GETTING STARTED / FAQ
7 Weeks to Fitness programs are built around simple yet effective routines that can benefit men & women of any age and level of fitness. By incorporating dozens of different basic, moderate and advanced exercises, warm-ups, stretches, cardio, and fitness games you can strengthen and tone your entire body in as little as 7 Weeks!
The rule of thumb for any lifestyle modification is that it takes anywhere from 7 to 14 days to create a new routine, and these programs will make it as easy as possible to get started — and succeed. Your success depends on building a sustainable routine that’s familiar, comfortable and repeatable. Working out is hard enough without having to get up early to drive to the gym, remember how to use complicated machines and figure out your daily workout (not to mention locating your membership card!).You can get an incredible total core workout right in the comfort of your home, saving yourself precious time and gas by not traveling to the gym.You don’t even need an expensive rack of dumbbells, bars or how-to DVDs—all you need is your body (you have one of those, right?) and maybe a medicine ball, stability ball or an exercise band.
Before You Begin
Before you start any exercise regimen, it is important that you see your doctor and get their clearance to perform any physical activity. Really, I’m not just putting this here because I have to – it is important and sound advice from a certified personal trainer. (Ok, as a CPT, it is required that I ask all my clients to get permission from a Dr. before getting started.) Please make an appointment, show up and explain the challenge you’re about to embark on; tell ‘em Brett sent you.
Once you begin any 7 Weeks to Fitness program, perform it at your own pace and within your personal level of fitness. If you feel extremely fatigued or have an uncomfortable level of pain and soreness, take two to three days off from the workout. If the discomfort or pain persists, you should see a health care professional.
Preparation – Stuff you will need:
Water Bottle – Hydrate before, during and after your workout with water, not sports drinks. Most 7 Weeks to Fitness programs should take you less than 20 minutes to complete, when working out for less than 45 minutes you should not need the additional calories or salts from sports drinks.
Padded exercise mat – A padded carpet will suffice, but why not splurge and get a comfortable, padded non-slip mat? The multiple movements throughout the program may have you on your back, butt, hands & knees and belly, the padding really helps to make it a far more pleasurable experience!
Towel – While it’s nice to wipe your brow in between sets, it is even more important to dry your hands of sweat before doing any exercise like Mountain Climber or Bird Dog that requires you to brace your bodyweight with your hands.
Timer – Many exercises in this program are completed at timed intervals. While any timer will do, I sincerely recommend one with a big digital screen showing minutes and seconds and featuring buttons that are easy to reach and start/stop. If you have a smartphone, there are many apps that fit the bill. (The 7 Weeks to 300 Sit-Ups iPhone app just happens to feature a convenient timer as well.)
Space – Your workout area should be well-ventilated and free from obstructions so you can complete all movements freely without hitting anything. I personally enjoy performing my workouts at the park… but it rarely rains or snows where I live!
Comfortable Clothes - It’s usually a given that you want to exercise in non-restrictive clothing, but it’s important to note that pants or shorts with a bulky waistband can cause discomfort when performing exercises on your back like sit-ups, crunches or leg raises.
Rest between sets or exercises – For some exercises, it means catch your breath and prepare for the next set. If you’re wrapping your workouts around getting ready in the morning, then it is what it is. When you are doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training, see below) like sprints, hill/treadmill repeats, jumping rope, etc. then rest means rest – stand still, catch your breath and prepare for the next interval. No distractions, no taking a phone call or answering an email on your smartphone… rest and prepare to give 100% to the next interval. When performing Tabatas (see below) your rest period is barely enought time to wipe your forehead with a towel, take a few deep breaths and take a sip of water… make sure you do.
Rest Day – In order for your muscles to heal & grow, your body NEEDS ADEQUATE TIME OFF. (got that?) Since every athlete has their own goals and recovery time differs (especially as we age), the general rule is to take 24 hours off between workouts to allow healing, rebuilding and reduce the chances of overtraining. If you are a type-A athlete, this is pretty tough to do; I know. Personally, I take the intensity of the previous day’s workout into account when performing any cardio or games on the following day. If my current goals are endurance-based, I will go for an easy run the day after a hard workout – but have learned my lessons about overtraining by following up hard workouts with hard intervals the next day. If your goal is to put on muscle, the best bet is to work out every other day and provide your muscles time to heal & grow. (and utilize all that extra protein you are eating, right?)
