Women's Health

four health targets to shake up your routine

While climate change changes our weather conditions, the seasons remain predictable and coordinated: Spring promises summer, summer fades and autumn gives way to the cold of winter. Are your workouts just as predictable?

Shake up your exercise routine by trying to hit any of these four fitness goals this year.

Now is the perfect opportunity to mess things up and pursue a new goal. For each of these four rut busters, you'll take a quick fitness test to determine your baseline and then have 12 weeks to improve your score. Do another test after three months and you will see how far you have come. Talk about motivation!

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Goal: Strengthen your upper body

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, women can lag behind men by up to 40 percent in terms of upper body strength. Fortunately, strength isn't determined solely by physiology, but also by sweat equality. According to Whitney Jones, NASM-CPT, the 2018 Fitness International and Fitness Olympic Champion, increasing upper body strength begins with mastering two basics of body weight: pull-ups and push-ups.

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Attack plan

Depending on where you are on your fitness journey, you may only be able to do one or two repetitions of either movement. that's perfectly fine. "For chin-ups, try to double your starting number of reps in three months," said Jones, co-owner of Pro Physiques in Gilbert, Arizona. "With pushups, tripling or quadrupling your first test result is very doable." Add pull-ups to your regular back training day and pull-ups to your chest and / or shoulder day. Unless you're following a traditional lifting split, work these movements on a different workout day each week. Do as many reps as you can for two to three sets and supplement them with additional exercises like lat pulls and rows to improve your pull-ups and tilt / decrease push-ups and dips to improve your push-ups, says Jones.

Push up outdoors

Push up

Self-test: push-up

After a thorough warm up, do as many perfect pushups as you can. Once your form is interrupted or you have to pause for more than a few seconds, you're done. Write down your number. Test yourself every few weeks for 12 weeks.

  • Place your hands on the floor (or on an object) beyond shoulder width and extend your legs behind you. Make sure your head, hips, and heels are aligned. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your body until you are almost touching the ground / object. Then vigorously extend your arms to return to the start.

Training tips

  • Go far. Position your legs a little further apart for more repetitions. "This reduces the difficulty by reducing the distance between your shoulders and your feet so that your lower body supports more of your weight," explains Jones.
  • Adjust your speed. "A plyometric push-up can help develop muscle fibers that twitch quickly," says Jones – the fibers responsible for bursts of strength and strength. Do this from your knees and press the floor with enough force that your hands lift off the floor.

Awesome side train

Hand release push up

  • With your head aligned, hips and heels aligned, and your hands shoulder-width apart, step onto the plank. Bend your elbows and lower yourself all the way down to lie on the floor. Raise your hands a few inches, then put your hands back in, and then straighten your arms to return to starting.

Pull up outdoors

Pull up

Self-test: pull-up

After a thorough warm up, do as many perfect pull-ups as you can. If you start swinging, tilting, or using momentum to complete a rep, you're done. Write down your number. Test yourself every few weeks for 12 weeks.

  • Take an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart from the bar and hang with your arms and elbows extended. Squeeze your legs together and bring your toes slightly in front of you. Then, contract your shoulder blades and move your elbows down and back to pull your body toward the bar as high as possible. Take a short break, then slowly lower your back to the full extent.

Training tips

  • Hang up. Develop a vise-like grip by simply hanging passively on the bar for 30 seconds, recommends Jones. Repeat this process three to five times, resting between sets as needed.
  • Have a ball. Mobility in your upper body can improve pull-up potential. Use a lacrosse ball, place it in places where you feel tension, and apply pressure until it begins to loosen.

Awesome side train

Reverse pull-up

  • Secure a barbell in a power rack and lay it openly underneath so that it lines up with your chest. (You can also use a TRX.) With arms outstretched, take a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar and lift your hips so you are on an inverted plank with only your heels on the floor. Ride your elbows down and back and pull your chest against the bar. Stop for a moment, then slowly lower yourself to take off.

Objective: Increase your stamina

Do you lose steam halfway through your workout? Or have you always wanted to drive a race but lacked the stamina? Now you can change that step by step. "Choose an event like 3 miles, 6 miles, or even longer as your goal," says Michelle Speers, NSCACPT, an endurance athlete from Wrightwood, California. "You improve your general cardio endurance and complete a race that you might not otherwise have done."

