Category Archives: Time Saver Workouts

4 Single-Leg Moves for Fat Loss

I often get asked “Kate, what are the best exercises I can do to lose fat on my stomach?”

It’s all about doing big movements that involve biggest muscle groups – not your stomach.

I’m talking about your legs. We previously discussed squats and lunges, so today in the Make It Count series, we’re focussing on the single leg moves that will improve your mobility, stability and strength to maximize your burning fat capacity. Your glutes, hamstring, quads and calves as well as your core are in for a treat.

The best part? These moves don’t require big machines or gym memberships – phew!

Stop and think for a moment – when was the last time you took the stairs instead of the elevator?

This is one simple way to incorporate fitness into your busy lifestyle. Take the stairs. Interval training at it’s finest. An awesome way to get your heart racing.

The lack of infrastructure in the New York subways means there are plenty of old, dirty stairs to race up. Perfect for me, but others don’t share my excitement.

It’s not pretty. I see people almost dying on the way up, dragging their sorry overweight butts up the stairs and blocking everyone else (insert New Yorker street rage here).

Incorporating bodyweight step-ups and single leg Romanian deadlifts in your workout is a great place to start.

With time and practice you will see a remarkable improvement in your ability to move – and the more efficient your movement, the more calories you can burn when you train. So why do we avoid single leg movements? They all require:

– Balance

– Co-ordination

Bad excuse. It’s an essential movement for daily life and independence, which means it’s essential for your workouts.


This is a test for you right now. Single Leg Balance Test. Think this looks easy? Try it.

Find a cone or anything that is about 12 inches high. Stand about 36 inches in front of it. First, balancing on your nondominant leg (usually the left), reach forward and touch it with your dominant hand (usually the right) while extending your dominant leg behind you for balance. Without touching the ground with your dominant foot, return to starting position and repeat as many times as you can without losing your balance. Repeat on the opposite leg.

Kate Vidulich Single Leg Balance Test

How did you go? Awesome job if you managed 10. You can start at Stage Three. It’s tricky to get this move right. I’ll admit I only made it to 8 on my right leg today. It’s Monday so cut me some slack. ;)

If you struggled or lost balance, start at Stage One.


Step-Up: This move is totally undervalued in workout programs. Great place to start for balance and stability, plus it’s an excellent compound move to train your legs. The muscles targeted in your legs will depend on the height of the step. This is an easy reference guide:

Higher step = glutes and hamstrings

Lower step = quads and calves

The Movement Prep: You need to find a bench or a step. Start with a low step (about 12 inches) if you have knee or balance issues and work your way up from there. Before you add resistance, we want the movement to be perfect. Once you’ve got it down, hold dumbbells by your side. Put your left foot flat on the step, and the right foot on the floor.

NYC personal trainer step up fat loss

NYC personal trainer step up fat loss









Execution: Push down through the heel of your left foot and lift yourself up so your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your chest and torso upright during the movement. Hold this position for 3 seconds, keeping all the weight on your left leg. Lower your right foot to the floor and repeat.


Offset Step-Up: An awesome progression to challenge your core and stability. The limitation of holding dumbbells by your side in the previous exercise is your gripping muscles give out before your legs do. No such problem here.

The Movement Prep: Set yourself up in the same position as the previous step up. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell at shoulder height on the side of your working leg (ie the leg that remains on the step.)

NYC personal trainer offset step up fat loss

NYC personal trainer offset step up fat loss









Execution: Same as the step up. Remember to keep your chest up and core tight. If you’re feeling strong and stable, add an overhead press to the movement.


DB Single-leg Romanian Deadlift: This is a seriously awesome move. It’s really important to get the form right. Take your time, work in a “usable” range of motion meaning it’s OK if you can’t get the full range to begin with.

Is it cheating to hold onto something to support yourself? Yes, it definitely is. You are also defeating the whole purpose of the exercise. If you struggle to pass the balance test at the start, go back a level and work on perfecting the previous move.

The Movement Prep: Hold a pair of light dumbbells by your side and stand with feet hip-width apart. (I’m using a Sandbag in the picture below).

NYC personal trainer single leg deadlift fat loss

NYC personal trainer single leg deadlift fat loss







Execution: Hinge at your hip and bend your torso towards the floor as you extend one leg behind you. Keep your neck packed in neutral position. Lower the weights until they are just past the knee of your working leg. Your arms should be hanging straight down from your shoulders.