HIIT High Intensity Interval Training – a very effective method for rapid fat burning and performance improvements; it’s best described as alternating between maximum intensity for 3–6 reps followed by 3–6 reps at 50% intensity. For sprints, HIIT is maximum effort for a set period of time followed by an equal amount of rest. For example, you’d sprint for 1 minute and then walk for 1 minute, repeating this 8–10 times.
Tabata intervals – are extremely short, intense workouts shown to have amazing results in strength building and full-body fat burning. They’re based on 20 seconds of super-intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.This is repeated for 8 cycles for a total of 3 minutes and 50 seconds. You read that right: less than 4 minutes! Don’t underestimate this workout—it’ll absolutely exhaust you and help you get shredded like nothing else. NOTE: in 7 Weeks to Getting Ripped, we repeat the cycle 4 times in Level 2. If you’re up to it – go for 8!
Superset & Semi-Superset – Moving from one exercise to the next with no (superset) or little (semi) rest in-between. These are also called “circuits” and are a fantastic way to strength train while building your cardiovascular capacity at the same time.
Keys to Safety & Success
In order to focus on completing this program successfully, it is important that you are ready for the challenge and know your limits. When you begin any new exercise program, it’s imperative that you talk with your doctor first and make sure you’re healthy enough to participate in physical strength training and conditioning.
Once you begin any 7 Weeks program, perform the program at your own pace and within your personal level of fitness. If you feel extremely fatigued or have an uncomfortable level of pain and soreness, please take two to three days off from the workout. If the discomfort or pain persists, you should see a health care professional.
Due to the nature of a full-body workout routine, you’ll be lifting, pushing, and pressing your entire body weight. Make sure you recognize any physical limitations such as weak or injury-prone joints. It is far more important to be careful with nagging injuries than it is to be worry about completing all the exercises in a specified amount of time. 7 Weeks is an optimum amount of time to get ripped, but not if you ignore the warning signs and hurt yourself.
Some moves will require you to lift your bodyweight on bars, benches, chairs or other objects. Please make sure that the apparatus you’re using is sturdy enough to handle more than double your weight. Be smart and safe – don’t take any chances with unsafe equipment, and make sure you’re properly trained to use any equipment before you start a workout. Always be aware of your surroundings and make sure you have plenty of room to execute moves safely without hitting or tripping over other objects.
Q. Is it possible to just work off my love handles?
A. Yes, but the answer might be different that you think. The secret to losing your love handles is to train your entire body using bodyweight exercises. Want ripped abs? Train your arms, back, shoulders and legs – and your abs will reap the benefits.
Q. Can’t I just do crunches to rip my abs?
A. You can do crunches all day long and still not have a ripped core. Period. Unless you work your entire body to get lean, you just won’t be able to show off your 6-pack.
Q. I was always told to stretch first, lately I’ve read told that you shouldn’t stretch your muscles when you are cold. What’s the deal?
A. Research & studies over the last few years have reinforced the reasoning that you should warm up before you exercise and then stretch after you have completed your workout. Read more about warm-ups and stretching in “Before You Begin”
Q. Bodyweight exercises don’t make your muscles as big as gym-based exercises.
A. If you want to build the biggest chest possible by loading up a bar and doing reps of bench press over and over, this is probably the wrong book for you. But remember, you can build huge arms, chest and legs and still be unfit – unable to perform well at the complex motions necessary for most sports.
Using bodyweight exercises you will build your entire body and the end result will be a stronger, faster and more fit version of you. You’ll also be amazed at how much bigger those muscles look when you’re ripped.
Q. Can I do a full-body workout every day?
A. No, your body needs time to rest and recover. When you do strength-training exercises such as pull-ups, you create tiny, harmless tears in the muscle. These tiny tears heal during rest days. As a result, the muscle becomes stronger and more defined. If you don’t allow the muscles to heal, you risk overuse injuries that could potentially derail your ability to exercise at all. Constant repetitions of any motion without proper rest will eventually result in overuse injuries. Repeat this sentence: “Rest is equally as important a the workout for strengthening and shredding your body.” Now, make sure you follow your own advice.
