Turn your home or backyard into the ultimate sporting arena.
Ever since the Greeks held the very first Olympics in 776 B.C., human beings have been obsessed with athletic competition. We lift. We climb. We run. We throw. Any manner of physical exertion can become sport, but most competitions target single or specific events, movements and skills — until now.
Enter DEKAFIT — the Decathlon of Functional Fitness — created by Spartan Race experts. “We wanted to create something that was straightforward and accessible to any range of fitness,” explains Yancy Culp, a Spartan master coach who serves as the DEKAFIT sport development manager. This grueling gauntlet consists of 5,000 total meters of running interspersed with 10 unique events that test strength, endurance and mobility. Your results are tabulated into a “DEKA Score,” which can be used to see your ranking among the worldwide masses, from beginners to weekend warriors to elite athletes.
Culp created this at-home DIY workout exclusively for Oxygen readers, noting that each DIY Zone should be preceded by a 500-meter walk or run. “Run 250 meters out and back down your street,” Culp suggests. “You can also do a two- to three-minute bike ride instead.” Use this plan to prepare for an upcoming DEKAFIT event or organize a fun friends-and-family weekend competition — loser does the dishes!
Test Your Mettle
How long does it take you to complete the DIY Decathlon?
DIY Zone 1
Weighted Alternating Reverse Lunge
Doubles for DEKAFIT reverse lunge with a 33-pound Spartan RAMroller
Reps: 30 (15 each leg)
Equipment: Sandbag, dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plate, barbell or Spartan RAMroller
- Hold a sandbag across your upper back and shoulders and grasp a handle in each hand. Take a large step backward with one leg and bend both knees to lunge straight down toward the ground. When your legs and hips make 90-degree angles, push off your rear foot and return to the start. Continue, alternating sides, maintaining a controlled but aggressive cadence.
Training Tip: No weights? Get creative. “I love using a rock because it pretty much pushes all excuses out — we can always find a rock somewhere,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 2
Exercise-Band Squat and Row
Doubles for DEKAFIT 500-meter row
Time: 2 minutes
Equipment: Thick exercise band, rope or towel
- Wrap your band (rope or towel) around a pole or another stationary object that can support your full bodyweight at shoulder height. Take an end in each hand and step away from the anchor point to create some tension. Lean back slightly while keeping your body straight from head to heels with your feet flat and your elbows bent. Bend your knees and hips to lower into a deep squat as you simultaneously extend your arms, then drive your elbows back as you quickly stand up. Repeat for two minutes at a vigorous pace.
Training Tip: This exercise essentially mimics a rowing movement while standing, Culp says. “Picture that in your mind as you’re learning the motion: driving with your feet to give power to your row as you pull with your arms.”
DIY Zone 3
Box Jump Up and Over
Doubles for DEKAFIT 24-inch box jump up and over
Equipment: Box, platform, tree stump or bench
- Stand facing a stump with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees and hips and swing your arms behind you to load up your posterior chain, then quickly extend your legs and hips and swing your arms forward to jump up on top of the stump, landing with soft knees and light feet. Continue over the stump and jump off the other side. Turn around and repeat.
Training Tip: “You can do step-up and overs instead, and if you don’t have a bench or platform, you can substitute stationary knee tuck jumps,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 4
Weighted Sit-Up to Wall Touch
Doubles for DEKAFIT 14-pound medicine-ball sit-up to target throw
Equipment: Dumbbell, medicine ball, kettlebell, sandbag or rock
- Lie faceup with your toes tucked into the base of a wall, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell behind your head with your elbows bent. In one fluid motion, lift the dumbbell forward in an arc and sit up, extending your arms and touching the weight to the wall in front of you. Reverse the steps to return to the start.
Training Tip: Make this more challenging by passing the dumbbell to a partner, Culp suggests.
DIY Zone 5
Exercise-Band “Skierg” Pulldown
Doubles for DEKAFIT 500-meter SkiErg pull
Time: 2 minutes
Equipment: Lightweight exercise bands
- Anchor two lightweight bands above your head — for example, around the top pole of a swing set. Grasp one in each hand with your arms extended and step away to create some tension. In one fluid motion, bend your knees and drop your hips into a shallow squat as you pull the bands down and around in a circle. Extend your legs as your hands come above your head and repeat, using a steady cadence without a pause or hitch in your motion.
Training Tip: “If you don’t have a band, use a rope or towel wrapped around a sturdy object,” Culp says. “You’ll hold this as you jump off the ground and pull yourself upward using your arms with
DIY Zone 6
Doubles as DEKAFIT 40-pound (each hand) farmer’s carry
Distance: 100 meters
Equipment: Two dumbbells, kettlebells or buckets of sand/water
- Hold a weight in each hand at your sides with your shoulders down and your lats engaged. Take small, quick steps forward, keeping your core tight and your chest lifted to prevent the weights from swinging back and forth.
Training Tip: “This is all about grip strength and endurance, so any sort of weight will do,” Culp says. “I’ve done this by loading up two reusable cloth grocery bags.”
DIY Zone 7
Bodyweight Step-Down with Band Push/Pull
Doubles for DEKAFIT 25-calorie Assault bike ride
Time: 2 minutes
Equipment: Bench, box or platform and resistance-band loop
- Stand on top of a bench and hold a resistance-band loop with both hands at shoulder height. Step back behind you off the bench and lightly touch your foot to the ground as you simultaneously extend your opposite arm straight and pull your same-side elbow back. Immediately stand back up onto the bench and repeat on the opposite side. Continue, alternating sides.
Training Tip: The upper-body motion should be continuous, as with an elliptical trainer or Assault bike. “Never release tension on the band,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 8
Doubles for DEKAFIT 40-pound medicine-ball clean-and-throw
Equipment: Sandbag, medicine ball, kettlebell, dumbbells, weighted barbell or rock
- Stand over a sandbag with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs turned out slightly from your hips. Keep your core tight and back straight as you drop your hips and bend your knees to take a firm grip on the sandbag with both hands, arms straight and chest lifted. Quickly extend your legs and hips and drive your elbows upward to lift the sandbag straight up along the front of your body. When it reaches shoulder level, flip your forearms underneath and “catch” it across your upper chest and clavicle. Reverse the steps to return to the start.
Training Tip: “Try finishing each rep by extending the weight away from you at the top of the clean, as if you were about to toss it without actually letting it go,” Culp says.
DIY Zone 9
Running Wall Push
Doubles for DEKAFIT 100-meter “Tank” push/pull
Time: 2 minutes
- Face a wall and place both hands flat against it at chest height, elbows bent. Lean into the wall as you run quickly in place, driving yourself forward with force as if pushing a heavy object down a field.
Training Tip: To mimic both the pushing and pulling actions of the Tank — essentially a weighted sled — pair the wall push with rounds of the exercise-band squat and row from DIY Zone 2, Culp suggests.
DIY Zone 10
Doubles for DEKAFIT 22-pound RAMroller weighted burpee
Equipment: Dumbbells, medicine ball, kettlebells or
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Crouch, place the dumbbells on the ground and jump your feet behind you into a plank. Bend your elbows and perform a push-up, then jump your feet back outside your hands, drop your hips and stand up pressing the weights overhead at the top.
Training Tip: Try using a sandbag for a different kind of stimulus. Culp suggests snatching the bag from the ground to overhead instead of doing a clean-and-press. “That’s the fastest and most explosive way to complete the lift, taking less than one second,” he says.
