Tips to Master Those Exercises. Day #1

Jessica photo for The JourneyI promised on Facebook last week that I would be sharing some tips each day on exercises.  Exercises you can do at home.  Exercises that I see done improperly a lot 😉 and some that just are a bit on the fun side but that people just aren’t doing.  ok…this is my type of fun…but women should be doing these more!

I’ve been a big stickler over the last 2 years while teaching classes that you need to take the time to feel what you should feel.  A fellow instructor calls my type of strength training “mindful strength training”.  I have had a lot of success teaching this way and have watched people realize that their bodies are capable of feeling and lifting much heavier than they believed.

But (there is always a but)…trust me…this hasn’t been met with all happy go-lucky attitudes either.  I have heard the complaints.  I have had a gym not want me to teach for them because it wasn’t the norm.  The classes I have been teaching like this have been labeled as “beginner” or “gold”…which is fine, but honestly, you could get an amazing workout in 30 minutes doing it my way and maybe better results than what you have been doing.  The key is…you gotta try and be open to a little change.

Here is what I do hear though…and is also one of the reasons why I stick to what I’m doing:

  • I felt like I was learning how to do the exercise the right way and not just trying to keep up with the actions
  • I can tell that I am stronger than I was a few months ago
  • I realize that I can do this

58151f0ec9db8f4e957a6e271b0932d3One thing I’m noticing though as I’m teaching is the comparison game.  I play this on myself more than I should, I know it is tough to just put it to the back burner and stop.  If you are stuck in a comparison rut…seeing how that one person is doing more than you…remember, your body is not the person next to you.  It is not the person who is behind you that you can see in the mirrors.  Your body doesn’t even have the same history as anyone else…meaning, you are you.  What I do is just that…what I am capable of doing.  What you do is just that…what you are capable of doing.

Why am I saying this?  Because I’ve noticed as I’ve been teaching lately that it has become a topic of conversation as “so what do you lift with this exercise?” or “why are you picking that weight when you do this other weight on this move?”.  Overall…my answer is this…

This is your workout.  This isn’t my workout.  You need to listen to what your body is saying.  You know what injuries or areas that you need to pay attention to and work with your body on those.  You know your body better than I know your body…and you need to challenge it but also listen to it.

In other words…what I lift doesn’t matter while I am teaching a class.  What you are lifting…that is what you need to be paying attention to.

Tip #1:  Lose the Momentum.  Now what does that truly mean?

download (4)I could show you a kazillion videos right now of people doing workouts at their home that are using momentum with their strength training rather than letting their muscles take the full workload and responsibility.  Momentumers (that’s what I’ll call them) are everywhere, including the gym.  I saw momentum take over a tricep extension even this morning in my class…as I was saying “take it slow and count with me 1 – 2 as we bring the arm up, squeeze that muscle, and be in control and count 1 – 2 as we come back down.”  The person did 5 reps while we were still finishing 1.

We are going to give an example of what I’m talking about with a bicep curl today.  It is one of the easiest to explain and one of the most common exercises too…and most people know where their biceps are.


  1.  Grab a soup can or a dumbbell in one hand.
  2. Stand up, nice and tall posture, weight is in the heels of your feet, suck your belly button in and let those tummy muscles help you stand nice and tall.
  3. Put your palm facing up and have your hand down to your side.  Your elbow is next to your side and pretend a screw is going in your elbow into side and won’t let you move away from the side of your body.
  4. Get it in your head…slow, slow, slow…and in control the entire time as you move that weight in your hand up (elbow still by your side).  Count out loud  One-two…and at the end of the word “two” your hand and now by your shoulder and you are squeezing your bicep muscle.
  5. Start going back to the starting position with the same count of one – two and at the end of the word “two” you are back at that original position.

By going slow and taking those moments to count and squeeze in all the right spots…your body is not able to participate in the momentum movement that is going on elsewhere and you are truly focusing on that strength of that individual bicep.  I have also noticed that the fatigue of the muscle will come faster if you do it this way…and you just need to be careful that you don’t speed yourself up just because of the fact that your muscle is getting tired.  Take each step and be diligent in following through.

I went through a few Q & A’s to help you figure out a few things…and if you have any others, please feel free to write it in the comments and I’ll respond.

Q.  What happens if I can’t finish all the steps after I do a few of these (not because of injury…my muscle is just tired)?  A.  That is AWESOME!  In fact, that is called the “point of failure” and I so love seeing people get to this point.  In a nutshell…it is awesome and your muscle things it is awesome too.  Failing in strength training is an ok thing.

Q.  How many should I do?  A.  Good question.  There is a whole science to this question actually and reasons why you would try for lower numbers of reps versus higher number of reps.  To keep it simple, especially if you are just starting to figure this stuff out…let’s just try for 10.

Q.  How much weight should I be lifting?  A.  This is one question you have to figure out for yourself.  It truly is a trial and error type of situation.  How I figure it out is something like this…If I lifted 8lbs and did 10 bicep curls with one arm and could still do 5+ more…I need to pick a heavier weight.  If I lifted 8lbs and did 10 bicep curls with one arm and could still do about 3 more…I need a little bit heavier weight.  If I lifted 8 lbs and did 10 bicep curls with one arm and could only do about 1 more…that is your sweet spot (for today).  If you can’t get to 10 bicep curls…and our goal is 10, you are lifting a little too heavy.  Make sense that just by looking at you I can’t figure this out for you?  You have to pay attention to what your muscle is feeling.  You are the one that has your brain talking with those muscle fibers and nerves and heart and lungs.  You are the one doing the work.

– Jessica

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