When the holiday season enters the picture, many people let up on their diets and start skipping more workouts than they would like. With the New Year upon us, many of us are now looking for effective workouts to help get back on track and in shape as quickly as possible. Is it possible to get fit by spring? Absolutely, and now is the time to ramp up your efforts with this 12-week workout plan—especially if you want to flaunt that beach body come spring break or at least feel confident in your favorite shorts and tank top.
It may seem like summer is a long time away, but truth be told, it’s really not that far off, especially when you have some important fitness goals to accomplish. That’s why this 12-week workout plan was constructed to get you back on track.
3 Keys to Get Fit by Spring
When you have a fitness deadline in mind, like getting fit for spring, or maybe for a vacation, reunion, or wedding, the pressure’s on and it’s time to get serious. What should you do? You know you should “workout,” but what, exactly, does that entail? Well, a solid plan will include three areas:
- Diet—it’s time to tighten up your diet. No, that doesn’t mean you need to avoid all the festivities and skip any remaining holiday parties, but you do need to start being aware of what you’re eating and ensuring it’s in line with your fitness goals. Looking for the right diet for you? Learn more about these popular options:
- Cardio—yes, if you want to burn off extra calories and help yourself get in shape quickly, you’ll want to include cardiovascular training in your workout lineup.
- Resistance Training—perhaps the most important aspect of your “get fit by spring” workout plan will be your weight-training routine. The muscle you build will not only help tone and shape your body, but it will help you raise your metabolism and consistently burn more calories.
Try This 12-Week Workout Plan
(Feel Free to Jump to Each Section Using This Section Guide)
WEEKS 1-3: The Start
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step”. And this is the first step in your 12-week workout plan journey!
Week one, you’ll be doing two full body workouts coupled with one cardio session. In weeks two or three, if you’re up to it, you can add a second cardio session. Pick one exercise from each of the body part choices listed in the section below and do one set of 15 – 20 repetitions for each body part.
- Week 1: Allow for two minutes of rest in between sets.
- Week 2: Allow for sixty seconds of rest in between sets.
- Week 3: Allow for thirty seconds of rest in between sets.
If you do a full-body workout on Monday and Friday, then you’ll do 30 minutes of steady state cardio on Tuesday and/or Thursday. Steady state cardio means using a gentle warmup for about 5 minutes followed by 20 – 30 minutes of a brisk cardiovascular activity. If it’s been a while since you’ve worked out, start with a 30-minute walk, leisurely swim, or gentle bike ride for your first three weeks. Finish all exercises within this 12-week workout plan with a five-minute cooldown.
WEEKS 4 – 6: HIIT It Hard
Week 4, you’ll be doing 3 full-body workouts and two cardio sessions per week. In Weeks 4, 5 and 6, try making your cardio sessions a 20-minute HIIT workout. (“HIIT” stands for “high-intensity interval training” and is a short workout where you engage in quick bursts of all-out effort followed by a longer period of slower activity. This is repeated a certain number of times and is preceded by a warmup and followed by a cooldown.)
Always include a 5-minute warmup and a 5-minute cooldown.
- Workout 1: Full Body
- Workout 2: Cardio
- Workout 3: Full Body
- Workout 4: Cardio
- Workout 5: Full Body
WEEKS 7 – 9: The Ramp Up
In weeks 7 – 9 of this 12-week workout plan, you’ll be doing two Upper Body and two Lower Body training sessions and 2 cardio sessions. For upper body, pick two exercises for each of the following, and do 10 – 12 repetitions for two sets each:
- Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
- Back and Biceps
- Legs, Calves, Abs
- Day 1: Upper Body
- Day 2: Cardio
- Day 3: Lower Body
- Day 4: Cardio
- Day 5: Upper Body
- Day 6: Cardio
- Day 7: REST
- Day 8: Lower Body
- Day 9: Cardio
- Day 10: Upper Body
- Day 11: Cardio
- Day 12: Lower Body
- Day 13: Cardio
- Day 14: REST
Repeat the cycle for the remaining weeks.
WEEKS 10 – 12: The Finish Line
Weeks 10 – 12, you’ll be doing what’s known as “body part splits” interspersed with HIIT cardio workouts. You’ll choose 2 – 3 exercises per body part and perform 10 – 12 repetitions for each exercise for 3 – 4 sets. They will go like this:
- Workout 1: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
- Workout 2: HIIT cardio
- Workout 3: Back and Biceps
- Workout 4: HIIT Cardio
- Workout 5: Legs, Calves, and Abdominals
- Days 6 & 7 are rest or active rest.
Exercise Guide for the 12-Week Workout Plan
Choose from the following to create your workouts, or choose your own to maximize your 12-week workout plan:
- Pushups—you can do these on your knees if you’re not able to perform a conventional pushup. Begin in a plank position with your arms positioned straight below you and about shoulder-width apart. Lower your body by bending your elbows while keeping your back and glutes in a straight line.
- Dumbbell Presses—lie on your back on a bench with your arms straight above you and with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend at the elbows to lower the weight until your upper arms are parallel to the floor (the dumbbells should be at about chest level). Pause and push the weight back up to the start position while squeezing your chest muscles.
- Dumbbell Flyes—lie on a bench—you can vary the incline on both this and the dumbbell press. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand and start with your arms out straight above your chest with the dumbbell ends touching each other. With palms facing each other, and your elbows just slightly bent, slowly extend/drop your arms out to your sides until they are parallel to the ground. Raise back to touch the dumbbells in the center and repeat.
