Initially, the thought of training your entire body every workout is intimidating. This workout is not a cakewalk, but its difficulty is somewhat mitigated by a reduction in the total volume and intensity of the routine. As you will see, the system is configured in a way that optimizes your body's recuperative abilities and builds a foundation of muscle without completely draining your resources. The following is the protocol for the weight-training component of the body-conditioning routine:
Exercises: For each muscle group, you will use only one exercise per training session. Each week you will work your entire body three times. Although training your muscles this frequently can sometimes be overwhelming, the sparseness of the workload will alleviate the risk of overtraining. By performing only one exercise per muscle group, you limit the amount of stress applied to each muscle. This allows you to recuperate quickly from a workout and enables you to train each muscle on a regular basis.
Sets: You should perform three sets of each exercise. This provides ample muscular stimulation without overtaxing the muscles. Do not move from one exercise to the next, as in a circuit routine. Rather, perform one set of an exercise, rest, perform your second set, rest, and then do your third set. This will keep the blood circulating through a muscle group, which increases your muscular pump and thereby augments definition. After finishing three sets of an exercise, move on to the next muscle group and perform your subsequent sets in a similar fashion.
Rest: You should rest no more than 30 seconds between sets. This will heighten exercise intensity and increase the aerobic benefit of the workout. In most cases, your routine will take slightly longer in the initial stages of training. As a novice, you will be unfamiliar with the intricacies of training and excessively concerned with matters such as your form, breathing patterns, and so forth. These factors will tend to slow the pace of your training. Still, it is best to keep your rest intervals close to the suggested limits. Rest longer only if you are feeling dizzy or overworked. Your body will quickly adjust to a fast-paced tempo, and you will soon be able to move from one set to the next without incident.
Repetitions: The repetition target will be 15 per set. It is essential to train with good form and to apply continuous tension to your muscles during each repetition. Make an effort to develop your mind-to-muscle link early, making each rep count. From the outset, do not fall into the habit of trying to determine where you are feeling muscular stress. This passive attitude indicates that you are not properly visualizing the target muscle. Rather, think about where you are supposed to feel an exercise. Your task is to isolate a muscle or group of muscles, purging all other thoughts. Do not be concerned with your surroundingswhatever might be going on around you is irrelevant. Forget your troubles, your business dealings, your family obligations. Concentrate only on performing each repetition with total focus on your target muscle.
Intensity: You should perform all sets with a weight that is approximately 75 percent of your maximum poundage. Your maximum poundage is defined as a weight that causes you to reach muscular failure on the 15th repetition. A weight of 75 percent of maximum poundage would normally induce momentary muscular failure at 20 repetitions. For example, let's assume that performing leg extensions with 40 pounds causes you to reach failure on the 15th repetition. In this scenario, your working weight for this exercise would be 30 pounds (40 ´ .75). By your 15th repetition, this weight should begin to feel heavy without causing you to struggle or compromise form to complete the set. As you gain strength, increase the amount of weight to maintain your target of 75 percent of maximum. Moreover, as you gain experience, you can gradually increase the percentage of maximum weight to a point where you begin to approach failure (going as high as 90 percent of maximum poundage). This can help prepare your body for the intensity required in the next level of training. It is not advisable, though, to attempt to train to absolute failure. Your body is not yet geared for such intense exercise, and you will invariably become overtrained.
Number of exercises:1 per muscle group
Number of sets: 3 per exercise
Rest between sets: No more than 30 seconds
Repetitions per set: 15
% of maximum weight: 75%
The element in the left margin summarizes the specific protocols of the body-conditioning phase of this system. Follow these protocols rigidly, with little modification. As you become familiar with the training process and progress to the more advanced phases of this system, you will have flexibility to alter the structure of the routine. At this level, however, it is best to keep things simple.
Using a training diary can help you move smoothly through your routine. A good strategy is to write down in advance the exercises that you will perform. You can then do your workout routine knowing exactly what you are supposed to accomplish in the session. In this way, you won't aimlessly wander around thinking about which exercises to perform. The diary should include the exercises you used in each session, the amount of weight that you used in each set, and any notes that might help you in the future.
If you have never trained before, or have not trained for some time, consider your first few workouts an acclimation period. The goal should be to adapt your body to the routine and allow it to adjust to the stresses of weight training. Although you are probably already eager to see results, you should approach this phase as if you were about to swim in a cold pool. Obviously, it would be ill advised to dive headfirst into the pool without first testing the water! Your body could go into shock from the extreme difference between body temperature and the temperature of the water. Similarly, your muscles, connective tissue, and nervous system will experience shock from the demands of training, making it easy to overtax your body during this fragile period. If you are not careful, you can experience severe soreness, headaches, or injuries from overzealous efforts. These ailments can set back or stop your ability to work outand limit your potential to achieve results. Nothing can derail your workout regimen more than an injury, so use discretion.
