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Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Rules of Creating Your Own Workout Circuits

So I had another session with my awesome personal trainer Steve (InterSEPT Fitness) yesterday and I didn't learn any new exercises this week, but I did learn how to put them together.

The Rules of Creating Your Own Workout Circuits

One of the really great things about Steve is he doesn't just give me exercises to do and let me get on with them, he explains what each is for and which muscles are in use etc. As he puts it, just doing the same routine over and over again can become really boring and get in the way of motivation.

This week he started to teach me how to properly create my own circuits so I can use everything he has taught me to exercise to my full potential. So far he has been teaching me lots and lots of exercises and I've been mostly following how we did them during my sessions when I worked on my own. Now I know how to put them together myself ... kinda :).

There are two simple rules:
  1. Work from the large muscles to the smaller ones.
  2. Keep in mind which supporting muscles are being used as well as the main ones you are exercising and don't do exercises to wear them out first.
These rules are very straightforward and are there to make sure you do not tire out the muscles you want to use in the next exercise so much that you can't do your reps.

Steve didn't tell me the rules to begin with and asked me to come up with a circuit of five exercises, after which he told me where I went right and where I went wrong. After the first set, which I got mostly right, purely by accident ;) he gave me the rules and then we worked on coming up with circuits for different parts of my body where he would let me come up with the ideas, trying to use the rules and he would correct me, or alter the choices slightly, before I did them.

Here are some examples of how to implement to rules.

In my leg routine I picked some exercises for my glutes (see below for list of exercises to choose from) and sits to stands for my quads (these are a kind of squat, but using a chair because I can't do a regular squat without ending up on my bottom as I over balance). Now the glutes and quads are both pretty powerful muscles and the trick to deciding which order to do them in is the second rule - the supporting muscles.

Sits to stands use the quads most, but they use the glutes as supporting muscles. If I were to do the glutes exercises first this would tire those muscles out and make the sits to stands much more difficult. Hence do the sits to stands first.

Another example, upper body this time, shoulder presses (dumbbells lifted up directly above shoulders) and triceps kickbacks. In this case the triceps are supporting muscles for the shoulder presses and if you tire them out doing the kickbacks first you're going to be in trouble trying to do the presses themselves. Hence do the shoulder presses then do the kickbacks.

It all makes perfect sense if you think about it, but I wouldn't even know what muscles the various exercises are working if Steve hadn't given me a good grounding in what each is doing in the first place. It's when trying to come up with your own workouts that all this information is important.

A good idea of how the supporting muscles come into play was part of a routine Steve gave me to try out. It involved doing 10 bench presses, then sitting up and doing 10 shoulder presses, then repeating another two times. The bench presses work your chest muscles and the shoulder presses work your shoulder muscles, but after doing the combo my uppers arms hurt the most. This is because my upper arm muscles were the supporting muscles for both sets of reps.

We did circuits for upper body, lower body and whole body and core. The thing you also have to remember is that you'll be using your core no matter what else you are doing, so never start with a core workout and move on to something else or you'll find you've made it very, very hard for yourself :).

We did a core circuit last and boy was it hard, because when concentrating on core you never really let up on any set of muscles, you just use one set a bit more than others. Hence a round of core, especially after 45mins of the rest of the workout takes some stamina. I fell in a heap when doing Russian twists because my core just went, nope and I had to regroup and try again :).

Glutes routine mentioned above:
  • 5 toe taps (leg straight out the back so your toe is resting on the ground, lift up the leg, without twisting your body, then lower back and tap the ground - this is one rep)
  • 5 kick backs (leg bent at the knee, bring it up to the chest and kick backwards, straightening the leg, without twisting your body, then bring it back in)
  • 5 leg cocks (this looks just like a dog cocking it's leg, bend your leg at the knee then lift it up to the side as if you are looking for a lampost before bringing it back down again ;))
  • 5 side kickbacks (bring your leg up to the side like the previous exercise, then push it back until it is straight before bringing it back to the original position - this one is the hardest)
  • repeat for second leg

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