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Fit in 3: 5 ways to get fit in 3 months

If you’re serious about getting fit, choose an exercise you really enjoy and carve out the time for a regular workout.

Stick to it for three months and you’ll reap the rewards, be full of energy and feeling great. Here are five ways to do it.

Stay Healthy in the New Year

When so many resolutions lie in tatters by February, how about taking a new approach this year?

1. Dive into swimming

“Start off once or twice a week, and swim for 20 or 25 minutes. You can get a very good workout in a lunch hour,” says Andy McAllister of Turner Swim. Swimming helps you build up muscle groups around the hip, knee and ankle joints without putting pressure on them.

Andy advises face-in-the-water front crawl or back stroke to keep the spine flat and get the heart rate higher. Definitely no head-up breast stroke, which puts strain on your neck. For example, Turner Swim says it can get you doing a good front crawl in just five one-hour lessons.

After three months you’ll see the benefits in a well-toned upper body, shoulders and arms, and better cardio fitness. Want something to aim for? Swimathon, the world’s biggest fundraising swim, takes place from 29-31 March 2019.

2. Find your rhythm through dance

Want to exercise without feeling that you’re exercising? Dance will challenge your agility, balance, strength and co-ordination. It also improves your mood. This is because dance can boost levels of feel-good endorphins in the brain, and is sociable too.

Go full Strictly and sign up for ballroom, get into street dance or swing. You could try TAPfit, which combines cardio, resistance training and body-sculpting moves.

Even one dance session a week can help tone your bottom and stomach. It can also increase definition in your arms and improve posture, as well as strengthening your lower back. Find a class near you here.

3. HIIT: great for a quick workout

High-intensity interval training is perfect for time-poor people who want a kickstart to transform their body. HIIT alternates 30 seconds of working out as hard as you can with 30 seconds of rest, usually for a total of 20 minutes. Sessions are made up of exercises such as ground touches, walking shoulder presses, power squats and burpees. All exercises that can get you lean and toned.

Take a look at something like Joe Wicks’s Body Coach 90-day plan. The plan includes ideas for healthy meals and real-time workouts to follow at home, and access to an online community for support. At the end of the three months you can continue working out for free to the HIIT videos on YouTube.

4. Get back on your bike

You can get better muscle definition in your legs, achieve buns of steel and stronger abs from cycling, and you get a great cardio workout too, whether indoors in a spin class or out on the road.

Now’s the perfect time to start training for the British Heart Foundation’s sponsored London to Reading ride on 23 March 2019. The 64km/40-mile, largely flat route is on quiet country roads and starts in Kempton Park. The BHF’s downloadable training schedules for beginners guide you to gradually building up your training, with rest and recovery between sessions. Or try the free group rides (women only) with Breeze, a nationwide scheme run by British Cycling.

5. Hi-tech Pilates

In a ‘Dynamic Reformer Pilates’ session, you’ll strengthen the key stabilising muscles of the body. You can improve overall fitness and muscle tone with the help of the equipment and circuit-style exercises. Luke Meessmann of Absolute Studios recommends approaching a three-month programme with a clearly defined and honestly achievable goal.

“The people who notice the biggest changes in their bodies train at least twice a week. Train three to four times a week and you’ll experience truly fantastic results,” he says. Age is no barrier. If osteoporosis is a concern, “bones respond well to compression loading. So, things like squats, lunges, leg presses and resisted leg exercises using the straps on the Reformer are particularly good”.

12 Week Beach Body Program For Maximum Lean Muscle Gains

Whether excessively endowed with rolls of extra fat or just a little off your ideal shape, there are certain non-negotiable body transformation rules that will enable you to achieve the size and conditioning you want and get you in your best shape ever. With summer almost here, now is the ideal time to get serious about your physique goals.

Prioritize Every Aspect

It is widely stated that nutrition is responsible for up to 80% of the success we hope to experience with respect to our physique – that to become muscular and lean we must prioritize eating over all else. This may very well be true, to a certain degree; such as the importance of fueling for recovery, rebuilding, and energy purposes. However, without a spark there can be no flame, and without plenty of high intensity training with which to stimulate the muscle growth process, and sufficient time to rest and recover, we may be selling ourselves short.

When talking ratios and applying priority, you must apply 100% effort to training, another 100% to nutrition and supplementation, and yet another 100% each to rest and mental attitude. In other words – there is no slacking in any area.

A proper combination of resistance training and cardiovascular work will, aided by enough quality nutrients supplied in the right quantities and at the right times, be primarily responsible for promoting the stimulus necessary for muscle growth and optimal fat burning. The take home message here is that for your summer shape up program to work, you must combine all training facets, including rest, recovery, supplementation and mental approach, along with the requisite training and nutrition.

Training Intensity Matters

Though nutrition may be central to training success, a half-hearted approach to hitting the iron will produce few, if any, fresh muscle gains. Undermining the effectiveness of many training plans is the intensity with which we execute and target each muscle group – training intensity really matters when it comes to muscle gains.

The truth is, most of us only scratch the surface of our training intensity capabilities, harder training can almost always be managed.

By punishing our muscles from the first rep to the last – with no coasting – we stimulate more muscle fibers and create the anabolic conditions needed for super-compensation, or more fully, the extent to which our muscles respond to the enforced overload our gym sessions promote, ultimately becoming larger and stronger.

Rest, Repair & Mindset

Once we have properly depleted our muscles (and, make no mistake, we damage our muscles in the gym, and rebuild them when at rest), we must devote enough time to their repair. Since a larger muscle is a more metabolically active muscle, the more recovery and growth we can achieve, the more efficiently we obliterate our fat reserves, both during cardio activity, and when at rest. In fact, as will be noted in the program below, weight training and nutrition will bring about most of the lean body mass gains you will achieve. Cardio,while necessary for fat loss, is also extremely catabolic (muscle wasting) and if misused will take away from our muscle building efforts, rather than serve as a primary fat burning agent.

Develop a Terminator Mindset

Without a mindset conducive to conceiving, and truly believing, you can achieve all of your goals, along with the ability to ruthlessly pursue, schedule and following each in turn, your plan may prove unattainable.

Knowing what you want, and having the will and perseverance to achieve it, are two drastically different propositions.

To properly structure, balance, and rigorously chase your goals you must be able to switch between tasks with ease and continue to press forward despite any hardships or setbacks faced along the way.

Developing a stage-ready or beach-worthy physique is not for the faint of heart. Though many try, few truly succeed. You must be part machine, part human, and part animal in your approach to doing all that is necessary to train with full force, eat all prescribed meals, achieve complete rest, eliminate all outside distractions, and visualize nothing but success.

12 Week Training Program

Because of the importance of hard training to achieving unprecedented muscle building results this program emphasizes intensity over volume. Cardiovascular exercise is judiciously included and clean eating will be mandatory to ensure we steadily lose stored body fat.

All sets to be taken to failure: if further reps can be completed following achievement of prescribed rep range, increase weight. This program includes no fancy intensity methods other than supersets; intensity is to be created through lifting the heaviest weight possible and by going to absolute failure on each set.

For all 12-weeks, you must work to continue increasing weight on all lifts; make this your number one training priority – to get stronger while maintaining perfect form.

Monday

Morning: (before breakfast) 30 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio

30 seconds at 70% of maximal heart rate/30 seconds at 90% of maximal heart rate, back to back to completion.

Evening: Back and Biceps

  • Chin Ups: 4 x 8-12 (add weight once bodyweight becomes less challenging)
  • Reverse-grip Pulldowns superset with Single Arm Dumbbell (DB) Rows: 3 x 8-12
  • Bent-over Barbell Rows (overhand grip): 2 x 6-8
  • Rack Deadlifts: 3 x 8-10

Short break to refuel (ISOFLEX & CARBION+) After back training, consume approx. 15 grams of whey protein (ISOFLEX) and 15 grams of a quality carb formulation (CARBION+), rest for 20 minutes, then hit arms).

  • Incline DB Curls superset with DB Hammer Curls: 3 x 8-12
  • Barbell Curls: 3 x 8-12

Tuesday

Morning: Steady State Cardio

40 minutes at 75-80% of maximal heart rate

Evening: Chest & Triceps

  • Incline DB Press superset with Incline DB Flyes: 3 x 8-12
  • Medium-width Bench Press superset with Close-grip Bench Press: 3 x 8-12
  • Decline DB Flyes: 3 x 8-10

Short break to refuel (ISOFLEX & CARBION+) After back training, consume approx. 15 grams of whey protein (ISOFLEX) and 15 grams of a quality carb formulation (CARBION+), rest for 20 minutes, then hit arms).

  • Single Arm DB Overhead Triceps Extensions superset with DB Kickbacks: 3 x 8-12
  • Lying Barbell Triceps Extensions: 3 x 8-10
  • Rope Press-downs: 2 x 8-12

Wednesday

Morning: (before breakfast): 30 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio

30 seconds at 70% of maximal heart rate/30 seconds of 90% of maximal heart rate, back to back to completion.

Thursday

Evening: Legs

  • Barbell Squats: 2 x 8-12
  • Barbell Squats superset with Leg Extensions: 2 x 10-15
  • Leg Extensions: 2 x 8-12
  • Walking Lunges: 3 x 15 (each leg)
  • Leg Press: 2 x 8-12
  • Standing Calf Raise: 3 x 15-20
  • Seated Calf Raise superset with Toe Presses on the Leg Press Machine: 3 x 10-15

Friday

Morning: (before breakfast): 30 minutes of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio

30 seconds at 70% of maximal heart rate/30 seconds of 90% of maximal heart rate, back to back to completion.

Saturday

Evening: Shoulders and Abs

  • Standing DB Lateral Raise: 3 x 8-12
  • Bent-over DB Raise superset with Standing DB Press: 3 x 8-12
  • DB Front Raise superset with DB Shrugs: 3 x 8-12
  • Swiss Ball Crunches superset with Hanging Leg Raises: 3 x 15-30
  • Knee Raise (from bench): 4 x 15-25

Sunday: Rest

12 Week Nutrition Plan

To ensure optimal hormonal health and consistent fat burning results, work in one cheat/high calorie day per week during which three carbohydrate grams per pound of body weight may be consumed and 1-2 meals may comprise any off-limits foods you fancy (each meal totalling 800 calories). Such high calorie days are an effective way to elevate the metabolic rate, restore thyroid function and (with the inclusion of saturated fats) boost testosterone levels. Trial this approach for 2-3 weeks to see if it works for you; depending on your body type and metabolic rate you may need to schedule two of these days per week or one every 8-10 days.

Vary the overall caloric intake of this diet based on your present body fat levels and dietary requirements. For example, if your body fat levels exceed 13% (for males) or 20% (for females) and you find it difficult to lose weight, calories may need to be scaled down accordingly, or adjusted up if your BF levels are in the single digits and/or your body type is more ectomorphic. This can be done by modifying carbohydrate and fat intake accordingly. Protein is to be maintained as prescribed.

It is encouraged that you mix and match the following meal options to ensure a varied nutrient intake, and adherence to your diet.

Meal 1

Option 1: 150 grams of baked potato; 100 grams of broccoli; 1 whole egg; 6 egg whites

Option 2: 1 cup of brown rice; 100 grams of chicken breast; 1 apple

Recommended Supplements:

  • One VITAFEMME multi-vitamin pack
  • 1 gram of Vitamin C
  • 1 scoop ISOFLEX
  • 1 Omega 3

Meal 2

Option 1: 120 grams of water packed tuna; 1 cup of brown rice;

Option 2: 120 grams of chicken breast; 1 cup of whole wheat pasta

Meal 3

Option 1: 120 grams of lean red meat; 150 grams of baked potato; one apple

Option 2: 7 egg whites; 100 grams of green beans; 150 grams of sweet potato

Recommended Supplements:

  • 1 serving Omega 3
  • 1 gram of Vitamin C
  • 25 g of ISOFLEX (directly after evening training session)
  • 1 serving of CARBION+, a quality Carbohydrate formulation (directly after evening training session)

Meal 4

Option 1: 150 grams of baked potato; 100 grams of beets; 100 grams of broccoli; 120 grams of chicken breast

Option 2: 120 grams of cabbage; 100 grams of asparagus; 1 cup of brown rice; 120 grams of lean red meat

Meal 5

Option 1: 7 egg whites

Option 2: 100 grams of low fat cottage cheese

Recommended Supplements:

  • 15 grams of CASEIN-FX protein

My 12 Weeks with Bikini Body Guide

I was in the room because my editor said she wanted “a normal person” to try the entire 12-week BBG and write about what happens. That normal person was me, at least fitness-wise — I’m very average fitness-wise.