Make Your (DEKA) Mark
Although the rollout was (understandably) delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spartan organization is hoping to reschedule its DEKAFIT events to launch in the fall of 2020. (Follow on Instagram @deka-fit for more info.) Should you choose to accept the challenge, here is what to expect:
- A standardized, climate-controlled indoor venue to eliminate the uncertainties of terrain or natural interference.
- Tiered waves of 20 individual competitors running at one time.
- Ten fitness stations (DEKA Zones) to test all manner of strength, endurance, balance, coordination and mobility.
- Five events with resistance-based exercises scored by completion time, and five events using weighted implements and a prescribed number of reps.
- A running track around the perimeter of the event area on which to run 1.5 laps (500 meters) at the contest start and in between DEKA Zones.
- An overall DEKA Score encompassing 21 individual time splits: 10 laps of 500 meters each, 10 individual DEKA Zone times and a Zone transition time.
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Work those muscles in four minutes flat. No kidding!
You know Tabata as a form of high-intensity training that involves 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.
And while the original Tabata research involved extreme cardiovascular exercise — exercise so tough that it would be hard for even the most diehard fitness enthusiast to replicate — the principles of Tabata can be applied to any workout. “It’s really about using timed intervals instead of sets or repetitions,” explains Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — which means that even strength workouts can get a jolt by employing Tabata’s principles.
Exerting maximum effort within a small timeframe gives you a different type of goal, and also delivers different results from your standard sets: Tumminello explains that because you are focusing more on the effort you put forth rather than a certain number of reps, your overall workout intensity will increase. And if you use an amount of resistance that you can move quickly — but with control — you can even get a slight cardio boost.
If you’re advanced, this Tabata-inspired workout may not be challenging enough to build muscle, but when you’re pressed for time, this workout can help prevent losses in strength. And if you’re new to strength training, it can be the perfect way to get your feet wet.
You’ll need a stopwatch and a pair of dumbbells — choose a weight that will fatigue your muscles in 40 seconds — then begin with the first of the four exercises. Maintain a peppy pace for 20 seconds — still minding your form as you move – rest for 10 seconds, then repeat. Once you’ve completed two rounds, move on to the next exercise, employing the format above. Or, for variety, do only one round of each exercise, performing each move for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds. Move from one exercise to the next, and after one round, repeat from the top.
If you’re new to strength training, do this workout three or four times per week on non-consecutive days. Otherwise, use it whenever you have just a few minutes to spare for strength training.
Lunge With Biceps Curl
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms at your sides and palms facing forward. Step your right foot forward and bend your legs to lunge. As you lower, bring the weights towards your shoulders, keeping your elbows tight to the sides of your body. Reverse the move to return to the start, and repeat, alternating legs.
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your shoulders, with your palms facing in. Bend your legs to squat; your elbows should touch your knees at the bottom. As you extend your legs, press the weights overhead. Lower your arms and repeat.
Shoulder Tap Push-Up
How to: Get into a push-up position on the floor, with your hands just wider than your shoulders. Bend your arms to lower your chest towards the floor, making sure that your back doesn’t sag. As you return to the start, tap your left shoulder with your right hand. Repeat, alternating shoulders.
Bridge With Triceps Extension
How to: Lie face up with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a weight in each hand, and extend your arms towards the ceiling so they are over your shoulders, with your palms facing in. Lift your hips from the floor and contract your abs to come into a bridge. Bend your right elbow, keeping your upper arm perpendicular to the floor, and lower the weight towards your head. Extend your arm and continue, alternating sides.
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Build muscle and power — and get stronger than ever — with this three-move training program.
The workout this boxer-turned-fitness-competitor-turned-CrossFitter, Sarah Grace, programmed for Oxygen is a little unusual in that there are only three exercises. “Deadlift, squat and bench press — these are the three fundamental movements you should be doing to build strength,” she says. “They involve the largest muscle groups in your body and are so metabolically intense that they cause a hormonal change postworkout that increases strength, burns more calories and builds muscle.” Grace outlined some detailed tips on doing these moves correctly. Be sure to read about each one carefully not only to get your form on point but also to make the most of each rep, generating the most power and building the most strength possible.
“The workout is arranged in a ladder format, beginning with six reps of each move and decreasing with each subsequent round until you get to one rep of each move,” Grace says. “You’ll begin Round 1 at about 60 percent of your max weight for each lift, and with each rung of the ladder, you will increase your weight as you decrease your reps until you’re at about 85 percent of your max.”
Go Ahead: Lift heavy!
Don’t know your max? No worries. Begin with a moderately heavy weight (with which you can pretty easily get six reps) and increase your weight with each set from there. Record the weight you used and adjust it to be heavier or lighter next time. Remember: The goal here is strength, so don’t be afraid to go heavy!
Your opponent in this ladder is the clock: Begin when you start Round 1, and stop when you put the barbell on the ground at the end. “To make your workout more efficient, load three different barbells and set additional weights beside them to add when it is time to increase the poundage each round,” she says. Record your results, and each time you do the program, try to beat your previous time. But always remember to pay attention to proper form. Go get your lift on!
Your Stronger-Than-Ever Moves
- Bench Press
- Back Squat
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart or slightly wider with your toes turned out as is comfortable for you. But here’s a caveat: You should not have your feet spaced so wide that you can’t grab the barbell comfortably outside your feet. If you can’t get a proper hold on the barbell, then shift your feet inward a bit.
- Position your shoulders directly over the bar; this will then dictate where your butt ends up: If your shoulders are too far past the bar, your butt will be up too high; if your shoulders are too far behind the bar, then your butt is too far down as if preparing to squat.
- Inhale and hold your breath, then initiate the movement with your legs, weight in your heels, and lift with your legs, not your back. Your back should never change — it should never arch and never round.
- On the descent, control the weight all the way down, lightly touch the floor and then immediately go into the next rep.
- Your back should be straight, your shoulder blades back and your head in line with your spine. Don’t look up or arch your neck; focus on the floor in front of you a couple of feet.
- Engage your back muscles by imagining pulling the barbell apart as you grasp it with an overhand or flip grip. You can use a regular grip overhand for lighter barbells, but when it starts getting heavy, an alternating grip is best.
- Rise all the way to the top, pressing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes to complete each and every rep. Exhale at the top.
- The bar should move in a straight line from the floor to the standing position at full extension. If you have to go out and around your knees, your starting position is not correct and your movement is not efficient.
- When benching, you should have three points of contact: your upper back and butt on the bench and your feet on the floor. Ideally, you want to be able to use the floor to push from when you start to struggle, squeezing your butt and driving your hips up while pushing through the floor to generate power.
- Your pelvis should be anteriorly tilted to help maintain your natural arch, but how much of an arch you have is individual. I naturally have a pretty big anterior tilt, so it’s comfortable for me to be in that position.
- When the weight starts to get heavy, squeeze your glutes to stabilize your midline and drive through your heels. Your legs, glutes and lower-body muscles are strong and can absolutely power the rest of your body, even when doing an upper-body move. The floor is stationary, so you’re using that to power through the movement.
- When you grab the bar, think about bending the ends down toward the floor. This activates your lats and squeezes your shoulder blades together, giving you a stable base of support from which to push with your upper body.
