Monthly Groove: DIY Risers for a Barbell

This month’s groove is a DIY project. I’m at the point in my lifting plan (NROLS) that I am heading into deadlfits. My 22 pound plates are taller than me 25 pound plates so i start with my 22s but they are only 5 inches high when my starting position should be 8 inches unless I want to lift from a deficit.
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This is one of those things that’s important but for a home gym risers for the barbell, well I can think of other things I’d rather spend my money on. A second set of handles for dumbbells and two more 10 pound plates come to mind. So I thought on this for a long while.

My first inclinations was to hit up our scrap pile of wood. The one big issue there would be needing to make stops for it, heavy things rolling off risers does not sound like fun. I kept that in the back of my mind and kept searching.
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One day as I was pulling a bunch of old magazines out of the crawl space it came to me. Magazines! I have plenty of them. I got out the trusty duct tape and made myself magazine risers. Since they are paper they have more give so my barbell won’t roll off and away when I’m not using it.

This was a simple and easy thing to do. You will need
Magazines
Duct tape or some other heavy duty tape
A ruler

Measure you tallest plate. Mine was 5 inches which meant I needed about 3 inches of magazine height. Stack the magazines, measure, tape up. Repeat to make two. I checked and make sure my magazines were level for my second stack by comparing it to the first stack.

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Don’t lift more than 5 pounds? My purse weighs more…

Whenever I come across information that tells women not to lift more than five pounds, it makes me wonder how they came up with that number. Why is five pounds the alleged magic number for women and weights? Nothing in our lives weighs more than five pounds? How is that even helpful to anyone?

It makes me think about what I pick up in a day. How heavy is that bag of groceries? More than five pounds that’s for sure. Women pick up heavy things everyday in real life. Kids weigh a lot more than 5 pounds, even my little cat weighs more than 5 pounds. I carry her around with one hand.
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My guess is my purse weighs more than 5 pounds too. Which lead me to ask just how much does my purse weigh and pull out a scale. The current state of my purse is that it needs to be cleaned out. It stays that way for months. So the contents of my purse in its current state is typical.

My purse weighs 8.8 pounds. I thought it was going to be 9 or 10 pounds so I was pleased to come in under my guess. I was correct that I carry around over a pound of lipsticks. Its been this way for months now and I just keep collecting more change so it will only get heavier until I break down and empty it out.

Next time you time you hear the message women shouldn’t lift heavy weights, ignore them. It is a ridiculous idea that women are either incapable of lifting heavy things or that we shall wind up with big bulging muscles (most of never will get to bulgy). For me lifting heavy things had made me more compact and strong enough to lug my heavy purse around all day with no problem.

Don’t let others ignorance hold you back from strength training. Lifting heavy things will do wonderful things for your health and your vanity.

Home Gym

Working out at home has a some great advantages: short commute time and being able to wear your grungies. Collecting equipment for my home gym has taken a few years. The collecting really started after I decided to continue lifting.
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New Rules of Lifting for Women was my gateway program. I had such good results and after realizing how weak I was, I loved feeling stronger. I did NROLW with dumbbells, even though it called for a barbell for some exercises. At that point in time plunking down a large sum of money for equipment that might never get used again was not appealing. So I improvised.

I started with a swiss ball, a yoga mat, and dumbbells (we already had the dumbbells.) Than added a barbell starter set, a bench, and eventually more plates for the barbell. Somethings I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy yet, sticker shock. Platforms to jump onto are expensive. Here’s what I have collected over the years.

Swiss ball is one of the first things I acquired, love that ball. It used to be used for crunches. Now I do roll outs with it and mountain climbers and supine hip extension.

Barbell and weight plates. I bought a standard barbell space is an issue the length works well for the area I have. There are other options pick the one that works for you. It has taken a couple years for me to outgrow my 100 pound starter set. It came with dumbbell handles so you get the best of both world. I need to pick up another set of handles so I can have more weight options when doing two dumbbell exercises back to back

Bench. This is the one item I wished I’d researched more or seen in person before buying it. I like my bench and it works well, not sure I love it. It has a few accoutrements on it that I didn’t want and don’t use but it was a good price and I got free shipping on it. You will need it for bench presses, step ups, inverted rows and more.

Stationary bike stand, I use it a lot especially in the winter. I use my old road bike for it. Easy to set up and take down as needed

Weekly Groove: Dynamic Warmup

Weekly Groove is the Dynamic Warmup. Ever since a dynamic warm up appeared in NROLA (New Rules of Lifting Abs) I’ve been hooked. I’ve created one to warm up with weights that is a mix of NROLA, NROL4L (for Life), some GGS (Girls Gone Strong), and stuff I like. There is also one from Runner’s World that I use before running.

If you are just starting out the dynamic warm up is going to look a lot like a work out and probably feel like one too. It was tough getting started with the dynamic warmup it felt hard but after not using it a couple times I realized I feel more prepared to lift or run. The running one is a very subtle feeling of being more ready to run.

Here is my current dynamic warm up that I use before weights. It takes me a bout 10 minutes.

10 Walking Crossover toe touch
5 Squat to stand
10 1- leg 1/4 squat
10 Side lunge with touch
10 Glute bridge
5 Knee to armpit (supine)
5 Rotation form quadruped
5 Bird dog each side
5 Down dog to spider man
5 1/2 kneeling thoracic rotation
5 inch worms
5 reverse lunge with twist
10 Grande battement
10 March in place
10Butt kicks

Be a Light Weight to be a Heavy Weight

Just lift heavy gets tossed around a lot and as beginner I didn’t really know what it meant or what to do. What they were telling me to lift was too heavy but I kept trying to lift that amount that was heavy, because that is what the magazine told me to do. I hated it. It didn’t make me feel strong or better about myself. I felt worse so I stopped lifting.

