4 Poses, 4 Minutes, and Your Hips and Back Will Thank You

If you have the ever-popular office job that involves sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, it can wreak havoc on your precious body, creating tight hips and lower back pain. Many stretches for your hips also stretch out your lower back, so these poses are like two for the price of one. It will only take about four minutes, but that’s all you’ll need to ease tension.

Butterfly

Sit on the floor, bend both knees, and bring your feet together. Using your hands, open your feet up like a book, pressing your knees toward the floor with your elbows. If you want more of a stretch, extend your arms out in front of you.Stay here for five breaths (about 30 seconds).Half Happy Baby

Lie flat on your back. Bend the left knee and hold onto the outside edge of your flexed foot with your left hand. Keep your left arm on the outside of your leg.Gently use your upper body strength to press the left knee to the floor below your armpit. Try not to tense your shoulder or chest, but keep everything relaxed. Stay like this for five deep breaths, and then switch legs.Then do both legs together for another five breaths. Pigeon

Sit with your right knee bent and your left leg extended straight behind you. If your hips are flexible, inch your right foot away from you. Make sure your left hip is always pointing down toward the mat. If it begins to open up toward the ceiling, draw your right foot back in toward your body.Rest your hands on your hips or walk your hands out in front of you, allowing your torso to rest over your right knee.Hold here for five breaths, and then repeat Pigeon on the left side.Double Pigeon

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your knee, shin, and foot on the floor so they’re parallel with your pelvis. Bend your left knee and place it on top so your knees, shins, and ankles are stacked. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you gaze down and see that your legs make a little triangle.To make this pose more intense, place your hands in front of your shins and walk them out as far as you can, folding your chest toward your legs.Stay here for five breaths, slowly release, and then switch legs so your right knee is on top.Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Louisa Larson

4 Poses, 4 Minutes, and Your Hips and Back Will Thank You

If you have the ever-popular office job that involves sitting at a desk for eight hours a day| it can wreak havoc on your precious body| creating tight hips and lower back pain. Many stretches for your hips also stretch out your lower back| so these poses are like two for the price of one. It will only take about four minutes| but that’s all you’ll need to ease tension.

Butterfly

Sit on the floor| bend both knees| and bring your feet together. Using your hands| open your feet up like a book| pressing your knees toward the floor with your elbows. If you want more of a stretch| extend your arms out in front of you.Stay here for five breaths (about 30 seconds).Half Happy Baby

Lie flat on your back. Bend the left knee and hold onto the outside edge of your flexed foot with your left hand. Keep your left arm on the outside of your leg.Gently use your upper body strength to press the left knee to the floor below your armpit. Try not to tense your shoulder or chest| but keep everything relaxed. Stay like this for five deep breaths| and then switch legs.Then do both legs together for another five breaths. Pigeon

Sit with your right knee bent and your left leg extended straight behind you. If your hips are flexible| inch your right foot away from you. Make sure your left hip is always pointing down toward the mat. If it begins to open up toward the ceiling| draw your right foot back in toward your body.Rest your hands on your hips or walk your hands out in front of you| allowing your torso to rest over your right knee.Hold here for five breaths| and then repeat Pigeon on the left side.Double Pigeon

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your knee| shin| and foot on the floor so they’re parallel with your pelvis. Bend your left knee and place it on top so your knees| shins| and ankles are stacked. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you gaze down and see that your legs make a little triangle.To make this pose more intense| place your hands in front of your shins and walk them out as far as you can| folding your chest toward your legs.Stay here for five breaths| slowly release| and then switch legs so your right knee is on top.Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Louisa Larson

How Long Should You Wait to Work Out After Eating?

How you space out meals during the course of the day might not make a big difference in the calorie department| but it has huge implications on your workout performance. Not only can ineffectively fueling your body hinder your performance| but also| eating too much before exercise can interfere with your goals. When it comes to eating before exercise| it’s all about timing.

No matter what time of day you choose to exercise| make sure to plan your workout two to three hours after your meal. Going overboard with too much food right before a workout will leave you feeling sluggish and can lead to stomach discomfort. The last thing you want is your workout habits to hinder your digestion process.

