Friday, July 27, 2012

Strength Training Framework

I structure my strength training around a core set of exercises that provide a framework for each session. I add other exercises in to create a full workout, depending on what I'm trying to work on, and I'll do variations on these core exercise. But basically, these create the foundation of every workout I plan.

When I started working with my trainer, Amanda, she broke exercises into sets that I did twice. This was a total revelation for me! I love breaking things down into pieces -- you feel like you're accomplishing more as you mentally check off each set. (Or I want to die knowing she's going to make me do frog jumps one more time!)

Power walk or jog for 1/2 a mile. If you're not at the gym, do jumping jacks or one of the cardio intervals for 5 minutes. You should be about to break a sweat by the end of your warm up.

I add other exercises to these, and I do either 3 sets of 4 exercises or 4 sets of 3 exercises (each set repeated twice). If I'm doing a full-body workout, I like to have one upper body-targeting exercise, one to two lower body-targeting exercises, and one to two core-targeting exercises. You could also repeat just these exercises three times for a full workout.

  • Plank: hold for 1 - 1.5 minutes
    • Variation 1 -- lift one leg for part of your plank, then the other
    • Variation 2 -- rotate your abdomen/hips without moving your feet so that your one hip tilts toward the floor, then the other
  • Lunges: 15 - 20 reps on each side
    • Variation 1 -- walking lunges
    • Variation 2 -- curtsy lunges (back leg is crossed behind your front leg)
    • Variation 3 -- jumping lunges (jump up from lunge position, switch legs and come down into lunge with opposite foot in front)
    • Variation 4 -- hold medicine ball or weights behind head at 90 degree angle and dip when you dip into lunge, completing tricep extension with each lunge 
    • Variation 5 -- complete lunges on tiptoes instead of with flat feet
  • Tricep Dips: 15 - 20 reps (keep your body as close to the bench as possible)
    • Variation 1 -- the straighter you make your legs, the harder the tricep dips will be
  • Squats: 20 - 25 reps (make sure to dip down so that your butt is parallel to your knees)
    • Variation 1 -- plie squat (take wide stance, feet pointing outwards, and sink down so thighs are parallel to the floor -- be sure to pulse at the end!)
    • Variation 2 -- jump squat (jump explosively up from bottom of each squat)
  • Push Ups: 20 - 25 reps (make sure your arms form 90 degree angles and that your body stays straight from head to feet)
    • Variation 1 -- reach one arm out as if you were high-fiving someone in front of you, alternating arms after each rep
    • Variation 2 -- lift one leg for the first 10 then the other leg for the second 10 reps 
The number of reps are just how many I do. You can adjust to fit your own fitness level. Just be sure that by the last rep your muscles are really burning and you feel like you couldn't do another (but you will, when you repeat the set!).

In between sets, I add some sort of 1 minute cardio interval to keep my heart rate up (this increases calorie burning, too). I've listed suggestions below. I switch the interval I use up each time to keep it interesting.

  • Burpees
  • Jogging in place with knees going up extra high
  • Mountain climbers
  • Sprint on treadmill at 8 - 8.5 MPH
  • Jumping jacks
  • Squat jumps
Each set should be followed by a cardio interval. If you do 3 sets, repeated twice, you'll do a total of 6 intervals.

Remember to stretch out the muscles you just worked!! I like doing a few sun salutations (ABC of Yoga has an awesome guide with a really helpful animation of the whole flow) in addition to some splits.

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