12 Weeks to Lean and Mean

Exercising is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. With a new baby in our lives, the postpartum anxiety hormones that came with childbirth (not to mention recovering from the childbirth injuries), and a fussy baby who has a consistent nap schedule and must be in bed by 7pm–it’s actually a LOT harder than I ever imagined to get to the gym. I miss being able to pick up and go whenever I want. I never truly appreciated the ability to do that until I couldn’t do it anymore.

Any mom will tell you that when you’re pregnant, you hear the phrase “life is going to be so different with a baby!” way too many times, and you pretty much just start to ignore people after a while. “Of course it is! I know that! Everything changes. No sleep. It’s called labor for a reason. Enjoy your free time now. All worth it in the end….I get it already!!” Insert eye roll.

But did I really get it? Do any of us really get it who haven’t yet experienced the joys of parenthood?

NOPE!

Not until one day you wake up, exhausted, wonder “when was the last time that I worked out or slept more than three hours in a row?” and you realize that EVERYTHING has in fact changed. And you smirk because you also realize that–just like you were told a thousand times–it’s still 150 million percent worth it.

So yeah, in this grand life-changing event we’ve been lucky enough to experience, I think it’s safe to say that my gym life needs a pick-me-up. And that’s when I wondered if anyone else needed a pick-me-up as well? A new routine to try? Something different to work on or just some extra motivation?

Since I have been reading about exercise during many of baby girl’s nap times, I decided to put something special together for my Strongfigure readers. It’s a four-day-per-week, 12-week workout program that’s designed for anyone at any gym. You tackle your lower body twice a week, upper body twice a week, and abs all four days. The weights get heavier and the reps lessen as the weeks progress. And I’ve built in 10-15 minutes of interval training at the end of each workout so that if you’re exercising in a standard gym, you’ll employ some fat-burning conditioning at the end of each lifting session. If you’re working out in a CrossFit-style gym, you can substitute whatever WOD or conditioning your gym is doing for the day, and do the rest of the lifting on the side.

Enjoy this new program!

Weeks 1-4

Three sets per exercise, 8-12 reps each set. If you can do more than 12 reps, the weight is too light. If you can’t get 8, the weight is too heavy. Rest 60-90 seconds between each set.  

Note: this chart may be difficult to view from some mobile devices. You may need to scroll to the side to view Tuesday and Friday.

Monday Lower Body A Sets x Reps Tuesday Upper Body A Sets x Reps
Back Squat 3 x 8-12 Bench Press 3 x 8-12
Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8-12 Bent Over Row 3 x 8-12
Leg Extension 3 x 8-12 Strict Press 3 x 8-12
Leg/Hamstring Curl 3 x 8-12 Overhead Tricep Extensions 3 x 8-12
Bulgarian Split Squats 3 x 8-12 Barbell or KB Cleans 3 x 8-12
Ab Rollouts 3 x 10-15 Hollow Rocks 3 x 12-20
Paloff Holds (each side) 3 x 30-45 sec Supermans 3x 12-20
10 min HIIT of choice 10 min HIIT of choice
Thursday Lower Body B Sets x Reps Friday Upper Body B Sets x Reps
Deadlift 3 x 8-12 Pull-Ups or Ring Rows 3 x 8-12
Leg Press 3 x 8-12 Dips 3 x 8-12
Lunges 3 x 8-12 Lat-Pull Downs 3 x 8-12
DB Shrugs or Clean High Pulls 3 x 8-12 Seated Row or Sumo Deadlift High Pulls 3 x 8-12
Barbell Hip/Glute Thrusts 3 x 8-12 Push-Ups 3 x 8-12
L-Sit holds or V-Ups 3 x 15-20 sec or 10-15 reps Lying Leg Raises 3 x 10-15
Plank Holds 3 x 30-60 sec Side Planks 3 x 30-60 sec
10 min HIIT of choice 10 min HIIT of choice


HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Options:
Sprints, Kettlebell Swings, Jump Rope, Burpees, Wall Balls, Box Jumps (be cautious!), Elliptical, Stair Climber, other cardio options, and/or a combination of exercises.

Notes on HIIT: You can perform your 10 minutes of HIIT any way you choose. The only rules are that you have to work in an interval format, and your “work” must be INTENSE, and your “rest” must be a true rest.

Example:

10 Rounds: 30 seconds kettlebell swings, 30 seconds rest. You must choose a challenging weight and swing the kettlebell as many times as you can with as little rest as possible for 30 seconds. Then you rest for 30 seconds. Nothing else. And you repeat for 10 minutes total. If you’re not exhausted by the end, your weight was too light.

You can choose 20 seconds of work with a 40 second break, 1 minute of work with a 1 minute break…you can break the intervals up however you want, as long as you’re consistently challenging yourself.

Another example:

10 Minutes as many rounds possible: 5 burpees, 10 kettlebell swings, 15 wall balls. Rest as little as possible in the 10 minutes.

