Tis the season - for commitments.
Like family get-togethers, awkward work functions, decorating, cooking, wrapping, and shuttling the kids between visits with the mall Santa and their not-quite-ready-for-prime-time school plays. Did we mention shopping?
Yes, November and December can mean a total derailment of your fitness efforts. Health clubs across the country empty faster than a Saks sales rack as people trade dumbbells for hors d'oeuvres and treadmills for teeming Target parking lots.
As a fitness enthusiast, you have two choices at this time of year. You can harbor visions of juggling your regular workout schedule and those competing commitments with all the choreography of the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker production, most likely failing miserably in the process.
Or you can use the HERS stress-free approach, bringing your workouts home for the holidays with one - or all three - of our high-powered full-body training plans.
Each workout makes use of compound movements - exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups for maximum efficiency - and is designed for speed, so you can finish in 30 minutes without compromising your results.
Level 1: O Count All Ye Faithful
Our first bare-bones workout incorporates little equipment - all you'll need is a medicine ball and an open space - and makes use of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Instead of counting reps, you simply do as many reps as you can in 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. Repeat the circuit 4-8 times.
As you get more proficient at this workout, you can bump up your interval to a 30 seconds on/15 seconds rest, and after that a 40/20 interval. According to Jim Stoppani, PhD, the most effective HIIT intervals for fat loss are ones that use a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio, which this program does.
1. Jump Squat
- Stand in a shoulder-width stance, knees slightly bent, with both hands directly in front of you.
- Squat until your thighs approach parallel to the floor, then explode upward to leap in the air.
- Land with knees bent and return to the squat position immediately to reload for the next jump.
2. Medicine-Ball Single-Leg Deadlift With Row Combo
- Standing upright, hold a medicine ball in both hands. Both feet are on the floor in a stance just inside shoulder width.
- Hinging at your hips and keeping your upper back aligned with your core, bend over while balancing on one leg, lowering the ball to the floor with arms outstretched as the other leg rises behind you.
- When your upper body reaches nearly parallel to the floor, row the ball to your chest by bending both elbows, then lower it to full elbow extension and stand up.
3. Mountain Climber
- Start in a modified pushup position, with your rear end elevated.
- Bring one knee in toward your chest.
- From here, energetically push up off your feet so they leave the floor and switch positions so the back foot comes forward and the front foot goes back.
- Continue jumping and alternating your foot position as quickly as you can, making sure your hands remain in contact with the floor throughout.
4. Walking Lunge With Ball Torso Twist
- Stand holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of your stomach.
- Step forward with one foot and bend both knees to lower your hips toward the floor as you twist your upper body toward the front-leg side.
- Return to a standing position, then step forward with the other foot while twisting to the opposite direction.
- Continue down the floor, alternating your lead leg and which way you twist.
5. Alternating Lunge Jump
- Step into a lunge position, one leg forward, one back, both knees bent and torso upright.
- Dip down until your lead leg is at 90 degrees, then drive yourself upward off of the floor, switching leg position midair.
- Land with soft knees with the opposite legs forward and back.
- Repeat rapidly, reversing into the leap as soon as you reach the full lunge position.
6. Medicine-Ball Sqat/Press/Curl Combo
- Hold a medicine ball in front of your chest.
- Squat down and lower the ball down between your legs.
- When the ball comes within a few inches of the floor, reverse the motion and stand, lifting the ball overhead.
- Go right into the next squat, and when you come up, keep your elbows at your sides and perform a curling motion with your arms.
- Alternate between the overhead press and the curl on each squatting repetition.
7. Jumping Jack
8. Ball-Roll Pushup
- Assume the pushup position on the floor, with one hand on a medicine ball.
- Keeping your head neutral and core tight, lower yourself toward the floor by bending your elbows, then extend your elbows fully to return to the start.
- At the top, roll the ball across to your other hand, and repeat.
- Roll the ball back and forth with each rep.
9. Overhead Ball Crunch
- Lie face-up with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Hold a medicine ball overhead with both hands, elbows alongside your ears. it will stay overhead throughout.
- Slowly curl your upper body off the floor, flex your abs for a moment, then lower and repeat, making sure not to lie back all the way down between reps.
- From a standing position, drop into a deep squat and contact the floor with your hands.
- Kick your feet back behind you, assume a plank position, perform a pushup, and quickly pull your feet back into the squat.
