Training Articles

New Years Body Shaping

Your 30-minute "up/down" training program

By Michelle Gagnon

If the holiday blur of parties, shopping and fruitcake brought your fitness to a standstill, use this workout to seize the reins. I recommend hitting the ground running, starting within the first week of the year to guarantee that by March you’re not still talking about getting in shape; you’re already there!

This program features "Up/Down Training," a highly effective technique that incorporates both upper and lower body exercises into one session, maximizing your time. In each series we’ll alternate between a lower body exercise, such as a squat, with an upper body one, such as a biceps curl. After a quick set of abdominals or lower back toners, we’ll start again: squats, biceps curls, rest. Shuttling the blood from the lower half of your body to the upper half elevates your heart rate, adding a cardiovascular benefit. So you burn fat, strengthen your heart, and tone every major muscle in your body in just a half-hour!

Every series is composed of three exercises. Unless stated otherwise, perform 10 to 12 repetitions, with two sets for each exercise. These exercises can either be done in a gym, or at home with some basic equipment. Be sure to stay hydrated, and carefully monitor your form throughout. 

Series 1: Squats/leg lifts, biceps outward curls, double leg abs

Squats/leg lifts: With a moderately heavy bar (20 to 35 pounds) across your shoulders (behind your neck resting across your shoulder blades) perform a squat. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, keeping the weight back over your heels. As you stand, lift one leg off the floor and to the side, keeping the foot flexed and toes pointed forward to work your outer thigh muscles. Lower the foot and go straight back down into a squat. Repeat 12 times then switch sides.

Biceps outward curls: Sitting on a bench (or chair) with a set of dumbbells in each hand (8 to 15 pounds) with palms facing down, lift the weights. Turn them over as they reach your shoulders so your palms face the ceiling. Lower the weights slowly, flipping them to face the floor as they pass your waist. Repeat 12 times.

Double leg abs: Lying on a bench (or on the floor) hug your legs in to your chest with your head raised. Keeping your head up, extend both legs to the front diagonal and reach your arms behind you with your elbows next to your ears. Hold for three counts then curl back into a ball. Make sure your lower back is pressed flat the entire time so you really feel these in your abdominals. Repeat 12 to 20 times. Repeat each exercise for one more set.

Series 2: Glute presses, Straight bar presses/pullovers, flutter kicks

Glute presses: Either using a glute press machine (or if one isn’t available, kneel on the floor) keep your back flat and rest on your forearms. Push the weight up behind you slowly, three counts up, then lower for three counts. Repeat 12 times with one leg then switch sides. On the floor, use the same motion but add 20 repetitions to each side.

Straight bar presses/pullovers: Using a moderately heavy bar (20 to 35 pounds) lie on a bench keeping your lower back flat. With a wide grip, lower the weight to your chest, keeping your elbows pointed toward the floor. Hold for a count then raise the bar back toward the ceiling. Then, keeping your arms straight, lower the bar behind you (end up with your elbows next to your ears). Hold for a count and raise back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

Flutter kicks: Lie face down on a mat. Keeping your arms straight, hands by your sides, lift your head, chest and legs off the floor. Slowly kick your legs as if you were swimming, alternating sides. Repeat for 20 to 30 kicks with each leg.
Repeat each exercise for one more set.

Series 3: Single leg calf raises, single triceps extensions, V sit-ups
Single leg calf raises: Holding a heavy (15- to 30-pound) dumbbell in your right hand, resting the left hand against a wall for balance. Bend your left knee, lifting the leg off the ground. Rise onto the ball of your right foot keeping the weight centered over the third toe, hold for a count, and lower. Repeat 15 to 25 times, then switch sides.

Single triceps extensions: Using a rope or grip on the top cable, face away from the weight in a lunge with your left foot in front. Hold the weight in your right hand, and brace the elbow with your left hand. Straighten the arm, hold for two counts, and bend back to a 90-degree angle (make sure only your forearm moves). Repeat 12 to 15 times, then switch sides.

V sit-ups: Sitting on the floor or on a bench, bend your legs so your feet, knees and shoulders are on the same plane. Open the "V," lowering the upper body down a few inches as the feet lower toward the floor. Hold for one count, then use your lower abdominals to pull your body back up to the starting position. Repeat 15 to 20 times. Repeat each exercise for one more set.

Series 4: Side step-ups, upright rows, Romanian dead lifts

Side step-ups: With a straight bar across your shoulders (same as in Series 1) stand on the left side of a bench to a bench (the height should be from 6 inches to 20 inches off the floor). Step on to the bench with your right foot, still facing front. Step back to the floor after one count, bending the knee as soon as the foot touches the floor. Repeat 12 to 15 times, then switch sides.

Upright rows: Hold a 20- to 35-pound straight bar in both hands with your palms facing you. Lift the bar to chest height, keeping your elbows high but your shoulders down (be careful not to hunch). Hold for three counts, then lower back down. Repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions.

Romanian dead lifts: These are similar to standard dead lifts, but you keep your back flat throughout the exercise. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent. Hold a 30- to 50-pound straight bar in both hands. Lower the weight in front of your knees while maintaining a flat back. Hold for one count at the bottom, then slowly lift back up. (Check your form in a mirror.) Repeat 12 to 20 times Repeat each exercise for one more set.

Here are some tricks to help resolutions endure long past the champagne hangover
  • The buddy system. Working out with a friend can be a tremendous motivator. Make a pact that when one of you feels like slacking off, the other will provide an incentive to strap on those sneakers. You are more likely to stick with a fitness program that involves spending quality time with someone, either a friend or a mate.

  • Forge into new territory. If your workouts have become tedious, mix it up. Write down a list of things that you’ve always wanted to try, whether that’s rock climbing, dancing or karate, and take steps to make it happen. Chances are you won’t miss a fun activity that you look forward to.

  • Pencil it in. Schedule in workouts as appointments, and treat them with the same respect you would a visit to the dentist (but with less apprehension). If that doesn’t seem to work, consider hiring a personal trainer. If you’re paying to workout, chances are you won’t miss a session.

  • If you fall off the wagon, get right back on that horse. Re-evaluate your program, and try to figure out why it failed. Aim for success on the next go-around, and keep those sneakers by the door as a reminder.
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