Squat & lunge variations

Here’s a quick article and short video with some ideas of squat & lunge variations that you can use to make your home workouts more effective. If you’re currently doing my #tmf60x60 challenge these are ideal for you…

Body weight exercises are a great way to train because you can literally do them anywhere – at home, in the office, on holiday, in the park, while you’re filling up with fuel…ANYWHERE! If you have a body you can do body-weight exercises…

squat & lunge variations

Basic lower body movements:

There are three basic lower body exercises and pretty much everything stems from one of these:

  • squats – usually with both feet on the ground, but can be done as single leg options instead; can include propulsions eg. jump squats
  • lunges – starting with both feet on the ground but moving one foot to a new position; can move in any direction
  • split squats – looks like the end position of a lunge (ie. one foot further forward than the other) but without any stepping movement; can include propulsions eg. split jumps

Variations:

There are some really easy changes you can make to these basic moves which will each target the muscles differently and give a different training effect –

  • foot position – you can change the width of your feet for all the basic lower body moves – a narrow, neutral or wide stance will vary how the exercise feels; in particular lunges & split squats will be more challenging with a narrower stance
  • angle of the feet/knees/hips – a neutral angle is where your feet, hips and knees naturally live; internal rotation brings your toes closer together with your knees & thigh bones rotated towards the centre; external rotation takes your toes further apart with your knees and thigh bones rotated away from the centre; your internal and external rotation will vary but should always feel comfortable in all the associated joints
  • speed of movement – changing the speed of any exercise will obviously change how it feels to your body; here are some common speed variations based on an 8-count phrase which is used for teaching exercise to music –
    • single count – one down, one up
    • double count – two down, two up
    • slow count – four down, four up
    • three & one – can be three down, one up or one down, three up
    • pulses – smaller range of movement, usually bottom half, twice the speed of a single count
    • move & a half – full range down, half way up, all the way down, all the way up (or easier to think of as bottom, middle, bottom, top)

Other variables:

Once you have had a play with the basic movements, using different foot positions, angles and speeds, there are a few more things you can try if you want an added challenge:

  • alter the surface you’re standing on – bare feet will feel different to trainers; a yoga mat will feel different to a hard floor; airex mats are great for giving you less stability
  • have one foot higher than the other – try any of the basic moves with one foot on a low step; with split squats & lunges you can either have your front leg or your bag leg on the step – it will feel different each way
  • add some balance – all the basic moves work really well with a balance move added in between repetitions eg. squat & knee lift, side lunge and leg abduction, split squat and hip extension
  • try single leg squats – a split squat is almost half way between a full squat and a single leg squat, but to really load the front leg, take the back foot off the floor completely!
  • try repeater lunges – this is a great way to overload one leg; simply repeat all of your repetitions on one leg and then swap over to the other leg; works really nicely with some added balance work too eg. reverse lunge repeater with knee lift
  • add some power – propulsion (or jumping) will take your squats & split squats to the next level BUT only do this once your legs are strong enough and if your core, pelvic floor and joints can manage the extra load (ie. if jumping causes stress incontinence, don’t do it until you have resolved that issue first); remember that you want to land softly with soft knees and quiet feet; use your arms for extra drive; examples of propulsion include, jump squats, jacks, spotty dogs, split jumps, tuck jumps, skipping, etc. etc.

Summary:

Body weight exercises are easily accessible and make a useful addition to any fitness routine, but it can be easy to get stuck doing the same things over & over again. Hopefully these ideas will gives you endless options to pimp your home workouts for the foreseeable future. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list so feel free to add any other variations that work for you.

Remember to listen to your body – harder exercises are only better when they serve you. Always seek professional advice if you need help with your exercise programme or medical advice about suitability of an exercise for you.

tmf 60 x 60 challenge

I am hereby throwing down the tmf 60 x 60 challenge in a bid to keep you [me!] motivated to move more for the last 60 days of the year/decade! If you’re reading this on Friday 1st November you have exactly 60 days left (allowing a day off for Christmas). If you’re starting a bit later that’s ok – it’s better to start late than not at all.

