Training

The Single Leg RDL

The Single Leg RDL is a killer movement for your hamstrings and glutes, while also challenging your stability. It helps to eliminate strength imbalances between your two sides, and is an awesome booty builder.

Unfortunately, form on this movement can be quite difficult for some. You’ll often see people lose their neutral spine position, unable to keep the non-working leg straight, etc. I like to teach the Single leg RDL with no weight to start, and will often use a dowel or monster band for external feedback.

Learn the movement.

Grab a thin monster band and loop it over your shoulder and under the foot of the non-working leg. Think about pressing into the band with your foot as you go through the ROM.

The feedback provided by the band makes finding the proper position much easier. It’s just like throwing a band around your knees on a squat.


Challenge stability, then load.

Focus on mastering the movement by controlling stability first, and then you can work on loading with heavier weights. I like to use the following progression:

1. Ipsilateral Single Leg RDL

This first variation challenges stability without challenging rotary control.

2. Contralateral Single Leg RDL

The second variation challenges stability AND rotary control.

3. Single Leg RDL

Once control has been established and form is locked in you can start to challenge with heavier loads.

I’m using kettlebells, but these movements can be done with dumbbells, a barbell, cables, sandbags, bands, etc.

Now get out there and show me your Single Leg RDLs. Use the hashtag #liftandlovelife so I’m sure to see your posts.

xoxo -

Jules

How to Build a Workout that Works

During our team meeting last week, the topic of program design was brought up. “What is your go-to when laying out a program?” There was also a side discussion as to our titles if we were characters on Game of Throne. So I have to thank Brian "Bmurr" Murry of House Brosville, Ruler of the Gainz Train, Lord of Pull Ups, and Lats of the Dragon, for bringing up the topic. I love talking shop, so this got the juices flowing and inspired this week’s blog.

When it comes to designing a program, there are countless different philosophies, but based on my education background, and the 12 years I’ve spent in this business, I’ve found what I find works best. However, as I tell my clients, nothing is set in stone. The client’s needs and goals will dictate the structure of the program, as well as other factors. A person who can only train twice a week will have a completely different program than a person who can train four times a week.

Regardless, this is my basic workout layout, and I adjust as needed.

Soft tissue release

  • Foam roll, lacrosse ball, etc.

  • Can be client specific or general, it is completely dependent on the need. I always recommend lacrosse balling the arches, and a total body foam roll, at the very least.

Dynamic warm up

  • Assuming the client has no limitations, my dynamic warm up begins as follows:

    • Lateral squats

    • Kneeling hip flexor stretch

    • Elbow to instep

    • Sumo squat toe touch.

  • I always start with those 4, in that order. I want the hips open before moving down the chain.

Activation

  • Rapid response (neural activation)

  • Prehab – specific activation drills needed to prevent pain and/or aid in recovery from on injury.

  • Glute and core activation

Plyometrics or Olympic lifts

  • You always want the most neurally demanding movements first.

  • When programming Olympic lifts, I will give a second warm up, if you will, to reinforce mechanics, before going into the actual lift.

    • RDL - light weight, 2-3 sets

    • Front squat (if cleaning) - light weight, 2-3 sets

    • OH squat (if snatching) - light weight, 2-3 sets

    • High pull, light to moderate weight, 2-3 sets

Primary lift(s)

  • The main focus of the workout. This is where I program the “big” lifts; bench, squats, pull ups, and deadlift variations.

  • I will often pair this with another release or activation movement.

Secondary supersets

  • Following the primary lift(s) I will give 2 secondary supersets of 2-3 movements, typically complementing the primary lift.

Accessory work

  • This is where the vanity work comes in, or if clients are looking for variety, fun, etc.

Finisher

  • Depending on the goal.

There you have it; my basic workout layout, but almost every program I create looks just a little bit different than the last. It all depends on the goal of the workout, and the overarching goal of the program.

So, what does this baby look like in action?

