This 21-Day Challenge Will Remind You Why You Work Out

Exercise is much more than a means of capturing a “toned body”. This 3-week challenge is designed to make you feel energetic, capable and strong.

Don’t be sucked into overwork that promises (only) “nuanced body” at the end of it. There is a more important (and affordable) reason to exercise: It feels great. “Good mental health is just as important as good physical health, and exercise is crucial to getting both,” says trainer Jeanette Jenkins, author of The Hollywood Trainer Weight-Loss Plan: 21 Days to Make Healthy Living a Lifetime habit. The 21-day plan she created below celebrates all the good things with exercise: more energy, better health and the urge to keep coming back for more. So while this routine might bring you closer to physical goals, it can also cause invisible changes. (Related: The Countercurrent Treadmill Workout for Full Body Toneing)

This 21-day plan is designed for all fitness levels, so choose only exercise and core variations that are right for you. Are you trying to practice a lifelong habit? Use these three weeks as a jumping off point. If you are already in your own training groove there are many challenges here to accelerate your results. Related: This 30 Minutes Overall Body-Working Tones From Head To Foot)

How it works: Jenkins’ program consists of four primary exercises: three strength circuits and a cardio routine. Each circuit focuses on a different set of muscle groups; do each circuit on the days indicated four or six times if you feel high. The cardio days are designed to boost calories and improve your aerobic fitness. For best results, follow the order for each day and week below.

You will need: Set of light (3 to 5 pounds) and medium (8 to 10 pounds) dumbbells

Your 21-day “Toned Body” Work Plan

Day 1: Cardio + Stretch

Day 2: Circuits A and C

Day 3: Cardio + Stretch

Day 4: Circuits B and C

Day 5: Circuit A + Stretch

Day 6: Circuits B and C

Day 7: Rest

Repeat this same schedule for weeks two and three.

Circuit A: Chest, Triceps, and Butt

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Push-Up / Plank Combo

Aims for shoulders, triceps, chest, abs

A. Start in a modified forward position, hands on the ground slightly wider than shoulders and knees down. Hold a straight line from the top of the head through feet, abs tight.

B. Bend the elbows 90 degrees, and push up to start.

Repeat from 20 to 25 repetitions.

C. After final repayment, raise the knees of the ground in a high plank position. Holding abs tight and back straight, hold for 30 seconds.

Scale Up: Make full promotions; hold ground 60 seconds.

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2.Chest Fly


Aim for shoulders, chest

A. Lie flat on the ground with your knees bent, holding heavier dumbbells with arms outstretched, palms facing each other.

B. Slowly open arms to sides, keeping elbows slightly bent; stop when weights are about inches above the ground.

C. Push weights back to return to starting position.

Do 15 repetitions.

D. Immediately pick up the lightest set of weights and do 10 more repetitions.

Scale Up: Do 25 repetitions with the weights of 8 to 10 pounds.

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3.Revers Lunge

Target drinks, hamstrings, quads

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a lighter set of dumbbells with arms at the sides, palms in.

B. Long right foot back, lowering right knee to ground; bend left knee 90 degrees, keeping it aligned over ankle.

C. Get started again by driving body weight through your left heel; bring right knee to hip level.

Do 15 repetitions. Switch sides; Repeat.

Scale Up: Hold heavier dumbbells and / or do 25 repetitions per side.

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4.Squat/Chair pose

Target drinks, hamstrings, quads

A. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding lighter dumbbells on your shoulders.

B. Run, pushing the button. Keep body weight above heels.

C. Tap on heels to return, squeezing swallows.

Do 20 to 25 repetitions.

D. After last rep, drop weights and join feet. Restart squat position, holding knees behind toes and stretching arms in front of chest level; hold for 30 seconds.

Scale Up: Use heavier dumbbells and hold a chair for 60 seconds.

Circuit B: back, biceps, and thighs

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1.Plie Squat

Targets swallows, squares, inner thighs

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with the toes turned, holding lighter handles vertically in front of the thighs.

B. Holding abs tight and torso high, bend knees 90 degrees. Keep knees aligned between second and third toes and weigh in heels.

C. Press back to start, squeezing swallows.

Do 15 repetitions.

Scale Up: Use heavier weights and / or do 25 repetitions.

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2. Bieceps Curl

Those biceps

A. Stand tall with your feet together, knees slightly bent. Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand with palms up.

B. Slowly bend the weights to shoulders, contracting biceps.

C. Slowly lower the weights to start and repeat.

Do 15 repetitions.

D. Immediately pick up the lightest set of weights and repeat. Make 10 more repetitions.

Scale Up: Do 25 repetitions with the heaviest weights.

