Five Exercises to Do With a Step Box or Bench

 

Plyo boxes, weight benches or aerobic step boxes are great pieces of equipment to use for strength training. You don’t always have to go to the gym to use this type of equipment. You can get creative with what you have at home or invest in a box or bench for a home gym.

Here are some exercises I incorporate into my strength training every week:

 

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Step Ups (8-10 reps each side, 3 sets)

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  • You can hold a weight at each side or hold a heavier weight in front of your body. Both challenge your body in different ways.
  • Focus on making sure you feel the exercise in the leg that steps to the box first. As you can see in the video, my left foot steps on the box first. I should feel all the work in my left glute and entire left leg.
  • If you feel any knee pain, check your position. You should see a 90 degree angle with your knee stacking over your ankle. Sometimes it helps if your knee stays slightly behind the ankle too. 
  • Brace your core and don’t use momentum to get to the top of the box. Simply step to it. If you find yourself forcing yourself up, the weight is too heavy. 

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Step Up + Reverse Lunge

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  • This is a nice combo to tax the glutes and legs even more. 
  • When you step up, drive the entire foot into the step box. As you step back into a reverse lunge, push the entire front foot into the floor, making sure you feel your glute work. 
  • Don’t forget your 90 degree angles for both exercises. 

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Hip Thrust (10-15 reps, 3 sets)

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This is my favorite exercise to do right now. It’s great at targeting your glutes!

  • Find the right size box for you. The benches don’t work for me because I’m too short, but an aerobics box with 4 risers works or this plyo box in the video. The box should hit you just under your shoulder blades. 
  • Tuck you feet under your knees and keep your shins vertical as you drive up the weight.
  • As you drive the weight up, keep your chin tucked and eyes forward. Don’t look up towards the ceiling. 
  • Squeeze your glutes hard at the top. Your knees should slightly push out to make sure your glutes are turned on. 

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Elevated Glute Bridge (with or without weight) 20 reps, 3 sets

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I have been doing this at the end of my strength workouts lately. It’s a great finisher!

  • Drive through your heels to make sure your glutes are working. Squeeze hard at the top. 
  • If you feel more in your hamstrings, check your foot position. Your knees should stack mostly over your hips. 
  • For more of a challenge, use a mini band for this exercise. Place above your knees. 

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Box Jumps (5-8 reps, 2-3 sets)

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  • This is a great explosive exercise for advanced lifters. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone with joint issues or new to an exercise program. 
  • Complete this after a thorough warm up. I don’t recommend doing this after or during your strength exercises. 
  • Land soft on the box. Imagine you can’t make a sound as you land on the box. 
  • Stand all the way up to finish the exercise. Once you land on the box, stand all the way. I see many people jump right back down after landing. 

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Diet or Exercise? What’s More Important When Seeking Results?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the course of my journey is that you can’t out train a bad diet. In my early twenties, I always tried to exercise more to compensate for my poor nutrition choices. It wasn’t until I focused on eating the right food where I started to see my body change. When I committed 30 days to my nutrition at the start of this year for my Whole30, I saw great results without adding more exercise or even changing my exercise routine.

As a health and fitness professional, both diet and exercise are important. But, if I were to put a percentage on both, nutrition is much more powerful. As many of us say, it’s 80% nutrition, 20% exercise. It’s true! Some people who just focus on their nutrition and put minimal effort into their exercise can see great results. If you find you’re putting a lot of effort into your workouts, but are not seeing your body change, it’s time to take a look at your daily nutrition.

Three Key Nutrition Habits To Focus on

2.) Eat at least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day

– this isn’t breaking news. We all know we need to eat more fruits and vegetables to live a healthy lifestyle but it’s certainly important if you’re seeking results. Most Americans eat more fruit than vegetables. When seeking weight loss, focus on eating more vegetables than fruit. I like a 4:1 ratio (for every four servings of vegetables, eat one serving of fruit). This equals out to probably one serving of fruit a day. Everyone is unique, so you can start there and add more if you need it.

How to do it? If you’re a visual person, look at a meal plan visual here.

