Get Fitter Faster: The Strength Workout
Warm Up 1: Four-Way Lunge
With arms in a W, lunge and hinge forward from hips (above); straighten. Touch rear knee to floor; rise. Dip elbows side to side; twist side to side. Repeat on other leg. Do 10 reps.
Warm Up: Weighted Reach
Lie face up, holding a weighted ball over chest. Crunch up (above), then bring ball behind head as you lower to floor. Do 10 reps.
Do the circuit twice a week, never on back-to-back days, so your muscles have time to recover. If you play high-intensity sports such as basketball or tennis, begin with 1 bout a week, and work up to 2 as you get fitter.
How Heavy To Go
Work sets should feel like work. For a general idea of what weight to start with, try 50 to 80 percent of body weight for bench presses, 80 to 100 percent for dead lifts, and 5 to 10 pounds for chin-ups.
Get Even Stronger
Make work sets heavier every session. Each workout, aim to go up 5 pounds for the bench, 10 for the dead lift, and 1 or 2 pounds for chin-ups. This may seem like a lot, but these are the steady strength gains this program produces.
How Hard To Push
Your VO2 max intervals should feel as if you’re at 95 percent of what you can do. (Push to 100 percent and you won’t make it through all 5 rounds.) For threshold intervals, dial back to 80 percent of max effort.
Perform this circuit 5 times: 5 dead lifts, 5 bench presses, 5 chin-ups. For your first reps of dead lifts and bench presses, use a weight that feels light. In the second set, go up to a weight that feels challenging. Sets 3, 4, and 5 are your “work sets” and should be done at a weight that feels as if you can just make it through the 5 reps. Do the first and second sets of chin-ups with your body weight only; use a weight for the remaining sets.
Lie down on bench, plant feet, push knees out, and squeeze together shoulder blades to create an arch in midback. This gives you more power to push. Grab bar so that it cuts diagonally across palms, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
How To Do It
With barbell raised over chest, take a deep breath and lower bar to touch chest, elbows pointed out at a 30-degree angle. Exhale as you push shoulders into bench and push bar straight up.
Stand upright, heels 10 inches apart, toes out, barbell 1 inch in front of shins. Hinge at waist to grab bar (don’t squat) and allow knees to bend slightly so shins just touch bar without moving it. Grab bar on either side of legs, push butt up high, and flatten back.
How To Do It
Tense back, butt, and hamstrings, and pull bar up — back flat the entire time — making contact with shins, knees, and thighs, and drive hips forward until they’re locked and you’re upright. Reverse slowly to set bar down.
Secure weight on a belt between legs (or squeeze a weight plate between feet).
How To Do It
Grip bar just wider than shoulder width, palms facing you. Start from full hang and pull up until collarbone is even with bar.
A Note on Chin-ups
Not ready to add weight? Try this strength-building pyramid: Do 1 chin-up; shake out your arms. Do 2, then shake out. Repeat for 3, 4, and upward, until you can do 10 reps unbroken. Then try sets with a weight.