1. Soft tissue release and dynamic warm up (see above).

2. Activation – rest as little as possible.

            Scap push up – kneeling 2x15

            Plank 2x:30

            Clamshells 2x30 ea

3. Primary lift – no rest between exercises, rest 60 seconds between rounds.

            Barbell deadlift 1x10, 1x8, 1x6, 1x15

            Banded monster walks 4x20 ea

4. Secondary – rest 30 seconds between exercises, 60 seconds between rounds.

            Superset 1:

            Lat pulldown 3x10-12

            1-leg RDL 3x10 ea

            Superset 2:

            Push up 3x AMRAP

            Glute bridge – weighted (DB/BB) 3x20

5. Accessory – rest 30 seconds or less between exercises and rounds.

            90/90 bicep curls 3x15 ea

            Ab rollout 3x10

            Tricep press down 3x15

6. Finisher – Perform 10-20 kettlebell swings at the top of the minute, every minute. The remaining time in that minute is your rest. Perform 5-10 sets.

Try using this layout to create a program for yourself, and feel free to share; I’m always here to help.

XOXO –

Jules

How to Use Your Period to Your Advantage

We’ve all been there, every month. About a week before your period starts you tend to be overly sensitive, or become so irate you feel violent, or like you may eat your entire kitchen because you have a hunger raging so fiercely that nothing will satisfy you. Then your period actually starts and you think to yourself, “oh wow, all of that insane behavior completely makes sense.” Well, I am here to bring you good news; there is a silver lining to all those gnarly PMS symptoms. You can actually use your female hormones (and the change that occurs throughout the month) to your advantage when it comes to making progress in your physique, and performance in the gym.

Let’s break it down.

The follicular phase (aptly named because it is the period in which the follicle, which contains the egg, is maturing), begins immediately after you finish menstruating. Days 0-14. It is characterized by increasing estrogen, lower progesterone, and an average body temperature.

From there, you move into ovulation, which takes place around day 14. In the ovulation phase, your estrogen level peaks and progesterone starts to increase. You'll also notice you start to feel warmer.

From day 15 to 28 of your cycle, you'll enter the luteal phase (where the follicle becomes the corpus luteum, after it releases its egg). The luteal phase is characterized by high estrogen and progesterone, with progesterone being more dominant, and your body temperature remaining higher than normal. Toward the end of the luteal phase (PMS and menstruation) there is a steep decline of both estrogen and progesterone.

Shall we break it down even more?

Estrogen increases insulin sensitivity, while progesterone increases insulin resistance. Estrogen and progesterone are both anti-cortisol hormones. Even more, estrogen is a muscle building hormone, while progesterone may interfere with muscle development.

To summarize, the follicular phase = more estrogen, the beginning of the luteal phase = high estrogen AND progesterone, and later in the luteal phase (premenstrual) = decline in estrogen and progesterone.

What does all that mean?

The follicular phase (day 0-14) is the time to focus on progress. Take advantage of your hormones being at an optimal level for your performance in the gym. Your body will also be more prone to utilizing muscle glycogen to fuel exercise during this stage, meaning your body will use those carbs. It is also seen that this phase allows for greater pain tolerance, a higher maximum voluntary force generation capacity, as well as increasing levels of endurance.  Bottom line, this is a time of less fat storage, some fat burning, and muscle gain. Bump up the training volume and bring the intensity.

During ovulation (day 14), your strength levels will still be high and you may notice the highest sheer force generation capacity during this phase. If you want to set a PR, now is the time to try. Just keep in mind that you may also be at a higher risk of injury. As estrogen skyrockets to its highest point during this phase, it can impact collagen metabolism and also influence your neuromuscular control. So work hard, but make sure you're using proper form. Your metabolism will also be starting to climb at this point, so if you're feeling a little extra hungry, understand that this may very well be why.

During the luteal phase (day 15-28), with your body temperature higher than normal, you'll experience higher cardiovascular strain and a decrease in time to exhaustion. In addition to this, you may be retaining excess water weight due to PMS, feeling sluggish, workouts are harder to get through, cramps, back pain, etc; but I did promise a silver lining.

One of the many badass things about being a woman, and one of the most fabulous things about having a period, your body will rely more heavily on fat as a fuel source during the luteal phase, instead of muscle glycogen. Bottom line, the beginning luteal phase is a time of less muscle building, but good fat burning. The later luteal phase is more catabolic (i.e. burning fat and muscle).

