Workout Wednesday: Landmine Squat and Press

I feel like I’ve been a bit lost at sea lately in the blog world — lacking focus and a plan, I’ve kind of just been bobbing about on the surface, without giving too much in the way of quality content. Well, I think it’s time I change that, no?

So…

In hopes of starting a new Wednesday series, I’m giving it a whirl today. This hopefully will entail either workouts or descriptions of different lifts each and every Wednesday, in the hopes of giving you all some new ideas for your workouts or important tips on form.

Well then, let’s just get right into it,  shall we?

Today I want to describe one of my favorite lifts to you, although one that is not done very often. It takes a classic strength movement (the squat) and adds the forces from a slightly different direction, allowing you to work on different areas that may need a little work. I showed a quick clip of this on my Instagram page last week, and it’s something that I try to incorporate into my lifts at least once per week. Honestly, I use the landmine set up a lot, but the only equipment you really need for this is a barbell. The “fancy” landmine attachment is just a bonus.

The Set Up:

If your gym has a landmine attachment, place one end of a barbell into it and add weight to the other end. If you have never done this before, or if you are new to front-loaded squatting, start out with a lighter weight until you get the form down. If you don’t have the landmine attachment, simply place one end of the barbell on the floor in a corner of the room (so it doesn’t roll side to side). Remember, the weight of the bar will be added to your total, so don’t be discouraged if you can only do these with “only” 10 lb or so added to the bar (or even just the bar itself!)

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See the attachment that’s holding the un-weighted end of the barbell? Many gyms have these, and they are great. But you don’t NEED one at all to do landmine work! 

The Lift 

Stand facing the weighted end of the bar, pick it up slowly with a good hip-hinge and flat back to protect your back. Position yourself so that you are standing with the end of the bar held at your chest, grasping the end of the barbell with both hands, feet shoulder width apart. You may have to play around with your foot position a little bit, but you can do this throughout the first few reps to find your zone.

Keeping the barbell held firmly at your chest, brace your core and sit your hips back into a squat. The most important part of this lift is sitting the hips back, not pushing the knees forward. Continue bracing your core throughout the entire movement, just as you would with a front squat or goblet squat. Sit down between your knees, making sure that your knees stay facing forward (not caving in towards each other). Explode through the glutes and quads to return to your standing position. When you reach the top, press the barbell up and forward (in it’s natural arc), and return to chest position. This is one rep.

Safety Tips: 

Just a reminder — brace that core, sit the hips back, and focus on activating your glutes to keep those knees facing forward. If you can do this in front of a mirror, do so — this is the best way to ensure that your knees aren’t caving in at the bottom of your range, or on your return to standing. If the press at the top causes pain in your shoulders, simply eliminate that from your lift. The squat is extremely beneficial on it’s own, and that is just a bonus movement for those who are able to complete it. Also important to remember: Don’t arch your back when going into the forward press; keep that core braced throughout the entire movement to protect your spine.

Why should you do this lift?

This is an excellent accessory lift for those who are looking to improve their front squat, and also for those who are just getting into weight lifting in general. Building anterior core strength and mastering the “sit back” movement of squatting is essential before loading up a heavy barbell on your back, and this is a perfect exercise to practice and achieve both of these things. Nervous about “wrecking your knees” with squats? Practicing the motion of sitting back with your hips is a great way to protect them, and a very important part of a proper squat movement. One of the great things about this lift is that it can be useful for people at any weight-lifting level — beginners and experts alike. And as an added bonus? You get a little shoulder action in there as well.

Readers: What do you think of a Workout Wednesday regular series? Would you be more interested in specific lifts or mini-workouts — or both? Do you ever do landmine work in your routine?

The Year In Review

Well, it’s that time of year again isn’t it?

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That time when people look back on the year that has just passed and take stock of their life then vs. now.

Basically, there are two categories of people at the end of December. There are those who had set goals in January and reached them, and then there are those who set goals or resolutions and failed miserably to achieve them (usually within the first couple months of the year). I suppose there are also those who don’t set any goals at all, so they find another way to measure the year they’ve just had (or they don’t take measure at all), but that’s neither here nor there.

Looking back, I realize that I set a few lofty goals for myself back in January, one of which that was realistically beyond my reach. But I did accomplish two out of three, and although I didn’t quite reach the third, I tried my damnedest to. I will say this: even though I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to, I’m very proud of the goals that I did reach, and it only makes me hungrier to keep working towards those other goals in the future.