Your neck, torso and extended leg should form a straight line. If you have great range of motion and balance, that straight line will be parallel to the floor. The key to perfect form is to keep your body in a straight line.

Return to the starting position, and keep all your weight on the working leg. Try to “pull” yourself back through the heel and squeeze your glutes without tipping over. Be cool lovely people.


TRX Single Leg Squat: Thank god for the TRX or we’d all have difficulty progressing to the single leg squat. The TRX gives you support, and helps to increase your range and build strength.

The Movement Prep: Attach the TRX to a fixed overhead support or chin up bar. Facing the anchor point, lightly hold the handles and stand with feet together. If it’s your first time doing this exercise, keep tension in the straps but try not to white-knuckle grip it.

NYC personal trainer TRX single leg squat fat loss

NYC personal trainer TRX single leg squat fat loss









Execution: Lift one foot off the floor and extend your leg out in front of you. Push your hips back, as if you were to sit on a chair. Hold the bottom position for a moment and then return to the start. Do all the repetitions for one leg before you repeat with the other.

Even though climbing stairs is a must, for some reason people feel they don’t need to include step ups or single leg exercises in a workout program. Trust me, it will make a huge difference to your stability and training performance.

Are you wasting your time when you train? Check out my Top 6 Fat Loss Workout Mistakes here and get the maximal results for your efforts.

My final piece of advice: balance, stability and strength is not magic. Training your legs with effective single-leg moves will get fat loss results.

Have an awesome week!

Kate :)

The Toughest Bodyweight Exercise

This ultimate exercise is a gem for training the upper body. It is also a rare sight to see a woman busting out multiple reps and sets at the gym – unless you are watching CrossFit.

The chin-up.

It is an awesome measure of strength relative to your bodyweight. Not only is it tough, but the ultimate self-limiting exercise and the best one for training your back and biceps.

Today in the Make It Count series, we’re focusing on the pull movement pattern. The muscle groups targeted oppose the prime movers of the push. The training progression plan is shoulder mobility; scapular stability (aka stabilizing the shoulder blade); then strengthening your pull with the most effective exercises.

When commencing a new training program, traditionally the first back muscle targeted is the latissmus dorsi in a seated position. I feel we already sit enough these days – so why sit during your workout? The standard “go-to moves” for training pull involve sitting down which won’t help you develop the core strength to perfect your chin-ups.

However, pulling is not all about chin-ups. Yes, it’s a super compound exercise and has great value in a program, but you need to pull vertically and horizontally.

Unfortunately, many programs lack horizontal rows and the posture speaks for itself!

Over time, this ugly posture has evolved and is primarily a result of our daily lifestyle. I call it “computer syndrome” – your shoulders are so rounded (from sitting slumped at the computer) you could be mistaken for the hunchback of Notre Dame. Not a sexy look.

To avoid this epidemic, it is crtical to incorporate exercises that focus on the rhomboids and trapezius, particularly the middle and lower fibers. These middle and lower traps help to pull the shoulder blade down and back, opening up your chest and improving your appearance. An exercise ratio of 3:1 (pull:push) is effective to correct rounded shoulder posture.

Seated cable rows and lat pulldown are not enough to save you.


I suspect you don’t have a chin-up bar in your house. No worries. Unfortunately here, it just doesn’t go with our decoration or I would totally hook it up.

Today’s physical challenge is tough. How many chin ups can you do? If you suspect zero, let’s set a goal to get you to the chin-up bar. I used to score zero too. Even if you can do numerous reps of chin ups, now is a chance to perfect your form. I suggest you start at Stage One and progress your way to the chin-up bar.

Another test you can do is much less strenuous. The Shoulder Mobility Reach Test assesses the range of motion in your shoulder, your postural control and core stability.

Try It: First, determine the length of your hand by measuring from the wrist (distal crease) to longest fingertip. Make a fist with both hands, fingers inside your fist. Simultaneously reach one fist behind your back and the other behind the neck. Try to get your fists as close to one another as you can. Make sure the motion is smooth and the fists remain closed.

NYC Personal Trainer shoulder mobility test

NYC Personal Trainer shoulder mobility test









Measure the distance between the two closest points of the hands in both directions and compare to your hand width. Ideally, the distance between your fists should be less than your hand length.

The biggest problem with training pull movements with only your bodyweight comes when you have limited equipment. It’s not like doing a squat, push up or plank.