Over the past three years, I’ve gained about 10 pounds. It hasn’t been the end of the world, but my closet has taken the biggest hit. My boyfriend jeans became my skinny jeans. That’s especially a bummer because I justified more than one $180 pair of jeans as an “investment purchase.” Those are the same jeans that currently live deep in the back of a drawer.

What was almost more impressive to me was how effortlessly she demonstrated the push-ups and jump squats.

So that’s how I got here to BBG, getting my butt kicked by Kayla Itsines in person. Because I’m sure you’re wondering, she is very teeny tiny but she doesn’t look scary thin. She looks like an elegant giraffe, all legs and arms and abs, and what was almost more impressive to me was how effortlessly she demonstrated the push-ups and jump squats.

The workout was 30 minutes at most (consisting of burpees, planks, ab bicycles, etc.) but it felt like an eternity. We stretched afterwards and Kayla came over and pushed my legs down while I was stretching, but I knew they wouldn’t go down any further. “Tight legs,” she whispered. I felt a sting for having disappointed her.

Afterwards, I asked Kayla for burpee advice because I couldn’t do them at all, and she broke it down for me, which was so nice of her. I practiced burpees for the rest of December while waiting for the first week of January, when BBG would begin. Note: I did the old-school Bikini Body Guide PDF, not the app, and I didn’t do her meal plan.

Weeks 1 to 4

Kayla’s workout plan starts out with two to three sessions of her resistance training intervals a week, complemented by stretching and two or three sessions of LISS (which stands for “low intensity static state,” as in 35 to 45 minutes of fast walking).

Those interval training sessions involve two circuits, each consisting of seven minutes of exercise with a rest of 30 to 90 seconds in between circuits. (I’ll) do each of the circuits twice.

A single seven minute circuit equals four exercises (for example: 15 jump squats, 15 squats, 24 walking lunges, 24 knee ups). If you get through all of that before time is up, start over and keep going until you hear the buzzer. You’ll need just a few pieces of equipment, like weights and a bench, and the gym in my apartment building had most of it.

Is it cheating to do my #bbg progress photos while wearing workout @spanx?

A photo posted by goshgeegolly (@goshgeegolly) on Mar 1, 2016 at 8:14pm PST

If you’re trying the PDF version of BBG like I did, an interval training app like Pacer for your phone really helps with this.

I finish my first resistance training at 7am on Monday, January 4th, and I feel close to throwing up. For me, this is a heart-beating-out-of-your-chest, totally-out-of-breath workout. I’ve only worked out this hard in the occasional boutique fitness class.

As the week goes on, I struggle with normal gym-style sit-ups and pushups. I take my time during the intervals and also took a lot more breaks than I would’ve in an exercise class, probably more than I should have. I start watching #BBG YouTube videos, where super ripped girls exercise in real time. My idol is SquatMango, who breaks down her BBG journey on her blog in a way that makes you feel this is possible.

Most of the time, no one else uses the apartment gym, as I humiliate myself doing these exercises, but one day I notice another girl bopping around doing intervals. Wrapping up my workout, she looks at me and says, “Hey, were you doing Kayla’s workout?” A BBG friend in real life! She tells me that she’s done it before, it’s worth it, and it never gets easier. That sounds ominous.

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Weeks 5 to 8

I started BBG at 146 pounds and so far the scale has hardly moved; I’m at 144 on a good day. In December, I bought these Lykke Wullf overalls at Racked’s LA market — despite the very important detail that I couldn’t zip the back zipper up over my butt. Now I can zip them up! It’s still not acceptable to leave the house in these (ahem, cameltoe). That will be something to work toward.

There are now more LISS sessions to do. The resistance workouts have ramped up, and I wasn’t even okay with how it was going originally. You now have to do 15 burpees in a row instead of 10. There’s a reason BBG folks call it #deathbykayla.

There’s a reason BBG folks call it #deathbykayla.

Every time I go to do resistance training, I study the workout plan in the elevator, looking at the hell that awaited me. In my head I always think, “Oh my god, no.”

I show my husband, Joe, the week five plan, where you have to put your feet on a bench and your hands on the floor and do pushups. “I don’t see that happening,” he says. “That’s some Navy Seal shit.” I try it, to the best of my abilities, and my biggest accomplishment is that I don’t fall flat on my face.

It feels like I’m constantly doing these workouts, and although Kayla says they are 28 minutes, they take me about 50 mins door-to-door with the warmup and breaks. But I start to look forward to them more than LISS, weirdly, because walking on a treadmill is so boring.

I do the interval training religiously but find myself slacking on the LISS. I walk my dog, do Soulcycle on occasion, even go snowshoeing, but mainly I just walk on the treadmill, watching Lisa Vanderpump and her mini-horses on Real Housewives.

I feel like I’m getting fitter, for sure. Still, not seeing the scale move is super frustrating.

I felt like I’m getting fitter, for sure. Planks have been getting easier, burpees are still horrible but better, and my jump-roping skills are tops. Still, not seeing the scale move is super frustrating.

I wanted to do this while eating like a normal person — no crazy calorie counting or stick and leaf diets — to see what would happen, because some of the BBG transformations are so extreme. I’ve just been trying to eat healthier, although I have been slipping and eating pizza with my friends.

Besides cruising through #BBG hashtags and Kayla’s Instagram, I’m also obsessed with a Reddit thread on BBG. One Reddit-er says she could stick with her workout and eating plan as long as she didn’t spend any time with family and friends who might disrupt her schedule. I might be misinterpreting that, but that’s not how I want to live my life, BBG or no.

I know that diet is so important, but for me it’s even harder than doing these workouts. It’s time to knuckle down, eating-wise. I give up carbs for one day, then break down and start buttering a second piece of bread. “Did you already have one? Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” Joe calls out from the couch. “I’m doing it!” I yell in a panicked voice, smearing more butter on the bread.

Weeks 8 to 12

Time to ramp it up, and Kayla does not disappoint. Some of the exercises frighten me. I take a pass on the one that requires me to jump up onto two parallel benches into a squat. I don’t think I will clear the bench, so I never even try this. During another exercise, I slam a bosu ball into my shin, resulting in a gnarly bruise.

I also add HIIT sessions, or 30 seconds of sprinting on a treadmill then 30 seconds of resting repeated over a period of 10 to 15 minutes. You’re not supposed to do this in the same session as resistance training, and I can see now why college students are so often featured on Kayla’s Insta. This workout requires lots of chunks of time.

That time I met the one and only @kayla_itsines #bbg #throwbackthursday

A photo posted by goshgeegolly (@goshgeegolly) on May 26, 2016 at 9:10am PDT

I share more photos to the #BBG hashtag to power me through the last weeks. BBG is so solitary, and it’s easy to bail on a workout, that I can see why a surge of likes for photos of salad and dumbbells would be helpful. I find out one of my friends asked another, “What’s up with all the gym selfies Adele is posting?”

Like all things in my life, it takes me until the 11th hour to get serious about my diet. I start counting calories, which I hate doing. Truthfully, I didn’t want to let Kayla and her abs and her #BBG army down by not posting any results. I said I didn’t want to do this in an unhealthy way, but I’mso desperate to make the scale change that I suddenly became a ferocious calorie counter. I skip some meals. I know this is totally against what Kayla says in her guide, she doesn’t emphasize the scale at all, but I feel the pressure to get results, and I wonder if her followers do too.

Epilogue

It’s been two months since I finished BBG. I don’t think my “before and after” results are going to get me on Kayla’s Instagram. They aren’t very dramatic, which is a tad disappointing. When all was said and done, I lost six pounds in 12 weeks of workouts; four alone in the last weeks when I was really pushing myself in terms of diet.

Plenty of BBG girls don’t stop the workout after 12 weeks — they keep on trucking, moving onto the 2.0 version or working through the app. Honestly, I couldn’t handle that, I was happy to be done. Something about workout challenges stuck with me though, and now I’m trying to do 20 yoga classes in a month at my studio, Corepower Yoga.

I learned the simple power of not quitting something hard, of just sticking it with it and seeing improvement day by day.

I can actually almost do a proper chaturanga now, and I never could before (my tennis game on the other hand is horrendous because I didn’t practice at all while doing BBG). I’m completely obsessed with the hardest, sweatiest workout at my yoga studio Corepower. “You know what I say when my classes are looking tired?” the Yoga Sculpt teacher yells. “Burpees!” And I start really flying through them, thinking back to that class with Kayla when I could barely do a single one.

In these 12 weeks of BBG, I learned the simple power of not quitting something hard, of just sticking it with it and seeing improvement day by day. Ok, so it was my job not to quit, so major props to the #BBG community for sticking with this killer program.

And even though this workout has a pretty retrograde name (uh, every body is a bikini body), it taught me something about body image. When I started, I really hoped I could finish this article by saying I lost “X” number of pounds and got to my goal weight. That was going to be my idea of success and this is how my mindset about weight loss and health had always been. I feel like too many times in my life I’ve been obsessed by the scale and that number had the power to ruin my day.

Before starting BBG in January 2016 (L) and at the end of BBG (R) in March of 2016. Photos: Adele Chapin

In the end, I didn’t lose 10 pounds; I didn’t get back to what I weighed in college. Maybe some day I will, maybe not. But at the same time I’ve realized that I’m on track for what I really wanted to do when I started: fit into my clothes (including those damn overalls) and get stronger. I’ve accomplished that, and whatever the number on the scale is, it doesn’t have the power to take that away from me. You know what, I’m also proud of the little proto abs that I have now from all those “arms & abs” days, the proto-abs that perhaps only I can see.

Editor: Meredith Haggerty

Get Fit by Spring With This Easy 12-Week Workout Plan

When the holiday season enters the picture, many people let up on their diets and start skipping more workouts than they would like. With the New Year upon us, many of us are now looking for effective workouts to help get back on track and in shape as quickly as possible. Is it possible to get fit by spring? Absolutely, and now is the time to ramp up your efforts with this 12-week workout plan—especially if you want to flaunt that beach body come spring break or at least feel confident in your favorite shorts and tank top.

It may seem like summer is a long time away, but truth be told, it’s really not that far off, especially when you have some important fitness goals to accomplish. That’s why this 12-week workout plan was constructed to get you back on track.

3 Keys to Get Fit by Spring

When you have a fitness deadline in mind, like getting fit for spring, or maybe for a vacation, reunion, or wedding, the pressure’s on and it’s time to get serious. What should you do? You know you should “workout,” but what, exactly, does that entail? Well, a solid plan will include three areas:

  1. Diet—it’s time to tighten up your diet. No, that doesn’t mean you need to avoid all the festivities and skip any remaining holiday parties, but you do need to start being aware of what you’re eating and ensuring it’s in line with your fitness goals. Looking for the right diet for you? Learn more about these popular options:
    • Ketogenic Diet
    • Dash Diet
    • Paleo Diet
    • Mediterranean Diet
  2. Cardio—yes, if you want to burn off extra calories and help yourself get in shape quickly, you’ll want to include cardiovascular training in your workout lineup.
  3. Resistance Training—perhaps the most important aspect of your “get fit by spring” workout plan will be your weight-training routine. The muscle you build will not only help tone and shape your body, but it will help you raise your metabolism and consistently burn more calories.

Try This 12-Week Workout Plan

(Feel Free to Jump to Each Section Using This Section Guide)

  • Week 1-3: The Start
  • Week 4-6: HIIT It Hard
  • Week 7-9: The Ramp Up
  • Week 10-12: The Finish Line
  • Exercise Guide

WEEKS 1-3: The Start

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step”. And this is the first step in your 12-week workout plan journey!

