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.

Narrow Squats

Narrow Squat 1

This is a move I just started adding to my leg day routine, and it kills my legs! You will feel your quads, glutes, and hamstrings burn and swell. This move may feel weird at first, but once you start understanding the mechanics and form, it is a great exercise to add to your leg routine.

To do a Narrow Squat:
1. With a bar set on the squat rack, load the bar with the appropriate amount of weight.
2. With the bar resting on your traps (lower neck/upper back), lift the bar off the squat rack
3. Set your feet slightly closer than shoulder width apart, but not completely together.
4. Keeping your back straight, squat down. (As seen in the second picture)
5. When you are as low as you can get, push through your heels to return back to the standing position.
6. Repeat steps 4-5 for the allotted amount of reps.

Narrow Squat 2

TIPS:
1. Be careful of your knees during this exercise. During the entire movement of the squat your knees should stay in line. Make sure they do not start moving in toward each other. If they do, this will easily cause injury. When pushing up, I try to focus on pushing me knees slightly out to avoid them from caving in toward each other.
2. This is another exercise that is all about control and less about weight. Although the resistance of the weight is important, if you can control the movement of the exercise and perform this squat with slow, but strong movements, you will definitely feel and see a change in your legs.
3. When squatting, try to get your legs to at least make a 90 degree angle, but lower even more toward the floor if you can. A wider range of motion will cause your legs to work harder which will then lead to more strength gains. If you cannot lower to create a 90 degree angle, you may be lacking flexibility in your hips. Stretching regularly will help alleviate this issue.
4. Push through your heels to activate your hamstrings and give your movement more support and power.
5. I recommend starting this exercise with a very small amount of weight to get the movement down first. Once you have gotten used to the motion, slowly add on weight to see what weight is challenging, but still comfortable for you. You will probably not do the same weight you use for your normal squat. Right now, for my narrow squat I do about 5 sets of 10 reps 185lbs, while for my standard squat I can do 10 reps of 185-225lbs, and my max squat is 330lbs.
6. As you can see from my picture, my feet are turned out. Growing up as a dancer and also being bow Legged, my legs are more comfortable in the position. When I put my feet straight forward and parallel to each other, I feel a lot of pressure on my knees. Try to have your feet straight on, but also know your body and its limits. If you need to turn out your feet as well, do so.

Have you ever tried a narrow squat? If you add narrow squats to your leg routine, let me know what you think. Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with any questions, comments, or ideas for new topics!

Sumo Deadlift

Similar to a standard deadlift, the Sumo Deadlift helps build and strengthen your legs and back muscles. Most of the strength should come from your hamstrings, glutes, and adductors, but muscles in your core, back, and forearms are also needed for stabilization and grip strength.
Sumo Deadlift
To perform the Sumo Deadlift:
1. Place a bar on the ground and load it with the appropriate amount of weight.
2. With the bar below you, set your feet in a wide stance. The bar should be touching your shins.
3. Bend at the hips and grab the bar. Your hands should not be wider than shoulder width apart. Contrary to a standard deadlift, your hands should be between your feet, not on the outside of your feet.
4. Lower your hips slightly and keep you chest up. Have a tight grip on the bar and activate your lats. You are now in the correct position for the sumo deadlift.
5. By pushing through your heels and activating your hamstrings and glutes, pull the bar up off of the floor. The motion should be coming mostly from your hips.
6. Once the bar is past your knees, drive you hips forward and lean slightly back. At the peak of the lift, you should be squeezing your glutes with your legs straight, and your lats should be activated with shoulder blades together.
7. To lower the bar back to the ground, hinge at the hips. Keep your back activated and control the motion down as much as you can.
8. Repeat steps 5-7 for the allotted amount of the reps.

Sumo Deadlift 2
TIPS:
1. The amount of weight all depends on your progress with weighlifting. For beginners, start off with just the bar to work on your form, and then add weights slowly.
2. Lower your hips slightly and keep you chest up. You do not want to be hunched over.
3. Any variation of a deadlift can be dangerous is not done correctly which is why form is so important. Really push through your heels and keep as much strain out of your lower back as possible.
4. At the peak of the lift, hold the position for a second and really feel the nice squeeze in your glutes and hamstrings.

Have you ever tried Sumo Deadlifts? Let me know what you think! Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for other topics.

WOD: CINDY

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!

TIPS:
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.

Push-up pattern with Dumbbells

I made up this exercise myself when I was testing out different push-ups to add to my chest workout. While messing around, I put together this push-up combination that destroys your pecs after a great chest day.
-> CLICK HERE AND WATCH THIS VIDEO TO SEE HOW TO PERFORM THIS PUSH-UP PATTERN EXERCISE

Pushup Pattern 1

To do the Push-up Pattern with Dumbbells
1. Get two Dumbbells and place them slightly wider than shoulder width apart on the ground with one plate of each dumbbell flat on the ground leaving the other plate flat-side up.
2. Start in a push-up position with your legs slightly apart and both hands on the left dumbbell.
3. Do a push-up with both hands on the left dumbbell, then a push-up with your left hand on the left dumbbell and right hand on the ground, then a push-up with your left hand on the left dumbbell and right hand on the right dumbbell.
4. Do a push-up with your left hand on the ground and your right hand on the right dumbbell, then finish with a push-up with both hands on the right dumbbell.
5. Reverse the pattern you just did to return back to having both hands on the left dumbbell. To do so, do a push-up with your right hand on the right dumbbell and your left hand on the ground, then a push-up with your right hand on the right dumbbell and left hand on the left dumbbell, and then one more push-up with your left hand on the left dumbbell and your right hand on the ground.
6. You should now be back at the starting position with both hands on the left dumbbell. Repeat the full pattern (steps 3-5) for the allotted amount of reps.

