The Spring Workout That Will Get You Ready for Summer

The colors of Spring return as a salient reminder of personal fitness and body image. You want to be ready for summer hikes, holidays, and beach days, and not sun-burnt, out of breath, and sore by Independence Day (the sunburn is more or less inevitable). Yes, maybe you should have maintained your fitness throughout the Winter, but Spring is your time to exercise in a proper, more civilized climate.

Where to begin? You could run, swim, spin, hit the machines, get a personal trainer, do yoga or Barre, join your local Crossfit box, play soccer/ tennis/volleyball, etc. The choices of exercise pale in comparison to the paralyzing amount of information about any one type of exercise/sport. I’ve been there and analysis-paralysis is beyond frustrating. What you need is a simple structure to follow to help you reach your summer fitness goals.

I would suggest a varied training regimen to help orient your fitness goals this Spring and get your body to where you want it to be by the time Summer arrives. And the best part? Men and women can both do the workouts. Each of the workouts should last 45 to 60 minutes.

Day 1: Upper Body

Any general fitness program that aims to improve conditioning and body image should include resistance training with weights. You need to build some muscle to ‘get tone’ and you don’t build muscle (or lose fat) by doing 50 repetitions of 5 lb. lateral shoulder raises, for example.

Pick One Exercise from Each Category

Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each of the four exercises. Rest period between sets should be 1:30-2:00 minutes.

  • Category 1: Bench press, dumbbell press, dips, vertical machine chest press, push-ups.
  • Category 2: Dumbbell shoulder press, barbell overhead press, machine shoulder press.
  • Category 3: Pull-ups (weighted or assisted), lat pulldown machine.
  • Category 4: Barbell rows, dumbbell rows, seated upright cable rows, machine rows.

*Choose the appropriate weight. If you can’t do eight reps, the weight is too heavy and if you can do more than 12 reps, the weight is too light.

Day 2: Lower Body

Leg day is hated by the general population for good reason: it’s hard. Leg exercises tend to be full body exercises, accompanied by eye bulging facial expressions. I have to say, squats and deadlifts are the royalty of resistance training. No two exercises will cause as much overall physical change, but I understand people’s reluctance to perform the barbell squat and deadlift. I suggest someday adding them to your workout regimen. Below, I mention alternatives alongside the squat and deadlift.

Pick One Exercise from Each Category

  • Category 1: Barbell squat, goblet squat, lunges, Bulgarian split squat.
  • Category 2: Barbell deadlift, dumbbell deadlift, dumbbell stiff legged deadlift
  • Category 3: Leg press, machine hamstring curls, leg extensions
  • Category 4: Cardio-10-15 minutes: light jog, walk, row, or spin.

Category 3 is optional.; the exercises are controversial and category 1 & 2 exercises are sufficient. Category 4 is also optional, but if you have the time, I recommend some light cardio to complement Day 6.

Do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with 1:30-2:00 minutes rest in between sets.

Day 3: Recovery day

I’m a big advocate of and participant in active recovery. The low-stress activity allows your body to stay loose and ensures that you feel better the next workout since you won’t have sat around the previous day.

Some suggestions include yoga/stretching, going for a 30 minute – 1-hour walk, exercise band work, and recreational swimming.

Day 4: Upper Body

Day four is a repeat of Day 1. I suggest picking a different exercise in each category than you did on Day 1. I’ll rotate my exercises periodically. For example, I’ll do barbell rows for 3-4 weeks and switch to dumbbell rows for 3-4 weeks. It’s a personal preference, but I like to stay consistent for a while, improve on a given lift, and then once I plateau, switch up the exercises in the same category.

Pick One Exercise from Each Category

  • Category 1: Bench press, dumbbell press, dips, vertical machine chest press.
  • Category 2: Dumbbell shoulder press, barbell overhead press, machine shoulder press.
  • Category 3: Pull-ups (weighted or assisted), lat pulldown machine.
  • Category 4: Barbell rows, dumbbell rows, seated upright cable rows, machine rows.

3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with 1:30-2:00 minutes rest in between sets.

Day 5: Leg day

I imagine if this is your first week getting back into the swing of things, you won’t feel very good right now. It’s okay to work out when you’re sore. If you feel especially fatigued, I would just pick from Category 1 & 2 and call it a day.

Pick One Exercise from Each Category

  • Category 1: Barbell squat, goblet squat, lunges, Bulgarian split squat.
  • Category 2: Barbell deadlift, dumbbell deadlift, dumbbell stiff legged deadlift
  • Category 3: Leg press, machine hamstring curls, leg extensions
  • Category 4: Cardio-10-15 minutes light jog, walk, row, or spin.

3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with 1:30-2:00 minutes rest in between sets.

Day 6: Cardio

You’ve been doing some cardio throughout the week, but today cardio is the main focus. The purpose of today is a moderate sustained effort for 30 minutes to an hour. Running for 30 minutes to an hour is a brutally long time for people not in running shape (including me!). So, on these days, I like to do some of the following:

  • Walk. Choose a route with some elevation gain.
  • Stairs. Every city usually has a legendary set of stairs people from all over wake up every Saturday morning to conquer. I suggest joining them and seeing how many times you can top the stairs in 45 minutes.
  • Walk/Run. Get into running shape for Summer. If you can’t run longer than 10 or 15 minutes then walk/run for 45 minutes to an hour. Start off walking for 1 minute, then jogging for 1 minute; repeat. Each Saturday adds a bit more running: Week 1 is 1 minute walk/1 minute jog; Week 2 is 1 minute walk / 1:30 minute jog; Week 3 is 1 minute walk / 2 minute jog; etc. By Summer, you’ll be able to enjoy a pleasant unboken jog in the sunshine.

Day 7: Active Recovery

Just get outside and move around.

What about abs? You use your core to brace in each resistance exercise (watch videos about how to engage your core if you don’t know how to). I don’t do abs and I find extra abdominal work an unnecessary use of time in the gym. If you’re still itching to do core, I suggest three sets of planks for as long as you can hold it each set. You can do them every day. Also, remember to eat well and sleep seven to eight hours every night. Nutrition and sleep are the two most important factors in causing bodily changes in conjunction with a consistent exercise regimen.

Watch videos online so that you perform all the exercises correctly, even if you think your form is adequate; I watch videos about movements that I’ve been doing for years. Here are a few beginning strength programs: Starting Strength, Strong Lifts, 5/3/1 Beginner, and Candito Strength program. I’ve used all of these program to structure my training in the past. Each program introduces you to the lifts, with 3-4 structured workouts a week. You can find spreadsheets online designed to track your progress and calculate your exercises and weights for any given day. All strength programs work if you remain consistent, eat right, and prioritize sleep.

Nick recently moved from San Diego to Chicago. In his spare time, he power lifts, plays pool, snowboards, and hikes. A past student of philosophy, he receives greater enjoyment from literature, science fiction, and studying dead languages. Currently, he’s embarking on a career in the legal field.

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