Q. What if I can’t do all the reps in the program for a given workout?
A. The reps are a guideline and a goal for each workout – they are not the law. I can promise you that no one will show up at your door to give you a ticket for missing the last 2 reps of pull-ups. Do as many reps as you can with good form and when you reach failure, your body is signaling you that you’re done. If you still feel like you have some fuel left in the tank, then take a break for 102 minutes and try to finish off the set. If you feel any pain, soreness or dizziness then it’s time to call it a day. Never feel ashamed that you didn’t complete every rep of a workout, stay positive and come back strong after a day of rest.
If you missed more than 30% of the reps, I suggest starting over the same workout after you’ve rested and recovered. Feel free to progress on if it’s just one or two reps, but be honest with yourself if you find yourself missing reps every workout – perform the exercises within you ability and you will get stronger and eventually be able to complete the full workout.
Q. How fast should I do the movements?
A. Some exercises will have specific speeds during chosen workouts, but as a rule of thumb you should try and to stick to a “medium” speed. Listen to your body; you’ll know what’s too fast or too slow with a little bit of experience. If you are just learning the movements then take it as slow as you need to maintain proper form. A few exercises like sprints and tabatas will require 90% effort and speed – but we’ll get to those when we cover each of the exercises.
Q. How should I breathe for each movement?
A. For most exercises we will cover when to breathe in and out, but overall it is a good idea to breathe out when you are exerting the most force (pushing, pulling, etc.) and breathe in on the recovery. Breathing properly is a big part of being able to perform rapid movements like we will be focusing on in this book, so make sure to focus on breathing rhythmically and not holding your breath during sets.
Q. I was able to follow the program very well early on but am now having trouble doing the required reps. What’s going on?
A. Initially, the body goes through a number of changes when the you have started a new program. The body will soon begin to adapt to the workouts. You’ll notice a plateau once you become used to doing any exercise. This program has been carefully designed to avoid this plateau effect by changing the duration, intensity and workout routine over 7 weeks. Follow the program as best you can. In the unlikely event you do hit a plateau, continue to follow the plan and eventually there will be enough change to get you over the hump. Remember, don’t overdo it and be sure to take the necessary rest in between workouts.
Q. Should I be sore after every workout?
A. Soreness may be normal if you’re a beginner, have recently changed up your routine or are trying a new activity. The initial soreness should lessen over time; it’s not normal to be sore after every workout. If you continue to be sore, you may need to take more days off in between workouts.
Q. Will full-body strength training make women bulk up?
A. The bodyweight exercises in this book were selected specifically for men and women to develop lean, shredded bodies. Typically, women don’t have the kind of hormones necessary to build huge, bulky muscles. Full-body strength training benefits both men and women by creating leaner tissue and losing any excess fat (by increasing metabolic efficiency), slowing muscle loss (especially in older adults), and decreasing risk for injury.
Q. Will this workout be an effective way to lose weight?
A. The combination of bodyweight strength training combined with the cardiovascular training from performing supersets (many exercises with no rest in between), tabatas (20 seconds of intense exercise followed by ten seconds of rest) and the sprinting involved in the fitness games is the most efficient way for you to use exercise to lose weight. Combined with balanced nutrition, you will be firing up your metabolism to burn excess fat in as little as 60 minutes a week.
Q. What is the best time of day to do these workouts?
A. Choosing a time is completely up to your preference – I personally like the feeling of a great morning routine energizing me for the whole day; but I originally conceived this program while working out at lunchtime at the park near my office. After a quick shower at the gym, I was more energized at work in the afternoon after workouts than I was in the morning. The workouts in this book are designed to do almost anywhere, so pick a time that works for you – you could do sets of exercises while you get ready in the morning or after you get the kids to bed.
Q. Can I combine other workouts with this program?
A. If you are an athlete that needs to train sports-specific skills, then the workouts in this book should be used to supplement that training. If you are hoping to get stronger or more ripped faster by doing extra sets, other workouts and not getting enough rest then you are most likely overtraining and not letting your muscles rest, recover and grow. For best results, follow the program – rest included – for 7 weeks.
Q. How do I use the games to help me get ripped?
A. All of the games secretly fantastic workouts to shred your body and can be done in place of the cardio component (med ball sprints are a great example) on workout days or as a supplemental workout on the weekend. Fun, tough and guaranteed to get you sweating – these games have been tested and created over the course of several years and were instrumental in my cross-training in preparation for racing my first Ironman.
