Maximize your strength training routine by cutting out these time wasters.Read article
Changes. David Bowie sang about them. So did Tupac, Sheryl Crow and Tracy Chapman, to name a few others. And for good reason. Because when it’s all said and done, being able to adapt and change is part of life — it’s what helps us grow as individuals.
The same can be said for working out. We all know that as your body grows accustomed to a particular routine, your progress tends to plateau. You have to switch things up to keep your body guessing and responding.
Eight-time Fitness Olympia champ Adela Garcia knows that from experience. At one time, she was searching for a way to build a more streamlined physique without sacrificing the strength component so integral to her fitness routines. Eventually she decided to overhaul her chest-training routine.
I got to the point where I just felt I was getting too muscular,” says Adela, who competed in her first fitness contest in 1994. “So I decided to change my whole routine. For females, we don’t really need to build a huge chest for fitness competitions. But at the same time, we still need to train because part of the routine is upper-body strength.”
With that in mind, she decided to include more supersets — two or more exercises performed back to back with no rest in between — and more plyometrics (bodyweight-resistance exercises designed to help with explosive, athletic movements) in her workouts. The result was a leaner, more defined physique, which she achieved without forfeiting any of the much-needed strength crucial to performing her fitness routines.
“There was a time when I wouldn’t [lift] a dumbbell overhead, I’d just do a plyometric workout,” Adela admits. “Now, close to the show I incorporate at least 2–3 exercises for my chest and combine them with upper-body plyometrics. This is important because I don’t have any type of gymnastics background, so I have to incorporate more strength moves in my routine rather than flipping around the stage. It’s like basketball players who have to work on their vertical jump.”
Adding supersets to her routine also enabled Adela to cut down on the amount of time she spends in the gym. Now, she’s in and out in about 20 minutes. Typically, she does four exercises during chest workouts, splitting those into two supersets. The plyometric exercises may be difficult (see “Build Your Firepower” on page 3), but by following Adela’s guidelines with time, patience and perseverance, you’ll experience changes in your strength, fitness and physique, too.
TRAVELING PUSH-UP ON BOSU BALL
Start: Start as you would for a regular push-up, but place your left hand on the floor, your right hand atop the BOSU ball.
Movement: Slowly lower yourself toward the floor, then on the way up, push off with both hands to move your body over the BOSU. Land with your right hand on the floor and your left hand on the BOSU. Repeat to the other side.
Adela says: “This requires more balance. You have to be stable and make sure your hand is stable on the ball. This uses every single muscle and burns more calories.”
Training Tip: “Depending on someone’s upper-body strength, if she’s okay doing push-ups on her knees on the floor, then she can do a couple on the BOSU ball. For someone who has never done a routine like this, it would take about a month to be able to do, depending on how consistent she is.”
INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS
Start: Set an incline bench to about a 35-degree angle, grasp a dumbbell in each hand, place them on your thighs and lie back on the bench, feet firmly on the floor. Raise the dumbbells to the sides of your chest.
Movement: With your upper arms parallel to the floor and your fists pointed toward the ceiling, slowly press the weights upward without letting them touch at the top. Pause and squeeze, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the start position. Repeat.
Adela says: “Make sure to keep your lower back and abs tight. Keep the dumbbells in line with your elbows. When you press the weights up, they shouldn’t go over your head or your nose. Keep them in your line of sight.”
PLATFORM POP PUSH-UP
Start: Get in a push-up stance, placing your hands on either side of a 6-inch-high platform.
Movement 1: Push through the palms of your hands and explode upward, lifting them off the floor; keep your toes planted to start. Move your hands close together in front of your chest and allow them to fall on top the platform.
Movement 2: Next, push explosively off the platform and return your hands to the starting position on either side of the platform. Repeat.
Adela says: “Again, make sure your abdominal muscles are nice and tight. Be careful the step isn’t too high or you won’t be able to perform the movement. When you land (on your hands), don’t let your body or tummy bounce and don’t bend your back. You can lift your feet and move your legs apart like I do — that’s how I prep for the push-ups I do in my routine — or keep them together.”
FLAT BENCH DUMBBELL PRESS
Start: With a dumbbell in each hand, lie faceup on a flat bench with your feet firmly on the floor. Press your head into the bench and raise the dumbbells to the sides of your chest. Bend your elbows so your fists point to the ceiling and your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
Movement: Slowly press the dumbbells upward without letting them touch at the top. Pause and squeeze, then slowly lower the weights back to the start position. Repeat.
Adela says: “When you bring the weights back down, keep your upper arms aligned with your shoulders. You’ll probably be a little tired now, so focus on using proper form.”
BUILD YOUR FIREPOWER
Use these progressions to ignite your push-ups
>> If you’ve never included supersets in your workouts before, you may want to wade into this routine instead of jumping in headfirst. Start slow by decreasing the degree of difficulty on the two plyometric exercises, the pop push-up and the traveling push-up on the BOSU ball. Since both exercises are advanced, we’ll give you a starting point and two progressions to help you tailor this workout to your fitness level. As you become more experienced and feel more comfortable increasing the difficulty of the workout, move on to the next.
Start Here: Perform both push-up exercises on your knees, with no platform or ball. This will help you get accustomed to supersetting your exercises while reducing the exercise difficulty. If you can perform all the required sets and repetitions for the workout — in this case, 15 for each — you’re ready to move on.
Progression 1: Perform the push-ups with legs extended behind you (aka military style). This increases the difficulty level significantly from performing push-ups on your knees.
Progression 2: Add the explosive movement to the workout by incorporating both the platform and the BOSU ball into the push-up exercises, but go back to doing them on your knees. This helps you get used to the amount of explosive power you’ll need to complete the plyometric movements without biting off more than you can chew. Once you master these, take on Adela’s routine.