3 reasons to add isometrics to your workouts

3 reasons to add isometrics to your workouts

Holding the body completely still in a slightly challenging position will make any move REALLY hard! I have been adding isometric holds to my workouts, classes, and my clients workouts lately… and boy do they work, if you do them right!

Almost every muscle in the body will be activated… from the toes all the way to the head! Isometrics require you to recruit your abs and glutes like no other!

The middle of the body, aka the “core”, connects your upper and lower half… if the core is weak, pretty much all movements, and isometric holds, will be compromised because the body will look for strength in stronger or more dominant muscles to make up for the weak core.

The plank is the easiest to notice a weak core with because, well, it focuses on the core! Any break in the kinetic chain (head hanging low, shoulders retracted, torso drooping) compromises the move. Since the core is weak, the body is looking for other ways to maintain the plank.

The human head can weigh up to 11 lbs. It is easier to just let the head hang low than have to hold that extra weight up! When the shoulders pull back and the body seems to rest on the shoulder blades, the upper body is doing most of the work, not the core. And when someone’s back is arched, it is a clear indication that they are not using their abs. If the abs were tight, that would straighten the spine and eliminate any back arching or drooping.

It is better to hold a perfect plank for 5 seconds than a crappy one for 1 minute!

I will focus on 6 basic exercises that work great for isometrics, but isometric training does not have to be limited to these:
squats
lunges (advanced: Bulgarian lunge)
deadlift or single leg deadlifts
push ups (beginner: planks)
hollow body crunches
pull ups (beginner: straight body hang from the bar)
.

You might not notice your core as much in exercises like the squat or lunge…. but try holding it in the down phase and see if your abs “turn on” (aka activate). Once your legs start to fatigue, you will either break the kinetic chain and move your body to readjust or you will start recruiting other stabilizer muscles!

3 Ways to add isometrics to your workout

1. To Fix Imbalances: Isometric Circuits

Isometric circuits are a great way to work on muscle weaknesses.

If your glutes are weak and not being activated in a squat, work on isometric holds.

If your form starts to break during pushups, work on holding the down phase of the push up.

Can’t quite get up to the bar in a pull up? Jump up and hold your chin over the bar and stay there!

HOW:

Complete 2-3 circuits of each exercise.

Hold for 10 seconds-15 seconds-20 seconds, work up to 10 seconds-20 seconds-30 seconds.

You can rest for as long as needed in between holds. If you are unsure how long to rest, a simple approach is to rest as long as you worked, so hold for 10 seconds, rest for 10, hold for 15 seconds, rest for 15, etc…  As you become stronger, reduce your rest intervals.

Below is a video of a 10-15-20 second hold in a push up position with minimal rest between holds.


2. For Strength: 2 options

Just when you think you can’t do any more… do a little more! There are two ways to approach this one and they are both great!

a) Move and Hold – This is a great way to strengthen the stabilizer muscles in the abs and back because you already fatigued the legs during squats and lunges or the arms during push ups and pull ups.

HOW:

Complete a set of 8-16 reps (depending on your fitness level) of squats, lunges, deadlifts, push ups, hollow body crunches, and/or pull ups.

Immediately follow the set with an isometric hold in the hardest part of the exercise for as long as you can.

Beginner – 10-16 reps with no weight (for challenging exercises like pull ups, you can do 3 sets of 3 or 5 sets of 2 to get close to 10 reps – do the isometric hold after each 2-3 reps)
Intermediate – 12-16 reps with a weight that really starts to feel heavy by the last couple reps
Advanced – 8-12 reps of a heavy weight that is very challenging on the last couple reps

b) Hold and Move – Really blast your strength through the roof with this one.

HOW:

Hold an exercise in contraction for 30 seconds, then immediately follow with 10-15 quick reps.

For Power: Pause and Push 

Power will increase strength and athletic performance. Muscles need to be strong and fast in order to be POWERFUL.

Force = Mass x Acceleration.

HOW:

Do each exercise, hold it in max contraction for about 8-15 seconds, and then “power” up quickly.

In the below video, I will show squats and lunges with a quick power up as well as a jump up, and deadlifts and single leg deadlifts with a quick return up (almost resembles a KB swing, minus the swing!)

Below is a video of hollow body holds and crunches

This one is tough to do for pull ups because your muscles will fatigue pretty good in the dead hang hold making it tough to pull up, let alone pull up fast! You can either add a resistance band below your feet to help spring you up to the bar or put your feet on the ground and jump up to give yourself some assistance and power!

Do you use isometrics in your workouts? 

Do you train for power?

What workouts are you loving right now?

Plyo Box Power Workout

Today, I am linking up with Fit Foodie Mama for the Wild Workout Wednesday link-up! I will keep this post short so you can hop on over to her blog to check out some other great workouts and exercises! Variety is the spice of life!

wild workout wednesday

I have been working on adding power to my workouts lately and put together this total body circuit that really gets the heart rate up! All you need is a plyo box or a sturdy bench.