Keep in mind, your craving for high carbohydrate foods will increase. Your serotonin production will be lower, and your instinct will be to eat more carbs, as they cause a rapid release of serotonin, instantly providing a mood boost and natural high. Hello cravings! However, due to insulin sensitivity now being at its lowest point, and the fact that you might be lowering the intensity of your workouts due to your high fatigability, you need to keep your carb intake under control.

Not only are you utilizing fat for fuel more efficiently during workouts, at this time, but exercise boosts serotonin naturally, so your workouts will help to curb the cravings.

With the higher metabolic rate and ability to use fat for fuel, this is the prime time to add in some LISS cardio (i.e. brisk walking, 30-60 min), and a lower carb, lower calorie phase to kick-start fat burning.

Weekly breakdown.

Week 1 & 2 (Follicular Phase - days 0-14)

  • Up the intensity and challenge yourself.

  • Increase loads.

  • Go for a PR.

  • Total body weight training 3-4x/wk.

  • HIIT or metcon 1-3x/wk.

  • Normal calorie and carb intake, with a larger portion timed post-workout.

Week 3 (Beginning Luteal Phase - days 15-21)

  • Listen to your body.

  • Stay focused – cravings and fatigue will challenge you.

  • Body uses fat for fuel more efficiently.

  • Metcon, HIIT, and/or sprints 3-5x/wk.

  • Restorative and corrective activities; foam roll,  yoga, meditation.

  • Daily LISS (i.e. brisk walking), 30-60 min.

  • Normal (or slightly lower) calorie intake with low carbs.

Week 4 (Late Luteal Phase - days 22-28)

  • More catabolic (burn fat and muscle). BCAAs may help during this phase.

  • Metcon, HIIT, and/or sprints 3-5x/wk.

  • Restorative and corrective activities; foam roll,  yoga, meditation.

  • Daily LISS (i.e. brisk walking), 30-60 min.

  • Normal (or slightly lower) calorie intake with low carbs.

*Note: These a merely suggestions. You need to experiment and figure out what works best for your body. These were also created with the goal of fat loss in mind. If you're training for something else, it will most definitely look different.

As you become more aware and in tune with your body, you’ll discover what works best for you throughout the month. You’ll know when you can push it, and when you need to give yourself a break. I highly recommend tracking your period. I use an app, but you’re welcome to go old school and write it on your calendar. Knowing where you’re at in your cycle, and learning how to adjust your training and nutrition accordingly, can be a game changer. The goal is get to the point where you can continue to make progress, while feeling your best all month long.

XOXO –

Jules

References:

15 Facts About Weight Loss and the Menstrual Cycle

The Hormone Cycle and Female Lifters

The Female Body Breakthrough

How to Hit Your Training Goals

I've seen it all too often in the years I've spent in the fitness industry; people who feel they've tried it all and nothing works, they just can't reach their goals. It's incredibly frustrating, and one of the reasons people may seek out a coach, like myself. Over the years I've found not being able to achieve one's fitness goals usually comes down one, or a few, things.

What’s your motivation and where are you at?

Why do you want it? Why do you really want it? What do you like about what you’re currently doing? What would you like to change about your current routine? What could you do better? What are you not doing that could be beneficial? Re-assessing your motivation can drastically change the way you view your goals, or may make you change your goals altogether. Maybe you haven’t reached your goal yet because you just don’t want it anymore, and that’s ok. Just set your sights on something else.

What does success look like to you? 

Maybe you’ve reached a plateau. Maybe you’re bored or stuck or need to change your training. Or maybe, what you define as success is unrealistic. You need to be honest with yourself. You have to be realistic. Now, I’m not giving you the go-ahead to be lazy, or not push yourself, but there’s nothing wrong with being reasonable and making sure you believe your goal is achievable, based on who you are as a person, and what else is going on in your life. Side note, it's actually quite difficult to truly reach a plateau, so that's most likely not the reason you haven't achieved your goal yet.

Consistency is key.

The key to progress is consistency; consistency in healthful food choices, and consistently getting your workouts in. You could be given pretty much any program on the planet, and if you do it consistently, you're going to see changes. Again, let's be honest, were you giving your all during your workouts? How many of those workouts did you get in over the course of this particular training phase? And, this is always a touchy subject, but what about your food choices? Maybe you were near perfect Monday-Thursday, but what did your Friday-Sunday look like? Because I promise you, if you're getting every workout in, and eating "really, really well," you would have seen results.