Make a Switch. First, take a minute to think about what you’re eating for meals or snacks. If you notice you eat crackers, chips, granola bars or cookies on a regular basis, start to replace those items with a fruit or vegetable. When I first started changing my diet, I was eating a lot of crackers, granola bars, pasta, pizza, frozen dinners and bread. I slowly started replacing my snack foods with vegetables or fruit and for my meals, I replaced grains with more vegetables.

Pair a Vegetable with Every Meal You Eat. It’s easy to eat fruit on-the-go, but vegetables are a little bit more work. To help yourself eat more vegetables, buy conveniently already chopped vegetables from the store or commit a few time each day to chop. Of course it’s more expensive to buy already chopped vegetables from the store, but if that’s going to help you eat more vegetables, go for it! I also buy a lot of pre-washed bagged salad. It’s not that much more in money but it’s a time saver! Every meal, ask yourself what your vegetable choice will be. For breakfast, maybe you throw in spinach into a breakfast smoothie or make a frittata loaded with vegetables.

2.) Protein

Protein helps you build and maintain your muscle mass, helps you stay full between meals and stabilizes your blood sugar. It plays a big role in seeking body change. So, how much protein should you eat a meal?

Focus on the size of your palm. This is a good start for the average person, but some people who are very active will need more. Start to read your labels to see how much protein is in the food you’re eating.

Protein Choices I buy every week at the grocery store 

  • Chicken breast (1-2 packages)
  • Boneless chicken thighs
  • Ground Turkey
  • Ground Beef
  • Ground Chicken
  • Tuna fish
  • Canned chicken
  • Mahi Mahi or some type of white fish
  • Eggs
  • Breakfast Sausage Links

* I eat most meals from home and cook for two. This always gets us through the week!

3.) Water – at least 8 cups or half your body weight in ounces.

When I first started dating my now husband, he always teased me that I never drank any water. It’s true! I was always drinking diet pepsi, diet peach Snapple or Propel. Wow, have things changed! Not only does water keep your body hydrated but it plays a role in healthy skin, improves energy and of course, helps with weight loss.

Two things that helped me drink more water:

  • Buy a nice water bottle and carry it everywhere you go. Every time you leave the house, be sure to grab your water bottle. I have two water bottles that I really enjoy, but when I first started trying to drink more water, I found having a water bottle with a straw really helped me.
  • Add flavor when you are tired of plain water. Sometimes I get tired of plain water so I always have lemons or limes on hand to add a bit of flavor when I need it. There are many options you can use besides lemon or lime: berries, cucumber, mint, etc. Sparkling water is also a nice treat, but I always open one once I’ve already had my filtered water goal for the day (75 ounces).

If you feel like you are working hard in the gym, but aren’t seeing the results you want, it might be time to assess your diet. How many times a week are you eating out? How many desserts? Alcohol? All those factor into seeing the results you want. Most importantly, remember why you want the results you’re looking for. My biggest goal this year is to watch my sugar intake. I want to enjoy it when I want, but not let it get out of control with cravings. Sugar can be a slippery slope for me, but still a month after my Whole30, I feel good about my relationship and it’s helped me see better results.

Six Things I Look for BEFORE Investing in a Gym Membership

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I have always loved being in a gym environment. Now, I realize not everyone loves the gym. Maybe it’s being around others, the driving time to even get to the gym, or not knowing what to do, people have countless reasons for not ever wanting to have a gym membership. The good thing is you can get results anywhere! However, I wanted to write a quick post for those individuals who do have a gym membership. I have been a member of several gyms over the last ten years, but I always do a walk through before actually signing up for a membership. Here are six “must have” equipment items a gym needs to have before I invest in a membership. These items help me stay engaged in working out consistently because they offer variety & an enjoyable workout.

 

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1.) Bumper Plates and Barbells

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Now, most gyms will have squat racks or benches with barbells, but not all gyms have bumper plates. Bumper plates are ideal because they are smooth all the way, which allows you to do exercises like deadlifts or hip thrusts much easier. The other plates at the gym have edges (like an octagon) so every rep you complete from the floor isn’t as smooth because it catches the edge and sometimes it shifts the barbell. Now, it’s not the end of the world if the gym doesn’t have bumper plates but it’s a big win if they do. 

