Eggnog. Pecan pie. Champagne.
Everywhere you turn this time of year there are temptations reaching out. This may not be a time to get lean, but you can avoid potential frustration and focus instead on maintaining the fit physique you’ve achieved this year by using this holiday superset workout.
This program trains opposing muscle groups in supersets — two moves done back-to-back with no rest in between — and blends them with cardio bursts to elevate your heart rate and give your metabolism a bump. All you need is a set of dumbbells and 10, 20 or 30 minutes, depending on your social or errand-laden schedule that day. Tailor the cardio bursts to suit your mood: Use the more moderate “humbug busters” to energize you when you’re feeling gassed, and implement the higher-intensity “jingle jumps” when you’re flying high with holiday spirit. Do this program at home or in the gym up to five days a week to keep holiday weight gain at bay and knock stress — and fat-storing cortisol — outta the park.
After a five- to 10-minute dynamic warm-up, perform each strength move in the pair for one minute with no rest in between. Then do a one-minute cardio burst of your choice, depending on your mood and energy level. Rest 30 seconds before moving on to the next set of exercises. One time through the routine clocks in at 10 minutes, so fit this in whenever you have some spare time, repeating the routine up to three times for a 30-minute workout. Finish up with a five- to 10-minute cool-down and stretch and you’re ready to rock around the Christmas tree, guilt-free!
In-and-Out Biceps Curl
Goblet Squat and Press
See-Saw Dumbbell Row
Push-Up, Plank and Touch
In-And-Out Biceps Curl
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing forward.
Move: Bend your elbows and curl the weights up toward your shoulders, keeping them in front of you. Lower to the start, then open your palms to the sides and do another curl. Lower to the start to complete one rep.
Tip: To make this harder and engage the core, do it standing on one leg.
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a dumbbell at your shoulder with your elbow down, palm facing forward.
Move: Press the weight straight up overhead until your arm reaches full extension. Then hold your upper arm steady as you bend at the elbow and drop the weight behind your head. Straighten your arm back to the top, then lower the weight back to your shoulder to complete one rep.
Jingle Jump Option 1: Skater. Leap to one side and land on your outside foot, swinging your opposite leg behind you as if skating. Repeat, alternating sides.
Goblet Squat And Press
Setup: Hold a dumbbell in both hands in front of your chest and stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Move: Kick your hips back, then bend your knees to squat down, lowering until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Drive through your heels and extend your legs to return to the start. As you rise to the top, press the dumbbell overhead. Lower it to complete one rep.
Tip: Don’t rush this move, especially as you return to standing, or you might lose your balance.
Setup: Hold a dumbbell in your right hand at your side and shift your weight onto your left foot.
Move: Hinge from the hip and slowly fold forward, maintaining a flat back and tight core, lifting and extending your right leg to counterbalance you as you descend. When your body and leg come parallel to the floor and you feel a good stretch in your hamstring, slowly reverse the motion to return to the start.
Tip: Remember to keep your back flat throughout; never let it round, as this will take the emphasis off the hamstrings and put the stress in your lower back.
Jingle Jump Option 2: Burpee. Crouch down, place your hands on the floor, and hop your feet behind you into a plank. Hop your feet underneath you, stand up and leap into the air to complete one rep.
See-Saw Dumbbell Row
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides. Maintaining a flat back, hinge forward at the hips until your torso is about 45 degrees to the floor. Your arms should hang perpendicularly with your palms facing inward.
Move: Drive one elbow up and back, squeezing briefly at the top, then as you lower simultaneously, lift the other weight similarly. Continue, using an even pace and alternating sides.
Tip: Keep your abs tight and your back straight, and resist the urge to tilt side to side in time with your hands.
Push-up, Plank, Touch
Setup: Get into a push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line.
Move: Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor for a push-up, then extend your arms and hold at the top for one breath. Then alternately touch your hands to your opposite shoulders, using an even pace, for three reps apiece to complete one rep.
Bonus: To make this harder, lift one leg off the floor as you do your push-up.
Tip: Each time you lift your hand to touch your shoulder, tighten your abs to prevent your hips from tipping side to side.
Jingle Jump Option 3: Squat Leap. Squat down, then extend your legs explosively, reaching your arms overhead and leaping into the air. Land softly and repeat right away.
Burn More Calories, Lift Longer!
According to a recent study done at Syracuse University, the calorie expenditure for supersets is higher than with straight-set training because of the shortened rest time between moves. This fast-paced training style also caused participants to burn more calories postworkout, likely due to the metabolic disruption caused by the higher accumulation of lactate during the workout, and the body’s efforts to clear that lactate afterward. Another study suggests that pre-fatiguing the agonist muscle and then working the antagonist (or vice versa) enabled participants to get two to three more reps per set than when working only one muscle group solo. Muscles tend to co-contract in order to stabilize joints, such as the quads and hamstrings, protecting the knees when playing sports. This can diminish the force produced in one of the muscles in the pair, as the other is “fighting” to contract as a stabilizer. Pre-fatiguing one muscle allows the other to have more neural drive by diminishing the fight of that other muscle, which means more reps per set as a result.
Lesson learned: Supersets not only burn more calories than straight-set training, they also allow you to lift longer, which recruits even more muscle fibers and gets you results faster.