If it’s been a few hours since your last meal| then most experts agree that you should eat a small snack one hour before your workout to properly fuel your body. A combination of carbs and a little protein| all under 200 calories| will do the trick. If you’re not sure what constitutes a good choice| then check out these healthy pre-workout snacks for inspiration. And if you’re going for an early workout session| then remember that exercising on an empty stomach ¡ª even when you first wake up ¡ª isn’t ideal. It might feel tough to eat first thing in the morning| but fueling your body with proper nutrients is essential for your workout. Consider one of these light breakfast snacks you can enjoy an hour before your morning workout.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO

How Long Should You Wait to Work Out After Eating?

How you space out meals during the course of the day might not make a big difference in the calorie department, but it has huge implications on your workout performance. Not only can ineffectively fueling your body hinder your performance, but also, eating too much before exercise can interfere with your goals. When it comes to eating before exercise, it’s all about timing.

No matter what time of day you choose to exercise, make sure to plan your workout two to three hours after your meal. Going overboard with too much food right before a workout will leave you feeling sluggish and can lead to stomach discomfort. The last thing you want is your workout habits to hinder your digestion process.

If it’s been a few hours since your last meal, then most experts agree that you should eat a small snack one hour before your workout to properly fuel your body. A combination of carbs and a little protein, all under 200 calories, will do the trick. If you’re not sure what constitutes a good choice, then check out these healthy pre-workout snacks for inspiration. And if you’re going for an early workout session, then remember that exercising on an empty stomach ¡ª even when you first wake up ¡ª isn’t ideal. It might feel tough to eat first thing in the morning, but fueling your body with proper nutrients is essential for your workout. Consider one of these light breakfast snacks you can enjoy an hour before your morning workout.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / THEM TOO

The Simple Technique That Will Help You Run Longer

Ever wonder why some days you feel like you can keep running and running while on others you have zero stamina? Certainly the amount of sleep you got the night before| stress levels| and diet play a role in how you perform during your runs| but how you regulate your breath during your jogging session also affects your energy levels. Here’s how to power your muscles with fresh oxygen on each stride.

Learn to breathe deeply: Your lungs are just a bit smaller than your rib cage| but most people tend to use just the top third of this powerful organ. When you take a deep breath| you are expanding the lungs| pressing down the diaphragm| and causing your abdomen to expand as your lungs fill with air. Learning to breathe this way while running helps you take in a lot of oxygen| preventing dizziness and nausea. With a little training and some stretching| you can breathe to your full potential and increase your endurance. Cross-training with yoga and Pilates can also help you learn to breathe from your diaphragm. Here are some tips for how to conquer diaphragmatic breathing.

Match your breathing to your steps: For an easy-paced run| inhale for three or four steps| then exhale for the same amount. Count the steps in your head while you adjust to breathing on tempo. If you are running more intensely| your breathing tempo will increase to support your increased energy output and become faster a breath in for one to two steps and out for one to two steps. If you can’t match your steps to your breathing tempo| then you are trying to run too fast; slow down| and get back into your rhythm.

Breathe differently in cooler temps: It’s important to breathe through your nose while running in chillier weather| because cold air is dry and breathing through your mouth increases the dryness while decreasing the temperature of the air. Since your lungs do not like dry air| you can experience asthma-like symptoms| like wheezing and coughing| when breathing cold air in through your mouth. Breathing through your nose not only filters out air impurities but also warms cool air to body temperature| creating less shock for the lungs to decrease those asthma-like symptoms.

Learn to breathe through your nose: If nose breathing is difficult for you| start experimenting with the technique now before the temperature drops drastically. Breathing through the nose helps you breathe more deeply and efficiently| which will ultimately help your running no matter what the temperature is. If you plan to run in cold temps and have yet to master nose breathing| you can try wearing a bandana (or a shirt that can be pulled up far) over your nose and mouth to help trap the moisture of your breath and humidity in the air before it reaches your lungs.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell

The Simple Technique That Will Help You Run Longer

Ever wonder why some days you feel like you can keep running and running while on others you have zero stamina? Certainly the amount of sleep you got the night before, stress levels, and diet play a role in how you perform during your runs, but how you regulate your breath during your jogging session also affects your energy levels. Here’s how to power your muscles with fresh oxygen on each stride.