- Shoulder Overhead Presses—on a machine or an upright bench, start with your palms facing forward and the weight at ear height. Press the weight upward at a slight angle so the weights (if using dumbbells) touch together at the top of the movement. Lower back to the starting position with a controlled motion, and repeat.
- Side Lateral Raises—this will help you build those sexy shoulders that are a sure sign of fitness. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your legs. With your elbows slightly bent, raise your arms directly out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor. Your hands should be parallel to the floor as well with your thumbs facing ever so slightly upward. Slowly lower to the start position and repeat.
- Bent-over Shoulder Raises—this exercise will help you build your rear deltoids (your shoulders have a front, back, and side so try to hit all those areas when you can). Sit on the end of a bench and bend at the torso. Grab the dumbbells off the floor and hold with your palms facing your body and your arms by your knees. Lift your arms out to your sides while squeezing your shoulders together. Hold for a moment at the top and return to the start. Repeat.
- Triceps Pushdowns—using a cable system, stand straight, place hands on bar with elbows bent at 90-degrees, palms down with your forearms parallel to the floor. Press the bar straight down, straighten your arms, pause, and allow it to come back up to parallel with a controlled movement. Repeat.
- Bench Dips—begin by sitting on the edge of a bench with your hands next to your hips, fingers facing forward. Lower your body as you move your hips off the bench by bending your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle. Straighten your arms to raise your body back to the starting position and repeat.
- Dumbbell Kickbacks—start by kneeling forward with one knee on a bench and your other leg straightened. You should have a dumbbell in one hand and your opposite arm will be straight and your palm on the bench for balance. Straighten your right arm all the way back keeping your elbow tucked to your side. When your arm is fully straight, squeeze your triceps, and then return to start. Repeat for your set number of repetitions and repeat on the opposite side.
- Lat Pulldowns—if you have access to gym equipment, you can do these on a machine, or feel free to do a set of pullups (assisted or unassisted) if you prefer. Sit on the machine and grasp the bar above you. Pull the bar down in a smooth motion toward the front of your chest as you mentally attempt to touch your elbows behind your back. (You can’t do this, of course, but it helps understand the movement.) Return the weight upward until your arms are straight and repeat.
- Seated Cable Rows—using a seated row machine, with your legs straight (with a slight knee bend) lean forward to grasp the handles, and then straighten your back. Using your back muscles, pull your elbows straight back until your hands are at your waist. Let the weight move back toward the start position until your arms are fully straightened (keeping your back straight), and repeat.
- Assisted Pullups—most gyms will have such a machine. Adjust the supporting weight so you can do a pullup with your knees resting on the pad. The pad will move up and down with you as you perform the exercise.
- Biceps Curls—with a dumbbell in each hand, palms forward and your elbows at your sides, raise each dumbbell by bending your arms while keeping your elbows pinned at your sides. You can lift both arms at the same time or alternate, curling one arm at a time.
- Concentration Curls—begin by sitting on the edge of a bench with a dumbbell in your right hand, palm up, and your elbow on your thigh. Start with your arm in front of you, and lower the dumbbell until your arm is straight (toward the floor). Lift the weight to return to the start position, and repeat to complete one repetition. Repeat on opposite side.
- Cable Curls—stand sideways in front of a cable machine. Raise the handle to shoulder level and adjust the weight. Grasp the handle and step away from the machine until your arm is shoulder height and straight, palm up. Perform a biceps curling motion and return to the start. Complete the reps on one side before switching to the opposite side.
- Squats—you can do these at the gym with a barbell or dumbbell or use your own weight for a bodyweight squat. If you use a barbell, place this behind your neck on the top of your traps and shoulders (not on your spine) and securely hold the bar on each side of your head. With your feet about hip-width apart, “sit” back until your thighs are parallel to the floor (do not go down past parallel). Squeeze your legs and glute muscles to return to the standing position.
- Lunges—with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your body, step forward with your right leg while bending at the knee with a forward motion until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your leg forms a right angle. Push off through your heel to return to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg to complete one repetition. **These are a must for big results in this 12-week workout plan.**
- Hamstring Curls—lie down on your tummy on a lying hamstring curl machine with your ankles under the pads. Grip the stabilizer handles as you use your leg and glute muscles to raise the weight. Return in a controlled manner to the start position and repeat.
- Standing Calf Raises—with a dumbbell in each hand, stand on your toes for a count of 10 and then lower. Repeat 3 times for one full set.
- Seated Calf Press—sit on a seated calf machine with your toes on the platform (heels will not be on the platform) and your knees under the pads. Use your calves to raise your legs (you’ll be on your tippy toes but in a seated position) and then lower past the platform to feel a good stretch in the calves. Repeat.
- Standing Calf Raise Machine—begin by standing on a calf machine facing inward with your shoulders under the pads. With your legs straight, raise yourself up onto your tip toes and then down past the starting point for a good stretch. Repeat.
- Crunches—lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent. With your arms lightly touching the sides of your head, raise your upper body toward the ceiling by contracting your abs, and hold for a count of three. Return to the start and repeat.
- Plank—get into tabletop position to start. Lower your arms so your forearms and palms are flat on the ground; straighten your legs, so you’re balanced on the balls of your feet. Hold this position, keeping your shoulders and elbows aligned and your body in a straight line. Try to hold this position for 30 – 60 seconds.
- Leg Lifts—begin by lying on your back with your legs straight and your arms straight out next to your sides, palms down. Tighten your abdominals and raise your legs toward the ceiling while keeping your legs straight. Lower to the start and repeat.
Before you know it, the first 12 weeks of the year will have passed, and you’ll be feeling stronger, healthier, and more confident in your body—a body that is ready to rock the beach or at least look great in shorts and a tank top!