December Fitness Bingo | Strength workouts

December fitness challenge; strength workouts

We are in full swing for the #FitnessBingo challenge! My board is starting to fill up and so far I’m really enjoying the workouts.

Of course, I had to include some heavy strength workouts. I originally had three max lifts on various squares, but my husband said that if someone was new to weightlifting that may not be a good test for them. I guess he has a point…

But that doesn’t mean heavy weights aren’t on the board.

Why Strength?

I’ve detailed the benefits of strength training and lifting heavy in past blog posts. In short, lifting heavy builds muscles, helps with bone density, and improves your central nervous system. It also can help prevent injury and make you look mighty fine in that bikini or birthday suit.

Most lifters adhere to a regimented weightlifting program. Personally, I lift three or four times a week (depending on how cooperative my kiddos are).

As an intermediate lifter, I like to do three sets of 4-6 reps, increasing in weight from week to week. Once I get to a weight where I cannot complete 4-6 reps, I back way off the weight at the next lifting session and start again, this time with more reps until I begin to reach that plateau once more.

It’s arduous. It’s tedious. And it can get boring. But the progress and feeling of being super strong is addictive and keeps me psyched.

A note on training: A lot of traditional lifters like to break up their sessions into lower body and upper body. Not me.

With two little kids to chase after and unpredictable nap and sleep schedules, I like to hit legs and arms at every workout session. That way, if I need to skip a workout to tend to a crabby kiddo I won’t go an entire week without hitting a large muscle group. It’s a personal preference and works for me.

And you’ll see this reflected in the December workouts.

weightlifting meme

December strength workouts

Strength Session 1 – Squats & Deadlifts

The workout:
Squats – Your choice on back squat, front squat, or overhead squat
Deadlifts – Conventional
10 minutes of cardio – Your choice (I preferred the rower)

Why we do it: Posterior chain. Posterior chain. Posterior chain. Because we sit so much at school, work, watching television, our hip flexors and hamstrings have suffered. Squatting and deadlifting at heavier weights helps strengthen these muscles and reverse those years of stagnation.

Suggested weight: Without knowing your program, I can’t designate a specific weight. If you’re new to lifting, start with the bar and work up to the weight that feels heavy, but that you could lift for five reps. If you’re a seasoned lifter, you know what you can do.

Suggested reps: I’m a fan of the 3 sets of 5 (as reflected on the bingo board. From all of the research I’ve done, working in sets where you can do 4-6 reps breaks down that muscle and, with the right recovery, can result in significant gains in a relatively short amount of time. But ultimately it’s your call.

Too easy? Try more weight. The beauty of this challenge is you can try each workout multiple times.

Too hard? Take weight off and work with just the barbell, training bar, or PVC pipe.

Strength Session 2 – Bench & Rows

Bench Press
Bent over or Barbell Rows
10 minutes of cardo

Why we do it: Posterior chain! No, really. Bench is considered an upper body movement because it really works the shoulders and pectoral muscles, but it’s actually a full-body exercise. When you’re benching heavy, you are engaging your back, glutes, and legs.

Bent over rows or barbell rows are more of a supplemental exercise and really focus on developing muscles in the posterior chain that can be hard to active (read: rhomboids and lower traps).

Suggested weight: Again, without knowing your program, I can’t designate a specific weight. For bench, if you’re new to lifting, start with the bar and work up to the weight that feels heavy, but that you could lift for five reps. Because the rows are supplemental, you can do these at a lighter weight and really focus on form.

Suggested reps: I like 3 sets of five for both movements.

Too easy? Try more weight. The beauty of this challenge is you can try each workout multiple times.

Too hard? Take weight off and work with just the barbell or training bar.

A note on strength sessions 1 and 2: I combined these in one gym session. You can certainly break them up if you prefer the lower body/upper body break, but doing all four lifts in one go is totally doable.

How heavy should I lift;

3X5 Squats

See what I did there? If you plan on tackling the first strength session with squats, you can do three sets of five and knock out two birds with one stone. You’re welcome.

I’ve already gone over why we do squats (posterior chain!!) and it’s your call whether your squats are traditional back squats, front squats, or overhead squats.

If you’re new to squatting, check out my guide to squatting, which has suggested modifications if you can’t get to parallel.

3X5 Pull-ups

If there was one workout that made folks raise an eyebrow, it was probably this one. Or the sprints.

For a lot of us, we may have been “tested” on pull-ups in elementary school, failed to do even one, and decided we would never be able to do a pull-up ever.

Not true!

There are tons of pull-up progression programs and YouTube videos providing instruction on how to do a proper pull-up. Most gyms have multiple bars and at-home pull-up bars are adjustable, portable, and affordable, so there’s really no excuse.

The workout:
Three sets of five pull-ups

Why we do it: Pull-ups are the bodyweight exercise. If you can do a pull-up, you can do a handstand, or a pushup. It works every back, arm, and shoulder muscle. And because it’s a compound movement, the muscles work together, getting stronger together; which is great training for other lifts that may isolate certain muscles.

The movement: Placing your hands on the bar (palms facing down) shoulder-width apart, let your body hang. Engage your shoulder and back muscles. Pull up until your chin comes above the bar. Lower and repeat.

Too easy? Try weighted pull-ups with a dumbbell between your legs or a toddler on your back.

Too hard? If you have trouble doing this movement, you can do deficit pull-ups. Jump and pull up until your chin is above the bar and hang for as long as possible. Lower as slowly as possible. Repeat.

If this is too difficult, let your body hang and practice engaging your shoulder and back muscles for five reps.

If this is too difficult, try resistance bands.

3X5 Glute Bridges

This has been the fitness fad of 2017 and, honestly, I’ve never done them. But I wanted to see what the hype was about.

The workout:
Three sets of five glute bridges

Why we do it: This movement engages (say it with me) that posterior chain. It targets the hamstrings and glutes in particular, as well as the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles.

The movement: Sitting on the floor, roll the barbell to your hips. Planting your feet so your knees are bent, raise your hips. The weight will be supported by your upper back and feet. Once you reach the highest point of your hip raise, slowly lower to the starting position.

Suggested weight: This is your call. Since I’ve never done these before, I plan on doing no more than 55 pounds to start and I’ll add weight as I feel comfortable. Why 55 pounds? A women’s bar weighs approximately 35 pounds (really 33 pounds but whatevs) and 10-pound bumper plates on each side will get the bar off the ground enough for me to easily perform the movement.

Too easy? Add more weight.

Too hard? Take the weight off. Bodyweight glute bridges are perfectly acceptable if you are new to working out or have an injury or mobility issue.

Ready for more? Check out our overview of the December fitness bingo EMOM and AMRAP workouts.

Up next: our first mystery workout! (published Dec. 11)

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