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2.) TRX

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TRX training continues to get more popular. Even studios like Orange Theory or small group studios have them. They are great for your strength training program because it allows you to make an exercise easier or harder. Plus, it stabilizes your core with every exercise. 

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3.) Cable Machine

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This is another great machine to do a wide variety of upper body and core exercises. I don’t do much for lower body strength exercises, but there are a few isolating moves you can do.

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4.) Kettlebells and Medicine Balls

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These two pieces of equipment are great for more explosive exercises, as well as “aerobic” strength moves.  Plus, they make doing cardio fun! 

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5.) Plyometric Boxes

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Not only are they great for basic moves like step ups or elevated glute bridges, but you can also do explosive exercises like box jumps. Not all gyms have these soft boxes like mine, but it’s a huge plus if you enjoy doing box jumps since because they provide a soft landing. It also helps if you have a mental block or fear of not being able to land on the top of the box. 

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6.) Assisted Pull Up Machine

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For most women, it’s hard to do a pull up and in order to get stronger at them, you have to practice. The pull up machine is a great tool to use to improve your upper body strength. The more weight you use, the more the machine will help you. The goal: use less weight every month so you can eventually complete a pull up on your own. The assisted pull up machine is also great for completing higher reps. I’ll use it if I’m trying to complete 15 reps. 

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So, if you currently have a gym membership and are not using any of the following equipment items, walk around your gym to see if they are available. Stay tuned for next week as I have prepared to share my favorite go-to exercises using the equipment above!

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4 Exercises to Do Daily

4 Exercises To Do Daily

Exercise is therapeutic to me and I find a way to move daily. Whether it’s leisure walking, yoga, strength training, interval training, foam rolling or mobility drills, these movements clear my head and make my body feel good.

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Now, we don’t want to stress our body every day so doing movement like leisure walking or mobility drills is a great way to move with low intensity. The four movements below focus on improving or maintaining your mobility in your hips and thoracic spine, as well as engaging your core and helping you move in a better range of motion. They can also help you improve exercises like squats or lunges, as well as relieve low back pain.

I complete all of these movements before every strength and interval workout.

It’s my warm up and gets my blood flowing. You can also do these movements to wind down at night in front of the television. I even recorded these videos in my own living room!

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Squat to Stand – complete 5-10 reps

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heels on the ground the whole time. Don’t let your heels rise off the floor. 
  • In the down position, lower yourself down to a position that’s comfortable. If you have tight hips, it might be challenging. Lift your chest and pull your shoulders slightly down. You should feel some engagement in your upper back. Also, using your elbows, push them against your knees, letting them slightly go out. You’ll feel a good stretch in your hips.
  • In the up position, focus on feeling a good stretch in the back side of your body.

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Lateral Lunge – complete 5-10 reps each side

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Key Tips:

  • Keep your heel on the side you are lunging towards. If you are finding you can’t keep it down, lift your hips and chest so you are higher off the ground.
  • Drive the toes up on the extended leg. You should feel a better stretch in your inner thigh.
  • For a challenge, keep your hands off the floor and as you move side to side, keep your hips as low as possible. Pause for a few seconds at each side.

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World’s Greatest Stretch Combo – complete 5 reps each move

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Movement One Key Tips: Keep the front foot flat on the ground and fully extend your bag leg by squeezing your quad strong. I prefer to keep both hands on the inside of the front foot. Focus on feeling a good stretch in your hip flexor (back leg).

Movement Two Key Tips: Drive the toes up, keep a flat back and ease into the stretch. You should feel a good pull in the back of the leg.

Movement Three Key Tips: Keeping the front foot flat and back leg extended, slowly rotate with your upper back. You should keep the front of the back leg still, not letting the front of your hip rotate. For the arm reaching up, focus on reaching the hand towards the ceiling, as if you are trying to touch it. You want to get a nice stretch in your upper back.

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Inch Worm – complete 5 to 8 reps

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This is a great move to engage your core, shoulders, hamstrings and calves.

Key Tips:

  • As you walk out into a push up position, brace your core and reach your hands out as much as you can without letting your low back collapse. This challenges your core and shoulders. 
  • As you walk your hands back to your feet, brace your core again to avoid letting your hips sway back and forth. Try to walk your hands to your feet, driving your heels to the floor. If you can’t get your hands to your feet, find a range of motion that works for you.

