This is my brand new 5 days whole body toning and muscle building workout, with concentration on arm strength and abdominal muscles condition. I have been doing it for two weeks now and the post-exercise soreness is back with a vengeance. This is good. It means the change works. I had also beat my record by performing six unassisted pull-ups on the first set! Might be a coincidence, or this programme really did improve my strength slightly. The key to this programme is to perform the first 3 sets of exercises with as heavy weight as possible and a low range of reps, e. g. 3 x 5, and the following exercises with a normal range of 8. This approach will allow you to work on both strength, form and endurance. Doing only heavy weight the entire session is counter-productive, unless you can afford to stretch your workout for two hours and have a long breaks between each set. On the other hand, performing only medium to light weight lifts with many reps will not increase the strength as efficient as lifting heavy weights.
This workout is not for beginners. It is designed to fit in the lunch break and could be done withing 45 minutes. Bonus exercises are not necessary, but beneficial if you still have time and energy left. They are lighter and suppose to be performed at higher pace. As a bonus, choose one or two exercises you like the most.
Warm up for 5 minutes before each workout and stretch muscles for 5-10 minutes after. Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio or 10 minutes of HIIT on Wednesday and any other 2 days of choice, apart of Monday, since it is a leg day.
Monday – Legs & Abs:
Barbell squat 3 x 5. I prefer Smith machine for this as it provides more support and stability.
Stiff leg (Romanian) dead lift 3 x 5
Leg press 3 x 5
Leg extension 3 x 8
Seated calf raise 3 x 8 or offset* standing calf raise on a step 3 x 8 on each leg.
Decline crunch with weight 3 x 8. If this is too difficult, substitute with full sit-up (Rocky style) crunches 3 x 12
Hanging leg raises 3 x 8.
Hanging knee twist raises 3 x 8 on each side. I perform this exercise on dip station, supporting myself on straight arms, but it might be easier to perform it in a traditional way.
Side lunges 3 x 10 on each leg
Walking lunges with or without weight 3 x length of the room.
Alternate dumbbell step-ups 3 x 8 on each leg
Hamstrings on a Swiss ball 3 x 8. This is excellent Pilates exercise!
One legged squats 3 x 6 on each leg. Support yourself by holding on to the wall or perform this exercise with the aid of gymnastic rings or suspension.
Leg and hips raises 3 x 15
Tuesday – Back & Biceps:
Narrow grip pull-ups 3 x 6/8 it is OK to do less repetitions each set as you perform pull ups, since it is a very difficult exercise. Try to perform as many as you can unassisted – even if it is only one.
Lat pull-down (wide grip) 3 x 5
Dumbbell drag curl 3 x 5/6 – this is a very unconventional, but very good biceps exercise! Make sure that you lift your weight with biceps and not your back.
One arm bend down row or both arms row machine 3 x 8 (each arm if performing one arm row)
Straight bar bicep curl 3 x 8
V-curl or Zottman curl 3 x 8
Chin-ups 3 sets of maximum possible reps.
Suspension curl – this is a very difficult exercise. Aim for 3 x 5. The lower you position yourself – the harder it will be.
Weighted back extension 3 x 8. Skip the weight if too difficult.
Wednesday – Cardio & Light exercise of your choice:
Suspension or gymnastic rings exercises, yoga or Pilates, circuit, plyometrics or any gym class.
Thursday – Chest & Triceps:
Bench press 3 x 5. I prefer Smith machine for this one. If all bench presses are busy, Dumbbell chest presses work well too.
Dips on dip station 3 x 6/8
Flies 3 x 5
Narrow grip barbell press 3 x 6. This is great for strong triceps! Only 6 reps because you will feel the burn after all those chest presses and dips.
Pullover 3 x 8. Make sure you don’t bend your arms. Keep them straight, but not locked, while performing this exercise.
Straight bar cable pressdown 3 x 8
Weighted bench dips 3 x 8/10. Position yourself between two benches with feet on one bench and arms on another. Ask someone to put the plates on your legs if it’s too heavy.
Suspension chest pull-ups 3 x 8
Push ups – as many as you can manage.
Friday – Shoulders & Abs:
Standing army presses with barbell or dumbbells 3 x 6
Lateral side raises 3 x 6
Cable core rotations 3 x 6 on each side
Front raises with dumbbell or straight bar 3 x 8. You can also use medicine ball or weight plate for this.
Dumbbell side bend 3 x 8 each side
Side plank 3 x 60 seconds on each side
Swiss ball plank 3 x 60 seconds.
Bonus: handstands against the wall, however many you can manage. I can only manage two.
Saturday and Sunday: active rest. This means spending some time dancing, walking, cycling, swimming or going for a light jog at some point during the day.
*Offset exercises are great for both muscle and core strength. Typically, it is performed with one leg/arm at a time, balancing the weight on the same or opposite side of the body, depending on exercise. For calf raises, hold the dumbbell on the same side of the body, e. g. left hand dumbbell hold while performing left leg calf raises, then switch.