Apparently one extra day in February wasn’t enough for me, as it’s March 3rd, and I’m just now giving you Part II of February’s Strength Training Program. Life happens! 

 

This past week I had a lot of parental duties (also known as “chauffeur” duties) pop up which I had not anticipated. Like you, I know all too well what it’s like to have every intention to get something done, positive there will be more than enough time, only to look back and wonder where all that “free” time went. Kids can do that to you.

 

And many of these responsibilities that get in the way are not avoidable. We have to get them done. This is just one more reason why setting smaller fitness goals can actually help you stay on track for the long haul. You may not have time to live at the gym, but I bet if you honestly look at your calendar, you can find at least 2 or maybe 3 days a week where you can devote 30 minutes to an hour to something as important as your health.

 

In Part II of February’s program, I’m sticking wth the “short but sweet” theme, and making this simple, easy to follow, and more likely to get done.

 

If you missed Part I of my new “Beginner Strength Training” series, you can find that here, along with all the directions you’ll need.

 

Take the next 3 – 4 weeks to use this program, and then I’ll have a new one ready for you at the end of March! 

 

Who’s this for? Anyone who’s been wanting to strength train but is afraid, unmotivated, or unsure of how to start. This series is also great for those of you who’ve been tinkering around at the gym, but aren’t sure if you’re doing things correctly, or optimally. Maybe you aren’t getting the results you had hoped for, and aren’t sure why. Well, this can help.

 

Today I’m giving you Program B. Go here for Program A. (Remember, they’re a set and should be used together, on alternating days, and with rest days in between.)

 

Success is always in the details. Take advantage of how short this program is, and spend the extra time making sure you are reading the how – to directions, looking at the photos, watching the videos, and doing everything properly. It makes all the difference, I promise you.

 

February   Workout II   Program B

 

(Alternate Program A and Program B, 2-3 times a week, on non-consecutive days)

 

Program B

 

Alternate exercise 1a. and 1b. for 8 – 12 reps, for 2 – 3 sets. Rest 1 minute between each exercise.

 

(Click on the exercises for the video links. Additional modifications, and videos, are offered in the notes, below.)

 

1a. Step ups                        8 – 12 reps each side (do all one side, then switch)

 

1b. Seated Lat Pulldowns                               8 – 12 reps

 

 

Alternate exercise 2a. and 2b. for 2-3 sets. Rest for 1 minute between each exercise.

 

2a. Hamstring curls                                         8 – 12 reps each side 

 

2b. Side plank                                                   Up to 30 seconds, each side

 

 

Notes

 

1a. Step ups 

 

There are a couple options to pick from and varying ways to progressively make your step ups more challenging as your ability improves..

 

(Remember, a “harder variation” won’t give you nearly the results an “easier” modification will, if you cannot perform it properly. As long as an exercise feels hard for you, that’s all you need.)

 

For starters, you need to determine what level step is just high enough to challenge you yet allow you to perform these with solid technique.

 

I also recommend using just bodyweight, starting out.

 

As you progress, you have two options, or a combination of both, to gradually increase work level. You can hold dumbbells and add more weight over time, and/or, you can switch to a higher step level.

 

Aerobic steps are great for these, as you can add more risers over time. Gyms usually carry a variety of boxes in varying heights.  In addition, once you are strong enough, you can also step onto a bench. Keep in mind that your own height will also factor into your initial selection.

