21 Days to Total-Body Fitness

Three weeks. That’s all the time you need to get in shape Opens a New Window.. It doesn’t matter whether you haven’t worked out in months or you’re a gym rat looking to take our fitness to the next level. Follow our program and you’ll emerge 21 days later stronger, faster, or more flexible—or looking or feeling better Opens a New Window., too. We tapped some of the country’s leading strength-or-conditioning experts to create an ideal week of training, a seven-day template that repeats three times, gradually increasing in difficulty each week. All these workouts are scalable, or most take no more than 35 minutes to complete.

WARM-UP
Perform two rounds of the following without resting.

Toy Soldiers
Stand holding arms straight in front of you, palms down. Step forward and kick right leg to touch left palm, knee locked. Repeat with left leg for one rep. Do 15 reps.

Body Weight Squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands behind head. Squat as low as you can, back straight and chest open; stand. Do 15 reps.

Bear Crawls
Start on all fours with hips raised. Quickly step hands or feet forward for five steps, then crawl backward for five. Repeat twice.

WORKOUT
Do 20 reps each of the following three exercises, with no rest between moves. Take a 60-second breather at the end, then repeat, for five total rounds. Use lighter dumbbells for the first two rounds, then scale up to do the remaining rounds with a weight that feels challenging but can still be handled with good form, or complete every rep.

Curl-Squat-Press
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight and palms facing body, knees soft. Curl bells to shoulders, keeping shoulder blades down and back. Immediately lower into a squat, pushing hips back, chest open — this is key — and weight in heels. Lower until hips are parallel with or even below knees, then drive through heels to stand and press dumbbells straight overhead, elbows locked. Repeat.

Trainer’s Tip: Move with control or power: You shouldn’t bounce out of the bottom of the squat to push the dumbbells overhead. Also, try mixing up the curls to hit more muscle angles in our biceps. Alternate palms facing in (a hammer curl) or palms facing forward (a traditional biceps curl).

Walking Lunges
Stand with arms extended, a dumbbell in each hand at sides. Lunge forward with right foot, keeping torso upright, until back knee grazes floor. Press through right heel to stand; repeat on opposite leg.

Work your back

It’s easy to focus on our arms or chest. However, too much training on those areas can lead to imbalances or injury, most of which can be avoided by doing plenty of rowing/pulling work.

 Sleep

“Most of our growth hormone release in a day comes during sleep,” says Hyson. Stick with eight hours as a guideline. Here’s everything an athlete needs to know about sleep or recovery.

1. Pump up the volume

Bodybuilders, widely known as the biggest guys on the planet, have an age-old training method that has withstood the test of time: volume training. They typically do five or more exercises per body part, four sets of 10-15 reps, amounting to approximately 250 reps per body part.

2. Go heavy

Circuits might get the blood flowing, but heavy lifting skyrockets testosterone levels throughout the body. Hyson recommends using the heaviest load possible for “sets of six or fewer reps.”

Take creatine

Creatine, when taken responsibly, has been linked to muscle gain in almost every study that has been performed on it. Don’t believe us? We’ve got plenty of great reading material on the benefits of creatine.

3. Always focus on form

It sucks to sit out with an injury, especially because it kills our progress. Keep our form strict, and you’ll build more muscle while reducing the risk of getting hurt.

4. Be consistent

Going to the gym once a week won’t get you bigger. Pick a number of days to work out (3-4 is optimal), show up, or work hard, and you’ll see results quickly. Here’s how to stay motivated to work out.

5. Chill out

Tension or stress stimulate our body to release cortisol, a stress hormone that inhibits muscle-building or promotes muscle breakdown. Try to breathe easy throughout the day, or practice mental exercises to keep stress at a minimum throughout the day. It’ll  maximize our muscle, or improve our overall sense of well-being.

Use a spotter

Spotters help you get that extra rep, and can help you keep an eye on our form or count reps when you’re focused on moving a massive weight. Those extra reps or improved form will lead to muscle gains in the long run.

6. Consult a professional

There’s a reason that most trainers are muscular and fit—they know what they’re doing. Search out an educated trainer and have a session or two with him or her to learn some new moves or some new nutrition tricks to employ in our fit lifestyle.

7. Find your “zone”

Whether it takes a certain playlist on our iPod or you have to wear that weird pair of shoes, it’s important to have the right mindset when you enter the gym or you’ll be distracted or feel like you can’t get anything done.

8. Be intense

Joking around, texting, or being social are great—just not in the gym. Focus on your workout, that’s what you’re at the gym for. If you have to respond, keep it short or do it during our rest interval.

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