My Five (Current) Favorite Exercises

>> Monday, March 24, 2014

A few people have recently been asking about my strength / P.T. exercises, so I figured it'd make a good post to share what I've been doing. Since my sacrum / hip / leg injury back in August and September of last year, I've been doing a LOT of exercises to work my way back. I've done (and am still doing) a TON of simple leg exercises (like leg lifters, clam shells, etc, etc), but here are the 5 that I think have helped me the most.


Dr. Folske gave me this exercise early on. I would NOT have jumped to weight training right away. But this helped me the quickest. Folske noticed a lot of atrophying in my right quad a month after my injury, and he had me do these to help build that muscle AND to get the muscle "firing off the right way."

I'll sit on a quad extension machine for 10 minutes straight. I'll go UP for 2 seconds with both legs, and then I'll drop my left leg and slowly go DOWN for 8 seconds (for a total of 10 seconds a rep). I'll do 15 reps for 1 leg (2 mins 30 secs), and then do the other leg. And then I'll do them both all over again. That's a brutal 10 minutes on that machine. More recently, a PT I was seeing told me he liked the exercise, but wanted me to load it down even more so that I wasn't tired after 15 reps, but after just 5-8. Sometimes I do that; sometimes I do slightly lighter weight to do 12-15 reps.

(Folske also had me to eccentric adductor exercise: it's the machine where the pad is between your knees. I'd pull my knees together, and then slowly lower the weight back down as my legs open.)


Here are 2 pics with my PT notes:

That first one is where I put a band around my knees and go into a squat position. Then (down in that position), I step to 1 side for 30 seconds, and then come back to where I started for 30 seconds more. It's a 60 second burn. I take 30 seconds off and repeat another 4 times. Killer.

The second one picture above starts similarly to the first one: I get into a squat with the band around my knees. Then I pull my knees a bit apart (with the band resisting against me), and simply hold that for 60 seconds. Then I repeat that a few times with 30 seconds breaks.


These get my "weak butt" firing. These take a lot of balance, but that's the point. I'll throw my back foot up on a balance ball, and then roll it down as I squat with the other leg. I do it SLOWER and with a BIGGER RANGE OF MOTION than what's shown in this GIF:

Me on the front porch yesterday.

I'll usually do 12 reps / leg, and I'll do each leg 4 times. This one can really make my glute BURN if I do it right! And this one lets me know what is my weak side - it's a LOT easier doing this with my right foot on the ball. At the Y, I'll do this in front of a mirror to make sure my knee stays over my foot.


Planks, side planks, supermans, and anything else for my core and lower back. I was given a new move a few months back, and I've NEVER done this one in public - I look a little like a flopping fish out of water.

(Again, it's a slower motion than how it's conveyed in this GIF)

Basically, it's a "crunch" position with my arms across my chest, and then I crunch up and down (rocking my hips too) as I slowly turn around in circles in 1 direction. I'll go 1 way for 60 seconds, and then immediately switch directions and go the other way for 60 seconds. It's all in the hips. If I'm cold in the morning, this will warm me up RIGHT away - after 2 minutes, I'm breathing hard and my core is burning.

You'll usually find me doing all these moves a few times a week. My running is currently up to 39 minutes straight: I'm almost hitting 6 miles of running now! (I should hit that on Wednesday or Friday when I jump up to 42 minutes.) My hip is achy at times, but it's always like 12 hours after a run - when I FINISH a run and stretch/foam roll, I feel GREAT, but it starts to ache a little later. Sometimes it's a little annoying, and sometimes it doesn't hurt at all. But I know a lot of these exercises have helped get me back at it!

p.s. When I do a normal "weight" routine at the gym, I like to play games to mix it up. Sometimes I'll go for high reps and lighter weight. Sometimes I'll do higher weight and lower reps. Sometimes I'll do everything in the reverse order than I'm used to. Sometimes I do 100% free weights. Etc, etc. On Friday, my "game" was to see how much I could lift during my workout, so I did exercises where I would be moving the most weight. If I bench pressed 135 lbs for 10 reps, then that'd be 1,350 lbs. Anything over 50,000 lbs is usually a really good workout. Well, on Friday, I lifted over 80,000 lbs. (80,240 to be exact.) This is not an exact science and it's a bit arbitrary, but it's just one of the ways I keep things interesting (and hopefully effective) at the gym. I try to keep my muscles from falling into too much of a routine!

p.p.s. Check out Thursday post that has some interesting points on weight training and bike training. A few people have tweeted me about this since I posted them. Click that link or just scroll down past some good "Friday Funnies" from last week. Have a good week!


Richard C. 8:35 AM, March 25, 2014  

Hi Steve, I am a triathlete that has also suffered leg injuries. Right now, my strength and stretching routine takes about 1:10 every time I do it. When I look at posts like yours, I want to add things that will help my weak hips/butt (e.g., the one-legged ball squat). How do you determine which exercises to keep/discard, and how many times each week to do a given exercise? Thanks. --Richard

Steve Stenzel 9:20 PM, March 25, 2014  

Hey Richard-

That's a good question. I've never done everything all at once - I think I've calculated that it would take me around 3-4 hours. Yikes.

I don't have a good rule of thumb. After a few months of one exercise, I thought it might be causing some aching in my hip, so I dropped that one. I tend to just cycle my way through the others. If I can do 1/3 one day, I'll try to do another 1/3 the next, and the final 1/3 the 3rd day. I still try to do as much as I can, but I just fit in what works. I don't have any big key to success here. I wish I had 5 hours a day to work out! Good luck!!

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