as many reps as possible):
            5 pull-ups
            10 push-ups
            15 air squats

            For 20 minutes, you cycle the three workouts and see how many rounds you can get in. My last time trying CINDY I did 19 rounds plus 5 push-ups. This means I did 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air squats 19 times in a row, and the time ran out after I did 5 more pull-ups and 5 push-ups.
            Cindy 2
            In total I did 100 pull-ups, 195 push-ups, and 285 air squats in 20 minutes! Talk about a hard workout!

            1. The pull-ups and push-ups can easily be modified depending on your fitness level. For beginners, a resistance band can be used over the bar to assist in the pull-up, or pull-ups can even be switched out for body weight rows using rings or a TRX. For the push-ups, they can be done on and incline instead of parallel to the floor, or they can be done on your knees.
            2. This workout will really test your endurance and your heart rate will shoot up. If you have any heart or breathing conditions, consult a doctor first and don’t perform this workout unsupervised.
            3. A dead hang pull-up will make this workout much harder Cindy 3
            on your arms and back. Try kipping the pull-up to relieve strain. You will be doing a lot of reps; dead hang pull-ups will cause you to fatigue quickly.
            4. When doing air squats, keep your back straight and get your glutes as low to the ground as possible. Remember “Ass to Grass” when doing squats. Also push through your heels, not your toes.
            4. CINDY is a perfect full body workout to perform when you are short on time. It combines cardio with muscle building and will make you sweat like you have never sweat before.

            Have you ever friend CINDY? Do you have other WODs that you really like? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for new topics.

            Scissor Jumps (Jumping Lunges)

            Scissor Jumps 2

            Scissor Jumps are one of my least favorite exercises to do on legs day because of how badly they can burn. But as they say, NO PAIN, NO GAIN! Because of the high repetition, Scissor Jumps get your heart rate up and add a bit of intense cardio to your leg workout while also toning and building your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Scissor jumps are a great complex movement that anyone of any fitness level can add to their workout routine.


            To Perform Scissor Jumps:
            1. Start in a lunge position with one foot forward and your knee bent so that it is over the foot, with the other foot behind you and that knee bent and almost touching the ground.
            2. Pushing off the heel of your front foot and the toe of the back foot, jump up.
            3. While you are jumping, switch the position of your legs.
            4. When landing you should land in a lunge position again, however your starting front foot should now be in the back, and the foot that started in the back should now be in the front.
            5. Repeat Steps 2-4 for the allotted amount of reps.


            Scissor Jumps

            1. For people new to this exercise, you can swing your arms to help with the lift of the jump.
            2. When landing, always land with bent knees. This will help absorb some of the shock from the landing and help avoid any joint injuries.
            3. This exercise is to be done at a quicker pace. Although you would definitely feel a burn with more controlled motions, we also want to get our heart rates up.
            3. I aim to do about 5 sets of 40 reps of this exercise with about a minute rest in between each set.
            4. To make this exercise more difficult, try doing it without swinging your arms at first, and then try doing this exercise while holding a weight. As you can see in the pictures, last time I did this exercise I held a 45lb plate and it killed my legs!
            5. When doing this exercise with a weight, add a slight twist to your body (emphasis on SLIGHT… no need to throw your back out). This will help activate your obliques. The weight will not only make the jump harder on your legs since you will be pushing more than your body weight, but you also will be testing your core stabilization.

            Have you tried adding Scissor Jumps into your workout routine? Do you have any other leg exercises that really burn? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for new topics.

            Rolling Pistol Squats

            Rolling Pistol Squat: Step 1

            Rolling Pistol Squat: Step 2

            Rolling Pistol Squat: Step 3

            Rolling Pistol Squat: Step 4

            Rolling Pistol Squat: Step 5

            One of the benchmark exercises to do in any CrossFit gym is a Pistol Squat. Pistol Squats involve only using one leg to squat down and push back up to the standing position. This exercise is very difficult and requires a lot of practice and strength to complete. Rolling Pistol Squats are an easier variation of the standard Pistol Squat because they allow you to use momentum to your advantage. Rolling Pistol Squats are also a great cardio and full body workout.

            To Perform a Rolling Pistol Squat:
            1. Start in the standing position with both feet on the floor.
            2. Squat down with your glutes as close to the floor as possible and create a comfortable curve in your back to prepare to roll backward.
            3. Roll backward onto your back and raise your legs in the air.
            4. Using the momentum of throwing your legs forward, place one foot on the ground as close to your glutes as possible with the other leg straight out in front of you and stand up.
            5. Once standing, put the leg that is straight out in front of you back down to return to the standing position.
            6. Repeat the exercise from Step 2 and alternate legs with each rep.

