WORKOUTS I'M LOVING.

While everyone is focused on those abs, this summer I'm 100% focused on "dat ass," as the cool kids would say.  

I've always carried the majority of my weight/muscle in my lower body and I've never been more grateful for that fact than I am today! My whole life I've been referred to as "thick," to which I used to roll my eyes at because I was beyond self-conscious about it and hated when people pointed it out. However, as with a ton of other things that I used to be self-conscious about, age has certainly opened my eyes to what it means to be accepting of what the good Lord gave me. So here I am, at 26 years-old, loving what I see as I peak behind myself in any mirror or window I pass. 

Anyway, ready to embrace and accentuate my "thickness," a few months ago, I sat down with a friend of mine, Brock Brady, who's a CrossFit athlete, fellow Coach and Programmer at BRICK New York and an all around amazing friend. Still learning what movements were best for my body, I spoke to him about my goals of toning and strengthening. He created a program for me that he adjusts on a monthly basis that focuses on two things: Posterior Development and Overhead Pressing.

While the Overhead Pressing has proven to be a pretty big challenge, the one thing that I've been crushing is my Posterior Development aka, GROWING AND SHAPING THAT ASS. I wanted to take a moment and share with you a few of the exercises that we've focused on over the past two months in hopes that it provides a bit of insight into why you should incorporate these moves into your workouts. 

1. BACK SQUATS

You'd be surprised if you stopped and thought about the amount of times in a day you're already incorporating a back squat into your movements. For example, every single time I go to grab something from under my kitchen sink, grab something from the bottom shelf of my local Trader Joe's, etc., I'm squatting. In CrossFit we call this a "functional movements." Basically think of any movement you use in everyday life, *hint, I just gave a few above. These movements are natural to us. Squats are also considered to be "compound movements," in that they recruit multiple joint function in order to be performed. For example, a squat incorporates your knees, your ankles, your back...you get the picture. But by recruiting multiple joints and muscles you're also burning more calories. Lastly and why I love me a good squat cycle in particular, is this movement is POWERFUL and quite frankly makes me feel like a boss, rep by rep. 

Now that you know WHY you should be incorporating back squats into your routine, you're probably wondering, "how many should I be doing?" Well for me and what I've learned now for working with Brock and my work at BRICK New York over the past year is, heavier weights and lower rep counts build strength, power and definition. As females, how long have we lived under the notion of lighter weights and more reps being the "proper way" of lifting weights? I know I assumed this for MANY years and the thing is, it did work for a period of time. However, it wasn't until I started lifting heavy at lower rep counts that I really started to see my muscles pop. Now I may not have abs 24 hours a day BUT I do take pride in the muscle definition throughout my legs and especially my arms SO, I must be doing something right.

2. Deadlift

Similar to the Back Squat, a Deadlift is a functional, compound and high power movement. Every time you bend over to pick something off the ground without your glutes coming below your knees, you're deadlifting. Do you know how many times in college I was, bending over to the front and touching my toes? Now I know that I was just prepping myself for all of the deadlifts in my future. 

With a deadlift, you're not only targeting those glutes and hamstrings, you're also now recruiting those back muscles. Though strong back muscles are what most guys dream of ladies, you should too! A strong, toned back improves our posture by opening that chest up, gives us the ability to cary large loads and IMO looks absolutely beautiful in summer tank tops. 

Same rule applies here in terms of weight and reps, heavy weight, low reps. Wondering what you should deem as "heavy?" Start by determining your 1 rep max (1RM). Which is exactly what it sounds like: the heaviest weight that you can pull (in a deadlift) or squat. Once you determine that 1MR, it's time to start building up to that weight, therefore take a percentage of that weight (I'd recommend starting at 75%) and begin with 5-6 reps 2-3 times a week! MAKE SURE YOU'RE RESTING IN BETWEEN SETS. 

3. Conditioning

Ugh, conditioning. I have such a love hate relationship with it. I love it because it's one of those skills that you're never a master at and you can always improve upon but I hate it becomes no-one likes to eat a serving of humble pie.  Brock LOVES him a nice long conditioning day though, so putting my trust in his hands, I happily oblige and spend 25-30 minutes a week doing solely conditioning work. What does that look like for me? He'll typically incorporate all of the equipment that we have at BRICK New York, so the Airdyne Bike, the TrueForm Runner, The Erg and The Ski Erg (which is a skill that I've only just now started working on). He'll also occasionally mix in movements such as kettlebell swings, burpees and planks, etc. 

I've learned that the key to any conditioning workout plan is to keep it varied. At least for me, variation first and foremost, keeps my body guessing but often time the more important aspect of varying my conditioning workouts is that it keeps me from getting bored.  

4. Boxing

Squats, Deadlifts, and Conditioning with a mixture of accessory movement workouts (think core work, bicep/tricep work etc.) typically make up three of the six days that I'm working out in the gym. The other three days I've spent the last few months taking classes at Rumble-Boxing, which I also happen to work at! 

The way Rumble works is you spend 45 minutes working through 10 rounds. You'll spend five rounds on the bag side working through numerous combos and 5 rounds on the floor working through strength and conditioning movements; think plyometrics, core and dumbbell work. Basically prepare yourself to sweat it out from the warm-up through to the very last round. 

Boxing for me is what I assume most people go to yoga for. The feeling that I get after hitting the crap out of that bag for 5 solid rounds not only provides me with an insane amount of stress relief BUT it also makes me feel like the baddest bitch and I wouldn't change that feeling for the world. 

There y'all have it! I've been on this workout routine for the last two months and have seen drastic improvements in my overall strength, power and performance as well as body composition! to summarize i have three key pieces of advice:

1. Find variability in your workouts while also still staying consistent. I am a firm believer in consistency being key BUT our bodies are very smart so when you find yourself doing the same workouts all the time, you won't see progress

2. LIFT HEAVY. Ladies, I'm telling you right now, lifting heavy will NOT make you look like the a body builder. First of all, it takes very long and strict training to even look like that. Lifting at low repetitions really promote the break down of your muscles. When muscles break down, they grow back stronger. So if you want those toned quads or biceps...start breaking down those muscles. 

3. Be mindful of what you're putting in your body. Though this post wasn't about diet, I can't ignore the fact that over the last few months I've seen improvements in my body due to cleaning up my diet. I know y'all have heard it before, abs are formed in the gym but revealed from what you make in the kitchen!

Now, get to work! 

-xx

Sha