Ideally, access to a gym is helpful to train your back. It’s not essential – but you do need home equipment. A resistance band, a dumbbell, TRX or Equalizer (as shown below) is plenty. Don’t worry, this stuff doesn’t take up space – trust me it all fits in our Manhattan apartment!


Standing Band Row: This is a great exercise to get started on to correct the rounded shoulder posture. It activates the muscles that retract your shoulders, as well as core stabilizers. If you have access to a gym, this is great to add weight and do on the cable machine.

The Movement: Hold the band/cable at waist height. Grab the handles and step back until you have tension with your arm fully extended in front of you. Stand facing the machine/origin point with your feet shoulder width apart, chest up, shoulder down and back, hips and knees slightly bent. Tighten your torso and hip muscles to engage your core.

NYC Personal Trainer standing row

NYC Personal Trainer standing row









Execution: Pull the handle to the side of your torso, keeping your shoulders down. Return to starting position and repeat for prescribed number of reps.

Mistakes To Avoid: Try not to let your shoulders collapse and round forward as you extend your elbows. Keep your shoulders down, imagine you are squeezing tomatoes under your armpit. Engage your abdominal at all times.


Kneeling Lat Pulldown: A great variation to target your lats while keeping your glutes and core activated. No bulky machines necessary. Remember, no more sitting at the gym!

The Movement: Start in kneeling position, facing the band anchor point or high pulley cable machine.  Hold both handles with arms fully extended with your palms facing the floor.

NYC Personal Trainer kneeling lat pulldown

NYC Personal Trainer kneeling lat pulldown









Execution: Begin by pulling the cables down, bending your arms, until the elbows past your torso. Think to squeeze your shoulder blades down and back and push your chest out just slightly. Pause briefly, return to the start position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Mistakes To Avoid: Try not to arch your back. Keep your abdominals tight throughout the movement. Palms facing down throughout the movement.


Inverted Self Row with Equalizer: This cool variation is the perfect progression. Using your bodyweight as resistance, this movement will take you to the next level.

The Movement: Slide between the bars and grip it neutral and overhand, with your hands shoulder width apart. You must set your body in a plank position, straight line from neck to ankles with only your heels on the floor.

NYC Personal Trainer inverted self row

NYC Personal Trainer inverted self row







Execution: Hang with your arms straight, shoulder blades retracted. Pull your chest to the bar, return to the starting position and repeat.

Mistakes To Avoid: Keep your body in a straight line throughout the movement.


Negative Chin Up/Band Assisted: Here we are. Serious chin-up time. Let’s do it! This particular exercise involves an eccentric contraction that will help your functional, neuromuscular and physiological strength. Just a warning, you may be sore 24-48 hours after you do this for the first time.

The Movement: Stand on a bench or step beneath the chin-up bar. Hold the chin-up bar tight with a shoulder width, underhand grip. Jump up so your chin is over the bar and hold that position. Concentrate on moving your elbows down and back. Form a straight line with your body from head to knees. If your body is swaying, engage your core and get it to stop before you continue. Bend your knees with ankles crossed.

Execution: Lower your body as slowly as possible, until your arms are straight. Keep your core engaged at all times. Try to descend in a straight line without swaying. Straighten your legs and stand on the box again.

Mistakes To Avoid: Swaying too much means your core is not active. Keep it locked tight. Focus on descending as slowly as possible.

There you have it. Incorporating both horizontal and vertical pull exercises are an essential component of every resistance training program. The chin-up is the ultimate, relative strength test but correcting your posture is vital to minimize the risk of shoulder and neck pain in the future.

Keep it balanced.

Kate :)

Essential Move For Awesome Arms

What is the most effective exercise to efficiently train your chest, shoulders and triceps, with minimal risk of injury?

Before you say bench press, consider this.

In a study published in 2010 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which reviewed injuries sustained while resistance training, researchers found bench press and shoulder press as the two most frequent exercises showing up as the cause of pain at the shoulder complex. (1)

Why does this movement appear so dangerous? One of the main reasons is due to a lack of balance between pushing and pulling exercises – over time. If you’ve ever been to a gym, you know the token guy I’m talking about. Major chest and arms. But lifting heavy chest doesn’t automatically mean injury. The problem is when the opposing back and shoulder muscles are not as strong, creating a significant imbalance.

