07/23/2012 09:29 am ET | Updated Mar 21, 2013

It's Never Too Late to Get in Shape! Summer Workout Series, Part 1

Even though many of you have already been training for several months in order to look great on the beach or poolside, the work doesn't stop. Staying fit and looking lean is really a lifestyle choice, and if your training regimen slowly slips to the back burner, replaced by burgers and beers, you can easily find yourself back in the same situation that you were in several months ago. Even though training is important, you must remember that proper nutrition and quality sleep must always be a priority. We have a saying in the fitness industry and it's incredibly true: You cannot out-train a poor diet. Simple, yet extremely powerful!

Over the next couple of months, I am going to guide you through a training program that will not only make your time in the gym more efficient but more productive. This program will primarily be about adding lean muscle mass while decreasing body fat. From a nutritional standpoint, I would suggest that you follow a low-carb approach to eating at least until you get yourself to your ideal body image. Note: I didn't say no carb, I said low-carb!

Every three weeks, I am going to provide you with either an entirely new training program or some modifications to your existing one. The program will include both a strength training component as well as a cardio one (e.g., EST). Each two-week phase will systematically build upon the previous phase so that by the end of the eight weeks you will be stronger, leaner and better conditioned than before.

I will also suggest an ideal training schedule for you to follow, but obviously you can modify it. That being said, there are certain reasons why I laid it out in the manner that I have. For instance, I find it's best to perform total body strength training sessions on non-consecutive days (i.e., Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) because it allows for more recovery time from the stress of training. I prefer to have people perform their EST sessions on the days in between strength training workouts so that they get the added benefit of utilizing all of their energy and focus for that session as well as the added bonus of an increase in caloric expenditure for that day. For simplicity sake, I'd say use either a treadmill or a spinning bike for your EST sessions, although a rower would work well also. If using a treadmill and you are a beginner, you can walk on an incline for the work intervals or, if you are an intermediate/advanced trainee, you can jog/run for the work intervals. For the spinning bike, just increase the resistance for the work intervals and then lower it for the recovery intervals.

For those individuals who have a really busy schedule and want to condense their training into fewer days, you can either perform the EST sessions immediately following the strength training workout or you can split them into a.m. and p.m. sessions. For example, you can perform your strength training in the morning before work and EST in the evening after work. Bottom line: It's your choice on how you want to schedule your sessions, but make sure you have a plan and follow it.

Training Schedule: Phase 1 (Three Weeks)



During the first three weeks, we are going to perform a total body strength training routine (i.e., Program A) three days per week, focusing on building some muscular endurance, and on the non-strength training days, we will perform our energy system training sessions comprised of two days of aerobic intervals (i.e., EST 1a) and one day that will be an aerobic recovery workout (i.e., EST-Rec.). The aerobic recovery workout will be a low-intensity, steady state session.

Before each strength training session, I want you to perform one set of each of the following dynamic warm-up movements in order to properly prepare you for your strength training routine.

Dynamic Warm Up


Strength Training Program A

TBD = to be determined
Sec. = seconds
*Mini Band = use a green or blue band
DB = dumbbell


You probably notice some terms that you may or may not be familiar with, such as seq., sets, reps, load, tempo and rest. I am including the information below so that you will be able to better understand what these terms mean and enable you to successfully complete the program.


Seq.: "Sequence," which refers to the order of exercise selection. If you see "A1" followed by "A2," you will perform one set of the "A1" exercise, rest the prescribed amount of time, perform a set of "A2" and then repeat this process until all sets are completed.

Sets: Refers to the number of times a particular exercise will be performed.

Reps: Refers to the number of times the movement will be performed within the set.

Load (Resistance): Refers to the amount of weight or resistance being used. The "load" that you will use will be pre-determined by the number of repetitions in the range. For example, if the repetition range is 12-15 RM, then you should choose a resistance that to complete (with perfect form) at least 12 reps and a maximum of 15 reps. In this case, if you can't do 12 reps, the load is too heavy or if you can do more than 15 reps, it is too light.

Tempo: Refers to the speed of movement of the exercise.

-- The first digit represents the eccentric movement (e.g., the lowering of the weight).
-- The second digit represents the length of the pause in the muscles' lengthened position.
-- The third digit is the concentric movement (e.g., the raising of the weight).
-- The last digit refers to the length of the pause while the muscle is in the contracted position before repeating the movement.

An example of tempo is shown as follows:

3110 =
-- 3 seconds lowering the weight
-- 1 second pause in the lengthened position
-- 1 second to raise the weight
-- 0 second pause in the contracted position

Rest (Recovery): Refers to the time -- in seconds, minutes, hours or days -- taken either between repetitions, sets, training sessions, etc. In our case, we are talking about the rest between sets.

Now, before you begin your Energy System Training program, use the following formula to determine your age-predicted Max Heart Rate (HR):

(207 - [.7 × Age])

For example, a 40-year-old person would have an age-predicted Max Heart Rate of 179 BPM.
Once you have this number, you can multiply that number by .50, .59, .70, and .79 respectively in order to determine your heart rate training zones. Next, take a look at the RPE chart as well as the Heart Rate and RPE Training Zone chart. These charts will further assist you in making sure you are performing your cardio at the right intensity. In addition, if you don't have a heart rate monitor, you can use the Perceived Exertion scale in to determine the correct intensity for both your work and recovery.


Rate of Perceived Exertion*


Heart Rate Training Zones*


Heart Rate and RPE Training Zones*

* From Ultimate You: A 4-Phase Total Body Makeover for Women Who Want Maximum Results, by Joe Dowdell and Dr. Brooke Kalanick, 2010, pages 28-29.


Energy System Training Program 1a: Aerobic Intervals
(Total Time = 21 minutes)

Warm Up: Three minutes @ 50-59 percent of Max HR or an RPE of 1-2
Work Interval #1: Two minutes at 70-79 percent of Max HR or an RPE of 5-6
Recovery Interval #1: One minute at 50-59 percent of Max HR or an RPE of 1-2 (Repeat the work and recovery interval four more times.)
Cool Down: Three minutes at 50-59 percent of Max HR or an RPE of 1-2


Energy System Training Program -- Aerobic Recovery:
(Total Time = 30 minutes)

Warm Up: Five minutes @ 50-59 percent of Max HR or an RPE of 1-2
Work Interval: 20 minutes at 60-69 percent of Max HR or an RPE of 3-4
Cool Down: Five minutes at 50-59 percent of Max HR or an RPE of 1-2

Joe Dowdell, CSCS, is a personal trainer and strength coach to some of the world's top athletes, actors, models, and CEOs. The founder and CEO of Manhattan's Peak Performance gym, Dowdell is the author of Ultimate You and has contributed to the following books: Mario Lopez's Knockout Fitness, Men's/Women's Health The Big Book of Exercises, and 50 Cent's soon to be released fitness book Formula 50. Visit Joe's website at, and follow him on Facebook (JoeDowdellFitness) and Twitter (@JoeDowdellnyc).