Wednesday Workouts Body & Mind

Body Workout

My current workout schedule is a 4 day resistance training split with one day of interval cardio per week. My split is:
-Upper Body
-Lower Body
-Full Body A
-Full Body B
and my focuses are increasing strength on bench press and deadlift and increasing repetitions on pull-ups. I’m using a programing technique called daily undulating periodization for increasing strength on the deadlift and bench press, so I include both lifts in two workouts each week and for each lift, I have one heavy day and one lighter day each week as well. My hope is that increasing my frequency of performing these lifts will result in some awesome strength gains!

Here is the workout I did yesterday, my upper body workout. I did these exercises after my 15-20 minute warm up routine that involves foam rolling and 8-10 dynamic stretches or mobility drills. This workout took about 70 minutes including the warmup.

A. BB Bench Press (Heavy) 5-6 X 1-3 Reps
B. Pullups 3 X Max Reps
C. Plank (arms on airex mat, Legs in TRX) 3 X60”
D. Inverted Row (TRX) 3 X 8-10 reps
E1. DB Bicep Curls 3 X 8-12 reps
E2. Bench Dips 3 X 10-15 Reps
E3. Prone T’s 3 X 10-15 Reps

To explain some of my shorthand: BB=Barbell, DB=dumbbell, exercises with the same letter (E) are performed in sequence like a circuit, and the first numbers to the left of the “X” are the number of sets.

Strangely, in the aftermath of my workout, I’ve been most sore in my chest (probably from the heavy bench press) and my mid/lower traps (from the prone T’s, the lightest exercise on there, but truly a weak point for me).

Mind Workout

Becoming the best fitness coach I  can be involves continuously learning. I’m currently reading Training for Strength by Chris Beardsley. It’s a review of the scientific research studies that exist on strength training.


My other favorite brain-stimulation lately is the Physique Science Radio podcast hosted by Layne Norton and Sohee Lee. It’s free. I stream it in my car through soundcloud and nerd-out on their fitness Q&As and interviews with notable exercise physiologists, nutritionists, and fitness psychologists.

I’d encourage you to check out either, but especially the podcasts, and always be learning (through reputable sources)!


Active Rehab: Overhead Flexibility

My personal goal in these weekly rehab posts is to prepare my body to safely learn some Olympic lifts next month (February), to document my progress along the way, and to educate whomever decides to read along in the process. Olympic lifts include two movements called the “clean and jerk” and the “snatch” and their many variations.

As you can see, these movements involve a significant overhead component (as well as strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular ability), and it has recently come to my attention that, while I’m fairly flexible in my lower body, I currently lack the ability to completely extend my arms overhead without making other compensations such as arching my upper back or pushing my head/neck forward.


Shoulder: Joints

To narrow in on what may be tight around my shoulder, I’m going to look through the anatomy of the shoulder joint. The shoulder is composed of 3 bones (the humerus, scapula, and clavicle) and 2 joints:

  1. The glenohumeral joint between the glenoid fossa  (a landmark on the scapula or shoulder blade) and the humerus (upper arm bone).
  2. The acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) made up of the acromion process (bony landmark of the scapula or shoulder blade) and clavicle (collar bone).

Shoulder: Muscles

There are 5-6 “major mover” muscles that attach to these bones and cause movement of the arm at the shoulder. The major movements the arm can perform are: flexion (raising arm in front of body), extension (moving arm behind body), abduction (raising arm out to side), and adduction (bringing arm to side of body).


I’m classifying major movers as the muscles that move the arm in these two planes of motion:

  1. Deltoid– a muscle at the top of the arm involved in flexion, abduction, and extension of the arm. Its name is deltoid because it is shaped similar to the character delta Δ.
  2. Pectorals Major and Minor–the chest muscles, important in flexing the arms, for instance during pushups. (Sorry for the creepy picture face)
  3. Latissimus Dorsi (also just known as the lats, because the full name is a mouthful and ain’t nobody got time for that). The lats are important for extension and adduction, or bringing the arms back to the body, as in pull ups or rows.
  4. The Teres Major is a smaller muscle just above the lats that performs a very similar function to the lats, assisting with extension and adduction of the arms.
  5. Other muscles of honorable mention in this category are the long head of the biceps, which crosses the shoulder joint and performs some flexion of the arm, and the long head of the triceps which also crosses this joint and performs some extension of the arm.

