I want to again touch on this topic of glute growth. I am still learning and researching myself and urge you guys to follow Bret Contreras on instagram and also go read his blog. He is so knowledgeable on this topic in particular (among others). From what I have read and now through trial and error on my own, you must work your glutes more often than once a week! It’s important to also space out your sets – in other words, doing TONS of exercises on one day and then not doing any glute work the other days of the week will not elicit glute growth. Instead, space out the exercises throughout the week and you will achieve better results. Read more details here via Bret Contreras.

And before you do anything else go buy these bands HERE ON AMAZON…they are cheap and very durable and effective and great to keep with you to take when you go out of town to get a good glute burn in!

So I will get to the point quickly and go over a good training program for glutes as well as the types of heavy exercises and banded exercises you can include in your weekly training.

Examples of a heavy exercise to do 2x a week with a few rest days in between: 

  • Hip thrust. I recommend this 2x per week because Bret says it’s the BEST exercise to build your glutes. It also does not put any pressure on your spine – it totally isolates and focuses on the glutes alone so I think this is a great one to do 2x per week. You could do it on a “leg day” and then again on a glute day later on. 3 days in between. The peak of tension here is when the glutes are TIGHTENED (as opposed to lengthened in a squat) so this is why it’s CRUCIAL in building a muscular booty!

Example of heavy exercises to do 1-2x per week:

  • Back squat
  • front squat (peak of tension is at the bottom when glutes are lengthened so you could add 2-3 second pauses at the bottom as well for back/front squats)
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Deadlift
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Hex bar deadlift
  • Leg press (feet wide and high to focus on glutes)

Example of other exercises to include weekly:

  • Ham curls
  • Back extensions/weighted hyperextensions (think 25#…high reps of 15-20)
  • Cable kickbacks (higher reps)
  • Heavy Kettlebell swings (yes, these work your glutes great!)
  • Butt blaster
  • Weighted walking lunges (wider steps focus on glutes)
  • Single leg deadlifts, weighted

Examples of exercises to include up to 6 days per week:

Weekly workout split/example you could try:

  • Sunday: shoulders: shoulder press, push press, upright rows (dumbbells), lat raises, rear delt flies, face pulls, etc.
  • Monday: legs/glutes: 
    • heavy back squat (4-5 sets of 6-8 reps)
    • heavy hip thrust (8-10 sets of 6-10 reps)
    • Bulgarian split squats (4×10)
    • leg press (4×15)
    • ham curls (5x 15, 12, 10, 8, 8 getting increasingly heavier weight)
    • banded work: 2×30 clamshells per leg
  • Tuesday: rest
  • Wednesday: chest/triceps/cardio/core + band work – 2×30 banded glute bridges and banded side walks 2×10 steps per leg
  • Thursday: back: 
    • deadlifts (heavy, 4-8 reps)
    • pullups
    • weighted hyperextensions (again, working the hams and glutes here!)
    • close grip pulldowns
    • face pulls (you can do these on back or shoulder day or both as long as a day of rest is separating)
    • dumbbell rows
    • extra glute band work: 2×30 clamshells
    • a few sets of crabwalks
  • Friday: rest/optional band work – clamshells, lying leg raises, hip bridges
  • Saturday: glute day:
    • Hip thrusts again (8-10 sets of 5-10 reps. I like to do 5 sets of heavy for 5 reps…then go a little lighter and do more reps – 8×10 for example)
    • KB swings (heavy – 45# to 50# KB for 15-20 reps – squeeze glutes!)
    • Front squats
    • RDL (Romanian deadlift; 4×10-12 reps with dumbbells or loaded barbell)
    • band work of choice: clamshells
    • Frog pumps 1xto failure
    • Hip bridges 2×20

I hope this is helpful for you all in creating your own workout program. We are all constantly learning and evolving so it’s important to find what works for you and to stick with it. Do allow 1 full day of rest – I believe that is so important for your body! Don’t forget to get good sleep, drink tons of water, take hot epsom salt bath soaks, and be kind to yourself! Try out these workouts and let me know how they help you. And please go follow Bret – read his articles and take his tips. His clients results speak for themselves! Now get to work because you won’t build a great BOOTY by sitting on it! Oh and don’t forget to eat plenty of clean carbs!!