Week one, you’ll be doing two full body workouts coupled with one cardio session. In weeks two or three, if you’re up to it, you can add a second cardio session. Pick one exercise from each of the body part choices listed in the section below and do one set of 15 – 20 repetitions for each body part.

  • Week 1: Allow for two minutes of rest in between sets.
  • Week 2: Allow for sixty seconds of rest in between sets.
  • Week 3: Allow for thirty seconds of rest in between sets.

If you do a full-body workout on Monday and Friday, then you’ll do 30 minutes of steady state cardio on Tuesday and/or Thursday. Steady state cardio means using a gentle warmup for about 5 minutes followed by 20 – 30 minutes of a brisk cardiovascular activity. If it’s been a while since you’ve worked out, start with a 30-minute walk, leisurely swim, or gentle bike ride for your first three weeks. Finish all exercises within this 12-week workout plan with a five-minute cooldown.

WEEKS 4 – 6: HIIT It Hard

Week 4, you’ll be doing 3 full-body workouts and two cardio sessions per week. In Weeks 4, 5 and 6, try making your cardio sessions a 20-minute HIIT workout. (“HIIT” stands for “high-intensity interval training” and is a short workout where you engage in quick bursts of all-out effort followed by a longer period of slower activity. This is repeated a certain number of times and is preceded by a warmup and followed by a cooldown.)

Always include a 5-minute warmup and a 5-minute cooldown.

  • Workout 1: Full Body
  • Workout 2: Cardio
  • Workout 3: Full Body
  • Workout 4: Cardio
  • Workout 5: Full Body

WEEKS 7 – 9: The Ramp Up

In weeks 7 – 9 of this 12-week workout plan, you’ll be doing two Upper Body and two Lower Body training sessions and 2 cardio sessions. For upper body, pick two exercises for each of the following, and do 10 – 12 repetitions for two sets each:

UPPER BODY:

  • Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
  • Back and Biceps

LOWER BODY:

  • Legs, Calves, Abs

The Schedule:

  • Day 1: Upper Body
  • Day 2: Cardio
  • Day 3: Lower Body
  • Day 4: Cardio
  • Day 5: Upper Body
  • Day 6: Cardio
  • Day 7: REST
  • Day 8: Lower Body
  • Day 9: Cardio
  • Day 10: Upper Body
  • Day 11: Cardio
  • Day 12: Lower Body
  • Day 13: Cardio
  • Day 14: REST

Repeat the cycle for the remaining weeks.

WEEKS 10 – 12: The Finish Line

Weeks 10 – 12, you’ll be doing what’s known as “body part splits” interspersed with HIIT cardio workouts. You’ll choose 2 – 3 exercises per body part and perform 10 – 12 repetitions for each exercise for 3 – 4 sets. They will go like this:

  • Workout 1: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
  • Workout 2: HIIT cardio
  • Workout 3: Back and Biceps
  • Workout 4: HIIT Cardio
  • Workout 5: Legs, Calves, and Abdominals
  • Days 6 & 7 are rest or active rest.

Exercise Guide for the 12-Week Workout Plan

Choose from the following to create your workouts, or choose your own to maximize your 12-week workout plan:

Chest Workouts:

  • Pushups—you can do these on your knees if you’re not able to perform a conventional pushup. Begin in a plank position with your arms positioned straight below you and about shoulder-width apart. Lower your body by bending your elbows while keeping your back and glutes in a straight line.
  • Dumbbell Presses—lie on your back on a bench with your arms straight above you and with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the elbows to lower the weight until your upper arms are parallel to the floor (the dumbbells should be at about chest level). Pause and push the weight back up to the start position while squeezing your chest muscles.
  • Dumbbell Flyes—lie on a bench—you can vary the incline on both this and the dumbbell press. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and start with your arms out straight above your chest with the dumbbell ends touching each other. With palms facing each other, and your elbows just slightly bent, slowly extend/drop your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the ground. Raise back to touch the dumbbells in the center and repeat.

Shoulders Workouts:

  • Shoulder Overhead Presses—on a machine or an upright bench, start with your palms facing forward and the weight at ear height. Press the weight upward at a slight angle so the weights (if using dumbbells) touch together at the top of the movement. Lower back to the starting position with a controlled motion, and repeat.
  • Side Lateral Raises—this will help you build those sexy shoulders that are a sure sign of fitness. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your legs. With your elbows slightly bent, raise your arms directly out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor. Your hands should be parallel to the floor as well with your thumbs facing ever so slightly upward. Slowly lower to the start position and repeat.
  • Bent-over Shoulder Raises—this exercise will help you build your rear deltoids (your shoulders have a front, back, and side so try to hit all those areas when you can). Sit on the end of a bench and bend at the torso. Grab the dumbbells off the floor and hold with your palms facing your body and your arms by your knees. Lift your arms out to your sides while squeezing your shoulders together. Hold for a moment at the top and return to the start. Repeat.

Triceps Workouts:

  • Triceps Pushdowns—using a cable system, stand straight, place hands on bar with elbows bent at 90-degrees, palms down with your forearms parallel to the floor. Press the bar straight down, straighten your arms, pause, and allow it to come back up to parallel with a controlled movement. Repeat.
  • Bench Dips—begin by sitting on the edge of a bench with your hands next to your hips, fingers facing forward. Lower your body as you move your hips off the bench by bending your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle. Straighten your arms to raise your body back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Dumbbell Kickbacks—start by kneeling forward with one knee on a bench and your other leg straightened. You should have a dumbbell in one hand and your opposite arm will be straight and your palm on the bench for balance. Straighten your right arm all the way back keeping your elbow tucked to your side. When your arm is fully straight, squeeze your triceps, and then return to start. Repeat for your set number of repetitions and repeat on the opposite side.

Back Workouts:

  • Lat Pulldowns—if you have access to gym equipment, you can do these on a machine, or feel free to do a set of pullups (assisted or unassisted) if you prefer. Sit on the machine and grasp the bar above you. Pull the bar down in a smooth motion toward the front of your chest as you mentally attempt to touch your elbows behind your back. (You can’t do this, of course, but it helps understand the movement.) Return the weight upward until your arms are straight and repeat.
  • Seated Cable Rows—using a seated row machine, with your legs straight (with a slight knee bend) lean forward to grasp the handles, and then straighten your back. Using your back muscles, pull your elbows straight back until your hands are at your waist. Let the weight move back toward the start position until your arms are fully straightened (keeping your back straight), and repeat.
  • Assisted Pullups—most gyms will have such a machine. Adjust the supporting weight so you can do a pullup with your knees resting on the pad. The pad will move up and down with you as you perform the exercise.

Biceps Workouts:

  • Biceps Curls—with a dumbbell in each hand, palms forward and your elbows at your sides, raise each dumbbell by bending your arms while keeping your elbows pinned at your sides. You can lift both arms at the same time or alternate, curling one arm at a time.
  • Concentration Curls—begin by sitting on the edge of a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand, palm up, and your elbow on your thigh. Start with your arm in front of you, and lower the dumbbell until your arm is straight (toward the floor). Lift the weight to return to the start position, and repeat to complete one repetition. Repeat on opposite side.
  • Cable Curls—stand sideways in front of a cable machine. Raise the handle to shoulder level and adjust the weight. Grasp the handle and step away from the machine until your arm is shoulder height and straight, palm up. Perform a biceps curling motion and return to the start. Complete the reps on one side before switching to the opposite side.

Leg Workouts:

  • Squats—you can do these at the gym with a barbell or dumbbell or use your own weight for a bodyweight squat. If you use a barbell, place this behind your neck on the top of your traps and shoulders (not on your spine) and securely hold the bar on each side of your head. With your feet about hip-width apart, “sit” back until your thighs are parallel to the floor (do not go down past parallel). Squeeze your legs and glute muscles to return to the standing position.
  • Lunges—with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your body, step forward with your right leg while bending at the knee with a forward motion until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your leg forms a right angle. Push off through your heel to return to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg to complete one repetition. **These are a must for big results in this 12-week workout plan.**
  • Hamstring Curls—lie down on your tummy on a lying hamstring curl machine with your ankles under the pads. Grip the stabilizer handles as you use your leg and glute muscles to raise the weight. Return in a controlled manner to the start position and repeat.

Calf Workouts:

  • Standing Calf Raises—with a dumbbell in each hand, stand on your toes for a count of 10 and then lower. Repeat 3 times for one full set.
  • Seated Calf Press—sit on a seated calf machine with your toes on the platform (heels will not be on the platform) and your knees under the pads. Use your calves to raise your legs (you’ll be on your tippy toes but in a seated position) and then lower past the platform to feel a good stretch in the calves. Repeat.
  • Standing Calf Raise Machine—begin by standing on a calf machine facing inward with your shoulders under the pads. With your legs straight, raise yourself up onto your tip toes and then down past the starting point for a good stretch. Repeat.

Abdominal Workouts:

  • Crunches—lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent. With your arms lightly touching the sides of your head, raise your upper body toward the ceiling by contracting your abs, and hold for a count of three. Return to the start and repeat.
  • Plank—get into tabletop position to start. Lower your arms so your forearms and palms are flat on the ground; straighten your legs, so you’re balanced on the balls of your feet. Hold this position, keeping your shoulders and elbows aligned and your body in a straight line. Try to hold this position for 30 – 60 seconds.
  • Leg Lifts—begin by lying on your back with your legs straight and your arms straight out next to your sides, palms down. Tighten your abdominals and raise your legs toward the ceiling while keeping your legs straight. Lower to the start and repeat.

Before you know it, the first 12 weeks of the year will have passed, and you’ll be feeling stronger, healthier, and more confident in your body—a body that is ready to rock the beach or at least look great in shorts and a tank top!

Bikini-Body Workout: 4 Weeks To Your Best Body!

Your bikini called. It wants to know if you’ll be meeting it like you promised last year year—you know, with a killer beach-ready body and all?

If that question just set off your panic alarm, don’t worry! It’s never too late to get down to business and make super strides toward your dream physique, so let’s get you started now.

As a seasoned fitness model, I know the secret sauce to whip my body into shape during crunch time: discipline, a proper training program, and a fork—with which to eat nourishing foods, of course!

OK, perhaps these aren’t so secret, but they are key ingredients in the recipe for beach-body success. I’ll lay out a workout, nutrition plan, and supplement guide for you. All I ask in return is your full commitment for four weeks!

4 Weeks To Beach Ready

Whether you have a vacation planned or just want to prep for summer, with four weeks you can get into beach-body shape. You’ll do the same workout split with the same exercises for the whole month to hit your entire body, but each week you’ll ramp up the intensity through the use of supersets, dropsets, and circuits, helping you sculpt muscle while burning a ton of fat.

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Read this overview of the training plan before you hit the gym, and then show no mercy to those stubborn love handles!

Beach-Body Training Overview

HIIT Workouts

HIIT is designed to promote substantial fat loss in a short period of time, but in order for it work effectively, you have to really work at maximum effort! Before you begin, warm up for 5-10 minutes with some dynamic stretching or jogging.

During the actual HIIT workout, start off with a 1:3 ratio of work to rest. In other words, if you do a 30-second sprint, take 90 seconds to recover. Repeat this cycle for a full 20 minutes.

As you improve, cut your work-to-rest ratio to 1:2—such as 30 seconds of work followed by 60 seconds of rest—to boost intensity.

Each interval should be as intense as you can make it. Afterwards, cool down and stretch for 5-10 minutes to aid in recovery.

Week 1: Get Started

Get ready to rock and roll! During this week, familiarize yourself with the daily workouts and exercises. Do straight sets of all your moves here, resting 30-45 seconds between each set.

You’ll be doing three days of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for 20 minutes per session. Your HIIT workouts can be done just about anywhere with outdoor sprints or on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike.

Note: I like to train HIIT on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but you’re welcome to incorporate your cardio workouts on the days that work best for you.

Week 2: Supersets

Time to ramp up the intensity! This week, you’ll pair exercises together and perform the workouts in supersets. A superset means that you do two movements back-to-back with no rest. After doing both exercises, you’ve done one superset.

Assuming you do the exercises in the same order as prescribed, the first superset will include the first two exercises of the workout, the second superset will consist of the following two exercises, and so on. Rest 30-45 seconds between each superset for adequate recovery.

