If you're looking for an exercise routine that doesn't require a commitment to a gym or a giant room full of exercise equipment, the 3-2-1 method might be the ticket to staying motivated and healthy. Celebrities such as Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel claim that 3-2-1 is the secret to their fabulous figures. If you're hoping to channel your inner celebrity, consider trying this exercise plan.
Circuit training is a type of exercise that combines cardio and strength training in short and varied sets of each, so it can help you build muscle and lose weight. 3-2-1 is actually a variation on traditional circuit training. It's named for its three phases, two of which combine cardio and strength training, and one of which combines cardio and core training. The exercise pattern, which takes about half an hour to finish, is as follows: cardio, circuit, cardio, circuit, cardio, and core.
Cardio is an important part of any exercise routine because it strengthens your heart and lungs and helps you burn calories much more quickly than weightlifting or calisthenics. The first phase of cardio in 3-2-1 is a brief warm-up of jogging or walking for five to ten minutes. The next phase of cardio should be slightly more intense. Adjust this phase to your fitness needs. If you're a fitness buff, try running hills, but if you're a beginner, cycling at a moderate pace can get you breathless. The third phase of cardio should be the most challenging, so pick up both the pace and intensity on this final round.
Each phase of 3-2-1 starts with cardio and then ends with a circuit of strength-training, except for the last phase. The circuit phase of 3-2-1 offers a lot of flexibility. You can target problem areas or focus on all-around strengthening. Common circuits of exercise include squats, free weights or pull-ups, but you can choose any exercise that works for you so long as you're lifting weights or working with your own body weight. For each circuit, do one set of 20 reps for three different exercises.
Strong core muscles improve posture, reduce back pain and increase your overall strength. The 3-2-1 program reserves one circuit for core training. At the end of your routine, you'll do 30 reps of five different core exercises. Common choices include crunches, sit-ups, planks and butterfly kicks -- an exercise where you lie on your back and lift and spread your legs slightly off of the ground. Pick exercises that you can do without straining your back and focus on maintaining proper form throughout the core circuit.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.