PS, I love squats

20140509-111030.jpgI love squats. I really do. If I could convince my body to do them every day, I would. Weighted squats, free squats… all day, every day.

I find myself taking a break from my desk job and dropping my butt to the ground to practice my form. I’ll holler out “GIVE ME 25 SQUATS!” and those who entertain my insanity around the office will drop what they’re doing and do them at their desks, in the middle of the hallway, at the lunch table, in the middle of the staircase (safety first!), wherever. There’s never a bad place to do them. If I am being lazy and find myself absorbed in a TV show binge, I will do squats during commercial breaks. Productive, right?

I did a kick-ass leg session at the gym earlier this week and my glutes and quads are still recovering. I have been walking around like a freak and feeling like my muscles are going to burst through my skin for two days. I love a good muscle spasm. Means I did something good and hit the right spots, you know? I might lose feeling and turn into a lead-foot driver for a moment, but what’s more important here? Kidding, kidding. But really, leg day is the best day.

 

Squat Day is the Best Day

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Seriously though. I LOVE squats.

You might think I am a lunatic, but they are easily my favorite heavy lifting workout. I even love them when it’s drop-set day. I might feel like I am going to fall over after I finish all of my sets, but I get over that quickly and fall back in love with them the moment I catch my breath.

The more I squat, the more I love them. Most likely because I am seeing more of a lift and an unfamiliar toning in my butt, and also because it is my strongest lift. I feel much more confident squatting than I do doing ANY other workout.

I am getting really good at them too! I go much lower than I used to be able to. I find myself busting my butt to get it as low to the floor as possible, with a nice big squeeze when I reach the top.

I wish every day was squat day.

Mexico Mode!

I am officially in Mexico vacation mode! I will be jetting off to Tulum in less than 4 weeks, and am heading full throttle into training hard and eating clean. I feel way more bikini-comfortable than I did a few months ago, but I definitely have a ways to go before I get to where I want to be!

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This morning I started off this new-found beast mode with my first attempt at drop-setting my lifts on my own. For those of you who don’t know what a drop-set is, it’s basically a pyramid style workout . You can begin as if you are doing your regular workout (ie. 4 sets of squats at specified reps, beginning small and adding weight as you go). However, when you reach the top of your workout (the heaviest), you are far from finished!

The drop-set starts at your heaviest weight. You do as many squats as possible until your muscles have reached failure. You then rack the barbell, reduce the weight quickly (20-30lb increments if squatting), and immediately begin your next set without resting. Again, you don’t stop squatting at this level until you literally cannot squeeze in another rep. You do this until you have reached the lightest weight (barbell, 45lbs). Essentially, the goal is to prolong your exercise by ending at a lower weight once you have pushed yourself to failure with the heavier weight. Ideally, each set includes many more reps than what you typically do.

The first time I gave this concept a shot was with the trainer/boyfriend. We did this with chest presses and side laterals, but he handed me the weights as I went, making the system much faster. If I had done today’s workout with someone there to help me switch out my weight, it probably would have been even harder than it was. But I am too much of a chicken to ask for help.

I went to LA Fitness at 5am, and my workout was as follows:

Warm up on cross ramp

Push ups (real ones, yay!) 4 sets/10 reps
Squats, 5 sets beginning at 75lbs and ending at 145lbs/ super-setted with 15lb dumbbell curls
Drop-set Squats, 135lbs to 45lbs
Military press, 30-50lbs, 5 sets
Drop-set military press
Hamstring Curls, 65lbs, 4 sets/12 reps

Cool down, quick 5 minute bike ride

By the time I finished, all I wanted to do was chop my legs off and lay right there on the floor for the rest of the day. People can work around me, I thought. My legs were wobbly, I was walking into things, and I probably looked like a lunatic.

20130826-125721.jpgIn addition to confusing my body and challenging myself at the gym, I am eating even cleaner than I had been in the past! Way more fruits and veggies, structured meals, “calorie counting” – but not neurotically (just to have an idea of just how much I am consuming), and even more water and green tea (if that’s even possible.

Mexico, here I come!

Early bird gets the worm!

Today I was feeling really motivated. 5AM workout. Leg day. Killed it.

I got to LA Fitness just as it was opening this morning and had a really great workout. Squats, deadlifts, weighted lunges and a little bit of ab work. Safe to say that I was crawling out of there, and it was all before the sun came up!

