Adding Variety To Your Workout Program

Are you constantly doing the same exercises and finding that you are getting stuck in your fitness routine? Hopefully this article will provide insight on how to surpass plateaus and change up your routine.

Why add variety to your workouts? Changing up your routine is important because your body is always adapting to what you make it do. So if you are performing the same exercises over and over, your body will become very good at that but not progress after a certain point because it has become used to it.

Types of Variation: Let’s take the squat for example. If you are performing 5 sets of 5 repetitions, your body will get used to that. There are many ways to improve your squat without having just adding weight. You can perform a pause squat, holding for 3 seconds at the bottom of the squat. You can perform a split squat to isolate one leg and focus on building strength one leg at a time. Below are some variations you can use for your squat:

1) Barbell Front Squat 2) Split Squat 3) Pause Squat 4) Hack Squat 5) Lower weight, higher reps 6) Higher weight, lower reps 7) Tempo Squat - slowly descending or ascending

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How Many Days Should You Train?

It is beneficial to know when your body needs a break and when you can keep pushing. By giving your body time to recover you will not only avoid injury, but help improve your strength and fitness goals by taking a break occasionally. Here is a breakdown of how often you should train.

Newbie (0-0.5 Years): While beginners are eager to jump into exercising, they need to know their bodies limitations and give their body time to adjust to the weights and the amount of pressure it puts on the body. Beginners should aim to train with weights 3-4 times a week emphasizing good technique and form. 

Intermediate (0.5-2 Years): Intermediate athletes can train up to 4-5 times a week emphasizing technique as well as variation of compound movements to help them increase their strength. Recovery time has improved but still allowing 1-2 days of recovery is necessary. 

Advanced (2+ Years): Advanced athletes can train 5-6 days per week. Notice that even advanced athletes still need rest days to allow their body a break. Training 7 days a week is not going to be beneficial for the body and will most likely lead to poor workouts. 

Note that these suggestions are just that, suggestions. The number of days you workout is totally up to you but is just a guide to help you find a good balance between recovery and pushing yourself to improve. The categories are guidelines for people who may be looking to increase or decrease the number of days they are training. Enjoy the process and happy lifting

What Lifts Should You “Max Out”

The term “maxing out” means finding the maximum weight you can do for 1 repition of a movement. While performing these very intensive lifts, you need to make sure that your form is not compromised. Additionally, you should not just “max out” whenever you feel strong. It should be a calculated attempt and not random. With that being said, it is good to max out on certain lifts to see if you have gained strength and progressed in your lifts. Maxing out should be for compound movements where you can use multiple muscle groups to help support heavier weights.

Lifts You SHOULD Max Out: 1) Squat (Front Squat, Back Squat, Overhead Squat) 2) Deadlift 3) Bench Press 4) Clean & Jerk 5) Snatch 6) Press (Shoulder Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Split Jerk)

Lifts You SHOULD NOT Max Out: 1) Bicep Curl 2) Hip Thrusts 3) Lateral Raise 4) Calf Raise 5) Lunge 6) Row (Barbell, Cable, Dumbbell)

 

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Exercise To Relieve Neck Pain

A common problem among many individuals working at desks or in front of computers is neck pain. This is caused by a constant forward head lean which stresses the neck muscles. To help improve this posture, here is an exercise that you can perform to help improve your head posture. Step 1: Lie on a box or any surface that has a ledge. Position yourself so your shoulders are supported but your head and neck are not. Step 2: Using your hand, push your head backwards and make a double chin. The goal in this position is to make the head in line with the box. This creates a straight posture from the head down to the back. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Step 3: Gently release your head and relax it back.

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Deadlift Positioning

Many people are scared to injure themselves while performing the deadlift because of improper form and technique. But, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't deadlift! It is an essential lift and movement to getting stronger and being able to build strong back, lower back, glute and hamstring muscles. Below I have created a diagram of a good and bad starting position for your deadlift. 

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Let's discuss what is going on in the two images. Firstly, the deadlift is naturally a hinge, meaning that you are bending at the hips to pick up the bar. Secondly, in both images the back is flat and there is no rounding in the lower or upper back. This is a good thing! But that does not mean you are performing the movement correctly. 

The differences between the two is the positioning of the hips and torso. On the right, the hips are very low as if the person is "sitting" into the position. For a deadlift, this is not the optimal position to lift as the bar will not travel straight up and down as it should. On the left, the person has their hips a little higher and their knees are pushed back. The shoulders are over the bar. When the person on the left picks up the bar, this is the best position as the bar will travel straight up and down. They will not run into the problem of hitting the knees on the way up.

With that being said, always maintain a flat upper and lower back. Do not shoot your butt up too fast as this will cause your lower back to round. Keep the shoulders over the bar and make sure the bar goes straight up and down. 