- Drive through your heels, leap up, land on soft knees and immediately descend into the squat to do the next rep.
2. Medicine Ball Single-Leg Deadlift with Row Combo1 set of 20 sec, each side
4. Walking Lunge with Ball Torso Twist1 set of 20 sec, each side
5. Alternating Jump Lunge1 set of 20 sec, each side
6. Medicine-Ball Squat/Press/Curl Combo1 set of 20 sec
7. Jumping Jack1 set of 20 sec
8. Ball-Roll Pushup1 set of 20 sec
10. Burpee1 set of 20 sec
Level 2: Winter Wonder-Band
A step up from our first option, this superset workout makes use of two conveniently packed pieces of equipment - bands and a jump rope - making it the perfect option for those times when you're on the road - provided the in-laws leave you alone for 20 minutes or so.
Complete the paired exercises back to back with no rest in between, doing 10-15 reps per set. After you complete the superset, jump rope for 30-60 seconds, resting only if necessary between supersets. Repeat each superset 3-5 times before moving on to the next.
- Stand on the band with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, holding the handles at the end of the bands in each hand.
- Shift your hips back and lower yourself into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Push through your heels to until your knees are fully extended.
1b. Alternating Overhead Press
- Stand with your hands at shoulder level holding the handles of the bands, elbows pointed down.
- Raise one arm overhead to full elbow extension, then lower and raise the other arm overhead; that's one rep.
- Keep the rest of your body still and your core tight, being sure not to lean back and forth as you raise the handle of the band overhead.
2a. Romanian Deadlift
- Stand upright with the band under your feet and a handle in each hand.
- Wrap the bands around your hands and hold the handle to increase tension.
- Keeping your core tight and back flat, lean forward, pushing your hips back until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor and your hands are near your feet.
- Pull your hips forward and squeeze your hamstrings, keeping your back flat as you return up.
2b. Lunge With Leg Lift
- Place your front foot on the band.
- Keeping your upper body erect, sink down on your front leg until it is parallel to the floor.
- Push up through your heel to stand up.
- As you do, keep your back leg in a locked position, knee slightly bent, and lift it up off the floor, squeezing your ham and glute for a two-count.
- Repeat, then switch legs.
3a. Straight-Arm Pulldown
- Anchor the midpoint of the band at the top of a door, face the door with a handle in each hand, palms facing behind you.
- Remove slack from the band with both arms above your head.
- Elbows straight, bring your arms as far behind you as you can.
- Squeeze for a two-count, then return to the starting position.
3b. Band Flye
- Face away from the door and step forward to remove slack from the band, holding a handle in each hand.
- Extend your arms out to your sides and bend your elbows, so the handles are roughly even with your chest.
- Push the bands forward in a wide arc.
- When your hands meet, squeeze your chest for a two-count.
- Slowly return to the starting position along the same arc.
4a. Overhead Triceps Extension
- Stand with your feet atop the band, grasping a handle in each hand, and bring your arms up so your elbows are alongside your ears.
- Moving only at your elbows, extend your arms straight above you.
- Squeeze your triceps tight, then lower and repeat.
4b. Biceps Curl
- Stand with your arms at your sides holding the handles, feet atop the cable.
- Moving only at your elbows and keeping them in place at your sides, curl the handles toward your upper body.
- Squeeze your biceps, and then lower to full extension and repeat.
5a. Reverse Crunch + 5b. Crunch
1a. Squat3-5 sets of 10-15 reps
1b. Alternating Overhead Press3-5 sets of 10-15 reps
2b. Lunge with Leg Lift3-5 sets of 10-15 reps
3b. Band Flye3-5 sets of 10-15 reps
Note: Jump rope for 30 seconds after completing each superset.
* Perform each for one minute, with no rest in between.
Level 3: Holiday HIIT List
Our platinum option is more costly than the previous two, but your body will thank you for it if you have the means. This plan divides the body into two resistance-based workouts broken up with short durations of HIIT cardio sessions in order to get your heart-rate up and your body into fat-burning mode during your workout.
You'll also add one cardio-only session on one of the nonworkout days. For each exercise listed, you'll perform three sets of 8-12 repetitions, using the heaviest dumbbell you can handle with good form for each.
Workout 1: Back/Legs/Core
1. Treadmill (5 min walk/ light jog)
2. Ball Wall Squat
- Stand against an exercise ball that's placed between you and a wall; the ball should be at your lower back to start.