Attack plan

You should start running three to four days a week, gradually increasing your distance by adding a quarter to a half mile to your runs each week. "Once you can comfortably cover 5 miles, you can add a full mile to your runs each week," says Speers. Beginners can alternate between running and walking for a minute at a time and run 3 miles slowly without stopping. Those with a better conditioning base can start with 1 to 2 miles and build up to 6 miles over three months. Experienced runners can start with 3 miles and build up to 13.

Running / sprinting

Running / sprinting

Self-test: the 12-minute run

Warm up with five to 10 minutes of walking or light jogging, then run as far as possible on a track, in your neighborhood, or on a treadmill in 12 minutes. Calculate your total distance to the nearest sixteenth of a mile. (If you're running outside, use a GPS watch or an app like RunKeeper or MapMyRun for accurate readings.) On a treadmill, set the screen to reflect the distance and set the slope to 1 Percent on to better simulate running outdoors, recommends Speers. Use the same comparison method / modality for retesting.

Training tips

  • Lower body love. The repetitive motion of running can create tension in the lower back and lower body. So stretch them carefully after each run, says Speers.
  • Be patient. Proceed slowly and carefully to avoid overtraining and injury. "Earn your progress instead of just randomly deciding to increase your mileage," says Speers.

Awesome side train


  • Put your hands on the floor under your shoulders and stretch your legs out behind you. Raise your hips so they line up with your head and heels. Hold here for as long as possible and take deep breaths for 30 to 60 seconds.

Goal: Build up super speed and agility

No matter what sport you play or what fitness level you have, speed and agility training can take your performance, physique, and fitness ferocity to a whole new level, says Kristian Flores, CSCS, a New York City-based fitness coach . Bonus: Its high-intensity nature cleverly burns fat!

Self-test 1: T-test

This test measures your ability to change direction quickly. Ask a friend to measure you and place four tenons in a T formation, 5 to 10 meters apart. Run from cone A to cone B as fast as you can. Touch the base of the cone with your right hand, then blend sideways to cone C. Touch the base with your left hand, then mix to cone D. Touch the base with your right hand, then shuffle back to Cone B and touch it with your left hand. Finally, run backwards past cone A to stop the timer. Do the exercise three to four times and record your total best time. Repeat every couple of weeks.

Self-test 2: 50-yard dash

After a thorough warm up, take your position at the start line and have a friend stand at the 50 yard mark. If your buddy says go sprint across the finish line as fast as you can. Do the test a few times and take the best time. Repeat every couple of weeks.

Attack plan

Training for speed and agility means adding a few different training protocols to your workout week: concentric and eccentric strength work, multidirectional training, strength-based training, and speed training.

Sample Speed ​​/ Agility Split

Day Training mode (s)


Concentric power and multidirectional work


Strength-oriented training and eccentric strength


Speed ​​training

1 | Concentric strength training

Speed ​​and agility are based on strength – stronger muscles allow for greater force in the lower body and sudden changes in direction. Concentric strength – the ability of your muscles to contract (shorten) against resistance – can be developed through multiple joint movements, such as squats and presses, that use multiple muscle groups at the same time. Pick a weight that is challenging enough that you cannot do a 13th rep in good shape, to ensure that your muscles are temporarily failing.

Front dumbbell squat outdoors

Squat dumbbell

Dumbbell squats

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward. Hold a row of dumbbells at shoulder level with your elbows bent and tucked into your body. Push your glutes back, then bend your knees to lower yourself into a deep squat. Ride out and out of the lower position by quickly straightening your legs and hips.

Example of a concentric dumbbell workout

exercise Sets Representative

Dumbbell squats



Dumbbell deadlift



Dumbbell sideways lunge


8-12 (each side)

2 | Eccentric strength training

The eccentric or negative effect is the opposite of a concentric contraction – muscle lengthening under load. This occurs in your lower body as you run and change direction. To specifically train the eccentric force, you can do drop landings and delay exercises once or twice a week, starting with a set of 10 reps per session for four weeks, and then adding a second and third set every few weeks as you feel comfortable improve.

