Posing is hard… and my legs hurt.

So I had my first posing session with Lisa of Figure911 and let me tell you… it was hard!

My back still hurts (2 days later) as if I had worked out.

On the plus side, my lat spread is actually pretty good. What I have to focus on is my transitions from poses and keeping my hands looking relaxed… and about a million other things, but those were the things I struggled with most. Apparently I do this weird pivoty think instead of stepping to do my quarter turns which looks really funny, but when I tried to correct it I learned that I don’t know my left foot from my right foot… not good. so between my footing and trying to keep my shoulders up and waist in WHILE transitioning through turns, that was definitely the hardest part.

I also have a tendency to flex my wrists up instead of keeping my hands in line with my forearms, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but definitely not as nice looking as a smooth arm. So that will be my focus for practising.

Erin Stern making the front relaxed pose look easy… it is not!

But the most challenging/tiring thing about posing is actually the relaxed pose… relaxed my butt! this is where arching you back until it cramps comes in, not to mention keeping you stomach flexed, pushing into your front leg to flex your calf, rolling your shoulder back and spreading you front lat to pop your delt and give the illusion of a smaller waist and then staying like this while all the competitors do their turns!!!

What was I thinking entering figure?!

I’m so glad I decided to get coaching for this! Hardest part of the competition prep by far… except for this leg workout I’m going to share with you. 😉

I am starting to taper off my “heavy” lifting session and move into higher repetition, high energy leg workouts. Right now that means reps are around 15-20 and I’m doing mostly triple sets, but my rest period between those sets is still reasonably high (90 seconds). I take no rest between each exercise within the triple set. I am still keeping the weights quite high and they are definitely challenging, but not nearly as heavy as I was lifting 2 weeks ago when I was ok with failure at 6 reps.

So here is the workout I did yesterday that has me walking a little funny today.

Triple Triple Set Leg Workout

Warm up: 5 minutes running and dynamic stretching before weights.

Triple set #1 in the squat rack: Load a bar with about 2/3rds you normal squat weight . I normally comfortably squat 155 for 10 reps, so I dropped that to 95 pounds. Also set up a bar for deadlifts behind you with the same weight so you can easily transition between exercises.

  1. Barbell back squat – 15 reps to below parallel
  2. Barbell forward lunges – 16 reps (or 8 reps each leg)
  3. Straight leg deadlifts – 15 reps

Triple set #2  by a bench: Grab 2 lighter dumbells for step ups (I use 2 20 pound dumbbells) and one very heavy dumbbell for the plie squats and the glute bridges. You will be suprised by how much you can lift with these moves. I normally use 100 pounds for plie squats and 80 for glute bridges, but with the higher reps I use 75 pounds for both.

  1. Plie (sumo) squats – 15 reps – ensure that your tailbone stays tucked underneath you during this move and push through your heels to focus on your glutes

    Jamie Eason demonstrating the plie squat

  2. Weight step ups – 16-20 reps (or 8-10 each side)
  3. Weighted glute bridges – 15 reps – puts your shoulders on the bench and hold the dumbbell across your hips, sink you hips to the floor, then flex your glute and push through your heels to straighten your body and bring the weight up.

Triple set #3 with the leg press and hamstring curl machines: Ideally these machines are close to each other in your gym, if not, don’t dawdle while walking between the machines. The weight for this will vary greatly depending on the machines used, so just keep in mind that you will be doing 15 reps and want the weight to be challenging but not impossible.

  1. Hamstring curls (any machine variation, whichever is closest to the leg press) – 15 reps – focus on a slow eccentric (decline) motion
  2. Leg press with feet in shoulder width position, high on the plate – 15 reps
  3. Calf press on the leg press machine – 15 reps (use the same weight for both exercises)

Stretch well for at least 15 minutes.

 

Leg workouts and DOMS

I have talked about the dreaded DOMS on here before. But it’s been quite a while since I experiences DOMS that were crippling in nature.

Us fitties are always going on about how the gym makes us happy, endorphins are great and the muscle soreness is “good” right? That stuff is all true (really it is, trust me) but it’s true because our bodies have adapted to this lifestyle. Unfortunately, when you take 3 weeks off (involuntarily, I assure you) you’re body quickly unadapts.