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The gym was empty for the most part for the first hour of my workout. Just the way I like it! No waiting for the squat racks, no toe-tappers behind me making me feel like I have to rush, no need to dodge a whole ton of people – which is typical when I go at peak time after work; just a few others minding their own business.

I have been maxing at 135lbs with my squats for the past few leg sessions because for a while, I was training for my 5k and avoiding too much heavy lifting. I finally added on some extra pounds today and did my last set at 145. Deadlifts were maxed at 135lbs (I have only gone up to 145lbs) because I forgot my gloves at home and I felt like the palms of my hands were going to tear.

My weighted lunges are a tad different than what they used to be. In the past I would hold two 15lb dumbbells at my sides, but now I carry a 30lb small barbell across my shoulders. Eventually I will try carrying a plate above my head. Last, I did a few sets of the ab crunch machine. Not my favorite ab workout, but better than nothing. I couldn’t imagine doing the Roman chair or anything that involved lifting my legs!

My “cool-down” was a couple of sets of burpees and jumps up onto a platform. This did it for me. After I finished those, all I wanted to do was collapse on the mat!

It feels pretty darn good to get my gym session in before my day really begins. It makes me feel so accomplished and productive! I may need to make early morning sessions a regular thing, Happy Tuesday!

Ay dios mio, what a tough weekend!

I had a brutal weekend of exercise. I worked out with my trainer on Friday and Sunday and my entire body is burning. Shoulders and legs are COMPLETELY out of the question for today’s gym trip.

Friday

On Friday evening we did drop sets of a few different arm workouts. This consisted of doing three sets of the same lift at various weights, one right after the other, and counting it as one set.

For example:

Incline Chest Press

One set: 12 reps with 17.5lb dumbbells, 10 reps with 15lb dumbbells, 10 reps with 10lbs dumbbells.

Repeat x4 or 5 (I was exhausted enough after 3 that I don’t remember how many sets we did!)

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Sunday

Yesterday was a leg day. We didn’t have time to complete the entire workout and I still feel like I just ran a marathon without stretching (but I did stretch!). Deadlifts, squats and a couple other quickies.

After doing a quick warm up run on the treadmill (about 0.32 mile in 3 minutes), we stretched and did our push ups. I have always done mine on my knees, but finally gave real ones a shot this weekend and was able to do 13 yesterday! That was surprising and exciting!

We then began our strength training with stiff leg deadlifts. My last set ended up being my heaviest lift so far!

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My trainer did the entire workout alongside me, which was nice. His deadlift warm up? 225lbs. Mine? …85lbs.

Usually I warm up with 75lbs total, 15 on each end of the barbell. Mr. Trainer, of course, made me start with more, 85lbs total, 20 on each end.

I added on 10-15lbs with each set, eventually ending with 145lbs at 5 or 6 lifts. The heaviest I had lifted prior to yesterday was 135. Progress! Let me tell you, my hamstrings, back and ass were (and still are) SO sore. I am hobbling around everywhere I go and am day dreaming about a nice hot bath.

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After deadlifts we did squats. I have struggled a little bit with my form so we spent a good amount of time concentrating on getting my booty as low as I could and keeping my chest out. My hip limits me a little as I add weight, but when we practiced with just the barbell I did it perfectly. I am always afraid to go too low in fear of my hip popping out. Yuck, I know.

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We did 4 sets of squats, ending at 135, 8 reps. I have squatted a little more than that before, but we decided not to go overboard yesterday.

In addition to the primary workouts, we did a few standing leg presses, and some leg lifts on the mats using a tension band. The exercises with the bands are meant to strengthen my hip in the long-run. They are DEFINITELY feeling tight today.

Today was supposed to be a shoulder day at the gym… side laterals, front raises, military presses, etc.

HA! No thanks. I think I will do mostly cardio with some push ups, pull ups, dips, and ab work. Yeehawwww.

I lifted how much?!

CHALLENGE NUMERO UNO:

Squats: 155lbs (3 reps); Deadlifts: 135lbs (4 reps)

Last Thursday I gave the squat challenge a try! Somehow it turned into a squat AND deadlift challenge. It was painful and awesome.

A trainer at my gym asked me if I would be interested in completing a fitness test to see what my 1 rep squat max is. This was to be found by squatting the barbell, and gradually adding weight while doing fewer reps, until we reached my 1 rep max.