Moreover, conditions related to age can further inhibit initial training efforts. After the age of 35, a woman loses roughly 1 percent of her muscle mass and bone density each year. By age 45, a woman will have lost about 10 percent of her fundamental body mass, by 55, 20 percent, and so on. Because this progression compromises strength and endurance, your capacity to train at an intense level will, at first, be hampered. Consequently, the older you are, the more careful you should be to acclimate your body during the initial stages of training. Although you can reverse the effects of aging, it will take time and a dose of patience.
To acclimate your body, you should use only 50 percent of your maximum weight during your first training session. In each successive workout, you can gradually increase the poundage until you reach your target weight. Determining your starting weight requires you to estimate your initial strength level, but without physically training to failure, you can only make an educated guess of your lifting abilities. To prevent injury, err on the side of caution and choose a weight that is too light rather than too heavy. Remember, this is only an acclimation period, and you need not push hard. You will soon be able to gauge your strength and know beforehand the weight required for a particular exercise.
Even with proper acclimation, you should expect to feel a degree of muscular soreness. This is especially prevalent in the first few weeks of training, but you will experience this malady even after becoming an accomplished trainee. Although the pain should not be severe, you should feel tenderness and sensitivity in the muscles that you trained. Unfortunately, soreness is a necessary by-product of the training process. It arises from microscopic tears that occur from the stress of weight training, which subsequently cause internal swelling in your muscles and connective tissue. Usually, the soreness will last several days and slowly subside as your body initiates the healing process. This is an indication that your body is adapting to the demands of exercise and preparing itself for the next training session.
It is important that you not let muscular soreness inhibit or deter your training efforts. Working out during periods of mild soreness can help assuage the associated pain and discomfort. Training aids the circulation of blood flow through your muscles and connective tissue, which can accelerate recuperation. If you are extremely uncomfortable and simply cannot train, take a few days off and use soothing remedies such as whirlpool baths to alleviate the soreness. Try not to stay completely sedentary, though; even mild activity can increase circulation to body tissue and accelerate the healing process. Of course, if you experience any sharp pain, stop training immediately and seek the advice of a physician.
During the initial four- to six-week training period, you should employ compound movements whenever possible. As previously discussed, compound movements will stimulate the greatest amount of muscle fibers, as well as strengthen your connective tissue and orient your nervous system to the demands of weight training. This will help you achieve balanced development from the outset and negate the possibility of developing muscular deficiencies as you progress in your endeavors. The many variations of compound exercises permit you to add variety to your training and still meet this directive.
Table 3.1 details a three-day sample routine that you might use in the first four to six weeks of your routine. These routines, like all the sample routines in this book, are only a guide to the possibilities of creating a diversified workout. A multitude of combinations is available for you to explore. Varying your routine will optimize results and help prevent boredom.
Table 3.1 Conditioning Program Three-Day Sample Routine
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Chest Incline dumbbell presses Machine chest presses Push-ups
Back Front lat pulldowns Seated rows One-arm dumbbell rows
Shoulders Military presses Arnold presses Upright rows
Biceps Seated dumbbell cruls Cable curls EZ curls
Triceps Nosebreakers Pushdowns Close-grip bench presses
Quadriceps Leg presses Squats Lunges
Hamstrings and glutes Good mornings Stiff-legged deadlifs Hyperextensions
Calves Seated calf raises Donkey calf raises Standing calf raises
Abdominals Crunches Bench leg raises Knee-ins
It is important to note the order of the exercises and how they relate to each muscle group. In the beginning stages of training, it is best to train large muscle groups first in your routine. Although it does not really matter whether you train your upper or lower body first, you should train the muscles of the torso (chest, back, and shoulders) before the arms (biceps and triceps) and the muscles of the quadriceps before the hamstrings. If you train smaller muscles first, they will be less able to serve as secondary muscle movers in exercises for the larger muscle groups. Ultimately, your secondary muscles will fatigue before your primary muscles, and you will not achieve maximal stimulation of the target muscle. For instance, performing a barbell curl will exhaust your biceps. If you then perform a seated row, your biceps will tend to give out before you fully stimulate the muscles of your back, thereby decreasing the effectiveness of the exercise.
Moreover, when training the upper body, it is best to alternate between pushing and pulling movements. The chest, shoulders, and triceps are used to push a weight, while the back and biceps are pulling mechanisms. Alternating these movements allows several minutes for the antagonist muscle to rest, thereby improving energy resources for exercise performance. Notice in the sample routine that you train first the chest (which uses the shoulders and triceps as secondary muscle movers), next the back (which uses the biceps), then the shoulders (which use the triceps), and finally the biceps and triceps. In this way, you maximize muscular recovery between each exercise.
