Category Archives: Challenges

Move It Monday – Upper-Body Workouts

Welcome to the first day of the PIPES Challenge!!

If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, you can read all about it right here.

I’m taking part in Morgan’s six week challenge to build upper-body strength. My challenge however will be a little different. I’m recovering from reconstructive surgery on my left elbow. I just started physiotherapy to get my muscles moving the joint again. My goal is to be able to almost fully extend my left arm on my own by the end of the challenge.

My arm exercises currently involve a belt and a bag of frozen peas.

Regardless, I do have a ton of tough upper-body workouts up my sleeve (pun intended) and it’s only fair to share. Below are three different types of upper-body workouts. That will hopefully challenge those pipes in new way and get you ready for the gun show in six weeks! ;)


Upper-Body For The Attention Deficit

Aim for around 12 reps for each exercise. Choose whatever cardio machines you like, or leave it out. With cardio, it takes a little over an hour.

Warm-up: 15 minutes on the elliptical, increasing resistance

Straight set (x3):
Dumbbell pullover (chest, back of shoulders, lats, rhomboids,triceps)

Alternating sets (x3):
Incline chest fly (chest, front of shoulders, biceps)
Incline dumbbell row (lower lats, rhomboids, middle traps)

Cardio: 10 minutes on the rowing machine, alternating grips

Straight set (x3):
Cable lateral raise (top and front of shoulder, traps)

Alternating sets (x3):
Dumbbell twist curl (biceps)
Forward triceps extension (triceps)

Cardio: 10 minutes on the stairmaster, increasing speed  

Upper-Body For The Heavyweight

Recommended for the advanced. A workout that has you lifting heavy at low reps and extra sets. Knowing your limits and using proper form are extremely important. The weight below is what I use for this workout, therefore just a guideline.

Exercise Weight Reps Sets
One arm dumbbell snatch  25 lbs 4-6 4
Romanian deadlift to row  60 lbs 4-6 4
Wide-grip lat pulldown  70 lbs 4-6 4
Barbell bench press 60 lbs 4-6  
Push-up  on toes to failure  
Incline dumbbell shoulder press  25 lbs ea 4-6 4
Incline dumbbell curl 12 lbs ea 12 3
Tricep pulldown 40 lbs 12 3


Upper-Body Pyramids

Pyramid sets get deep into your muscle tissues, really stimulating growth. The weight listed are just an example of how it varies with each set. Go with whatever challenges you the most.


Exercise Reps Weight
Wide-grip lat pulldown  12 45 lbs
Seated cable row  12 40 lbs
Wide-grip lat pulldown  8 55 lbs
Seated cable row  8 50 lbs
Wide-grip lat pulldown  6 65 lbs
Seated cable row  6 60 lbs
Wide-grip lat pulldown  10 45 lbs
Seated cable row  10 40 lbs


Exercise Reps Weight
Dumbbell bench press  12 20 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 12 10 lbs each hand
Dumbbell bench press  8 22.5 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 8 12.5 lbs each hand
Dumbbell bench press  6 25 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 6 15 lbs each hand
Dumbbell bench press  10 20 lb dumbbells
Standing cable fly 10 10 lbs each hand


Exercise Reps Weight
Arnold press  12 12.5 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  12 20 lb barbell
Arnold press  8 15 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  8 20 lb barbell
Arnold press  6 17.5 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  6 30 lb barbell
Arnold press  10 12.5 lb dumbbells
Barbell upright row  10 20 lb barbell

Biceps –
Alternating Sets

Exercise Reps Weight Sets
Barbell bicep curl 12 20 lbs 3
Incline curl  12 10 lb dumbbells 3

– Alternating Sets

Exercise Reps Weight Sets
Skull crusher  12 20 lbs 3
Forward tricep extension  12 20 lbs 3


As always, leave any questions about the workouts below. Let me know if you need alternates for any of the exercises because of equipment restrictions, injuries, etc. Most importantly – have fun!!

Move It Monday – Pipes Challenge

Happy Mondaaaay! Today’s Move It Monday is extra special. Instead of me talking at you, I want to motivate you to get moving with me!

It’s all inspired by my friend Morgan and her new 6 Week Pipes Challenge.

It’s all about whipping those girly arms of ours into shape. You know what I’m talking about. Those of us who do a few tricep dips after a run and call it a day. Upper body strength is SO much more important than that!

Alright, and let’s face it, it won’t hurt for looking good come tank-top season ;)

Now this challenge can take on many forms and I encourage you to pick a goal that suits you. Morgan will be following the 100 push up plan. Some other great ideas are doing your first arm balance pose in yoga…

Or how about doing a full tricep dip?

Now, you may be wondering why a girl who just spent a month in a full arm-cast is yammering about getting ripped pipes.

Clearly, I am not going to spend the six weeks doing bicep curls (OUCH). But I have set a unique goal for myself.

By the end of the challenge I want to be able to almost fully flex and extend my left arm. As most of you know, I shattered my elbow a month ago in a skating accident. I just got my cast off and started physiotherapy tonight!!

I took “before” pictures so you get an idea of what I’m working with.


My bad arm, flexed toward my body as far as it will go. Mind the chipping nail polish and pyjamas – I’m currently unemployed.


My bad arm extended as far as it currently goes. I also can’t hold it up on it’s own.

For comparison’s sake, here’s the same movements with my good arm!


Flexion. What’s up.


Extension. Hiya!