Learn to breathe deeply: Your lungs are just a bit smaller than your rib cage, but most people tend to use just the top third of this powerful organ. When you take a deep breath, you are expanding the lungs, pressing down the diaphragm, and causing your abdomen to expand as your lungs fill with air. Learning to breathe this way while running helps you take in a lot of oxygen, preventing dizziness and nausea. With a little training and some stretching, you can breathe to your full potential and increase your endurance. Cross-training with yoga and Pilates can also help you learn to breathe from your diaphragm. Here are some tips for how to conquer diaphragmatic breathing.

Match your breathing to your steps: For an easy-paced run, inhale for three or four steps, then exhale for the same amount. Count the steps in your head while you adjust to breathing on tempo. If you are running more intensely, your breathing tempo will increase to support your increased energy output and become faster ¡ª a breath in for one to two steps and out for one to two steps. If you can’t match your steps to your breathing tempo, then you are trying to run too fast; slow down, and get back into your rhythm.

Breathe differently in cooler temps: It’s important to breathe through your nose while running in chillier weather, because cold air is dry and breathing through your mouth increases the dryness while decreasing the temperature of the air. Since your lungs do not like dry air, you can experience asthma-like symptoms, like wheezing and coughing, when breathing cold air in through your mouth. Breathing through your nose not only filters out air impurities but also warms cool air to body temperature, creating less shock for the lungs to decrease those asthma-like symptoms.

Learn to breathe through your nose: If nose breathing is difficult for you, start experimenting with the technique now before the temperature drops drastically. Breathing through the nose helps you breathe more deeply and efficiently, which will ultimately help your running no matter what the temperature is. If you plan to run in cold temps and have yet to master nose breathing, you can try wearing a bandana (or a shirt that can be pulled up far) over your nose and mouth to help trap the moisture of your breath and humidity in the air before it reaches your lungs.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell

7 Moves to Burn 400 Calories in 20 Minutes

7 Moves to Burn 400 Calories in 20 Minutes

Kettlebell fans love the heavy| round-shaped weights for a reason u2014 kettlebell exercises combine cardio and strength training for a time-saving calorie burn. The amount of calories you can burn using kettlebells can be amazingly high: a study by the American Council on Exercise found that the kettlebell tutorial and workout to learn the basics.

| Safety First

If you’ve never done a kettlebell workout before| know that starting out is a little bit more involved than just lifting weights. Because many kettlebell exercises involve a lot of swinging moves| you need to make sure that you are handling it correctly to not injure yourself. Start with a lighter weight| and try these three exercises to determine if it’s the right size. Once you’ve figured out the right fit| read on for more effective kettlebell exercises.

| Kettlebell Deadlift

Deadlifts are extremely effective for correcting your posture| and the fact that they give your butt a nice lift doesn’t hurt either. Hold a kettlebell in one hand to do this single-leg deadlift; remember to bend at the waist while keeping your back straight and control your movements as you raise back up. Here’s how to do a single-leg kettlebell deadlift correctly:

  • Hold a kettlebell (between 10 and 20 pounds) in your right hand| and lift your left foot slightly off the ground.
  • Keeping your back neutral| lean your entire torso forward while raising your left leg| which should stay in line with your body. The kettlebell will lower toward the ground. Keep your left shoulder blade pulled down your back.
  • With your back straight| return upright| coming to your starting position.
  • This completes one rep. Maximize this move by keeping your right foot off the ground as you go through your reps.
  • Do 12 reps on each leg| for three sets.

| Turkish Get-Up

Yes| your arms will be tired after you’ve done this move| but they’ll also be well-defined and strong. Here’s how to do the Turkish Get-Up:

  • Begin lying on your back with your right arm pointing toward the ceiling and your right knee bent. Your left arm should be out to the side and a little lower than your shoulder.
  • Keep your eyes on your right hand| and come to sitting without lowering your right arm. Lean onto your left hand to prepare you for your next move.
  • Press down into your left hand to lift your pelvis off the ground. Keep your eyes trained on your right hand.
  • Shoot your left leg backward| putting weight on your left knee| which you should place directly under your left hip. Your arms should be in a straight line with left hand on the floor and right hand toward the ceiling. You are bent to the left| but your eyes will still be focusing on the right hand.
  • Push off the floor with your left hand| so your torso is upright. Keep looking up at your right hand.
  • Come to standing. Bring left leg forward to meet the right.
  • Reverse the sequence to return to starting position on floor.
  • Do six to eight reps with your right arm up| then switch sides.

| Kettlebell Squat

This move is a great exercise for toning the glutes| and while you can use a dumbbell to execute the move| using a kettlebell will work more muscles and help challenge your balance. Here’s 7 Ways to Work Your Body With Squats

| Kettlebell Windmill

This double-kettlebell move is a killer| but it tones your entire body. And since it focuses on your obliques and torso| you’ll notice a smaller waist in no time. To do the Triangle pose in yoga.

