Now in her second season as a trainer on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” Jen Widerstrom is hitting her stride. Week by week, she plows through the pounds, uncovering bodies and spirits with confidence and refreshing honesty. The antithesis of her female predecessor, Widerstrom is the slap-happy buddy you want warming the stool next to you at happy hour, the easy crier who sobs companionably with you when your pet fish Fido gets flushed, the supportive training partner you always wanted at the gym who can get you to squat just one … more … rep.
With this workout, Widerstrom prepares you for bikini season. “It’s a very vulnerable moment — no matter how good you look — to drop your shorts and take off your top and there you are in a swimsuit,” Widerstrom says. “There is a disturbing summer trend to shrink down — to get skinny so you can put on a swimsuit. But I don’t think that idea celebrates the female form or supports how the majority of women are built. I know that my body does not want to be skinny — it wants to be athletic. So this workout is all about getting an athletic, toned, fabulous beach body.”
To achieve that aim, Widerstrom devised a program exclusively for Oxygen that is all about form, function and, most of all, velocity. “Velocity training is athletic and will create a shape as well as that leanness you want when you’re wearing a bathing suit,” she says. “It also burns more calories and will exhaust the muscle groups you want to target for bikini season — shoulders, stomach, and that 3-inch area between your ass and your thighs that hangs out of your bikini — you know what I’m talking about!”
The Do’s and Deets of My Workout
By Jen Widerstrom
“The five moves I chose are power-based and athletic in nature, and they focus on large muscle groups to get the biggest bang for your buck. The portion of the move that focuses on velocity is highlighted in yellow in the description — it should be explosive, dynamic and powerful.”
All you need for this workout is a barbell (anywhere from 20 to 45 pounds, depending on your level) and some bumper plates — large, rubber discs that weigh about 10 pounds each. Find an open area where you can move around freely, then get started.
• Warm up for five to 10 minutes with a total-body activity — cardio such as rowing, a run/jog pattern or a yoga flow.
• Do each move three to five times with your bodyweight or a lighter barbell, practicing the movement patterns you’ll be using in the workout. Then set up your barbell and start the clock.
• Do the moves in the order given, using good form yet moving quickly from one to the next, using the same weight for each and every movement. This means that you’ll have to choose a weight with which you can complete all the movements comfortably for the prescribed number of repetitions. If your form or velocity suffers, drop the weight; if the weight is light for a certain move, increase the velocity.
• The repetition scheme is an ascending ladder, meaning you add reps with each round. You’ll start with four reps of each move, then increase to eight, then 12, then 16, and so on until you max out your time.
• There is a time cap of 20 minutes on this workout. Write down the number of reps you reached and try to beat it next time!
• Do this workout up to twice a week to get the shape and the confidence to bare it all at the beach!
One-Arm Power Press
Jen says: “This move is actually like two stations in one, since you will repeat the reps on each side of your body. So four on each arm, eight on each arm and so on. And it’s great because it works the glutes, waist and shoulders all at once.”
Setup: Take one plate off the end of your barbell and place it flat on the floor. Position the end of the barbell inside the hole in the plate to create a makeshift landmine. On the opposite end, hold the bar with your left hand just behind the plate and adopt a staggered stance with your left foot slightly behind and your hips and body turned slightly away from the bar.
Move: Bend your knees and load up, then explode upward, turning your hips and shoulders toward the bar and pressing the barbell up and forward to a full extension of your arm. Slowly return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Transfer the power of your hip drive up through your shoulder and out the end of your arm to push the bar up and forward with as much velocity as possible.
Jen says: “The pelvis needs to be neutral in order to engage your lower pelvic floor and transverse abdominis. No dog-going-to-the-bathroom-tucked-under-tailbones here — that shuts down your core.”
Setup: Slide the plate back onto your barbell and secure it with a clip. Kneel in front of the bar with your knees under your hips and place your hands on the bar directly underneath your shoulders. Lock your shoulder blades down to secure your shoulder girdle and brace your core.
Move: Keeping your core tight, slowly roll the bar away from you while keeping your pelvis neutral. When you feel some tension in your abs, exhale and pull from your lower abs — the bellybutton and below — to roll the bar back quickly toward your knees and return to the start.
Tip: If you’re a new athlete or are not comfortable with this movement, don’t roll out quite as far. Roll a shorter distance to begin and work your way up to longer distances as you get stronger.
Tempo Back Squat
Jen says: “This tempo technique generates a different kind of muscle engagement, activating your posterior chain and absolutely attacking those 3 inches under your ass that hang out of your bathing suit!”
Setup: Position the barbell across your upper back and shoulders — not on your neck — and hold it outside your shoulders with your elbows pointing downward. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, core braced.
Move: Kick your hips back, then bend your knees and descend to the bottom of your squat using a slow count of three. Hold at the bottom for one count, then drive up explosively, pushing through your heels and quickly extending your knees and hips to return to standing.
Tip: For an additional challenge, add a hop to this move: Explode out of the hole and accelerate so powerfully that you leave the ground.
Shoulder Push Press
Jen says: “Your vertical energy should stay vertical. Don’t let your rib cage pop — that changes the movement. Pull your bellybutton in and keep your rib cage connected to your stomach to keep everything moving straight upward.”
Setup: Hold the barbell in the front rack position — across your front delts and clavicle with your hands just outside your shoulders, elbows lifted. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, legs turned out slightly.
Move: Dip down to load up your legs and hips, then extend quickly, transferring the energy from your hips through your arms and using it to push the barbell up powerfully overhead to full extension. Slowly lower the bar to the start.
Tip: It’s OK if your heels come up a little during the movement, but do your best to keep them down and really engage your glutes to best transfer the energy upward.
Jen says: “Here’s a good visual to help engage the glutes and inner/outer thigh: As you come to standing, push your toes outward and drag your heels inward. Don’t really do that, just imagine your feet putting pressure in those directions to engage those muscles.”
Setup: Stand behind the barbell with a wide stance, legs turned out and toes underneath the bar. Take an overhand shoulder-width grip on the barbell and drop your hips down and back so that your shoulders are directly over your hands and your chest is over the bar. Pack your shoulder blades to secure your shoulder girdle. Your head and spine should be aligned; don’t arch your neck.
Move: Quickly extend your legs and hips, keeping your back flat as you pull the bar upward in a straight line and come to standing. Slowly return to the start and repeat right away.
Tip: Look down at the floor in front of the bar — not forward or at yourself in the mirror — to keep your spine aligned and your head neutral.