Why? Because it hates you.

Well no, that’s not true, it’s just that it takes an awful lot of energy to maintain the ability to recover from intense activity, and your body is designed to conserve energy if it’s not needed (that’s also why we get fat!).

Squats1What happens is you don’t really lose much strength or muscle size, at least not that quickly, because your body expended a heck of a lot of energy to build that muscle, it’s not going to waste it if it can be helped. What is going to suffer is your ability to recover and your cardio.

Seriously, cardio conditioning is something you have to do ALL THE TIME otherwise it’s gone in 2 weeks. Annoying, I know.

But back to the whole recovery thing. So you (I) go into the gym after 3 weeks off and are like, ok, let’s decrease the weight a little, focus on form and get in a good solid leg workout. You get through a higher than normal rep range because of the decreased weight and your form is great. After the workout, you are tired, but feeling fabulous. Then in the afternoon you notice a slight twinge in your leg when you get up, it’s been less than 8 hours since the workout, and feeling pain already does NOT bode well. The next day you can barely move because your legs are so totaled from yesterday’s “lighter” workout and it’s now Tuesday (4 days) after the workout and your hamstring are still feeling it!

That’s what happens. It’s also what happens to a lot of first timers who go into the gym and think they are superstars because they can leg press 200 pounds no problem and then can’t walk for a week. Then they get discouraged because they are in immense amounts of pain from one workout and they are expected to do this 3 times a week?! Well we all know it’s not like that every time, but they don’t know that. So it’s definitely discouraging.

Your body learns that it has to recover quickly from these sessions because you are going to do it again in a few days. Your body gets good at recovering and next thing you know, you’ve forgotten what real DOMS feels like.

Some things that you can do to help ease the pain:

– Take a pre-workout that includes BCAAs in order to spare some of you muscle’s from breaking down during the workout

– Get your post-workout nutrition within 30 mins of exercise which should include a protein shake (not casein) and a simple carb (like fruit) and maybe some glutamine and more BCAAs for good measure (those 2 are optional but I wish I had done that)

– Warm up really well before hand without completely tiring out the muscles you are working

– Stretch well, but not excessively after the workout… stretching a little is good as it lengthens the muscle and helps flush lactic acid; stretching too much will increase the amount of tears in your already torn muscles and actually increase the pain.

– Take an Epsom salt bath, this helps flush lactic acid to and can warm up stiff muscles

Unfortunately once you have DOMS you are kind of stuck, you have to take preventative measures in order to deal with it properly.

Here is the workout that induced such pain:

Getting back into Legs

Cardio – 20 min interval run

  • Back squats – normal stance – 3 sets of 10-12 reps getting as low as possible with 115 lbs (normally 135 – 165 lbs)
  • Straight leg deadlifts – normal stance – 3 sets of 10-12 reps with 135 lbs (normally 155 – 185 lbs)
  • Bulgarian split squats holding 15 lb dumbells – 3 sets – 10 reps each leg
  • Kettlebell swings with 12 kg kb – 3 sets – 20 reps
  • Hamstring curls – 3 sets – 12 reps with 80 lbs
  • Back extension (focusing on pulling with glutes not back) – 3 sets – 15 reps – no weight

Stretch for 15 mins after

 

Weekend Workouts

This weekend I did 2 great workouts with what I would call a posse. On Saturday my boyfriend and best friend joined me for a killer leg workout, then on Sunday my best friends boyfriend joined in too for a rocking chest and shoulders sesh. Since this weekend had uncommonly nice and mild weather for this time of year, my boyfriend and I walked back and forth to the gym at a pretty quick clip instead of doing cardio. It’s about 2 kms each way so it’s not cheating! I am well and truly sore today, but it was awesome! Want the deets? Ya you do…

Legs for 3

Warm up (or walk 2 km to the gym)

Exercise Sets Reps Weight
Kettlebell swings 3 20/20/20 16 kg (moderate)
Barbell back squats 3 10/8/8 135/155/155 (moderate)
Bosu ball squats* 3 10/10/10 10 lb bar (light)
Deadlifts 3 10/8/6 155/155/185 (heavy)
Seated hamstring curls (superset) 3 12/12/10+pulse 105 lbs
Leg extensions (superset) 3 12/12/10+pulse 105 lbs
Back extensions 3 15/12/12 10 lb plate held far in front of body
You can kind of see the scrunched up face I'm making... this was HARD