Favorite BOOTY BUILDING Exercises

I am not a curvy person and the curves that I have managed to acquire are due to my dedication in the gym as well as dedication to eating a lot of clean food. If you are naturally very thin and want to build some lean muscle mass and curves, you gotta work on your glutes! I will list a few of my favorite exercises. The main thing with this, though, is to stay patient and continue to work hard and eat clean on a daily basis. Be sure you are eating enough calories though or else you won’t be able to BUILD muscle!

The back squat should be one of the main leg exercises you do every single week – preferably twice a week. This compound movement utilizes so many muscle fibers and works so many muscles that it is imperative to include in your workouts so that you get stronger and recruit more muscle fibers.I recommend a wider stance, toes pointed out, and squat at least parallel. Stick to the 5-8 rep range as well as 10-12. Since the back squat is so crucial for getting stronger (and getting stronger means progressively adding more weight, building more muscle) I prefer to keep my rep ranges lower and keep the weight higher. My fifth rep is usually quite a struggle with back squat. I do higher reps on other glute building exercises like the hip thruster, which I discuss below. But it’s good to mix things up and often do lower rep ranges, higher weight, and vice versa. Do aim for maximum weight though – with proper form of course.

This is definitely where I feel the burn in my glutes and upper hamstrings. I recommend using a bench that is not able to move – usually at gyms they have a few benches that are secured to the ground. Take 2 dumbbells (or a kettlebell) and walk over to the bench and place one leg behind you on the bench. Be sure your knees do not pass over your toes when you squat down and do about 8-10 reps per leg. I like to do anywhere between 5-9 sets of this. You can also squat down and just hold the position (without weight) for 30 seconds (or as long as you can) to REALLY feel the burn. Do this exercise once per week. These are great for building glutes as well as stabilizers and core because you will find it’s challenging to maintain balance while doing this. That means it’s a killer workout so don’t give up. Lower the weight if you need to until you are comfortable doing them!

  • Weighted Walking lunges – wide steps

To work the glutes more in walking lunges simply take wider steps! You will work quads more if the steps are narrow. Take two heavy dumbbells (don’t be shy. this weight should scare you a little – I take 2 35# DBs and it’s killer). Start with a lighter set if needed and take about 16 alternating steps in one direction, take a 20 second break, then repeat coming back the other way. Do this 3-4 times. Increase the weight as needed. Walking lunges work your core and many parts of your legs and when you hold heavy enough dumbbells you work your grip strength and traps! I can’t express the importance of utilizing this exercise! Do it every week!

  • Single leg deadlifts with dumbbells

These work your glutes and upper hams great. So many different variations. I take two dumbbells, 25 to 30# and do these. You keep the standing/supporting leg slightly stiff/bent knee (but not too bent; google images of this). Hold 2 DBs (I find it easier to maintain balance with two DBs) and find a point in front of you to stare at so you don’t lose balance. Bend over and keep weight in heels (always keep weight in heels) and try to really feel the muscle activate. Do 8-10 reps per leg and do 4 sets total.

  • Hip thrusters 

These are great to add towards the  end of your workout. Take a 35-45# plate and load it up on your hips and lay on the ground with feet on a bench that does not move (place the plate on your lap – start with 25# if needed, that is still great). Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings and raise your butt up so that your legs create a 90 degree angle. Then lower. Repeat 20-25 times until your legs burn! Rest, then repeat this 4-5 times total.

The above is one version to try. The other version is to take a loaded barbell and sit against a bench and put the barbell across your hips with a pad if needed and press up.

YET ANOTHER version I just discovered – you can do these with the leg extension machine. Lean against the seat with your upper back and have your hips up – legs at 90 degree angle and feet flat on floor – hips are underneath the part where you’d normally press up with your quad – you can press your hips up to the ceiling and back down, using your glutes! Do sets of 10-15 with varying weight.