 

a. Bodyweight step ups

 

Directions: 

Stand directly behind the step

Place your right foot firmly on the step (keep it there until all reps are complete)

Extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height, chest high, shoulders back and down

Take a moment to tighten your glutes and brace your abs

Stay tight as you drive through the heel and center of your right foot, and LIFT yourself onto the step, until your left leg is side by side with your right leg. (If you need to, you can momentarily rest your left foot on the step, or hover it over the step)

Stay tight and lower your left foot down to the floor, with control

Keep your right foot ON THE STEP and continue for all reps

Switch sides

 

Be careful of:

Don’t “push off” with your back foot (the one that’s on the floor)

Don’t drive your weight into your toes as you lift

Don’t PLOP back down to the floor

Dont shrug your shoulders up to your ears

Don’t slouch forward with your upper torso (keep your gaze ahead)

Don’t let the heel of your working leg  (the one on the step) lift off the step

 

b. Dumbbell step ups

 

Directions: 

Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands, arms extended down at your sides, shoulders back and down and chest high

Follow all the same directions as bodyweight step ups (above), only keep your arms down at your sides throughout.

 

1b. Seated Lat pulldowns

 

Lat pulldowns can be performed at a cable station or, if you don’t have access to one, with a resistance band. (Click here for a how – to video.)

 

If your gym doesn’t have a station to sit at while doing these, you can also do them kneeling on the floor.

 

You’ll need to find a bar attachment that is long enough for you to hold your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

 

Directions:

Stand facing the cable column, grab ahold of the bar above you, and have a seat.

Take a moment to make sure your hands are just wider than shoulder width apart.

Place your knees under the knee pad (this is usually adjustable for a secure fit) with your feet directly under your knees, firmly planted on the floor.

Sit tall with your torso, chest up, shoulders back and down, and shoulder blades firmly positioned on your back.

Take a moment to brace your abs.

Pull the bar to chest level, keeping your chest high and your shoulders back and down.

Release the bar overhead until the arms are fully extended, while still keeping your shoulders down.

Repeat for all reps.

 

Be careful of:

Do not rock while pulling.

Do not lean back excessively with your torso.

Do not let your hips bounce off the bench when pulling.

Do not excessively arch your back.

Do not let your chest cave inward as the bar pulls down.

Do not let your shoulders shrup upward.

Do not pull the bar lower than chest level.

 

 

2a. Hamstring curls

 

I’ve yet to see a gym that doesn’t have a hamstring curl machine, if not several.

 

It is important to use the settings on the machine to ensure that your body fits the machine optimally. I write my machine settings down in my notebook so that I remember them from week to week. You think you’ll remember. Trust me, you probably won’t.

 

Most machines have an adjustable ankle pad. That’s the roller placed just above my ankles in the photo. You want to find the right setting so that when you start, the roller is at your ankles or only slightly higher.

 

The other part that is usually adjustable, is the torso pad. That’s the piece my torso if laying across, and it’s attached to handles that I am holding onto, just in front of the elbow pads. Again, if you’re short like me, you’ll want to adjust to a shorter setting. If you’re taller, lengthen it out.

 

Directions:

Lay face down on the machine with your knees lined up with the edge of the knee padding, and your ankles underneath the roller.

Place your elbows on the elbow pads and hold on to the handles in front of you.

Keep your abs braced and your whole torso “engaged”, shoulder blades firmly on the back, chest “squared”, and back in alignment (in other words, don’t just splay yourself out like a sloth)

Take a moment to engage your glute muscles, and curl your feet towards your butt, moving with control.

Keep your thighs in contact with the pad that you’re resting on.

Extend your legs, with control, lowering the ankle pad back down toward the floor.

Repeat for all reps.

 

Be careful of:

Rounding your back.

Not engaging your abs and keeping your glutes tight.

Kicking the ankle pad up with momentum rather than control.

Dropping the ankle pad without control.

Your knees and thighs lifting off the pad.

 

2b. Side plank

 Side plank is very challenging for beginners. That’s why I’m offering you several levels to work through over time. 

 

Take time with each variation. Once you can hold that variation, with strong form, for 30 seconds, for all three sets, you can then move to a harder variation.

 

When you start out or switch to a new variation, you may not be able to hold the side plank for the full 30 seconds right away. That’s okay. If you can hold for 10 seconds at first, try to hold it for 15 seconds the next week, and gradually add more time each week, until you can reach the 30 second mark. You may also find that one side is stronger than the other. That’s ok. Remember, quality is just as important as quantity. 