Q. What’s the single best tip you can give to someone about to start this program?
A. Commit the time and effort to do the program right. Often it really helps to have a partner or two (that’s how we created the programs!) that will keep you on track to complete the workouts. Mark workout days on your calendar, set an alert on your computer or smartphone for the short amount of time the program takes. You can do what Jason and I did – block your calendar from noon to 1:00 each day to make sure you get uninterrupted exercise time.
Q. Are sit-ups bad for my back?
A. Let me answer this question again and put it to rest once and for all – no. Your weak back, poor posture or improper sit-up form are the problems, not the sit-ups. This program features more than two dozen different exercises performed in conjunction with sit-ups to strengthen your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings. Sit-up form is often misunderstood, and this confusion can lead to bad habits that can put undue emphasis on your hips which in turn causes stress on the lower back. By themselves, sit-ups are no more dangerous for your back than any other bodyweight exercise done with improper form; some of these common culprits for lower back pain and injury are squats, dead lifts and good mornings.
Q. Can I develop 6-pack abs doing sit-ups?
A. In a word; No.
Sit-ups are a beneficial exercise for strengthening and defining the rectus abdominis muscles as part of an exercise routine, they are not the end-all be-all for total core strength – that’s why this program has 30+ exercises to strengthen your core. Developing a “6-pack” or extreme definition of your rectus abdominis muscles requires a lean physique with a low body fat percentage and hypertrophic growth of lean muscle, and sit-ups are just one of many exercises to help get you there. Building the core of your dreams is absolutely possible – I’ve personally done it – and it requires following balanced nutrition an exercise routine with multiple strength, conditioning and cardiovascular components. Luckily, you’re holding just such an exercise program in your hands. For more on developing a 6-pack, see “Setting Your Goals” in 7 Weeks to 300 Sit-Ups.
Q. How many days a week should I do sit-ups?
TA. here’s a long-standing myth that your core can be worked every day; let’s take a moment and address that. When you place any muscle under repeated stress from lifting weights (time under tension) or repeated movement, microtears begin to form. These extremely small tears in the muscle fibers are actually a positive benefit of working out; when they heal your muscles grow bigger and stronger. In order for muscles to properly recover, heal and grow you should wait 48 hours before working out that same muscle group again. Now, I ask you, what is your core made up of? Your rectus abdominis, erector spinae, obliques, hip flexors, quads, glutes and hamstrings are all muscles and need to rest, recover and grow. I recommend a program of no more than 4 core workouts a week for advanced athletes and 3 days a week for beginners.
Q. How does this routine fit in with my regular work-outs?
A. That depends on your goals. If you are an athlete that requires sports-specific training, 7 Weeks to 300 Sit-Ups is an extremely effective program for strengthening your core and supplementing your sports workout regimen. If you are a beginner and looking to improve your posture, lose weight and to tone your abdomen while strengthening your core, then the program in this book should be combined with 3 – 4 heart rate raising cardio exercises per week such as a brisk walk, bike ride, jogging or swimming for 20 minutes for maximal results. For those of us that fall between these two extremes, this program is the core component (pun intended) of a full-body workout plan. See “Setting Your Goals” in 7 Weeks to 300 Sit-Ups. Recent studies have shown that working your core muscles at the beginning of a workout results in better overall full-body workouts.
Q. Can I just do crunches instead of sit-ups?
A. Sure, it doesn’t have to be one or the other; this program has plenty of sit-up and crunch variations and over 30 more additional moves to strengthen and tone your core. From planks to leg lifts, supermans to hip raises, we cover dozens of different exercises to target your core from multiple different angles and to keep your workouts constantly changing and challenging.
Q. As a woman, I’m afraid sit-ups will make my abdomen too big or ripped; can I use the program to tone my core without all the bulk?
A. Thanks for the (long) question! This program uses over a dozen different moves to strengthen and tone your core from multiple angles; the focus is on all-over core strength and toning. Women have less of a propensity to build bulky muscles due to less naturally-occurring testosterone in their bodies, so as long as you aren’t supplementing and working out to the extreme you should not have to worry. However, as we cover in the “Setting Your Goals” section in 7 Weeks to 300 Sit-Ups, it is important to understand that if you focus solely on sit-ups and push yourself to hit 200 or 300 reps you will experience hypertrophy (strengthening and building up muscles) in your abdomen. If you are focused on toning, make sure to follow the program and work your entire core.