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Struggling with keeping your heels down in these movements? Start working on your ankle mobility.

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You’ll want to focus on your front foot. Drive your knee as far forward as you can without letting your front heel lift. How good is your mobility? Ideal ankle mobility is when you can get the center of your knee past your big toe. Complete 10 reps each side for 2-3 sets.

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Three Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts Under 25 Minutes

25 Minute or Less Fat Burning Treadmill Workouts

With the weather still being too cold, I have had to keep my interval training workouts indoors. While treadmills aren’t the most liked piece of cardio equipment, you can use them to put together a short, effective workout. Like I talked about in this article, you should always prioritize your strength workouts first but if you have more time, interval training is the next piece to burning fat and increasing your metabolism. These workouts could also be done after strength training (if you can only exercise 2-3x a week), but I would do about 10 minutes of intervals.

Here are three workouts I have been doing lately using a treadmill. For you, pick three speeds/inclines that get you out of your comfort zone. I have listed mine. You’ll notice the speed and time will vary, but at the end of each interval, you want to feel like you’re working hard.

Three 25 Minute or Under Treadmill Workouts

Workout #1 – Flat Sprint Intervals 

Warm up – walk at a comfortable speed for 2 minutes

  • After each interval, I hop off the treadmill, decrease my speed to a slow walking speed and rest as long (about 30-40 seconds) as I need until I can sprint again. Including the warm up, this takes me a little less than 25 minutes. If you are finding you are needing longer rest time between each interval, subtract two 60 second intervals from the workout. At the end of the workout, I cool down until my heart rate decreases (1-2 minutes).
Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
11.2 mph Flat 30 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds
12.0 mph Flat 20 seconds

Workout #2 – Sprints with hills 

I will complete this workout on treadmills where the highest speed or incline is less than my gym’s treadmill. Again, I warm up and cool down just like the previous workout example. I also rest as long as I need with each interval (usually 30-40 seconds).

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
9.5 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.6 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
9.7 mph Flat 60 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 3% 30 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds
10.0 mph 5% 20 seconds

Workout #3 – Don’t Like to Run? Try This. 

Note: Treadmills vary with incline. Luckily at my gym, the treadmills go all the way up 30%. Most treadmills go up to 12-15%. Remember, find three inclines that push you outside your comfort zone. If you find the highest incline doesn’t challenge you, try increasing your speed or trying Workout #2. I will complete Workout #2 when I visit my parents using their treadmill. Rest as long as you need after each interval. I usually drop the incline to 10-12% after each interval and when my body feels it’s ready to complete another interval, I increase the incline back to where it needs to be. If your legs are tired, I would decrease the incline to more of a flat incline during every rest period.

Key tip for incline walking: Brace your core and pump your arms. By avoiding holding onto the rails, you’ll work your abs, glutes and legs much more.

Warm up – 2 minutes at a comfortable pace

Speed Incline Interval Length Time
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 24% 60 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 27% 40 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds
3.4 mph 30% 30 seconds

 

How to do a perfect push up

How to do Perfect Push ups

Push ups are a fantastic strength exercise for building upper body strength, core strength and transforming your arms. Plus, you can do them anywhere! Most importantly, you want to make sure you are doing them correctly to avoid an unwanted injury.

Three common mistakes with push ups: 

1.) Low back sag – many times when this happens, your core and glutes are not assisting you with the exercise.

Key tip: squeeze your glutes and brace your core as you lower down and push yourself up. If you find this is challenging, place something between your legs, squeeze it and imagine you cannot let it drop the floor. This will naturally help you engage your glutes and core. Still too hard? Try elevating yourself so you are no longer on the floor, but using a bench, bar, etc. 

2.) Hand and shoulder position – many people like to place their hands wide and when they lower down to the floor, their elbows stick out to 90 degree angles. This puts your shoulders in a bad position and can eventually lead to an injury.

Key tip: focus on keeping your hands 45 degrees from your ribs. Your elbows should slightly tuck back instead of out. 

3.) Reaching with your neck – this is another common mistake I see often and it puts your neck in a bad position since it causes forward neck posture.

Key tip: focus on leading with your chest and keep your head still, as if it cannot touch the floor. By keeping your head back, you’ll keep your neck in a better position. 

