How many of you walk into the gym, head straight to the cardio machines, do your cardio-thang, and walk right back out? Some of you know what I’m talking about. Anyone out there meander into the weights area and scratch your head, unsure of what to do and revert back to your go-to weights routine? Think: 3 sets of 12, light-ish reps including but not limited to: the leg press machine, the lat pull down, biceps, triceps work, and some crunches on an exercise ball or knee raises in the captain’s chair.
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It can be intimidating to workout in a gym, especially as a woman if aren’t comfortable navigating the machines and free weights when others look like they know what they’re doing. It can also be hard to know how to change up your routine and create a workout. I think this is normal for many people, and many of my clients have trouble putting workouts together on their own when I’m gone (although I do love providing workouts for them when I’m away) so I thought a post on how to put a total body workout together might be helpful for some of you too.
Focus on major and opposite muscle groups.
I plan total body workouts for all my clients for every workout but change the moves up for each session to keep them fresh. If you focus on moving your large muscle groups, you’ll succeed in giving yourself a good workout that highlights functional movements. So what are those major muscle groups?
Lower Body: Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes
Upper Body: Chest, Back, Shoulders
Why opposite muscle groups? Because what you do to one group you want to do to the other – you don’t want to spend time working out and then be imbalanced!
Pump, pump, pump it up! Your heart rate that is. If you’re able to raise your heart rate while you’re strength training, you’ll torch more calories and get a better burn. This is how I work, and I know not everyone likes to combine strength training and cardio, but I’m a fan of high intensity workouts; this is my personal opinion.
Quads = easy to work, fire up your furnace to burn calories!
Hamstrings = back side of the legs, opposite of your quads.
Chest work = push motions
Back work = pull motions
Shoulders = above head motions
Core = work all aspects of the abs & lower back= the whole core band!
As long as you’re hitting all these major muscle groups, you will also be hitting your secondary muscle groups too, so rather than use time by doing biceps curls or triceps extensions, I focus on working the major muscles that involve those too. For example, If you work your chest, in a functional way you’ll hit your triceps; your back –> your biceps. It’s great how that works out! I am convinced you can get toned and lean without spending lots of time on specific areas, because a bit part of getting toned is losing fat. So if you’re blasting fat with high intensity, total body moves, you’ll be making way for definition. Strength training isn’t just for looks though – performing moves consistently will help you live life better so you can do the things you love, like chop wood, get yo’ climb on, and play with puppies! [see below]
Below are some of the best moves to work those major muscle groups. Since I bring equipment to people’s house, I’ll give you a few moves that include equipment (for use at home or in a gym) and some that are bodyweight-only (some of my favorite moves!):
Quads: Squats! I cannot emphasize this move enough. You can use your own bodyweight, add free weights or a bar to make it tougher, do these one-legged with the TRX or pistol squats (with or without a box)…the options for squats are endless! The best move as a base for so many compound muscle group exercises.
Hamstrings: Deadlifts. This move is a super important one because it strengthens the back of your legs, lower back, and glutes, and is functional because we bend over all the time in daily lives. Focus on balance by doing one-legged deadlifts, make it tougher with a heavier weight, or start with light weights and focus on feeling which muscles you’re working.
Glutes: You’ll get these muscles in your squats and deadlifts for sure, but the Bird Dog move is a great one that will focus your efforts on those glutes specifically.
[Great overall lower body workout? The Bombshell Butt workout from BodyRock…you’ll get a great burn all over your lower body and will notice that the main moves include different types of squats and lunges – you can go wrong! Lunges are great and can be jazzed up by adding a twist, holding a weight, performing multi-directional lunges, making them more explosive with jumping lunges, etc. These will target all those lower body muscles too!]
Chest: As an advocate of do-anywhere-no-props-needed exercises, I have to go with the push up on this one. Why? Because you’re highlighting more than just your pectoral muscles and instead are hitting your pecs, core, stabilizer muscles, and triceps. A wide stance will focus on your chest and a narrow hand stance will burn out your triceps, all while engaging other muscles at the same time. Think you can’t do one push up? Think again! Do them against a wall, at a lower incline off your kitchen counter, on your knees on the ground, from your toes, using a TRX, with knee tucks or twists…the list goes on! You will see great improvement everywhere if you stick with push ups in your workout repertoire. A chest press on a stability ball (or bench) is a great move too.
Back: If working the chest is any type of push movement, then the opposite is true for the back – any type of pulling movement will target your back muscles. Strong back muscles are important for posture and for daily life. So when you think back, think row: any type of row will essentially target your back muscles. Here are a few examples: a bent-over row, a TRX low row, pull ups (assisted counts too!), and the dumbbell plank row (a fat torcher and fun move! can modify from your knees).
Shoulders: This is a GREAT body part to sculpt – strong shoulders make a statement! For a move without equipment, the pike press is one of the best – super effective for targeting those shoulders while working other muscle groups (you know I love this!). Since I love combining moves, another great one with a (heavier) medicine ball or dumbbells is the squat-to-overhead-press (this way you’re burning calories, elevating your heart rate, AND working your shoulders). The TRX “Y” Deltoid Raise is another great one that hits your shoulders and upper back if you own a TRX.
Core: I have to mention the plank here – it’s the most effective move that targets your entire core that you can do! And it’s surprisingly harder than it looks. Other ab challenges include the around the world plank, the TRX suspended pike, and any variations of side planks. Some of the best!
Put some of these moves together and you have yourself a killer workout! because it’s so lengthy already, I’m going to let this post be, but I’ll make sure to do a Part II to this post to give you some tips to choosing the moves and completing your workout. …guess I’m gonna have to keep you hanging. In the meantime, PUMP UP THE JAM AND KEEP IT GOING!
Live well & be well,