No, this isn’t an ad, and no, I’m not giving you a miracle cure. In fact, this is kind of the opposite… I’m sharing tips on how to get the most benefit in the shortest amount of time that is healthily possible, but that means you have to put twice the effort in, and it won’t be easy at first, but eventually it will (that’s the whole point!) and you’ll see the results.
Following these steps closely will guarantee that you will get stronger and fitter (and leaner if that’s what you’re going for) and see/feel a difference in just three to four weeks. Especially if you also eat clean!
1. HIIT It! (High-Intensity Interval Training)
HIIT is a type of training that involves alternating short bouts of all-out effort and periods of active recovery. It became popular because there was a lot of scientific research which concluded that study participants who engaged in this type of exercise lost more weight than the participants doing long bouts of cardio. And the best thing about it is that you don’t have to do it too often! Just one session of HIIT per week will have you burning more calories (even for the next 24-48 hours!) than getting on the treadmill for an hour every day.
I do a running HIIT that I read about in a medical journal (it’s what they used for the study). I basically jog for 30 seconds, run a bit faster for 20 seconds, and then go all-out sprinting for 10 seconds. That’s one minute, I do it 5 times and then walk (active recovery) for 2 minutes and then I do it again! I do it twice for a total of 14 minutes but you could go up to 30 minutes. No more or you’ll be overdoing it and negating all the benefits of HIIT. You can apply this routine to cycling, jumping rope, and high-intensity calisthenics as well.
Another way to do it is to follow a routine like this one once per week:
- 20 squats (you can add weight or bands if you want to challenge yourself more but do them slowly)
- 20 burpees (all-out effort)
- 30 lunges (15 ea. side)
- sprint/high knees (30 seconds, all-out effort)
- 20 pushups (slow and steady)
- Rest 1 minute and repeat 2 to 3 times
2. Slow It Down
When you’re not doing HIIT, you should slow down your movements to get the most out of every rep. Called “lower -intensity-interval-training”, it involves taking a few seconds to complete each rep when lifting weights or doing any other strength building exercise like pushups or even squats. So vary the speed you work at. Start sow, then fast, then slow.
You will notice 10 slow pushups will tire you out more than if you do them fast, and that’s the same for every other move. Take about two seconds per half of the exercise; so, in a squat, for example, 2 seconds to get low, two seconds to come up; same in a pushup, 2 seconds down, 2 seconds up, etc…
Doing this will maintain your muscles engaged the entire time, thus adding an extra level of difficulty without making you feel winded. This type of anaerobic exercise (think the opposite of a cardio workout). When working out in this style, we focus on the mechanics and ability of the muscle to work non-stop, which will help develop muscle strength faster and in a different way. Variety is always a good thing.
3. Do It All
Up until recently, and many still do it today, fitness enthusiasts and pros alike go by a method that alternates the parts of the body worked each day. We’ve all heard/seen it; leg day, arm day, cardio day, etcetera. Normally, the whole body gets worked 2 to 3 times per week in total. These people are usually pursuing huge muscle gains, which most of us aren’t looking for. We just want to be fit, lean, toned, and healthy. So, while it may work for them, we can cut the work in half by working all of our muscles on 3 alternating days! That way we still get the benefit of resting (more on that later) but we also still work our whole body hard 3 times per week! How do we achieve that? Well, by spending 30 to 60 minutes per day, 3 times per week doing exercises that work every muscle. The best way to get the most done in a short amount of time is by incorporating compound exercises!
Compound exercises are those in which you use several muscle groups at once, thus halving the time you spend exercising. Why would I do 3 sets of squats and 3 sets of calf-raises when I can do 3 sets of sumo squats with calf raises? Combining, or compounding these movements cuts that routine in half! And the best thing is, there are compound exercises, like plank walks, froggers, deadlifts with row, and manmakers, which work everything, from arms, core, and legs to chest, back, and butt! And there are many you don’t even need equipment for, that’s how I can lead a full-body toning class at a park!
Check out the exercises section for examples! (library still growing)
4. Push It
The way we develop strength is by pushing our muscles to their limit or beyond, thus creating little tears and stress that our muscles (especially with the appropriate diet and supplements) will then repair in order to withstand that kind of challenge next time. The trick here is to always up the challenge so the muscle gets even stronger and stronger each time. Our bodies are amazing and if we know how to exploit our resilience, we’re unstoppable!
Regardless of which type of workout you’re doing, do it until you can’t do it anymore (“to failure”), and increase the challenge a little bit every session. Increase weight, number of repetitions, or otherwise raise the difficulty. For example, if you can hold a plank for 10 seconds, try for 20 next time, then 30, and so on. Use weight/resistance you can lift for 8-10 repetitions, but so that the last one is almost impossible. And for HIIT, make your “all-out” bursts as intense as possible, higher intensity every week, like adding a pushup to your burpees or doing them faster.
For example, you push yourself to curl 10 lb dumbbells 8 times (slowly!) three times and, on your last set, you can only complete 6-7 because your muscles are done. The next time you do arm curls, your biceps have already recovered and gotten stronger to endure 3 sets of 8 bicep curls with 10 lbs. But this time, you push for 10 reps per set, and your third set is only 8 because your biceps are done. Now your muscles have to repair and strengthen to withstand 30 reps! The next week, you could start back at 8 reps but with 12 lb weights, thus getting stronger faster.
5. Warm It Up
While some studies have shown that saving your cardio for after strength training actually increases weight loss potential, it’s most likely due to the fact that it takes about 10-15 minute of moderate to intense physical activity to start burning fat. This, besides preventing injury, is a great reason to make sure you warm up before any workout.
