Get Back On Track
Miss a lot of gym time during the holidays? This four-week program will help you kick off the new year strong and improve your body in all the right places.
For many of you, the holiday season was tough on not only your pocketbook but your physique, too. Because of all the parties you attended, where fatty meats, starchy carbs and more treats than you care to remember were in abundance, your body - come New Year's Day - may seem very different from the one you had before Thanksgiving.
Even if you squeezed in some workouts during your busy holiday schedule, you could probably use something to get your physique off to a good start in 2009. Our "Back on Track" program aims to make the first four weeks of the new year as productive as possible with the right combination of weight training and cardio. (For complementary nutritional guidelines and meal plans, see "The Comeback Diet" on page 38.)
There's no need to dwell on weight gained or treadmill sessions missed - just get back to work and reclaim your body starting now!
The lifting portion of the program is set up as a two-day, upper-/lower-body split. This means you'll train your entire body over the course of two days, and you'll do that twice a week for a total of four weekly lifting workouts.
On Days 1 and 3, you'll train your major upper-body muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, triceps and biceps. On Days 2 and 4, you'll train your lower body: quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, as well as abs.
Everyone's work and family schedule is different, so if training Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday works best for you, great. If it's more convenient for you to train Sunday through Wednesday, that's fine, too.
In the first two weeks of the program, you'll do 2-3 sets and 12-15 reps of every exercise, except calves and abs, which tend to respond better to higher-rep schemes. Select a weight that allows you to reach muscle failure within the prescribed rep range. In other words, if you're able to do more than 15 reps in a set, increase the weight for your next set; if you can't do 12 reps, you'll need to lighten the load.
In Weeks 3-4, volume (total number of sets) increases to 3-4 sets per exercise and reps decrease to 8-12. This change in rep range requires that you use a heavier weight for the last two weeks than you used for the first two.
By the end of the program, you should be not only more firm throughout your body but physically stronger, as well. This newfound strength will serve a functional purpose in everyday activities and athletic endeavors.
The exercises we selected are all basic movements that have been proven effective time and again. To train legs, for example, you'll do
Smith machine squats,
leg presses as your major moves; for chest, you'll do
bench presses and
flyes. Feel free, however, to substitute exercises - barbell incline presses for
dumbbell inclines, for example, or
T-bar rows for
seated cable rows.
Research shows that if you do
cardio before you lift weights, your weight training will suffer, so we recommend that you
bike or step after you lift. If your schedule doesn't allow you enough time to do both lifting and cardio in the same session, split them up so you do cardio in the morning before work and lift weights after work, for example.
For the remainder of this article, including the complete four-week program and diet, pick up the January/February 2009 issue of M&F Hers, on newsstands now.
For more articles like these, head over to www.muscleandfitnesshers.com.