  • Butt blaster 

I am not sure if all gyms have this or not, but, if yours does you should try it out. You can also do a variation of this with the cable machine if needed and I will describe how in a second. With the butt blaster you are on all fours and you place one leg behind you and you essentially push the weight back and up at an angle so that you isolate and use your glute and upper hamstring (some quad, too). I recommend higher reps for this, lower weight, but 15 reps should be quite difficult.

You can also use the cable machine – place the cable at the floor level and wrap the strap/find the ankle strap and put it around your ankle. Keeping slight bend in left knee, kick your right leg back and straight, kicking up to almost 90 degree angle with the floor. Repeat 15-20 times. Switch legs and do this 3-4 times per leg. This exercise will comparably work your glutes.


I also recommend incorporating jumping into your weekly workouts -multiple times a week. These will build strength and power as well as burn fat which is essential to building muscular glutes. I love doing squat jumps with dumbbells – 4 sets of 10-15 reps with varying dumbbell weight – also lunge jumps are awesome too. You can make them harder by holding a 20# kettlebell at your chest (or 10 or 15#) and doing lunge jumps that way! I do at least 20 reps at a time -10 per leg. And do multiple sets. Jumping is so good to build strong bones so I recommend you incorporate some kind of jumping 3-4 times a week! Add them as finishers to your workouts!

IN SUM: The most important factor in building glutes is to squat. Focus on functional movements first and foremost. Do not shy away from going heavy, either. I am also a huge fan of squatting 2x per week. I do one heavy, hard leg day and then one lighter leg day later on in the week. Google youtube videos if you are unsure of proper form! Don’t be scared of the weight room – make yourself get out of your comfort zone. I was scared at first too but just ACT like you know just what you are doing (I promise no one is paying attention to you). LIFT HEAVY LADIES and build those glutes! Your legs and future curves will thank you! Be patient and work hard and you will get results.

Back vs. Chest: Why Back is Superior + Exercises to Do

All too often, men (mostly men) prioritize chest day over any other muscle group. Leg day is often skipped, back day may be under-utilized, and chest may be worked as many as 2 days per week! In reality, having a strong back is so much more beneficial to daily activities, as well as being helpful while working other muscle groups, i.e., legs in the squat. My favorite body parts to train are legs and back, followed by shoulders, because I think these three muscle groups are the most beautiful as well as most functional. Having a strong back (similar to strong legs) helps you pick up things, carry heavy things, keeps your spine strong and straight and helps stabilize your core. What does having a strong chest do for you? I mean really? Not much. Plus, no one really cares about huge pecs on guys (or girls for that matter)…I think a muscular back and big, strong SHOULDERS is much more appealing than pectoral muscles. Now, I am not saying AT ALL that you should quit training chest and quit doing bench press. Bench press is important. I am just saying it’s not the most important…and I would argue that training legs and back should take precedent. So, now I go into detail about why I love to train my back muscles super hard and often:

  1. A strong back helps you squat. Having a strong lower back and upper back helps you squat more weight.  Doing bent over rows (especially) aids you when you are squatting because you’re improving core strength, working your latissimus dorsi and traps- so include these every week in your strength training program. Bent over rows also improve your deadlift. Strengthening your lower back, also, will help strengthen your core simultaneously which will help you with front squats too. Ever tried heavy front squats? If you have, you know exactly what I am talking about. You better have a strong lower back and core before attemping these. Your back is a huge component of your core!
  2. A strong back helps daily activities. Speaking of core, having a strong back helps you carry out daily activities. Sitting in a chair, bending over, housework, gardening, moving, picking up boxes at work, these are all using your core/lower back/back muscles. Lower back pain can be debilitating if you don’t ever strength train – and you probably have this pain from a weak core and weak back muscles! So by exercising your back muscles, you will also work your core, and alleviate lower back pain. Did you know dumbbell rows work your obliques, too? This is why BACK day is practically my favorite day of the week! Because I love to strengthen every part of my back as well as increase core strength. You will feel better every other day of the week if you have a super strong back. Plus, a muscular back is super sexy! Since I started lifting heavy and often, and truly focusing on lifting heavy on back day, I have ZERO back pain from my scoliosis. It’s a dream come true.
  3. A strong back helps you have good posture – which most people do not have. I am lucky because I am a former ballet dancer so I know all about proper posture and good body placement. But most people are not as lucky. People neglect their rear delts as well as the rest of the back muscles – and working your rear delts, lower back and trapezius (along with core muscles) will help you have better/perfect posture! Working your chest too often (and skimping out on back exercises) will do the opposite. Especially with people sitting too frequently at desk jobs and slouching at the computer, you truly must focus on exercising and strengthening the back muscles and core to aid good posture. Next time you are sitting at the computer, think about your body placement at that moment. Are you slouching? Not engaging your abs or sitting up straight? I thought so! I am constantly aware of my body placement – and I do my best to engage my core 100% of the day and not let myself “sink” into my lower back, so to speak.
  4. A strong back = strong core. The back is such a large group of muscles – and it includes your core. Your core is comprised of your abdominal muscles as well as middle and lower back muscles. This is what helps stabilize your body – which is such an important factor in daily activities. Having a strong back/core helps your spinal alignment and will allow you to live a pain-free life! It also helps if you have even the slightest amount of scoliosis (like I do). Strength training your back and core will help you as you anti-age in terms of loss of bone density/fragile bones, weakening posture, worsening of scoliosis, and more.
  5. A strong back is sexy. When you work your back frequently, you will love how GOOD it makes you look. Working your lats will give you that “V” tapered look, while also making your waist appear smaller. Because your back is such a large group of muscles, it truly helps shape your entire appearance. There are so many different muscles in the back and when you start to train them at many angles, you will love how good it looks (and how strong you are). Having a strong back looks good and feels good. So, if you’ve been neglecting your back, I recommend you start training it ASAP. Below are some of my favorite exercises!


  • Barbell row, first and foremost (this one helps improve your squat!)
  • Seated cable row (wide and narrow grip)
  • Deadlift (so many different variations here – I like sumo and Romanian)
  • T-bar row
  • Dumbbell rows (one arm and both arm)
  • Lat pull-downs (short for latissimus dorsi)
  • Face pulls (rear delts worked here)
  • Weighted hyperextensions
  • Pull-ups


HOW to Sculpt Sexy (and strong) Shoulders

Besides following a clean diet, in order to have round, sculpted shoulders you must exercise them weekly. There are a few things to remember for working this muscle group: exercises for building size and exercises for defining. In order to gain muscle mass in the shoulders, you want to focus on heavy pressing exercises (think military presses with dumbbells or barbell, any kind of clean and press, push press, etc.). With these movements, it’s best to go heavier – think 6-10 rep range. These exercises will build mass (not manly) in your shoulders, as well as strength! Which we want both of, of course. The second set of exercises to focus on are more isolation-type exercises: lateral raises, front raises (anterior deltoids), and rear delt raises. With these, you do want to go lighter and keep reps in the 10-15 range. Other shoulder exercises I love are the upright rows as well as face pulls and handstand pushups. I will go into detail about each one and then you can try them out in your next workout.

