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All the excitement and hope of the new year — setting new goals, changing your mindset and chasing your dream of a perfect body — unfortunately comes with a big, fat asterisk.
That’s because when it comes to fitness resolutions, the statistics predict failure, and a whopping 54 percent of those who make a resolution give it up by June, if not earlier, according research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Other sources put the dropout rate for fitness resolutions as high as 80 percent and as early as February!
Our aim, then, is to prevent you from becoming part of the statistical majority. Here’s how to start right, stick to it and have a blast in the process.
The most common problem for resolutioners is adopting a program that is overly ambitious and pushes you too far, too fast. This three-week plan is ideal for anyone, whether you’re a beginner who has never touched a weight before or someone who has been training for years.
“The first three weeks of a program are critical to your success,” says Angelo Grinceri, FAFS, creator of this program and author of Intrinsic Strength Training: A Breakthrough Program for Real-World Functional Strength and True Athletic Power (Dragon Door Publications, 2016). “By progressing from foundational moves to more advanced versions, you’ll get instant feedback from your body as you get stronger and more fit. That’s a self-reinforcing loop that’ll keep you going instead of following a static program that can cause people to give up too soon.”
Mix, Match and Master
With this plan, you’ll do four total-body strength workouts per week that use 10 key exercises, each of which includes a Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced progression. “I recommend starting with the Foundation moves in Week 1, then if you’re comfortable, move to the Intermediate versions in Week 2 and the Advanced versions in Week 3,” Grinceri says.
But that suggestion is not set in stone: If the Foundation moves are too simple for you, upgrade to the Intermediate or Advanced versions right away. Alternately, if the Foundation moves are plenty challenging, stick with those until you’re ready to move forward.
In addition to your strength work, you’ll perform two or three weekly cardio sessions: one or two 20-minute sessions of steady-state cardio or high-intensity interval training after lifting, and one or two 30- to 45-minute sessions of steady-state cardio on non-weight-training days. Choose whatever activity floats your boat — rowing, sprints, jogging or cycling — or do a mash-up of multiple modes in one workout.
To best prevent statistical failure, Grinceri recommends continuing this program beyond the three-week mark. “Push yourself a little harder as you progress,” he advises. “Use different levels of the moves, increase the resistance, cut down on rest time, do more reps, change out equipment or combine the exercises into one giant circuit to boost intensity. And don’t get discouraged if you aren’t up for the extra challenge on a particular day. Sleep, stress, atmosphere, food and hydration all play a role in how you feel each day. But show up — be consistent and the results will follow.”
3 Weeks to Rock Your Resolution
Each week of this program consists of two workouts — Workout A and Workout B — each of which you’ll do twice per week. Within each workout are two circuits, each of which you’ll repeat four times. Perform the moves in each circuit back-to-back with little to no rest in between, and only rest 60 to 90 seconds between rounds.
As programmed, you’ll begin with the Foundation movements in Week 1, but you can start at any level you choose. Regardless of your level, begin with light to moderate weight until you’ve mastered the exercise form. After that, choose weights that are heavy enough so the last two or three reps of each set are tough.
Sample 3-Week Training Split
|1||Workout A + 20 minutes Steady-State Cardio||Workout B||Off||Workout A||Workout B||Off||30 Minutes Steady-State Cardio|
|2||Workout A||Workout B + 20 Minutes HIIT Cardio||35 Minutes Steady-State Cardio||Workout B||Workout B||35 Minutes Steady-State Cardio||Off|
|3||40 Minutes Steady-State Cardio||Workout A||Workout B + 20 Minutes HIIT Cardio||Workout A||Workout A||Workout B + 20 minutes HIIT Cardio||Off|
Week 1: Foundation Movements
Foundation: Dumbbell Deadlift
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides. Slowly lower the dumbbells straight down toward the floor as you push your glutes back, only bending your knees when your hips have maxed out their range of motion. Touch the weights lightly to the floor (if ROM allows), then reverse the steps to return to standing.
Intermediate: Split-Stance Dumbbell Deadlift
Assume a narrow lunge stance with your toes forward and your weight distributed evenly. Bend both knees and lower the dumbbells straight down toward the floor in line with your hips.
Advanced: One-Legged Balance Dumbbell Deadlift
Extend one leg behind you and reach your fingertips toward the floor. Bend your standing knee as deeply as you can, touching the floor, if possible. Extend to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching. Grinceri recommends starting with bodyweight only and adding dumbbells as you become proficient.
Dumbbell Bent Row
Foundation: Two-Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing inward. Keeping your back straight, hinge forward from the hips until your upper body forms a 45-degree angle to the floor. Drive your elbows up and back, pinching your shoulder blades together and pulling the weights up to your flanks. Pause briefly, then lower along the same path.
Intermediate: Bent-Over One-Arm Dumbbell Row
Place one hand on a rack or bench and hold a dumbbell in your other hand. Keep your shoulders square as you perform the row with a single arm as with the Foundation move. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Advanced: Split-Stance One-Arm Dumbbell Row
Assume a split stance (one foot forward, one foot back) and hold a dumbbell in one hand. Place your other hand on your hip or out to the side — not on your leg. Perform as with the Intermediate move.