Plyo Box Power Workout

Step Up to Touch Down Lunge – 5 each side
Power Push Ups – 5 each side
Box Jump to Burpie – 5 reps
Dips – 5 reps
Box Jump onto 1 Leg – 5 each side
Plank with Crossover Knee Tucks – 5 tucks each side

Below is a video of the exercises. For some reason I did not switch legs on the step ups, so just be sure you switch sides! :)

Do you add power (jumps, power push ups, hops, throws, etc.) to your workouts?

What is your favorite kind of workout?

Making strength goals and kicking a$$

Goal: 10 Chin-ups

How:

Monday – 3x 5 Slow Negatives

Wednesday – Heavy Deadlifts and Lat Pulls
(Warm up set of 10-12, 3x 4-8)

Friday – 2x as many pull ups as possible

Slow negatives = Sore arms!!

Why:

I recently read an article on GGS by guest writer Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake who said…

“With strength training, you will gain muscle. “Toned” and “Gainz” mean the same thing. The really cool thing that happens when women start lifting is the mindset shift that happens: goals become more performance based and the aesthetics become a secondary, add-on bonus. But how will you know, unless you get started?”

That is so true!!!

About a month ago, I discovered GGS and read the article How To Do A Pull-up: Everything You Need To Know. I have read that article multiple times since. It is such a freakin’ awesome article with great demonstration videos and if you want to master a pull up or chin up, read it!

I never thought I could or wanted to do pull ups or chin ups. I’m a girl, they are hard, we don’t have as much upper body strength as men… What’s the point?

Despite my reluctance and reservations to even try pull ups just to be let down, I was training a client who I really wanted to add pull ups to his program but didn’t know how to do that. So, I took some of the tips from the above article, gave them a try, and then had my client perform them.

I was actually amazed when I went to show him and explain “driving your elbow down” as you pull up that I was able to do a chin up all the way up…and not look like a leg kicking, chin reaching towards the bar, grunting whimp!

I probably couldn’t have done another one, but I felt pretty dang good about the one full chin up I just did.

Fast forward a month later, I have been sporadically doing chin ups just to see how many I could do and, last week, I did 4 chin ups in a row!

I was pretty pumped! And that was from not REALLY even training that hard to train for them.

While I was proud of my moment, I still was not convinced I could REALY do much more than 5 chin ups.

Then I read Neghar Fonooni’s post 5 Killer Pull Up Tips and watched her perform 16 neutral grip pull ups in a row and thought, well, maybe I CAN DO THIS!

And man, how awesome would it be to perform 10 chin ups… I NEVER thought I could do that…and while I cannot do it right now, I think KNOW I can and really WANT to!

dream big

Other kick a$$ workouts you might like if you want to get STRONG:

JillFit: 5 Killer Workouts I’m Loving Right Now (No Cardio Machines Required)

Jen Sinkler: A Circuit Compilation

Renee: 10-10-10 Kettlebell workout

BreakingMuscle: Achieving Handstand Happiness  <– handstand push ups might be my next goal!?

GGS: 4 Kettlebell Deadlift Variations You Should Be Doing

Complexes: A Killer Way to Torch Calories

See more workouts from bloggers on Fit Foodie Mama’s Link up: Wild Workout Wednesday!

wild workout wednesday

Do you have any performance goals right now?

Have you accomplished something you have been working hard for recently?

What was your greatest fitness accomplishment?

10 Things the “books” don’t teach you about being a Personal Trainer (What I’ve learned in the past 3 months)

drop i tlike a  squat

No, I didn’t learn to drop it like a squat! :)

Before I get into my lessons learned, let me give you a quick back story here. I have trained off and on over the past six years or so and have been teaching group exercise classes for the past four years, pretty much on a weekly basis.

I say I have trained “off and on” because about six years ago I worked at a gym in Arizona where they did not regulate certifications. They actually offered an in-house certification program and then basically pressured you to make sales… that was no fun and I had no clue what I was doing!

Since then, I got my Group Ex certification (4 years ago) and have just trained people I knew here and there on the side.

When I first starting training I thought, “How hard can it be. I know how to work out?”

Well, luckily, I do/did know a decent amount about strength training, proper form, sports conditioning, and a variety of exercises (thanks dad).

woo-ah

Throw back pics :) #beastmode #wooha

However, PERSONAL training is about the other PERSON, not me.

When I work out, I do whatever I feel like that day, NOT plan programs and progressions. When I work out, I take breaks to clean the dust I just saw under the couch when I was down in a push up.

I sometimes quit when I get bored or distracted or someone calls me and offers something better to go do.

I do jump squats because me knees don’t hurt, I do deadlifts because I can keep good form, I do kettlebell swings and deep squats because I know how to.

I think you get the point…

So, when I officially got my ACE Personal Training certification (after studying off and on for years) and now that I have been training regularly for the past 3 month – there are quite a few things I have learned that the books just didn’t teach me!