My doc says those two movements should come back quickly, so it’s a very reasonable goal for me right now. Although, chances are I’ll fall an inch or so short of where I used to be able to move it. Nothing too noticeable.

The more difficult, and more long-term goal, will be to get rotation back in my wrist.


This is it pronated, which is actually pretty good. Because of the location of my injury, this direction is easier than it should be.


On the flipside, that means supination is more difficult than it should be. Normal arms can rotate the palm to face the ceiling. Mine just stops dead right there.

IMG_6151 IMG_6153

Or on my good arm, I can do it 360 degrees when straightened ;)

Meeting with a physiotherapist tonight was very interesting. She was able to work my arm into moving much more than this. Although, I am still hindered a lot by pain. She instructed me to take my percocet before our next session so we can work it a little better.

What I didn’t realize is just how tense the left side of my upper body is. My left bicep is essentially in constant contraction to keep in the 90 degree position and elbow protected. Hard as a rock. My left shoulder is also super tense and really hard to loosen up.

I’ve been instructed on how to start moving my elbow and wrist properly several times a day, as well as massaging out my left bicep and loosening up that shoulder. Despite the pain, I plan to work diligently at it to get my elbow moving back and forth with relative ease when the challenge is over!

The challenge officially starts next Monday. You can find posts at Life After Bagels every week for support over the six weeks (and maybe some guest posts from me!). We’ll also be chatting about it on her Facebook page and on Twitter under the hashtag #6weekpipes.

If your looking for more info on building up those pipes, check out these old posts of mine!

The Perfect Push Up
The Perfect Tricep Dip
Ripped Arms: A How To Guide 

So now my question to you is – will you be participating? What’s your goal to get those pipes in shape?

Anyone Can Do Yoga

As most of you know, I am currently participating in a 30 day yoga challenge. It’s hosted by Power of Movement, the word’s largest yoga fundraiser. It will wrap up on February 27 when me and 499 other yogis take to our mats in a “mega session” in Toronto.

I wrote all about the event and why I chose to take part in this post. Money raised will go towards the Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre Foundation. While I am not personally afflicted with arthritis, I know those who are. It’s not just something your grandparents or dog suffer from. One in 1000 kids will get arthritis and there are over 100 different types.

When I heard Andrea had an autoimmune form of arthritis, I asked her to share her story. As a fit 28-year-old, her story shows just how the condition can effect anyone, and how it can change your life.


In 2008, I started experiencing pain in my hands. It wasn’t from overuse – sometimes I’d just be reading a book and all of a sudden both of my wrists would hurt. Then I noticed that my feet were hurting. After a few months of this, I headed off to my doctor. A diagnosis of arthritis was not what I was expecting.

Rheumatoid Arthritis – I had no idea what it is. Like most people, you hear arthritis and relate this to osteoarthritis (OA) which is the breakdown of the joints due to wear and tear.

So what is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

“Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is one where the body’s immune system becomes confused and begins to ‘attack’ the body. In RA, the joints are the target of the immune attack causing swelling, pain and inflammation in the joints”

(from the Arthritis Society)

Most cases of RA occur in women and usually effects people between the ages of 20 and 60. I was 28 when I was first diagnosed.

Some of the symptoms of RA include:

  • Joint pain in more than one area – for me, it started with my hands and feet, than moved into my knees and neck.
  • Fatigue – We have a couch in our break room at work. That couch and I are good friends. I’d have a nap every day on my lunch hour.
  • Morning stiffness that may last for hours – getting out of bed is a nightmare. You can’t flip over because your knees, hands and neck are stiff. Once you get out, you can barely walk since your feet and knees are stiff. Forget about opening your shampoo body in the shower. I’d hobble off to work and would be hopefully loosened up by the time I got there, 3 hours after getting up.

Up until my arthritis symptoms started, I was very active. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life and exercise helped keep me at a healthy weight. However with pain in my hands, feet and knees, I had to stop everything. I gave up my cardio classes because bouncing around hurt my feet. I stopped running because it was too hard on my knees. I stopped practicing yoga because you can’t hold a downward facing dog when your hands hurt too much to support yourself.

Thankfully, RA can be controlled with medication. Its different for everyone, but I take 6 big pills a day and a weekly injection to reduce inflammation and slow any damage to joints. My Rheumatologist got me started very early with my medication and thankfully, I don’t have any permanent joint damage. For many people, RA results in irreversible damage to their joints and potentially long term disability.

Two and a half years from my initial diagnosis, I’m pain free about 99% percent of the time. I have the occasional “flare up” where every joint hurts and I’m exhausted and all I can do is stay home in bed. I’m often sick to my stomach from my medications. I see my rheumatologist every 3 months, get monthly blood tests to ensure that my medication isn’t causing any problems with my liver and kidneys, have x rays taken once a year to monitor any joint damage. But I can run, kick box and be active again. I’m much better off than a lot of people with RA and for that, I’m grateful.

There’s currently no cure for RA. My plan is to keep taking my medication, supporting organizations that fund research for all forms of arthritis and to keep active for as long as I can. Every time I run, finish a Turbo Fire video or hold a downward dog without pain is a small victory for me over my arthritis.


Thank you for taking the time to share your story Andrea!! Is that not the nicest race photo you’ve ever seen?

If you’d like to pitch in for the cause, click here to go to my fundraising page. Even $5 will help!

I love yoga. I love what it does for my mind and body. And I would love it if everyone and anyone could do it.

P.S. That’s the bar I celebrated my birthday in ;)