So workout-wise, how do we get started? How can I possibly give you a workout routine without knowing what your current situation and strength level is?
Easy. If you just spend the first week gathering vital information about yourself, we will have the tools to make these workouts effective right from the first session. The best part is that the information gathering stage is a workout in itself, so you will get something out of it as well.
Home Workout Challenge
As you start your exercise routine, you may not be interested in venturing out to the gym just yet, so I have some home workout options for you that involve little or no equipment. But first, let’s see what your strength level is.
The 90-Second Fitness Challenge
. The challenge is made up of two exercises: the wall sit and the plank. They are really easy to try. Refer to the photos below to make sure you have the proper form. Your goal is to hold each position for up to 90 seconds. It sounds easy, but wait till you try it. Even advanced people email me to say how they found it to be more challenging than they initially thought. The two exercises in the challenge utilize a static contraction protocol or “no movement.” I use this technique as a great way to introduce High Intensity workouts to people who have never tried it before. In this situation, the static contraction will benefit you in two different ways. The first is concerning the wall sit. The wall sit is the static version of a squat. Try this:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Put your arms straight out in front of you for balance and do a deep knee bend or squat.
- Go down to the 90 degree position or until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Do 12 reps and let’s assess how you feel.
Basic Wall Sit: Try to hold this position for 90 seconds.
Did it get your heart rate up? Sure, a little, but the most demanding or important part of that exercise was the bottom part . . . and you didn’t spend very much time there. Since it’s a bodyweight exercise with no additional resistance, there is very little value or benefit in strengthening and reshaping your thighs. The solution for this is to get against a wall and do a wall sit.
What do you feel? Your thighs are burning, aren’t they? You are getting right to the best part of the exercise and targeting your thighs with no movement. The other great thing about statics is apparent when we do the plank.
How many of you can do 10 perfect pushups or more? Those who are able to do a lot of pushups will benefit from the more advanced routines in the other chapters, but those of you that can’t do that many or want to spice up your routine will benefit greatly from the static plank in the meantime. Either way, I am challenging you to try it out and see how you stack up.
So, how long did you hold each exercise for?
Over the years, I have found that if you can hold each exercise for:
- 30 seconds or less, your strength is below average and needs work;
- 30 to 60 seconds, your strength is average but you could use more;
- 60 to 90 seconds, your strength is above average—good job!
- Just made it to 90 seconds? You are “entry level” strong;
- 90 seconds easily, you are in great shape and ready for the next level.
The Plank: Try to hold this position for 90 seconds after the wall sit.
If your strength needs work, consider trying the home workouts until you master them. As soon as you do, get your “gym numbers” and move on to higher intensity workouts.
Get Your Gym Numbers
If you are not interested in the home workout, in better shape than the home workout, or just can’t wait to do the High Intensity gym workouts, then it’s time to get your gym numbers. What are your gym numbers? Simply put, we need to know where your strength level is at on some basic exercises and apply that information to your workouts.
Our goal is to find your 12 rep max on the exercises we choose and work from there.
Write down your 12 rep max sets— make sure to keep accurate records.
12 Reps Will Get the Job Done
I have chosen the 12 rep max for a few reasons. The first is that studies show us that it is not necessarily the number of reps that stimulate the muscle, but the amount of time spent working during the set. The optimal amount of time spent on a single High Intensity set should be somewhere between 40 and 70 seconds. I have always believed that if you can spend 90 seconds on a set, then you have stimulated the muscle sufficiently and are ready for the next level. Now, at my gym in New York City, I would coach you through each set until you reached the appropriate amount of time. But seeing as I’m not there with you right now, I’ll have to show you a simpler way to get this done by yourself. All you need to do is a 12 rep set that challenges you for the last few reps and your time will fall right in line with the time we need to get a response from your muscles.
Let’s take a chest press machine for example. You set the machine up for your height and do a light set of 12 reps. Since the weight is light, you should be able to do 12 continuous reps in good form with no hesitation. Because the weight is light and not challenging, it will not be classified as a High Intensity set and will only take about 12-15 seconds to complete. No problem so far, right?
For the next set, you will add some weight and start again after a minute or two of rest. What we are looking for is a set that goes like this:
- You push out the first rep slowly and very controlled.
- The next four or five reps are moving smoothly and aggressively, but despite your efforts to move the weight along, it doesn’t move very fast.
When you get to around rep number 8, this is where the real work kicks in.
- You pause at the top of the rep and take a deep breath, bring the weight down, and push it up again. It will take a great effort to get it back up.
- You will need to take one or two breaths before attempting the next rep because you know it’s going to be difficult but not impossible.
- So take a few more breaths, bring the weight down, and drive up rep number 10.
- You now are wondering if you are able to get 11 and 12, but you have to attempt them because these are the reps that will give you the time and response you are looking for. With great effort you get through reps 11 and 12.
If you were to time this set, you would find that it took between 40 and 70 seconds to complete (I have timed these sets thousands of times). Go through the list of exercises below and find out what your “challeng-ing” 12 rep set is on each. Start out light on each exercise and always use good form. My most important rule is to always remember to breathe. Never hold your breath, especially during those last few difficult reps, as it can raise your blood pressure and be very dangerous.
These first three workouts are to find your challenging 12 rep max weight on each exercise. It will take a little time for each session to go through all the exercises until you get to that max set we are looking for, so put aside an hour for these workouts. Once you have the information, your workouts will all be less than 15 minutes!
- Leg Press, one leg at a time
- Smith Machine Squats
- Leg Extension
- Leg Curl
- Smith Machine Deadlift
Leg Press One Leg at a Time—Right Leg Start
Leg Press One Leg at a Time—Right Leg Lockout
Leg Press One Leg at a Time—Left Leg Start
Leg Press One Leg at a Time—Left Leg Lockout
Smith Machine Squats
Seated Leg Curl
Smith Machine Deadlifts: Bottom, Midpoint, Lockout
- Chest Press
- One Arm Pushdowns
- Shoulder Press
- Close Grip Smith Machine Press
- Dip Machine
One Arm Pushdowns—Right Arm Start, Left Arm Lockout
One Arm Pushdowns—Left Arm Start, Left Arm Lockout
Lateral Raise Machine
Close Grip Smith Machine Bench Press
- Straight Arm Pulldown
- Underhand Grip Pulldown
- Machine Curl
- Row Machine
- One Arm Cable Curl
Straight Arm Pulldown
Underhand Grip Pulldown