Last month has been focused on relearning and perfecting lower body movements. Today, we’re moving to the upper body and it’s all about the push – but it won’t be a chest or shoulder workout. What’s my number one most effective push movement?

The push-up.

It is a superior exercise for shoulder health, metabolic training, core stability and time efficiency. Men tend to think push-ups are too easy, while women assume it’s too hard. That’s why these progressions are so awesome, as they provide a challenge no matter what stage you are at.

I have nothing against bench press or shoulder press, and there is a place for these exercises in your workouts once you have a foundation of stability. But in terms of time efficiency, a push-up is simply a more effective way to train the push movement pattern.

Most importantly, please stay safe while training. Before you even consider doing bench or dumbbell press, you need to make sure you can push your own bodyweight. I advise to make sure you can do 15 perfect push-ups before you start weighted bench presses. Think shoulder mobility, stability and strength. 


Now let’s test your push-ups. Get down on the floor in push-up position. Bend your elbows and lower yourself to within one inch of the floor or until your upper arms are even with your shoulder blades. Keep your body in a straight line during the entire movement, abdominals tight. Pause for 2 seconds. Push yourself back up and repeat.

NYC Personal Trainer Push up

NYC Personal Trainer Push up


How many can you do? Awesome job if you can do 15 reps WITH the pause at the bottom. Feel free to start at stage 2 or 3. If you cannot keep your body in a straight line (hips hike or back arches) or get a full range or movement, start at regressed version of Stage One and get the motion correct at an incline.


Incline Push Up: Take it back a notch if you can’t do a push-up yet. I hate “girly” push-ups. Not because the word girly is annoying, but dropping your knees to the floor eliminates the use of your core. One of the main benefits of push-ups is the activation of your core to stabilize your spine and pelvis.

NYC Personal Trainer Incline Push up

NYC Personal Trainer Incline Push up



The Movement: Lift your hands as high as they need to go so you get a full range of motion. A bench is great, or even the wall if you’re recovering from a shoulder injury. Bend your elbows and lower yourself to within one inch of the bench/wall. Keep your body in a straight line during the entire movement, abdominals tight. Push yourself back up and repeat. Once you can do two sets of 15, move on up to the next stage.

Cool Additional Stability Exercise: Plank with Gliders Alternating Arm Slide Away. As you are building your push-up strength, this is a great core stability exercise. Get into push-up position. Place your hands on Gliders or a towel and alternately, slide your hands forward. Keep your body in a straight line, abs tight.

NYC Personal Trainer plank with gliders alternating arm slide away

NYC Personal Trainer plank with gliders alternating arm slide away




Push Up: Like I mentioned before, a superior exercise for core stability and shoulder strength. Need I say more?

NYC Personal Trainer Push up

NYC Personal Trainer Push up



The Movement: Get down on the floor in push-up position. Arms straight down from your shoulders, perpendicular to the floor, feet together and body in a straight line from ears to ankles. Bend your elbows and lower yourself to within one inch of the floor or until your upper arms are even with your shoulder blades. Keep your body in a straight line during the entire movement, abdominals tight. Push yourself back up and repeat.

Cool Variation: TRX hands suspended Push Up. You can adjust the level of difficulty depending on the height of the straps. Higher = easier, lower = harder. The TRX is harder than it looks and challenges your shoulder stability so start modestly.


T Push-Up: This next progression is fun. It adds a rotation element that challenges your core, chest, shoulders and arms in one dynamic move. Give it your best shot!

NYC Personal Trainer T Push Up

NYC Personal Trainer T Push Up

NYC Personal Trainer T Push Up
The Movement: Get into push-up position. Lower your chest toward to the floor, and as you push back up twist to the right, taking your right arm off the floor and finishing straight above your left arm. Your body will form a T. Twist back and straight into the next push-up. As you push back up, twist away to the left so your left arm ends up over the right. Make sure you even out both sides.


Half Kneeling/Tall Kneeling One Arm Overhead Press: The kneeling variations of this movement focus to improve your core stabilization patterns. Start with half-kneeling as it gives you more external stability. Once you master this move, progress to tall kneeling. The single arm adds a greater challenge to your core.

NYC Personal Trainer Kneeling One Arm Overhead Press

NYC Personal Trainer Kneeling One Arm Overhead Press



The Movement: (Half Kneeling) Kneel with your right knee on the floor. Think tall and tight, and squeeze your glutes. Draw your hip up into the socket. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder height. Press the weight straight up overhead and then lower to the starting position. Repeat this movement.

NYC Personal Trainer Tall Kneeling One Arm Overhead Press

NYC Personal Trainer Tall Kneeling One Arm Overhead Press


The Movement: (Tall Kneeling) Kneel with both knees on the floor. Again, think tall and tight, and squeeze your glutes. Make a straight line from your hips to shoulders. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder height. Press the weight straight up overhead and then lower to the starting position. Repeat this movement.

Mastering the push-up is essential for effectively training the push movement pattern. Save your shoulders and work to improve your mobility and stability with this bodyweight exercise before you get on the bench.

Try it: make the push-up a staple in your routine. Your arms will look sensational!

Kate :)



1. Kolber, M.J., Beekhuizen, K.S., Cheng, M.S., Hellman, M.A. (2010). Shoulder Injuries Attributed to Resistance Training: A Brief Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(6):1696-1704.

A Universally Dreaded Exercise?

The movement today scores highest on my “exercises that cause clients to complain” scale. Not too many people are fond of this move.

The Lunge. It’s a tough one.

We live in a three-dimensional world, so it’s important we train movements in 3D to maximize our functional ability.

Our daily activities require us to put one foot in front of the other – from walking to running, climbing or tennis. You might think over time, considering the number of steps you take, that your legs would even out in terms of range of motion, strength and balance.


I think everyone has a muscle imbalance. I’ve never met a perfect, symmetrical human so if you are out there reading this, send me a private message so I can see this for myself!

Like I mentioned, most of us hate lunges so we avoid doing them. The movement requires a combination of strength, mobility, co-ordination and balance.  If you have restricted mobility or limited strength, it’s no wonder you hate lunges. They are hurting you.

Often people feel knee pain when doing a forward lunge.  This is NOT a beginner’s exercise. Knee pain when lunging is rarely a problem that originates in the knees – it often stems from imbalances (due to tightness or restricted mobility) in the hips or ankles. The restriction in mobility can pull above or below the knee tendons causing pain, but the true origin of the problem is unknown.

This is week three of our series on maximizing your workout time. First up, a cool and simple test you can do at home and then we will work through the lunge progressions.

Remember mobility, stability and strength before you add resistance. Knee pain is a sign you are not ready to do a forward lunge, so if you’re currently experiencing issues, regress and build up to it.


Today’s challenge requires a few items. Nothing too fancy – a broomstick or dowel rod and masking tape.

This is variation of another cool test I learnt from Gray Cook, the Inline Lunge Test.

Measure the distance from the bump under your knee to the floor and tear off that much tape. Stick it on the floor in a straight line, preferably not on your mum’s good carpet.

Stand over the tape with your right heel at one end and your left toe at the other. You must have both feet on the line. Hold the rod vertically against your back with both hands, so it touches your head, the space between your shoulder blades and the midline of your glutes. Your left hand will hold the top of the rod behind your neck and the right in the small of your lower back.

OK, next lower your left knee so it touches the tape line and then ascend back to starting position. The rod should remain in all three spots without shifting, and your goal is to move without wobbling or losing balance. To check if you remain aligned: keep your eyes focused on a spot directly in front of you. If you’re eyes slip off target, it’s likely you lost alignment. Do as many as you can and then switch legs.

Inline Lunge Test Kate Vidulich


How did you go? Awesome effort if you could get 10 perfect reps with each leg and your body is not stiff or cramped. You can jump right in and do any of the following progressions. Work on changing up load, reps and tempo to further progress.

If you wobbled and struggled, start at the beginning and work on your stability.


Spilt Squat: This is the basic lunge pattern. The goal is to work on increasing your mobility and stability. Start with your hands on your hips and when that becomes easy, put your hands up behind your head (prisoner grip). A cool variation is with a TRX (if you have one). This helps to support your bodyweight and keep your torso upright.

Split Squat Kate Vidulich

Split Squat Kate Vidulich









The Movement: Stand with your feet hip width apart and take a long step back on your right leg – this is your starting position. Lower yourself until your right knee nearly touches the ground and your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Try not to let your knee cross your toe. Return to starting position and repeat until you finish 10-15 reps. Switch legs and repeat. When you can do two sets of 15, celebrate and move on up to the next level!


