Glute Activation – 3 Must-Do Moves to Fire Up Those Glutes!

Activating or ‘firing up’ the glutes increases the amount of work done by our glute muscles when performing exercises which also employ the glutes (lunges, squats, deadlifts). When the glutes are inactive, the body will utilize other muscles to perform the movements instead.

Here are 3 of the top glute activation exercises you can knock out in less than 10 minutes before hitting the squat rack.

I like to do all 3 then repeat for 2-3 sets.

  1. Glute Bridge

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Lying on your back with your hands by your sides, legs bent and heels positioned firmly on the floor, toes up, keep hips stable while you raise them off the floor, squeezing your glutes. Lower your hips back down to the floor and repeat for 20 reps.

*kick it up a notch by performing single leg glute bridges. Extend one leg outwards keeping it off the ground as you lift with the opposite leg for 20 reps then switch.

1 leg bridge

2. Clamshell

Lying on your right side with your legs slightly bent, resting on top of each other, you can rest your head on your arm or prop your head onto your right hand. Keeping your feet together, raise your left knee off of your right until you cannot lift your left knee anymore without separating your feet. Squeeze the glutes as you lift. Slowly lower your leg to bring your knees together again. Perform 20 reps on each side.

*place a band around the knees when performing this exercise to create more tension.

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3. Frog Pumps

Start by getting into the glute bridge position. Tucking your chin into your chest and digging elbows into the ground, put the bottoms of your feet together and bring heels as close to your butt as possible. Bridge as you squeeze your glutes then slowly lower back down. Perform 20 reps.

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Climb Your Way to a 6-Pack! – 15 Minute HIIT Ab Routine for a Shredded Midsection

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Greg Cleaver Photography

Creating a shredded midsection takes a combination of proper training and diet and since I already covered in a past post How To Uncover That 6 Pack, today we’re going to go over a HIIT Ab Routine to help you create that 6 pack.

To best achieve that ripped midsection it’s key to work your abs from 3 different planes of motion; frontal, sagittal and reverse. High intensity ab training is also a great way to help burn fat and get those abs poppin’ asap.  So, keep rest minimal and feel that burn!

This routine is set up as a high intensity circuit to help you hit all angles, burn more fat and carve out that midsection. Mountain climbers are beneficial for both muscular and cardiovascular fitness and are an excellent way to engage the core as well as the shoulders, arms, legs and glutes. I have incorporated a few variations of Mountain Climbers into this routine to keep things exciting and to really challenge your core.

Each exercise will performed for 30-60 seconds in sets of 2 with 30 seconds of rest in between sets for a total of 15 minutes. Perform 2-3 times per week in addition to your regular fitness routine.

Set 1

  • Forearm Plank – 60 seconds
  • Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Set 2

  • Right Side Plank – 60 seconds
  • Cross-body Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Set 3

  • Left Side Plank – 60 seconds
  • Cross-body Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Set 3

  • Leg Raises – 60 seconds
  • Plank Jack Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Set 4

  • Reverse Crunches – 60 seconds
  • Plank Jack Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Set 5

  • Stability Ball Jackknife or Pull In – 60 seconds
  • Stability Ball Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Set 6

  • Bicycle Crunches or Russian Twists – 60 seconds
  • Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Set 7

Forearm Plank – 60 seconds

DONE!

 

 

 

Build a Strong, Healthy Back

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One of the body’s largest and strongest parts, there are many benefits to having a strong, healthy back:

  • Improved Posture
  • Prevent/Decrease/Eliminate Back Pain
  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Improved Spinal Stability

The back is made up of several interconnected muscle groups, but to keep things simple, we will focus on the 4 main areas:

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  • Upper Back (Traps)
  • Rear Delts
  • Middle Back (Lats)
  • Lower Back

While the rear delts are part of your shoulder muscles, they are highly engaged in multijoint back exercises so we have included them here.

 

 

 

The Top Back Exercises

#1 Wide Grip Pull Up – This compound movement is excellent for targeting the lats while also hitting the biceps, triceps and rhomboids. The wide grip pull up will help create that V taper while also increasing grip strength. Definitely not the easiest of exercises, you can start with the assisted pull up machine or with negatives.

#2 Wide Grip Seated Row- using a wide grip allows you to target the lats while also hitting the traps, teres major and rear delts.

