Is Your Cardio Really Working?

Is Your Cardio Really Working?

Have you ever noticed the “heart rate” area of a treadmill or elliptical and wondered what that was for exactly, or why it matters? Or do you think it’s just for old people or people with health conditions? Well it’s not, and knowing your target heart rate could be your ticket to doing some serious fat-burning!

There are actually two target heart rates to consider. The first is your fat-burning zone. It’s right above the “warm-up” level, and below the heart-pounding cardio level. Depending on your age and fitness level, you can be at the fat-burning heart rate while walking briskly or lightly jogging. At this pace, your body uses its stored fat for energy.

The second is your cardio zone. At this level your body uses both fat and muscle as energy, so this will definitely slim you down if you think you look too bulky. Just be careful, because doing a lot of “cardio zone” cardio can make you appear flabby and melt away hard-earned muscle.

To calculate your target fat-burning zone heart rate, follow this formula:

220 – {your age} x .6 = fat burning zone

To calculate cardio zone:

220 – {your age} x .85 = cardio zone

Knowing your target heart rate allows you to make sure every cardio session does exactly what you want it to do. Personally, I like to do 5 minutes of fat-burning, then 5 minutes of cardio, and repeat for about half an hour. Play around with different ways to get your heart rate at the proper level, use different cardio machines, and see what works best for you!

 

 

 

 

Fat-Burning Treadmill Workout

cardio2

This is my favorite treadmill workout because it’s HIIT, and it has enough variety for time to pass quickly. I usually this for 30-40 minutes.

  1. Warmup — Walking 3 minutes. Speed: 3.5
  2. Side shuffles right. 45 seconds. Speed 3.0. (Start at 2.5 just to get the hang of it, and increase as much as you are comfortable with. Keep knees bent and arms in front of you when shuffling.)
  3. Side shuffles left. 45 seconds. Speed 3.0.
  4. Sprint. 30 seconds. Speed 8.0.
  5. Walk. 1 minute. Speed 3.2.

Repeat (excluding the warmup) until 30 minutes is up.

The treadmill speeds that are listed here are close to what I do. If it seems too hard or too easy for you, simply adjust as needed! Remember to keep pushing yourself each time. Try sprinting a few seconds longer than you did last time, or increase the speed a little every time ūüôā

Shoulders and Back

shoulders and back

A lot of girls (me included, at one time) don’t think they need to develop their shoulders and back because they don’t want to look manly. But trust me, a well-toned back is one of the sexiest body parts you can have! This workout will help build narrow shoulders, help get rid of “armpit fat,” love handles, and back fat. Yeah, none of that is attractive. And the benefit to having muscular shoulders is that it makes your body more proportioned and narrows your waist, giving you more of that desired V-shape.

Circuit 1: Shoulders

1. Heavy alternating dumbbell shoulder press

shoulder press (Use the heaviest weight you can for these, if you want to build some shoulder muscle and definition. If you only want to tone, use light weight. Heavy weight= a weight where your max reps is 6-10. Light weight max reps should be 15-20. I like to do these seated on a bench, especially when using heavy weight.)

2. Front raise (20)

front raise (Use a light weight)

3. Incline bench lateral raise (15)

incline bench (Use a light weight. The reason for doing it on the incline bench is to keep constant tension on the shoulder to make the exercise more effective.)

4. Rear delt flys (light weight, 15)

You can either use dumbbells while bent at the waist as in this picture:

rear delt fly

Or you can use a rear delt machine:

rear delt machine

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat for 3x total.

Circuit 2: Back

1. Chin ups (on assisted machine if necessary) (15)

assisted chin up

2. Lat pulldown (15)

lat pulldown (use a medium-wide grip as shown)

3. Bent over row (barbell or dumbbell) (15)

bent over row (Be sure to use the underhand grip as shown. This recruits your lower lats, which gives your waist a more tapered look!)

4. Seated row (15)

seated row (Be sure to keep your back straight and chest out. Feel free to use this, or any seated row machine that your gym has).

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat for 3x total.