Keep up your three days of HIIT cardio, and try to work a little harder than you did in Week 1.

Week 3: Super Dropsets

You’ll continue with supersets this week, but on the last set of each superset, you’ll perform a dropset on both exercises. During a dropset, you simply continue the exercise with a lower weight after you’ve achieved “failure” with the higher weight.

For example, in your glutes and hamstrings workout, you’ll do three supersets of lying leg curls and step-ups, just like you did in Week 2. On the fourth superset, however, you’ll do a dropset of lying leg curls followed immediately by a dropset of step-ups. Rest 45-60 seconds between supersets.

Leg press

Note: You can skip dropsets for the plyometric and abdominal workouts, so do those workouts exactly as you did them in Week 2.

Continue with your three days of HIIT, but add two 10-minute sessions of walking bodyweight lunges—to really hit your legs and butt before bikini season!—and one 15- to 30-minute steady-state cardio workout of your choice.

Week 4: Circuit Speed

Go hard or stay home—instead of going to the beach, that is—in this last week!

Perform all the exercises each day in a continuous circuit for the prescribed number of reps with little to no rest in between moves. Rest 60-90 seconds after each round, then hit it again for a total of four rounds. Your cardio program is the same as Week 3, but muster up any extra energy you may have to really bring it home!

Daily Workouts

Day 1: Glutes/Hamstrings 1 4 sets, 15-20 reps+ 8 more exercises

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Day 2: Shoulders/Triceps/Chest 1 4 sets, 12-15 reps + 8 more exercises

Beach Body Nutrition Overview

Working out is only half the battle for your bikini body. The rest of your work takes place in the culinary arena that is your kitchen. Diet is probably the largest driver of fat loss, so proper nutrition is of the utmost importance. A little forethought with meal planning and time spent in the kitchen will help you come a long way!

Sample Meal Plan

Here’s a slice of my recommended daily meal plan on this program. This is just a sample, so don’t feel like you have to eat exactly the same foods every day. However, note that the combinations of foods are designed to make you feel satiated while still helping you lose weight. As you make your own meals, try to keep a similar structure.

If you feel hungry, pile on more veggies to any meal to keep those pesky hunger pangs at bay. Veggies are unlimited in your program, so eat up!

Meal 1 Egg Whites 4 Oatmeal 1/2 cup Banana 1/2 Syrup (sugar-free) 1 serving Meal 2 Protein Bar (MusclePharm Combat Crunch Bar) 1 Meal 3 Deli Turkey 4 oz. Avocado 1 oz. Peppers (jalapeno) to taste Green Beans 1 cup Meal 4: Pre-workout Steak (flank) 4 oz. Corn Tortillas 2 Onion (diced) to taste Cilantro to taste Cabbage (shredded) 1 cup Meal 5: Post-workout Chicken 4 oz. White Rice 1/2 cup Vegetables 1 cup Meal 6 Protein Powder (FitMiss Delight Protein) 1 1/2 scoops

Important nutrition tips

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  • Don’t skip meals if you’re used to eating regularly. Skipping meals can cause you to overeat when you finally do get to chow down, so eating on a schedule with balanced meals will help you accomplish your goals!
  • Drink plenty of water—I drink a gallon a day—to stay hydrated and help you feel full. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you just need water or are actually hungry!
  • Eat protein at every meal. Protein is more satiating than carbs or fats, so it keeps you feeling full longer. It also helps preserve muscle mass, which is important on any fat-loss program.
  • Eat unlimited fibrous veggies, such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, celery, cabbage, green beans, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. It is practically impossible to overeat these veggies. Plus, by eating more of them, you’ll feel fuller and be less likely to overeat other foods. Ultimately, this helps your waistline!
  • Four weeks will go by fast, but each day can drag on forever if you’re not used to eating “diet” foods. You shouldn’t completely deprive yourself, so enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. It’s better to eat one brownie than to inhale an entire box when your cravings hit really hard.
  • If you have a particularly troublesome sweet tooth, you can even make healthier alternatives of your favorite treats! Allowing yourself your favorites will enable you to stick to the program better and enjoy the process, rather than falling off the deep end because you feel deprived. The Bodybuilding.com Healthy Recipe Database is the perfect place to find new recipes.
  • Remember that failure is normal. You can’t control everything in life, so if you fall off one day with your diet, workout, or even both, it’s not the end of the world! Dust yourself off and do it right the next day.

Beach-Body Supplements

There are no magical supplements to do the work of weight loss for you. Supplements are simply an addition to your airtight workout program and diet plan. Proper supplementation can help keep your energy high when pushing to meet an accelerated weight-loss goal.

Branched-chain amino acids can assist with recovery and heavy or intense lifting sessions when your energy is otherwise flagging.

The few supplements I recommend during a weight-loss phase are:

  • A multivitamin to fill in nutritional gaps in your diet. Since you’re eating fewer calories overall, that means fewer nutrients, so a multi provides great micronutrient insurance.
  • CLA to support healthy weight loss and promote recovery.
  • Protein powders to help you meet your muscle-building protein daily targets. Plus, protein powders are often delicious, can help you fight cravings, and are incredibly versatile!
  • Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to assist with recovery and give you a source of energy during intense lifting sessions.
  • A fat burner, which is the proverbial cherry on top to help suppress your appetite and boost your overall weight loss. I don’t recommend using most fat burners for more than four weeks at a time, since many of them contain stimulants, which you may not be accustomed to.

Supplement schedule

Morning:

  • Multivitamin: 1 serving
  • CLA: 1.5g
  • Fat burner: 1 serving

Afternoon:

  • Multivitamin: 1 serving
  • CLA: 1.5g

Intra-workout:

  • BCAAs: 1-2 scoops

Post-workout:

  • Protein powder: 20g

Evening:

  • CLA: 1.5g

Anytime:

  • BCAAs: 1-2 scoops
  • Protein powder: 20g

Sexier by Summer: 12-Week Beach Body Workout Plan

Summer’s on its way, and that means it’s only a matter of time until you peel down into a body-baring swimsuit and hit the beach. To help you look and feel your best, we asked Jay Cardiello, SHAPE fitness editor-at-large and founder of the JCORE Accelerated Body Transformation System, to create a program that will help you lose fat and tone up in time for beach season. Here, you’ll find the first two workouts from his 3-month plan. (.) All you need is your own body weight and 15 minutes to shape up, slim down, and feel more confident than ever.

This program is based upon the premise of short burst training (SBT), which focuses on the use of short 30- to 60-second bouts of high-intensity protocols that are followed by less intense exercises.

“Traditional cardiovascular training is tremendously time-consuming and moderate-intensity protocols may not even produce the results exercisers are seeking,” says Cardiello. This type of workout cuts down on training time and has been shown to help reduce the subcutaneous fat around your belly. Furthermore, it can burn more fat overall in a 24-hour period (after stopping SBT) than with traditional cardio.

How it works: For 30 seconds, perform as many repetitions of each move as you can, focusing on maintaining proper form the entire time (reference the videos for correct form). If your alignment begins to break down, slow down and complete fewer reps. As you progress, you’ll be able to complete more repetitions during each 30-second period.

Workout 1: Lower-body workout and cardio

Weeks: 1 and 2

Days: 1 and 3

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Workout 1 moves:

1. Spinning Wheels: Make large circles with your arms rotating forward while marching in place. (30 sec)

2. Spinning Wheels: Make large circles with your arms rotating backward while marching in place. (30 sec)

3. Skip to my Lou: Skip in place as high as possible. (30 sec)

4. Pole Positions: Perform alternating straight-leg raises with hands extended outward in front of body. (30 sec)

5. Hip Hikers: Raise your right knee then kick your leg out, alternating back to front. (30 sec)

6. Side Outs: Take this volleyball lingo to a whole new level. Step out lunging to the right side. (30 sec)

7. Twirlers: Circle your leg counter clockwise keeping it low. (30 sec)

8. Twirlers: Circle your leg clockwise keeping it low. (30 sec)

9. Beach Buddies: Perform deep squats with feet slightly turned out. (30 sec)

10. Hip Hikers: Perform exercise number 5 on the opposite side. (30 sec)

11. Side Outs: Perform exercise number 6 on the opposite side. (30 sec)

12. Twirlers: Circle arms counter clockwise. (30 sec)

13. Twirlers: Circle arms clockwise. (30 sec)

14. Switch Its: Perform alternating lunge jumps. (30 sec)

15. Booty Bits: Perform alternating side high-kicks. (30 sec)

16. Star-Lites: Also known as plyo-jumping jacks. (30 sec)

17. Seal Jumps: Start standing with your body in an “X.” Clap arms together in front of you as legs jump together-opening and closing, similar to a traditional jumping jack. (30 sec)

18. Cross Stitches: Start in the “X” position again and alternate crossing both hands and legs jumping open and cross. (30 sec)

19. Toe Taps: Get in a wide squat position and jog in place as fast as possible. (30 sec)

20. Life Guards: Sprint in place as fast as possible. (30 sec)

21. Sea Girts: Lunge and kick your butt with the back leg returning to a lunge on right side. (30 sec)

22. Sea Girts: Lunge and kick your butt with the back leg returning to a lunge on left side. (30 sec)

23. High Tides: Hold lunge position on right side. (30 sec)

24. High Tides: Hold lunge position on left side. (30 sec)

25. Rising Waters: Perform a deep squat while opening arms as wide as possible behind your back and closing them in front of your body. (30 sec)

26. Sun Sets: Hold in a low squat position. (30 sec)

27. Half Moons: Alternate leg lifts performed in a U-turn motion circling front to back then back to front alternatting left and right sides. (30 sec)

28. Crescents: Alternate leg lifts to the front with arms overhead. (30 sec)

29. Seaweeds: Alternate knee grabs in front of your body. (30 sec)

30. Salutations: (30) Perform a breathing prayer with hands together raising them over-head opening to lower at your sides. (30 sec)

Workout 2: Upper-body workout and cardio

Weeks: 1 and 2

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Workout 2 moves:

1. Rise and Shine: As you descend into a wide squat, extend your arms outward and swing to the side. As you retract back out of the squat position, swing your arms overhead. (30 sec)

2. Sand Dunes: Position your arms in a touchdown (scoring) position raising your hands downward and upward. (30 sec)

3. Coconut Groves: Lateral forward arm circles. (30 sec)

4. Coconut Groves: Lateral backward arm circles. (30 sec)

5. Bikini Briefs: Raise arms overhead and circle arms inward. (30 sec)

6. Bikini Briefs: Raise arms overhead and circle arms outward. (30 sec)

7. Hitch Hikers: In a wide squat position, extend arms in front of body directly over knees with thumbs turned down. Then, descend thumbs toward the groin region and swing up and back as fast as possible. (30 sec)

8. Walk the Plank: From standing position, touch your toes and walk out to a push up position. Then walk back up to standing. (30 sec)

9. Plank Turns: In a standard pushup position take right hand and rotate your arm counter clockwise under your shoulder like you’re scrubbing the floor. (30 sec)

10. Plank Turns: In pushup position, rotate right hand clockwise. (30 sec)

11. Plank Turns: In pushup position, rotate right hand counter clockwise. (30 sec)

12. Plank Turns: In pushup position, rotate left hand counter clockwise. (30 sec)

13. Fist Pumpin’: Remain in plank position and alternate forward punches with left and right arms. (30 sec)

14. Air Streams: From plank position, raise arms to the front alternating right and left. Keep arms straight. (30 sec)

15. Beach Rescue: From plank position, lift your right knee toward your right hand then quickly switch to the left side and repeat. (30 sec)

16. Sand Castles: From plank position, lift your right knee toward your left hand then quickly switch to the left side and repeat. (30 sec)

17. Starfishes: From plank position, swing right leg to right side. (30 sec)

18. Starfishes: From plank position, swing left leg to left side. (30 sec)

19. Diving Boards: Start in plank position and step up onto your right hand, then your left hand so that you are in pushup position. Reverse the motion going back down onto your right elbow, then left elbow. (30 sec)

20. Skinny Dipping: Begin in downward dog position and touch your hand to your opposite knee as you raise your foot off the ground bringing you knee to your chest and alternate. (30 sec)

21. Beach Chairs: Perform push-ups on your knees. (30 sec)

22. Swing Sets: In a pushup position on your knees, quickly punch one arms in front of you, alternating sides as fast as possible in front of your body. (30 sec)

23. Fire Flies: Stand in a deep squatted position and punch forward rapidly alternating arms at nose-level. (30 sec)

24. Beach Blast: Alternate upper cuts in a quarter squat position, pivoting feet as you punch. (30 sec)

25. Lemon Squeezes: In a semi squat position, extend arms laterally and flutter them backward as fast as possible, squeezing your shoulder blades together. (30 sec)

26. Lemon Drops: Remain in a semi squat position and pulse elbows backwards as fast as possible, squeezing your shoulder blades together. (30 sec)

27. Fly Away: In the same semi squat position, extend arms out to the side and move them up and down like a bird as fast as possible. (30 sec)

28. Flutter Kicks: Standing upright lift your right knee and extend leg forward. Lower it to the ground and repeat on the left side. (30 sec)

29. Bar Stools: Going back to a semi squat position, extend arms out to the side and sweep arms in toward your face one at a time. (30 sec)

30. Crescent Moons: Standing upright, slowly pull your elbow behind your head with the opposite hand stretching your muscles. Switch to the other side. (30 sec)

31. Salutations: Breathing deeply, place your hands in prayer position overhead, opening them and lowering them down to close. (30 sec)

  • By Jay Cardiello

Just over three months ago, an email from the MH team popped into my inbox, titled: “Are you a man? Do you want to change your life?” My initial thought was, “Yes, I am, and no, I don’t.” I have a wonderful wife, two beautiful kids with another on the way, plus a crippling mortgage. I was living the dream.