  • Shoulder Press with barbell/dumbbell: I do these with the barbell or dumbbells. Both work great. I usually start out with heavier weight, such as 2 25# DBs or 55-60# barbell. With the barbell, it’s OK if you have to use a little momentum, i.e., a small jump, to get the weight up. But it’s important to do strict pressing as well – where you don’t use momentum. You can do sets of both. A good example would be to do 4×8-10 strict military presses and then add more weight to the barbell and do 3-5 sets of 5-8 push presses. You can do these seated or standing. I prefer to do most everything standing, though, as you work your core as well when standing.
  • Clean and press: This is an awesome full body exercise. With this, you do a power clean and then you press the weight overhead. Excellent workout to build strength and mass in your shoulders (again, the shoulder mass will not be manly it will be feminine curves). It’s also a heck of a cardio workout. Do a few sets of these fairly heavy and your heart will be pounding. Watch this demo on the clean and press here and try it on your next workout. Start with just the 45 # barbell, and once you are comfortable, add more weight! I highly recommend this exercise – do anywhere between 4-6 sets of 8-10. You can of course add super-sets of other things such as kettlebell swings, burpees, squat jumps, rowing, etc. Mix it up y’all!
  • Lateral Raises: These are great for building definition in the medial head of the deltoid. You can do them seated (harder), standing, one arm at a time, or even leaning. Use a lighter weight and don’t lose your form. You want to keep a slight bend in the elbow and don’t use momentum. Aim for 10-15 reps, as many as 6-8 sets and do them seated and/or standing.
  • Front Raises: Similar to lateral raises, these are great for working the deltoid (anterior). I do these alternating arms, and I do go heavier on these when compared to lateral raises. I do about 4 sets of dumbbell front raises, 10-12 reps per arm. I also love to hold a 25# plate and do plate front raises, which changes things up just a bit. You can also set up a straight bar and do cable front raises – again, using lighter weight so you can do up to 12 reps.
  • Rear Delt Fly: Don’t neglect the rear delts! Using a set of light dumbbells (think 7.5, 8, or 10#), bend forward at the hips and keep elbows bent slightly. You can do these seated (as in the video link), standing, or you can do them one arm at a time with a cable machine. Endless variations of this exercise. Do 4 sets of 10 reps.
  • Face Pulls: Another awesome exercise for rear delts. One thing about these to remember is to keep the cable hookup either at or below eye level, and keep elbows up (parallel to the floor) the entire time. You should then feel the burn in the rear delts. I love these and do 4-5 sets of 10-12. Don’t go too heavy or you will sacrifice form. And when you sacrifice form you are also sacrificing results, so, stick to perfect form and results will come!
  • Upright Rows:You can do these with a weighted barbell or dumbbells. You can also do them one arm at a time with DBs. I go heavier on these – usually 25 -30# DBs (that’s 2 of each). I like to do 3-4 sets of 7-8 reps heavy (alternating arms) and then I will switch to lighter weight and do sets of 10 with both arms. These really help define your shoulders, and help build strength.
  • Handstand pushups: These are self-explanatory. I love working on these because you are pressing your entire body weight – which is just awesome if you are able to do it! Even if you can’t do more than 3 in a row, start practicing these now. I recommend handstand holds as well, where you just get in a handstand position and time yourself for 30 seconds. Do 3 sets of that at the end of your workout – feel the burn! Handstand pushups are awesome to master because they build so much strength in your upper body! Plus, it’s good for us to be upside down sometimes! 😉

So there you have it. My favorite shoulder exercises! As you can see there are TONS of variations of each exercise, so you should never get bored. I recommend switching up your workouts every other week or so – at least focus on changing the weight, reps, seated versus standing, super-setting, etc. You don’t want your body to adapt to what you are doing. Even simple things such as switching up the order in which you do your workouts will suffice. Also important to remember: to avoid risk of injury, don’t ever work shoulders directly before or after working chest (in terms of days being back to back). I like to put my shoulder day after or before a leg day, and then some sort of circuit workout the day following that. Be mindful of your workout split, rest, recover, stretch, and train hard!









There are NUMEROUS ways you can setup your workouts for the week. If you ever have questions or want advice, feel free to ask me. Also: fun ways to work your shoulders that are not necessarily mass building include BURPEES, mountain climbers and kettlebell swings! These all work your shoulders, but it’s more of an endurance burn than it is a lifting burn – if that makes sense. You could do these the day after shoulders, for example, if you wanted. It’s the heavy pressing you don’t want to do multiple days in a row because you are not allowing recovery time for the muscles. SO to sum up: for shoulder days be sure you include some sort of heavy pressing exercise, lateral raises and front raises (so you hit each head of the deltoid), and don’t neglect your rear delts either!

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Why it’s superior

Steady state cardio is not only super boring and time-consuming, but also not nearly as beneficial (or efficient) as high intensity interval training. So what is high intensity interval training, or HIIT? Surely you’ve heard of it – or can guess by the name itself. This type of exercise ranges in length from as little as 10 minutes to as long as 30 minutes – and you are basically alternating between periods of very intense, breathless exercise, with recovery periods. Now, to each his own and if you are 100% happy with your body and love your steady state cardio then by all means, have at it. I, however, prefer the adrenaline rush I get from HIGH INTENSITY interval training (and lifting heavy weight) – so that is what I stick to in my regimen and that’s what works for me.