In this video, you can notice my head reaches towards the floor and my elbows flare out instead of back.

What about girl push ups? Please don’t do them. By performing push ups from your knees, you put yourself in a different position where your core and glutes don’t work. You also shorten your hip flexors.

If you can’t do a push up from the floor, try elevating yourself to a higher position and focus on getting your chest to meet the bar, bench, couch or whatever else you are using. Remember, imagine your whole body coming down and up in one (head down through glutes).

Range of Motion is Key

To see your body and strength transform, you’ll need to make sure you are challenging your range of motion. If you are doing a push up on the floor, but can’t hit your chest to the floor, put yourself in an elevated position so you can get the full range of motion.

Many times when coaching, I have individuals use a bar for push ups to work specifically on a full range of motion. As they get stronger, the bar gets placed lower and lower until eventually they are doing push ups on the floor!

The Perfect Push Up

  • Elbows tuck back and flare out at 45 degrees
  • Head down to glutes comes up in one (glutes/core engaged)
  • Head stays still

 

 

The Best Strength Exercise You Aren’t Doing

If you have experience weight training, you are very familiar with the squats, split squats, deadlifts, lunges and step-ups. These are staple moves whether you are following a workout DVD, taking a group fitness class or exercising on your own. While these are great exercises to master, incorporating different movement patterns is essential to a balanced strength program. Whether I’m working with a client or talking to a friend about exercise, most of them aren’t familiar with a lateral lunge or lateral movement.

Do you find yourself moving laterally? If not, the lateral lunge is a must for your weekly strength sessions.

Coaching Cues

  • Initiate the movement by driving your hips back. Your knee (of the side you’re lunging towards) should be in line or slightly behind your big toe.
  • Push your heel (of the side you’re lunging towards) through the floor. Often I see the heel lift when individuals try this exercise.
  • Always work your range of motion. The goal is to sink your hips low enough that it’s level with your knee.
  • Brace your core as you start to stand up and transition your weight back to the starting position.

Where should you feel this? Your glute (hip) on the side you’re lunging towards, inner thigh and core are all working in this movement.

Before adding weight to this exercise, focus on getting into a good range of motion first. Once you can get into an ideal range of motion, choose one of the following exercises.

Goblet Lateral Lunge

20161101_111257This is the first progression from body weight lateral lunges. Holding the weight in a goblet position helps you sink into a good range of motion, while also engaging your core.

Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each side.

 

 

 

Single Arm Lateral Lunge

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The second progression is taking the weight onto one side. This forces your shoulders to stabilize while challenging your core even more.

Complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each side.

 

 

 

Lateral Lunge with a Pause

20161101_111304 Another great progression from the single arm example above. This exercise still forces your core to stabilize, but challenges your hips with the pause at the bottom. I always focus on letting the weight touch the floor for 1-2 seconds. Then, drive the force up through the power of your hips. It’s a tough move, but effective.

Complete 2-3 sets for 6-10 reps each side.

Five of My Favorite Core Exercises

 

When many people think of the core, they think of the abdominals. But, the core is made up of so much more including the obliques, glutes, hip flexors, erectors, lats and more! Your core also moves and resists many movements like lateral flexion, extension, rotation and flexion. While I feel people are getting more educated on strengthening their core, still some people I work with think of doing sit ups first to gain strength. Here are my favorite core exercises that work all movement patterns.

 

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1.) Master the plank first. 

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You can do a plank anywhere and it doesn’t require any equipment. Many people know of this exercise, but it’s a great exercise because it works many areas at once – your abdominals, quads, glutes, shoulders, and more! Here are a few tips.

  • Keep your elbows under your shoulders
  • Keep your eyes looking in between your fists 
  • Squeeze your glutes and engage your quads 
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Drive your heels slightly back towards the floor 
  • Breathe through your belly 
  • Hold as long as you can (goal is 60 seconds)

Once you can hold this exercise for 60 seconds, you’re ready to move on to different plank variations. To make it more challenging, lengthen your plank even more. In the picture you can see my shoulders are slightly back behind my elbows.

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The Plank Drag (progress)

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I love this exercise. The goal is to resist rotation through the torso. Here are a few tips.