Q. Should I be sore after every workout?
A. Soreness may be normal if you’re a beginner, have recently changed up your routine or are trying a new activity.The initial soreness should lessen over time; it’s not normal to be sore after every workout. If you continue to be sore, you may need to take more days off between workouts. How should I breathe for each movement? For most exercises we’ll cover when to breathe in and out, but overall it’s a good idea to breathe out when you’re exerting the most force (pushing, pulling, etc.) and breathe in on the recovery. Breathing properly is a big part of being able to perform some of the core exercises we’ll be covering on in this book, so make sure to focus on breathing rhythmically and never holding your breath during sets. Will this workout be an effective way to lose weight? Any exercise above what you are currently doing aids in the goal of losing weight and getting into shape. The programs in this book utilize the fat-burning benefits of circuit training and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to help you lose weight and get into fantastic shape while you’re developing total core strength. When paired with balanced nutrition, you’ll be firing up your metabolism to burn excess fat and shred your physique. What is the best time of day to do this workouts? Well, that’s totally up to you and your daily schedule. My personal preference is to perform this program in the morning before I eat and maximize the fat-burning effect of training while your body is burning about 60% fat as fuel when you are sleeping and first wake before eating. What days work best for following this program? Again, this is up to you – but I have found over the years that the success rate goes up exponentially if you pick 3 days during the week to perform a structures program like the one featured in this book. In order to get optimal rest of 48 hours between working the same muscle group again, I recommend scheduling your workouts on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
Q. Can I do pull-ups every day?
A. No. During a strength training exercise (such as pull-ups) you create tiny, harmless tears in the muscle. These tiny tears heal during rest days. As a result, the muscle will become stronger and more defined.
Q. Should I be sore after every workout?
A. Soreness may be normal if you are a beginner, have recently changed up your routine or if you are trying a new activity. It is not normal to be sore after every workout and the initial soreness should lessen over time. If you continue to be sore, you may need to take more days off in between workouts.
Q. Will Pull-Ups / Strength training make women bulk up?
A. Women don’t typically have the amount of hormones necessary to build huge muscles. In all honesty, most men will struggle bulking up too. Strength training does benefit both by creating leaner tissue (increasing metabolic efficiency and strength), slows muscle loss (especially in older adults), and decreases risk for injury.
Q. Can I just do Lat Pull-Downs instead?
A. Not if you expect the same gains as doing pull-ups. Moving your bodyweight rather than a fixed object with your arms will increase levels of neuromuscular activity (increasing size and strength). Pull downs will simply use fewer muscles, stabilizers, and reduce range of motion. Lat pull downs are effective in building up your base strength if you can’t do pull-ups yet – but keep in mind that they are not as effective as actual pull-ups.
Q. Is there a difference between pull-ups and chin-ups?
A. Yes, chin-ups are done with the palms facing towards you and pull-ups with the palms facing away. The exercise itself is done very similarly; however, different muscles are slightly targeted making chin-ups a bit easier.
Q. How should I be breathing during pull-ups?
A. You should be taking a breath in during the descent (on the way down) and exhaling on the ascent (on the way up). It is important not to hold your breath during any exercise movement.
Q. How quickly should I be doing a pull-up?
A. Each pull-up should be done in a slow and controlled manner. Each rep should last a couple of seconds without bouncing or swinging.
Q. What if I can’t do even one pull-up?
A. Pull ups can indeed be a difficult exercise to do. If after the initial test you find you can’t do a pull-up, begin with the Level 1 | Prep program first which provides many variations for all levels of fitness.
Q. I was able to follow the program very well early on but am now having trouble doing any more pull-ups.
A. Initially, the body is going through many changes because the program is still new. Very early on the body will begin to adapt to the workouts. You will notice a plateau once you become used doing something. This program has been designed to combat that. Follow the program as best you can. If you do hit that plateau, continue following the plan and eventually there will be enough change to get you over the hump. Remember, do not over do it and take the necessary rest in between workouts.