my gym trainer

We have gotten a few queries from MGT users whose gym does not have a Smith Machine, or they are unable to perform some of the movements because their machine does not reach the low height needed for certain exercises.

In our video, LeAura demonstrates 2 of our favorite Smith Machine exercises, the Donkey Kick and the Hamstring Pull-back, both featured in the MGT 3 (Advanced) book. She also demos an alternative to these movements if you need them, by doing a Hip Thrust with a plate. Other alternatives include using the Hamstring Curl Machine or the Hamstring Ball Pull-in using a large Swiss ball. Check it out and let us know if you have come across a movement that your gym does not support and we will offer alternatives. Besides, My Gym Trainer was designed to be a DIY Fitness Program, so we want to make it as easy as possible for you! Contact us!


When the “My Gym Trainer” book series came out last winter, we received a lot of feedback from men and women who wanted a version to do at home, since not everyone has a gym membership. We loved the idea and recently launched our “My Trainer Fitness for at Home” 6-pack! It’s a great DIY fitness booklet containing 6 at-home workouts, each containing both cardio and weight training. Days 1 & 4 provide lower body exercise, while Days 2 & 5 work the upper body and finally, Days 3 & 6 hit those core muscles (abs and low back) for a complete full-body workout in 1 week. Of course, just like the MGT books, you can space out the workouts and only exercise 3x/week and then you would not do the same workout twice over a 2- week period. One of the best things about the 6-pack is that EACH WORKOUT IS ONLY 30 MINUTES. And anyone can commit to 30 minutes a day, especially at their house, even in their PJs! J The workouts are easy to follow too! You only need 2 sets of dumbbells (1 heavy, 1 light; how to choose is outlined in the pack), a chair and a mat. Each workout consists of 2 circuits, each of which last 15 minutes. Simply follow the circuit of exercises through as they are laid out, moving quickly from one exercise to the next to get a great cardio, as well as strength workout and boost the metabolism all day long. Start your day off right with a MTFAH workout in the morning before work to stay revved all day! Here is an example of what you can expect:

Purchase your MTFAH 6-pack for only $10 at

The elliptical trainer is one of the most popular cardio machines at the gym because it is low impact and works the legs, glutes, hamstrings and even the upper body if you don’t hold onto the railings and instead work your arms back and forth.  But many exercisers will stride along without paying attention to intensity…reading a magazine!  We know you have done it!  J

Don’t read a magazine! Monitor your intensity this way:

Most elliptical machines at your gym will have not only a “Resistance” and “Crossramp” measurement, but also something called “Strides per Minute (SPM).”  SPM is a measure of how fast your legs are moving and it is a great way to monitor your intensity.  For example, many of the elliptical workouts in MGT dictate a certain resistance, but leave the SPM up to you.  However, if you are at Level 15 Resistance, but your legs are barely moving, it may not be the amount of intensity needed to generate great results.  For your higher resistances (10 and above), aim for above 140 SPM, while your lower resistances can allow for SPMs as high as 200.  On your recovery segment, move as slow as you like, but remember, during your hard intervals, a tough resistance + a challenging SPM = great results!

Below is a great NEW elliptical workout, not featured in any of the My Gym Trainer books.  As you move through the different resistances, focus on your strides-per-minute (SPM) and do your best to maintain your perceived exertion between 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10) on the tough intervals.  During the rest periods, go at whatever speed you want and recover slowly so that you can push just as hard on the next bout.

Photo © John Lund

1) Regular weight training is a must. Leanness in the legs comes about as a result of several factors: strengthening the underlying muscles, burning the layer of fat on top of the muscles and then finally, tightening the skin and shedding water. Weight training not only helps tone the underlying muscles, but signals the release of certain key fat-burning hormones like testosterone and the anti-aging human growth hormone, the latter of which also helps to tighten and firm skin. Best movements are lunges, squats, step-ups and leg presses.

2) Do interval cardio for overall fat loss. Doing short, but intense cardio intervals (push hard for 1 min, followed by a 1 min rest) helps speed up the metabolism for hours after the workout is over. We love hill sprints and stair climbing to hit those key troublesome areas for women, particularly the glute-hamstring tie-in where many women store fat.

