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The Perfect Tricep Dip

Happy Fitness Friday friends!! Today’s post is a continuation of my “Perfect Series.” This is where I choose one tricky exercise and go over how to execute it properly. Here are the exercises we’ve already covered:

The Perfect Push Up
The Perfect Plank
The Perfect Squat
The Perfect Lunge

We’re continuing with the bodyweight exercises to one move I constantly see people butcher – the tricep dip.

I love this exercise because it requires no weights, just a flat elevated surface. It works those smaller arm muscles using your bodyweight, and as a result gets your heart rate up a little too. Much more fun than just standing there swinging a small dumbbell back and forth.

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The above is the beginners version of the exercise. Honestly, most people are at this level. Your triceps are a group of small arm muscles that for the most part haven’t yet been built up to support your bodyweight. Yet!

Things to remember when doing a tricep dip:

  • Put your hands behind your butt, and not next to your hips.
  • Keep your elbows parallel. They should be the same width apart as your shoulders. Never let them float to the sides.
  • Again, make sure your elbows are pointing to the back wall – not the sides!
  • Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears.
  • Stop when your elbows are at 90 degrees and come up until your arms are straight, but don’t lock your elbows out.
  • Don’t force this move. If your triceps are failing, stop doing the exercise. Other muscles will pitch in to help and this is where people risk injuring muscles in their neck or back.

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For the most part, the dip is an isolated tricep exercise, hitting the small group of muscles in the back of your arm (you know, the part that waves at you when you brush your teeth). However, your chest, front of shoulders and upper back are players in this exercise too.

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Once you’re strong enough to get through 15 reps try lifting one leg off the floor. This will put a little more weight into your arms. If you’re feeling risky, lift one arm up too.

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Eventually you’ll graduate to having straight legs. Make sure you’re on your heels and not the soles of your feet. This will distribute the weight more into your hands and not your feet. Bend at the hips and bring your butt to the ground without actually touching the ground. Keep your legs straight during this variation.

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Once you’ve got that mastered, it’s time to add some height and instability! Pull two benches together or grab an exercise ball to put your feet on.

If that is still too easy, place a plate on your thighs to add extra weight to the exercise. By this point you have triceps made of steel.

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Finally, you can to full dips! This is for advanced people only!! Or you can try this out on the assisted machine, which has a loaded step to help you out.

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Same rules apply here. Shoulders are down, elbows are parallel and not floating to the side. You’ll definitely feel this one more in your chest and your tris will be appropriately destroyed ;)

 

Question of the Day: What are some moves you’d like to see highlighted in the Perfect Series?

Whole Paycheck

Hellohello! I had a blast reading through everyone’s random tidbits!! How fun!! Two extra tidbits I forgot to add yesterday:

1. I did a guest post on Deb’s blog on the method behind my homemade protein bars. Ch-ch-check it out!

2. I munched on something delicious while blogging last night.

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A take on Holly’s no bake protein cookies – peanut butter protein balls. To make this, I mixed together 2 tbsp chocolate protein powder, 1 tbsp flaked coconut, 1 tbsp peanut butter, splash of water.

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All rolled up and stuck in the freezer for half an hour. The perfect bedtime dessert!

That little snack was just enough to hold me through my slumbering hours. I awoke this morning ready to refill my belly.

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Egg + bacon sandwich with mayo, lettuce and tomato.

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Fruit salad with fresh peach, strawberries and blueberries sprinkled with cinnamon and coconut.

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Definitely a breakfast worth getting up for ;)

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T’was already stinkin’ hot first thing this morning, so I made my second cup of coffee iced. I just stuck the glass in the fridge for about an hour then topped it up with a pack of stevia, cold almond milk and ice.

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I continued cooling down all morning with Mr Freezes. They’re only 10 calories a pop. Which I suppose can add up if you like to eat them throughout the course of the day ;)

Enjoyed a leisurely morning watching the Tour de France. Contador is so close to catching up to Schleck, it is making me nervous. I’m an Andy fan…

Even though his arms are the same circumference as the frame tubes on his bike. Contador just looks like a villain…

Evil.

Moving on!

Snacked up in preparation for the gym.

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Lemon flavoured yogurt with 2 tbsp unflavoured protein powder, blueberries, plain rolled oats, cinnamon and more coconut. Gah! I want it to always be berry season! These bloobs were so good!!

My legs are a little wrecked from the torture exercises I’ve put them through this week, so I focused on upper-body weights today with cardio spurts in-between. Kept the weight heavy, reps low, and added a set to shock the ole’ muscles.