- Lower yourself straight down as if you're about to sit in a chair by lowering your hips and bending both knees, rolling the ball along the wall.
- When your thighs reach a point parallel to the floor or slightly below, push through your heels to stand up.
3. Reverse Dumbbell Lunge
- Stand holding dumbbells in each hand.
- Keeping your upper body upright, step backward with one leg and sink your hips to the the floor, bringing your back knee close to the ground.
- Stop just short of your rear knee touching the floor, then drive yourself forward, bringing your rear foot forward into another lunge position.
- Repeat for reps, then switch legs.
4. Ball Jump Squat
- Holding an exercise ball in front of your body with both hands, lower your hips to the floor by bending your knees into a squat position.
- Touch the ball down to the floor in front of you, then drive through your heels to jump into the air, extending the ball above you.
- Land on "soft" knees (slightly bent), return to a squat position and jump again.
5. Treadmill Sprints on Incline (5 sprints, 30 seconds)
6. One-Arm Dumbbell Row On Ball
- Bend at the waist and place one hand on a ball, holding a dumbbell with a neutral grip and arm extended.
- With your back flat and core tight, pull the weight toward your hip and squeeze for a two-count, keeping your elbow close to your side throughout the movement.
- Lower the dumbbell along the same path. Repeat for reps, then switch arms.
7. Two-Arm Dumbbell Pullover On Ball
- Lie face-up on a ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended above your chest.
- Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, lower the dumbbells behind your head.
- When you feel the pull in your lats, pull the dumbbells back along the same path to the starting position.
8. Treadmill, Sprints on Flat Setting (5 sprints, 30 seconds)
9. Plank To Pike On Ball
- Get into a pushup position with your shins on the exercise ball and hands on the floor.
- From that plank position, raise into a pike by lifting your butt toward the ceiling, which in turn will roll the ball from your shins to your toes.
- Lower yourself back to a plank and repeat deliberately for reps.
Ball Jump Squat (shown without ball)3 sets of 8-12 reps
Workout 2: Chest/Shoulders/Arms
1. Treadmill (5 minute walk/light jog)
2. Incline Alternating Dumbbell Press On Ball
- Lie on the ball so that your upper back is supported; your knees bent so you're at an incline position (as if you were on an incline bench).
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at chest level.
- Press one dumbbell upward toward the ceiling, keeping the other at chest level.
- Slowly lower one dumbbell and, as you reach chest level, press the other toward the ceiling.
- Repeat for reps.
3. Flat Dumbbell Flye On Ball
- Lie face-up on the ball with your feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell just outside your shoulder in each hand with a neutral grip.
- Extend your arms above your chest, then slowly lower the dumbbells in a wide arc out to your sides, keeping your elbows locked in a slightly bent position throughout the range of motion.
- Stop when your elbows reach shoulder level and reverse the motion.
4. Pushup On Ball
- Lie face-down with your thighs on the ball, feet straight out and in line with your head and spine, and your hands on the floor in a pushup position.
- Lower your body by bending your elbows as far as you can, then extend your elbows to return to the start.
5. Treadmill Sprints on Incline (5 sprints, 30 seconds)
6. Seated Dumbbell Press On Ball
- Sit on the ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level with palms facing forward.
- Keep your head straight, eyes focused forward and your shoulders back, and press the dumbbells overhead in an arc, stopping just before the weights touch at the top.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells to shoulder level and repeat.
7. Dumbbell Lateral Raise
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your abs tight, chest up and shoulders back, and hold dumbbells at your sides with a neutral grip.
- Raise the dumbbells out to your sides in a wide arc, keeping your elbows and hands moving together in the same plane, until they reach shoulder level.
- Hold the weights momentarily in the peakcontracted position and slowly lower them along the same path, stopping before they come in contact with your sides before beginning the next rep.
8. Treadmill, Sprints on Flat Setting (5 sprints, 30 seconds)
9. Seated Alternating
Curl On Ball
- Sit on the ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- Keeping your chest up, curl one dumbbell up toward the same-side shoulder, squeezing your biceps hard at the top, then lower to the start.
- Repeat with the other arm.
10. Lying Triceps Extension On Ball
- Lie face-up on the ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise them above your chest, arms angled slightly backward.
- Bending just at the elbows, and keeping your upper arms in a locked position, lower the dumbbells behind your head, to about forehead level.
- Slowly return the dumbbells to the starting position, squeezing your triceps at the top of the movement.