You can kind of see the scrunched up face I’m making… this was HARD

* I did one-one legged squats on the bosu ball and used the bar for a couter-balance, but this is a very challenging move for balance. My friend and boyfriend did the more stable two-legged bosu ball squat (which is still very challenging for stability) and used a 25 – 45 lb weight plate held at chest height. Either one will be a great workout and will earn you some curious glances from onlookers.

Stretch for at least 10 minutes and cool down

Push for 4

Warm up (or walk 2 km to the gym)

1 set of tabata sprints (just because)

Exercise Sets Reps Weight
Spiderman push ups* 3 12/12/12 bodyweight
Bench press 2 10/8 95/115
Military press 3 12/12/12 25 lbs
Lateral delt raises 3 12/12/12 10 lbs
Front delt raises 3 12/12/12 10 lbs
Tricep bench dips** 3 12/12/12 45 lbs (on thighs)

* These are push ups where on the down motion you bring one leg out to the side and bring your knee to your elbow. See more description here.

** I did these with my arms on one bench and my feet on another with a weigh plate on my legs for added resitance. To make these easier, remove the weight plate, put you feet on the ground or bring you feet closer to your body.

Stretch for at least 10 minutes and cool down

Having 4 people go through a workout can be tough, so we basically worked in pairs for everything except the bench press (which is why we only did 2 sets). Most of the time 2 people would be doing the exercise while the other 2 spotted and then switch. Thankfully, it wasn’t a busy day at the gym so we managed this without too much trouble. Working in a group could definitely have it’s down sides

Compound Moves

Do you feel like you don’t have enough time to eat healthy and workout?

So does everyone else… including me.

As the saying goes; If it’s important, you will find a way, if not, you’ll find an excuse.

Squats 2Being short on time is not an excuse anymore. The steady state cardio myth has been debunked and HIITs are shown to be just as effective. Crossfitters’ WODs take about 20 minutes in total and build muscle like crazy. Circuits can be just as effective if not more than a regular weight session and take half the time. All of these things give you great bang for your buck, but for me… compound moves are king.

What do I mean compound moves?

A compound move is defined differently by different people, but what I am talking about are you “standard” movements that involve multiple muscle groups. Some of my favourites are (in order of my love for them):

  1. Deadlifts (Stiff leg, regular, sumo, you name it, I love it!)

    Regular deadlift (bending the knees)

    Regular deadlift (bending the knees)

  2. Back squats (with variations on stances)
  3. Lunges
  4. Pull Ups
  5. Kettlebell swings (these are not standard moves, but I love them and they work your whole posterior chain)
  6. Thrusters
  7. Push Ups

There are others, but my points is that all of these work multiple muscle groups in ONE exercise. If you only have 20 minutes to workout do you think you should do the hamstring curl machine or deadlifts?

Instead of working on individual muscle groups and having to do 14 different exercises to get a full workout in, just do a couple of these and you are done. Look how many muscles the following workout will target and I guarantee you can do 3 sets of 10 reps of these in less than 30 minutes. The bolded muscle group is the main muscle being worked.

Stiff leg deadliftsHamstrings, Glutes, Lower Back

Wide Stance SquatsQuadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Adductors

Stiff Leg deadlift

 

LungesQuadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves

Kettlebell Swings – HamstringsGlutes, Quadriceps, Lower Back, Upper back, Deltoids

Now that is one efficient workout! Be forwarned though, the tradeoff for less time is higher intensity. Doing squats and deadlifts is harder, more tiring and requires more effort that doing leg extensions until the cows come home. But there is nothing more rewarding (for me… maybe I’m crazy) than lifting some insanely heavy weight in a real life movement… because I guarantee you will have to pick something up off the ground, but when do you ever have a weight strapped to your ankle and you are only allowed to use you  quad in a kicking motion?

