All of the workouts in your 80/20 Strength Training Plan are intended to be done as circuits. This means you complete each exercise one time before going back and repeating the full sequence. Research suggests that 80 percent of the potential strength gains associated with doing any particular exercise come from the first set, so if you’re tight on time and/or you don’t enjoying strength work, don’t feel compelled to do more than one circuit. But if you do have time and interest, we recommend that you advance from one circuit to two in your third week (seventh session) and from two circuits to three in your fifth week (11th session).
The workouts are designed in such a way that you are never challenging the same muscle groups in consecutive movements. This allows you to move from one exercise to the next with minimal rest. Don’t rush the workout, but do recover just long enough between exercises so that your performance in the next is not compromised.
In exercises involving external resistance (e.g., dumbbells), choose a weight that you could lift twice more than you are actually required to. For example, if a given exercise calls for 10 repetitions, choose a weight you could lift 12 times with perfect form. Increase the resistance in small increments as you get stronger. The same loading principle applies to bodyweight and timed exercises. For example, when doing Side Planks, hold the position about 90 percent as long as you could.
Your 80/20 Strength Training Plan comprises three separate workouts: a Preparation Phase Circuit, a Build Phase Circuit, and a Competition Phase Circuit. Each workout consists of 10 exercises, but the exercises are different in each workout. Always perform new movements with minimal loads until you get the hang of them.
Each exercise description is followed by a link to a video demonstration from a third party. It is very important that you do all of the exercises with correct form. To this end, we encourage you to get help from a strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer if you have any doubt about whether you are doing a particular exercise correctly.
Preparation Phase Circuit
Split-Stance Dumbbell Deadlift
Stand with your left foot half a step behind your right foot and your right foot flat on the floor beneath your hip and only the toes of your left foot touching the floor. Begin with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms relaxed at your sides. Now bend at the hips and knees (not the waist) and reach toward the floor with the dumbbells, stopping when the weights are a few inches from the ground. Pause briefly and then press your right foot into the floor and return to a standing position. Concentrate on contracting your right glutes when executing this motion. Complete 8 to 10 repetitions and then reverse your stance and repeat the exercise.
Lie on your right side with your ankles together and your torso propped up by your upper arm. Lift your hips until your body forms a diagonal plank from ankles to neck. Hold this position for about 90 percent as long as you could, making sure you don’t allow your hips to sag toward the floor. (Watch yourself in a mirror to make sure you’re not sagging.) Switch to the left side and repeat the exercise.
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms hanging at your sides. Bend both knees moderately and lean forward about 30 degrees from the hips (not the waist), allowing your arms to hang toward the floor like plumb lines. Pull the dumbbell toward a spot just outside your lower ribcage, keeping your elbow in. Now slowly lower the dumbbell. Complete 10 repetitions, then reverse your stance and switch arms.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
Start in a bridge position, face up, with your head and shoulders on the floor and your heels resting on top of a stability ball, your body suspended in a straight line between these points. Contract your hamstrings and roll the ball toward your rear end. Pause briefly and extend your legs, rolling the ball back to the starting point. Don’t let your hips drop. Complete 10-15 repetitions. If this exercise is too easy, do a single-leg version, elevating one foot above the ball and pulling the ball toward your butt with the other leg.
Stability Ball Roll Out
Kneel on the floor facing a stability ball, lean forward slightly, and place your forearms on top of the ball. Pull your belly button toward your spine. Slowly roll the ball forward by extending your forearms out in front of you and allowing your body to tilt toward the floor. Concentrate on maintaining perfect alignment of your spine. Stop just before you’re forced to arch your back. Hold this position for 3 seconds and then return to the start position, exhaling as you do so. Complete 12 repetitions.
Assume a standard push-up position with your hands just outside shoulder width. Imagine your body being a straight line from ankles to neck; don’t allow the hips to sag, or your butt to stick up too high. Tuck your chin so that your head is close to being in line with your body. Lower your chest to within an inch of the floor. Look straight at the floor the entire time, and keep your core braced tightly. Press back to the starting position. Complete 20 repetitions or 2 fewer than your max, whichever comes first.
Standing Heel Raise
Stand normally with your arms at your sides and a dumbbell in each hand. Contract your calf muscles and lift your heels off the ground as high as possible. Pause briefly at the top of the motion and then return to the start position. Complete 12 repetitions.
