FIVE SIMPLE Exercises for a STRONG, SCULPTED BACK | At Home BACK WORKOUT for BEGINNERS 💪

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In my latest YouTube video, I shared five simple back exercises you can do from home. Doing exercises for your back is not only a great way to help strengthen your back, but it can also help to improve posture and counteract rounded shoulders. In this post, I share five simple exercises for a strong, sculpted back that you can do at home.

For each exercise, try to complete between 8 and 12 repetitions for each exercise. You want to choose a weight where the last 1-2 reps are difficult. If you cannot complete 8 repetitions with your chosen set of weights, the weights are too heavy. If you can complete more than 12 repetitions for an exercise, the weights are too light.

Equipment:
  • One pair of dumbbells

Exercise 1: Rear/Lateral Raise Combo

This exercise consists of a bent-over row and a rear lateral raise. Since this is a combination exercise, you complete each exercise back to back.

Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 2-3 sets

Rear Lateral Raise Combo.pnga) Bent Over Row

  1. Grab your dumbbells and bent forward at your hips while maintaining a straight spine.
  2. Let the dumbbells hang straight down from your shoulders with your palms facing each other.
  3. While maintaining a straight back, keep your elbows tucked beside your body, draw your elbows towards the ceiling of the room and raise the dumbbells towards your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. Without moving your upper body, slowly lower the weights and straighten your arms to the starting position.

b) Rear Lateral Raise

*Segway into this move immediately after completing a bent-over row.

  1. From the hip hinge position, start this exercise with the dumbbells hanging straight down from your shoulders with your palms facing each other.
  2. Without moving your spine, raise your arms straight out to the sides, until they are in line with your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  3. Without moving your upper body, slowly lower the weights and straighten your arms to the starting position.

Exercise 2: Push-Ups

You can opt to do a push-up from your knees, or from your toes. You may also start by doing standing push-ups against a wall and slowly progress downward until you can do a normal push-up.

2Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 2-3 sets
  1. From your hands and knees, place your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Step out with your feet so you are in a plank position. Your body should be in a straight line – do not stick your butt in the air, and do not let your hips sag.
  3. Brace your core and with your elbows at a 45-degree angle, slowly lower your body towards the floor.
  4. Push your body back up to the starting position.

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Exercise 3: Quadruped AKA “Bird Dog” Exercise

This is an excellent exercise to strengthen your core and your back.

3Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps (on each side), 2-3 sets
  1. Start on all four’s. Kneel with your knees hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Brace your core while lifting one hand and the opposite knee off the ground to form a straight line from your extended hand to your extended foot. Your hips should be squared throughout this exercise. Raise your hand/knee as high as you can while maintaining a straight back.
  3. Hold at the top of the movement for a few seconds, and slowly lower your hand and knee to the starting position. Keep your core engaged throughout the entire exercise.

Exercise 4: Side Plank

You may also opt to do this exercise from your knees.

4Reps/Sets: 30 – 60 seconds (on each side), 2-3 sets
  1. Lie on one side with your bottom elbow stacked under your shoulders and legs extended with the feet stacked on top of each other.
  2. Maintain a straight spine and head. Engage your abdominals, draw your belly button towards the spine.
  3. Lift your hips and kees away from the mat so your torso and body are in a straight line.
  4. Hold at the top of the exercise for 30 to 60 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Exercise 5: Elbow Kisses

5Reps/Sets: 8-12 reps, 2-3 sets
  1. From a standing position, bend your elbows to approximately 90 degrees and raise both arms to the sides of your body.
  2. While keeping your core tight, maintain the 90-degree angle of your arms while drawing the elbows towards each other, in front of your chest.
  3. Open your arms back out to the sides.

 

 

If you enjoyed this workout and tried it at home, please give this post a like, and head over to my YouTube channel to comment about your experience. If you want more workouts, check out my Song Workout Playlist below for a great workout in one song!

xoxo,

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Song Workouts:

 

 

 

Target Your QUADS During SQUATS!

Hey everyone!

In my latest YouTube video, I share with you some strategies to target your quadriceps while performing squats.

1. Regular Squats

Performing regular squats is a great way to target the quadriceps, as they are responsible for performing knee extension. When performing regular squats, you typically want to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, brace your core, and sit back into the squat until you knees are approximately 90 degrees. Slowly raise your body to a standing position and finish the movement by squeezing your glutes and your quads.

There are many variations to performing regular squats, and changing up your stance width will change the muscles that are being activated throughout the squat. This is true, however there are some misconceptions about stance width and quad activation.

