Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

Exercises & Workouts

-Myth Busters: Squats Part 1 – “Shoulder Width Stance Squat” Technique-

Happy Election Day!

I hope you vote! I got it done this morning!

I wanted to share a blog post with you. With it being Election Day, my mind has wandered to the misinformation, negativity, and propaganda surrounding this election. I am ready for it to be over, lol 🙂

I feel that many people are much more aware of our current issues and as a result, people who have never even cared about voting are going out and doing just that.

I have always been a bit of a skeptic, and tend to challenge group thought. Without going off on a ramble about my opinions on human nature, it is best that I just say that those of us in the fitness profession are inclined to go along with the majority view. It is safer to not “buck the system” and instead, agree with the current beliefs without investing any time or effort into one’s own research of them.

So, in typical Sarah fashion, I have been working on my upcoming book and took a “break” to do some searching online. I have come across some pretty interesting reads, and want to share this one with y’all:

Myth Busters: Squats Part 1 – “Shoulder Width Stance Squat” Technique.

It definitely made me think. It is not rocket science, and I tend to prescribe squat progressions with various stances (ie: Gary Gray’s “matrix”). There are no “bad” variations (for the most part, but that’s an entirely separate blog post altogether), but there ARE those who bad about knowing exactly what is going on as their client performs an exercise. It is too easy to prescribe exercises without giving much thought to the chain of events set off in the body as they are performed. Simple adjustments such as changing foot position can make a tremendous difference. It all goes back to having a secure grasp on functional anatomy and biomechanics. In closing, always make sure you have a reason behind each and every exercise you prescribe for your clients. Know how to adjust any and all variables in the moment to adapt an exercise to their ability.

…and I really dig this quote, which I felt was appropriate on Election Day:

“It’s historical continuity that maintains most assumptions, not repeated assessment of their validity” – Edward DeBono


-A Little on Regressions/Progressions and Intervals-

As I have stated before, being able to regress every exercise you program into your workouts is vital to not only the success of your clients but also your success as a fitness professional. The same holds true for progressions as well. Working with groups makes this an even more important skill, along with being able to do so at any time and for any client. I have never had a single group where everyone could do the same exercises, and it is naïve to expect that to ever be the case. I almost always have someone with a “bad” knee or back, and I have had to work around so many different issues it makes my head spin! That’s just the way things go.

The popularity of “boot camp” programs means that people of all levels of ability are interested. Although I do my best to incorporate exercises that serve to benefit general posture and mobility issues and “wake up” muscles that need to be more active in my clients, the point needs to be made that group training is not and will not ever be as individualized as one-on-one training. There is simply no way to devote as much time to each person in your groups, therefore you must become as proficient as possible at sound programming and “tweaking” exercises on the spot.

I typically offer three “levels” of progression, but am always able to tweak these up or down depending on the individuals in my groups. I make a point of having my groups know that if their form starts to break down on any exercise, slow down. If this doesn’t help, then take a few seconds to catch your breath and try again, and if that doesn’t help, then hold a given position or stop altogether. In the group setting, people generally do not want to be seen stopping before the time is up, so this gives them plenty of options.

In going through the circuits, you will probably notice that I favor a 45/15 work-to-rest interval for “strength” exercises. I have found this to be a favorable interval in that it allows for sufficient work while allowing technique to stay clean. In my opinion, a strategy of high reps done in a state of fatigue is simply not smart. I typically have to get people in my groups to slow down rather than speed up (again, the group environment tends to get folks fired up)! I abhor sloppy reps and do not believe it is beneficial for people to sacrifice form for intensity. Yes, intensity is most definitely important, but if the emphasis is always on “GO GO GO,” then the quality of exercise execution tends to fall by the wayside.

Now, for “intense” exercises such as sprints and rope waves, I feel that 20-30 seconds of all-out work is optimal. These exercises cannot be performed for an extended period of time, so please keep this in mind when planning workouts.

A final note: I do my best to incorporate exercises that provide the most “bang for the buck,” in terms of total-body strength, metabolic impact, and overall benefit to my clients. This does not mean that I seek out exercises that are “hardcore” and/or highly technical. One visit to YouTube will offer you plenty of off-the-wall exercises if that is what you seek. I do like to provide my clients with an ever-changing and non-monotonous workout experience, but I believe strongly in the basics and their variations. I am a former gymnast and it is nothing for me to attempt pretty much any exercise, but I would be insane to expect the same from my clients! Furthermore, why spend the time trying to explain a complicated “single-leg burpee to leg kick to toe touch to tuck jump” when you’re the only one who should even attempt it? Why waste workout time trying to dazzle your clients with “impressive” circus-act exercises when they are just wanting to get their sweat on? Use sound judgment and realize that you can never, ever go wrong with the basics.

You will see that I most definitely like some unique variations, but they aren’t ridiculous. Also, you will see that I throw in the occasional single-joint exercise (gasp)! Remember, your clients are there to get a great workout, and this means you must always keep your eyes and ears open when you are with them.

Keep an eye out for my upcoming book of boot camp workouts!

-The Importance of Single-Leg Stability for Runners & Triathletes-

Runners and triathletes, what does single-leg stability mean to you?

Not sure? It should mean a lot!

You’re being a smart endurance athlete by doing that “boring” strength and mobility work in the gym that’s gonna give you an edge on the competition. Major kudos to you for that, but if your exercises are along the lines of leg extensions, leg curls, and leg press, you need to step up your game.

First off, ditch the damn machines. If you know anything about my training philosophy, that should be a given.

Secondly, emphasize single-leg training.


Running isn’t performed on two legs! It is a single-leg activity!

It makes sense to train the body in a manner that transfers over to running, right?

I highly recommend the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) for every person I train. In a nutshell, the FMS is simply a tool that allows me to gain insight into a person’s ability to move. It is comprised of seven screens that cover the basic human movement patterns: deep squat, hurdle step, shoulder mobility, in-line lunge, active straight leg raise, trunk stability push-up, and rotary stability. Each screen is scored from 0-3. A score of zero is the result of pain being present during the screen and/or an inability to perform the screen. If pain is present, the screen is cancelled and the person is referred out to a doctor. On the flip side, a score of three indicates that the screen was performed in a manner that met the necessary requirements. A score of two is considered acceptable. A total score of 14 on the FMS is said to reflect a decreased risk of injury during exercise.

I video my clients’ screens in addition to viewing them at the same time. After the initial screen has been performed, I sit down and review the footage. This allows me to make notes regarding discrepancies in each movement in addition to scoring the screens. A client’s FMS score isn’t a diagnosis of anything, nor does it allow me to say “your left Psoas is tight and your right glute max is weak.” I am not a doctor and I’m not a physical therapist. I am, however, an aficionado of exercise prescription!

If a client scores a one on their trunk stability push-up, a one on their left hurdle step and a two on their right hurdle step, and a one on their right shoulder mobility and a two on the left, I make a priority of improving their ability on these screens. A screen that scores the left and right sides and results in a discrepancy between the two must be addressed. If there is a lack of mobility in a desired pattern, we work to increase it, and the same can be said for stability. You cannot build strength on top of dysfunction! 80% of people who exercise are most likely doing just that!

Promoting balance is the goal.

The initial FMS day is always eye-opening for people. Most people seek my expertise because they want to lose weight or train for a race. Most people do not give much thought to their movement abilities, but they definitely do after going through the FMS for the first time! Furthermore, it is always interesting to screen endurance athletes because more often than not, it allows them to grasp the importance of this strength and mobility schtuff. Yes, the “boring” schtuff…I mean, if its not swim/bike/run, why do it? Lol

I didn’t mean to get into an explanation of the FMS, but in true Sarah fashion it just came out. So, now that you know a little about movement screening, let’s get back to the importance of single-leg stability and that wonderful thang we call running!

If you’re a geek like me, then you cannot help but analyze the gaits of runners as you’re knocking out the miles. Yes, it’s a bit distracting, but I cannot imagine not being so aware of it! More often than not, I am witness to a plethora of funky gaits. I find myself cringing when someone doing the “Vibram shuffle” approaches me. You know, feet turned out and barely leaving the ground. So epic! There’s always gotta be a few of those who assume that the minimalist approach will magically make them a better runner. Instead, I have the feeling that most end up in pain. PROPER GAIT MECHANICS ARE MUY IMPORTANTE, PEOPLE! Yes, that important!

Sorry, I got on a roll there…

Single-leg stability. You need it. If you don’t have it, you must acquire it, or your running career will suffer.

Sounds serious…it is!

When we run, one foot is in contact with the ground while the other is not. Duh, right?! 😉 The ability to keep the pelvis in a relatively-level position during each phase of gait is what we want. If the hip musculature lacks the ability to stabilize the pelvis, the unsupported-side hip will drop below the level of the stance-side hip. A side-to-side “swaying” may result, and all of this means a huge waste of energy because of inefficient running mechanics. In addition, a lack of hip stability is a red flag for injury. If you want to enjoy a successful, long relationship with running/triathlon, it is issues like these that you MUST address.

Here is a simple, yet highly-involved exercise which challenges single-leg stability. I am using a Cook Band, but any resistance band will work. If your single-leg balance leaves much to be desired, you’ll want to use a band that offers more resistance. As you become more proficient, lighten the load.

The goal is to activate the core musculature and then perform the single-leg stance. Starting out, your body may not be able to get things firing properly, so that’s where the core activation via the band comes into play. Gradually work your way to using a light band as your ability to engage the muscles of your core/glutes improves.

Stand facing the band, which is anchored at a high point. Your feet should be in a neutral position. Assume proper postural positioning, perform shoulder extension and exhale (pull the band down so that your arms are towards the floor), then raise one leg, aiming for 90 degrees at the hip, knee, and ankle. Hold for a count of two, locking in your glutes and staying as still as possible. Sloppy reps are a waste of time! lower your leg and then release the band. Each rep is essentially a re-set. We don’t want protracted shoulders! if the exercise is too hard, use a band that offers more resistance. If your exercise execution looks like mine in the video, them you’re doing it right. 😉

Try two sets of ten 2-sec-holds per leg.

How can you go about finding out if your single-leg stability can be improved? Simple. Call me and schedule an FMS appointment. Your hurdle step performance (in addition to your proficiency in the other screens) will reveal all.

Yours in Health,
(225) 326-2317

-Progressing the “Dead Bug”-

The oh-so-dreaded Dead Bug…how my clients love/hate it so!

It is one of my favorite basic movements for teaching proper stabilization strategies, as well as the correction of faulty breathing patterns.

The “Wall Push” is an excellent variation that is excellent for beginners. Dr. Craig Liebenson has popularized the dead bug, combining the research and training of Pavel Kolar and Dr. Stuart McGill.  Craig’s article in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies on this exercise may be found at this link.

-Rippel Effect Fitness Boot Camp Philosophy & Upcoming Book!-

Fitness boot camp training has been a popular part of my business for well over six years. The fitness group concept is a win-win, and has really become a popular means of exercise. I enjoy running boot camps so much, in fact, that I have made an effort to scale-back my personal training business so that I can put more time into my boot camp operations.

Why do I feel boot camps are a win-win? There are several reasons. The most important reason is boot camps allow more people to take advantage of a personalized approach to fitness, without forking over tons of money for one-on-one training. I fully back my one-on-one business, but let’s be real – not everyone can afford the $75/hour price tag, nor does everyone desire to work alone with a trainer.

There are numerous boot camp programs in my area, and no two are alike. I realize that as with the fitness industry in general, there are plenty of programs that are poorly run. I pride myself on providing the best experience possible! The bulk of my experience lies in working one-on-one with clients, and I have had to let go of a bit of worry pertaining to the fact that in a group setting, it is not easy to make things specific for each member. I spent a great amount if time and energy trying to create workouts that were a lot like those I design for my one-on-one clients (ie: emphasis on addressing specific postural issues, muscle imbalances, etc). I came to realize that I was trying to make things way too complicated, and this was interfering with the main focus of the workout. The reasons the ladies were coming to my groups were different based on their goals, but similar in the fact that they wanted a challenging, efficient workout that wasn’t boring! The main focus in their eyes was just getting it done and feeling empowered because of it! This can sometimes be a little hard to relate to for a fitness professional like myself who actually loves this exercise stuff! I get very excited talking about why I want a client to do a specific exercise, or pretty much any other topic that pertains to exercise for that matter! Problem is, most people who come to me seeking fitness intervention truly don’t care about all that – they just want results!

I am constantly reminding myself of my beginnings in the gym, and how intimidated I felt when I was just getting started. I am able to relate to my clients because I’ve been there, and I became empowered and am empowered each and every time I exercise.

Your success is ultimately determined by YOU, so never forget this. Without an inner drive to succeed, you will have a difficult time reaching your goals. We all have our struggles, but if you can utilize them & turn them into positive change, AMAZING things can happen! So, you are in charge of how far you go, however, I created this resource to help you get there!

The book I am putting together is my attempt to provide you, the fitness professional and/or intelligent fitness enthusiast, with “outside the box” programming ideas. I am providing you with a plethora of workouts that I’ve used in my outdoor and indoor “boot camps” over the past six years. You can utilize workouts however you see fit – I am providing the programming, but it is up to you to implement it wisely. This means adapting the workouts and exercises to your ability and/or that of your clients. This does not mean haphazardly throwing exercises at people and putting them at risk of injury. Only with time and hands-on experience comes the ability to create a workout experience that is both results-based and safe for all involved.

In the past couple of years, our profession has seen a tremendous influx of “box” gyms pop up that are being run by inexperienced coaches. With time, this trend will run it’s course. Those who respect sound programming and have solid reasoning behind each and every exercise they prescribe for their clients will remain. Those who think it’s acceptable to just throw a bunch of “functional” exercises together and have their clients believe that “the” way is to work out as fast as possible in a state of exhaustion will not be around for long.

Exercise at your own risk…and if your exercise program puts you at risk, please think twice.

Yours in Health,

PS: My original ebook, MTM 1.0 is now available on the Amazon Kindle Store! Chick here to check it out!


-Mobility Drills For Triathletes-

Triathletes are quite possibly the most driven and hard-working of any athletes. They are willing to put in the time and work that is demanded by what is considered to be the World’s toughest sport.

A 50-mile ride? No problem.

A little 10-mile run? Piece of cake.

Swim for an hour? Okay.

Work on flexibility, mobility, stability, and tissue quality? Ummmmm…

So, triathletes are as guilty as most people in not putting a priority on the “other stuff”…activities that serve to facilitate improved movement and performance.

Heck, I’m as guilty as everyone else. It’s easy for me to go for a run or ride. It’s actually FUN for me. As fitness professional, I know the importance of the “other stuff,” yet I am prone to skipping it. I have to schedule it in with the rest of my training or else it gets pushed aside. Bogus!

The “other stuff” is just as important as the “real” workouts! In some cases, it may be more important!

Most triathletes would benefit from adding the following three mobility drills to their training arsenal. They can be done as part of a dynamic warm-up prior to swim, bike, and/or run workouts and/or as part of an “off day” workout. Check out my “Cross Training for Runners” post for ideas on how I recommend structuring an “off day” workout.

The first drill is the Spiderman Walk. In the video, you will see that I’ve jazzed-up the basic Spiderman Walk by adding some lateral crawl pushups and inchworms (aka hand walks) to it. This would be considered an advanced option, whereas an in-place Spiderman or the basic Spiderman Walk would be better for those just starting out. Perform 3-5 reps per side.

Spiderman Walk Combo Video

The second drill is the Squat to Stand. This is an excellent drill for improving hip mobility, and with the addition of shoulder extension and torso rotation, t-spine mobility may benefit as well. Start off with the basic Squat to Stand and progress to the variation I’ve shown. Perform 4-6 reps, making sure that you push knees outward in the bottom position and sit back on the heels.

Squat to Stand Video

The third and final drill is the Quadruped T-Spine Extension & Rotation. Make sure to sit back on your heels with knees set wider than hip-width to ensure that the movement comes from the thoracic spine and not the lumbar. Perform 8 reps per side.

Quadruped T-Spine Extension & Rotation

Until next time, train SMART!