Then, there are the minor movers of the shoulder, primarily the rotator cuff muscles. These muscles mostly provide stabilization to the shoulder joint, holding the head (top) of the humerus in the correct position against the glenoid (socket) during movements and performing internal rotation and external rotation of the arm.


  1. Supraspinatus– tiny muscle that assists in lifting the arm overhead and is frequently injured from lifting overhead.
  2. Infraspinatus–external rotation
  3. Teres Minor–external rotation
  4. Subscapularis–internal rotation

There are other important structures of the shoulder including ligaments and the labrum, but I’ll discuss those at a later time when I expand on common injuries at the shoulder joint.

Weekly Rehab Fix

Last week I focused on tension in my neck through stretching the pecs, scalenes, and levator scapulae and soft tissue massage with a small ball in the pecs and traps. I didn’t do it every day, but I managed to do the routine 5 out of 7 days of the last week. It has helped with the post-workout headaches I was experiencing (none in the last week), but it hasn’t eliminated that “need to stretch” sensation in my neck or chest muscles. I’m going to keep these exercises in my rehab routine this week and do them at least every other day.

This week’s focus is on the lats and back-of-the-shoulder muscles like the posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, teres major, and teres minor. I’m adding in some small-ball-massage of my lats (just the thought is painful because mine are soo sensitive) and posterior deltoid area (the back side of the shoulder), a stretch for the lats, and 2 mobility exercises. Let’s see if this helps my overhead reach!

  1. Small ball massage of the lats, 1 minute each side
    With the arm raised overhead, palm facing inward toward the head, sandwich the ball between the wall and the edge of your latissimus dorsi (on the side of the body, underneath the armpit). Gently massage back and forth.
  2. Small ball massage posterior deltoid area, 1 minute each side
    With arms at sides or hugging your chest, sandwich ball between the back of the shoulder the wall. Massage around that shoulder area.
  3. Wall Lat Stretch, 30sec each side, 3 times
  4. Bench T-Spine Mobilization, 10 times focusing on form, nice and slow. You can use a broom stick, empty paper towel roll, or any stick that’s light.
  5. Wall Slide with Upward Rotation and Lift off , 10 times, slow and controlled.

This routine should take less than 12 minutes to complete. I’ll update my instagram with pics through the week as I do these 5 exercises daily. Let me know if you give ’em a shot!


Resistance Train for Bone Health

Let’s look at bones:


You know how all the commercials say that the calcium in milk helps build strong bones? Well, resistance training is another essential component.

What exactly is resistance training?

Defined by ominous Google, resistance training is any exercise in which muscles contract against external load. This load can be body weight, band resistance (with mini loops or resistance bands), or fixed weight (utilizing barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, machines, and weight plates).

There are two important things to know about the body:

  1. Bone is constantly being remodeled (formed) and resorbed (degraded). In adults, about 10% of bone is remodeled every year.
  2. The body likes to be as efficient as possible with muscle and bone. In order to avoid spending extra energy lifting heavier than necessary bone or muscle day to day, the body will decrease bone density or muscle mass if they are not regularly used.

How does resistance training stimulate bone growth?

The bones in our bodies have a threshold called minimal essential strain (MES). This is the amount of weight [load] a bone must experience for new bone growth to be stimulated and it is regulated by bone cells so that forces experienced on a regular basis don’t exceed it. The process of bone adaptation begins within the first few weeks after a stimulus above MES, but it is also a long term process; it requires six or more months and regular forces greater than MES to result in increased bone density. Activities that generate forces greater than MES include those that are weight bearing and high intensity (i.e. resistance training).

Why is stimulating bone growth important?

