Shape up for the Summit, or the summer, with this total-body plan to help you burn fat and lose weight.
GOOD NEWS, SCOUTERS! To quote Earth, Wind & Fire: Time is on your side. You have about four months before the 2013 National Scout Jamboree to lose weight, improve your body mass index (BMI) number, and boost your fitness for the physical challenges of 10 days in the Mountain State’s great outdoor playground.
That’s more than adequate time to prepare. But don’t procrastinate. You’ll be lacing up your hiking boots for jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve before you know it. Make it easy on yourself by getting your body ready now.
In January, we outlined three simple but important first steps toward slimming down and shaping up:
- Wean yourself off the sugar-laden soft drinks.
- Begin a regular walking program using interval-style training.
- Make strides toward eating cleaner by substituting fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins for high-calorie fast-food restaurant meals and other processed foods.
If you haven’t already, begin the daily walking program for two weeks before jumping into the more-advanced beginner fitness program outlined below.
Safety note: Consult with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise program; start out slowly, and immediately quit exercising if you experience shortness of breath, chest tightness, or other common signs of heart trouble.
Our six-week basic training kick-start is physically challenging but still easy enough for people who are significantly overweight or may have not exercised for many months. It’s adapted from a beginner fitness program designed by trainer and performance coach David Jack, co-author of my new book The Belly Off! Workouts. This routine consists of two different exercise routines—the 12s and the 20s. And it really works.
In the 12s workout, you will do 12 repetitions of each exercise; in the 20s workout, you will perform each exercise for 20 seconds. They are simple, effective, and fun. These two speedy workouts are structured differently to ensure that you keep challenging your body to build strength and endurance while burning lots of calories.
You will do three strength workouts each week, meaning you will repeat one of those workouts. Alternate between the 12s and the 20s, leaving a day off between the routines to avoid doing two strength workouts in a row. On your “off days” you will either rest, walk for 15 to 20 minutes, or do some other aerobic activity such as bicycling, tennis, basketball, swimming, etc. (You may want to take another look—and consider trying—the interval walk.)
Here’s what your six-week schedule might look like:
Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Sun.
Week 1 20s walk 12s rest 20s walk rest
Week 2 12s rest 20s walk 12s walk rest
Week 3 20s walk 12s rest 20s walk rest
Week 4 12s walk 20s walk 12s rest rest
Week 5 20s walk 12s rest 20s walk rest
Week 6 12s walk 20s walk 12s walk rest
What you’ll need:
- Exercise clothing and running shoes
- An elastic exercise band (available for a few dollars online or in sporting goods stores)
- Optional: a watch or wall clock; source of music for motivation
WARM UP FIRST. Begin each workout with a 5-minute warm-up. Walking or jogging is fine, but make sure you do some other movements to engage all of your muscles. We recommend stringing together 10 to 20 reps of: arm swings or circles, marching in place with high knees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, pushups, skips, jumps, basically any series of bodyweight exercises that warms your muscles and raises your heart rate. Never attempt a strength workout without an adequate warm-up or you’ll risk injury.
THE 20s WORKOUT
This is a simple but effective exercise routine for any level of fitness. It consists of just four exercises, broken up into two blocks or “supersets.” Superset means you do the exercises within the set back to back with little rest in between, and then you repeat the superset.
For example, in Superset 1 (below), you will do the first exercise (the squat) using good form for 20 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds if you need to, then do the second exercise (pushup plank) for 20 seconds. Now rest for 60 to 90 seconds, allowing your heart rate and breathing to settle to a comfortable level, before doing a second round of Superset 1.
After your second round, rest 90 seconds, and then move to Superset 2. For weeks 1 through 3 of this six-week plan, do two rounds of each superset; for weeks 4 through 6, do three rounds of each superset. Note: for each basic exercise in the 20s, we’ve included easier and harder versions. You may wish to begin with the easier move and gradually progress to the more challenging version as your strength improves. Remember to warm up first.
Exercise A: Bodyweight Squat with Arms Extended
Stand with your feet a bit more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, arms at your sides. Now sit back at your hips to lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
As you squat, raise your arms straight out in front of you, as a counter-balance, until they are parallel to the floor at shoulder height. Don’t allow your back to round. Squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) and push yourself back to the standing position, making sure to keep your heels on the ground and your knees over your ankles as you lower your arms to your sides. The arm movement will help keep your chest up and maintain good form during the squat.
