Leg day at the gym!

You may have noticed that I’ve been dipping back into strength training a bit more lately! Thanks in part to my awesome friends who kick my ass at the gym every weekend and who have pushed me to try new things and challenge myself to lift what I’ve mentally told myself I can’t. On Monday night I did an hour of lower body strength training at the gym after I taught a spin class. After doing so many gym squad workouts on the weekend, it was so easy to put together a killer leg and glute workout that I didn’t even have to think “uh, what should I do next?” Today I’m sharing some of my favourite leg day exercises!

I used to be… hell, I still am… the girl that likes her weight workouts to feel like cardio. I love supersets, I like full-body movements, I like gasping for breath at the end of a set, and I don’t take very many rest breaks. It’s good for getting a killer sweaty workout in but sometimes not great for building muscle or learning to lift heavier – so whatever your goals, keep that in mind! The gym squad workouts have taught me that rest is good, and you can generally lift a LOT heavier with those breaks and rest in between sets. If I’m dying to do supersets or really just avoid looking like bro squads that do more texting and talking and flexing than lifting, I do core in between leg exercises to keep my body moving.

I’ll go through a few of my main leg exercises on my “leg day,” as well as some variations you could try and a superset option that I might do to get more bang for my buck. Please please please keep in mind I am not a personal trainer and this is just how I train – but always consult someone qualified to incorporate new exercises into your workout, and at the very least to learn the proper form.

NEUTRAL GRIP CHIN-UPS

Okay, so not technically a leg exercise, but starting our workouts with chin-ups, when we’re as fresh as possible has been awesome. It is a very good core, back, bicep, and shoulder move, so it kinds of gets the entire body warm too. I still use a resistance band to help me do chin-ups but I have already noticed great improvements in two months in strength.

How many? 8 sets of 3 chin-ups.

Optional superset: Pushups.

Variations: Pull-ups, muscle-ups, assisted chin-up machine.

ROMANIAN DEADLIFTS

One of my absolute favourites right now and I love when that hamstring and glute kicks in as you pull the bar up. I have finally reached 150lb for my romanian deadlift sets and it’s so satisfying to notice improvements in this heavier weight movement. If you’re EVER feeling it in your back, either lighten your load or recheck your form.

How many? 3 sets of 8 reps.

Optional superset: Plank.

Variations: Place two 5-lb. plates on the floor under your toes for extra hamstring work and pull.

HIP THRUSTS

This one is awkward to set up and even more awkward to do, but if I can do it in a weight room full of 18 year old boys then you can too! I am weirdly proud of my butt and I think it’s just because I have the genetics to be able to easily add muscle to my legs and butt, but if you’re looking for a great glute move, this is it! I typically add plates to a barbell (45lb; total of 135lb) and make sure to use a foam padding roll or it will kill your hip bones!

How many? 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Optional superset: You can use the bench you’re working with to do ab leg lowers.

Variations: Add a resistance band around your knees to remember to push your knees out as your thrust the bar up.

CURTSY LUNGES or SPLIT SQUATS

The difference between these two is that curtsy lunges REALLY hit those glutes hard and are usually the ones, next to hip thrusts, that leave me unable to sit for a couple days while split squats are more quad focused. If I’m really looking to use the handicap bathroom stall the next day I’ll do both, otherwise I’ll pick one or the other. I use the smith machine for curtsy lunges so I can add lots of weight (usually 35lb. – 45lb. plates on the smith machine) without having to use dumbbells because gripping that much weight is hard!

How many? 3 sets of 8 reps on each side.

Optional superset: Side plank or bicycle crunches.

Variations: Add weight, increase the height of the bench or step.

GOBLET SQUATS

The real frenemy of this workout. I love them because they are amazing at working the inner thighs and also getting at those glutes but they are pretty hard, especially as you try and keep great form, back straight, nice and tall. We also typically do drop-sets with this one so by the end you’ll hate me but you’ll love the burn. The idea is that there is NO REST in between the weight swaps.

How many? 2 warm up sets of 6 reps. Drop set -> 6 reps with 45lb. dumbbell, immediately switch weight to 12 reps with 35lb; switch to 25lb. for 25 reps.

Optional superset: Lat pull-down.

Variations: You could also use a kettlebell to do these!