Since most of you didn’t know I existed way back in January, you can go back and read my original New Years goals post here, or you can just stay right here and I’ll give you the quick version. The following are the goals I set for myself at New Years 2012, followed by a few words about how I fared, when I completed it, or what went wrong if I didn’t.

Goal 1: Complete my MS in Nutrition.

Outcome: DONEZO! I completed my coursework last spring and graduated in April from my Master’s program. It felt amazing to be done after 2 years of grad school combined with working full time, and it was something that I had set my sights on long before I started.

Goal 2: Take (and pass) the CSCS exam from the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association).

Outcome: BOOM. Crushed it! I took this on December 1st and found out 2 weeks later that I had passed. A lot of people have asked me why I took this exam; was I trying to get a new job? And the answer is no, I was just trying to make myself better. So I did. And I will continue to. So there.

Goal 3: Back squat 200 pounds

Outcome: Womp womp. My PR on my back squat this year stalled at 155, and I haven’t even hit that in a while. I’ve been down around 135, and I have a sneaking suspicion what the culprit is.

What went wrong: I added in a decent amount of conditioning work throughout this year; daily bike rides to and from work, as well as stadium runs 1-2 times per week. Although conditioning is great, if you’re training strictly for strength gains, it can zap your progress. I’m still working out the right balance for me, and we’ll revisit this when I tell you guys about my new goals for this coming year!

Not too shabby, huh? And even seeing that one of them wasn’t even close to being met, this doesn’t discourage me in the least. As I said above, it only makes me want to work harder to achieve that 200 lb back squat in the future. I know now that it was unrealistic goal, but at this point it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the process and the work that I have to keep putting into it to one day reach this goal. Maybe it will be in 2013 (although probably not), but I will get there.

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I think that this is an important process for everyone to go through even if you don’t believe in setting New Years Resolutions. If you have any goals at all, it’s essential to go back and revisit them every once in a while with an objective eye. That way, you can either see what you need to work harder on, or you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Of course at that point, it’s time for some new goals to work towards. Because as I’ve learned very well in my line of work, if you’re not looking forward, working towards a goal, you’re just staying the same at best. And I truly believe that no matter who you are, no matter how good you are at something, there’s always room to Be Better. 

What about you? How do you measure up to the goals you set last year?  Which accomplishment over the past year are you most proud of?

I’ll be back on Monday with my new goals for 2013 and some new ideas about the blog. Until then, have a great weekend everyone, and enjoy the last few days of 2012!

Strong For A Girl

I’m NOT Strong “for a girl

I’m just strong.

I’m strong because I can deadlift 155 pounds from the floor.

I’m strong because I can squat with 145 pounds on my back 

I’m strong because I can do 6 unassisted chin ups

5 unassisted parallel grip pull ups

and 2 unassisted traditional pull-ups

Strength.

I’m strong because I can run 19 sections of Harvard Stadium in 20:04

I’m strong because I can run all 37 sections of Harvard Stadium in 43:45

I’m strong because I get up at 5:45 am to run Harvard Stadium every Wednesday…

…in the cold, dark, rain, and potentially snow.

I’m strong because the barbell is my favorite accessory.

I’m strong because I ride my bike to work even when it’s 30 degrees (or lower) outside.

I’m strong because I gain strength from my mother, who never gave up.

strength!

I’m strong because I’m a d’Orsay woman and that’s just how we do.

I’m strong because my heart is strong, both literally and figuratively.

I’m strong because I know that I can handle whatever life throws at me.

I’m strong, even if my tears tell you otherwise.

I’m strong because if you tell me I can’t, I will. 

I’m strong because if I’m not, no one else can be strong for me.

I’m strong because I always want to Be Better

I’m not strong for a girl. 

I’m strong because I AM a girl.

strength & dignity

Why are YOU strong?

Don’t Let Your Ego Get In The Way

I’ve seen it happen a thousand times: a big, muscular guy walks over to the dumbbell rack, grabs a pair of dumbbells that he feels “look” big enough. He then proceeds to do some sort of lift, whether it be shoulder presses, db bicep curls, reverse flye, etc…. Only instead of that lift, he actually just flails around in some sort of herky-jerky pattern, using momentum more than any muscle to move the weight around.

Sometimes it hurts me to look at these people.