Standing Cable Trunk Rotation
Stand with your left side facing a cable pulley station with a handle attached at shoulder height. Grasp the handle with both hands and both arms fully extended. Begin with your torso rotated toward the handle and tension in the cable (i.e. the weight stack is slightly elevated from the resting position). Rotate your torso to the right while keeping your arms fully extended and the handle in line with the center of your chest. Keep your eyes focused on the handle as you rotate and your hips pressed forward. Return to the start position without allowing the weight stack to come to rest. Complete 12 repetitions, then reverse your position and repeat the exercise.
Reverse Wood Chop
Connect a D-handle to a cable pulley station at ankle height. Stand in a wide stance with your left side facing the cable pulley station and most of your weight on the left foot. Grasp the handle in both hands, beginning with the handle just outside your knee. Using both arms, pull the cable upward and across your body, keeping your arms straight and finishing with your hands above your right shoulder. Avoid rounding your back. Return smoothly to the start position. Complete 10 repetitions.
Split Squat Jump
Start in a split stance with your right foot flat on the ground and your left leg slightly bent with only the forefoot of your left foot touching the ground a half step behind the right. Lower yourself down into a deep squat and then leap upward as high as possible. In midair, reverse the position of your legs. When you land, sink down immediately into another squat and then leap again. Complete 12 jumps in each position.
Build Phase Circuit
Stand normally with your arms hanging at your sides and a dumbbell in each hand. Take a large step backward with your left foot and then bend your right knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your trunk upright and your weight on your right foot. Now press your right foot into the floor and return to the start position. Next, repeat this sequence with the other leg. Complete 10 repetitions with each leg.
Stirring the Pot
Assume a plank position with your feet on the floor, spread apart by at least 12 inches, and your forearms resting on a stability ball. Keeping your body in a straight line and your hips stable, use your forearms to “draw” a small clockwise circle on the ball. Complete 10 circles at a rate of about 1.5 second per circle and then draw 10 more circles in the opposite direction. If your abs aren’t burning yet, repeat the whole exercise a second time.
Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip and your hands positioned slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Begin from a full hang. Pull your body upward until your chin clears the bar, then lower yourself back to a full hang. If you cannot complete at least eight pull-ups on your own, have a partner assist you by pushing you upward from a standing position on the floor as necessary. Complete 8 to 12 repetitions or two fewer than your max.
Single-Leg Reverse Deadlift
Stand on your right foot with the knee slightly bent and a dumbbell in your left hand, left arm relaxed at your side. Now tilt your trunk forward and at the same time extend your left leg backward and reach toward the toe of your left shoe with the dumbbell. Do not actively squat or rotate your torso to get the dumbbell closer to your shoe. Think of this as more of a balance exercise than a flexion/extension exercise. Keep your core and your scapula tight and your whole body stable outside of the forward tilting of your torso. Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement and return to the start position. Complete 10 repetitions and then repeat the exercise with your left leg.
Stability Ball Hip Rotation
Lie face up with your knees bent 90 degrees and your lower legs resting on a stability ball. Rotate your hips 45 degrees to the right, tightening your abs to control the movement. Pause briefly and then rotate your hips to the left, again stopping when your thighs are at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Complete 8 to 10 movements in each direction.
BOSU Ball Push-Up
Assume a standard push-up position with your hands gripping the edges of a BOSU Ball. Imagine your body being a straight line from ankles to neck; don’t allow the hips to sag, or your butt to stick up too high. Tuck your chin so that your head is close to being in line with your body. Lower your chest to within an inch of the ball. Look straight at the floor the entire time, and keep your core braced tightly. Press back to the starting position. Complete 12 to 16 repetitions or two fewer than your max.
Eccentric Heel Raise
Stand normally and contract both calves, raising your heels as high as you can. Now lift your left foot off the floor by bending your knee slightly so that you are supported by the toe of your right foot. (Use a wall or other stable structure for balance.) Now lower your right heel slowly to the floor on a six count. When your right foot is flat on the floor, place the left foot next to it and raise your heels again, then repeat the slow lowering of your right heel to the floor. Complete 10 repetitions and then switch to the left foot.
Stand with your left side facing a cable pulley station with a D-handle attached at shoulder height. Bend your knees slightly and place your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. Grasp the handle in both hands. Your arms should be almost fully extended with your trunk rotated to the left. Now pull the handle from this position across your body and toward the floor, stopping when your hands are outside your right ankle. This is a compound movement that involves twisting your torso to the right, shifting your weight from your left foot to your right foot, bending toward the floor, and using your shoulders to pull the handle across your body. Concentrate on initiating the movement with your trunk muscles. At the bottom of the movement, pause briefly, then smoothly return to the starting position. Complete 10 to 12 repetitions, then reverse your position and repeat the exercise.