MYTH: Narrow Squats will Build the Quadriceps More than Other Stances
It is true that when we take a narrow stance during squats, the most active muscle is the quadriceps muscle, however, it is no more active during a narrow squat than during a normal squat or a wide squat. The difference between these three squat stances is that a narrow stance targets less muscles, while a wider stance recruits more muscles to perform the movement. What this means is that when we take a narrow stance, the other muscles that help to perform a squat are less active than when we take a wide stance. Therefore, stance width does not make the quads “more active”, rather it influences the number of muscles that are active. Therefore, your quads produce the same amount of force regardless of the stance you take, so opt for the stance width that feels the most comfortable. Depending on your goal, if you want to target less muscles, a narrow stance is the better option, but if you want to target more muscles, a wide stance is the better option.

2. Goblet Squats

In order to load the quads during squats it is important to shift the load forward, by front-loading the body. A goblet squat is a great squat variation to shift the load to the front of the body, increasing the work performed by the quadriceps. This squat variation is very versatile, as you can us a dumbbell or even a medicine ball to front load your squat.

3. Front Loaded Barbell Squat

Another option to load your squat is to use a barbell, however to target the quads, you should perform front-loaded barbell squats. Since the barbell is placed in front of the body, it displaces the load forward, forcing the quadriceps to work harder to resist that load. The benefits of front-loading squats is that it reduces the force placed on the knees, so this is a great squat variation for those who have knee issues.

4. Elevating Heels During Squat

If you are more advanced, elevating the heels could be an option for you to target your quads during a squat. To elevate your heels, choose something stable to put your heels on, such as a plate (or two plates). Elevating the heels not only shifts the load forward, but it also changes your body mechanics of the movement, as it limits the amount of hip flexion you perform, while increasing the amount of knee flexion that you perform. Since the quad’s primary movement is knee extension, elevating your heels helps to increase the range of motion of the quadriceps muscle, helping to target the quads. As a safety precaution, this exercise should be performed by individuals who are more advanced and do NOT have knee issues.

5. Leg Press Machine

5fa8177f04157b17a633c6dfc3195f9cTo target your quads on a leg press machine, you simply lower you feet on the leg press machine. This changes your body mechanics similarly to front-loading a squat, therefore increasing the stress placed on the quads.

 

 

 

I hope this video was informative & helpful! Best of luck to you on your own health journey.

xoxo,

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How To Grow STRONG Biceps | Simple Exercises and Techniques

Hey everyone!

It’s been awhile since I have posted to my YouTube channel, so I thought as my first video back I’d talk about how I developed strong biceps. Over the past year I have learned many simple techniques to change up my regular bicep curls, help with overall growth, AND keep things interesting (and challenging 😉) in the gym.

Feel free to check it out and leave me a comment of your favourite biceps secrets!

xoxo,

Heather

What Should I Take to the Gym? | What’s In My Gym Bag?!

Since I started my fitness journey, I have accumulated some fitness equipment that I can’t live without! In today’s post, I will give you the rundown of my favourite equipment I take with me to the gym. For a visual, you can watch my “What’s in my Gym Bag” video on my YouTube channel (and Subscribe of course 😉), or check it out below!

  1. Workout Plan (check out my FREE workout log here)
  2. Gym Bag
  3. Clothing
    • Sports Bra (& underwear)
    • T-shirt
    • Leggings
    • Shoes (Lifting shoes or running shoes depending on activity)
    • Socks
  4. Water & Supplements
    • Blender Bottle (240 ml & 700 ml)
    • Pre-Workout (only take when needed)
    • Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) (for heavy lifting days to help with muscle recovery)
    • Protein Powder (post-workout)
  5. Smaller Gym Kit
    • Booty Bands
    • Ankle Straps
    • Gloves
  6. Electronics
    • Headphones
    • iPhone
  7. Gym Membership Tag
  8. Miscellaneous 
    • Extra headphones
    • Hair ties/headbands
    • Extra pair of socks
    • Feminine hygiene products

What are your workout essentials? Are there any products that you can’t live without? Shoot me a comment below, I would love to hear from you!

Have a fabulous day

xoxo,

Heather 💕

FIVE Benefits of Tracking Your Fitness Progress & FREE Workout Log

Tracking my workouts is one of the BEST things I could have done when I started my fitness journey. In this post, I share with you FIVE reasons why tracking your workouts is so important for your fitness progress. Below, I have included a FREE Workout Log that you can use you track your own fitness progress at the gym. Check out my short video explaining these 5 benefits on my YouTube channel (and subscribe of course 😉).