#3 Close Grip Seated Row – This exercise targets the mid-back, lats and lower traps.

#4 Standing T Bar Row – this exercise is great for the middle back. Avoid jerking or using momentum in this movement for best results.

#5 Bent over Barbell Row – another excellent compound movement, the bent over row  hits the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, traps, and even the biceps.

#6 Single Arm Row – this is great unilateral exercise and it allows you to emphasize on the lats while also working the upper back and traps.

#7 Back Extensions – Target the lower back with Hyper extensions or my personal favorite, seated good mornings. Keep your movements slow and controlled, form is key in avoiding injury.

#8 Deadlift – the deadlift is another great compound movement and will target all of the muscles in the back while increasing core strength as it hits all major muscle groups.

 

 

 

6 Tips to Make Your Fitness Resolution Stick

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Photo by Ramirez Creative

With the New Year right around the corner many of you have decided that your New Years Resolution will be to join a gym and get in shape. While I think this is a terrific resolution, less than 10% of you will actually stick to it. This happens for a few reasons, the main one being that we set unrealistic goals for ourselves and fall back into our old habits quickly.

So, lets discuss how we can avoid this and make this the year that our resolution to get fit sticks!

1. Set your goal and be SMART about it. Meaning; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time.  For example, your goal could be ‘I want to lose 20 pounds (specific) in 16 weeks (measurable, achievable, time), so I can feel confident this summer in a swimsuit (relevant). Once you have your goal, write it down on paper and place it somewhere you will see it daily. Remember to stay realistic with your goals.

2. Plan and Schedule. Decide how many days per week you want to work out (3-4 is a good start for a newbie) and schedule those days and times into your schedule. Planning ahead is key and scheduling your workouts ahead of time will keep you from using the excuse of not having time.

3. Create Healthy Eating Habits. While working out can have a great impact on your health, its important that you pair this with healthy nutrition habits as well. Eating the right foods can fuel your workout, aid in weight loss or in gaining muscle as well keep you energized throughout the day. Small meals consisting of protein and veggies every 2-4 hours, 50-75 grams of carbs after your workout, a daily dose of healthy fats and a minimum 3 liters of water per day is a good place to start. Prepping your meals ahead of time is a great way to stay on track.

4. Accountability. There are a few different ways to hold yourself accountable. You can hire a trainer, tell your friends and family of your goals or find a friend who also wants to make fitness a regular part of their lifestyle and hold each other accountable.

5. Motivation. Motivation is key and while the first few weeks into a new resolution is usually smothered in, it can fade fast. Keep your motivation up with trying one or all of these-

    • Set performance goals (hit a 1 min plank by week 2, 5 unassisted chinups by week 5 etc..)
    • Take weekly progress photos
    • Buy a new outfit one size too small
    • Enter a transformation contest

6. Find the right Gym for you! Some gyms have scheduled hours, some gyms are open 24/7. Some are female only and some have sections for just females and open co-ed areas. Some will have classes they offer for a fee or for free to members. Some gyms require a year contract while others will let you pay monthly or as you go. Its important to shop around and find a gym that will not just fit your needs but one where you will feel comfortable as well. Most gyms offer a free week or drop in so take advantage and check out a few before making any type of commitment.

Bye Bye Bat Wings! 6 Moves for Strong, Sculpted Arms

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One of the biggest questions I get asked when training is “How do I get rid of my jiggly arms?!” While this question comes mostly from my female clients, males are just as concerned about this area. So, what to do? Try adding these arm focused supersets to your fitness routine and you’ll be on your way to stronger, sculpted arms in no time.

The exercises below will be performed back to back to create a ‘superset’. Rest 30 seconds in between sets and repeat each set 3-4 times. Rep range should be between 8-12, if you can hit 13 reps, up your weight.

 

(Click the link for how to’s)

Superset #1

Dips – can be performed on a bench or dip bar. The tricep dip targets all 3 heads of the tricep making it a must have in any routine.

Narrow Grip Barbell Curl – a classic move, keep grip narrow to target the long head of the bicep.

Superset #2

Overhead One Arm Tricep Extension – this move hits the lateral head of the tricep as well as the long head, perfect for creating that aesthetically pleasing ‘horseshoe’.