Cardio
15 minutes on the elliptical, increasing resistance

Straight sets

Cardio
5 minutes on the rowing machine, alternating grip

Straight sets

Cardio
5 minutes on the stepmill

Alternating sets

Cardio
15 minutes on the treadmill, 1 minute sprints followed by 2 minutes of walking

Phew!! I haven’t done a workout like this in a while and it was tons of fun. It took me almost 90 minutes, so don’t attempt it unless you’ve got extra time. I suggest it as a good rainy Sunday workout ;)

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Was positively starving by the time I got home and immediately whipped up a steaming plate of spicy chicken stir-fry.

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Chopped up a giant marinated jerk chicken breast bought at the local butcher, and stir-fried it with onions, mushrooms, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, carrots and hot sauce. So simple, and so delicious :) Kept me satisfied foreverrrr.

Good thing too! As I had another big shopping trip planned for today.

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Yes my friends, my first ever trip to Whole Foods!!

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I’ve heard good things about it all over the internets for years now. We don’t have one out East, so I was excited to pay a visit as soon as I got to Toronto. Food shopping > clothes shopping.

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First and foremost, I was really excited about all the free samples they had out. Sure, they were covered in germs from people’s sticky fingers. But free food is free food.

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My favourite aisle: the nut butter aisle.

In all, my Whole Foods trip was fun, but in all honesty I wasn’t that impressed! Most of the items you can find in smaller organic stores closer to where I live, so the trip out to Yorkville isn’t worth the time to me.

I did enjoy an iced cafe au lait on the bus home though :)

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Don’t be fooled, I didn’t leave Whole Foods empty handed. There were some splurges!!

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  • Deep chocolate VitaTops
  • Silver Hills Steady Eddie bread (got with a free coupon – review to come!)
  • Essence of Peach Kombucha iced tea
  • Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
  • Fresh figs
  • Jicama

The whole thing (not including the bread) cost me just over 20 bucks. Mmmm…yeah. I can see how they call it “Whole Paycheck” :P I was thisclose to buying Sunshine Burgers – but they were $6.99 for only three burgers, too rich for my blood!

The chocolate peanut butter though, I just couldn’t say no to.

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Protective seals are meant for licking ;) Not bad. I think I like Nutella better.

And would you believe it if I told you I’ve never tried a fresh fig before??

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I’ve had tons of dried figs, but fresh ones are so hard to find in New Brunswick. For some reason they are a lot more abundant in Ontario. I immediately tore into one once I got home.

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Yet another thing I think has been talked up too much. It was kinda bland? Not very flavourful. The texture is fun though!

Last but not least, for dinner I prepared a much cheaper version of any burger you’d find at Whole Foods.

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Yesterday, I bought a pound of ground turkey for $4. Then, for 79 cents I bought a can of black beans to add to the turkey to “plump” it up.

Mixed the two together with a clove of garlic and tbsp of chili powder.

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Ended up getting six large spicy black bean turkey burgers out of the mix. Take that Sunshine Burger :P

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I ate one on a half a pita, smothered in ketchup, mustard and pickles. They turned out really good!!

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With a side of jicama fries. Sliced them up and baked at 450F for about 35 minutes. I was expecting them to taste like yucca fries, but they weren’t anything like them!! They were still kinda crunchy and tasted like water chestnuts. Interesting. I think I will try the rest of it raw on a salad…

And with that, I am off!! Sorry to leave you so abruptly, but my roommie is playing a show tonight and I’m laaaaate!! See ya tomorrow!! xo

Question of the Day: How do you save money at the grocery store? I always buy the cheap canned goods, it can sometimes be a difference of two bucks!

Ripped Arms: A How-To Guide

Hellooooooo!!

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How was everyone’s weekend? Are we pumped to make it a great upcoming week?? What’s that? I can’t hear your enthusiasm through all the groans ;)

I had a most fabulous day biking and eating around Ottawa with my big sis. I will babble about it and explain the above picture tomorrow. But tonight’s post is all about one of my faaavourite things!

Fitness!

I put the call out for fitness-related questions and got a handful of really good ones to answer. Y’all know I’m a certified personal trainer, so you can take or leave what I lay out for you here. Just remember it’s general advice, specialized instruction for the individual is always best!
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Excellent question. I have actually been working pretty hard lately at building up my scrawny arms to get that nice “athletic” look. (I always say I would like to look like a volleyball player who doesn’t play volleyball ;) )

First and foremost it’s important to realize that it is really hard to get defined muscle tone when you still have a layer of fat over top of your muscles. I’m not saying you need to starve yourself down to 13% body fat. But muscle definition is a lot about what you eat, not just what you lift.

Speaking of lifting, it really helps. You can definitely get visible arm definition from yoga, but sometimes you require a little more resistance or different movements to build the arm muscles. Yes, I say build. Muscles don’t “tone” they “grow.” If you want to see them, you have to make them bigger.

