The Blog

Breakin’ the Rules

I would consider myself a rule follower, more or less. After getting 3 speeding tickets when we moved to Calgary, I try to go the speed limit at all times, look both ways before jay walking always wait to cross at the crosswalk, take ice baths after long runs. But when it comes to strength training, there are some “old rules” that are meant to be broken.

I recently stumbled upon this article from Spark People that outlines 6 fitness rules that should be broken. I agree with every one of them and wanted to bring them to light and see what you guys thought. So get ready to be a bit of a rebel and break some rules! Devil

Old rule: Tone up a specific area of your body by exercising it more.

New rule: Burn fat for six-pack abs and jiggle-free arms.

I love this first point because so many people will hit the gym and train, train, train their triceps (mainly women) or their biceps (mainly men) to try to get specific results. While you certainly can spot train, you cannot spot reduce; the weight will come off where it chooses to come off. But focusing on burning fat in your workouts will help torch those trouble areas. Think hundreds of crunches verses squat jumps and burpees for seeing change in your abs. Also, it’s not crunches that will get you a six-pack; I’m sure many of us have heard that “abs are made in the kitchen.” You cannot out-train a bad diet!

Old rule: Do crunches for a strong midsection.

New rule: Get a strong core with functional full-body exercises.

As a big proponent of functional, total-body moves, I love this rule breaker because crunches, a very popular gym exercise, only target a small portion of your abs. Focusing on building a strong core by using total-body moves is not only more functional and true to daily-life, but more effective at preventing back injuries and aiding in balance and good posture. A strong core makes a strong person. Exercises: planks, side planks, balance work, twists, etc.

Old rule: Always rest between strength-training sets.

New rule: Circuit train to make the most of your workout.

Get in, get out. That’s how I like to work out – fast, effective, and higher intensity. Many people are stuck in a rut of 3 sets of 12 reps per exercise, rotating through the same schedule and stopping to chat or shake it out in between moves. That’s okay to some extent, but if you want to see the best change possible, limiting your breaks and switching it up with circuits will benefit your body the most. Think: elevated heart rate while strength training versus lifting only. Circuit training will give you the most benefits if you’re strapped for time and is a great way to blast fat and burn calories because you’re breathing hard the entire time too!

Old rule: Do lots of reps with light weights to get toned and lean, not big and bulky.

New rule: Choose weights that challenge you.

This is a big one that almost every woman I’ve ever trained has expressed to me; one woman even said she wouldn’t life over 5 lbs! The truth is, you simply will not bulk up because women don’t have enough testosterone to do so, and if you’re not lifting heavier at a weight that challenges you, you cannot see much growth and improvement. You would ideally be lifting to exhaustion towards the last few reps of your set, not able to keep going for 10 more reps. The exhaustion point is when your body truly begins to build muscle (which, again, is important for weight loss! Not just gaining definition – lean muscle at rest burns more calories than fat at rest).

Old rule: Do yoga and Pilates to make your muscles longer and leaner.

New rule: Round out your workout routine with yoga and Pilates.

Some people might disagree with me (and the article) on this one (if so, please voice it in the comments!), but your muscles are a certain length; no form of exercise will make them significantly longer. While these types of exercise have benefits to be sure, they don’t burn that many calories in and of themselves, they have tremendous benefits for reducing stress, relieving anxiety, teaching you how to focus, and improving flexibility. Keep them in the rotation of your moves, but remember to balance out with cardio and strength training too.

Old rule: No pain, no gain.

New rule: If you feel bad or have pain, stop, rest and modify your workout.

While it’s important to push hard for real results (I always tell my clients if it was easy then none of us would have to work out!), it’s so vital to learn to listen to your body. You can always modify moves (walk instead of run, perform an exercise at a lower intensity, etc.) and should be careful to watch for warning signs of overtraining.

What do you think of these 6 rule breakers? Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’re interested in a great core workout, check out Lindsay’s Tuesday Trainer today.

The focus is core and it would be great to incorporate some of these moves into your workouts or try the whole thing to emphasize building a strong core rather than just crunching it out!

Have a happy, healthy day you guys! I’m off to get my workout on (carefully – my quads are SUPER sore from Mt. Temple + 10 miles the day before!) and a special thanks to those who tuned in to the radio program last night; Mikey and the Wrong Way to Hope team did awesome. 😀 Live well & be well,


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Comments ( 0 )
  • Lindsay @ Lindsay's List says:

    You’re such a bad *ss..breaking rules and such! 😉
    I totally agree with all of these, especially the “no pain, no gain” one. It should NEVER hurt!

  • Stepfanie says:

    Hey, Bonnie. I’m an editor at Thanks for linking to our article. Love your site–I spoke at HLS. I think we met very briefly. 🙂 If you’d ever like to write a guest blog post, let me know. We’d love to have you!

    • Bon says:

      Hey Stephanie! Thanks for the note – I would LOVE to write a guest post for you guys! Wish we could have connected longer at the HLS – there were so many people, hey? 🙂 I’ll be in touch with you! Thanks again.

  • janetha says:

    um your left leg in the photo of the yoga rule? love. yeah, i am a creep. so what? love the new rules! agree with you and the article 110%!

    • Bon says:

      Haha! Love that you love my leg (is that what you’re saying?) It’s pretty beefy…and I’m actually NO GOOD at yoga poses. 😉 Oh well – I thought the pose seemed appropriate with that beautiful backdrop. 😉

  • Lindsay says:

    you are a bad a**! but I agree! BREAK THOSE RULES! bust out a new FULL body MOVE!

  • Allie Finch says:

    Hi Bonnie~
    I’m your newest fan. 😉 I’m really enjoying what you have going on here & especially love & agree about breakin’ these rules — especially “choosing challenging weights.” I LOVE finding woman who aren’t afraid to lift heavy or who don’t look at you like you are crazy if you do. Thank you for being a strong woman!

  • David Poul says:

    Hey Bonnie!! I just came across you blog and felt the needed to say THANK YOU. I appreciate your effort and no doubt you spend a lot of time to sharing your wealth of exercise knowledge with us. You are rock.
    truth about abs

  • Ericka Andersen says:

    Great post Bonnie…people who try to follow all the rules really do miss out. Way to break the fitness myths!! 🙂

  • Life to the Full · 21 miles of thankfulness says:

    […] Fuel: 1 strawberry-banana GU (I don’t mind these & they go down easy); one sip of banana nuun-infused water from my water bottle at the car. Not a significant intake of calories or hydration occurred on this run! But I just decided I would be okay and was – I don’t typically take much food-wise and have never really run with water; the cooler temperature of the day made me less thirsty and I made sure to hydrate after ward. Remember? I’m a rule breaking bad ass. […]

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