Three weeks. That’s all the time you need to get in shape. It doesn’t matter whether you haven’t worked out in months or you’re a gym rat looking to take your fitness to the next level. Follow our program and you’ll emerge 21 days later stronger, faster, and more flexible — and looking and feeling better, too. We tapped some of the country’s leading strength-and-conditioning experts to create an ideal week of training, a seven-day template that repeats three times, gradually increasing in difficulty each week. All these workouts are scalable, and most take no more than 30 minutes to complete.
This efficiency comes with a caveat: You have to commit. You may be inclined to blow off the warm-ups. Don’t. They mobilize muscles so they can handle what’s ahead, and they’re not easy, either. Follow the instructions to the letter. If a workout calls for 16 reps, hit that exact number; if it prescribes 60 seconds of rest between sets, that’s all you get; and when we tell you to take a day off, do it. If you go all-in, we guarantee you’ll see results — and you’ll realize that getting your fittest is a whole lot easier than you thought.
Day 1: Strength
To move more weight and improve muscle definition, this dumbbell workout focuses on the body’s most fundamental motions: squatting, lunging, pushing, and pulling. You’re done in 30 minutes.
Perform two rounds of the following without resting.
Stand holding arms straight in front of you, palms down. Step forward and kick right leg to touch left palm, knee locked. Repeat with left leg for one rep. Do 10 reps.
Body Weight Squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands behind head. Squat as low as you can, back straight and chest open; stand. Do 10 reps.
Start on all fours with hips raised. Quickly step hands and feet forward for five steps, then crawl backward for five. Repeat twice.
Do 16 reps each of the following three exercises, with no rest between moves. Take a 60-second breather at the end, then repeat, for five total rounds. Use lighter dumbbells for the first two rounds, then scale up to do the remaining rounds with a weight that feels challenging but can still be handled with good form, and complete every rep.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight and palms facing body, knees soft. Curl bells to shoulders, keeping shoulder blades down and back. Immediately lower into a squat, pushing hips back, chest open — this is key — and weight in heels. Lower until hips are parallel with or even below knees, then drive through heels to stand and press dumbbells straight overhead, elbows locked. Repeat.
Trainer’s Tip: Move with control and power: You shouldn’t bounce out of the bottom of the squat to push the dumbbells overhead. Also, try mixing up the curls to hit more muscle angles in your biceps. Alternate palms facing in (a hammer curl) and palms facing forward (a traditional biceps curl).
Stand with arms extended, a dumbbell in each hand at sides. Lunge forward with right foot, keeping torso upright, until back knee grazes floor. Press through right heel to stand; repeat on opposite leg.
Trainer’s Tip: As the upper back fatigues, it’s common for the shoulders to slump and the back to round. Don’t let them. Check posture at the top of each rep, pulling shoulder blades down and back.
Start in push-up position with a dumbbell in each hand on floor, back flat, abs engaged. Keeping hips level, pull right hand to right side, driving elbow back; lower weight to floor. Repeat on opposite side. That’s one rep.
Trainer’s Tip: It’s OK if feet are positioned wide. Squeeze shoulder blades together at the top of each rep to get more time under tension, and above all, be sure hips stay level to protect your spine. If you have to twist your torso to raise the weight, it’s too heavy.