LEG PRESS

We’re going to do another drop set with this one and we’ll use the exact same pattern: 6-12-25. I asked my friend why we were doing 6-12-25 instead of 6-12-24 and she said, “because my trainer just likes the entertainment of watching us do that last rep.” Fun. My quads tend to be fairly strong but this one gets me every single time. The weight below is just what I use, but the pattern tends to be about 100% for 6 reps, 75-80% for 12 reps, 60-65% for 25 reps.

How many? 2 warm up sets of 6 reps. Drop set -> 6 reps with 388lbs, immediately switch weight to 12 reps with 298lb; switch to 258lb. for 25 reps.

Optional superset: I hope you don’t have the energy for a superset.

Variations: There are other leg press machines, as well as wall presses.

GLUTE CABLE KICKBACKS

If you’re an OG reader, you know that these have been on my rotation for a while, probably since the days of Hot Army Guy at the gym. Actually, I probably started doing them BECAUSE Hot Army Guy was at the gym. Anyway, we’re back to kicking our own asses with this amazing glute exercise. My playlist recommendations for this exercise are “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot or “Booty” by Jennifer Lopez ft. Iggy Azalea. Your choice.

How many? 3 sets of 12 on each leg.

Optional superset: Close grip cable row.

Variations: You can stand straight up and kick out at a 45 degree angle instead of doing the full extension. It targets more of the gluteus minimus and medius rather than the maximus.

THE FINALE

During a leg workout we like to finish with something to make you say “Holy f%$&, I can’t walk.” This could be a few jumping squats or some of the ideas below. the idea is that it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes and just seeks to get your HR up and finish off those legs. If you’re new to leg day, take it easy and see how you feel!

  • One lap of the track (200-250m) walking lunges
  • Battle ropes with squats or lunges
  • Stairs – Doing 2-8 sets of stairs (depends on how big the flights are)
  • 5-10 minutes on the Jacobs ladder
  • 5-10 minutes on the rower doing 30s intervals of “just legs”

This post could be one workout, or you could toss a couple of these moves into your regular strength training routine. I like sharing because I find that these exercises are some of the heavy weight moves that have helped me get stronger without changing the frequency of my gym sessions, just changing what I’m doing when I’m in there. Many of these leg moves require core strength and incorporate your back/upper body and more than “just legs” so they make your gym time worth your while. I intentionally used cartoon and diagram photos because while I wanted to find really strong women, in appropriate gym clothes, doing these moves, with heavier weight like the mens photos always show, those photos aren’t really out there. Until I take my camera to the next girl squad gym date, I hope the photos were at least able to give a depiction of good form!

I absolutely love leg day so I’d love to hear what some of your favourite exercises are, what your strength routine looks like, or even just a funny gym story!

Troubled Monk Run & Father’s Day.

Another weekend, another sunburn. I really need to learn to actually apply sunscreen and not just think about it after being outside for a few hours. It was an incredible weekend, spending lots of time with my dad because after all it was Father’s Day! I feel so fortunate to be able to see my dad quite often and we have always been super close so it was nice to spend a little extra quality time with him this past weekend! On Saturday he picked me up bright and early and we headed south to Red Deer to partake in the Troubled Monk Run 10K.

We arrived with plenty of time to grab our bibs and check out the brewery before lining up to start the 10K at 10am. I was able to say a quick ‘hi’ to Becky (The Bex Factor) before we started and then she took off and scored her fastest 10K this year (woo woo!!). My dad isn’t a runner so we agreed to walk the 10K and I told him we should have made shirts that said ‘HERE FOR THE BEER.’ We were able to explore to gorgeous trails of Red Deer and it was honestly the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent in Red Deer as most often I’m grabbing coffee and peeing on my way to and from Calgary. I was seriously blown away at how pretty the trail system was and Heritage Park is just adorable! I can’t wait to come back – Becky get ready for a visit! My dad and I crossed the finish line after who knows how long and actually scored random prizes from the prize table which for my dad meant a Troubled Monk golf shirt and for me meant a gift card that was immediately spent on beer.

We grabbed our free can of beer (included with the race registration in addition to a Troubled Monk beer glass and wooden coaster) and chatted a bit more with Becky! I absolutely adore her shirt!

My dad and I chatted the whole drive down to Red Deer and then the entire 10K and it felt nice to catch up on life! Most often when we see each other it’s at family friends’ parties or working out or watching sports so it was wonderful to just listen to each other and have no distractions! Definitely the perfect way to spend the day before Father’s Day! If there’s one thing that brings us together it’s talking pretentiously about craft beer, haha!