Circuit 3: Cardio

I purposely left out an abs session today so that they can recover, and so that you have plenty of energy for a good cardio sesh! Sometimes I like to do my cardio first, sometimes I feel like doing it after, so the order is up to you. Just make sure you get a solid 20-30 minutes of HIIT or 40 minutes of steady-pace.

Click here for my absolute favorite treadmill workout that doubles for a leg-slimmer too!

Bikini Butt Workout

Brazilian Butt Workout

Circuit 1: Warmup/Abs

  1. Overhead dumbbell or cable side bend (low weight) (20 each side)

side bend (If using a cable, hold the handle above your head and bend sideways, using your obliques)

2. Cable crunches (30)

cable crunch

3. Lying heel touch (20 each side)

heel touch

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat 3x total.

Circuit 2:

1. Wide stance sumo squat (15)

Variation 1: With barbell:

wide stance

Or Variation 2: With kettleball or dumbbell (heavier weight):

wide stance2

2. Single leg deadlift (15 each side) (10-15lb dumbbells)

single leg deadlift

3. Weighted split squats (15 each side) (Use a Smith machine for better balance. Make sure your front leg and glute muscle are the only ones working.)

split squat2

4. Jumping jacks (100).

jumping-jacks1

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat 3x total.

Circuit 3:

  1. Step up + leg lift (15 each side. Use 10-15 lb dumbbells or a 20 lb barbell if you can. Unlike the picture, make sure you lift that back leg parallel to the floor.)

step up leg lift

2. Lying hamstring curl (12. Use the heaviest weight you can do 12 of.)

legcurl legcurl2

Or if you don’t have that machine, hamstring stability ball curls are also good! (Do 20)

lying ball

3. Hip extension with weight in knee (20 each side)

donkey kick

Follow the picture above, but hold 5lb dumbbell behind knee as shown below:

donkey kick weight

4. Squat jumps (40)

(You can use your arms for momentum, or keep them wherever feels comfortable for you. Aim to get really low and achieve maximum air for these!)

squat jumps

Rest 45 seconds. Repeat 3x total.

Cool down! Make sure you stretch and walk those muscles out so you’re not too sore the next day.

Great job! This is one of the days that I recommend a pre-workout, or some coffee beforehand, along with a solid meal of carbs and proteins an hour before the workout.

Tips:

When I first started doing a program that involved not using machines 100% of the time, I felt kind of awkward at the gym, and sometimes I would skip exercises that I felt would be too weird to do with everyone there. DON’T DO THAT. As soon as I got the guts to just do it and ignore everyone else, I noticed much better results in my fitness level, as well as more confidence in the gym! People at the gym come up to me all the time now and say I look like I really know what I’m doing, or they ask for suggestions for new exercises that they can do too. Usually the weird, conspicuous exercises are the ones that work the best! So don’t be afraid to make a little corner of the gym yours, put everything you need for one circuit there, and just do your thing.

Cardio And Abs Workout

cardio and abs

Circuit 1: (Repeat circuit 3x total)

  1. Lying Hip Lifts (20) (Use lower abs to lift hips)

hip lift

2. Stability Ball V-Up (15) (Use lower abs to raise legs)

v up

3. Stability Ball Crunches (20) (Be sure to get full back extension in “A”)

crunches

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 2: (Repeat circuit 3x total)

1. Side Plank With Dip (20 each side) (Feel the burn in your obliques)

side plank

2. Side Plank With Rotation (add dumbbell when ready) (12 each side) (Use abs to twist)

side-plank-rotation.preview

3. Reverse Crunches (20) (Use lower abs to pull up legs and lift hips)

reverse crunch

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 3: Cardio!

Feel free to choose the type of cardio you want to do, but don’t do the same type of cardio every time you workout. (i.e. using the same machine, the same level, the same intensity, etc). Here are my favorite cardio workouts:

  1. 20 minutes of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on the elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike. HIIT means you set the controls to “Interval.” When the level is difficult you sprint, and when it’s easy you go slowly and rest. Your “sprint” or “work” interval should last between 15 and 30 seconds, but you should not be able to do it longer than that. If you can, it’s too easy and you need to make the level harder. Try my favorite treadmill HIIT workout for some good ideas.
  2. 20 minutes of HIIT on the step master. Watch this video to see how that is done the best! I would only recommend using the step master once or twice a week.
  3. 40 minutes of steady pace cardio on the elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike.
  4. 30 minutes of steady pace cardio on the step master.

