Our Fitness Expert’s Ultimate Work-Out for PCOS
*This is fitness expert, Erika Volk’s, second article in her three part series on strength training with PCOS. If you missed it, her first article, Fitness Expert Q&A Plus 4 Exercises to Burn Fat is a great place to start.
Guest Post by Erika Volk
One of the most effective ways to manage PCOS is to add regular exercise to your life. I use exercise to keep my PCOS under control, and I am extremely grateful to have this powerful PCOS fighting tool!
I also like that my workouts help me look better in jeans! I don’t have the rock-hard beach body people obsess over, but when I look in the mirror and see my round booty or firm arms, I think: “hey, I did that!” Instead of comparing myself to other women, I take pride in my progress.
Today I’m going to talk about how working out can give you the boost of body confidence you need to feel sexy again. This site isn’t called PCOS Diva for nothing!
I have designed a curve-accentuating workout for all you Divas out there, but before we hit the gym, I want to clear up a couple fitness myths.
Myth #1: You can spot tone.
The belief that certain exercises will burn fat from specific body parts is one of the world’s most popular fitness myths. The scientific research on this is pretty definitive: exercise selection will not determine where you lose weight.
For example, an exerciser might burn about 51 calories by doing 15 minutes of crunches, but they won’t necessarily burn those 51 calories off of their muffin top.
However, exercise selection will determine where you gain muscle. For example, single leg squats help build up the gluteus maximus that will in turn give your rear end a nice shape.
The catch is that the amount of body fat you carry will determine whether or not those strong glutes are visible.
Think about it this way:
If Halle Berry had on a floor length fur coat would you be able to see her fit and curvy figure? Nope! Excess body fat is like that fur coat – it hides your toned muscles beneath its layers.
So to make changes to your shape, you need to reduce body fat and add muscle to the body. A healthy diet of whole foods (like the PCOS Diva Meal Plans) and regular exercise can help you achieve this result!
The workout at the end of this article is designed to help you take advantage of all the PCOS-fighting benefits of strength training and add some muscle to a few key areas of the body: your glutes, triceps, and core.
Myth #2: There is such a thing as a perfect body, and if I had it, I would be happy.
There are no perfect bodies. Real women come in all shapes and sizes. If you frequently compare yourself to airbrushed magazine images, you need to go on a media diet. Throw out fashion magazines and stop going to websites that cause you to pick on yourself.
After six years in the fitness industry, I can promise you that pursuing a perfect body is not the same as pursuing happiness. Pursue deep health, self-confidence, physical and mental strength instead. Chances are that while you’re focusing on being the best version of yourself, your butt might get a little perkier, too.
If you exercise with the sole goal of achieving an ideal physique, you’re missing out on some of the deeper, more meaningful benefits of exercise. Working out is an act of self-care that can nurture your spirit, enhance your creativity and give you the physical strength to be more independent. Looking better in a swimsuit is nice, but it won’t change your life. Managing insulin resistance, decreasing your anxiety and mastering new skills will change your life for the better. Exercise did that for me and it can do the same for you, too!
The Diva Workout
You can do this work-out 2 or 3 times a week on nonconsecutive days for six weeks. Spend about 10 minutes warming up with dynamic stretches before you start.
The exercises are grouped into two super-sets. That means you do all the A exercises in a row without stopping. For example, you would do A1, A2, A3, A1, A2, A3, rest, B1, B1, B1, B2, rest. Do all of the sets in each superset before moving on to the next superset. Rest as needed.
The last rep of a set should be tough! If you finish a set and could’ve done more, increase your reps or resistance for that exercise.
Once you have finished, spend at least 10 minutes cooling down and stretching out.
If you need to reduce your body fat, try adding two sessions of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) each week and practice active rest on your days off from formal exercise.
Watch this video for more detailed instruction.
|A3.||Hips Don’t Dance Mountain Climber||2-3||8-12 on each leg|
|B1.||Triangle Push Up||2-3||8-12|
|B2.||Single-leg Squat from a Chair||2-3||8-12 on each leg|
- Set a suspension trainer to the shortest length, face the anchor point with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold handles with arms extended. Lean back and walk feet forward to appropriate resistance angle.
- Exhale, contract the muscles of your back by pulling your shoulder blades closer together.
- Pull the body toward anchor point by bending the elbows in a rowing motion.
- Inhale as you return to starting position slowly.
- Repeat for the recommended number of reps.
- Stand with your feet beneath the shoulders.
- Inhale and lower your body like you’re sitting down in a chair. Keep the back neutral, chest up and core engaged.
- Push your feet into the ground like you’re trying to split the floor beneath you apart: this will help engage your glutes.
- Lower your body until the thighs are at least parallel to the ground.
- Keep your torso stiff as you exhale and press your body back up to standing.
Hips Don’t Dance Mountain Climber
This is a fantastic core exercise that I learned from strength Coach Matthew Ibrahim. In addition to targeting your core, it also works other major muscle groups like the quads and shoulders.
- Get into a good push-up position: place your hands on the ground, settle your shoulder blades into your back, make sure your torso is stiff, and keep your glutes strong as you support your weight on the hands and toes. Do not let your hips sag toward the ground.
- Balance on your hands and left foot as you pull your right knee into the chest. Do not let your hips wiggle.
- Pause for one beat: hold your right knee close to your chest with the foot above the ground.
- Extend the right leg back to the starting position.
- Alternate pulling one knee toward your chest at a steady controlled pace. Keep your torso and hips steady.
In a study sponsored by The American Council on Exercise, researchers found that the triangle push-up engaged the triceps (back of the upper arms) more than any other exercise tested.
- Get into a good position: place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders with the thumbs and forefingers together to form a triangle position. Make sure your torso is stiff and keep your glutes strong while supporting your weight on the hands and toes. Do not let your hips sag toward the ground.
- Inhale, slowly lower your body toward the floor while maintaining a rigid torso and keeping your head aligned with your spine. Don’t let the hips sag or stick your rear in the air.
- Lower yourself until your chest or chin touches the ground.
- Exhale as you press up through your arms while maintaining a rigid torso and keeping your head aligned with your spine.
- Note: if the exercise is too difficult, lower your knees to the ground to make it less challenging.
Researchers from Belmont University reported that the single-leg squat engages the muscles of the glutes better than many other lower body exercises.
- Sit on a firm chair or bench. Elevate the right leg and set your left foot in order to stand up using one leg.
- Reach your arms straight ahead for leverage, lean your torso forward so that your body weight is over the left leg/foot and stand up tall.
- Sit back down by reaching your hips back and lowering the body with control – don’t collapse back into the seat.
- Do all the reps on one leg then switch.
Erika Volk is a certified personal trainer, Nutrition Coach, and fitness writer. She holds certifications from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), TRX Suspension Training Systems, Precision Nutrition and is the creator of the PCOS Fit Studio. She believes that lifestyle modifications are the best treatment for PCOS. If you want to learn more about how exercise can alleviate PCOS symptoms, please visit her website at erikavolkfitness.com.
Erika lives with her husband in a small beach town somewhere in Costa Rica. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, learning Spanish and traveling. At erikavolkfitness.com you’ll find at-home workout plans, healthy cooking tips, and stories about her life in Costa Rica.