 

Here are your options:

 

1. Plank with knees bent

 

Directions: 

Lay on your side, elbow bent and just beneath your shoulder, or ever so slightly to the outside of it, hand on the floor in front of you.

Lay out in one long line from head to toe, stacking shoulder over shoulder, hip over hip, knee over knee, foot over foot.

Flex your feet. (ankles bent)

Bend your knees, and place your feet behind you, but keep your shoulders, hips, and knees in one line.

Brace your abs and press into the floor with your bottom elbow, knees, and feet, and lift your hips away from the floor.

Make sure your bottom leg is also lifting off the floor.

Place your top hand on your hip, making sure to keep the hips squared and stacked.

Keep your inner thighs squeezing together.

Keep your neck lengthened, chest high, shoulder blades on your back, and your head in line with the rest of your body.

Continue to focus on lifting your underside away from the floor. 

Hold for (up to) the recommended time duration.

Slowly lower to the floor and switch sides.

 

Be careful of:

Don’t let your hips end up behind your shoulders, or your knees in front of your hips when you bring your feet behind you.

Don’t round your shoulders and lean forward with your torso.

Don’t let your head drop forward, out of line with your torso.

Don’t let your bottom thigh touch the floor.

Don’t arch your back.

 

2. Plank with top leg extended

 

Directions:

Follow the same instructions as Plank with Knees Bent.

Once you are lifted into your plank, extend your top leg.

Make sure you are in one even line from head to toe.

Keep the foot of your extended leg flexed (ankle bent) and press your foot into the floor for additional support and leverage.

Hold for (up to) the recommended time duration.

Slowly lower to the floor and switch sides.

 

Be careful of:

Don’t let the knee of the extended leg bend. Keep it straight. 

Keep the extended leg line up directly over the bottom leg, keeping hips and knees stacked.

Don’t point the foot of the extended leg. 

 

3. Plank with Legs Stacked

 

Directions:

Lay on your side, elbow bent and just beneath your shoulder, or ever so slightly to the outside of it, hand on the floor in front of you.

Lay out in one long line from head to toe, stacking shoulder over shoulder, hip over hip, knee over knee, foot over foot.

Flex your feet. (ankles bent)

Brace your abs and press into the floor with your bottom elbow, knees, and feet, and lift your hips away from the floor, fully extending the legs.

Make sure your bottom leg is also lifting off the floor.

Place your top hand on your hip, making sure to keep the hips squared and stacked.

Keep your inner thighs squeezing together.

Keep your neck lengthened, chest high, shoulder blades on your back, and your head in line with the rest of your body.

Continue to focus on lifting your whole underside away from the floor. 

Hold for (up to) the recommended time duration.

Slowly lower to the floor and switch sides.

 

Be careful of:

Don’t let your body dip forward or backward. Stay stacked and squared.

Don’t let your back round or your head dip forward.

Don’t point your feet. Keep them flexed.

Don’t let your bottom thigh touch the floor.

Don’t let your inner thighs pull apart.

Don’t let your back arch.

 

 

(If full plank with legs extended is super challenging for you, you could also gradually transition by only holding it for as long as you can, then bending the bottom leg and placing the knee on the floor for the remainder of the 30 seconds, until you’re strong enough to do just the final variation on it’s own.)

 

 

Take your time to learn these exercises, practice them, get acquainted with the spots in the gym where you can best perform them, as well as with the equipment you’ll need.

 

This should be a learning experience for everyone, so if you have questions, please share ask!

 

Remember, just click on the exercise titles above for the video links.

 

If you missed the Program A, go here.  If you use both A and B together, as intended, you’ll have a well balanced program to work on for the next month.

 

In my next blog, we’ll also be talking about how to best utilize this program, and future ones, so that you get the most out of it. 

 

Till then, stay sane and healthy!

 

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