- Your hands should be just outside shoulder-width apart on the barbell. When you are at the lowest position, your elbows should make 90-degree angles.
- Your wrists should absolutely always be neutral. They should not be extended back or rolled too far forward.
- Your back should not be flat on the bench. Why should it? You have a natural arch in your spine, and forcing it to be flat is unnatural and changes the muscles that are working.
- Once you’re locked in, take a deep breath in, filling your chest and belly, then hold it as you lower the bar to your nipple line. Exhale as you press the barbell back up and away toward your bellybutton, not over your face.
- As you press the barbell up, your hips might rise up off the bench a little as your lower body assists with the lift.
- How wide your legs and feet are positioned depends on you as an individual: Some people have a longer femur, for example, and might need to spread their feet a bit more. There is no one set way of doing it. Play with it until you find what gives you the move power and comfort.
- It is not necessary to bottom out in order to get good results from squatting. Everybody’s goals are different, everybody’s body mechanics are different. If you have no limitations and are comfortable, then feel free to go ass-to-grass, but it’s not wrong or ineffective to stop at 90 degrees, just a little different.
- On the ascent, pay attention to your knees. A lot of people let them cave inward, which can cause a lot of problems with your joints and is ineffective in terms of power. So consciously keep your knees tracking over your feet and even imagine pushing them out a little as you rise to keep them in the correct position.
- Stand with your feet turned out about 8 to 10 degrees; that is the natural angle of your knees in a squat.
- Make sure your elbows are pointed down. When you wing them behind you, the bar rolls up onto your neck, which then causes you to lean forward, throwing you out of position and putting your back at risk.
- When ready, take a deep breath in and hold it as you lower into your squat. This helps stabilize your spine and core, giving you more power and drive. As you rise back to the start, exhale forcefully.
- Initiate the squat by sitting back with your hips first. If you start by bending at your knees, it will throw you forward.
- Drive through your heels to rise back to the start, focusing on squeezing your glutes at the top and standing all the way up.
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Burn off those extra pounds and sculpt your best body yet with this 10-minute EMOM workout.
Looking to burn some fat? If so, this workout can help you out. This 10-minute EMOM trains you for total-body anaerobic endurance, pushing your muscles and energy systems to the limit. And fat-burning? Forget about it! Burn off those extra pounds and sculpt your best body yet!
How To Do This Workout
After a solid dynamic warm-up, set your timer. For every minute, on the minute, do 30–45 seconds of work and take 30–15 seconds rest, depending on your conditioning. For example in Minute 1 a beginning athlete would do 30 seconds of burpees followed by 30 seconds of rest; a more advanced athlete would do 45 seconds of burpees followed by 15 seconds of rest. For the work portions, hit it at about 85–90% your max intensity. Hey, it’s only 10 minutes — make the most of it!
- Minute 1: Burpees
- Minute 2: Air Squat
- Minute 3: Russian Twist
- Minute 4: Switch Lunge
- Minute 5: Plank
Stand with your feet together, arms at your sides. Crouch down and place your hands on the floor then quickly jump your feet behind you so you’re in plank. Bend your elbows and lower in a push-up. Extend your arms, jump your feet back underneath you and stand up, exploding into the air and reaching overhead to complete one rep.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, arms at your sides. Kick your hips back and bend your knees, squatting low enough to break parallel, then stand back up and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest, elbows flared, and lean back with a tight core so your feet come of the floor and you’re balanced on your tailbone. Hold your legs steady as you twist side to side, rotating through your trunk and trying to touch your elbows to the floor on either side of you. If you’re feeling particularly strong, perform this holding a dumbbell as shown.
Stand with your feet spread in a wide lunge stance, right foot forward. Bend both knees and lower toward the floor, then explode upwards off the ground, switching legs mid-air and landing softly with your left foot forward, right foot back. Descend immediately into the next repetition.
Get into a plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and your head, hips and heels in line. Hold and breathe.
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This training regimen can help you shed 6 to 12 pounds — fast!
One great way to get in peak condition for bathing-suit season is through periodization. Often used by athletes training for a competition, periodization involves manipulating the progression of workouts over specific increments of time. This prevents overtraining and overuse injuries that commonly occur with intense, regular workouts.
This program consists of three two-week cycles. The first two weeks will provide you with a training base. The second phase is designed to accelerate your metabolism by increasing the volume and intensity of the workouts. The third part is a metabolic phase that peaks power output and stimulates your fat-burning hormones to their max. The topper? These exercises may be done at home (or outdoors if the weather allows), and they require only your bodyweight to perform. No equipment necessary!
Toning Time (Week 1 and Week 2)
You’ll establish a strength-and-conditioning base with the main exercises in the first two weeks. Perform a thorough warm-up and then do two sets of the exercises at 15 reps each in Week 1 and three sets of 15 reps in Week 2. Do all the sets for each exercise before going on to the next one, allowing one to two minutes’ rest between each move.
Do the three-day routines twice per week and rest on the seventh day. If you are experiencing undue fatigue, take an extra day off between one training day and the next, between the two weeks in this phase or before the next phase. Always listen to your body.
Toning Nutrition Tips
- Drink ½ gallon of water daily.
- Eat five or six meals a day — and don’t skip any, even if that means using a protein shake or two per day.
- Don’t eat past 9 p.m. or within a couple of hours of going to bed if you’re on a second- or third-shift schedule.
Firming Drills (Week 3 and Week 4)
In these two weeks, you’ll begin to accelerate your metabolism via supersets. In Week 3, perform two exercises, one immediately after the other, for two sets of 15 reps per dual set, resting 30 to 60 seconds between each set. In Week 4, follow the same format but increase reps to 20 and sets to three.
Do the three-day routines twice and rest on the seventh day. Take an extra day off between one training day and the next, between the two weeks in this phase or before the next phase if you are feeling fatigued.
Firming Nutrition Tips
- Drink ¾ gallon of water per day.
- Avoid all canned, deli and prepackaged food.
- Continue eating five or six meals daily (two may be protein shakes).
Fat-Burning Spree (Week 5 and Week 6)
The final workouts focus on fat burning and muscle definition. In Week 5, perform the exercises one after the other once through (one set) for 12 to 15 reps each; rest one minute after completing the reps for each exercise. In the final week, do two sets, also 12 to 15 reps per set, of each exercise without resting.
Do the three-day routines twice and rest on the seventh day. Of course, if you are experiencing excessive fatigue, take an extra day off between the two weeks or between one training day and the next.
Fat-Burning Nutrition Tips:
- Try to drink almost a gallon of water per day.
- Make berries your go-to fruit for their blood-sugar-stabilizing effect.
- Focus on fibrous veggies and lean meats at dinner, for example two vegetables and a lean turkey burger.
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your hands straight out in front of you to help keep your balance.
Action: Sit back and down like you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. Lower yourself until your thighs are as parallel to the ground as possible, with your knees over your ankles. Press your weight back into your heels. Keep your body tight and push through your heels to bring yourself back to the starting position.
Setup: Stand with your feet together and hands on your hips by your sides (not shown).
Action: Take a big step forward with your right foot and bend both legs until your knees form 90-degree angles, with your back leg a couple of inches off the ground. Push through your right front foot to return to the start, being careful not to arch your lower back. Alternate legs for desired number of reps.
Setup: Lie on the ground facedown and position your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Rise up onto your toes and hands, keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe. Keep a tight core throughout the entire push-up.