We hit the road shortly after to Lacombe where we headed to Blindman Brewery to see it and fill up a growler. We had a family friends’ pool party later in the evening so we made sure to get some craft beer for that and we had fun tasting them as well! Upon Becky’s recommendation we headed to Cilantro & Chive in Lacombe for lunch where I grabbed another beer and the sundried tomato flatbread.

After lunch we made our way back to Edmonton. I stopped at my house to make an appetizer for the pool party then I quickly popped into the gym to get in a short strength workout. I did a quick 30 minutes but man you can get a lot done in 30 minutes. It was definitely the battle ropes that got me sweating. I headed over the pool party after that and spent the evening laughing and talking with family friends and it turned into one of those perfectly calm and gorgeous summer evenings.

On Sunday I slept in and then texted my dad as soon as I got up to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. My dad replied and then asked what I was up to, saying he was heading out shortly to go for a bike ride. I quickly through my sexy cycling bib shorts on and tossed my bike in the back of my car to head out to my parents’. We rode 60km and it was great! I love being on the road and despite a few stretches against the wind where I felt like my quads were dying, it was a fun ride! I hung out at my parents’ for a bit before subbing once again for the sports and recreation league where we played ultimate frisbee.

After a brief thunderstorm in the afternoon, it turned out to be beautiful for the game. In the direct sun it was super warm and we had a ton of fun playing. The other team had a couple people that actually played ultimate so when they were in the field it was insanely tough to defend. Oh well, we did our best!

How was your weekend?

Did you get to spend time with your dad?

Do you have a favourite Alberta brewery? 

Friday Favourites: June 2017.

When June comes screaming around the corner and we are less than a week away from the first day of summer, I start to want to put on the brakes because I can already feel this season going too fast! The wall calendar at my work (yeah, apparently they still make those) is still happily displaying April because time is just going too damn fast for me to make an effort to change it! Nevertheless, it’s time to jump into my June favourites, a few things I’m loving this month!

  • The first thing I’m loving this month is the Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Matte Lip Colour in the shade ‘Touch of Spice.’ It’s my absolute favourite go-to daily lip colour that I can wear to work, out for dinner, or on a date. It dries matte and doesn’t come off easily when drinking or eating and it’s just a gorgeously subtle dark pink colour.

I’m probably wearing it in most blog and Instagram photos, but this one I know for sure I’m rocking the colour ‘Touch of Spice.’

  • While I do plan on posting a summer-reads book list, I have to chat about my current book as it’s not my usual fiction, girly, light and easy-reading type of book. I’ve been inspired by my colleagues to read a bit of deeper subject matter material so I’m currently working through Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Greg Boyle. It is definitely a great read for my current job and it’s just fascinating to read about a pastor who has created a home, a God, and a community for some of the worst gang members in Los Angeles, California.

  • I mentioned this one in my Spring Fitness Fashion post, but these tanks from Old Navy are super cute and functional. I may have ordered three more when they went on clearance online and they arrived last night! I think the open back is a pretty popular trend right now but the practicality of it for summer is hard to beat!

  • I haven’t booked any travel based on this app YET, but my latest favourite app is Hopper, where you can find the times of year when flights are the cheapest. You can save trips and the app will let you know if the price of the flights changes so you know when to book to get the best deal! As I look for a sunny beach vacay in the fall, it’s been cool to see when it’s cheapest to go and when I should book by.

  • I have only been slightly burnt once this season, but you know it’s going to happen again. I think there is a strong movement, at least according to my friends and fellow bloggers like Jo and Brie, to ensure that the products you use on your skin are just as clean as the foods you eat. We spend so much time worrying about GMOs and organic but we tend to slather chemicals all over us without really knowing what they are. This month I am absolutely loving the Vanilla Coconut Natural Sunscreen by Rocky Mountain Soap Company.

Source

  • This is both my least favourite and my most favourite this month. You’ll understand why in a second. I like to enjoy the occasional beer but lately I just feel SO BLOATED when I have even one drink, so I’ve been either avoiding them or sipping red wine instead. The trouble is, summer is when a lot of breweries release the fruity and delicious beer so the struggle is real. Last weekend I tried the Stanley Park Sunsetter, a peach ale, and it was unreal. So refreshing. I also like most raspberry beer especially Granville Island.

Those are a few of my favourites this month! They definitely reflect my excitement for summer and despite my feeling like the warm months are already flying by, it is just so nice to be in Alberta for the summer. I can’t wait to get out hiking and camping again and I know this summer is going to be one full of adventure!

What are YOU loving this month?

What are your favourite natural skincare products?