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Strong, Fast, and Fit: Into the Fire (Month 3)

Month 3 of our six-month training program ramps up the intensity, integrating — and testing — your hard work from the last eight weeks.

into-the-fire

Smart training boils down to one basic principle: There’s a time for intensity and a time to back off.

In this third month of Experience Life’s six-month workout program — which is based on the time-tested principles of periodization — intensity is the name of the game. (For more about periodization, see “Strong, Fast, and Fit: Your 2017 Action Plan“.)

Expect to go a little bit harder, faster, and heavier than before. In fact, this is one of the toughest months of the entire program, building on the foundation of the previous eight weeks and ratcheting up the demands on your body and mind.

All the strength and cardio workouts are longer and tougher than in previous months, so take it easy your first week and build from there. You want to finish the month strong, not injured or achy.

After a peak at month’s end — concluding with a test to measure your strength and endurance — you’ll ease off the gas a bit next month in preparation for building to your final peak in June.

If this sounds intense, that’s because it is. But don’t worry, says program designer Troy Jacobson, senior national director of Endurance Sports Training at Life Time — this is why you’ve been training.

“Your fitness levels should be noticeably increasing, so you should be ready for a ‘push’ month with higher workloads,” Jacobson says.

In other words, you’ve got this.

Month 3 Overview

For the next month, your workout schedule will look like this:

mar17_wo-chart-overview

  • Make it work for you. Mix up your workout days to suit your schedule, but make sure to follow a pattern of two days on, one day off, three days on, one day off.
  • On rest days, rest. Recovery days are just as important as workout days, says Jacobson. Don’t skip them.
  • Find your zone. Determine your work zones by calculating your anaerobic threshold (for a DIY method, visit “How to Calculate Your Anaerobic Threshold“) or taking an individualized metabolic test (available at many health clubs). You can also use the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale, a subjective effort measurement, as defined at right.
  • Wildcard day: This is an optional workout day. If you’re feeling strong and energetic, do a light-to-moderate 30- to 45-minute cardio workout. If you’re feeling fatigued, take an extra rest day.
  • Light cardio day: On the final Friday of the month, choose a cardio exercise you enjoy for sprints: Running, swimming, rowing, and cycling are good options. Warm up for five minutes, then sprint for 20 seconds. Rest for a minute, and repeat the work–rest cycle, performing a total of six sprints. Cool down for five to 10 minutes.
  • Final strength day: At the end of week 12, perform Strength Workout A as indicated below, but eliminate the pushups; you’ll test your pushups on test day. This means your first circuit will consist of only the walking lunge and the hollow hold.
  • Test day: In your final workout of the month, warm up with five minutes of brisk walking or easy cycling. Then see how many good-form pushups you can do. Use the same pushup variation you’re accustomed to, and stop the test when you can’t do any more. Rest for five minutes, then choose an outdoor cardio activity you like, such as cycling, swimming, running, or hiking. Set a countdown timer for 20 minutes and see how far you can go before the alarm sounds. Note your distance — either by landmarks, laps, or GPS — and record it for reference later in the program.

RPE Scale

mar17_wo-chart-zones

The Workouts

For both strength workouts, perform four rounds of each circuit, taking 30-second rests between exercises and one-minute rests between rounds. For instance, in Circuit 1, perform exercise A, then rest 30 seconds; perform exercise B, then rest 30 seconds; perform exercise C, then rest one minute. Always perform as many good-form reps as possible in the time allotted. Repeat that entire sequence three more times, then do the same for the next circuit.

Strength Workout A

Circuit 1

A. Pushup (hands elevated, feet elevated, or flat): 30 seconds

B. Walking Lunge: 40 seconds

C. Hollow Hold: 40 seconds

Circuit 2

A. Dumbbell Clean and Press: 40 seconds

B. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row: 40 seconds

C. Burpee: 30 seconds

Strength Workout B

Circuit 1

A. Pushup (hands elevated, feet elevated, or flat): 40 seconds

B. Burpee: 40 seconds

C. Stir-the-Pot: 40 seconds

Circuit 2 

A. Dumbbell Clean and Press: 40 seconds

B. Hollow Hold: 40 seconds

C. Assisted Pull-Up: 40 seconds

Cardio Workout A

Perform a cardiovascular exercise you enjoy — running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, rowing — for 30 to 40 minutes, at a steady, challenging but manageable pace (Zones 2 to 3).