The types of HIIT you can do are endless! I love this type of workout because you get your heart rate elevated, get super sweaty, and then have a moment to breathe and recover, only to repeat the process! You will burn fat, improve your glucose metabolism and condition your heart better than any kind of steady state cardio. HIIT is also a lot more fun and exciting than steady state cardio. I never do steady state/conventional cardio. I keep my weight-lifting sessions fast-paced and heavy, so with limited rest these workouts double as cardio as well as resistance training. I also incorporate HIIT specific workouts ~3x per week – where I create a circuit for myself including rowing or running, plyometric exercises and weightlifting exercises (power cleans, clean and press, front squats, goblet squats, etc.).

If you are completely new to working out, I do recommend you start slow and work your way up to more HIIT sessions. Once prepared, HIIT is the best way to torch fat, speed up your metabolism, and allow you to eat more throughout the day since you’re burning more calories throughout the day. If you’ve been exercising now for a while, it’s time to ramp up the intensity and start to really push yourself – that is, if you want to improve your fitness levels and get a leaner body.

So why is HIIT better at burning fat than steady state? High intensity exercise increases your mitochondrial capacity – which increases your fat loss/fat burning capacity throughout the day as opposed to steady state – which only burns calories at that specific moment. Also, the body is very adaptive. And if you are only doing steady state cardio, over time you will have to continue to do more and more in order to continue to burn fat and/or lose weight. Essentially, when it comes to cardio, research shows that intensity matters more – not duration. Another benefit of HIIT is that it’s better at preserving lean muscle mass than steady state. We lose muscle mass as we age, so, I do everything that I can now to prevent this! Which includes HIIT and weightlifting. Excessive steady-state cardio actually reduces testosterone levels in men.

I am not here to tell you to stop all low intensity cardio and only do HIIT.  This is just what works for me and what I prefer. I am able to eat like a horse and still be tiny, thanks to high intensity exercise and heavy weightlifting. (Hello, who wouldn’t love that!?) So unless you are a distance runner or someone who loves to bike long, long miles, I suggest you incorporate HIIT as opposed to solely steady-state cardio.

For ideas on how to create HIIT workouts, check out my blog here and mix and match some of those exercises to create your own circuit for 15, 20, or even 30 mins. You can also include a circuit at the end of a weight training session, e.g., a 10 minute circuit! As usual, any questions at all please don’t hesitate to ask me!



FAVORITE Full Body Exercises: Mix and match

I love getting in and out of the gym efficiently while also having a KILLER workout. I love anything that’s super challenging, causes me to sweat like crazy, heart pound, and anything that makes me really sore the next day. Below I list a few of my favorite full body exercises that you can group together for rounds of 3-7 and create your own circuit workout! I recommend taking 1-2 weighted, and mixing in 1-2 bodyweight exercises, deciding how many reps you want to do and how many sets total (aim for 3-5 at least or totaling 20+ mins for nonstop HIIT), minimize your rest and BAM! You’ve got a killer workout! Switch the order, weight, reps weekly for constant change. Workouts should NEVER be boring! You just have to use your brain and get creative!

I will group the exercises into bodyweight and weighted so you can mix and match to your liking! #letsworkout


  • Mountain climbers (for added challenge do these on medicine ball, sets of 50 reps+ )
  • Hand release pushups (HRPU)
  • Burpees
  • Squat jumps
  • High knees
  • Hand stand pushups (slightly more challenging, but work at them and you’ll get it! Watch this helpful video on technique)
  • Toe taps on box/bench (something relatively short in height, around 1 to 1.5 feet tall)
  • Pushups (tricep, regular or decline-feet elevated on a bench makes it harder!)
  • Box jumps
  • Pullups
  • Lunge jumps


  • Kettlebell swings (ladies, 35# at least! men, go heavier!)
  • Power cleans (these work your entire back and it’s awesome cardio – add these ASAP to your workouts)
  • Thrusters (use dumbbells or barbell)
  • Weighted squat jumps
  • Weighted lunge jumps (hold a light 10-20# kettlebell in front of your body and do them)
  • clean + press 
  • Walking lunges holding plate overhead

So there you go! Also feel free to incorporate ROWING (300-500 meters) in your circuit too as well as running. I know if you are like me and hate to run for long boring distances, you can include 400 meters (1/4 mile) in your workouts and then when you repeat the circuit 4+ times, you’ve done over a mile! These are awesome ways to get your heart rate UP and to burn tons of calories while also toning your body! Try them out and let me know what you think!

