5 Tips for Beginner Weight Lifters

If you are just starting on your weight lifting journey, athlete or not, being armed with some knowledge is a helpful place to start. The weight room at a gym can be intimidating, and the endless options of machines are especially overwhelming. My personal journey of weight lifting started very basic, and has now grown into a love and appreciation for strength training. My desire to further understand why and how to get stronger in the best possible manor lead me to studying for my NASM Personal Training certificate. If you have seen in the blogs (or have spoken with me in person), I often encourage everyone to lift weights in whatever capacity available to them. I find that most people are looking for results through cardio and sadly fall short. I want you to see your goals through and achieve what you may not have thought possible. Here are my 5 tips so you can start getting strong!

Body weight is good weight

If your access to a gym is limited, or your knowledge on proper form is far from comfortable, lean towards body weight exercises. Learning how to control your body movements through exercises with out weight will give you a leg up when you're ready to add more complicated movements and heavier weights. Push-ups, squats, lunges, hamstring bridge, pull-ups, planks, and core. You can get extremely creative with how you advance your exercises to create more of a challenge. Interval-style workouts are a great way to being working on your strength and your stamina. By first learning how your body moves through simple movements, you will begin to gain control over your body.  

Have a plan

You don't need to have a full blown program where you lift bis and tris on Tuesdays/Thursdays and quads and hamstrings Mondays/Wednesdays (I'm pretty sure you're not trying to be a professional body builder... am I right?). However when you go to a gym to lift weights, you should have a plan. Choose exercises you are familiar with, or have gained some knowledge through tutorials. My advice is to stick with free weights and avoid the machines. Machines often do a lot of the mechanical/movement work for you. When trying to make yourself injury-adverse for sport and for life, the challenge of free weights is the best. Choose 5-8 different exercises which give you a full body workout, 3 rounds and 10-12 repetitions each. This will certainly give you a gage of where your physical strength is, and where you can add or improve for the next lift.

Increase the weight

Do not be afraid to increase the weight. This is something I must often reiterate to females. If you don't increase the weight, you will not see the kind of changes you are looking for in strength and physicality. Your body wants to come back to a place of comfort as quickly as possible. This is why it adjusts to the changes you place upon it, but then you must add a new challenge. Your increases should cause failure on round 3. Creating this kind of fatigue helps your body recognize its short comings, so it builds muscle to accommodate in response. Without muscle fatigue or "failure," it will be difficult to gage how heavy you can lift. 

Find your "weaknesses"

If the idea of lifting weights is to become more injury-adverse, then you must find the areas in which you are possibly prone to injury. Have you noticed yourself easily tripping? Work on your balance and core stability with single leg exercises. Past injuries or tightness showing up? Learn which exercises help balance out over-active muscles. Seek out new challenges in a playful manor, as this will help you learn new forms of working out. 

Do what works for you... or seek a professional

If you have programed a routine that adequately meets your needs, and you are able to continue to challenge yourself... bravo! It takes self-discipline and time to do the research to advance your form and technique. However, the self-coaching routine is not for everyone. If you are not in the position nor interested in investing the time it takes to advance your program on your own (understandable), then it's time to find someone who can do that for you. When you find someone who helps you achieve goals, then you have prioritized the need of a professional as one well worth the price. Which ever you choose, it should be right for you and should help you reap the benefits of lifting weights for your entire life! 

 

Must Have Exercises for Wrestlers

As wrestlers, there's a few basic motions that translate into the variations of movement needed for wrestling technique. Focusing on a few basic body weight exercises can make a huge difference in your wrestling game. Not having any gym equipment isn't any excuse! Use your body, get outside, and sharpen up your skills off the mat.

Sit through

The sit through is a staple in the wrestlers workout. It requires core stability as well as stamina. It mimics positions found in both folkstyle and freestyle, and works on the hip rotation that is needed in both. The sit through should begin with facing the ground, and then turning to look at the ceiling. For a wrestler, it is important to understand your surroundings and your body placement at all times. This helps work on that coordination. 