  • Keep your hips and shoulders square to the ground. It’s easy for your right hip to lift and open up as you pull with your right hand. 
  • Squeeze your glutes 
  • Reach underneath your body to pull the weight (this can be a dumbbell also)
  • Keep your feet wider than your shoulders 
  • Complete 6-12 reps each side. 

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2.) The Roll Out

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I consider this an advanced exercise. If you have never done this before, try the roll out with the stability ball first.

  • Starting position is key: Begin with your hips pushed forward and the wheel underneath your shoulders. Return back to this exact position as you roll back.
  • Squeeze your glutes. Your glutes protect your low back. If you feel any pressure in your low back with your roll out, most likely you aren’t engaging your glutes.
  • Roll out enough until you feel your abdominals fire. Don’t worry about extending out as far as the picture. Find what you can do with good control.
  • Complete 8-15 reps.

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The Stability Ball Roll Out (Option 2)

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If the wheel roll out isn’t working, try it with a stability ball.

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3.) Side Plank

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A great exercise for working resisting lateral flexion through the spine.

  • Line your elbow up underneath the shoulder 
  • Squeeze your right side and right glute
  • Engage your upper back and the muscles around the shoulder blade. This should be your support system. If you feel any pressure in the front of the shoulder, adjust your position. 
  • If this position feels hard to get into, bend your top knee and place the foot in front of your hip. 
  • Hold for up to 60 seconds. 

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Side Plank (Advanced)

Need it to be more challenging? Elevate your feet. I will usually do this in a TRX.

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4.) Dead Bug

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Sometimes this exercise gets people mentally working too 🙂

  • Starting position: make sure your low back is in the most comfortable position. It should not be arched (thinking I can slide my hand underneath your back). For most people, it helps to eliminate that space and keep it still as you move your legs. 
  • Keep your knee over your hip. It’s easy for your knee to come closer to your belly button. 
  • Move your opposite arm and leg together (right leg, left arm then left leg, right arm)
  • Complete 8-12 each side. 

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 Stability Ball Dead Bug (Advanced)

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This is a fantastic exercise if you do it correctly. Key tip: can you bring you one leg up to 90 degrees? If you can’t, this exercise will not work for you and you will compensate somewhere in your body to attempt it. Notice in the first picture, both feet are at 90 degrees (ankles over hips)

  • The difference between this exercise isn’t much technically (follow the first three tips above), but you will also want to focus on not letting the stability ball move. It should stay still as you drop one arm and one leg. 
  • Focus on doing this by actively pushing your opposing hand and foot into the ball strong. This will fire your core even more! 
  • Also, focus on tucking our chin so you aren’t straining your neck. 
  • Complete 8-12 reps each side. 

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5.) Sprinting 

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Sprinting might be my favorite core exercise. I’ll do this at least once a week up a hill (like the picture) or on a flat surface like my driveway or a track. The goal is to go as fast as you can for a short period.

  • Keep your shoulders away from your ears as you sprint. Many people can hike their shoulders up. 
  • Pump your arms and hands and don’t cross them over your mid section. 
  • Stand up tall after you’ve gained your top speed. 
  • Workout: 5 sprints to the first mark, 3 sprints to the second mark, 2 sprints to the third mark.

You can find landmarks in your neighborhood or whatever area you’ve chosen to sprint. After sprinting at 100%, walk back to your starting mark and rest as long as you need to so you can sprint at full speed every interval. Your workout should last 15-20 minutes. Warm up with light walking, high knees, butt kickers, lateral shuffles, and stretching before sprinting.

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Core exercises are important to do every week. I usually incorporate them into my strength training after warming up. If you’re a beginner, complete at least 2 exercises for 2 sets, 2-3 days a week. If you are more advanced, complete 3 sets for 3 days a week (with a day of rest in between each workout).

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Three Components to a great exercise program

Three Key Components To A Great Exercise Program

Three Components to a great exercise programI get a lot of questions about what to do for exercise for fat loss or even weight loss. Plus, I get a few questions of what to do just to stay healthy! While changing your nutrition alone can help you see results, proper workouts are just as important. Here’s a breakdown of a great exercise program.

If you have 2 hours to dedicate to exercise a week, focus on strength training first. 

