Why Most 30 Day Challenges Suck (and 3 Challenges That Actually Work)

photo: some rights reserved by trevy

I’ve seen my fair share of 30 day challenges, and I’ve heard not-so-great stories that usually entail abandoning the challenge and diving head first into a tub of ice cream or box of doughnuts … and cookies … and forehead deep into a pie … and any other foods that were “forbidden” during the 30 day chalenge.

There’s no shortage of 30 day challenges that can include a diet change, some type of daily workout, a cleanse or detox, or any combination thereof.

But there are three problems with many popular 30 day challenges.

1. They Suck

Some 30 days challenges (especially in regards to nutrition) tell you to avoid a whole host of foods and food groups. Sure, you can slurp on all the cabbage soup you want and drink limitless amounts of water with lemon. So what if you’re so full from all of the liquid you feel like your eyeballs are floating and your bladder is going to explode unleashing the force of a raging river and wishing you had worn a diaper because you’re going to erupt at any moment and there isn’t a toilet near by – at least you can have all you want!

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4 Reasons Women Should Train for Strength

trainforstrengthI’m grateful that encouraging women to strength train is no longer a new trend or uncommon suggestion; it’s a well established activity that more women than ever are already doing.

But just because it’s not a ground-breaking recommendation to encourage women to lift weights, it still bears repeating that there are numerous benefits to focusing specifically on getting stronger.

The reason is simple – many women still strength train (or work out in general) for the sole purpose of losing fat, burning calories, and trying to transform their physical appearance. And I think there’s a better way: focus on getting stronger, and nothing else.

Before we get to the four reasons women should train for strength, it’s important to note that there are myriad ways to get stronger. Getting stronger doesn’t mean you must focus on nothing but the powerlifts (squats, deadlifts, and bench press) and increasing your one rep maximum. You can use any tool or combination thereof such as free weights, kettlebells, odd objects, or even just your bodyweight. You can also use any rep range or combinations such as heavy singles, sets of five, or even sets of 10 to 20 reps.

Bottom line: there are a lot of different ways to get stronger. The important thing is that you do better when possible and beat your previous workouts. Strength comes in many different forms, so use whatever tools are available to you and embrace all the different rep ranges, if you’d like.

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Fast & Furious Bodyweight Ladder Workout

Fast & Furious Bodyweight Ladder WorkoutYes, I know the title is somewhat stupid (okay, really stupid) for a workout, but it’s catchy. It’s also appropriate because . . .

Sometimes you just want a quick, tough workout.

Sometimes you need a workout you can perform at home when you can’t make it to the gym.

And sometimes, when you have a home gym and it’s a frosty and frigid 20 degrees in the garage and you don’t feel like putting on 37 layers of clothes and doing an extra long warm-up just to work out, you need a back-up workout that can be done in the comfort of your living room.

The latter applied to me the other day when it was in the teens outside and I wasn’t in the mood to bundle up and face the cold in my garage home-gym. Instead of skipping my workout all together and sipping a hot cup of peppermint tea, I decided to do a bodyweight workout in the comforting warmth of my living room. This is a perk of bodyweight-only workouts; you can do them absolutely anywhere.

Moving on . . . I wanted a “fast and furious” workout – something that would force me to work hard but I could complete quickly. What I came up with was a 25 minute(ish) bodyweight workout that included four exercises done in a 10-1 ladder fashion. You’ve seen how to use ladders for building strength on Lift Like a Girl before, but the 10-1 ladder in this workout results in much higher reps per exercise and isn’t focused on building maximum strength.

Let’s look at the workout and explain how to perform the 10-1 ladder.

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10 Week Minimalist Strength Training Program


On Lift Like a Girl you commonly see phrases such as:

  • Sane and simple
  • Achieve more with less
  • Maximum results in minimum time

So it should come as no surprise that I love minimalism, especially in regards to health and fitness.

That’s why I’m very happy to announce the release of the newest Lift Like a Girl strength training program, 3x3x3.

If you too prefer the minimalist approach when it comes to strength training, then you may want to check this out.

As the title 3x3x3 implies, three is the “magic” number for this program. This 10 week program calls for:

  • 3 total body strength training workouts per week
  • 3 exercises per workout
  • 3 different rep ranges per exercise

That gives you 3x3x3.

The other great thing about this program is that it can be tailored to suit your personal preferences. For example, if you want to boost fat loss there is additional (optional!) fat burning work that can be performed after each strength training workout.

There’s also an optional fourth bodyweight-only workout that you can perform. This fourth optional workout is great if you prefer to work out four times per week, want to boost fat loss, or build muscle.

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Total Body Workouts You Can Perform with a Swing Set (or Suspension Trainer)

Swing Set Workout

I love working out at the local playground and oftentimes when I travel, I’ll choose a playground over a gym, as shown in this playground workout.

Playground workouts are a great way to get outside, breathe some fresh air, get some sunshine, and change things up a bit from traditional strength training with free weights. If you’re getting bored with your current workouts, then this may be just what you need. It’s also a fantastic way to get some cheap amusement by terrifying passers-by, which will discuss later.

One of my favorite playground toys to use is the swing set because you can treat it like a make-shift suspension trainer. Every playground I’ve seen, no matter how small, has at least a couple of swings. You can perform a bunch of different exercises with a swing set and work your entire body, so this makes it a great playground-tool.