Warm up by doing dynamic stretches, unweighted versions of strength exercises, calisthenics, aerobic moves like burpees, jump squats, running in place, jumping jacks, jump rope, or simply jogging/running for 10 minutes. Doing this guarantees your muscles are ready to work, and everything you do from that moment on will be burning more calories and more fat, which will help give your muscles more definition.
6. Stay Active
While resting and taking time off to recover is very important (see next entry), it’s also important to increase your overall level of activity if you want to increase your fitness level. This is the same advice you’ve heard before; walk instead of driving when possible, use stairs instead of elevators, go hiking on the weekend instead of bingeing Netflix, etc…
Turn any activity or chore into an opportunity to exercise and strengthen up! Putting groceries away? Put them on the floor and do a squat every time you put something away. Picking something up? Balance on one leg and lift the other to do it. Park farther, walk faster, walk/jog during your lunch break. Jog with your dog instead of walking… Just move more! Adding extra activity throughout the day will help keep strengthening your muscles even when you’re not technically working out.
Another great way to add activity is joining a dance class. a yoga group (not high intensity, but still activity), pick up biking, hiking, climbing, swimming, etc… These are all fun ways to stay active which can be added to a full week of exercise without it feeling like too much since you enjoy it as a leisurely activity.
7. Take It Easy and Rest
Of course, like I mentioned before and in this article, recovery and repairs are really where strength and gains come from. It is imperative that you take time to recover so that your muscles can rebuild stronger and better.
Make sure to give muscles a break by doing full-body strength training and/or LIIT on alternating days, with cardio/HIIT on the “off” days. Besides that, give yourself a day or two off per week (truly off! no more than walking or easy hikes/bike rides/recovery yoga) so that your body can completely recover. Make sure to adjust your food intake appropriately (less activity, less food needed). It’s important to give muscles a break since they won’t show as much improvement without it.
8. Diet and Supplements
While food won’t necessarily increase your fitness level per se, you can aid your body in its repair process by feeding it the right foods. Also, if muscle definition is your goal, the less fat that is on your body, the more your muscles will show, and while exercise helps to burn fat, you can’t outexercise a bad diet.
If you exercise first thing in the morning, I recommend working out on an empty stomach to burn all that stored fat. Unless you’re exercising 3 hours or more at a time like an athlete, you don’t need to “carb-load” before your workout. Follow your workout with a high-protein snack/meal (about 20 grs.) like a protein shake, tuna, eggs, chicken salad, etc… within 30-60 minutes after your workout.
If you exercise later in the day, I recommend doing it at least 2 hours after your last meal. Afterward, the same applies; eat a high-protein meal/snack after your workout.
Protein is the building block of muscle so this is an important part of your diet. I recommend lean meats (fish, turkey, chicken), eggs, yogurt, and the like. Whey protein (or vegetarian protein) is great as a post-workout supplement because all the energy and protein in the shake will go straight to work rebuilding muscle and tissue.
Carbs are important for resupplying glycogen, but remember vegetables and fruits are carbohydrates too! So no need to eat bowls of grains to replenish that. (Again, you’re not an athlete, they need that). Just have enough veggies and fruits with your meals (5-7 servings of veggies, 1-3 of fruit per day). And don’t eat more than about 2-3 servings of grains per week, preferably whole, nutrient-rich grains like quinoa buckwheat, barley, and wild rice. If sprouted, even better!
So, you have all this information but, what would this look like? Which days you do what and when you exercise in the day are completely up to you. Maybe you prefer having Mondays off and go on hikes on Sundays… This is just an example of what a week would look like takin the above into account.
|10 min. warmup||10 min. warmup||10 min. warmup||10 min. warmup||10 min. warmup||10 min. warmup|
|Full-body circuit training (Like BodyPump, P90X, Insanity, etc…)||cardio 20-30 minutes (running, jump rope, high-intensity cycling, etc..) -OR- Hour-long aerobic fitness classes (zumba, kickboxing, cardio dance, etc…)||HIIT Full-body Routine||cardio 20-30 minutes (running, jump rope, high-intensity cycling, etc..) -OR- Hour-long aerobic fitness classes (zumba, kickboxing, cardio dance, etc…)||HIIT Running (12-20 mins.)||cardio 20-30 minutes (running, jump rope, high-intensity cycling, etc..) -OR- Hour-long aerobic fitness classes (zumba, kickboxing, cardio dance, etc…)||REST|
|active rest activity (yoga, hiking, walking, bike ride, jog, play a sport)||*[optional]: cardio for fun (jog, run, zumba, play a sport…)||active rest activity (yoga, hiking, walking, bike ride, jog, play a sport)||Full-body strength training (Weights) -OR- Full-body circuit training (Like BodyPump, P90X, Insanity, etc…)||active rest activity (yoga, hiking, walking, bike ride, jog, play a sport)|
|post-workout protein: shake/high protein meal||NO protein shake, fewer meals and/or smaller portions|
|Whole foods, 50% or more vegetables, lean proteins, good fats (coconut oil, animal fat, avocado, etc…)||Good day to go protein-less!||Try going vegan/vegetarian once per week to give your cells a nice turnover!|
I don’t have all those exercises on the website yet, but that’s why I have recommended some existing programs like P90X and the like, plus the routine I gave you. (If you’d like to sign up for a year-long subscription to unlimited workout programs, let me know, I can get you that).
You can also do a quick search online for those types of workouts (more videos coming soon!), or use a workout app. I love Nike Training Club (NTC) when I don’t feel like designing my own workout. It is challenging and super customizable and searchable. I really recommend it!
Remember to also eat clean (that means avoiding processed foods, added sugars, hydrogenated fats, fast food, candies, etc…) and eat to fuel your body’s progress and you’ll start seeing and feeling changes in the first two weeks!
Make sure to take some “before and after” pics! 😉