Total Body Stair Run Circuit

So how’d you do this past weekend?  Is the heart-shaped box of chocolates from your Valentine now empty, or did you limit yourself to a few pieces? Did you pass on the chocolate mousse at dinner on Saturday night, or did you eat yours AND your sweetie’s?

If you’re a little embarrassed by some of your answers, don’t be!  It’s ok – even good – to splurge every once and a while (though not so good to make it a habit).

But if you DID do some damage this weekend, I’ve got a workout to get you back on track.  

And all you need is a set of stairs.

I love workouts that you can do anywhere.  In fact, I shared one just after Thanksgiving, so be sure to check it out if you missed it.  And like the post-Thanksgiving workout, the one I have for you today also uses metabolic training, which maximizes calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after the workout by increasing EPOC.

As you do the workout, rely on the principle of rest-based training: push yourself as hard as you can while you’re working until you simply have to take a break.  Rest for as long as you need (but not longer!) and repeat.

Total Body Stair Run Circuit

Note:  Because of the risk of tripping during the stair runs, this exercise is not recommended for prenatal moms. Postpartum moms who aren’t yet ready for intense training should also avoid this circuit.


Walk up and down the stairs five times.

20-minute Circuit

Repeat each exercise sequentially, completing as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes.  Push yourself as hard as can while you’re working, breaking as often as you need.

1. Run up and down a flight of stairs five times (i.e. do five stair runs)

2. Set of 15 push-ups (on knees or toes on the floor)

You can also do with hands on stairs (even easier) or feet on stairs (even harder), as pictured below


3. Four stair runs

4. Walk the stairs quickly once, taking two steps at a time

5. 60 second front plank (knees or toes)


6. Three stair runs

7. Walk the stairs quickly twice, taking two steps at a time

8. 10 static lunges with each leg leading, placing your lead foot on the first or second step


9. Five stair runs

10. Set of 15 tricep dips, using the bottom step



Walk in place (two minutes)

Then pause for a moment, congratulate yourself, and feel those Valentine’s Day calories melting away. 🙂

Exercise, Pregnancy

The Importance of Unilateral Exercises (and Five Good Ones!)

Just about everyone has some type of muscular imbalance.  This might take the form of one set of muscles being relatively strong compared to another, such as having a strong chest relative to the back or strong quads relative to glutes and hamstrings.  A client might also have asymmetrical muscular imbalances, such as when the right glute is stronger than the left glute.

A given muscular imbalance tends to create a domino effect because our nerves, muscles and bones are all connected via the kinetic chain.   For instance, the lats attach to the pelvis and shoulders.  If the lats are short and tight, it anteriorly rotates the hips, rounding the lower back.  This loosens and inhibits/weakens the glutes.  The hip flexors, including the tensor fasciae latae, are then shorter and tighter, causing the knees to roll in and the arches of the feet to collapse.

So who cares and so what?  Well, muscular imbalances are often the root cause of common ailments.  Have lower back pain?  Suffer from joint pain, maybe in your knees?  There’s a good chance a muscular imbalance is at play.

Moms have a special reason to suffer from muscular imbalances: the way we carry our babies.  If you’re standing and holding your baby, you probably always place her on the same hip and sink into that hip.  This can cause pain in your lower back, hips, and knees, among other things.  If you’re walking around with your baby, you probably always carry him on that same side of the body.  This can tighten your chest muscles and weaken and loosen your upper back muscles on the carrying side.

WellMom takes a corrective approach to resistance training that addresses these muscular imbalances.  In addition to focusing on strengthening weak muscle groups and stretching tight ones, I employ unilateral exercises – those that work one side of the body at a time – whenever possible to correct those asymmetrical, left-right imbalances.

Below are five of my favorite unilateral exercises.  In some of them, notice that I’m holding a dumbbell in one hand only.  This forces your core to work harder (a good thing!) because you’re activating the muscles of your posterior oblique chain – the latissimus dorsi and oblique on the side of your body with the dumbbell, and the gluteus maximus on the opposing side.

Incorporate a few of these exercises into your next workout and let me know how it goes!

Five of My Favorite Unilateral Exercises

1. Single arm chest press on Swiss ball


2. Single leg squat


3. Single arm bentover row


It’s a little hard to tell here, but I’m holding the dumbbell in one arm only.

4. Single leg deadlift


If you don’t have a Swiss ball or find this exercise too challenging when using it, place your rear foot on a more stable surface, such as a chair or step.