Squats and Stance work

The more I've traveled and trained around the world, I've come to notice a pattern. Wrestlers in the U.S. rarely focus on having strong legs in order to stay low in our stance for the entire match. This requires much more than focusing on stance in motion drills. You have to get creative with increasing leg strength. It needs to apply to how you stay in your stance, and how you attack your opponent. Lunges, low sideways walking, and movement drills are all a necessary part of getting your stance stronger. See my previous blog on improving your stance-strength here.

Push-ups

There is such a huge variety of push-ups, you should never get bored! This exercise challenges the wrestler's power, strength,  and ability to get up and out of many wrestling-specific positions. Push-ups are so diverse, you can even modify them for lower body injuries to keep your strength up. Find multiple ways to challenge strength through increasing reps, speed, arm position, and adding weight. Try going wide, narrow, fast, slow, incline, decline. There are endless way to keep challenging yourself with push-ups.

Pull Ups and Rope Climb

Body control is very important to a wrestler. With exercises like pull ups and the rope climb, you'll gain the shoulder and back muscles necessary to feel more in control of your opponents and become more competitive. By building up those micro muscle fibers that weights in the gym can't always do, you'll see a huge difference in your confidence on the mat.

How to make a workout

Using an interval timer (download an app!), set 1 minute working time and 30 seconds rest for 12 intervals. This will give you 3 rounds through each exercise. Record how many reps you completed during your 30 second rest, and try to beat your reps the next time you repeat this workout! Shorten or lengthen your rest time depending on the time of the season and the conditioning shape you are in. Longer rest time for off season, and shorter rest time as you get into better conditioning. Good luck! 

3 Steps to Advance Your Rope Climb

Rope climbs are an awesome way for wrestlers to build their core, arm strength, and stamina. Its the kind of exercise that helps you get gritty... you can't let go and you have to fight to the top! It can be very representative of a wrestling match, which makes it so applicable! Once you can advance to climbing the rope without the assistance of your legs, you are reaching a new level of strength. Here are your steps to advancing your rope climb.

Core strength

In order to be able to control your legs, you need to build up your core strength. Start by testing how long you can pull yourself up and hold in a seated position. Wherever you start, add 5-10 seconds each time you practice this drill. Try completing 10 sets. As soon as you can hold for 30 seconds and longer, cut down your sets by two. The idea is to do less sets and longer holds. This will help you stay in control when you travel up and down the rope. 

Shoulder strength

Hoisting yourself up the rope, hand over hand, will require a pulling motion above your head. When you use your legs, they assist in gaining distance on the rope. Without your legs, you have to shorten that distance purely with upper body and shoulder power. Complete this drill the same way you completed the core strength drill.. Reach hand over hand to gage your readiness to try and climb the rope. Create a game out of these two drills by competing with a teammate to see who can hold on the longest!

 

 

 

 

Climb!

The hardest step is always the first, so be patient and use each "hand over hand" gain as progress! Some will quickly make it all the way up the rope, others may spend weeks only completing a few hand over hand passes. Once you can climb some or all of the rope, be sure that you have worked on your core and shoulder drills enough that you are able to change the pattern to hand under hand and can control your speed back to the bottom. Never, never, hold on and slide down the rope. This will cause horrible rope burn damage to your hands, and will most likely prevent future progress. Your climb is never done once you touch the top, you are building strength as you come back down the rope as well. Happy climbing!

Rope climb demonstrated by 3x Junior World Medalist, national team member, and resident at the Olympic Training Center Erin Golston.  

10 Minute Workout for your 3rd Trimester

This workout is a Tabata style workout, which means you are timed for your work and rest. This workout also includes 2 supersets, meaning you will alternate between the 2 exercises for 8 rounds, then perform the second superset in the same manner for 8 more rounds. This is an awesome workout for pregnant mamas and even for postpartum! Be sure to consult your doctor before you perform any exercise you are doing while pregnant, as taking care of your body and your baby is most important! 