            1. When I roll backward, I like to keep my legs straight and bring my legs as close to my chest as I can. I give them a light pull with my hands and this allows me to give my hamstrings a stretch.
            2. The closer you can place your foot to you glutes when you role forward, the easier it will be to stand up.
            3. Momentum is key! Quickly bring your legs forward to make the push up from the floor easier.
            4. For anyone with a knee or hip injury, any variation of a pistol squat is not recommended. Never do a workout that causes you pain. Listen to your body!
            5. Rolling Pistol Squats are great to help tone your legs, but they also wok your core and provide a good cardio workout as well. I like to use Rolling Pistol Squats in between other exercises to keep my heart rate up. I usually do about 16 reps per set (8 on each leg), and about 3-5 sets during my workout.

            Have you ever tried Rolling Pistol Squats? Do you plan on adding these to your workout routine? I really appreciate any feedback. Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com.

            Jump Squats

            Time to get our butts in shape for summer, LITERALLY. I personally can get bored with traditional cardio, so I try to integrate some High Intensity Interval workouts that not only provide a great cardio exercise, but also help tone your muscles. Jump squats are a great high intensity workout that target your entire lower body, especially your booty.

            Jump Squat: Jump

            Jump Squat: Squat

            To perform a Jump Squat:
            1. Start in a standing position with your feet about shoulder width apart.
            2. Squat down.
            3. From the squat position, jump up in the air and extend your legs. (Your feet should be a few inches above the ground)
            4. Once you complete the jump, repeat the workout from step 2.

            1. When squatting down, get your glutes low to the floor. This will stretch and activate your muscles more effectively.
            2. While jumping, straighten your leg and tighten your quads. Work your leg muscles even in the jump of the exercise.
            3. When you return back to the ground, land through your toes and bend your knees. This promotes good form and prevents injury and joint discomfort.
            4. I either like to do 5 sets of 15 reps for this workout with 45 second breaks in between, or I use this workout to superset with another leg exercise (usually lunges).

            Are you getting your body in shape for the summer? Do you use Jump Squats in your routine? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for new topics.

            BOSU Burpees

            Back to BURPEES! I promised that I would show you other versions of Burpees and the one I am about to show you is one of my favorites. For this variation, you will need to use a BOSU ball. These BOSU Burpees intensify your workout by adding stability and resistance components to your burpee.

            To do a BOSU Burpee:
            1. Start in a standing position holding the BOSU Ball handles with the ball facing away from your body.
            2. Squat down and place the BOSU ball on the ground. (The flat side should be facing up and the ball side should be on the floor)
            3. Jump your feet back to put yourself in a plank position while still holding the BOSU ball handles.
            3a. Optional Pushup
            4. Jump your feet forward to return to the squat position.
            5. Raise the BOSU ball above your head.
            6. Jump up. While jumping, press the BOSU ball up toward the ceiling.
            7. Repeat from Step #1.

            1. If you are not familiar with Burpees, or forget some of the tips I have given to get the most out of these exercises, check out my ‘How to do a Burpee’ Post before trying this more difficult variation of the exercise. It is important to understand the body mechanics of the basic exercise before trying more difficult variations in order to prevent injury.
            2. Remember, when squatting down, try and get your glutes low to the floor.
            3. Activate your core while in the plank position. The BOSU Ball will add an additional stability aspect to the exercise which will require more core strength and activation than the Basic Burpee.
            4. When jumping during this exercise, you also press the BOSU Ball up toward the ceiling. Adding the BOSU ball will not only add weight to your jump making the jump more difficult, but it will also help tone your shoulders while pressing the BOSU Ball up.

            Bosu Burpee: Step 1

            Bosu Burpee: Step 1

            Bosu Burpee: Step 2

            Bosu Burpee: Step 2

            Bosu Burpee: Step 3

            Bosu Burpee: Step 3

            Bosu Burpee: Step 3a (optional pushup)

            Bosu Burpee: Step 3a

            Bosu Burpee: Step 3a (finish optional pushup)

            Bosu Burpee: Step 3a

            Bosu Burpee: Step 4

            Bosu Burpee: Step 4

            Bosu Burpee: Step 5

            Bosu Burpee: Step 5

            Bosu Burpee: Step 6

            Bosu Burpee: Step 6




















            Do you any variations of Burpees that you like to include in your workout routine? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com for any questions, comments, or ideas for new topics.

            How to do a Burpee!

            BURPEES! You love them and you hate them.
            Burpees are an amazing cardio workout and work many of your major muscle groups. Burpees are one of the best full body workouts you can do in your exercise routine, however it is also easy to do a burpee incorrectly, making the exercise not as effective.

            To do a Basic Burpee:
            1. Start in a standing position
            2. Squat down and place your hands on the ground.
            3. Jump your feet back to put yourself in a plank position.
            4. Jump your feet forward to return to the squat position.
            5. Jump up straight off the floor from the squat position.
            6. Repeat from Step #1

            There are many variations of Burpees. The most common variation is the Burpee Pushup where one pushup is done while in the plank position. (Between steps #3 and #4 of the Basic Burpee instructions, do a pushup).

