ADHD · fitness · self care · strength training

Another Question From Christine

Here’s another post in what is apparently my August Questions Series.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asking about core exercises.

Last week, I was wondering how you handle things when you’re feeling off-kilter.

This week, I’m wondering about strength training.

Specifically, I’m wondering about upper body exercises – what ones you do, what ones you like, and how you structure your workout.

(Yes, I could go see a trainer and I probably will but that’s a project for Future Christine. Current Christine is in a gather-info-then-DIY phase and it’s working for her…ahem, for me.)

Anyway, in a similar sort of way that many core exercises bore me, I find doing multiple sets of the same exercise boring.

For example, I hate knowing that I have to do three sets of bicep curls. I think I’d be okay if I could just do 36 in a row and be done with them but bodies don’t work like that.

Mine especially, since concepts like ‘repeat to fatigue’ or ‘repeat until you are too tired to keep good form’ make no sense to me whatsoever. I mean, I understand them in principle, I just don’t know how to recognize them in practice.

And I also hate knowing that I am going to have to repeat the same set of exercises I just did. As in, if I do one set of bicep curls, tricep dips, and two other exercises and then I have to repeat that same group of exercises two more times? Glerg.

My brain will immediately pull out all the stops to ensure that I never even start the first set.

I’ve tried (and enjoyed) doing strength training in my Apple Fitness + app but there are A LOT of squats in there. I don’t quite have the fitness level nor the coordination to do that many squats that quickly in good form without irritating the muscles around my right knee. (The hopeful word ‘yet’ should be in that sentence somewhere but damned if I can figure out where to put it.)

The ones that didn’t have a lot of squats included a lot of pushups and that’s tricky in a whole different way. I’m also working on that.


What I am looking for is a way to work my arms and shoulders and upper back by doing multiple exercises for each part.

For example, by doing three different bicep exercises instead of doing three sets of the same one.

I was hoping to find a YouTube workout or to Google a premade workout that I could use as a starting point but I couldn’t find the right combination of search terms to generate what I wanted.

And that’s where I’m hoping you can help:

1) Do you know of an upper body workout that doesn’t include multiple sets of the exact same exercise?


2) Do you have an upper body exercise to recommend? I have weights and all kinds of exercise bands and I like bodyweight exercises so I have lots of stuff to work with.

Thanks, Team!

PS – I know it would be more straightforward to “just” make myself do the boring, repeated sets but it’s hard enough to convince my ADHD brain to exercise in the first place, making myself do something that is hard AND boring burns a lot of energy that I would rather put into the exercise rather than waste it by arguing with myself. The straightforward thing in this case to for me to accept what I’m like and work with my brain instead of against it.

7 thoughts on “Another Question From Christine

  1. I’m doing aerial silks for this exact reason. Major upper body workout with no room for being bored. My partner uses a floor based functional fitness program with animal based movement patterns (frog, monkey, bear, etc.) for a similar result. Maybe those types of things would be up your alley.

  2. 1. I find has good lists of “beginner”/”hard” etc. workouts with multiple exercises for the same muscle (I do laugh at the vast difference between me and the bodybuilders in their photos). For biceps, see and scroll down to see a list of specific workouts.

    2. Wow, brains are fascinating! I *love* the repetition of workouts, the counting and the rote, not-having-to-think aspect of doing them – maybe that’s a difference between autism and adhd that seem similar in other ways.

    1. Thanks, I hadn’t checked out that site!

      You’re definitely right about how brains are fascinating and how the overlaps/differences in ADHD and autism show up differently for different people. When I have to do a lot of reps I *do* end up thinking about it ‘Is this enough? Am I fatigued?’ ‘Which set is this?’ ‘Am I doing this right?’ I get on my own nerves!

  3. Caroline Girvan has some “no repeat” programs on YouTube. They have no repeat in the title. My solution lately is to just do one set under the one is better than none theory. Plus I’m seeing things on the benefits of spreading things out instead if bigger workouts so I just say that’s what I’m doing.

  4. The gym my physiotherapist works from has a whole library of FB events that are 45-50 minute workouts I don’t hate. Several of the exercises I got assigned today are regular parts of them, so I’ll be going back to doing those workouts rather than doing reps by myself. I loathe them.

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