Re-focus your goals.

We’ve re-evaluated your motivation. We’ve discussed what success would look like for you. You've reflected on your consistency in training and nutrition. Now it’s time to re-focus your goals. Ask yourself; why do I want it? What do I expect to get out of achieving this? What are the sacrifices I’d have to make? Can I make those sacrifices? Can I be consistent?

Break it up.

If you have more than one goal, it’s important not to overwhelm yourself, or your body. Break your goals up. Which one will take the longest? Which one do you want the most? What about your time? Will your new goal(s) and other aspects of your life, such as family and career, interfere with one another? These are all things that are very important to take into account.

Re-evaluate periodically.

It’s important to avoid attempting an unrealistic goal, boredom, or hitting the elusive plateau, by re-evaluating your goals and where you’re at periodically. Use the steps from above, as well as progress photos, body weight, BF%, and circumference measurements, to re-assess and make sure you’re still heading in a positive direction.

Remember though, the ultimate goal of any program is progress, not perfection, and to be the best version of you.

XOXO -

JULES

Too Tired to Workout?

This is a question I get asked all too often, and I completely understand the feeling. While your initial reaction to feeling pooped at the end of your day might be to skip your workout and head home, I wouldn't recommend it. Unless you're sick or you've been over training, a lower intensity workout is better than nothing. Something is always better than nothing.

Just go. 

Depending on what my workout was 1-2 days before, I often feel stiff and sore, which isn’t the most encouraging feeling when I’m going into another workout. It isn’t until I get going in my warm up that I start feeling good. That being said, start by just getting yourself to the gym. That alone can be enough to get you amped for your workout. 

Get moving.

Next, do a dynamic warm up. Get your blood flowing. Roll out, dig in with that lacrosse ball, stretch, brisk walk on the TM, corrective exercises, etc. If you feel up to your full workout once you're warm, go for it. If not...

Bring down the intensity.

If you’ve warmed up and you’re still feeling rundown, cut out any explosive moves (plyometics or Olympic lifts). If that’s not enough, dial down the intensity of the rest of your workout by decreasing sets, reps, and weight, and increasing rest time between sets.

Make it earlier.

Having been in the fitness industry for over 10 years now, I can tell you that most people perform significantly better in the morning, or mid-day, before they’ve killed themselves all day at work. The day's stress hasn't come into play yet, so you’ll be able to give everything you’ve got to your workout, which will increase the speed at which you see performance gains and body composition changes. 

Commit. 

Lastly, if you are going to workout after work, you have to make it a priority. Put your workout in your calendar as an appointment, bring your gym clothes to the office with you so you can change there, and leave with the mindset of going to workout. If weekdays really are a struggle for you, shoot for 2 workouts during the week and get 2 more in on the weekends. Make sure you’re taking periodic breaks during your day to get up, away from your desk, and stretch or go for a little office walk, stay hydrated (goal is at least 2L H2O per day), and eat healthy protein based snacks. These things will help keep your energy up throughout the day, and increase your chance of making it to the gym after work.

Bottom line, If you want the results, you have to put in the work. But I always want you to be kind to yourself; if you really need the rest, take it.

XOXO -

JULES

SLEEP - The Missing Link

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When people think weight loss, they usually think about exercise, proper nutrition, drinking water, taking supplements, etc. What most people forget to look at is sleep. Your quality, and quantity, of sleep plays a HUGE role in you health and fitness goals.

BENEFITS OF SLEEP:
Your body does the most recovering during sleep; recovery of your muscle and brain. Working out actually causes muscle damage. Sleep is where the muscles repair and you make strength gains. It is a significant stimulator for growth hormone release, which is a natural agent for cell growth and reproduction. Sleep also appears to improve muscle memory, with the most benefits after 7 hours of sleep.