  • Keep your torso still as you bring your left hand to your left shoulder in a bicep curl.
  • Keeping your left arm bent and your right arm pointing to the ceiling| come to standing position. Imagine your waist doing all the work to move your torso upright.
  • Shift your pelvis back to center once again to distribute your weight evenly between both feet.
  • Complete the rep by bringing your left arm overhead| working your shoulder. Lower your left arm down to return to starting position| and repeat.
  • | Kettlebell Squat and Swing

    This classic kettlebell move will tone your back and shoulders while working your core u2014 all while getting your heart rate up as well! Keep a full grip on the kettlebell to stay in control| since this move is all about the explosive swing you do as you come up from your squat. Learn how to do the kettlebell squat and swing below:

    • Stand with your feet wider than hips-width apart| toes slightly pointing out. Squat down| and hold a kettlebell with both hands between your legs. Make sure your back is flat and your abs are engaged.
    • As you inhale| press into your feet and explode up| straightening your legs and swinging the kettlebell in front so your hands are in line with your shoulders.
    • Exhale| and with control| come back to the starting position| allowing the kettlebell to swing back between your legs.
    • This counts as one rep. Complete three sets of 12 to 15 reps.

    | Basic 5-Move Workout

    This five-move kettlebell workout will torch tons of calories. When learning these exercises| it’s important to start with a light weight first| such as a five- or 10-pound kettlebell. You can increase the amount of repetitions as you become stronger| but first focus on your form and only increase the weight after you can do 20 reps of these moves correctly with a lighter weight.

    | Kettlebell Video

    Ready to learn four fun| effective kettlebell moves? This 10-Minute CrossFit Video Will Leave You Sweaty and Sore

    5 Workouts For When You Just Don’t Feel Like Working Out

    Feeling a little tired and out of it? Here are the workouts that Men’s Health recommends for lazy days.

    The other day, I felt like crap but had heavy deadlifts on the menu.

    I did my first warmup set of 10 reps and I knew right away that it would not be my best pulling day.

    So I did my two remaining warmup sets, and then moved onto some speed and technique work at about 70-to-80 percent of my 1-rep max (RM), doing six sets of two reps.

    Next I did some light higher-rep accessory work and finished with 30-minutes of non-stop alternating stepups. Then I called it a day.

    It’s on days like that one when I’m most proud of the progress I’ve made in my fitness journey.

    Related: The Get Back in Shape Workout, a 28-Day Program That Will Transform Your Body!

    Why would I be happy with a less than my best workout? Because in the past I would have tried to grind it out, risking injury and leaving myself feeling worse than when I started.

    But I still did something to improve myself¡ªand I left the gym feeling better than before. Mission accomplished.

    Too many of us approach each workout like it’s life or death. I get it: You want to PR at every session and it’s that “get better today” attitude that keeps the gainz coming month after month, year after year.

    Truth is, it’s just not possible to beat your former self every single session. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do something that makes you better for the long haul every single day.

    On days when you’re not at your best, you have two options:

    Skip the workout altogether.

    Modify the workout so that you move with a purpose. So that it’s more about stimulation, and less about annihilation.

    The best bodies in the world are built with the dogged consistency of the second approach. It’s an intuitive style of training where you auto-regulate your workouts based on “feel.”

    Related: 6 Secrets to Transforming Your Legs¡ªand Ultimately, Your Whole Body

    If you’re considering skipping a session, use any of the outlined options below instead. They’ll keep you moving and grooving so you never miss a beat.

    1. Lighten the Load

    You can almost always predict your future performance based on how you felt during your first warmup set.

    Sure, the warmup is meant to boost circulation, lubricate your joints, and improve mobility. But also allows you to gauge how much loading and volume you should put through your system that day.

    That’s why it’s so important to embrace an extended warmup at any age.

    On days when the warmup is feeling more like a workout, lighten the load and get some good technique work in. You can either do some power training or endurance work.