I am a HUGE believer in HIIT because it burns twice the fat in half the time. How is that not the best thing ever? I never really saw great results in my fitness level when I only did steady pace cardio, so if you’re looking for the next step to torch that fat, you’ve found it! I can do three sessions of HIIT on the step master one week and see a full on six-pack by the end. It’s amazing, let me tell you.

So there you go! Make sure you’re really going slowly through your abs exercises so you recruit those abs, and try not to half-ass them by the end. Speed is NOT essential to making those exercises work!

Good luck with the workout, and let’s burn some calories!

Arms and Chest Circuit

toned arms and chest

Circuit 1 – Abs Warmup: (Repeat circuit 3x total)

  1. V-up with toe touch (add dumbbells when ready) (15)

v-up

2. Stability ball plank (hold for 30 seconds to a minute)

stability-ball-plank

3.  Russian twists (30 total)

RussianTwist

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 2 – Chest: (Repeat circuit 3x total, without pausing between each exercise)

  1. Dumbbell pec fly on incline bench (15)

pec fly

2.   Dumbbell chest press on incline bench (15)

chest press

3.   Pushups (to failure)

Rest 45 seconds.

Circuit 3 – Arms: (Repeat circuit 3x total, without pausing between each exercise)

  1. Walking lunges with dumbbell bicep curls (30 total)

walking lunges

2.    Reverse lunge with hammer curl (30 total)

reverse lunge (Be sure to step backwards, instead of forwards like you did in the previous exercise, and, unlike the picture, keep palms facing each other when you curl up.)

3.     Tricep pulldown (20)

tricep pulldown

4.    Tricep dip (using assisted dip/pullup machine, or from a bench) (20)

tricep dip

[Read How To Do a Tricep Dip here for hints and tricks!]

Rest 45 seconds.

That’s it! Now realistically, if you must rest between each exercise, do so because I don’t want you to pass out or not be able to finish the workout, especially if you haven’t previously worked out your upper body very much. My recommendation is to use lighter weights if you want to simply tone and define your arms. If you’re trying to get some size, use heavier weight. And by “light weight,” I mean whatever is really heavy by reps 15-20. “Heavy weight” should be very difficult by rep 6 or so.

If you need to get some cardio in, I would suggest to do it today (chest and arms day), on shoulders and back day, and of course the cardio and abs day. That way you’re not missing cardio sessions, and you don’t have to do them on a leg or butt day (trust me, you don’t be able to). I like to start my workout with either a 20-minute HIIT session, or a 40-minute low-intensity session, like jogging, cycling, or uphill walking (rotate HIIT and low-intensity back and forth day to day).

Spring Break Workout Plan

Spring Break Workout Plan

It’s starting to show up everywhere. In Target with the huge bikini display, the mall with all the workout clothes, and definitely Pinterest with everyone’s “get into shape” boards, showcasing motivational toned abs and a perky butt. Oh yeah, and at the gym! Did you even know that many people have a membership to your gym?? Welp, you guessed it… IT’S SPRING BREAK SEASON!!!!

And unless you’re a crazy gym-goer and have eaten nothing bad for you at all since the holidays, you might be getting a little panicky about how to lose those last few pounds and get that toned muscle that you know is hiding somewhere beneath your winter layer. Instead of frantically scouring the Internet for quick-working fad diets that you know you’ll give up by this weekend, keep calm and read on :). I’ve got you taken care of.

I’m going to share with you my meal plans and workouts that have helped me make more progress over the past 2 months than I’ve ever had, ever. We’ll be doing these together since my spring break vacay starts EXACTLY one month from today, and we can record our progress together!