If your gym doesn’t have a space for this type of workout, try intervals on a stair climber or treadmill. Increase and decrease the speed and/or incline. The goal is to get your heart rate UP and then let it come back down before starting the next interval. This is how we burn the fat.

Weeks 5-8

Three sets per exercise, 6-8 reps each set. If you can do more than 8 reps, the weight is too light. If you can’t get 6, the weight is too heavy. Rest 1:30-2 minutes between each set.  

Monday Lower Body A Sets x Reps Tuesday Upper Body A Sets x Reps
Back Squat 3 x 6-8 Bench Press 3 x 6-8
Romanian Deadlift 3 x 6-8 Bent Over Row 3 x 6-8
Leg Extension 3 x 6-8 Strict Press 3 x 6-8
Leg/Hamstring Curl 3 x 6-8 Overhead Tricep Extensions 3 x 6-8
Bulgarian Split Squats 3 x 6-8 Barbell or KB Cleans 3 x 6-8
Ab Rollouts 3 x 12-20 Hollow Rocks 3 x 15-25
Paloff Holds (each side) 3 x 45-60  sec Supermans 3x 15-25
12 min HIIT of choice 12 min HIIT of choice
Thursday Lower Body B Sets x Reps Friday Upper Body B Sets x Reps
Deadlift 3 x 6-8 Pull-Ups or Ring Rows 3 x 6-8
Leg Press 3 x 6-8 Dips 3 x 6-8
Lunges 3 x 6-8 Lat-Pull Downs 3 x 6-8
DB Shrugs or Clean High Pulls 3 x 6-8 Seated Row or Sumo Deadlift High Pulls 3 x 6-8
Barbell Hip/Glute Thrusts 3 x 6-8 Push-Ups* 3 x 12-15
L-Sit holds or V-Ups 3 x 20-30 sec or 15-20 reps Lying Leg Raises 3 x 15-20
Plank Holds 3 x 45-60 sec Side Planks 3 x 45-60 sec
12 min HIIT of choice 12 min HIIT of choice

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Options: Sprints, Kettlebell Swings, Jump Rope, Burpees, Wall Balls, Box Jumps (be cautious!), Elliptical, Stair Climber, other cardio options, and/or a combination of exercises.

*Push-ups, abs, and HIIT increase instead of decrease

Weeks 9-12

Three sets per exercise, 4-6 reps each set. If you can do more than 6 reps, the weight is too light. If you can’t get 4, the weight is too heavy. Rest 2 minutes between each set.  

Monday Lower Body A Sets x Reps Tuesday Upper Body A Sets x Reps
Back Squat 3 x 4-6 Bench Press 3 x 4-6
Romanian Deadlift 3 x 4-6 Bent Over Row 3 x 4-6
Leg Extension 3 x 4-6 Strict Press 3 x 4-6
Leg/Hamstring Curl 3 x 4-6 Overhead Tricep Extensions 3 x 4-6
Bulgarian Split Squats 3 x 4-6 Barbell or KB Cleans 3 x 4-6
Ab Rollouts 3 x 20-25 Hollow Rocks 3 x 25-30
Paloff Holds (each side) 3 x 60-90  sec Supermans 3x 25-30
15 min HIIT of choice 15 min HIIT of choice
Thursday Lower Body B Sets x Reps Friday Upper Body B Sets x Reps
Deadlift 3 x 4-6 Pull-Ups or Ring Rows 3 x 4-6
Leg Press 3 x 4-6 Dips 3 x 4-6
Lunges 3 x 4-6 Lat-Pull Downs 3 x 4-6
DB Shrugs or Clean High Pulls 3 x 4-6 Seated Row or Sumo Deadlift High Pulls 3 x 4-6
Barbell Hip/Glute Thrusts 3 x 4-6 Push-Ups* 3 x 15-20
L-Sit holds or V-Ups 3 x 20-30 sec or 15-20 reps Lying Leg Raises 3 x 15-20
Plank Holds 3 x 60-90 sec Side Planks 3 x 60-90 sec
15 min HIIT of choice 15 min HIIT of choice

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) Options: Sprints, Kettlebell Swings, Jump Rope, Burpees, Wall Balls, Box Jumps (be cautious!), Elliptical, Stair Climber, other cardio options, and/or a combination of exercises.

*Push-ups, abs, and HIIT increase instead of decrease

BONUS INFORMATION: Eat Better!

You know that it’s impossible to out-train a crappy diet–no matter how hard you work. (Unless you have one of those crazy genetically gifted super fast metabolisms; however, you likely wouldn’t be reading this right now if you did.)

When I very first got into exercising (over 15 years ago!), I went to our local YMCA, took a group fitness resistance training class on Saturday mornings (that was all, and we never lifted more than 20 pounds), and I always celebrated my exercise with a grilled cheese (double cheese) and homemade chips at one of our local downtown deli shops. I wondered for SUCH a long time why I wasn’t super-fit?! LOL!