-> CLICK HERE AND WATCH ANOTHER VIDEO TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE FORM AND PATTERN NEEDED TO PERFORM THIS EXERCISE CORRECTLY.

Pushup Pattern 2

TIPS:
1. This is an advanced push-up exercise. Before trying this push-up pattern, I suggest trying explosive push-ups first. To see how to do explosive push-ups, CLICK HERE
2. One full pattern of this exercise has 8 push-ups in it. 2 close hand push-ups, 2 wide push-ups, and 4 uneven push-ups. When doing this exercise I like to so 2 full patterns (16 push-ups) and then I take a minute to rest. I will do about 4 sets.
3. Make sure to keep a strong core when performing this exercise! Arching your back will compromise form and cause you to target the incorrect muscles.
4. To modify this exercise, you can use a shorter surface, such as an aerobic stepper or even a book. This exercise can also be done on your knees if using a shorter surface is still too difficult.
5. Focus on using your chest to do the push-up. Your pecs should be the primary muscle used in this exercise and will start to fatigue quickly. Your other muscles will naturally start to compensate, but really try and focus on using your pecs for most of the work.

Are you ready to try this push-up combination? Do you have any push-up variations that you like to add to your workout? Let me know and contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with any questions, comments, or ideas for other topics.

Explosive Pushups with Dumbbells

Explosive Pushup 1

Explosive Pushup 2

Explosive Pushup 4

Explosive Pushup 3

I was recently asked to post more exercises that really target your chest. In the past few months, I started adding more pushup variations into my workouts and have noticed a significant change in the strength and size of my pecs. This exercise destroys my chest at the end of a great workout. Explosive Pushups with Dumbbells test your upper body strength and allow you to use all areas of your chest in one exercise.

To do Explosive Pushups with Dumbbells:
1. Take two dumbbells and lay them upright on the ground. (One side of the dumbbells should be flat on the floor, and the other side should be up in the air, leaving a flat surface at the top)
2. Start in a raised plank position with your feet on the floor and one hand on each dumbbell. *Image 1
3. Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor. *Image 2
4. As you push up, lift your hands off the dumbbells. Now your feet should be the only part of your body touching the floor.
5. As your body starts to lower back down to the ground, land with your hands on the floor between the dumbbells. *Image 3
6. Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor. *Image 4
7. As you push up away from the floor, lift you hands off the floor and try to place them back on top of the dumbbells.
8. End in a raised plank position with a slight bend in your elbows, your feet on the floor and one hand on each dumbbell.
9. Repeat steps 3-8 for the allotted amount of reps.
Click Here to watch a short video to see an example of Explosive Pushup with Dumbbells.

TIPS:
1. Do not arch your back. During the explosive motion you may want to arch your back to get your chest higher and get your body higher off the ground. By keeping your body straight, it may seem harder, but you will activate and train the correct muscles.
2. If you are feeling sharp pains in your wrist or elbows, stop the exercise. This exercise can have a high impact on your joints in your arms, especially if your form is not correct. You do not want to cause any damage.
3. You can place your feet together, shoulder width apart, or wide. The closer your legs are together, the harder your core will work to stabilize your body.
4. If you do not have dumbbells, you can use other surfaces like a small boxes, steppers, or anything else you can think of as long as the surfaces are the same height.
5. I try to do 5 sets of 5-10 reps with a 60 second break in between each set. If this is the last exercise I do of the day, I do as many reps as possible until I reach failure.




Have you ever tried Explosive Pushups with Dumbbells? Are there any other variations of pushups that you like to do? Contact me with corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for other topics.

Raised L-Sits

Are you ready for another great stabilization exercise? L-sits are one of my favorite core strengthening exercises to perform because you can engage your entire core with one simple move. L-sits are a great exercise to add to any workout plan, and no matter what your fitness level, there is always room for growth and improvement with this exercise.

Raised L Sit

How to do Raised L Sits:
1. Grab two bars or stable surfaces of equal height and set them about 1 to 2 feet apart from each other. (The distance apart depends on the comfort of each person individually)
2. Place one hand on each surface and squat down to prepare for the exercise.
3. With your arms straight, raise your legs up off the floor in front of you.
4. Straighten your legs so they are now parallel to the floor.
5. Hold this position for as long as you can and then lower your legs back to the floor.
6. Repeat this exercise for the allotted amount of sets.

TIPS:
1. Track your progress with L-sits. The first time you try this exercise, you may only be able to hold this position for a few seconds, but after only a few weeks, you will see a huge difference in what you can do. Seeing your time increase will help motivate you to keep pushing your limits.
2. Keep your chest open and up. Keep your back straight and do not hunch when doing this exercise. Hunching will activate the wrong muscles and may even cause muscle strain.
3. Breathe. Like most stabilization exercises, it is common for people to hold their breath. I am sometimes guilty of this too, but holding your breath will cause unnecessary tension throughout your entire body which will actually make this exercise harder.
4. Look straight ahead! Try not to look down at the floor or at your legs, and don’t lift your head up. Pick something straight in front of you to focus on.
5. Your toes can be flexed or pointed during this exercise, but choose one. You want to really activate your legs and keep them straight and tight in this workout. If you let your feet just dangle, you will not be fully engaging your legs in this exercise.
6. If you do not have bars for this exercise, you can use two platforms, chairs, or even stacks of books.
7. My goal for this exercise is usually to hold the L-sit from 30-60 seconds and I do about 5 sets. If I do them right in a row, I try to take about a one minute break in between each set.

Have you ever tried Raised L-sits? Let me know what you think of this exercise and let me know if you have any other questions or comments by emailing me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com.