One Month to Muscles


By Andrew Heffernan |

What’s the key to getting in shape? “Having a plan,” says Rachel Cosgrove, CSCS,co-owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, Calif., and author of The Female Body Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Strength-Training Program for Losing Fat and Getting the Body YouWant (Rodale, 2009). “Don’t just go into the gym and wing it.”

Winging it, unfortunately, is exactly what most people do. They wander around the gym, scope things out, and eventually settle on some version of what they normally do: seated exercises; cardio machines. If they lift weights at all, it’s often using the same weights they’ve always used — week after week, month after month.

The outcome is usually less than stellar.

Not, however, for Cosgrove’s clients. Fast, impressive results are the rule rather than the exception, and winging it is never an option: “Everyone I train is on a plan that’s part of an overarching training philosophy,” says Cosgrove.

The cornerstone of that training philosophy? Strength. It doesn’t matter whether the client wants to lose fat, perform better, or just look and feel great, Cosgrove makes building strength and muscle a priority for both male and female clients — and she delivers in record time.

Don’t just take our word for it: What follows is a monthlong, head-to-toe muscle-building plan that Cosgrove created exclusively for Experience Life. She calls it a beginner’s program, but if you work hard and heavy, even a gym vet will find it challenging. You’ll know exactly what to do from the moment you set foot in the gym to the moment you leave. Not only will you be leaner, stronger and more defined, you’ll also have fun, stay safe and feel great. So stick a copy of this article in your gym bag, and make Cosgrove’s program your road map to more muscles.

The Plan

1) Pick your frequency. Do the A and B workouts two, three or four times a week, based on the following:

  1. 4 times a week: Assuming you’re eating well and resting enough, this approach can yield great results. Alternate A and B workouts on consecutive or nonconsecutive days, but never more than two days in a row.

2) Bounce back. In addition to A and B, Cosgrove also suggests that you do the optional Recovery workout on some or all of your off days. This do-anywhere mini-workout will keep your blood flowing, loosen connective tissue and activate postural muscles.

3) Group up. When an exercise is marked with a number and a letter, such as “1A,” “1B” or “1C,” it’s part of a compound set of exercises. Perform one set of the first exercise, rest as indicated, then do a set of the second exercise. Rest again, then continue until you’ve done all sets in that grouping. (When an exercise is marked with a number only, do straight sets, where you do a set, rest, and repeat that exercise.)

4) Move weight. You will progress from lighter weights for higher reps to heavier weights for lower reps. “Lighter” doesn’t mean “easier,” however: All sets should be challenging, and at each set’s end, you should feel like you can do no more than two additional reps. Use these parameters for the strength portions of Workouts A and B:

  1. Week 4: Four sets of eight reps, 60 sec. rest between sets, using more weight than in Week 3.

Dynamic Warm-Up

Perform as a circuit before each workout (A, B or Recovery), completing one to three rounds of 10 reps of each exercise.

1A: Squat to Stand

  1. Keeping your arms extended overhead, rise out of the squat position.

1B:Reverse Lunge With Rotation

  1. Rotate your upper body back to the center position and return to the starting position. Repeat the movement, alternating sides each rep.

1C: Lateral Lunge

  1. Reverse the movement, returning to a standing position. Alternate legs each rep.

Workout A

Core: Perform two sets of 10 reps of each exercise at a moderate tempo, resting 45 seconds after each set.

1A: Plank With Alternating Leg Extension

  1. Slowly lower your left leg and repeat with the other leg, alternating sides with each rep.

1B: Anti-Rotation Press With Cable Machine or Exercise Band

  1. Slowly reverse the movement. Complete all reps, then perform with your right side toward the machine.

Power: Perform two sets of 10 reps, resting 45 seconds between sets.

2: Medicine-Ball Floor Slam

  1. Forcefully reverse the movement, slamming the ball down onto the floor as hard as possible. Catch the ball as it rebounds off the floor and repeat.

Strength: Perform the sets and reps of each move, varying week to week, as indicated in the dynamic warm-up.

3A: Kettlebell or Dumbbell Front Split Squat

  1. When your left knee is an inch or two from the floor, reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Continue for all reps, then repeat with your right foot forward.

