Strong, Fast & Fit: Turn Up The Volume (Part II, Month 4)


By Andrew Heffernan |

This month we’re applying laserlike focus to a single goal: building muscle mass. This means we’ll dial down the overall intensity and cardio efforts as lifting volume increases. Think of the next four weeks as laying the bedrock for better fitness and overall health, giving you the strength to ramp other activities up again next month.

The big difference you’ll notice is that instead of three strength-training workouts per week, you’ll do four. And instead of working the entire body each time, you’ll work the upper body on two days and the lower body on two days.

This allows you to perform a higher volume of work while giving each muscle group more recovery time between sessions. This, in turn, offers greater flexibility in scheduling your lifts: You can strength-train two days — and even up to four days — in a row.

Because the focus here is on strength training, the program calls for just one medium-effort, steady-state cardio workout per week. Perform a cardio activity you enjoy — such as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling — for 20 to 30 minutes. You can do this workout on the same day as your strength training or on a different day.

Another option that’s encouraged but not required: On days when you’re not doing cardio, take a 20- to 60-minute walk, ideally in nature, and with other people.

You can also take a walk up to seven days a week, before or after your workout, or any time it’s convenient.

Don’t think of these walks as formal exercise. They’re just head-clearing, meditative strolls. Fit them in when you can, and don’t stress out when you can’t.

Let’s get started.

This month you’ll alternate between four strength workouts. Exercises marked 1A and 1B, 2A and 2B, and so on are pairs; alternate between sets of each move, resting only as long as necessary between sets, until you’ve completed all assigned sets of each movement. Your workout schedule might look like this: 

Do the movement without assistance. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides. Walk your feet back and perform the movement with your body in a more upright position. Perform the exercise with your feet elevated on a 12-inch box or step. Bend your knees, keeping toes pointed and heels drawn close to your glutes. Raise your arms and hold them close to your sides, actively reaching fingertips toward your toes and engaging your lats as if pushing down on an imaginary box. Extend your legs straight up and gradually lower them without sacrificing the hollow shape. Lower your legs as close to the floor as possible without losing the hollow shape in your midsection. Raise your arms completely overhead without lowering your shoulders to the floor.

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