Tabata Superset 1 (8 rounds alternating exercises)

Weighted Squats | Make sure to start with your tail bone tucked. Being pregnant, you're may have an increased low-back arch like you can see I have. Tucking the tail bone will strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and keep your squat positioning strong. Keep your weighted ball close to your chest as you lower with your back straight, tail bone tucked, and head level. Come as close to a 90 degree bend as possible. You should feel as if you are sitting back in a chair. Feet can be wider than a normal squat stance to make room for that belly! Knees should never peak over your toes. If this is a problem, don't squat as low until you develop the strength to go lower with out your knees going past your toes. 

Squat and Alternating Front Kick | Begin standing with your weighted ball close to your chest. Using the same positioning for your weighted squats, come down into your good squat position. As you come out of your squat, drive your right leg straight up in front of you, keeping your upper body and core tight. As soon as right leg is back on the floor, drop down into a squat, pop back up and drive your left leg straight in front of you. Be sure to keep the knees soft and slightly bent on both your standing leg and your kicking leg. 

Tabata Superset 2 (8 rounds alternating exercises)

Alternating Plank Holds or Push Ups with Weighted Ball | This exercise challenges your core and shoulder stability. Continuing core exercises while you are pregnant is extremely important as your back takes a lot of the baby weight. Strengthening your core will help with day to day activities, good sleep, and even labor. There are three options for this exercise: first is a plank hold while you alternate the ball, rolling it from one hand to the other in a slow and controlled manner. Be sure to not let your hips sag or shift side to side, keeping your abs and glutes tight as you challenge your stability. The second option are pushups from your knees. Keeping your hips (tail bone tucked), back, and head in a line, adjust your hands closer or further from your body so you achieve proper body positioning. Continue to alternate the ball from hand to hand in between each pushup you perform. Your third option is regular pushup position. All the same cues from the alternative positions still apply here. Remember to regress the exercise using the alternatives to make sure you remain comfortable throughout all the sets. 

Weighted Toe Touch Crunches | Begin on your back with your legs straight up so your achieve a 90 degree angle at your hips and your knees slightly bent (be sure to adjust so you and that bump are comfortable!) With your arms extended holding your weighted ball, angle them slightly towards your toes. Start with you chest first pressing up, and reach the ball to your toes and return to starting position. This is a short, controlled motion, as the range of movement will be limited. This should not be a curling motion with your head and chin tucked. If you are uncomfortable with your legs in the air, place both feet on the ground and continue to press your chest towards the sky and the ball to where your toes used to be. 


Equipment I used: 

I have a few favorite things I tend to use over and over again. I did an article a few weeks back about my top 5 minimalist items for your home workout. For this workout, I started out with my Trigger Point foam roller in the 26" size. Hands down, it is the best on the market right now and not be a product that phases out or gets warn down. Those are huge brownie points in my book.

The second product I used in this workout was my weighted medicine ball. I am using an 8 pound ball, and these by Valeo come in four different sizes in 2-pound weight increments from 4 pounds to 12. 

As always, I used my Gymboss Tabata timer to make this workout easy to follow! 

 

5 Minimalist Items You Need for a Home Workout

It can be tempting to fall into the trap of accumulating workout gear in order to get a good sweat at home. I decided to put together the 5 items that I have personally used for years and LOVE. They are good quality, long lasting, and minimal! There is no reason to have endless amounts of un-used workout gear that take up space in your home. For me, it is so important to be able to put everything away after I am done. By minimizing the workout gear clutter, you will find you can focus on and enjoy your workouts so much more!

1. Foam Roller

If you haven't jumped on the band wagon yet for foam rollers, its time to stop being such a skeptic! It is fast becoming the go-to tool for muscle prep and recovery for all workouts. Also called self-mayofascial release, it supports immediate body improvements and is a universal tool used for every part of the body. Think of it as an alternative for getting soft-tissue work done by a therapist on your fascia, or first layer of soft tissue. For most of us, its not practical to get weekly or daily massages, and a good foam roller can help in that absence. Its benefits include relaxing and prepping tight muscles, increasing blood flow, increased range of motion, reduced muscle tension, and increased recovery post workout. 