Seated Concentration Curl – seated dumbbell concentration curls yield 97% biceps activity making this a perfect way to isolate the bicep muscle.

Superset #3

Reverse One Arm Cable Tricep Extensions – this move isolates the medial head of the tricep.

Wide Grip Barbell Curl – by switching your grip this exercise targets the short head of the bicep.

Single Leg Training – Benefits of Unilateral Training

I’m a huge fan of single leg training because of its many benefits as well as the results I’ve achieved from using unilateral movements such as balance, growth and strength. Before we get into some of the best single leg exercises, lets go over the benefits of adding them into your routine.

Benefits of Unilateral Leg Training-

  • Improve stability
  • Improve balance
  • Increase single leg strength
  • Increase in bilateral training
  • Engage smaller muscles (gluteus medius, abductors)
  • Reduce injury
  • Reduce spinal compression
  • Reduce knee pain

If single leg training is new to you, give yourself about 6 weeks of unilateral training to bring your unilateral strength up and achieve balance.

Top 10 Single Leg Exercises –

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift – an accessory movement for the deadlift, focuses on the hamstring. Can be performed in a braced position to allow for heavier loading.

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Single Leg Glute Bridge – targets the glutes and hamstrings.

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Elevated, Single Leg Hip Thrusts – the range of motion in this exercise increases both hip extension strength and single leg stability. Targets the glutes and hamstrings.

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Split Squats – main muscle worked is the quads while also targeting the glutes and hamstrings. Grab a pair of dumbells for added weight.

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Pistol Squat – work those quads, improve single leg strength and coordination with this unilateral move. For beginners, progression is key, try holding onto something as you lower yourself down and pull yourself back up or use a bench.

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 Single Leg Back Extension – one of my favorites, targets the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

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Forward and/or Reverse Lunges – the main muscle worked in the lunge is the quads however you will also work the calves, glutes and hamstrings. Grab a barbell or dumbells to kick this move up a notch.

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Box Step Up – work those quads as well as the calves, hamstrings and glutes with this move. Can also be done with a barbell or dumbbells.

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Quad Extensions – alternate legs on this excellent quad building machine!

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Hamstring Curls – same as above, except targeting the hamstrings. Can also be performed on a stability ball.

Mindful Training – The Mind Muscle Connection

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You’ve most likely heard the term “Mind Muscle Connection” but to truly apply it to your training, a basic understanding of how it works is crucial in order to achieve optimal results.

 

 

What is the Mind Muscle Connection?

Every movement we make is controlled by the brain. When it comes to weightlifting, the mind-muscle connection ( in technical terms) refers to ‘feeling’ the muscle you are training throughout every rep. When your muscles contract, a signal has been sent from the brain to the muscle telling it to do so. This is when the brain releases a  chemical neurotransmitter called ‘Acetylcholine’ to communicate with muscles in the body.

What are the benefits of Mind Muscle Connection?

Improving your mind muscle connection works to increase the number of muscle fibers recruited during lifting and increasing the contraction of the muscle on each repetition. In return, this results in increased strength and muscle mass.

How to master the Mind Muscle Connection –

The first thing I’m going to tell you here if you really want to master this technique is to check your ego at the door. Too often lifters are more concerned about pushing more weight when they should be more concerned about the quality of each and every rep.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are 3 tips for improving your mind-muscle connection.

  • Check in- before you even pick up the weights, mentally check-in and visualize the set you are about to perform. For example, before you start your bicep curls, imagine the feeling of every step in this exercise. The feeling of both contraction and retraction.
  • Warm Up Sets – warming up is important and is also a great way to help you get into the mind-muscle connection. Using light weight perform 10-15 reps of given exercise. Perform each rep slowly, concentrating on the target muscle. When at the point of contraction, hold and squeeze for a count of one before slowly releasing.
  • Slow, Controlled Movements – after you have warmed up, move your weight up and perform your reps with the same mindset as you did for your warm up. Movements should be slow and controlled while you concentrate on both the concentric and eccentric phases of the movement. If at your usual weight you have a difficult time keeping control and proper form, lower your weight.
  • Flex! – Before and during resting between sets, flex and hold the target muscle for 2 seconds. Not only will this help you better your mind-muscle connection but will force additional blood into your muscles and help you achieve an insane pump!