Repeat the move quickly for 20 seconds.
Easier: Hold onto a sink, sturdy table, or straps secured to a pole for assistance and balance as you perform the squat.
Harder: As you dip into the squat, swing your arms down and behind you. Then, swing them up forcefully as you explosively straighten your legs and lift yourself up on your toes.
Exercise B: Pushup Plank
Get into a standard pushup position with your hands flat on the floor directly under your shoulders, arms straight, and your feet together, toes on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.
Brace your core by contracting your abs as if you were about to be punched in the gut, and squeeze your glutes and thighs. Hold this position for 20 seconds, taking small breaths throughout the hold.
Easier: Perform the pushup plank with your knees resting on the floor. Or assume a regular pushup position with straight legs, toes on the floor, but place your hands on a bench, chair or railing. Keep your head in line with your body. Squeeze your core and glutes.
Harder: Hold the pushup plank, and while at the top position, raise one leg and hold for a few seconds, return it to the floor and then raise the opposite leg at the top position and hold. For extra work, you can add a full pushup in-between each leg hold. Continue this pattern for 20 seconds.
Exercise A: Lateral Step and Hold
For this aggressive exercise, you will keep an upright posture while performing a high-knee run (try for about 60 percent of your top speed) laterally left and right while staying on the balls of your feet. Begin by taking three lateral steps to the right quickly. Keep your knees high and your body tall as you run and drive your elbows and hands back as if you were holding hammers in your hands and driving nails behind your hips. Do not cross your feet as you run.
On the third step, pause and maintain your balance on your right foot for a second or two before running laterally in the opposite direction for three steps. Again, on the third step, pause and balance on your left foot. Continue running laterally and balancing on one foot for 20 seconds.
Easier: Do the same exercise but instead of running, perform a high-knee lateral march and balance hold.
Harder: Take wider lateral steps and run faster at up to 90 percent of your top speed.
Exercise B: Reverse Step and Band Row
For this exercise, you will need a resistance exercise band. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and anchor one end of the exercise band to a sturdy pole, object, or a door handle with the door closed. Hold the other end of the band in your left hand.
Take a giant step backward with your left foot and then row your left hand to your ribcage. Initiate the pull from your shoulder blade, and back squeezing your shoulder blade toward the center of your spine and bending your elbow. Be sure not to shrug your shoulders or rotate your torso during rowing movements.
Extend your arm straight, step forward, and repeat the move quickly with good form for 20 seconds. Rest for a few seconds, then place the band in your right hand and repeat the movement for 20 seconds on that side, stepping back with your right leg.
Easier: Do the band row from a split stance instead of stepping back. Assume a split stance, your right foot forward and left behind you about three feet apart. Complete 20 seconds, then reverse foot positions and row with the right hand.
Harder: In this version (Reverse Lunge Isometric Band Row), when you step back with your left leg, lower into a deep lunge until your front right thigh is parallel to the floor and your back left thigh is perpendicular to the floor, the left knee just an inch above the floor behind your hips.
Hold that lunge position for a second, then with the left hand row the band to your ribcage while simultaneously punching with the right fist. Then stand into the starting position. The action is: lunge back, row/punch, extend the arm holding the band, and stand. Do this for 20 seconds and repeat the move on the opposite side.
After completing the 20s workout, cool down with five minutes of walking and stretching.
The 12s Workout
In this routine, “12” stands for 12 repetitions. You will do each of the six exercises below 12 times as a “circuit.” Circuit simply means that you will move from exercise to exercise with just a short rest (up to 30 seconds) in between, if needed. After completing a full circuit of the six moves, rest for 90 to 120 seconds to allow your breathing and heart rate to come down. Then repeat the circuit once more.
For weeks one through three, complete two circuits per workout. For weeks four through six, do a total of three circuits, resting up to 120 seconds between circuits.
Record how long the 12s workout takes you. Your goal is to complete the circuits quicker and with less rest while maintaining proper form by week six. Remember to warm up before each workout and to cool down afterward.
Stand in a staggered stance with your left foot forward and your right foot back. Slowly lower your body as far as you can. Your back knee should be about an inch off the ground and slightly behind your hip. Your front knee should be over the ankle and shoelaces (don’t allow it to travel in front, or to either side of your toes to avoid injury).
