Slideshow: Best Body Challenge: Month One
By Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS; Photography Paul Buceta
1. Best Body Training Plan: Month One
Did you read the basics about extended sets? Start here.
After a five-minute warm-up (walking, jogging in place or other cardio activity of your choice), begin the routine. You’ll do all of the exercises listed each day you train. Each set and extended set should be taken to the point of muscular failure, where you can’t complete another rep with good form.
Week 1: 3 days per week (1 day on, 1 day rest, 1 day on, 1 day rest, 1 day on, 2 days rest)
Week 2: 4 days per week (2 days on, 1 day rest, 2 days on, 2 days rest)
Week 3: 5 days per week (3 days on, 1 day rest, 2 days on, 1 day rest)
Week 4: 6 days per week (6 days on, 1 day rest)
Follow our Online Editor Carla Warrilow as she takes the challenge herself! Read her blog.
2. Lower Body
We'll get started with lower body exercises!
After holding the wall squat to failure, immediately start repping standard squats until you reach failure again. Rest 30 to 60 seconds, then begin your next set. Repeat with the wall squat + lunge combo.
3. Wall Squat
Target Areas: quadriceps, glutes, hamstringsSet Up: Stand in front of a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and turn your toes outward. Lean back against the wall and bend your legs until your thighs come parallel to the floor. Keep your head neutral, abs tight and torso erect.
Action: Hold this position, ensuring that your knees aren’t jutting past your toes, your abs remain braced and that your lower back is pressed against the wall. Squeeze your quads, hams and glutes throughout your set.
Helpful Hint: This move is angle-specific, meaning you only gain strength and tone at the angle you’re working. After you reach initial failure, fatigue your muscles at various angles outside of 90 degrees by moving your back a few inches up or down the wall, then holding that position.
4. Standard Squat
Target Areas: quadriceps, glutes, hamstringsSet Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Maintain a small bend in your knees and turn your toes out slightly.
Action: Keep your head neutral, abs tight and torso erect as you bend your knees and hips to slowly lower your body as if sitting down in a chair. Pause when your legs reach 90-degree angles, then forcefully drive through your feet to stand.
Helpful Hint: Focus on pressing down through your feet, as opposed to simply raising your upper body up and down. Don’t waste a second at the top, either; instead, squeeze the muscles of your legs and glutes for a second or two before lowering into your next repetition.
Target Areas: quadriceps, glutes, hamstringsSet Up: Stand with your feet together, abs tight and eyes focused forward.
Action: Take a big step forward with one foot. Bend both legs, making sure your front knee doesn’t jut past the toes of your front foot, and stop just short of your rear knee touching the floor. Reverse, driving through both feet to return to the start. Alternate legs until failure.
Helpful Hint: You can reach failure faster by doing all your reps on one leg before switching to the other (instead of alternating sides). To prevent imbalances, when you perform your lunges during the next set, be sure to begin with the leg opposite of that with which you started your first round.
6. Upper Body
On to upper body exercises! Intermediate and beginners will want to skip decline push-ups and start with the standard. Do each version of the push-up to failure, rest for one minute and begin your next set.
7. Decline Push-Up
Target Areas: upper chest, shoulders, tricepsSet Up: Get into a push-up position with your feet elevated on a stool, bench or couch. Space your hands wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your eyes focused on the floor.
Action: Keeping your abs tight and back straight, bend your arms to lower yourself towards the floor. When you’ve lowered as far as you can, press yourself back up to the fully extended position.
Helpful Hint: This is the most difficult push-up. It’s great for upper-body strength, as well as intra-abdominal (core) strength.
8. Standard and Modified Push-Up
Target Areas: chest, shoulders, tricepsSet Up: Get into a push-up position on your toes with your body in a straight line, hands wider than shoulder-width apart and your eyes focused on the floor.
Action: Keeping your abs tight and back straight, bend your arms to lower. When your face is an inch or so from the floor, extend your arms and squeeze your triceps, chest and shoulders. Once you’ve reached failure, simply rest your knees on the floor and continue doing as many reps as possible.
Helpful Hint: For more triceps involvement, bring your hands closer together on the floor. For more chest and shoulder recruitment, position your hands wide.
9. Incline Push-Up
Target Areas: lower chest, shoulders, tricepsSet Up: Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart against a sturdy end of a couch or flat bench. Extend your legs straight behind you, propping yourself up on your toes, and press up until your arms are fully extended.
Action: Bend your arms to slowly lower your chest towards the couch. When your torso is an inch or so away from the couch, press yourself up again and repeat.
Helpful Hint: If you’re a newbie, you can also perform the incline push-up described above on your knees.
Time to work your core! Once you've worked your way through each exercise, rest for 30 to 60 seconds before starting your next set.
11. Double Crunch
Target Areas: upper abs, lower absSet Up: Lie on your back with your legs extended, and place your hands lightly behind your head (don’t interlock your fingers). Keep your legs straight as you raise your heels off the ground about six inches.
Action: In one smooth motion, bring your knees towards your torso while simultaneously bringing your elbows to your knees. Squeeze your abs at the peak contraction, then reverse the motion, extending your legs away from your torso and lowering your shoulder blades to the floor.
Helpful Hint: As you extend your legs, allow your head to rest on the floor for a brief second to alleviate neck strain. For increased intensity, don’t touch your heels to the floor between reps.
12. Bicycle Crossover Crunch
Target Areas: obliques, upper abs, lower absSet Up: Lie down on your back with your legs straight. Lightly place your hands behind your head, but don’t interlock your fingers.
Action: Flex your abs as you bring one knee towards your torso while simultaneously bringing the opposite elbow up and across your body to meet your knee in the middle. Reverse; when you reach the starting position, begin your next rep with the opposite arm and leg, and continue alternating until you reach failure.
Helpful Hint: Keep your chin lifted and away from your chest throughout your set to help facilitate proper breathing.
13. Standard Crunch
Target Area: upper absSet Up: Lie face up on the floor with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head with your fingertips touching to support your neck.
Action: Slowly curl your torso off the floor, raising your shoulder blades as you bring your chest and shoulders up (coming short of a full sit-up). Squeeze your abs at the top before slowly returning to the start.
Helpful Hint: Make the crunch a little harder by extending your arms over your head, so your biceps are beside your ears.
14. Reverse Crunch
Target Area: lower absSet Up: Lie face up on the floor and place your hands halfway under your glutes, palms flat on the floor. (This will help unload your back and prevent discomfort.)
Action: Contract your abs to bring your knees towards your chest, allowing your glutes to gently lift off the floor. Squeeze your abs as you return your legs to the start.
Helpful Hint: To make this slightly more difficult, extend your legs straight as you lower them, keeping your heels a couple of inches off the floor.
Target Area: transverse abdominis (core)Set Up: Lie face down on the floor with your legs extended behind you. Slowly lift your body off the floor, propping yourself up onto your forearms and toes.
Action: Keep your abs pulled in tight and your back flat while holding this position for as long as you can. Over successive workouts, strive to hold your planks for longer periods.
Helpful Hint: Avoid the tendency to look up –¬ keep your eyes fixed on the floor in front of you.
16. At-Home Cardio
Tack this body weight–only cardio complex to the end of each strength workout. It may be small in size, but it’s big on impact.
| Walk in place w/ high knees
| Jog in place
| Jumping jacks
| Fast and high knees
Perform all moves without rest in between. Rest 30 seconds after the final move and repeat the entire sequence from the top.