The Way It Works

You’ll be following a basic 5-day program that you repeat every week until your deadline. Since our bodies quickly adapt to any workout, you can modify the workouts to get some variety week to week, and I’ll post my modifications so we can all be on the same page.

Workouts

Here is the 5-day plan to be repeated (with modification) week to week:

I will post the exercise circuits and modification ideas for each day on a separate post and link them back to that list.

Diet

The best way to lose weight, burn fat, and tone up is to have a diet high in lean protein and healthy fats, and low in carbohydrates. You should only be eating carbohydrates at breakfast, if you want, and after a workout. Vegetables are free-for-all and should be consumed at every meal! Fruit is ok, but stick to the ones lowest in sugar and high in antioxidants, like grapefruit, and berries.

Proteins:

  • ground turkey
  • extra lean ground beef
  • chicken
  • fish
  • salmon
  • egg whites

Fats:

  • almonds
  • mixed nuts
  • avocado
  • natural almond butter
  • natural peanut butter (I don’t recommend a lot of peanut butter though)
  • fish oil
  • egg yolks

Healthy Carbohydrates: (slow-digesting as opposed to quick-digesting)

  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • sweet potatoes
  • oatmeal

Try to eat at least 4 small meals a day, so your metabolism increases and you burn through calories quicker. To help you out, here is my basic meal plan for a typical day:

  • First I have a detoxifying smoothie with spinach or kale, cucumbers, peppers, celery, lemon juice, and half a banana. You can find more recipes for delicious ones here!
  • Breakfast: Ground beef and eggs, oatmeal if you want (fats in the morning keep your energy levels up all day!)
  • Lunch: Spinach salad with grilled chicken, veggies, and a vinaigrette dressing
  • 2nd Lunch (?) or Post-Workout Meal: Ground turkey with eggs, brown rice, steamed broccoli + mixed nuts
  • Dinner: White fish or chicken, steamed mixed veggies
  • Snack: Mixed nuts, berries, raw veggies

Other, more exciting recipes to choose from are here!

Notice that the amount of calories tapers by the end of the day, so that when you go to sleep you don’t pack on pounds by unused calories consumed too late in the day. Make sure you avoid at all costs all fast food, processed foods, sugary foods AND DRINKS (yup that means Starbucks frappuccinos are out!), especially towards the end of the day. For best results, I would also recommend cutting out most dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Tips

I don’t know why, but by bedtime my self-discipline always dwindles, and I’m very prone to breaking my rules and having ice cream at night. That’s why I make a point to drink a lot of water towards the end of the day to stay full, have some of my favorite flavored tea to sip when I have a sweet tooth (honey isn’t too bad), and go to bed as soon as I start getting tired so I avoid staying up and eating.

I can’t wait to go on this journey with you guys! It’s going to be a hard road sometimes, but when you can post those pictures on Instagram and Twitter of you looking hot next to all your friends in a bikini, you’ll be SO GLAD you did this!

Good luck and let’s get started!

Read about the Top 5 Mistakes Women Make In the Gym , 10 Fat-Loss Tips for Women, and check out the Workouts page for more exercise ideas!

My Top 10 Thigh-Slimming Exercises

glutes hamstrings quads exercises

One of the biggest things I’ve learned the past few months is the importance of incorporating plyometric movements into your leg workouts. These consist of all the different exercises you can do with your body weight that will get your heart rate up quickly. Plyometrics burn fat faster and build lean muscle more efficiently than weight-lifting alone, especially if you’re looking to “slim” and “tone” rather than “bulk.”

So here are my top 10 favorite, tried-and-true, and proven thigh-slimming exercises! You can use these as a circuit. Do each set one after another without a break, then pause for 30 seconds, and repeat the circuit 2 more times.

1. Curtsy lunge (15 ea. leg) (skip to 1:16 for demonstration)

curtsy lunge

2. Box frog jumps (10) (skip to 0:25 for demonstration)

box-jump

3. Bodyweight squat, feet together (20)

bodyweight squat

4. Russian hops (15 ea leg) (skip to 2:18 for demonstration)

split-jumps (Keep hands in front of you if that’s more comfortable. Hold the lunge position for one second before switching.)

