This month, we give you the first four weeks of an amazing 12-week training program that you can do in your living room.
Back to Basics
In Month 1, we start at the beginning with body weight–only exercises. It’s important to remember that during theses first four weeks, you need to take your sets to failure – the point at which you can’t squeeze out another rep. It doesn’t do you any good to stop at, say, 15 reps when you could have repped out 20. What incentive does your body have to transform if it’s not challenged?
You’ll also want to keep track of the repetitions you eke out because the next time you attempt the same exercise, your goal will be to top that by at least one rep, or perhaps finish the same amount of reps in less time. Every single session, you’ll be trying to improve your performance.
The Extended Set
Transitioning mid-workout from one exercise to a modified, slightly easier version – so that you can continue to perform more reps after initial fatigue – is not only simple, but in fact, it’s extremely effective. It’s called an “extended set,” and we’ll be using the technique in these first four weeks.
Here’s an example of an extended set of push-ups:
- Start off with the standard push-up, with your toes on the floor, legs straight and arms extended.
- When you reach muscle fatigue (even if it’s after only one or two reps), immediately drop your knees to the floor and continue repping.
- Once you reach failure again, finish off the set with incline push-ups, with your hands on a bench or chair and your knees or feet on the floor. This is the easiest variation of the three.
By the time you finish your first extended set, you should already feel your arms, shoulders and chest burning beyond what you would normally feel after a regular set of just about any chest or upper-body exercise.
Ready to get started? Get the Best Body Challenge: Month One workout.
Last month, you committed to a 12-week plan to put yourself on the path to personal transformation. Four weeks into Month One of the amazing program, we’re guessing you’ve already enjoyed some notable progress: stronger arms, tighter legs, better endurance. Let’s see what else your body can do. Welcome to Month Two of your 12-week personal renovation.
Striking Up the Band
During this second month, we’re introducing you to one of the simplest yet greatest fitness inventions of all time: the resistance band.
Like barbells and dumbbells, resistance bands allow for a free range of motion, change of speed and varying intensity. But unlike a free weight, a resistance band doesn’t depend on gravity. With a barbell or dumbbell, you need to work within or near the vertical plane (using up and down motions); with bands, you get resistance at every angle. That’s one reason why bands are so effective at functional moves, especially the ones that mimic day-to-day activities.
Bands also provide constant tension. Consider a dumbbell chest press, biceps curl or lateral raise – no matter how hard you try to maintain perfect form, by the sheer laws of physics, the target muscles will relax at some point along the way (the top of a press or the bottom of a biceps curl or lateral raise, for example). That’s not the case with bands. From start to finish, the bands are stimulating the target muscle because your muscles are subject to constant stress, thanks to the stored energy within the band that allows for tension during both the up and down motions.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of bands? They provide something called linear variable resistance; as the range of motion increases, the resistance provided increases as well. This means the muscle is getting the most resistance at its strongest point in the range of motion – at the peak contraction, like at the top of a biceps curl or as you extend your legs during a squat – and activating the most muscle fibers possible. No other piece of equipment in the gym gets the most difficult when you’re at your strongest.
Let’s not forget that bands are inexpensive and ultra-portable, and you have a compelling argument for bands as one of the world’s best functional fitness tools, bar none.
More Power To You
The second critical “tool” we’re employing this month is plyometrics. These exercises require short, sudden bursts of speed and strength, mimicking the dynamic, natural movements of the human body. Plyo exercises are all about producing power. You’ll develop fast-twitch muscle fibers in your body, which are the most responsible for your overall tone and shape.
The important point regarding plyo exercises is that they have no element of deceleration. To understand what we mean, let’s consider the standard bodyweight squat. As you rise out of the squat to a standing position, you naturally decelerate so that your feet don’t leave the floor.
Compare that to a plyo squat. For these, you don’t decelerate on the ascent, but actually jump up, allowing your feet to leave the floor as you go as high as you can. Doing explosive jump squats in succession causes your body to call upon those critical fast-twitch fibers to carry the load.
Ready to get started? Get the Best Body Challenge: Month Two workout.
In just eight weeks, you’ve made significant progress. Month One was the instrumental tune-up, using your body weight as resistance. Month Two added the melody in the form of resistance bands and plyo. Now, it’s time to end on a high note.
This month, you’ll challenge yourself head to toe with a mix of dumbbell-based exercises and high-intensity cardio. We’ve selected dumbbells as our tools of choice because they provide tons of tactical advantages:
- Balance: We naturally have about a 10-percent difference in muscle size between each side of our body, and that differential can hold us back when it comes to tone and symmetry. By using dumbbells, you’ll be able to bring your entire body into balance because your stronger side can’t compensate for your weaker one.
- Exercise selection: Dumbbells allow for creativity. With them, you can easily transition from a curl to, say, a dumbbell kickback within the same session.
- Stability: When using dumbbells, you involve your stabilizers – the muscles not directly targeted by the move, but that are called on to hold the body in proper form. This means that your entire core, including your abs, is engaged during dumbbell exercises, building strength from the inside out.
- Range of motion: Dumbbells allow for a wide range of motion in all directions because they are not attached to any machine, nor are your limbs working in unison as when using a bar.
- Convenience: Dumbbells are great for those who choose to train at home, as they are versatile and take up little space.
Exercisers often fall into bad habits when doing cardio – think trudging it out on the treadmill for an hour, day after day, at the same speed. There is a better option. High-intensity interval training, or “HIIT” for short provides exactly what you need to hit your fitness goals: fat burning that lasts all day long.
HIIT involves intervals of high-intensity exercise, such as running at 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, followed by intervals of low-intensity recovery. Scientific studies reveal that there is an increase in your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or “EPOC” for short, following a HIIT session.
What does that mean in plain English? Basically, that your body continuously burns calories and fat at an elevated rate long after you’ve stepped off the treadmill. Also, because a HIIT session is so intense, the time you save is invaluable over the course of a training cycle.
One study conducted by scientists at the University of Western Ontario drives home the value of HIIT. They found that subjects who performed four to six 30-second sprints three times per week burned more than twice as much fat as those who jogged for 30 to 60 minutes at a steady pace. That’s an incredible difference, and one that we want to put to immediate use.
In this program, we suggest that you do your cardio after weight training, as research has shown that your results may be hindered if you precede strength training with intense cardio, but not vice versa.
Ready to get started? Get the Best Body Challenge: Month Three workout.