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It’s just that, as I neared my mid-forties, the day-to-day reality of that life was less dream and more drudgery. As the treadmill of a busy life runs on, you come to the realisation that your best days are probably behind you.

Whenever I played rugby for my old-boys team, I’d notice I was a little bit slower than the time before, a little bit more prone to injury. My two girls are bundles of energy, but my own energy levels were being sapped at a rapid rate. I worried that number three might finish me off for good. So, I replied to that email and told the truth – my fitness, my health and my sense of self all needed serious work. Yes, I did want to change my life. What’s more, I was ready to put in the hard graft.

Lucky If Sharp

Reality Check

Callum Melly, a PT at Third Space in Soho, quickly established the enormity of the challenge ahead of us. Before we stepped onto the gym floor, he gave me a comprehensive body composition analysis: I weighed 78kg, of which more than 17kg was fat mass, with a body fat percentage of 22%. Not great. Callum then took a look at my strength levels and movement ability. He soon worked out what I already knew: that I had no core strength whatsoever, was struggling with a bad back from a lifetime of sport, and my posture was screwed from spending too long at a desk. I had assumed I’d be able to pick up where I’d left off 10 years ago, but I could barely lift even the lightest weights. Callum handed me some 6kg ones, and I was wobbling all over the place. I was once supposed to be a decent sportsman, not a weedy old man. After that first week, I was unable to raise my arms over my head. My shoulders were so sore that I couldn’t shampoo my hair (what’s left of it).

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Trust The Process

Just as Callum promised, the pain of the first few weeks subsided. Honestly, it does. I just hadn’t ever made it that far. In the gym, I was suddenly pushing more weight (barbell rowing 50kg), and doing more reps. In week one, I could barely string together five press-ups; by the time I was halfway through my transformation, I could perform sets of 10 comfortably. Most importantly, my cardiovascular health was improving: I was resting less between sets and finishing sessions strong, rather than dragging myself to the end.

By week eight, I could see significant changes to my body shape. I was walking taller and sitting more upright at my desk. Some simple stretching and mobility work I could do in front of the TV had eased my lower-back pain, which had been a constant worry for a decade.

I was becoming mentally resilient, too. On a family holiday to Ireland, which previously would have been an excuse to do nothing, I would kick-start my metabolism by running 6-8km every morning. I knocked up a vegetable omelette for breakfast, took a protein shake out with me for lunch and had a decent dinner. And I wasn’t going hungry.

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Before, I’d eat a bowl of cereal every morning and, by 10:30am, I’d be heading out to the shop for a bag of crisps and a bar of chocolate. Now, my breakfasts were getting me through a busy schedule and a midday gym session without fail. I didn’t fall ill once during the training, despite pushing my body to its limits. This was how it was supposed to be.

Looking Forward

It’s no exaggeration to say that my life has changed. In just three months, I feel as though I’ve undone decades of decline. I feel more energetic, limber – more youthful, even. I have a more positive outlook on life. I sprint up the stairs like a youngster every day, after losing the excess weight I’d been carting around. Callum’s guidance has given me back my body. I can pick up Lego without having to use the furniture. I can lift more than I ever could in my prime, both in the gym and at home, carrying both kids around like I never used to. I’m
not just ready for number three but raring to go. I have an air of self-confidence that, I realise now, had been missing for a number of years, and my sleep and mental wellbeing have never been better.

I also understand a few things I didn’t before. How a few small changes can really make huge differences, from one-calorie oil spray and power-walking to the right clothing. That I don’t actually miss alcohol, but I could never give up chocolate. And that if you concentrate on the things you value most, such as your future health and wellbeing and the happiness of your family, you can do extraordinary things. For me, this doesn’t feel like the end of something. It’s the beginning.

The Workout – Week 1

The first of your five sessions sets the tone for a week of self-improvement with a lower-body workout that raises your metabolism and works your heart without the hard impact of pounding the pavement.

1. Trap Bar Deadlift

4 sets of 8 reps

You’ll feel the burn in your quads, but the deadlift will stimulate muscle across your whole body, increasing your resistance to aches and pains. Hinge at your hips to grip the bar (A). Keep your back straight as you stand tall, driving your hips forward and bringing the bar to your thighs (B). Return the bar to the floor under control. Rest for 90 seconds between sets.

2. Prowler Push

3 sets of 30m

After building your strength with deadlifts, put it to good use and torch some extra calories. Face a sled in a sprinting position, with your torso parallel to the ground. Grip the posts with your arms locked out (A), then march as fast as you can, raising your knees high (B). Get your heart pumping: this should feel like a run. Rest for 60 seconds before the next move.

3A. Dumbbell Step-Up

3 sets of 12 reps

This superset will help you sculpt your abs by challenging your balance with one-sided moves. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step onto a box in front of you with your left leg, keeping your weight on your heel (A). Lift your right leg to stand tall on the box (B). Step down with your left leg. Switch sides for your next rep

3B. Bulgarian Split Squat

3 sets of 10 reps (each leg)

Don’t rest just yet. Face away from the box and take a step forward. Now, prop a foot on
top of it (A). Bend your front leg until your back knee touches the floor, keeping your spine straight (B). Hold for a second, then squeeze your glutes and drive yourself back up. Work both legs, then rest for 90 seconds before launching into your second set of step-ups.

4. Ab Wheel Roll-Out

3 sets of 15 reps

Lewis focused on his abs at the end of each workout to build new definition. Kneel with your feet crossed and off the floor, holding an ab roller below your shoulders, keeping your arms straight (A). Tense your abs as you roll forward, extending your arms. Try to get your torso as close to the floor as possible (B). Roll back in and repeat. Breathe in as you extend, and exhale as you roll in.

New Year’s Resolution Series: 12-Week Fat Loss Workout Plan for 2020

Before you begin reading this, let’s get one thing straight: This is NOT your average New Year’s weight-loss workout program. We’re not interested in simply getting you abs and leaving it at that. Onnit is about Total Human Optimization—not training hard just to “tone up” a bit, only to fall off the wagon in six weeks or so (as you know you’ve done in the past).

Conventional physique programs that focus solely on building your muscles and “blasting your abs” only take you so far. Sooner or later your hurts, your knees ache, you plateau on your exercises, and you wonder what all your hard work is for.

And then what happens? You quit. Time passes, you feel guilty, and you tell yourself you’ll start again in the New Year and give it all you have.

Well, it’s 2020, and it’s high time you stopped making the same mistake.

You CAN have abs, and athleticism, and greater overall health and fitness—without spending considerably more time at the gym—by taking an optimized approach.

Our approach.

Take on our 12-Week Fat Loss Workout Plan, and you’ll not only get in the best shape of your life but know how to keep that shape for the rest of your life.

Duration Frequency Exercise Type Intensity Repetitions Rest
30-45 minutes 3x per week weight loss training steady/deliberate varies by exercise 120 seconds

Who Is This Fat Loss Workout Plan For?

The former athlete looking to get back into fitness, or men and women who have been working diligently for months (or years) but are disappointed with their results. These workouts consist primarily of body-weight exercises, but don’t read that as “easy.” Even an experienced and especially strong lifter will be humbled by them.

What This Fat Loss Workout Plan Will Do For You

You know the conventional approach to getting ripped all too well. Hit one or two body parts at a time, do three sets of 10 reps, isolate the muscles, blah blah blah.

We don’t mean to knock those methods and they certainly have their place, but we feel they present a very one-dimensional view of training, and they limit the potential of what your body can do and even how it can look.

Have you noticed how guys who blast their chests tend to end up with bad posture? How lots of bench pressing hurts your shoulders and crunches make your lower back sore? And it’s probably occurred to you that spending a whole day training your arms means you’ll need to spend another on your back, another on your legs, another on your deltoids… It gets awfully time-consuming, and what good is having a great body if you never have time to do anything else with it?

We say: scrap all that. Start training your body like the integrated system that it is rather than a disjointed collection of parts, and you’ll see better, faster results without side effects.

1. Improved Mobility

First, you need to work to offset the muscle imbalances and limited range of motion you’re no doubt suffering from (perhaps without even realizing it) due to living in the modern world. Only then will you be able to get the best results—from our program or any.

Onnit’s workouts don’t begin with the “first exercise.” The days of doing a few shoulder circles, cracking your knuckles, and loading up the barbell right away in your workout are over. Today, smart coaches know the value of doing a thorough joint mobility warmup first. Each session, we ask that you take five minutes to do a series of mobility drills including neck glides, Egyptians, and lateral hip rooting (shown below). It’s designed to help correct the problems that result from sitting in front of a computer screen, driving in a car, and other activities that tighten the hips and weaken the upper back and core.

This warmup will prepare you to perform the exercises in the main workout more efficiently. It will improve your ranges of motion, and help to prevent injury when you start loading up heavy weights and blasting through circuits—don’t skip it.

2. Strength, Muscle, and Fat Loss

Second, we want you to work the whole body each session, which burns more calories and activates more muscle than body-part splits (much of it in your core). This will automatically have you training each muscle group more frequently. The more often you can train a muscle the faster it will grow, provided you can recover from the previous session. Short, intense, frequent workouts allow you to train hard, recover well, and make gains fast.

The workouts feature a strength superset, which serves as your “meat and potatoes” training—the work that will give you the majority of your results by challenging your muscles with heavy loads that tax your whole body. It’s worth noting that we’ve built some mobility in here as well: we opted for the Romanian deadlift because it’s safer for the lower back than the conventional version, and teaches you to hinge at the hips properly—a fundamental movement skill. This is paired with the dumbbell pullover, which opens up the lats while sparing the elbows, which are often irritated by chinup exercises.

In Workout B, you’ll focus on hanging from a bar in the bottom of a pullup position. Simply holding on and letting your own body weight stretch you is enough grip and core training to qualify as serious strength work, and you’ll see what it does for your ability to do full range pullups down the road.

After the strength superset, you’ll hit a conditioning circuit, in which you’ll perform a series of body-weight exercises that will burn calories and force you to stabilize your body in ways that you can’t while lifting weights. You’ll do as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes one week and Tabata intervals the next. It puts conventional cardio to shame.

3. Better Gains Long-Term

Lastly, you’ll use a decompression circuit (“cool down”) to end each session. This consists of static and dynamic stretches (downward dog, hip flexor stretch) that pull the tension out of your muscles to promote recovery and further improve mobility. As with the warmup, it only takes five minutes, and will help to re-acclimate your body to life outside the gym, and keep you healthy and fit to train for as long as you choose to.

