Workout Tips

Read these 30 Workout Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Exercise tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Jumping Rope rocks those calves

When you see a kid jumping rope, you probably don't think much of it. Actually, jumping rope for exercise is quite difficult! It works your calves, shoulders and arms, while also making your whole body isometrically contract to keep you steady.

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What are some home exercises you can do without equipment?

Working Out Without Equipment

If you want to work out without equipment, you can start with chair sits. Put your arms out in front of you and sit back into a chair, but just touch it and stand up again. Repeat until you feel some fatigue. Then you can go to a freehand squat, which is the same thing without the chair. Lunges and step-ups with just body weight are good, too. Do heel raises for your calves. For upper body, do push-ups, either the standard kind or from your knees. You can do crunches and most other abdominal exercises without equipment. Learn some yoga, which can be done without equipment.


A bigger chest with the Bench Press

The Bench Press can help give you size in your chest and shoulders. This is something most guys want, not most women. For men, really push yourself with this exercise and do the movements properly. For women, go for higher repetitions and you'll end up toning and strengthening your chest, shoulders and triceps. Here is a video of how to do a Bench Press, and other Bench Press exercises as well. Look at their postures, and make sure you perform the motion properly.

I'd like some guidelines on getting back into shape after abdominal surgery - specifically on core exercises.

Core Exercises

Core exercises refer to exercises that target the abdominal and low back areas. You will find some exercise for the glutes will help, too, as these areas function together. Pilates exercise specializes in the core, but some traditional strength exercises like crunches and back extensions also are effective. You can work these areas every other day. Start with one set of crunches, an exercise for the oblique abs, and an easy back extension, if you are out of shape or recovering from surgery. Increase difficulty slowly. If you're in good shape, start at an appropriate level. Remember, you will not see abdominal definition unless you have a low percentage of body fat, but it's important to have strong abs anyway.


Circuit Training

When I workout at a gym, people will sometimes ask me what I am doing and initially say 'Are you doing a circuit?'. This may be due to the fact that I am breathing heavily and doing stuff that looks really odd and difficult, who knows. Regardless it is probably a good idea to figure out what a Circuit actually would look like.

Circuit Training is in reference to utilizing 3-4 exercises in a row, and then throwing in some type of cardio exercise with no rest. An example of this would be Push-Ups, immediately moving into Lunges, immediately into Lat Pull-Downs, immediately into Lateral Raises, then Jumping Rope for a minute, finally resting for a minute. This way your body gets tired quickly beacuse of lack of rest, and you get lots of muscles to work because you are exercising the whole of the body during the circuit. During a circuit training routine one would want to go through 3-5 whole circuits, definitely making sure that they stay hydrated and giving themselves ample rest between circuits.

Well what are you waiting for? Go try one out for your next workout! It wil be fun :)


Workout for your Heart

Most people believe that Cardiorespiratory exercise (running, biking and the like) are what most doctors would refer to as exercise for your heart. It is a true belief, but there are ways to incorporate working out your heart especially during weight bearing exercise.

Whenever you exercise, your heart is pumping blood that has been oxygenated to areas of your body. As your blood travels through your body, it makes stops at muscles that need oxygen to function and perform better. After dropping off their supply of oxygen, they either oxygenated other muscles or return on the cycle back to the heart to perform the same thing again. Therefore when you workout you're getting a 'Heart' workout, but we can make it even more precise.

If you worry about whether your heart is strong or not, during your next workout session alternate exercising your upper then lower body. For example, start out with squats (lower body), then bench press (upper body), then leg extensions (lower body) to a seated row (upper body), and so on. Do a few sets of each, and as you continue alternating between your upper and lower body, your blood will be pumping through your body, giving you a great workout for your heart.


The Cable Chest Fly Exercise (with video)

The Cable Chest Fly works mostly on the muscles in your chest, while also getting benefit in your shoulders and biceps. Unlike a chest press, which would workout your triceps, the chest fly moves your arms outward, making your biceps flex to stabilize your arm through the elbow joint. Cable Chest Fly exercises will help you gain size in your chest the more you push yourself, and hile you stand you'll also be gatting benefit in your abdomen and leg muscles.

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Soreness After Exercise Breaks

So you haven't worked out in a while, and since you did you've been really sore huh? That's normal, it should hurt a bit. Make sure that you work through the pain though, and not take a week long break until you exercise again.

What happens to some is that they will not have exercised for a while and then go hit the gym and get really sore. Instead of exercising the next day or day after, they wait until the soreness leaves completely, generally just waiting until the next week. Just try and not fall into the pattern here, but work through the pain. Gives yourself a day to rest, but work through the pain! It will not happen for the rest of your exercising career, do not fret. Push through and you'll be glad you did.