#tmf 60 x 60 challenge
#tmf60x60

Recently (or more accurately for at least the whole of this year!) I have struggled to motivate myself into doing any regular exercise, other than daily walking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete couch-potato – fitness is my business after all so I am active most days. I think nothing of walking 20 miles at the weekends and I do feel relatively strong and fit-ish. Just not as strong and fit-ish as I used to/would like to feel…

In an attempt to motivate myself, I have set myself the goal of doing 60 reps of something every day for the last 60 days of the year #tmf60x60. I would really love it if you could join me and it doesn’t cost you anything other than your commitment!

I’ve called it a ‘challenge’ but more than challenging you [me] physically, I hope this inspires you [me] to get more active over the next 60 days, and that it helps you [me] to build good daily exercise habits to carry over into the next decade. If your [my] body feels fitter, leaner, stronger &/or more flexible by 31st December as a result that’s an added bonus!

You can choose whether you do the same reps of the same exercises every day or whether you mix and match according to your mood; you might do 10 reps each of 6 different exercises or you might do 60 reps of one exercise; you might do your reps all in one go or spread them out over the day – really you can make this whatever you want it to be but now is the time to commit!

if not now, then when

I tried it out this morning and it took me less than 5 minutes so that’s the ‘no time’ excuse knocked on the head. I’m planning to vary my 60 reps (easily bored!) and I will try to get them done before I start my day, but you can shape it to fit your lifestyle. If you have kids why not get them joining in to?

Click on the link below to read more and see some simple exercise suggestions from me. You can print this off to refer back to whenever you need ideas:

To help you keep on-track, click on the link to print off your daily check-sheet:

If you decide to join me in the challenge, please share some pictures of your home workouts using #tmf60x60 so that we can keep each other motivated; or email me so I know you’re in.

And please share this with everyone you know – the more the merrier!!

As always, let me know if you have any questions or need any help Jx

October home workouts

This month I’m sharing some simple home workouts with you to keep you moving in between classes.

The moves can each be adapted to suit your body and fit the equipment and time you have available to you. My goal is that anybody can do these workouts but of course, if you have any health concerns please check with your medical practitioner before under-taking any new exercise routine.

Week 1 – 1st October:

This one is super-simple –

  1. squat & shoulder press
  2. bent over row
  3. deadlift & upright row/front raise

Do as many reps & sets as you choose, vary the order if you like, substitute other exercises if you need to. Aim to do these moves every day of the week if you can!

I did 1 set of 10 reps each on the first day; on the next day I did two sets of 10 reps each; on the third day I literally didn’t have a moment when I wasn’t working or prepping for work; today is day four and I haven’t done it yet but I’m aiming for four sets when I do…it’s not perfect but it’s better than not trying at all.

Week 2 – 8th October:

This week it’s a really effective format borrowed from Metabolic Effect – an up-chain workout. The idea is to sequence together several exercises and then add an extra rep for one or two of the exercises each round. To make it even more effective, go with a dumb-bell weight that challenges you…

home workout

I chose the following exercises for this up-chain workout, but feel free to change them to suit you (those marked with the * are my up-chained moves):

  • squat
  • lunge & biceps curl
  • biceps curl and shoulder press*
  • bent over reverse flye
  • body builder/burpee*

Last week I aimed to do the workout every day, but work overtook me and I managed only three days out of seven. So far this week I’ve managed one, but there’s still time to fit in a few more. My mindset is that anything is better than nothing so I’m not going to be upset if I miss a few along the way…

Week 3 – 15th October:

This week I have chosen four Pilates-inspired floor-based exercises, with options to add equipment for extra ooomph… It’s a slightly longer video so that I could include more detail on each exercise. Once you have nailed each move, you can put them together as a floor-based core workout or add them onto the end of another workout.

Pilates-based floor workout with equipment options

Week 4 – 24th October

This week I’ve put together a simple upper body workout using dumb-bells. It’s six upper body exercises and then some optional squats to give your arms a rest ready for your next set!

As always, change any moves that don’t feel comfortable for you and vary the number of sets & repetitions to suit.