Action: Lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and then push back to the starting position.
Setup: Start in a plank position.
Action: Lower yourself to the ground like in a regular push-up and push back up, and as you raise your body, roll your feet so that your body is resting on the outside of your ankles while you simultaneously raise one hand to the sky, creating a straight line from one hand to the other. Make sure to move your hips and shoulders simultaneously. Alternate sides with each rep.
Setup: Lie faceup on the ground or mat. Keep your lower back in contact with the ground, feet and legs straight and together. Place your hands to your sides or under your lower back for support.
Action: Keeping your legs straight and together, back flat, lift your legs upward until they are straight above your hips. Lower down to the start position slowly and with control (but do not allow your feet to touch the ground between reps) to complete one rep. Keep your bellybutton pulled in and back flat on the ground throughout.
Setup: Lie on the ground/mat on your back. Loosely interlace your fingers behind your head and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the ground.
Action: Curl up as far as you can without pulling on your neck, then return to the starting position.
Setup: Stand in front of a step.
Action: Step up with your right leg. Bring your left foot up. Step down with the right leg, then left. Repeat with the right leg first for the recommended amount of repetitions, then perform with the left leg first.
Setup: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the ground and arms down to your sides.
Action: Raise your hips by digging your heels into the ground and pushing up until your shoulders, hips and knees form a straight line. Squeeze your glutes as you pause at the top and slowly lower back down; do not rest between reps.
Setup: Get into a push-up position with your hands wider than shoulder width, fingers spread out and elbows pointed back.
Action: Shift your weight and lower yourself toward one side (laterally) as you bring your hips and chest toward the ground, keeping one arm straight as the other goes into a push-up position. Alternate from one side to the other to complete one rep.
Setup: Start in a plank position.
Action: Perform regular push-ups but with your hands close together in a triangle formation, thumbs and forefingers together, which targets triceps.
Setup: Lie flat on your back with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees, arms by your sides.
Action: Move your knees toward your torso as you raise your hips off the ground. Hold the contraction for a moment and release your legs back to the starting position.
Setup: Stand in a staggered stance with your right foot in front of your left, 2 feet apart.
Action: Keep your torso upright, bend your legs and lower your body into a lunge. Now jump with enough force to propel both feet off the ground. While you’re in the air, scissor-kick your legs so you land with your left leg forward. Repeat, alternating your forward leg for the duration of the set.
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides.
Action: Squat down until your knees are bent about 90 degrees. Jump upward as high as you can. As you land, be sure to bend your knees and sink back down into the squat position and immediately explode up into your next rep.
Explosive Speed Push-Up
Setup: Start in a plank position.
Action: Perform a standard push-up, but use enough force to push yourself up to jump your hands off the ground; once you get stronger, try to add a quick clap while your hands are in the air. Tip: If these are too difficult, start from your knees.
Setup: Start in a plank position.
Action: Do these “mini-push-ups” by performing regular push-ups, but bend your elbows less than the normal range of motion of a regular push-up (about 10 to 15 degrees only).
Setup: Lie on your back with your arms and legs straight.
Action: Engage your abdominals as you simultaneously raise your upper body while lifting your legs (keeping them straight) to form a V position. Make sure your shoulders and thighs come off the ground.
Setup: Lie on your back with your legs extended, feet about 10 inches off the ground, hands behind your head.
Action: Bend your right knee as you simultaneously straighten your left leg and lift your shoulders off the ground and rotate your torso to bring your left elbow toward your bent right knee. Quickly switch arms and legs by pulling in your left knee toward your right elbow in a “cycling” motion. Continue switching from right to left; each set counts as one rep.
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You may not be able to fly or melt a car with a stare, but you can master these seven super skills and level up from mere mortal to mistress of the universe.
When playing Natasha Romanoff — aka Black Widow in the blockbuster Marvel Avengers series — Oscar-nominated actress Scarlett Johansson kicks ass with style, expertly dispensing with bad guys while strutting her superhero physique in a leather hide-nothing catsuit. The mastermind responsible for Johansson’s super bod is James “Duffy” Gaver, former Navy SEAL turned celebrity trainer. Gaver has created a workout similar to Johansson’s exclusively for Oxygen readers that can help everyday superheroes increase explosiveness, strength, endurance, power, coordination, speed and agility. He also offers up a fun self-test to determine where you rank among the world’s greatest cinematic crusaders and see how you can follow in Black Widow’s (silent but deadly) footsteps — catsuit optional.
Hero Helper: A Week of Workouts
Begin each workout with a cardio-based 10-minute warm-up such as walking/jogging on a treadmill or outdoors.
Day 1: The Superheroine Fitness Test
Determine your current level of super prowess with this two-part test.
Warm up for five minutes, then perform each move for one minute. Record the number of reps you complete for each.
- Bodyweight Squat
- Full Sit-Up
Rest five minutes and then do a “bleep” test — a drill that basically entails running back and forth between two lines spaced 20 meters apart. (Download Bleep Test Lite, free on iPhone.) When the first bleep sounds, run from one line to the other. Turn around and wait until the next bleep sounds, then repeat. You’ll progress up through various levels with the bleeps getting closer together with each one. When you can’t make it to the other line before the next bleep, you’re done. Your score is your last completed level.
* Perform these moves back-to-back with no rest in between. Rest one to two minute between sets.
* Add a rep to each set as you go. Rest 30 to 90 seconds between sets.
** Perform these moves back-to-back with no rest in between. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
Alternate between these two moves for five sets, taking minimal rest when needed. With each set, reduce your rowing time by one minute and your box jumps by two reps. Record your total time.
Perform these moves back-to-back with minimal rest in between. Rest one to two minutes between sets.
* Left, right, left, right = 1 rep.
Complete four rounds of the below workout. With each round, reduce your burpees and star jumps by two reps each. Record your total time.
Day 7: Rest
Want more super workouts? Check out Duffy Gaver’s new book Hero Maker: 12 Weeks to Superhero Fit (St. Martin’s Press, April 2020).
Super Skill: Explosiveness
Developing explosive lower-body power is a must to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and this means developing high-velocity power in your hips, quads, hamstrings and glutes. Since buildings are tall, generally speaking, you’ll need to increase your vertical leap and boost your explosive power.
Blow up your bod on Day 4 with box jumps. Combining this move with rowing seems simple enough, but you’ll have to dig deep to continually generate explosive power as the rounds tick by and you’re working under fatigue. “If you did nothing but this [combination] every day, your fitness level would go through the roof,” Gaver says.
Face a box (or a low wall) with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides. Swing your arms back and quickly bend your hips and knees to drop into a shallow squat, then quickly extend your legs and hips, swing your arms forward, and leap up and onto the box, landing softly. Step or jump back down and repeat.
Super Skill: Strength
Superheroes — those who can’t fly, at least — all too often end up dangling precariously from a vertigo-inducing height as the villain makes a long-winded and absurdly edifying speech. What’s needed most in that moment — other than a handy assist from a sidekick — is pure, unadulterated strength, which enables you to pull yourself up to safety and put an immediate end to that stupid speech — and its orator.
Pull your weight in Day 3 with the pull-up reverse progression. Here, you’ll add a rep to each set as you go to push your limits and build super strength. “I find this technique helps people break through barriers,” Gaver says. “Our limits are so often mental rather than physical.” If you don’t have a pull-up bar, this modification works just as well.