1.) Strength training (2-3x/week for 30 minutes – 60 minutes)

Most clients I work with want to tone their bodies, but in order to do so, you have to build muscle first. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn during your workouts, but also during your sleep and your normal activities throughout the day. If you’re looking for weight loss, you need to strength train to keep your metabolism up. It’s easy to just do aerobic exercise to see the number on the scale move. Unfortunately, this may mean you are losing precious muscle and the moment you quit your aerobic exercise and healthy eating, you can gain back more weight than when you started.

Another note: the older we get, the easier it is for our bodies to lose muscle. In return, this means our metabolism is burning less calories and it’s easier to gain weight.

Strength training allows you to see your body change. Some people may not notice the scale budge, but they will see their frame decrease in size. EX: A woman may notice her clothes fit better, but she hasn’t lost a pound on the scale. She shouldn’t be discouraged because her body is changing!

Action Steps: 

1.) Dedicate time every week to strength training at least one time a week. Two-three sessions are ideal with a day or two of rest in between.

2.) Use big movement patterns like squats, lunges, push ups, lat pulldowns, cable rows, step ups. They require the least amount of time and the most bang for your buck. I love doing total body workouts 3x a week.

3.) If you haven’t done strength training in months or years, start small. Complete each exercise 10-15x for 1 set. If you’re more advanced, perform 2-4 sets per exercise. Reps can vary.

4.) Follow a program & write down your weight/set/reps. I write myself a new program every month and will increase my sets or weight throughout the program to progress each week. If you’re brand new to strength training, find a coach, follow an at-home DVD or begin a class. My biggest take home message: commit to something!

If you have 2.5 to 3.5 hours to commit to an exercise program, add interval training. 

2.) Interval training (1-3x a week for 15-30 minutes)

Interval training is great at burning calories and giving your metabolism a boost. It’s also great to do on days you don’t strength train. Dedicate 15-30 minutes to interval train 1-3x a week. I want you to think of interval training as two steps: working at an intensity until you can’t push any longer, then recover until you can push another interval. Custom interval training with a heart rate monitor is the best type of interval training because it’s built around your heart rate zone.

Action Steps:

1.) Choose your form of interval training. My favorites include: my boxing class,  incline walking, stair master, rowing machine or a lighter kettle bell or dumbbell workout.

2.) Start with a warm up for 2-3 minutes then increase the intensity to a challenging pace. Push for 20-60s then recover by decreasing your pace/intensity for 20-60s. Complete 5-12 rounds. Your workout time can be a total of 15-30 minutes.

Beginner Example: 20 seconds hard, 60 seconds rest (shorter work, longer rest)

Intermediate Example: 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds rest (equal ratio of work & rest)

Advanced Example: 40 or 45 seconds hard, 15-20 seconds rest (negative rest)

*You can get creative with your interval times.

My favorite is heart rate training using my Polar Beat App & HR monitor: Push as long as you need to until you reach the red zone then recover at a low intensity until you hit the green zone.

3.) Choose to complete your interval training on days you don’t strength train.

Interval training can help with fat loss & many notice the scale decrease, as well. Following a diet that’s 80% right is important for good results.

If you have 4 to 6 hours to commit to exercise a week, add leisure exercise. 

3.) Leisure Exercise 

If you can dedicate more time to your workouts each week, be sure to include some leisure exercise like walking, yoga, foam rolling, or stretching. Even doing a moderate cardio workout falls into this category. If you like to go for a run, go for it! Walking is a great low intensity exercise and can be done most days of the week without stressing your body. It’s great for recovery, as well as stretching/foam rolling/yoga. After receiving a fitbit, my goal is to reach 10,000 steps a day. Some days it’s easier, while other days require serious effort. So far, my streak has not been broken & I’ve hit my goal everyday since January 1st. Not wanting to break my streak has been extremely motivating for me and I do what it takes (even when I don’t want to) to hit my goal.

Action Steps:

1.) Find ways to move every day. On breaks at work, go for a leisure walk or practice getting up from your desk every hour. Go for a leisure walk on days you aren’t performing a challenging workout.

2.) If you need motivation, look to invest in a pedometer to know where you’re at each day. I don’t think you’ll regret the purchase!

