If you've got a holiday or special event coming up and need to be in great shape, six weeks is just enough time to make those final tweaks to your program to deliver fantastic results and put the finishing touches to your physique. A carefully structured six-week plan can help you burn that last bit of fat, lean out your legs and make you look strong, defined and toned.
There are plenty of myths surrounding weight training, the main one being that it's only for people who want to get big and pack on pounds of muscle, but this is far from the case. According to MayoClinic.com, weight training builds lean muscle, boosts your metabolism and burns fat. Trainer Cassandra Forsythe writes in "The New Rules of Lifting for Women" that weight training is a far more efficient way to get in shape than spending hours on the treadmill, elliptical or stepper.
Train your whole body three times a week on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-weekend day schedule. Full-body workouts are more demanding and burn a higher number of calories than split routines. Strength coach and kettlebell instructor Marianne Kane recommends performing six exercises in each session -- one quadriceps exercise such as a squat or front squat, two hip-dominant movements like deadlifts or hip thrusts, rows of pullups for your back, bench presses, dips or military presses for your chest and shoulders and one extra exercise to target your weaker body parts or your abdominals.
While weight training may be superior for body shaping, cardio still has a place in your workout. However, don't get tricked into thinking you need to do endless, boring cardio sessions in the gym. Short, intense interval cardio is far better for burning calories, shedding fat and getting lean, claims Rachel Cosgrove, head trainer at Results Fitness in Santa Monica. Interval training involves short periods of very intense exercise for 15 to 45 seconds, interspersed with longer periods of lighter work for 45 seconds to three minutes. Start with a 15 to 45 protocol. Warm up for five minutes, then go all out for 15 seconds before reducing your intensity to a moderate pace for 45 seconds. Repeat this 10 times then cool down for five minutes. You can do interval training on a machine at the gym or you can sprint hills, run around a track or go swimming.
Six weeks isn't a long time, so you need to focus and make the most of every workout. In week one start with three sets of eight to 12 reps on all of your weight exercises and aim to either add more weight or perform extra reps in every session. With your cardio, kick off with two sessions of 10 intervals each week. In week two step this up to 12 intervals. In week three drop back down to 10 intervals but do three sessions, then up it again to 12 intervals in week four. In weeks five and six perform four sessions of 10 intervals and four sessions of 12 intervals, respectively.
- Mayo Clinic: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess; Cassandra Forsythe
- Nia Shanks: Different Training Styles & All Produce Incredible Results
- Rachel Cosgrove: The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin
- Chris Clinton/Photodisc/Getty Images
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