Take an overhand grip on a bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet forward so you’re hanging underneath the bar with your arms straight and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Draw your shoulder blades in toward one another, then drive your elbows down and back to pull your chest up toward the bar. Pause briefly and then lower all the way to the start.
Super Skill: Endurance
Chasing bad guys through all manner of obstacles is part of a day’s work for a superhuman, but becoming a parkour prodigy takes practice — and a lot of endurance. Training a muscle or muscle group to fatigue using a superset or giant set format pushes the limits of both your mental and your muscular endurance.
Endure the pain with the five-exercise shoulder gauntlet on Day 2. This giant set hits all three deltoids and your traps, making it a one-stop shop to shoulder exhaustion. Choose a set of dumbbells with which you can do 12 to 15 lateral raises, Gaver recommends. This is the weight you’ll use for the whole circuit.
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing inward, elbows slightly bent. Raise your arms up and out to the sides until they reach shoulder height, then lower to the start under control.
Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing rearward. Raise both arms in front of you to shoulder height, pause briefly and then lower slowly back to the start.
Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing inward. Hinge at your hips with your back straight and fold forward until your torso makes a 45-degree angle. Hold here as you raise the dumbbells up and out to the sides until they reach shoulder level, then slowly lower to the start.
Stand upright and hold the dumbbells on either side of your head with your elbows bent 90 degrees, palms forward. Press the weights up and in toward one another to full extension, then lower slowly back to the start.
Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing rearward. Pull the weights up along the front of your body, leading with your elbows, until they come underneath your chin. Lower slowly to the start.
Super Skill: Power
A superhero runs into burning buildings when everyone else is running out and would never shy away from a challenging scenario, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Physical and mental power often intertwine, and the strength of will is often a superhero’s best ally during a crisis and can turn crunchtime into celebration.
Power up your lower body in Day 2 with barbell squats, implementing an old-school technique Gaver recommends called “breathing squats”: You’ll work in sets of 20 reps, pausing at the top of each rep and taking a few deep breaths before continuing. “Take as many breaths as necessary while still maintaining focus throughout,” he advises.
Balance a barbell across your upper back and traps and hold it outside your shoulders with an overhand grip, elbows pointing downward. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your legs turned out slightly from your hips. Kick your hips back, then bend your knees while keeping your chest lifted and descend as low as you comfortably can while maintaining form. Drive through your heels and powerfully extend your knees and hips to return to standing.
Super Skill: Coordination
Clumsy superheroes aren’t a thing. Physical coordination is a must when it comes to saving the day, and uber-humans need to be able to handle anything from a clutch of henchmen to a live grenade with grace and dexterity.
Coordinate your efforts with star jumps on Day 6. This move requires precision and focus for proper execution — and to prevent an unceremonious and decidedly un-super faceplant. Its placement in the Day 6 workout after a 400-meter run and a grueling set of burpees makes maintaining a high level of coordination an incredible challenge.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Quickly bend your knees and hips slightly and bring your arms together in front of your thighs, then explode upward off the ground, simultaneously raising your arms overhead and opening your legs so your body forms an X in space. Quickly bring your arms and legs back together, land softly and go immediately into the next rep.
Super Skill: Speed
To ensure you can indeed run faster than a speeding bullet, all heroes in training should work on their super speed. Any form of cardiovascular activity lends itself to speed training — running, swimming, cycling or rowing. And if you’re doing it properly, even the most grounded superhero might even feel like they’re flying.
Supercharge your speed on Day 6 with the 400-meter run. Push your pace as hard as you can and challenge yourself to get faster with every round. It’s not as easy as it might seem, though. When combined with the burpee and star jump, this workout demands determination and sharpens your ability to accelerate under fatigue.
Super Skill: Agility
Being nimble and lithe are the hallmarks of any super species, and in order to execute your requisite quick cat- or bat-like movements, you’ve got to sharpen your agility.
Exercise your agility on Day 5 with mountain climbers: Imagine the floor under your feet is lava, and as soon as your toes touch down, you’ve got to pull your foot right back up again to prevent incineration. You’ll have to tread lightly and quickly to make each rep count. Speaking of reps, Gaver has tweaked the programming so that four reps are equal to one. If you’re doing the math, this means one set of 10 actually equals 40 reps!
Get into a high-plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Press down into your hands to stabilize your upper body as you alternately drive your knees in toward your chest, keeping your hips low and your movements quick.
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If these eight body-sculpting moves aren’t in your current training program, they need to be. Like, right now.
Are there certain exercises specifically for men and others specifically for women? Absolutely not, though it sometimes seems so. Men make up the vast majority of gym-goers who do heavy bench presses and barbell curls, and women currently have the market cornered on the inner/outer thigh machine and plié squats. But ladies, there’s no reason you have to limit yourselves to such “girl-ified” moves. By all means, keep hitting your thighs and glutes hard, but heavy lifting and intense upper-body training aren’t just for guys.
There’s a whole host of exercises that are underused by women but shouldn’t be. So we asked three experienced trainers and physique competitors (who just happen to be women) what some of these exercises might be. What we came up with are the following eight exercises — some you may be already doing, others you’re probably not — that we believe should be a part of every girl’s gym repertoire.
Why Do It: “Tried and true, pull-ups are an oldie but goodie and are often neglected by females because they’re not easy,” says Liz Jackson, a Figure competitor, co-owner of The Rack Gym in Ponca City, Okla., and owner of Jackson Nutrition. “Start off with assisted pull-ups if you need to (using a machine or help from a partner), lowering the assisted weight every week or two until you’re on your own.”
How to Do It: Grasp a pull-up bar with your choice of grip — an outside shoulder-width, overhand grip is typically recommended, but it’s also the most difficult, so feel free to move your hands closer together and/or use an underhand grip or a neutral grip (palms facing each other) if the pull-up station at your gym has parallel handles. The most important thing is that you’re pulling your bodyweight up to a bar. Start by hanging from the bar with your arms extended. Concentrating on your back muscles, pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar, then slowly lower back down to the start position (arms extended — no half reps allowed). Don’t let your legs or any extraneous movement help you get up; this should be a strict pull-up, with the only action occurring at the arms and shoulders. When doing assisted pull-ups, the technique is the same except that you’ll be kneeling on the machine’s pad to offset your bodyweight.
Sets/Reps: If you can’t do bodyweight pull-ups, Jackson advises, start with assisted pull-ups for three to four sets of eight to 12 reps. “Once you’re able to do 10 to 12 reps easily within your sets, decrease the assistance,” Jackson says. “After a few weeks of assisted pull-ups, go ahead and try one or two unassisted. Most people get discouraged because they can’t do more than one or two pull-ups on their own. But one is better than none and is halfway to two! Continue doing the assisted pull-ups immediately after hitting failure on unassisted reps to reach eight to 10 total reps (unassisted plus assisted). Every week, push yourself to do one more unassisted or even one more half rep. Anything over what you did the week prior is progress.”
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
Why Do It: “As a woman, I want strong and shapely glutes, so this is a must-do exercise,” says Christa McLane, a medical professional and amateur figure competitor living in Dubuque, Iowa, who was the Overall Open Figure champion at the 2012 Best of the Midwest Physique and Strength Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The Bulgarian split squat is a very effective exercise for focusing not only on the glutes but also on the abdominal muscles and lower back.”
