Strong, Fast & Fit: Mixing It Up (Part II, Month 3)

By Andrew Heffernan |

Amid all the pushing, pulling, squeezing, and heaving in the gym, one simple idea often gets lost: An effective exercise program can teach you to move with greater efficiency and better alignment.

Dancers, gymnasts, and other skilled movers aren’t just strong. Leaping through space, sticking a back tuck in a floor routine, or running downfield with defenders closing in each demand an oft-ignored skill called proprioception — the ability to sense where your body is as you move through space.

A great way to build this coveted skill is with body-weight exercises — movements that call on your body for resistance — using a smooth, regulated tempo to better feel and control each phase of a move.

That’s what you’ll do this month. Be prepared to walk a little taller as you continue working your way toward greater fitness.

In your strength training this month, you’ll again alternate between two full-body workouts, labeled A and B, on three nonconsecutive days each week. See the sample calendar on the next page for one way to arrange your workouts, but feel free to change exercise days based on your schedule.

There are two cardio sessions per week — also called A and B. Schedule the cardio whenever you can, and not necessarily on separate days from your strength work.

Exercises marked 1A and 1B, 2A and 2B, and so on are paired as supersets. Alternate between sets of each move, resting only as long as necessary between sets, until you’ve completed all assigned sets of each movement.

The sets and reps you perform will vary as the month proceeds. In the calendar at right, you’ll see the term “rounds.” For each exercise, you’ll perform the sets and reps indicated in the chart for the corresponding round. When the number of reps is lower, the resistance you use will be higher.

For each exercise, choose a resistance level — and a variation — that allows you to perform the assigned number of sets and reps. For example, if you’re still mastering the rear-foot elevated split squat, you might substitute a static lunge (an easier version of the same move, described in month 1) in workouts with sets of 15 reps per leg but do the full version when you’re assigned just eight reps per leg.

The second time you perform a given workout, aim to use more weight or do a tougher version of the same exercise. If you finished all three sets of 12 reps of the barbell hip thrust in round 3, for example, try to perform the same number of reps of the same move with more weight the next time you’re assigned three sets of 12 reps, which will come up again in round 6 (a training log is a useful tool for keeping track of your progress).

Pay particular attention to performing each rep with perfect-for-you form: Lift the weight smoothly and powerfully, hold the top position for a one-count, slowly lower the weight with control, then pause in the stretched position.

Prior to each workout, complete the activation and mobility drills outlined in month 1. (For a refresher, visit our Strong, Fast & Fit Program.)

For this month, your workout schedule might look like this:

Workout A

Workout B

Cardio A

Choose any form of cardio you enjoy, indoors or outdoors. After a five-minute ramp-up, perform the activity for 20 to 30 minutes at a comfortable pace (6/10 on an effort scale). Cool down with light movement or by stretching for five minutes.

Cardio B

Perform your cardio activity of choice at an easy pace (4/10 on an effort scale) for five minutes. Then spend 90 seconds at a challenging pace (8/10) followed by 150 seconds (two and a half minutes) at a recovery pace (5/10). Repeat the four-minute work–rest cycle a total of six to eight times, depending on your energy level and time available.

Use a thicker band. Use a thinner band — or no band at all. Do a static lunge (described in month 1) with or without weights. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides. Perform the move with your hands on two boxes or aerobic steps of equal height. Perform the move with your feet elevated. Perform the move holding a weight plate against your chest. Start with your feet further forward.Start with your feet further back.Eliminate the fractal movements and perform a banded body-weight squat.Perform the move holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in the goblet position.Perform the move with your arms extended down by your sides, a few inches off the floor.Perform the move lying on an incline bench.

Your body isn’t a machine,  and you need more than just exercise to improve your fitness. This month, also work on these three goals:

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