Directions

The program goes for 12 weeks. The workouts for Part 1—Weeks 1–4—appear here (come back in February for Part 2). While the exercises for the first four weeks remain the same, the way in which you perform them will change slightly on a weekly basis. See the “notes” on each week at the bottom of the page.

Perform each workout (Workout A and B) twice per week. An ideal schedule would be to do A on Monday, B on Tuesday, rest Wednesday, do A again Thursday and B Friday. Perform some kind of light recreational activity (walking, biking, swimming, sports, etc.) the remaining days of the week. Repeat the cycle for four weeks.

Begin each workout with the prescribed mobility warmup, and then do the strength superset, conditioning circuit, and decompression.

Each workout should take 45 minutes or less.

For a nutrition plan to accompany the workouts,

Fat Loss Workout A

Mobility Warmup

Perform 5 reps of each exercise (on each side, where appropriate) in sequence. Repeat the series for 3 total rounds.

A. Forward/Backward Neck Glide

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Stand tall with soft knees and tuck your tailbone slightly so your hips are level with the floor. Think “proud chest,” drawing your shoulder blades back and down. Brace your core and place your hands on your belly to draw awareness to any movement in your torso during the drill (there shouldn’t be any), and slowly extend your neck straight forward. Avoid tilting your head up or down—move it forward as if it were sliding on a straight path. Go as far forward as you can and then retract your head straight back until you feel you’re making a double chin.

B. Double Backward Shoulder Roll

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From the same tall standing position described above, allow your arms to hang at your sides and begin rolling your shoulders backward. Make big circles, moving only at the shoulders, drawing them back, down, forward, and up again. Move your shoulders as far as you can in each direction.

C. Egyptian

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Raise your arms out 90 degrees, actively reaching them apart as far as you can. Rotate purely at the right shoulder, twisting your arm so your palm faces behind you. Allow your head and torso to rotate to the left as you twist. Unwind your right arm and repeat on the opposite side.

D. Lateral Hip Root

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Stand with feet between hip and shoulder-width apart and tilt your pelvis backward. Keeping a “proud chest,” drive your hips back to one side, allowing your knees to bend as needed. Bend as far as you can, reaching your arms out straight for balance. Squeeze your glutes and tuck your pelvis back under as you come back to standing and repeat on the other side.

E. Hacky Sack

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Bend one knee 90 degrees and raise that leg up so your thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your balance and rotate your lower leg in toward the midline of your body as far as you can. Reverse the motion and rotate the leg outward as far as possible.

Strength Superset

Complete one set of 1A and then 1B before resting.

1A. Romanian Deadlift
Sets: 4
Reps: 8
Rest: 0 sec.

Place a loaded barbell on a power rack or mats so that it’s at about mid-thigh level. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip and pull the bar out of the rack so it hangs at arm’s length in front of you. Step back a few feet to clear the rack and stand with feet between hip and shoulder width apart.

Imagine screwing your feet into the floor—twist them out and apart—but not to the point where they actually move. Just activate the muscles on the sides of your hips and feel the tension you’ve created in your lower body. Take a deep breath into your belly and draw your shoulder blades back and down (think of Superman pulling his jacket open to reveal the “S” on his chest). Tilt your hips back.

Begin lowering your torso toward the floor, pushing your hips back as far as you can until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Allow your knees to bend as needed. You should feel your weight on your heels.

Keep your spine long from your head to your pelvis. As you bend, keep the bar pulled into your legs the entire time, firing the muscles in your back and keeping a “proud chest” position.

When you’ve gone as far as you can safely, squeeze your glutes to come back up to standing.

1B. Dumbbell Pullover
Sets: 4
Reps: 10
Rest: 120 sec.

Hold a dumbbell by one of its bells with both hands and lie back on a bench, suspending the weight over your chest. Take a deep breath and begin lowering the weight behind your head while keeping your elbows straight.

When you feel a stretch in your lats, pull the weight back up to the starting position using your back muscles.

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Conditioning Circuit

Perform the following exercises back to back for 20 minutes. Do not rest in between exercises; work at your own pace. Complete as many rounds (exercises 1A–1D) as possible without stopping and record the number you complete. Try to beat this number in Week 3.

1A. Body-weight Squat
Reps: 20

Stand with your feet between hip and shoulder-width apart and toes turned out slightly. Look straight ahead, take a deep breath, and screw your feet into the floor as you did in the Romanian deadlift.

Drop down as if sitting in a low chair, spreading your knees apart as you descend. Go as low as you feel comfortable while keeping a long spine from your head to your pelvis—your head, back, and hips should form a straight line and your torso should be very vertical. Your knees should line up with your big toes. Drive through the middle of your feet to stand back up.

1B. Pushup
Reps: 10

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Place your hands on the floor at shoulder-width apart and extend your legs behind you in a straight line. Your feet should be about hip-width apart. Breathe into your belly and brace your core. Pull your shoulder blades down and together.

Think about twisting your hands into the floor to create tension in your shoulders. Begin lowering your body toward the floor by pulling yourself down with your upper back. Stop when your chest is about an inch above the floor and press back up, continuing to push until your shoulder blades are spread wide apart.

1C. Bicycle Crunch
Reps: 10 (each side)

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Lie on your back on the floor and clasp your hands behind your head. Extend your legs in front of you. Crunch your torso off the floor and twist to your left while simultaneously raising your left knee to your chest until your knee and elbow meet. Lower your torso and leg and repeat on the opposite side. You’ll look like you’re pedaling a bicycle. Each twist is one rep.

1D. Hip-Opening Mountain Climber
Reps: 10 (each side)

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Get into pushup position and draw your right knee up to the outside of your elbow, pulling the leg inward while driving the arm out so they touch each other firmly. Drive it back and bring the other knee up. Alternate in a steady rhythm (each knee drive is one rep). Keep your core engaged and resist any rotation at the shoulders or hips. Fight to keep your “proud chest” position—try not to let your upper back round forward excessively.

Decompression

Perform each exercise for 60 seconds (30 seconds per side where appropriate).

A. Standing Forward Fold

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From the tall, “proud chest” position, bend your hips back and reach behind your ankles. Pull your legs toward you with your arms while simultaneously trying to extend your hips. Keep the tension and feel your lower back open up.

B. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

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Kneel on the floor in a lunge position and stack your head and spine directly over your hips. Allow your front knee to drive forward but maintain your upper-body position. You should feel the stretch in the front of your trailing leg. As your hip opens, allow your knee to drift further forward and your hips to stretch more deeply.

C. Kneeling Inverted Pushup Hold

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Get on all fours and rest the backs of your hands on the floor directly underneath your shoulders. Keep a “proud chest” position with your spine and hips aligned as you straighten your elbows to feel a stretch on your wrist extensors (in the forearm). Turn your biceps to face forward and hold the position.

D. Downward Facing Dog

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Get into a bear crawl position with hands on the floor at shoulder-width apart. Push your feet and hands into the floor to raise your hips into the air. Allow your knees to bend as neeed to keep your head, spine, and hips aligned. Hold the position while actively driving your hands into the floor.

E. Floor Scorpion

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Lie on your chest on the floor and spread your arms out 90 degrees. Bend your left leg and drive it up off the floor and over behind your right arm. Plant it flat on the floor and drive it actively into the floor so you feel a stretch in your hips. Allow your shoulder to come up as you turn but try to drive it back down.

Note that the way in which this workout is done changes slightly week to week. Above is what you should do for Week 1. See the “notes” on the bottom of the page for instructions on Weeks 2–4.

Fat Loss Workout B

Repeat the warmup from Workout A.

Complete one set of 1A and then 1B before resting.

1A. One-Arm Dumbbell Row
Sets: 4
Reps: 8 (each side)
Rest: 0 sec.

Hold a dumbbell in one hand and rest the opposite hand and knee on a bench. Think “proud chest,” drawing your shoulder blades down and together, and row the weight to your side until your upper arm is in line with your torso. Complete your reps and repeat on the opposite side.

1B. Pull-up Bar Hang
Sets: 4
Reps: Hold as long as possible
Rest: 120 sec.

Grasp a pullup bar with hands outside shoulder width and palms facing away from you. Draw your shoulder blades down and try to pull them together. Pull your ribs down. Think about keeping your head, spine and hips aligned and making your spine as long as possible. Hang from the bar as long as you can.

Perform the following exercises back to back for 20 minutes. Do not rest in between exercises; work at your own pace. Complete as many rounds (exercises 1A–1D) as possible without stopping and record the number you complete. Try to beat this number in Week 3.

1A. Split Squat
Reps: 10 (each side)

Lunge forward with one foot so your feet are staggered. Keeping your torso upright, lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor. Come back up. Complete all your reps on one leg and then switch legs and repeat.

1B. Twist And Sit
Reps: 10 (each side)

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Get into a bear crawl position—on the balls of your feet with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Rotate your body to the right, pivoting on your right foot and turning until your left hip can touch the floor—hold for a moment and feel the stretch. Reverse the motion and repeat on the opposite side. Keep your shoulders square to the floor the whole time.

1C. V-Up
Reps: 20

Lie on your back on the floor and raise both hands behind your head. Extend your legs. Take a deep breath and brace your abs. Sit up all the way, raising your legs simultaneously. Your body should form a V shape at the top.

1D. Alternating Tripod Extension
Reps: 5 (each side)

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Sit on the floor with hips and knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat. Twist your torso to place your left elbow inside your right thigh and rest your right arm on the floor behind you. Think “proud chest” and take a deep breath. Brace your core.

Drive through your heels and bridge your hips up until your body forms a straight line from your head to your knees. As you rise, reach your left arm to the ceiling. Reverse the motion and repeat on the other side. Both sides equals one rep.

Repeat the cool down from Workout A.

Note that the way in which this workout is done changes slightly week to week. Above is what you should do for Week 1. See the “notes” below for instructions on Weeks 2–4.

Week 1 Notes – Set Your Pace:

Don’t compete with yourself too hard this week. Your main goal is to determine what loads to use and make sure your form is precise. If you have to reduce the weight you’re using between sets, so be it. Keep a log, recording the weights you use and how the workouts feel. In a few weeks, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.

On the conditioning circuit, try to find a comfortable pace that allows you to keep moving for the full 20 minutes. If you need to take breaks because your muscles are fatigued, take note of which body parts are fatiguing faster than others. If it’s your lungs that need the break, slow down and focus on breathing between each rep of every exercise. You’re welcome to perform your reps with a bit more time in between them. Each rep should be done with crisp technique. You will be able to pick up the pace each week.

Week 2 Notes – Compress The Workload:

Now that you’ve found the appropriate weights to use for your strength exercises, aim to get the same amount of work done with them in less time.

The rest period at the end of the superset now drops to 90 seconds.

This can have a significant effect on how you feel in the last few sets, so make sure not to increase the loads you’re using until you’re sure you can complete all the prescribed reps for them while respecting the rest time.

The format of the conditioning circuit changes too. You’ll now perform each exercise not for reps but for time. You’ll work for 20 seconds and then take 10 seconds off (you may know this as the “Tabata Protocol”) and repeat for 8 total sets before moving on to the next exercise. Note that, technically, this is not a circuit anymore but straight sets. For example, you’ll do squats for 20 seconds, then rest 10, and repeat for 8 sets. Then you’ll go on to do pushups, bicycle crunches, and mountain climbers in the same fashion. Rest one minute between exercises.

This change-up will increase the endurance demands on your muscles dramatically, so be sure to do your reps at a conservative pace. Make note of the reps you can do each set for each exercise. Afterward, add the lowest score of all your sets for each movement. This is the number you want to beat the next time.

Week 3 Notes – Turn Up The Volume:

This week returns to the format used in Week 1.

The strength supersets will continue to be done with 90 seconds rest but the number of sets will increase. Do 5 sets each for the pair.

One set may not sound like much but it represents a 25% increase in workload. It should feel substantially different than last week even if you use the same weights.

The conditioning circuit returns to reps instead of work and rest intervals, and you’ll complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes again. Try to beat the number you recorded in Week 1.