    If you choose power, use a load that’s about 60 to 80 percent of your 1-RM. Then do 3 to 10 sets of 1 to 3 reps, lifting the load as fast as you possibly can. Do a set every 2 to 3 minutes.

    You could also swap in a more ballistic exercise for a similar movement pattern, which inherently lightens the load.

    For example, replace those heavy deadlifts with 10 sets of 10-rep kettlebell swings. Both exercises involve a hip hinge, but no matter how much weight you can swing, the actual load is still what amounts to warmup weight for deads.

    If you choose endurance, use a load that’s no more than 50% of your 1-RM, and get in a lot of quality reps. You can do 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 20 reps with short one minute or less rest periods. This is what many call “barbell cardio.”

    Or you can set the clock for 5 to 30 minutes and get as many quality reps as you can within that time frame.

    Personally, I like to use the EMOM (every minute on the minute) protocol, in which I perform a set number of reps at the top of each minute and rest the remainder of each minute.

    For instance, if I’m not feeling up for heavy barbell squats, I’ll swap in goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell and do 10 reps EMOM for 10 minutes. (Sometimes I’ll go longer if I really hate myself).

    2. Go Back to the Basics

    When you’re feeling out of it, turn to your fundamentals.

    Most guys make the mistake of thinking they’ve moved past easier exercises, particularly bodyweight moves like pushups, lunges, and squats. Trust me when I say that you’re never too good for “beginner-level” exercises. That’s like saying a house is too good for its foundation.

    Related: Why You Should Do Easier Exercises

    Do you know what 4-time CrossFit champion Rich Froning does to start every squat workout? Ten straight minutes of air squats.

    Why? Because not only does it warm him up, but it burns a perfect squatting pattern into his brain so his hundredth rep looks just like his first rep. And that’s how you become a master of your own body.

    My recommendation is to either do straight sets of a single bodyweight move for a certain rep total or time, or do a total bodyweight circuit.

    For the former, I love to do 10-minute blocks of straight squatting, lunging, or crawling. Just get inside of the movement and own it.

    There are two rules: don’t stop and keep going.

    Do 10 minutes of each move for a great 30-minute equipment-free workout that will get you better at just about everything.

    For the latter, here’s a great “bodyweight 8” circuit from my book Bodyweight Burners. Do each move for 50 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between them.

    Hip-Thrusts (1 or 2 legs)

    Pushups or Planks

    Squats

    Rows or TRX Shoulder Raises

    Hip-Hinges (1 or 2 legs)

    Handstands or Dips

    Lunges or Stepups

    Hangs or Pullups

    Rest two minutes after completing all eight moves. That’s one cycle. Do 3 to 5 total cycles.

    For single-sided moves, switch sides from set to set, or at the halfway mark (25 seconds) into each work period.

    3. Recovery Work

    Active recovery work includes mobility and self-massage drills to improve tissue quality, joint positioning, and range of motion.

    This is the boring, low-intensity stuff that you have to do if you want to have longevity in the fitness game. Neurologically, it helps you shift from a “fight-or-flight state” to “recovery mode.” This is crucial for overall health and performance.

    The best resource for exercise recovery is the book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” by Kelly Starrett. You could also watch endless mobility videos at his site at MobilityWod.com.

    I believe that there should exist a 1:1 ratio of high-to-low intensity exercise. So if you did a 30-minute workout, you should do 30 minutes of active recovery work at some point during the day as well.

    On days when you don’t have any high-intensity work in you, just do more recovery work. You’ll still break a sweat and you’ll improve your exercise form and technique.

    Physical therapists recommend a minimum of two minutes for mobility and foam rolling to create change in the tissue. Sometimes it takes as long as 5 to 10 minutes for really sore or tight muscle groups.

    The better approach is to do a drill for as long as you need until you feel it make a change. Then move on to the next drill.

    One of my favorite recovery workouts is what I call “Sweat and Stretch.”

    Do a cardio exercise¡ªlike jump roping, running in place, or jumping jacks¡ªfor two minutes to get your heart rate up. Then do a mobility or self-massage drill for two minutes for active recovery. That’s 1 round. Move onto a new cardio and recovery move each round.

    You could also break up the 2-minute cardio piece into 60 seconds for 2 moves, 40 seconds for 3 moves, or 30 seconds for 4 moves. This tends to be a little more fun and the time will pass faster.