We’ll start at the top with the shoulder muscles.

A lot of women are scared to work their shoulders too hard because they don’t want to bulk up on the top. While some women are indeed more prone to getting a sturdier look up there, defined deltoids are an essential part of getting those ripped arms you’re after.

As you can see in the above picture, your deltoids are in three parts: anterior deltoid (front of shoulder), middle/lateral deltoid (top and side of shoulder), and posterior deltoid (back of shoulder).

If you only have time to do one shoulder exercise, do the shoulder press as it hits all three of these areas at once.

You can do shoulder presses with dumbbells or a barbell, seated or standing, or on a 45 degree bench. Most gyms also have press machines, but I find they can be awkward for a lot of people.

Things to remember:

  • Keep your shoulders in a “reset” position, ie down and back. Never shrug them up as you raise the weight above your head.
  • If you’re standing, try not to lean back when it starts to get hard, it puts a lot of stress on your spine.
  • Only lower the dumbbells to just above your ears, or so your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  • Don’t let your dumbbells clink together at the top, keep it a nice and controlled movement.
  • Lift heavy! Too many women do this exercise with those dinky 5lb dumbbells. Start with at least 10 lbs in each hand, the last couple reps should be really hard to complete. If you want to see those shoulders, you have to work them!

Honourable mentions:

Dumbbell front raiseworks mostly the front of your shoulders (can be done with a cable or tubing as well)

Dumbbell lateral raise – works mostly the top of your shoulders (can be done with a cable or tubing as well)

  
Prone cuban snatchthis move goes by many names, but it will mostly hit the back of your shoulders.

Now! Onto our arms! Back when I first started lifting, I did not isolate my arm muscles. They are often secondary muscles in chest and back exercises so it just wasn’t necessary when I was first starting out. But the longer you lift weights, the stronger your big muscle groups will get, which will allow you to move onto the smaller ones. Personally, I did not see a huge difference in my arms until I started isolating the muscles in them. This is why sometimes chaturangas alone won’t work.

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We’re going to start with the triceps as there are more muscles in that group. As the name implies, there are three: long head, lateral head, medial head. Different moves will hit different areas of the triceps. For simplicity’s sake, I won’t go into the specifics of each one. Just make sure you vary your triceps moves, and you’ll be good! Luckily, there are many you can do. Here are some of my favourites:

Dumbbell extension: as with all other standing moves, ensure your shoulders are back & down, and don’t lean back. Your elbows should be the only joint moving.

Cable pushdown: I like staggering my stance with this one to create a more stable base. For the love of God, push down using ONLY your elbows. Donotdonot engage your shoulders. Especially not your back. This is probably the #1 move I see done incorrectly.

Kickback: You can also do this one with your knee on a bench and one arm at a time. Check yourself in the mirror and make sure your back is straight and shoulders are on the same plane. And guess what!? Bend only at your elbows!

 Skull crusher: I really love this one, I think because of the badass name. Grab on to a barbell with a narrow grip. Start with your arms straight, then bend only at the elbow to lower it down to your forehead, then push back up.

Cable extension: Just make sure your back is straight and shoulders are down. You can do this with the rope or straight bar attachment. Hey! Bend only at the elbows! No shoulder business!! ;)

Next up we got the biceps! For our purposes, we’ll focus on the biceps brachii (the main biceps muscle) and the brachilis (the outside biceps muscle).

There is essentially only one way to work your biceps: the curl.


The number one thing to remember with the curl is to keep your elbows pinched in at the sides, otherwise you start engaging other muscles. What’s the point of doing isolation moves when improper form means you’re no longer isolating them??

Variations:

Incline curl: I love this one. The incline allows your arms to fall farther back, which means you have to curl your arms up further. Always leaves me sore.

Hammer curl: This one hits into your forearm a little more. Strong forearms are actually more important than you’d think (cycling anyone??). But I get it’s not really all that feminine. You can also do twisting curls where you start in the hammer position, then curl up so the dumbbells are horizontal at your shoulder. Just engages different parts of your biceps along the way.

Barbell 21s: This is a little complicated. Essentially you are doing 21 reps, divided into 7. For the first 7, you lift only halfway, stopping when your elbows are at 90 degrees. The second 7 are the top half, starting at the 90 degree position and moving to the top. Finally, the last 7 are the whole motion from top to bottom.

 

And that my friends is just a little snippet of how to get ripped arms!! Including shoulder, triceps and biceps isolation moves into your training at least once a week (lifting heavy) will give you that little bit of definition you’re after. That is of course, if you’ve got a good diet to match your training plan ;)

Thank you for indulging me in this epic arm post! Be back tomorrow with more shenanigans. xoxo

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