Week 4 Notes – Test Yourself:

Reduce the rest for the strength superset to 60 sec. Perform the conditioning work as a Tabata again and try to increase your score by one rep on every exercise.

ACE’s Kick Start Workout : A Week-by-Week, 3-Month Exercise Program

Your Roadmap to a Healthier, Happier You

Kick start your new year with this 12-week fitness program designed by ACE, to build total body strength, enhance cardiovascular endurance, gain muscular definition, lose weight, improve health and increase energy. It’s a great beginner-level program for those new to exercise, or it can be used as a valuable dynamic warm-up for the more advanced. Here we’re giving you Phase I of the program, the first 30 days, so you have a week-by-week plan that’s easy to follow and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Simply use it as a roadmap to a healthier, happier you!

  • Phase II
  • Phase III

Stability & Mobility Exercise Program with Aerobic Base Conditioning (Phase I)

The purpose of Phase 1, the first 4 weeks of the program is to develop a stable core region along with strength and mobility in the hips. You will do so by completing a series of exercises and a cardio session as described. This program begins with cardio sessions of walking, but the goal is to gradually increase the intensity and work rate to successfully complete a 30-minute jog by the end of the 3-month period. The progression of the core training exercises match the progression of the cardiovascular exercise to help make the jogging comfortable and manageable for the listed timed durations.

Your Exercises for Weeks 1-4 Will Include:

  • Bird Dog
  • Side Plank
  • Front Plank
  • Glute Bridge
  • Crunches

How to Use this Program

For someone new to exercise, you can do this program at home without any equipment. Simply follow the recommended workout and you’ll begin to see results and feel better in only a few weeks. For you, this program will help to flatten the tummy while concurrently developing strength and definition in the hips and thighs.

For people who are already exercising on a regular basis, this program can be used as a supplement when you don’t have time to make it to the gym and need a quick routine you can do from home or on the road while traveling. Another option is to use this program as a dynamic warm-up to prepare the core for the challenges of your regular exercise routine.

TIP: To measure exercise intensity during your cardio session use a simple and effective technique called the “Talk Test”. The Talk Test has been validated through research to demonstrate that if someone can talk comfortably while exercising, then this means they are efficiently utilizing fat as a primary source of fuel. Once it becomes difficult to talk, this signifies that carbohydrates become the primary source of fuel for the activity. Pick a phrase that takes approximately 20-30 seconds to say to perform this test, such as the Pledge of Allegiance.

Exercises

During the first week of the program, perform only one set of each exercise as described resting for at least 30 seconds before doing the next exercise. For optimal results, try to do the exercises at least two times during the week and once on the weekend for a minimum total of three days per week.

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform one set of 12 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform one set (hold this exercise for 10 seconds on each side). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform one set (hold this exercise for 10 seconds). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #5: Crunches

  • Perform one set of 12 repetitions. Rest thirty seconds.

Cardio Session

Walk for 15 minutes continuously, a minimum of three different times during the week. Use a walking pace where it is easy and comfortable to hold a conversation.

  • 15 Minutes: Walk (Comfortable to hold a conversation)

In the second week of the program, progress to doing two sets of each exercise resting for 30 seconds between each set. Complete both sets before progressing to the next exercise. For optimal results, try to do the exercises at least two times during the week and once on the weekend for a minimum total of three days per week.

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform two sets of 12 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform two sets (for each set hold this exercise for 10 seconds on each side). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set, and rest again for 30 seconds before the next exercise.

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform two sets (for each set hold this exercise for 10 seconds). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set, and rest again for 30 seconds before the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform two sets of 15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set, and rest again for 30 seconds before the next exercise.

Exercise #5: Crunches

  • Perform two sets of 12 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set.

Walk for 15 minutes continuously, a minimum of four different times during the week. Use a walking pace where it is easy and comfortable to hold a conversation.

  • 15 Minutes: Walk (Comfortable to hold a conversation)

In the third week of the program, begin to do the exercises as a circuit: complete a single set of each exercise, resting in between each one for 15 seconds, then repeat this entire circuit again so you’ve performed a total of two sets for each exercise. For optimal results, try to do the exercises at least two times during the week and once on the weekend for a minimum total of three days per week.

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds on each side. Rest 30 seconds and switch to do the other side, then rest another 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise. (If you started with the Modified Side Plank for the first two weeks, now progress to one set holding for 10 seconds with straight legs.)

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the other side, then rest another 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #5: Crunches

  • Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest thirty seconds.

Repeat this entire circuit once more.

In the fourth week the goal is to complete the entire circuit (do all exercises) before taking a rest interval of one minute, and repeat this circuit three times for the best results. For optimal results, try to do the exercises at least two times during the week and once on the weekend for a minimum total of three days per week.

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds on each side. Do not rest and switch to do the other side. Do not rest before moving to the next exercise. (If you started with the Modified Side Plank for the first two weeks, progress to hold each set for 10 seconds with straight legs now.)

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds. Do not rest and switch to do the other side. Do not rest before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Do not rest before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #5: Crunches

  • Perform one set of 15 repetitions. Rest for one minute.

Repeat this entire circuit two more times.

Effects of a 12-Week Exercise Training Program on Physical Function in Institutionalized Frail Elderly

Abstract

With the increase in life expectancy, the Brazilian elderly population has risen considerably. However, longevity is usually accompanied by problems such as the loss of functional capacity, cognitive decline, frailty syndrome, and deterioration in anthropometric parameters, particularly among those living in long-term care facilities. This randomized controlled trial aimed to verify the effects of exercise training on biochemical, inflammatory, and anthropometric indices and functional performance in institutionalized frail elderly. The sample consisted of 37 elderly people of both genders, aged 76.1 ± 7.7 years, who were randomly allocated into 2 groups: 13 individuals in the exercise group (EG) and 24 in the control group (CG). Anthropometrics, clinical history, functional tests, and biochemical evaluation were measured before and after the completion of a physical exercise program, which lasted for 12 weeks. The 12-week exercise program for frail elderly residents in a long-term care facility was efficient in improving muscle strength, speed, agility, and biochemical variables, with reversal of the frailty condition in a considerable number. However, no effects in anthropometric and inflammatory parameters were noted.

1. Introduction

Aging is a continuous process in which a progressive decline takes place in most physiological systems. This may expose the elderly to frailty, a syndrome characterized by a decrease in the homeostatic reserve and reduction of the body’s ability to endure and perform, leading to a cumulative, vicious cycle of decline in multiple physiological systems and to vulnerability to adverse outcomes .

In addition to physiological problems, aging is usually related to socioeconomic disadvantages. It is usually accompanied by an increase in expenditure, particularly with medications, in addition to decreasing income, since there is loss of production capacity and dependence almost exclusively of retirement income. On the other hand, the Brazilian family has changed significantly over the years, especially after the women’s entry into the labor market, making home care difficult and increasing the demand for long-stay institutions. However, institutionalization may result in damage to functional decline and physical dependence, since older people living in the current models of long-term care facilities (LTCFs) do not seem to be properly stimulated .

Frailty decreases functional capacity by affecting the strength necessary to perform everyday activities such as walking, raising from a chair, and reducing balance . It is also insidiously related to a higher incidence of falls and disability as well as to hospitalization and mortality . Consequently, frailty has healthcare cost implications, and its prevention could lead to a reduction in public costs and individual burden, which grows proportionally as the world population ages . Moreover, there is evidence that a decrease in physical capacity of older adults is related to an abnormal biochemical milieu such as insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and systemic inflammation , but some controversy remains in this regard. Exercise training may represent a nonpharmacological strategy to prevent or treat frailty .

In terms of physical fitness, muscle strength seems to play a pivotal role in functional independence, with low muscle strength associated with a variety of comorbidities as well as with disability to perform everyday activities . In addition to strength training, benefits for older adults have been observed in studies that evaluated multicomponent training programs . However, an intervention capable of providing greater benefits has not been defined yet . Also, physical exercise programs specific to the elderly population do not seem to be accessible, especially for institutionalized older people . Thus, the aim of this study was to verify the effect of physical training on biochemical, inflammatory, and anthropometric traits as well as on functional performance of institutionalized frail elderly.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Study Characterization and Sample

This is a randomized experimental study conducted with institutionalized elderly volunteers. The sample consisted of 37 individuals of both genders, aged 60 years or older, who were residents of an LTCF in Brasília, Brazil. Subjects were randomly allocated to 2 groups after a series of recruitment steps as follows: 13 individuals in the exercise group (EG) and 24 in the control group (CG), according to a 2 : 1 ratio rationale between the CG and EG (Figure 1). Randomization was carried out by means of simple lottery applied to each subject in a process based on blindingly choosing cards which exhibited two options of letter (A or B), each representing one branch (CG or EG), with the amount of one letter in twofold excess compared to the other. The ratio of 2 : 1 between the CG and EG relies in the ethical premise of avoiding exposure of a vulnerable individual to a treatment arm of the study when efficacy is under consideration. This study was approved by the institutional research ethics committee, and the volunteers signed a consent form. Subjects aged over 60 years were diagnosed as prefrail or frail and who did not present limitations that precluded cognitive tests were recruited. Participants were declared fit by a medical doctor allowing them to undergo the exercise training program. The elderly diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease were excluded from the present study.

Figure 1 A schematic drawing of the sample.

2.2. General Procedures of the Study

Experimental design of the study was based on data on anthropometric measurements, clinical history, functional tests, and biochemical evaluation assessed before and after the completion of a physical exercise program that lasted for 12 weeks.

The elderly in the EG participated in a training program performed 3 times a week, with sessions lasting 40 minutes, while subjects in the CG were instructed to maintain their usual activities of everyday life and to not change their physical activity habits during the study period.

2.3. Anthropometric Variables

To measure body mass, individuals stood on a Britannia® digital scale with a resolution of 0.1 kg wearing as few clothes as possible, immobile until the value was stable on the display. Height was assessed with a measuring tape with the subjects erected and arms relaxed, after deep inhalation. The body mass index (BMI) was determined as kg/m2. The conicity index was determined by measures of weight, height, and waist circumference using the following mathematical equation:

2.4. Handgrip Strength

After participants became familiar with the equipment, they remained seated, with their shoulders in neutral position, elbows flexed at 90°, and fist in neutral position. Subjects were instructed to perform a maximum isometric contraction. Three attempts were made with alternate limbs, with a 60-second interval between attempts. The highest achieved reading was recorded for subsequent analyses. No verbal encouragement was offered during the test .

2.5. Timed Up and Go Test (TUG)

A stopwatch was used to measure the time spent to get up from a chair, walk a 3-meter distance on habitual speed, go around an obstacle, and sit again. We used a chair with a 45-inch tall seat, a 65-inch tall armrest, and a full, straight backrest .

2.6. Sitting and Lift Test

The sitting and lift test was conducted in a chair with a 45 cm tall seat but with no lateral, armrest support and with a full, straight backrest leaning on a wall. Each time a participant stood up, it was counted out loud, and five repetitions were timed . There was a period of familiarization to ensure that the participant’s sitting position occupied the largest part of the seat.

2.7. Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)

Answers were obtained from questions presented in the interview format, and a score cut was set based on the scores of 13 points for illiterate people, 18 points for people with 1 to 8 years of schooling, and 26 points for those with more than 8 years of schooling .

2.8. Depression and Functionality Levels

The Katz scale was used to assess the autonomy of the elderly to perform the basic activities of daily living, with conditions classified according to scores achieved as total (0 point), severe (1 or 2 points), moderate (3 or 4 points), or light dependency (5 points) as well as independent (6 points). The scale of Yesavage was used for the screening of depression, assessing cognitive and behavioral aspects typically affected among older adults. In the present study, 11 to 15 points accounted for severe depression, whereas 6 to 10 points for mild depression and 0 to 5 as indicative of no depression. The Katz and Yesavage scales were implemented as described elsewhere .

