Developing the Chest

In weight lifting, a press is an exercise movement in which resistance is pushed away from the body. This resistance can be represented by barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, elastic bands, machines, even your own body weight.

There are many exercises that fit this description, such as chest presses, shoulder presses, leg presses, push-ups, and dips, among others. These exercises are performed from different starting positions, but all of them are composed of two phases: a lifting phase in which resistance is pushed (or pressed) away from the body, and a lowering phase when the exerciser brings the weight back close to the body.

In this article I will describe two exercises that targets the chest muscles.

Chest Press

Also known as bench press, this exercise as the name indicates is largely used to develop the chest region. But don’t get overexcited. Performing a hundred bench presses won’t tone your breasts or make them bigger.  Strength training exercises will only build up muscle mass, and our breasts are composed of mammary glands and fat. Anyway, I still believe you should include this exercise, or any of its variations, in your program, because this multi-joint exercise not only engages chest muscles, but also the triceps and the front part of the shoulders.

The Movement

Start by lying down on a bench, belly up and back flat. Hold a barbell placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, palms facing your feet. Controlling the movement, lower the bar to your chest. Then extend your elbows, lifting the bar. That’s one repetition (rep). Perform one or two sets of 10 to 12 reps.


Muscles Involved

  • The primary regions involved in this exercise are the chest (pectoralis), the front portion of the shoulders (anterior deltoids), and the triceps muscles. However, many core muscles (abdominals, glutes and back muscles) are needed to stabilize the body. Forearm and hand muscles are also engaged while keeping the grip.
  • An interesting aspect of chest presses is that by varying the inclination of the bench, the hand positioning, or the movement angle, you can recruit muscle fibers from different areas of the chest. However, women are seldom looking for chest definition (as men are), so consider those alternatives as a way to introduce variety into your program.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Keep your body in contact with the bench – don’t arch your back.
  • Control the movement at all times.
  • Inhale when lowering the bar, exhale when lifting.


  • Start with a flat bench press, keeping your feet flat on the floor. This variation distributes the effort evenly through the chest area. If you don’t have a bench, you can perform this exercise on the floor. However, the range of motion will be slightly limited because you won’t be able to lower the bar to the chest.
  • Positioning the bench at an incline angle will place emphasis on the upper part of the chest, while a decline bench will work mainly inferior chest fibers.
  • Another option is using a pair of dumbbells instead of a bar. This alternative offers a greater range of motion, but more stabilization is required to control the weights separately.
  • If you want to place more challenge on your core muscles, you can perform a flat bench press with raised legs. Still need more challenge? No problem. Replace the bench for a stability ball. Keep both feet on the ground, but hold your pelvis up while performing the exercise.


A push-up is a body weight exercise that can be very challenging if you haven’t built yet enough upper body strength. This is one of those total body exercises that seems to engage every muscle you’ve got. It requires a good amount of core strength to maintain the body aligned throughout the movement. Fortunately, there are a few modifications you can do in order to incorporate this amazing exercise to your routine.

The Movement

In a full body push-up, you start from a plank position: belly facing the ground, back straight, arms shoulder-width apart, legs and arms fully extended, and palms and toes supporting the body. Keeping a flat back, slowly bend your elbows, lowering the rib cage as close to the floor as you can. Then, push back, extending your elbows until you are back to the initial position. That’s one repetition. You can do sets (one or more sets of 12 reps) if you are strong enough to complete those. If not, do as many as you can and try to include one more repetition each time, until you can perform 12 reps without rest in between.

Muscles Involved

  • We can consider this movement an inverted chest press. Therefore the primary muscles involved are the same: chest muscles, front part of the shoulders and triceps. However, a push-up requires stronger stabilization than a bench press, largely engaging back, shoulders, arms, wrists, abdominals, legs and glutes muscles.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Keep your body in a straight line.
  • Control the movement at all times.
  • Inhale when lowering the body, exhale when lifting.


