Spring Training

Jeff Howard is a world-renowned fitness presenter who resides in Louisville. He has starred in numerous fitness videos, educated fitness professionals at conventions worldwide for more than a decade, trained countless celebrities as the pioneer instructor at the Golden Door Spa and has appeared on several national TV shows. Along his journey, he has managed award-winning fitness programs from Equinox in Chicago to Virgin Active in South Africa. Jeff is currently the promotional director of fitness for Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center.

By Jeff Howard

Photos by Erin Trimble

Location: Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

Spring is in the air. It is finally getting warmer and the days are getting longer. The gardening tools in the shed are ready, but are you physically ready?

It’s going to feel great to spend time outside again, but what about the morning after your first day of yard work? The reason we often become sore after the first back-to-the-season clean up is because we haven’t had to bend and move that way for months. Sure, you’ve shoveled the sidewalk or taken your garbage to the end of your driveway, but those activities use entirely different muscle groups than what we use when we pull, cut, mow and dig.

Getting outside and enjoying sunny days to make the yard look amazing can mean beating up your body in the process. You might end up with lower back pain from bending over several times in one day or shoulder pain from picking all those weeds, not to mention how fatigued your legs will feel.

We recently moved into a new house with an amazing yard. It had been landscaped by the previous owner, but we almost didn’t buy it because we are clueless about gardening. This is my first house with a yard; in the past, I always lived in high-rises. Like any new homeowners with no knowledge of yard maintenance, we started asking questions about the upkeep. The list we received was long and intense. I’m pretty fit, but even I was getting nervous about the physical activity. These are movements we really don’t do in everyday life, and the stress and injuries that can occur could make for a terrible summer.

In anticipation of the sunny days ahead, I came up with a workout that will prepare you for the days when the weeds need plucking and the flowers need planting. I designed this to help strengthen the areas we use while gardening and help simulate the movements we’ll be doing.

Try doing these exercises as a circuit, going from one to the next with little or no rest. Work up to two circuits, three times a week.

Be sure to warm up with a brisk walk around the block or go up and down your stairs a few times to get the heart pumping and blood flowing. Each exercise is to be done for 16 reps. Repeat the entire sequence two to three times. If it’s a single arm or leg, remember to do 16 on each side.


1. Deadlift – Overhead Press

Stand with your feet wide. Bend forward with a flat back. Go as low as you feel comfortable with a slight bend in your knees. Then stand up, lifting your arms overhead. A modification would be to not use weights or not lift overhead.


2. Squat

Start with your feet hip-width apart, bending at the knees. Place your hands in front of your body and lift your body upwards. A progression would be to then bend down to your toes and then come back up.


3. Farmers Carry

Start with your feet hip-width apart and have a weight in each hand. Then, walk at forward at a normal pace. A progression would be to put two weighted buckets in your hands.


4. Walking Lunges

Start with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward, bending your knee toward the floor while raising your arms into a bicep curl. Continue moving forward, alternating the legs from one side to another.


5. One-Arm Reverse Fly

Start with your feet hip-width apart and place one hand on your hip. Bring the opposite hand over, reaching to the corner of the room. Lower it, passing your knee diagonally and then bring it back to the starting position.


6. Chop

Grabbing the weight with both hands, take it over your shoulder and bring it down towards the floor diagonally across your body.


7. Upright Row

Start with your feet hip-width apart and feet facing forwards. Lift your elbows to either side of the room. Go into a squat, lowering your hands towards the floor and looking forward. Try not to round your back. Stand back up, lifting the elbows out the side. A modification would be to place a chair behind you. Sit in the chair and then get back up, doing the same arms.


8. No Touch Push-up

Start by lying face down on the floor, taking your arms out to the side. Bring them in towards your side, lifting your body upward then lowering it back down to the floor. Reach arms out to the side then repeat. A modification would be to keep your knees on the floor.


9. Renegade Row

Starting on all fours, extend your leg into a plank position. Keep a weight in each hand or beside your hands. Lift the weight by bending your elbow upwards then lower back to the floor.


10. Gunslingers

Kneel with your knees under your hips and your elbows bent. Push the weights in front of you, bring them back in by your side and then lower your body. Push the weights out from behind. Bending the elbows, bring the body back up and repeat.


11. Ab Twist

Start in a seated position with your chest elevated, placing the towel toward your chest. Start by facing front, then turn to your right, face the front and then to your left. A progression would be to lift your feet off of the floor and do the same movements. Be sure to protect your lower back by elevating your chest up toward the sky.


12. Ab Crunch

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Place the towel behind your head, then lift the head and chest up toward the sky, making sure your lower back stays connected to the floor. Lower yourself back to the floor. A progression would be to lift your body all the way up into a full sit up, then lower back down while still holding onto the towel.


13. One Hundreds

Start by lying on your back. Bending your knees, place the towel behind your thighs. Lift your head, looking forward and forming a C curve. Start to lower the arms to the floor, pulsing. If you have neck issues, keep your head on the floor. Take the towel from your feet and lift overhead, extending your arms and legs to where you feel comfortable. Lower the arms to the floor with small pulses. V


*Before you start any diet or exercise program, always consult with your physician.