5. Lunge with “baby” on one shoulder


This is another one with just one dumbbell (errrr, baby!).  And, uh, speaking of babies, I’ve been keeping a secret.  But judging by these pictures, it’s kind of looking like that secret is out.  🙂

Exercise, Pregnancy

Five Exercises that Target the Glutes

A common muscular imbalance I see with my clients is weak glutes relative to quadriceps.  This is problematic because weak glutes often lead to body aches, including both knee and lower back pain.  Because physiological changes during pregnancy tend to exacerbate existing muscular imbalances, pre- and postnatal moms are at a greater risk of experiencing these aches and pains.

People often gravitate towards front squats and static front lunges when they try to strengthen their glutes.  While these exercises do recruit the gluteals, the quadriceps are the prime movers.  And if you’re already quad dominant, you are likely to compromise your form in order to unconsciously recruit your quadriceps even more.  I see this all the time with clients when they squat or lunge and their knees extend well beyond their toes.

Another limitation of front squats and static front lunges is their inability to effectively work all three muscles that comprise the glutes – maximus, medius, and minimus.  That’s right – there are three muscles back there!  Any gluteal activation is pretty much limited to the gluteus maximus during front squats and static front lunges.  The deeper gluteal muscles – the medius and especially the minimus – activate little if at all.

So what’s the solution?  Do alternative strengthening exercises that strengthen the gluteal muscles, especially the medius and minimus.  Below are five of my favorites!

Even though I demonstrate some of these exercises with a resistance band or tube, all of these exercises can be performed effectively using body weight only.  I suggest you start off using just your body weight if you don’t have access to the equipment.  You can always invest in a tube or band later on to add an extra challenge.  Both are very inexpensive.

Five Great Glute Exercises!

1. Standing Hip Abduction

Abduct 1Abduct 2

You can also do this side-lying on the floor, but the standing version has the benefit of also working the standing leg and improving balance.

2. Clamshells

Clam 1Clam 2

3. Donkey Kicks

Donkey 1Donkey 2

4. Fire Hydrants (aptly named, eh?  side and front views)

Hydrant A2Hydrant A1

Hydrant B1Hydrant B2

5. Foot-elevated Glute Bridges

Bridge 1Bridge 2

Elevating your feet works deeper into the glutes than performing this exercise with your feet on the floor.




Thanksgiving Guilt Be Gone Circuit!

It’s Monday.  Thanksgiving weekend is behind you.  The dust has settled, and you’re surveying the damage.

Even if you didn’t go completely whole hog over the holiday, you probably a) ate more than necessary, b) ate some things you’re now feeling a little guilty about, or c) both a) and b).

My suggestion to you is this: give yourself a break.  Leave the past in the past and get yourself back on track in the here and now.

I’ve got a workout to help get you started.

It’s a metabolic circuit designed to maximize calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after the workout by increasing EPOC.  It also uses rest-based training, the idea being you push yourself as hard as you can until you simply have to take a break.  Rest for as long as you need (but not longer!) and repeat.

One great thing about metabolic training is its efficiency: you don’t have to work out for very long to burn a lot of calories.  One nice thing about this circuit in particular is that it requires NO EQUIPMENT.  Have too much work at the office this week to make it to the gym? No problem. Wake up 30 minutes early tomorrow and complete this circuit in your living room before heading to the office.  Are you a stay at home mom without child care?  Again, no problem.  Carve out 30 minutes of nap time for your training.

In other words, no excuses.  🙂

Thanksgiving Guilt Be Gone Circuit

Note:  This workout is NOT intended for 2nd and 3rd trimester pregnant women or postpartum moms who aren’t yet ready for intense training.  The circuit may be suitable for women in their first trimester, depending on their fitness level and degree of comfort executing each exercise.


Jumping Jacks. 1 minute

20-minute Circuit

Repeat each exercise sequentially, completing as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes.  Push yourself as hard as can while you’re working, breaking as often as you need.

1. Tricep dips. 15 reps.  Use a chair, a bench or the stairs

Tricep dip 1 Tricep dip 2

2. Knee repeater step ups.  Use a chair, a bench, or the stairs. 30 seconds with right leg leading followed by 30 seconds with left leg leading. Go as quickly as you can!

Step up 1 new Step up 2

3. Floor Y-raise. 15 reps

(If you have a pair of light dumbbells or even a couple of soup cans, you can hold these for extra resistance while doing the Y-raises.)

Y Raise 1Y raise 2

 4. Squat jumps. 30 seconds. Jump as quickly and as powerfully as you can!


5. Push-ups (knees or toes). 15 reps

Push up 1Push up 2