Proper Form

In every Preview Video I explain and demonstrate proper form for each and every exercise. Here are more tips for staying safe during your workouts.

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  • Always lift and lower weights with control.
  • Proper form is very important.  My top three form requirements:
    • Keep your core muscles engaged – that means the front, sides, and back of your torso.  Think of your core as a corset; tighten it as you exhale.  Now keep those muscles engaged.
    • Always keep your neck in line with your spine. I cannot stress this enough. If you are flexing forward, continue the flexion with your neck as a natural extension of your spine (which, um, it is); if you are lifting into extension (arching your back), continue the extension with your neck in a natural and safe degree.
    • Keep your knees slightly bent when lifting weights.  This will allow you to use your legs – not your back – as shock absorbers.  It will allow your legs to assist when you struggle through the last few reps.  If your knees are locked out, your back will take the excess work and that can hurt.  (Trust me.)
  • Using too much weight can compromise your form and lead to injury.  (That said, make sure you are using enough weight to be struggling by the end of the interval.  If you can complete an interval easily, add a bit more weight the next time.)
  • When in doubt about proper form and safety, perform the exercise slowly.  Never compromise good form for speed.
  • Do not hold your breath!  Because the Quickie is timed, you don’t have to count reps.  Therefore, you can focus on counting breaths if that’s what will remind you to breathe.  When a client tends to hold her breath, I will say “hold this position for 2 breaths” instead of saying “for 4 counts.” Make sense?
  • Exhale during the hardest part of the move.  Exhaling tightens your core, and therefore helps to support your spine during the hard work.
  • Avoid over-training.  Recovery time is important.  Rest days allow your muscles to repair and build.  If your body is saying you need a rest day, listen to it.  If you don’t want to skip a day, take an active rest day of walking or light yoga or stretching.
  • Go to bed!  Get some sleep.  Most people are sleep-deprived.  There’s nothing on the internet or TV that is so fascinating that it’s worth missing your 8 hours of zzzzzzs.  Well, maybe my Instagrammed photos of my food . But nothing else.

Modifications for Beginners

Here are additional suggestions for modifying my workouts to your fitness level.

If you are new to exercise, haven’t exercised in a long time, or simply desire a lighter workout, you’ll want to make some modifications so the workout is appropriate to your current fitness level.  Each week, in addition to the Real Time Video, there will be a Quickie Preview Video.  In it, I will demonstrate ways to modify all five exercises to make them easier.  Pay close attention to those modifications.  Take notes to help you remember.

Additional ways to make the Quickies easier:

  • Take it slow.  For the first few weeks, focus on learning the movements, proper form, and how you feel.
  • Use light weights, or no weights at all.  Be conservative with the amount of weight you lift until you know what you can tolerate.  What feels ok today can translate into extreme soreness tomorrow, so ease your way up gradually.
  • Pause between reps.  Take breaks when needed during the interval.
  • Do each exercise for a shorter interval, rather than a full minute, and work your way up to longer intervals until you can do the full 50 seconds. For example, do each exercise for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.  These would be 30/30 intervals.  30 seconds of exercise, 30 seconds of rest.  Progress to 35/25 intervals, then 40/20 intervals, and so on until you can do full 50/10 intervals.
  • Do the 5 exercises once through.  Rest for 1-2 minutes before repeating the sequence.  This will result in a longer time commitment, but that might be necessary in the beginning.
  • Substitute exercises that work for you.  Can’t find a way to make plank bearable no matter what modifications you try?  Substitute a different abdominal exercise in its place.

Do whatever you can to make it effective, but also satisfying.  If you hate it, you won’t continue.  If you’re too sore, you’ll dread the next workout.  You’ll know when your body has adapted and it’s time to take it the next level.

And remember, always watch the Preview Video for each new Quickie Workout to learn the modifications.

Good Pain vs Bad Pain

When exercising, you will feel some discomfort, especially if you're just starting out. But how do you know if what you are feeling is good pain or bad pain? This will help you decide.

Good Pain

“I can’t go on.  It’s too hard!” 

Of course it’s hard.  If it isn’t hard, you’re not doing it right.  If you’re a beginner, or you haven’t been doing high-intensity exercise, you’ll make progress even at lower intensities.  But then you’ll have to step it up.  Progress is made by pushing your body beyond what it can currently do.  That doesn’t mean you go from 5 squats to 25 squats all at once.  But if doing 5 is easy, you need to do more, or do them differently – faster, deeper, with a jump.  I often tell people, “Do it until it’s hard, then do a few more.”  Push just beyond your threshold, as long as you can do it without compromising proper form.

“No pain, no gain.” 

There’s some truth in that.  It is always tempting to avoid pain and challenge.  It’s difficult to willfully do something that pushes us out of our comfort zone, makes us work hard, get fatigued, or become sore.  But if we avoid the pain and challenge now, we’re giving up future comfort for current comfort.  If it’s difficult to find the motivation to exercise, visualize how much better you’ll feel afterward when endorphins are released, your muscles are warm and primed, stress is relieved, and you sleep soundly.  And then visualize how much better you’ll feel in the future when activities of daily living are easier, when you can walk further or jog faster, when you can still play ball with the kids (or grandkids!) in the yard even at your age.  *wink*

You’re making an investment in your immediate and faraway future when you exercise.  And any investment comes with some risk of discomfort.  But it’s worth it.  You know it, or you wouldn’t be here.

“I’m feeling the burn!” 

That’s lactic acid.  It won’t kill you.  Rest a bit, then continue.  With consistent training, your muscles will adapt and develop greater endurance.  Muscles adapt to stress overload by becoming more efficient.  When exercising at a high intensity, respiration is unable to keep up with the pace of the body’s oxygen demand.  The body accommodates by switching to a different energy system, but continued effort creates lactate build-up in the muscles as a result.  This is why sprinters cannot sprint indefinitely.

When you recover between hard intervals, by resting or exercising at a lower intensity, excess lactate clears out of the muscles.   A well-designed mix of hard effort and short recovery will raise your body’s lactate threshold – which means you’ll be able to exercise at a higher intensity for longer before “feeling the burn.”

Bad Pain

“OMG I can’t bend my knee.” 

STOP.  Stop right now.  You should really get that looked at.

“I can’t breathe.” 

STOP.  Catch your breath.  Take slow, deep inhales.

“I think I strained/sprained/tore/pulled something.” 

STOP.  RICE it immediately (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) and see a doctor.

“This hurts my back.”

If you don’t otherwise have back pain, check your form.  Watch yourself in the mirror – are you doing it properly?  Are your core muscles engaged?  Are your knees slightly bent?  Are you lifting too much weight?  Can you modify the exercise to be gentler?  Can you use a lower weight, do fewer repetitions, slow down, or decrease the range of motion to do it without feeling pain?  Adapt.  See a doctor if pain persists or impairs daily activities.

“I cranked a heavy dumbbell onto my kneecap.”

WATCH WHAT YOU’RE DOING, for cripe’s sake.  You should really be more careful.  (I do this more often than I care to admit.)