  1. Adequate bone strength and thickness are important for preventing injuries such as fractures and stress fractures.
  2. It is important to stimulate bone growth because through the majority of our adult lives our bone density is actually decreasing, especially in women. Mh6o0ppOur bone density peaks when we are between 25 and 40 years old and decreases from that point on. It is important that we get our peak as high as possible through our 20’s and 30’s, and it is essential for those over 40 to preserve as much bone density as they can. Regular resistance training by older adults has been shown to offset age-related declines in bone health.
  3. In those with osteoporosis or osteopenia (diseases where bone mineral density is reduced to critically low levels), resistance training can beneficially stimulate bone growth .

Or else…

Here’s two images depicting the prevalence of fractures from weak, osteoporotic bones that occur with age and gender.



How should one exercise to achieve increases in bone density?

There are a couple components to consider in order to best stimulate bone growth with your workouts:

  1. Specificity of Loading: Exercises must directly load a particular region of the skeleton to induce bone growth. For example, bodyweight squatting loads the pelvis and leg bones but not the arm bones or ribcage. Pushups load the arm bones but not the leg bones.
  2. Speed, Direction, and Variability of Loading: Loading of bone is only osteogenic (bone-growth inducing) if the weight is moved (it can’t just be held in place (static). Also, variety in exercises (changing exercises every 3-4 weeks) ensures that all bones receive stimulus.
  3. Proper Exercise Selection: Best exercises for inducing bone growth involve heavy loads, multiple joints, and forces directed through the spine and hips. Examples of these type of exercises are squat, lunge, deadlift, row, and press variations.
  4. Progressive Overload: Once a bone adapts to a given strain level, the MES (stimulus for bone to form) is higher. Overtime, the weights lifted or intensity of exercise must gradually increase in order to continue stimulating bone growth.


Baechile, T.R., Earle, R.W.. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Third Edition. NSCA, 2008.

Bilezikian, J.P., Raisz, L.G., Rodan, G.A.. Principles of Bone Biology, Second Edition. Volume 1. Academic Press, 2002.

McNeely, E.. Training to Improve Bone Density in Adults: A Review and Recommendations. U.S Sports Academy. July 9, 2010. 

Moreira, Linda Denise Fernandes, Oliveira, Mônica Longo de, Lirani-Galvão, Ana Paula, Marin-Mio, Rosângela Villa, Santos, Rodrigo Nolasco dos, & Lazaretti-Castro, Marise. (2014). Physical exercise and osteoporosis: effects of different types of exercises on bone and physical function of postmenopausal women. Arquivos Brasileiros de Endocrinologia & Metabologia58(5), 514-522.


Fit Food For Thought

I’ve been doing well so far with my resolution to track food intake daily.  My Macros+ is the tracking app I’ve been using because it allows me to input my macro goals, and it shows my accumulations throughout the day. It also has a barcode scanning function to search for foods and populate the nutrition information that has saved me so much time.  I’m also working on getting my protein intake up to 158g per day (which is my current body weight, as of Monday, so I’m eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight)

I’ll be real for a second here, tracking food daily is hard for me. It may not seem like a difficult task to many, just logging food eaten, but I’ve struggled with disordered eating and emotional eating through my life, and I subconsciously place a lot of emotional weight around my dietary habits. Holding myself accountable and pre-measuring the foods I eat is challenging. There is a strange association in my mind between sitting on the couch mindlessly eating a bag of pita chips and relaxation or stress relief–which, rationally, I know to be uncorrelated. Today was tough because I’m a little overwhelmed with life at the moment and my normal response to stress is to mindlessly eat.

I’ve been listening to the Physique Science Radio Podcasts by Sohee Lee and Layne Norton, episode 17 to be specific. Their guest on this episode, Steve Ledbetter, a fitness psychologist, says one should view things like scale weight and food logs with as much emotion as one would count the number of white cars in a parking lot. This is definitely something I’m aspiring toward in my pursuits this year. I’m addressing my sources of stress rather than escaping from them with food and constantly reminding myself that the number on the scale is just a number and has nothing to do with my happiness or the quality of person I am.

