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.

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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.

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.

Hollow Body Holds

This is one of the greatest core conditioning exercises out there. It may look simple, but after only a few seconds, you will feel your core burning! Hollow Body Holds will strengthen your entire core and will help condition your body for many other exercises.

Hollow Body Holds 3

How to Perform Hollow Body Holds:
1. Lie down with your back on the floor and hands by your side
2. While keeping your lower back flat on the ground, activate your core to lift your legs, arms and shoulders a few inches off the ground.
3. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds (or as long a possible). The image shows the position to hold during a Hollow Body Hold.



TIPS:
1. You must keep your lower back flat on the floor. Keeping your lower back connected with the floor will activate the appropriate muscles for this exercise.
2. You may find yourself shaking during this exercise. As long as you are not uncomfortable, try to push through it. You may shake because your muscles are not used to the tension from this exercise, but it means that your muscles are working hard. Be prepared to be sore tomorrow!
3. BREATHE! Do not hold your breath during this exercise. Focus and take slow deep breaths.
4. Keep your legs tight together!

Have you ever tried Hollow Body Holds? How long can you hold a Hollow Body Hold? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, and ideas for new topics.

Feature Friday: Jen Piccolo

Jen Piccolo 2

First name: Jen
Last name: Piccolo
City: Wolcott
State: Connecticut
Age: 23
Height: 5’3″
Weight: I choose not to share my weight on any of my social media platforms. I’m a big advocate of self love and not letting the scale determine your worth. I want to inspire people, young girls especially, to focus on the healthy, not the skinny.

Follow Her:
Twitter: @JenTheFitFoodie
Instagram: @JenTheFitFoodie
Youtube: Youtube.com/IAmJenPiccolo
Website: www.JenTheFitFoodie.Blogspot.com

Jen Piccolo 1

When did you start working out?:
I started working out in 2009, right after I graduated high school. That’s when I decided to make a lifestyle change and start living healthier.

How many days a week do you work out?:
I workout 6 days a week. I have 1 active rest day where I typically practice yoga or go for a hike.

How long is your average workout?:
My workouts range from 45-60 minutes.

Favorite muscles to exercise:
I love to exercise my arms! I’m actually really proud of them. When I was at my heaviest weight I absolutely hated my arms. I would never wear anything that was sleeveless or showed anything more than my forearm. Now my arms are my favorite body part! They have definition to them now and I definitely have a lot more upper body strength. I do various arm exercises utilizing light weights and high repetitions.

Least favorite muscles to exercise:
Two words. Leg Day. haha. I’d say its a love/hate relationship.

Jen Piccolo 3

Do you have any fitness goals? If so, what are they?:
I would like to lose more body fat and continue to improve my strength while building lean muscle.

Do you have any fitness inspirations? If so, who are they?:
I absolutely love Daniel and Kelly who run FitnessBlender.com. They provide free at home workouts for every fitness level. They advocate clean eating and exercise. They do not use supplements or endorse any products, which I think is awesome. Their main goal is to show you that all you need to change your body is a clean diet and exercise.

I also really admire Karena and Katrina who run ToneItUp.com. They upload free workouts to their youtube channel and post weekly workout schedules for you to follow. They also offer a nutrition plan!

Can you give a brief overview of your diet?:
I have actually been following celebrity trainer, Chris Powell’s, carb cycling plan. I eat 5 meals a day and alternate between low and high carb days. I typically stick to lean meats, tons of fresh veggies, and healthy fats. I do my best to choose things that are minimally processed. I have one treat meal a week… and it’s always Mexican food! My absolute favorite!

Jen Piccolo 4

You have made a huge transformation in the past few years. How long did it take and how much weight did you lose?:
I have lost 70 pounds. It took me a little bit over a year to lose the weight. Since I lost the initial 70 pounds I have just been working on building lean muscle and dropping more fat.

Do you think diet or exercise played a bigger role in your weight loss journey?:
Although both play a huge part in living a healthy lifestyle, I would say diet played a bigger role. I’m a firm believer that you can’t out exercise a bad diet. I’m actually proof of that. I was a competitive dancer growing up. It was a great form of exercise. However, I had a poor diet and large calorie intake so I was always overweight.

What is one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of your transformation?:
I wish I knew more about “clean eating”. When I first started losing weight I did it by counting calories. It would have been a lot easier for me to just cut out the processed garbage and focus on eating nutritious foods!