Don’t forget to check my workouts tab as well as I post all of my workouts there on a weekly basis. #trainhard y’all!


Compound over Isolation: My Fav Exercises

Hey guys! So today I want to talk about my favorite workouts/exercises for those of you who may be new to working out, or, for those who really want to see results (in addition to following a very clean diet). There are SO MANY different exercises out there for all the body parts and I know this can get completely overwhelming and you may not know which ones you should be doing or which ones are MOST BENEFICIAL. I will discuss, first, why you should focus on COMPOUND MOVEMENTS over isolation (not that isolation exercises are bad they just are not as efficient), and second, why you should avoid machines and focus on free weights (barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell). This isn’t to say ALL machines are bad, but, if you are wanting to see results, i.e., build muscle, burn fat, lose weight, etc., then I will share why compound movements + free weights are the best.

First of all, compound movements are awesome because they work more than one major muscle group at a time (isolation = 1 muscle group). These exercises include things such as squats, bench press, shoulder press (including olympic lifts such as clean and press), deadlifts, lunges, pull-ups, etc. You are utilizing large muscle groups/multiple muscle groups for each of these exercises therefore getting a lot of benefits. I utilize each of these compound movements every week – increasing reps or weight as needed – in order to continue to gain strength and muscle. I will go into detail below about why I love these movements and why you should focus on utilizing them each week.

