Posts Tagged ‘gym’

While it’s good to be consistent with your training, it’s also necessary to shake things up from time to time to continue to progress.  Some of the ways you can do this are by adding a few minor changes to the way you train.  To progress, you need to be challenged.  In order to challenge yourself, you can add some intensity techniques to your workout:

1.  Use Supersets, Compound Sets, Tri-sets or Giant sets:  Performing two or more exercises back to back with no rest.  You can either do opposing muscle groups (i.e. biceps/triceps) or the same muscle group (i.e. exercises for just the biceps).  Not only can this shorten your workout, but it can increase your calorie burn because your heart-rate remains elevated for a longer period of time.

2.  High Intensity Training:  This is where you will perform just one working set to failure.  Always complete 1-2 warm-up sets before employing this technique.  You can use this technique if you’re really short on time or you can pick one or 2 exercises toward the end of your workout and really get that “burn”.

3.  Drop Sets:  This one is a personal favorite of mine.  Complete an exercise using your normal weight (you can either do a specified number of reps or go until failure), lower the amount of weight you’re using and then continue with the set without rest.  You can do a single drop, double drop, triple drop, etc.  This is a great one to do on the last set of any exercise.

4.  Reverse Sets:  It’s common to perform, say, 4 sets of 8 reps; but instead, switch it up, go much heavier and perform 8 sets of 4 reps.  This works great when you’re trying to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting for a particular exercise.

5.  Don’t Count Your Reps, Time Them!  A typical set will last maybe 10-20 seconds with a common rep scheme.  Utilizing the principle of time under tension (TUT), time your set instead.  Pick a slightly lighter weight (one you think you can do for around 25-30 reps) but continue the exercise for 45-90 seconds.

6.  Tabata:  Best performed with larger compound movements like squats, deadlifts, etc.  You will be performing the set for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat for a total of 8 sets or 4 minutes.

7.  Negatives:  This is where you will be focusing on slowing down the lowering phase of the exercise.  Make sure the negative portion lasts for at least a count of 6.

8.  Forced Reps or Partial Reps:  This will require the help of a spotter; notice I said “help” – your spotter should only have to get you past the sticking point during the last few reps, not lifting the weight for you.  This will allow you to complete a few more reps than you would have been able to do on your own.  If you don’t have a spotter available, do partial reps:  complete as many full reps as you can and then when you are too fatigued to complete any more reps with good form, do a few reps in as much range of motion as you can at the end.

9.  FST-7:  Created by Hany Rambod, Fascia Stretch Training is done on the last exercise for the target bodypart.  7 sets will be completed for this last exercise with a rest time of 30-45 seconds.  This will really get the blood flowing!  If you don’t get a good “pump” from this, you did something wrong!

10.  21’s:  During this technique, you will be doing a total of 21 reps in the set:  7 reps in the lower half of the exercise, 7 reps in the upper half of the exercise, and then 7 reps performing the full range of motion of the exercise.  Again, here you will most likely need to lower the amount of weight you would typically use for a regular set.

Use these techniques to add some variety to your workouts or push you through a plateau.  Just don’t forget to make sure that you have the proper fuel and recovery (nutrition, sleep, and supplements).  I can’t wait to try adding the new pre-workout from Top Secret Nutrition (Pump Igniter)!  You can check it out here:

Remember that you can make your workout your own by adding one or more of these techniques or even adding them together (i.e. doing supersets with a drop set on the last set of each exercise).  Also remember that they should make your workout quite intense, so don’t abuse them either!

My workout begins in my head. The time I spend in the gym or working out at home is one of my favorite parts of the day. It’s my time; my stress relief, the time to challenge myself, and to change myself. I think too many people waste time “going through the motions”. Day in and day out they go to the gym, hit a few machines, and call it a day. Not to mention, few show any real change – neither in their physique or their mindset. Not me…some people may think I’m a little extreme sometimes, but hey – I’m either going to do it to the best of my ability or not do it at all.

I plan, I write it down, I spend time preparing for my workout.  There is the rare occasion that I’ll actually go to the gym and “wing it”.  So, what are some of the things you can you do to get the most out of your workouts?

