Thanksgiving is a feast for one and all. Don’t try to avoid it. Instead, be ready to burn the fat off with this thanksgiving workout. We’ve got all the exercises you need to be doing the day after your big feast.
Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie…oh my!
Like most people, you likely piled your plate a mile high and went back for seconds this Thanksgiving. The tryptophan in the turkey may have had you napping an hour later, and you probably gained a little weight. That half a pound in 24 hours could become significant if you don’t burn off that extra fuel intake. Put that macro overage to work for you in the gym.
That half a pound in 24 hours could become significant if you don’t burn off that extra fuel intake. Put that macro overage to work for you in the gym.
Let’s burn off that king-sized Thanksgiving feast with a fat incinerating workout.
Killing The Calories Is Important Before Your Thanksgiving Workout
The Calorie Control Council (2016) states that the average American can consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat during a typical holiday gathering. This includes the meal and the constant open buffet for snacking.
When you take into consideration that 3,500 calories are in a pound of fat, you might start crying after thinking back to everything you stuffed in your pie hole. Maybe you feasted at more than one household over several days.
Research verifies that most people only gain about a half-pound from this gorge-yourself holiday. Half a pound may not seem like much weight, but it becomes a problem if you don’t start to work those pounds off now.
The National Institutes of Health (2007) says, “many can’t seem to lose their holiday pounds afterward. The extra weight can build up over the years and contribute to obesity later in life.”
Not only is overeating a typical fall/winter issue, but also a little bit of laziness kicks in when the weather turns cold. It’s almost as if we are half bear, and we tend to want to hibernate instead of sweat. Don’t let swimsuit season escape your thoughts. Be diligent in the gym, especially after your huge Thanksgiving feast(s).
What follows are some suggestions for a big burn. These ideas will surely help you torch those excess calories in the gym.
Work The Largest Muscle Groups
By targeting your body’s largest muscle groups (legs, back, chest and abs), you can torch mega calories. Let’s call these large muscle groups “The Enormous Four.” Putting them to work after Thanksgiving will get you the most from your workout, no matter how much time you have that day for the gym.
Focus On Compound Movements Involving The Enormous Four
Exercises that work multiple muscles at one time are called multi-joint or compound exercises. If you perform compound movements, which usually are movements that incorporate The Enormous Four, you will burn a vast amount of calories in smaller amounts of time. Plus, if you are working hard (giving yourself only minimal rest time), you will build muscle, increase strength and get your heart rate screaming. Let’s examine the best compound exercises for each of The Enormous Four muscle groups.
These Are The Leading Compound Exercises For Legs
Legs contain the largest muscle groups in the human body. Getting in a legs day will surely help you to kill off the Thanksgiving feast. These are, in my book, the top three compound leg exercises:
When you perform squats, you strengthen your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hips, lower back and abs. In other words, you are hitting a lot of muscles with one exercise. That’s why squats are top-rate when it comes to compound exercise. Weighted or not, you will torch calories. Try these different varieties:
- Bodyweight Squat
- Jump Squat
- Weighted Squat
- Front Squat
- Pistol Squat
- Uneven Squat
- Wall Sit
Lunges help to develop the lower body, especially your glutes and hamstrings. Some of the secondary muscles that they work are your abs and back. There are many variations of lunges. Try some of these variations:
- Walking Weighted Lunge
- Stationary Lunges
- Stationary Weighted Lunge
- Static Lunge
- Reverse Lunge
- Elevated Rear Foot Lunge
- Elevated Front Foot Lunge
- Around The World Lunge
Ready to get strong?
Make sure you deadlift. The deadlift workout works your legs, glutes, hamstrings, middle and lower back, and traps. It’s one of the few exercises that works both your upper and lower body at the same time. Every time I deadlift, I’m breathing hard, so I know they are making my whole body work!
These Are The Leading Compound Exercises For Back
Not to be overlooked are compound exercises that work your back. What follows are some of the very best ones.
Pull-ups are old school, but they never go out of style in the gym. It’s one of the most taxing workouts because you use muscles that push and pull. No weak pull-ups allowed! Your arms should be fully extended during the downward motion before pulling up again. When you complete sets of pull-ups you work your back, shoulders and arms all at once.
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldowns
As the name suggests, lat pulldowns work the widest part of your upper back, your lats. You will also hit some secondary muscles such as biceps, traps, delts and your pecs while you knock out your sets. Sometimes I like to do drop sets for lat pulldowns as it’s easy to complete drop sets on cable machines.
Rows give your middle back a great workout. Secondary muscles that will be worked are traps, lats, rhomboids and the teres major and minor. Here are some great variations for rows:
- Single Arm Row
- Bent Over Row
- Plank Row
- Inverted Row
These Are The Leading Compound Exercises For Chest
You should also be doing compound exercises for your chest. What follows are some of the best ones.
Traditional Bench Press
The bench press, another gym classic, is the ultimate compound chest exercise. Just completing the bench press you hit your pectoral muscles and triceps. Plus, you work your front delts, traps, and your back secondarily.