  1. SQUAT. This is probably my fav leg exercise of all time. Duh. Barbell squat. And squat heavy. This will completely shape your glutes and thighs as well as help strengthen your core. You will gain confidence as well as an excellent rear. The squat can be done with dumbbells or a barbell or jumping! I love to focus on barbell back squats and front squats, as well as weighted squat jumps to build power and increase fast twitch muscle fibers. If you are thinking that you can build excellent glutes without squatting, good luck! You should squat heavy and often and learn to love this exercise as it’s so beneficial in so many ways. I am currently using and loving the Hatch squat app which I recommend you look into getting. It requires that you find your 1RM for both back and front squat and then you follow this 12 week program for 2 leg days a week and it plans your reps, weight and sets for you and is supposed to give you an awesome squat foundation and help you get stronger.
    1. *favorite versions of the squat: bulgarian split squat (I use a kettlebell), barbell front squat, back squat, plie squat, weighted jump squats
  2. DEADLIFT. Another favorite. I have scoliosis and I used to be afraid of deadlifting too heavy. Granted, I am still cautious because of my slight muscular imbalance, but, I still love to deadlift on a weekly basis. You can do barbell or dumbbell deadlifts, or sumo or romanian or single-leg. TONS of variation so you can always switch it up to not get bored. I personally LOVE single-leg deadlifts – this totally helps you focus on each leg and stabilizer muscles as you are required to stand on one leg. It helps your balance and also strengthens the muscles in your ankles. I like to take 2 25 or 30 lb dumbbells and do 4 sets of 10-12 reps per leg.
    1. Favorite versions: sumo and single leg with dumbbells
  3. LUNGE.  I do walking lunges at each leg day because they work so many different muscles in the body! You are hitting a ton of muscles through one exercise. I love to do heavy walking lunges with 2 35 lb or 30 lb dumbbells and do 4 sets of 16 reps per leg. I superset mountain climbers or pushups in between to keep my heart rate up.
    1. favs: walking lunges with dumbbells, barbell front rack lunges (gets heart rate UP UP UP!)
  4. SHOULDER PRESS. This is so awesome for building size in your shoulders. In order to gain muscle mass you gotta push heavy sh*t above your head (but not too heavy – shoulders are easily injured so be careful!). You can use dumbbells or a barbell for these, and I like to keep my weight heavy and reps lower – in the 8-10 rep range – and you can always do burnout sets with lighter weights. It’s great to use both higher and lower rep ranges, but, to gain strength and muscle mass you need to stick within the 8-12 rep range (with 10 or 12 being a struggle).
    1. favs: CLEAN AND PRESS. These are even better than a traditional shoulder press because you use a little momentum and start down in a deadlift position and utilize even more muscles than the shoulder press alone. I love incorporating these into shoulder workouts and you can add super-sets with kettlebell swings or mountain climbers among other things to keep your heart rate up!
    2. Strict shoulder press with barbell
  5. BENCH PRESS. Bench press not only works your chest muscles but also your anterior deltoid and your triceps. Ladies, you won’t look like a hulk if you work on your bench press. I have been working on mine lately and so far I can get up to 85# for 3 reps (I remember when I used to feel so weak at this). This really helps to shape the front of your shoulder (anterior deltoid) as well as tone your triceps! Plus, it just feels good being strong. I superset these with push-ups sometimes- as it is good to be strong at both (just because one can bench press a lot does not mean one can whip out a ton of pushups – so do both!!) I also love to super-set these with pull-ups.
  6. BARBELL ROW. I love this for back days!! It’s so much more efficient than focusing on cable machines because you are required to use stabilizer muscles and you target so many muscles in the back. This is a must to build shapely feminine back muscles. Again, ladies, you will not get bulky! You will just sculpt gorgeous muscles in your back. Also, doing bent over barbell rows help you with your squat strength too!
    1. Other fav versions: single and double arm dumbbell rows; t-bar row
  7. KETTLEBELL SWING. I love this exercise soooo much! It’s so good for building core strength and it makes you sweat and gets your heart rate way up. I highly recommend KB swings in almost every workout as a super-set to any exercise because of the benefits you get all around.
  8. PULL UPS. I am working on these constantly each week. Pull-ups are so awesome because you work practically your entire back as well as shoulders and biceps. I used to use the assisted pullup machine until I decided it wasn’t doing me ANY good so now I get myself over to the pullup bar and I practice there! You gotta do these every day (almost) in order to get better and you can start with a band for support if that helps. Now I am able to do 7 in a row so I will just keep working at it. I do recommend on back days that you do a lot of heavy lat pulldowns and bent over barbell rows and bicep exercises as well as working on pull-ups with resistance bands until you are strong enough to do 1 pullup. Then you can start doing sets of 1-2, for 15-10 sets each day and before you know it you will be able to do a couple. You just gotta practice and do them!

Now I will discuss why I am not a fan of the machines at the gym. Honestly, I never use them. The only machine I will utilize is the cable machine for lat pull downs (usually a warm-up exercise) or seated cable row. I love seated cable row and feel that it’s a good, beneficial exercise to do on back days. But those other machines…I can’t even begin to tell you what they are or what they do because I avoid them! Focusing on free weights and barbells is so much better because these require many more muscle groups and stabilizer muscles so you get so much more out of the workout. It’s functional. I also prefer to stand most of the time and refrain from doing seated exercises (unless it’s bench press, obviously) because you work more muscles when you are standing (CORE/ABS) than when you sit. Really, if you are at the gym, you should be standing and moving as much as you can because you are not going to burn many calories or get a good workout if you’re always sitting (which is what most machines require you to do).

So to sum up, if you are wanting to see results try to focus on the above compound movements each week, add a few isolation exercises to the end of your workout (they should not be the bulk!), and ramp up the intensity (include super-sets, limit rest, lift heavier). Isolation movements =  bicep curls, tricep extensions, farmer walks, calf raises, leg extensions, lat raises, etc… I hate when I see people starting out a leg day with leg extension and ham curls….you gotta get to the squat rack first/early on people! Finish your leg day with the curls and extensions as these do not require a ton of effort and are easier to do when tired. Plus, squatting, lunging and deadlifting are much more functional and you will reap many more benefits (strength, burn more fat, build more muscle, burn more calories, sweat more, increased heart-rate) from doing these exercises as opposed to the isolation ones.

As always, thank you for reading and I hope I was able to give some good information and perhaps inspire you to switch up your workouts to focus on more compound movements!