5. Lateral side lunge (15 ea leg) (skip to 0:27 for demonstration)

lateral lunge

6. Jumping jacks (50)

jumping-jacks2

7. Weighted step-ups onto bench (15 ea leg) (Use a light barbell or dumbbells)

step upsstep ups barbell

8. In and out low jacks (20) (skip to 0:12 for demonstration)

low jacks

9. Reverse lunges (15 ea leg)

reverse lunge2

10. Squat jumps (20)

squat jumps

Note: Click on the exercises that are underlined for a video demo of the exercise.

Notice how every other exercise is a plyometric movement? This will help you burn a ton of calories and get the most out of your workout! Try to get through each circuit without pausing, but if you must at first that’s ok. The important thing is to get it all done!

Good luck! Let me know in the comments how this worked for you ūüôā

Be sure to check out my other workout tips and some more great glute, hamstring, and quad workouts!

How To Get The Perfect Butt

squats lunges jumping jacks

Getting the perfect butt isn’t about just doing squats. To get that full roundness you’re looking for, you have to take into consideration the three different muscles that make up your butt. This diagram describes how each muscle works and what exercise to do to activate them. My suggestion is to take the basic idea, and make your workout plan incorporate different types of the same exercise for each category so you can experience full benefits of your workout. For example, to activate your gluteus minimus, the diagram recommends squats. You can include sumo squats, wide stance squats, narrow stance squats, split squats, etc. To get the gluteus medius going, you can add jump squats, jumping split squats (or Russian hops), box jumps, or jumping rope. Different ideas for lunges include reverse lunges, curtsy lunges, and lunge hops. Check out different glutes and hamstring workouts here to get more ideas!

3 Exercises To Perk Up Your Boobs

chest exercises

I have seen so many girls focus so much on getting a nice butt and legs that they forget about their upper body. Don’t be one of those girls. An essential part of beauty is proportion, and to have an amazing lower half with only a decent top half is a shame. Most women don’t need to do a LOT of muscle building in their upper body, but a little definitely goes a long way.

One of the places most neglected by women when workout out is their chest. Doing chest exercises is something I definitely recommend, whether you think your boobs are too big, too small, or just “fine.” If you are trying to tighten up your chest area, these exercises are just what you need. They will burn extra fat, make your boobies perky and firmer, and give you the kind of lift that some people pay a plastic surgeon to do. You don’t need to use very heavy weight for these exercises if you only want to tone. Say you’re like me, and would like to build your chest more (maybe because you don’t have very big “twins”), lift heavier weights with sets of 6-8 to really get some definition. These exercises work your pectoral muscles that sit beneath your boobs, so when they are toned, they lift whatever is sitting on top.

These are very basic exercises that I personally use because they WORK.

  1. ¬†Pushups. Yay!! Everyone loves pushups! (Not) If you can’t do a pushup on your own, start with your knees on the ground and aim for 3 sets of 10. These work wonders to your chest muscles, so DO THEM. You will be happy when you see the results.
  2. Chest press. You can use the chest press machine if your gym has one, and if it doesn’t or if you work out at home, use 5-15lb dumbbells. Simply lie on your back on the floor or on a bench, hold the dumbbells close to your body above your upper chest with fingers facing away from you, and press up. Repeat.
  3. Chest fly. Same for this exercise, use the chest fly machine if your gym has it, otherwise lie on a stability ball, a bench, or the floor and use 5-10lb dumbbells. Start with your arms straight above you and perpendicular to the floor, lower them to each side to form a T, then raise them back up to the starting position.

As you become comfortable with these exercises, start doing them from different angles. The chest press should be done on an incline bench, a decline bench, and also a flat bench to get all the benefits of the exercise. The chest fly can be done with any of these angles as well, and you will get a better workout if you use them all.

You can pair these three chest exercises with arms, back, or shoulders (although I do chest and arms together) or with a HIIT workout.

Good luck!

If you liked these exercises, go check out A Great Shoulders Circuit For Women, as well as an awesome Lower Body Circuit for your next leg day!