Below you’ll see several videos that demonstrate exercises you can perform (from beginner to more challenging variations) on a swing set. From chest and shoulders to legs and glutes, you’ll be able to work your entire body with this single piece of equipment. And please note, you can also do these workouts at home, or anywhere else, with a suspension trainer. The playground isn’t mandatory – it’s just fun.

We’ll begin with the video demonstrations and then you’ll see some complete total body workouts you can perform with the swing set.

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You Don’t Need a Gym to Get Fit – Try This Playground Workout

Playground Workout
photo by Carl Wycoff: some rights reserved

Outdoor workouts, or, in this case, playground workouts, are a terrific way to not only get in an effective workout, but to also get some fresh air and sunshine.

While lifting heavy barbells, hosting dumbbells, and using other machines and tools  available at your local gym are certainly terrific for strength training and building the body you want, it’s not mandatory.

In fact, I have a home gym loaded with lots of goodies, but it’s not required to get fit, improve your health, lose fat, and have fun with your training.

As I’ve discussed before, sometimes I get downright bored with traditional workouts and crave a change of pace. This is when playground workouts can really come in handy. You can get outside, do something different (which can be just a mentally stimulating as it is physical), and even have some fun.

Below is a video I filmed in the late winter of 2013 when I was visiting my home state of Tennessee. Instead of using the workout facility where we were staying, we stumbled upon a great little playground area. Check out the exercises we performed (in addition to some . . . umm . . . productive “resting activities” between exercises) and then I’ll show you how to make each exercise easier and more challenging.

Here’s the video:

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4 Advantages of Dumbbell Exercises and Why You Should Use Them (And 3 Disadvantages)

The adjustable dumbbells in my home gym.

Dumbbells are great tools to have in your strength training arsenal.

They allow for a lot of variety with your workouts, and they even have some significant advantages compared to barbells.

Before we get into the article, please note that I’m not claiming that dumbbells are the best workout tool and that they’re superior to any other piece of equipment, be it barbells, kettlebells, or anything else.

This article will, however, reveal some of the great benefits and advantages offered from dumbbell exercises. We’ll follow that up with a discussion on who could benefit from more dumbbell work and then finish up with a few disadvantages dumbbells have.

4 Advantages of Dumbbell Exercises

1. Dumbbell exercises can be more joint-friendly than their barbell equivalent. As an example, compare a flat bench dumbbell press to the good ole flat bench barbell press. The dumbbell version tends to be a bit more elbow and shoulder friendly because you can have more natural movement since your hands aren’t fixed in place; you can turn or rotate them as you press.

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NEW Lift Like a Girl Tutorial – Workouts, Exercise Demos, and Techniques in One Convenient Location

newlogoimageI’m excited to announce the newest Lift Like a Girl Tutorial.

This one has been a long time coming and it’s awesome because it includes:

  • Sample workout programs
  • Exercises and demonstration videos
  • Workout techniques for losing fat, getting stronger, and building muscle
  • And much more

And it’s all in one convenient spot so you don’t have to waste time searching.

The Tutorial will also get updated regularly with new content, so if you want to find some of the best sample workouts, exercises, workout techniques, and more featured on Lift Like a Girl, definitely check this out.

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Two Day Per Week Strength Training Program

Nia Shanks 330 Pound DeadliftI know what you’re probably thinking: how can I get great results from only working out two days per week?

The simple answer: as long as you follow a good program (as provided in this article), work hard, and improve your performance consistently, you can get great results.

In fact, you may be surprised by how much you can achieve from strength training two days per week. After all, quality is more important than quantity.

But before we get to the two day per week strength training routine, let’s discuss . . .

Who Can Benefit from Strength Training Twice Per Week?

Anyone who’s busy. For those who are truly limited on time, two days per week is usually a great solution. You don’t spend much time going to, or in, the gym and you can still achieve great results.

The trainee who is getting burned out from strength training. I go through periods when I don’t love strength training. When this happens, I know I need to scale back the frequency of my workouts, immediately. If you’re not enjoying strength training but keep forcing yourself, week after week, and month after month, to keep training at a high frequency, you risk burning yourself out.

I know, because it’s happened to me. All of a sudden I didn’t enjoy strength training; all because I never scaled back when I should have.

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The Fatigue Fallacy: You Don’t Have to Finish Your Workouts Exhausted

fatigue fallacyI thought the trend of working out with the goal of achieving a high state of fatigue each session was beginning to die out. But, it’s not. People think that if they don’t finish a workout on the brink of vomiting or completely exhausted that they didn’t work hard enough. Even worse, they think the workout was just a waste of time.

About a month ago a Lift Like a Girl reader emailed me; her personal trainer carries around a chart with a scale from one to 10 that includes faces above each number. One is incredibly easy (and is represented with a smiley face) and 10 is an all out, gut busting effort (represented with a very red, and sad looking, face). This is the chart he uses to measure her (and his other clients) exertion level.

According to her, “He demanded that I stay at nine or higher the entire workout.”

She contacted me because she felt discouraged. She doesn’t look forward to, let alone enjoy, her workouts. She wants to improve her health and lose body fat in the process, but part of her wants to give up because she feels sick every workout, gets incredibly sore, and just doesn’t feel great after completing her workouts.

“I’ve read on your website that you say people should finish their workouts feeling better than when they started. I want to believe you, but isn’t it necessary to work incredibly hard and finish each workout tired?”

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