Reason #1: It Helps Define Your Starting Point

Having a goal is a great way to motivate yourself to begin a fitness journey, however, when we don’t record our starting point, we cannot determine how far we have come, or whether we are making progress in the right direction. When I first started working out, I could barely bicep curl 5 pounds! Within a few months, I found that 5 pounds started to feel lighter and lighter. I soon found that I was able to increase the weight to 7.5 pounds, and finally 10 pounds – where I currently sit. Even though I cannot bicep curl a higher weight, understanding my starting point has allowed me to have a more realistic expectation for improvement. Further, seeing that progress has allowed me to know that I am making progress, has kept me motivated to keep going, and makes me curious how much more improvement will happen if I continue on my fitness journey.

Reason #2: It’s a Way of Tracking Progress WITHOUT using the Scale

Three months into my fitness journey, I noticed that I wasn’t losing weight, which was discouraging, because I had expected to lose at least 5 pounds. However, in my workout logs, I was seeing consistent strength gains, and my weights for my exercises continued to increase. This helped me realize that my effort was paying off in other ways, beyond the scale. It also helped me realize that muscle weighs more than fat, so even though I was not losing weight, I knew that I was building muscle and changing my body composition.

Reason #3: It Tells You Whether You Are Working Hard Enough

I generally follow the 8 – 12 rep rule, meaning that I know I am lifting the appropriate weight when I am able to complete between 8 – 12 repetitions of an exercise. If I can perform 12 repetitions with perfect form, I know that I need to increase the weight. If I cannot perform 8 repetitions of an exercises, I know that the weight is too heavy for me. If you find that you are continually lifting the same weight during an exercise, and not noticing any strength gains, perhaps you need to increase the weight, increase the frequency you exercise, or change up your training. My workout log has been an excellent tool for me to determine whether I am in a plateau or not pushing myself hard enough during each workout.

Reason #4: It Increases Efficiency & Allows You To Build Muscle

Coming prepared with your workout log will make your workouts SO MUCH faster and more efficient. Coming with a workout plan allows you to group your exercises into the most efficient way possible, and allows you to form a “routine” when you enter the gym. After you have figured out your starting weight during the first few sessions, you will know what weight to start on with each exercise, preventing lost time.

If you goal is muscle gain, it is VERY important to stay consistent with the exercises and workout plan that you do. As a rule of thumb, you should stick to the same workout plan for 3 months, or until you plateau. If your goal is muscle gain, it is much better to stick to one plan or exercise routine, than continually switch up your exercises. This is because in order to build muscle, you need “progressive overload”, meaning that you need to continually perform exercises that push your muscles beyond their capacity. Having a workout plan, will allow you to stay consistent with the exercises you perform, allowing you to build muscle.

Reason #5: It Keeps You Accountable

Your workout log can be a tool to keep you on track with your fitness journey because it serves as a “reality check”, and a motivator. For example, looking at your workout log will allow you to know how often you are going to the gym. If you are not seeing strength gains, but notice you are only going to the gym one time per week, you may realize that you are not working out as often as you should. Further, your workout log can act as a motivator because it allows you to see improvement over time. Seeing yourself continually improve, and completing your workout plan after 3 months will provide you with the motivation to keep going and challenging your body.

I hope you enjoyed this post and have a better understanding why I ALWAYS bring my workout log to the gym with me. As promised, here is a link to your new FREE Workout Log! Have you ever used a workout log or do you currently use a workout log? Let me know in the comments below!

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Click for FREE Workout Log!

Have a Fabulous Friday!

xoxo,

Heather

 

How I Overcame Anxiety and Started Working Out: The 5 Lessons I Learned 💕

woman looking at sunsetDealing with anxiety has been my greatest challenge in life, as it prevents me from doing many of the activities I enjoy. It’s always there, in the background, stopping me from getting out the door, trying new activities and even driving. At my lowest point, I quit my favourite sport (softball), stopped exercising because I was too nervous to go to the gym, and I didn’t leave my house for two weeks. Getting help for my anxiety was the BEST decision I could have made for myself. It took the help of a school counsellor that connected me with resources to get myself out the door and prevent anxiety from controlling my life.

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Photo credit: https://www.wlu.ca/life-at-laurier/services-for-students/wellness.html

My counsellor recommended I try a program offered through my school’s Athletics Complex called, “I Move My Mood”. Within the program, I was paired with a ‘buddy’ who would meet with me twice per week, and we would exercise together. The girl I was paired with was very nice and confident in the gym. She showed me how to do a bunch of exercises and helped to correct my form (which was one of my biggest barriers to going to the gym). It was through this program that I realized that people weren’t judging me for having the wrong form, or not knowing what I was doing.

After completing the program, I was determined to continue exercising, however I was still terrified to set foot in the gym by myself. A year of trial and error later, I now find myself a regular gym-goer and have overcome the barriers that used to prevent me from going. To overcome my anxiety and begin working out, I will share the 5 main lessons I learned, so you too can overcome anxiety and start exercising.

