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Health & Fitness WH's 4-Week Functional Fitness Plan Will Get You Fitter and Stronger for Life

12:20  12 may  2021
12:20  12 may  2021 Source:   womenshealthmag.co.uk

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This year, Women’s Health has partnered with the National Fitness Games (NFG) – a UK-wide competition that aims to test your speed, power and strength, whether you’re new around here or a seasoned pro. So, to get you fitter and stronger (and ready to compete if you're keen to join the fun), WH has a four week-functional fitness plan designed to do just that. Created by PT, author and director of The Foundry, Laura Hoggins, get ready to make some serious fitness gains.

a close up of a person: PT Laura Hoggins will take you through the full 28-day plan, designed to get you strong and ready for the NFG 2021 FitFest. © Provided by Women's Health UK PT Laura Hoggins will take you through the full 28-day plan, designed to get you strong and ready for the NFG 2021 FitFest.

Want to join the WH team for the 2021 National Fitness Games? Women's Health wants you! Specifically for our National Fitness Games team. We're entering two teams into the Novo (novice fitness enthusiasts) and Open (keen CrossFitters and functional fitties) categories. Keen to join? Course you are. Head to our entry page to find out what you need to submit for selection.

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Laura Hoggins' 4-week functional fitness plan

Ready to get going? Hoggins has created a four-week functional fitness plan to kick-start your training, whether you’re working towards the NFG or looking to build a body for life.

‘This way of training helps you to achieve general physical preparedness – not just strength development, but also improved balance, coordination, mobility and stability,’ she explains. The goal? To build a body that’s ready for anything, be that sprinting for a bus, doing a flat move solo or entering your first fitness competition.

You'll need some equipment for this plan – dumbbells specifically. As we're trying to build strength and lean muscle tissue, it's best to use weights that challenge your fitness abilities. That means medium to heavy if you're used to exercising. If you're a beginner, get comfortable with the movements before you try to up the weight.

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Your 4-week functional fitness plan schedule

Functional training is so-called because it prepares your body for the way you need to move in real life. In this four-week programme, designed by Hoggins, you’ll be doing five workouts per week: two strength sessions, two aerobic workouts, and one metabolic conditioning, or 'Metcon', session which is an interval-style workout made up of quick cardio blasts.

We're all starting together on May 17th so check back then for your full itinerary!

functional fitness plan functional fitness plan

Monday: Strength workout 1 (Push)

This strength training workout is focused on 'pushing' movements to build strength in the front of your body. This includes your quads, core, chest and arms.

You'll follow Laura through a short warm-up and then get into the workout made up of five different 'push' exercises.

  • Tempo goblet squat
  • Split squat on the left and right leg
  • Push press
  • Cossack squat
  • Eccentric push-up

You'll do each exercise for 30 seconds with a 10-second rest following each one. Once you've completed the full circuit you'll take a slightly longer rest and then repeat the entire thing twice more.

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Tuesday: Aerobic workout

The second workout is a combination of bodyweight moves and cardio workout, based on continuous exercise at a steady pace.

For cardio, you can choose between jogging for 30-minutes at a consistent pace or doing 30 minutes on an ergonomic machine (exercise bike, rowing machine or treadmill) at around 7 to 8 effort level.

The aim is to do both the exercises and cardio continuously, however, if you need to break it up to make it more manageable, that's totally fine. Just try to complete the set reps and set amount of time.

  • Week 1: 20 squats and 20 push-ups then 30 minutes continuous cardio
  • Week 2: 35 minutes continuous cardio followed by 30 burpees
  • Week 3: 40 squats and 40 push-ups followed by 40 minutes of continuous cardio
  • Week 4: 30 minutes continuous cardio followed by 50 burpees

Before you start your workout make sure to warm up properly. Here are two running warm-ups to get you going.

Wednesday: Strength workout 2 (Pull)

A resistance training based strength workout, you'll focus on 'pulling' movements in this session. You'll predominantly be working the posterior chain (that's all the muscles that run up the back of your body and including your glutes, hamstring, and back) and will need two dumbbells.

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After a short warm-up, Laura will take you through the rest of the workout made up of five different 'pull' exercises:

  • Romanian deadlift
  • Single-arm row – right arm
  • Single-arm row – left arm
  • B-stance glute bridge – left leg
  • B-stance glute bridge – right leg

You'll do three circuits, completing each exercise for 30 seconds with 10 seconds rest after each move. After each full circuit, you'll have a slightly longer rest – use it to shake it out or refill your water bottle.

Thursday: Active recovery and mobility

So you think you know about recovery. But do you know about active recovery? Let us enlighten you. Active recovery is keeping your body moving with low-intensity exercise on your "off" days to promote blood flow to your recovering and repairing muscles. This type of exercise should not be strenuous but a way to gently keep your body moving between workouts.

Active recovery

Laura suggests walking 7k steps and doing some gentle mobility but if that's not your jam, try some of the options below:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Rowing
  • Rock climbing
  • Stretching and flexibility

Mobility

Here's a 15-minute mobility workout from Laura to get you moving more smoothly:

A post shared by Laura ‘Biceps’ (@laurabiceps)

Or, if you're in a time pinch, here's a 10-minute mobility goodie from Laura.

