America is a nation of overachievers, and somehow, that sentiment has spilled over into the field of exercise. We’ve become conditioned to believe that creating a defined, toned body requires hours of intense exercise. But Pat Davidson, PhD, director of training methodology at Peak Performance in New York City, says that’s just not true.
“Your brain doesn’t think in single ‘muscles,’ it thinks in terms of movement patterns,” he says. “Human evolution led to five basic movements, which encompass nearly all of our everyday motions.” In other words, a complete workout requires just five exercises, one from each of these categories: push (pressing away from you), pull (tugging toward you), hip-hinge (bending from the middle), squat (flexing at the knee), and plank (stabilizing your core).
Peak Performance’s celebrity clients include 50 Cent, Gerard Butler and Jimmy Fallon. They like the Peak method because it is fast, and it works. The method builds strength and raises your metabolism, and it’s also easy to manage on your own. “If you know the basics, it’s incredibly simple to build your own workout,” says Davidson.
Don’t overdo the five, however. This style of workout should be limited to no more than three or four times a week. To keep it fresh, mix and match the exercises, and give yourself permission to embrace this method. For people who’ve been working out five or six days a week, it will be an adjustment.
Pick one move from each of these categories. Then do two sets of 12 reps. Change up the moves but repeat the plan three or four times a week. For cardio extra credit, see the add-ons below.
The Ultimate: Bench Press
Lie face-up on a bench, holding a heavy barbell at your sternum, hands shoulder-width apart, elbows bent into sides. Extend arms, pushing bar directly above chest. Pause, then lower barbell to start.
The Alternates: Push-up, dumbbell shoulder press, single-arm kettlebell press, push press
The Ultimate: Pull-up
Hang from a bar with palms facing away from you, arms straight, knees bent so feet don’t touch floor. Bend elbows, pulling chest toward bar. Slowly lower yourself to start.
The Alternates: Dumbbell row, TRX row, chin-up, cable row, lat pull-down
The Ultimate: Deadlift
Set a heavy barbell on the floor in front of you. Push hips back as you bend forward, grabbing the bar with hands more than shoulder-width apart, palms facing body. Keep back straight as you stand up, lifting the bar and thrusting hips forward. Slowly lower bar to start.
The Alternates: Kettlebell swing, Romanian deadlift, trap-bar deadlift
The Ultimate: Split Squat
Stand on your right leg, left foot resting on a bench or box behind you, and hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand. Bend right knee, lowering body until left knee hovers just above the ground. Straighten right leg, returning to start. Complete all the reps on one side before switching legs.
The Alternates: Barbell squat, lunge, goblet squat, reverse lunge
The Ultimate: Farmer’s Walk
Stand up straight holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, palms facing body. Maintain your posture as you walk 20 meters. Turn, repeat, returning to start.
The Alternates: Plank, bird dog, side plank, suitcase carry
Now Add in These Fat-Burning Finishers
To add cardio to your routine, and pump your metabolism even higher, add one of these five-minute bursts to the routine above. “Make it the worst five minutes of your life,” jokes Davidson. The result will be more definition and less fat.
Do More Reps
Load a barbell with a weight that’s about 70 percent of what you can lift one time, then choose one of the five movements and perform as many reps as you can — without breaking form.
On a rowing machine, row as many meters as possible in five minutes. With each workout, attempt to increase that distance by one percent.
Sprint up a Hill
Set a treadmill to a slight incline, about 3 percent. Run as fast as you can for 30 seconds, aiming for 10 miles per hour. Jog for 30 seconds at 5 mph. Repeat for 5 minutes.
Perhaps the hardest work required for this routine is adjusting your mindset. This routine is strenuous and it gets results, but you will find yourself spending less time in the gym, and more time on the rest of your life.