How to Do It: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides with a bench or other stable surface of comparable height (i.e., a plyometrics box, a chair, an ottoman, etc.) a few feet behind you. Start with one foot on the ground below you and the other up on the bench behind you — only the toes of the back leg should be touching the bench. Keeping your torso upright, bend your front leg to lower your body straight down. That knee should not track over your toes; if it does, move your foot forward on the floor. Your back knee also will bend, and once it’s within a few inches of the floor, contract the glutes and quads of the front leg to stand back up and return to the start position. Repeat for reps, then switch legs and do the same.
Sets/Reps: Do one light warm-up set, then do three increasingly heavier working sets of 12 to 15 reps per leg. “Add heavier weight with each set, and over time, you’ll no doubt add muscle mass and lift your glutes,” McLane says.
Incline Hammer Curl
Why Do It: “If you not only want your arms toned but also want to build bigger biceps, this is a great exercise for you,” McLane says. “I love this move because of the position of the dumbbells. It’s a great change of pace and will add variety to your arm training.”
How to Do It: Lie back on an incline bench holding a pair of dumbbells hanging straight toward the floor with your palms facing in. With your upper arms stationary, curl the dumbbells straight up, keeping your palms facing each other throughout. (That’s what makes it a “hammer” curl.) At the top of the rep, squeeze the biceps for a count in the fully contracted position, then lower back down to the arms-extended position. As with any type of dumbbell curl, you can perform this exercise one arm at a time, if you prefer.
Sets/Reps: Do two to three sets, 10 to 12 reps. McLane recommends doing drop sets on this exercise to maximize intensity. On each of your last two sets, after doing 10 to 12 reps to failure, immediately lighten the weight and rep out to failure once again.
Why Do It: “A great, shapely set of shoulders draws the eye up and helps balance your physique,” Jackson says. “Push presses are great because they’re an explosive power move and something that gives you a bit of an edge over doing a classic shoulder press. Doing push presses can help you when learning to execute more advanced moves like the clean-and-jerk and can help you learn total-body coordination because the move starts in your legs.”
How to Do It: In a squat rack, grasp a relatively heavy barbell (heavier than what you’d use for a strict overhead press) with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Rest it across your upper chest, then take a couple of steps back to be clear of the rack. With your head up, chest out and feet in an athletic stance (hip- to shoulder-width apart), initiate the movement by bending your ankles, hips and knees slightly so your body dips down, but only by a matter of inches — reaching a low squat is not part of this exercise. Rapidly extend your hips, knees and ankles while explosively pressing the bar straight up overhead to full elbow lockout at the top. (Because you’re going heavier than you would with a standard overhead press, the lower body’s job is to get the bar moving upward; the shoulders should start taking over after this initial momentum has been created.) Let the bar fall back safely to your upper chest, bending your hips and knees slightly to cushion the weight before starting the next rep.
Sets/Reps: Do five sets, six reps. “Go as heavy as possible to stimulate muscle growth,” Jackson says.
Why Do It: “This exercise focuses on overall core strength and definition,” says Jessica Janicek, a competitive Figure athlete and personal trainer with New York-based Sci-Unison Fitness (sci-unisonfitness.com). “However, because you’re in a push-up position, you’re also incorporating shoulders and chest as secondary muscles to support your own bodyweight. This exercise will also give you a nice burn in your quads from the in-and-out movement, along with a little tension in the glutes from maintaining your balance.”
How to Do It: Assume a push-up position with the tops of your feet up on an exercise ball behind you. Start with your body rigid and in a straight line from your shoulders to heels, arms fully extended up from the floor. Once you’re balanced, contract your abs to pull your knees in toward your chest as far as possible. Then slowly extend your legs back to the start position. Don’t let your hips drop down to the floor as you push your legs back; stay tight throughout the core and keep the motion controlled, not rushed.
Sets/Reps: Do three sets, 20 to 25 reps.
EZ-Bar Overhead Triceps Extension
Why Do It: “Don’t underestimate moving some heavy weight with your arm muscles to create great shape,” Jackson says. “Your triceps are the largest muscle of the arm, and they help show muscle tone in the upper body. Doing overhead extensions seated will help to completely isolate your triceps, which is important to keep your muscle fibers firing.”
How to Do It: Sit on a low-back seat or flat bench holding an EZ-bar just inside shoulder width, using an overhand grip. Begin with the bar straight up overhead with your arms fully extended. Bend your elbows — without letting them flare out too much — to slowly lower the bar behind your head. When your elbows are past 90 degrees (the bar should be behind your neck), contract your triceps to straighten your arms back to the start position, reaching full elbow lockout at the top. For a slightly more challenging variation, Jackson recommends performing the exercise lying back on an incline bench instead of seated. Keep your upper arms perpendicular with the floor or angled slightly backward throughout.
Sets/Reps: Do four sets, 10 reps, using as heavy a weight as you can while still maintaining strict form.
Sumo Stiff-Legged Deadlift
Why Do It: “This is an exercise that I like to include regularly in my training, as it helps develop and add mass to the hamstrings,” McLane says. “Trust me, you’ll feel this one for days. By keeping a wide stance and your toes pointing outward, you’ll isolate your hamstrings. This exercise is so effective at isolation that you only need to perform it once a week.”
How to Do It: Standing just behind a barbell set on the floor, assume a wide stance — feet outside shoulder width — with your toes pointed outward about 45 degrees. Lean forward and down at the hips and grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip. In the start position, your knees should be only slightly bent (roughly quarter- to half-squat position) with your back flat and the bar in close to your shins. Contract your hamstrings to extend your hips and pull the bar up along the front of your legs while also straightening your legs. When your body is fully upright with the bar in front of your thighs, slowly lower the weight back down to the ground and repeat for reps.
Sets/Reps: After one light warm-up set, do three increasingly heavier working sets of eight to 10 reps.
Bodypart: Full Body/Shoulders
Why to Do It: “This move incorporates the motions of a jumping jack from the waist down with a standing dumbbell shoulder press. For women out there who are concerned about getting too muscular, this exercise is perfect,” Janicek says. “It includes a cardio exercise that raises your heart rate (jumping jacks) while using weights to tone and sculpt for beautiful, shapely shoulders.”
How to Do It: Stand holding a pair of light dumbbells just outside your shoulders with your elbows bent. Simultaneously jump and spread your legs and perform an overhead press with the dumbbells. Hop up and bring your feet back together while lowering the dumbbells to the start position. Repeat for reps in a continuous manner, one right after another instead of pausing between each rep — just like you’d do regular jumping jacks. If this move is new to you, it might take a little while to get use to, so start off with the lightest weights you can find. Once you begin to get used to it, gradually increase the weight.
Sets/Reps: Do three sets, 15 to 18 reps.
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These unique routines will surprise your muscles and keep you feeling — and looking — younger than ever before.
Honestly, getting older itself isn’t so bad — spending time with the ones you love, accomplishing your goals, traveling the world… if only it didn’t come with the aging part. But you have in your reach a fountain of youth that is better at combating wrinkles and flabby triceps than any injection or filler around: exercise. But not just any exercise will do — there are three scientifically proven ways to fight the clock and fool Father Time.