3) Increase fruit and veggie intake. Most vegetables are natural diuretics, which can help shed water under the skin, leaving legs (and arms and tummies!) looking leaner with more definition. Also, fruits and vegetables help produce a more alkaline environment in the body, which helps create a more favorable condition for fat burning.

4) Drink lots of H2O! Though it seems counterintuitive, the more water you drink, the more water you will shed, creating more of that coveted “defined” look. Staying hydrated with at least 3 liters of plain water per day helps speed the metabolism, and keeps you feeling fuller and more satiated for longer.

5) Skip the dairy and sodium. Dairy is an insulin-producing food, a hormone that directly impacts the kidney to increase water retention. Sodium will drastically increase water retention also, though through a slightly different mechanism. So try to limit cheeses, milk, cream and of course ice cream (!) as much as possible if the goal is to lean out the legs and bring out more definition. Finally, check the sodium content on any processed food labels and aim for less than 200 mg per serving.

Part 1:  Hips, Thighs, Glutes
My Gym Trainer specializes in designing great workouts to target the whole body for lean tissue building and fat burning.  Though, we do always get asked, “What are the best exercises for getting lean legs or for the back of the arms or for the midsection?”  For many women, these are some of the hardest areas to tone up because genetically and hormonally, our body wants to store fat there.  In addition to lowering overall body fat via full-body weight training, intense cardiovascular exercise and proper fat-loss nutrition, there are specific exercises that target these areas better than others.

Saddlebags.  Thunder Thighs.  Junk in the Trunk.
Many women see a couple extra pounds immediately in their thighs, hips and glutes.  They can feel the difference when they try to zip up their jeans.  So how do we get beautifully sculpted legs and glutes, while burning the fat on top?  From an evolutionary perspective, the fat that sticks to thighs and glutes is fat that the body wants to be there.  For childbearing purposes and because estrogen receptor densities are highly active in this area, women’s bodies hold onto fat in these places stubbornly.  Thus, you can imagine just how hard it is going to be to break through this evolutionary barrier to reduce fat and sculpt the underlying muscles there.

Train Heavy and Induce Failure. If you are new to weight training, be sure to practice your form specifically on squats and lunges for a few weeks with light weights.  Once you perfect your form, begin adding weight.  If you want to convince the body to give up these fat stores and coax the muscles out of hibernation, challenge legs and glutes from several angles with challenging weight and with various exercises.  To optimize the hormonal imbalance in the hips and thighs, induce testosterone and growth hormone release by training to the point of failure throughout each workout (both of these hormones have incredible fat burning potential in women—yes, natural release of testosterone in women is a good thing!).   Here are some great exercises to incorporate:

1) Heavy lunge: Within a few weeks of incorporating heavy lunges into a leg routine, inches will start coming off and definition appearing.  There exists a common notion among women that lifting heavy weights will make you “bulk up” or just grow the glutes outward.  Unfortunately what many don’t know is that as long as attention is paid to fat-burning, inches will be lost and sculpted muscle will appear.  For example, take someone who performs a lot of cardiovascular activity and never weight trains.  This person is probably slim, but with zero definition or curves.  Try fat-burning cardio mixed with intense weight-training to failure and you have the recipe for overall lean limbs.

2) Stiff-legged Deadlifts:  These exercises isolate the hamstrings (back of the leg) and target the area below the glutes called the “glute-hamstring tie-in.” If attempting deadlifts for the first time, be sure to check out the photos contained in your My Gym Trainer books.  This movement is technical, but if executed correctly, it is one of the most effective exercises to shape the entire back of the leg.  Just be sure to keep your back straight while you hinge at the hips and engage your abs, which helps to protect from injury.

3) Plyometric movements can be a miracle on the path to coaxing your leg muscles out of hiding.  Plyometric movements are jumping movements and they are vital in breaching the intensity threshold needed to lean out the legs.  Many people shy away from these exercises because they are scared of injury or they have bad knees.  If you do have bad knees, these exercises are probably not for you.  However, with a clean bill of knee health, begin incorporating these movements into your leg routine and watch the muscles appear.  Some examples that you can also find in your My Gym Trainer books include:

  • Squat Jumps
  • Switch Jumps (jumping junges)
  • Squat Thrusts
  • Bench Jumps

In the My Gym Trainer books, we incorporate an advanced exercise technique called plyometric training.  A plyometric movement uses muscle contractive forces to overcome gravity when the feet leave the ground at the same time and then land at the same time, such as in a squat jump. A jumping squat is superior to a regular squat for building power, coordination and stability.

