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Strong, Fast, and Fit: Turn Up the Heat (Month 2)

Month 2 of our six-month workout program includes new exercises, tougher cardio, and some combo workouts that will take your fitness to the next level.

Strong Fast Fit

Ask any good trainer about the best way to accomplish a fitness goal in record time and you’ll hear some variation on the time-honored maxim “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Be patient, they’re saying. Make haste slowly.

If you completed the first four weeks of our six-month training program (detailed in the January/February 2017 issue of Experience Life), it’s likely you’re already feeling and seeing changes: more energy, less strain when you carry groceries and climb stairs, more muscle, and less fat. Having tasted success, you’re probably hungry for more: bigger weights, more sets, more workouts.

But that’s exactly what program designer Troy Jacobson, senior national director of Endurance Sports Training at Life Time, isn’t going to give you this month.

The next installment is tougher than last month’s, but because you’re fitter now, it might not feel much harder. “The goal is still to develop a fitness foundation,” says Jacobson, “so increases aren’t too substantial, and they don’t create extraordinary stress.”

What these workouts will do is raise your general fitness — muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular endurance — another notch or two, with an eye toward getting you into peak form around June.

Jacobson does that by introducing new strength exercises, pushing you harder on your cardio days, and, now and then, combining strength and cardio in a single workout. You’ll get more work done in a given week, but you’ll still have up to three days of full rest per week.

Month 2 Overview

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

Month 2 Overview

  • Make it work for you. In this plan, workout days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Feel free to move your rest and work days around according to your schedule — just make sure to adhere to the 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 in the chart.
  • Keep Wildcard days casual. These are an optional workout day, says Jacobson: “Train according to how you feel.”

Strong and energetic: Do a light-to-moderate 30- to 45-minute cardio workout.

Middling energy: 30-minute walk, easy bike ride, or other light activity.

Fatigued: Rest.

RPE Scale

Month 2 Zones

The Workout

For both strength workouts, perform three rounds of each circuit, taking 15-second rests between exercises and one-minute rests between rounds. For instance, in Circuit 1, perform exercise A, rest 15 seconds; perform exercise B, rest 15 seconds; perform exercise C, rest one minute. Always perform as many good-form reps as possible in the time allotted. Repeat that entire sequence two more times, then do the same for the next circuit.

Strength Workout  A

Circuit 1

A. Hands-Release Pushups: 30 seconds

B. Prisoner Squats: 30 seconds

C. Plank With Shoulder Touch: 30 seconds

Circuit 2

A. V-Sit: 30 seconds

B. TRX Row: 30 seconds

C. Walking Lunges: 30 seconds

Strength Workout B

Circuit 1

A. Pushups: 20 seconds

B. Squat-to-Calf Raise: 20 seconds

C. Plank With Shoulder Touch: 20 seconds

Circuit 2 

A. Dead Bug With Leg-Lowering: 20 seconds

B. Dumbbell Curl and Press: 20 seconds

C. Walking Lunges: 30 seconds

Cardio Workout A

Perform a cardiovascular exercise you enjoy — running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, or other — at a steady state for 20 to 30 minutes.

Cardio Workout B

Perform a cardiovascular exercise you enjoy at a steady state for 25 to 35 minutes.

Cardio Workout C

Warm up for 10 minutes on a cardiovascular exercise you enjoy, slowly elevating your intensity to Zones 3 to 4. Then perform a one-minute sprint interval in Zone 4. Rest for one minute. Repeat this work–rest cycle a total of seven to 10 times. When finished, cool down for 10 minutes.

The Month 2 Exercises

Pushup

pushups

  • Assume a pushup position — hands and feet slightly wider than shoulder width, hands and the balls of your feet on the floor, arms locked out, and body straight from your 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 — or as far as possible without losing good form.
  • Reverse the movement, pushing yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Too tough? Perform the exercise with your hands elevated on a box, table, or bench.

Hands-release variation: Lower your body until your chest makes contact with the floor, lift your hands an inch off the floor for a moment, then press yourself up and repeat. Too difficult? Perform the movement lowering your chest onto an aerobic step or low box.

Squat-to-Calf Raise

squatcalfraise

  • With your hands extended in front of you, your feet parallel and slightly wider than shoulder width, and your lower back in its natural arch, slowly bend your knees and hips, sitting back until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Reverse the move, quickly standing, and come up onto the balls of your feet.
  • Hold the top position for a moment and repeat.
  • If the movement feels awkward, try it with your heels elevated on 5-pound plates.

Prisoner-Squat variation: Perform the movement with your hands interlaced behind your head, and without coming onto the balls of your feet at the top of the move.

Alternating Shoulder-Touch Plank

shouldertouchplank

  • Assume a pushup position: feet slightly wider than shoulder width, balls of your feet on the floor, arms locked out, and body straight from your heels to the top of your head.
  • Without twisting or bending your torso, lift your right hand from the floor and touch the front of your right shoulder.
  • Lower your right hand to the floor and repeat with your left hand.
  • Continue alternating sides for the prescribed time period.

V-Sit

Strong Fast Fit

  • Sit upright on the floor with your back long, your head in a neutral alignment, and your legs together.
  • Lean backward and lift your legs about 45 degrees from the floor and hold for the prescribed time period.
  • Too tough? Hold as long as you can, rest for a few seconds, and repeat throughout the set.

TRX Row

trxrow

  • Standing a few feet behind the anchor point for a TRX (or equivalent), raise the handles to chest height and walk backward until the straps are taut.
  • Keeping your arms extended, slowly walk your feet forward until your body forms about a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  • Keeping your body straight, head to heels, and your head in a neutral position relative to your spine, simultaneously bend your arms and pull your shoulder blades back, lifting your chest as high as you can toward the anchor point.
  • Pause, slowly reverse the movement, and repeat for 12 to 15 reps.
  • To make the move more difficult, start with your feet farther forward; to make it easier, start with them farther back.

Walking Lunge

walkinglunge

  • Stand with your feet together and your torso upright, and 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, take a long step forward with your left foot, and complete the movement on that side.
  • Continue alternating sides for the prescribed time period.

Dead Bug With Leg-Lowering

deadbugleglower

  • Lie on your back, squeeze your legs together, press your lower back powerfully into the floor, and keep it there throughout the movement.
  • Lift your legs as high as you can.
  • Keeping your left leg still, slowly lower your right leg until your heel touches the floor.
  • Reverse the movement, then repeat with your left leg.
  • Continue alternating legs for the prescribed time period.

Dumbbell Curl and Press

dumbbellcurlpress

  • Stand holding two dumbbells by your sides.
  • Turn your palms to face forward and curl the weights to shoulder height.
  • Press the weights overhead, rotating your hands to face forward.
  • Reverse the movement, lowering the weights first to shoulder height as you turn your palms toward you, then back to your sides, and repeat.

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, CSCS, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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