Eating Healthy: Plate Portions

If you are looking to get started on healthy meals, this plate is a really good representation of what you should be looking for.

1) Vegetables which provide a ton of nutrients are are lower in calories so great for weight loss.

2) Lean meat to help you build and repair muscle after your workouts.

3) Some sort of carbohydrate to provide you energy to fuel your workouts. Just be cautious of what types of carbohydrates you are putting in. Always check to see how many calories a serving is and how many grams of carbohydrates so that you ensure it will fit within your daily intake.

4) Fruit is a great treat at the end of the meal if you do need something sweet.

Portion sizes will vary by person but this template is a great start to help you eat healthier!

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At Home Recovery Tools

If you are having pain, tightness and soreness, seeing a therapist is a great option to help. You can take this a step further with at home remedies that can be purchased online. Here are some fairly cheap options that you can use to help aid recovery from your training:

1) TENS Machine: There are some cheap options that cause muscle stimulation which aids the recovery of muscles.
 
2) Cupping: Traditional cupping uses heat and glass cups but a cheaper alternative is to use plastic cups and suction to get the same effect. Cupping brings toxins and bad blood to the surface of the skin which will then be replaced by better blood with nutrients and oxygen. 

3) Lacrosse Ball/Foam Roller: Do your own soft tissue recovery with a lacrosse ball or foam roller. Tight muscles leads to pain which can be solved by doing some soft tissue recovery tools. 

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HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR WORKOUT

Ever confused on how to make the most of your time in the gym? Below I will describe the best way to maximize your workout time and structure it to reflect this. 

1. Warm Up: Start your workout by using the first 5-10 minutes to warm up. Start with light cardio to get the heart rate higher, then move on to dynamic stretching and mobilization. This means doing short stretches and movements that prime the muscles you will be working. 

2. Strength: Pick a compound movement that moves a lot of weight in large distances. The exercises that work the most muscles will require the most energy and concentration so put them first. 

3. Circuit Training/Cardio/WOD: Call it whatever you want, this portion is meant to increase your heart rate. Really get you sweating. Whether it be sprint intervals or a combination of 3 exercises, use this portion to get that intensity up. 

4. Cool Down/Stretch: Now is the time to implement long held stretches to help the muscles that you just used recover. Use this time to also work on making sure your body can get into good positions to lift weights. 

Training Factors You Can Control

Life can sometimes get in the way of exercising, it happens to everyone. Missing workouts is not something that you should punish yourself for. However, there are some things that you can control every time life throws you a curve ball and you have been skipping workouts:

1) Sleep: Getting 7-8 hours is essential because it will not only provide you with the energy you need to exercise, but it will also help your muscles and body recover faster. 

2) Effort: While sometimes you may have to miss a workout, that is no excuse for not giving 100% on the workouts that you can do. Do not get upset that you miss a workout, just try to get back on track and give it everything you have. 

3) Nutrition: If you eat crap,  your energy and output during workouts will reflect that. 

While skipping workouts isn't ideal, it will happen. Control these other factors and you will be right back at it. 

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HEALTHY MENU ALTERNATIVES

GOING OUT TO EAT IS DIFFICULT. THERE ARE A LOT OF TEMPTATIONS AND UNHEALTHY DISHES OUT THERE, SO HERE ARE SOME METHODS TO WATCH WHAT YOU ARE EATING WHILE EATING OUT.  

1) Side Salad: Skip the fries, fully loaded potatoes, or other deep fried side dishes. Instead, substitute it for a salad on the side which is much lower in calories. This seems like an obvious choice but don't forget about it. You can even substitute for vegetables or rice at most restaurants. 

2) Light Beer: Yes sometimes you do want alcohol to go along with your meal. Sticking to light beer will help you feel less bloated and save on calories. Skip the super sugary drinks and heavy lagers which are much higher in calories. 

3) Protein Heavy Meals: Protein heavy meals (such as steaks) are good because they provide more nutrients as opposed to carbohydrate heavy meals. Protein also helps build muscle, so why wouldn't you get food that will help you make gains?

4) Change Sauces: Avoid heavy creamy sauces which add a lot of calories to a meal. Ask for sauces on the side of if you can substitute it for something else that is not as calorie dense. If you have the sauces on the side, you can dip your food instead of smothering it in the sauce! 

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FOUNDATIONAL EXERCISES THAT APPLY TO REAL LIFE

There are many really good exercises out there for you, but I will be covering these specific movements that you must incorporate to your workouts that are essential to real life. 1) The Squat: This is a no brainer, but ever get up from the toilet or a chair? You are using your legs and training the squat will make this repetitive movement much easier over time. 2) The Deadlift: Another super important movement. Why? Try picking something heavy up with incorrect form, you are bound for an injury. Learning the deadlift will ensure proper form. 3) Shoulder/Bench Press: Any motion where you have to extend your arms will benefit from this movement. For example, opening a heavy door! 4) Pull-Ups: Being able to lift your own body weight up is an amazing accomplishment but also helps improve your posture when done correctly. Better posture helps in every day life.