  • Create the Mindset:  Don’t just use your muscles, use your mind!  It is an extremely powerful and useful addition.  I start getting psyched up about my workout before I even get to the gym.  Think about walking through the gym doors:  the smell, the sound of the weights, and your specific plan for that day’s workout.  Get excited!
  • Set the Tone:  Get your headphones on and pick the right music.  If you’re not into music, find a quiet spot to warm-up.
  • Avoid the Social Scene:  This is a tough one!  Do your best to avoid talking at the gym; not only does it waste precious time, but it can easily cause you to lose focus.  This is one of the reasons why I love music (and my headphones)…but unfortunately, there are still those folks that don’t understand basic gym etiquette and will interrupt you anyway.  Just let them know you’re in the middle of your workout and you’ll catch up with them later.
  • Get Intense!  You can workout HARD or you can workout LONG but you can’t do both!  Heavy weight, supersets, drop sets, negatives, and the list goes on…incorporate some intensity techniques and you can make some great gains.
  • Hiit It!  If cardio is on your list of to-do’s, don’t spend an hour on the treadmill at 2.0 mph.  Do intervals!  Work your butt off for 20 minutes and you’ll gain (or lose!) more in that time than 2 hours on the treadmill.
  • Embrace Change:  It’s great to be consistent with your workout program, but don’t forget to change up your routine from time to time.  Switch your rep range, the order of exercises, your splits, etc.  This is one of the reasons I love using a workout journal;  I aim to improve something every week (either a heavier weight, a few more reps, etc.).
  • Time Under Tension (TUT):  This is how long the muscle is strained during a set.  This can be increased several ways:  slow down your tempo, increase the reps, and don’t lock out or completely relax during the set.  More TUT = more muscle breakdown = more growth.
  • Use the Mind-Muscle Connection:  This one takes some practice but can be a game-changer!  As I’ve said before, don’t go through the motions, actually THINK about the muscle/movement while you’re doing it.  Try it!  Drop the weight a bit and really FEEL the muscle contraction.  This will help you avoid poor form and substituting other muscle groups when the weight is too heavy.  A great one to try is the leg extension.  Use a lighter weight than normal, slow the tempo down a bit, and see/feel the quads working -really squeeze the muscle at the top of the movement.  Try this with a few exercises each week and before you know it, it’ll become a habit – and the results will be awesome!


Family obligations, job responsibilities, workouts, food shopping, meal prep, and even show prep if you compete can take up a lot of your time. It has been said that bodybuilding can be one of the most selfish sports…if you let it. It has taken me several years to figure out how to balance everything and I sometimes still get it wrong. I have learned that having a plan is key to being successful, but what happens when that plan gets changed? You have a sick child, the gym is closed, you forgot to pack all your meals, etc. There are so many things that can happen in the course of a day to mess up your plan, but don’t let that derail your entire day! Yes, fitness is definitely a lifestyle, but it shouldn’t be your whole life! We all have families, jobs, and other responsibilities that are just as important as our fitness. I’m going to give you a few tips on how to find a good balance between all of these things without going crazy!


