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.

 

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Stretching and the full squat

Jeeeez, it’s been a busy one! No time to go to the gym, barely time to go grocery shopping, I feel like everything is falling behind where I normally keep it chugging along at a nice pace!

I don’t know about you, but when things get disorganized and I’m super busy I have trouble sleeping. Normally when I’m busy at work I stay at the client or the office to be as productive as possible, but this week I decided to try a different approach and work from home at nights when needed. I was surprised at how effective this made me. I managed to get all the laundry that had been piling up (5 loads worth) done over the course of 2 nights, cleaned my house, and managed to scrounge up some food despite my almost bare fridge.

Despite all that I still wasn’t sleeping well. Normally once my house is clean I sleep like a baby? So what’s the deal?

Time to relax…

Oh right… I have not lifted, ran or even stretched in about a week! No wonder I can’t sleep. My mind may be exhausted from work, but my body has barely moved (aside from running up and down the stairs to switch over the ridiculous amounts of laundry).

Over lunch yesterday I read Mark’s Daily Apple‘s post on floor living and I thought that maybe that little bit of increase movement might help. So I crouched down and tried to rest of a full squat.. I probably lasted 30 seconds… ok, not good. I proceeded to intermittently stretch out my hips, quads, calves and especially my hamstrings over the course of the night between loads of laundry and finishing up some work on the computer and kept going back into the full squat. By the end of about 3 hours of sporadically doing this I finally got my hips and hamstrings loose enough to comfortably squat for about 5 minutes!

I was pretty proud of myself, but what I noticed most was when I got into bed, my back and hips felt much more “neutral”. I tossed a lot less and found a comfortable position almost instantly. It’s amazing how much more comfortable your body is when it’s not wound up tight from sitting all day!

I think I have a new goal…. lounge less. My couch might be incredibly comfy, but obviously my body is happier with a full squat and some stretching.

Oh and Happy International Women’s Day!

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

Deadlifts and Danger?

Sorry for being totally MIA these past few days. I have been sick and I become less than useless when I’m sick. But I think I am getting better now.

I just got a text from my Dad saying that he almost did a full deadlift! My Dad is a very strong man but has struggled with back problems for a long time and back problems + deadlifts = bad things. That made me think of all the information around deadlifts saying that they are terrible and you will get injured. It’s kind of true… but only because most people 1) don’t know the correct form and 2) don’t have the hip flexibility to do it properly.

I have been trying to teach my friend how to deadlift on leg days because, well, I ❤ deadlifts. And I realized that even though it’s probably one of the most natural and functional movements a body can do… it’s really hard to teach. I started off teaching a regular deadlift, but quickly found that if you aren’t used to the motion you curve your back. This is why everyone and their grandma thinks deadlifts are dangerous.

So when I realized that something wasn’t computing I moved on to stiff-legged deadlifts. These are less powerful, but they are much easier to do from a form perspective. It’s a simple hinging motion from the hips and you only go as low as you can with you back 100% straight. As soon as you feel it curve to compensate for inflexibility, you stop! So that’s easier to learn.

But why is a move that should be innate, so bloody difficult?

Toddler

The full squat is a natural movement

Let’s back track: Have you ever seen a toddler play with something? They usually look like this –>

That is a perfect full squat position, from which the child can easily stand without throwing out his back.

Now you do that.

I’ll wait…

Did you fall over? Did you even get past perpendicular? Did you heels come off the floor? Did you notice, perhaps, that the main issue is you have no flexibility in your hips?

Most of us don’t have the requisite flexibility in out hips to allow us to get into a full squat. It requires out thighs to sit alongside our bodies with our knees pretty much in our armpits. And if you can’t do that… you will throw your back out doing a deadlift.

Regular deadlift (bending the knees) - note the position of my back.

Regular deadlift (bending the knees) – note the position of my back.

Deadlifts don’t require the same range of motion, or so it would seem, but they do require complete control over keeping your back in proper alignment. Proper alignment means chest up and lower back straight. If you don’t have the ability to keep your back straight while you reach down for the bar, you will get hurt.

I was talking to a guy at the gym who commented on how much I was lifting and wasn’t I concerned about hurting myself? After a few exchanges he said “but I thought that deadlifts were purely a back exercise!”. AHA! So here is the confusion, yes you will work your back, but you are lifting with your legs, just like you’ve always been told to do – lift that computer with your legs, otherwise you’ll hurt your back! Why would we do the opposite on purpose for an exercise?

So here’s what it comes down to, if you can’t do a full squat, please work on your flexibility BEFORE you attempt a deadlift. But if you can do a full squat and you have good mobility and strength in your back, the deadlift is one of the best exercises out there. It works almost every muscle in your body – rear deltoids, upper back, lower back, glutes, hamstrings and quads. Plus it’s the lift that you can lift the most weight with, which is always encouraging. Being able to say “I can lift over 200 pounds” or whatever your goal is, can be extremely motivating and empowering.

I will never encourage someone to do something that is dangerous, but make sure you understand WHY something is dangerous before writing it off. It might be that the pro’s outweigh the con’s for some things, and in my opinion, the upside of mobility, strength, power and functional movement are worth the patience required to do a deadlift properly.

Happy lifting!

Working out at home

Well today was great. I started it out with a leg workout at home. Now some of you may be skeptical… I know I am of at home leg workouts, but this was pretty good. Nothing like what I would have achieved in the gym, but I definitely accomplished a good burn in the glute zone. Mission accomplished!

The pretty-darn-great at-home leg workout

The aim of these exercises is to get that butt a little higher!

The aim of these exercises is to get that butt a little higher!

I used 2 25lb dumbbells, a yoga mat and the side of a bench (feel free to use a couch or kitchen chair or whatever is handy) for equipment. I did a quick warmup of dynamic stretches and some bodyweight full squats. FYI full squats mean yous but should be almost touching the floor. AKA Grok squat , then perform 3 sets of each of the following trisets (trisets are the same as supersets but do 3 exercises back-to-back before taking rest).

Triset #1
– Squats holding dumbbells x10
– Walking lunges to the end of my hall and back which is 16 total
– Bulgarian split squats x12 each leg

Triset #2
– Single leg glute bridges x12 each leg
– Alternating “supermans” (lie on your stomach arms extended above your head and lift your opposite leg and arm as high as possible focusing on squeezing your glute) x10 each side
– Glute bridges with a 25 lb dumbbell over hips x12
Stretch and get ready for the day 🙂
On another note, I got my stage photos from my competitions and looks how awesome these are… there are a lot more which I’m putting up on my facebook page… which you should go and like!
DSC_5715DSC_5723DSC_4865
In the group shots that I got I could really tell what the judges were looking at… my glutes need to be higher when I’m posing and I need to push my upper body forwards more especially in the side pose. Also, it confirmed that I was more muscular than most of the girls in the group. It has reaffirmed for me that my next show should be in the figure category. I am looking at doing a show May 25th 2013 and if I qualify, doing the next level up on June 1st at the Toronto Pro Supershow… good plan? Yes I think it is!
So that is my ultimate goal right now and gives me a good timeline. I must not get fat over christmas, but I can definitely relax a little until; the new year.
Any thoughts on the plan? Anyone else doing a show in that time frame?