Drop landing exercise outdoors

Drop landing

Drop landing

  • Stand on a platform or box that is about 1 to 2 feet tall. Step off the platform with one foot and land on both feet. You absorb the impact by bending your ankles, knees, and hips. Press and hold the bottom for three to five seconds.

3 | Strength training

While concentric exercises involve slower, more controlled muscle contractions, explosive plyometric training develops your fast-twitch muscle fibers to maximize your strength and speed potential. Choose two exercises and do two sets of 10 repetitions once or twice a week.

Plyometric force movements

Long jump

Speed ​​skater

Box jump

Vertical jump

Plyo push-up

One-legged hops

Long jump outdoors

Long jump

Long jump

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Swing your arms behind you and quickly bend your knees and hips. Then expand them explosively to jump forward as far as possible. Swing your arms to create momentum. Land and absorb the landing by bending your knees and hips. Reset and retry.

Reverse lung with overhead press outdoors

Reverse the lunge with an overhead press

Reverse the lunge with an overhead press

  • Hold a set of dumbbells against your shoulders and stand with your feet together. Take a big step back and bend both knees 90 degrees while simultaneously pressing the dumbbells over your head. Return to the start and continue alternately.

4 | Multidirectional strength

Most strength training movements are done in one plane of motion, whether it's a squat, press, or row. For all achievements and real forces, you must be able to move dynamically in numerous directions in order to better imitate sports and life situations. Flores suggests performing a unilaterally loaded movement, e.g. B. a one-armed printing press, or an exercise that combines two directions of movement, e.g. B. an inverted lunge with an overhead press.

5 | Speed ​​training

To improve straight-ahead speed, do sprints at various distances such as 50 or 100 meters, and sprints up hills and stairs. "Do a total of five sprints in the first week and double that to 10 in weeks 2 and 3," explains Flores. "You can do up to 12 sprints per session in week 4 and 15 sprints per session in week 5 and beyond."

Your rest times between sprints should be at least five times the sprint duration. So if you sprint for 10 seconds, you should rest for 50 seconds.

Training tips

  • Listen to your body. "This type of work puts a strain on both the muscles and the central nervous system," says Flores. Pay attention to your diet, sleep, and mood throughout the day, and turn things down a little if you aren't feeling it to prevent overtraining.
  • Energize with electrolytes. "Your electrolyte balance is critical to performance, and replacing it with a drink can help you recover faster," says Flores.

Goal: stretch your wings

Being flexible means more than just doing the balancing act as a party trick. "It can improve physical performance, reduce the risk of injury, and even help correct muscle imbalances," said Jess Nadine, health and fitness trainer in Vancouver, Canada and inventor of the Progress Project. "It can also help your mind and body relax."

Attack plan

After each workout, do a series of stretches that target the muscles you just worked out or mobilize the parts that are chronically tense or stiff. “Pick five routes and hold each one for 15 to 30 seconds for one to three laps,” says Nadine. "Also, try to release negativity and ease tension in your face and body."

Standing stretch outdoors

Standing stretch

Self-test: standing stretch

After a five to ten minute warm up, do this stretch three times and hold for 10 to 15 seconds each time. Record your best result and test yourself again every week.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a gentle squat. Fold forward from your hips and let your head and neck hang freely as you reach your hands for the floor, with the ultimate goal of getting them flat on the floor. Breathe and relax in the stretch, holding it for 10 to 15 seconds.

Training tips

  • Do not exaggerate. "Overstretching can lead to injuries," says Nadine. "Relax in every stretch and let the ego fall so that you don't push past your comfort zone."
  • Flex Rx. If you are very tight, stand with your feet slightly wider to make the stretch more workable. As you become more flexible, you will bring your feet closer together.

Awesome side train

One-legged forward fold

  • Sit on the sole of your left foot with your right leg stretched out and your foot bent. Reach up with both arms and bend at your hips as you exhale. Grab your right foot and grab it when you can. Take at least three deep breaths, then slowly let go. Repeat one to three times, then switch legs.
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