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3 Tips To Help Your Fitness Training

REP SCHEME VARIABILITY Use different reps, sets and rest to build muscle. Not only will it keep your training fresh, but it will force your muscles to adapt, resulting in building more muscle. MIX

HEAVY AND LIGHTER WEIGHTS Similar to above, make sure that you lift both heavy and lighter weights. Using heavy weights is great to help build strength, but doing lower weight, higher rep movements helps increase the amount of volume you are lifting. This helps build muscles in different methods which will benefit you in the long run.

VARY INTENSITY It is very difficult to lift weights with 100% effort and exertion every time. Your body can benefit from moderating how hard you are pushing yourself. Sometimes you need to go as hard as you can and other times you need to go at a moderate pace. This can apply to both the weights and conditioning, mix it up!

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No Equipment Outdoor Workouts

Summer is finally approaching (only after that winter ice storm)! That means that it is time to go out and enjoy the weather while improving your fitness. This month's post is focused on workouts you can do outdoors with little or no equipment.

1) 3 Rounds of:

  • 400m run
  • 20 bodyweight squats
  • 20 push-ups

2) 1 Round of:

  • 20 burpees 20 lunges
  • 100 mountain climbers
  • 20 lunges
  • 20 burpees

3) 2 Rounds of:

  • 50ft inch-worm + push-up
  • 20 sit-ups
  • 50ft inch-worm + push-up
  • 20 sit ups
  • 100ft sprint

Hope this motivates you to get out and get moving!

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SQUAT: HOW TO REGRESS

Squatting is one of the most foundational movements. However, not everyone can perform a squat perfectly. If you're having trouble squatting, here are some ways that you can make it easier to get the same benefit. 

1) Squat To A Box: Squat to a box to practice the correct motion and movement patterns. It will help you get comfortable with the movement!

2) Banded/Pole Assisted: Use a squat or a band to help you pull yourself out of the bottom of the squat to help you get all the way down and up. 

3) Heels Elevated: By elevating your heels  it will help reduce the lack of flexibility  restricting you from going all the way down in the squat. 

4) 3/4 Squat: Squat as low as you possibly can (aim for 3/4 of the way down) and progressively go lower and lower as you get more comfortable with the movement. 

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How To Stay Motivated On Your Fitness Journey

Many people stop exercising and working out because they lose motivation quickly. They don't give it enough time to achieve their goals. That is the main focus of this post, to use these strategies to continue your fitness journey:

1) It Takes Time: Reaching your goals, especially your big ones, will take time. If you ask anyone who has a lot of experience with fitness, they will say that same thing. If your goals came easy, wouldn't you have achieved it by now?If your goals came easy, wouldn't you have achieved it by now?

2) Celebrate Small Wins: Increase your lift by 5 pounds? Or lose 1 pound? These little victories will help you stay motivated and should be used as signs that you are in the right direction. 

3) Learn to Appreciate the Journey: If you are only worried about the end goal, every step that you take to get there will be extremely hard. Learn to enjoy exercising, make it something fun and enjoyable to do. This will keep you coming back for more. 

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How To Avoid Injury

While exercising, staying injury free is the best way to continue to make progress. While injuries do happen, there are some things that you can do to avoid them: 1) Stretch: Short, tight and tense muscles are a recipe for disaster. Stretching will help release the tension and lengthen the muscles, reducing the likelihood for injury. 2) Get Treatment: Seeing a therapist will help find the source of pain and eliminate it. Just make sure you get a good therapist! 3) Improve on Weaknesses: Your body will naturally have imbalances. However training weaker muscle groups is beneficial to reduce the likelihood of injury. Stronger muscles will compensate for weaker ones. Stressing these muscles over time can lead to injury. Use these strategies to stay injury free during your lifting!

You Vs. You - How to Generate Motivation to Workout

To continually have motivation, determination and perseverance, compete against yourself and not others. Take time to reflect how far you have come and not if you are doing better than someone else. Celebrate your own small wins every workout, week or month which lead to big change in the long run. 

1) Take Small Wins: Increasing the weight you can lift by 5 pounds, doing 1 extra rep, all of these little accomplishments are what make exercising continually fun. There will be ups and downs, training days that range from great to awful. However, celebrate when you do achieve something you haven't before.

2) Make Exercising Habitual: I have written about this in another blog post but once you build that habit, it will be hard to break it. This is what leads to workout consistency which leads to long term results. 

3) Get a Partner: Honestly, having someone to bounce energy between makes workouts more effective. You push them when they do not want to go for more and they do the same for you. Find a partner who's style you enjoy and work together to get results!