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Because this was the preliminary test, we spent a lot of time focusing on my form. He made me do a TON of squats with no weight on my shoulders while watching myself in the mirror from the side. I have a bit of a bad hip so getting the form just right was a little hard for me, but the practice definitely helped. I need to focus on keeping my heels flat on the ground and leaning my hips further backward. I did so many free squats that my thighs and butt were burning before I even started lifting.

We started with just the barbell so he could check out my form, then added weight with each set. I noticed that he was increasing the weight in larger increments than I do on my own. While I usually add an extra 5lbs to each side of the barbell with each set, he was increasing by 10-15lbs! With each set, I did 1-2 fewer repetitions. The more weight added, the longer the rest in between.

Again, because form was the primary concern the first time around, we only made it as far as my 3-rep max squat weight. This ended up being 155lbs (two 45lb plates and two 10lb plates)! Prior to that I had only squatted 135lbs. The trainer is certain that I can do about 175lbs. We’ll see about that.

During my workout, I had about 5 different guys that I don’t know stop and watch us work. I don’t think they are used to females in the weight room. Between my sets – I think I was at 135lbs – one came over and said “how embarrassing, I can’t even squat the 45lb bar and here you are doing 3 times that. Impressive!” Obviously this excited me.

After squatting, I thought I was off the hook. But no, the fitness instructor got me again! He asked me what I had next on my agenda and I told him I was going to do chest presses and bicep curls – my normal Thursday routine. “WRONG!” he said. Instead, we set off to see what my max deadlift weight is.

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What I used to use.

When I deadlift, I usually use weights similar to the one on the right. The most I had ever lifted was 60lbs at 10-12 reps per set. For the challenge, we “warmed-up” with the 50lb one, before he said that I had graduated from that style and was moving on up in the world to the barbell that you manually add weight to. The barbell is MUCH longer than the one I am used to, making balance difficult. Scary!

Set one, like the squats, was just with the barbell to check on my form. The three sets after that were with 10lb increases. By the time I hit 105lbs (three 10lb plates on either side) at 4 reps I was BEAT. I was kneeling on the ground after I completed the set and was sure that I COULD not and WOULD not do any more.

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Then I saw him make a Dr. Evil face while removing the 10lb plates and replacing them with a 45lb plate on each side. I’m sure you can imagine how much my eyes bugged out of my head, but if you can’t, this baby’s face is pretty on point. I asked if he was out of his mind. 135lbs?? Are you joking? I know that deadlifts are performed with your legs, but I was exhausted and it isn’t the same as carrying the weight on your shoulders! Gripping that much in your hands is hard!

I ended up deadlifting the 135lbs four times. This is WAY more than I had ever thought I would be able to do. It was more than twice the amount of weight that I have ever done!

I completed the workout with a 10 minute jog on the treadmill. Killer!

Squat Challenge – Accepted!

20130501-144200.jpgAfter a grueling leg workout yesterday, one of the fitness coaches at my gym asked me if I would be willing to give his squat challenge a try. I was surprised and excited to hear that he thought I was one of the only females at our facility that was physically capable of handling a decent amount of weight if I put my mind to it. Now, there aren’t exactly many females at my gym that lift weights at all, but I am still going to take it as a compliment and let it boost my ego a bit anyways.

As soon as I heard “challenge,” my ears perked up. Maybe I should have waited for him to explain what the challenge was before I enthusiastically agreed. But hey, it’s only going to help me!

He wants to do a pyramid workout, where the end result is to see what my one-repetition maximum squat weight is. If I understood correctly, we would start with a small amount of weight – maybe just the barbell, or the barbell plus 20lbs (10 on both sides) – and do my regular amount of reps (about 12). Every time we add weight, he would have me do one less rep, thus ending at 1 rep with my max weight. Based on what I have been doing, he believes that my minimum weight is probably 145lbs, which is already 20lbs more than what I have done so far.

Yesterday I squatted 6 sets of 12, beginning with 15lbs on both ends of the barbell and ending with 40lbs, making my highest weight 125lbs. I probably could have done more if my legs were not already exhausted from my single leg presses. He advised me to begin my workouts with the squats so that I can give it my all, so I will have to try that next time. The rest of my workout consisted of weighted step-ups with two 15lb dumbbells, and a quick 10 minute run on the treadmill.