 

 

 

Bulking workouts

Here are 2 of the workouts I have done with the intention of bulking. I’m putting the weights I use here for reference only. The intention is to show you what “heavy” is for me. My goal is always to get to a point in 3 sets where I cannot complete more than 6 reps with proper form. When I can do 8 or even 10 clean reps on the last set, I increase my load and that’s how you should judge what weights to use too. PLEASE DO NOT JUST USE THE WEIGHTS I HAVE LISTED!

Leg Day

Warm up – 5 minutes on the treadmill working from 3.0 mph up to 7.0 mph plus some dynamic movements like body weight full squats and leg swings to loosen my hips.

This is the hamstring machine I use... it looks intimidating, but it's actually awesome!

This is the hamstring machine I use… it looks intimidating, but it’s actually awesome!

Workout – all exercises are done 3 sets, 6-10 reps (which is an all out effort) because I hm trying to build mass in my lower body. This exercise really emphasized glutes and hamstrings because I need to bring up my posterior chain. My quads are already pretty large and defined, so I don’t focus on them as much. If you want to improve you quads, swap the hamstring curls for leg extensions and do a front squat instead of a back squat (bar on chest and shoulders instead of back).

Exercise Set 1 Set 2 Set 3
Stiff leg deadlifts 155 lbs/10 reps 165 lbs/8 reps 185 lbs/6 reps
Deadlifts * 185 lbs/8 reps 185 lbs/8 reps 205 lbs/6 reps (PR)
Normal stance (slightly wider than shoulder width) back squats ** 135 lbs/8 reps 135 lbs/6 reps 135 lbs/7 reps
Leg press – narrow stance (feet almost touching) 165 lbs/10 reps 180 lbs/10 reps 195 lbs/10 reps
Single leg hamstring curl machine 55 lbs/10 reps each leg 55 lbs/10 reps each leg 55 lbs/10 reps each leg + pulse until failure
Back extensions no weight/15 reps no weight/15 reps no weight/15 reps with twist at the top
Narrow stance

This is a narrow foot stance

* Please go here and look at the form, deadlifts are an extremely common cause of back injury. Start light and when you get the form down, increase the weight

** After deadlifts, squats are really hard so decrease you normal weight and remember to keep the form tight because our lower back will already be tired and more susceptible to injury

Stretch – make sure you hamstrings, glutes and quads are fully stretched out after this workout, because I guarantee you will feel it the next day… and the one after that!

Push Day (Chest, triceps, and shoulders)

Warm up – 5 mins on the elliptical, focus on using your arms to push the handles forwards to warm up the push muscles

Workout – because my triceps are already very well-developed thanks to genetics and my chest has a reasonable amount of size, push days are usually higher rep and lower weight for me. If you feel that you triceps and chest need more size, modify the rep range to 6-10 and keep the weight as heavy as possible. Always start with the muscle that you want to develop the most, so you hit it when you have the most strength to give. For me that is my shoulders.

Exercise Set 1 Set 2 Set 3
Lateral Deltoid Raises 12.5 lbs/12 reps 15 lbs/10 reps 15 lbs/10 reps
Shoulder width push ups body weight/15 reps body weight/15 reps body weight/15 reps
Parallel bar dips * body weight/10 reps body weight/8 reps body weight/8 reps
Arnold press (bicep curl into military press with dumbbells) 15 lbs/10 reps 15 lbs/10 reps 20 lbs/8 reps
Pec flye machine 80 lbs/10 reps 80 lbs/10 reps 80 lbs/10 reps
Front deltoid raises 12.5 lbs/12 reps 15 lbs/10 reps 15 lbs/8 reps
Roman Chair leg raises body weight/10 reps body weight/10 reps body weight/10 reps
Crunches on a swiss ball body weight/15 reps body weight/15 reps body weight/15 reps
Fudge

Awesome fudge that I made last weekend. I’ll share the recipe eventually. FYI this is not in any way healthified. I apologize.

* Go here for the form. This is an advanced move and can be modified into bench dips like this

Cardio – 30 minutes on elliptical machine at moderate intensity

Stretch – full body stretch with a focus on stretching chest, triceps, abs, neck and shoulders.

Oh and then go make fudge, because, you know, bulking and stuff!

If anyone gives these a go let me know how it went… and don’t hate me if you can’t walk after the leg workout!