Authors: Jillian Michaels
Thermal control—temperature-regulating properties to keep you warm in cold weather and cool when it’s hot
UPF—ultraviolet protection against harmful sun rays, fused right into the fabric
Compression—special Lycra or elastic-type fibers that hold you in tight or have specially placed panels to remind you to, well, suck it in
• Antibacterial and antimicrobrial properties—these translate to
Insect repellent—if you’re outdoors and in a tropical climate, these are a must. You won’t smell a thing, but the fabric will keep the mosquitoes and other nasty bugs away.
If you want to feel and perform like a lean, mean, rockin’ fitness machine, gear up for it. If you feel great about how you look, chances are you’ll train a little harder and be more enthused to hit the gym.
For years I told people that the best time of day to work out was whenever they could manage to fit it into their schedule. For
some, that meant first thing in the morning; for others, it meant after work or at night, once things settled down for the day. Now, however, new research suggests that the answer is to be found in
. The best time to work out is the same time every day. Your body gets conditioned to exercise at this time and adapts to it by releasing energy boosting, muscle-building hormones like testosterone that aid in fitness performance and fat metabolism. If you can get into a consistent routine, you might eke out a little extra oomph in your performance, which in turn burns more calories. If not, don’t stress it—the most important thing is that you work out regularly (4 to 6 times a week), no matter the time of day.
Static stretching before working out is crucial to preventing injury.
Static stretching after a workout can be beneficial, but static stretching before a workout doesn’t increase your range of motion. Some studies suggest that stretching may actually destabilize muscles and weaken them by up to 30 percent, making them less prepared for strenuous exercise, especially if you’re doing something like weight lifting. So stick to warming up with dynamic, active movements like arm and leg swings, simple squats, easy jogging, or even a march—you’ll be better prepared for whatever your activity and run less risk.
A study in the
Journal of Applied Physiology
found that lengthy warm-ups can fatigue you, particularly if you’re warming up with static, held stretches. According to numerous studies, improper warm-ups actually put your muscles in sleep mode. That’s no good; you want your muscles ready for action! Five minutes of cardio and/or dynamic stretches (active stretching with fluid movement, as opposed to a static stretch like the sit-and-reach toe touch) will get the job done and have you ready to up the ante for the main part of the workout. Any form of cardio will do, as long as it gets your heart rate up and literally warms up your body, even breaking you into a light sweat. Try the bike, treadmill, or rowing
machine; you can even jump rope or use old-school calisthenics like jumping jacks. As for the active stretches, try movements like toe taps (hold your arms out at your sides, hinge at the hips, drop down and diagonally touch your left arm to your right foot and repeat on the other side), arm circles, hip circles, torso twists, lunges, easy squats, or even cat and cow poses from yoga class.
The takeaway here: yes, you need to warm up for the hard stuff. Don’t just jump right in. Your body needs a gradual rise in heart rate, joint lubrication, and mental prep. But when done right, you should only need and take 5 minutes to do it.
Can you really keep off the weight you’ve lost? Can you really rev your metabolism? The answer to both these questions is yes and yes. The key to doing it is that you have to lift (as in
weight training) to lose. If you’ve got pounds to peel off,
strength training is your E-ticket:
as in “energy utilized.” Let me explain. How many times have you heard that if you had more muscle, more lean tissue, it would increase your fat-burning, calorie-burning capability, even while you’re sleeping? Researchers have come to understand only recently the process your muscles go through after strength training. Not only does this process add muscle tissue; in the
afterburn, your muscles are being remodeled.
I always tell you to push and work to true
fatigue, and here’s why: when you do, your muscles go through a normal rebuilding process. This occurs naturally with any strength training. This
remodeling process takes 24 to 96 hours to complete after you’ve trained (which is another reason why you must build rest into your weekly routine). During this time, satellite cells surround the muscle fibers and supply protein to them so that new muscle tissue develops with higher strength capabilities. What creates the additional calorie burn, to the tune of 100 to 105 calories per day, is the afterburn energy used for the remodeling.
Regular weight training results in a real increase in your resting metabolic rate that you can count on—as long as you keep training. Let me give you some calorie-burning perspective: 30 minutes of steady-state cardio will burn about 300 calories. But unlike the case with strength training, no remodeling process follows cardio work, so there’s a minimal afterburn. In a 30-minute resistance workout, you’ll burn around the same 300 calories. The difference is that you’ll burn an additional 100 calories per day for three days after your workout! Which would you rather do: burn 300 calories for cardio or 600 calories for one resistance training session? One strength-training workout per week can help you burn 31,000 to 36,000 extra calories or 9 to 10 pounds of fat in one year! Now you know—I want you doing strength training at least twice a week so these numbers can double.
If you want to lose weight, speed up your metabolism, and burn more calories, do your strength training in circuits, as mentioned in the next paragraph. This type of training is called metabolic resistance training (MRT), sometimes referred to as metabolic
circuit training (MCT) because, in effect, you’re heavily (no pun intended) influencing your metabolism.
There are many different ways to approach your workout. But when it comes to weight loss in
Slim for Life,
there is one method that will rip weight off your body as fast as possible: circuit training. Circuit training is when you do sets of strength and/or conditioning exercises back to back, one right after the other, with little or no rest in between moves. This type of training provides the best of both cardio and strength in one workout because it trains and tones the muscles while simultaneously challenging the cardiovascular system. It saves time and maximizes your calorie burn, because there’s never a wasted moment.
