Best Body plan will develop fantastic fitness and get you in great shape by spring.

Making a New Year’s resolution to get fit as you possibly can and looking amazing is one of the most popular promises people make to themselves. If you already have a good level of fitness taking your fitness to the next level can be tough. In this situation people often make the mistake of turning to training routines of ever-increasing complexity involving bizarrely obscure exercises.

In truth, one of the most effective ways to bust through any plateau and lay some even greater fitness foundations, is to go back to basics. The ‘Big Five lifts’, consisting of bench presses, squats, pull downs, dead-lifts and overhead press, hit every major muscle group and a solid grounding in these should form part of any fitness enthusiast’s resistance training armoury.

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It could be argued that almost all other lifts are just ‘window dressing’ compared to the Big Five. Doing them for a solid 6-week hit, whilst concentrating on a simple set/rep structure, will allow you to see where your strength really is, monitor your progress and lay down a base for a mega calorie burning metabolism (increased lean muscle equates to a more calorie burning as muscle is active tissue, all-day and everyday).

To make things a bit more interesting and to take your muscles to absolute failure we’ve included an exhaustion set paired to each of the main lifts for example, plyo press ups with the bench press.

The Workout

You should aim to complete the workout 3-4 times per week, allowing 48 hours’ recovery between each. As we’re looking to maximise strength and muscle gains keep cardiovascular training to an absolute minimum. It’s also vitally important to keep an eye on your nutrition, especially if you’ve put on a bit of extra ‘insulation’ over the festive season!

Make sure you consume a decent recovery drink/meal as soon as possible, ideally within 20 minutes, after finishing your workout. It’s a very demanding session and your muscles will be crying out for both carbohydrates and protein. Although it may seem counter intuitive if you’re trying to shed a bit of fat to take on board extra calories, doing this will kick-start your recovery and prevent ravenous hunger and overeating 3-4 hours after training.

See articles on pages 2, 22 and 24 for great workout nutrition tips. Remember that building a lean body needs fuel but it will increase your calorie burn. It’s essential for progress that all sets should be as near to maximal as possible. Once you are able to complete the full number of reps for a given exercise, you should then increase the starting weight, even if this means you’re unable to complete the prescribed reps.

As a rough guide you start with sets at 85% of your 1RM for the 6 reps, than 75% for the 8 reps and 65% for the 10. Failure is good – the last reps are not known as the ‘growth reps’ for nothing. Note also that it’s in the time when you are not training that your muscles grow stronger.

The Workout

Bench Press

Probably the upper body exercise.
*You’re lifting heavy so make sure you have a training partner on hand.
*Full depth on the lower, just a couple of cm’s off your chest.
*Use dumbbells as an alternate option.

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Plyo Press-ups

These are going to be brutal straight after the bench press.
*Go for ‘clap’ press-ups but as long as the lift is explosive that’s good enough.
*Drop to your knees if you have to.
*Once form or depth goes call it a day.
Do not perform if you have weak wrists or shoulders – do normal press ups instead

Barbell Squats

The ‘king of lifts’. It’s unbelievable how many people lift weights but don’t squat.
*Use a squat rack or have a spotter on hand.
*Aim for thighs parallel to the floor.
*Don’t lock your knees out for a sneaky rest.

Jump Squats

Prepare yourself for jelly legs.
*Go for maximum height on each rep.
* Absorb the landing but transition as quickly as possible into another jump
*Keep looking straight ahead.

Lat pull Down

Still hard to beat for the upper and middle back strength.
*Fix your body in place and pull the weight down to the top of your chest.
*Control the bar back to the starting position as your muscles lengthen to return the bar to the start position.

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Pull-ups

No easy option here.
*Work from full extension.
*Pull your chin over the bar
*Use an assisted pull-up machine with half-body weight loading if necessary.

Ball Hamstring Curl

A bit of a breather but your hamstrings are going to scream.
*Drive your hips as high as possible.
*Keep the movement slow and controlled.
*Make sure you work through a full range of movement.

Dead-lift

If squats are king, dead-lifts are the rougher and tougher usurper to the throne.
*We’re after straight legs to really hit the hamstrings.
*Keep your head up.
*Maintain the natural curves of your spine.
*Don’t ‘squat’ the bar up
*Nail correct form before going heavy.

High Throw

A bit sneaky as your legs are doing some extra work too.
*Squat down fully and explode up to throw the ball.
*With ‘soft’ arms and legs absorb the catch.
*If your gym hasn’t got a high enough ceiling, just do a med ball push-press.

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Overhead Press

Forget dumbbell raises this is the shoulder builder.
*Opt for standing to challenge your whole body.
*Use either dumbbells or a barbell.
*Don’t be tempted to help out with your legs.

Cable Crunch

You do weighted exercises with every other muscle group so why not your abs?
*Use a rope attachment for comfort and to maximise range of movement.
*Curl all the way down so your forehead touches the floor.
*Keep the tension on your muscles and maximise the eccentric muscle load by making the return super slow.

Crunch

Keep the tension on your tummy and taking you to an agonising burn, but at least you’ll be lying down!
*Stay up in an abs contracted position and pulse from there.
*Your nose should almost meet your knees.
*Push on through for the whole minute – it’s the last exercise after all.

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
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