And it’s certainly not just guys that do this; I see it in females too. Or sometimes it’s not a flailing, spastic movement, but rather hardly any movement at all. I watched a guy doing back squats recently, and while he was moving the weights in a very controlled manor, he was also only moving them to about 30-40 degrees of knee flexion, and struggling to do so. I guarantee that if he would have decreased the weight on the bar, he could have gotten into a much better squat position, and he would have gained much more from a proper squat at a lower weight than a barely-quarter squat at a heavier weight.

Why do people go for weights and dumbbells that they can’t lift with proper form? Easy. One word:

Ego.

You know, that two-faced monster that can be used for good or evil. A good ego can give you confidence; a little too much ego can make you cocky, (and lead to horribly flawed, possibly dangerous lifts).

Anybody who’s spent any time in the weight room, or exercising at all for that matter has had a few ego bruising moments, it’s inevitable. The first time you tried to do pushups, were they perfect? No, probably not. Maybe you can’t quite get a full unassisted pull-up, even though otherwise you’re quite strong. Maybe you have a particular lift that is difficult for you and requires much lighter weights than you would like to admit.

For me, it’s the reverse flye. Tara wrote a great post on these recently if you’re not familiar. For me, and for many people, this is my weakest lift by far. While most of my upper body DB work is done with 20s, 25s, 30s and 35s, I can not complete a full set of reverse flyes with anything over 10 lbs. And that’s just a set of 6. For 8 or 10, I need 7.5s. It honestly hurts my soul a little bit every time I have to grab those lighter dumbbells. For some, I know that 10 lbs is a challenging weight, but for me, I know how far I’ve come. I remember using the 10s back in the day, and I remember how much I struggled when I first started lifting weights. So to have to go back to those 10s, despite being leaps and bounds stronger than I used to be, is a little kick in the pants to my fragile ego.

Tres Embarrassing.

Ego aside, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it. Lifting weights that are heavier than your capability is not doing you any favors. It’s really just a waste of your gym time, pretty stupid, and quite frankly, potentially dangerous.  Take care of yourself and keep working, because before you know it, you will move up to that heavier weight, but you’ll do so safely and correctly. I know I’ll eventually be able to move up to the 12s and beyond with my reverse flyes, but until then, I just have to keep reminding myself that quality > quantity.

Take away point:

The goal of each lift should be to use the maximum weight while maintaining a good quality of movement through a full range of motion. NOT lifting as much as possible at any cost. Trust me, no one is going to be impressed with how much weight you’re benching when it comes crashing down on your chest.

Do you notice people lifting more than they should? Would you ever say something to a fellow gym-goer if you saw this? Are there any exercises or lifts that hurt your ego?

I Love Mondays!

Ok, I just lied to you.

I don’t mean to start out the week with a lie, but I had to do it to catch your attention. But did you really believe me? NO ONE loves Mondays.  In fact, almost every Monday, I would say a good portion of my twitter feed is full of “Ugh MONDAY” tweets, and I have certainly uttered my share of “Is it really Monday again?” complaints.

But I’m going to do a little experiment this week and take a different approach. I’m going to figure out all of the reasons why I like Mondays, and see if starting this week out positively can make a little bit of a difference?

1. Monday is my heavy squat day.  Yeppers. And following Monday’s lift, I’m usually itching for another heavy squat by Wednesday or Thursday, so I really do actively look forward to Monday mornings for this reason.

2. On This particular Monday, I have an early day. I know to many of you that doesn’t sound like a good thing, but when I’m used to getting home long after it gets dark out, an earlier schedule every once in a while is a blessing! Yes, I have to get up and to work awfully early, but I’ll also be out at 3 pm with the WHOLE afternoon and evening ahead of me!

3. Last week is over. Last week was a rough one in terms of stress and exhaustion. Today starts a new week and a chance to have a MUCH better week than last. There’s no place to go but up, right?

4. I DVR’d the Grammys last night, so I still have the amazing talents of Adele, Jennifer Hudson, and others to look forward to tonight!

5. Ok, 5 reasons to like Monday is really stretching it.

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6.  Did I mention Monday is my squat day?!?

So, 4 legitimate reasons to like Monday isn’t a bad start, right? It’s better than rolling over in bed this morning with my Monday face on and spending the first 2 hours of my day grumbling about how evil this world is that we have to go through Monday EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK.

Strangely similar to my Monday Face

In fact, I think today I’ll start out more like this, and see where it takes me:

PS. Someone found my blog yesterday by searching for “girl face bad in africa”.  WHAT? That’s enough to make me giggle on this most evil of days.

How do you feel about Mondays? Do you have any tricks to make them a little less painful?