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3.Internal / External Leg Lift


Target glutes, outer and inner thighs

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms extended at shoulder height, palms down.

B. Lift left leg to side, squeezing outer thigh and glutes and lower it to return. Continue: Up and down.

Do 15 repetitions.

C. Without touching floor, bring left leg in front of body, rotating inner thigh forwards. Press left heel forward. Continue: Up and down.

Do 15 more repetitions. Switch sides; repeat sequence on opposite leg.

Scale Up: Do 50 total repetitions per leg.

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4.Back Fly

Targets upper back, shoulders

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, right leg about 3 feet behind left. Hold heavier dumbbells with palms facing each other. Bend forward from waist, extending arms to ground diagonally just in front of left knee.

B. Slowly open arms straight to sides to shoulder level, contracting upper muscles. Slowly lower weights and repeat.

Do 15 repetitions.

C. Immediately pick up the lightest set of weights and do 10 more repetitions.

Scale Up: Do 25 repetitions with the heaviest weights.

Circuit C: Core

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1.Roll-Up

Aims for deep (transverse) and “six-paced” (straight) abdomen

A. Lie up with knees bent, arms outstretched near ears, palms up.

B. Expect arms straight while contracting abs and lifting head, neck and shoulders off the ground. Keep your back round, moving as smoothly as possible.

C. After rolling all the way, pull abs on tight and roll down one spine at a time.

Make 8 repetitions.

Scale Up: Keep your legs straight.

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2.Side Reach

Aims for oblique, deep (transverse) abdomen

A. Lie on the right side with legs stacked, right arm on the ground and left arm on top of left leg.

B. Holding abs in place, reach left hand down as if trying to touch ankle, feeling the contraction throughout.

C. Slowly lower down, using obliques and abs to provide resistance.

Make 8 repetitions; switch sides and repeat.

Scale Up: Raise your legs slightly as you reach ankles.

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3. Boat Pose

Aims for deep (transverse) and “six-paced” (straight) abdomen

A. Sit with knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Place your hands under your thighs, inhaling deeply.

B. Exhale, lifting feet off the ground (keep your knees bent) and pulling abs in tight.

C. Bend slightly backward, swaying on tail plate, and open arms wide to sides. Hold for 8 breaths, return to the beginning, and repeat.

Make 3 repetitions.

Scale Up: Straighten legs to create 45 degrees to the ground.

Calorie-Blasting Cardio Workout

These treadmill workouts are designed to blast 300 to 500+ calories in 40 to 50 minutes, so they will feel spent in the best way. Plus, they help burn fat, so all that strength training you do can manifest the nuanced bodily results.

Choose from one of three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and choose either a high-speed run or a low impact march on a slope. Don’t have access to trash? Do the same program outside on flat or hilly terrain (depending on which effect level you choose). Follow your cardio workout with 5 to 10 minutes of stretching for your shoulders, chest, hips, glutes and legs.

Level 1

Follow these minute-by-minute running interval workouts for a treadmill session that won’t bore you to death.

  • 0:00-5:00: Warm-up, 3.5 mph, 0% incline
  • 5:00-7:00: Speed-walk, 4.0 mph, 0% incline
  • 7:00-9:00: Jog-run (5.2-6.0 mph, 0% incline) or speed-walk (3.8 mph, 6% incline)
  • 9:00-33:00: Repeat minutes 5:00-9:00 six more times, alternating 2 minutes of walking with 2 minutes of running or walking on an incline
  • 33:00-38:00: Cool down, 3.5 mph, 0% incline

Level 2

  • 00-5:00: Warm-up, 3.5 mph, 0% incline
  • 5:00-7:00: Speed-walk, 4.0 mph, 0% incline
  • 7:00-22:00: Jog-run (5.2-6.0 mph, 0% incline) or speed-walk (3.8 mph, 6% incline)
  • 9:00-39:00: Repeat minutes 5:00-22:00, alternating 2 minutes of walking with 15 minutes of running or walking on an incline
  • 39:00-45:00: Cool down, 3.5 mph, 0% incline

Level 3

  • 0:00-5:00: Warm-up, 3.5 mph, 0% incline
  • 5:00-10:00: Jog-run (5.2-6-0 mph, 0% incline) or speed-walk (3.8 mph, 6% incline)
  • 10:00-12:00: Sprint (6.0-7.0 mph, 0% incline) or speed-walk (3.8 mph, 10% incline)
  • 12:00-47:00: Repeat minutes 5:00-12:00 5 more times, alternating 5 minutes of running or walking on an incline
  • 47:00-52:00: Cool down, 3.5 mph, 0% incline

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