3B: Inverted Suspension Row

  1. Lower yourself under control. Repeat.

4A: Barbell or Dumbbell Romanian Dead Lift

  1. When you can’t descend farther without losing the arch in your back, reverse the movement and return to a standing position. Repeat.

4B: Standing Single Arm Overhead Dumbbell Press

  1. Reverse the movement. Complete all reps, then repeat the exercise with the dumbbell in your left hand.

Workout B

Core: Perform two sets of 10 reps of the following exercises, using a moderate tempo, alternating sets, and resting 45 seconds between sets.

1A: Forward Ball Roll-Out

  1. When your arms are almost fully extended, slowly reverse the movement, pulling the ball back to the starting position. Repeat.

1B: Swiss-Ball Hip Extension

  1. Slowly bending at your hips, lower them to the floor. Repeat.

Power: Perform two sets of 10 reps, resting 45 seconds between sets.

2: Medicine-Ball Side Toss

  1. Turn your torso and arms forcefully toward the wall, hurling the ball against the wall as fast and powerfully as possible. Catch the ball on the rebound, and immediately repeat the move to complete all reps. Repeat with your right shoulder toward the wall.

Strength: Perform the sets and reps, varying week to week, as indicated in the plan above.

3A: Conventional Dead Lift

  1. Reverse the movement, keeping your back straight and lowering the bar under control. Repeat.

3B: Incline Suspension Pushup

  1. Push yourself back up to the start position and repeat.

 

4A: Assisted Single-Leg Squat

  1. Pushing through the heel of the right foot, return to standing. Continue for all reps, then perform reps on the other leg.

 

4B: Three-Point Dumbbell Row

  1. Continue for all reps, then repeat the movement with the dumbbell in your left hand.

Results-Boosting Recovery Workout

Myofascial Release: Roll out the major muscle groups — calves, hamstrings, quads, IT bands (sides of thighs), glutes, upper back, lats, shoulders and chest — using a foam roller, stick or massage ball. Spend up to one minute on areas that are particularly tender or tight.

Perform the following circuit of movements two or three times, spending 45 seconds on each movement and 15 seconds transitioning to the next:

1A:  Alternating Bird Dog

  1. Slowly return to the starting position, and alternate sides for 45 seconds.

1B:  Hip-Flexor Stretch

  1. Raise your right arm overhead and hold for 45 seconds. Switch sides next round.

1C:  Wall Slides

  1. Slowly lower your arms until your hands are near your shoulders. Repeat for 45 seconds.

1D:  Hip Bridge

  1. Slowly lower your hips back to the floor and repeat for 45 seconds.

1E:  Alternating Reach for the Sky

  1. Keeping your torso parallel to the floor and arms fully extended, slowly rotate your shoulders and head to the left until your right hand is close to the floor and your left hand is reaching toward the ceiling. Reverse the movement and keep alternating sides for 45 seconds.

1F:  Seated 90/90 Stretch

  1. Extend your spine, arch your lower back slightly, and press your left knee down toward the floor until you feel a gentle stretch in your left hip. Hold for 45 seconds, and switch sides on the next round.

You’ll do two to four workouts per week, plus one to three optional recover sessions. Every session starts with a warm-up. Complete one to three circuits before all workouts:Sets and Reps for the Strength Portions of Workouts A and B:2 x 10 moderate tempo, 45 sec. rest, alternating sets:2 x 10 reps at a moderate tempo, 45 sec. rest, alternating sets:Perform the sets and reps listed at left for the following exercises.Perform these six exercises in a row, 45 sec. each with 15 sec between each one. Perform two or three rounds.

You’ll do two to four workouts per week, plus one to three optional recover sessions. Every session starts with a warm-up. Complete one to three circuits before all workouts:Sets and Reps for the Strength Portions of Workouts A and B:2 x 10 moderate tempo, 45 sec. rest, alternating sets:2 x 10 reps at a moderate tempo, 45 sec. rest, alternating sets:Perform the sets and reps listed at left for the following exercises.Perform these six exercises in a row, 45 sec. each with 15 sec between each one. Perform two or three rounds.

You’ll need the following equipment for this program:

You’ll need the following equipment for this program:

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