The best workout for weight loss: blast fat, sculpt your muscles and break through plateaus with our versatile program

The best workout for weight loss: blast fat, sculpt your muscles and break through plateaus with our versatile program – Total-Body Strength + Cardio

Linda Shelton

The busiest months of the year are upon us, when fitting in exercise gets tough and packing on pounds is easy. That’s why we teamed up with top trainer David Kirsch, owner of New York City’s Madison Square Club and author of Sound Mind, Sound Body: David Kirsch’s Ultimate 6-Week Fitness Transformation for Men and Women (Rodale Press, 2002), to create Shape’s early holiday gift to you: a maximum-results, fat-blasting workout.

As research continues to confirm, a combination of strength and aerobic training is a sure-fire way to lose weight. This program packs those essential ingredients, but the real secret to its success lies in its structure. After jump-starting your weight loss in October, you’ll alter your training techniques in November to really sculpt your body. Then, in December, the program turns into a quick-fix way to keep the pounds at bay through the holidays.

By modifying your program monthly, your muscles will respond and your focus won’t falter — so you’ll avoid plateaus and keep the weight loss coming. After three months, the average woman can lose up to 20 pounds of fat and gain 2 pounds of muscle. * Combine this program with a sensible eating plan (see “The Truth About Protein and Weight Loss” on page 176) and, come January, you’ll be so svelte and sculpted, you’ll really be ready to ring in the new year — and the new you.


How it works The core moves in this program strengthen and tone your muscles, giving your metabolism a fatblasting boost. You’ll avoid plateaus and keep seeing results as you modify your exercise techniques and schedule according to the monthly plans. Mixing and matching the length and intensity of your cardio each month, as directed, will also keep your body guessing and responding.

Warm-up When not performing the suggested cardio workouts prior to your strength sessions, begin each strength workout with 5-10 minutes of low-intensity aerobic activity on the equipment of your choice or by taking a brisk walk.

Cool-down End all strength and cardio workouts by stretching all major muscles, holding each stretch for at least 20 seconds without bounching.

Beat the belly bulge Complement the strength moves by finishing with two ab exercises of your choice, such as crunches and reverse curls, performing 15-25 reps of each.

Choose your level Follow the beginner option if you’ve been exercising for less than 3 months. Use the basic guidelines if you’ve exercised consistently, 2-3 times a week, for more than 3 months. Progress to the advanced option when you feel ready or if the basic option isn’t challenging enough for you.

the moves

1. Plie toe squat Standing with feet slightly more than hip-width apart, toes and knees turned out comfortably, hold a dumbbell cupped vertically in both hands, hanging in front of thighs. Contract abdominals, bringing spine into a neutral position. Shift weight to the balls of both feet, heels lifted [A], then bend both knees, lowering hips toward the floor only as far as you can without shifting hips forward or backward [B]. Press heels down, staying in plie, straighten legs to starting position and repeat. Weight: 5- to 20-pound dumbbell. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks and calves

3. Shoulder-raise combo Standing with feet hip-width apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides, palms facing in. Contract abs, bringing spine to a neutral position. Squeeze shoulder blades together, then lift dumbbells up and in front of you to shoulder height [A]. Lower to thighs, then lift arms up and out to sides to shoulder height [B]. Lower to start position and repeat. Weight: 3- to 8-pound dumbbells. Strengthens shoulder and upper back

2. Lunge combo standing with feet hip-width apart, hold dumbbells by sides, palms in. Keeping right leg straight, step sideways with left foot, bending left knee in line with ankle, torso straight and centered between both legs [A]. Press back to starting position and immediately step backward with left foot, bending both knees so right knee is in line with ankle and left knee approaches floor [B]. return to start and repeat all reps on one side before switching legs. Weight: 3- to 10-pound dumbbells. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, upper hips, adductors and calves

4. 3-way lat pull-down attach a long bar to a lat pull-down machine, then sit with knees aligned with ankles, support pad on thighs. Hold bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Lean back so bar is above chest [A]. Bend elbows down and in toward waist as you lift chest up toward bar [B]. Straighten arms and repeat. For second set, place hands shoulder-width apart; for the third set, place hands together in an underhand grip. Weight: 20-50 pounds. Strengthens middle and upper back, rear shoulders and biceps

5. Push-up deluxe Straddle or put knees on a bench with an Olympic bar at chest height. Grasp bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart, arms straight. Contract abdominals to bring spine to a neutral position. Bend elbows, lowering chest toward bar until elbows are even with shoulders [A]. Straighten arms and repeat for reps. Then turn palms to grasp bar with an underhand grip, keeping elbows close to your body [B] and repeat by bending and straightening your arms, maintaining straight body line. (Performing 10-12 reps of each hand position equals 1 set.) Weight: none. Strengthens chest, front shoulder and triceps

6. Over/under cable kickback Attach a single handle to a low cable pulley adjusted slightly lower than waist height. With feet hip-width apart, hinge forward from hips, knees bent, until back is parallel to floor. Grasp handle with right hand, palm facing in and bend elbow back close to waist [A]. Maintain position and straighten elbow behind you [B]. Return to start position and repeat for all reps, then switch grip to underhand so palm faces up and repeat for all reps. (Performing 10-12 reps of each hand position equals 1 set.) Weight: 10-20 pounds. Strengthens triceps


Gauge your intensity as follows:

RPE 1-2 Easy;

you easily can have a conversation at this level

RPE 3-4 Easy-moderate;

you still can converse with minimal effort

RPE 5-6 Moderate-hard;

conversation requires some effort

RPE 7-8 Difficult-very challenging;

conversation requires much effort

RPE 9-10 No-talking zone

Jump-start your weight loss. October plan

October plan


Strategy Become familiar with proper exercise form and technique and build calorie-burning muscle density.