Lesson #1: Find a buddy or someone to keep you accountable

casual cheerful daylight friendsSocial support is no joke. As humans, there is something about the social environment that helps motivate us, keeps us accountable, and makes us feel connected. Throughout my struggles with anxiety, I often find that I socially isolate myself and feel disconnected. Finding one person to encourage and motivate me really helped to get myself out of the house – as my buddy was counting on me. Having someone to talk to also helped me feel that I was socially connected with the world, which helped reduce feelings of loneliness and depression. After the program ended, I found a new buddy to help me feel confident and maintain my accountability (you can check out her blog here).

Lesson #2: Take Baby steps

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Celebrate the little accomplishments you make. Maybe getting up and out of bed is the furthest you got today – but that is still a step in the right direction! After the commencement of the program, I still wasn’t 100% confident to go to the gym alone, so I started walking with my mom. Thirty-minute walks turned into 45-minute walks, and I found that an activity as simple as walking made me feel so much better mentally. This then motivated me to start exercising at the gym with my new buddy. Then exercising with my buddy increased my confidence and I began going to the gym alone.

The first time I went to the gym alone was a huge accomplishment for me, as I actually got in the car and drove there! The pride I felt from overcoming this barrier translated to other aspects of my life – as I now don’t feel as anxious driving places. To make myself feel comfortable at the gym, I came prepared with a basic exercise plan that had exercises I was comfortable doing. As I felt more confident in the gym, I decided to try new exercises – the ones I wanted to try for curiosity and for fun! As I continued to try new things, I learned what did and did not work for me. This has lead me to today, where I find myself looking forward to my workouts because I have found exercises that make me feel strong and confident.

Lesson #3: Do the activities you actually enjoy!

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I tried synchronized swimming this year, I met a lot of great people and had so much fun!

Don’t do the exercises or the workouts you think you should do, do the activities you actually enjoy doing! If you love walking – do it! Any change you make to your current routine will make a difference. Working out and getting healthy doesn’t need to be done at the gym – you can get active playing sports, running or exercising at home. If you pick an activity you love, chances are you will not dread doing it, and you will actually be more motivated to stick with it. Do activities that excite you and fill your soul.

This past year, I decided to give synchronized swimming a try, and I joined my school’s novice synchronized swimming team. Not only did I get to participate in swimming (one of my favourite activities), I also got to meet other girls that had similar interests! I had to opportunity to travel with the team to two competitions, and we came in 4th place for our routine at one of the competitions. Not only did I get the physical benefit from swimming, I also branched out and made some awesome social connections, which improved my mood and my confidence.

Lesson #4: Set a goal and track your progress

A goal without a plan is simply a dream. To turn your physical activity goals into reality, it is important that you set goals, come up with a game-plan and track your progress. (For some tips on goal setting, check out my article on Goal Setting here). For me, my goal began small – to exercise twice per week, whether it be going for a walk, going to the gym (with my buddy), or going on a bike ride. I tracked my progress using The Calendar Method. Looking back at each month and seeing that I had exercised twice per week really encouraged me to continue. As I succeeded with my goal and became more confident in going to the gym alone, I eventually changed it to exercising at the gym twice per week, and I began a strength training program. To track my progress, I weighed myself, took progress photos and recorded my reps and sets of each exercise. Even though my body didn’t change based on my weight, I noticed that my progress photos began to look more muscular and the weight of my exercises increased. In the months where I saw very small changes, I tweaked my plan and began focusing on my nutrition to see further progress. Seeing these subtle changes motivated me to continue. (For FREE monthly calendars to track your fitness progress, you can also check them out here)!

Lesson #5: Don’t be so critical on yourself.

self-loveIt’s important to know that your while you are on your fitness journey, you are going to mess up. You will do an exercise or two with improper form, and there will be days where you feel unmotivated. Instead of being critical on yourself, think about what you would tell your best friend if they were in your situation. When you fail, rather than judge yourself, evaluate yourself. Figure out what when ‘wrong’ and come up with a new game plan. Treat yourself with kindness and support yourself as if you were your own best friend.

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Feeling gym-confident 💕

Today, I am still making changes to my exercise plan and am still coming up with new activities or exercises that I enjoy doing. Anxiety is hard to deal with, but sometimes just getting yourself out the door is the smallest, yet most life-changing step you can make. I hope these 5 lessons help to motivate you to begin your own fitness journey. I’d love to hear any additional tips you use to overcoming mental health struggles in the comments below.

I hope you have a lovely day!

xoxo,

Heather 💕

how i overcame