Dumbbell Power Snatch
Stand with your feet far apart and your toes turned slightly outward. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Sink your butt toward the floor until the dumbbell is at or just below the height of your knees and hanging between your legs. Press your heels into the floor as though you intend to jump, but instead use the momentum to lift the dumbbell straight overhead. Finish the movement in a full standing position with your right arm extended straight toward the ceiling. Concentrate on making the dumbbell travel upward in a perfectly straight line and using your legs and hips more than your shoulder to get the dumbbell overhead. Now lower the dumbbell to your shoulder and from there return to the start position. Complete 8 to 10 repetitions and then repeat the exercise with your left arm.
Single-Leg Box Jump
Stand facing a plyometrics box or stacked aerobics steps on your right foot only with your left knee slightly bent. Squat down slightly as you naturally do when jumping for height and leap onto the box, landing on your right foot. You may also find it natural to swing your arms back and then forward while jumping. Immediately jump backward down to the floor, again landing on your right foot. Complete 10-12 jumps and then do 10-12 more on your left leg.
Competition Phase Circuit
Rear Foot Elevated Lunge
Stand on your right foot with your left leg extended behind you and the top of your left foot resting on an exercise bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms relaxed at your sides. Bend your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor, keeping your torso upright and your weight on your heel. Now press your heel into the floor and return to the start position. Complete 10 repetitions and then repeat the exercise with your left leg.
Stability Ball Reverse Crunch
Begin in a prone position with the tops of your feet resting on a stability ball, your palms on the floor at shoulder width, and your body forming a straight line. Now contract your stomach muscles, bend your knees, and roll the ball toward your chest. Pause briefly and roll the ball back until your body forms a straight line again. Complete 12 to 20 repetitions.
Lie face up on the floor underneath a bar. Grab the bar with both hands positioned slightly farther than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your body in a perfectly straight line, pull your chest up to the bar and then return smoothly to the start position. Complete 8 to 10 repetitions.
Stand in a broad stance with your toes pointed outward slightly and your knees bent about 30 degrees and your trunk bent forward at a similar angle from the hips, not the waist. Begin with both hands on the handle of a kettlebell in an overhand grip, elbows straight and the weight hanging between your knees. Swing the kettlebell gently and forward to generate a little momentum for the first full swing. Keeping your spine neutral, snap your hips forward and raise your arms until the weight comes to eye level. Now reverse this movement, bending your knees and hips and allowing the kettlebell to swing between your legs. Use the momentum of the backswing to prepare for the next swing. Complete 12 repetitions.
Medicine Ball Trunk Rotation
Sit on the floor with your knees sharply bent, your trunk tilted back 30 degrees, and a medicine ball resting on your belly between both hands. Now twist to the right as if you’re going to place the ball on the floor next to your right hip, but don’t go quite that far. Now twist to the left. Complete 12 twists in either direction.
Stability Ball Push-Up
Assume a modified push-up position with your feet together, your body forming a perfectly straight line, and your palms positioned slightly more than shoulder-width apart on a stability ball. Bend your elbows and smoothly lower your chest to within an inch of the bench. Immediately press back upward to the start position. If you have difficulty doing a full push-up, do a half push-up, bending your elbows only to 90 degrees before pressing upward. Complete 12 to 20 repetitions or two fewer than your max, whichever comes first.
Isometric Heel Raise/Toe Walk
Stand normally with a dumbbell in each hand and your arms relaxed at your sides. Now lift your heels and stand on your toes for 30 seconds. If you lose balance and have to touch your heels to the floor, just pick up where you left off in your counting. An alternate version of this exercise entails walking around on your toes for 30 seconds.
Kettlebell Pull Through
Assume a push-up position with a kettlebell positioned on the floor to you left and in line with your chest. Pick up your right hand, reach under and across your body, grab the handle of the kettlebell, and drag it back across your body, leaving it to the right of your body at chest level. Now put your right palm back on the floor and repeated this sequence using your right hand. Complete 8 to 10 pulls each way.
Stand with your feet slightly father than shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Begin with your elbows sharply bent and shoulders rotated so that the dumbbells are at shoulder height with your palms facing forward. Now sink your butt toward the floor 6 to 10 inches, drive your heels into the floor, and straighten your legs forcefully, using the upward momentum to press the dumbbells overhead until your elbows are fully extended. Finally, lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders. Complete 10 repetitions.
Stand normally with a plyometrics box or stacked aerobics steps in front of you. Run in place by alternately touching the toe of your right and left shoes to the box. Try to maintain a rapid tempo for 20 seconds.