A good foam roller is a must for getting effective results. As effective as a basic soft or high density foam roller can be, you will quickly find that your body will adjust to the smooth surface. As you improve and adjust the intensity of your own workouts, your foam roller should be able to adjust to the next level along with you. The best option is going towards a sports medicine-style foam roller with grids that allow for next level focus on your muscles. The best on the market are the Trigger Point foam rollers. They carry multiple sizes, and I in LOVE with my 26" roller and the mini size. The mini allows for compact travel and is great to pinpoint problem areas. The 26" Trigger Point Roller is a fantastic investment to use before and after all of your workouts. This product is worth the extra price, as it does the job of many tools advertised. This product will last you a lifetime, and you don't run the risk of a less expensive foam roller made of expanded polypropylene (EPP) loosing its shape over time.

2. Bands

Therapy bands or exercise bands are must for your at home workout. Not only are they extremely versatile, but they can allow you to complete more movements with resistance than weights ever can. They also provide a huge range of resistance strength, from light to heavy, which help simulate using heavy weights. It comes in handy if you are traveling for business or for competition. If you are ever in a tight spot, you can conveniently travel with your bands so you can get a workout in anywhere. There is a ton of variety available, but the best bands to start out with (and best bang for your buck!) is TheraBand. They are thin, lightweight bands that allows you to do a wide variety of exercises. They are color coordinated which is super convenient, so you can record your progress as you increase resistance colors. The beginner set allows you to increase resistance as you shorten your grip on the band, and you can control the tension. You can tie the two loose ends to change the tension and to utilize a different type of workout. These are thin, so I would not recommend looping over something stationary and leaning back for a body weighted pull-type exercise. The only problem any kind of silicon rubber band is the possibility of loosing tension over time, or ripping. Take care of your bands and they will take care of you!

3. Weighted Medicine Ball

I've used weighted medicine balls in my training for years. Most of the time I would utilize a larger, soft shell medicine ball used for dynamic movements, plyometric, throwing, and partner exercises. But when it comes to my home gym, I have to be able to maximize my workout in a much smaller space. Using a smaller rubber shell ball allows for dynamic work without needing huge amounts of space. Using the rebounding and rolling capabilities, I can get creative with my at home workouts. These rubber medicine balls are extremely durable, and I can't see them needing to be replaced at any time. Find a mid-range weight (I recommend between 8-12 pounds) that will allow you to be versatile in your workouts and use it for more than just med ball slams. 

4. Jump Rope

There is no reason to have to invest in bulky equipment like stationary bikes, treadmills, or row machines. They take up space in your home and in your mind. They become a constant reminder that if you don't use them, you don't get your money's worth! Hands down the best way to add in cardio and agility is through jump roping. I love a basic jump rope, which is why I chose the one below! I am not a big fan of the jump ropes that have metal clamps exposed for adjusting. They don't allow any kind of dynamic rope turning and get twisted if you try. If I slip down on the handle, I risk getting rubbed by the metal or the exposed end of the rope. Give me simplicity and I'm a happy girl! The rope below gives the best of both worlds, with comfortable handles and no catching or hinging  problems. It still allows for height adjustment by unscrewing the handles from the rope. Everything is hidden in the handles and you get to choose your color! 

5. Tabata Timer 

I love tabata or interval workouts for home!  The best way to time myself has been using my Gymboss Interval Timer. I have used many tabata or interval timers apps on my phone, but I continue to go back to my Gymboss. It allows me to have the timer clipped right to me if I need to move around the house (or at a gym) to create my workout, which makes it so convenient! No more worrying about moving my phone near me to hear the timer, or if I want to check what set I am on but my phone is across the room. I have often used an interval app in a busy gym, and I never feel comfortable moving from exercise to exercise with it laying on the floor. I especially HATE having a big beeper on that would be distracting to others around me. Not to mention, a phone call or text message interrupting the timer or throwing you off your game. That is so NOT needed in the middle of a great workout. The Gymboss has a vibrate setting so no one needs to know my interval times but me! I bought mine in 2009 and it is still going strong! 

The Gymboss allows you to choose the number of sets, your work time, your rest time, or if you just want it to time you continuously. You can change the alarm duration as well as how loud the beep is, if you add vibrate, or use only vibrate. This little guy gives you complete control and complete focus on your workouts! 


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