Anyone who has performed multiple squat jumps in succession knows that plyometric exercises are incredibly anaerobic, meaning that they generate muscle burn, along with breathlessness, and muscle failure is reached quickly.  During jumping movements, the body recruits almost exclusively Type 2 muscle fibers or fast-twitch fibers, which are used to generate power and are seen commonly in sprinters, high jumpers, tennis players, basketball players and others whose activities require powerful, short bursts of energy and impact.  Jogging, steady-state aerobics, swimming and similar low-impact activities use almost exclusively slow-twitch fibers, which won’t develop the same kind of power, speed, agility and coordination.

Jump for Function – Not limited to athletes, the functional benefits of plyometrics become even more important as we age. With the natural neuromuscular slow-down that occurs with aging, plyometrics are to help prevent falls, breaks and other injuries.  And most importantly, bone loss can be prevented with plyometrics as well as traditional weight training.

Jump for Improved Body Composition – During any type of exercise, certain hormones are released, like cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline (catecholamine).  These hormones facilitate sugar release into the blood to allow for fuel for activity.  However, when exercising at higher intensities, like 85% of heart rate max or to the point of muscle failure, studies shows that other hormones like human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone are released into the blood stream also. These hormones along with cortisol and adrenaline have been shown to create a fat burning effect in the body.  One way to significantly increase blood levels of these hormones is to jump.  Interestingly, increasing testosterone levels in the blood stream has been shown to prevent loss of fat-free mass (like muscle) and prevent a gain in fat mass as we age, thus it is beneficial to perform exercises that create this effect, like jumping.  It is also beneficial to do jumping activities in a way that consequently induces muscle failure, for even more pronounced effects.  Preservation of muscle mass as we age will also prevent a sluggish metabolism since muscle tissue requires energy (caloric) burning for maintenance.

My Gym Trainer’s Favorite Plyos: Try this!
Incorporate one of the following movements into each of your workouts. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps, resting 30-60 seconds in between sets:

  • Squat Jumps
  • Switch Jumps (jumping lunges)
  • Bench Jumps
  • Plyo Push-ups
  • Squat Thrusts

“Just thought I’d give you some feedback on my Week 1 experience w/
MGT 3.

It actually took me 2 work weeks to get through Wk 1. I am
alternating between an MGT day & a run day as I’m training for the
annual Indy Mini (1/2) marathon. I typically spend Saturdays racing
& Sundays recovering (and overindulging – lol) Race is only about
a month away, so mileage is getting pretty built up.

For Circuit Train/Weights – the way you have paired/combined
certain exercises together has been fantastic for me! I can feel
my muscles responding w/ that slight discomfort the next day & a
deepening soreness 48 hours later. It’s a good soreness though. A
soreness I haven’t felt in a LONG time – since my WFU days. I
think it’s mainly in part bc of the great combinations you have put
together & also how focused & honed in I’m becoming in really
targeting the muscle groups assigned for that day. The exercises
are not complicated – but the photos REALLY do help – have actually
been a refresher for me – like an “Oh yeah, I remember that one” –
if that tells you how blasé my routine previously was.

For Cardio – HOLY COW!! The exhaustion I’ve felt took me back to
my HS Swim Team days when we’d have 2-a-day practices doing 10 x
100’s on 1:15 repeats. They totally kick my butt – especially the
Treadmill & Elliptical days. However, the exhaustion is followed
by a euphoric high – EVERY TIME. There were 2 days I did the
cardio after running/getting some mileage in the day before & my
legs were dead, so I went a bit easier on the MGT day cardio & I
didn’t push myself to the edge & I’ll be honest, I was
disappointed in myself for not achieving that “High” post-workout.
It’s like crack – getting addicted again! lol.”

~ Nicole

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