In my personal-training business in Chicago, I work with countless women who have areas they need to firm: legs, butt, stomach and chest are four biggies. That's why I devised a shock workout to speed up metabolism and help shed bodyfat.
The weight-training exercises focus on two of the larger bodyparts - chest for upper body and legs for lower body - to sculpt muscle where it is most needed. And doing sprints on an elliptical trainer will burn calories and target the total body - including hard-to-train glutes and abs - for fast-track success.
I'm a fanatic about programs that integrate fat-burning cardio and weight training to build a body that's lean and taut. The routine I'm putting on the training table right now is perfect for anyone who wants to shock her body into new muscle gains, lean out in a hurry and give the mind a much-needed break from run-of-the-mill weight-training routines. Here's how it goes.
Incline Dumbbell Presses
I like to start with incline dumbbell bench presses for upper-chest development. Pressing movements replicate the secondary function of the pec muscles to bring the arms up and down. Do a warm-up set with fairly light weights for 15 reps. Then do three working sets with weights that will allow you to reach failure in the eight- to 10-rep range. The goal is to train quickly (no more than 30 seconds of rest between sets) and heavy until exhaustion forces you to stop at the 10th rep.
I prefer inclines to flat-bench presses, as the latter focus stress on the front delts rather than on the pecs. Don't set the incline bench any steeper than 30 degrees or, once again, you will shift the emphasis over to the front delts. Tense your chest at the top - in the fully extended position - and then lower the dumbbells slowly back down to the upper chest.
Go straight from incline bench presses to incline flyes (you won't require another warm-up set). Flye movements replicate the function of the pec muscles to bring the arms across the chest. Select lighter weights than you used for the presses, and try to reach failure at about the 15th repetition. Do three sets with minimal (30 seconds) rest in between.
The flye motion is nothing more than lowering the dumbbells, bending the elbows slightly and then pretending to hug a tree. Stretch the chest at the bottom and squeeze it at the top (with the dumbbells extended overhead).
The Cardio Component
After completing the initial two resistance exercises, get on an elliptical trainer (if one is unavailable in your gym, you can do your sprints on a treadmill or a stationary bike). Take it slow for one minute, then do a 12- to 15-second sprint, and repeat this jog-sprint interval for a total of five minutes. You should do three or four sprints during the five-minute cardio interval, raising your heart rate and burning serious calories in the process.
The last phase of the workout focuses on legs via barbell squats, dumbbell lunges and leg extensions. I follow the same format as with the chest program: three sets per exercise, with one 15-rep warm-up set for squats (the first exercise in the sequence); minimal (30 seconds) rest between sets; and striving for failure in the eight- to 10-rep range (with the exception of leg extensions).
Squats are an excellent multipurpose exercise for the quadriceps and glutes. I never let my knees or thighs go past parallel to the floor, and I never bounce at the bottom. Lunges help develop thighs and hams. Hold the dumbbells at arms' length and, with head up and back straight, step forward as far as possible with the left leg until the left thigh is parallel to the floor. Step back to the starting position and repeat with the right leg. Finish the day's weight training with leg extensions to isolate the quads.
Repeat the five-minute cardio interval on the elliptical trainer and, after 45 minutes of sweat and effort, you will feel awesome.
Do It Right
Perform the shock workout one day per week for six weeks in lieu of your standard chest and leg workouts. Back, shoulder and arm sessions stay unchanged. The shock-treatment approach is based on three scientific training techniques that have proved to boost metabolism, help to lose weight and/or gain lean body mass.
- Heavy weight
Use a weight that forces you to reach failure in the eight- to 10-rep range (with the exception of flyes and extensions). Training somewhat heavier than usual will help you build more muscle.
- Limited rest
Limiting rest intervals between sets to 30 seconds will keep the heart rate up and turn the entire workout into a fat-burning experience.
- Utilize cardio
Add cardio as the icing on the thermogenic cake. I love to give my clients a sprint-interval session to break up the weight training and turn up the heat. Research (at Laval University in QuÃ©bec, Canada) has proved that trainers who add four or five speed intervals to their regular workouts lose nine times more fat over a 15-week period than those who work out at a steadier pace.
With calories to burn and fat to lose, there's no substitute for shaking up your routine to look great and feel good fast.