Your To-Do List:
Focus On The Right Fibers
First up on the docket: Engage your fast- and super-fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers stimulate the release of age-fighting agents such as growth hormone and testosterone when trained at a high intensity at or above your anaerobic threshold, such as when sprinting or doing powerlifting-type moves or other high-volume training. Most muscle loss happens when these crucial fibers are not used and your body starts to de-innervate them, making it more difficult for you to develop force and power. So it’s in your best interest to keep them lubed up and healthy to preserve your existing muscle mass.
Load Up That Barbell
Of course adding muscle also can help fight the aging process, but in order to best beat the ticking clock, you’ve got to lift heavy. Heavy lifting has been shown to cause the highest postworkout release of growth hormone in women, and scientists believe this acute spike is responsible for short-term muscle growth as well as long-term cell repair. And a bonus for longtime Oxygen readers: The hormones released post-exercise are said to have a stronger effect on trained athletes than they do on sedentary individuals, so essentially the more you train, the younger you’ll feel!
Speed Up Your Metabolism
Another bummer about aging: Your metabolism slows down; the number of calories you burn on a daily basis drops and it becomes harder to cut body fat. In this instance, high-intensity workouts are again the best Rx for quelling that accumulation of body fat and keeping your metabolism revved as the years tick by.
With all that cool anti-aging science in mind, Oxygen has created three different routines to help you combat the calendar. They all use multi-joint movements for maximum muscle activation and GH release and can be integrated into any training split you’ve got going. Exercise has been and will always be the best medicine: Keep moving and stay young for the rest of your life!
Program 1: High Volume
This is a traditional high-volume, short-rest workout. It may take longer in the gym, say up to 60 minutes, but the postworkout hormone release puts that time back on your side. It’s ideal for building fat-burning and youth-promoting muscle.
- Use moderate weight (~75% 1RM).
Program 2: Heavy weight
This workout focuses on recruiting your fast- and super-fast-twitch muscle fibers with heavy weights. This is best for a strength-/power-building phase of your training program.
The clean, oblique toss and sled drive should be done explosively for maximum training benefit and to tap deeply into those fast-/super-fast-twitch fibers.
- Use heavy weight (~85% 1RM).
- EMOM stands for every minute on the minute.
Program 3: High Intensity
Amp up your fat-burning potential with this high-intensity AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) workout for 25 minutes. This is a great workout if you’re trying to get lean and fight the sneaky onset of body fat.
- Use light to moderate weight (65–70% 1RM).
Setup: Adopt a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance with your feet turned out about 10 degrees. Position the kettlebells on the floor together in line with and between your feet. Hinge at the hips and knees to drop down into a deadlift position, grasping the inside horns of the kettlebells, arms straight. Your hips should be higher than your knees, back straight, head neutral.
Move: Extend your knees and hips powerfully to clean the kettlebells upward. As they reach chest height, rotate your wrists outward so that the kettlebells swing around your hand, and catch them gently on your forearms into the “rack” position, wrists straight, elbows down.
Tip: Avoid whacking your forearms by generating all the power from your legs, not your shoulders. Practice with a lighter kettlebell until you can perform the move properly.
Setup: Choose a box about knee height or slightly lower and stand facing the box.
Move: Dip down quickly, swinging your arms back, then explode upward and forward, tucking your knees and jumping over the box to the other side. Land softly, turn and face the box, and repeat.
Tip: Use your abs and hips to lift your knees up and gain maximal height. If you’re unsure about clearing the box, choose one that’s lower or land briefly on top, then immediately jump lightly off onto the other side.
Double-Kettlebell Squat + Overhead Press
Setup: Hold the kettlebells in the racked position and stand with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, feet turned out about 10 degrees.
Move: Keeping your chest up and gaze forward, squat down as low as you can by dropping your hips and pushing them backward as you bend your knees. Extend your legs explosively, driving up and pressing both kettlebells straight up overhead as you come to full extension. Lower the kettlebells back to the racked position to complete one rep.
Tip: Prevent your back from arching at the top by exhaling forcefully. This engages your internal obliques and provides more stability for your spine.
Step-Up + Reverse Lunge
Setup: Choose a box about knee height, so when you place your foot on top, your leg makes a 90-degree angle. Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand in front of the box.
Move: Step with your right foot completely on top of the box, driving through your heel to come up on top. Step back down with your left foot, then immediately step backward with your right foot, dropping down into a deep lunge, keeping your knee over your toes and your weight between both feet. Step your feet back together to complete one rep. Perform all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Maintain a tall posture throughout the move. If you have to lean forward at the waist to step up, then the box is too high.
Oblique Ball Toss
Setup: Stand sideways to a wall and hold a medicine ball at your chest with your elbows down, feet shoulder-width apart.
Move: Turn away from the wall, bending your knees and rotating your hips to load up, then quickly uncoil, turning toward the wall and throwing the ball forcefully forward so it strikes the wall at chest height. Note: You can either stand close enough to the wall to catch the ball before it lands or wait for it to hit the floor between each repetition.
Tip: Exhale and brace your core with each release to support your spine and increase your power.
Setup: Load a Prowler sled with several plates and position it in a large open area. Face the sled and take a high grip on the handles with your arms extended.
Move: Push through your toes and drive forward at an even, powerful pace, keeping your arms straight, spine neutral and hips low. Drive forward for 10 steps and then turn the Prowler around and return for 10 steps.
Tip: Keep your arms locked and your shoulders packed to create a solid base, improving power capacity and helping drive the sled.
Ball Slam + Overhead Throw
Setup: Pick a heavy medicine ball and stand facing a wall about 8 to 10 feet away. Hold the ball at your chest in both hands, elbows down.
Move: Quickly raise the ball overhead, coming up onto your toes, then use your entire body to slam the ball into the floor, squatting down as you release it to generate force. Then pick the ball up, raise it overhead and throw it forward against the wall as hard as you can, stepping into the throw and using your abs and core to generate power. Continue, alternating between the slam and the throw.
Tip: For maximum power, follow through with your arms with each throw.
Barbell Press + Zombie Sit-Up
Setup: Lie faceup on the floor with your lower back arching naturally, and extend your legs along the ground. Have a partner hand you a barbell and hold it just outside shoulder- width apart over your chest with your arms extended.
Move: Lower the bar straight down until your elbows touch the floor. Then press it back up to full extension and hold it there as you roll up into a seated position, levering your body underneath the barbell so that at the top, you’re sitting tall with the barbell overhead. Roll slowly back down to the floor to complete one rep.
Tip: Squeeze your glutes as you do the sit-up to keep your feet from coming off the floor.
Should Grandma Be Powerlifting?
Maybe so! Many of the negative side effects of aging are due to hormonal changes, and according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, maintaining a healthy body composition as we age is imperative. Researchers measured muscle mass, trunk-fat stores and markers associated with chronic disease in postmenopausal women.
After a nine-month strength-training program, the women who gained more trunk fat didn’t add as much muscle as those whose body composition remained more stable. Their conclusion: The hormones associated with the accumulation of torso fat were impeding the muscle growth process. The good news is that your body can still adapt regardless of age, so start activating those muscle cells now and stay strong and lean for life!
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This interval workout has you racing against the clock, improving endurance, building muscle and boosting your metabolism.
Give a workout an acronym and it instantly seems that much harder. That’s why the EMOM — every minute on the minute — method of interval training is a great way to torch a fire under your programming. “You’re getting a quick, efficient workout because you’re constantly revving your metabolism,” says trainer Andrew Abt, founder of ABTsolute Training Systems in New Rochelle, New York.