    4. Accessory Work

    Accessory work is the extra stuff you do to help improve the most important exercises you train. These tend to be better for high-rep sets with lighter loads.

    On a day when you can’t muster up the strength for your big core lift(s), do some higher-rep work on the accessory exercises that will make you better.

    For example, close-grip bench presses, rows, dips, band pull-aparts, and triceps pushdowns tend to boost your bench press. Do 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 15-plus reps for each move. And maybe finish with 100 pushups in as few sets as you can.

    Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid to use machines.

    Are they as functional as free weights? No. But they are less taxing on your nervous system and joints because they don’t require as much stability. In this way, machine work is easier to recover from.

    Plus, there’s nothing wrong with some dedicated isolation work. It’s the safest way to put your muscles under prolonged time under tensions to create a metabolic stress that triggers muscle growth.

    For example, there’s simply no way you can create as much of a pump in your quads from squatting as you can with leg extensions. That’s because with squatting, you’ll reach technical failure before muscle failure.

    Plus, with leg extensions you can’t enlist the help of any other muscle groups. It’s you versus your quads.

    Finally, a machine-based workout consistently allows you to get in an extra session in each week, you’ll get better faster than the other guy who’s too good for machines and just takes the day off. That’s the bottom line.

    One of my favorite accessory days is to just crank out a whole body workout moving from machine to machine.

    You could do a 5 to 10 machine circuit, doing 10 to 20 reps (or max reps) of each move with little to no rest between moves.

    But this may be hard to do in a gym setting when you’re constantly competing for space and equipment. So I’d recommend setting the clock for 5 minutes and doing as many reps on each machine as you can. Then move on to the next machine.

    You’ll leave with an epic muscle pump and your central nervous system will get a much-needed break.

    5. Have Fun

    It seems clich¨¦, but isn’t having fun the whole point of training?

    On days when motivation is low, it’s the perfect time to try the new training techniques you’ve been researching. It infuses some excitement into a stale routine.

    Or you could play some pickup basketball.

    Or maybe you just go for a run or do 30 to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio while listening to some good music or a podcast.

    At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to move with purpose and break a good sweat without fail. There are an unlimited number of ways you can accomplish this.

    And yes, technically Zumba counts too.

    When I’m not into it, I love to take a long 1-2 hour walk with my wife and 2 dogs. It always energizes my body and mind and it reminds me that there is actually more to life than just exercising. And I’m referring to Netflix.

    Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell

    5 Workouts For When You Just Don’t Feel Like Working Out

    Feeling a little tired and out of it? Here are the workouts that Men’s Health recommends for lazy days.

    The other day| I felt like crap but had heavy deadlifts on the menu.

    I did my first warmup set of 10 reps and I knew right away that it would not be my best pulling day.

    So I did my two remaining warmup sets| and then moved onto some speed and technique work at about 70-to-80 percent of my 1-rep max (RM)| doing six sets of two reps.

    Next I did some light higher-rep accessory work and finished with 30-minutes of non-stop alternating stepups. Then I called it a day.

    It’s on days like that one when I’m most proud of the progress I’ve made in my fitness journey.

    Related: The Get Back in Shape Workout| a 28-Day Program That Will Transform Your Body!

    Why would I be happy with a less than my best workout? Because in the past I would have tried to grind it out| risking injury and leaving myself feeling worse than when I started.

    But I still did something to improve myself¡ªand I left the gym feeling better than before. Mission accomplished.

    Too many of us approach each workout like it’s life or death. I get it: You want to PR at every session and it’s that “get better today” attitude that keeps the gainz coming month after month| year after year.

    Truth is| it’s just not possible to beat your former self every single session. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do something that makes you better for the long haul every single day.

    On days when you’re not at your best| you have two options:

    Skip the workout altogether.

    Modify the workout so that you move with a purpose. So that it’s more about stimulation| and less about annihilation.

    The best bodies in the world are built with the dogged consistency of the second approach. It’s an intuitive style of training where you auto-regulate your workouts based on “feel.”

    Related: 6 Secrets to Transforming Your Legs and Ultimately| Your Whole Body

    If you’re considering skipping a session| use any of the outlined options below instead. They’ll keep you moving and grooving so you never miss a beat.

    1. Lighten the Load

    You can almost always predict your future performance based on how you felt during your first warmup set.