Foundation: Split-Stance Rotational Twist
Stand with your left leg forward, right leg back, and place your fingertips lightly behind your ears. Slowly twist your upper body as far as you can toward your right leg, pause, then rotate back through the center and all the way to the left as far as you can. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Intermediate: Split-Stance Medicine-Ball Twist
Perform as with the Foundation version, but hold a medicine ball in both hands at your chest as you execute your reps.
Advanced: Split-Stance Medicine-Ball Extended Twist
Perform as with the Foundation movement, but hold the ball with your arms extended straight out in front of you at shoulder height.
Week 2: Intermediate Movements
Get into a forearm plank with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your legs extended behind you. Lift your hips so your body makes a straight line from head to heels, spine neutral. Hold and breathe for the prescribed amount of time.
Intermediate: Plank Leg Raise
Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders, head, hips and heels aligned. Raise one leg and hold it for one count. Replace and then continue, alternating sides.
Advanced: Plank With Opposite Arm-and-Leg Raise
Get into a plank as with the Intermediate version, but extend one arm as you lift the opposite leg. Hold for one count, replace, then continue, alternating sides.
Band Chest Press
Foundation: Standing Two-Arm Band Chest Press
Wrap a band around a fixed object and face away from the anchor, stepping forward until you feel tension. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and grasp the handles with your palms facing downward, elbows lifted in line with your shoulders, hands in front of your upper chest/shoulders. Simultaneously press the handles forward and inward to full extension. Slowly return to the start, resisting the pull of the band.
Intermediate: Standing One-Arm Band Chest Press
Set up as with the Foundation version, but stand with your feet close together to challenge your balance. Alternately press one arm at a time, keeping your core tight and your hips square.
Advanced: Split-Stance Lunge + One-Arm Band Chest Press
Set up as with the Foundation version, but stand with your right foot forward and left foot back. Hold one band handle in your right hand and perform one-arm chest presses as with the Foundation move.
Foundation: Rear Lunge
Hold the dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a large step back with one foot, bending both knees until your rear knee almost touches down. Drive through the front heel and bring both legs together. Continue, alternating sides.
Intermediate: Rear Lunge to High-Knee Balance
Perform as with the Foundation version, but as you bring the rear leg forward, lift that knee through to hip level. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Perform a push-up, then step your right foot underneath your chest and extend it to stand. Bring your left knee up and through to hip height, then reverse the steps to return to the beginning. Continue, alternating sides.
Note: These are done without weights.
Foundation: Reverse Crunch
Lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hands beside your hips. Press your lower back into the floor, then draw your knees up and toward your chest until your glutes gently lift off the floor. Pause briefly, return almost to the start, then repeat.
Intermediate: Double Crunch
Lie faceup with your hands cupped gently behind your head and your legs extended nearly straight and raised a few inches off the floor. Simultaneously draw your knees in as you curl your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor to meet your knees over the midline of your body. Pause briefly, then return to the start.
Lie faceup with your legs and arms extended on the floor. Simultaneously lift your legs/arms up to meet in the middle, reaching your fingertips for your toes. Lower slowly to the start.
Week 3: Advanced Movements
Foundation: Medicine-Ball Overhead Shoulder Press
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball with both hands at shoulder level. Extend your arms and press it straight up overhead to full extension. Lower slowly to the start.
Intermediate: Medicine-Ball Curl to Overhead Press
Stand as with the Foundation move, but hold a medicine ball in front of you, arms extended. Bend your elbows and curl the ball to shoulder height, then press it straight up overhead. Reverse the steps to return to the start.
Advanced: Medicine-Ball Curl to Off-Center Overhead Press
Hold a medicine ball in front of you with your arms extended. Squat until your thighs are paralell to the floor, and as you stand, curl the ball to shoulder height. As you extend your arms overhead, press the ball up and to the outside of one shoulder, alternating sides with each rep.
Band Bent Row
Foundation: Standing Two-Arm Band Row
Wrap a band around a fixed object and hold a handle in each hand. Step away from the anchor to create tension and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Drive your elbows back, pinching your shoulder blades together and pulling both handles toward your flanks. Reverse the move to return to the start.
Intermediate: Standing One-Arm Band Row
Anchor a band as with the Foundation move and hold one or both handles in one hand, opposite hand on your hip. Stand with your legs close together and perform reps as with the Foundation move.
Advanced: Split-Stance Lunge + One-Arm Band Row
Anchor the band as with the Foundation move, then assume a split-stance position, right foot forward, left foot back. Hold one handle in your right hand and perform reps as with the Foundation version. Do all reps on one side, then switch arms/stance.
Foundation: Dumbbell Squat
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides. Kick your hips back and bend your knees to squat down as if you were going to sit in a chair. Pause when your thighs are parallel to the floor or slightly below, then drive through your heels, extending your hips and knees to rise to standing.
Intermediate: One-Legged Squat
Set up as with the Foundation version but shift your weight into your right leg and lift your left heel off the floor, keeping your toes on the floor for balance. Execute as with the Foundation move.
Advanced: Side Toe-Tap Squat
Set up as with the Foundation move. Keep your weight in your left leg as you step laterally out with the right, placing your right toes on the floor, heel up. Perform a squat, and as you stand back up, bring your foot back in. Do all reps on one side before switching. Start with bodyweight only and add dumbbells as you become proficient.
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