2.9. Blood Drawing and Testing

Blood samples were obtained through a venous puncture. Serum triglycerides (TGs), high-density lipoprotein (HDL-c), total cholesterol (TC), and glucose were analyzed by enzyme-based colorimetric methods using commercially available kits (Advia 2400, SIEMENS Healthcare Diagnostics Inc., Tarrytown, USA). The Friedewald equation was used to yield low-density lipoprotein (LDL-c) and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL-c) estimates . Serum insulin was determined by fluoroimmunoassay using a commercially available kit (Immulite 2000, SIEMENS Healthcare Diagnostics Inc., UK). Vitamin D3 (25 hydroxyvitamin D3) was analyzed by double antibody radioimmunoassay using Vit D25 preextraction with acetonitrile (DiaSorin Inc., Stillwater, USA). Inflammatory mediators were analyzed using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) method with specific kits for each cytokine (eBioscience, USA). High-sensitivity C-reactive protein was determined by immunonephelometry (CardioPhase, Dade Behring, USA).

2.10. Identification of Frailty

Frailty was identified based on criteria described by Fried et al., which include unintentional weight loss, reports of exhaustion, reduction of walking speed, muscle weakness, and low level of physical activity. Elderly who did not display any of the criteria mentioned above were classified as nonfrail, whereas patients fitting in 1 or 2 criteria were considered prefrail. Only elderly displaying 3 or more criteria were classified as frail.

Loss of more than 4.5 kg or 10% of the body weight over the last year was considered as weight reduction. Exhaustion was identified when there was self-reported fatigue. Low walking speed was identified by measuring the time required to walk a distance of 4.0 meters forward and return. Males of height of <1.73 and ≥1.73 meters and females of height of <1.59 and ≥1.59 meters tested positive by reaching times of >7 and >6 seconds, respectively. Muscle weakness was defined on the basis of the handgrip strength test. Males scored positive by displayed strengths of <29.0 kgf for BMI < 24.0 kg/m2, or <30.0 kgf for BMI 24.1–26.0 kg/m2, or <32.0 kgf for BMI > 26.0 kg/m2, while positive female patients were those with values of 17.0 < kgf for BMI < 23.0 kg/m2, or <17.3 kgf for BMI 23.1–26.0 kg/m2, or <18.0 kgf for BMI 26.1–29.0 kg/m2, or <21.0 kgf for BMI > 29.0 kg/m2. Patients scored for low level of physical activity when declared exercising with a frequency lower than twice a week.

2.11. Physical Exercise Program

The multiple component exercise program lasted 12 weeks, being performed 3 times per week with each session lasting 40 minutes. Exercises were focused on improving mobility, flexibility, strength, and aerobic resistance (Table 1). Physical fitness and exercises for the training program were chosen after an initial assessment of the volunteers to gather variables to improve the independence of elderly people.

Physical training program (weeks/time)
Variables 1 W 2 W 3 W 4 W 5 W 6 W 7 W 8 W 9 W 10 W 11 W 12 W
Mobility 20′ 20′ 15′ 15′
Flexibility 10′ 10′ 10′ 10′ 10′ 10′
Aerobic resistance 20′ 20′ 15′ 15′ 15′ 15′ 10′ 10′ 15′ 15′ 10′ 10′
Strength training 15′ 15′ 20′ 20′ 25′ 25′ 30′ 30′
Total time 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′ 40′

Table 1 Schematic demonstration of the weekly physical training program.

To implement the program, the EG was divided into 3 subgroups of approximately 5 elderly people in each group so that exercises were conducted in a personalized and individualized way. The subgroup was followed at all times by 2 physical educators and 3 monitors who did not know which elders were in each of the groups. The intensity and complexity of exercises were defined based on the initial assessment and adjusted weekly considering the subjective perception of effort (SPE) reported by each participant.

Owing to the clinical condition of participants, characterized by a high level of functional impairment, medical clearance was granted to perform up to moderate intensities of exercise, what resulted in exercises between 5 and 7 of SPE being selected according to an adapted Omni scale . The intensity was collected during the exercise sessions during the 12 weeks.

2.12. Statistical Analysis

The sample size was estimated based on an “a priori” calculation, using the dependent variables “TUG” and “handgrip strength.” After the analysis of preliminary data, with an alpha of 0.05 and a power of 0.80 for a two-tailed test, and assuming uneven groups, a sample of at least 12 participants for the EG and of 18 for the CG would be required to detect a significant difference in the order of 50% between treatment arms.

Clinical, anthropometric, biochemical, and inflammatory parameters on the postintervention moment were compared between the groups (intervention and control) using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) models for variables with Gaussian distribution. Nevertheless, the nonparametric ANCOVA was employed for the variables that did not display Gaussian distribution in at least one of the groups. For ANCOVA models, measures obtained during postintervention were deemed dependent variables, whereas the groups (exercise and control) were deemed independent variables, with baseline measures as covariates. Intragroup comparisons of measurements were performed using the Student’s t-test for paired samples or using a nonparametric Wilcoxon test whether measures displayed a Gaussian distribution or not, respectively. Comparisons of mean measurements between groups were conducted by the independent t-test. Comparisons of frequencies between groups used the chi-square test. A value of less than 0.05 was considered significant. Analyses were carried out using SAS v 9.4 (SAS Institute, Inc., 1999).

3. Results

EG participants had a 61.5% attendance to exercise sessions and reported an average SPE of 5.2 during intervention. Tables 2 and 3 display descriptive statistics of clinical, anthropometric, biochemical, functional, and inflammatory variables observed in the sample, with their respective intragroup and intergroup comparisons.

Table 2 Comparison of anthropometric, clinical, and functional performance variables between baseline and postintervention moments. Table 3 Comparison of metabolic and inflammatory variables between baseline and postintervention moments.

Functional performance variables significantly improved in the EG when baseline and postintervention values were compared. The EG showed statistically superior left and right handgrip strength measures by 33 and 26%, respectively, in comparison to the CG endpoint levels. Regarding TUG and stand up/sit down tests, the EG had statistically lower values than the CG (38% for TUG and 29% for stand up/sit down). Also in the EG, anthropometric traits and MMSE exhibited no significant differences when baseline and postintervention were compared. None of these variables in the CG presented differences between the baseline and postintervention moments.

Regarding the biochemical and inflammatory traits, values checked for glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, triglycerides, vitamin D3, and CRP showed significant differences when comparing baseline and postintervention moments in the EG, while only glucose values differed in the CG. No other changes were observed concerning biochemical and inflammatory variables among groups or moments.

Figure 2 shows the absolute prevalence of criteria for frailty as well as frequencies of elderly classified as frail and prefrail in pre- and postintervention moments. The EG showed a ≈ 34% reduction in the prevalence of criteria for frailty, while the CG showed a reduction of ≈6% between evaluations conducted before and after the exercise program. A decrease of more than ≈73% in the number of elderly classified as frail was noted in the EG, with most participants migrating to a prefrail status. On the other hand, the CG remained similar between pre- and postintervention periods.

(a)
(b)
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(b) Figure 2 Absolute count of criteria for frailty (a) and proportion of elderly deemed frail and prefrail (b) in the control group and the exercise group. Black bar: preintervention moment; gray bar: postintervention moment. .

4. Discussion

The main findings of this study showed an improvement in the biochemical and functional capacity (strength, speed, and agility) of residents of long-term care institutions after undertaking a 12-week exercise training program. Improvements in biochemical, anthropometric, or inflammatory variables were not apparent when crude endpoints values of the exercise and control groups were compared. However, traits such as serum glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, triglycerides, vitamin D3, and CRP showed significant improvements when baseline and postintervention stages of the EG are compared. Furthermore, a reduction in the absolute count of criteria elements for frailty was observed as well as in the proportion of the elderly considered frail in the EG after intervention.

The baseline physical status of the elderly participants presented extremely low performance scores when compared to studies conducted elsewhere, rending a sample with a major dysfunctional status . Exercise-induced improvements in physical performance of institutionalized older adults are corroborated by previous reports , resulting in decreased risk of falls and attenuation of frailty. Nevertheless, Faber et al. reported the effects of 2 exercise programs with moderate intensity conducted in 15 long-term care institutions and found that both programs had positive effects on physical performance in prefrail elderly people but not in frail individuals . On the other hand, the intervention described in the present study was successful in reversing the frailty phenotype in more than 70% of the frail elderly .

Also, a systematic review of randomized clinical trials with frail elderly patients showed contradictory data regarding improvements in risk for falls, mobility, balance, strength, functional capacity, and body composition . Even among those who have shown improvements in functional capacity, it is not appropriate to attribute the success of these results to a specific element of the intervention protocol. Although most studies usually describe the intervention program in detail, some reports fail to describe appropriately load-related parameters, such as heart rate, lactate concentration, or SPE during interventions, and that might at least in part contribute to the contradictory results in the literature.

The mean PSE of 5.2 obtained herein renders the intensity of our exercise as moderate and supports a beneficial effect of this exercise intensity on functional parameters , risk of falling , balance , and self-reported health status . Other studies show that exercise programs with higher intensity seem to generate better results . In this context, we believe that, besides intensity, other variables such as the duration, method, and type of the exercise may influence results in studies involving exercise programs in frail elderly, since responsiveness to training, time, and history of exposure cannot be neglected.

The literature shows that participation of the elderly population in regular physical activity is considered protective against various components of frailty . Moreover, physical fitness among aged individuals is associated with better functioning of glucose and lipid metabolisms, with greater lean mass as well as with a lower, systemic inflammation . However, the physical training program conducted herein was not efficient in promoting improvements in the investigated interleukins and anthropometric variables. This suggests that the intervention was effective but limited to promoting adaptations on systems directly related to functionality (mainly neuromuscular effects) and on few metabolic traits (glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, triglycerides, vitamin D3, and CRP). One possible explanation for such a narrowed repercussion can be based on the low adherence to our exercise program (61.5%). For instance, the Brazilian Guidelines for Cardiac Rehabilitation affirm that patients who firmly adhere to programs display more pronounced adaptations in hemodynamic, metabolic, myocardial, vascular, and psychological parameters, not observed in the conditions herein. Another study analyzed the association between adherence and physiological changes in middle-aged adults, concluding that high adherence promoted improvements in physical parameters and quality of life . In general, the literature presents consistent evidence that adherence to the exercise program associates with improved clinical outcomes, functional performance, and quality of life , and the levels of attendance described herein can be rendered as a limitation of the study.

Thus, more studies testing models of physical exercise with institutionalized elderly people are necessary to yield more beneficial protocols, having in mind protocols already in literature that were successful in reducing systemic inflammation and regulating the metabolic profile to boost anabolism and muscle protein synthesis . But any intervention should take into consideration individual aspects. The type, intensity, and duration of the exercise program must be carefully chosen, and the frailty status, medical recommendations, history of diseases, and physical activity should be considered. In this case, programs based on multiple components, which address physical qualities such as mobility, balance, flexibility, aerobic capacity, and strength, similar to the model used in this study may be used. Part of literature supports this type of intervention, stating that these programs are more effective at improving general health of frail elderly people .

The present study is not without limitations. For example, a low participation rate in the exercise sessions was noted. Despite constant stimulation and customized work, adherence to the program was below expectations. Another limitation was the extremely low physical conditioning of the participants, as well as the elevated prevalence of depression, which explains greater social isolation and lower adherence to the exercise program, even though, at the end of the exercise program, there was a significant reduction in depression rates.

Nevertheless, our results corroborate that, regardless of physical limitations and frailty severity, elderly people are capable of participating in personalized training programs when their limits are considered. Additionally, strength training must be taken into account and should be carried out in an adapted, assisted way . Training should offer benefits even when it is carried out in a nonintensive way. In addition, physical exercises can be a very effective strategy to implement beneficial routines to residents of long-term care institutions, particularly those with greater impairment as well as those diagnosed with frailty.

5. Conclusion

This study showed that a 12-week exercise training program in elderly patients with the syndrome of frailty living in long-term care institutions was efficient in improving aspects of their functional capacity, including muscle strength, speed, and agility, as well as glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, triglycerides, vitamin D3, and CRP. Moreover, the intervention helped to reduce the amount of criteria for frailty syndrome, and there was a reversal of the frailty condition in a considerable number of elderly who attended the program. However, there was no repercussion regarding anthropometric, biochemical, and inflammatory features.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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