Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Swim Suit Ready Series: The Back Workout

     Yahoo! The last workout is here! After this I'll post a weekly schedule for you to follow so you get a total body workout throughout the week!
     The first exercise is the dumbbell row. You'll need a set of 5-8 lb. weights for this. Stand with feet about hip width or so apart (the distance isn't too important, as long as you're comfortable). Lean forward, keeping your back straight so that your upper body is close to paralell with the floor. (You may bend your knees and you don't have to be all the way paralell, just close to it.) Let your arms hang down and then draw the weights up towards your chest, bending your elbows as you go. Squeeze your shoulder plades. You'll do this for 12 reps and then follow it with 10 pulses. You'll stay in this position for the next exercise. Perform a rear lateral raise by letting your arms hang down again for the start and then lifting them outward so that you open up your chest to the floor, palms toward the ground, and arms straight. You'll feel this more on the sides of your back than at your shoulder blades. Do this for 12 reps and then follow it with 10 pulses. Stand up to relieve the stress on your lower back, and then head back down for another set of dumbbell rows and rear lateral raises. You'll do both for a total of 3 sets.
     This next set of exercises are going to involve a little more cardio but hey, cardio during a strength workout is a good thing. ;) First, take an exercise band and tie a knot in the middle of the band. Throw the knot over a door and close the door so you have the two ends hanging down. Pull on it with caution at first to make sure it's secure. Next, get down on the floor and set up for push ups. Why push ups? Because it's not just for your chest! Push ups are an awesome core exercise and they do a lot to strengthen your back. Do 12 push ups (on your knees, or toes, it doesn't matter) and then stand back up and hold onto the ends of your exercise band. Stand so that you've got some tension on the band and hold your arms out straight. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band down and touch your fists to the tops of your thighs. This is a lat pulldown. You'll do 12 reps. Alternate the push ups and the lat pulldowns for a total of 3 sets on each exercise.
     The last 2 exercises are performed on the floor. You'll need to lay all the way down on your stomach, arms stretched out above your head. You'll be doing a Floor Y Raise and a Floor I Raise. For the Floor Y Raise, move your arms out so that your arms and body are in the shape of a "y", thumbs pointed up toward the ceiling. Raise and lower your arms for 15 reps, keeping your head down. Bring your arms all the way back up over your head for the I Raise. Raise and lower your arms for 15 reps, keeping your head down. Continue to alternate the Floor Y and Floor I Raises for a total of 3 sets of each exercise.

The Back Workout:
Dumbbell Row - 12 reps followed by 10 pusles
Rear Lateral Raise - 12 reps followed by 10 pulses
Stand for a small break
Repeat Dumbbell Row and Rear Lateral Raise for a total of 3 sets each
Push Ups - 12 reps
Lat Pulldowns - 12 reps
Repeat Push Ups and Lat Pulldowns for a total of 3 sets each
Floor Y Raise - 15 reps
Floor I Raise - 15 reps
Repeat Y and I Raises for a total of 3 sets each

Swim Suit Ready Series: The Thigh Workout

     We're almost there! This is the 4th of 5 workouts and I pormise the last one will be up today! I'm gonna skip all the talking and get straight to The Thigh Workout! You'll need a set of weights and a step stool or aerobic step for this workout.
     I hate lunges as much as the next person but the work so there's really no way around it. Our first exercise is a lunge/squat combo. Starting on your right leg, you'll lunge forward, come back to center, then squat out towards the right, and come back to center. This is one rep. Remember to push through your heels on the squat and don't let your knee go past your toes on the lunge. Proper form will help you get the most benefit from the exercise as well as prevent injuries. You'll do 12 lunge/squat combos on the right and then 12 on the left. You may take a small stretching break and then go for it again. 12 on the right, 12 on the left.
     The next exercise is the deadlift. I love deadlifts because they strengthen the hamstrings (which can be hard to get at) and because they also stretch the hamstrings at the same time and a lot of us frequently forget to stretch our hamstrings. Also, a lot of knee problems cam be solved by making sure your hamstrings and your quadriceps are equally strengthened. A lot of people forget to strengthen both muscle groups and the result is knee pain. So, don't skip this one! To perform a straight-leg deadlift you'll stand with your feet about hip width apart. You'll need to be holding some type of weight, whether it's dumbbells, a barbell, or homemade weights, to make this exercise challenging. Standing tall, begin to bend forward, keeping your back flat and your legs straight. Let the weights hang down, don't force your arms to stay at your sides. Bend down as far as you can (you'll feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings and you should be able to go down a little further as your muscles warm up) and then raise your upper body back into an upright position, making sure you feel your hamstrings and your rear lifting you back up. This will strengthen your lower back as well, but you should be focusing on using your hamstrings and glutes to bring you back up into an upright position. You'll do this for 15 reps.
     Set your weights down and center yourself in front of your step stool (or aerobic step). Step up on just your right foot (let your left foot hang off the side of the step) and then step all the way back down. Do 15 on the right, and 15 on the left. Alternate this exercise with the deadlift for a total of 3 sets of each exercise.
     Remember the hip raises from this post? Well, we're bringing it back! This variation is actually not on the list from that post but it's a really simple variation. You're basically going to do a normal hip raise as described in this post, only you'll raise one leg off the floor so that you're doing a single-leg hip raise. After 12 resp on your right leg, do 12 on your left. Without lowering your hips, bring both feet back to the floor and maintain the raise while squeezing your glutes for 30 seconds. Lower back down and take a very short rest. Repeat for a total of 3 sets.