I didn’t lift for years. I did yoga and ran. Fast forward a couple of years and I was struggling with the fact that my body wasn’t changing at all. I felt like a blob who had an excellent aerobic base. What I was doing was not working and I was not happy with my progress.

Enter New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROLW.) I committed to lifting weights for the six months it took to complete NROLW. What I did not do is start heavy. I started light even for me sometimes. Starting light did something that starting heavy never did and that was give me confidence. I could do it and it felt good.

What I realize now is that as a beginner form is where it is at. Actually form is always where it is at, good form is good. Starting out too heavy had me sacrificing form and that isn’t good. Build good habits when you start, unlearning bad habits is harder.

NROLW changed how my body looked drastically and I didn’t change my diet other than eating a bit more. The jiggly bits were no longer so jiggly. I no longer felt like a blob and everything in life was easier to do. Weight lifting wasn’t what I loved but it became a staple for what it did for me and to me.

Eventually I was hooked and weight lifting is one of the three things I really love to do. Lifting heavy will come with time and work, don’t force it. Sometimes you have to be a light weight to get to the heavy weights.

Body Image, Pinterest, and Me.

As I peruse pinterest I am always amazed at the amount of sexualization of fitness and fitness photos. It gets to the point where it feels almost overwhelming and disheartening. There’s the squat butt camp, the thigh gap group, the you can do it just ignore pain, etc. The one thing the have in common is a picture of a woman with no head. She is just a breasts, bum, and thighs, even the Venus of Willendorf got a head.
 photo Venus_von_Willendorf_01.jpgThere came a point where I stopped looking at these and started dissecting them. What are they saying to me and others out there? If you do enough squats you will have a perfectly rounded bum, work hard enough you too can have a thigh gap, never mind the pain hurting yourself is good. Are these healthy? I ask myself this and I wonder who out there is damaging themselves to get something that just might be unattainable for them.

I have a butt, it doesn’t matter if I squat or not. I have a butt: skinny, fat, and in between its just there. It is a matter of genetics for me. A college study buddy worked very hard to get a small bum, she squatted and did heavy weights, she will never have a “squat butt.”
 photo eosbvffrt76ee6r.jpgAs teen Mademoiselle magazine was where I first encountered the thigh gap concept. The gist being you did not have a thigh gap you were, not thin. First thought was crap I don’t have one, I’m fat. The truth is to achieve a thigh gap, maybe, because I haven’t ever had one, and might never get one even at anorexic body fat levels. It would take a lot of starvation on my part to get me anywhere near a thigh gap. And if you feel pain while working out, please stop, that is called an injury. Yes, you might feel discomfort but pain, pain is not good. Pain is your body telling you to stop.

We need to celebrate our bodies and not some in the future potential us. What you look like right now is gorgeous, what you will look like tomorrow is beautiful. Celebrate who and what you are now, because the truth is you need to love yourself, just as you are.

Venus of Willendorf picture from Wikipedia.

5 Tips for Beginner Weight Lifters

The first time I started lifting weights it was a mess.  I’d pick out something from a magazine and not get any results.  Some would say lift heavy, while others said not to.  I biceped curled my way into sore and tight shoulders from bad form and too heavy weights, because something a magazine told me.  I look back and think, no wonder I stopped lifting.

My weight plates, all 184 pounds of them.
The second time I started,it turned out much better and the results kept me going. Now the desire to be strong fuels my desire to keep lifting.

1. Find a program that focuses on compound movements. Examples are shoulder press, lunges, squats, push ups, notice the distinct lack of tricep kickbacks.

2. Form is important.  If you can’t lift it without good form you need to lift less weight.  For the reboot of lifting I started with weights that were not heavy.  It did two things for me, it let me work with good form and built my confidence.

3.  Do not be afraid to work with weights that challenge you. Ladies you will not get bulky. I am pretty sure your purse, toddler, grocery bag is heavier than five pounds.  Why not be able to lift those items with ease and grace?

4.  Find flat shoes or if possible lift barefoot.  Ditching my cross trainers when lifting was one of the best lifting decisions I have made. Many people like Chuck Taylors for lifting shoes or minimal shoes.

5. Seek guidance.  Whether you video yourself lifting and have others critique you or hire a trainer. Find folks to help you with form and questions.  JP Fitness forms is a great resource for this or Fitocracy.

Exercise and Keeping an Open Mind.


Much of exercising is finding what you like to do and continuing to be open to new ideas and workouts.  I spent my first two years doing workouts out of magazines and continually being disappointed in the results.  I started running and doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which looking back on it were way beyond my fitness level.  

Post NROLW.  I lost a ton of fat on the ribcage and had to buy new bras.

Running and yoga were my two things for years.  It seemed like no matter what I did with diet and doing more cardio, nothing was changing. It was disheartening.  At this point I knew what I enjoyed and what I did not enjoy and  that was strength training

What I discovered is I don’t hate strength training, its isolation moves I’m not a fan of (bicep curls for example.) A huge part of starting to enjoy lifting weights was finding a good solid program that did something.  I tried New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROLW) and saw some huge changes in my body without changing my diet.

I still run and yoga. I enjoy those activities and they are not being dropped.  But I do tend to change it up seasonally.  Winter tends to be weights and yoga focused.  Summer is running and yoga with two days of lifting. The most important thing about these three activities is I enjoy them.  If you hate what you are doing you will not stick with it.  So find you fun activities and do them with relish.

Workout Logs