  • If you don’t think you can complete even one full body push-up, don’t be discouraged; I have alternatives for you. And as you get stronger, you can progress to more demanding variations. If you never performed a push-up in your life, start with a wall push-up. Stand about three feet from a wall, placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width distance. Bending your elbows, allow your face to come closer to the wall and then push back. Try doing between eight and 12 repetitions to start. Once you can complete two sets of 12 reps, it is time to progress to incline push-ups (using a countertop, a chair or a bench). The movement is similar, but have in mind that the lower the bench, the harder it will be. Start with a high chair and progress to a lower one.
  • Another option is a kneeling push-up, in which you have to lift only part of your body weight. Whatever alternative you choose, be sure to gradually increase the challenge until you get to the full body variation.


  • Already mastered the push-up world? I have options for you, too. Introducing challenge to your routine is the key for getting continued results and avoiding plateaus[1].
  • As in the bench press exercise, different positioning of the body recruits different muscle fibers. An incline push-up will engage mostly inferior fibers of the chest, while a decline variation emphasizes mainly the upper chest area. If you want to challenge your balance, place your feet on a stability ball for a decline push-up or use a Bosu ball for a more demanding incline push-up.
  • Do you want to try something funkier? Perform single-leg push-ups or try the spider-man variation.

[1] A plateau is a training period where you stop seeing improvements. It usually occurs because our body gets used to and comfortable with exercise routines and won’t need more physiological adaptations. To get over plateaus, it is essential to keep challenging your muscles in unexpected ways.

3 Steps to Success

You probably heard this one before. All you need to do to lose weight is exercise more and eat less. But if it is that simple, why so many people fail miserably?

While the energy equation makes total sense on paper, it is an oversimplification of the process. The truth is that as human beings, we are complex organisms. And each one of us has unique characteristics. That’s why a one-size-fits-all approach cannot possibly work for everyone.

Now, while you will have to discover what works for  you, there is a common denominator in the equation: CONSISTENCY. Doesn’t matter what you do, if you don’t stick to it long enough, chances are you won’t see results.

What’s the secret? Motivation? Willpower?

Motivation is the excitement you feel when you begin a new project. It can definitely help you get started. However, it tends to fade away as time passes and you need to constantly remind yourself why you chose to go through this path.

Ah willpower! Willpower is great but it is a limited resource. When you force yourself to do something you don’t want to, you are using your willpower. The problem is that it won’t last forever.

So how can you make it work?

First of all, you need a plan of action. A plan of action is a step by step guide, a fool-proof system that is easy to follow. When you are writing your plan, break down your big goal into small manageable steps. Focus on behaviours (things you can do on regular basis) that when performed over a period of time will lead you to your ultimate goal. If you don’t know how to do this, look for professional help. An experienced trainer or coach can guide through this process.

The second step is accountability. The goal here is to make sure you are taking the small steps you devised on your plan. You can use your trainer or coach to make yourself accountable. Or find a friend with a similar goal and keep track of each others progress. Another idea is to use your social media as a diary  and post your plan and daily progress. If you prefer something more discreet, create an accountability sheet and stick to your fridge door or bathroom mirror. Fill it out everyday to keep track of your progress.

Need a sample? Download it here.

The final step is support. Surround yourself with people who understand what you are going through. This way you can talk about your frustrations, celebrate your successes, and find solutions to problems.

Keep in mind that results come from performing simple things over a period of time. If you trust the process and work on staying on track, you will see that the work you put in will pay off.

Can I Have Carbs?

The 2 Week DietFirst of all, keep in mind that carbohydrates are not bad for you. They do have an important function for the body which is supplying energy to the brain and muscles, especially during exercise. However, not all carbs are the same. There are different categories which are:

·        Simple sugars – table sugar, honey, lollies, candies, cakes , pastries

·        Starchy carbs – grains (rice, barley, wheat, rye), beans, potatoes, corn, peas

·        Fibre-rich carbs – veggies and fruits

Usually veggies and fruits are very low in calories and can be consumed in larger amounts than the other carbohydrates, especially when trying to lose weight. However, after exercise you may consume starchy carbs in moderation because at that time the body can process them better. Therefore, if your goal is to lose weight, you should save starchy carbs such as rice, potatoes, corn and bread for the days you have a training session (if you exercise every day, you may eat them every day;)).

How much should you consume?

·        If you goal is weight loss, you can have one serving of starchy carbs with the first meal after your training session.

·        Choose whole grains (brown rice, barley, whole wheat breads) over processed ones (white rice, white breads, cakes, pastries).

·        Sweet potatoes are preferred than white potatoes.

·        Have starchy carbs together as part of a meal rather than on its own (lower glycaemic load)

To simplify, one serve is about the size of your cupped hand. 

Training the Core for Mobility

When I say training the core most people think about performing endless crunches or holding a plank forever. One of the most important, and often neglected, movements of the trunk is the rotation. Even though we tend to perform this movement several times during the day without noticing, this movement is not target properly in the gym. Let’s take a look in the muscles involved and a few exercises option to get you stronger in this plane of movement.

Trunk Rotation

Trunk rotation refers to the rotary movement of the spine on the transverse plane. The human spine is composed by seven cervical vertebrae (neck), 12 thoracic vertebrae (chest), five lumbar vertebrae (lower back), the sacrum (lower back), and the coccyx (tailbone). These bony structures are separated by intervertebral disks that act as shock absorbers and allow movement between the vertebrae. Each vertebra is capable of moving in three directions (back and forth, lateral flexion, and rotation), and even though the movement at each joint is small, the spine as a single structure has great flexibility and range of motion.  Because the pelvis is attached to the vertebral column, spinal movements are usually transmitted to the hip bones.

Most of the movement from spinal rotations comes from the thoracic and cervical regions. However, the ribcage attachment at the thoracic level limits mobility. Rotation is also limited at the lumbar region because of the size and shape of these vertebrae.

Spine rotation is performed during many daily activities and sports. For instance, when you are seated in your car and you reach for the seatbelt above your left shoulder you are performing a rotational movement. Driving a golf ball or hitting a baseball are examples of spinal rotation during sports events.

The muscles involved in trunk rotation movements are part of the core structure of the body. Our core is composed by muscles of the back, abdomen, hips, and pelvic floor, which are responsible for body stabilization during movement and the maintenance of posture and body alignment. A strong core can improve performance of activities of daily living and sports, and play an important role on injury prevention.

Muscles Involved

Trunk rotation is performed mainly by the abdominal oblique (external and internal) muscles. The “obliques” are located on both sides of the trunk in the abdominal region, connecting the ribcage to the pelvis. When the pelvic bones are stabilized, the oblique muscles pull the ribcage towards the hips, creating a rotational movement of the whole spine.

On posterior region of the trunk, the erector spinae muscle group and the iliopsoas muscle group work in synergy with the oblique muscles. Also, deep and tiny muscles connecting one vertebra to another rotate each vertebra individually.

Rotation Exercises

Trunk rotation drills are examples of functional training exercises because they tend to mimic movements of common daily activities. These exercises are meant to strengthen the core muscles. During these exercises, even though the prime movers are the oblique muscles, many other muscles are engaged in order to stabilize the body and keep good form.

Below you will find a few exercises to train those muscles in a functional way.

  1. Broomstick twists

Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold a stick behind your upper-back. Keep pelvis stable while you slowly rotate the upper-body from side to side. Contract your abdominals and buttocks to maintain a neutral spine.

This is a good exercise for beginners because there is no load (weight) on the spine, which is appropriate when one is learning a new movement. Perform this exercise in a slow and controlled manner for best results. Long sets (20 repetitions or more) may be adequate.

  1. Seated trunk rotations

Sit on the floor with your legs bent in front of you. Hold a medicine ball or a light dumbbell with both hands, keeping it close to the chest. Engage your abdominals, and rotate the upper-body to one side, keeping your back straight. Come back to center and repeat to the other side.

This is also a beginners’ exercise, and you should strive for a slow and controlled motion. Light weights are more appropriate than heavier loads. When you feel you are ready for more challenge, try leaning backwards while keeping your abs tucked and your back straight. Another option is to lift the feet from the ground, balancing on your buttocks.

  1. Walking lunges with twist

Stand with feet close together, holding a medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands. Keep your elbows bent and the weight close to your chest. Step forward with one leg, and slowly lower the hips down by bending the knees. Your knees won’t touch the floor. Find your balance, and then, slowly rotate your torso towards the extended leg (the one on the back). Don’t extend your arms, and keep your core engaged. Rotate back to center and extend your knees as you come back to standing. Step the back leg forward, and repeat the drill. Walk in a straight line, alternating sides.

This is an intermediate exercise, and walking lunges should be mastered before attempting this drill. Choose light weights and perform the exercise in a slow and controlled manner for safety reasons.

  1. Wood chop

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a medicine ball with both hands. Squat down while you rotate your hips and arms to one side, bringing the ball closer to your foot. Slowly, stand up at the same time as you rotate your hips and arms to the opposite side, bringing the ball above your opposite shoulder. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions, and then, change sides.

This is an advanced movement and should be performed with caution. Use light weights and perform the movement slowly until you master the exercise. Keep your core engaged at all times to protect the back.

  1. Ball Russian twist

Sit on a stability ball with your feet planted on the floor. Slowly lean backwards on the ball until your upper back is supported and your knees are bent in a 90 degree angle. Push your pelvis up to maintain back support. Extend both arms in front of you – hands pointing to the ceiling, and palms touching. This is your starting position. Slowly rotate your torso to one side, while keeping your feet grounded and your pelvis tucked. Roll back to center and repeat to the other side.

This is an advanced exercise which requires some core strength to be performed. Abdominals and glutes should be engaged at all times in order to maintain balance and protect the spine.

Do You Know How Your Body Burns Calories?

The 2 Week Diet
Metabolism and Energy Needs

Metabolism is the group of biochemical processes that occur within an organism in order to maintain life.  However, the term is commonly used to refer to the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy. But how does food become energy?

Energy Intake

It is common sense that the human body needs some kind of fuel in order the work properly. This fuel is obtained from food sources. Everything we eat and drink is broken down into to smaller units that are absorbed by the digestive system, and then, released into the bloodstream. Travelling through blood vessels, these small units are distributed to all body cells where they will be used to create energy.

The body can use carbohydrates, fats and proteins from the diet to produce energy. However, during exercise, the primary nutrients used for energy are carbohydrates and fats; protein contribution for energy is small. This energy is measured in kilocalories (kcal), or just calories[1].

For example, the breakdown of one gram of carbohydrate releases four calories. Proteins, fats, and alcohol are also energy sources; vitamins and minerals are non-caloric nutrients. See the table below for detailed information.

Nutrients Energy yielded
Carbohydrates 4 kcal/g
Proteins 4 kcal/g
Alcohol 7 kcal/g
Fats 9 kcal/g
Vitamins, minerals and water

Energy intake or caloric intake is the total amount of calories consumed during the day through foods and drinks.

Energy Output

Energy output is the opposite of energy intake. It refers to the total amount of calories burned during the day through metabolism, digestive processes, thermogenesis, and physical activity. The amount of energy a person expends daily varies with age, weight, height, and physical activity levels. Genetics and hormonal differences can also affect the demand for energy.

Everyone needs a minimal amount of energy just to stay alive (to maintain heart, lung, kidney, liver, and brain function). This is known as basal metabolism[2], and in a sedentary person, can contribute to as much as 60% to 70% of the total energy output. People with great percentages of lean body mass[3] usually have higher metabolic rates[4] at rest than people with more fat tissue. This is because muscle burns more calories at rest than fat tissue. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass which can drop our basal metabolic rate considerably. However, regular exercise can maintain muscle mass and contribute to a higher metabolic rate in older adults.

The body also burns energy during digestion. This is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Different foods have different TEFs. The principle behind TEF is simple: the harder it is for the body to breakdown a nutrient, the more energy it will burn during the digestive process. For example, protein rich meals take longer to digest than sugar and fat laden foods. This means that protein requires more energy to be digested, thus having a higher TEF value. Also, a large meal has a higher TEF value than a small meal or a snack, because large meals will take longer to digest.

Meal rich in TEF (% of calories consumed)
Proteins 20% to 30%
Carbohydrates 5% to 10%
Fats 0% to 3%

Another way the body expends energy is through thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the amount of energy needed to maintain body temperature. However, its contribution to the energy output is rather small.

The best way to boost energy expenditure is through physical activity. Exercise increases the demand for energy on the heart, lungs, brain and working muscles. Therefore, calorie burning is enhanced both during and after an exercise session. The table bellow shows estimated caloric expenditure for a 150 pounds person during physical activities of several intensities[5].

Walking the dog 204 kcal/hour
Walking at a moderate pace 224 kcal/hour
Walking at a brisk pace 340 kcal/hour
Backpacking 476 kcal/hour
Jogging 476 kcal/hour
Running at 5 mph 544 kcal/hour

Energy Balance

Energy balance is the state in which the energy intake matches the energy output. This means that all calories consumed are burned. It is important to keep the energy equation balanced in order to maintain a stable weight throughout our lives.

Energy Intake = Energy Output

When the energy intake is greater than the energy output, a positive energy balance occurs, meaning that there is more energy available than your body can actually use. According to the law of conservation of energy, energy may neither be created nor destroyed[6]. So, because this extra energy can’t be just thrown away, it is stored mostly as fat, and weight gain occur.

Energy Intake > Energy Output → Positive Energy Balance

On the other hand, when the energy output is greater than the energy intake, there is a negative energy balance. This means that the body has to figure out a way to balance the energy equation in order to survive. One way of doing it is using the energy stored in the fat tissue. That’s what happens when we exercise. The body uses fat as fuel, leading to weight-loss.

Energy Intake < Energy Output → Negative Energy Balance

However, when the caloric intake is dramatically reduced for extended periods of time (such as when you engage on a crash diet), the body has no alternative but to shift to a conservation mode. It will try to reduce the energy demand by slowing down the metabolism. This means you’ll be burning fewer calories at rest, and the low levels of blood sugar will make you feel sluggish and cranky. In this case, weight-loss is impaired, because to burn fat as fuel, the body needs energy, which in this situation, you won’t have any to spare.

A safer approach to weight-loss is to modestly reduce the caloric intake by 250 kcal to 500 kcal per day, while increasing the energy expenditure by 250 kcal to 500 kcal per day (through exercise). These steps will create a modest energy deficit with which the body can deal. Following this guideline may lead to a weight-loss of one to two pounds per week[7].


[1] Kilocalorie, popular known as calories, is the unit of heat energy. Calorie is defined as “The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C.”

[2] “Basal metabolism is the minimal amount of energy expended in a fasting state to keep a resting, awake body alive in a warm, quiet environment.” Contemporary Nutrition, seventh edition.

[3] Lean body mass is the total mass of the body minus fat tissue. It is usually used to refer to the amount of muscle mass in the body.

[4] “Metabolic rate is the amount of energy expended in a given period.” Available at

[5] Available at

[6] Available at

[7] ACE Personal Trainer Manual, third edition.

Pull-up 101: Working the Back

The 2 Week Diet
A pull is basically the opposite movement of a press. In a pulling exercise, resistance is pulled close to the body, while in a press, resistance is pushed away. These exercises usually mimic movements of climbing and rowing. In general, pulling exercises (for the upper-body) engage the Latissimus dorsi (lats, for short), one of the most important back muscles. Among these exercises are pull-ups, pull-downs, pull-overs and rows, which can be performed using machines, free weights, elastic bands, or body-weight.


A pull-up is a tough exercise because it requires a certain amount of strength to perform it. It is a body-weight exercise, in which you hang from a fixed bar and pull your body up until your chin reaches the bar. This exercise can be performed with a wide overhand (palms facing forward) grip or with a close underhand (palms facing your body) grip. The last option, also known as chin-ups, is a little bit easier than the first. This is because when you use an underhand grip, the biceps muscles are engaged more intensively, helping the back muscles to perform the movement.

Even though this is a “hard-core” exercise, there are ways to make this exercise “doable.” As with the push-up exercise, modifications are available so you can enjoy its benefits.

The Movement

Start by holding onto a fixed bar, letting you body hang. Inhale and, using your back and arms muscles, pull your body up until your chin passes the bar. Controlling the movement, lower your body until your arms are somewhat extended. This is one rep. For women, eight repetitions are considered excellent.

But if you don’t believe you could do even one, don’t be discouraged. I have options for you; just keep reading.

Muscles Involved

This exercise engages primary arms (biceps), back (upper and middle regions), posterior part of the shoulders, and chest (pecs). Stabilizing muscles include abdominal group muscles, deep back muscles, deep shoulder muscles (rotator cuff group), and wrist muscles.

Tips for Proper Form

  • Keep your back straight and chest open.
  • Control the movement at all times – avoid momentum.
  • Keep muscles engaged at the bottom of the movement – do not hang on the shoulders.
  • Inhale on the way up.

Variations and Progression

Ok, if a pull-up is out of the question for now, we can start with easier variations to build upper-body strength. First, try hanging from the bar, keeping your upper-body muscles active (not just hanging on your shoulders). Once you can hang for around 30 seconds, you can try doing half-pulls. In this exercise, you use your upper-back muscles to lift your chest a bit and relax. The movement comes from the shoulder blades only. Repeat 12 times and release the bar.

You can also try a negative pull-up, in which you use a bench to position your body on the up-phase of a pull-up, and then use your core strength to lower the body until arms are straight. Release the bar and repeat.

Another way to go is practicing incline pulls. Use a bar low enough so that your feet are touching the floor. Hold the bar and slide forward. Your body should be in a reverse plank, and your arms perpendicular to the floor. Pull yourself up until your chest is close to the bar. Then, return to the initial position. As with incline push-ups, the higher the bar, the easier it is to perform the exercise. Lower the bar for more challenge, or place a bench under your feet for a decline variation.

Some gyms also have assisted weight pull-up machines. These machines, as the name says, make your job easier by lifting part of the weight for you. So, instead of pulling your whole body weight, you can choose to lift only 60 pounds, for example, and the machine will handle the difference. As you build strength, you reduce the machine’s help.


Vegetarian Sources of Protein

The 2 Week Diet
Studies show that plant-based diets are the healthiest but do vegetarians get enough protein?

Why do we need protein anyway?

Proteins are the building blocks body tissues, hormones, enzymes, and antibodies. Even though, protein could be used as an energy source, it is usually spared. Our body can’t produce amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Therefore, we must get them from food sources.

How much protein do I need?

The minimum recommended daily intake is around 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. This means that if your weight is 70kg, you should consume at least 56 grams of protein daily. Depending on your fitness goals, you need a little more than that.

How do I know if I am getting enough protein?

A rule of thumb is to eat protein-rich foods with every meal. If you are vegetarian you may struggle meeting your recommended daily intake, especially if you also restrict eggs and dairy products. If you are not sure, you may want to track your food intake for a few days to calculate your calorie and protein intake (use an app like myfitnesspal or calorieking).

Can I get enough protein from plant sources?

Yes, you can. However, because plant sources don not contain all the essential amino acids,  you will need to combine a variety of vegetables, legumes and grains in order to meet your requirement.

What are the best vegetarian sources of protein?

Eggs, milk, and dairy products are on the top of the list. However, pulses such as beans and lentils and nuts and seeds also offer a good amount of protein per serving.

Click here to download a list of vegetarian sources of protein.

Do You Know How to Do a Deadlift?

The 2 Week Diet

Dead-lift is an exercise that engages muscle groups all over the body. The classic dead-lift is nothing more than the movement of lifting a heavy object from the floor. For safety reasons, one should bend the knees keeping a flat back, hold the object, and then lift the body using the legs, not the back. A dead-lift is one of the exercises in power-lifting, but I don’t think any of us here are exactly willing to compete in this kind of event. However, you can incorporate this exercise, or any of its variations, in your workout routine if you use light weights and perform it with caution.

Here is how to perform a classic dead-lift:

  1. Hold the barbell (or dumbbells) in front of your thighs. Feet should be hip distance apart, knees soft (not locked), chest open and shoulders down and relaxed.
  2. Inhale, engage your abdominals and start flexing hips and knees at the same rate as you would in a squat, lowering the bar towards the floor.
  3. Go as far as you can (you don’t need to touch the floor), controlling the descent.
  4. When you get to the bottom of the movement, stop and then come back to standing. Use your thigh muscles to lift your body.
  5. Exhale on your way up.

Remember that the work phase of the movement is the lifting but this doesn’t mean that you should allow the bar to pull you down when lowering the weight. It is important to control the movement in all phases to prevent injuries. So keep your abs engaged and your pelvis tucked. This will create a brace around your spine.

There are several variations of this exercise, which will make the movement slightly different.

Muscles Involved

Dead-lifting engages primarily glutes, hamstrings, quads and lower back muscles, but it also calls for core muscles as stabilizers. However, if you are performing stiff-leg dead-lifts or good mornings, the emphasis is on hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles. (The quadriceps muscles only come into play when you flex/extend the knees.) Rotation movements (as in cross body dead-lift) also engage the oblique muscles.

Tips for a Proper Form

  • Check your posture in the mirror while performing the movement.
  • Control the whole movement – avoid jerking the body.
  • Keep feet planted on the floor at all times – do not raise the heels. Body weight should be evenly distributed throughout your feet.
  • Keep back straight and chest open. Avoid rounding or arching your back – maintain neutral spine.
  • Knees should be parallel to each other – do not allow them to collapse inward.
  • During the movement, flex hips and knees at the same rate.
  • Keep knees aligned over the ankles – you should be able to see your toes when sitting.
  • When lifting, use you leg muscles, not your back.
  • Engage your abs and tuck your pelvis in to protect your spine.
  • Keep the bar close to your body.
  • Inhale when you go down; exhale on your way up.


When it comes to dead-lift, you have quite a few options. If you want a total-body exercise, stick to the classic version presented above, or try the sumo dead-lift which has the advantage of engaging inner thigh muscles too. However, if you are looking for an exercise to target hamstrings and glutes, the stiff-leg dead-lift or the good morning exercise are definitely great alternatives. When performing these exercises, keep your knees slightly bent (don’t lock the knees) and go down as far as it is comfortable for you. It is normal to feel a stretch in the back of your thighs (hamstrings); it will get better as your flexibility improves. More advanced variations are the single-leg dead-lift, which challenges your balance, and the cross-body dead-lift, a dead-lift with a twist motion.

Progression and Challenge

The better options for beginners are the classic or stiff-leg dead-lifts. Good morning is also a good alternative, but because the weight is placed over the shoulders, it should be performed with very light weight. One or two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, once a week, is enough to get you started. Remember that proper form and body alignment is vital when it comes to safety. Use a mirror to adjust your posture.

Practice these two variations before trying more challenging ones. As your core[1] strength increases, you’ll be able to keep body alignment throughout the movement, making you ready to move on.

[1] The so-called core is formed by several muscles of the pelvic floor, back and abdominal areas that stabilize and protect our spine. They are responsible for the maintenance of posture and body alignment. Most of the resistance training exercises require the engagement of core muscles in order to maintain proper form.

Why Exercise Alone Will NOT Lead to Massive Weight-Loss

You may be exercising for a while but not seeing the results you were expecting. Here is why:

To burn 1 kg of body fat, you must burn 9000 kcal (this is the equivalent of 30 hours on a treadmill!)

A high intensity workout such as a spin class burns on average 500 kcal/hour. How many of those sessions do you perform in a week? Two or three?  Let’s say you are burning about 1500 kcal/week. This means that to lose 500 g of fat in a week, you still need to cut 3000 kcal. This cut should come from your diet.

In order to lose weight, we must create a negative energy balance (burn more calories than we consume).  So, if you want to see faster results you MUST adjust your caloric intake.

Energy Intake < Energy Output → Negative Energy Balance

Don’t know where to start?

A conservative approach to weight-loss is to modestly reduce your daily caloric intake by 250 kcal to 500 kcal, while increasing the energy expenditure by 250 kcal to 500 kcal per day (through exercise). These steps will create a modest energy deficit with which the body can easily deal with. Following this guideline may lead to a weight-loss of one to two pounds per week without putting too much stress in your body.

Keep in mind that exercise will determine the quality of your weight loss. After all, you want to lose just fat not muscle or water. A regular exercise routine will also enable you to  maintain your fat loss for longer.

The 3 Week Diet

Do You Have a Scale Addiction?

Ah, the scale. As a woman seeking to lose weight, it can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Sadly, though, a lot of women get addicted to that number on the scale. They see it not just as measure of their weight but as a measure of their success, their value, and their worth.

When that number doesn’t say what they want, they know without a doubt they’re going to have a bad day.

Here are a few signs that you have a scale addiction:

  • You weigh yourself multiple times a day. This activity is a big waste of time and gives you no indication of your true weight, since it fluctuates multiple times per day based on what you eat and drink and when you go to the bathroom.
  • You let the number you see upset you greatly. Stop getting so upset! The number doesn’t really tell you much since weight looks different on different people.

Remember, the scale can’t really tell you much at all. It is just one measure of your success, and other indicators, like skin fold (body fat percentage), girth measurements, progress pictures, are much more reliable.

The trick, though, is not to be obsessed with any kind of number or measurement, but, instead, just to focus on being as strong and healthy as possible. In the end, that’s all that matters.