The great thing about this challenge is that it will give me an idea of just how much I can lift, so that I am not taking a wild guess and starting with less weight than I could be. I am looking forward to it and nervous just the same! He tells me that he has been wanting to work with a dedicated woman to see just how far they can be pushed, but that most people that he has approached are afraid of extreme muscle gain. They don’t trust that the female body simply can’t gain the muscle mass that men do. So, here’s to hoping that the end result is a nice bikini-ready bottom!

 

Ass. Kicked.

Yesterday I got to spend some time at the gym with my trainer and let me tell you… I. Am. HURTING.

I don’t get to do this very often since we live so far from each other, so it was nice to be able to go together rather than me briefing him on my workout like I do every other day. Gives me a chance to learn some new things and make sure I am doing all of my strength training correctly.

One of the biggest things he emphasized yesterday was to push myself to my limits. When I am on my own, I often think that I can’t do another rep, or that I’m not ready to add an extra 5-10lbs, but he continues to prove me wrong!

Much to my day-after-workout body’s displeasure…

I added 10lbs to my max weight for deadlifts. What I typically do is start with 30lbs and add weight with every set, eventually doing my final set with 50lbs. Yesterday, I started with 50lbs and focused on my form before upping to 60lbs.

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I also added an extra 20lbs to my max squat weight, totaling to 115lbs if you include the weight of the bar. I hadn’t done squats in about a week and a half since we were giving my knee a little bit of a break. I was happy to find that it felt fine, even with more weight than I was used to on my shoulders. We alternated between regular squats and sumo squats. There were a few moments when I seriously thought that I couldn’t get my butt down there again and it was helpful knowing he was there to spot me incase I couldn’t make it. He was also in my ear saying “ONE MORE, ONE MORE!” Not seeming to have much of an option, down I went. This was brutal. BUT, they say squats are key to a great ass, so squat I shall!

He totally tricked me when we did the assisted pull-ups and dips. I usually do a 100lb assist and about 4 sets of 10-12. He told me that I needed to lose about 5-6lbs of assistance every week on my own but I hadn’t started doing that yet. So, since he was being the boss-man, yesterday was the day to drop a little bit. First I tried 90lbs assistance which of course was harder than I was used to, but not terrible. Then he wanted to drop a little more and said he was setting it to 85lbs. So, up and down I go — kind of. I only managed about 6 reps for both the pull-ups and dips. It was a struggle. In my head I was like DAMN, am I really that weak? Why is this so much harder if it’s only 5lbs less?? Turns out that sucker was playing with me and actually set it to 75lbs assistance to make a point that my body is capable of more than I think.

tumblr_lwdnxeVGfQ1qk3lgjo1_500I also tried something completely new… bench pressing! Since it was my first time, I only did the barbell which weighs 45lbs. I clearly didn’t look as good as the chick to the left, but maybe one day I will be benching the barbell and some plates with ease like her. I actually liked it much more than I thought I would. If I am brave enough, I think I will try these on my own at some point this week.

In addition to the tough stuff, we did a handful of free weight lifts such as the Seated Arnold to make sure that I was doing them correctly. Turns out there are a good amount of workouts where I should actually be starting with heavier weights than I have been.

Overall I had an awesome exercise yesterday and I am bound to be feeling it for days. I have been waddling around like a little old lady. Ouuuch.

Need some motivation?

Whenever I am in need of some fitness motivation… Pinterest is always to the rescue. All I have to do is look in the “Health & Fitness” category, see a board full of perfect abs and asses, and suddenly I am a body builder, no fitness challenge fazing me.

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Today was a legs and butt day at the gym, and mine feel like they are burning off as I type. I question whether or not I will be able to walk to my car in the morning. “Hi boss, my ass is on fire, I need to use a sick day.”

Really though… squats and leg presses are my new best friends, and I live for the days that they are on my workout schedule. Today I did 5 sets of single leg presses,  5 sets of “sumo” squats with the free bar, weighted step-ups, 90 degree wall planks with lifts, seated calf raises and a quick 2.7 mile bike ride. I was able to do more  than anticipated, which is always a nice surprise. Especially when shortly after my sets, I watch a big guy struggle with less weight than I did. Hoorah!

PS, one day my ass will look like blondie’s.