It’s that time of year… we’re too busy drinking eggnog and munching on gingerbread men cookies, shopping for presents, getting drunk at the annual company holiday party, and/or attempting to hang Christmas lights on the house without breaking our necks to hit up the gym!
In honor of the season, I have created a fun circuit-based workout based on the classic 12 Days of Christmas Song.
You start with the first day of Christmas and go through 12 rounds of each set of exercise just like you would sing the song (which you can do while you go through the circuit if you wish!).
Take at least 30-60 seconds rest between each interval round depending on your fitness level.
- Plank – The plank is one of the best core exercises you can do! Please choose a plank variety that fits your fitness levels. Beginners can start on their knees and progress onto their toes. Advanced “plankers” can go into a yoga high plank, lift one leg, or use balance boards or the TRX to add difficulty. For more information on how to do a plank, please see this post. Remember to really suck the belly button into your spine to engage your core and keep a flat back.
- Pull-ups – Not everyone can do a strict pull-up. I am one of these people. Completing a strict pull-up is one of my main goals for 2014. If you don’t have the upper body strength to complete a strict pull-up then you can use the pull-up machine at the gym, use a band to assist you (this is my preference), or do negative pulls. I love this blog post from the BodyTribe on pull-ups! Or, just substitute pull-ups for a different exercise, such as 30 sec of mountain climbers.
- Wall sits – Wall sits are a great way to tone your legs. I remember having to do minutes of these during swim dry lands in high school. So not fun! Place your butt and back against a wall. Slide your butt down the wall so you are now “sitting” in an invisible chair. You want to work towards getting your thighs parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over your toes. Do 3 rounds of 20 sec holds with 5-10 sec rest between or if you’re feeling like a glutton for punishment then go for a 60 sec continuous hold!
- Burpees – Everyone’s favorite exercise! Start in a high plank position. Jump your feet to your hands and stand up. Depending on your fitness level, you can either just stand up or jump in place. Then put your hand back on the ground and jump your feet back into plank position. Again, depending on your fitness level, you can do a push-up or just stay in a plank. Here is a good video of how to do a proper burpee.
- Push-ups – Push-ups are one of my favorite exercise and not to mention very effective one too. Push-ups primarily work the pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids. I’ve worked with many women who have told me they can’t do a push-up. By time I’m done with them, they can do push-ups. Most people do push-ups incorrectly. Stay away from military style push-ups, unless you’re in the military and have to pass your PT test. Bring your hand position in so your hands are slightly wider than shoulder width. Make sure as you lower your body down into the push-up, your shoulders are over your hands. I find most people will have the hands slightly in front of their shoulder adding more stress to their shoulder joint. Keep the core engaged and think plank position (straight back!). Lower to at least 90 degrees. Here is an excellent video on correct push-up positioning.
- Triceps Dip – Find a bench or chair to use. Face away from the bench and place your hands behind you. Your butt will slide off the bench and you will lower your butt down like you were to sit in a chair. Your arms will bend to 90 degrees. Your feet can either bend at the knees (easier) or be straight out (harder). Here is an article with some helpful pictures.
- Hip Bridges – Hip bridges are an excellent glute activation exercise! Lay on your back with you feet on the ground. Move your heels as close to your butt as possible and place arms by your side. Push through your heels and lift your hips up to the sky. Squeeze the glutes and hold for 3-5 secs. Lower down and repeat. Here is a step-by-step guide to hip bridges. Remember to suck the belly button into your spine to engage the core at all times!
- Squats – You can do squats multiple different ways, but in this instance I suggest just plain ole’ bodyweight squats. Focus on proper form and keeping a nice straight lower back. This Huff Post how-to is a good little article if you’re not familiar with squats, but don’t focus so much on the little picture. Make sure your knees don’t go over your toes and only go down as far as your comfortable. If you feel your balance is off, place a chair or bench behind you or hold onto a table as you squat down. I find that clients who have had head injuries (or just poor body awareness) in the past need a little extra support when first learning to squat.
- Shoulder Presses – These can be completed either sitting or standing. I recommend starting in a seated position unless you have a strong core and good, solid balance. A shoulder press can be done with dumbbells (recommended!), a barbell, or even kettlebells. Start with arms at 90 degrees and slowly press dumbbells up to straight arms. A more detailed step-by-step can be found here.
- Reverse Lunges – Lunges are great exercises for the butt and legs. Reverse lunges are especially good at targeting the quadriceps, which are important muscles in cycling. Personally, I find it easier to teach reverse lunges to clients and then progress to forward and finally walking lunges. Remember to keep your core engaged and keep shoulders above the hips at all times. If you have good balance and looking for more of a challenge then you could hold dumbbells by your side or add biceps curls as you lunge your foot backwards. Here is a good article on reverse lunges.
- Medicine Ball Wood Chops – If you don’t have a medicine ball then you can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, or even a cable machine at the gym. Stand in an athletic stance with left arms raised with medicine ball above head to the left. “Swing” the arms down to the right side by the right hip as you would chop wood. “Swing” back to the top position. Don’t allow gravity to do all the work by engaging your core. ACE has a decent step-by-step guide here, but I don’t recommend starting with a split stance foot position.
- Bent-Over Rows – A strong back is important for health and athletic performance. Too many people have weak backs due to our current lifestyle choices and professions. Sitting at a computer for 8-hours a day can do a number to the body! Bent-over rows can help bring the shoulders back by strengthening the middle back, lats, and biceps muscles. These can be done with dumbbells or a barbell. I suggest dumbbells. Stand with your legs at hip width distance. Hinge at the hip and really suck in the belly button to the spine to create a nice, flat back. If you have dumbbells, palms can face into each other or away from you. If you have a barbell, then palms face away from you. Keep your core still and move your arms up until you can squeeze your shoulder blades together. Pause, and lower in a controlled manner. A good step-by-step can be found here.
And there you have it, the 12 Days of Christmas. As a disclaimer, ALWAYS check with your health care provider before you start any new exercise routine to ensure you are healthy enough to exercise. Not all these exercises may be suited for your current fitness level, please use commonsense and don’t do anything that causes pain or injury to your body.
~ As always happy training and happy holidays!