Do not fear the barbell

13 Mar

Yesterday when my alarm went off at 6am and I heard the sound of wet road under car tires outside my window, I knew my morning gym sesh was just not in the cards. Rain AND extra early on a Monday? Recipe for disaster.

… Or maybe just a recipe for the snooze button. 😉

The truth is, I’m one of those obnoxious people who never ever has a hard time falling asleep. Put me in a position that is more horizontal than it is vertical and I will almost certainly lose consciousness.

EXCEPT when I am excited. And this week, excitement is a ridiculous understatement. You see, this coming weekend is my bachelorette party AND St. Patrick’s Day — therefore, St. Bachrick’s Day 🙂 I have girlfriends coming in from everywhere from Arizona to Boston, as well as rolling with my Chicago crew. I laid in bed tossing and turning last night just thinking about it!

In order to prepare myself for a weekend of guilt free eating and drinking, I promised myself I’d hammer my workouts in no matter what happened. So even though I passed on the gym yesterday morning, I sweated it out late night style last night.

I am currently in my fifth week of the New Rules of Lifting program, which I am going to review in full at the end of Phase 1 in a couple weeks. What I will say for now is 1. It’s kicking my behind and 2. it’s wonderful. I can really see a difference, and I see my strength increasing and increasing.

I thought for today I’d highlight two moves that I have mastered since I decided to dip my toe into the sweaty boy weight room waters, and let me tell you, these moves make a world of difference – even if they look scary.

Barbell Squat

*I’m not a personal trainer, a physical therapist or a doctor. Just a gal who enjoys a good lift in her life.

According to this guy, this move is “The King of Exercises”. Bold statement, but I kind of agree.

This dude has a fancy voice and gives you a ton of factoids when it comes to the squat, but let me sum it up for you. First off, you’re going to have to approach the squat rack. Don’t panic. I was completely confused when I started – in fact, I texted John in sheer terror because I had no idea where to go and didn’t want the meatheads to think I was a total dweeb.

Forget the meatheads. Find the squat rack.


When you have the proper weights loaded up (or none at all – no shame in starting small), you want to duck under the bar while it’s still on the hooks. You’ll reach behind you to grasp the bar, and it should be resting on the little shelf between your shoulders and neck.


Stand with feet shoulder width apart, grasp onto that bar, take a few step backs and center yourself.

For me, there are two keys to the squat itself. First, stick your butt WAY out. If you’re familiar with the basic squat, you know this is key – you need to focus on sitting down in a chair, and avoiding your knees from coming over your toes. Secondly, I focus on pushing the weight off my heels or the center of my foot – be sure you are NOT squatting with your toes.


Muscles worked: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings & calves


*I’m not a personal trainer, a physical therapist or a doctor. Just a gal who enjoys a good lift in her life.

I hope you’re making friends with the squat rack already, because we aren’t going far.

Before I started deadlifting, I was dealing with some bizarre and painful mid pack pains. After 5 weeks of incorporating this back strengthening move, I’m literally pain free. I know that seems counter intuitive – lifting really heavy weights when your back hurts? – but for me, it has made all the difference.

Many argue that the deadlift is the single most useful exercise in building core strength that supports all other major muscle groups.

Keys to a good deadlift: keep your feet shoulder width apart, get into a good squat position as you grip the bar at your feet, and be sure to take a deep breath in.


Lift the bar as you breathe out and straighten your self into standing. Importantly, do NOT arch your back! notice in the photo above she lifts with her legs, gazes straight ahead and pulls up without curving over.


Now watch this guy do it. He knows what’s up.

Muscles worked: Lower back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, while also engaging the torso and upper back. Did I mention it’s a good one?

Homework: Try 12 reps & 2 sets of each move with 60 seconds rest in between. If you don’t feel comfortable starting with weight, just use the bar! 😉

Has anybody tried some workouts that were outside of your comfort zone lately?


2 Responses to “Do not fear the barbell”

  1. Susan March 13, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    I’m going to try these two exercises next time I’m in the gym. Thanks Steph. Glad your back is back!!!

  2. Mel March 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    I’m terrible at doing much strength on my own so I’ve been trying to hit up a class at our work gym.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: