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

Posts tagged “progression

Exercise Expertise: The Dead Bug

The almighty Dead Bug. It’s a great exercise! Many people are familiar with it, but not everyone implements a sound, logical progression into their routine.

Click on the link below to read my latest post over at! I expand on the Dead Bug exercise and lay out my current progression which covers 28 variations! That’s a lot of dead bugs! 🙂

I will continue to post links here, but as a reminder, I am no longer utilizing this blog as my main site.

Have a terrific Tuesday and keep expanding your exercise experience!

Sarah 🙂


-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!

-Sarah’s Training Philosophy: Keep An Open Mind-

If you want to get the most out of training with me, keep an open mind & let go of everything you’ve ever been told about exercise. You have enlisted my help because you believe that I know my stuff.

I do.

You have sought my help because you haven’t been satisfied with whatever you have done before. Please let me do my job & trust in my abilities. I don’t blow smoke up people’s butts, so please believe that what I tell you is useful! I want you to absorb what you learn from me and utilize it!

I have been in this business for a loooooong time, and would not still be here if I did not know what I was doing. Longevity in the fitness industry speaks volumes.

No, we won’t be doing workouts where you wanna puke.

We won’t be doing endless reps of single-joint “feel the burn” exercises.

I don’t give a rat’s behind about P90X or CrossFit or whatever other fad your friends have fallen into. Programs such as those may work for people because they get excited about exercise, and that’s great. If they are able to stay with a “cookie-cutter” program and continue to see progress without getting injured, even better. Keep in mind that an active lifestyle is not a fad, it is something you commit to for the rest of your life. Cookie-cutter programs do not fall in-line with my training philosophy, nor do they reflect the fact that I believe personal trainers should do no harm to their clients. If you are seeking a “one size fits all” program, go ahead and train in that manner. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I don’t care that you did endless lunges in body pump and loved being sore or your previous trainer told you not to eat fruit.

Have those methods done anything for you in the past? No?

Well, go figure.

You wouldn’t be working with me if you had been able to accomplish your desired results on your own, or through another training method.

Now, shush it and let me do my thang. 😉

We are gonna do things my way or else it ain’t gonna work…obviously that means compromise and we must work together, but do not fight me!

The exercises I prescribe are there for a reason. I realize that the simple stuff ain’t sexy, but it’s important.

You ask “why aren’t we doing such-and-such exercise?”

You say that your previous trainer had you doing all sorts of exercises that were awesome, but I know that they way too advanced for you. You can’t even do a simple squat without your knees caving in and your torso falling forward, but lo and behold, you were banging out rep after rep of loaded overhead squats.

Your previous trainer did not know what they were doing.

They probably had you doing all sorts of exercises simply because they felt they looked “cool” and/or were trying to impress you.

Can you perform a body weight squat that deserves to be progressed? If so, great! If not, we will work on getting the pattern established before I allow you to move on to more advanced variations.

We are gonna do the simple stuff until you OWN it, and them we will amp it up.

I refuse to do a mediocre job and I don’t want clients who expect amazing results while giving me mediocre effort and/or refuse to let me take the reins!


-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.

-Do You BOSU?-

Hey y’all!

Here’s a little vid clip of me discussing the BOSU balance trainer.  In a nutshell, my opinion is this:  if you can’t do an exercise on the ground, why in the hell would you do it on top of a squishy, unstable bubble?

Sounds crazy, right?

Well, a gazillion trainers out there are guilty of having their clients do exercises using this device when the time isn’t right.  It’s irresponsible, in my opinion, and not only ridiculous, but unsafe…and just plain dumb…and…and…

I mean, we fitness professionals are supposed to be helping our clients progress, NOT regress.  It’s pretty evident that a trainer who has their elderly female client doing squats on top of this thing, when she can barely squat on the ground, is a dumbass.  I’m sorry for the potty mouth, but i’m on my soapbox!  😀 Having a client perform exercises that encourage faulty movement patterns is a BAD thing!  This would be an example, because if this particular client can’t squat to begin with, the BOSU sure as hell ain’t gonna help!

Hopefully grandma doesn’t fall off the BOSU, leading to a fractured hip and a lawsuit!  

You get my point.

So…if you’re at the right level to give these exercises a whirl, do so!  What are your opinions on BOSU training?  Have you witnessed a trainer having a client do exercises that were obviously not right for them?  I want to hear from you!  Leave me some comment love!

Yours in Health,