    Sure| the warmup is meant to boost circulation| lubricate your joints| and improve mobility. But also allows you to gauge how much loading and volume you should put through your system that day.

    That’s why it’s so important to embrace an extended warmup at any age.

    On days when the warmup is feeling more like a workout| lighten the load and get some good technique work in. You can either do some power training or endurance work.

    If you choose power| use a load that’s about 60 to 80 percent of your 1-RM. Then do 3 to 10 sets of 1 to 3 reps| lifting the load as fast as you possibly can. Do a set every 2 to 3 minutes.

    You could also swap in a more ballistic exercise for a similar movement pattern| which inherently lightens the load.

    For example| replace those heavy deadlifts with 10 sets of 10-rep kettlebell swings. Both exercises involve a hip hinge| but no matter how much weight you can swing| the actual load is still what amounts to warmup weight for deads.

    If you choose endurance| use a load that’s no more than 50% of your 1-RM| and get in a lot of quality reps. You can do 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 20 reps with short one minute or less rest periods. This is what many call “barbell cardio.”

    Or you can set the clock for 5 to 30 minutes and get as many quality reps as you can within that time frame.

    Personally| I like to use the EMOM (every minute on the minute) protocol| in which I perform a set number of reps at the top of each minute and rest the remainder of each minute.

    For instance| if I’m not feeling up for heavy barbell squats| I’ll swap in goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell and do 10 reps EMOM for 10 minutes. (Sometimes I’ll go longer if I really hate myself).

    2. Go Back to the Basics

    When you’re feeling out of it| turn to your fundamentals.

    Most guys make the mistake of thinking they’ve moved past easier exercises| particularly bodyweight moves like pushups| lunges| and squats. Trust me when I say that you’re never too good for “beginner-level” exercises. That’s like saying a house is too good for its foundation.

    Related: Why You Should Do Easier Exercises

    Do you know what 4-time CrossFit champion Rich Froning does to start every squat workout? Ten straight minutes of air squats.

    Why? Because not only does it warm him up| but it burns a perfect squatting pattern into his brain so his hundredth rep looks just like his first rep. And that’s how you become a master of your own body.

    My recommendation is to either do straight sets of a single bodyweight move for a certain rep total or time| or do a total bodyweight circuit.

    For the former| I love to do 10-minute blocks of straight squatting| lunging| or crawling. Just get inside of the movement and own it.

    There are two rules: don’t stop and keep going.

    Do 10 minutes of each move for a great 30-minute equipment-free workout that will get you better at just about everything.

    For the latter| here’s a great “bodyweight 8” circuit from my book Bodyweight Burners. Do each move for 50 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between them.

    Hip-Thrusts (1 or 2 legs)

    Pushups or Planks

    Squats

    Rows or TRX Shoulder Raises

    Hip-Hinges (1 or 2 legs)

    Handstands or Dips

    Lunges or Stepups

    Hangs or Pullups

    Rest two minutes after completing all eight moves. That’s one cycle. Do 3 to 5 total cycles.

    For single-sided moves| switch sides from set to set| or at the halfway mark (25 seconds) into each work period.

    3. Recovery Work

    Active recovery work includes mobility and self-massage drills to improve tissue quality| joint positioning| and range of motion.

    This is the boring| low-intensity stuff that you have to do if you want to have longevity in the fitness game. Neurologically| it helps you shift from a “fight-or-flight state” to “recovery mode.” This is crucial for overall health and performance.

    The best resource for exercise recovery is the book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” by Kelly Starrett. You could also watch endless mobility videos at his site at MobilityWod.com.

    I believe that there should exist a 1:1 ratio of high-to-low intensity exercise. So if you did a 30-minute workout| you should do 30 minutes of active recovery work at some point during the day as well.

    On days when you don’t have any high-intensity work in you| just do more recovery work. You’ll still break a sweat and you’ll improve your exercise form and technique.

    Physical therapists recommend a minimum of two minutes for mobility and foam rolling to create change in the tissue. Sometimes it takes as long as 5 to 10 minutes for really sore or tight muscle groups.

    The better approach is to do a drill for as long as you need until you feel it make a change. Then move on to the next drill.

    One of my favorite recovery workouts is what I call “Sweat and Stretch.”

