American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise
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Your Roadmap to a Healthier, Happier You

Kick start your new year with this 12-week exercise  program designed by ACE, to build total body muscular fitness, enhance cardiorespiratory fitness,  improve health and increase energy. It’s a great introductory program for those new to exercise, or it can be used as a  dynamic warm-up for those with more experience. Here we’re giving you Phase I of the program, the first 30 days, so you have a week-by-week plan that’s easy to follow and can be completed in the comfort of your own home. Simply use it as a roadmap to a healthier, happier you!

Weeks 1-4 (Phase I)

Stability & Mobility Exercise Program with  Basic Cardiorespiratory Endurance

The purpose of Phase 1, the first 4 weeks of the program is to improve joint function through improved muscular endurance, flexibility, core function, balance, and .  You will do so by completing a series of exercises and a cardio session as described. This program begins with walking, but the goal is to gradually increase the frequency, duration, and intensity, while keeping an emphasis on enjoyment to eventually complete at least a 20-minute jog by the end of the 3-month period.  The progression of the core training exercises matches the progression of the cardiorespiratory exercise to help make the jogging comfortable and manageable for the listed timed durations.

 

Your Exercises for Weeks 1-4 Will Include:

  • Bird Dog
  • Side Plank
  • Front Plank
  • Glute Bridge
  • Cat-Cow

How to Use this Program

For someone new to exercise, you can do this program at home without any equipment. Simply follow the recommended workout.

For people who are already exercising on a regular basis, this program can be used as a supplement when you don’t have time to make it to the gym and need a quick routine you can do from home or on the road while traveling.  Another option is to use this program as a dynamic warm-up to prepare  for the challenges of your regular exercise routine.   

TIP: To measure exercise intensity during your cardio session use a simple and effective technique called the “Talk Test”.  For this first phase of training (Weeks 1-4) cardiorespiratory should be performed at an intensity that allows you to talk comfortably or talk but not sing. In other words, if you can sing while exercising you should increase the intensity but if you can’t talk comfortably, you should decrease the intensity.

Week 1

Exercises

During the first week of the program, perform only one set of each exercise as described resting for at least 30 seconds before doing the next exercise. For optimal results, try to do the exercises at least two times during the week and once on the weekend for a minimum total of three days per week.

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions on each side. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform one set (hold this exercise for 10 seconds on each side). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform one set (hold this exercise for 10 seconds). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #5:  Cat-Cow

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds.

Cardio Session

Walk for 15 continuous minutes, a minimum of three different times during the week.  Use a walking pace where you can continue to talk comfortably. If you can’t yet walk for 15 continuous minutes, then walk for as long as you can to determine a starting point that is best for you. Remember, any amount of physical activity is better than none and will benefit your health.

  • 15 Minutes: Walk (Comfortable to talk but can’t sing) 

Week 2

Exercises

In the second week of the program, progress to doing two sets of each exercise resting for 30 seconds between each set. Complete both sets before progressing to the next exercise. For optimal results, try to do the exercises at least three times during the week..

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform two sets of 8-15 repetitions on each side. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform two sets (for each set hold this exercise for 10 seconds on each side). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set, and rest again for 30 seconds before the next exercise.

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform two sets (for each set hold this exercise for 10 seconds). Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set, and rest again for 30 seconds before the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform two sets of 8-15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set, and rest again for 30 seconds before the next exercise.

Exercise #5: Cat-Cow

  • Perform two sets of 8-15 repetitions. Rest 30 seconds before moving to the next set.

Cardio Session

Walk for 15 minutes continuously, a minimum of four different times during the week.  Use a walking pace where talking iscomfortable. If during week 1 you could not walk for 15 continuous minutes, increase your walking duration by 10%.

  • 15 Minutes: Walk (Comfortable to talk but can’t sing) 

Week 3

Exercises

In the third week of the program, begin to do the exercises as a circuit: complete a single set of each exercise, resting in between each one for 15 seconds, then repeat this entire circuit again so you’ve performed a total of two sets for each exercise. For optimal results, do the exercises for a minimum of three days per week.

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions on each side. Rest 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds on each side. Rest 15 seconds and switch to do the other side, then rest another 15seconds before moving to the next exercise. (If you started with the Modified Side Plank for the first two weeks, now progress to one set holding for 10 seconds with straight legs.)

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds. Rest for  15 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions. Rest 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #5:  Cat-cow

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions. Rest 15 seconds.

Repeat this entire circuit once more.

Cardio Session

Walk for 20 continuous minutes, a minimum of three different times during the week.  Use a walking pace where you can speak comfortably .

  • 20 Minutes: Walk (Comfortable to talk but can’t sing). If continuous walking is still below this amount, increase your duration by another 10%.

Week 4 

Exercises

In the fourth week the goal is to complete the entire circuit (do all exercises) before taking a rest interval of one minute and repeat this circuit three times. For optimal results,  do the exercises at least three times during the week.

Exercise #1: Bird Dog

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions on each side. No rest before switching to the next exercise.

Exercise #2: Side Plank (for Beginner Level) or Modified Side Plank (for Intermediate Level)

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds on each side. Do not rest and switch to do the other side. Do not rest before moving to the next exercise. (If you started with the Modified Side Plank for the first two weeks, progress to hold each set for 10 seconds with straight legs now.)

Exercise #3: Front Plank

  • Perform one set by holding this exercise for 15 seconds. . Do not rest before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #4: Glute Bridge

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions. Do not rest before moving to the next exercise.

Exercise #5:  Cat-cow

  • Perform one set of 8-15 repetitions. Rest for one minute.

Repeat this entire circuit two more times.

Cardio Session

Walk for 20 minutes continuously, a minimum of four different times during the week.  Use a walking pace where  you can talk comfortably.

  • 20 Minutes: Walk (Comfortable to talk but can’t sing). If still working up to 20 minutes of continuous walking, increase your duration by 10%.

Continue to Phase 2!

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