His take on the EMOM has a two-part punch, pairing a functional bodyweight move with a plyometric burst (like jumping rope or high knees). Your goal is to complete all reps of both moves in roughly 40 seconds, which gives you 20 seconds to rest before starting the next pair of moves at the top of the next minute. Sound exhausting? Maybe. But the alternative is worse.
“How hard you work during that 40 seconds is directly related to how much recovery you get,” Abt says. “If it takes you 55 seconds to do the work, then you have just five seconds left to rest!” The take-away? Give those 40 seconds your all!
The Two-Part Punch EMOM
Set a timer for five minutes. At the top of each minute, complete the predetermined number of reps of each move in the pair, then rest the remaining time. “The goal is to get the same amount of rest each minute to keep intensity high,” Abt says. Do the entire circuit three times through for a 15-minute session, which will literally leave you breathless.
Stand behind a barbell with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, then bend your knees until you can grip the bar, back straight, core tight. Your shoulders should be over the bar, shins perpendicular to the floor. Drive through your heels and extend your hips and knees at the same rate to stand, pulling the barbell in a vertical line up along the front of your body. Reverse these steps to return to the start. Touch the plates down briefly and go right into the next rep.
Start in a high-plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders, core engaged, and your head, hips and heels aligned. Bend your elbows to lower your body toward the floor, simultaneously rotating your left hip open and pulling your left knee to your left elbow. Return your arm and leg to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
Kneel behind a barbell loaded with light plates so it is raised off the floor. Hold it with an overhand, shoulder-width grip, and then shift your body forward so your chest is over the bar, your arms are straight and your body is at an incline. Slowly roll the bar away from you, extending your arms and lowering your hips as far as is comfortable. Then press down into the bar and pull with your back and core to roll the bar back to the start.
Barbell Overhead Squat
Take a snatch-width grip on a barbell (overhand and wider than your shoulders) and hold it in front of your thighs. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and lift the barbell straight up overhead to the start position. Actively press up against the bar as you push your hips back and bend your knees to squat as low as you can, making sure to move slowly so the bar stays balanced. Drive through your heels to return to standing.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Keeping your hips square, step your right leg behind your left so your thighs cross, and bend both knees as if curtsying. Return to standing. Continue, alternating sides.
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Either add these killer moves to any workout, or follow the five sample workout programs, to get your body in shape for the summer.
Summertime means a change of seasons, yes — but it also means a change of wardrobe. If you’ve been slacking on your exercise and nutrition over the winter, it’s time to take charge before you attempt to shimmy into those short shorts and barely-there tanks.
Dumbbell Sumo Squat
Muscles worked: Quads, inner/outer thighs, glutes, rectus abdominis, deltoids
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and hold one end of a dumbbell with both hands in front of you. Keeping your shoulders back, bend your knees and drop your glutes straight down toward the floor until your thighs come parallel to the ground. Then drive through your heels to return to standing, squeezing your glutes at the top.
Tip: Make sure your knees track over your toes as you descend; don’t let them cave inward.
Muscles worked: Pectorals, triceps, deltoids, obliques, transverse abdominis, traps, rhomboids
Get into a push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Brace your core to prevent your hips from sagging, and make sure your head is neutral. Keeping your arms close to your sides, bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor until your chest touches or nearly touches down. Extend forcefully back to the start, then open your body to the right and reach your right hand for the sky. Replace your hand, do another push-up and then repeat to the left side to complete one rep.
Tip: Having trouble with balance? Spread your feet a little wider apart for a more stable base.
One-Arm Dumbbell Thruster
Muscles worked: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, rectus abdominis, obliques, deltoids, triceps, traps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a single dumbbell at your shoulder, elbow down, palm facing inward. Extend your other arm to the side for balance, and shift your weight into your heels. Kick your hips back and bend your knees to squat down as low as you comfortably can. Then drive through your heels and explosively stand to the start, using that upward momentum to straighten your arm and press the dumbbell overhead. Return the weight to your shoulder and repeat. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Keep your shoulders and hips square throughout to protect your back.
Muscles worked: Rear delts, erector spinae, rhomboids, glutes, hamstrings, obliques
Lie facedown with your arms and legs extended. Alternately lift your opposite arm and leg in a small swimming motion up and down, remembering to breathe throughout.
Tip: Don’t look up. This puts your spine out of alignment and could strain your neck. Look at the floor and keep your head neutral.
Muscles worked: Lats, erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, quads, deltoids
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet about hip-width apart, toes forward. Draw your shoulders back and keep your back straight as you push your glutes rearward, slowly lowering the dumbbells straight down toward the floor on either side of your legs. As you approach the bottom, bend your knees to touch the weights to the floor, then reverse the move to return to the start.
Tip: Because your weight is to your sides rather in front, your hips will drop lower than they would with a standard barbell deadlift, but don’t let them drop below your knees.
Dumbbell Lateral Lunge with Front Raise
Muscles worked: Quads, glutes, inner/outer thighs, front delts, traps, rhomboids
Hold a dumbbell in front of you with both hands and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Take a large step to the side with one foot, lunging deeply over that knee as you raise the dumbbell to shoulder height while keeping your other foot flat on the ground. Push off that foot to return to the start. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Tip: Don’t let the weight of the dumbbell pull you forward. Draw your shoulders back and stand up as tall as you can while executing the exercise.
Weighted Dead Bug with Leg Extension
Muscles worked: Pectorals, front delts, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, hip flexors
Lie faceup and hold a dumbbell with both hands over your chest, arms straight, and actively press the weight upward to engage your chest and shoulders. Lift your legs, knees bent, over your hips so they make a 90-degree angle and press your lower back into the floor. From here, extend one leg out, getting it as close to the ground as you can without arching your back. Return to the start and continue, alternating legs.
Tip: Do this move slowly and in control to maintain proper form.
Sit Hold With Dumbbell Chest Press
Muscles worked: Rectus abdominis, hip flexors, quads, pectorals, front delts, rhomboids, traps, transverse abdominis
Sit with your legs and feet together, knees bent, and hold a single dumbbell with both hands at your chest, elbows bent. Keep your back straight as you lean back and lift your feet off the floor, lifting your legs so they make a 90-degree angle. Hold here as you push the dumbbell out away from you in line with your shoulders, then bring it back to the start.
Tip: If this is too challenging, lightly touch your toes to the
floor for balance. Work toward getting them off the ground
as you improve.
Need some programming ideas? Here are five sample workouts to get you started.
Do one to three rounds of the below circuit. Perform all the moves back-to-back with no rest in between, and rest 60 to 90 seconds between rounds.
Do the moves in this circuit back-to-back with no rest in between. Complete three total rounds, resting 60
seconds between rounds.
More Core Tabata
Do each move at max effort for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds. Complete four rounds for a total of four minutes.
Complete all reps of one move before going to the next. Rest as needed, but move briskly while using good form. Your score is your total time to complete the workout.
Do two to three rounds each of Part 1 and Part 2. Perform each strength move for 30 seconds and go right into the next without resting. For Part 3, run hard and fast for the sprint, then do as many T push-ups as you can without resting before you reach failure. Your score is the number of T push-ups you complete before hitting the dirt.
Part 1 — 3 rounds
Part 2 — 3 rounds
Part 3 — 1 round
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