            1. When squatting down, try and get your glutes low to the floor. This will make the exercise seem harder, but that is because you are activating most of the muscles in your legs from your quads, to your glutes and hamstrings. This muscle activation will help tone your legs more effectively.
            2. While in the plank position, make sure to keep your body completely flat and activate your core. It is very easy to raise you hips and glutes up toward the ceiling.
            3. When jumping during this exercise, and in any other exercise, land with bent knees. If you jump and land with your legs completely straight, you will put too much pressure on your knees and lead to injuries in the future.
            4. Burpees can be done as a FT workout (For Time) or AMRAP workout (As Many Reps As Possible). If you do a FT workout, give yourself a certain number of burpees to do and see how much time it takes you to complete the workout. If you choose to do an AMRAP workout, give yourself an amount of time, usually a minute or two, and see how many burpees you can do in the time allotted.

            Burpee: Step 3

            Burpee: Step 3

            Burpee: Step 2

            Burpee: Step 2

            Burpee: Step 1

            Burpee: Step 1

            Burpee: Step 5

            Burpee: Step 5

            Burpee: Step 4

            Burpee: Step 4

            Burpee: Step 3a (optional pushup)

            Burpee: Step 3a (optional pushup)

            Burpee: Step 6

            Burpee: Step 6

            Do you include Burpees into your workout? Do you have any variations that you would like to share? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com for any questions, comments, or ideas for new topics.

            Is Shoveling Snow a Good Exercise?

            Because Winter is now upon us, and we are definitely starting to see some heavy snowfall, I wanted to see if shoveling snow was a good way to get some exercise. I personally always dreaded going outside and clearing the driveway of snow, but after doing some research, I realized that it definitely has its benefits. According to an article done by Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D, at North Dakota State University, a person of 170lbs can shovel for 30 minutes and burn about 250 calories. (Click Here to See the Article) Because shoveling involves high repetitions of lifting a weighted object, it also can help tone your muscles in your arms, legs, and core if done correctly. Not too bad for a chore I hate doing.


            It is important to also understand the dangers of shoveling before you go out and start throwing the snow around. A quote from masslive.com stated,

            “According to a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, some 195,100 Americans were treated in emergency rooms for snow shoveling-related mishaps from 1990 to 2006. Among those cases, 7 percent were cardiac related, which made up all of the 1,647 deaths in the study.”

            Click Here to see the Article on Masslive.com

            Here are some tips to keep in mind:

            • Because shoveling can involve some heavy lifting at times, it also puts some people at risk of heart attacks. If you already have high blood pressure or are at risk of a heart attack, consult your doctor before you decide to go outside and shovel snow.
            • Make sure to always lift with your legs and tighten your core when lifting the snow.
            • Avoid twisting and lifting from your lower back to avoid lower back injuries which are common when shoveling.

            So next time you go out to battle the cold and shovel, try to think of how it actually can help you reach our fitness goals. As long as you stay smart and safe by following the tips I shared, shoveling will can be more than just a chore, but a productive workout.

            How did you like this post? Did you find it useful? Do you have any other ideas for future posts I should do? If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com.

            Do You Hate Running? Try Running In Reverse!

            Ever since I was a kid, I never liked running. I didn’t mind playing a game of tag or running to a base during a kickball game, but when it came to long distance running, I never excelled… I flat out stunk at it. Friends of mine today keep telling me how they are preparing for different races, and all I can think about is how I can’t even stay on a treadmill for 10 minutes without wanting to pass out. I have tried entering races, running with friends, and even running with my dog, but I still can’t keep up. I have always wanted to reach that ‘runners high’ people talk about when they can just run for hours and just enjoy it, but no matter what I do, I have not been able to find a method that works for me… Until now!

            Backward running
            It may sound crazy, but one day at the gym, I decided to put the treadmill on a low speed and turn around. I started jogging backward, and eventually after a few mintues I was able to bump up the speed and pretty much run in reverse. I will admit it felt weird at first, but then I really started enjoying it. None of my joints were hurting, I wasnt running out of breath too quickly, and I was finally able to run for over 30 minutes without having any issues.

            Now what are the benefits to running in reverse?
            According to the New york Times Well blog and studies done by the University of Milan, running backwards can be easier on your joints, can help with muscle therapy, burn more calories, and increase balance. When running forward, a person puts a lot of tension and hard pounding on the knee joint. When running backward, however, there is much less hard pounding since our muscles and tendons act differently and instead of landing on our heels and taking off our toes like most people do when running forward, when running backward we land through our toes. Running backward also burns more calories because of the muscle and tendon activity. When running foward, we rely a lot of the motion and effort on the elastic energy in our muscles and tendons. When in reverse, this energy is not present, so we exert almost 30% more energy in order to run backward at the same speed. Our muscles are activated in order to stabalize our bodies in the backward motion which also helps improve our balance when moving both foward and backward and helps burns more calories.

            When first implementing backward running, make sure to start off slow. It is a new motion for your body, and will take a little time to get used to. I currently only run backward at 4.5 mph on the treadmill to ensure safety, but also feel the benefits of the exercise. Trust me, after running backward for a few minutes, your calves and quads will be burning!

            Try this exercise out and let me know what you think. Email me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com for any questions, comments, feedback, or ideas for future topics to discuss.

            To view the New York Times Well blog article on reverse running, Click Here.