And the condensed version!
The Thigh Workout:
Lunge/Squat Combo - 12 reps on each leg
small stretching break
Repeat Lung/Squat Combo and small stretching break
Straight-Leg Deadlift - 15 reps
Step Ups - 15 reps per side
Repeat Straight-Leg Deadlift and Step Ups for a total of 3 sets each
Single-Leg Hip Raise - 12 reps on each side with a 30 second squeeze at the end
Repeat Single-Leg Hip Raise with squeeze for a total of 3 sets

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Swim Suit Ready Series: The Ab Workout

     Happy day after the 4th of July everyone! I sincerely hope you all were able to celebrate heartily and enjoy some awesome fireworks! I had an all-American BBQ dinner topped off with some Apple Pie, lit some sparklers with my family and watched the Capitol 4th celebration on TV (we watched some awesome fireworks provided by the town my parents live in on Sunday so that all the visitors could see the show instead of missing it on the actual 4th while driving home). It was awesome and I truely feel blessed to live in this great country. Even with all it's problems, it's still a great country and I LOVE the patriotism displayed on the 4th!
     I've had some time on my hands today and I finished up the last 3 workouts for the Swim Suit Ready Series and I'm so excited to share them all with you! After these next 3 posts you'll be ready to start the Swim Suit Ready Workout Routine (I've put together a weekly schedule to follow, feel free to modify yours as you see fit) and I've got a new challenge for you as well! More on those later. For now, we're going to focus on the ab workout! Now, before we get into that I feel I should remind you all that the strongest abs in the world will not show through the layers of fat that we tend to store so be sure to eat healthy to promote weight loss and to cut down on bloating, and keep up with your cardio routines to blast that fat away and make sure your beautiful abs show through! On to the workout!
     You're going to start off in the plank position, up on your hands and toes, and you're going to start with mountain climbers. You'll pull your right knee in towards your chest and then extend your leg back into plank position. Repeat on the left side. Do this for a total of 10 reps (5 on each side) and then hold plank position for 10 seconds. You'll do 3 sets with little to no rest in between (don't rest on your knees unless you can't go on without a rest).
     The next exercise is called a Russian Twist. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat, and arms extended out in front of you, palms pressed together. Lean back slightly so that your abs are engaged. Maintain a straight back. Twist your upper body so that your extended arms will point all the way to your right. Come back to center and then twist to the left, and then to center. This is one rep. You'll do 10 reps. After the Russian Twist you'll lie straight down on your back to do leg drops. Start with both feet extended straight up into the air and slowly let your legs lower straight to the floor. Go down as far as you can while keeping your lower back pressed to the floor and then raise them back up. You'll do 10 leg drops. Your goal should be to be able to go lower as time goes on and your abs strengthen. Alternate doing a set of Russian Twists and the Leg Drops until you've done 3 sets of each. Do these 2 exercises with littler to no rest in between.
     These last exercises have been around for a long time and as much as you may not like them, they still work and you'll have to suck it up and cranck out a few crunches to reall finish things off. ;) You'll start off with normal crunches. You'll do 8 slow crunches (2 counts up, 2 counts down), 8 fast crunches (1 count up, 1 count down), 8 more slow, and 8 pulses. After the crunches you'll do a reverse crunch. Lay back on the floor as if you're going to do more crunches. Instead of lifting your upper body, you're going to draw your knees toward your chest (but not all the way into your chest) and then lift your lower body off the floor (basically you tuck your pelvis so that your lower back comes off the floor slightly, you'll feel the burn in your very lower abs). You'll do 8 slow (2 counts up, 2 counts down), 8 fast (1 count up, 1 count down), 8 slow, and 8 pulses. Alternate between the crunch and the reverse crunch for a total of 3 sets. You should be taking little to no rest in between these 2 exercises.
     And there it is! If you notice, there are 3 sets of 2 different exercises you're alternating between. You may take rest or even stretch for a minute between those sets but I will encourage you to try not to take any rest at all between the 2 exercises within that set. With these 6 exercises you're working all parts of your abs so it's very important that you don't skip a particular exercise becuase you don't like it. For well-toned abs you need to strengthen all parts of your abs. Well-toned abs will also decrease any lower back pain you may be having so if the thought of a six pack isn't enough, think of your pain-free lower back to motivate you to finish the workout and do it regularly!