Individuals who get in extra sleep are more likely to perform better at work in workouts, and/or at their sport, have a better mood, and have increased alertness.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION:
When deprived of sleep, our level of cortisol (the stress hormone) raises, which interferes with tissue repair, growth, and increases fat storage. Lost sleep has also been show to affect the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for focus, concentration, decision making, reaction time, and more. Once sleep deprivation has reached a certain level (differs from person to person), it has been shown to hinder cognitive response, similarly to what's seen with intoxication. (If you normally sleep 8 hrs, but you only get 6, the impact is roughly comparable to a 0.05 alcohol level).

When looking at performance, it looks as though sleep deprivation may affect your body's ability to metabolize glucose efficiently. This causes the time it takes for you to reach exhaustion to lessen and increases the perception of how had you're working, because your body does not have the energy to work at it's normal capacity. Fatigue also masks your exertion level. You "max out" well before you actually should.

Sleep deprivation is cumulative, and it takes time to fix that "sleep debt". Many individuals accumulate large sleep debt by not obtaining their nightly sleep requirements. You should try to extend nightly sleep for several weeks before any kind of athletic event to help reduce sleep debt. If nerves keep you up the night before, don't stress, that's normal. What's important is your regular sleep habits. The greater your training intensity, the greater your sleep needs. And if you're not sleep deprived, studies show an extra hour may help increase your athletic performance.

When tired, form goes south. This can lead to injuries and forming bad habits in your movement patters.

SLEEP TIPS:
Unplug at least 30 minutes before bed. You want your brain activity to slow down. Try meditation, or some gentle yoga, which may help you unwind for better quality sleep.

Minimizing light and noise level is key to quality sleep. Your body will absorb the smallest amount of light, which will reduce your secretion of melatonin (natural sleep hormone). Close your curtains, block the light from appliances, even the light from your alarm clock can inhibit your sleep. If you can't minimize noise, try a white noise machine for soothing background noise.

My caffeine rule: NONE after 2 PM. Even chocolate. Caffeine has a half life of up to 7 hours, so if you consume it too late in the day, it has the potential to greatly affect your sleep.

Alcohol has also been seen to inhibit your deep REM sleep, so try to limit your alcohol consumption.

Consumption of cheery juice, before bed, has actually been shown to increase melatonin production. This allows individuals to fall asleep faster, and achieve a better quality sleep.

Early risers tend to be more active, because they have longer daylight hours to be active in. It's actually been shown that, comparing work in the early hours of the day, to work completed in the late night hours, work done in early hours is more significant (larger projects), whereas late night work is more menial (minor tasks).

EXERCISE. 

Any level of exercise seems to make for better rest, but vigorous physical activity enhances deep sleep.

Now get out there and sleep like a champ.

XOXO -

JULES

The Power of Walking

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Yes, you read that title correctly. The days of walking being reserved for older adults, parents with strollers, and dogs are over.

Brisk walking has a multitude of benefits, including:

  • It burns a ton of fat, and virtually zero muscle.

  • It speeds recovery.

  • It helps ease stress and anxiety, reduces depression and imparts a positive kick-start to your day. It improves your self-esteem, charges up the mood and helps to keep you energetic, positive and happy throughout the day.

  • It improves brain function. Walking stimulates blood flow, and provides oxygen to the brain. This leads to improved functioning of the brain and better ability to recall.

  • And it may help slow down the aging process.

You don’t hear a lot about brisk walking because, well, it’s just not that sexy. Kettlebell circuits, track workouts, battle rope intervals; these are much more exciting, and they certainly have their place, I’m not discounting them one bit, but brisk walking is the one thing you can (and should) do everyday to reach your fat loss goals, and feel better about yourself.

People make the mistake, if fat loss is the goal and they're not getting there as quickly as they'd like, of doing more intense exercise. But this will only ever lead to one thing... burn-out. 1-3 days per week of intense metabolic conditioning is more than enough to reach any fat loss goal, with a clean diet and plenty of brisk walking. And most of all, it’s sustainable.

I do my best to get, at the very least, a 30 minute walk in everyday. It’s my favorite way to catch up with a friend, but I also enjoy going it alone. Sometimes with music, sometimes a podcast or book on tape, and sometimes I just get into what’s going on around me. Just focus on being very deliberate about it. Walk at a pace as if just someone is following you and you want to maintain distance.

Now get out there and walk my friends, I promise you won’t regret it.

XOXO –

JULES