-Boot Camp Workouts have ROCKED this Week!-

Yes, he sat there and posed!

This has been another great week for Rippel Effect Fitness! I am in the process of streamlining my approach to the workouts, and the result will be a more efficient, effective usage of our time! I have been creating programs for my clients and boot camps for almost 16 years now. Needless to say, I have written up an astronomical number of workouts in this time frame. Some are complete garbage, some are so-so, and some are magic! I am taking the best boot camp ones and tweaking them based on what happened when I “tested” them out during the actual workouts. Each 4-week session of boot camp is going to have a structure and “lesson plan.” There will be constant progression and modifications within the workouts, but there will be similarities in format from week to week within the session. The end result will be a polished take on my “never the same workout twice” mentality!

You see, it’s not that difficult to write out workouts. Pretty much anyone can do it. What makes the difference is being able to see your work come to life, and to be able to adjust things based on what actually happened during the workout. This is why I do not have respect for “fitness professionals” who have very little face-to-face experience with clients. How in the heck can you know what works best and what doesn’t if you have never put the plan into action? So, keep that in the mind the next time you come across the latest workout program someone is hawking on the Internet. Most likely it’s a “cookie cutter” program they jotted down on scrap paper from someone else’s ideas while playing on Facebook.

There seem to be a plethora of boot camp programs that basically consist of a mish-mash of exercises thrown together with complete disregard to progression. I am constantly checking out what other boot camps are doing, and to be honest, I am appalled at the lack of thought behind the workouts. Many times, boot camp instructors seem to show up and throw the workout together on the spot without planning anything out in advance. My BS meter is set off by anyone who doesn’t seem to think this lack of planning is a problem. I have had several trainers/boot camp instructors tell me that this is how they do it, and I was shocked that they were able to admit that without any sense of shame. I find it disturbing!

Bottom line: if you run boot camps and are not planning things out in advance, your clients are NOT going to get the results they seek, and you are just one of the multitude of average trainers doing what most people are doing. Eventually, this will catch up with you. Please do yourself and your clients a favor and reevaluate why you’re leading boot camps in the first place…and stop doing what you’re doing!

One of the biggest allies I have in making my boot camp workouts run smoothly is Workout Muse. Why? Because even though I am pretty fierce when using a Gymboss timer, Workout Muse doesn’t allow for any potential “snags.” You press play and don’t have to worry about the intervals. This means less “lag” time in between rounds (ie: someone starts talking about the latest episode of “The Bachelor” or something, and before you know it you’ve lost three minutes). I feel that it’s been extremely useful with my indoor workouts during the winter. We have capitalized on circuit-style workouts because we are indoors. Once we are back outside, we will be doing more running, games, traveling circuits, and AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) workouts involving our surroundings. I will still be using Workout Muse when we’re back out at the park!

So…here’s the “fun” we have had this week! 🙂


Warm-Up: 50/10 circuit

  1. Squat to Stand variation
  2. Split Squat or Sagittal Lunge
  3. Lateral Squat or Lateral Lunge
  4. 2-Leg or Single-Leg Deadlift variation
  5. Hi Plank or Pushup to Down Dog

3-Minute Continuous Rounds – 45s per exercise, with no rest in between exercises; AM boot camp group did a 1 min jog after completion of each 3-minute round, and PM group did the 1 min Mini-Finishers as shown below.

Circuit I:

  1. Staggered Squat + Alternating Floor Reach (BW or DBs)
  2. Woodchops
  3. Staggered Squat + Alt Floor Reach (other side)
  4. DB “X” Chop
  5. 1-Minute Mini-Finisher = 30s Jacks/30s Step Jacks (or 1 min jacks)

Circuit II:

  1. Reverse Lunge to Kick (BW or DBs)
  2. DB Squat/Curl/Press
  3. Reverse Lunge to Kick
  4. DB Punches 30s/DB Uppercuts 30s
  5. 1-Minute Mini-Finisher = 30s Burpees/30s High Plank to Down Dog

Circuit III:

  1. Lateral Lunge with “Loop dee Loop” Arm Movement (DB)
  2. Single-Leg DB Touchdown (or BW for easier; add OH press to make harder)
  3. Alt Lunge + DB Rotation
  4. Single-Leg DB Touchdown
  5. 1-Minute Mini-Finisher = 30s Skipping/30s Jogging

Circuit IV:

  1. Plank variation – Static/Swivel/Alt Abduction
  2. Side Plank variation – Static/Rotation (can switch sides @ halfway or stay on same side for time)
  3. Plank
  4. Side Plank

Circuit V:

  1. Feet-Up X-Body Toe Reach
  2. Bicycles
  3. Feet-Up X-Body Toe Reach
  4. Muffin Tops


Warm-Up: 50/10 circuit (as above)

Slow Negatives & Explosive Power Tri-Sets – 30s for first exercise, done with a 3/1/explode tempo, followed by 30s active rest, and then 15s of a power exercise; 30s rest after completing a tri-set & then move on to the next; 30s rest after a full round; 3 rounds = 20 min

  1. Strength = BW Squat (hands at sternum/hands behind head/arms overhead)
  2. Active Rest = Cross Crawl
  3. Power = Speed Squat/Drop Squat/Jump Squat
  4. Strength = Push-Up (hands on DBs; on knees/elevated hands/floor)
  5. Active Rest = Jacks
  6. Power = Burpees
  7. Strength = Hip-Hinge (hands at sternum/hands behind head/arms overhead)
  8. Active Rest = Frankenstein
  9. Power = Skaters (lateral step/Skaters/faster &/or wider)
Core Tri-Sets – 30s for first exercise, followed by 30s of stretching, and then 15s of a more intense movement; 30s rest after completing a tri-set & then move on to the next; 30s rest after a full round; 3 rounds = 20 min
  1. Plank variation: Static/Diving/Walkup
  2. Cobra Stretch
  3. Plank Jacks: Alternating/Fast
  4. Reverse Crunches: Unilateral/Bilateral
  5. Low Back Stretch
  6. Straight-Leg “Raise the Roof” Thrusts
  7. Bridge: 2-Leg Static or Dynamic/Marching/Single-Leg Static or Dynamic
  8. Hip Stretch
  9. Bicycles: Feet Down/Feet Up


Warm-Up: Dynamic (High Knee Walk, Walking Quad, Frankenstein, Side Lunge Shift & Skip, Spiderman + Rotation, Inchworms)

1:30 Rounds with Continuous 15s Intervals – 1:30 at each of four stations, alternating between exercises for 15s ea; 1 min rest after completion of a station, then rotate to the next; complete two rounds for 20 minutes, then perform two more rounds of the modified circuit for a butt-kicking 40-minute calorie-crunching workout!


  1. Superband March or Jog/Alternating Lunges
  2. Rope Alternating Waves/Assisted Squats
  3. Medicine Ball Woodchops/Slams
  4. Kettlebell Goblet Squat/Swings (2A or 1A)
  1. Superband Lateral Lunge/March or Jog
  2. Rope Double Waves/In & Out Waves
  3. Medicine Ball Pivot Rotations/Bent-Over Slams
  4. Kettlebell 1A Row/Sumo Deadlift


Warm-Up: Dynamic (same as yesterday)

3-Minute Continuous Rounds – 30s per exercise, with no rest in between exercises; 1 min rest after completion of each 3-minute round; jog a lap during rest break & grab a sip of water; each round was done twice.


  1. Burpee variation: no jump/jump/pushup
  2. Log Roll variation: from forearms/from hands/pushup
  3. Overhead Reverse Lunge
  1. Mountain Climber variation: slow/fast
  2. Pushup variation: knees/regular
  3. Lateral Lunge variation: lateral squat/lateral lunge
  1. DB Burpee
  2. Renegade Row variation: 1A/Alt Arm/Pushup
  3. Squat, Curl, & Press
  1. Plank variation: Static/Swivel/Walkup
  2. Side Plank variation: Static/Rotation
  3. Side Plank
  4. Bridge variation: Static/Dynamic/Marching/Single-Leg
  5. DB Single-Leg V-Sit (switch at halfway)
  6. Straight-Leg “Raise the Roof” Thrusts