I feel like I’ve been out of the fitness loop for ages. My blog friends would talk about this race or that new workout, and as I listened, I questioned whether I would ever be into fitness again. Since I got pregnant December 2011 I haven’t been in my tip top shape. But after giving birth, catching up on sleep, weaning and two years time, I finally have the itch to push myself again. As I mentioned in this post, I’ve been living it up at the gym these days. My latest adventure: weight training.
Erin Carson follows the blog and approached me about trading a few weeks of training in exchange for a few posts about my experiences. I couldn’t think of a more fun swap! Erin is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) personal trainer and offers online training as well as in-person training at my gym, ACAC Charlottesville. Erin was also in figure competitions, so here she is looking hot!
This is the first of several posts I plan to write recapping our sessions. Here’s our kickoff week:
Week 1: Assessment
I was a bit nervous when we began – “Is this going to be painful?!” Turns out it was only a little painful : )
We started with a variety of tests to check my form, flexibility and endurance. The results:
-I can touch my toes : )
-My squat and lunge form is good but I need to work on glute activation
-I did 37 good-form pushups in a row. Could have maybe squeezed out 10 more
-I held a plank for 1:03. Could have gone longer if I hadn’t burned out my abs with the pushups!
-I did about 12 assisted pull-ups with 50 pounds assistance
I loved not knowing what challenge was next and since I can be a perfectionist, I felt the need to really focus on my form and push myself hard – all two eyes were on me! It’s so easy to get lost in a group ex class, but there is no cheating when you’re working one-on-one. The assessment was pretty easy (with the exception of the pushup challenge) and I was glad I didn’t have to see how fast I could run a mile at the end : ) We decided I needed to work on glute activation but my form and posture was otherwise good (whew!) I always find my lower back hurting during squats, so we set out to figure that out as well.
My goals: help with weight training program, increase weights, build muscular endurance.
Week 1: Lower Body
My assessment was on a Friday, and the following Tuesday we met for a 30 minute lower body workout. I often neglect my lower body when I think about weight lifting. The arms seem much more tone-able. While my legs are strong from running, cardio and some squat/lunge sessions, they haven’t been pushed all that much. Here was our plan:
lower body: week 1 [18-20 reps]
free motion squat – 80lbs x 20 x 2 ? focus on glutes, engage lower abs and modify range to avoid back pain
lunge with hand weights with front foot on step – 12.5lbs x 18R/L x 2 ? focus on glutes, adjust back foot to avoid to pain
single arm/leg bicycle crunch – bodyweight x 20R/L x 2 ? avoid rib flaring by keeping abdominal wall contracted throughout
hip bridge with feet on sliders – body weight x 10 flat footed R/L + 10 toes R/L | bodyweight x 20 toes R/L
standing leg extension – 10lbs x 18R/L
lower body hyperextension with scissor leg – bodyweight x 18
heel beats – bodyweight x 20
My realization after our first real session was this: my muscles were so much more tired with less reps than I usually do, and the answer why is correct form. I have pretty good form overall, but in a group ex class after I’ve done 50 lunges, my legs just don’t hold their shape. The one-on-one attention really forced me to keep my form the whole time. Erin watched my every move, and if I so much as pushed out a rib she noticed. Her motto is: “Great Form. Great Fitness” and I now know why!
The squats, lunges and bicycle crunches were all pretty easy, but the hip bridge on sliders and leg extensions had me fatigued by the end. The scissor legs and heel beats worked my back and inner thighs – muscles I probably neglect all too often.
The next day I wasn’t terribly sore, but my left butt cheek felt a bit strained when I ran the next day. I did some rolling on a ball and stretching that really helped.
Week 1: Upper Body
upper body: week 1 [18-20 reps]
- kneeling lat pull downs – 40lbs x 18 x 2 ? remember to keep a slight lift in upper back/chest
- pushups on medicine ball – bodyweight x 18 x 2 ? elbow on the ball goes to 90*
- hanging leg raises (alt bent/straight) – bodyweight x 18 x 2 ? careful – no swinging!
- arnold presses – 10lbs x 12 | 12/5lbs x 18
- seated cable overhead tricep extension – 25lbs x 18
- pilates bananas – bodyweight x 10R/L x 2
Despite working my upper body more frequently, I was more sore after this workout than the lower – especially in the lats. What has surprised me about our first week is that we’re not doing traditional weight exercises – bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc. I love that I am learning more creative ways to lift weights, and I imagine they are working both the main and stabilizing muscles more than basic sets alone. I also love how core work is dotted throughout. I can only do so much core before I burn out, so spreading it throughout really helps.
Here are some notes from Erin about this week’s program:
For lower body this week, I chose free motion squats to try to sort out what was causing your low back pain and to work on the glute activation. I chose the lunges to work on glute activation as well – the offset foot position really gets the front glute working (if done properly, of course). I also always include a glute/ham exercise and a single joint exercise, plus core work in every lower body workout.
For upper body, I had made a note that you weren’t feeling your pullups in your back when we did your assessment. It’s a little easier for me to cue back work when I can actually touch your back and when you’re not concerned with pulling your bodyweight, so I prefer lat pull downs for back activation work. I chose the pushups on the medicine ball as a chest strength variation b/c I know you’re strong enough to do pushups correctly. I always include a shoulder exercise in upper body workouts and vary whether we work the anterior, medial, or posterior delt for balance. I also include arm work (biceps or triceps depending on the week) and core work. As a side note, core work does include the front, sides, and back of your midsection
I’m nervous and excited to see where week 2 takes me!