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Friday: Metcon workout

Prepare to sweat. This 'Metcon' workout (aka metabolic conditioning) works by pushing your cardio fitness to the limits with high-intensity exercises. You're going to be moving quickly through dynamic exercises that work to get your heart rate up and improve what your body is able to achieve under pressure.

The workout is split into two parts – a Tabata workout and an EMOM workout. If you just want to complete the first part, that's cool. If you want more of a challenge (and if you're training to get fit for the NFG) we advise that you stay on for the EMOM workout as well.

a) Tabata workout

You'll do 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for each exercise, moving through four high-intensity exercises twice.

  • Air squats
  • Chest to floor burpees
  • Alternating forward lunges
  • Mountain climbers

b) EMOM workout

In this EMOM (every minute on the minute) workout, you'll perform five exercises twice through. You'll do each exercise for the prescribed number of reps and then take the rest of the minute to rest and get ready for the next exercise. Once you've cycled through all five exercises, you'll take a 60-second rest and then do it all again.

  • Alternating dumbbell snatch x 20
  • Goblet squat x 20
  • Push press x 20
  • Burpee with lateral hop x 10
  • Chest to floor burpees x 10

Each week, aim to add two reps to each exercise, following a ladder format. So, in week 2 you'll do 22 dumbbells snatches, 22 goblet squats and so on and so forth. In week 3 you'll add four reps. By week four, you should be performing 8 extra reps per exercise than you were in week 1.

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Saturday: Interval workout

Interval workouts are challenging workouts, centred around periods of work and rest. Get ready to see some serious fitness gains. (If you don't have access to a running track or fitness tracker to keep an eye on distance, scroll to the end to see what to do instead.)

Week 1

Easy 1km warm-up (aim for 6/10 effort) followed by 3 x 200m sprints with a 60-second rest after each one. After this, do 3 x 100m sprints with a 60-second rest between each one.

Week 2

Easy 1.2km warm-up followed by 8 x 400m sprints with a 90-second rest after each one. After this, do 5 x 30m sprints with a walk back to the start. That's the session.

Week 3

Easy 1.6km warm-up followed by 3 x 200m sprints with a 50-second rest after each one. Then, do 3 x 100m sprints with a 50-second rest afterwards and you're done.

Week 4

Easy 1.6km warm-up followed by 8 x 400m sprints with 80 seconds of rest after each one. After this, do 5 x 50m sprints with a walk back to the start.

If you can't track your distance: Perform a gentle full-body warm-up, then aim to do 15 seconds sprint followed by 90 seconds rest, 10 times over on an ergonomic machine (rower, bike, ski-erg). Each week add 2 seconds onto the sprint – by week 4 you should be sprinting for 23 seconds. Keep the rest periods the same 90 seconds throughout.

Sunday: Rest and mobility

Some days are for active recovery, some days are for absolute rest. On this plan, at least one day per week should be dedicated to proper rest. That means no workouts – just light mobility, gentle stretching, foam roller exercises or using a muscle gun.

Why you need to rest

There's no nobility in not resting. We're all about training smart at WH and that includes giving your body time to repair. Instead, take the time to reflect on the effort you've put in already and to get in the right headspace for the week ahead.

If you're newer to working out, you might need to make Wednesday a total rest day, as well. Here are the signs your body needs a break:

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  • Finding it hard to wake up
  • Irritability
  • Low motivation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Higher stress levels than usual
  • Having a hard time falling and staying asleep
  • Sustaining injuries – even small niggles

Can the plan be adjusted to different fitness levels?

Functional fitness newbie? No sweat – the workouts can be adapted to suit your current fitness level and, in the video sessions, Hoggins will give you tips on how to scale back – or level up – the moves. ‘Stick with it for the duration and you can expect improvements in movement, strength, speed, aerobic capacity and mobility,’ Hoggins says. Lace-up your trainers, and let’s go.

Can I do the plan at the gym?

100%. If you're light on home gym equipment at home or want a wider range of weights and more space to use, then get yourself to the gym. The beauty of this plan is that it can be done anywhere – the only thing that needs to be the same is how hard you work.

Can I do the workouts if I'm pregnant or just had a baby?

This programme was not designed as a pre-or post-natal plan. As with everything, it's crucial to speak with your doctor before starting any fitness programme. The nature of this plan might make it inappropriate for pregnant or postnatal women but that doesn't mean you're relegated to the subs bench. For more advice, check out our full guide to pregnancy exercises and pregnancy strength training.

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'5 Things I Learned Doing Bicycle Crunches Every Day For 2 Weeks - The Results Genuinely Surprised Me' .
Plus the expert intel on how to get the most out of themBefore my challenge to do bicycle crunches every day for two weeks, I was already well versed in the importance of a strong core. As WH’s Acting Health and Fitness Writer and a part-time yoga teacher I really do try to practice what I preach (that is, mighty ab muscles will decrease the risk of injury and improve power and stability): I devote at least one day a week to core work, I switch up exercises in a bid to throw my muscles off and shock ‘em into submission, and I’ve even had my form analysed by the pros at elite gym, Third Space London.

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