3.) Feel free to do this daily or after strength workouts. Keep your intensity low.

Note: Many people may notice their clothes are fitting better & they see the number on the scale budge when they incorporate leisure exercise on top of interval training & strength training. Eating 80% right is crucial for this to happen for most individuals.

The biggest questions you need to ask yourself are…

1.) Am I enjoying what I’m doing? If so, you’ll do it forever.

2.) Are you seeing results? Remember, you cannot use the scale as your only method of tracking results. Take measurements with a tape measure, pay attention to your mood, how your clothes are fitting and noticing if you’re sleeping better are all positive wins!

Here’s what my current exercise program looks like: 

Monday: 30-60 minute leisure walk (really whatever it takes to hit my goal of 10,000 steps)

Tuesday: Total body strength training (45-60 minutes) + leisure walk

Wednesday: 30-60 minute leisure walk with or without 10 minutes of interval training

Thursday: Boxing Class + leisure walk

Friday: Total body strength training (45-60 minutes) + leisure walk

Satuday: Boxing Class or Incline TM/Stair Master Intervals for 20-25 minutes + leisure walking

Sunday: Total body strength training + leisure walking

Note: Do I need to leisure walk every day? No, but I enjoy it. I find it relaxing and I enjoy my time going for a walk with my dog & family. Plus, I like the personal accomplishment of hitting my goal of 10,000 steps a day. It’s motivating!

Heart Rate Training For Your Workouts

Three Ways to Mix Up Your Workout Routine

Even working in the fitness industry, I catch myself getting bored of my workouts. Here are three things that are keeping me engaged and loving every workout!

1.) Heart Rate Training 

Heart Rate Training For Your WorkoutsI have used a heart rate monitor before, but simply to have the awareness of how hard I was working during my workouts. It was motivating! I have to admit, I took a long break from my watch and band because I got bored. Now, I’ve learned a new way to track my heart rate during workouts by working into three zones.

I purchased a new Polar heart rate monitor (bluetooth) and downloaded the Polar Beat app. Three to four times a week, I’ll use my monitor and app to track the intensity of my cardio and strength workouts. My goal: to stay at least 20 minutes in the yellow and red zone throughout the entire workout. Working up to this intensity can help create a metabolic disturbance so you’re metabolism is elevated 20-40 hours afterwards.

Example workout:

Pick your choice of cardio: increase to a challenging resistance/speed until you reach the red zone. Once you’ve reached the red zone, lower the intensity until you reach the green zone. Continue to go back and forth for 15-20 minutes.

Elliptical:

Warm up 1-2 minutes at a light resistance.

Resistance Level 14 until you reach the red zone.

Resistance Level 6 until you reach the green zone.

Metabolic Training

Warm up of your choice

20 Goblet Squats

40 Mountain Climbers (20 each leg)

20 KB Swings

15 Push Ups

20 Lateral Lunges (10 each side)

10 Push ups

10 Renegade Rows

20 Lunge Jumps (10 each side)

  • Complete as many exercises back to back until you reach the red zone then pause and wait until you reach the green zone. Once you’ve reached the green zone, continue where you left off in the circuit.

2.) Fitbit 

Use a fitbit for consistent exercise Pedometers have been around forever and I was never really interested in owning one until last month. I received one for Christmas and it has been motivating me more than ever. First of all, I thought I moved more than I actually did. I enjoy exercising daily for the mental clarity, whether it’s a short, leisure walk, yoga, weight training, or even doing a quick run to break a sweat. After owning a fitbit for a few weeks, I realized I don’t really get that many steps in naturally. I averaged about 5,000. It’s definitely helped me move more! I go for a few leisure walks a day and find other ways increase my steps. So far, I’ve been able to hit 10,000 steps most days, but it takes some effort. Exercising intensely can cause overtraining and can even stall results because you’re stressing your body too much. Leisure walking is a great low intensity exercise that you can do everyday because it doesn’t elevate your stress hormones.

3.) Try Something Completely New

I’ve always wanted to try boxing and finally I signed up to take a class. I love it. It has challenged me mentally (learning new skills) and physically. Trying something new for exercise can also be great for working out of a plateau, plus help you work through a mental block of exercise.