I’m going to share a couple of my meals from this week (meals I remembered to take a picture of). You’ll notice they are not perfectly “clean” or made of only “good” foods, but they are good enough. I hope these help give you all some ideas of protein-centered meals you might like to include in your diet.

Meal 1 (Left): a handful of Spinach, grape tomatoes, a can of tuna, and half an avocado seasoned with salt and pepper (27g Protein)

Meal 2 (Center): 4 ounces lean ground turkey, refried beans, and 1 ounce of cheese (33g Protein)

Meal 3: (Right): a cup of plain greek yogurt (taste-wise, I prefer the 2% over the nonfat) and half a cup of trail mix consisting of almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries (25g Protein)

Weekly Rehab: Neck Tension

Injury prevention and rehabilitation are major interests of mine  (hence my quest to become a physical therapist) so I’ve decided to have a weekly series addressing common pains and injuries that come with active lifestyles (because what active person wants to be stuck on the couch due to an injury from being active– the thing thats supposed to make us less likely to be sick or injured). In these posts I’ll discuss injuries, the anatomy of these injured areas, possible causes, prevention, and remedies. As a huge disclosure: I’m not a medical professional (yet), please do not follow my advice if it goes against your doctor’s orders or your better judgement.

This week I’m going to focus on the neck.


There are 2 reasons I’m starting here: 1) Pain in this area affects so many people 2) This area has given me significant trouble lately. I have always had very tense neck and shoulder muscles, and recently, it’s led to tension headaches especially after my upper body workouts (Booooo!).

Some significant contributors to tension in this region include:

  • The scalenes and sternocleidomastoids (SCMs) on the sides and front of the neck


  • The large trapezius, the levator scapulae, and lots of other little sub occipital muscles along the back of the neck


  • And the pectoralis major and minor in the chest, below the clavicle (collar bone) and attaching to the arm


My hypothesis is that a big factor of tension/tightness in the neck is poor posture and, more specifically, a forward head and associated forward-rounded shoulders.

How do we end up in such a posture? Well, 2 major culprits are this:


and this: bad-posture-620w-from-CBS-News

Despite my best efforts, I’m guilty of both. As you can see in diagram above, the more forward the head is positioned relative to the body, the heavier it pulls on stabilizing structures (i.e. the bones and muscles of the neck). The scalenes and SCMs on the front and sides of the neck spend many hours each day in a shortened state (contributing to the “tightness” we feel there). The sub occipital muscles, levator scapulae, and upper trapezius are constantly overstretched and overworked, which may be why many experience muscle spasms leading to knots and trigger points (and tightened muscles) in those areas.

And, yes, there are other causes of neck pain and tightness including stress, prior trauma, structural conditions in the vertebrae, nerve irritations, etc. but posture is the only one I’m going into now because this is a blog not a book.

Weekly Rehab Fix:  

Firstly, we are going to be mindful of our sitting and phone postures.

Secondly, here is a routine to try 1-3 times each day for the next week. Please, listen to your body as you do these activities. Pain is the body’s signal that something is not right. If you have pain with any of these, modify the range of motion to eliminate the pain or don’t do the exercise.

