Who on earth has five days a week to go to the gym? Chances are, you do. Losing weight, toning and getting your best self ever takes hard work and dedication, which may mean hitting the gym five times a week. We're not talking marathon sessions here -- just five workouts, each around 30 minutes and focused on a precise blend of intense weight training and hard cardio. It could be the perfect formula to get you the body of your dreams.
Three days a week, it's time to hit the weights. Women tend to shy away from weights for fear of getting big and bulky, writes personal trainer Shannon Clark of Bodybuilding.com. But put your fears to bed. Weight training is the best way to train for weight loss. It boosts your metabolism, burns calories and strips fat faster than your halfhearted treadmill workouts. That's not to say cardio is ineffective -- in two sessions you'll perform high intensity cardio training that will work your heart and lungs like never before.
Work your whole body in each session. This increases the calorie burn and metabolic effect, claims Rachel Cosgrove, author of "The Female Body Breakthrough." As you're training every muscle group, make your weight days nonconsecutive. Your muscles need around 48 hours between sessions to recover. Pick two lower body and two upper body exercises each workout, and make them hard ones. None of this leg extension, inner thigh machine and pec deck nonsense. You want hardcore exercises such as back squats, clean and presses and pullups, for three sets of eight to 12 each. Don't sweat it if you're not too hot on exercise names and techniques -- just ask a gym instructor to help you with some challenging compound exercises.
If you think you already do cardio, think again. The cardio in this plan is real cardio -- gruelling, gut-wrenching, but brilliantly effective. HIIT, or high intensity interval training, burns fat much faster than traditional steady state training. As nice as going for a steady jog or sitting on a stationary bike while reading the latest gossip magazine may be, it won't do much for your results. For an interval session, pick a piece of cardio equipment and warm up for five minutes, then go all out for 30 seconds before reducing your pace for a further 90 seconds. Repeat this 10 times before the cool down. For variety, try sprinting outside, running hills or performing body-weight exercises such as burpees or jumping jacks as well.
On the two days you don't have training, it's time to put your feet up -- seriously. When you're working this hard, your body needs time to recover. Take a hot bath to relieve muscle soreness, get a sports massage and perform some stretches to limber up for the onset of your next session. Take some time to plan your diet, too: What you eat is just as important as your training. Sit back, relax and watch some trashy TV without feeling guilty about not pounding the treadmill or pumping iron two days a week.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images