Ten reps. Three sets. Rest one minute. Wake up when you're done.
Your high school football workout is really not the best way to trim those love handles. It may have helped pack on the good pounds back then, but now that you're looking to drop weight rather than gain it, you need to switch things up.
Most important, fat loss includes healthful eating. So definitely get your body moving, but bring your gym focus into the kitchen as well.
Most traditional exercise regimens are geared toward bodybuilding or cardiovascular conditioning only. They are not based on the best science available.
- Mark Mogavero, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and owner of Mogavero's Fitness Innovations
Focus in the Kitchen
There's no way around it: If you fuel yourself improperly, you will not make the progress you want. Vigilance over every meal is necessary to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
If you want an easy way to watch what you're eating, keep a food journal. After all, gyms have mirrors on the walls to help you check that your exercise form is proper. Likewise, your food journal will ensure that your eating habits are proper.
In fact, a food journal is mandatory for the first two weeks of training with Matt Blades, a National Strength and Conditioning Association certified professional trainer and owner of Fitness-N-Fun in Apopka, Florida.
"[My clients] have all said how much they learned about their habits, caloric values, portion sizes and making better choices. [That's] the influence that keeping a food journal has," Blades said. "I have heard it described as a real eye-opener on numerous occasions."
For the sake of convenience, you might choose to record your meals with your mobile phone. A number of phone apps are available for download, and many of them are free.
Of the foods that should not be showing up in your food journal, what are the first ones that should get the ax?
French fries and soft drinks, says Ruth Frechman, registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Instead of fries, choose fruit. Like fries, you can eat a lot of blueberries per serving -- but without the guilt. A 3.5-oz. serving of blueberries contains 1 mg of sodium, compared with the 230 mg in french fries. The high sodium content in fries can cause your body to retain more water, making it harder to see positive results in the mirror.
Abandon soft drinks. An 8-oz. serving of Pepsi, for instance, contains 100 calories and 28 g of sugars and carbohydrates. Those sugars can trick your body into thinking it has plenty of energy available, causing it to store the excess sugars as fat. Juices, sports drinks and alcohol can be just as unhealthy.
Focus in the Gym
Once you begin fueling yourself the right way, get evaluated by a fitness professional to identify which muscle groups are underdeveloped and which are too stressed.
Focusing on strengthening weaker areas can lead to quicker gains -- and more motivation, says Mark Mogavero, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of Mogavero's Fitness Innovations in Pine Brook, New Jersey.
After you've identified your problem areas, begin your routine with a five-minute, active warm-up. Careful, static stretching is good, but not enough.
Try loosening your muscles with a foam roller. Then string together a series of "big body movements," such as partial squats and lunges, to ease your body into workout mode, says Robert Gillanders, who has a doctor of physical therapy degree.
If your muscles are nice and loose, dive into the meat of your workout. Elevate your heart rate and keep it up by quickly transitioning between resistance exercises. Keep in mind that doing three sets of this and three sets of that, with more than a minute's rest between each set, does not achieve this goal. And grinding out 45 minutes on a treadmill isn't very efficient either.
"Most traditional exercise regimens are geared toward bodybuilding or cardiovascular conditioning only," Mogavero said. "They are not based on the best science available."
And that science says fast-paced, high-intensity weight or resistance training causes the body to continue burning calories long after you've left the gym, unlike traditional cardio. So unless you're training for a marathon or competitive cycling, don't focus only on the treadmill and stationary bike. These are not your most efficient calorie-burning options.
Plan before you go into the gym. Give yourself 30 minutes to perform as many exercises as you can and keep moving between sets.
Stay focused. Don't bounce around according to what's available. Mix up lifts that work your lower body, then your upper body and then your core and back. You should try to keep your heart rate up without exhausting your muscle groups, says Mogavero.
Start by doing a set of walking lunges with dumbbells. Then transition to pushups or overhead shoulder presses. For your core, perform a mixed set of planks or side planks.
If you can, stay away from selectorized machines. Their generic designs may force you into improper form, cautions Mogavero.
Switch exercises to hit different areas, but keep the same rotation: lower, upper, core. After 30 minutes, use your active warm-up as your cool-down, then hit the foam roller again for a final loosening of your muscles.
Drop your old habits if you want to burn that extra fat you're lugging around. Log your meals, ditch the treadmill, get moving every day -- and don't even think about trying to avoid training by claiming you have no time. There is always time.
"If you can name anyone on 'American Idol,'" Mogavero said, "you have enough time to work out."