Basic guidelines Do this workout 3 days a week, making sure to take a day off between your strength sessions. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each of the 6 moves in the order listed, resting 1 minute between sets. Don’t forget to include the 2 ab moves of your choice, according to the basic plan on the opposite page.

Beginner option Do 2 sets per exercise this month. Use as much weight as you can to complete all reps and sets. Advanced option/to progress increase your starting weight at least twice during this month by 2 1/2-5 pounds.


Note See the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) chart on page 144 for explanation of intensity levels.

Strategy Mix up equipment, intensity and time.

Suggested activities/equipment Treadmill, jump-rope, elliptical trainer (with arms if possible) or a rowing machine

Workout schedule Three days a week (on the same days as strength training): steady-state

* Warm up for 5-10 minutes at RPE 1-2.

* Do 10 minutes of steady-state work (holding the same pace) at RPE 3-4.

* Do strength workout.

* Do 30 minutes of steady-state work at RPE 5-6.

* Cool down for 5-10 minutes at RPE 1-2, then stretch.

Two days a week (on non-strength days): interval training

* Warm up for 5-10 minutes at RPE 1-2.

* Alternate 3 minutes at RPE 7-8 with 1 minute of recovery at RPE 3-4 until you’ve completed total of 30-45 minutes (i.e., 8-12 intervals).

* Cool down for 5 minutes at RPE 1-2, then stretch.

Beginner option Shorten your cardio workouts so you’re only performing 30 minutes each time (in addition to your warm-up and cool-down) So on steady state-days cut out the first 10-minute segment a RPE 3-4 for the interval days only do 30 minutes of intervals. Gradually add a few minutes to each workout as you progress until you’ve reached the prescribed duration of 30-45 minutes.

November plan

Supersculpt and blast fat


Strategy Surprise your mind and muscles by changing the order of the exercises and using heavier weights and high-intensity training methods. Basic guidelines Do this workout 4 days a week (making sure to take a day off in between strength sessions), performing the 6 moves as supersets (in pairs, one immediately after the other). Do 12-15 reps of moves 1 and 2; rest one minute and then repeat. Do the same for moves 3 and 6, and moves 4 and 5. Finish with the 2 ab moves of your choice, back to back, according to the basic plan on page 140. Begin each move of each superset with the heaviest amount of weight you finished with for October, doing as many reps as you can. Then, without resting, decrease the weight by 30 percent to finish each set with at least five more reps.

Beginner option Do not repeat your supersets a second time.

Advanced option Repeat the supersets a third time continue to increase starting weight if you can.


Strategy Use intervals to increase training intensity and burn more calories.

Suggested activities/equipment Treadmill, rowing machine, elliptical trainer, jump-rope or jumping jacks

Workout schedule Three days a week: interval training

* Warm up for 5-10 minutes at RPE 1-2.

* Alternate 3 minutes at RPE 5-6 with 1 minute at RPE 7-8 until you’ve completed a total of 30-45 minutes (approximately 8-12 intervals).

* Cool down for 5 minutes at RPE 1-2, then stretch.

One day a week: steady-state

* Warm up for 5-10 minutes at RPE 1-2.

* Do 30-45 minutes of steady-state work at RPE 3-4.

* Cool down for 5 minutes at RPE 1-2, then stretch.

Beginner option If you’re still finding the duration of the cardio workouts to be too much this month, again, simply do 30 minutes of each workout as outlined above (plus warm-up and cool-down). Gradually add on a few minutes as you progress aiming to complete the full 45-minute workout.

December plan

ultrafast fitness fix


Strategy Squeeze in your exercise by combining the dumbbell and ab moves with cardio quickies.

Basic quidelines Three days a week, do 10-15 reps of moves 1-3 in the order listed, followed by the 2 ab moves of your choice (see basic plan on page 140) and a cardio segment (as outlined below). Repeat 2-3 times, as your schedule permits. Use just enough weight to complete all reps for each dumbbell exercise.

Beginner option Because you goal this month is to stay on track and beat holiday weight gain with an abridged version of the workout, it should be comfortable for beginners.

Advanced option If you have the time and are at the gym, perform 10-15 reps of all 6 moves (plus ab exercises) and repeat 2-3 times. Follow each set with 10-20 minutes of cardio, as described below.


Strategy Stay on track and keep blasting calories by doing a quick burst of aerobic activity immediately after each set of strength moves.

Suggested activities/equipment Any piece of cardio equipment, jumping jacks, jump-rope or walking/running outdoors.

Workout schedule Three days a week:

* Warm up for 5-10 minutes at RPE 1-2.

* After each set of strength moves, do 10 minutes of cardio at RPE 3-4. Repeat this combo 2-3 times (for a total of 20-30 minutes of cardio).

* Cool down with a stretch.

* Weight-loss and calorie-burn estimates are based upon a 145-pound woman consuming an average of 1,800 calories a day.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group