Pause, and then forcefully push yourself back to the starting position by driving your front foot and trail foot through the ground. Repeat five more times, then switch foot positions and do another six reps for a total of 12.
Note: As you build strength, you can perform the split squat while holding dumbbells or gallon jugs of water in your hands at your sides or one dumbbell held against your chest with both hands for increased resistance.
Band Pull Apart
For this exercise, you’ll need an elastic resistance band or tube. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold an end of an exercise band in each hand about shoulder-width apart, palms facing down. Hold your arms out straight in front of you, the band slightly stretched between your hands and parallel with the floor. This is the starting position.
Now spread your arms apart and squeeze your shoulder blades together and down to “pull the band apart” until it stretches against your chest. Quickly release the band’s tension by bringing your arms back in front of you and repeat as fast as you can with good form.
Be sure to keep your shoulders down (not shrugging) during the move by pulling your arms slightly down and back. Do 12 reps rapidly.
Single-Leg Balance and Touch
Imagine standing inside a large clock: 12 o’clock is straight ahead of you, 3 is directly to your right side, and 9 to your left. Start by balancing on your right leg (keeping the whole foot flat on the ground at all times) with your left foot off the floor.
Now, reach your left foot as far out toward 12 as you can while maintaining control and tap your heel to the ground. You’ll need to bend your right knee slightly. Spread your arms for balance. Return to the middle, and then reach toward 9 o’clock and tap your heel. Finally, bend at the waist and reach your leg back toward the 6 o’clock position and tap your toe. Return to center each time.
Complete six repetitions, then repeat the move on the other side, reaching your right foot toward 12, 3, and 6 o’clock for another six reps. Be sure to keep your knee from caving in, maintain good posture, and do not let your body follow your leg—it should stay centered in the middle of the clock.
March with Arm Swing
March in place with knees lifted high while swinging your arms out and across each other over your chest. Your hands should reach for your opposite shoulder blade as you hug yourself across the chest, then open wide and out the sides, forming a T with your body.
Do 12 repetitions (two steps equals one repetition). To make this more challenging, add a skip to the march with the arm swing.
Bodyweight Romanian Dead Lift (RDL)
Stand straight with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart and your back against a wall. Your heels should be about 8 to 10 inches from the wall. Don’t lock your knees.
Now, bending only at the waist and keeping a flat back, reach your outstretched arms between your legs toward the wall behind you. The idea is to hinge from the waist by pushing your hips back. Return to the upright position and repeat for a total of 12 reps.
Once you feel you have the hinge pattern set, you can step away from the wall and perform the movement without wall support.
Muhammad Ali Line Drills
These speedy foot drills are called Alis because they mimic the boxer’s float-like-a-butterfly footwork.
Start by placing one foot forward and one foot back as if standing over a line. Stand on the balls of your feet. Now, quickly switch (or scissor) your feet while pumping your arms aggressively as in a sprint. Over and back is one repetition.
Next, staying on the balls of your feet, step over the imaginary line one foot at a time and then back behind the line one foot at a time in an up-up, back-back pattern. Up and back with both feet is one rep, do 12 total.
Then, imagine a line right under the center of your body running with your body. From an athletic stance, feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, step laterally toward the line one foot at a time leading with your right foot, and then back out one foot at a time. In and out is one rep. Do 12. Continue to increase your speed to make this more challenging.
Rest for two minutes and then repeat the 12s for a total of two circuits. Cool down for three to five minutes by walking and stretching. During weeks 3-6, do three circuits.
Your goal is to complete three rounds without resting between circuits by week six.
WEIGHT-LOSS TIPS. Remember to …
• Check and record your weight once a week.
• Stand at work whenever you can. Standing burns more calories than sitting does.
• Substitute water for high-calorie beverages.
• Force yourself to walk more by parking farther away from the entrance to work, stores, etc.
Check back in May for a new six-week strength and cardio workout to help you prepare for the 2013 jamboree or any summertime outdoor adventure.
Jeff Csatari, an editor at Men’s Health, is the co-author of The Belly Off! Diet and the new Belly Off! Workouts. Both are available to the Scouting community (rodalestore.com) at a special 20 percent off by using discount code “Scout” at checkout.