This blog was created to help others in the process of getting fit and healthy by sharing individual observations and discussing alternative methods of handling challenging situations and choices regarding our health.
If you have been following my blog you realize that I change my routines almost every week--even if it is something really small. That's because each week I feel differently about my workout and if I can't make changes what's the point? So, I have decided to change my cardio routine just a bit. I was doing intervals only on the stair climber and hit a plateau after recovery from a cold. So, I decided to change up the interval program to help break the ceiling and do it once a week and then have a moderate intensity variable program for the second session. I will also do the same with my treadmill program--since I am getting closer to my goal I am going to start short intervals with my goal time for one session and then a more progressive pyramid with a slower run time for the second set. Finally, the bicycle will give me my long, slow cardio (up to 60 minutes) once or twice a week. I have been remiss on my walking at night and will try to bring that back into the picture 3x/week.
In order to make strength gains you must consistently increase your weight. The increase doesn't have to be tremendous but it does have to increase steadily. I use a volume approach for a whole workout--this allows me to increase maybe only one exercise or even just one set and it still increases the total volume of the workout. For example, I may have done 4 x 4 of pull-ups for a volume of 16, next week I only have to do 1 more pull up to increase the volume for that exercise (it would be 17 instead of 16). Similarly, that could be the only exercise I increase that day but it still ends up being an increase in total weight. I know this sounds tiny but when you get to the point where you have reached maximum weights, these small increments really do add up over time.
My routine is focusing on my glutes so stretching is more important as this particular area is being worked hard. The video above shows just one exercise for stretching the glutes but there are lots out there to choose from--just check the web! Stretching is the one are of working out where I have to constantly remind myself to stay on track. If I don't build it into the routine itself by the end of my workout I am ready to go home--when I should be stretching. Sometimes in the evening when I walk I will do some leisurely stretching but it certainly isn't enough if I want to continue to make strength gains and retain flexibility and range of motion. In the coming weeks, I will work on getting in at least 5 minutes of stretching during my workout -- and an additional session at night.
As you may have noticed, I am focusing on my backside. There are plenty of exercises and activities that will work this area and can be used in any number or combination. Select from the following and/or use variations on these classics:
One Legged Dead Lifts
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls
You can make many routines from the above items -- using some of the same techniques I have been using (super sets, giant sets, compound sets, sets to failure, drop sets, etc.) and either use a gym machine (treadmill, stationary bicycle), exercise class (spin, kickboxing) or get outside (walking, hiking, running).
To find the right amount of weight use a technique called the 10 Rep Max. This involves finding the amount of weight you can perform the exercise with for 10 repetitions with correct form before becoming fatigued. If you are using a weight that is so heavy you can not lift it 10 times or you lose correct form when lifting, then that weight is too heavy. On the other hand if you can do ten or more repetitions very easily without becoming fatigued then the weight is not heavy enough to give you results. Remember, you want to challenge your muscles to perform and you want to maintain correct form to avoid injury.
This week I will be doing compound sets--two exercises that work the same muscle group and are performed back to back. The following is the routine:
Squat combined with Kneeling Kickback--4 sets/10-12 reps with a 2 minute rest after each compound set.
Stiff-legged dead lift with Bridge--4 sets/10-12 reps with a 2 minute rest after each compound set.
With the increase in reps and sets, I may need to decrease my weights a bit but because I didn't find the last phase that challenging, I may keep weights higher than recommended. Also, I will probably end up using a weight machine that simulates the same motion as a kneeling kickback rather than just using body weight.
Just a note, I screwed up the order for this particular phase in the workout scheme. I should have been doing sets to failure this week--oh well, I will do them next go round.
An easy way to build a strength training routine is by focusing on large muscles (legs, back, chest). When you do exercises that emphasis those areas (dead lifts, squats, pull ups, push ups) your smaller muscles (triceps, biceps, calves, abs) must work in concert with them to complete the movement. These large muscle exercises also help to increase your metabolism. This does not mean you should necessarily eliminate small muscle exercises but you can give them a back seat in your routine and keep the number of sets low contributing to a more efficient workout.
Many people can't read or watch TV while doing their cardio but for those that can it is a great way to pass the time. I would suggest that you do this on a day where you are doing slow, long distance because you do need to focus and pay attention when doing intervals or if you are on certain machines. I have seen folks fall off the treadmill and it isn't a pretty sight. I typically can read almost anything (or watch anything) while on the stationary bike. I can watch and read lots of stuff while walking on the treadmill; reading requires bigger print and more contrast. I can read some types of material on the stairmaster; mostly fitness focused magazines with short articles or columns. When I run on the treadmill, I can watch TV and read the borders on news shows such as Fox or CNN, otherwise I like to pay attention. Regardless of which cardio machine you use, reading a book or watching a DVD can be a treat when your motivation wanes.
For the next 2 weeks I will be doing giant sets to increase the intensity of the workout. For each set I need to lift heavy enough to reach near-failure; each exercise consists of 3 sets of 8-10. I will use the first set for warm-up this week and help determine the weight for the next 2 sets. All four exercises are done (like a circuit) with a 2 minute rest in between. The exercises are:
Reverse lunge and lift
We will see how this goes -- I will 2 sessions this week and 2 next week. Let you know how it goes.