After the initial four- to six-week acclimation phase, you should begin to incorporate isolation movements into your routine. Experiment with different exercises, paying close attention to the unique qualities of each movement. Make sure, though, that you do not neglect to include compound movements in your workout. These staple exercises, because of their all-encompassing effect, have great utility for beginners. Mixing a variety of compound and isolation movements into your workout will serve as a precursor to the next level of training, in which you will use a split routine.
Table 3.2 shows a three-day sample routine that expands on the initial routine by combining a variety of compound and isolation movements. You should now be comfortable with the structure of this routine and should work on perfecting what you have learned. Again, be creative and do not be afraid to try new exercises. This will not only provide stress to a maximum number of muscle fibers but also hone your performance skills for future gain.
Table 3.2 Three-Day Routine With Compound and Isolation
Muscle group Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Chest Pec decks Flat dummbell Flat bench flys
Back Reverse lat pulldowns One-arm seated rows Straight-arm pulldowns
Shoulders Shoulder presses Lateral raises Bent lateral raises
Biceps Preacher curls Incline curls Concentration curls
Triceps Triceps kickbacks Triceps dips Overhead extensions
Quardriceps Leg extensions Hack squats Front squats
Hamstrings and glutes Lying leg curls Abductor pulls Seated leg curls
Calves Seated calf raises Toe presses Donkey calf raises
Abdominals Rope crunches Hanging leg raises Twisting crunches
When executing unilateral movements (in which you train one arm or leg at a time), it is best to avoid resting between sets. In the one-arm dumbbell row, for instance, you should start with one arm, perform 15 repetitions, go to the other arm, perform 15 repetitions, and repeat this process without rest. Thus, one side will be able to recuperate while you use the other for performance of the movement. By the time that you have completed 15 repetitions on one side, your alternate side should be fully recovered and ready to continue with the set. Because your body is never totally at rest, you will be able to maintain an accelerated heart rate, increasing your body's ability to burn fat.
As you try different exercises, you will probably find some movements uncomfortable or awkward to perform. There may be several causes for this. Sometimes, even after repeated attempts, an exercise will just not feel right to you. If this is the case, simply drop it from your routine and move on to a complementary movement. There is no reason to keep the exercise in your training arsenal. You may decide, however, to try the exercise again after you have further developed your strength and motor skills. Often, you ultimately will find the movement to be natural and realize additional benefits from added variety.
You might wonder what to do if you are not able to perform a complete set of 15 repetitions of a particular exercise. In most cases, you should be able to decrease the weight enough so that you can achieve your target rep number. But you will probably come upon an exercise that, no matter how hard you try, will defeat your effort to finish an entire set. This may especially be true in abdominal exercises and other body-weight-influenced movements, in which your own weight will affect your strength capabilities. If you just cannot attain 15 reps for a given set, perform as many repetitions as you can until your body gives out. Fortunately, strength and endurance tend to build up quickly, and you will see rapid improvement in these areas. With continued effort, you should be able to achieve your target repetition number on virtually any exercise.
Once you have used the body-conditioning routine for a while, you will probably reach a point where you feel that you are ready to advance to a higher level. Understand, though, that taking the next step involves a significant increase in discipline and intensity. Each subsequent level of training requires a greater amount of effort. You therefore must use discretion in going forward. You may then wonder How do I know when I am ready to take the next step? In truth, there is no certain answer. Before you continue, however, you should consider these points:
Make sure that you are knowledgeable about the basic principles of exercise. The mental aspects of training become increasingly important as you climb the ladder in your fitness endeavors. Understanding these principles will be crucial in maximizing results at the next level of training. Make sure that you are clear on each principle and understand how they apply to the training process.
Make sure that you are comfortable with a variety of compound and isolation exercises. You should be able to perform dozens of exercises and be able to move easily from one to the next. Moreover, you should have a good grasp of exercise form and function and know the muscles that each exercise will target. In the next level of training, this knowledge will allow you to combine these movements to mesh synergistically with one another.
Make sure that you are willing and able to increase your exercise intensity. It is one thing to want to train on a more advanced basis; it is another to endure the intensity required for this progression. Many women do not realize the increased effort required to train at the next level. The body-conditioning routine is preparation for developing overall intensity. You should gauge your ability to progress based on the difficulty you have with this routine.
If you are still not proficient or capable in any of these areas, take more time to develop your skills and mental acuity. Work on the basics, preparing your mind and body for more intense training. Do not pressure yourself to advance to the next phase. In fact, if you are happy with the way that you look at this point, you can continue with the body-conditioning phase indefinitely. Many women do not aspire, or are not willing, to train at a higher pace and are content with maintaining the status quo. This routine, however, will not advance you to your genetic potential. Therefore, if you want to take the next step and begin the process of bodysculpting, advance to chapter 4 and read on.