10 Things the books don't teach you about being a Personal Trainer

1. You will not be the BEST when you start training. You will look back and realize you should have progressed a client slower, did different exercises, focused on something more or less…

2. Closing a sale is tough when you are new and lack confidence and expertise. When you sell personal training, you are essentially selling yourself. And it is tough when you see more experienced trainers looking all cool and casual and natural, and inside your doubting yourself because your new client just asked what kind of clients you typically work with and if you can help her, and the reality is you have no clients yet!

I had to remind myself a few times at the beginning (and still do) that every experience will make me a better trainer. I am building confidence in myself and believing in my ability to help someone change their life… that is why I got into this business after all. I KNOW I can do it!  It does take time though and it’s OK that you are not the best when you start out, so just keep getting better!

3. You will put in A LOT of time ‘off the clock’…. researching, re-reading your notes and PT text book, reading fitness articles, putting together training plans, trying different exercises and workouts (kind of hard to tell someone to do something that you have never done, at least I think so)…. If you want to be good at what you do, you have to put in the extra time!

4. You will rarely train someone just like you. If you are thinking about being a personal trainer because you “like to workout”, you will be sorely disappointed when your first client is a 65 year old women who has tendinitis in her elbow and a knee replacement.

I spend A LOT of my time working on basic balance exercises (lift you leg up and hold it there, now move your arm), proper squat and plank form, warm up exercises, stretching, and explaining body alignment and how to use equipment. I do not have a single client that I would do the same workout for them that I would do for me. And most of my clients are older adults, and that is the reality of this business…. the over 50 age group makes up the  majority of the population and they have the money to spend. (Not that 50 is old!) :)

5. Training is mentally tiring. I imagine it gets easier the more you do it, but I spend so much time and effort creating training plans and workouts for my clients. After all the planning and documenting and actually training people, I am pretty mentally tired by the end of the day!

6. You will learn SO much once you actually start working with clients and things that didn’t make sense when you were studying will come together. I feel like I am constantly learning new things and becoming a better trainer – I just had to get STARTED!

7. You will have TOUGH clients that make you question EVERYTHING. I think this goes with any job or situation in life. And like I said earlier, I feel challenging situations and people only make you better. I recently met with a potential client for over 2 hours where she asked me a ton of questions and I truly felt like everything I said was not good enough for her. At one point, I even thought to myself, “I have no idea what I’m doing right now; I don’t think she likes me and she probably wants to work with someone older than me who can relate to her better.”  

In the end, she bought 16 sessions and we start next week! Boy, was I surprised!

I guess what I lacked in years and saying the right thing at the right time, I made up for in patience, listening, kindness, and sincere interest in her well-being.  She is going to be a lot of work. I am going to have to get very creative with her workouts because of various medical issues and the fact that if I progress her too quickly, I know she will not be a happy camper.

8. People will think you are a doctor or some sort of magic injury psychic.  I have people come to me all the time and point to something (usually around their knee) and tell me it hurts and ask what it is and what they should be doing. Clearly, I can not diagnose the injury, but I can give some generic stretching and strengthening recommendations, which is usually followed by, “if it still hurts, go see your doctor!” 

For anyone who is studying to be a PT, I would definitely recommend spending some extra time on the chapter about common injuries. Almost every person in my classes and who I train has had some sort of knee, back, neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist injury!

9. Smile and introduce yourself to EVERYONE you see on the fitness floor. First of all, it is just so much more fun to go to work and smile. I have really enjoyed getting to know the members who I train and who just use the fitness facility. Also, it  makes people feel comfortable and important when you go out of your way to get to know them, some won’t care, but most appreciate it. And it might even turn in to a potential training client.

10. You will form some great relationships. Personal training is quite personal. You get to know someone very well when you work so closely with them. They form a relationship with you, as their trainer, unlike any other they have in their lives. There is, of course, professional boundaries to keep and I try not to talk about myself unless I’m asked a question, but it is a truly fun, unique, and very rewarding experience.

~ ~ ~

I am sure I have a TON more to learn and perhaps I will have to do a follow up post (or two or three) as I learn more!

All in all though, I am LOVING personal training.

Although, my busy training and class schedule, going to bed at 9 PM to wake up at 6 AM every morning, and spending all my extra time researching and putting together training plans has kept me away from my blog a bit!

I am still here though and if there are any trainers out there, I would LOVE to know…

What are some of your tips for new trainers? What have learned as a trainer!?

Can you relate to my list? 

Core Exercises for New AND Veteran Exercisers

core_exercises_for_beginners_and_advanced

Core strengthening exercises are for athletes and average Joes alike. Young and old. New and veteran exercisers.

Power comes from the core. Balance comes from the core. A weak core can cause low back pain, throw off the body’s kinetic chain, and possibly cause other injuries else where.  Continue reading

How writing a fitness blog has helped me in my fitness career

How writing a fitness blog has helped me in my fitness career

I started this blog a little over 2 years ago. In January of this year, I took a job as the Fitness Director and Personal Trainer at a country club. When I started blogging, I was teaching fitness classes but not working full time in the field. I wanted a way to be a part of the fitness world and stay up-to-date with what was going on in the industry. Continue reading