  1. 1-Arm Doorway Pec Stretch, 3X 30 seconds on each side
    Start with the arm against the wall, at a 90-degree angle to the body, and lean forward (keeping your head and neck in a neutral position) until a slight stretch is felt in the chest.
  2. Scalene Stretch, 3 X 30 seconds on each side
    This stretch comes from Kelly Starrett who has a youtube series called “Mobility WOD” (WOD=Workout of the Day). Place one arm behind the back. Tilt the head toward the opposite side, ear toward the shoulder, and from that position rotate the chin slightly toward the ceiling. To increase the stretch, press down gently on the tightened scalene and SCM just above the clavicle (collar bone). Follow this link  to see Kelly’s video demonstration at 2:25. He uses a band to anchor the arm behind the back. Try it that way if a band is available, but you should feel a good stretch even without the band.
  3. Levator Scapulae Stretch, 3 X 30 seconds on each side
    This is another stretch from Kelly Starrett. Place one arm overhead, bent at the elbow, as if doing the typical triceps stretch. The palm of this hand should be oriented toward the ceiling.
    Anchor the arm in this position by using a band (recommended by Kelly) or a stationary object (I place the palm of my hand against the underside of my fireplace mantle). Tilt the head toward the opposite shoulder and roll head forward until a slight stretch is felt along the back of the neck. To see Kelly’s video demonstration, click here and watch it at 3:00. Also, stay tuned into my instagram (K8IrelandActive) this week for my demonstration of the stretch. I feel this stretch very intensely, so I don’t need to apply any pressure to my head with my opposite hand. My hand also goes numb quickly in this overhead position so I only hold it for short 30 second intervals. While doing this stretch it is very important to listen to your body’s pain signals and move into and out of the stretch slowly, with caution.
  4. Small ball soft tissue work in the pecs: 1 minute each side of the chest
    Using any kind of moderately firm small ball (tennis ball, lacrosse ball, softball, racquetball), massage the chest muscles by sandwiching the ball between you and a wall and moving side to side and up and down. Make sure to focus on the area in front of the armpit where the pecs cross to the arm and the area below the clavicle (collar bone). Side Note: I try to do this exercise from the comfort and privacy of my home, especially being female.
  5. Small ball soft tissue work in the traps: 1 minute on each side of the spine
    Using the same ball as in the previous exercise, sandwich it between your upper back and the wall. Move side to side, up and down pressing against the ball to massage the area. Hug the arms across the chest to work between the scapula (shoulder blades). When you feel big “knots” or bumps in the muscles, move back and forth over them for a little bit.

I’m going to follow my own advice on this and perform this routine at least once a day for the next week, and I encourage you to give it a try because it only takes 13 minutes. Stay tuned into my instagram, K8IrelandActive, for videos and pictures of my progress, and please let me know if you give it a try!

Protein is King


  • Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acid. To make proteins, they are joined in arrangements of a few dozen to hundreds called polypeptides. Nonessential amino acids are made (synthesized) by the human body and essential amino acids are not made by the body but must be obtained through the diet
    • Essential Amino Acids: Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, Histidine*
    • Non-Essential Amino Acids: Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine, Tyrosine
  • Protein quality: How well a protein supplies amino acids proportionate to the body’s needs. High quality proteins supply the body with all 9 essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are lower-quality proteins that can, in combination over the course of the day, supply all 9 essential amino acids.
    • High quality: proteins of animal origin including eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products
    • Complementary Proteins: generally, beans/legumes plus grains for example, beans and rice, corn and beans, corn tortillas and refried beans, and peanut butter and bread
  • 1 gram of protein contains 4 kilocalories (Calories)


  • Proteins are important structural molecules, enzymes, and antibodies in the body
  • They are essential for muscle repair, muscular hypertrophy (growth), catalyzing biochemical reactions, DNA repair, and so much more
  • Consuming protein helps to maintain muscle mass, especially while at a caloric deficit (dieting).


  • Recommended protein for sedentary, non-active adults: 0.36g/pound of body weight per day. A 150lb person should consume at least 54g of protein daily
  • My recommendation of daily protein intake for an active individual is 1.0g/pound of body weight or up to 1.5g/pound if dieting. A 150lb person should consume around 150g of protein, with at least 65% of the protein coming from high-quality sources
  • The best way to meet protein recommendations: protein should be divided equally across 4-5 meals daily separated by 4-6 hours each. Each meal should contain30-45g of protein and 3-4g of leucine. Consumption of a leucine or amino acid supplement in between meals is recommended as well.
    • this strategy maximizes muscle protein synthesis and anabolism (i.e. muscle growth and recovery)
    • If this strategy doesn’t work for your life, modifying it to meet individual needs is ok! Consistency is what is most important.


Lee, Sohee. How to Count Macros Ebook 2. Sohee Lee 2015

Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition. NSCA 2008.