Reverse Lunge with Glider/Towel: This is one cool variation of the reverse lunge that I totally love and is a great challenge. The advantage of a reverse lunge is that is causes less strain on your knee, so it’s perfect for increasing mobility and stability.

Reverse Lunge with glider Kate VidulichReverse lunge with glider Kate Vidulich









The Movement: Start with your feet hip width apart, your right foot on the Glider/towel. Slide your right foot back until your left thigh is parallel to the floor, and your right knee almost touches the floor. Make sure you keep yourself upright. Slide the right leg back to starting point, driving through the heel of your left foot and hip.


Offset Reverse Lunge: The next level is another awesome progression to push your limits! The offset weight develops your core stability and challenges your mobility and balance. Total body movement – total efficiency. You can also add in a step variation, and reverse from elevation.

Offset reverse lunge Kate VidulichOffset reverse lunge Kate Vidulich









The Movement: Hold a single dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder height and step back on your left foot. Your right thigh will end up parallel to the floor as in the previous exercise. Push back through your left heel to the starting position.


Bulgarian Split Squat: This next level exercise has a reputation as the most despised exercise on the planet. Rise to the challenge lovely people. Start with bodyweight as resistance and work up to weights and plyometric jumps for a serious burn.

Bulgarian split squat Kate Vidulich
My face says it all!

Bulgarian split squat Kate Vidulich










The Movement: Get into split squat position, with your rear foot elevated on a bench or step that’s at least 12 inches high. The instep of your foot should be resting on the bench, not your toes. Lifting your rear foot higher increases the range of motion – and intensity. This isn’t called a universally despised exercise for nothing. Your quads will be screaming at you. Make sure the discomfort you feel is in the muscles and not your knee-joint.


Forward Lunge & Walking Lunges: The forward lunge may seem easier for you to do than a stage three or four movement, but that doesn’t mean you can start here. Any lower body problem you may have will be exacerbated by the forward lunge (particularly if you add heavy weights). Earn your progression to this stage when you have the mobility, balance and stability to get it right. When you have perfected the forward lunge, the next step is walking lunges for an added stability challenge.

Forward lunge Kate VidulichForward lunge Kate Vidulich









The Movement: Stand with your feet, hip width apart. Holding dumbbells by your side, take a long step forward with your right leg, and lower yourself until the right leg is parallel to the floor. Your left knee should almost touch the ground. Remember to keep your torso upright. Push back to the starting position (if you are doing a forward lunge) or push off with your left leg and step forward into a lunge with your left leg (walking lunge variation). Continue alternating legs.

So there you have it. The lunge in a nutshell. Further progressions get really creative – you can change the angle, elevation, resistance, stability, offset load and even a mix and match combo. I love how the lunge is such a versatile exercise.

The most important detail to remember is getting the basic movement right – first.

Learn to love the lunge. Your legs will look fantastic!

Kate :)

A Must Do Exercise For Every Workout

I’m sure the best exercise ever last week was easy to guess (if you have forgotten already, it was the squat). Not a big surprise.

Today is different. The movement we’re focussing on is hinging at the hip joint. The classic move that comes to mind is the deadlift – but it’s not a pure hinge movement. There are better exercises that target this movement pattern.

The deadlift is number 2 on my best exercise ever list however danger lurks if you get it wrong – even slighty. What’s the key ingredient for correct form?

A strong, functional butt.

What on earth is a functional butt? Well, one that does it’s job properly – hip extension. Hinging movements from your hip primarily hits your glutes (your butt) and hamstrings, but also utilizes your erector spinae, transverse abdominus and adductors as stabilizers. Your gluteal muscles need to be activated and functioning properly – otherwise the surrounding muscles compensate and the trouble begins.

Unfortunately, your glutes don’t magically get strong by spending 7-10 hours a day sitting on them. Suffering from “gluteal amnesia” – your glutes forgetting how to function properly is a dysfunction that leads to a whole range of other issues, particularly for your lower back. If you have a “bad” back, those muscles are often very strong, and are compensating for your weak glutes.

This is the second week in our series about maximizing your gym time. First, there’s a simple test for glute activation you can do at home, and then we will work through the progressions.

Glute bridge (or a progressed version) is a must do exercise for every workout. Remember, get the movement right before you add resistance.


Today’s challenge is a two step process.

(a) Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor but flexed (toes to ceiling), arms out to the side. Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips up until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Did anything else tighten up during the movement?