Cardio Workout B

Perform a cardiovascular exercise you enjoy for 45 to 60 minutes, at a steady, challenging pace (Zones 2 to 4).

Cardio Workout C

Warm up for 10 minutes doing a cardio exercise you enjoy, slowly elevating your intensity to Zones 3 to 4. Then, perform a 90-second sprint interval in Zones 4 to 5. Rest for one minute. Repeat this work–rest cycle a total of seven times. When you’re finished, perform an easy cool-down for 10 minutes.

Month 3 Exercises

Hollow Hold

hollow-hold

  • Lie on your back, knees pulled up toward your chest.
  • Press your lower back into the floor and lift your head and upper back a few inches, like you’re doing a crunch.
  • Extend your arms overhead and your legs outward, heels and hands hovering about 6 inches from the floor.
  • Maintain that position, stopping when your lower back comes off the floor.

Stir-the-Pot

stir-the-pot

  • Assume a plank position with your forearms and hands resting on a stability ball, your upper body straight, heels to the top of your head, and your lower back in its natural arch.
  • Keeping your body rigid and your head in a neutral position relative to the floor, circle your elbows as widely and slowly as possible in a clockwise direction.
  • After completing a full clockwise circle, perform the same movement counterclockwise.
  • Continue alternating the direction of the circle on each rep until you have completed all the reps in your set.

Pushup

elevated-push-up

  • Place your hands on the floor or on a stable elevated surface (a bench, box, or table work well; the higher the surface the easier the exercise) and assume a pushup position: hands and feet slightly wider than shoulder width, balls of your feet on the floor, arms locked out, and body straight, heels to the top of your head.
  • Keeping your body straight and your head in a neutral position, simultaneously bend your arms and retract your shoulder blades until your chest lightly touches the floor, box, or bench, or as far as possible without losing good form.
  • Reverse the movement, pushing back up to the starting position.

Advanced Variation: Feet-Elevated Pushup

  • Perform the movement as described above, this time with your feet on an elevated box, bench, or chair.

Walking Lunge

walking-lunge

  • Stand with your feet together and your torso upright, holding two medium-weighted dumbbells by your sides.
  • Take a long step forward with your right foot.
  • Keeping your torso upright and your gaze forward, slowly bend both legs until your left knee comes close to the floor.
  • Reverse the movement, step your rear foot forward, and repeat the movement, alternating sides for the duration of the set.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

dumbbell-row

  • Assume an athletic stance — feet at shoulder width, back straight, gaze forward — holding two medium-heavy dumbbells at your sides.
  • Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, bend forward at your hip joints as far as you can, bending your knees slightly as you do so.
  • Keeping your torso still, your back straight, and your elbows close to your sides, simultaneously squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the dumbbells upward as far as you can.
  • Hold for a one-count, lower the dumbbells under control, and repeat.

Assisted Pull-Up

pull-up

  • Place a chair, box, or bench beneath a chin-up station, high enough that when you stand on the bench and grasp the bar, your arms are bent.
  • Stand on the box and assume an underhand grip — palms facing you — on the bar (if you can’t reach the bar comfortably at this point, get a taller bench).
  • Simultaneously jump upward and pull yourself up with your arms until your chin clears the top of the bar.
  • Hold the top position for a one-count, then slowly lower yourself back down to the bench, bending your legs slightly until your arms extend fully.

Burpee

burpee

  • Assume a shoulder-width, athletic stance.
  • Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, bend at the hips and knees and place your hands on the floor.
  • Jump your feet backward into the pushup position: feet at shoulder width, body straight from your head to your heels, and the balls of your feet on the floor.
  • Jump your feet forward to a squat position.
  • Drop your hips, flatten your back, stand upright, and jump upward.

Dumbbell Clean and Press

dumbbell-clean-press

  • Assume an athletic stance — feet at shoulder width, back straight, gaze forward — holding two medium-heavy dumbbells at your sides.
  • Bend your knees slightly and then “explode” upward (as if attempting to jump straight up in the air), and simultaneously swing the dumbbells to shoulder level, keeping them close to your body as you do so.
  • Slowly press the dumbbells to arm’s length overhead.
  • Reverse the movement, lowering the dumbbells back to shoulder width and then back to your sides under control.

, CSCS, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

Image by Kelly Loverud

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