    Do a cardio exercise like jump roping| running in place| or jumping jacks for two minutes to get your heart rate up. Then do a mobility or self-massage drill for two minutes for active recovery. That’s 1 round. Move onto a new cardio and recovery move each round.

    You could also break up the 2-minute cardio piece into 60 seconds for 2 moves| 40 seconds for 3 moves| or 30 seconds for 4 moves. This tends to be a little more fun and the time will pass faster.

    4. Accessory Work

    Accessory work is the extra stuff you do to help improve the most important exercises you train. These tend to be better for high-rep sets with lighter loads.

    On a day when you can’t muster up the strength for your big core lift(s)| do some higher-rep work on the accessory exercises that will make you better.

    For example| close-grip bench presses| rows| dips| band pull-aparts| and triceps pushdowns tend to boost your bench press. Do 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 15-plus reps for each move. And maybe finish with 100 pushups in as few sets as you can.

    Oh yeah| and don’t be afraid to use machines.

    Are they as functional as free weights? No. But they are less taxing on your nervous system and joints because they don’t require as much stability. In this way| machine work is easier to recover from.

    Plus| there’s nothing wrong with some dedicated isolation work. It’s the safest way to put your muscles under prolonged time under tensions to create a metabolic stress that triggers muscle growth.

    For example| there’s simply no way you can create as much of a pump in your quads from squatting as you can with leg extensions. That’s because with squatting| you’ll reach technical failure before muscle failure.

    Plus| with leg extensions you can’t enlist the help of any other muscle groups. It’s you versus your quads.

    Finally| a machine-based workout consistently allows you to get in an extra session in each week| you’ll get better faster than the other guy who’s too good for machines and just takes the day off. That’s the bottom line.

    One of my favorite accessory days is to just crank out a whole body workout moving from machine to machine.

    You could do a 5 to 10 machine circuit| doing 10 to 20 reps (or max reps) of each move with little to no rest between moves.

    But this may be hard to do in a gym setting when you’re constantly competing for space and equipment. So I’d recommend setting the clock for 5 minutes and doing as many reps on each machine as you can. Then move on to the next machine.

    You’ll leave with an epic muscle pump and your central nervous system will get a much-needed break.

    5. Have Fun

    It seems clich¨¦| but isn’t having fun the whole point of training?

    On days when motivation is low| it’s the perfect time to try the new training techniques you’ve been researching. It infuses some excitement into a stale routine.

    Or you could play some pickup basketball.

    Or maybe you just go for a run or do 30 to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio while listening to some good music or a podcast.

    At the end of the day| the ultimate goal is to move with purpose and break a good sweat without fail. There are an unlimited number of ways you can accomplish this.

    And yes| technically Zumba counts too.

    When I’m not into it| I love to take a long 1-2 hour walk with my wife and 2 dogs. It always energizes my body and mind and it reminds me that there is actually more to life than just exercising. And I’m referring to Netflix.

    Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell

    3 Workout Rules That Lead to Weight Loss

    It can be frustrating to feel like you are logging hours in the gym without seeing the efforts manifest on your body. What gives? You may be doing it wrong, says fitness trainer and healthy chef Katy Clark, a former contestant on Food Network Star. She shared with us her top tips for ramping up your workouts to see results; check out her advice below.

      Reassess your workout: It’s time to ask yourself ¡ª are you really working out to make a change? A good workout will leave you feeling one of three ways, Katy says. “You need to be sweating, you need to be breathing heavy, or you need to be sore the next day,” she advises. “If you didn’t hit any of those three, it wasn’t a good workout.”Be consistent: Find something you like so you’ll stick with it, Katy says. “Anything you do consistently is going to bring about change,” she says. “Challenge yourself, grab a friend, but nonetheless, just get out there.” If you think you’re too busy to fit in a workout, Katy says to think of it this way: “One hour of your day is just four percent of your day. Everyone’s got four percent of their day to get a workout in.”Use weights: Katy believes the best results come from weight training with weights heavy enough to fatigue muscles at 10 reps. “Whatever weight you’re bearing ¡ª if you’re doing five pounds, if you’re doing 10 pounds ¡ª if you’re not tired by [rep] number 10, then you need to go a little bit heavier. If you are consistently doing that, you’re going to see changes in your strength and in your muscle mass.” An added bonus? “It’s empowering when you are in that weight room and you’re the chick rocking it,” Katy says.

    Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kat Borchart