Kate Vidulich Online Personal Trainer glute activation

Kate Vidulich Online Personal Trainer glute activation





You should feel it in your butt primarily. If you felt tightness in your back or hamstrings, this means your glutes are not doing their job properly and the best thing to do is work to get your glutes activated.

(b) The second part requires a ball. A tennis or hockey ball is perfect. This is a test I learnt from Gray Cook, he’s an amazing PT. Get into the same position as the previous test described above. Hold the ball at the bottom of your left rib cage, and pull your left knee to your chest to hold the ball in position. Place your hands out to the side so your left thigh holds the ball against your torso. Now try a single leg hip raise, powered entirely by your right glute. (If this causes pain, stop immediately). Repeat on the other leg.

Kate Vidulich glute activation test

Kate Vidulich glute activation test





How did you do? High five if you can do a few reps on each side without losing the ball. Even if your range is minimal, holding the ball this means your glutes were used to get your hips off the floor. On the other hand, if you struggled, it’s a sign you were using your lower back muscles to compensate for poor glute activation.

Beginner or advanced, I advise to start at Stage One and focus on opening up your hips and getting your glutes firing before progressing. Even if it’s a warm up exercise, the initial goal is glute activation and the better your glutes work during hip extension movements, the more productive and awesome your whole workout will be.


Hip Flexor Flexibility & Glute Bridge: To open up your hips and maximally activate your glutes, you must have adequate hip flexor flexibility. Most of us fail in this department. This is a great stretch for runners and cyclists!

Start with a hip flexor stretch as shown below, perform 2 sets of 60s each side progressing deeper into the stretch every 20s. Follow the progression shown below.

Kate Vidulich hip flexor stretch

Kate Vidulich hip flexor stretch

Kate Vidulich hip flexor stretch

The Movement: The most important aspect of the glute bridge is to squeeze and power the hip lift with your glutes. Get into the same position as the initial test and concentrate on getting your glutes activated. Hold the top position (isometric hip extension) for 10 seconds. Once you can do two sets of 15 reps, you’re ready to progress to the next stage. If you have a Swiss Ball, place it under your feet and use it for an added challenge.


TRX or Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl: The next level is to designed to challenge you by adding instability. This exercise requires your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back) to work in co-ordination with your core. This is harder than it looks – make sure you keep yourself steady!

Kate Vidulich TRX hamstring curl Kate Vidulich TRX hamstring curl






The Movement: Get into the same position as glute bridge above. Place your heels either in a TRX, on a Swiss Ball. Squeeze and fire your glutes and raise your hips up until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. From this position, keep your hips extended and bend your knees, bringing your heels towards your butt. Then straighten your legs again while keeping your hips extended. For an added challenge, put your hands across your chest, but if it’s too tricky spread your arms out to the side.


Bulgarian Goat Belly Swing: Here’s a great way to practice loading and firing through your hips. The exercise name is crazy, but it’s an awesome way to learn the movement! I recently learnt this exercise at a seminar from Dan John.  Think butt to the wall.

Kate Vidulich bulgarian goat belly swing

Kate Vidulich bulgarian goat belly swing









The Movement: Stand a foot length away with your back facing the wall. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your stomach, keep your chest up. Maintain a soft knee, and push your hips back towards the wall. Your butt should lightly touch the wall. If you try to squat you will miss you wall. Work to increase your mobility. Make sure you have minimal knee bend and maximal hip range of motion.


Romanian Deadlift: This is progression from the basic action of loading and firing from your hips. Now we add weighted resistance. Use a barbell if you’re at the gym, I’m demonstrating below with a dumbbell. It’s my go-to exercise for training the hinge movement pattern. If you have never done this, make sure you get a certified trainer to check your form.

Kate Vidulich Romanian deadlift

Kate Vidulich Romanian deadlift









The Movement: Hold a barbell with overhand grip, hands shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Stand holding the weight in front of your thighs with straight arms and knee slightly bent. Push your hips back, slide the bar down your legs until it is just below your knees. Keep your arms straight and back flat. Your torso will be at a 45-degree angle to the floor. You should feel a big stretch in your hamstrings at this point. Fire your hips forward by squeezing your glutes hard to straighten your body.

Once you learn these basic hinge movements you will have greater hip mobility, stability and strength – then it’s power time! Kettlebell swings are a favorite in my workouts and will make a big difference to your performance.

And as a bonus, your glutes will look great in jeans too!

Kate :)