'Get Big' Routine

People have different goals, and one of those goals is that people (especially men) want to get Big or Huge or Cut. That's fine, and here's a great way t do it.

When working out to get big, you want to give your muscles the maximum amount of rest possible. Therefore in a given week, you should workout each muscle group only once. Yes, just once. That way when you workout you are giving your muscles the maximum amount of time to rebuild and recover for the next week's muscle destruction.

When working out, every set needs to be to failure. That means that you don't stop until you fail at doing the repetition. For example, if you were doing chest then every set would pain your chest because you were working it out so hard, and by the end of the workout (which would last at least 1.5 hours) your chest would be extremely tired and broken down. Since it would be so broken down there would be no way you could even exercise your chest in 2/3 days because of how hard you worked it out. Make sense?

Also, studying more about muscle recovery and ways to help that through proper supplementation need to be looked into, as well as Protein 30min-1hour after your workouts.

A sample routine could look like this: Mon-Chest, Tue-Back, Wed-Legs(Upper+Lower), Thur-Shoulders, Fri-Arms, Sat-Abs. Remember though, this is hard. To always puch your muscles to the maximum requires patience and intense desire. For those of you planning on treading down this road; Good Luck, and don't take steroids. :-)

I’ve been doing mostly bodybuilding and want to vary my workout, should I take up dance?

Dance Workouts

Switch it up! Take a cue from square dancing caller and do-si-do and switch partners when it comes to your body building workout routines.

Varying your routines and programs will make your workout routine more exciting and will keep you from reaching a plateau. Try these tips on how to spice up your workout:

• Vary your pumping iron workout plan and target different areas of your body on different days
• Sign up for some swing or salsa dancing lessons
• Try alternating your dance and dumbbell workout with stretching (such as yoga or Pilates)
• Mix in a little tai chi for grace and swimming for cardiorespiratory fitness

Who says workout routines have to be routine?


Workout Intensity Booster - 'The No-Sit'

If you belong to a gym, then I bet you see lots of sitting. Yes, sitting. Most people in the gym will do workouts with a seated shoulder press, seated biceps curl, laying down triceps extension, seated leg extension or leg curl, seated leg get what I mean.

If you are one of these sitting workout gym pro's and you feel your workout is not doing as much as you want, try standing. Just stand to do your shoulder press/tricep extension/biceps curl. When it comes to legs, do squats, lunges or deadlifts. If you don't know how to do any of those, ask a personal trainer (or maybe a knowledgeable friend) to help you. Being on your feet the whole workout will tire you out much more, stressing your stabilizer muscles especially in you abdomen, low back and glutes (your tri-core). Try that out and see what a difference it will make in your workouts.


Daily Workout

Looking for a workout that you can utilize daily? I have just the thing.

You'll be given a workout everyday. Takes less than 30min to complete, and you'll get into better shape. Sweet :)


Learning Single Leg Exercises (with video)

Executing a Barbell Biceps Curl is pretty simple, but by taking one foot off the ground and performing a Single Leg Barbell Biceps Curl, your whole body will be working.

Since you're on one foot, the leg on the ground has to work very hard to keep you balanced while your biceps execute the curl. Your butt will be isometrically contracting (holding you still and flexed) and your core musculature (abdomen, back) will also be holding you steady. Standing on one leg and doing this exercise will help you work your whole body, helping you see gains not just in your arms.

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Performing a Shoulder Press with One-Leg (video)

A Shoulder Press while standing already adds the element of your abdomen and legs for stability while you perform the motion; doing a Single Leg Shoulder Press makes your body work even harder.

Whenever you stand on one foot, your abdomen automatically contracts. Your entire leg has to work hard to stay balanced, and that makes your abdomen and glutes work hard in addition. By doing a Single-Leg Shoulder Press, you will be working your whole body as you perform the motion.

If I’m not sweating and breathing heavy, am I still getting a good workout?

Workout or Not

Can sitting still really be as good a workout as moving around? Yep. Holding a yoga or Pilates pose (for example the Downward Dog asana and the Spine Stretch in Pilates) offers as much challenge as 30 minutes of a heart-pounding treadmill workout.

Don't think that you need to be sweating and dizzy to feel as though your workout routines work. If you are sweating and dizzy too often, that may be a sign that you need to have your heart checked or change your body building workout routines. Your cardiologist will probably recommend a more balanced workout plan.