  • Have a plan, but also have a back-up plan!  I used to get so upset if my scheduled workout got messed up.  Now, instead of getting upset, I just try to reschedule it somewhere else in my day.  Even if I can’t get to the gym to do the workout I had planned, I have several key pieces of equipment at home that I can use.  I prefer to either get up before my kids to workout or do it after they have gone to bed.  This avoids all the possible interruptions that are sure to come…”I’m hungry, thirsty, bored, she’s looking at me!, give that back!, etc…you name it, and they’ll drive you crazy with it ;-)”  Some great items to have on hand that won’t break the bank are several strengths of resistance bands and a jump rope.  You can get both a cardiovascular as well as strength workout.  If you have extra funds; adjustable dumbbells, a suspension training system, and even some exercise DVDs can be great.
  • Change your attitude!  As I said in the last tip, I used to get frustrated when my schedule got turned upside down.  Now, I look at it as an opportunity to do a workout that I wouldn’t normally do.  Sometimes doing a little Yoga at home can be a refresing change to your routine as well as a great stress reliever!
  • Always, always, always have something with you to eat when going out.  Sometimes you’ll forget a meal or you might be running late.  I carry a shaker bottle with a scoop of Top Secret Nutrition’s 100% Whey with me.  If I need a snack in a hurry, all I need to do is add water.  You can also carry a meal replacement bar, a bag of almonds, etc.
  • Be flexible with eating out.  Don’t avoid social situations or always be the one to pick the restaurant when going out.  Most places will have something reasonably healthy for you to eat.  Don’t be afraid to ask for dressings on the side, no butter/oil etc.  Try to choose a lean meat and salad or vegetable.  If that’s impossible, pay attention to portion size.  One small plate of pasta is not going to completely ruin your physique if you’re diet is in check the rest of the time.  It’s ok to have a treat/cheat meal from time to time!
  • It’s also ok to have an unplanned rest day!  So you didn’t get to the gym or get in a workout at home – oh no, that’s it!  Just forget about it now…you might as well just open the freezer and grab that pint of Ben & Jerry’s and go to town right?  Nah, just go to the gym tomorrow, you’ll be ok, I promise!
  • This one’s for all you parents out there.  Don’t feel guilty for making time for yourself!  Making healthy choices everyday is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your kids.  Kids mimic everything they see.  If you’re eating healthy and staying active, they are more likely to do the same.  And I also promise that they won’t die without you if you go to the gym for an hour.  Not only that, if exercise helps reduce your stress and make you feel better overall, you will be a MUCH better parent as a result!
  • Play with your kids!  You don’t need special equipment to go outside and chase after your kids.  Ride bikes together, play tag, etc.  Take them to the park or playground.  Make a workout for yourself while you’re there.  I’ve been known to do a few pull-ups on the monkey bars!
  • Don’t stress if you don’t always get it right!  “To find balance, we must fall a few times…”  Just let it go and start a new day tomorrow.

Well, I hope that helps a little bit.  Summer’s here, the kids are home, there will be BBQs/vacations, and many other things to think about.  My advice, do the best you can to stick with your fitness goals but allow yourself some time to have fun with family and friends!

Gym Etiquette?

Posted: April 10, 2013 in Fitness
Tags: ,

Our time is so precious!  Between work, family, household chores, and errands, we only have so much time in our day to fit fitness in the mix!  We need to get in the gym, get our workout done, and get out!  We don’t need little time-wasters interspersed between our sets.

It’s important to remember that you’re not the only one in the gym and you need to respect others’ time as well. Here is where some basic gym etiquette comes in. I’m not going to repeat what we’ve all heard over and over again: wipe down your equipment, re-rack your weights, don’t sit on the equipment if you’re going to yap on the phone or text your friends, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Yes, these are things that we should all be doing, but unfortunately they do need repeating from time to time.

For me, the biggest issue I encounter is the “social” aspect of the gym.  I have quite a few friends and acquaintances at the gym and maybe that’s because it IS my second home!  I’m going to add in a few of my own thoughts on gym “etiquette” that should be no-brainers, but I encounter them almost daily (insert rant)…

  • Please don’t stand in my personal space, staring at me and waiting to talk to me while I’m in the middle of a set (it’s very distracting) and for goodness sake, don’t tap me on the shoulder when I have a heavy barbell in my hands
  • Please don’t ask me how to use the treadmill while I’m in the middle of a 9.5 mph sprint.  I can barely breathe so I don’t think I’ll be able to enlighten you on the power button
  • No, I’m not available to move your furniture…it wasn’t funny the first, second, or third time you asked me
  • Don’t even start the conversation with “I don’t want to interrupt your workout, but”  because, well, you already did
  • Please stop asking me what I eat.  It’s a big secret…food.  Not just any old food but a wide variety of healthy unprocessed food on a consistent basis.
  • If you really want me to “train” you, you better pull up your yoga pants, tie your hair back (yes, I know you just got it done and it DOES look beautiful, for now…), and be prepared to sweat…cuz you’re not gonna look pretty when I’m done with you!  Anything less and you’re wasting your time, and mine
  • And finally, if we’re exchanging “pleasantries”, a simple “Hi, how are you?  Fine, thanks!” will do.  No offense, while I’m in the gym, I don’t really want to hear the 10 minute saga… I’m here to work!

Now don’t get me wrong, I love all my gym buddies and I will be happy to talk to you when I’m finished!  But, please keep in mind the REAL reason you’re at the gym…some people just want to socialize, some want to meet a mate, and some want to TRAIN…if someone is working hard, sweating harder, and has their headphones on…chances are, they are not going to want to talk!