As always, the condensed version:
The Ab Workout:
Mountain Climbers - 10 reps
Plank - 10 seconds
 - repeat for a total of 3 sets -
Russian Twist - 10 reps (right, center, left, center is 1 rep)
Leg Drops - 10 reps
 - repeat for a total of 3 sets -
Crunches - 8 slow, 8 fast, 8 slow, 8 pulse
Reverse Crunches - 8 slow, 8 fast, 8 slow, 8 pulse
 - repeat for a total of 3 sets -

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Swim Suit Ready Series: The Arm Workout

     I hope you all enjoyed The Butt Workout as much as I did. My rear is sore but tight and that, my friends, is worth all the burn! ;) I've decided I'm a pretty big fan of timed workouts like The Butt Workout. Sometimes when I'm working out on my own I'll throw a workout together with several exercises with multiple sets but I get to the last few sets and I just don't want to do them and quitting is SO easy - no one is there to make me do it! I've written The Arm Workout similarly in that there aren't really sets and reps (in the traditional sense) but it all flows together and can be done with very little rest in between making your workout more effective and will take less time to complete. So, that being said, throw on some fast paced music and use the music to help you keep the pace for this arm workout to make you feel more like you're in a group fitness toning class and less like you're on your own and ready to give up! ;)
     Grab a pair of 5-8 lb. dumbbells (or any of your improvised home weights) for this workout and crank up that music (fast paced with a strong, easy to follow beat - I promise music will help you keep pace and will make this workout fly by)!
     Begin by standing tall, arms at your sides. Following the beat of the music, begin doing arm curls. Count out 8 curls, followed by 12 half arm curls (starting from a 90 degree angle and going up toward your shoulders), immediately go back into 8 full arm curls. At the end of 8 arm curls, pause at 90 degrees and pulse for 10 beats. At last, do 8 more full arm curls.
     Hands back down at your sides, do 12 lateral raises (you may keep your elbows slightly bent to take some pressure off the elbow joint) not going above shoulder height (you don't need to go any higher). After 12 lateral raises, bend forward slightly, keeping your back straight and tall, and do 12 tricep kickbacks. After the 12 kickbacks, pulse for 10 beats at the height of your last kickback. Go back to 12 lateral raises, followed by 12 tricep kickbacks and 10 pulses.
     Set up to do a shoulder press, but instead of just a shoulder press we'll do a combination of two exercises. You'll do a full shoulder press, come back to starting position, and then push your hands outward as if bracing yourself in a doorway (a wide doorway where you can extend your arms fully). You'll do this combo for 12 reps. After 12 reps you'll come back down to do arm curls again, but this time you'll set your arms at a wide angle (elbows stay tucked at your sides). Do a set of 12 wide arm curls. Follow that with 12 more shoulder press combos and then 12 more wide arm curls.
     The last exercise is tricky and you do not need weights for this move. You'll actually need to get down into push up position only angle your position so that your rear is up in the air and your body is in an upside down "v" position. (You can search "inverted shoulder press" for more clarification on this move.) Bend your arms to lower your head toward the floor and then press back up. You'll do this for 8 reps and then straighten your body out to hold a normal push up or plank position and hold steady for 30 seconds (or as long as you are able). Get back into your upside down "v" position for 8 more inverted should presses and then hold plank again for another 30 seconds.
     Whew! Are you tired? You should be! With this workout you've worked several different angles of your biceps and triceps, multiple angles of your deltoids (shoulders), your trapezoid, your lats, your forearms, and your core. Along with those major muscles you've worked a miriad of smaller muscles in between to help give you a toned, defined look worthy of swim suit season and tank tops all summer long.
     Just to recap (as I did with The Butt Workout) here's a condensed version without all the explinations that you can keep right in front of you as you work out so you don't have to stop and chekc your computer screen every 30 seconds. ;)

The Arm Workout:
8 arm curls
12 half arm curls (from 90 degrees and up)
8 arm curls
10 pulses at 90 degrees
8 arm curls
12 lateral raises
12 tricep kickbacks followed by 10 pulses
12 lateral raises
12 tricep kickbacks followed by 10 pulses
12 shoulder press combos
12 wide arm curls
12 shoulder press combos
12 wide arm curls
8 inverted shoulder presses
30 second plank
8 inverted shoulder presses
30 second plank

Don't forget to stretch! :)