If you’re a foodie like myself, sadly you know that if you want to cut fat, build muscle, and rock the two-piece by summer, you’re going to have to train hard but eat harder. Or, err, smarter. And that means making a lot of healthy decisions based on things like what your body needs daily per your activity level, and when to eat certain foods so that you can make a bigger change, faster, as well as utilize your food in the best way possible for YOU.

Since you’re going to be training hard, I don’t want all that hard work to go to waste. I’m giving you some eating tips that work well with good ol’ fashioned iron-pumping work!  

Tips for Eating Better

  • If you’re a guy, you need more carbs than women. Maybe I should just say that ladies, you don’t need as many carbs as men. (At least most women do not. Sorry.) Eat your carbs (especially the non-vegetable carbs) before and after your training for best results. For the rest of your meals, your carbs should be veggies.
  • Get 25-30 grams of fiber from veggies each day!
  • Do NOT diet down! Especially the ladies! Yeah, you may need fewer carbs than men, but that doesn’t mean you need ZERO carbs! Even the popular ketogenic diet allows a few carbs! So if you find yourself feeling bloated after a few weeks of training and eating, sure, decrease carbs by half per serving. But never eliminate them completely. Also, take some time to ensure the bloat isn’t being caused by muscle gain. Muscle gain in women will happen before fat loss, so give your body time to adjust. If you’re new to lifting, sure, you might gain some weight when you begin. Men would kill for this ability to build muscle this fast. But you’ve got to be patient and let your body adjust to the new muscle so that the muscle will start burning the fat. Don’t give up. Be patient and persistent.
  • You don’t have to buy organic everything, but at least look for high quality protein. Eat what your budget can afford and if that means non-organic peanuts instead of organic almonds, that’s fine! Do what you can do and be proud of your consistent efforts.
  • Make sure when eating protein that you eat enough! If you’re going to track your food, eat at least .8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you find that you’re still hungry after eating, increase your fat intake (slowly). Fat grams are higher in calories than protein and carbs, but good fats are GREAT for the body, the organs, and energy. Throw in an extra serving of salmon, an avocado, some more nuts…something that will help you feel full without binging on ice cream at the end of the day. PS–saturated fat isn’t the enemy as it was once thought to be. Eat your nitrite/nitrate-free bacon, your red meat, egg yolks, cheese, and (real) butter.
  • Those fats I just mentioned? Try not to eat them alongside bread and pasta. You can burn fat faster if you eat protein and fat together, protein and carbs together, but NOT carbs and fat together. If this is confusing, read my guide to macronutrients article and my what to eat after a workout article.
  • Treat yo’self…wisely. Whatever your favorite treat is, eat it. Just don’t go overboard. If ice cream is your favorite, have it once a week, and preferably after a workout with an extra scoop of protein. Don’t eat the whole pint, and don’t have an entire cheat day either. You need to stay sane. If that means a couple pieces of dark chocolate a day, or a couple slices of pizza (with a salad) every other weekend, do what makes you less likely to quit your plan and binge on pizza and beer for a week solid.

Supplements:

Based on my experience, trials, and observations, unless you’re a professional athlete, you really don’t need that many. (I’m not even sure professionals need that many…they just seem to need more food and an on-call physical therapist.) But at the end of every day, I truly believe every individual needs

  • Fish Oil
  • Vitamin D (and taken with vitamin E)
  • A Multivitamin (especially if your diet isn’t varied in fruit and vegetable consumption)
  • Whey Protein Powder (though I believe this should be considered a good protein source rather than a supplement)

Optional Supplements:

  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Super Greens Powder

Interested in customized nutrition information and health coaching? I’m currently taking on clients for one-on-one health coaching lessons. CONTACT ME if you’re curious about whether or not this is something that may work for you right now. I’m offering eight 60-minute sessions either in person or via Skype/facetime/phone that are customized towards helping you meet your goals. The sessions revolve around better nutrition, meal plan, food prep, building confidence in yourself, and finding a workout routine that fits your lifestyle. (All customizable to YOUR personal goals.) This is first-come first serve since my time is limited. And only apply if you’re ok with an adorable baby girl tagging along for our lessons! (She’s my business partner.) ;)

Also, if personal coaching is not right for you at the moment and you would rather do it yourself with a little bit of guidance, my newest book, REVAMP, will be on Amazon soon. (OR you can pre-order the .PDF today!)

Let’s wrap this up.

In the end, if you’re training hard, eating smart, and ensuring a healthy balance of carbs (vegetables, fruit, and grains), protein (meat, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt), and fats (meats, avocados, nuts, some cheeses, butter, oils), then you’re doing just fine. Make smart choices, stick with a plan long enough to see changes, adjust your carbs slowly to see the aesthetic differences you’re looking for, and drink a crap-ton of water. You will make progress…and you’ll soon find the recipe for simple, lifelong success.

 

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