Work is finally slowing down, which means I will (1) be posting more frequently again, and (2) am starting 2-a-day workouts to split up my cardio and lifts. 🙂 There’s nothing I love more than being able to run/cycle outside now that the weather is beautiful!
For June, my lifts are all consisting of 6 sets for each exercise – alternating between one set at a lighter weight (about 50% max) for 15 reps, followed by one set st a heavier weight (about 80-90% max) for 5 reps. The constant switching of weights and reps within each exercise really hits the muscles in different ways and taxes both fast and slow twitch muscles in the same workout. I’ve now done 5 workouts following this routine (arms, chest/back, shoulders, hamstrings, and quads), and each one has been extremely challenging (aka, I’m loving this new routine!). I actually felt a little sore in both my hamstrings and triceps — which put a smile on my face all week long.
For my Wednesday morning leg workout, I focus on hamstrings and glutes, using 5 basic moves: (1) back squat; (2) deadlift; (3) wide stance squat; (4) curtsy lunge; and (5) glute bridge. I finished with a short 4 min HIIT routine, and did sprints on the stairs later that night.
(1) Back Squat: The back squat is a staple in my leg lifts. The key is to keep the weight loaded in your heels and to drop below parallel to really hit the glutes, which is especially important if you tend to be quad-dominant. Keep your elbows pointed down (rather than back) as much as possible — this will help you keep your back upright, which will help you use more glute and hamstring muscle. Finally, work on keeping your knees pushed out for the entire movement and lift with your legs first (not your butt.)
Do 15 reps at a weight that is about 50% of your max – I used 115.
Change the weight out and without extra rest, perform 5 reps at ~80-90% of your max. I rarely test my 1 rep max, so I used 185, which is what I use for sets of 3-5 reps. I’m hoping to jump up to 195 by the end of the month.
Rest for about 1-1.5 minutes, then repeat twice, for a total of 3 sets of 15 and 3 sets of 5.
(2) Deadlift: No hamstring workout would be complete without the deadlift. Work to keep the bar close to your shins, your back flat, and to really push your shoulders back at the top of the movement. Keep your feet about hip distance apart for these sets. I played around with a few extra heavy sets of Sumo deadlifts @185lbs, which I may incorporate later this month.
For this move, start heavy and then move to the lighter sets — I started with 5 reps at 185lbs. I am working this month on my grip (doing hangs, farmer’s walks, and holds with different grips), because I find it very hard to hold onto the bar for 5 reps at this weight, even though my hamstrings could do more weight. (I also have no problem with straps to help with my grip, but constantly forget mine and then when I finally remember to bring them, I find that I’ve forgotten how to use them…).
For the sets of 15 with lighter weight, I increased the range of motion by standing on two boxes and lowering a 32kg kettlebell below my feet. Set the boxes up about a foot apart, standing with one foot on each box. You will need to bend your knees slightly to allow the weight to drop below the top of the box. I also kept my toes raised to really keep my weight and focus on my hamstrings, and I worked with a slower tempo (3 counts down, 2 counts up). To be honest, these burned way more than the heavy deadlifts!
Rest 1-2 min after completing a set of 5 and 15, then repeat twice.
(3) Wide Stance Sumo Squat (on boxes): Move the boxes farther apart (about 2 feet, depending on how long your legs are), and stand with one foot on each box. Lower the weight down below the top of the boxes, allowing your thighs and glutes to drop below parallel. Use a slow tempo (3-2), and hold for one-two seconds at the bottom before returning to standing. I always add a “pop at the top” to make sure I am really firing my hamstrings and glutes.
I started with 15 reps @24kg.
I followed up with sets of 5 with 28kg. Rest for 1-2 minutes, and repeat twice.
(4) Curtsy Lunge: The curtsy lunge is my favorite lunge variation for glutes. The angle and the range of motion force you to use more hamstring and glutes than traditional lunges. I’ve found that elevating the front leg also forces me to push off the heel more and activates the hamstrings much more than a lunge on a flat surface. If you are just starting out, practice on a flat surface and slowly add elevation (first through a plate under the front foot, and then with a step and risers).
Step back and diagonally across your body with the left leg. Your left knee should be outside of the right corner of the box, but try to keep the left foot as close to your body as possible — in other words, try to step farther to the side and less to the back of your body. Lower the left knee until it grazes the ground, push up through your right heel, and return to the start position. Repeat on the other side, alternating from right to left until you reach 16 reps with a lighter weight – I used 24kg.
Repeat for 6 reps with a heavier weight (I used 28kg, but think I will try for 32kg next time). Rest for 1 min, and repeat twice.
(5) Glute Bridge: We’ve started using the squat rack for glute bridges so that we can use heavier weight. Set the pins on the lowest setting, and rest the bar across the pins. Set up a step about 2 feet behind the bar, and slide under the bar, resting your back on the step and the bar across your pelvis. The higher the step, the larger your range of motion will be. Ground through your heels and thrust up until your hips are parallel with the top of the step. Hold for 1 count before lowering. I did 15 @115lbs, and 5 @205lbs. Rest for 1 min in between sets, and repeat twice, for 6 total sets.
We finished with Tabata KB swings and bodyweight jumping lunges for 4 total minutes, and later that night I did 10 minutes of 30 sec @ level 20, 30 sec @ level 10 on the stairclimber. Since I am still trying to up my cardio, I am toying with the idea of adding bodyweight plyo moves in between each of the exercises in this workout – jumping squats, box jumps, wide jumping squats, jumping lunges, and jump rope – when I do this again next Wednesday for a little extra kick.