I think it’s pretty safe to say that, when it comes down to it, at least 90% of us share very similar goals when it comes to our personal fitness. In no particular order, most of us are working towards some or all of the following things when we hit the gym: lose some body fat, gain a little muscle, improve our overall fitness levels, have more energy and just ‘feel’ better overall. With the New Year around the corner, I thought there would be no better time for a new program designed with these specific goals in mind. It’s simple yet challenging and can be scaled to almost any fitness level. Here’s the program outline:
Day 1: Full-Body Resistance Training
Day 2: Cardio
Day 3: Full-Body Resistance Training
Day 4: Cardio
Day 5: Full-Body Resistance Training
Day 6: Cardio
Day 7: Off
It’s a very basic set-up: we end up working out six days a week, alternating resistance training and cardio days. In fact, this is a very similar set-up to the one I used to lose 60 pounds myself in a period of just over 6 months. I think being active most if not all days of the week is very important. Regular exercise should be a part of all of our daily routines, and we can form a habit much faster if we do some kind of activity most every day, as opposed to three or four times a week. As you will see later in the article, we don’t necessarily need to be in the gym six days a week – that’s the beauty of this particular program, as three of the days are ‘cardio’ days where we can get outside and do something we enjoy if we want to.
Also, I’ve decided on a full-body routine – no body part split. This might be a big change of pace for some of you – but then again, if this is the case, you probably need it! I believe this is one of the best ways to lose body fat – if we train all of our major muscle groups in one session; we end up burning a ton of calories. And remember, too, that all training is cumulative: four sets for your chest three times a week is really the same as twelve sets of chest in one workout. So for the weight training days, here’s what they’re going to look like:
-Begin with 5 minutes of stretching tight muscle groups, a dynamic warm-up and some core work. (Ideally we would do a movement assessment to determine tight/overactive muscle groups and build a personalized routine using this information – but for a start, some commonly tight muscle groups include calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, piriformis, pecs, and lats). In addition, pre-workout is a great time for some self-myofacial release using a foam roll, ‘The Stick’, etc.
- For our core work, we’ll pick one exercise each day – crunches on a stability ball, planks, hanging leg raises, etc. – and shoot for 3-4 sets of 15.
-You can integrate your core work into your dynamic warm-up or do it separately. If you do a warm-up like the one in the video below, you’ll likely get all of the ab work you need:
Now we get into the resistance training portion of the workout. We’re only doing four exercises, four sets of fifteen each. Pick one from each category:
A.) Lower Body
-Back Squat, Front Squat, Traditional Dead lift, Sumo Dead lift, RDL
B.) Lower Body Unilateral
-Step-Up, Lunge, SLDL, 1-Leg Squat
C.) Upper Body Push
-Military Press (Barbell/DB), Push Press, Bench Press (Barbell/DB/Flat/Incline), Push-Up (or variation of), Dip
D.) Upper Body Pull
-Pull-Up (Assisted if needed), Body weight row/Fat man pull-up, Barbell/DB Row, Seated Cable Row
(I’ve put a couple of videos directly in the body of this article, but if you have any more questions about any of the exercises or how to do them properly, it’s really easy to find videos of exercises on YouTube.)
A good strategy might be to form two workouts with these exercises and alternate between them. For the first workout, pick a squat or front squat, an SLDL or lunge, a horizontal push (bench, push-up, dip), and a horizontal pull (seated cable row, barbell/DB rowing). For the second, you would pick a dead lift or variation, a step-up or 1-leg squat, a vertical push (military press or push press) and a vertical pull (pull-up, assisted/ fat man pull-up). You could add in some arm-specific work like curls or extensions at the end if you feel the need. That’s it – pretty simple.
For our cardio, we’re going to doing two ‘Fartlek’ runs/workouts and one long slow distance workout per week. For the fartlek workouts, pick any mode of cardio – running, biking, swimming, etc. – and vary the tempo as you wish. ‘Fartlek’ is simply an interval workout in which the intervals are predicated by you – if you were on the road, you might jog between two telephone poles, sprint between the next two, etc. These workouts should be about 25-30 minutes in length. You can still do your regular stretch, warm-up, and core work on these days as well. For the long slow distance workout, we’re shooting for about 30-45 minutes at a lower intensity, any mode that you like. This should be more of a ‘recovery’ day – we’re still getting our activity in for the day, but the intensity isn’t super high.
If you’ve fallen off the wagon a little over the holidays and gotten out of your grove, give this program a try to get you back on the right track. You can follow it for about four to six weeks before your body will adapt and you’ll need to switch it up. And as always, consult your physician if you’re not accustomed to vigorous activity before starting any exercise program. Please feel free to comment with any questions and Happy 2009!