How did/do you stay motivated?:
When Im not feeling motivated I look at old pictures of myself. By doing so I can really see how much I have changed. I realize how much I enjoy living a healthy lifestyle. I love feeling healthy, strong, and confident; I want to keep it that way!

Jen Piccolo 5

What is your favorite cheat meal?:
As I already mentioned, Mexican food! I love fajitas and beef burritos. And churros. I really love churros.

Do you have any workouts that you specifically like, that you believe are very affective?:
I always love HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training). They are quick, effective, and perfect when you’re short on time.

Do you have any tips for people who are trying to reach their fitness goals?:
My tip would be to stay consistent. Make small changes over time and stay consistent with them. Integrate them into your lifestyle. Don’t change your diet so drastically or you’ll never stick to it.

Do you have any other things you would like to say?(Comments, suggestions, etc)?:
I have lost 70 pounds without a gym! You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership to get fit. There are so many great platforms to obtain free workout plans. Utilize whats already out there and invest in some free weights!

Did you like this week’s Feature Friday, Jen Piccolo? Would you or someone you know liked to be featured? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com for questions, comments, or ideas for other topics.

Elevated Reverse Hyperextensions with a Stability Ball

Elevated Reverse Hyperextensions follow the same concept as Reverse Hyperextensions that are done on the ground, however when elevated you are able to increase your range of motion and challenge your core stabilization. To perform the exercise, all you need is an exercise ball and either a bench or a table. If you have not tried Reverse Hyperextensions on the floor, Click Here to view my past post and to see how to perform the exercise.

Elevated Reverse Hyperextensions: Step 1

Elevated Reverse Hyperextensions: Step 2



To do Elevated Reverse Ball Hyperextensions:
1. Place the Exercise ball on the elevated surface (table or bench).
2. Carefully lie down, facing forward, with your abdomen on top of the exercise ball. Grab the sides of the bench or table with your hands. Keep your legs straight and have your feet as low as you can have them. They should not be on the bench or table, but rather over the side.
3. While keeping your legs extended, raise your legs up as high as you can.
4. Slowly lower your legs back down.
4. Repeat Steps 3-4 for the allotted amount of reps. (I like to do 5 sets of 10 reps.)





TIPS:
1. Be careful when you are on top of the table or bench. Use your core and your arms to stabilize yourself. If you feel like you are tipping over, try performing Reverse Hyperextensions on the ground. Click Here to see how to perform this exercise on the ground.
2. This exercise is not about speed or how high you can get your legs, but it is all about the form. Control the motion and take your time with each rep.
3. When your legs are at the highest point, try to hold the position for about a second before you lower your legs back down. This will increase you muscle activation and make the exercise more affective.
4. Do not use the ball to bounce your legs up in the air. Doing so could cause muscle strain or you could possibly fall off the bench or table which may lead to many other injuries.

Do you like this exercise? Do you have any other exercises you like to do? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for other posts.

Reverse Hyperextensions with a Stability Ball

Reverse Back Hyperextension: Step 1

Reverse Back Hyperextension: Step 2

Reverse Hyperextensions are a great exercise to help tone and strengthen your lower back while also working your glutes. Although this exercise is pretty easy to do, and it may even look fun, when done correctly, you will feel a burn in your lower back region. All you need for this exercise is an exercise ball.

To do Reverse Ball Hyperextensions:
1. Lie down, facing forward, with your hips on top of the exercise ball. Place your forearms on the floor, and your feet should be just off the floor. Keep your legs straight.
2. While keeping your legs extended, raise your legs up as high as you can.
3. Slowly lower your legs back down to about an inch above the floor.
4. Repeat steps 2-3 for the allotted amount of reps. (I like to do 5 sets of 10 reps.)

TIPS:
1. These should be slow controlled motions. You really want to feel a nice tightening in your lower back when you raise your legs.
2. When your legs are at the highest point, try to hold the position for about a second before you lower your legs back down. This will increase you muscle activation and make the exercise more affective.
3. This exercise can be done with your feet together or apart. I like to keep mine together, but if you do separate them, keep your feet shoulder width apart.
4. Do not use the ball to bounce your legs up in the air. Doing so could cause muscle strain or injury due to the fast motion from the bounce.

Do you like this exercise? Do you have any other exercises you like to do to strengthen your lower back? Contact me at corestrengthalec@gmail.com with questions, comments, or ideas for other posts.