Please let me know how you get on & ask if you have any questions at all.

& don’t forget to send me a photo of you doing your workout for a chance to win #goldstaraward1

gold star awards

Jx

compound workout

A compound workout uses complex, or layered, moves to create powerful, effective exercises which can be adapted to suit you.

kettlebell triceps extension

In a nutshell, you will start with a basic movement (eg. a squat) and then layer in extra movements (eg. a calf raise and shoulder press) to increase the load on your body. By working-out in this way, you will increase your heart- & breathing-rate and add extra work to your muscles and bones, whilst decreasing the amount of time you need to exercise for. If you are time-poor, this style of workout is ideal for you!

The other great advantage of a compound workout is that because there are layers added-on, you can easily adapt it by taking away (or replacing) anything which doesn’t feel right for you, without having to miss out on a whole exercise.

For example, in the case of squat, calf raise & shoulder press:

  • if you had an issue with your shoulder, you could continue with squats & calf raises but leave out the shoulder press; or you could substitute a biceps curl in place of the shoulder press
  • if your feet were not comfortable with calf raises, you could do just a squat & shoulder press; or you could do a squat, shoulder press & triceps extension

The key to layering in movements is to find ones which flow together fairly easily so that the workout doesn’t feel awkward to do, but other than that, the only rule is to listen to your body and change anything that doesn’t feel right for you. And don’t feel that every exercise has to be a compound one – mix in a few simple exercises too for more variety.

I’ve put together a simple compound workout to get you started and I have filmed all the exercises, to go with the notes below, so that you can see how they look. You can find a pdf version here

Compound workout:

  1. squat, calf raise & shoulder press – start with your weights by your shoulders; sit into your squat to begin and then as you stand rise up onto the balls of your feet and press your weights towards the ceiling; bring your heels to the floor and lower the weights back to your starting position before starting on your next squat
  2. diamond push-up – this is a variation to target your triceps, but you can change to a wider push-up or a standard narrow push-up if you prefer; focus on your range of movement and adjust your position to allow a deep push-up
  3. alternate forward lunge and row – have your weights at your sides; step into a long, deep lunge, pressing your front heel on the floor with both knees bent; bring your chest to your thigh if you can before starting your row; the longer and lower you go into your lunge, the more energy you will use to come back to standing; reverse lunges are a little easier and are also kinder on sore knees so try those if you need to
  4. walk-out to stand – start as if you were about to perform a gymnastics floor routine; say ta-dah if it amuses you to do so; bend forward and walk your hands along the floor until you are in a full plank position; hold for 2-3 seconds; walk your hands back towards your feet, bend your knees & stand; ta-dah; repeat (NB if your body doesn’t like the motion of going up and down in this way, either come down to the floor and stay in a plank position for the whole time or miss this move out altogether)
  5. repeater reverse lunge to knee lift & hold (x each leg) – I love single leg work because it really loads the big muscles in your standing leg; go as slow as you can on this for extra core-control and as a contrast to the next exercise which will ideally be fast & light; step back into your lunge position; as you come back to standing bring the knee up to hip height; try to step straight into your next lunge without tapping your foot back to the floor; add a tap down in between if you are feeling unstable
  6. knee/tap repeater (x each leg) – this is a sped-up version of the move above, without the lunge; you will need to lean slightly forward to keep your weight on your standing leg; try not to transfer your weight back into the tap; go as fast as you can without losing control
  7. upright row and front raise – in the upright row make sure your elbows lift higher than your hands; in the front raise maintain a neutral posture through your torso – ie. no arching in your lower back and no flaring of your ribs

Watch me doing all of the moves in the video here:

I added some afterthoughts on push-ups here:

As always:

  • spend some time mobilising and warming-up your body before you begin your workout
  • pay attention to your body and change anything which does not feel useful for you
  • either use a timer for each exercise or count repetitions – whichever you prefer

Please ask if you have any questions at all

Jx

(this workout is  aimed at regular tmf clients but it is generally suitable for everyone; however, if you are new to exercise, recently post-natal,  or have any health concerns please seek medical advice or professional guidance before embarking on a new exercise routine)