Dips are a pushing exercise that hits your chest, front shoulders and triceps. They can be paired with your pull-ups for an all-around great workout. Push and pull exercises complement each other.
Push-ups are the total-body exercise that never gets easier. If you’re feeling really ambitious you can check out the 100 push up challenge.
Push-ups work your chest, abs, arms, shoulders, triceps, back and even your neck. You can do push-ups anytime, anywhere. If the traditional ones get too easy, try these variations:
- Wide Push-Up
- Narrow Push-Up
- Ball Push-Up
- Dumbbell Push-Up
- Decline Push-Up (my personal fave)
- Single Leg Push-Up
- Weighted Push-Up (with a plate on your back)
These Are The Leading Compound Exercises For Abdominals
As you can see from the prior exercise descriptions, your core is targeted secondarily in most of the exercises. Your core can truly include all the muscles that make up the middle section of your body or torso. During compound movements, you are calling on a multitude of muscles to complete the exercises. So, your abs are being trained as you work on other areas of your body.
Research from NCBI (2013) shows that focusing on strength and conditioning using multi-joint free weight exercises rather than core-specific exercises is more efficient for training the core muscles. Multi-joint is another name for compound exercises. Basically, they are saying that focusing on compound weighted exercises forces you to engage abdominals and that training is most effective for your abs.
If you still want to target abs, because some people do like to focus on specific areas, try these:
When completing cable crunches, make sure you perform them correctly. Watch a how-to video if you have never done them before. You can blast your abs and obliques using variations on the cable machine.
Low To High Cable Chops
One benefit of cable chops is that they allow you to hit your abs and obliques in the same exercise. Another benefit is that it’s weighted, which allows you to easily make the exercise more challenging by adding weight as your abs develop.
Bicycles can be done with no equipment. You just need a place to lie down. This basic move hits all abdominal muscles, including the upper abs, lower abs, and the sides.
Do Interval Cardio Because It Kills Calories
Interval training is superior to steady state cardio when it comes to calorie burning. Just 15 minutes of intense interval cardio can torch 250 calories during the exercise, but the true calorie burning comes in the afterburn.
After the interval workout, a number of chemical reactions take place in your body to restore it to its pre-exercise state. This requires the use of a lot of energy. Your body begins to break down fat and use it for recovery.
Research from Vella and Kravitz at The University of Mexico states that the duration your body is in a state of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours after the workout. Depending on the duration and intensity of your interval cardio, you could still be burning off your mom’s stuffing and pumpkin pie well into the next day.
Locate A Row Machine
The rowing machine calls on almost every muscle in your body with every stroke you complete. It is one of the most efficient forms of cardio you can do. Not only will you build muscle, you tone them and gain cardiovascular stamina.
Harvard Health (2016) states that rowing at a vigorous rate can burn between 255 to 377 calories in just 30 minutes. The amount of calories burned is impacted by your body weight. So, if you went crazy eating your mom’s sweet potato pie, like I always do (hell, she only makes it twice a year), then you should start rowing.
Track Work: Sprints And Bleachers My Way
One of my favorite ways to destroy myself is out on a local high school track. The bleachers and track can be easily used to incinerate excess holiday calories. Try my workout:
- Jog ¾ of a lap around the track to warm up.
- The bleachers meet the track along one straight away, so I exit the track and go straight up the bleachers (don’t jog the second straightaway). Complete the entire set of bleachers. Sprint up the bleachers and walk down to spare your knees.
- Exit the bleachers.
- Fast walk the curve.
- Sprint the straight.
- Fast walk the curve.
- Exit the track to complete the bleachers.
- Repeat for 20 to 30 minutes of HIIT exercise.
Incline Interval Sprinting
There are some treadmills that have a pre-programmed interval hill exercise. This feature allows you to get an intense cardio interval session without constantly adjusting settings. I love completing what I call incline interval hill sprinting on these treadmills.
I run/sprint the hills and walk the flats over a span of 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes I use it as a 10-minute warm-up and then do another 10-minute session when I’m done lifting. It’s a great substitute for bleachers or outdoor hill running when the weather is not cooperating.
Put A Complete Workout Together
My suggestion is to target one of The Enormous Four muscle groups at the gym and then pound out 15 to 20 minutes of intense interval cardio right after your weight session. You can do your cardio in the gym or take it outside. Doing a combo of both ensures that you burned off that entire delicious Thanksgiving feast. Plus, you get the benefit of calorie afterburn for quite some time once you are finished. Burn baby burn!
Before you head over to your mom’s house for leftovers, make sure you slip into the gym first. HIITing some cardio combined with targeting one of The Enormous Four muscle groups will burn off the calories you wolfed down at your Thanksgiving feast(s)!
Don’t become an obesity statistic. Get to work taking off the weight right away. Spring break is just around the corner!
By Sarah Chadwell, CPT
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