With this kind of efficiency, you don’t have to spend crazy-long hours exercising, which leaves more time for some of those other things you might want to do. All my workout programs—from my BODYSHRED class to my DVDs to my book
Making the Cut
—were all created using exercise circuits. Here’s an example of a good basic circuit using familiar exercises to do after you warm up:
Squats with a Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Bench Triceps Dips
You essentially move from one exercise to the next with no break in between, performing each exercise for a full 30 seconds. Upon completion of the circuit, you can take a brief 30-second rest, then repeat the entire group of exercises for a second circuit. For exercises that require external weight like a dumbbell, use enough weight to fatigue the muscle you’re working by the end of that time, which I prefer to counting reps.
This discussion might also answer any questions you have about whether to do cardio or focus on strength. I want you to do pure cardio only on the days you aren’t doing your circuit training, as it’s far less efficient than circuits.
Why not do circuit training every day if it gets a much better burn during and after the workout? This is a no-no—check out what’s next, to understand why.
Many fitness enthusiasts spend a lot of time training but very little time acknowledging the power and necessity of
recovery. In fact, most of your gains are going to be made on your recovery days.
Exercise is the architect, but recovery is the builder. Without properly timed recovery, you’ll stress your body, inhibit your progress, and possibly injure yourself.
What should you do instead? Make sure you take at least one day completely off each week from exercise. Don’t train a muscle group
more than twice a week. And most researchers agree that you should make sure to allow 48 to 72 hours of rest in between exercise sessions, particularly the more intense ones where you’re doing heavy resistance training,
How do you do this and still move 5 to 6 days a week, which I recommend? Don’t worry, I’m about to show you. We utilize a technique called
muscle splits. You create your circuits to work certain muscle groups on certain days, but not all muscle groups on the same day. If you’re confused, don’t be. I’ll illustrate the ideal muscle split and workout schedule for you below. But before I do, I want to clarify something: full-body training, where you hit every muscle group in the same workout, can produce some amazing results. It just doesn’t allow you to optimize recovery time, so you either can’t do it every day, or you can’t work out as intensely.
In my perfect world, though, you can exercise in a hard-core way five to six days a week and still get your needed recovery for your muscles and subsequently ramp up your results.
Your training “splits” (muscles you train on the same day) would look as follows:
Day 1: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, Legs with Quadricep Focus, Lower-fiber Abs, Obliques
Day 2: Back, Biceps, Legs with Hamstring Focus, Glutes, Upper-fiber Abs
Day 3: Cardio
Day 4: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, Legs with Quadricep Focus, Lower-fiber Abs, Obliques
Day 5: Back, Biceps, Legs with Hamstring Focus, Glutes, Upper-fiber Abs
Day 6: Cardio
Day 7: Day Off
I paired these muscle groups together for a reason based on function. Chest, shoulders, triceps, and quadriceps are all push muscles, while back, biceps, and hamstrings are pull muscles; hamstrings and glutes generally work in tandem, so it’s a pairing that makes training sense. Muscles with the same function generally work together to perform an exercise, so it’s ideal to train them on the same day. If you don’t train muscles with the same function on the same days, it would be nearly impossible to maximize your strength during workouts and your recovery afterward. For example, if you do biceps curls on Monday, but then you do lat rows (which recruits biceps as assisting muscles) on Tuesday, you’ll be working biceps two days in a row whether you realize it or not. In addition, your back workout will suffer because the biceps will be too fatigued from the workout the day before.
On split days, I like to incorporate a technique called Peripheral Heart Action (PHA).
PHA training typically alternates upper-body and lower-body moves, in order to give the muscle just worked a break without letting the body rest or the burn slow down.
Circuit training, which you already will be doing, tends to be PHA by design—another reason it’s so effective. This technique forces blood flow to continuously circulate throughout the whole body by repeatedly changing muscle groups as well as muscle destination (upper to lower or vice versa), which drives heart rate and accelerates calorie burn. The key is to put the emphasis on large muscle groups like chest, back, and legs, which require a higher cardio output demand on the heart, resulting in a more metabolically driven workout.
Here’s a sample PHA circuit for both muscle split days:
Dumbbell Chest Presses on a Stability Ball
Squats with Anterior Front Raises
Triceps Dips, on the floor or using a bench
High Knees (HIIT INTERVAL, see
“Push it good”
Leg Raises, either alternate (easier version) or both legs
Lat Pull-downs or Bent-over High Rows with Dumbbells
Straight-Leg Dead Lifts into Biceps Curls
Seated Lat Rows
Butt Kicks (HIIT INTERVAL)
Crunches on a Stability Ball
Now, if you’re working classes into your schedule, think about what muscles they train. Suppose you do yoga on Monday: by nature of the exercises—lots of planks, chatarungas, and downward-facing dogs—it’s very chest, shoulders, and triceps intensive. So don’t take a boot camp class on Tuesday, where push-ups, presses, and dips will be used on these same muscle groups—they are prime exercises in most boot camps. Instead, take the class that targets more of the lower body, like a Below the Belt Butt Blaster. While this might take slightly more planning on your part, I assure you it’s worth the effort and will make an enormous difference in the speed of your results.
If you’re doing a workout DVD or a class where you train your total body, that’s okay—as long as the workout doesn’t overly focus on a certain muscle group and is more focused on overall conditioning and burning calories. My BODYSHRED class, for example, is only
30 minutes long and it touches on every muscle in the body, but it doesn’t hammer one muscle group in particular.
Ultimately, I don’t want you to strength-train a muscle if it’s still sore from a previous workout. That’s the golden rule. And to reiterate, make sure to take at least one full day off from exercise a week for optimal recovery and results.
When you’re doing your
strength training, I want you to think about
efficiency. I pair small muscles together with big muscles in the same exercise because synergizing multiple muscle groups simultaneously requires a tremendous amount of energy and produces a higher calorie burn. Working smaller muscle groups like biceps, shoulders, or triceps, along with legs, makes substantially better use of your time. This is essentially what you’re doing in the split circuits I just discussed.