Best Body Challenge: Month Two

Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS | May 28, 2013

1. Best Body Training Plan, Month Two

After a three-minute warm-up, you'll perform a band exercise then immediately move on to a plyometric exercise. Take all of your plyo sets to absolute failure - meaning you couldn't possibly do one more - and write down the number of reps. That number will be the goal you want to at least match - or, ideally, beat - during your next workout.

After the plyo move you'll rest for one minute, then repeat the superset twice before moving on to the next combination. For your shoulders and arms, you'll do two band moves before hitting the plyometric exercise. Do this workout at least three days a week for four weeks.

2. 1a) Band Squat

Target muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes

Set Up: Stand on the middle of a band and hold the handles at shoulder level, with your feet spaced wider than shoulder-width apart, a slight bend in your knees and your toes turned out slightly.

Action: Keeping your head neutral, abs tight and torso erect, bend at the knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if you were going to sit down in a chair. Pause when your legs reach 90-degree angles, then forcefully drive through your heels to extend your hips and knees until you are standing.

Helpful Hint: As a way to increase the intensity, at the end of your last set, drop your hands to your sides and continue doing reps.

3. 1b) Jump Squat

Target Muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes

Set Up: Stand with both hands in front of you, your legs shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.

Action: Keep your chest up and back straight as you squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor [A], then explode upward as high as possible, allowing your feet to leave the ground [B]. Land softly with your knees bent, and repeat immediately.

Helpful Hint: To achieve correct form, imagine that you're sitting back into a chair as you lower.

4. 2a) Bent-Over Row

Target Muscles: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, middle trapezius

Set Up: Grasp the handles of the band and loop it under your feet, taking a wide stance. (If needed, cross the band in front of you as shown to increase resistance.) Contract your abs, bend your knees and lean forward slightly from your hips.

Action: Pull your elbows up and back, bringing your hands beside your waist. Squeeze your back muscles for one count, then return to the start.

Helpful Hint: Fix your eyes on the floor a few feet in front of you. You can also do this move with one arm at a time by tying the band to a stable post in front of you and taking a staggered stance (one foot in front).
5. Plyo Push-Up on the Knees

Target Muscles: pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps brachii

Set Up: Get into a push-up position on your knees with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor and your body forming a straight line from your head to your knees.

Action: Bend your arms [A], then press through your palms to explode up, allowing your hands to leave the floor [B]. Let your hands naturally return to the floor, decelerating yourself and cushioning your landing with bent elbows.

Helpful Hint: If you're able to do these from a standard push-up position, do as many as you can, then drop to your knees and continue doing reps to failure.

6. 3a) Overhead Press

Target Muscles: deltoids (front, middle and rear heads), triceps brachii

Start: Stand on the middle of the band, holding one handle in each hand at shoulder level with a pronated grip (palms facing forward). Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, your abs tight, chest up and your head neutral [A].

Action: Keeping your shoulders back, press the handles in an arc until they are immediately overhead [B]. Squeeze your arms and deltoids for a second before slowly lowering back to the starting position.

Helpful Hint: You can also perform presses with one arm at a time, which will help stimulate your inner core to a greater extent.

7. 3b) Lateral Raise

Target Muscle: deltoids (middle head emphasis)

Set Up: Stand on the middle of the band with your abs tight, feet shoulder-width apart and handles held at your sides with a neutral grip (palms facing in).

Action: Without using momentum, raise the handles out to your sides in a wide arc, keeping your elbows and hands moving together. Raise the handles up a little higher than parallel to the ground (a few inches above shoulder level) and hold momentarily in the peak contractoin. Slowly reverse the motion using control.

Helpful Hint: Don't stop when your arms are parallel to the ground; raising them a few inches higher is much more effective.

8. 3c) Speed Skater

Target Muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes

Set Up: Stand tall and squat down slightly.

Action: Press through your right foot to propel yourself to the left. Land softly on your left foot, bend your knee and tough your right foot down behind the left as shown. Repeat to the right and continue, alternating sides.

Helpful Hint: Be sure to start from the opposite side in your next set to bring balance your training.

9. 4a) Biceps Curl

Set Up: Stand on the middle of the band, holding the handles at your sides with arms extended and palms facing forward. Keep your abs tight, chest up and eyes looking forward.

Action: Contract your biceps to curl the handles up toward your shoulders, keeping your elbows at your sides. Hold at the top and squeeze your bis before slowly returning to the start.

Helpful Hint: Keep your elbows at your sides to limit the involvement of your shoulders. If you allow your elbows to travel forward, you shift some of the focus to the front delts.

10. 4b) Overhead Extension

Target Muscle: triceps brachii (long head emphasis)

Set Up: Stand on the band with your feet under your shoulders. Grasp the handles, raise your arms and bend your elbows to drop the handles behind your head. Make sure your lower back is slightly arched and your abs are tight.

Acton: Keeping your upper arms close to the sides of your head, extend your arms until your hands are above your head. Hold at the top, squeeze your triceps, then return to the start.

Helpful Hint: You can also do this move using one arm at a time - your non-working arm can assist by gently helping the other through the last tough reps.

11. 4c) Split Jump Squat

Target Muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes

Set Up: Stagger your stance as if you are going to perform a stationary lunge, with your front foot flat on the floor and your rear leg supported by the ball of your foot. Place your hands on your hips and look straight ahead.

Action: Squat down toward the floor by bending both legs to 90 degrees [A]. When your back knee is a few inches from the floor, explode upward while simultaneously bringing your front leg back and back leg forward, so that you land with your opposite leg in front [B]. Land softly and fluidly, lowering back towards the floor before powering up into the next rep.

Helpful Hint: If you have trouble switching legs midair, keep the same foot in the forward position. Power up as high as you can, landing and jumping with the same leg forward, and then switch legs for the following set.

12. 5a) Crunch

Target Muscle: upper abdominals

Set Up: Tie or wrap the middle of the band around a stable object behind you, and lie face up on a mat with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Grasp the handles and extend your arms straight towards the ceiling.

Action: Slowly curl your upper body off the floor, raising your chest and shoulders straight up. Squeeze your abs before returning to the start.

Helpful Hint: To make this move even harder, straighten your legs slightly and lift them from the floor. This will help recruit your lower abdominal muscles to a greater extent.

13. 5b) Shoulder Tap Push-Up

Target Muscles: pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps brachii, transverse abdominis

Set Up: Get into a push-up position on the floor.

Action: Bend your arms to lower your chest. When you are an inch or so away from the floor, powerfully extend your arms and tap one shoulder with the opposite hand as fast as you can. Quickly place your hand back on the floor and descend into your next rep, alternating the tapping arm with each repetition.

Helpful Hint: If it's too tough to alternate the tapping motion, use the same arm for one set, then use the other arm for the next.

About the Author

Jimmy Pena, MS, CSCS