Gentle muscle workout routines don't make you perspire copiously. Let's deep-six the image of the muscle-bound he-man manfully straining red-faced to push up iron. You might as well replace it with a tennis player returning an easy serve. Don't overload your workout plan with blood, sweat, and tears. The gentle tai chi and bagua movements redirect the energy and function as effective body building workout routines without outward effort. All your muscle work is inward, no matter what workout program you choose.


The Beginning of a Pull-Up (with video)

I believe that Pull-Ups are one of the most beneficial exercises for your body, making the Assisted Pull Up a great exercise to improve your back strength.

Your back is what holds you up, so you can imagine its importance. You want to make sure that as you perform the motion, your shoulders stay away from your ears (avoiding firing your upper trapezius). When you keep your shoulders generally down, your back will do the work - if your shoulders are up, you're just going to feel it in your neck area and shoulders. View the video above and watch the form to get a better idea of how to start a Pull Up.


Bent-Over Scapular Retraction Strengthens your Back (with video)

Your rhomboids are a muscle in your back that pull your scapula (shoulder blades) together. The motion of Scapular Retraction (video) directly works this muscle group, strengthening the back and, when done properly, improving ones posture. Utilize free weights in this exercise, and make sure that as you lean forward you do not round your lower back. If needed, perform a few repetitions, stand back up, then again get into the lower position to give your low back a rest if it is too difficult to perform.

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Anatomical Neutral Posture

Anatomical Neutral Posture is where almost every exercise should begin. I want to teach you what this looks like and simple ways to check to see if you are staying there-in.

Anatomical Neutral Posture begins at the feet. The feet should be straight forward, not facing out. The feet should be hip bone width apart, meaning they should be in line with the bones of your hips. Knees should be directly over the feet and in line with the hips. At the abdomen, it should be drawn in ever so slightly, while also tightening up the muscles of the glutes (butt) as well. The chest should be lifted, while also drawing the shoulders back and down. The head should be back, looking forward, with ears in line with the shoulders and hips. Hands should be facing towards the body, standing as tall as possible.

The importance of Anatomical Neutral Posture comes in regards to proper muscular innervation. When you sit/stand/lift in proper posture, you will be more likely to exercise the proper muscles. Anatomical Neutral Posture will also put your spine in good alignment, minimizing the pains that could possibly arise from exercise. You will exercise better, utilize proper muscles, and have more of a challenging time trying to stay in proper posture.

As a sidenote, some women don't want to lift their chest for fear of seeming like they want to show off their breasts. Well, I don't mean wear low cut shirts, just lift your chest so your upper back is not rounded. it's either show off your chest a little or have back problems essentially... Seems like a no brainer to me.

When’s the best time of day for my cardio workout?

Cardio Love in the Afternoon

Forget about morning and evening workouts! According to a recent issue of Spa Magazine, working out in the afternoon is better for you.

The air resistance in your lungs is lower in the afternoon, making it easier for air to circulate as you execute dance and aerobic workout routines. Draw a big heart in your workout plan grid when you pencil in 2 p.m. and try your swimming, aquatics workout, or mountain biking workout program in the afternoon.

*If you enjoy hot California weather year-round, remember that UVA and UVB strength is still high around 2 p.m. PST so include the note, “need extra sunblock,” in your workout plan.

Can I do aikido for my main workout program?

Martial Arts Workout Plan

In addition to providing terrific self-defense techniques and inner calm, aikido offers fabulous body building workout routines.

While you probably need to supplement your aikido workout program with swimming, stretching, and walking, you can add a block of aikido twice a week or more to your workout plan.

A typical aikido workout is built on a principle of using circular force to disarm an opponent or deflect energy. You don't need Mr. Miyagi of “The Karate Kid” movies to tell you that aikido isn't about getting into fights, but often about avoiding them and keeping mentally as well as physically fit. What more could you ask from your workout?


Strengthen your Hamstrings & Butt with Straight Leg Deadlifts (video)

The Barbell Straight Leg Deadlift exercise will really bring strength to the muscles of your butt and hamstrings since the motion is something that most of us are not used to. Much like a Deadlift, the Straight Leg version is just harder to execute. As you perform the motion, you will feel something of a 'pull' in your hamstrings, which is totally normal.

Your Glutes (butt) are exercised during what is called 'hip extension', and your hamstrings in 'flexion at the knee'. As you keep your legs straight though and keep an arch in your back, your hamstrings will isometrically contract while your glutes perform the moving portion. If this bothers your low back, it means you're rounding your back - either watch yourself in a mirror, or lower the weight.

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The Power of the Push Up (with video)

The Push Up is a great exercise that can be done anywhere. You don't need a gym to do a Push Up, just put your hands on the ground and perform the motion.

