Strong, Fast & Fit: Learning the Ropes (Part II, Month 2)

By Andrew Heffernan |

People often start to see and feel subtle changes around the four-week point of a new training program: Challenging physical tasks may be easier; clothes might fit better; friends may say you’re looking fitter.

Even if big changes aren’t apparent to the eye, major shifts are occurring. You’re building new muscle mass and burning off body fat, particularly around your belly, where health-threatening fat camps out. New neural connections are proliferating. Your brain is thriving from repeated exposure to mood- and productivity-enhancing hormones. There’s a new elasticity in your connective tissue, new power and vitality in your cardiovascular system.

These changes are your body’s response to the new, beneficial stress of exercise.

If you want to keep adapting, that stress needs to change. That’s what you’ll do this month: New exercises, heavier weights, and new cardio-focused workouts will give your muscles, nerves, and connective tissue something different to adapt to.

Outside the gym, you’ll continue to refine your diet and add some extra mobility work and movement that will keep you limber and loose even on rest days.

Just jumping on board now? Visit “Strong, Fast & Fit: Learning the Ropes (Part II, Month 1)” for Month 1 of this six-month program.

As in , you’ll perform two different workouts this month, again called A and B. You’ll alternate between the two workouts on nonconsecutive days, performing a total of three workouts a week, 12 in total over the course of the month. As described last month, you’ll alternate between sets of paired — or similarly numbered — exercises (1A and 1B, for example).New this month: Theyou perform will vary as the month goes on. In the third chart below, you’ll see the term “rounds.” A round consists of two workouts — one A, one B — performed on two successive workout days. Round 1, for instance, will consist of your first A workout and your first B workout, which you might perform on the first Monday and Wednesday of the month. Round 2, then, will consist of the A workout you perform that Friday, and the B workout you perform the following Monday, and so on through the month.For each exercise of each round, you’ll perform the sets and reps indicated in the chart. So, in Round 4 — your fourth time through the workout cycle for the month — you’ll do three sets of eight reps for each move in both the A and B workouts.As your assigned reps go down, the resistance you use will go up. The final reps of each set should be very difficult — particularly in the final set of each move. Practically speaking, that means you’ll use more weight with each move in week five, when you’re tasked with performing six reps of each move, than you did in week two, when you’re tasked with doing 10.Twice a week this month, you’ll perform , called Cardio A and Cardio B. You can do these on separate days from youror on the same days, and you can change when you do them from week to week. Just be sure to perform them after your strength training on days when you double up, and get in two per week every week, for a total of four Cardio A workouts and four Cardio B workouts this month. A sample schedule is below.Prior to each workout, perform the activation and mobility drills outlined in Month 1. For a refresher, visit .Choose any form of cardio you enjoy, indoors or . After a five-minute ramp up, spend 20 to 30 minutes on the activity at a comfortable pace (6 of 10 on an effort scale). Cool down with light movement or stretching for five minutes.Perform your cardio activity of choice at an easy pace (4 of 10 on an effort scale) for five minutes. Then spend one minute at a challenging pace (8 of 10) followed by two minutes at a recovery pace (5 of 10). Repeat the three-minute work–rest cycle a total of five times.

Incidental daily tasks, such as taking the stairs at the mall, , or doing chores around the house, fall under the heading of what physiologists call NEAT — non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Over the course of a day, it keeps your metabolism stoked and yourunder control. This month, look for ways to increase your NEAT. One simple tip: Drink a big glass of water every time you sit down at your desk. About 20 to 30 minutes later, heed the call of nature. That’s a half-dozen strolls to the bathroom each day — a nice NEAT boost.Once a day — after your workout or before bed — perform thisdrill:There’s a reasonalways look delicious: They’re more complete and nutritious than monochromatic meals. This month, take a look at your intake of fruits and vegetables and try to fill in gaps in the color wheel. No reds? Add tomatoes, apples, strawberries. No yellows? Add yellow peppers, squash, bananas. At least once a week, grab something from the produce aisle you haven’t eaten for at least six months. Like it? Keep it in the rotation. Variety is the spice of health.

Your Qs: Ab Wheels, Postworkout Nutrition and BackSaving Squats

Game of Life: Lessons We Can Learn From Sports