A push up is one of a few exercises that works your whole body. I found this Push Up Video, and I think this will give you a great visual picture of how to perform one properly. There are also other videos on how to perform different types of the push up exercise.



Performing a Chest Fly

The Chest Fly can help you build size and strength in your chest. It is quite a difficult exercise when done properly (as seen in this Chest Fly video). The trick to this exercise is to keep your arms essentially straight, for most people will bend at the elbow too much and not feel the stress in their chest. This is a good exercise for both veterans and beginners in the gym.

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Chest Press exercise

Chest Press exercises are great for working on one strength in their chest/shoulder/tricep region. This is something that everyone can do.

When doing a chest press (like in this chest press video), just remember to do a full range of motion. When you don't extend the arms all the way straight at the top, or bend the arms until they are bent 90 degrees, you miss on getting the most work done and giving your muscles the most stress. This is another great way to workout your chest, shoulders and triceps.


Single Leg Bridge exercise (with video)

The Bridge exercise works on your butt, and performing a Single Leg Bridge exercise will focus more stress on your butt and making your leg work harder.

You want to start by laying on your back with your knees bent. Bring your feet real close together, and then lift your butt into the air. After your hips are in the air, then lift one leg off the ground, keeping it off the ground for desired amount of repetitions.

This is great to build strength in your glutes, because you are doing the motion of 'hip extension'.

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Using the Pull Up to gain explosive strength (with video)

The Pull Up can be used in so many different ways, and gaining explosive strength there can be achieved. In this video, you can see how switching your grip can benefit the strength of your back, biceps, forearm and hand strength. Performing an Explosive Switch Grip Pull Up will tire you out quickly though, because you will be moving mighty fast during the motion. Watch your shoulders and try to keep them back as you perform the motion.

And be careful, because a miss on grabbing the bar might mean you'll fall, hopefully wih just an injury to your pride :)

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Learning the Bent Over Row (with video)

The Bent Over Row exercise works on the muscles in your back, including your biceps and forearm. As you perform the Bent Over Row (as in this movie), make sure your back is nice and flat as you lift the weight. Many people will grab uber-heavy weights and twist/round their spine as they perform the motion, usually ending with some back pain. As you lift, draw in your abdomen, and your abdominals will absolutely work.

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Pregnant? Stay Fit and Fabulous!

First, check with your doctor and make sure it is safe for you to exercise. All clear for pregnant exercise? Let us help you make it great!

Keep Doing What You Love

With simple speed or weight modifications, any exercise you already love can remain your exercise of choice during your pregnancy. If you were a fan of cardio classes, check your gym to see if they have classes just for pregnant women. Look online for a local group of women who are pregnant and running or moms who run. If you cannot find one, ask at your local gym. You could make new friends that last beyond your pregnancy.

You Can Change it Up

If you feel your balance is not so great with your growing baby bump, or if you just feel like a change, explore the freeweights. Tone muscles will make all the lifting, walking, picking up, and bathing of your new baby easier.

Consider yoga. You could get a DVD to try it at home or find a local center. Yoga also has pregnancy-focused classes. Yoga is great for balance. Also, the deep breathing and focus on calm are things you can bring with you to the delivery room.

It’s All About You (and baby)

When you are at the gym only focus on your performance. If you are working out at home, don’t try and keep up with the people on your television. Listen to your body. Modify exercises as much as you need to. Do not exercise with intensity that goes beyond your body’s comfort level. You are exercising for two and need to stay safe.


The benefits of performing a Chest Press with Cables (w/ video)

When one performs a Chest Press on a bench, there is a bench behind them. This allows the person to push heavy weight. Well, that all changes when performing a Cable Chest Press (video). Your feet are the only thing on a surface, so the rest of your body has to do a lot of work to hold you upright.

The Cable Chest Press stresses your abdomen and legs quite a bit more, to where your body will not be able to support nearly as much weight as you would if you were laying on a bench. Try this during your next workout if your gym carries this equipment. (One could also use bands to perform this exercise)

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Performing an Opposite Arm/Leg Barbell Shoulder Press (with video)

This exercise is very difficult, and hopefully this video of an Opposite Arm/Leg Shoulder Press will benefit you.

Executing a single leg Barbell Shoulder Press is difficult, but doing it with only one foot really stresses your bodies' balance ability. Whenever you perform exercises with one arm or foot, your abdominals have to do more work to keep you balanced. Having only one of each really makes you balance.

When you utilize the barbell, your arm is now hfiring many more muscles than when yyou use free weights. Your forearm has to stabilize the bar, as well as you upper arm and shoulder. Much, much more work will be done when you perform the Opposite Arm/Leg Barbell Shoulder Press.

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Nicholas Frank